After a banging set at Gramercy Theater, I chatted with hometown homies, The Browning, in New York City. These Kansas City natives discussed their upcoming Earache release Hypernova, growing up metal in the Midwest, and what is going wrong with the influence of electronics in metal.
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I’m from Kansas City too.
Jonny McBee- Alright!
Colin Woroniak- No shit?!
Yeah, Overland Park. What were some of the first places you guys went to see metal shows?
JM- El Torreon.
CW- Definitely El Torreon. Also a place called The Stage, off Colbern Road in Lee’s Summit.
JM- Lakeland Unity Church.
CW- Yeah, a couple churches. The Beaumont Club. Some of the first bigger shows I went to were at The Beaumont Club.
JM- I was too poor to go to the Beaumont Club.
How did you guys cultivate a metal lifestyle there?
CW- I…don’t even really know. I went to Grain Valley High, which is about twenty minutes east of KC and there were maybe three of four metalheads in our whole school. Tyler Portell. That dude. He’s the guy that got me into The Acacia Strain and he was four years older than me at the time and I thought it was really fucking cool.
JM- My friend Rick, who I met through someone else, started playing rock music. Then we started writing metal stuff, not really knowing what we were doing. We played our first show at Groundwork in Leavenworth, Kansas and people started hardcore dancing. We were like “What the heck are they doing?!” We had no idea what hardcore dancing was or anything. We then started writing music based on when people were doing that.
CW- And then you kinda figured out what a breakdown was.
JM- We just started writing breakdowns and two-steps.
That one shocked the shit out of me too. At my first couple shows in New York, people were doing that. I’m just used to running and knocking into people in a mosh pit, but here, everybody’s swinging around and two-stepping. I was talking to a buddy of mine and he said “No no no. You can’t do that. Someone’s going to get into a fight with you if you just walk up and start pushing on someone in a pit. You gotta learn this two-step.”
What are hometown shows like?
JM- When we first started, they were super awesome, which they still are, but not as awesome as they were. When we first started, we weren’t necessarily a local band, like people knew me and knew The Browning, so the shows just had a ton of hype. They were always part of a tour. At first they were like five or six hundred people, now maybe three or four. We’ve talked to other bands and it seems that the people that had respect for you no longer have that once you start getting popular.
Tell me about filming the video for “Ashamed” at Aftershock.
CW- That was a really fun show.
JM- We put on a dollar show just because why not? We didn’t even get paid. We didn’t care. We were just trying to get people to come out and have fun. It was a little too far away from Lee’s Summit for me. That’s where we probably have the biggest fan base in the Kansas City area. We still had a lot of the Lee’s Summit people out and a lot of the Kansas people came out. It’s a nice venue.
How often do you guys get back there?
JM- Barely ever.
CW- The video shoot was the last time. Before that, September.
JM- Now that The Beaumont is closed, there’s really no place for us to play there. Even though Aftershock is nice, it’s kind of out of the way from where we want to be. There’s also no El Torreon, Lakeland in LS isn’t doing shows anymore.
Riot Room might be too small.
JM- It’s 21+ also.
Favorite BBQ restaurant?
CW- Oooooo man! I love Gates, but Oklahoma Joe’s is the spot.
Same. OJ’s is dope.
Moving on to talk about your new album, who is the Hypernova?
JM- Well, we all have built up anger inside. That’s what the whole concept of the album is. We’re going to release everything inside of us instead of holding it back.
CW- A lot of the lyrics on this album we teamed up and wrote some of the songs together.
Is that a first?
CW- I don’t know. Burn This World? Did you…
JM- The lyrics are always something that was put together by the whole band. Everyone in the band should have an input, so everyone does.
CW- So this album is just us getting a lot of shit off our chest that we’ve wanted to for awhile.
JM- This album sounds a little angrier than the last one, but that’s the point of it. It’s all self-empowering, but at that earlier point I didn’t want to show a lot of anger towards certain things. Now that I’ve held that back, I’m even more angry that I held it back.
What do you do to balance yourself out when you feel you’re on the verge of that massive explosion?
JM- Eat food.
CW- Work out.
JM- When I’m at home, I play video games. All the time. I don’t care how dumb or lame it sounds, but gaming is a way to get away from everybody and everything. I can get online and talk to people on there and they’re not going to ask me about anything in my life because they don’t know me.
A little anonymity goes a long way.
“Gravedigger” is an awesome preview of what’s to come and it sounds like there is a huge progression in programming techniques. What more can be expected on the electro side?
JM- I spent a lot more time on the electronics for this album. On Burn This World, what’s there is what I first came up with. With Hypernova, I would come up with something electronically and go over it fifty times and come up with the coolest sounds that could be there and put more sounds into it.
CW- I think some of the sounds that will make Hypernova really cool are the little things you would only notice if you were listening for them. Little random fillers.
JM- I listened to a lot of Linkin Park and Rammstein when working on this album. The production on their music is so well thought out and so huge. That was what I wanted the main thing to be for our stuff. It’s not a jam session by any means, it’s a more thought out process. Like Colin was saying, you wouldn’t realize they’re there until you hear it. Then you hear it every single time.
What’s one thing you’re excited about introducing into your live show stemming from this album?
CW- I think more production in the sense of new banners and a backdrop, some of our own lighting. Our own energy is going to be just as much as it always has been, if not more. We want to add in more visuals to make it a complete show. There are so many bands that are lazy on stage. They might write really cool music, but they are just boring to watch. We want to make our live show an overall crazy experience.
JM- Another good thing about having this other album is now we have enough songs on both sides of metal and techno. We have enough material so that if we play a more metal tour, every single song we could play without techno. We could play all of our most metal songs so the crowd isn’t like “What is this crap?” If we’re playing to a crowd that would enjoy that techno, we could play with techno in every single song.
That’s a perfect lead into my next question. With the blend of metal and techno becoming more and more prevalent in modern metal, what are some things bands are getting wrong?
[hysterical laughing all around]
[choking down laughter] Please elaborate.
JM- I don’t think anyone does it correctly. We haven’t perfected it either. I’d say ninety percent of these bands don’t do their own electronic parts. The producer does.
CW- The problem is that you can tell that the producer threw it in there because it doesn’t really mesh with the song. It’s just there.
JM- It’s a separate part. This is a metal band. Now it sounds like Ke$ha, and now it’s back to Whitechapel.
CW- The electronics always sound really happy and we keep everything sounding dark.
JM- We’re playing metal. It’s supposed to be angry, it’s supposed to sound dark. All these people are throwing in major scaled arpeggios with girly singing over it. This in not metal. For us, we have dark electronics all in a minor key that fits with the music because the musicians in the band put it in the music, not just setting it on top. That’s the obvious difference that we hear and our fans hear. Our electronics are an actual part of the music.
Tell me about the gear you guys use. Do you have any brand loyalties or sponsorships?
CW- A few. SIT Strings, InTune guitar picks, MEElectronics , Chicago Custom Percission.
JM- Archaic Clothing. That’s not gear, but whatever.
CW- With the new album coming out, we’re trying to shop ourselves around to a few companies. I’m a big fan of ESP Guitars.
What are your thoughts on crowd-sourced funding for albums?
CW- When we first started seeing people doing that we wondered why. It seemed really dumb and it’s begging. The thing is, once you get to a certain point, certain bands don’t really need a label. If they have someone in the band that is capable of producing their own music, then why not fund it themselves.
JM- It’s good if it is used the correct way and albums are an example of the correct use. If it’s funded by the crowd, than you can make money much quicker on your album sales. If a label spends twenty thousand dollars on your album and then however much on printing, you’re not going to make any money on it until you sell fifty thousand albums. Literally. If you crowd fund it, and then with that crowd funding you pay for your own printing, then from dollar one you make your profit. Bands love to say it’s not about money, which it’s not, but is about trying to stay on top. To make money from dollar one is awesome and not having to recoup from the label is awesome. Then sometimes I see bands use it for things like…
Their dog’s surgery?
JM- You’re talking about Chelsea Grin? [laughs]
I was a little disturbed by that. I mean, good for him because he got it!
JM- Yeah, like ten minutes. Things that aren’t necessary were what I was getting at. Like the band we’re on tour with, Threat Signal. They did one to fund this tour and to put them up in hotel rooms. That bugged me. Not necessary. Using it for an album is. If we do one, we’re going to save it for when we really need it, like if we flip our van or our trailer gets broken into and all our gear gets stolen.
JM- You can only do one, so you might as well do it when you actually need it.
You guys ever shit yourselves on stage?
[Colin laughs wildly, but Jonny stayed quiet.]
CW- No, I haven’t. Jonny, You want to take this one?
Oh my god. Excellent.
JM- It wasn’t that bad though, just a little whopsy daisy. Too much Buffalo Wild Wings the night before I guess. All day I knew it was going to be bad. I thought I had it all out. The very first stomp into the first bounce, it came out. I thought this is going to be a fun twenty-five minutes. I will say everyone has crapped their pants on tour however.
CW- I sharted in a Hardee’s on the Fear Factory tour.
JM- You could see it through his pants.
CW- I sharted on this tour in the van. I farted and it was a little wet. Whoops.
JM- Drew did it when he was throwing up on the side of the highway.
CW- That was hilarious! There was a tour we did in December with for All Those Sleeping where there was this flu that went around the whole tour. I was vomiting all day and Drew was making fun of me, taking pictures and videos of me puking on the side of the road. Fuck you man. A few days later, he got it, and he vomited so hard he shit himself. That’s what you get for being a dick.
Karmic debt paid right there.
To wrap things up, what do you want to say to your fans right now?
JM- Hypernova is out October FIRST. Everything online says the seventh, but it’s the first.
CW- Pre-orders are up already.
How are those going?
Both: I don’t know, no idea. [laughing]
JM- If you want to support us, this is the most important time of our career. By support I don’t mean money, I mean numbers, so that we can do tours. If you buy our album the first week it comes out or pre-order it, it helps us more than walking up to me and giving me fifty dollars. I would rather you pre-order the album than hand me fifty bucks.