At the beginning of the year, the name Car Bomb probably wouldn’t have meant much to you but the Long Island tech metal act have started to delve into the UK market and are causing quite the noisey stir. We caught up with bassist Jon Modell to chat about their recent UK tour with Gojira and Code Orange, the impact of their latest record ‘Meta’ and what has changed since the 2010 documentary ‘Why You Do This’ followed the band on tour.
DP!: Despite Car Bomb forming the best part of two decades ago, it seems like we’re just starting to hear about you over in the UK. Why do you think it has taken so long for people to listen to your music, or what made you want to branch out to our shores?
Jon Modell: After 2007’s ‘Centralia’ was released on Relapse Records, we were touring nationally but never made it across the pond. We simply couldn’t afford it. 2012’s ‘w^w^^w^w’ was self-released and we were working with a very small budget continuing to make it difficult to get over your way. When we came over for the first time in late 2014 for those 25th Anniversary Meshuggah shows and were well received, we knew we had to make a change. For ‘Meta’, we decided enough was enough. We hired PR over in the UK and jumped on that month long Gojira tour. It’s like a whole new market for us and we are so excited to be able to play over there.
DP!: Can you describe the sound and vision of Car Bomb to people who are just getting to know you?
Jon: People have said that we are a mixture of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, and the Deftones with elements of electronic music like Aphex Twin and Autechre. We are inspired by movies by Stanley Kubrick and films such as ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow, ‘Ex-Machina’, and ‘The Holy Mountain’. We are honoured to be compared to those amazing bands but are really trying to have our own sound. The kind of thing where you hear one or two notes and immediately know it’s us.
DP!: Album number three ‘Meta’ was released towards the end of the last year and has some of the heaviest stuff Car Bomb have ever written, how has it been received so far?
Jon: It’s been extremely well received. It was critically acclaimed across the board, was listed on many websites as ‘Album Of The Year’ and made it onto many top albums of the year lists. It’s opening doors left and right for us. We did The Dillinger Escape Plan tour back in November, the European Gojira tour this past March, and we are heading back to Europe this September for Euroblast (as well as a few weeks around that festival). Going to Europe twice in the same year???!!! That’s a new one for us!!
DP!: You toured the States back in 2009 with Gojira (and The Chariot), and 8 years later Joe Duplantier has produced your record and they dragged you out on your first ever UK tour in March, how has your relationship developed to this stage? What input did Joe bring to the creative process during recording?
Jon: Joe has been a huge fan of CB from the onset of our relationship. And he hasn’t been quiet about it! A large part of whatever success we are enjoying is directly because of him telling everyone about us and bringing us out on tour with them back in 2009, 2012, and now in 2017. He is local to us (he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and kids) and we see him frequently. In fact, Elliot (drummer of CB) co-owns Silver Cord Studios with Joe. He is like family to us.
Joe’s biggest input into ‘Meta’ was with Mike. He just encouraged him to sound like himself and not to try to sound like Chino or Max Cavallera (for example). He helped with some of Mike’s phrasing and with layering ideas (Joe is the master of that shit!). Musically, he pretty much left us alone. He understands what Car Bomb is trying to do. He might advise us to shorten something or repeat something, but creatively, he was pretty hands off.
DP!: Back in 2010, Michael made the documentary ‘Why You Do This’ that emphasised the hardships of creating heavy music that is inaccessible to the mainstream audience, and how the financial implications can take a toll on the future of the band. Do you think the messages in ‘Why You Do This’ are more relevant in 2017 than they were back then or does the fact Car Bomb can tour large venues abroad with bands like Code Orange and Gojira show that people can appreciate challenging tech metal on a larger scale?
Jon: It does seem like there is more of an audience for tech metal these days. However, the same problems still exist. It’s amazing that Car Bomb has been able to find some level of success, but the financial burdens are still an issue. We all still work for a living and that affords us the ability to release records with a budget and tour Europe for a month (for example). However, it’s all still a loss. When we would tour the U.S. for two or three weeks (as documented in Mike’s film), we suffered relatively small losses. Now that we have toured Europe for a month (with a production team), we know what it’s like to suffer larger losses. To be honest, I don’t know how full time bands do it. I guess they are called ‘struggling artists’ for a reason. These bands work so hard for so long for so little. Obviously, we are all doing it for the love of the music. That hasn’t changed. I recently watched Mike’s documentary again and thought to myself that not much has changed (in the sense of financial burdens and the love of the music) since it was released. I’m not sure it ever will!
DP!: Do Car Bomb have the same ambitions as a band as they did back then? Are van rental and gas money still the main issues that affect the band while touring?
Jon: People with children say ‘little kids, little problems…big kids..big problems.’ It’s a little like that. Car Bomb is no longer a little kid. We’ve grown up a bit. Gas and van rental money aren’t the main issues. Those are small (although real) problems. We are getting more into the production side of things these days. We have a new light show that we debuted during the Gojira tour. We have sound guys and light guys and guitar techs. I guess the main issues these days are how we can destroy everyone that watches us play, both visually and audibly. This is pretty much where we have been trying to head for years. Instead of focusing on gas money and transportation costs, let’s focus on the music and the production and hire others to help us do everything else. Again, we are fortunate that we all work and have some money that we can throw at the band to make things work a little better. With this newfound recognition that’s come with the release of ‘Meta’, we are really trying to capitalise on exposing our music to as many people as possible.
DP!: How do you think the documentary would differ if it was made in 2017? Do you think the tools available now, like the internet, make it easier or worse to promote a band and gain followers?
Jon: Great question! It’s both better and worse. Better because it’s such a great tool to get your name out there. Worse because you are lost in an ocean of bands from all over the world. Why should someone listen to us when they have a bazillion other options? By the way, we used the internet back in 2007 (when ‘Why You Do This’ first started filming). We utilised MySpace like a mofo! That was a great tool for getting your name out there. We only recently started utilising Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook the way we should. It’s one of those things that are necessary. Those tools are a must. If you aren’t doing them, then you aren’t extending your full reach to existing and potential fans. However, to answer your question, I think the documentary would be pretty much the same. I almost think Mike should make a part two to the documentary to show where we are now. I think people would be pleased to learn that we are still doing our thing and that we have grown in popularity since 2010. But I think people would be shocked to see the numbers. When we meet people, who have seen the documentary, a large number of them comment on that scene in ‘Why You Do This’ where I am sitting in front of my computer reviewing the losses from that 2008 tour. That tour, for many reasons, was not a success. The Gojira European tour we just did, for so many reasons, was a success. However, the dollars tell the same story as that 2008 loss…on a greater scale!!!
Interview by Mike Heath (@MikeBeef)