Taking the stage shortly after local Dayton band, Brothers In Arms, I found out what Victor meant, and I realize that each Hurt show is a unique experience. Each member of Hurt is a powerhouse on their respective instrument, but combined they are absolutely explosive. They make it look easy and effortless and are simply that good. This show had more fan interaction from J, who probably spent 50% of this show in some type of personal connection with those in attendance. J broke out the violin for approximately a third of the show as well as Victor taking a break from the drums to play piano, all while Michael Roberts (guitar) and Rek Mohr (bass) were absolutely flawless in their playing.
The set list chosen for this show was perfect. Actually, if I made a play list of my favorite Hurt songs, this set list would be on it. Beginning with “Wars,” the band progressed through “Eden-Links,” “Ten Ton Brick,” “When It’s Cold,” “Fighting Tao,” “Got Jealous” (undoubtedly one of my favorite songs from this band), “1331,” “World Ain’t Right,” “Danse Russe,” “Pandora,” “How We End Up Alone” and “Sally Slips.” Bringing the show to a end, Hurt closed out with a combination of “Rapture” followed by “Falls Apart,” another personal favorite. Within minutes, the band was at the back of the venue, meeting fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
J and Victor again took time out of their busy schedule prior to the show to sit down with me to talk about strange occurrences, classical music and Arco’s Angel, the side project of J and Michael.
Good to see you guys again. Anything been going on since we where here last, November I think it was?
V: Just life
J: A lot of touring. We took a little bit of time off trying to re-sort our tour plans. We’re gearing up for the Rock 4 Recovery tour which is coming up with Smile Empty Soul. So, it’s been good. Got a little bit of writing done.
For an upcoming album?
V: Towards, yes, slowly but surely.
J: It’s in it’s infancy right now.
But a ways off?
We touched on this before, but people tend to really relate to the music you make. Any song you have done where someone can relate it to some point in their own life. How do you continue to do this?
V: I think that’s a pretty tough question actually. From my perspective, it’s kind of like you have to pick and choose what you’re trying to do, are you trying to please the fans and keep doing what they want or are you going to do what you feel you should do with your music. I think that J having written a lot of the songs, that it speaks for itself when he, or we just kind of write what comes out versus trying to write songs to connect with people. We’re just writing what we feel we should be writing and doing what we feel we should be doing, and I think it just kind of happens that way. That’s the nature of Hurt, honestly.
J: I think that any artist that’s worth their muster sits down and doesn’t say :what can I write that will sound good on the radio?”, they try to write something that is timeless. We’re no different. We’ve written about a large variety of topics, anything from a word painting of Hitler to steps in the lineage of the gift of a little silver/red Rolls Royce toy box. You can take any story and make it compelling if you write allusions to what you are really talking about.
I think a lot has to do also with the way you project yourself.
J: We all give 100% and we really put ourselves into it. And we’re not offended when someone says I really don’t like this song, I’m like well at least it’s something that’s not vanilla.
V: Yeah, that’s right.
I have to say you (J) are a security man’s nightmare. When you stepped over into the crowd, just the look on their faces was enough to sense their tension. Has there ever been a time when, right before you’ve made that step over, you’ve thought, maybe I shouldn’t do that this time?
J: I chipped my kneecap doing that one time. I was playing a very large pavilion and as I was jumping from the stage to try to balance on that little strip of a rail that everybody’s leaning up against, this little girl in the front of the audience was looking at my guitarist, and as I made the leap she put her arm up there and if I had landed it would have snapped (pats his arm). So, I bailed, my knee hit the rail and it was a lot of vicodin that week.
V: Remember Madison when you fell between the barricade?
J: I fall all the time.
V: He stepped over on this barricade. It was kind of a dark stage, and there was this space between two of the barricades, and his foot just went straight through and on the flip side was this edge and he dug his back into it very hard. So his foot went through and it went right to his back. I remember asking him “have you been peeing blood or anything?” because it was right where his kidneys were, it was pretty bad.
J: When the green bruise starts streaking you’re like “that was a good move”.
V: It was pretty bad.
From the riser you probably have the best vantage point of anyone.
V: He just said that at last nights show, that I have the best seat in the house.
So J, when you have done that and you are going from the front of the venue to the back, what is the strangest thing that has happened?
J: A guy broke my ribs once. That was probably the strangest thing that has happened. The thing was he was so excited, and from the looks of it he was a brick mason or something, he had a really dark tan, you could tell he worked outside. I pulled down and landed right in front of him and I’m going up for the big note on Ten Ton Brick and the guy is like “Fuck Yeah!” and hit me in the chest. And he just didn’t know his own strength, especially since my rib cage was extended. I heard that sickening snap, then he was all like wanting to hug me and I was just like “oh, man, just back up”.
V: It doesn’t surprise me anymore, but to this day I hear things that people do in excitement, and you’re just like “what were you thinking?”, “what were you doing?”.
J: It was out of love, so I couldn’t be that mad
When you come to a Hurt show…I’ve been to a lot of shows where I leave saying I saw a great show, but with you, you leave saying I was part of a great show.
Is that something that just comes natural with you guys, or are you trying to draw people in?
J: We don’t really over think it. We don’t have, it’s not really some stepped process where we have a choreography or anything, we’re just playing.
V: We’re conscious of it though. We are aware that the audience, that we believe the audience should be a part of the show and not just spectators. It’s one of my favorite things, especially with the acoustic tour, which is something you and I were talking about a second ago (prior to interview), because when we do take the volume down a little bit you can really hear the crowd start to sing. There were some shows where it was like a church choir singing Hurt lyrics, it was amazing. So we are definitely conscious of it but it is not something we are trying to plan out. It’s just kind of how we do our thing.
We were talking outside earlier, you are planning on doing another acoustic tour?
V: Eventually yeah, there is no reason not to. I can’t say that it’s being planned right now. I think it got such a good response last time and we had such a good time with it. It was such a success with us that there would be no reason not to do it again at some point.
J: It also opens the doors to other artists that aren’t necessarily in the rock genre. Any time we get to play with the melting pot and introduce people to our music in different realms and likewise. I think it’s just a good thing all around.
Getting away from the rock genre, we spoke a little before about the violin, you were trained classically?
At any point did you think you were going to go down the classical music route?
J: I actually trained really hard for that route and then I kind of saw how impossible it was to sustain a living doing that. So I kind of shifted gears towards country a little bit, as far as being a fiddler. I already fiddled, it’s just kind of a style difference, and I was writing rock songs in the meantime and I said well lets just do this. I had no plans of actually playing the violin while playing rock songs, but the band talked me into it. I always heard you just couldn’t sing while you were playing a violin, but if I’m telling everybody that anything is possible if you really dedicate yourself to it, well, I guess I better follow my own advice.
So you have an appreciation for orchestras, that type of music?
Have you ever thought about, Metallica did it at one time, had an orchestra back them…
V: Metallica S&M?
Yes. Have you ever thought about possibly doing that with Hurt?
J: Yes we have. I think it would be interesting. I do a lot of orchestration. There is a lot of orchestration, believe it or not, on The Crux. It’s way back in the background. I kind of like doing that sort of thing. I believe it was Michael Kamen, who recently passed away, that did the orchestration for Metallica on theirs. So I think we have a unique skill set where we can actually orchestrate to our music. I would like to see that utilized at some point, but right now it’s just not financially possible. I mean you’re talking about Metallica, which is arguably the biggest rock band in the world, and then Hurt. So there’s a little bit of a financial difference there.
V: I envision Hurt acoustic with a piano player, with a string quartet, maybe another acoustic guitar player, something like that. But that’s what I envision, ya know, it’s not something that we’re working on right now. We’ve talked about it before. We’ve talked about having a string section with us, a piano player, maybe even some percussion, something, I don’t want to say extravagant, but definitely giving way to the classical side of things.
Your music projects a mood, so I can only imagine what adding that would do.
V: We learned early on in the acoustic tour that the Hurt songs lent themselves to acoustic/orchestral settings. It wasn’t really, I’m not going to say we didn’t work hard, we did work a long time to make the songs acoustic, but they really did kind of lend themselves to it. It wasn’t something where we had to completely change everything over in order to do that. We’re excited to try it again, that’s something we envision as definitely some type of orchestral background.
J: If you go past rock into hard rock and start to get into that metal area, good metal is pretty much classical music with different instrumentation. So it’s not the craziest thing in the world really. Especially that romantic baroque period of music that’s pre prevalent in metal. We’re somewhere in between, just the land of music, not metal, not rock and I can definitely see the classical influences come out.
You guys have been on tour for quite a while now, have you taken much of a break?
V: The beginning of this year was a break, basically when Christmas came around. Our last show was December 23 of last year. I think we had a one off somewhere in there, but we had January, February and a good portion of March off, besides rehearsals in March. Other than that, in 2012 we did over 250 shows. Prior to that we had the acoustic tour. We’ve been touring quite a while, we love doing it.
J: We’ve had years where we’ve done 300 and some, it was brutal.
Switching gears a little to the Arco’s Angel material. Phenomenal album, by the way…
J: Thank you.
What was the actual time frame it took for this album?
J: I think from the time we laid the first track, maybe close to four years. It’s just something that we were chipping away at. Michael had already laid the tracks and I just kind of lived at his house for a little bit and worked on it for a spell, came back, and every chance I got I would work on it a little bit more and a little bit more and thankfully it saw the light of the day. In fact, today is the day it is being released everywhere.
From what I’ve seen on the Arco’s Facebook page, everyone seems to be enjoying it.
J: Good. That’s everybody’s hope.
So this was all done prior to Michael joining Hurt?
When he laid the tracks down, and you heard those, when it came time that you needed a new guitarist in Hurt did that help pave the way for him?
J: Yeah. We were already working together, we knew how each other worked. Plus I had worked with him on Goodbye To The Machine, he was the producer for that album. So I knew him pretty well musically…
V: They already hated each other a little bit from that (laughing).
J: You need a little bit of that.
V: You have to hate each other a little bit to be in a band.
J: You need to argue.
From the Bio, I knew it had been a while coming, but wasn’t sure how long this album actually took.
J: It’s truly a side project, so that’s why it took so long.
Have you guys incorporated any of that material into your shows?
J: No, we haven’t, but we probably should.
V: We had talked about it in rehearsals. We talked about this tour being a little bit different than previous electric tours in a sense that, like I’m bringing piano into the mix and stuff like that. We wanted to play some songs that either Hurt had never played live or just hadn’t played live in a long time and try to rediscover them in a new light. He (J) had brought up playing an Arco’s song and I think it just, we had all already knew the Hurt music versus not everybody knowing the Arco’s stuff. We were kind of pressed for time and it wasn’t able to get worked in. It wasn’t like anyone was against it or anything like that, we just really didn’t have time to work it in.
Where did the project title come from?
J: Michael and I kind of sussed that out in no time at all and it seemed pretty obvious what the bulk of the content was dealing with and we just kind of, I’m a stickler for having self descriptive material, Hurt ya know…
V: I think you should come up with some sort of fairy tale story about a Ouji board, you two sitting in the basement in your underwear, candles…
J: Electric shock therapy and a couple of drinks later and I found myself…
V: See, that sells…
J: …a little later in Tijuana with a little bit of mescaline going on and I was like “Hey, ya know what? Hey! I like this!”
Seeing you guys live (last November) gave me a much better appreciation for what you do. There is so much energy coming from the stage from you guys, and everyone just seemed to feed off of it. My wife had never really listened to your music but she left the show and you are probably one of her favorite bands now.
J: Excellent, that’s what we want to hear. That’s how we’ve managed to do our thing this long.
V: That is what I like hearing. It’s cool for someone to say “I heard you guys on the radio and you are awesome” and I think that’s great, or “I found you guys online”, that’s great, but what I love hearing is “my best friend told me about you guys and brought me here” or “my best friend gave me your CD and now I’m in love with you guys”. To me that’s real advertising, that’s the way things should be advertised. That’s how you get longevity and that’s how you last in a band.
It’s interesting when you look out at your crowd, it’s not just a bunch of metal fans, it’s a broad spectrum of people coming to see you.
I’ve gone to shows where everyone in attendance looks basically the same, but here it is like a cross section of America.
J: I’ve seen 80 year old women at our shows.
V: Oh yeah. Even the age group. I kind of run our Facebook and you can look at your insights, which is basically like your demographics, your statistics and everything, our demographic goes from like 14 to 60.
J: Capital, when we were with them, they said they didn’t know how to market it because it was the largest demographic they’d ever had for any artist, and I was like, because it’s just music. They tried to put us on tour with Disturbed, and I said that’s not appropriate. Nothing wrong with Disturbed, but that’s not what their fans want to hear.
With that, the guys had to go set up for the show. This looks to be another busy year of touring for the band and if you are a fan of Hurt, you owe it to yourself to go see them if you haven’t. If you have seen them, you will see them every chance you get. If you have never heard of them, go see them anyway, I guarantee you won’t forget them.