By: Salvia Hex
In this installment of Driving Force, we sit down and talk with Craig Artz, the main man and driving force behind numerous Tucson bands like Gridlokt, A Fall To Break, Answer To None and Xenocide Digital Recordings.
Craig has been ensconced in the Tucson music scene for the better part of 15 years now. He spent many of these years as the creative and motivational force behind Gridlokt, a band that toured extensively throughout the western states and opened shows for some heavy hitters in the industry like Superjoint Rutual and Devildriver. Gridlokt recently got back together for a reunion show this January, proving once again that they can sell out any venue they're booked, and that they haven't lost a beat in their time off.
Craig's newest musical project is a band with a slightly different direction, A Fall To Break. Whereas Gridlokt was founded on their twin theories of violence and aggression, A Fall To Break is a much more melodic band, capturing a sound that allies them with such modern metal bands as Killswitch Engage. A Fall To Break is signed to Funzalo Records and has had their music appear in video games like the Postal series, and is now in rotation at NHL hockey games in the Boston market.
Of course, we would be remiss to leave out Craig's passion and profession, Xenocide Digital Recordings. Along with some associates, Craig has built Xenocide from the ground up, intent on providing a realistically affordable studio for musicians of all types in his hometown of Tucson. He's enjoyed working with both local acts, and national artists like Hemlock. Ever a work in progress, Xenocide continues to expand their services, recently stepping into the world of music publishing.
We sat down with Craig recently to pick his brain about some of the Driving Forces in his life a musician and an engineer.
What would you say gives/gave you inspiration when you are/were writing music?
When we were doing Gridlokt a lot of my music was inspired by the shitty situation I had with my father. Although the situation is rectified, that's where the main inspiration and anger that fueled my fire started. Then it would get into typical stuff like organized religion and politics. Drug use. Murder. Crime. Just really how despicable of human being we really are. Anger towards someone or something has always been huge in my writing. When we wrote Wrists Under Razors I developed stomach ulcers real bad and would scream and yell and cry all night pouring guts to the guitar and the paper and pen. I locked myself up and went to town on that album. For A Fall To Break, as a whole new adventure and style of playing and music, it's ironically funny because its a softer music style but I have a tougher time writing for it. I have to sit there and question every riff every change. I'm not exactly sure what's fueling me now besides will and determination.
Are there any films/books/paintings that have proved to be a recurring influence the way that you look at your art?
I rarely watch TV or films in the first place and have never been inspired by a film to write music personally. I see film as the link to brainwashing. (laughs) As far as books go honestly with the amount of time I put into music and the recording studio (Xenocide Digital Recordings) the only thing I read is lyrics in CDs, tickets, fliers and recording magazines. Although I do hope to one day get back to reading and writing. Painting and art is something I have always been into. Before I was a die hard musician everyone at every school I went to knew me for my drawings. That's how I made friends in new schools and really how everyone knew me. "Craig Artz is an artist" they would all say. (laughs) I love art. Too bad it doesn't pay better. Especially these days.
Are there any habits/rituals that you and/or your band mates have when writing music?
My only habits while writing music are blazing chronic and smoking more Marlbaros than the god damn Marlboro man himself. Fucking cowboy colors. Writing music is definitely something I have to work myself up to. But honestly, I don't even think I can play music without weed, sort of like Buckethead. He says without that bucket he can't play a note. You take my weed and I don't play. Before show rituals however were another story. I remember every show me and the Gridlokt boys met up side stage and shoved each other around. Screamed and yelled in each other's faces. Punched each other in places that wouldn't affect our playing that night. People thought we were nuts. But 20 minutes before our set we all knew where to find each other.
Have you ever written music while on tour? If so, how did you arrange songs while being away from you studio and in a different environment?
We never wrote on the road, we were all too busy kicking ass and taking names. However, back in the day, my whole band worked together too. Almost anyways. We would work out of town a lot in small towns through the week and come home on the weekends. We wrote big chunks of albums out of town. A lot of the music side of Wrists Under Razors was written in Safford and Show Low, Arizona. Jeff and I would play and Sean would beat on the floor and mattresses for kicks and snares. We even made friends and would ask them to let us practice at their houses. Sean, Jeff and I were always together. We worked together. Lived together. Practiced and toured together. The three of us never let a situation stop us from dominating whatever we did. We would piece songs together however we could. But when we were on tour we were driving so much and getting so shitcanned I don't think we ever even thought about playing.
What sort of influence does the music and writings of your peers influence what you create?
Honestly, the only peer that has ever inspired me to get better or write is Jeff Dickey from Gridlokt/A Fall to Break. Jeff takes a bad ass riff I wrote and by the time he's done with it on the bass I'm trying to, or wishing I could, change the whole damn thing. That guy is a mastermind and I'm fortunate to have him around for the last almost 20 years now. As far as other bands go I try to stay away from that. Maybe if they piss me off a bunch then I'll get a wild hair up my ass that makes me want to destroy them and that can be inspiring. But we have always been pretty DIY and you can't let what's going on around you stop you from throwing punches. So I try not to feed into others very much. Besides sitting here twenty hours a day, I don't really have many peers left. I caught a lot of shit over A Fall To Break, that it wasn't metal and all this jazz, that doesn't make any sense. I wanted to do something new and more hard rock oriented for a project. And I have definitely heard a lot of shit about it. I think the second A Fall To Break album probably was heavier than any of us wanted to be because of it. But I have a good grip on that now and have to keep a straight line of vision on what I'm doing, and I've been around long enough now to not give a shit what other people are playing. And just I do what I do.
So, how long have you been into music? What are your earliest memories of hearing something that really moved you? Were your parents musicians? What albums changed your outlook about what music is or could be?
The earliest memories I have are me being 4 years old and jumping on my parents bed singing Cinderella's Night Songs and them screaming and yelling at me to shut the fuck up. I think my mom knew I was going to jam. She fed me stuff like Judas Priest, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, The Cars, The Eagles and a lot of hard rock in general. My dad was more into Sabbath and AC/DC and of course, Led Zeppelin. I remember when they got Metallica's Ride The Lightning I was hooked. My uncle was really into Slayer, Testament, Metal Church, Suicidal Tendencies, Anthrax, Helloween and Nuclear Assault. I started catching metal from him. I found myself getting deep into stuff like Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Megadeth and Sepultura. When Pantera came out I think I started masturbating to that music. Fuck naked girls. I jack off to metal riffs. (laughs) And over the years I got into everything from classic rock to death metal.
I've never been one to separate myself from a genre of rock or metal. I like it all. The pussy shit to the heavy shit. I tried starting bands from the time I was like 10 years old. We had Aerosmith cover bands and shit in the 'hood. Then I joined a death metal band as a singer. From there I hopped on to the carcass of Brien's old band Damaged after it split up. Which turned into Violent Act Of Agression then to Gridlokt then to Answer To None and right now, A Fall To Break. My bus drivers used to tell me I should be a radio DJ because I knew everything about all the bands on rock radio. She couldn't believe how much shit I knew about bands that were around before I was alive even. Art was always my ploy to not get my ass kicked as much on the south side of Tucson. It saved my life and eventually turned into the gift of music. As far as other musicians in my family my grandma sings her ass off and my cousin plays guitar. But otherwise they were more music lovers than musicians.
I think the albums that most changed my life were the Pantera records for sure. But Metallica, Soilent Green, Nothingface, Sepultura, Slayer, Sabbath, Led Zep, Aerosmith, Priest, Deicide, those guys all put out records I listened to over and over and influenced me greatly. Fortunately I have hooked up with guys like Sean, Marc, Cody, Nate, Brien, Zane, Wes, Jeff, Matt, and Dustin who were the real influences on music for me. They have kept me fighting all these years and sometimes I think I was too much in awe of those guys to really give myself much credit. I've always been better at dissecting and listening to music than playing it. I think that's why Xenocide has become such a huge part of my outlet. I am no slouch of a musician. But there is always better. And that keeps me pushing.
Thanks so much for taking time to sit down with Axe Of Contrition, Craig! Be sure to check out his bands on Facebook, Reverbnation, iTunes or however you listen to music. Below are links to videos from Gridlokt and A Fall To Break on YouTube as well!
If you're in Tucson and in need of some quality recording work, swing by Xenocide Digital Studio and talk to Craig to see if he's the right man for the job for your band.
And be sure to catch Craig's band A Fall To Break as they battle for a spot opening the Mayhem Fest at The Rock in Tucson on June 23rd!