I have interviewed a lot of bands but Hemlock by far was one of the most fun and entertaining bands I have ever had the pleasure of interviewing. Jason Weddle and I had an opportunity to get up close and personal with Chad Smith (Vocals/Bass), Jezy Ward (Guitar), James Gelber (Guitar), and Brian Smith (Drums) at Asylum Records before their show at Club Red. This was a wet dream for Jason since he undoubtedly has a man crush on the band. He even asked to be Eifel towered by Chad and Brian before we sat down on Asylum Records infamous blue couch. When Jason told me that Hemlock was coming to town and agreed to be interviewed by us I was more than excited because I have loved this band since the first time I saw them play with N17 many years ago. The entire interview was non-stop laughter and I only wish I would have done a video interview so that I could capture the true essence of the band.
Since 1993 Hemlock has been making a name for themselves in the metal scene undoubtedly reining as kings of self promotion. Hemlock has toured all across the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan with heavy hitters such as Slayer, Killswitch Engage, Slipknot, Ministry, Meshuggah, and many other metal greats. Las Vegas born Hemlock slowly began building up a loyal fan-base and now celebrates 20 years in the business! Most of the members have been together since they were teenagers. Although a few things may have changed since their inception, their dedication and legendary ability to captivate a crowd has only gotten stronger. Their music is always evolving, in fact my favorite quote from the interview was when Chad said “We take everything we love and put it in a blender, write it and scream on top of it to make it good.” A Hemlock show is like an energy drink to the nuts. Each and every member prides themselves on giving their fans a personal experience. Their crowd generates an energetic frenzy like I have never seen and their mosh pits create enough gravitational force to renovate your face. Their show at Club Red was no exception. Hemlock consistently brings raw energy and crowd appeal to the stage night after night. I love the fact that crowd participation is strongly encouraged and by the end of the night every person in that room can say they were a part of an amazing Hemlock show. Chad knows how to command a crowd and seeing Hemlock on stage, you know that they were born to be musicians. Their music makes you feel awake, alive and brings euphoria to your core. Hemlock is definitely one of the hardest working bands in the industry and their hard work is evident. They are not sitting and waiting for a hand out from the music industry and they are in the music business because it is their passion, not for a paycheck. Hemlock is straight up balls-out metal and if you haven’t seen one of their shows you are missing out.
Sandra: How did you guys come up with the name Hemlock and what does it mean to your band?
Brian: It means handsome dudes.
Jason Weddle: It’s a plant right?
Brian: It is a poisonous plant. We have had the name for years. It just sounded like a good rock and roll, heavy metal band name that we just kicked around forever.
Jason Weddle: It is poison like their wieners! (Laughter)
Chad: When we were kids it was a good name that you could tell when you hear it that it is a rock/metal type of band. It is easy to remember. Some of these bands nowadays name their band things that are like three sentences long. Hemlock is just an easy name to remember and you can tell it is a rock or metal band when you hear it. The fact that it was a poison just made it that much cooler.
Brian: Yeah, the name Poison was already taken!
(Laughter from the entire room)
Chad: I was like 14 or 15 years old and we just thought it sounded like a cool name. It is actually the poison that Socrates was forced to kill himself with because he was too radical of a thinker. We had heard more stories along the years but back to the original statement, it means handsome dudes in a band with poisonous wieners.
Sandra: So you guys have recorded a lot of albums, how do you feel your music has changed from album to album?
Jason Weddle: Because it has!!
Chad: We keep trying to always push forward and honestly, in just the length of our career in the last twenty years, not only us, but recording equipment, studio-wise, so many people can make awesome albums on their own now with computers, programs and all that stuff. When we first started we were lucky if we could go get like an 8 track recording on to a cassette or something. It is all just evolution and we keep trying to push forward. Songwriting-wise we have opened up and gotten a lot more styles mixed in just because you don’t want to rehash the same album over and over again so we added a little bit of punk rock, a little bit of thrash, a little more melodic, a little more death metal, a little more of everything. It is all in the Hemlock genre. We take everything we love and put it in a blender, write it and scream on top of it to make it good. We are always moving forward.
Brian: That and we grow as musicians and people, different influences, not even just musically but with life and everything. We definitely want to grow and progress as songwriters/musicians. We don’t want every album to sound the same and we definitely try to grow and push things in all directions.
Jason Weddle: So you guys don’t have that whole Hatebreed philosophy where one sound works so we are just going to work with that?
Brian: I actually love Hatebreed and AC/DC is the ultimate test to that. (Laughter) If you can do that and sell ten billion albums more power to you. Those mother fuckers might as well name it AC/DC mart because they took over Wal-Mart until Duck Dynasty, now they take over Wal-Mart.
Chad: First it was SpongeBob, then it was Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson and it was AC/DC and Kiss for a moment and now it is Duck Dynasty which is cool because they are men with beards and we love men with beards. AC/DC is one of Brian’s favorite bands but there is definitely not a ton of variety between the songs but they are good and they have out sold everyone we can name combined
Brian: Miley Cyrus had a run.
Chad: We love chicks with beards too. We are from Vegas. (Laughter)
Sandra: You guys have so many songs to choose from, how do you pick what you are going to play for your set list?
Chad: It is HARD! (hahahaha) You guys said that one of you guys was going to get naked by the end of the interview.
Sandra: That was Jason!
Jason Weddle: I will if you play pigeon holed!
Chad: That is actually on the list for our tour next year. Next year is our ten year anniversary of our album Bleed The Dream.
Jason Weddle: THAT song wasn’t on that album!
Chad: I am getting to that…I appreciate that you know our albums that well. It makes me proud that you know. I know you also hit me up for the Clunkinator and that is fucken awesome. We want to do Bleed The Dream in its entirety next year and get some red vinyl. We are thinking about doing four or five songs we haven’t played live in years. We are doing a couple of the classics and then doing Bleed the Dream in its entirety. Pigeon Holed is on the list.
Jason Weddle: For the record and this is just my opinion as a fan, I know you have re-done all three songs off Clunkinator, but Clunkinator is still the best version of all three. Absolutely raw.
Chad: Rick, the guitar player for Exodus produced it for us in Hollywood. We were young and we just wanted to put out something good. It was the next step quality-wise of what we had done in the past so we always try to keep out-doing ourselves.
Jason Weddle: You signed my Clunkinator CD and you signed it to Jasonator.
James: I am the newer guy so when I was learning the songs they sent me about 20 songs to learn in like a month. They were like hey, you are going to play guitar!
Chad: We said either wind chime or guitar and he picked guitar!
Brian: He occasionally plays the skin flute.
James: We have a master set list that we kind of stick to.
Chad: We are always trying to mix it up a little bit but still, I don’t know if you can do a Hemlock show if you don’t play Nobody Knows What a Killer Looks Like. We have to try to stick to the classics but then we do have so many that we have even done it a few times where we will take three or four and cut them in half and mush them into a song orgy/compilation. Now we are talking about working on a new album next year so that will just add to the chaos of it all.
Brian: We just recorded a live album in Vegas along with a DVD that we are going to release soon. Hopefully by Halloween, if not, by Thanksgiving. When we wrote the set list for that we purposely went back and touched random songs throughout our whole career. In a way it is kind of like, well I don’t want to use greatest hits but we consciously made the effort to put some heavy hitters that we knew we had to get on the album.
Sandra: Since you guys tour a lot, I want to know what is the longest amount of time you have worn the same pair of underwear?
Chad, Brian, Jezy, James and Jason Weddle: (Laughter)
Brian and Chad: Jezy gets that one!
Jezy: I am going to say….
Chad: Dude, you don’t want to admit that to the world!
Jezy: (Laughter) I think my record might be 12 days!
The entire room broke out in laughter at this point!
Sandra: 12 days! Did you at least try to turn them inside out?
Chad: Luckily he is not that smelly. All of us can be and when you tour in cold weather you can go longer.
Jezy: It is actually somewhere between 12 and 15 days.
Sandra: You get a trophy for that.
Chad: Then he sold them on Craigslist and they went for a ton of money. Naw, he didn’t sell them.
Brian: I would like to go on record saying that oddly enough, I am probably the cleanest one of the band. I try to shower and keep clean. I try to maintain.
Sandra: Are there any sacrifices you have made individually to be in this band?
Brian: Yes, we make sacrifices daily. We have loved ones all over the place and James sacrificed a virgin.
James: I went from being a fan to being in the band. I had known the guys for about ten years and when they gave me the opportunity to come and play with them I got rid of basically everything. I got rid of a lot of stuff, my bed, and half my clothes.
Brian: His bed was worn out from all the big bitches he had slept with and shit stains were all over.
Chad: Honestly we do what we love to do but there is a sacrifice where you can’t have a normal life when you tour as much as we tour. You can’t have a dog, you can’t have a goat, it’s hard to have kids, it’s hard to have a family, and it is hard to have money in your bank account. It is hard to stay clean and not change your underwear every 12 days but it seriously is a lot of simple things like having your own space that you miss. You go home, you take a shower, you can eat when you want, and you can sleep when you want but when you are on tour it is like you have a method to the madness and you just have to move through and keep going and going. The adventure takes over and you wake up and say hmm, I don’t even know what town I am in, what day it is, what is going on but I know we are going to rock tonight and it is going to be fun. It is just a different adventure every day. As far as sacrifice goes we could make more money if we did something else BUT we do what we love to do so we have hearts of gold and boners of cum!
Brian: Honestly doing it for as long as we have, we have met so many cool people. We have so many good friends all over the place. Even tonight, we have had several dudes say hey dude I am going to bring you a bottle of Jager and I was like fuck yeah!
Chad: Yeah, Jason we wouldn’t have met you when you were sixteen, seventeen or whatever.
Brian: He was eighteen for the record.
Chad, Brian, Jezy, James, Sandra and Jason: LAUGHTER
Jason Weddle: It was consensual!
Chad: So many people we would have never seen, or met, or done if it wasn’t for the band.
Sandra: What is the craziest thing that one of your fans has ever said to you guys?
Brian: We could get emotional or we could get foul as fuck!
Sandra: Do both!!!
Brian: Emotional there have been a few. Chad has gotten a few heartfelt letters and a dude that came up to us in California that showed us his Hemlock tattoo. He told us our song Weak Man Suicide saved him. The song kept him from killing himself and it was a positive song for him.
Chad: He said he listened to Hemlock over and over again and that it literally saved his life. He showed us his Hemlock tattoo and we were like holy shit!
Brian: He said he got a new job, a new girlfriend and he was so glad that he didn’t do it. Shit like that is really powerful.
Chad: We always try to write positive lyrics and write where there is something behind it instead of writing a song just to write a song. We try to write lyrics that mean something. For someone to dive into it that hard where it actually saved his life physically or to give them a whole different optimistic outlook on it or whatever, it is really cool when the music means that much to them. It is really cool when people get the Hemlock tattoo because it is not just like wearing a shirt. There are so many people out there who have it and that of course is for life. Unless their arm gets cut off or they get it covered up. We have met a lot of friends who are lifers for real. They are supportive and believe in us and that makes it worth every bit.
Sandra: How would you guys describe your set to a Hemlock newbie?
Brian: Fun! Erotica!
Jezy: Good cardio and sexy!
Chad: High energy, fun, sweaty, rock and roll. We are trying to bring sexy back. It is loud and positive. We try to take a different approach because there are so many metal bands that come out and say oooh I am going to melt your face, rah rah rah! They are good or whatever but we are trying to take a different approach. We try to bring a party vibe and we want to make sure that everyone goes home that night with a smile and that they had fun with Hemlock. Pantera was always that way too, where if you were in the back or whatever that they wanted everyone to feel like a part of something. To be there to party, hang out with your friends. We are trying to go for the positive approach for sure.
Sandra: What do you guys think of Jason Weddle and what he does for the scene?
Chad: He is a beautiful young man.
Brian: He has a great shirt. I think that nice fuzzy beard would feel good going down on every lady in this whole town.
Chad: His shirt matches his balls. (Jason had on a blue Hemlock shirt with Homer Simpson on it) We have known Jason for a long time and he is a good friend, good dude. We are excited with the things he is doing. He hit us up about hanging out and doing an interview and taking some pictures. We have been looking forward to it but the truth is we all have man crushes on each other. We are going to braid our bears together.
Brian: Then we can jerk off!
Jason Weddle: Since you guys started the band back in the day, Chad you are the only consistent member of the band. Brian you were off for a few years doing your own thing or whatever…..
Chad: Brian passed away for a while. I brought him back with a resurrection. I used the Necronomicon, even though he is my brother, I sucked him back to life.
Brian: We used to take baths together and I used to write Ginger on his back. (Laughter from the entire room) The first boner I got when I was a little kid was from Ginger on Gilligan’s Island. I got in the warm water of the bath and got tingly the tingle reminded me of the boner I got when I saw Ginger from Gilligan’s Island.
Chad: He really did write the word Ginger on my back with soap but he didn’t remember the story until three years ago. For his birthday yesterday I told him that I would always be his Ginger. I am telling you, drummers are all a little homo. I have known some drummers to want to stick their drum stick in their ass before. You need drummers because they get the beat, they get the women dancing and get the dudes getting boners. You need the drummers but they are all a little bit fucked up in their own way.
Jason Weddle: Anyways, back to my question. I want to know that after all the lineup changes, after all the years of touring, the Hemlock bus, I am sure when Brian left it changed things but you Chad kept it going and were there ever any times that you wanted to give up?
Chad: Oh there have been hard times, still even nowadays but in my lyrics, I just write a lot about never giving up on what you love to do. If it wasn’t fun I wouldn’t do it. It is a lot of work, a lot of craziness behind the scene.
Jason Weddle: You guys are all do it yourself right?
Chad: The record industry keeps getting worse every month. We have never done it for the industry. We have always done it for the fans and our friends. We just keep plowing through the bullshit and keep going forward. I have definitely been the driving force to keep it rolling but nowadays it seems more fun, light hearted and positive than ever. We just keep moving forward. We are doing more shows; we are traveling, more international shows. We connect with the fans. We are starting to see a lot of fans that bring their kids out to shows which is weird but awesome all at the same time. It is cool. It has been fun. I like to use the word adventure because there are ups and downs with anything in life but we love to play music so we keep moving forward.
HEMLOCK and Sandra!
Sandra: Which country do you think has the craziest fans or the most die-hard Hemlock fans?
Chad: We have the most die-hard fans in the states because we tour here the most. Arizona and New Mexico are awesome. We do really well in Montana. We have different hot spots here and there and then we have some towns that we are still trying to tour in.
Brian: Country, not every city all over the god damn states Chad! Honestly Germany. Germany has the most appreciative fans. They are almost in tears where they are like thank you for coming to play a show.
Chad: Overseas they appreciate it in depth because they know that you didn’t just drive an hour to get there and that you actually took a full day to fly there and get all your stuff over there and they know they are not going to see you every month or every year.
Brian: There are the “Hollywood” crowds that are over saturated and they are like oh you are here, whatever, I am going to drink and be too cool. It is definitely fun to play for a crowd where everyone is getting rowdy and there for fun.
Chad: Montana is a cool party state that is always fun. We toured there with Slayer and Killswitch Engage. We went back on tour there with Type-O Negative and Hatebreed. After those shows we got really well known in Montana and not very many bands tour there. When we go there we do six or seven shows in all the different cities. It is always drunken, crazy fun, mosh, good time! New York is always fun. We went to Ireland last fall for the first time and the shows were all pub shows but we didn’t care, we just wanted to go to Ireland. There were about two hundred people at the shows but man, those people know how to drink! You have to write DAAARRRIIINNNKKK! The Irish can out drink anyone. The guys from Meshuggah can drink from like 11 am on because they are Swedish I think.
Brian: The REAL Irish dudes can drink!
Sandra: Brian were you in Ginger heaven?
(Laughter from everyone in the room)
Chad: Yeah the Swedish and Irish know how to drink. We have good friends who live in Belfast and we went there, Czech Republic was good, we did a couple of outdoor festivals there. We went to Switzerland on Brian’s birthday last year. This year we were in Flagstaff for his birthday and one year ago we were in Switzerland.
Sandra: Ok boys, last question, what would you like for the readers of deathweddle.com to know about you?
Chad: Jason sent me the link a few months back and I get on the internet so rarely because I book the tours, I drive the bus and stuff but I saw a big picture on the page and I started to read an article and I was like that looks like our friend Rudy from back in the day who used to jam with All Time Low and sure enough I read it and I was like man, he has been busy.
Jason Weddle: He is the in house sound guy at Joe’s Grotto now.
Chad: Oh really! We played there a while back but he didn’t do our sound. He was out on tour. We, used to jam with All Time low, and Brik, Torso, Pelvic Meatloaf, N17, BlessedBeThyName, all of that back in the days. We brought Rudy out to Vegas to jam with us one time and those mother fuckers rode in the back of a pickup truck. They showed up so sun burned! I was like Holy FUCK! Why would you ride in the back of a pickup truck in the middle of the summer! Those guys are good dudes and I did go on deathweddle.com and saw that article. Jason is our boyfriend anyway.
James: Thanks ya’ll. Anyone who has never seen Hemlock or who never gets tired of Hemlock, please come out to one of our shows because you are missing out on a lot of energy and fun.
Jezy: It has only been a day in my underwear.
Brian: Yeah he is fresh as fuck.