If you studying the musical creativity of Wisconsin or interested in the industrial death metal of the United States, it's hard not to pay attention to the Bleed band, which later became known as Crawl. They can be recognized as the closest friends of the cult Dusk, Owners of Requiem Productions and one of the pioneers of this sound. The history of the band ended 20 years ago but two former members Jason DeJardins and Tom Danz, shared their memories about the group, the music industry and the working methods of the bands in the 90s.
I found on the internet, that your first collaboration project was Nothing Scared (Tom Danz, Ron Heemstra, Jason DeJardin and Tim Panzlaff in its line-up). In the beginning of the 90-ies you had released two demos on cassettes and after that disbanded. Tell us, please, how did you meet each other and became the band?
Tom: A little about the pre-Nothing Scared days...Tim Panzlaff and I started the band we were Holocaust with a guitarist named Jeff and I believe Jeremy Brown who later went on to Vacuum Scam ...we had a few drummers. Ron Heemstra was a friend from high school. He and I were in our first real band together called Outrage with Phil Doran from Rock and Roll Land on bass. Ron kept telling me about this great guitarist which was Jason DeJardin so Jeff was out and Jason was in then Nothing Sacred was born...we started off playing covers. Metallica, Slayer, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Prong. A few typos in there but you get the idea...
Jason: I met Ron through a mutual friend in a local mall when I was about 17. The band Ron was in with Tim and Tom was looking for a new guitarist and she knew that I played guitar. I made the trip to their rehearsal space and hacked through some songs with them and they asked me to join. It was awkward because the guy I was replacing showed up while we were playing!
What kind of music did you play back then and is it possible to find recordings from those days now?
Jason: It was all cover tunes to begin with. We played mostly cock rock with a couple of Slayer/Metallica/SOD/Death Angel songs mixed in. We actually went by the name Ultra Violence that we lifted from A Clockwork Orange and Death Angel. We changed the name to Nothing Sacred after we learned of another band going by Ultra Violence (shocking). Ironically we started playing much heavier music post name change even though the new name was a bit less aggressive sounding. There are no recordings of Ultra Violence other than a possible video from the one and only show we played under that name. We did record the two demos as Nothing Sacred of original material that were of the heavy thrash variety.
After Nothing Sacred there was another band - industrial death-metal act Bleed. Was this band the successor of Nothing Scared ideas, or was it completely a new beginning for you?
Tom: In 1992 we changed the bands name to Bleed. I think we found out another band had the name Nothing Sacred. So we just changed the name never disbanded. By now we were listening to Death, Deicide and the name Bleed I lifted from entombed Sinners Bleed. That band was in full on death metal mode. My vocals stated to take on the death metal vibe.
Jason: Bleed was actually just another name change to begin with but it happened to coincide with a major musical and line up change that occurred shortly afterward. We were listening to a heavy doses of death metal and industrial by this time and it started to influence our songwriting in a major way.
There were line-up changes: bass player Bill Kabacinski joined the band and Ron Heemstra (Nothing Sacred drummer) left it. You had parted ways with Ron because you wanted to use drum-machine, or was it his decision?
Jason: Ron wasn't as keen to the heavier direction we wanted to take so we mutually agreed to part ways. Ron was and still is a great drummer and we were sad to no longer have his talents available. Our styles were no longer playing nice with each other so it was the right choice in the end. We wanted to replace him with a real drummer but the talent just wasn't available. There were a couple of drummers within an hour of our home base but they were unwilling to leave their current bands. We bought a Roland R-70 and a Korg O1W instead. Since we were now only a 3 piece we agreed that finding an additional member to play bass would be a good move for a couple of reasons. Tom could concentrate on vocals and Bill, who was the better bassist, could provided backup vocals and rile up the crowd a bit more.
As Bleed you released to records - 1992 demo (which is almost impossible to find now) and "Womb" EP. Was there conceptual difference between demo and EP, or both were made in the same direction of sound?
Jason: There was a large stylistic difference between the Demo and the EP. The Bleed Demo is an interesting item as it was the bridge between our heavier thrash into death metal sound. This was last the time we would record with Ron on Drums and Tom on Bass. If I recall we got the covers printed and bought 150 Clone Tone cassettes and dubbed them up ourselves off of a DAT master. As a side note we had some free studio time available to us so we actually recorded 5 or 6 of the same songs from the Bleed Demo but never released those versions. They actually turned out better than expected and we regretted recording the 8 song demo afterward when we could have had a 6 song demo for next to no money in comparison. Josh has a copy of this phantom demo and I need to get a copy from him for my collection.
The Bleed EP was a big change musically from the Demo as it was what I dubbed at the time "Industrial Strength Grind". It was in fact Death Metal with Industrial aspects such as sequenced machinery noises and orchestral backing. Ron had been replaced by the Roland R-70/Korg O1V combination and we had totally shed our thrash roots. Our timing was unfortunately about 3 weeks too late though. While the "Womb" CD's were being pressed Fear Factory's "Soul of a New Machine" came out and a bunch of people thought we had lifted their sound. The only things we were guilty of was being huge Godflesh/Pitchshifter fans and being from Green Bay instead of Los Angeles which vastly limited our exposure.
Tom: Around this time it was decided that we wanted to become more industrial. Godflesh and NIN was a big influence at this time. I was really into the life, death and reincarnation thing...I saw myself as a modern day Jim Morrison with my lyrics exploring the darker side of life.
The Picture from Louisiana`s Cancer Alley is a part of your EP`s visual image (Godflesh used it later for "Songs of Love and Hate"). What does this photo mean to you - is there any message or it just connects with the athmosphere of your music?
Jason: I found the Cancer Alley picture in a National Geographic and I really loved that it had Jesus on the Cross in front of a backdrop of chemical refineries. It was the perfect combination of Death and Industrial that I felt personified our new sound. As a bonus it also carried the inferred message that Christianity will always have man's propensity for greed and arrogance breathing down it's neck. It was nicely packaged and ready to get stuck on a CD cover courtesy of Nat Geo.
Your music was released on cassettes (believe it or not, but Thrash Corner cassette label is still functioning). Do you think that this form works well for music such as yours? Or form wasn`t important at that time - it was all about the release by itself?
Jason: Reinaldo and Thrash Corner are still at it? That's incredible to hear! In the early 90's it was rare for an "underground" band to put out a CD as we did. Cassettes and 7" were the norm and a perfectly fine format for our type of music but we wanted to differentiate ourselves thus the CD only release to begin with. If I recall Reinaldo contacted us about a deal that would provide us with free cassette copies to sell on our own in return for him being able to sell them as he chose. It was a convenient deal that came up after we sold about 700 discs so I didn't think it would hurt us in the slightest. It was a convenient arrangement for both parties.
You continued Bleed`s direction under the new name - Crawl. Crawl`s debut LP "Earth" was released by Pavement Music. How did you get in their catalog? Was there enough support from such a big, in terms of underground, label?
Jason: After our Bleed "Womb" EP made the rounds we started drumming up label interest and ended up signing with Olympic Recordings out of Chicago, IL. Olympic then in turn licensed "Earth" to Pavement Music which was a big step for us. It certainly helped us out exposure wise because it got our CD's onto the shelves at big retail stores like Best Buy in the US. Pavement had a number of releases that were actually going through BMG distribution at the time but "Earth" was not one of them. Sadly Pavement chose some underwhelming releases to put out via BMG distribution and the sales numbers were not good. Their BMG deal was ultimately terminated which weakened Pavement quite a bit from a business stand point. They supported us at a moderate level so I have no real complaints.
You used songs from the "Womb" EP on the album - they are near the half of its lenght. Why did you get back to the old stuff and re-recorded it?
Jason: We had yet again another name change due to a different band in L.A. already having legal claim on Bleed. With the switch over to the new name Crawl we wanted people to be aware that we were still the same band by including the 5 songs from the "Womb" EP. Because our sound was constantly evolving I felt if we wrote 10 new songs for "Earth" our fans might not recognize us as the same band any more. It also ensured that "Earth" would get released while the iron was hot so to speak.
Before recording sessions for the next album, Crawl`s line-up changed - new bass player Keith Powers and electronics/sample musician Josh Hovland joined the band. What was the cause of this renovation?
Jason: After the release of "Earth" we were finally able to start touring properly instead of just weekend outings from our home base of Green Bay, WI. Before we left for our first run of shows in the Southwest Bill decided to move to New Jersey with his girlfriend at the time. Tom then took back over his bass playing duties as well as vocals for the Southwestern shows. After we returned home from these shows It became evident the Tom was not comfortable with the traveling conditions of van touring and it was decided we should part ways with him as well. Tom's departure was a major blow but we really had no other choice than to move forward. We had 3 weeks worth of shows that were already booked and we could not back out of them so late in the planning stages. Keith Powers had been around the GB music scene for a while and had expressed interest in joining as our bassist if the need ever arose. With Tom now gone Keith took over on bass and I took over on vocals as well as guitar. With the line up of myself, Tim and Keith we did the previously mentioned 3 weeks of shows and came home. While we were back we continued writing new material and finally decided it was time to get a real drummer to play along with our sequenced backing material. We tried out a couple of drummers including our old drummer Ron (he was just humoring us) and Josh ended up being the best fit. We had hung out with Josh for years and he often helped Ron out with his kit when we played out so it was a great match. As a note Josh played drums for us but never actually did any programming or sequencing, Tim and I did all of programming, sequencing and sampling.
Tom: We signed to Olympic records and immediately recorded Earth this was a mix of songs from the demo and new songs. It continued where Womb left off. Industrial sound with samples. I also experimented with a different vocal sound as you can hear on the first two songs. Olympic records gave us distribution through BMG and some tour support. We started picking up shows here and there with other local acts. While we were writing songs for the next album which was pretty much complete. After a 10 day mini tour out west we were finishing our last date in Milwaukee's metal fest and a welcome home show in green bay. My time with the band ended on the way back from the Milwaukee show. Jason and I got in an argument and I decided I was done. I didn't show up to the welcome home show and that was the end. The band went on to record the album that we had already completed. After a short east coast tour. I believe the band was completely disbanded.
Tired of metal. I started a punk rock band names Calamity Jones and got married and moved to the west coast. We had a song, "super hardcore" on a compilation album, "stranglehold punk rock across America" i believe that you can find it on Amazon. We played some shows on the west coast and eventually disbanded. I moved back to Wisconsin and focusing on raising a family and work. I started a cover band, "kerosene Necktie" and played for a few years. Looking to do more I joined an all original Hard Rock Band. Now called "Evade the Enemy" both bands can be found on my Facebook page.
In 1996 you released "Construct - Destroy - Rebuild" and on this album your music noticeably changed. What were your music influencec, while working on this album? Who was the main generator of ideas?
Jason: Our sound was always evolving as I mentioned earlier. "Construct" was just another progression for us. Raging Death Metal had lost it's appeal to us and our influences had become more broad. I was listening to different stuff like Portishead, Orange 9mm, Helmet, Jawbox, Beastie Boys, Tori Amos and Dead Can Dance at the time. I ended writing nearly everything on the "Construct, Destroy, Rebuild" album during an exceptionally cold Winter in 1995/96. I was unemployed at the time and fairly miserable which is the perfect combination for writing the music that we played. There were some left over lyrics that Tom had written for Animals, Deny Me and Kerosene. Tim also wrote a few random riffs but the vast majority was just me freezing my ass of with a guitar and some electronics channeling misery into music.
This album was released by Overture Records, the label that was far away from industrial genre before your CD and second Puncture`s LP. How did this collaboration between Crawl and Overture Records happened?
Jason: After "Earth" came out on Pavement our actual label Olympic was contacted by Century Media with an offer to buy out our contract. We really wanted this deal to happen and I slow played our excitement which is a major regret of mine. Marty from Olympic informed me, after much deliberation, that he did not want to sell us off. He felt the new licensing deal he was working on with Overture Records was going to be really advantageous for his label and for us as a band. Unfortunately Overture's distribution deal fell through leaving us with crappy distribution and next to no promotion. In short it was the beginning of the end for us.
There were no news about the band after second album release - why did you part ways? What was the main reason?
Jason: Tim, Josh and I (no Keith) did about 4 weeks of touring in 1996 and 1 week of dates on the Warped Tour in 1997 in support of "Construct". Our last show was in an Atlanta parking lot in the blazing Georgia sun at around 1pm on the Warped Tour 97'. Metal, especially anything heavier than Korn, was pretty much dead by then. Established bands weathered the storm but it was a challenging time to make any real headway as a new band. We had all become disenchanted with the whole process and decided it was time to concentrate on paying some bills back home. It was a labor of love that just turned into plain old labor, no love, so we decided to end it. If I recall I told the 40 people that watched our final set in Atlanta before our last song that "This will be our last song, ever. Thanks for hanging out with us".
Tim Panztlaff had recorded cello for Dusk, Keith Powers joined them later. Was there any relations between Crawl and other bands in the Green Bay metal scene, maybe joint gigs and fests?
Jason: We all hung out and played shows together back in the day. Josh and I would tag along and help lug around Dusk's equipment when they played shows with out us. Steve Gross would manage our sequencer, drum machine and sampler when we played out with out them. Keith and Steve from Dusk formed Aphotic which I played drums in for a while as well. We were all great friends that respected each other's playing. It was a fun time in all of our lives. Steve, Bill and I were playing together in a for fun metal cover band called up until August 2015.
Not a long time ago, Dusk announced their reunion. Do you think about possible return to musical career?
Tom: As far as a reunion, I would be open to doing some dates with those guys, but I have not spoken to any of those guys since I quit the band.
Jason: I love that Dusk got back together, they were such ans awesome band. I will have to make my way over to a rehearsal next time I am back home in Green Bay. I have often thought about making new music and I believe I will in the future, I'm just not sure when. It won't be under the name Crawl though, I will let that sleeping dog lie. In my old age I find I don't have a lot to be angry about in my personal life so the need to "uncork" some hate just isn't there. The overall greed and stupidity of the human race does provide enough motivation for new material though and someday I will turn my disdain into music. Hopefully sooner than later.