Just after catching Reality Slap make their mark on Birmingham, we got to have a talk with Carl Schwartz of First Blood about the gap between album releases, times where being outspoken has backfired and the revival of the hardcore scene.
For those who might not be familiar, how would you describe First Blood?
First Blood is just a simple, mosh heavy metal edged hardcore band.
You are currently on the beginning UK/EU tour with Deez Nuts and Comeback Kid, how has the tour been going for you so far?
It’s been sick. Deez Nuts and Comeback Kid have been touring for a while in Europe so they’ve had tonnes of kids come and we’ve been playing to a lot of new kids we wouldn’t normally play to, like a younger audience so that’s been super cool.
With it being quite a few years since you have been back in this country touring, what can fans new and old expect from you at these shows?
There’s going to be some new energy because this is our first album in like seven years and were psyched to be playing the new songs instead of the older material for the millionth time. I think it’ll be a fun time and if the kids have enjoyed the newer material, they will definitely enjoy it.
You have also released your new record ‘Rules’, how has the early reception been for that record so far?
From Facebook and social media its been good, but the people who like the band tend to take their time to comment on the release. So far the response overwhelmingly has been good. At least we didn’t put out a horrible record, you know? *laughs* Kids seem to like it, its the same stuff just round three.
It had been around 7 years since you had released an album, how come it took that amount of time for you to put new music out into the world?
After the last record I left the US, got married and had a kid. Life kind of slowed down and I was going through a divorce and separation and trying to spend time with my kid, so it was hard for me to write music, but I finally got it together and people hooked us up with the studio so I was able to crank out all the writing over the last few years and now its finally here!
With your music, your band hits on a lot of strong topics. Does your song/lyric writing base around current affairs or more personal affairs/beliefs?
Our last record was super political and it was definitely a more world affairs centric record than what goes on in the hardcore scene. This new record has more personal stuff about growing up and how I was raised to look at the rules of life, what to accept and what to reject, but there are still political topics that we touch up on the record that we talked on the previous release to somewhat keep that continuation.
Out of your entire discography, what songs would you say are your favourite and why?
My favourites are from this newer record as its from a really tough time for me. It was really dark and depressing for me trying to build a family and it all falling apart, so just to get through this and finish the record I was really proud of, it was like a victory for me as far as like not letting the darkness overwhelm me and make me give up music.
What got you into the hardcore scene when you were younger?
I was definitely into a lot of crossover and metal and death metal and thrash and all that. I think it was going to that first hardcore show and seeing that different kind of interaction with the crowd that you don’t really get at metal shows. Just the impact of lyrics and crowd participation, thats the kinda stuff that I felt was super fun and got me into it.
What does hardcore mean to you personally?
Personally, its like and attitude and a state of mind. There’s a lot of different bands, different kids, different styles and sounds and people live by their own rules and you can definitely tell that when you witness it.
As you have seen the music genre grow, what has been the highs and lows that you have witnessed from either shows/bands/fan culture?
We’ve been around the world and to be able to connect with kids all around the world and speak different languages, those are definitely the high points because were not from the same place nor the same background, but we still share the same views. Unfortunately the lows are where you go to a lot of places and all they want to do is destroy each other and that’s a little bit too extreme for what we started this band for. We wanted to be aggressive and violent in a sense, but not deconstructive.
With a lot of bands being very outspoken in the scene such as yourself, has there ever been a point in your span where it has backfired for you standing up/speaking out for what you believe in?
Yeah, I feel like I maybe have taken too much of a shock approach in some things to get attention, especially with Palestine and touring Germany a lot. The left wing is really critical of people who criticise Israel. They tend to equate criticising Isreal and the Isreali government to criticising Jews which is a really touchy topic for the German left, like the Anti-Deutsch movement.
I made a t-shirt that had quotes, word for word, from Amnesty International and they tried to say that I made a t-shirt with anti-semetic rants on it. I had to sit down with them and talk to them and say ‘Listen, these are not my words. This is Amnesty International, a world credited outreach organisation, not me. If you think I am anti-semetic, then you think that the most established human rights groups in the world are anti-semetic’ and they still wouldn’t accept it. They opposed my view whether their view was right or wrong and that was the biggest disappointment in my life as far as like speaking out for something and having someone with no logic still condemn someone who is trying to promote peace and justice in a place where the underdog is just getting crushed by the imperial military machine. It was sickening, it made me sick.
If you could describe hardcore scene in its current state in one word, what would it be and why?
One word.. for me, I think since I’ve been in the dark forever and been in a bad spot, its like a personal revival. It’s like the label we signed to who have also signed Terror, Stick To Your Guns, Knocked Loose and a bunch of others, they’re reviving it again, so ‘Revival’ of what we went through like 15 years ago, its coming back again!
What bands would you say right now are representing the hardcore/metalcore/beatdown scene in the best possible light?
I mean, a lot of bands we’ve toured with like Nasty, you look at Get The Shot who have been around for almost 10 years and they’re still going hard, Terror are still, with all the crap that they’ve been through all over the years, pushing it. They could choose not to do it but they still do. Madball as well. Younger bands like Desolated and Malevolence. They still go out and make aggressive, heavy ass music and they’re not here to be a clique. I really like the vibe of those guys, they were nice to tour with and it was a great state of mind to be with. There are plenty of other I can’t think of on the spot because Im freezing. We don’t tour with bad people.
For people who might feel like they are lost in this world due to current affairs or their own personal lives, what advice would you give them to show them that everything will be okay?
It’s a tough road. Sometimes there’s people to help you push through stuff like that but you can’t forget that feeling of doing something that you love. If you let the negative things around you make you give up on things you live, then they win. You gotta think of it that way. It’s easy to give up on stuff and I wanted to give up on this band and say ‘Fuck it, I’m done’. It sucked, I didn’t like it, I wanted to quit on so many points along this record that I stuck with it and I feel it’s paid off. I feel like we put out a record that speaks to people and they appreciate it. Just gotta stick with it, man.
What are the rest of your plans for 2017?
We’re going to be touring everywhere for this new record again. We took some time off so we’re going hard in Europe for two/three months at least and everywhere we can go that we’ve been to. Just touring, touring, touring.
Any final words to your fans?
Thank you to everyone who has picked up the new record ‘First Blood Rules’, Pure Noise Records did a great job with pushing it and getting it out there in front of kids and they’ve been grabbing the vinyl. Thanks for picking it up, thanks for checking it out online and we will have some videos out there. We will reach out to you and say thank you and hopefully we can meet you all out on tour and say thank you personally.