It probably won’t come as a surprise that here at Mass Movement, we’re Strife guys. So when the opportunity to talk to Andrew Kline about the band’s new record Live at the Troubadour appeared, we seized it with both hands. This is what he had to say…
Interview by Chris Andrews, Tim Cundle, Ian Pickens and Mark Freebase
Photograph courtesy of Zach Cordner
MM: I’m sure that you’ve probably been asked this more than few times… What originally drew you to the HC scene? What was it about the bands and music that made you want to be a part of Hardcore?
Andrew: We were just all friends that loved hardcore and wanted to do something to be a part of the scene. I was good friends with Sid’s neighbour, and we met right when he moved to Thousand Oaks from Riverside. We were both skating in front of his house, and we instantly hit it off… We were both into skateboarding, punk, and hardcore, so we quickly became close friends. Sid played drums in a band called SDI (Society Defeated by Ignorance) out in Riverside and had already played shows with bands like DRI, Agnostic Front, Youth of Today, and more.
Sid was a few years older than me, so we started going to shows together right off the bat. We met Rick outside of a MDC show at the Country Club. He was from a town called Moorpark, and he was already in a band called Monster Club (Pre Still Life). Soon after we met, Rick was driving out to Thousand Oaks almost every day to hang out with us. Eventually Rick and Sid started a band with this metal dude named Jim playing guitar (he worked with Sid at Toys R Us)… Jim was a great guitar player, but he was really flakey and didn’t make it past a few practices. I remember going to Sid’s house one day and we started jamming in his room. The first half of the song “Dedication” was written that day, and I was officially in the band. Our original bass player was a kid named Scotty who grew up close to Rick as well. He was kind of getting out of Hardcore at the time and just sort of disappeared. Chad was part of our crew, but didn’t really play an instrument… We told him he was going to play bass and it just sort of happened.
We were all into punk, but we knew that we wanted to be a Straight Edge Hardcore band… Most of the bands from the 80’s were breaking up or winding down, and we wanted to start a band that had the same spirit of some of our favourite bands of that time.
MM: Why did Strife originally break up and what made you guys want to get back together and do it again? How is the Strife of 2017 different from the Strife that originally released their debut album on Victory?
Andrew: I think that we just got burnt out. We were a full time touring band, and sometimes that takes a toll on not just the band but on friendships as well. I think it is smart when bands take some time off because being around the same five people day in and out can definitely drive you crazy.
Soon after Strife stopped playing, Sid and I started a band called Angermeans. It was supposed to be a project with just the two of us writing and recording all of the music. We went into the studio to track a few songs and I quickly realized that my voice was not strong enough to sing on these songs. We ended up hanging out with Rick one night and we played him the songs and he said he was down to sing. Our two song demo had different recordings of Life Stained Red and Spill no Blood… Rick knocked it out of the park and his vocals sounded more ferocious than ever before. Franklin from Shelter/108 played bass for us for a while and when he eventually moved back to NY we asked Chad to play bass in the band. At that point it was 4/5 of Strife playing shows with all new material and one or two Strife songs thrown into the set. We could see that the kids wanted Strife. Our close friend Jesse passed away in 2000 and we decided to set up a few benefit shows to raise some money for his family. Jesse was a close friend, our roadie, and is also featured in the photographs on In This Defiance… We knew that we had to play the show as Strife. Our first show back was a benefit show for him at The Whiskey in Los Angeles.
I think as a band we are a lot tighter than we ever were. We play as much as we can without burning ourselves out, and most importantly we play because we love it. There is no stress, no drama, and no competition… I think we are closer friends than we have ever been as well.
MM: Let’s talk about the live record and DVD. What made you want to release a live record? Where did the initial idea, and impetus, to do a live a record / DVD combination come from?
Andrew: This release has been in the works for a while… I had the idea to film the show back in 2005 to release as a DVD at some point. A good friend of ours had a brother who had produced and directed a few live DVDs for some bigger punk bands, and we thought that it would be a fun project to take on. We have always had wild shows in Los Angeles, and the Troubadour is one of my favorite venues to play. Anyway, we had the show professionally filmed with 5 cameras and a giant crane that came down off of the balcony of the Troubadour, and we hired a sound engineer to record the audio to 24 tracks. Somewhere down the line we had the idea to include a short documentary portion to the DVD, and this is when we kind of lost track of the project. After filming a few of the interviews, the director got hired on to be part of the crew of the show Ghost Hunters. He moved out of town and the project got put on the back burner and eventually just sat on a hard drive somewhere for a number of years.
A few years back I started my own label, WAR Records. After releasing a handful of records from bands like Strife, Piece by Piece, Miracle Drug, and Reality Slap, I started to think of something fun to do as a limited release for Record Store Day. I dusted off the hard drive and sent the live recording to my friend Arthur Rizk (Powertrip, Cavalera Conspiracy) to master. I was blown away by how good it sounded when I got it back. So many people have asked about the live DVD over the years… I knew I couldn’t release the live record without it. Anyway… We put it all together and we are all really happy with the results.
The Record Store Day version is a limited pressing of 500 on translucent red vinyl and comes packaged with the DVD. We also made a 2 disc CD/DVD set which won’t be as limited.
MM: And why that particular show? What was special, for you, about that show? Was it difficult choosing which show you wanted to release?
Andrew: We didn’t randomly pick a show and just release a sound board tape. Everything was thought out before hand. We hired a sound engineer and a full camera crew, and then just hoped that this show would be a good representation of the band. Judging from the live footage and the audio, I think we picked a great show!
MM: How do you feel about the finished record? How would you describe it to the average HC kid?
Andrew: The record came out great. I feel like it’s a good representation of what the band is like live, and the DVD footage came out amazing.
MM: With such a strong debut offering, how come the track listing for the new live record only features three tracks from One Truth?
Andrew: This record captures Strife at a moment in time… That just happens to be the set that we played that night. We mix up our set lists all of the time and play different songs depending on how we are feeling. I think Live at the Troubadour has a good mix of songs from our first three records.
MM: With a live album, what do you want to achieve most? A good overall show with strong atmospherics and crowd participation, or sound quality?
Andrew: This project was planned as a DVD before we decided to release it as a live record and DVD set. Obviously crowd participation is important, but sound quality is as well. We wanted to capture that energy of the band without compromising the sound. Recording everything to 24 track was helpful, and we went back and mixed the record with Mike and Tommy from the band Spineshank and then ultimately had Arthur Rizk (Powertrip, Cavalera Conspiracy) master the recording.
I definitely feel like everyone was playing at the top of their game, and the crowd that night was amazing.
MM: What made you choose the Trobadour as a venue to record at, it used to a hair metal hangout in the mid-80s right?
Andrew: Every venue in Los Angeles was a hair metal hangout in the 80’s. The Troubadour is one of my favourite venues to play in L.A. The sound is great, and the stage is perfect for a hardcore show.
MM: Do you think Hardcore works better in the studio or live? Why?
Andrew: Obviously studio recordings are important, but I really feel that hardcore needs to be experienced live to really be appreciated. You can never capture the energy of a bunch of kids singing their hearts out while a band plays their favorite songs.
MM: How did the Roots tour with Sepultura come about? And what do you remember most about it?
Andrew: It’s crazy how that happened. We were playing a small show in Phoenix back in ’96… The show wasn’t that memorable aside from one of our friend’s setting off a fire extinguisher at the end of the set. After the show our merch guy came up to me and said “Someone from Sepultura is here and they want to meet you…” That was Igor! A few months later we were on a plane to Europe supporting Sepultura on the Roots tour… We even played the final show with Max at the Brixton Academy.
I have so many memories from this tour. Playing soccer with the Sepultura guys in the arenas before soundcheck, meeting Robert Trujillo at a few of the shows in France, watching Sepultura receive a gold record at an awards ceremony in Prague, loading out from a few shows just as KISS’s crew was arriving to start setting up, and so much more! This was one of the best tours that we ever did, and definitely a highlight of our career.
MM: Did you jam any other covers with them apart from We Gotta Know?
Andrew: That was the only cover we played with Sepultura on that tour. Rick and I would come and play that song with them every night. A recording of We Gotta Know with Rick and I even made it to their live record Under a Pale Grey Sky from their final performance with Max at the Brixton Academy.
Igor would come out and play drums during our set as well. He played “What Will Remain” with us almost every night…
MM: What’s behind the current resurgence in Hardcore? Is it just nostalgia or a reaction to the state of the world in 2017?
Andrew: I don’t know if I would say that there is a hardcore resurgence really. I think the hardcore scene in 2017 is definitely smaller than it was in the 90’s. I do see some new interest in bands from the 90’s, and I think this is due to some of the bigger bands like Code Orange, Knocked Loose, and Jesus Piece finding influence in bands like Disembodied and Martyr AD.
What are the five albums that influenced Strife as a band?
Andrew: The 5 records that influenced Strife’s sound would be:
- Judge – Bringin’ It Down
- Cro Mags – Best Wishes
- Sick of it All – Blood, Sweat, and No Tears
- Youth of Today – We’re Not in This Alone
- Chain of Strength – TTD
MM: Which album of yours would you say is the definitive Strife album?
Andrew: I would say that In This Defiance is our definitive album. I think that’s when we really hit our stride as a band and we were doing our own thing. It’s a perfect blend of hardcore and metal that I feel still holds up to this day.
MM: You’ve been a non SxEx band longer than you were a SxEx band now. Do you still get backlash from the militant SxEx edge fans?
Andrew: It’s funny, because I think we got more shit than any other band that came back with members that are no longer straight edge. When we started playing shows again in the early 2000’s we made it a point to let everyone know that we were no longer a straight edge band. Obviously straight edge was a big thing for us, but I think Strife had a message beyond that and I feel that we can still make a positive impact on the world.
MM: You were top of the pile on what was an amazing roster on Victory Records in the 90’s. Do you think having that competition, helped spur you on?
Andrew: We didn’t really think of it as competition. We were friends with Earth Crisis, Snapcase, and Integrity, and we would play and tour with those bands all of the time. I think that every band was so good that it just pushed the other bands to step their game up.
MM: You’re also featured on the new xXx compilation that’s been released in conjunction with Mike Gitter’s book. How did you guys become involved in that project and how did you go about choosing the song that you wanted to cover?
Andrew: We’ve been friends with Gitter for years. When he told us he wanted to release a comp in conjunction with the release of his book we quickly said “yes.” We were one of the first bands that he asked and the first band to turn in a song.
Rick had the idea of covering Who Are You? from Void, and I love the way our cover came out. We took their song and kind of modernized it a bit and played it as if it was a song that we wrote. It’s definitely a bit different from the original, but I think it came out great.
MM: How, if at all, do you think your involvement with, and in, the Hardcore scene has changed you as an individual? And what keeps you involved in, and wanting to be a part of, Hardcore?
Andrew: I learned so much from being in a band and being a part of the hardcore scene. Playing in a band was kind of my crash course in marketing and business, and I apply things that I learned to almost everything I do.
I still get inspired by new bands, and that is what really keeps me involved. Current bands like Free, Praise, Abuse of Power, and Protester keep me excited about hardcore.
Aside from Strife, I play in World Be Free and Berthold City and have my own label, WAR Records, so that keeps me connected as well.
MM: How does Strife see itself these days? The HC scene is bigger than it has been for some years, but over shadowing it is the sub divisions and trends… How relevant do you think individual bands are in the scene today?
Andrew: The scene is definitely more divided than it ever has been. Back in the 90’s it wasn’t out of the ordinary for us to play with bands like Farside, Samiam, or Voodoo Glow Skulls… I think the only way that hardcore will grow is if bands play outside of their safe zone and play with different types of bands.
MM: Putting out a new record, in comparison to the latter 90’s. How does it differ?
Andrew: There is so much music out there that I think it is really hard for bands to cut through all of the clutter and really make an impact.
MM: So, when can we expect a new Strife album?
Andrew: I have been writing songs for a while now, so I am hoping that we will hit the studio and record a new record at some point in 2018.
Live at the Troubadour is released on November 24th and can be ordered here