Conversation With Death : Jacob Henderson – Bitter End

By Tieuma
Climate Of Fear by BITTER END might be one of my key records. Despite it’s one of the few tough-souding records that doesn’t sound that tough, it has also a lot to say, in an really smart way. I think I went through it a lot of times and I still enjoy it a lot. For a while, I didn’t heard much news of the bands, playing shows here and there and posting a picture from time to time. At some point I even thought it was over.
And then they announced they were hitting studio to record some new songs, and damn I couldn’t wait for this record to see the light. At the same time, I was a bit worried, because I loved their previous work so much I was expecting a lot out of this new release. Well, I got to say I wasn’t disapointed. It might not be on the same level as Climate Of Fear, it’s one of my favorite record of this year, and without hesitation.
For me it was an opportunity that they released this new records, so it gave me a good reason to interview them, since I wanted to do it for a while but wasn’t very inspired to be honest. But now this problem is solved and I made the step forward to do it. I just want to raise a point though, that suprised me frankly, is when I tried to get in touch with them, someone from Deathwish.Inc answered to me (Stephanie Marlow, shout out to you if you scroll through this). I’m not a journalist or so and dealing with a third party for an interview is kind of unusual to me, in fact I never experienced it, and I don’t know what to think about it but at least I can say I did it the “pro way”.
Aside Stephanie, Jacob, one of the band’s guitarist, is the one who answered the proper interview. Enjoy and if you haven’t yet, listen to this record because it’s a damn blast, period.


Hi Tieuma, sorry it has taken so long for me to respond to this interview. I handwrite everything before typing. I drove to Detroit two weekends ago to see COLD AS LIFE and in typical Detroit fashion my car was broken into and my bags were stolen. The notebook that I was writing your interview in was in a bag that was stolen. I had to start all over and that is what caused the delay.
DxR : “Five years after Guilty As Charged you’re finally releasing a new LP. Why did it took that much time ?”

Jacob Henderson : “One of the reasons it took five years is because writing and recording an LP takes quite a bit of time to complete. It takes a great deal of patience and dedication to work on  something and have to wait for two or three years to see the end result. I had ideas for some of these songs for several years. Many of the songs have gone through many variations and re-writes until we were satisfied with them.”

DxR : “Are you still a band, in the proper sens of the term, doing rehearsal reguraly and seeing each others to write songs or you just gathered to write down the LP and record it and then you cameback to your personnal lives?”
J.H : “We all live in different a city, which seems to be not that uncommon for many bands today. All of us are in regular contact with each other, because we are all friends. Sometimes we discuss the band and other times we just have regular conversations like. Our drummer Ethan only lives four hours away from me, so I was able to drive and meet up with him to practice and demo some of the songs. We are all confident with each other as musicians and have been playing together for so long that we can practice individually and still be prepared for when we play a show. Some people might be surprised to how 

little some bands practice.”

DxR : “I know most of the band members have either kids, full time job or study pretty hard, how do you reconcile all of this with a huge band as Bitter End ?”
J.H : “It is a constant balance. Sometimes I feel like I am juggling chainsaws in the air and I am desperately trying to not let them fall on me. All of us have busy lives outside of the band. I’m an intern at a non-profit organization, I’m in graduate school, I do volunteer work, I have a job, and I do this band. I’m feeling a little burned out at the moment trying to balance everything. I keep doing it though because I love being in this band and I love creating music. I’m willing to sacrifice some of my sanity to keep it going.”
DxR : “Being a band since at least 2006, are you growing tired of it ? Is it becoming some sort of an obligation ? Or are you still enjoying as if it was day one ?”
J.H : “I think I love being in it more now than I ever have. I don’t think I ever took being in this band for granted, at least I hope I never did, but I feel like I appreciate it much more now. It might be because I am older and I can look back on incredible experiences that this band has allowed me to have. Also there is no greater feeling than being on stage and playing music. To me it feels like a drug and many people have become addicted to it. When it is over you start to come down and you can get very depressed until you are back on stage (or on the floor in most cases) playing live again. I crave it and I need that outlet so I can escape from my head for a moment. I love the musty sweat smell of a small venue, I love taking my guitar out of the case and seeing the blood encrusted on my pickups, I love hearing the sizzle of my amp when I turn it on, I love the feeling of physical and emotional exhaustion after playing a great show.  Yes I still enjoy it.”
DxR : “Was it a logical thing for you to record this new LP, like a new step, or was it something you had to do because you didn’t released anything for a while ?”

J.H : “We had to ask ourselves if we had anything meaningful left to contribute. We never felt like we had to do anything. All of us were very passionate about recording another record. Like every recording process, there were a lot of obstacles in our way but we were able to overcome them. My passion for writing this album turned into an obsession that probably became very unhealthy. It is over now though, and I feel very good with how it turned out.”

DxR : “I remember the first time I came across your Myspace page, in 2008, you listed a lot of bands and records, some really accurate references. Are those the same references now ? Does new bands inspire you somehow ?”
J.H : “That is awesome you came across our Myspace in 2008. All of the bands listed on our Myspace are still influences. We may not listen to those bands as much as we did eight years ago, but they will always influence us in one way or the other. We are first and foremost a hardcore band, but we listen to many different genres and styles of music. We took inspiration for some of the songs from THE CRAMBERRIES and THE POLICE, but also from JUDGE, BOLT THROWER, and SICK OF IT ALL. I love seeing and listening to newer hardcore bands. It takes a long time to really find your sound and play your instruments well though. Hardcore, like any other genre of music, is a craft that takes time. So while I may not be influenced musically by the newer or younger bands, I’ll still get influenced by their energy and passion. I went to a show a few weeks ago and saw some semi-newer bands POINT BLANK and DROWN . I had heard both bands on recording and thought they were good but when I saw them live they both absolutely killed it with their energy. After the show I saw them pack all their gear into their van to take to the next show. I had to be at work in the morning and thought to myself “I wish I was going with them.””
DxR : “I’m sorry (not really) to say so, but my favorite song might be Disguised on the American Hardcore compilation, and I sincerely doubt you’ll ever write down a better song than this, at least for me. But, will you try again to mix that “San Antonio” feel to NYHC as you did for Disguised ?”
J.H : “I’m so glad you like that song, I am real proud with how Disguised turned out. We don’t play it live that often, but when people ask us to play it we usually oblige. After we recorded Guilty as Charged we heard that Triple B wanted us to have a song on their America’s Hardcore Comp. We had one practice for the song that would eventually become Disguised, but we didn’t finish it. We had a writing process where we would mostly talk about the song, the song theory, and the song structure instead of actually playing our instruments. A month or so later after that one practice we scheduled recording time with Craig Douglas who had recorded and produced several of our records in Houston. We planned to drive to Houston from San Antonio (about four hours away) at night and set up all our gear so we could record early in the morning and throughout the day. That night there was a huge lightning storm that knocked out all the power to San Antonio. I drove to Griff’s house, who was our guitar player at the time, after the storm and he was sitting outside with an acoustic guitar. He says something in the effect of “Dude, I just wrote this acoustic part while the power was out, we should put this in our song.” That part ended up being the acoustic part before the last breakdown. It was important for us to not only record our music, but to also capture a certain mood. We wanted to combine that San Antonio feel with our New York Hardcore sound. When we recorded we would turn off all the lights, burn incense and light these spiritual Catholic candles that are very prominent in the Hispanic community in San Antonio. It was a lot of fun recording that song and I’m glad people like it.”
DxR : “I know some of you consider Reaper Records to be a great label, then why keep on releasing on Deathwish ? Are they treating you good ? Is it DIYW (Daniel said that once) for you ?”
J.H : “Reaper is a great label with great bands. Deathwish is also a great label with great bands. I feel very blessed that a band I am a part of is on a label like Deathwish. They treat us very well and they are one of the main reasons of where we are today. DIYW is a phrase Daniel and I came up with one day. It stands for Do It Yourself Well, and it mostly pertained to venues that we would play. We love DIY venues and the whole mentality behind it, but there is a difference between “doing it yourself,” and “doing it yourself well.” Just because you have a DIY venue doesn’t mean that you have to intentionally make it look as shitty as possible and have a microphone cord that is only two feet long. I know many people have to work with what they have, but still at times it seems like some venues aren’t even really trying. There is a great DIY venue here in Cincinnati that does it right. It is a great size, the sound is good, and they have all these awesome punk flyers and posters on the wall with really cool lights. That venue would be an example of DIYW.”
DxR : “For many people, and myself, BITTER END can be compared to TERROR on how influential you are and attitudewise, but do you think this comparison is right in some ways ? Todd Jones era or Martin Stewart era ?”
J.H : “To be compared with a band like TERROR is quite the honor. I would argue that TERROR has probably been the most influential band in hardcore since they first started. So many bands, ours included, would not be as well-known today if TERROR hadn’t put in all of their hard work. I don’t agree with that comparison because TERROR will play 200 shows a year and we might play 20. I love when people tell me that BITTER END has been an influence on a band that they started. Writing music that might have influenced others to start a band is one of the reasons I love about being in a band. But, TERROR far surpasses us in that field of influence. Lowest of the Low is without a doubt a classic record. My favorite TERROR song though is Shattered.”
DxR : “Do you think of yourselves as a big band ?”
J.H : “It is always hard to tell. I have played shows in front of 10 people and I have played shows in front of 5000 people. There is a lot of music out there for people to listen to, and a large number have chosen to listen to us. That is still hard for me to grasp my head around. I wanted so desperately to be in a band that people liked, and even though I know that people do like us, it is still hard to believe sometimes. We are big in the sense that we get offered some great fests and great shows, we have a great label that puts out our records, and people seem generally excited to hear us and see us. That is all I ever really wanted. I would love to be able to quit my job and go out on the road full time. But if this is as far as I get with music, well, I’d still consider that a victory.”
DxR : “As far as I remember, Guilty As Charged received some good critics and an overwelming reaction, do you expect the same for Illusion Of Dominance ?”
J.H : “So far most of the reaction has been very positive. You get the occasional people who might shit on it, but that is to be expected with the internet. People can get real nasty and negative on the internet, but you just have to brush it off. It is hard to brush it off sometimes, especially when someone says “shit fucking sucks” on something you worked 
obsessively on over for three years. But haters are gonna hate.”
DxR : “Why choosing Nick Jett to produce this new record ? How was it to work with him ?”
J.H : “Working with Nick was great. As I said earlier, I had become obsessed with writing and finishing this record. That obsession started to make me doubt myself and the songs we had written. Nick helped validate the parts that we had and came up with great ideas to make the songs better. I have been such a huge fan of TERROR for the last 12 years, so being able to work with Nick was very meaningful to me. He recorded United States of Mind by TAKE OFFENSE, and I love that album, so I was excited that he wanted to record us.”
DxR : “Are you satisfied with this LP ?”
J.H : “Very satisfied. The process started three years ago, so to finally get the finished product feels amazing. We had a vision and it was realized. Nothing is more infecting and aggravating than an idea.”
DxR : “Will you tour to support this new record ? Can you still tour all together or you can’t bear each others ?”
J.H : “We are going to play as many shows as we can that logistics and our schedule allow. It was recently announced that we will play some of the shows on the Life and Death tour with BACKTRACK, TURNSTILE, and HEAVY CHAINS. We also have plans to go back to Texas in December and hopefully tour Europe again in 2016. We might not be able to play every city in the U.S, so if you really want to see us, you might have to do some driving.” (I’ll have to take a plane first but that’s okay though, I’ll try to catch you on tour in Europe it seems more reachable

DxR : “Since day one, you deal with political/social issues more or less, but do you feel you gave people some tools to think by themselves, or gave them clues on the kind of world they are living in ?”

J.H : “There might be some political themes, but we are not a political band. Most of our themes and topics in our songs are more personal in nature. I like to stay up to date with politics and news and I have views and opinions about many topics. We want everyone to feel included and anybody can interpret our songs however they see fit.”

DxR : “Do you side with the nineties political awarness or AGNOSTIC FRONT Oï! skinhead straight in the face politics ?”
J.H : “I think both have a place in hardcore. I have learned a lot from political awareness and have gotten many different perspectives that I hadn’t previously considered. I think that is a very good thing. At the same time, I like the rough “I don’t give a fuck” non-apologetic nature of some bands. Many people in hardcore come from all walks of life and each person has had different experiences and perspectives. I really like that hardcore contains people with very diverse personalities and opinions.  One of the main things that attracted me to this genre was it made me feel welcome and included. So often in my life, I have felt like a complete outsider, but this music made me feel less alone. It is very discouraging seeing people in hardcore fighting with one another. It depresses me when I see people say things like “if you don’t agree with me on this topic, we can’t be friends.” One of my heroes, chef and world traveler Anthony Bourdain said, “I don’t necessarily have to agree with you to still like you or respect you.”I don’t agree with the lyrics to Agnostic Front’s “Public Assistance,” but I still think it is a great song and I have moshed 
to it.  I have seen bands that have talked about communism, right-wing politics, veganism, straight-edge, and many other diverse perspectives. All of them more or less share the same proverbial stage. I think  it is great that so many people of differing backgrounds and viewpoints can come together to share their music. But recently I have seen a lot of divisions, a lot of people backing into their own corner, and see a lot of name calling instead of rational discussions.  I think it is important to try and understand others and where they are coming from, instead of just barking opinions at them. You have to ask yourself, “Am I trying to start a discussion that might accomplish something? Or am I just trying to start a fight?” When you attack a person they get very defensive and aren’t going to listen to anything you say. There are a lot of people that I respect that I also disagree with. It is ok to disagree with someone and still talk to them. Why would you just want to preach to the converted? But enough with my soapbox, let me answer your question…I like both.”
DxR : “Everytime someone asked your influences, you said Machine Head, but do you really consider it a good band that much ? Like really ?”

J.H : “I do like Machine Head and they were an influence. But they were one influence out of probably hundreds. It has been a while since I have listened to Machine Head. I was a big fan of The Burning Red when I was a kid and of course Burn My Eyes. Those were really the only two records that I listened to.  I know they constantly record and tour but I just don’t keep up with them.”


DxR : “Did you really used this SLAYER guitare for the “calm parts” ?  Did it sounded good ?”

J.H : “We did use the SLAYER guitar for a lot of the clean parts! We also used it for some of the leads and solos. For those that haven’t seen the picture, it was I think Jeff from SLAYER’s signature guitar and it looks very metal. Nick has a friend who has quite the guitar collection so we experimented with some of the guitars that he had. That SLAYER guitar had a really nice crisp and clean tone that worked really nice when we were recording some of the more mellow parts. Mostly though, we use my guitar for recording. I play a LTD EC-1000 and that guitar has been on every record we have recorded. I got it when I was 17 and bought it because Doug from TERROR played one.”
DxR : “Why is it Jacob always answering the interview ? Is he the only guy smart enough to do it in the band ?
J.H : “This is my favorite question I have ever been asked. This is Jacob doing the interview by the way. I really enjoy doing interviews and get excited that people are interested in what we have to say. Writing our new LP (or really any of our LPs) involved me alone in my room playing guitar. When we play a show, I am often in my car driving alone to meet up with everybody. So a lot of time being in this band involves me being alone. When writing a song or coming up with an idea I would say to myself “I wonder if anyone will like this.” And then I had to wait two years to see if anyone did. I am always looking for connections in my life and doing these interviews helps me feel connected. We are getting a lot of offers to do interviews now because our new LP just came out. I am sure in a few months when the hype dies down we will stop getting those offers, that’s just the way it works. In the mean time I am going to enjoy all the interviews and answer each question as thoroughly as I can. You are also taking time out of your day to come up with questions, send them to bands, and then publish them in a zine. I have a lot of respect for people that actively do things instead of just sitting around. So much respect to you and everyone who has a zine.”
DxR : “Aside NO TURNING BACK, what is your favorite Euro band, that would deserve to be a slam dunk ? (Is Ethan still in BITTER END though ?)”
J.H : “Ethan is still in BITTER END. He recorded drums for our new record. He loves European hardcore and has showed me some great bands. I will let him answer this question: Ethan Mania: “I have always listened to a lot of European bands. Bands like KNUCKLEDUST and KICKBACK were some of the first bands from overseas I started listening to. I gotta shout out my homies from Finland in ST.HOOD, BOLT, and CUTDOWN. All three bands are definitely a Shaq attack slam dunk!. RISK IT and REDEMPTION DENIED are some other bands I’ve been listening to and I’ve recently gone back and busted out my STAMPIN’ GROUND CDs. European bands really don’t get the credit in the United States that they 
deserve.”Ethan mentioned KICKBACK, BITTER END also listed to L’espirt du Clan when writing Climate of Fear. I really liked the Belgian bands like RISE AND FALL, TRUE COLORS, JUSTICE, and RHYTHM TO THE MADNESS. One of the most insane shows I have ever witnessed was watching NO TURNING BACK at Ieper fest. Not necessarily hardcore but we also like the 

classic British metal bands like BOLT THROWER, CARCASS, and TANK.”

DxR : “I lost count on how many members changes you went through, but can you give me an approx idea ?”

J.H : “We have usually had a consistent core member line up. It changed a few years ago for the writing and recording of this record. Our core members have usually been solid but we would have to find people to fill in to do tours. It is hard to have five people to take off work for two weeks to do a tour, so that is one of the reasons we have had so many people play for us. We counted one time and estimated about 50 people have played for us and that was a few years ago. If you have seen us in the last few years it has probably been with the line-up we have now though. It isn’t that uncommon though for bands to do this. If you want to tour and play shows you’ll probably have to find people outside of your band who are willing to do it at some point.”

DxR : “How was Black’N’Blue bowl ? Did you enjoyed it more than This Is Hardcore ?”
J.H : “Black N’ Blue Bowl was great! It has been a while since I have been to This is Hardcore, but each time I went I was able to see great bands. They have done a great job expanding This is Hardcore also. I tend to like New York City more than Philadelphia though. Both are great food cities and I love food, but I get more excited when I go to New York.”
DxR : “Does the band is working by itself or you still have to give some of your money for it ?”
J.H : “Our goal most times is to break even. We don’t make a personal profit off the band. Many times we will front the cost of expenses and take a gamble if we are going to get paid back or not. All of us have put personal money into the band, but it is worth it because we love being in this band. I personally paid for our demoes for this record and have put money in other areas of the band as well.  We might make $500 at a show, but that will immediately go to gas, merch bills, paying off the debt the band has, and if we are lucky, a late night meal at taco bell. It is all money well spent as far as I’m concerned though.”
Thank you for you time and patience both Stephanie and Jacob. If you haven’t checked out their new LP yet, I’ll leave you a link right here.
We’re on a collision course.

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Filed under Bitter End, Deathwish Records

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