Interview: Senses Fail

Senses Fail have come along way since their debut album, Let It Enfold You, back in 2004. They’re a band that have undergone a multitude of line-up changes yet still managed to remain a band for over a decade, and their latest album Pull The Thorns From Your Heart is emotion-ridden statement that they shall not be going down anywhere. Craig Roxburgh managed to grab hold of their lead singer, and only original member, Buddy Nielsen to discuss the aggressive turn that Senses Fail took on the album, being queer in the metal community, and the emotional depth of the new album.

Musically, Pull The Thorns From Your Heart is the heaviest and most aggressive Senses Fail album to date. What made you guys decide to enter studio and create an album that was so incredibly heavy and aggressive? 

I wanted an out let for being in the closet with my sexuality for most of my life. I wanted the music to reflect the inner turmoil and pain that I have lived with for 25 years.

Alongside the raging aggression of the album, there is a degree of experimentation and an almost post-rock atmosphere as you play around with various ambient sounds that aren’t necessarily associated with heavy music. What were the influences behind including these particular elements into your latest album.

I have always loved hardcore and post rock or mid west indie/emo and it has always been my goal to make music combining the two. I love Appleseed Cast, old Jimmy Eat World, Casket Lottery, Envy mix that with Bane, thrashy metal and you have new Senses Fail.

 A lot of people often seem to have a problem with band that introduce an element of fluidity and experimentation to their music. What are your thoughts on the way people often react badly towards well-established bands experimenting with their sound?

I would just say I am here to make music that I find interesting and personally fulfilling and sometimes that fits peoples taste and sometimes it doesn’t. This isn’t your older brothers Senses Fail anymore.

The before-mentioned people will also blame line-up changes for these alteration. Did the introduction of Chris Hornbrook influence the direction that Senses Fail has decided to take with the new album, or was that something that was set-in-stone before the introduction of Hornbrook?

In some ways yes, but in other ways it was already headed this direction.

Pull The Thorns From Your Heart is clearly an album about an incredibly broken man coming to terms with his sexuality, spirituality, depression, and the various other horrors that plagued his past. It is also no secret that the album is almost autobiographical of your life. Did the intense emotional content of each song make recording the album quite a difficult process, as there must have been a lot of emotions bouncing around the studio?

No, it actually made it extremely easy. I spent most of my career pretty unfulfilled with the music we were making because it was only scratching the surface. Nothing we have made to this point allowed me to have the emotional depth that I wanted. The anguish and the heart breaking moments. I wasn’t prepared to go there in the past but always the music wasn’t created in a template to support it.

This almost puts me in mind about the story behind the recording of Slipknot’s Iowa, and how Corey Taylor was on the floor crying at some point while recording the album. Is it difficult to write and recording albums like this, and are you often worried about the risks regarding wearing your heart on your sleeve in such a fashion?

No. I am never worried about being honest, it is part of my spiritual practice. About two years ago I took a box to abstain form lying in any form and I do my best to uphold that and it has changed my life just as much as coming out or abstaining from using drugs. Mental purification is what this record is about. For me, this is liberating.

On a slightly less musical note, Senses Fail has, in recent years, been a major supporter of gay rights and the LGBT community within in the metal community, and the greater alternative community. This is not an easy thing to do considering how a lot of people with in the metal community are either blatantly homophobic (Fonz of Attila) or associate “gay” with an expression of disgust and negativity. Have you found it difficult to so openly support the LGBT community in a scene that seems so hostile towards it?

I don’t find it difficult as much as I find is isolating. We are on warped tour now and out of all the bands I only know of one other person who is not straight. I don’t see a lot of outward aggression I just don’t think there are a lot of LGBTQ people telling their story through Punk/Hardcore or Metal. It doesn’t really seem very friendly to the queer world and that is one thing I want to change.

Do you think that the metal community is slowly growing accepting of the LGBT community within the metal scene, and how would you propose ensuring that they seamlessly integrated into the scene with minimal hostility?

Yes. I would say you need queer people in metal and hardcore punk or emo bands to make things change.

On that note, what your thoughts on the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding the legalisation of gay marriage through-out the United States of America – making them one of 22 countries to legalise gay marriage? Do you think it will have any effect on the amount of hate and intolerance directed towards the gay community on a global scale?

I think its amazing. It will take decades maybe hundreds of years for a lot of these red states to really come to terms with what happened. We will still see a lot of hate and aggression for many many years but this is absolutely an amazing step.

Finally, is there the possibility of a world tour following the release of Pull The Thorns From Your Heart?

Yes we have plans for UK/Euro, Australia

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