Cave In: An Interview with Stephen Brodsky

These guys have impressed me with just about every release they’ve managed to push with all their label trouble.  Sure Antenna wasn’t my favorite but there were still some amazing songs and riffs on there. Bands like Thrice would still be playing the same songs without the influence of Cave In and the rest of the Hydrahead Records roster for that matter. I caught the last few measures of The Stephen Brodsky Quartet at the Hydrahead showcase at sxsw. It was meh…okay. I can appreciate it but goddammit every time I hear the opening to ‘Big Riff’ I pop like 16 boners (figuratively not literally). Mike Thomas and I worked out the questions for this one so I can’t take complete credit for it. But I wrote the intro so…yeah. Like, enjoy it okay?

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Cave InIn the Stream of Commerce

From playing in garages and recording on a four-track tape machine to signing to RCA, Cave In has seen quite a transformation over the past decade. Frontman/guitarist Stephen Brodsky has been the voice of this Boston-based quartet, which has always had a tough time fitting in. Maybe that’s because their rock-meets-hardcore-meets-metal-meets-something else sound has captivated and bewildered listeners and critics alike.

Call it what you will, but Cave In has become an underground staple these days; one of those bands that has seemingly been around forever. Brodsky was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions about the band’s past, present and future.

Shane: Have you felt the impact personally of Hydra Head moving to L.A. and Isis changing its locale?
Brodsky: I know the Hydra Head fellows had felt as though they did all they could in Boston. I miss poking around their office and bothering Mark by wiping boogers on him while he works.

SR: Has it ever been a conscious decision as to how much screaming and singing you do in Cave In?
Brodsky: As soon as Caleb stepped up his role as a vocalist in the band, it pretty much sealed the deal for me to continue doing what I now do as a singer in the band.

SR: Could you ever have imagined your band or any of the other bands you’ve been part of having the type of impact you have had?
Brodsky: We’ve always been ambitious. I never wanted to be stuck in one place, geographically and musically speaking. If you make those kinds of feelings known, then people are bound to respond in one way or another.

SR: What kind of direction do you see Cave In going from here musically, if you can see that at all?
Brodsky: With Ben now playing drums, our musical spectrum for the future is broader than any of us could imagine. He has his own bag of tricks that we can now dig through and play with. Our record collections have grown since our last recordings too—stuff like Zappa, Sun Ra, Black Mountain, John Fahey… This always has an impact on what we want to do, as well.

SR: How do you view the immense popularity metal and metalcore has taken on in recent years?
Brodsky: I might try and get more into black metal. I’ve heard some cool stuff recently—it was far more melodic and listenable than I could imagine. And there’s a whole slew of people making black metal solo records, which kind of blows my mind.

SR: Did you feel a responsibility of sorts to take over vocals in the band when you did? Is it hard to have that responsibility to the band?
Brodsky: The four of us felt like we had a good chemistry going, and we weren’t up for attempting to find another member. It was better to have a smaller group of people—less heads to butt, so things could happen a bit quicker. I sang lead vocals in previous bands, so it wasn’t that big of a deal for me to do it in Cave In.

SR: What is your songwriting process like, musically and lyrically? How much does practice and just jamming play a role in your actual songs?
Brodsky: Writing tunes is a bit different now than it used to be. Everyone’s role as a musician in the band has become more refined, so that now there are ideas coming from multiple places and bouncing all around. Jamming is a good way to surprise yourself and the other guys in the room. They might hear something that you don’t necessarily feel grabbed by.

SR: What are you and your band mates’ relationships like outside of the band? How much time do you spend with each other?
Brodsky: Adam and I live in the same town and we’ll hit up Ana’s Taqueria for amazing burritos. Caleb has been living in L.A. for about a year. He’s visited on a few non-band related occasions and we always make time to kick back and listen to records.

SR: If you had to pick one genre of music and one band that has influenced Cave In the most, what and who would it be?
Brodsky: Converge is a band we have always admired, and it goes way, way back. Then there’s Sonic Youth, who never made the same record twice and have always been ahead of their own game musically.

SR: How much has Ben’s contribution as Cave In’s new drummer played in both songwriting and playing live?
Brodsky: He’s a musician in his own right, and we’re beginning to mold ourselves to what he is capable of doing. It’s a great means for us to enhance our own abilities as players. We can be blistering fast if we wanted to—he’s also not afraid to use a thunderstick.

SR: What was being part of the Major Label machine like for you as an artist and a business?
Brodsky: As an artist, it was like being a deer trapped in oncoming headlights. As a business, it was like taking a music industry course and skipping almost every class.

SR: What are some common misconceptions about the relationship between an independent band moving onto a major label and how did you deal with the transition?
Brodsky: Total freedom is a funny thing. They tell you not to worry—you’ll have it they promise! But you never really are totally free. We were never free of a constant barrage of opinions from people who actually understood little to nothing of our history as a band. Dumb s**t like the placement of our band name on the front cover of Antenna—that managed to produce a number of weird phone calls being made back and forth. Certain people felt it necessary to argue over having the band’s logo placed in the top left corner, as a selling point so that record buyers will have an easier time finding our album in stores. It’s one example of what these people get paid to do, and in most cases it’s way more money than the artists will ever see.
SR: What is the most gratifying experience you’ve ever had while playing or
writing music?
Brodsky: Anytime the fretboard trips me out in an unexpected way. I’ve been playing
guitar since I was 12 years old, so at this point, those little moments are always welcome to come around, though it’s never a certain thing. Sometimes they grace me often, other times they shack up somewhere far away where I can’t access the sounds of ’em too easily.

SR: Are you currently writing and recording any more solo material?
Brodsky: Yeah, I just finished a new album. Well, the tracking is finished but it won’t be mixed until April. And I’ve already written about two more albums’ worth of new stuff since the writing for this recent one has been finished. Mucho brain activity.

SR: What is the status of Virgin, the Converge/Cave In collaboration?
Brodsky: Too many cooks in the kitchen. Certain ones complain about using classic-metal tasting spices, and others want it to be free, loose and weirder. Who knows when that thing will ever see the light of day. I truly hope it will, but I also haven’t been saving my appetite for it.

SR: We’re a non-profit youth initiative and the majority of our readers are young aspiring musicians. If you had some words of advice, what would they be—in two different contexts, one being advice for a fledgling band and another for the person who is just starting out on an instrument?
Brodsky: Relax your hands. It should never feel painful. And I know of bands whose
members will scream, yell and fistfight each other, and that has always struck me as being a bit bizarre. I’d recommend avoiding those situations.

SR: When can we expect the next Cave In record?
Brodsky: I’d like to say it’ll be recorded in summer 2006.

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2 thoughts on “Cave In: An Interview with Stephen Brodsky

  1. Great interview. Cave In is one of my all time favorite bands and the intro to Big Riff always gets me up. I saw them @ the Epicenter, where I was one of 5 people over 21 and then at the Casbah. Ohh, the Casbah show was so cool. I was so close. I even met Brodsky and requested New Moon before the show. It’s funny to remember how nervous I was meeting him. It was an awesome show despite the fact that Brodsky’s voice was shot from touring and he couldn’t hit the falsetto/high vocals in Big Riff.

    On a side note, I’d like to talk to you about the possibility of having my bands cd reviewed at some point.

    Sean

  2. Great interview! I can’t get over Stephen Brodsky’s music video for “Stolen Echoes Won’t Return” directed by Matt Tarle for the “Olé Sunday” CD/LP.

    This thing really is like David Lynch meets Terry Gilliam, frightening, bizarre and beautiful. Keep up the great work, can’t wait to hear/see some new stuff!

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