In 2015, this far, there has been only few records, that i’ve really been waiting to be released for. New Jersey’s Lifeless new album Dream will most likely shock the very foundations of heavy hardcore of today and UK’s XRepentanceX‘s The Sickness Of Eden almost single handedly revived 90’s styled vegan mosh / edge metal back to it’s glory days. But were not talking about them two now are we, nope.
Steel Nation hails originally from Pittsburg, PA and today is scattered around the well known PA -area. I’ve been into the band ever since i picked their A389 Records debut, The New Nation 7″ and got really blown away and sold by Soul Swallower mcd on Double Or Nothing. Ever since then i’ve kept the band in my radar tight and their first full-length Forever Wounded was indeed a perfect package of unrelentless metallic hardcore, that doesn’t lack any groove either. For me, Forever Wounded solidated their stand as one of the best bands in hardcore today and after seeing them live couple times last year, i was even more excited to finally hear the upcoming LP, The Harder They Fall.
Just out few days ago (while writing this so NOW it’s few weeks), new Steel Nation album was released on vinyl by Harm Reduction Records and Kick Out The Jams Records also put in a tape version. There is also a cd version coming out via Marked For Death Records. The Harder They Fall continues in very same direction on where Forever Wounded left on and takes their sound forward. What you can expect is lots of sick guitar leads, chugging groove and driving beats, combined with dual vocalists that in style remind very Biohazard-esque setting. The Harder They Fall features eleven new tracks and with this album Steel Nation have focused on writing killer tracks, that have shitloads of hooks and very sing-a-long demanding choruses, that fit in perfectly with the thick riffing. If you’ve heard what is on Forever Wounded, you will fucking love The Harder They Fall.
I’ll let the music talk instead my yawn yawn blabbering.
Also i had a brief talk with Ethan of Steel Nation awhile ago, so read up and check out what we talked about below.
Sup guys, first up introduce yourselves?
– Ethan, drums in Steel Nation
Steel Nation has been around for quite some time already, how did you guys get together in the first place?
– We all met about 11 or 12 years ago. Neil, Alex and Steve had been playing in a band before I met them all. I was living out in Philadelphia and started playing in a band out of central PA where everyone else was living. I met Steve and Alex through that band which was called Those Who Remain and I think one day Steve said he was looking to start a new band with Alex and Neil and I just ended up jamming with them and things went from there.
Did you have any previous bands before Steel Nation?
Yea I played in a ton of bands out of West Virginia where I grew up. None that ever really did anything. Right before I met everyone in Steel Nation I was filling in for a band from Erie called Problem Solver Revolver.
Do all of you guys live in Pittsburg currently or where are all of you located and what are you guys doing for living, aside when you’re not playing with Steel Nation?
Right now I am actually the only one that lives in Pittsburgh. Neil was out here for awhile when we were writing The Harder They Fall. Everyone else is living out in central PA about 3 hours away which makes things tough when it comes to practicing and writing but we make it happen. I think we all lived in the same area for only a few months. Aside from Steel Nation we all just live the normal life working a job and watching sports.
Since you are a PAHC band, what’s up in PA-area, how is the scene back in there, all i know is that there’s shitloads of amazing current and old bands as well?
Things in PA are good but I feel that they have always been good, sometimes the happening scene in the state just moves from city to city. When Steel Nation started in the Harrisburg PA area, there was a venue called the Championship and things in that area were really good. However, like most good venues, it came to an end and I feel like that area has struggled since losing that venue. Pittsburgh is back on the come up now. Code Orange has really been a big help not only to the Pittsburgh scene but also PA in general and there are some newer bands coming up like Eternal Sleep that are doing big things. PA has also been a scene where a lot of bands stick around. Bands like Strength for a Reason have paved the way for a lot of bands like ours and are still playing and putting out music to this day which I think is a big part of having a good scene.
Name a few older favourite bands with a little background why you dig that shit?
As far as older PA bands go I would have to say that Strength for a Reason and Mushmouth were two of the bands that had the biggest impact on me growing up. Pittsburgh also had Built Upon Frustration and No Retreat when I was younger seeing shows in the area. I have said it before and will say it again, Built Upon Frustration is the best band no one has ever heard. Between those bands and Krutch, I’d say those are some of the older bands that represent what PAHC is. I may have to throw Disciple in there too, they were a band that I think went underrated.
I did interview with Stickman a while back and asked him about the state of US hardcore scene, what’s your thoughts about it, how is hardcore doing today?
I think things are good and bad right now with hardcore but that is about everything in the world. There is no doubt in my mind that 2015 will be one of the best years for new music coming out. One thing I see now and maybe this is because of where I live but I feel there just aren’t as many tours going on anymore. There could be a lot of reasons for this but I just don’t think that kids are going out to local shows anymore which is a problem. Everyone just wants to wait for the big fest to happen and then they will decide to get out of their house. Some times I feel that kids will look for any reason not to go out to a show, if a show is coming up they will have to see what is going on rather than committing to going to a show. Responding to an invite that you’ll attend a show is sometimes all a kid needs these days for them to feel that they have helped out. Things change when you get older but when I had less responsibilities I never missed local shows. Especially where I grew up in West Virginia. But with that said, I think a lot of credit needs to go out to people putting on these fests. I’ve maybe booked 3 shows myself and that was too stressful for me, I think I lost a few years off my life dealing with those. I once helped book the Killer in Pittsburgh, things were going fine till the power went out from a giant storm and just never came back on. So a lot of respect goes out to those who deal with unexpected problems like that along with dedicating their own time to make a fest happen or even a show happen. Another good thing I am seeing these days are some newer record labels coming up such as Harm Reduction which has given us the chance to release our new record. Thank you Jami and Patrick. Along with Harm Reduction there are labels like Mass Movement, Bad Grounds and Fast Break just to name a few, give bands the chance to get their music out there on places than just the internet. It is one thing to just put music up online but to actually getting it pressed and distributed makes a big difference.
I remember some time around “The New Nation EP”, that you had some problems with lineup, has there been a lot of problems with member changes in the past?
Nah I wouldn’t say there have been a lot of problems, it just took us a while to figure out the line up. We actually had a singer before the one that recorded “The New Nation”. He recorded our first demo that we ever did and played some shows but wasn’t able to make it work. We were looking for a singer right before recording the Crucified split and we weren’t having much luck and we thought we’d just try being a four piece. It was the four of us that started the band so it seemed to make sense to keep it that way. Looking back on things I wish we would have just been a four piece from day one but hind sight is always 20/20. Either way I couldn’t be happier with where my band is musically right now.
You had a bit tough luck as a band when releasing your first LP “Forever Wounded”, putting it out had it’s problems, do you got any idea on what happened with the label, Double Or Nothing, i understood lots of people (including me) didn’t have their pre-orders of the LP?
Yea that really didn’t go as planned but we still really appreciate all that Double Or Nothing did for us. If it wasn’t for them and their support we probably wouldn’t have released Forever Wounded and there would be no chance we would be a band today. I can’t really speak on what happened with the preorders because I think communication within the label was not the best. I tried to do my best and with people who emailed me about not getting their records I tried to make up for it by sending them what we had.
Aside the hassle with the label, i think that Forever Wounded was a spectacular record, meaning it’s basically as perfect hardcore record that a band can make for their first full-length. So now when your new LP “The Harder They Come” is coming out, what are your feels about the new record?
I think I speak for everyone in my band and probably most musicians but if you aren’t excited about your new record and the new material you are writing you may need to either quit writing music or do a new band. We are always trying to grow as a band and we have always done what we wanted which is good because we never dug our selves into a whole with our music. We learned a lot from writing and recording Forever Wounded and took things to what we feel is a new level on The Harder They Fall. The last thing we wanted to do was to write the same record twice.
Giving already quite a few listens of the new album myself, i can say that i really like and it really seems to continues where Forever Wounded left off and kicks in another bunch of hard, heavy and real damn groovy hardcore. Where you drew influences as a band on the new LP, was there something new in the mix compared to the first record?
We are constantly listening to new music and drawing influences from all kinds of bands. All of us grew up listening to bands like Ringworm and Madball but I know for myself I’ve always listened to everything from HipHop and reggae to bands like Bolt Thrower. Listening to a wide variety of bands has allowed me to have the tools and creativity to have my playing be a more honest representation of self expression. If I hear something in a song by someone such as Peter Tosh that I think is awesome I want to know how to make it something Steel Nation would do. But despite all the music we listen to Steel Nation will always be a hardcore band at the end of the day. I’ve been playing drums for 18 years and when I was younger I drummers like Abe Cunningham, Chad Sexton, Jason Bittner and Chris Dora were big influences on me. Over the last few years I’ve really been into the drumming of guys like Gil Sharone, JoJo Mayer and Scott Abels. I’m always trying to learn from drummers better than me.
Did The Harder They Fall come out as you planned, are you happy with the record and have you already been hearing feedback regarding it? Tape version was released already some time ago and as i understood LP pre-orders are also shipping as the official release dare is in few days?
Yea by the time this interview is out the record should be available. The Harder They Fall took almost 3 years to record. We recorded it in Pittsburgh and ran into so many problems it almost felt like it was never supposed to happen. We record about half the record then I went back and redid all the drum tracks so we had to start over. During the recording the hard drive crashed and we lots a few sessions. Our buddy who was recording us had a stroke and that set us back. People’s lives were hectic and it wasn’t easy for everyone to get together. At the end of the day we are very happy with how things turned out. Sure there will always be some things we would do differently and I think that is natural, especially when it took as long as it did to finish it.
What kind of plans you got to tour after the new LP is out, any plans to hit europe this year?
We are working on some shows in Europe this summer. If all goes as planned it is going to be an awesome tour. As far as the states go I don’t think we are going to be doing any touring in the near future but we are always trying to get back to the places we have played in the past. in 2015 we hope to make it back to a lot of cities we haven’t played in years.
You havent played a alot shows in Europe, but last year you did a brief run of two shows in Germany and UK, how those went and what your trip makes you think of European scene?
Those shows were awesome. First of all, we were surprised that we would even get the offer to come play just two shows in Europe but then when we got the reaction we did it was unreal. Even to this day it is still crazy to me people in different countries are listening to my band. Before those two shows I had been over in Europe playing with bands like Strength for a Reason and Bitter End so I knew what Europe had to offer and it was a pleasure to finally make if over with Steel Nation.
You also played exclusive two shows in Finland late 2014, i remember that was originally meant to be some kinda scandinavian tour in Sweden and Finland both?
Yea that would have been our first tour over there. We were all super stoked for those, especially because we were getting to play with Bolt and St. Hood. I remember I had a friend over in Sweden on vacation and he told me that there we flyers for the tour up in stores. Sadly, I guess some of the US bands dropped one of the fests we were going to play in Sweden. After that the fest got cancelled then the tour wasn’t going to be able to happen.
How did you like the Finnish scene, i know that you guys have love for Finnish bands, first time i caught this was when i saw Ethan’s other band Bitter End play in Germany at Filled With Hate bunch of years ago and i remember being so stoked to see someone in a bigger band (and outside Finland) to sport BOLT shirt on stage?
The Finnish scene reminds me so much of the PA scene. Great bands, good shows and even better people. I remember having that BOLT shirt, it got stolen at that show and I was pissed. I was all stoked to get it from those guys in a fest in Denmark earlier on that tour. Bitter End played the day before them and Strength for a Reason and I was bummed to not be on the same day. I was selling a few Steel Nation things and bunch of the Finnish guys came up and introduced themselves and that was the first time I met all of them. At that time I didn’t that I’d end up becoming friends with everyone. It was probably a good thing that my BOLT shirt got stolen because I ended up keeping in touch with everyone after that… mainly because I wanted another shirt hahah.
Any other memories you might share on your trip in our cold country?
Me and Alex came over early and got to hang out in Helsinki with Esa and all the other guys in the Helsinki area. We had a great time, explored the city, hung out with great people, went to a hockey match and I must say the food in Helsinki is awesome. Getting to see Jarkko Ruutu playing hockey again and be a total asshole really was great. I remember just sitting in a shopping area high giving Alex every time a beautiful girl walked by. My hand got pretty sore after awhile, there are too many attractive women in Helsinki hahaha. The entire trip was an experience I won’t ever forget and I can’t thank everyone involved with those shows enough for their hospitality and making it happen
What can we expect from Steel Nation in the near future?
New music and more shows. We are working on writing music for some splits with some awesome bands and maybe an EP.
Thanks a lot for the interview, you can send greets or whatever you like!
Thanks for letting me share some stories about Steel Nation. Shout out to everyone in the Helsinki scene for their support and friendship… See all you real soon.