Through journalism I have been able to interview some of my favourite bands, in 2017 I ticked a band off the bucket list by interviewing Scott Middleton, guitarist of my favourite hardcore punk band Cancer Bats. I’ve been a fan of the band since their excellent album Hail Destroyer dropped in 2008 and they’re a band I’ve always gone back to. I hope you enjoy my chat with the lovely Scott Middleton.
Jack: Hey Cancer Bats, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
Scott Middleton (Guitar): Hey, Scott Middleton here, I’m doing very well, thanks!
Jack: Searching for Zero came out two years ago, are you happy with the response?
Scott: Absolutely, the reaction has been great, people really go off and sing along to those songs when we play them, which is the best thing we could hope for.
Jack: Searching for Zero was more Sabbath influenced and I feel that a lot of the songs contained more reverb, what was the reason for this new direction?
Scott: I think the Sabbath influence wasn’t an obvious riff based one, it had more to do with writing style, and being fearless with melody and arrangement as opposed to “here’s the Sabbath riff”. From a guitar point of view there’s Sabbath in everything I’ve ever played, because I’ve loved them since I was a kid. The reverb, was entirely Ross Robinson’s thing. I used some delay and verb in the past on solos but that was about it. But Ross loved it on bass, rhythm parts, vocals, anything he could put a holy grail and a memory man onto basically. Sometimes it was maybe too much, but it was cool for us to have someone push us to sonic extremes.
Jack: What was working with Ross Robinson like? What did he bring to the recording process?
Scott: Eye opening, life changing, challenging, confusing, and amazing. It ran the gamut of emotions. Everything he does is 1000% FULL ON. He’s the most inspired person about music and life, that I’ve ever met. He had the opposite approach to most people when recording a band. No metronomes, not worried about tuning….he just wants you to play your instruments with a molten passion and never be afraid of showing the emotions of where the music and lyrics will take you. It was hard at first. He changed so much about how we played, how we set up tones, how our songs were arranged, and he did it quickly. He hears something and is always very certain about how it can be improved and he’s always right in the end because he’s a pro who lives and breathes music. It was the most influential music/emotional experience of my adult life. Now, when I’m producing and recording bands myself, I channel that fire and commitment Ross gave me when we made the record.
Jack: Did recording the album in Venice Beach influence the album at all?
Scott: We lived in his house where his studio is and it was a great experience. I loved waking up, cooking up some breakfast tacos, and looking right out at the Pacific Ocean every morning. I didn’t really care that it was Venice beach, as we were focusing on the studio 99% of the time. I mostly ignored the tourist side of things, as I loved being around all of Ross’ really cool gear.
Jack: Cancer Bats always make really good music videos, what makes a good music video?
Scott: We just try to make videos that aren’t terribly boring to watch or make. We love making them with good people or friends. I think that attitude translates well to something creative like a video and you cant lose if you work with great talented people.
Jack: You completed a European tour in the summer last year how did it go?
Scott: We had an amazing time. Europe is always great to us. I love the diverse culture and passion our European fans have for our music.
Jack: What makes Slam Dunk such a great festival?
Scott: Probably the fact it’s kind of a travelling festival. It lasts 3 days and we’ve never had a bad slam dunk show. Each crowd has a different vibe and I like that on a more punk rock/pop punk festival we’re one of the really heavy/metal bands that gets to play.
Jack: You’re returning to Europe in the summer for some Bat Sabbath shows. Is it true that Bat Sabbath began with your Black Sabbath covers set at the Sonisphere 2011 after party and just carried on from there?
Scott: Yeah that’s exactly how it happened. Totally unplanned. We were asked to do a covers set by the promoter because he loved our band and wanted to fill an empty slot. I suggested Bat Sabbath as a joke to him and he loved the idea, and then we kept getting asked by fans to do it, and show offers kept coming in. So we rolled with it.
Jack: Aside from the different setlist, what makes Bat Sabbath different to Cancer Bats?
Scott: Liam likes to wear a cape onstage, and Jaye tends to open up his shirt a little bit more!
Jack: What’s your favourite Black Sabbath song to play?
Scott: ‘Children of The Grave.’
Jack: Would you say every band since the 70s has been influenced by Black Sabbath whether indirectly or directly?
Scott: I would say that about every metal band, yes.
Jack: Cancer Bats have been a band since 2004, did you ever think you’d last this long?
Scott: Originally no. Cancer Bats wasn’t started to be an ultra-serious band. It was pure honest fun at the beginning. But, people liked us right away, and we seized our opportunities. Once things got rolling then I could see it having longevity, because the band became the best thing I’d ever been a part of, and it was always my intent to be in a real band and make that my life. But, that being said, the last 13 years have flown by, and I’m so proud we’ve lasted this long.
Jack: What’s been a career highlight?
Scott: There’s been many, but headlining Koko in London was a really specially show, as was the as was our record release at the Phoenix in Toronto last year. Playing main stage of Reading and Download was definitely up there. Touring with Danzig and also Gwar was huge for me! Both are bands I have loved since before I could play guitar. Getting invited to sing the chorus of ‘Davidian’ by the guys in Machine Head at Grasspop festival. And of course, presenting an award to Black Sabbath at the Kerrang awards was ridiculous and special. We’ve had so many great times over the years and I’m so grateful for it.
Jack: Do you do anything else other than Cancer Bats or is Cancer Bats the main job?
Scott: Now that we don’t tour for 18 months straight like we used to 5-10 years ago, I have had the time to focus on my career as a record producer. I love passing on the knowledge I’ve accumulated throughout the years to help other people write, record and mix great records, improve their songs and help give them a leg up in a confusing industry. I’ve produced three albums with other bands in the last 6 months and it’s been such a satisfying and exciting time for me. I’ve always loved being in the studio, recording awesome heavy tones and being creative with other people.
Jack: What are your plans after the Bat Sabbath tour? Will you be working on any new material?
Scott: We will be working on that before the tour actually! If anything Bat Sabbath is an excuse to get together and jam new Cancer Bats songs.
Jack: Finally, Hail Destroyer is ten years old next year? Will you be doing anything to celebrate the tenth anniversary?
Scott: Not sure yet, but I really hope we do. That was a special album for us and our fans and 10 years on it still holds up and I’m super proud of it!
Jack: Thank you so much for your time and I’ll hopefully see you in London!
Scott: Thanks Jack!