For some, hardcore, punk, and metal were just a phase, something the white bro dude with a fucking koi fish sleeve tells you he “used to listen to in high school,” and nothing more. While its frustrating to see people treat a subculture you love as some sort of passing fad/temporary identity crisis, it makes it all the more easier to tell which people absolutely live for it. From his time in Southern California’s Inland Empire to doubling down in DC, Chad Troncale has left his mark on the hardcore and metal world through the guise of bands like Violent Truth, Soul Search, Zoom, and of course Red Death. I was lucky enough catch up with him and chat about everything from growing up, the facade of democracy that is US politics, and most importantly when we can expect to see a Red Death/Power Trip brawl. Chad knows a thing or two, and you’d be wise to close whatever passive aggressive work email you’re reading and dabble with this knowledge instead.
When you tell people you’re from southern CA its common for them to assume you’re from LA county. You’re originally an Inland Empire dude, which is similar to, but very different than LA. Can you talk about what it was like growing up there and how you got involved with hardcore?
CT: Oh yeah, I’m a IE original for sure. I wasn’t born in the IE, but I was essentially shipped immediately and was raised there. Growing up there definitely had its perks by way of the Showcase Theatre and Dr. Strange Records and stuff like that. I got into Hardcore through both of those places, honestly. I was in need of something a little faster and more pissed off than the power pop jangle I was digging beforehand. Mod Revival and stuff like that. I stumbled across the Bad Brains and fell in love immediately. I’m pretty sure I went to Dr Strange and figured out the rest from there…getting involved in Hardcore can be credited to just attending shows. I made enough connections just by going to SOS booking shows. Friendships I still hold to this day, as a matter of fact…
If I’m not mistaken, you were a founding member of Soul Search. That band really took off (I wanna say your 4th show ever was at Sound and Fury one year) when the whole NYHC “revival” was going down all over the US. You had a somewhat sudden departure from the band and long story short you moved out to DC. What motivated your decision to leave the IE for DC?
Yeah Sound and Fury was like the 4th or 5th show!! I think someone dropped and we got hit up. It was perfect, because we were all gonna be there anyway. I saw Power Trip for the first time that weekend. How wild is that?! I was in that band for about 10 months or so just about. My mind just honestly wasn’t in the right place. My dad was dying and then passed. I was in college and failing all over the place. Pretty sure the only class I passed was rock history, or music history maybe? Something like that. My mind just wasn’t there. Confusion was in full effect and my sight felt clouded. It was a multitude of negatives, but I really solidified a strong connection with the DC dudes from the very start. Hanging out both east AND west. So once I doubled down on it, it all vanished just as swiftly. Moving to the nation’s capital felt logical in its wake. Washington DC seemed like a good place to get both A) a fresh start and B) personal growth, and I believe it’s done both of those things. Music was also a huge motivating factor. DC is a Mecca for outsider music and protest rage. I’ve been able to grow musically and learn at a more freeing pace than anywhere else. I could tell from the very first time I visited that it would be a smart choice for a fresh start.
I came across an old photo not too long ago of the Soul Search/Rotting Out/Expire full US tour from 2010. How did being a part of that at a young age shape your approach to being a musician as well as your overall worldview?
I wouldn’t say it shaped my worldview all that much. It did make me kind of realize that I thought with a one track mind, in the sense that I thought the world wasn’t all that big. I’d say once I started leaving the country, I noticed a shift in world view. Going to Europe with RD and soaking that all up was a WAY bigger world-changer. The tour just made me a more dedicated musician, really, in terms of approach. It was my first lengthy tour, so I learned real fast about everything that comes with it. Losing sleep, eating on a budget, etc – just standard stuff like that.
Let’s talk about Formidable Darkness. Its obviously an absolute riff machine, hence why we’re having this discussion. Can you talk about what influences you and your band mates surrounded yourselves with during the writing process?
I believe it’s fair to say that musically we shared mutual influences. Bands like Metallica, Motörhead and Cro-Mags are always being brought up in terms of what we like to hear and ideas we vibe on. In between writing blocks for the record, we got to play with Death Side in NYC…that definitely influenced the record. Just a lot of good Metal, Punk and whatever fits in between. For me, personally speaking…my influences weren’t really musical at all. I owe a lot more to A Tale Of Two Cities than I do to the Animosity insert on Formidable Darkness. I read that book a couple times over the course of the writing process, and it’s presence is very present. It felt very relatable amidst the 2016 political climate. It feels even more relevant now! I let chapters like Fire Rises inspire both my lyrics and the select riffs I contributed as well. A lot of books and poems as well as a few movies were my main influences on Formidable Darkness. I owe as much to a book like the Art Of War by Sun Tzu or a movie like Battle Of Algiers as I do to a record like Best Wishes.
Lyrically speaking, all your songs on Formidable Darkness have minimal implications of positivity or happiness. What was going through your head when you were putting the pen to the paper?
I had a lot going on in my head during the creation process. Well, first, obviously life is stressful we all know that. I was doing my best to keep my head above sea level and I felt like I reflected that mindset on Formidable Darkness. I truly felt like I had my perception of friends and allies all misconstrued. So I had to dabble in a classic “who is friend/who is foe?” scenario and make some decisions. And through such decisions, was I able to truly focus in on what’s important and eliminate as much surrounding negativity as possible.
And above all that was this awful political cloud that was moving in to extensively loom…and it’s obviously still looming. The last election was an entire facade for injustice and a total disgrace to anything we deem “democracy.” It’s quite obvious a people’s revolution is a necessity at this point. As much as I like it, let’s be real: there’s only so much a peaceful protest will accomplish. The two party system is a flawed, expired way of operation. I looked to past revolts for insight and perhaps even guidance to the current climate. Stuff like the Three Glorious Days, the French Revolution, the Sandinistas and the entire Nicaraguan Revolution, for example. All we gotta do is keep fighting the righteous fight, and I’m sure positivity will be rewarded in due time. It’s going to take a bit of unification and resilience, but I truly believe it can be done. Everyone’s got to purge as much hostility from the heart as possible.
Photo by Angela Owens
How does living in a city like DC, the heart of US politics, shape not just your music but every day life for you and your bandmates?
Living in the city keeps you on your toes a bit. Everyone seems in such a rush, always. There’s a sense of urgency, and I’ve definitely applied that to my contributions may they be lyrics or artwork ideas. Urgency is the best word to describe what I take from the city and apply to my life. Obviously, you know Minor Threat. You know the line, “whys everybody in such a fucking rush?!” Makes so much sense after living and breathing in DC. Actually, I understand Minor Threat as a whole so much more after living in DC. I know it’s unrelated to the question a bit, but I mean…that’s how far the district has influenced me. It’s shaped me so far that it’s made me understand a band even further than I already thought I did!
Social medial glamorizes band life in a lot of ways. What is a not so glamorous element that comes with being a touring musician that you think people should know about?
Losing sleep. Tour rocks and all, but if you’re like me and can’t sleep anywhere unless you’re A) laying down or B) deprived of sleep, then forget it. There’s nothing glamorous about being broke and sleepless aka insane hahahah.
I read an interview with Riley Gale in Revolver recently where he said:
“If people are bold enough to consider us (Power Trip) America’s most promising crossover band, then Red Death is a close second, in my opinion. I think that Inevitable Darkness is just a beast of a record.”
Obviously that’s the complement to end all complements – however, he did get the title of your recent record wrong in the interview by calling it Inevitable Darkness instead of Formidable Darkness. When can the metal and hardcore community expect to see a formal fisticuffs between both your bands?
Typos happen all the time – I don’t mind at all. It’s been confirmed a typo, so it’s all good. Riley’s my friend and I love the compliment. Power Trip and RD are united forces till the end, so you’ll never catch that on PPV. With that being said, though…..(Chris) Ulsh is an actual wizard and would strike us all down with ferocious lightning, so that answers that.
Enlighten the CVLT Nation disciples for me. What IE band past or present do you think everyone needs to start listening to?
End To End! Real sick Hardcore from the early early 90s. Members of Justice League and other IE bands. I don’t really see or hear people chat about them often but I think that 7” is super underrated and worth checking out. It’s even got an SSD cover to boot! Members went on to be in cool low key 90s bands like Process and Man Will Surrender so it’s chock full of punk firepower. Highly recommend this criminally underrated gem!
What can we all expect to see from Red Death moving forward? Any shout outs and concluding remarks are welcome in this response as well.
We are currently about almost a week into our full North American tour with Power Trip, Sheer Mag and Fury. All three bands rock!! After this concludes we are going to Europe to play a festival in Finland and do a week or so of shows with our comrades in Foreseen. These shows happen late June-early July. After that we play Sound and Fury in LA. Beyond that well the future is truly unwritten. I’m sure things will occur one way or another. Thanks to everyone who vibes and thank CVLT Nation for the interview! Listen to Blazing Eye.
You heard it here first! Don’t sleep on Red Death this summer as they co-host nightly crossover clinics with Power Trip, Sheer Mag, and Fury!