Brian Izzi is the guitarist of the legendary hardcore outfit Trap Them, who through the years have decimated fans with such great releases as 2011’s Darker Handcraft and 2014’s Blissfucker. Their latest album Crown Feral is due out on September 23 on Prosthetic Records.
So, you’re in Boston, and Ryan [McKenney, vocalist] is in Seattle; how does that work when it comes to writing and recording? Do you end up going over to Seattle, or vice versa, or?
Well, so Brad [Fickeisen, drums] and Galen [Baudhuin, bassist] and me live in Boston. We live within a mile of each other, so we practice once a week. When we’re writing, we do the same thing—we practice more—and then we do demos and then send them to Ryan, and he comes up with his vocals lines and stuff like that and kind of gives us a hint where he’s going to sing on songs and stuff—sometimes he maps it out—but, for the most part, he hears the demos and we trust and then we go to the studio and he crushes it.
You guys are all together in the studio?
Yeah. Yeah. When we do full-lengths we’re all there the whole time.
And I assume you’re still working with Kurt Ballou?
Yeah, this album was also done with Kurt, yup.
I was looking back at everything yesterday and thinking so, but I wanted to be sure. What do you think of working with Kurt anyway, as a producer and everything?
I think this is the eighth time we’ve recorded with him—so in that sense, 2002, or something—so, you know, it’s really cool. It’s definitely comfortable, but all that being said, we go in wanting it to be great, you know, have it be the best record it can be…it’s cool, it’s friendly, and we’re on a mission. We know where we want to get to, and it’s cool to have somebody like Kurt that knows the band really well and knows the gist of what we’re going to do album to album. I feel like that [by] working with him at this point we can be even more efficient and worry more about the performance than, say, having to deal with an engineer that has to learn what we are, you know, so, you get to skip a bunch of steps and get right to the meat of it.
Over the years, we’ve considered trying someone else, and still to this point it’s felt right to do it with Kurt, and he’s also been evolving as an engineer over the years. I mean, when we first worked with him he was obviously respected at the time, but now he like this, you know—
Yeah, like a modern legend. And it’s cool because his engineering quality has gotten so next-level, so it’s been fun to keep working alongside that.
This is going to be a strange question because musicians don’t always like hearing that their band is so-and-so genre…but when you guys came together were you thinking of a certain sound, like doing something in between the lines of genres? Because when I listen to your music—especially Crown Feral—that there’s a lot of different influences going on, but then if you look online people are saying something, like, that Trap Them are grindcore, or something—
I know, right? You sort of want to sigh at it…so, is it more like you guys just play what you want, or do you guys have a goal in mind when it comes to sound direction?
I mean, when we first started, the first demo or EP and even the first album—and even the new one—there’s still blast beats and stuff, but when we first started it was very much grind. I mean, I love grindcore…but to rewind, I don’t think that Trap Them is grindcore. If I had to go from song to song and point out what riffs inspired me from what thing, it essentially boils down to metal and punk, and the best of my favorites mixed together with a slightly different angle with my riffs, but generally, yes, I wouldn’t say it’s grindcore, I think that would be a bad description for someone if they’re expecting to put on a Nasum record or, you know, Rotten Sound or Dropdead or something, it’s not like that, but I think people that like [those bands] would like it. But, yeah, grindcore doesn’t really fit, I don’t think. But, those things just happen, and it gets repeated, and whatever. I mean, you can’t really do anything about it.
That’s interesting. I’ve always wondered about that. When it comes to your lyrics, do you and Ryan switch off writing lyrics, or is Ryan just writing them, or?
So, lyrics in this band—titles, album titles, song titles—[is] one-hundred percent Ryan from the beginning to now. That’s his thing.
Let’s talk a little about the new album coming out (Crown Feral). When you guys were writing this thing, was there anything you guys were listening to at the time that was a huge influence for this album?
I mean…nothing specific…in some ways I listen to a lot of Trap Them to kind of remind me of what I thought the best stuff was that I thought we did previous and, like, revisit it in a new way because, you know, we intended this album style as supposed to be live. You know, like a live setlist, like it hits all the marks in like a thirty-minute runtime roughly (thirty-one minutes or something). So, I mean, playing a lot of the old Trap Them songs on tour with Brad and Galen and that, I think was a big influence, playing live again. But there’s always the classics—you know, the legends—that I’ll always, you know, it’s always a tribute to them, and, you know, obviously Entombed, Tragedy, Grave, His Hero Is Gone, From Ashes Arise…you know, like all the riffs are Voivod, all the classics—that’s where I pull from. I mean, I don’t know if its easy to pick out, but to me there’re parts that to me say, “that’s a Death riff from, like, Leprosy; or, okay, that’s an Autopsy part.”
It is a little bit.
And that’s okay, I’m not trying to hide that stuff at all, But those would be the big influencers, but they always have been, so I think if it makes sense, [I revisit] the first three Trap Them records, thinking about what I thought was the best stuff and kinda work off that.
You actually mentioned just earlier that you wanted the entire album to sound live, which was something I picked up on when I was listening to it. It’s interesting that there’s really no break in between, especially “Kindred Dirt” and “Hellionaires” was probably the most obvious…
Yeah, those two are like a companion piece, sort of.
Yeah. I mean, this isn’t like the new Gorguts EP where it’s one huge track, but there’s definitely a lot of interplay between the tracks. Is that something that you hear, or intended for?
Yeah, I mean, they’re very close together, and the way it was mastered, in the sequencing—you’re right, it hit certain beats, timed perfectly—that was definitely stuff that was dialed in on. I dialed in on it first and did a kind of mock-up and then Brad—the mastering engineer—he ended up putting them even tighter together, and I’m like, “that shit sounds great”. It was cool to have someone else hear that after tracking the record, and having another guy come [in and comment on that tightness]…so I thought it came out really cool like that, but that, yeah, the intention of the album is that it feels like a live set. You know, it’s got the peaks and valleys and not a lot of dead, down time, and it just kind of rips through.
Oh yeah…it’s a great album, man.
So, what were you thinking about musical direction here? Were you guys trying to do anything differently that, you know, you weren’t doing in Blissfucker or before that…like, if this was going to be Trap Them’s “x” album, would you even have an answer for that?
I mean, as far as new touches on the record, yeah, as much I was saying earlier that at its base, at the core of it all I wanted to make sure it was like “classic Trap Them” but, it does have a lot of new flourishes on top of it. Like, I did a lot of reverbed-out, creepy weird guitar stuff. And I had that scattered throughout, but never overindulgent though—just kind of like pop in, pop out, and that’s kind of like the album artwork mixes with that and gives it a little bit more of like a slightly-other-worldy feel—even, like fucking old Misfits or something. So, yeah, that would be a new element on this record, I think.
Actually, speaking of the album cover—this is one of the first times you guys have actually used color in your artwork. Is there anything different thematically here in reference to the artwork?
Well, it’s the fifth LP, and I really do like all our album covers, but…I don’t know…it just felt right, and with, you know, what we could agree upon, I knew I wanted to do [a pretty minimalist layout]. I know Ryan’s thing was that he didn’t want to see any people, any figures, any animals, any eyes, hands—you know, like every album cover when you start to look around—there’s not to many album covers with no sort of form of life of someone kind. So we got this dude, Matthias Frisk, and just kind of described that to him and gave him a couple of old album cover, like reference points, and that’s what happened, and it’s cool because while we have hardcore and punk in our style I think a lot of the abstract stuff: lyrically and titles and stuff for the band have been pretty far on the dark side of things so it was cool to do this type of art for this one and I do think it fits pretty well. Like, right when the record starts and it’s all reverbed guitar and you look at that album cover…I was pleased when I was testing it out, putting on the record and looking at the cover when I got a first look at it. I mean, it’s definitely different than anything we’ve done before, but looking at them all side by side…it doesn’t look completely [out of place].
Have you been listening to any new music lately?
Not really. Well, off the top of my head, Virus’s Memento Collider is one of my favorite albums of this year. The new Sumac, too. There wasn’t really a whole lot, but I don’t really dig in too much to new things. I’ve been in the zone of making this record this year, so I’ve missed out on some stuff, but as far as non-metal stuff goes, I really like the new John Carpenter record that came out this year—that was really good. There’s probably more, but my mind is not really thinking of that right now…
That’s okay. Anyway, you guys have two tours coming up—one in Europe, and one on the East Coast.
And I was reading on an earlier interview that you guys have wanted to sort of minimalize your touring in a sense? Is that what you guys are trying to do here? I’ve just been noticing that these are month-long tours each.
They’re not even that long. Well, they’re long for us because we haven’t gone out on our own and done two weeks in a long time. The European one is two weeks, and the US one is a little under two weeks, and then we’ll probably hit the West Coast US a month or two after that, maybe even a little bit longer. We’re kind of testing the waters, seeing how things work out. We’ve had some good times doing the last three years or so playing shows. We did like eight shows with Converge last summer, and we did Europe and things and we’ll play Saint Vitus here and there…we used to go out for nine weeks at a time in our first few years, but it seems like a lot for us right now to have two [tours] back to back, especially timed with a new album, like we haven’t done any of that in two records now…
Is this something you guys want to continue doing? Like, these short bursts of tours?
That’s probably what’s going to happen. I mean, we are always considering longer ones, it’s just tough. There’re a lot of factors involved to be gone for a month at a time. These ten-day, two-week tours are probably going to be the maximum at a time.
It can get tiring.
Yeah, and people have other obligations, in other facets of their life. It’s a lot. I’m personally ready to go out for a month, and as a band we’re having discussions of possibly doing that, but we’re kind of seeing what’s out there and what happens. I mean, the first thing first is for this album to come out, and play headlining shows in small clubs—that’s like our preference, and we get to play for people that care, and it’s a lot of fun. That’s like the main thing, to kind of fulfill that for ourselves and the people that have listened to the band for a long time. You know, we don’t headline too often. But what’s coming up is exciting.
One last question, and it’s something we ask everyone we interview: how do you like your eggs?
Oh, scrambled, all the way.