Q&A with The Sword’s Kyle Shutt
By David Maddock
First off, how was your Halloween? Did you do anything fun?
At our last show the guitar player from All Them Witches dressed up as ME haha. He put on this tattoo sleeve shirt, and a long blonde wig they found somewhere. I couldn’t really tell what he was supposed to be until he turned around and he was playing one of my guitars, like my guitar tech gave him one of my guitars, so that was a pretty good prank I guess if you can call it that even, but it was fun. I had a great time.
What is your favorite part about coming to Denver?
We love Denver. We’ve always loved Denver, it’s just been one of those cities that we’ve never had a bad show, it’s just always been better and better. We started at the Larimer Lounge and we went from there to playing the Pepsi Center with Metallica I think back in ’08. And we’ve just had so many stories here over the years, it’s hard to pick a favorite part. I really like Dazbog, the coffee chain. I dig that spot. The shows are always just killer. The Bluebird always treats us great. Their throwing us in The Gothic this time, we haven’t played there since about ’06 I think or ’07 maybe, and I’m excited to get back in there and see how the show goes.
I believe it was John in a previous interview that stated he prefers indoor venues, which I personally agree with, but how do you feel about playing outdoor? Have you ever played or wanted to play at Red Rocks?
Hahaha sure if you have 10,000 people that want to come see us out there, haha hell yeah. I don’t think we’re that big yet, but I’ve played good shows indoors. I’ve played terrible shows indoors. I’ve played good shows outdoors, and I’ve played terrible shows outdoors. It’s really just more of a case by case situation. I generally like playing in doors, in a club type (venue). The giant theaters, the sound can get a little weird on stage and it makes it a little more difficult to put on a good show. Sometimes in an outdoor show, you just never know if you could be right in the shade and it’s going to be perfect and you’ve got the right time slot at the fest and everyone’s there to party. Sometimes you’re up against Slayer and the sun is beating down on you and the stage sounds like shit. It’s really hard to tell what’s good and what’s bad.
You’re going to be playing at The Gothic Theater on Monday night with All Them Witches, another incredible band, how did this tour come about?
Kind of just like any other tour, when you’re ready to put together a headliner your booking agent just puts out some feelers, it’s called a submission, so basically you get some bands to submit to your tour. And then you get these giant lists that you go through and unfortunately a lot of it is kind of not what you’re looking for, but every once in a while you do find some hidden gems. We were fortunate enough that Cadaver wanted to do the first part of the tour with us and that was great. I wish we could have brought them out with us for the rest of it, but All Them Witches was just one of the bands on the big list of bands and you start calling around to your friends going, “Hey do you know them?” or something like that. Some really good friends of ours in a band called American Sharks that we’ve brought through Denver a few times, they knew those guys from playing shows together. So it was just kind of one of those friends of friend’s kind of things, so it just worked out. And they are a fantastic band, they really are.
“High Country” has gone a slightly different direction than your previous albums which leaned more towards a metal or somewhat of a Black Sabbath vibe, and you guys mentioned you wanted to add more of a blues or country tone on this one, what artists would you say inspired you the most while recording?
We’re honestly being less and less inspired by musical artists these days. There’s obviously the blues elements and the rock elements that have been there our whole lives, it’s just music that’s in our blood. Everything from delta blues to the classic rock in the ’70s, we all grew up in the ‘90s and the whole alternative movement and just every kind of music was cool. You liked Beastie Boys as much as you liked Tool just as much as you liked No Doubt or something. It was just like everybody liked everything back then, and I think that’s just in our blood. We definitely started with one sort of thing in mind and over 12 years we’ve all just grown so much as people and as song writers, and I think that more of our personality is starting to show in our songs. I think that people kind of get caught up in trying to figure out what band it sounds like or something like that, but honestly these days we just sound like The Sword.
Does it aggravate you at all when people try to compare you to other musicians?
No, I mean it doesn’t aggravate me at all. The only time it gets aggravating is when people put some sort of expectation on like what you’re supposed to be as an artist. Kind of like, “How come you’re not doing this anymore?” and it’s like “yeah that’s because I’ve already done that before and I’m on this new shit.” If you want to get stuck on this old shit then have fun, that’s what it’s there for, but if you’re a fan you’re going to be right along for the ride the whole time. People get a little uppity sometimes when they don’t hear what really clicked at first in their brain. They don’t like to think about things too much hahaha. I don’t mean everybody, just that vocal minority that gets all bent out of shape about things.
Is there a general message or story you try to portray in each album or do you mainly write each song as its own individual entity?
The way I try to write music is I just try to listen. I try to tune everything out, and try to just hear what’s going on in my head. I try to read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies, just put a lot of things into my head you know? And then just wait for the noise to calm down and just see what comes out. I feel like if you’re not constantly trying to at least seek out some new kind of inspiration, you’re just going to keep writing the same album over and over again ten times.
Did you use any different gear/FX for this new album?
Yeah that was kind of a big thing that I wanted to do in the studio. I just wanted to do everything different. Different amps, different guitar combinations; every time we would finish a track, I would unplug all that and plug in something completely different, then unplug that and plug in something else completely different than all that and plug in to some more stuff. So honestly I can’t even remember what I played on any particular part of the album. There are very few things that I was like, “Ohh that was that amp” or “that was that thing”. Honestly, I smoked a lot of weed and drank a lot of coffee in there and played a LOT of amps, so I couldn’t tell you exactly what was going on. We played a lot of other instruments too, like we hung out in the studio and guys would be on the grand piano and be like, “Oh what are you doing over here?” and be like “I don’t know I just wanted to see what it sounded like, so I would just sit down and try to play whatever they were going for. It was just a lot more fun this time around. We kind of went in a little unsure of the final product whereas before we were pretty sure what we were trying to accomplish.
What’s the hardest part about touring with a band that most people wouldn’t realize or think about?
Everything (laughs)! The only part that’s not hard is playing the show and sometimes even that can be pretty difficult. You wear yourself out. We’ve been on the road 10 years straight, I mean it really hardens you. It’s a really uncomfortable, brutal way of living. A lot of people think that it’s just all glamorous and everything or whatever, and there are times like that I guess. Like when you’re playing the festival in Australia and they put you in some crazy hotel and you get to hang out there 24 hours and it’s really nice. Or like on the Metallica tour a couple times we got on their tour plane and just flew around. It’s just those are so few and far between, it’s 99.9% of the time just sitting there staring at the highway passing in front of you, trying not to murder everyone around you. We live lives like caged animals, it’s just so utterly uncomfortable all day, every day for like a month at a time that if you didn’t absolutely love being on stage and playing a show for people every night seeing that reaction and getting that rush every night, it’s just not going to be worth it for you.
Is there anything you do to help get your creativity flowing while recording a new album or do you just sit down and start writing?
Well writing and recording are two separate things, we’ll usual go into a studio with a song idea in mind, and in the past we would have just had it all in mind then would have just done it. But with this last album we went in with songs and just kind of started screwing with them a little. We mainly just try to go for a sound, the thing that gets my juices flowing is when I find a sound that I like, it kind of just makes my ears perk up a little bit like, “Ooh that’s cool, what’s that? Let’s do that more.” The writing is more the part I was talking about getting inspiration from like books or art, so they are kind of two different things for us.
Do you feel as though this shift in your overall tone on High Country will be a permanent switch or will you continue to experiment with different sounds on future albums?
Yeah, I mean we are just going to keep making the records that we want to make. We started this band just because there was no band like us where we were from, so we just became the band that we wanted to hear. And that’s just been our mentality the whole time, so if people dig that they will probably like whichever direction we go. I feel like now especially we can do whatever we want with the next album, like I’d like to make things a little more concise or something where we take all the experiments that we did and just boil that down to like a ten-song record or something a little more brief. We did High Country the way we did because we had never taken 3 years to make a record before and it was a double LP and we just had a lot of material that was instrumental that we were really proud of and that we wanted to include in the record. Especially since the last record had almost no instrumental kind of aspect to it.
So you’re in arguably the weed capital of the world, do you have a favorite strain?
I know right! Um I like that doj (pronounced doe-g), that Indo, you know I don’t fucking care. Weed is weed you know, I love weed but sometimes it’s just like, “Can you just roll me a joint and not talk to me about it?” Hahah. One thing that kind of gets me though is, and I feel bad saying it, but when people are like, “Hey we made you a whole lot of pot brownies man, we’re going to bring them down to the show later.” I’m like, “Can you bring just weed AND brownies?” Like I want to get stoned and THEN eat the brownies, I don’t want to like eat the brownies and get stoned on the brownies and not be able to eat more and not be able to move you know. It just seems like the older I get the more I’m like, it’s like that Kat Williams show, “Can we just get some regular-ass weed?”
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans? Last words?
Man we love Denver, it’s always a pleasure. I mean from the Westword Music Festival to just the tiny clubs we played…. just everything. We’ve always had a blast here and I cannot wait to come back.
November 18, 2015 – One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA
November 19, 2015 – Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
November 20, 2015 – The State Theatre – St Petersburg, FL
November 21, 2015 – Freebird Live – Jacksonville, FL
November 23, 2015 – Saturn – Birmingham, AL
November 24, 2015 – Exit/In – Nashville, TN
November 25, 2015 – The Orange Peel – Asheville, NC
November 27, 2015 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC
November 28, 2015 – Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC
November 29, 2015 – Rock & Roll Hotel – Washington, DC
December 1, 2015 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
December 2, 2015 – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA
December 3, 2015 – Upstate Concert Hall – Clifton Park, NY
December 4, 2015 – Trocadero – Philadelphia, PA
December 5, 2015 – Town BallroomBuffalo, NY
December 6, 2015 – Opera House – Toronto, Canada
December 8, 2015 – Mr. Smalls – Millvale, PA
December 9, 2015 – Agora Ballroom – Cleveland, OH
December 10, 2015 – Blind Pig – Ann Arbor, MI
December 11, 2015 – Pyramid Scheme – Grand Rapids, MI
December 12, 2015 – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL
December 13, 2015 – The Ready Room – St Louis, MO
December 15, 2015 – 1884 Lounge – Memphis, TN
December 16, 2015 – Juanita’s Cantina & Ballroom – Little Rock, AR
December 17, 2015 – ACM – Oklahoma City, OK
December 18, 2015 – Paper Tiger – San Antonio, TX
December 19, 2015 – House of Rock – Corpus Christi, TX