Interview with Chad Ackerman of Chapter 14

Chapter 14 is finally back in motion. You guys were on hiatus for a long time. What happened?

Well, we never really recorded anything. We had demos that we did in garages and friends’ studios, but they were nothing professional. We were going to send a demo to labels to see if anyone would bite, but during that same time, Jordan [Mancino] (the drummer from As I Lay Dying) really needed a drum tech because his drum tech left. So, I told our drummer, “Mike, you have to be Jordan’s drum tech; it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.” So, he did. Then, since we didn’t have a drummer, we were just kinda waiting around and decided we didn’t really wanna do anything unless he came back.

I bet those original demos sound nothing like your new EP.

It’s like night and day [laughs].

So, you didn’t put out any official tracks back then, but you did tour a bit.

Yeah, that was around 2004, when Myspace was getting huge for bands. I noticed that no bands were using Myspace, that I knew of, to book shows. I just started writing all these different people in different states, and booked a tour to Illinois and back.

Nice. Years ago you also went on tour with As I Lay Dying. How did that come about?

Tim, the vocalist of As I Lay Dying, is a friend of mine. At the time, they didn’t have a guitar player and he knew I could play guitar, so he asked me join his band.

This was right out of high school, right?

Yeah, straight out of high school; like, the day I graduated we left on tour.

Sweet. After Chapter 14 disbanded, what happened next?

Well, around the same time, Destroy The Runner asked us — me and Tanner [Sparks] — to join the band.

And that’s when you did the Destroy The Runner album ‘I, Lucifer.’

Yeah, we did the one album and we kinda changed the band’s sound. Some people are mad at us for that, and some people are grateful.

Unfortunately, you weren’t even able to put out another Destroy The Runner release.

Yeah, Duane [Reed] and Maldy, the guitar players from Destroy The Runner, came to Tanner and I one night and were like, “Hey guys, I know we’ve been recording this new album, but we’re just over it. We don’t wanna do Destroy The Runner anymore. We’d liked to ask that you guys don’t release the album we’ve been working on or move forward with Destroy The Runner.” Me and Tanner were pretty shocked.

Yikes!

We were really depressed at first. But, we saw how many songs we had and decided to start up Chapter 14 again instead [laughs].

You were also working on Austrian Death Machine with Tim Lambesis around the time you were in Destroy The Runner. Was that in 2008 or so?

Well, Austrian Death Machine had been in the works for a while. Pretty much, Me and Tim were driving down to a concert one night, and we were doing Arnold [Schwarzenegger] impersonations all the way to the show. We almost crashed a few times because we were laughing so hard. I remember Tim going, “Man, imagine a hardcore metal band with Arnold singing.” And, I was like, “That would be so funny!” Then, about a year later, he called me up and was like, “Hey man, Metal Blade Records is letting us do it; we’re going to do a full album!” [laughs]

That’s pretty amazing [laughs]! Let’s talk about your new EP. This is without all the original band members, right?

Yeah, we were going to have the original members on the recording, but Tanner can play everything. He’s such a talented musician. We were talking about it though and decided if we’re going to tour, which we want to, then we’ll have the original lineup come play with us.

Good idea. How did the songs come about?

Usually, I’ll just sit down by myself with an acoustic and I’ll write the whole structure of a song, the lyrics and the melody. Then, once the song is kinda done, I bring it to Tanner and he’ll write his parts on top of it. The songs on ‘Like Trees In November’ were pretty much written on an acoustic and then Tanner took them and made them all into masterpieces.

Nice. Where did Tanner come up with all his parts?

He has a two bedroom apartment and he made one room soundproof. He pretty much tracked everything in that room. He’s insane, but he’s awesome [laughs]. And we heard about this guy Brian Grider of SCM Recordings. People in the past have just told us that he’s awesome. I listened to everything he worked on and I really liked it, so I called him. We decided to do vocals with him and then mix and master the EP with him as well.

Did you have a certain vision in mind for these songs?

Honestly, we wanted songs that would best represent us as a debut. Even though we’re not a metal band, we do have that heavier edge. So, we definitely wanted to put some heavy songs on the EP, but also show people that we love jazz and rock. We picked the songs that incorporated those styles and tried to tastefully show off all the music that we love.

Did Brian Grider help with the melodies as well?

Yes, it’s funny because me and Brian were just talking about that last week. He was telling me, “All the melodies were already there. I pretty much just tweaked little things here and there.” It was really awesome for us because he works with so many bands, and he was just saying how much he liked working with us. It was something new to his ear. It’s cool to hear an engineer or producer say those things. I know we’re paying him, and maybe he’s just saying that [laughs], but he’s a real sincere and awesome guy. I suggest everybody work with him.

Matt Geise of Lower Definition also sang on the EP. How did that come about?

Yeah, on track 5, Matt Geise of Lower Definition is a guest vocalist. The song’s called “Moth and Rust.” He was a huge Chapter 14 fan back in the day, before he joined the band Lower Definition. He would come to every show and be up in front and know all the lyrics. When Matt got into Lower Definition, I was so excited. He sounds amazing. So, when we were working on this EP, going back to our roots, I decided I needed to have Matt on a song. And, he was happy to do it.

Tell us about how the book Watership Down inspired the band’s name and EP title.

Well, growing up I went to private schools until high school. One of my required readings in private school was Watership Down by Richard Adams. It was one of the books that really stuck out to me.

Basically, in chapter 14 of Watership Down, the two main characters go to a farm. On the farm, there’s these bunnies there that are all fat and fed well and happy. They’re trying to tell the fat bunnies that the farmers are just getting them big because in November he’s going to kill them and eat them. But, they don’t believe them. When they’re leaving, Fiver says to Hazel, “They remind me of trees in November because they grow up so big and beautiful, but then they just die in the fall.”

I remember that chapter just bumming me out so much when I was a kid. I was like, “No, go with them, they know the truth!” So, with music, that’s always been my biggest way to express how I’m feeling, my emotions and everything that’s going on in my life. If I can’t tell somebody something, I can usually do it through lyrics or a song. That’s the biggest truth to me.

So, the moral of the story is don’t trust farmers, they’re evil.

Yes, exactly. Stay away from the farmers [laughs].

Who did the cover art for your new EP?

His name is Ash Thorp. He is amazing. He actually works with a credits company in Los Angeles. They do everything. They’ve done TRON: Legacy and The Tourist, which stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. He actually got the job with them only two or three months ago. Anyway, he found out that Tanner and I were doing Chapter 14, and asked if he could do the artwork. When I first saw the art I was freaking out. If that wasn’t our album art, I would probably still have it framed on my wall, because I love it so much.

Do you guys have any plans to tour soon?

Yeah, that’s our goal. We just wanna get out there and keep touring. And we want a full-length album. We’ve gotten a lot of good reviews on the EP so far.

Thanks, Chad!

Thanks so much. This has been awesome.

Pick up Chapter 14’s new EP, Like Trees In November.