Amy Coonagh asked the questions, The Blamed's Christopher Wiitala replied.
Amy: Give us a biography of The Blamed?
Christopher: The Blamed was started somewhere around 1994 by Bryan Gray (vocals, guitar) in California. Since then the band has been through various members. As the members changed, the sound and musical direction did also. The band did two records for Tooth & Nail, '21' and 'Frail'. Both of these records (to my knowledge) have a heavier, more hardcore/thrash sound to them. Somewhere around this time Bryan started a punk band called Left Out. He did tours with both of these bands and eventually he ended up in Chicago at Jesus People USA (JPUSA) where Trevor and I have lived for 15 (or so) years. So The Blamed released 'Again' and 'Forever' (Matt Switaj joined the group on this record) on JPUSA's label Grrr Records. Bryan had also been recording with Left Out. So the time came for him to do a tour with Left Out. He couldn't get the guys who normally played with him to go - members would fly to Chicago from various parts of the country, for tours or recording. So he asked Trevor and I to go. We were his roommates at the time and we had expressed interest in playing with him. I had already had the opportunity a few times, filling in for a couple weekends here and there. So we went on the tour and when we came home The Blamed went over to Europe for the first time. When they came home we got together with one of our pastors and the director of Grrr Records, Tom Cameron, and discussed how we needed to merge the groups together and focus solely on one band. It was getting too costly to fly people in for shows and recording. So we kept The Blamed moniker and continued with those that didn't decide to quit either group. Three weeks later we recorded (for our first time together) the EP titled 'Germany'. Then we embarked on a six-week national summer tour and we haven't stopped since. In February, Matt - who played guitar and sang - decided it was time for him to stop playing in The Blamed. Things are still going strong...
Amy: Your new record has a pretty interesting title, 'Give Us Barabbas'. Could you explain where and why you called it this?
Christopher: As you know, the phrase "give us Barabbas" comes from the Bible. I think Matt actually came up with the title. I like to think of it as my first intention sometimes. That is, I'm not always quick to think of Christ, a lot of times I choose the selfish, self-centered way. We really want everyone to get their own interpretation of it.
Amy: Where would you place your origin as a band? Each album release appears to be labeled as different things, your latest even harder to classify. "Post-hardcore, punk, metal", or do you prefer to break through the whole labeling thing?
Christopher: The best classification, to me, is rock and roll. A lot of people compare us to groups that are "post-hardcore" etc, etc, but I prefer to look at music without barriers or boundaries. Of course we've come from the whole "hard-music" genre and Bryan still very much likes that kind of music, but we really want to break free from classifications. That's why when someone asks me what kind of music we play, I say rock and roll.
Amy: You toured some of mainland Europe last year, how did that go? Did you find that US/UK audiences differ?
Christopher: As the current line-up, we've been to mainland Europe twice, in January and December of 2001. We love Europe. The promoters there are very nice. The food is good. The people are warm and receptive. The kids will dance to your music. This past December we toured Europe with Norma Jean. That tour was okay, considering that Zao was supposed to go and at the last minute they cancelled. It hurt the attendance somewhat, but for us it's never about who's not there, it's about who is. I loved England. It was our first time there. We stayed in Brighton. While there we played London, Brighton and Tunbridge Wells. I would have to say that the fact that Zao cancelled probably hurt us the most in England. People were already up in arms saying that Zao was an extremist pro-life group and I guess some hardcore kid over there called the police and got one of the shows shut down, while it was still being booked. The fact that our shows weren't very well attended there (we played to four customers in Tunbridge Wells) didn't at all hurt our experience there. We understand that you have to play places more than once to get a following. And who can complain after getting the chance to see the Queen and Prince Charles (with a couple others - Princess someone) drive out of Buckingham Palace after standing there for about two minutes? We even got a boot (clamp) on our van, but we got to see the Queen!
Amy: Where and what would you like to see The Blamed doing in the next couple years?
Christopher: I believe that the Lord will open the doors that he sees fit. We're back on Tooth & Nail in hopes that it will bring us to a better place as a band, but ultimately we want to do his will and spread hope that is rooted in him. We're in the middle of recording some songs for a couple splits we're releasing with a German band and a Belgian band and it's sounding really good. That's encouraging, to know that we still have some creative ideas and some important things to say. So the future looks bright.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.