In late 1998 the world of hardcore music took on a slightly feminine role. That was when Walls of Jericho were formed consisting of lead singer Candace Kucsulain, guitarists Mike Hasty and Chris Rawson, bassist Aaron Ruby, drummer Wes Keely. In early 1999 they released an EP on Genet Records entitled A Day and a Thousand Years. Soon after, they were picked up by Trustkill Records. In late 1999 Walls of Jericho released their first full-length CD, The Bound Feed The Gagged. They toured extensively on the power of this album until 2001 when Keely departed the band. Walls of Jericho went through a number of drummers, but couldn’t find a suitable replacement, so they decided to break up.
After two years, Walls of Jericho emerged with new drummer Alexi Rodriguez (formerly of Catharsis), a newfound love of playing with one another, and a batch of new material. In early 2004, they released the hard-hitting All Hail The Dead. They have been on the road ever since.
Walls of Jericho are currently headlining a tour which includes Bury Your Dead, Full Blown Chaos, and Premonitions of War. Freelance entertainment writer Sean Claes had a chance to talk to Kucsulain in early January 2005 while the band was gearing up for the tour.
Sean Claes: Walls of Jericho seemed to be on a great path when you broke up in 2001. What happened? Candace Kucsulain: In 2001, Wes (Keely) decided he was going to go finish school in Seattle and we are based in Michigan. We tried to replace him, and went through about five or six people that were either really good people that couldn’t play exactly the style we wanted them to play or we weren’t really comfortable around them, but they were really good musicians. So, at that point we had nothing we could do, so we pretty much decided we would take a break and hope someone would come along.
Claes: What did everyone do in the two years that Walls of Jericho wasn’t together? Kucsulain: Just before we broke up I had gotten an apprenticeship to do body piercing so I pretty much did that for two years, six days a week. Mike (Hasty), Aaron (Ruby), and Chris (Rawson) started another band called It’s All Gone To Hell and pretty much did that for the whole two years. That band is still going…just on the side.
Claes: Fast forward to late 2003 and enter Alexi Rodriguez. Kucsulain: He called us up when he just got back from Germany and he asked us if we wanted to start something up. We started Walls of Jericho back up. We all knew him and knew he was a really good and capable drummer. He moved up in April 2003 and we did a couple of shows, played Hellfest (in Syracuse, New York). Then we began writing and had a record recorded by the end of September.
Claes: In December, Rodriguez left the band. What’s the story behind that? Kucsulain: The only thing that we care to share is that there was no drama behind it. It’s just something that needed to happen. We wish him the best of luck as he does for us.
Claes: What can you tell us about the new drummer, Dustin Schoenhofer? Kucsulain: He’s someone we’ve all known pretty much since I was on the scene when I was around 16. Everybody has known him as he was in the band Premonitions of War and Next to Nothing. We’ve been practicing a lot for our upcoming tour and it went really well. He’s a good guy. Very, very, very, very capable of playing drums. And he’s got a good personality we all get along really well with him.
Claes: He’s the former drummer of Premonitions of War, who are playing on the same bill on this tour, is that going to be awkward? Kucsulain: It’s not a weird thing at all. It’s a situation where he had quit the band before we parted ways with Alexi and so they already had replaced him with someone else and we found out he wasn’t in a band and we needed a drummer. It actually worked out pretty smooth.
Claes: On a personal note, how did you end up fronting a hardcore band? Kucsulain: I had been going to shows for a really long time and when I was 17 a local band called Apathemy had started and I was a really big fan of their stuff. One of their singers quit and I decided I would try out and it pretty much took off from there. I’ve pretty much always been that aggressive girl that was dancing in the pit and singing along. It was something that was pretty natural to me.
Claes: Speaking of being aggressive, I hear you broke your nose at a show last year? Kucsulain: We were playing in Memphis and there was no stage. People were moshing and some guy spin-fisted my face. I was pretty shocked. I always wondered what it would feel like to have my nose broken. It wasn’t that bad actually. It didn’t bleed so I just continued on and finished the set. Then I looked in the mirror and saw that it was completely to the left. So I said, “I should probably go to the hospital.” Stuff like that happens all the time. We started the Sick of It All Tour in Europe last year and we were playing and I started headbanging and I headbanged right into some guys’ head. My own fault, I got a black eye.
Claes: How does the crowd overseas differ from the US crowd? Kucsulain: The crowds really weren’t that different. The one thing that is different is their stage dives. Their stage dives are absolutely amazing, in the best/worst way possible. They actually just belly flop into the crowd. Seriously. Face-diving into the crowd. It was a riot to go out there every single night and watch people smash their faces off other people’s heads. I ain’t dissing Europe at all because at least they’re out there doing it. But people would walk right up on stage, turn around and just fall back. People would come running off of stage and there would be absolutely nobody in this area and they would just stage-dive onto the floor.
Claes: It’s been said that you stand apart from other female metal/hard-rock lead vocalists because you add the hint of femininity to your vocals. How would you describe your singing style? Kucsulain: It’s very rough and aggressive, but I don’t try and sound like a guy. I don’t try to just have deep vocals. I think that may be what sets it apart a little bit. I know I have a pretty good screaming voice and I think it’s really important to have my own style. When I first started out my singing voice was pretty low but after a little while I found I could have a different kind of range. I went with the higher ones because I liked it more personally. It comes to me more naturally. I have a really tough presence because I’ve always been that way. I throw fists, if you’re in the front row, pretty much you’re getting hit. I guess what adds a little bit of femininity is when I get on stage, I have no problems getting up there shaking my ass and having a really good time, which most people don’t see in hardcore or metal. It’s all about having fun. If you can’t have fun, why are you doing it?
Claes: Let’s talk about your most recent album, All Hail The Dead. You’re lucky enough to have a recording engineer with a studio in the band (Hasty). Did that make the recording process easier or harder? Kucsulain: It was more laid back. It was a lot more fun. We didn’t feel rushed. He pretty much booked the month for us to go in and record. You go to another recording studio and you have to be in and out unless you drop crazy amounts of money. Which we are not there.
Claes: How do you think the album came out? Kucsulain: Compared with the other ones I’m definitely happier with it. On the next record we plan to take a lot more time. When you can take months at a time and can listen to what you recorded, you can criticize it more and get the feel of it a little more than if you just write it and have to record it. Whether people criticize us about it or something and say “that’s not very hardcore or metal or whatever” we don’t really care about that. We just wanted to have our own thing and have a good time.
Claes: Reading the lyrics, this album seems much more personal and poetic that I’m used to hearing in hardcore. Did you have anything in mind when writing for All Hail The Dead? Kucsulain: I really wanted to stay away from politics. In my head, I didn’t want anything that anybody could feel left out of. I wanted to write a record of songs people could really relate to and, maybe they’re going though the same thing at the same time. I wrote about things that everybody deals with. I think it is important to not just bitch and be mad and upset about everything that’s going on in your life, but to take it and change it. That’s really what I kept in mind because I was going through a lot of really negative stuff at that time that I knew I had to get past. Writing about it and singing about it does help.
Claes: Tell me a little bit about the song, “Another Anthem for the Hopeless”. Kucsulain: That song is all about dealing with rape. Realize that it’s not just a myth; it’s your mother, your sister, or your brother. You never know. People deal with it everyday. “Another Anthem for the Hopeless” is pretty much me coping with it and knowing that it is a very negative thing, but knowing that it is time for people who have this in their lives to change it around and not let it effect us negatively anymore. It’s one thing that pretty much everyone can relate to. Most people, whether they know it or not, know somebody who has dealt with rape. I wanted to focus, not actually on the rapist itself like “screw you, kill a rapist,” I wanted to focus on the people who are really hurt by it, the people that really do matter… the survivors. Everybody forgets about that. People think, O.K. they’ve told their story, now they’re fine. No… let them know that I’m here and I’m going to scream my head off about it, so come join me.
Claes: The closing line of “Through The Eyes of a Dreamer” is really interesting. “Dream like you’ll live forever and live like you’ll die tomorrow.” Where did that line come from? Kucsulain: That’s a song that Chris (Rawson) helped me with. Too many people sit around and just hate what’s going on with themselves, hate the life that’s going on around them, or bitch about everyone else in their life and think that they have nothing to do with any of it. “Oh my life is bad because of this person and this person.” No, your life is all about you, and how you need to change you and how you need to move towards to making a better you, and why do I sound like a self-help book right now?
Claes: You did channel a little Dr. Phil for a second there. Let’s move on. By the time this story prints you’ll be on tour with Bury Your Dead, Full Blown Chaos, and Premonitions of War. How did the tour come about? Kucsulain: Premonitions of War decided they wanted to do a tour of all friends, so they called us up and we were totally down with it. Full Blown Chaos - we’ve always loved touring with them so we invited them along. They are an amazing band. On February 6, 2005 we’re coming through to San Antonio and we’re excited.
Claes: So, as headliners, are you touring in a bus or van? Kucsulain: We actually own a van and a trailer. We’re not even the kind of band that stays in hotel rooms. We stay at people’s houses and stuff. There’s no reason to really; it’s just extra expenses. Everybody is out on tour; we are all struggling just as much as everybody else is so it’s just not fair to expect anything extra. We try to make it less business. I plan of starting this tour of with a bunch of bags of cookies, so everyone can have a good vibe to begin with.
Claes: What, no jar of green M&Ms or a clean pair of underwear on your concert rider? Kucsulain: Actually, no. We pretty much ask for the things we need - like food. As much it would be really funny to have that happen… you can’t help but feel like an asshole rock star if you do that kind of stuff. We ask for things that are pretty understandable like food and pop. One day I do want to be able to ask for Starbucks on the rider. Starbucks is my favorite thing.
Claes: Once the lights go down and the show starts, how would you describe the perfect crowd? Kucsulain: The prefect crowd…and I don’t care who you are, Hot Topic rockers... I don’t care… teenyboppers, metalheads, hardcore kids…we don’t care. All I really care about is people are getting into the music. The perfect time is when everyone is singing along and dancing and there’s an all around good vibe. Every time we play Worcester, Massachusetts, it’s completely amazing. There’s people singing along, stage diving, and people are going crazy in the pit. That’s pretty much when it’s a great show. [END]
For more information about Walls of Jericho, visit them online at allhailthedead.com. Sean Claes (seanclaes.com) is a freelance entertainment writer in Central Texas.