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The Blamed

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January 2001 The Blamed toured Europe and it was my intention to meet them on the road and do this interview. The right opportunity seemed to be the Brainwave Festival. However, other events kept me occupied and it fell through. Therefore I decided to do this via E-mail and here is the result. On an introductional note, The Blamed is the band of Bryan Gray (guitar, vocals), Matt Switaj (vocals, guitar), Trevor Wiitala (drums) and his brother Christopher (bass, vocals). And it was Christopher who supplied all the answers to my questions.

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Discography: 21 (1994); Frail (1995); ...Again (1998); Forever (1999); Germany (2000); Isolated Incident (2001). Available through: The Blamed    & Grrr Records. Official website: The Blamed.    Interview by:  mpo. Date: April 13th-18th 2001.

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To prepare myself for this interview, I went to theblamed.com, the website for the band. However, I couldn't find a biography so can you first give a historic outline of the band?

Bryan Gray started the band around 1994 in California. Over the years the band has had several member changes. The current line-up seems to be working quite well. Our diverse musical backgrounds are a strong force in everything we do.

How did your music develop through the years?

Well, I've only been in the band just over a year, but I would say that we've taken the musical ideas of all four of us and interpreted it as something all our own. It's not punk, it's not hardcore. It's music.

What are the individual musical ideas within the band?

Individually we all have different ideas when it comes to the songs, but we all have one common denominator, rock and roll. On the road we probably tire each other out with our selections of music. Trevor and I favor bands like U2 and Blonde Redhead while we drive and Matt likes Hot Water Music and Bruce Springsteen. Bryan listens to hardcore-metal bands like Zao and Living Sacrifice. You can see that our listening styles are very different and this translates (somewhat) to what our musical ideas will be.

The latest EP, Germany, was supposed to be released through the Swedish company Day-Glo Records. This didn't happen though. How come?

I'm not involved in the business side of the band much, but what I know is that Day-Glo was supposed to release Germany before we came to Europe this year, but it never happened. I believe it was due to lack of funds. In truth, it's probably better that it was never released through them.

The band is now on Grrr Records. This also means that you're part of the Jesus People USA community in Chicago. What is this community about?

The band has been on Grrr Records ever since Bryan moved to JPUSA. Grrr gives us freedom to do what we want, but there is a strong limitation to what we can do because the promotion isn't very heavy in the market(s) we want to reach.

Besides being in The Blamed, do you have another role within that community or is it just a roof above your head?

JPUSA started in the early 70s out of the "Jesus Movement." It's basically a group of believers that feel called by God to work in the inner-city of Chicago as missionaries to the homeless and the poor. Years ago we started several businesses, our main income comes from Lakefront Roofing Supply. We all live together in an old hotel. Married couples get their own room, guys and girls room seperately, two or three to a room. If you live in JPUSA you work within JPUSA. No one gets a pay check. Instead it's almost as if you work in exhcange for room and board. Some of the founders played in Resurrection Band (REZ), which is how music as ministry started in JPUSA. When we're home, we all have different jobs.  I write at Cornerstone Magazine writing music reviews and doing interviews. Bryan works at Lakefront Roofing Supply driving a forklift. Trevor works as an assistant at our recording studio Tone Zone and Matt works ar Grrr Records.

The first two albums of The Blamed were released through Tooth & Nail Records. Now I have read an interview with HM Magazine in which the band says they wanted to get released from the label because there was a pressure to tour. But now you've been on a tour in Europe with a show in Holland at the Brainwave Festival. And this was not the first trip to Europe. How can you tour  now while that was a problem at first?

I can't say why The Blamed did or wanted to get released from Tooth & Nail, but I do know that living at JPUSA opens the doors for us to tour more than if we lived elsewhere. Since we don't have to worry about paying bills, we can tour and put whatever money we bring home right back into JPUSA. For us, this band is completely a ministry. The only reason we step out on stage is to tell people about Jesus. We don't blatantly shout Jesus from stage, but we make it a point to stay and talk to people after the shows.

Like I said before, The Blamed toured in Europe with Brainwave being the last show on the road. What do you think of the tour?

For me, this tour was my first time in Europe. Aside from it being a life-long dream to come over to Europe it was all the more amazing to do it while touring in a band. The kids in Europe are very enthusiastic about your show. They actually dance to your music. Maybe not everyone, but it's nice to see at least some people into your music

I also heard a story about cops breaking up a show because there were fights. This was at a show in Brainschweig. How did that happen?

The police didn't actually break up the show. It was after the show and some people outside were drunk and causing trouble. I never saw any of it, but the police got there quickly so nothing really happened. I did hear that at our show in Szentendre, Hungary there were five fights, all of them during our set.

At the Brainwave Festival I noticed that you have a different set-up on stage with the drummer sitting in front of the stage rather than behind all the others. Personally I felt this made the drummer more part of the whole concert instead of just being someone in the back. Is this also the reason for this set-up?

We've played this way ever since Trevor and I have been in the band. It helps us hear everything better on stage. That's all.

Finally I want to look at The Blamed's future. What can people expect from the band throughout 2001?

Touring. We're working on a Scandinavian tour for this November. Our new record Isolated Incident is out. Hopefully it will get to people's ears. Computer Club Records is releasing an At This Moment maxi-single as well that will hopefully be out by Cornerstone Festival.

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