Shutt, Cronise, and Wingo performing live at Waterloo Records and Video in Austin, Texas, August 23, 2010. Shutt is playing a Les Paul Custom, Cronise has his trusty 1979 Gibson Explorer II,
and a Laney head driving an Orange 4x12 cab is visible in the background. Photo by John Carrico
Nods to Foghat and heavy boogie aren’t the
only deviations from metal dogma that set Warp
Riders apart. Lead singer Cronise’s rich tenor
vocals steer clear of the affectations that define
much of contemporary metal. And Cronise and
Shutt often opt for a restrained and economical
lead style that, while almost anathema to the
metal and heavy rock gospels, tip the cap to
Thin Lizzy’s Eric Bell and P-Funk’s Eddie Hazel.
On the day I interviewed the affable and articulate Cronise and Shutt, the band were fresh
off a video shoot near Death Valley that left a
few of the crew hospitalized with heat stroke.
It doesn’t get much more heavy—or rock ’n’
roll—than that. And by all rights, the guitarists
should have been exhausted. But they were
still quite eager to talk about new directions,
hidden influences, and why the next record
may end up being death metal anyway.
Did you make a conscious decision to
adhere to a story or make a concept album
early in the writing process?
Cronise: Compared to most concept records that
I know, it’s really more of a story record. Some
concept albums are just about a related subject,
in a general way. But this really tells a story.
Shutt: It’s almost a soundtrack to a story or a
rock opera, really.
Were you challenged to expand your guitar
textures to illuminate or tell the story?
Cronise: I stuck with what I’ve been using—
and my Orange amps are a big part of
that—but I tried to write rhythm parts that
were a little simpler and would come across
better in a live situation. But Kyle would play
a lot of insane solos to counter that and fill
Shutt: I think my natural growth as a musi-
cian and curiosity for wanting to get different
sounds took care of that. I started using a
Tube Screamer for all my leads and threw in
a wah to give them a bit more variation. But
I didn’t really feel the need to do that for the
story’s sake. If it worked out that way, it’s just
a nice coincidence. The lyrics have always
been the last thing to come in a Sword
song, and in the case of this album, the story
that J.D. had in mind became the lyrics, so
the music was pretty well formed before it
evolved into the Warp Riders story.
How do you work out songs?
Shutt: Usually J.D. and I will just bring riffs to
practice. We’re pretty tight at this point, so
the song’s skeleton will usually come together in one or two practices and take shape
from there. We spend a lot of time playing
things over and over again until we get bored
with the parts. Then they become new parts
and the song evolves that way. The good
stuff usually sticks. We keep working it until
every little screw is tightened and everything
is polished, and then you have a Sword song.
Some of the playing is quite economical on
this album. Were you trying to create more
space for the narrative?
Cronise: Maybe unconsciously. A simpler riff is
easier to sing over and get the story over. So
yeah, I was writing the songs to be more open.
But there are still instrumentals, as well as a lot
of aggressive riffs in those instrumental sections where the mood or the story called for