As a descriptor, “post-hardcore” has been applied to bands that all too often bear little resemblance to any of the great music from which they supposedly were derived. But this label, despite its misuse, is perhaps the best way to describe the music of Detroit’s Child Bite. They frequently prompt comparisons to Frankenchrist-era Dead Kennedys, or the later works of Black Flag. But unlike so many others, Child Bite manages to preserve all the best sonic elements of their predecessors while producing truly original music that pushes the boundaries of the form.
Their forthcoming LP Negative Noise drops April 1 on Housecore Records. The band will play back-to-back release parties for the new record: first on May 6 at the Majestic Cafe, and then on May 7 at the Sanctuary. Metro Times caught up with Child Bite via email: vocalist Shawn Knight, lead guitarist Brandon Sczomak, and bass player Sean Clancey.
Metro Times: Your sound gets compared a lot to Reagan/George H-era hardcore and post-punk bands. Now in the Obama era, what about your surroundings inspires your material?
Shawn Knight: That's the thing, over time more and more eras come and go, affecting each other. I'm not surprised that we sound like a melting pot of all sorts of punk, metal, and rock from the past 30 to 40 years. I guess I'm surprised there aren't more bands like us. I think there's a tendency to work with like-minded friends, so most bands bond over a genre and pay tribute to that. Luckily, everybody in our band grew up on somewhat different stuff, so our recipe ends up being kind of unique by comparison.
Brandon Sczomak: Outside of the band, for the past eight years I have had the pleasure of spending lots of time with a constant stream of scumbags and slimeballs. It's an ongoing source of terrible inspiration that seems to never go dry. There is no way I could dream up the stories I hear/things I witness. It definitely helps put me in the right mindset to write Child Bite songs.
Sean Clancey: I'm hoping that when we get compared to bands from that era, it's in spirit and not totally in sound. Back in that era, I think punk and the underground was pretty open-ended. Just look at the diversity of the (SST Records) roster back then. As far as how we use our surroundings, it's really just being inspired and striving to have music come from us that doesn't have that many rules or limits in a genre or minutia sense, but just in broader, vague, overarching ideas like fun, fast, heavy, gnarly, strange, and the like.
MT: Who's your favorite Black Flag vocalist?
Knight: Ooh, that's tough! Can I go 50/50 on Morris and Rollins?
MT: The combination of reverb-laden surf guitar and Shawn's vocals are reminiscent of the Dead Kennedys. Were they, and perhaps some of the other Alternative Tentacles bands, a particularly big influence on you?
Knight: Yeah, DK are a big one. A friend's older sister gave me a mixtape of Circle Jerks and Dead Kennedys back when I was probably 13 or so. This would've been around 1990, so obviously too late to ever have seen the original incarnation of DK live. Huge influence on my guitar-writing style for sure. Vocally too, Biafra is a big influence. Those guys were definitely different from the rest of their scene and I tend to gravitate toward the weirdos. Jello's record with Nomeansno is amazing too!
Sczomak: DK were definitely a big influence on me. Easy Bay Ray hands down wrote some of the best hook-laden guitar lines of any punk band ever. Nomeansno would be right up there with DK too. Their incredible musicianship, great energy, and tiny bit of goofiness sprinkled overtop makes for the perfect treat.
Clancey: Yes! For some reason a lot of single note-y punk bands just because a benchmark for how we've been focusing our sound. They help with the manic and deranged car chase scene vibe of some of our tunes.
MT: Negative Noise was produced by Phil Anselmo, of Pantera fame. How did your relationship begin?
Sczomak: Through an online dating site.
MT: Are you big Pantera fans?
Knight: I know the other guys weren't, but I was definitely a pretty big fan. A good buddy of mine back in junior high introduced me to Cowboys From Hell, so when my next birthday rolled around I asked for Vulgar Display of Power on CD. Luckily I have a cool aunt, so I was prank calling my neighbors with the end of "Fucking Hostile" in no time. I skipped school to get Far Beyond Driven signed when they came through Detroit on tour. The last record of theirs I picked up was The Great Southern Trendkill. I remember being impressed by how they had gone even less commercial on that one.
MT: What does Anselmo bring to this new record in terms of production values?
Knight: He's got tons of experience in studios of all shapes and sizes, from big-budget productions down to basement recordings. For this record, we did things his way, which involved re-tracking every single instrument after the drums wrapped up. Typically, we isolate the guitar and bass amps so we can capture those along with the drums, saving time. Phil's studio is pretty bare bones and they don't have isolation booths. Because of that, and since time isn't usually an issue for them down there, they record every single instrument individually. That was different for us; having time. Phil's production ideas really come into play while recording guitars and vocals. Little flourishes here and there, double- and triple-tracking stuff, effect things, etc. The funny thing is, we had a lot of the same ideas, which I think comes from having listened to his bands growing up. There were definitely a few Pantera-inspired production techniques involved.
SC: This was our first time working with a producer, and we prepared ourselves to let him into our world and really let his suggestions in. But really, he was involved, but pretty hands off. A few structural ideas and some ideas for what are affectionately called "sweeties" — cool guitar overdubs and doubling. He spent more time with Shawn in the vocal booth because that's more his expertise, but he really let Brandon, Jeff, and I sorta run free when we were recording, essentially saying that he "wasn't worried about us," ha. Which is a nice feeling to hear from such an accomplished dude.
MT: You guys are also known for organizing the annual Berserker fest. What are your highlights from this year?
Knight: Just the whole thing, man. It's like putting together a wedding; you spend months planning out every little detail and just hope it's a blast when the day comes and it whizzes right past you. I felt great about the venue, the way we laid things out, and obviously the bands, since I was involved with selecting them all. It's sort of like a mixtape come to life for me: national bands that I'm into, smaller out-of-towners that Child Bite has become friends with over the years, and a bunch of our friends in the local bands.
Sczomak: It was great to get to see Voivod play again. We're doing a tour with them in May and June, so it was exciting to be reminded of how much they slay live. Seeing that place get popped for Ghoul was awesome too. There is something particularly heartwarming about seeing a bunch of people getting blasted in the face with a gut bucket, and absolutely loving it.
Clancey: Motherfucker, Generation of Vipers, Voivod, and STNNNG.
MT: How did the Masonic Temple work out, compared to previous venues?
Knight: It was great! There were more stairs involved than in the past, which was one of the only complaints I heard. That said, all of those folks followed up that statement with the fact that they probably needed the exercise. I think movement is key to Berserker. We have three overlapping stages pumping out 16 bands in just over five hours, so a sense of getting lost in the insanity definitely helps distract from what otherwise would be too fatiguing. The rooms were perfect for what we were doing. No regrets!
MT: Between the Detroit Music Awards and the Negative Noise release gigs, you have a busy schedule ahead. Do you approach your upcoming gigs at the Fillmore and the Sanctuary differently?
Knight: For the shows at Sanctuary and the Majestic Cafe, we will practice. For our appearance at the Fillmore, we will rehearse.
Sczomak: For me personally, not really. Regardless of the venue or crowd size, we're still just playing the same songs. The main difference for the bigger shows is that Sean puts his hair up in a blue Static-X style Mohawk. It has a cool Marge Simpson vibe to it.