Interview: Chant

Chant is an industrial act from Austin, TX fronted by drummer Bradley Bills. He has performed in the Phoenix area several times and has toured with everyone from KMFDM to Lords of Acid, Angelspit & My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Bradley also toured as the drummer for the industrial icons Die Krupps. The sound of Chant is raw and driven, filled with repetitive synth hooks, heavy basslines and tribal rhythms. His live show is loud and intense. You can feel the drums and bass thumping in your chest, while your eyes are being stimulated by the light show that is perfectly synchronized with the music. His drum arsenal includes trash cans, buckets, metal objects & satellite dishes. If you have not had a chance to catch Chant live, I would highly recommend it. *Fuchsia

How did you get started making music and drumming?

True story: when I was 9 or 10 I thought I wanted to play drums, but when I tried out for 6th grade band by clapping along w a music teacher in elementary school, she said I didn’t have rhythm and that I should try something else. A few years later at 13, I got the bug again, and begged my parents for a drum set – receiving it on my 14th birthday! My parents are very supportive and paid for private lessons with the agreement that they would continue to do so as long as I nailed each week’s lesson. Jamming with friends came right away, but it took until I was 17/18 before we formed an entire band. I was ‘the drummer’ only, for about 10 years until finally I got tired of bands realizing it was hard work and slowing down, so I started CHANT and decided, inspired by what Reznor did with NIN, that I would do it all myself, and began trying to sing, teaching myself production, mixing; etc. and it’s just grown from there.

Tell me more about your songwriting process.

Well, my CHANT songs derive from ‘drum riffs’ rather than guitar riffs… although the more I write, the more that a melody might come up first… with me programming drums later. I write down lyrics often, but I’d say only 10% ever get used… they have to mean something to me, and pass a time test to see if I think they will remain relevant and honest. When I hear a hook, I work it into riffs and song lines I’ve been composing and a song slowly starts to come together. In rare instances, like with Revolt, I wrote those lyrics in one sitting and programmed the music I had in my head the next day, deciding what live drum parts I’d fill in shortly after.

When was your first big tour and who was it with?

In 2007, I funded and managed my own tours – about 3, 10 day tours from TX to all other parts of the US and just went out as far as I could. That same year I did a collection of shows with My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult – about 6 or 7 around TX… so that was the first time I’d performed supporting some of my heros. The first tours that promoted CHANT as a supporting act were Ego Likeness in 2010 and then Lords of Acid / Angelspit in 2011. And then of course, now KMFDM this year.

You have been touring non-stop over the last several years, and have opened for some pretty awesome bands. What band/tour has been your favorite so far and why?

Thrill Kill was so fun because it was the first time I supported a group that I had admired so much. Ego Likeness had this amazing chemistry and comaradare, & the Lords of Acid/Angelspit tour was incredibly exciting because it was just a full on, large scale tour. But of course, touring the entire US with KMFDM is the biggest opportunity yet, and I have to say is the most exciting, invigorating experience to date!

What has it been like touring with KMFDM so far?

Just amazing. The venues are beautiful, crowds enthusiastic, and the KMFDM camp made us feel like part of the team from day one. It’s been go go go – non-stop – all the time and we love it. No days off, and that’s OK too! After 3 shows Sascha pulled me aside and let me know he had discussed it with his team and wanted to invite us out for the rest of the tour (we were originally slated to play through to NYC). Needless to say I was honored – because I’m not just a fan of KMFDM’s music, but the way they manage themselves and give back to their fans. So we’re continuing all the way through to Seattle!

What is the largest audience that you have played for? Tell us more about the experience.

During the KMFDM tour, I’m not sure – maybe LA…? And that was our first show with them. Standing on the side of the stage at The Fonda Theatre, the lights dimming and CHANT’s intro music kicked in… and walking up on that stage to see that beautiful venue and sea of people was quiet a moment!

Still, the largest audience I played for was in New Orleans in 2008 for the Voodoo Music Festival – CHANT was the act on the side stage right before NIN hit the main stage – there were 5 to 7 thousand people in that area. Again, quite exciting… I find that I really don’t get nervous based on the amount of people, only worry about technology or gear failing me – hahaha!

Your light show is very impressive. How long did it take you to get everything perfectly synched up with the music, and what software do you use?

Thanks – my live bandmate, Kristopher Robin is the mad scientist behind the light show – it’s just incredibly impressive what he’s been able to do. We have 3 light towers with 5 Chauvet ColorRail light bars each and LED Intimidators – and 4 Chauvet Mini LED light bars on my front drum rack – that all receive Midi notes from an ENTTEC DMXIS USB interface module and software. The software works as a plug in to Logic, which we run our backing tracks on during our live shows, so yes, we just sync up the MIDI note that triggers the scene we want to the point of the song we want it triggered. I’d say Kris spent a series of 8 different 6 hour days programming the scenes and then just as many days lining up the notes.

Do you have any advice for new bands out there just starting to hit the road?

One: buy this book: Tour Smart by Martin Atkins and read it cover to cover.

Two: Be smart about where you are going to play – don’t go too far out – there’s no reason. Just build your base locally first, then hit each city a few hours away from your home town. Once you have a following there, go one more market further out until you can do a 7 to 10 day run and be guaranteed you will have an audience. This builds experience and shows national bands that you can hold your own, run your own tour, and that IF they invite you to open for them, you won’t be a drain on their resources, crew, time, planning, stage space, and a zillion other things they don’t want to (and shouldn’t have to) deal with just because you are coming along.

What is next for Chant?

Once the KMFDM tour is done. I’m returning to Austin to record drums for another artist – and I’d love to be able to tell you who (it’s big!), but it’s not my news to tell (ha ha)! During those sessions I plan to record 3 to 4 new songs for CHANT as well, and the plan is to release them, along with remixes, for FREE to anyone who is signed up to CHANT’s mailing list, FB page; etc.throughout the year. At the same time, I’ll be writing CHANT’s 3rd album this year and hope to record it and release it in early 2014 with another US national tour… I already have some sic ideas percolating.

Links: – Official Site and Store – links to EVERYTHING ELSE!