Interview: Derek Grant [March 2015]

By Samarth Kanal

We caught up with Derek Grant to talk about the incredibly varied influences which surrounded his debut solo LP ‘Breakdown’, along with the emotions and events which brought the album to fruition. The Alkaline Trio and former Suicide Machines drummer released ‘Breakdown’ on January 20th via Red Scare Industries and it’s available to buy now.

Let’s get straight onto your latest release, ‘Breakdown’. I think it’s safe to say that it covers some relationship issues. Is the release a way to deal with them?

Writing the songs was definitely a form of therapy for me. These were all written back in 2008 and 2009, and I was dealing with some pretty heavy stuff at the time. I chose to remove myself from my environment, and I brought a guitar along for the ride. The daily ritual of playing guitar and letting off steam led to the creation of most of what ended up on the record.

So would you regard this release as quite a positive or negative one?

There’s a bit of an arc to the story if you listen to the album from front to back. It’s a tale with struggle and regret, but ultimately the outcome is positive.

How would you describe the sound of your upcoming album to somebody who hasn’t heard it yet?

I’ve had difficulty finding the right words for the way the album sounds! It’s got a little rock and roll, with some elements of folk and Americana. Some people say they hear new wave elements. I just don’t know any more. It does, however, not sound anything like any of the bands that I’ve been a part of.

What are the influences that made their way into ‘Breakdown’?

I was listening to G.G. Allin and a lot of old thrash, like The Accused and D.R.I. when I wrote these songs. I was as surprised as anyone with how they came out sounding! I had thought about trying to re-work the songs to fit into something more predictable, but it just didn’t feel right.

Have you ever had this much creative control over music that you’ve been involved in and is it a welcome change?

I usually slip into the role of producer with the bands that I’ve been a part of, so it’s not new for me to feel a good amount of creative control. It was strange not having that collaborative element though. Liberating in some ways, but certainly restrictive in that you can end up in some ruts without someone else to rattle you a bit.

What are your plans after your album release and tour? Perhaps more Alkaline Trio stuff?

I just did some Midwest shows around the release of the album. I have two solo shows in Australia in February, then I will be opening up for the Suicide Machines (who I will also be playing drums for) on a two week US run in April. After that, it’s a lot of Alkaline Trio shows until August (including some UK shows), before turning our attention towards recording a new album.

Do you find some comfort in having released this album, which centres on what has been a difficult time for you?

I found closure for a lot of my issues years ago, but releasing the album is like the final step in the process of letting go and moving on.

How do you go about writing? Is there any specific process or mood that you have to be in when songwriting?

There’s no formula for me. It might start with a guitar part, then a lyric for the chorus, or a title. Eventually, I sit down and start working out all of the parts, recording them as I go, until I have something that resembles a song.

Is it hard to juggle commitments between your solo work and Alkaline Trio?

So far it hasn’t been difficult at all. In fact, one of the things that I’m excited about is being able to slip into solo mode whenever the band breaks in-between albums or tours. It’s a new frontier for me.

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Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]