Interview: Chadwick Johnson / Hundredth

23.03.2014

I like the word “acquaintance”. It captures well the nature of relationships I have with some people, who are present in my life, but whom I do not know so well or with whom we do not feel each other enough to have such interaction, as with someone I would consciously call “a friend” or who in my life is “important”. It’s the same with bands. There are a lot of bands that are “good”, but much less those, that are “exceptional” and that at every level of artistic existence have something extra valuable, something other bands are missing. Last month I had the opportunity to interview the lead singer of a band from the latter category. I met up with Chadwick Johnson of Hundredth after their gig in Warsaw. On the wall of the room where we talked, there was a picture of Laura Palmer, a character from the cult  “Twin Peaks” TV series and also a movie, which title I always liked a lot – “Fire, walk with me”. As it turned out, the fire walked with us also during the the conversation.

We talk after the show and after seeing you live, the order of questions I wanted to ask you sort of got scrambled up, which is actually a good thing, as it means something important happened. Let me start with the question about what you started with. What is the introduction which opened your show?

We have been using clip from the 1976 movie called “Network”.

What I liked about this quote is at the end of it, so right before you crushed the air with your sounds. The phrase goes “get mad, you are human being”. Anger, as an emotion, how important is it as part of a human being?

Anger is an emotion, that can be used for positive things, but it has such a negative connotation to it. Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against The Machine sings, that “anger is a gift” and when I heard it for the first time, I thought it was very true. Anger is a very high form of passion. It also can come from fear, especially when you care about somehing a lot, but it can be used in a positive capacity towards change in the world.

To me, your every recorded music is quite different from the other. „When Will We Surrender” is very heavy, „Let Go” is very hard, I mean rock hard. It sounds as if all the strings and snare drum were about to snap any time, its that hard. And then „Revolt” is pretty wild and I’d say ragged. How much every record represented who you were in a particular moment of your life at the time of creating it?

I never thought about each record the way you said it, but it makes a lot of sense. Even topically, „When Will We Surrender” was emotionally heavy record for me. “Let go” is about me hardening, looking at the world in a little bit more catalyst way, so it’s interesting you say it sounds hard. Then „Revolt” was about a lot of shit going on on this planet, which is swept under the rug and no one thinks about it. On this record we wanted to be non stop in your face, rugged, like you said. Show truth through anger, which isn’t negative, but aware. „Resist”, our upcoming record, will be about what is after all that anger. When you are with yourself and realize, that you are just as much part of the problem as everyone else is, because everything you see is reflection of yourself. Topically its more diving into yourself EP. But I understand what you’re saying about the albums. We definitely try to do different things on each album, because this band is expression of ourselves and each time we make an album, we are never the same people we were when making previous record. We would like to think of ourselves as progressive with everything that we do, that’s why it changes.

Sounds do change, but there is one constant element of your music and that is very intense passion. How would you define passion? How do you feel it?

I think it’s that thing inside, that just won’t shut up. It’s that thing inside you, that tells you to do things, things you feel deep inside are things you care about and want to do. It’s hard to explain what it is. It’s easier to represent what it is, I think.

In one of my earlier interviews I asked this question to Hoya from Madball and he said an interesting thing, that passion is something you don’t have control over, but you allow that lack of control to happen, because its something you truly want to do.

That’s fucking awesome answer. It’s like yourself is forcing yourself to do it, absolutely.

I imagine you get the chance to talk to fans either after the shows or through e-mails or Facebook, so I guess you know why and how “Hundredth” is important to people. You might have the image what is the band means to the people, but I wanted to ask you what is Hundredth to you?

I feel like I have grown up in this band. We started it when I was 19, now I’m 25 and those 6 years have been the craziest years of my life. I have found out who I was, what do I believe in, how things from the past have shaped me into who I am now. Hundredth is representation of me and anyone who has been in it since the beginning. We have had members who were around for a while and then moved on to do other things, which is cool. We see Hundredth as a band, but as a force almost too, where people serve for a time and they move on. That’s ok, because not a lot of people want to tour 200 days out of the year. They want to settle down and have their life and that’s cool. By all means, if that’s what you feel you want to do, that’s fine. I want my friends, who were in the band to do that. So Hundredth is a representation of all of us combined and everyone who was part of it.

Whether it’s in the studio or on the stage, when things are good, when there is flow of fire, energy in between you or the audience, the magic is happening and I guess that proves everything you do is valuable, but how about all the situations when things go wrong? How often do you ask yourself if all of this is actually worth doing?

Luckily we haven’t had those moments in a long time, but it can be just around the corner, you never know. Close thing to that feeling is when you play and no one knows who you are. That is complately fine, because you are playing to the new people, but when you don’t have someone in the front to sing along and interact with, I find myself connecting to songs more and thinking about what I’m singing. In a shitty situation I think what is given song about and it means then even more. We do try to do a lot of different types of tours. Not all hardcore bands tours etc. We try to be versatile and play to new people.

So you consciously expose yourself to those situations, even though you know that it often is a challenge?

Yes. But I can’t think of the last time we have questioned doing it. I think we are pretty steadfast at this point. We have put in years and years of shitty times, when we were making literally 2 dollars a day, just enough to have a meal at Taco Bell in States. Yet we have put in work to this point, where we don’t ask ourselves what the hell are we doing this for, luckily, but it could be round the corner. Who really knows, that’s the risk.

Steadfast and enjoying it
Hundredth in Warsaw (24.02.2014)

photo by Jan Daciuk

Few days ago I was in London. I was walking around the city, looking at all the places, shops, restaurants and generally that culture mix London is comprised of. Then also at the airport I was looking at all the people travelling in all those different places. When I observe all that, it always makes me amazed at variety this world has to offer and there are so many different people, and eventually different lives out there. That is just one of small observations from my travels. What do you learn from your travels when touring?

When you travel countries on tour you do see cultural differences in people and places, but you also realize, that pass the surface everybody is the same. Regardless the country, nationality or what they have been through. That’s what I have noticed most when touring and also that is what has changed me most on those travels. You realize, that you are no different than any one else that is at the show. We are all the same spirits. I just happen to have written a couple songs with friends, that I get to sing, but there is no difference between me, you and anyone else at the show. I feel that realization has changed the way I perceive the world. Everyone is a reflection of myself.

In what sense are we the same? You mean the values we share?

I think everyone just wants to belong and be happy. People express it in different ways, but beyond what our values are and beyond what we believe in, beyond our religions, tastes, food, music whatever that is, deep down people want to coalesce and become one. It’s a spiritual thing. Everyone is a spirit.

I don’t have any tattoes. I really do like them and I think it’s definitely a form of art, but I just don’t feel the need to have one on my body yet, but if I was to ink something, I could strongly relate to, one thing that comes to my head is a quote from one of your songs, particularly „Refine me with fire” line from „Desolate”. It’s would be a long story to tell why, but I do feel I was once „refined by fire”, so that is why this line really strikes in chord with me and fire is really important in my emotional world. How do you perceive fire?

One of my best friends in the world, Brandon, actually has that line on his stomach. To be honest I don’t remember the moment when I wrote that lyric. I think it was just a concept and I put it down, but what is crazy is that after I wrote that line, something in the universe tested me on that lyric. There was a time in our band when anytime we would leave for a tour, one of our friends at home would die. It was insane. It happened to seven people. For example one of them was our merch guy, he got stabbed at a night club. He was suppose to go on tour with us, so we all felt very close connection to his death. That line is a crazy line for our band. Again, I don’t remember when exactly did I come up with it, because it was so long ago, but it was almost like just a spurt. As something above just put it down on me. And I definitely feel like it tested me throughout my life. It’s been in connection with my life after I wrote it. As for the fire, it’s a beautiful, but also crazy thing.

You have a lot of fire in you when you are on stage. It makes your presence dangerous, or maybe actually powerful would be a better word to describe it.

Thank you, that’s amazing to hear. I feel like fire is like that too. It’s a wild element of nature, on one hand necessary to live, on the other very dangerous and uncontrollable.

In nature, fire is definitely uncontrollable thing, but if you are conscious human being and you feel the fire inside, until some extent you can control it, direct it at certain aspects and thoughts to intensify the interaction with the world. In it’s primal nature fire is uncontrollable phenomenon, but I think if you have it inside and are aware of it, one can use it as a catalyst for intensification of feeling and interacting and I think you can do it.

Thank you very much. This is deep and really cool concept. If fire gets away it destroys, but if it’s contained, it can be used for good. That’s awesome thought, man. Thank you.

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Ok, last one. Your lyrics deal with many important subject in life, emotions, social issues, spiritual issues, but if you could try to combine it all in one sentence and tell me – what is important in life for you?

I think I just want to make the world a better place. I am not very good at it, but I would like to be good at it, so I’m trying. Trying to open people’s eyes to what is actually happening in the world or making them them feel they have something they can relate to. I know I am not best at it, but…

How do you know you are not good at it?

Because I am sour just like everyone else. I can be careless at times or don’t give a shit at times. And I can be very selfish at times too. But I know, that this is what I want. This is what I want my life to stand for – to make the world a better place. But I think it’s a progression to get to it and I’m on that journey now.

I would say that life isn’t about being perfect. To me it’s more about being aware of your weaknesses and make a conscious effort to change that into something positive.

Absolutely. Rising about all that and becoming the person you want to be is my personal mantra. So my goal in life is to make the world a better place and whatever happens after this band I hope it is furthering of that cause.

So Hundredth is one of your outlets, which allows you to achieve it, but you have already taken some actions, which reach out beyond the band. Two years ago you launched “Water cause” project. Tell me how did it actually turn out?

We did it during the „Let go” record era, because on that album they were many socially involved songs, so besides the album we wanted to have an outlet, where we could unite with people and do something together. So we go involved in the water cause and started raising money at the shows of that album cycle. We ended up raising 10 000 dollars and thorough Charity Water we sponsored two projects in India. Those projects provide clean water and sanitation forever to two villages in India. There are about 250 people in each village. It takes about to 2 years to fully implement the facilities and complete the project and one was actually complated. I literally got the e-mail with notice about completion yesterday.

It sort of sprung from that and in terms of our music with the “Revolt” we looked at things from different perspective, also trying look into why that water crisis actually exists. Then I had this personal conviction, that on grand scheme of things those 10 000 dollars isn’t really anything. I mean its everything to those 500 people, but other than that the bigger issue is capitalism as a whole. I mean don’t get me wrong, we’re just as guilty as anybody else. We sell merch tonight, that’s capitalism, but I looked more into the problem and why there is a water crisis and I realized, that these massive corporations and banks were taking land from people for their resources, in-debting them and automatically making the people their slaves. And thats why there is water crisis. I am glad we did those two projects, because it gave us and anyone who is into our band a chance to come together and do something more than they would be able to do by themselves.

Great cause, great time with you, thank you for the interview.

Interviewer: Chris Bienkiewicz

Chadwick Johnson – Hundredth

photo by Dennis Tesch
 
 
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