END’s Greg Thomas on Life After Coronavirus: ‘I Think Music and Art Will Find a Way’

2020-06-04

END – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Greg Thomas of hardcore band END discusses the group’s new album, “Splinters From an Ever-Changing Face,” the how the coronavirus pandemic is influencing the music world and more in this in-depth interview

Hardcore supergroup END will release their new album, “Splinters From an Ever-Changing Face,” on June 5, and it’s a special kind of release for the band. “Splinters” features 11 songs that, as the band describes, examine the “psyche of chaos, isolation, madness and violence,” all of which are too apparent in the current state of affairs.

END guitarist Greg Thomas checked in with Anne Erickson from Audio Ink Radio to discuss the story behind “Splinters,” how the coronavirus (COIVD-19) is impacting the music world, the future of concerts and more. Read the full interview below.

Anne Erickson: Congratulations on your new album on the way, “Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face.” What a great title for a record. Tell me about the meaning behind that title.

Greg Thomas: Thank you! The album title comes from the lyric, “I can no longer carrying your cross for I can hardly hold my own, pulling splinters from an ever changing face.” I think what Brendan was trying to say with that line is that while he is struggling with his own burdens, he doesn’t have it in him to save others. In his own words, “The splinter metaphor obviously comes from the cross being made of wood… and the ever changing face line is me describing watching who I am change in front of me based on my own mental health.”

I read that the album features tracks coming from a place of “chaos, isolation, madness and violence.” With all the isolation going on right now because of COVID-19, do you feel this album fits the mood of today?

Yes, I think it does. I think a lot of people are dealing with sorrow, frustration and disappointment right now. The vast majority of the record was written a year prior to Covid being on our radar, so it’s particularly disheartening to see the world outwardly become such a mirror image of our own internal struggles. For me personally, some of the most cathartic moments of my life have been connecting with songs or lyrics that resonate with what I was feeling or unable to express myself. If someone who was taking the isolation pretty hard was able to find this record and relate to it, I would hope that it would provide some kind of release for them too and to let them know that they are not alone.

Tell me about the inspiration behind the song “Covet Not,” which you recently released along with a great music video.

Musically, we were trying to combine a blackened grind/d-beat ferocity, heavy aggressive rhythms and unnerving atmospheric textures on top of both. We wrote that one when we were a few songs in and were really starting to chart the course for the album.

Lyrically, the song stems from recognizing our obsession and infatuation with familiarity and the cyclical suffering it causes, be it with yourself or with someone else, and trying to make peace with that situation at the same time. As Brendan said, “you cannot possess something that does not exist and you either break free or let it kill you.”

You’re known for your brutal live performances, and you guys really stand apart in that area. What draws you to doing the more aggressive live shows?

We all connected through our love of the darker and more violent hardcore/metal bands of ’90s and the 2000s, like Turmoil, Rotten Sound, Converge, His Hero Is Gone, Trap Them etc. And when we set out to write songs, we try to capture the intensity of what bands like that made us feel. With the violence embedded in the DNA of the music itself, it’s hard not to push the boundaries further and further live as we feed off of each other and the audience.

The world is turned upside down right now due to the coronavirus. How are you seeing it impact the music world?

Aside from the fact that we had multiple tours, shows and festivals that we were looking forward to get postponed or cancelled, both Will and I are producers and we are seeing a lot of albums being delayed or put into limbo while waiting for a time when they can be released with some kind of support behind them. Record stores, both big and small, are certainly feeling it too because of the release schedules dissolving, alongside the obvious stress of having to close their doors for such a long period of time, though most record stores are still doing mail order through Discogs, eBay or Instagram, thankfully.

Beyond all of that, many venues and booking agencies are waiting with bated breath for any semblance of normalcy to return because their livelihood dried up so suddenly and with such an unclear future ahead of itself. Even further down the line, many of the blogs and music news sites make their living through advertisement based marketing of tours and releases being featured on their pages and with those gone for the foreseeable future they are also scrambling to make ends meet.

In short, it’s impacting the entire industry through and through right now and we will likely see a lot of our favorite venues and record stores not come back from this unfortunately. If music fans have the means, now is definitely the time to support places like that if they can order shirts or anything online to help.

Do you think concerts and entertainment will change forever because of COVID-19, or do you think things will return to normal once the virus, hopefully, is no longer an issue?

You know when Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park says “Life, uh, finds a way?” Well, I think music and art will find a way, too. It may take a while, but I think things will recapture some sense of normalcy eventually. When it does, I hope people will have a renewed appreciation for how truly special it is to share live music and to be able to make collaborative art together.

What are your thoughts on when concerts might start up again, based on what you’re hearing?

I think concerts will start up again similar to most movements of value in the music community; it will start with small DIY spaces, and then smaller venues and slowly expand out to bigger things eventually making its way back to massive tours and festivals and what not. I think we will see the DIY house shows / small venue shows creep back in the fall, with bigger things returning as late as summer 2021 or beyond. It’s hard to be patient, but that is likely our only option at this point. We’re all eager, but we are also all in this together. Until then people have great resources like hate5six to watch and relive shows from years past to hold us over.

What have you been doing to stay busy during COVID-19? Are you watching any movies or TV shows?

Listening to podcasts, reading “Lovecraft Country,” rediscovering my love for vinyl as well as exploring and revisiting classic films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Phantasm. I suppose most importantly I’m catching up on a lot of lingering album mixes that have been waiting in limbo and am even considering finishing some long dormant projects of my own too. Hell, we may even start writing the next END record. Certainly feels appropriate at the moment.

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