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Interview by Wes Cueto [graveyarns]

Maryland bands never fall short on extremity. STRONG INTENTION have been punishing the underground with their own blend of New York influenced hardcore and Southern fried sludgy grind since the mid-ninties. They have an extensive and solid catalog of releases behind them and their range as a band shines through their variation of styles from record to record. Their first demo, What’s At Stake? (1994), sounds very much influenced by late 80’s/early 90’s New York hardcore punk bands like Token Entry and Warzone. The self-titled 7″ EP contained much more speed and a heavy grindcore influence, similar to a band like Brutal Truth. Carrying that same approach forward with them, Strong Intention released the Extermination Vision and What Else Can We Do… full-lengths, a ten song 7″ in pure Negative Approach fashion entitled Each Day Lived As An Act Of Defiance… love that title… plus a split with the German group Y all squeezed between 2000-02. Their unique crossover sound has allowed Strong Intention the longevity to play out and tour with such undisputed acts as Disfear, Phobia, E.N.T., Rotten Sound, D.R.I., and Lock-Up, among many others over their extensive career but they’re just getting started. After touring for many years the band finally went into the studio to record new material which will finally see the light of day in the form of the Razorblade Express 7″ and an as yet untitled full-length. Razorblade Express is no exception to the band’s solid catalog. Six malicious tracks quickly pummel through this record like running a hot knife through butter or taking a piss in the snow. The title track to Razorblade Express, which features a brilliant performance by Mike IX Williams of Eyehategod, Arson Anthem and Outlaw Order is a real sludgefest and a severe contrast to the five other nasty cuts which display the perfect “in your face” hardcore approach which only an East Coast band can ever truly achieve on record.
I had a chance to talk with Strong Intention vocalist Zac Ohler and Mike IX about their intentions with this new record.

Enjoy the interview after the jump!

Explain the title Razorblade Express. How did it come about and what significance does it have thematically on this record?

Zac: I got the title from a school shooting, I believe in the state of Minnesota. The kid who perpetrated the shooting had left a note about being bullied and being depressed and commented how he should have just taken himself out on the “razorblade express.” So I thought about, the thought of being in a place where you feel there is no hope, nowhere to turn and just the feeling of complete hopelessness. Some of those themes are covered in other songs on the EP but from a different view. “3rd Space” is about how communities are being destroyed by concrete and steel. How government won’t think twice about tearing down a help center or a public park in the name of profit. It still rings true, “they will pave paradise and put up a parking lot.” [Note: Priest didn’t write “Diamonds and Rust.”]

Where was it recorded?

Zac: Two places- Side A was recorded in Boston with Steve Austin. Side B was recorded at Developing Nations with Kevin Bernstein.

Mike IX: My vocals were done both in New Orleans and Baltimore respectfully with two totally different engineers. Razorblade was finished here in NOLA where I live, by a guy named Ryan McKern, who is also in my other band The Guilt Of…

How long did it take to finish?

Zac: Way, way too long to be honest, but that’s on me and nobody else. Side B though was recorded within the last 6-9 months so that part of it came together pretty quickly.

How has your sound grown as a band since your previous releases in the early 2000’s?

Zac: It is just a more focused yet diverse sound. It’s definitely come together like I always heard it on my end. EACH DAY LIVED… I love that record and I love the total Infest worship. It’s just fast and raging from start to finish but it’s also pretty one dimensional and for that record it works 100%. I am glad that now things are definitely more diverse and just sound better.

What makes “Razorblade Express” a unique track and stand out from Strong Intention’s back catalog?

Zac: We have always loved the stoner/sludge/doom scene and the bands in it, so when we came up with this song I knew it would work perfect for Mike and I think it’s something completely different for us because it’s not just thrash/grind/hardcore/punk. It’s a totally new element. Slow sludgy stuff, a full on guitar solo, so it’s definitely a new take from us.

What was the overall vibe in the studio?

Zac: It was pretty loose with Steve. Just jamming and bring the “rock jams” as Steve would call them. With Kevin a little more focused on getting it done but still getting the sound we wanted. Derek and Jesse like to have good times in the studio so it definitely created a cool vibe.

Whose idea was it to bring Mike IX on board for Razorblade Express?

Zac: It was mine, but it was also something Mike and I had talked about for a long time. This song just represented to me the perfect song for Mike to sing on. Once he did that, it seemed cool to have him on another one and “3rd Space”… I felt was the most appropriate track.

Have you had other musicians guest on your albums in the past? If so, what makes this particular collaboration unique? If not, what prompted you to go for it this time around?

Zac: The only other guest was on the Extermination Vision record, we had Rick Healey (25 Ta Life) sing on two songs. That was really cool as well, because it took Rick out of his straight up hardcore element and showed that he would be a killer singer in a more grind/thrash type of band and it really came off.

So what were you hoping to achieve in the recordings with Mike?

Zac: Just the sound of Mike’s voice with our mix of grind/punk… I knew having him sing would add a totally new element to the songs and also show just how diverse he is.

Mike, how did you approach your vocals on Razorblade Express?

Mike IX: It was cool ‘cos me and Zac have been talking about doing a collaboration for ages now, maybe even as far back as 2000, 2001 or so. I’ve loved his band since the Extermination Vision record but I didn’t actually meet him until years later on. I loved Razorblade Express the first second I heard it and knew what I had to do, I wanted to write the lyrics in a strange non-literal way so I just went for it man, kind of adding that abstract EHG writing style but never straying too far from the concept of Zac’s original ideas… I am very proud of this record, its a sick as fuck song. Don’t forget I do the alternate vocals trading off with Zac on 3rd Space Gorilla Generator as well. Another killer track… Not to mention the lead guitar at the end of Razorblade was done by none other than Today is the Day’s Steve Austin.

How does your performance this time around differ from all of your other various efforts as a vocalist?

Mike IX: Well, I guess like with anything, you analyze the situation and see where it needs to go and then bring it to a psychotic chemical level you are happy with. With different bands and different projects its all about the intensity and variety of the musicians you are playing with. Its something inside your gut that defines what you bring to the table.

The artwork for Razorblade Express is phenomenal! Who came up with the concept and completed the finished piece?

Zac: My concept and the artist is Jeff Wager. I thought of that old LIFE OF AGONY/UNSANE vibe when it came to the artwork and just told Jeff what I was looking for and he nailed it.

When can fans look forward to hearing the latest full-length, which you’ve already recorded?

Zac: I would say early 2013 for the full length.

Strong Intention has toured quite extensively in the past. Are there any plans for upcoming shows or a possible tour?

Zac: We just did a 10 day tour with PHOBIA, did a 2 week tour earlier in the year with LOCK-UP and GOATWHORE. Right now, working on another run for August and then for more in the fall.

Any final thoughts or comments?

Zac: Dont believe what you have been told… there is no such thing as streets of gold.

[bandcamp album=2677476142 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Score the record from PATAC Records & Distro.

This interview is dedicated with love to the memory of Dave Tedder (1981-2012). He was a staple in the Baltimore scene, a friend to everyone and the biggest Eyehategod fan I ever knew.

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