Michelle LaRose talks to Mitch James for 22nd Century Rock
Photographs by Michelle LaRose
With over 700,000 albums sold, Crossfade embarked on their first headline tour this spring. Their hit song “Cold” was the longest running tune on both the active and modern rock formats simultaneously. Seemingly an overnight success, will their new found glory be maintained or fade with time? We caught up with bassist Mitch James in St. Petersburg Florida to find out what his feelings were on being part of a such a successful venture.
Mitch: I really don’t know any other way because it is our debut album. We’ve had nothing but success the whole year and we cant complain about anything. We feel very lucky and privileged to be where we are and we know there’s a thousand other bands out there who deserve it, you know, as much or more than we do. But we’re just very lucky that radio took off for us and we have a great record label to stand behind us and push it.
22CR: Do you feel pressure on making a second album that will do as well as the first?
Mitch: Everybody asks that question all the time. You know, everybody says “The sophomore jinx”, you know. So we try not worrying about that. We’re still pushing this album hard and we know we have a bunch of songs that we feel proud of already in the works so I think we’ll be fine with that.
22CR: How is the song writing accomplished? Is it a collaborative effort?
Mitch: We’ve got a catalog of like 50-60 songs. A lot of those songs are really collaborative but probably 80% of this album was written by Ed. He had a lot of down time, didn’t have to work for a few months so he was able to sit in the studio and write a bunch of stuff while we were all working our 9 to 5’s.
22CR: Your album was originally produced in a garage based home studio?
Mitch: Yeah. We recorded it, produced it, did everything on just a computer and a few compressors and a nice microphone otherwise it was just a room with a couple things in it that we use to record with, that’s about it.
22CR: The album was remixed for the Columbia Records release?
Mitch: Yeah, when they signed us they liked what we had recorded already so all they did was take our tracks and send them to Randy Staub who’s done a lot with Nickelback and Metallica. He just kinda’ put a new shine on it but it was the same tracks that we had recorded originally.
22CR: The band changed their name for the Columbia release?
Mitch: Yeah. We used to be called Sugardaddy Superstar. It wasn’t indicative of the music at all but when people heard it they remembered it. So it was just something we came up with to just catch peoples ear.
22CR: How did you get a record deal with Columbia?
Mitch: Originally we signed up for this thing called Taxi.com. There’s a bunch of retired record exec’s and they still have ties in the business so a lot of record labels and a lot of people doing movies and soundtracks and such relied on them to send them a lot of bands that they had already checked out so that they didn’t have to screen em’. It’s an online service we joined in hopes that somebody would hear it and pass it along. Actually what happened was one of the screeners at Taxi eventually became our manager and his contacts are what got us signed.
22CR: So you feel Taxi was instrumental in helping the band succeed?
Mitch: Oh absolutely, yes! They’ve done wonderful things for us. Them and also Promosquad.com and other online services. One of the owners of Promosquad found us on the internet before anybody at Taxi did and was trying to contact us for several months. So we finally got hooked up with him so it was kind of collaboration between Taxi and Promosquad and Columbia records that got us where we are.
22CR: The album is being re-released as a dual disc with a DVD. What’s on the DVD?
Mitch: The one side is the same original CD. The other side, the DVD side is a 5.1 surround sound mix of the entire album. Its got about 25 minutes of interviews and a couple of acoustic songs we played live. Then the two “Cold” videos, the one for MTV and also the live video that we did. Ah and what else? [Thinking] I think that’s about it.
22CR: The band studied at the Atlanta Institute of Music?
Mitch: Ed and I, actually, right out of high school moved to Atlanta and both went there for almost a year. We just really studied music and tried to hone our chops and really moved there because we thought Atlanta would be better for us, the scene at least. It turned out, the school was good for us but Atlanta didn’t really do a whole lot so we decided to move back to Columbia [South Carolina] and do everything there.
22CR: Did you start playing at a young age?
Mitch: Ah yeah. I started about 14 I think. I bought a bass and joined a band that same day. All we did was Metallica tunes forever. Just like a lot of bands do but decided to write original music soon after.
22CR: Is this what you had imagined for yourself when you started playing?
Mitch: I think anybody who picks up a guitar or bass or drums or whatever, that’s what they hope for. I didn’t ever think it would be this good [laughing].
22CR: Is this your first national headlining tour?
Mitch: Headlining yes. We toured with Smile Empty Soul and Shinedown and Alterbridge then we did “Snocore” with Helmet and Chevelle recently and we’re finally doing our headlining tour now then we’re going to headline after this with Seether.
22CR: It must be exciting for you.
Mitch: Oh yeah! This is just wonderful. We finally get to be the band that people are here to see as opposed to a co-headliner or something, where you don’t know if they’re there to see you or not.
22CR: Have you toured Europe yet?
Mitch: We certainly would hope so. We haven’t even been released over there yet so there’s no reason to tour yet. We’re hoping our label is doing everything they can to get over there so we can tour over there. I know they just released us in Australia and Sweden. But that’s the only two so far. We’ll tour those and that’ll be fine with us too.
22CR: Tony Byroads was a club DJ. How did you come up with the concept of adding a DJ to the band?
Mitch: When we first started with this lineup of the band we decided we needed a lot more filler in our music just to fill out the sound some. Tony’s also a great singer and he was a drummer at some point so he’s kinda’ our renaissance man. He can do most anything on stage. So he just took some of the stuff he learned before and incorporated it into our music.
22CR: In James’ AOL journal he states that on the last day of a tour it is customary for bands to play practical jokes on each other. Can you tell us of a joke you guys have pulled or had been pulled on you?
Mitch: [Huge smile] We’ve had several. The end of almost every tour, its cream pies. Our last tour with Strata, the whole band got on stage in their G-strings and did man dances for us while we were trying to play. So it just depends on what tour it is and how close you are with the other bands. It can be a variety of things. I think the only rule is don‘t mess up equipment. [Laughing]
22CR: The band has been on the Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien. Do you like doing the talk show circuit?
Mitch: Yeah. They’re a little more stressful just because you have one take to be perfect. You just hope everything goes well and you rely on your sound guys and your crew guys to make everything sound good. We know when we get up there we’re ready to go, we’re not nervous. It’s just a little different.
22CR: Are you writing any new material?
Mitch: Yeah. We sit in the back of the bus occasionally and start with some new tunes. I don’t think we’ll be able to really write till’ we’re off the road just because it so tough to just be on the road. You know, you try to sleep as much as you can and play and there’s not a whole lot of time for much else once you go to radio stations half the day and do your meet and greets and stuff. So we write when we can but not a whole lot at this point.
22CR: When can we expect to see the next album?
Mitch: Hopefully by March of 2006. We’re going to take off some time in October and then hopefully in November and December, really hunker down and try to write the album.
22CR: Are you going to stick with what’s working for you or try new things?
Mitch: We’re all hoping to spread out a little bit. We wrote this song really trying to write some hits and stuff that was radio friendly but I think now we may have a little leeway with that, maybe be able to try some new stuff some more musical oriented stuff as opposed to just writing hooks. But we’ll still have the hooks in there cause’ that’s what radio likes.
22CR: What are your long-term goals for the band?
Mitch: I think we all want to do this for the rest of our lives. If that means doing it hard and heavy for the next ten years and then being able to retire or just being able to perform until we’re sick of it. I hope that’s no time soon.
22CR: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us.
Mitch: [Affirmative nodding and smiling] Thanks.