CON­FES­SION

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Aussie hard­core vets give the big C a big mid­dle fin­ger on their lat­est full-length.

Michael Crafter hates cancer. Like re­ally, re­ally hates cancer. So much so, in fact, that over the years he’s named Con­fes­sion’s de­but al­bum Cancer, made and sold hun­dreds of T-shirts em­bla­zoned with the bold slo­gan of “Fuck Cancer”, and most re­cently even penned a song with that same name. As he ex­plains to us, there’s quite a his­tory be­hind his per­sonal vendetta against the dis­ease.

“A cou­ple of years ago I found out my best friend had brain cancer, and it was just one downhill ex­pe­ri­ence. He kept be­ing op­er­ated on and it kept com­ing back, and it fi­nally got him,” he sighs. “When he passed away I was so lost about ev­ery­thing. Some­one who had been in my life as long as I could re­mem­ber was gone. Then a while later I found out my mum had cancer. I got the phone call and I just fell to my knees, I couldn’t com­pre­hend what was hap­pen­ing. She’s ac­tu­ally trav­el­ling pretty well now though, con­sid­er­ing what the prog­no­sis was at first.”

Un­for­tu­nately for the Crafter fam­ily, the bat­tles weren’t over yet. Just shortly be­fore Con­fes­sion were due to en­ter the stu­dio to record the fol­low-up to 2011’s The Long Way Home, Crafter’s fa­ther was also di­ag­nosed with throat cancer, plung­ing them back into a nightmare they had thought al­most over.

“When I got to Amer­ica [to record the al­bum], my girl­friend called me and told me he was do­ing re­ally bad – he was in hospi­tal, on feed­ing tubes and all this crazy stuff. I didn’t know what to do. I let the guys

start track­ing, and I kind of just kept to my­self for a week. I slept a lot, and when I wasn’t sleep­ing I was in a zom­bie state of be­ing so up­set, barely talk­ing to ev­ery­one.”

It’s no won­der, then, that Crafter would find him­self chang­ing the ma­jor­ity of the record to re­flect this ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I kind of deleted ev­ery­thing I’d writ­ten, and the only stuff I kept was what I’d al­ready writ­ten about my mum and my fam­ily. Ev­ery­thing else I made up while I was there. I wanted to go home, but my fam­ily told me to stay, that my dad was in good hands. I had a rough week, but it helped me write some good stuff and get on a per­sonal level. There was real emo­tion there. I wasn’t just writ­ing stuff be­cause I needed to make a record, I was writ­ing stuff that was help­ing me.”

This mix­ture of frus­tra­tion, worry, sad­ness and anger would man­i­fest it­self more overtly than ever in the song “Fuck Cancer”, the lead sin­gle of Con­fes­sion’s up­com­ing third al­bum, the broadly­but-aptly ti­tled Life And Death (“In one year, I dealt with the life – the birth of my daugh­ter – and the death of my clos­est friend”). Af­ter a heart-to-heart with pro­ducer Dan Castle­man, who had also lost his fa­ther to cancer, Crafter would find him­self in the vo­cal booth roar­ing the line, ‘Fuck cancer, I will scream these words loud’ – a mantra for those who don’t have a voice to scream it them­selves.

“Be­cause my dad’s cancer is in his throat, he can’t talk at the mo­ment,” he ex­plains, “but I can scream that for my fam­ily and for him when he can’t.”

Now when a guy who’s al­ways say­ing how much he hates cancer starts talk­ing about how much he loves Cancer, the Con­fes­sion al­bum, the con­ver­sa­tion can get a lit­tle con­fus­ing. But it’s un­mis­tak­ably ob­vi­ous that Life And Death is a sonic throw­back to Cancer with its sim­pler, mosh-heavy struc­tures, sig­na­ture Con­fes­sion gui­tar tones and melodic over­lays. Crafter is the first to ad­mit that this was de­lib­er­ate – ex­cept for one par­tic­u­lar in­gre­di­ent.

“I loved the Cancer al­bum, ex­cept for the singing parts,” he ad­mits. “I think we threw them in at the end, and I don’t even know why we did that. But I think if we did that record again with­out those singing parts and with a much bet­ter record­ing it would be a 50-times-bet­ter bloody record, so for this al­bum I think I wanted to… not repli­cate, but have sim­i­lar in­flu­ences from that al­bum, to be as heavy as we can be but still with a good melodic pres­ence.

“I think we strayed a lit­tle bit off with the last al­bum too. The Long Way Home has its good mo­ments, but again there are songs on that al­bum that would never ever get played live, and there’s so much singing on it. There are 50 bil­lion bands who do that style, and only the cream of the crop – the Ami­tys and the In Hearts Wakes – are the ones that sit at the top, so if you don’t do it re­ally well you’re just an­other sheep in a pad­dock. It was more detri­men­tal to us be­cause we lost a lot of the fans who liked us be­cause we were a heavy band.”

This aver­sion to hav­ing a spot­light on clean vo­cals is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing when you re­alise how close Life And Death came to hav­ing ex­actly that. Af­ter Crafter in­fa­mously booted his en­tire band in 2012 (a story for an­other time, if you haven’t heard it al­ready), the ad­di­tion of Doyle “D At Sea” Perez to the band seemed to sig­nal the be­gin­ning of a more commercial di­rec­tion for Con­fes­sion, to the de­light of some and to the hor­ror of oth­ers. Perez’s pres­ence, how­ever, was short lived, with the gui­tarist de­part­ing a short time af­ter the re­lease of the sin­gle “This Is A War” – his first and only recorded con­tri­bu­tion to the band. While Crafter shows no signs of mal­ice or bit­ter­ness over the ap­par­ently am­i­ca­ble split, it’s clear that for the band it was a ne­ces­sity for mov­ing for­ward.

“We were talk­ing about how we wanted to record soon, and he was say­ing that he was re­ally busy, he was do­ing his al­bum stuff and he wanted to fo­cus on that. It just made sense for us to do our own thing; we had tours booked and a record to make. It kind of came at a re­ally good point. I mean we had worked on one song to­gether, but it wasn’t like we were in the mid­dle of track­ing gui­tars and vo­cals for the al­bum, you know? We had done a bit of pre-pro, but we weren’t re­ally see­ing eye-to-eye on the mu­sic, and in the end none of that saw the light of day on this al­bum. We went back to the draw­ing board, took a heav­ier di­rec­tion and we’re stoked on the ef­fect it had on the al­bum. We fin­ished this record­ing to­tally stoked. We left with smiles on our faces, and when you can do that, you’ve re­ally done some­thing spe­cial for yourself.”

As for the band he has be­hind him now, Crafter couldn’t be hap­pier. Re­cently ap­pointed drum­mer Jake Dar­gav­ille has more than earned his keep be­hind the tubs af­ter an un­cer­tain start (“We were hav­ing a few people fill in for tours and stuff. Jake had tried out be­fore, but he wasn’t ac­tu­ally in the band as an of­fi­cial mem­ber be­cause he wasn’t that great of a drum­mer at that point”) and put his con­sid­er­able mul­ti­in­stru­men­tal skill to use to be­come the driv­ing cre­ative force be­hind the band’s sonic di­rec­tion – some­what to Crafter’s own sur­prise.

“Look­ing at it now, if Jake wasn’t in the band, there wouldn’t even be a band any­more, be­cause he’s not only a crazy drum­mer now, he’s also an in­cred­i­ble gui­tarist and he wrote the whole al­bum him­self. There aren’t many bands where the drum­mer can go in and write a whole al­bum. He’s just a tal­ented mu­si­cian, and he and I just kind of feed off each other re­ally well. And this whole line-up is just a bunch of mates, we’ve all toured to­gether be­fore and been in bands that have played to­gether for years, and we all have the same mind­set.”

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