Hailing originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, deathcore/metal band Chelsea Grin has become a staple in the scene since their inception in 2007. Over the course of the last 13 years or so, the band has gone through some lineup changes, toured the world extensively, put out five full-length albums, two EPs, multiple singles and music videos, and more. While a seeming niche genre would force some artists to shift gears at some point, Chelsea Grin has continued to hone their craft by implementing more complex guitar playing, syncopated drumming, and more heavy dynamics over the years. Now with a forced break from touring, the quartet has recorded two new singles, “Blind Kings” and “Bleeding Sun,” with more to come.
We got a chance to speak with guitarist, Stephen Rutishauser and bassist David Flinn about their history, musical stylings, gear, and what’s in store for the crew post-world shut down. Make sure to keep up Chelsea Grin here.
Q&A WITH HAVOK
EB: Chelsea Grin formed in 2007 kind of in the formation/heyday of the deathcore genre. If you had to describe that sound as it pertains to CG, how would you describe it?
Stephen Rutishauser: We really try to incorporate the old sound with the new, even down to the techniques. I wasn’t there when the band began, but I try to keep some of their oldest “motifs” alive. Simpler riffs that incorporate bursts of trem picking, pinch harmonics galore, sweep picking, and “breakdowns” are part of the identity of CG, so I try to always incorporate them on record.
EB: The band really cut its teeth on the road alongside bands like Attila, Emmure, White Chapel, Born of Osiris, and four runs on Warped Tour. Do you think this kind of touring is important to bands and what does it do for them aside from gaining fans?
David Flinn: I would say the biggest advantage of touring with established acts such as those is that it provided us with the opportunity to soak up any knowledge they already possessed. There is a lot to learn as a new band on a touring circuit.
EB: The band obviously has been through more than a few lineup changes over the years, how has the writing process and approach to band trajectory changed?
Stephen Rutishauser: We’re fortunate to say that the lineup changes have typically come from a place of understanding and positivity. As members changed, certain styles became more and less prevalent. Now more than ever, however, we want to rein in the old school aggression and Evolve/Ashes to Ashes era technicality and assimilate it with what we naturally and honestly write today. We’ve found that our chemistry as a four-piece is locked in – our system is improving each day, and we are a strong team.
EB: The band was assigned to Artery in 2009 which is a decent-sized label for a band that was only 2 years old. Did that really motivate the band to go bigger, or scare everyone?
David Flinn: Joining Artery as the flagship band for the label was both motivating and scary. We knew being the first band to sign to Artery we would get pushed hard but we also didn’t know what to expect signing to a label that didn’t exist before us.
EB: The band’s 2014 album Ashes to Ashes saw some lyrical content go a little more positive as well as the music getting more complex in technique. Was this just motivated by experience and maturity?
David Flinn: When the band started, our vocalist was 16. Needless to say he was angry as most 16 year olds can be. With that said I think that with age comes a better perspective of the world and our place with in it. You realize people are listening to you and you don’t want to fill their heads with negativity all the time.
EB: The addition of Jason Richardson around 2012-2016 saw a lot of intense guitarwork get amplified, has that approach to guitarwork stuck since, or have things adjusted?
Stephen Rutishauser: I’ve always felt Jason has a unique style that can’t be replicated, nor am I a fan of any direct replication really. I like to keep the intensity there on the guitar quite often – his playing opened the band up to that, but it isn’t as heavily featured as it was before. There are definitely a lot of techniques he’s added to my wheelhouse as well – those make appearances fairly often. Otherwise, I just try to write what comes out honestly and passionately.
EB: Moving into 2021 and working on new music, how has the writing and recording approach changed? Are songs mainly started with guitar work?
David Flinn: Over the years our writing style has changed a bit. Early in the band’s career, it was mainly live jam sessions with the whole band. When it comes to the current line up, Stephen and I spend a lot of time together working on songs “in the box.”
EB: What guitars, basses, and strings are you guys using these days?
Stephen Rutishauser: I’ve always been extremely fond of the JP13 7-Strings. The construction of that model suits me so well and is a real road warrior. My sparkly blue and Rootbeer guitars are in drop G, with .10-.62 Cobalts. My sparkly pink and gold guitars are in drop A, with .10-.56 Cobalts. My rootbeer JP has a roasted Birdseye maple neck, which has a really clear sound and distinguished look. I also have a Bongo HS5 that I use for the studio, which has .50-.135 Power Slinky’s on it! David plays two 5-String Bongos in drop a and g that have regular and power slinky’s on them, respectively.
EB: How would you describe the band’s guitar tone now compared to the early days?
Stephen Rutishauser: In the earlier days it was usually 5150 into Mesa 4×12. Now, it’s Kemper and Axe FX, which offers a more precise dive into your tone (live especially). The band has never really been fond of mid-scooping and other potential pitfalls of a metal tone. The tones used to be a bit brighter, however, and I’m a fan of darker sounds out of the gate.
EB: Moving into 2020, the band has released two new singles which have gotten pretty good response. How do you see your band progressing further, regardless of the expected boundaries of your genre?
David Flinn: To be honest, we don’t really call ourselves a “deathcore” band. We want to just be a “metal” band, and we will continue pushing the boundaries of not only our music, but ourselves as well. We can’t wait to show you what we have been cooking up.
EB: Anything fans might be surprised about with your forthcoming new music?
Stephen Rutishauser: We want to create a true experience with our newest music – tones and influences we haven’t touched on before. One song might feature stoner/doom elements, another will be dripping with black metal references, and the next will take influence from groove oriented styles while all being inherently us. And also it‘s irresponsibly heavy!
EB: Anything else you would like to add?
Stephen Rutishauser: Just that Ernie Ball/Music Man is the greatest instrument and string manufacturer on earth. Such a pleasure and honor to work with! Keep an eye out for new music and other fun stuff. Stay safe everyone!