The Sounds of State-KC Stanfield

Two weeks ago, only a couple of hours after I interviewed Camelle Sison for my post last week, I sat down with KC Stanfield for this week’s version. I could tell that he really loved music thanks to the massive headphones around his neck, and he was about to prove it to me in our interview. Let’s get right to it:

Cameron Satterlee: Hi KC, thanks for joining me here.

KC Stanfield: Oh no problem, thanks for having me.

CS: Yeah alright, well let’s get to it. What’s your radio slot?

KC: My radio slot is the lovely time of Saturday at ten pm to eleven pm.

CS: Wow.

KC: I know, it’s late.

CS: I’ve had a few Saturday morning people because that’s the alumni shows, but I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed someone who has a weekend night.

KC: It’s pretty horrible, I mean cause usually you put your weekend on pause. Especially at the night cause everyone goes out and does stuff.

CS: Oh yeah.

KC: My friends will be like “Hey KC wanna go to a bar?” And I’m like “after my radio show I will.”

CS: Oh man. I think I might know the answer to this but how long have you been with KCR?

KC: Well actually I blogged for them last semester, about the music that I actually play now. I don’t have any time to blog anymore. It’s quicker to have a one hour radio show, prepare for that, and then do everything else I need to do. So I still want to be with KCR and talk and or play music that I like, it’s just different.

CS: But so this semester is your first semester on air?

KC: Yeah it is.

CS: Yeah I think the newbies get the weekend nights for the most part.

KC: Oh yeah they do.

CS: But you blogged before so that’s cool. What was your blog by the way?

KC: I just covered some concerts that I went to, predominately, sometimes I covered underground hardcore bands or metal bands that not many people know. On top of it being metal and no one knows it to begin with. So that’s what I did. I covered some hardcore concerts and wrote about some albums. Basically I was a metal blogger.

CS: Alright well you sort of answered my question but what kind of music do you play?

KC: Metal.

CS: Metal.

KC: Yep.

CS: Saturday night metal alright.

KC: I know right? It’ll keep you awake.

CS: Get the blood flowing.

KC: Ruin a party too, if you play KCR as your background music.

CS: Yeah. Yeah I thought the scheduling blocks were supposed to put the EDM DJ’s like on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

KC: They’re after me.

CS: Alright, but you got your metal show. Clashes a bit, probably. But maybe next semester you’ll get a slot more in tune with metal.

KC: Maybe. Well actually probably not since I’m graduating.

CS: Oh, alright well never mind. I’m glad I got this interview to document this.

KS: Right?

CS: So, why metal? Why is that your scene?

KC: I dunno, I kinda got into it at an early age. I was, it’s probably not the best comparison, metal is really like drugs. You start off with some of the easier stuff, I started off with some Avenged Sevenfold, some Metallica, Disturbed. Some light hearted metal.

CS: (Laughing) my mom wouldn’t call Metallica lighthearted.

KC: And then in high school I slowly got more into metalcore stuff, post-hardcore stuff like A Day to Remember, the Devil Wears Prada, Parkway Drive. And then now, I still listen to all of that old stuff, but what I can withstand or enjoy, is a lot heavier than what I did four years ago.

CS: Oh that’s such a metal thing to say, the music you listen to is the stuff you can withstand. That’s so amusing.

KC: I know right? That’s how everyone else is, I’ll play some Whitechapel and people will just stare and me and say “you listen to this?” Because I don’t have long hair or are covered in tattoos, I don’t look really like the general metalhead so it kinda throws people off at the beginning. And a lot of them are like “oh my god this stuff uhhh ahhh” but it does grow on you. Especially my roommate, he’s gotten used to it.

CS: Alright, yeah. I know you probably wouldn’t play anything else on your show cause that wouldn’t flow together, but do you listen to any other genres of music, or mostly metal? Or different kinds of metal I guess.

KC: Yes to both. I listen to stuff you’d expect like rock, because it’s an offshoot of metal. I also listen to more indie and alternative stuff like Interpol or Modest Mouse. I listen to rap too, like Nas. I like the political stuff more, Hopsin’s pretty cool. So I listen to a little bit of everything, I listen to techno. Not so much country, can’t stand that stuff, don’t know why.

CS: You and every other DJ I’ve ever interviewed. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any metal fan have the gall to say that rock is an offshoot of metal.

KC: Well technically metal is an offshoot of rock.

CS: Yeah they’re related, but rock came first.

KC: But if you compare—I’m trying to think of a rock band—Nirvana.

CS: Yeah they were influenced by metal.

KC: If you compare them to—any metal band, I’m trying to think—Parkway Drive, it sounds nothing alike. Anything that screams, it just doesn’t sound like rock anymore, it just sounds like metal.

CS: Oh yeah they’re totally related but not close.

KC: They’re oceans apart now. It’s like the continental drift of music. That is the nerdiest thing I could have said, too.

CS: Hey whatever, that’s fine. So I guess you sorta explained it, but I kinda wanted to go a bit deeper. You grew up listening to metal, but I know people who did that and sorta phased out of it, but it seems like you went deeper into it. So I assume the music is pretty important to you, why it that?

KC: Well I do like quicker tempo music to begin with, and that’s metal right there. It’s always fast. And the thing I love about metal is that there’s usually just a ton of passion into it. I mean these people are screaming their voices out, they’re breaking their vocals essentially because they love the genre. They’re not getting paid much, it’s metal, they’re not making—well some of them are—but most of them aren’t making millions and millions of dollars. They’re doing it because they love the music. What more can you ask when it comes to music because they’re artists who are passionate about the music and just about the music.

CS: Yeah, that’s a great response. So is there any new metal band out there that you’ve been listening to lately? Or an old one that you just discovered?

KC: Yeah, I mentioned this on my last week’s show but the band is called Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza. Deathcore. I know that is the most ridiculous name for a metal band in the world and I love it so much just because it’s so ridiculous and out there.

CS: I think I’ve actually heard about them once or twice in high school. Just cause of the name probably.

KC: And I’m waiting for new stuff from a band, probably not many people know them, they’re called My Heart to Fear. They’re really metalcore if you want to define them exactly but they sorta have their own unique sound. They scream to be heard rather than to be loud. So you can understand them a bit better and the lyrics are really well written.

CS: Alright, so I always like to end on this one, what would be your ideal show? The perfect show for you.

KC: I don’t know that would have to be an all day festival of just bands that I love just back to back to back. Because there’s so many bands that I’d love to see live.

CS: Oh no I mean your radio show, your one hour block, like if you could do it really well how would that go? My bad I didn’t word it well.

KC: I do it when my iPod didn’t have technical difficulties. I have a lot of music on this, I have over 8,000 songs on the now discontinued 160 gig iPod. So it froze on me one show!

CS: Oh no!

KC: Oh my god. So I was just trying to ramble and restart it and come up with a story because I totally didn’t expect this since I’m new and didn’t have a set story like “oh technical difficulties, here’s a little bit about me.” Because no one wants to listen to that, when I listen to the radio I always hate when the DJ talks too much. So they’ll explain a little bit about the band or an upcoming concert or a new album and then go straight into the music. I hate when they just talk and talk and talk.

CS: Yeah.

KC: I don’t listen to radio for AM like programming.

Cs: Yeah when your iPod fails you that’s something you don’t plan on.

KC: Oh it was fun, it was a fun day.

CS: So I usually end on the last question, but I want to know, Black Sabbath, are they metal?

KC: They’re like the founders of metal.

CS: Alright but they’re not fast though and you said that was a core component of metal.

KC: True, but I am of the mind that if it was metal it still is, for the most part unless it’s a new album then it’s more rock. But they basically founded it, because Led Zeppelin was kinda like the transitioning period. I think Black Sabbath was the definitive “these guys: metal, yes” band. And I still think that is because think of some of the 80’s music, a lot of it was metal but now it’s classic rock. So our standards of genres have changed and that somehow changed what they were but I still consider them, what they were originally meant to be. That’s just me.

CS: Well thank for sitting down with me, it was a great interview.

KC: No problem.

After the interview, we chatted for a few more minutes, but unfortunately my small metal knowledge was rapidly running dry. I had to get to work so we parted ways soon after. Be sure to check out KC’s show every Saturday from 10-11 pm, only on KCR College Radio, the Sound of State.

The Goldmine-Ride the Lightning by Metallica

For the first time in this series we are stepping out of the 70’s and profiling an album from a different decade, hopefully a trend that I can keep up. The album in question is Metallica’s sophomore release Ride the Lightning. Our subject last week was punk rock so this time we are going metal, and it really is one of the best metal albums of all time. Written and released in 1984, Ride the Lightning was the template for the trilogy of releases (itself, Master of Puppets, and …and Justice For All) that would go down as some of the genre’s finest.

Paramount to the album’s success is that Ride the Lightning is one of he best sounding metal albums ever. The mix employed by producer Flemming Rasmussen is perfect. The guitars, bass, and drums all have a layered depth to the sound that few bands are privileged enough to achieve on their second album. Despite being recorded in only 3 weeks, the album sounds miles better than some of Metallica’s later efforts (I’m looking at you Justice and St. Anger).

Fight Fire With Fire is the lead track off the album and it begins with a bang. Well it actually begins with a melodic acoustic intro, which must have thrown off many Metallica fans off when they first listened to it. The song then bursts forth with one of the most furious riffs ever conceived by singer/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield. Drummer Lars Ulrich’s trademark double bass never sounded fiercer. The song concerns itself with nuclear armageddon and the eye for an eye brinksmanship games that countries play with each other that could potentially lead to a global catastrophe. This is one of the fastest songs Metallica ever wrote, and that is really saying something. Thrash metal at its finest.

The title track is the second song on the album. Ride the Lightning is a heavy but fast paced thrill ride. The song is about a wrongly convicted man being sent to the electric chair, the sort of wrongful death narrative that many great metal bands write every once in a while; Hallowed be Thy Name for example. What makes Ride the Lightning one of my personal favorite Metallica songs is lead guitarist Kirk Hammett’s extended and furious guitar solo. Over a minute and a half in length, the solo twists and turns in an exhilarating fury that represents the rush of electricity that the song threatens the narrator with. The song in one of two on the album that give writing credits to former band mate Dave Mustaine, who was kicked out of the band before the recording of Metallica’s debut album.

A bell ringing harkens the the third track on the album: For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s a plodding and iconic piece of metal glory. The extended instrumental introduction has a progressive flavor, with the whole band weaving in an out in before the vocals come in over two minutes into the song. Inspired by the Earnest Hemingway poem, For Whom the Bells Tolls is about a group of soldiers forsaken on the battlefield by their leaders and left to die. The song features prominently the contributions of bassist Cliff Burton and is considered one of his great recordings.

The fourth song on the album is Fade to Black, and it is one of the most important songs Metallica ever wrote. The first real thrash metal ballad, the song comes from the perspective of a tortured individual contemplating suicide. In the years that followed, the band has received hundreds of letters from fans who could relate to the song and were able to find solace in it. The song begins with an acoustic guitar which plays throughout the first half of the song, a real oddity in the Metallica catalog. James Hetfield’s singing is for the first time not all anger and screaming, a development that would generate Metallica’s other famous ballads like Sanitarium and One. This would also allow Metallica to write other more articulate songs when they began to experiment more around The Black Album years and beyond. Kirk Hammett’s legendary guitar solo closes out the song. The absolute best work of his storied career, Hammett’s emotionally charged shredding brings the song to its climactic conclusion.

Trapped Under Ice is a return to more traditional thrash to follow up the previous two songs. The track is about a man trapped in a cryogenic state and trying to break free from it. The song is a textbook example of Lars Ulrich’s double bass pounding. For a long time Metallica shied away from playing this song, but they dust it off occasionally for live performances.

One song Metallica never played live was Escape, the sixth track on the record. Despite the fact that most fans like the song, the band apparently has a low opinion of the piece. It is a bit heavier and more commercial sounding and the band was embarrassed about that, despite the fact that they would come to write many more songs in that manner for their fifth album Metallica. It would be 28 years before the band would play it, and then only once when they played the whole Ride the Lightning album.

Creeping Death is the complete opposite, this song is Metallica’s second most played of all time behind Master of Puppets. It is also the first song where Kirk Hammet gets a vocal writing credit, for the “die by my hand” vocal section which was taken off an unreleased track from his previous band Exodus. Fittingly, the song is about the plague of the firstborn from the Book of Exodus, manifesting itself as the titular ‘creeping death.’ After the guitar solo the song swings into the aforementioned “die by my hand” breakdown, a favorite of moshing crowds for almost 30 years now. Creeping Death is one of Metallica’s most popular songs and is a rush from beginning to end, definitely the most refined thrash metal the band wrote in this early era before Master of Puppets.

Closing out the album is the epic, near-nine minute instrumental The Call of Ktulu. Another song inspired by an early 20th century author, this time H.P. Lovecraft and his horror novel The Shadow Over Innsmouth with the short story The Call of Cthulhu. The song has a sinister feeling of dread and panic in the spirit of the beast Cthulhu. Lovecraft’s work would also be referenced in Metallica songs The Thing That Should Not Be and All Nightmare Long. Like all of Metallica’s instrumentals written before his death, bassist Cliff Burton is the center of attention in the song. His short and fast bass solos weave in and out of Hetfield and Hammet’s dual guitar play. The song features an extended closing section with plenty of false endings that finishes the album off with a bang, just like it started.

This year is the 30th birthday of Ride the Lightning and it has aged remarkably well. It consistently ranks in the top 5-10 metal albums on many ‘all-time’ lists. This was the album Metallica need to make as they transitioned from an up and coming thrash band to the kings of the genre when they released Master of Puppets two years later. The album is pure thrash but with enough refined and experimentation to separate it from the rest of the bands at the time. What was used here in this album were the building blocks that would lead to Metallica becoming the most successful metal act of all time.