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New Breed
A Conversation With Jim Koerthe and Erik Carlsson
by Samuel Barker
February 9, 2002

Kerry King
Jim Koerthe

Samuel Barker: So, how long has 3rd Strike been together?

Jim: We've been together for about a year and a half now.

Erik: Jim and Todd have been together since 1988 and they've been playing a lot of music. But we all joined up as this band in the last few years.

Samuel: When is the new album being released?

Jim: The album is dropping out on May 7th.

Erik: Black Tuesday.

Jim: Really?

Erik: Well, every album comes out on a Tuesday, so it's Black Tuesday because ours is coming out.

Samuel: When did you guys record the album?

Erik: We began pre-production in May. We actually started recording at the end of May and finished right around the beginning of July. We were in there about 5 or 6 weeks.

Jim: We used Mudrock, who was the producer who did Godsmack and Powerman 5000.

Erik: We did it in about 6 weeks and then headed out on the Warped Tour two days later.

Samuel: How has this tour been going so far? Have you been happy with the response to your music?

Jim: Since we're the first band, a lot of places don't really fill up. There is usually only 150 kids there or so for us. The response has been pretty good for us so far.

Erik: Except Dallas.

Jim: Yeah, except Dallas. Dallas is kinda like LA. Everyone is so jaded. This has been our best show so far.

Erik: Opening up for a band like Machine Head, who has been around a long time and has an old school metal following, it's been cool. Playing with Darwin's is cool because we're coming from the same kind of style. It's made it easier to break in with the crowds.

Samuel: Is touring tough not having an album, and having the kids not really know you?

Jim: Yeah, in a way. It's a lot different than Machine Head, they have a lot of albums out. Usually kids feed off the energy and we'll have them by the third song.

Erik: There are some kids here tonight that were hanging out by the bus, who saw us this summer and came up here to see us and hang out with us. They signed up for the street team and drove all the way up here from Corpus. They know all the words; they know all the songs. It's a lot of fun having kids like that. It'll be totally different when we get the album out, but it's been fun so far.

Samuel: Jim, I know you said that you and Todd have been together for a while, is this the first album you've done together?

Jim: Todd and I were in a band, we had an album that came out in 1996. It was a little more rock than rap-rock. Back then rap-rock wasn't happening unless you were Rage (Against the Machine). We had this vision for a long time. We got the key players when we got Gabe, PJ, and Eric. Everything just gelled. From the first day we got together, it worked.

Samuel: How does the band handle songwriting?

Jim: The band writes the music. I write the melody and I write the music. It's usually sparked off of a riff in practice or something. Then I'll go home and throw down what comes to mind on a four track.

Erik: It's like what the kids were saying to us earlier, they said they listen to the whole record, song by song by song and it doesn't get boring because they all sound different. If you check out the record you can see that they're all different, because they were all written over a long period of time. Right when we started, like two weeks into it, we recorded a demo, which was our heavier song. Then we progressed and wrote different stuff. The bass player and drummer are writing some pretty cool stuff now besides just working off riffs Todd and I brought in.

Samuel: It's been a while since you guys recorded this record that will be released, are you guys actively writing new songs?

Jim: It's kinda hard when you're in this (their camper). Plus we've been playing a lot. We had a new song from the second record, but one of the songs on the old record couldn't get passed lyrically by the label.

Samuel: Speaking of lyrics, a lot of them have a pretty rough edge and are really honest, not the "poor me…" banter of your peers. Is it ever hard to open up like that?

Jim: No, it's never been hard for me. I've tried to write songs about stuff that really didn't happen to me, and it's never worked, it's come out really fake. It's like therapy for me to write lyrics about real life experiences. Hopefully I'll continue to have them. My past has a lot of experiences that are different from those of most rock bands. I come from a neighborhood, like gang background. I ran with a gang for about 7 years. It brings a little bit lyrically. I don't want to glorify violence or anything. I want to tell the truth. Not the truth of like, I shot some homeboy. I talk about what happens when you die, what happens when you're out by yourself, what happens when you're in county and none of your homeboys come visit you. Shit like that.

Samuel: That is what I find interesting about this band, most people with a background like yours go into pure rap, not rap-rock. It's good because it opens up a world that most kids who listen to this music wouldn't normally hear about.

Jim: Yeah. I've always been a metal fan though, since I was a young kid.

Samuel: (to Erik) When did you decide to get into music?

Erik: I guess it started back in first grade, actually. I used to bounce my leg up and down all day and I couldn't stop it. I would get into trouble for it, but I couldn't stop it. Towards 8th grade, my mom was like, "Do you want to play guitar or get some art lessons or something?" And I went for guitar. I got a guitar from a neighbor, a beat up old acoustic. I took lessons for about a year and pretty much taught myself after that, until I got into college. I played in 3 bands in high school, recorded demos, and when I move up to Northern California to go to school, I brought my whole band up there. Then I got a little more immersed in what I was doing in school, which was composing, studying a lot of theory. I ended up taking a break from heavy music and writing more symphonic stuff, woodwind quartets, string quartets, stuff like that. I played a lot Jazz while I was up there. So I had those influences going for me. It brings a new flavor to this music, we have a song, 'Breathe,' and I wrote the verse riff on piano. It's heavily classically influenced. I've always been playing in bands, even when things were going bad. Whenever people were down for playing music, I would be into it.

Samuel: Have there been a lot of kids coming up to you guys after shows telling you that they enjoy your music?

Jim: Yeah, ever since Warped Tour, a punk rock tour. We were the only metal band on there, except for Switched, and I was sure they were going to hate us. But people really dug it. It's been like that every show.

Erik: We've been getting a lot of good responses from the kids. A lot of hits on the website, a lot of kids talking about the songs from their heart and how they affect them. You always hear the stories of other bands talking about kids and how music changed certain aspects of their lives. We've starting to get that. People who really feel deeply touched by the music. There is nothing better than writing a song you feel really strongly about and having kids in different cities saying "We feel what you feel when you're playing this music." We're starting to get that now.

Samuel: Anything you'd like to add?

Jim: Well, I just want to say this town rocks.

Erik: Plug for Houston.

Jim: I'm not bullshitting you. This town was great. We'll be back here many times.

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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