Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Gym Class Heroes: WE CAN BE HEROES

Gym Class Heroes
Gym Class Heroes Gym Class Heroes Gym Class Heroes Gym Class Heroes

If you try to define the band the Gym Class Heroes it may take you a bit longer than you think. With a mix of Hip-Hop/rock and blended electronic/pop, this is a band that like to keep their audience guessing as to what direction they will gravitate next.

Whilst their (some say brave) style earns them fans across genres, they havenât exactly taken the easy route to the top. 'Ahhh, but is this what gives the band their edge over their rivals?' Hmmm, Well I think it just might be... Having had a strangle-hold on the charts with their smash 'Cupid's Chokehold/Breakfast in America,' their 2006 gold album 'Cruel as School Children' looks to have been eclipsed by their diverse new album called 'The Quilt.' With lead singer Travis Barker in constant demand to appear on other projects whilst his love life comes under constant scrutiny - how are the GCH coping?

I meet up with two of the band members - lead singer Travis Barker and Guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo at record company Atlanticâs HQ in Kensington to spill the beans on their new project, the album The Quilt and of course anything else theyâve been up to of late.

Lee: The last album âAs Cruel As School Childrenâ was critically acclaimed, how do you think this one will compare?

Trav: I mean as far as numbers go, first week tripled the last record. The last record when it first came out was a slow build you know and I think we sold about nine thousand copies first week, and to us we were like yeahhhh. Especially the ways that record sales are going at the moment. This record did about thirty seven thousand sales this week I think, so even though it has tripled in sales Iâd rather have a decent 1st week and steady sales than a crazy phenomenal first week and sales plummet. Thatâs something weâve always kind of prided ourselves on, is the fact that thereâs a lot of work that comes with putting out a solid record as opposed to a record that has three huge singles and the rest of itâs just f**king filling. The emphasis on putting out good complete albums has kinda gone out the window, itâs due to a lot of people realizing that singles is the way to go - for some people. But we have always focused on making solid albums, you know?... They take a lot longer, to come in to flourishan.

Lee: Is this one more of a solid album, is this more complete in your eyes than the last one?

Trav: Every record we put out, we go for a decent album all the way through and contrary to a lot of artist we put a lot of emphasis on the last song on the record. We nurture every song the same way we nurture the songs that we know are gonna be singles. Even the songs that youâll never see a video for or youâll never hear on the radio, get as much attention in the studio as the singles do. The last song is very important, cos itâs the last impression when people initially listen to the record all the way through. itâs the last impression you leave, so we like always make sure the last song completes the album.

Lee: How do you feel that the band has evolved and how do you think personally youâve evolved since the last album?

Trav: Every record we kinda evolve as song writers, I think from the first recordings that we put out till now we definitely take the craft more seriously. I never knew how to count bars or measurements before. I never knew what a good song structure was, I just felt like - alright Iâm gonna rap till I canât rap anymore and get MY f**king point across, then throw a hook in here, rap, maybe a bridge here, rap some more â no sense of structure what-so-ever . I think the more we study music, and listen to some of the greats â for me thatâs Hall and Oats, you know, a lot 70âs Soul music - Gamble and Huff type stuff. Itâs like timeless music. I study that s**t a lot, the way they put things together, I think itâs definitely helped us out a lot. With this record especially I think the band has all kinda stepped their game up lot, I think all of us. Disashi for the most part defiantly got to shine A LOT on this record, which Iâm really excited about. With the last record I think he didnât really get to use his talent to his full potential. This time around we got it lit.

Lee: Do you feel that? Do you feel this time...

Disashi: Yeah, definitely - Iâm really excited that this time around Iâm singing and writing songs as well. Itâs Cool.

Lee: Good feeling being recognized... for what you do?

Trav: Yeah, Itâs kinda like, you know being the font man - thereâs a stigma attached to being a front man - thereâs a lot of emphasis on the front man. A lot of people donât realise that a lot of front men wouldnât be there without the band. I always refer to the âDonât Speakâ video by No Doubt where they address that. Itâs like - Gwen doesnât necessarily ask for the attention. I think my band, as opposed to them being f**ked by Travis, they understand itâs out of our hands. Other than that, our drummer summed it up best when someone asked him â What does it feel like when a lot people gravitate towards Travis and you guys are at the back and he said âI wouldnât wish what Travis goes through on anybody!â Itâs like tough, but at the end of the day we know that none of this would work without all of us. Kinda like Voltron, you know?

Lee: You mentioned Gwen Stefani, you were out in Australia with her last year. Good gig?

Trav: Yeah, it was amazing. Her being a star of her calibre and magnitude, youâd think sheâd be kind of stand-offish â I mean Kingston her son would walk in to our dressing room all the time and hang out with us all the time, heâs cute man. She wasnât stand-offish at all, she was really nice. I was really sick for the first couple of weeks of the tour, the guys got to hang out with her a lot more than I did. Last days of the tour she came out and we took pictures and everything. Sheâs really awesome, and not to mention I have had the hugest crush on her since I was a little kid â so to be in the same building was like a dream come true.

Lee: I wonât tell her (yeah right, course I won't!?)... Cool and Dre are the in-vogue producers at the moment. What was it like working with them?

Trav: Initially you know, we had a meeting with them. It was after the BMAâs - we had like a quick dinner meeting. They expressed interest in working with us, they were really in to what we were doing. Dre was like â You guys are the future man, YOU know thereâs like no boundaries and thatâs the way music should beâ. The more and more we talked, the more and more we realised we had a lot of the same influences and a lot of things in common. I remember leaving the meeting going - to my manager âI really want to work with these guys, I think they have a good understanding of what it is we are trying to doâ. Not only that but, they are in to a lot of the same stuff weâre in to. So, I took a trip down to Miami, just to kinda see how they work and get a feel for the studio and what not â we were in Circle House Studios in Miami. There was no pressure to write anything, just to hang out. We ended up writing âPeace Signâ that day, so in about six hours we wrote one of our first singles.

Lee: They get in touch with Busta and it came straight back within six hours and the track was done?... Thatâs amazing.

Trav: I was doing what I was doing when Busta called Dre, Dre was like âYouâre not gonna believe this s**t, Iâm in the studio right now with Trav - Gym Class Heros bla, blaâ I wrote this song. He put it on speaker phone and Busta was like âOH SH**T! GET ME ON THIS RIDE - I need to be a part of this sh**t. This is a movement I gotta be a part ofâ. So we emailed to him and Iâm sitting there like âSh**t, thatâs Busta Rhymes!â - sent it back to us next day and the track was done â 6 hours. We had no intentions of recording at all that day, so it was just cool how things kinda worked out.

Lee: Video shoot with Busta went well?

Trav: F**king A-mazing! A lot of anticipation about his arrival - and we were all biting our nails! Heâs the coolest guy in the world and he supports us so much. To have someone that Iâve looked up to and Iâm sure Disashi has to, weâve ALL looked up to- his creativity. Not only musically, his videos â aesthetically, heâs always been like, this all-round complete package. He takes his aesthetics in his videos very seriously, he takes his art seriously and so as I said there was anticipation. So we had to start. We thought Busta will get here when he gets here, and we thought weâd have to cut scenes and s**t and I donât know where - he runs in right on time, from where we first start and kills it first take. Heâs such a professional.

Lee: Estelle features on your new album and is supporting you on part of the US leg of your tour. How did that come about?

Trav: Weâre excited. Me and Estelle made friends like that. I got invited to her showcase at Roseland Ballroom New York - her first showcase, right before her record came out. She had a song called '1980' thatâs on her last record and she asked me to come out and you know, just spit a few bars and I said of course. So. Did that and it was awesome - and ended up hanging out. That night we went to a reggae concert afterwards and just hung out and s**t.... And came back and sheâs like "Trav Iâm back in town bla, bla" and we kept in touch through text messages and s**t. Sheâs a sweet genuine, genuine soul, you know what I mean? talent aside â we all know sheâs super talented, but like, to be that talented and an artist of that calibre to still be that grounded and genuine, thatâs one of the biggest turn-ons for me. NOT sexually you know? Itâs like, of course sheâs cute as hell, but I mean just to be the in the company of someone that genuine I was like "yeah, We need to be friends". So she invited me out to another showcase she had at a Puma store in New York, and I did the same thing - came up and did '1980,' surprised a lot of people and it was cool. And with the record, I was originally going to sing the hook on âGuilty As Chargedâ and I was like you know what - letâs see what Estelle can do. She went above and beyond. I knew she would come through, but she f**king killed it. So weâre actually looking forward to the tour with her, really looking forward to performing that song with her. I think weâre doing that song with her tonight.

Lee: So sheâs guesting at the gig tonight?

Trav: A-ha

Lee: You mentioned your heroes Gamble and Huff, Hall and Oats. Darylâs singing on your record as well...

Trav: After that session I was like - I can die tomorrow and I feel like Iâve left my mark and done something.

As Travis reaches the end of that sentence and putâs his clenched fists together palms down to show me the backs of his hands. To my surprise he has a tattoo of each of his heroes, Daryl Hall and John Oats facing each other.

Trav: Itâs from the âPrivate Eyesâ cover.

Lee: Wow!

As I stare at the most unlikely tattoo subjects that I expect to see filling the backs of Travis Barkers hands...

Lee: Weâve just spoken to Daryl Hall (Issue 1010). Darylâs House obviously?

Trav: I was his first guest - now a lot of people have been on there. Chromeoâs been on there, Katie Tunstallâs been on there. I think Finger Eleven are like, the newest guests so itâs cool â Iâm glad I was the first you know.

Lee: Youâve been to Manchester, Dublin and Leeds. How were you received?

Trav: Awesome! I think every time we come back it gets better. And these were kinda small intimate shows, you know what Iâm saying. Like five hundred to a thousand capacity, so it wasnât like super big. I think when you're playing arenas and stadiums and s**t, youâre so detached from the crowd it so hard to make a connection, at that point youâre merely entertaining you know? But when itâs small capacity clubs the intimacy itâs like, nothing like

Lee: (Interrupting) Is that important you?

Trav: Itâs SO important. With the Gwen tour it was fun, at the same time it was so depressing because after every show I was like "Great Show" but like, we connected with the first two rows then (he makes a crowd sound in to his cupped hands). So itâs something that as performers we need to get back, you know - that exchange of energy that keeps us wanting to do it you know. And as the success of Gym Class Heroes kinda escalates and progresses, of course we have to accommodate the listeners and the fans. If I had my way weâd play House Of Bluesâes and smaller venues all the time. Whoâs to say we canât still do that for like a few nights?

Disashi: Itâs was really cool to. Cos itâs the first time weâve been to Ireland and thereâs fans out there that were like. "Weâve been waiting four years just to see you."

Lee: Really?

Trav: Four years - I was like wow!

Lee: Going back then?

Trav: Of course, of course we had a good time.

Both the single âCookie Jarâ and the Album âThe Quiltâ are out now on Atlantic records.

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