By Jacob Katel
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By Laurie Charles
Every metal crew strives to be faster (or slower), harder, and more evil than the last. But is there any bludgeoningly heavy band that's more dynamic than Today Is the Day? Nope.
Since its inception in 1992, the group's lone constant and chief songwriter, Steve Austin, has been staring aural brutality straight in the eye and demanding that it do a dance for him. That is to say, Austin is not one to rest on tradition. Instead, his highly personalized variant of extreme music references prog, psychedelia, and alt-rock. And on his newest album, Pain Is a Warning, he even experiments with outlaw country.
In preparation for Today Is the Day's superexclusive Speedfreak Presents show at Churchill's Pub, New Times asked the Nashville native some questions about his music and its history.
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New Times: Tell us about your progression as a songwriter. Over time, Today Is the Day, a tech-metal pioneer, became increasingly experimental and/or melodic. What's the difference between writing simply and writing complicatedly?
Steve Austin: Writing a good song is letting it happen. It may wind up complicated or it may wind up simple. It is about feeling, emoting, and relaying ideas. We just write what comes to us and we don't set boundaries up as to what is acceptable complexity-wise.
What kind of mark did Converge's Kurt Ballou leave on Pain Is a Warning?
Kurt is a longtime personal friend of mine. He really captured the moment. It was a blast working with him. The record is warm and huge and clear. He had a lot of cool ideas, and we used all of them.
What about his production style? Where do you hear it on the new record?
He is a naturalist when it comes to sound. Though produced and organized, the music is very open and clear.
How was the songwriting process for Pain different from that of your 1993 debut, Supernova?
Not very different at all. Three guys, drums, bass, and guitars, loaded with a lot of bad feelings and harsh ideas. We just jammed, and whatever we liked we put into song format. The idea is to not overthink what you are doing and try to be yourself musically.
When Today Is the Day started, what were you responding to?
Living in the fucked-up South among a large set of close-minded people that treat you like shit.
Back then, who were you trying to emulate or protest?
No emulation, simply trying to damage people's ears and psyche with our music.
The project has never really been a straightforward metal band. Tell us about the scene you came out of.
We loved Earache, Touch and Go. We loved Amphetamine Reptile and Negative Approach.
And who would you consider your peers today?
No one. Maybe King Crimson and Slayer.
Over time, the records have been coming out with decreasing frequency. What is behind this?
We are not into punching out records just to make money off of you. When we say it, we mean it.
Has your outlaw country song "This Is You" sparked an interest in pursuing other styles of music?
I would love to make an outlaw country record.
Could Today Is the Day release an entire album of that type of stuff?
I think listening to "This Is You" 12 times in a row would be kinda cool.
Having employed so many players over the years, and having expressed a desire to have the band produce music that doesn't fit any mold, what defines Today Is the Day? Where does the band stop and start?
Being 100 percent real all of the time. You just don't get that kind of shit anymore out of writers, music, or movies. It started in 1992 and stops when I die.