December 6, 2017 Interview – Chris Hughes of The Black Hand
Music was not always the initial path for Chris Hughes, but after a life-altering BMX injury, it was the only place he knew where to turn. This was the start of The Black Hand, Hughes’ powerful metalcore band and new start. Going into the release of their sophomore self-titled record, the dark lyrics and captivating sounds put listeners in the mindset of Chris Hughes and his demons. Recently, CrypticRock was lucky enough to ask Hughes about this vulnerable time in his life, the development of The Black Hand’s newest album, how music became his answer, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Your calling to music came after your devastating BMX injury. Was music always a backup plan for you? What inspired you to pursue music?
Chris Hughes – Music has always been a part of my life; my dad was a great drummer and he was very passionate about music. Music always used to inspire me to ride better, and when I would see my favorite bands perform I was always respectfully envious of what they did. When I decided to pursue a new dream it was an easy choice.
CrypticRock.com – Your music has a lot of different genre influences. What musicians did you grow up listening to? Do they affect the way you make your music today?
Chris Hughes – I grew up listening to a lot of different genres, but I always had a passion for Metal and Rap. I’m a big fan of Tupac, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Slipknot, Judas Priest, Underoath, Iron Maiden, Suicide Silence, Bring Me The Horizon, Thrice, The Used, and an endless list so on so forth. I think it’s impossible to not be influenced somewhat by bands you love, but we try to keep our best to sound more on the original side rather than following our favorite bands. Sometimes it’s hard cause you can hear fragments of our influences, but I definitely know we mix it up enough to be our own thing.
CrypticRock.com – What an interesting mix of influences! You have recently released your newest self-titled record. A sophomore album is an important point of progress for a band; how would you compare the creation of this album to your first?
Chris Hughes – The creation of this album was a bit more intense because we rewrote every song no less than 10 times in the studio. We were very efficient and we had Chris Rakestraw to thank for pushing us so hard. The next record can only be better and more evolved based on what we learned and how hard we are willing to work for what we wish to accomplish.
CrypticRock.com – A lot of the music on the album has incredibly personal and dark themes, touching on a lot of loss in your life. What was it like to revisit these experiences as well as write these songs and then share them with the world?
Chris Hughes – It’s always heart-wrenching and depressing to dive back into those places, some songs left me in a bad mental state after writing them, but it always goes away after time. When I wrote “The American Pastime” the place I had to put my mind mentally left me feeling sick and drained. Performing them for the world is much easier because they already exist, I don’t have to reach into as dark of a place to perform them as I did to write them.
CrypticRock.com – With that being said, do you try to separate yourself from the lyrics to keep a clear head when you play these songs live? Or do you prefer getting deep in the moment to give the music the performance it deserves?
Chris Hughes – Rather than keeping myself separated from the lyrics I dive head first into where I was and what it felt like to live through all the tough times. I feel everything and put it on display for the fans to see and feel. My father is a method actor so I must have learned it subconsciously from him, to be what you portray rather than pretend what you portray.
CrypticRock.com – Your performances must be quite an experience. An especially dark track on the reocrd, and one you referenced earlier, is “The American Pastime.” It is a vivid story of a school shooting that is incredibly relevant today. Beyond fueling dark emotions and speaking of something controversial, as an artist, what do you hope listeners get out of a song like this?
Chris Hughes – “The American Pastime” was made to convey violence for its vile truth. To show how hatred can push someone to a place so dark there is no return. In no way are we trying to glorify any of the atrocities that the song touches on. I would hope people learn to be kind and compassionate towards each other and stand up for people who are being victimized.
CrypticRock.com – It is great that artists like yourself use your platform for messages like those. Your music video for “Where Are You Now” really captures your musical style and dark, meaningful visuals. How does the music video’s story tie into the song and its meaning?
Chris Hughes – The music video’s story is open for interpretation, but for the most part it lines up with the lyrics of the song. The lyrics are about the loss of someone close and wondering where they are. Also depicting where it leaves the living when forced to grieve. It shows the five stages of grief such as, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
CrypticRock.com – For fans of The Walking Dead it was really cool to see Michael Cudlitz star in the video. Are you a fan of the show as well? How did the decision to cast him come about, and what was it like working with him?
Chris Hughes – I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead. The decision to cast him came from a conversation I had with my pops, who has worked with Cudlitz many times, and I met Mike when I was 12 years old. My dad being a filmmaker created interest of making a music video together so we decided to do a father-son project. Cudlitz is an astoundingly talented artist and we couldn’t be happier to have him on the project with us.
Working with him was surreal. His level of intensity was so fearless and nuanced that at times it was intimidating. The band and I thrive under pressure so this was a great thing for us. Cudlitz’s performance pushed us all to our very best, and that’s how it should be. We are beyond grateful for everyone who was involved with the project.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool, people are going to want to check the video out. With the new year around the corner and an album release under your belt, what are your major plans for 2018?
Chris Hughes – 2018 we will be touring as much as possible while simultaneously working on our next full length. We may even drop a few singles along the way to keep the fans happy while they wait.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds exciting! Last question. CrypticRock covers all areas of music as well as movies, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, what are some of your favorite titles and why?
Chris Hughes – I’m a huge fan of The Matrix (1999), and Horror classics such as Halloween (1978), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), the Child’s Play series, A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), and even some newer horror titles like The Amityville Horror (2005), Scream (1996), Jeepers Creepers (2001), Joy Ride (2001), and many more. I love The Matrix, because it touches on life metaphorically. People in many ways are a part of a so called “matrix,” living in ignorance not thinking for themselves, and believing everything they were conditioned to believe without question. Overall, I like the Horror movies cause they keep you at the edge of your seat!