March 16, 2018 Interview – Elijah Witt of Cane Hill
If you call yourself a metalhead, then you need to know Louisiana’s Cane Hill. A band that only really got their official start less than four years ago, these guys are poised to take the Metal world by storm with their infectious, delicious blend of ’90s Grunge and all things modern Metal. Do not, however, call them Nu Metal, no! Proving themselves on the road all winter long – initially in Europe with Motionless In White and now in The States with Of Mice & Men – Cane Hill are injecting something fresh back into a stale system in dire need of rejuvenation. Despite a busy tour schedule, Vocalist Elijah Witt – who goes by simply Witt – recently took the time to sit down to talk all things Cane Hill, the fear of a sophomore slump, personal losses, touring, and the irreparable psychological impact of the Hostel series.
CrypticRock.com – Cane Hill have been a band for seven years now. What have been some highs and lows throughout the band’s career, thus far?
Elijah Witt – Well, I’d like to stick a tin in the seven years, because that makes me feel really old! Cane Hill’s really only been around for three years, or six months before our release on Rise. We were a bunch of different entities before that; different members, different music, different name. Cane Hill is relatively new, otherwise I would have been in this band since I was 16, 17. (Laughs) There’s some weird misinformation on the internet, but I’m not sure how it got there.
So the highs have obviously been that we got signed to a record label, we got all this management, booking agents. We get to do these awesome tours with bands that are out-of-this-world: we went around the world with Bullet For My Valentine, Atreyu and Killswitch Engage. I’m like, “That is some cool, fucking shit!”
CrypticRock.com – That is truly a killer tour!
Elijah Witt – We played in an arena for a German festival, Rock im Park, it was amazing. We saw the guitarist of Architects’ [Tom Searle] last show ever, which no one even knew; it was already one of the most emotional shows I’ve ever been to. They had a sold-out arena, 5,000 people in Germany, and for a guy that doesn’t even really like being in an audience – too many people, it’s very loud, it’s weird for me even though I like to perform – I left the side-stage area and I had to go to the front of the arena and just watch their show; it was so absolutely beautiful. So, those are some highs. (Laughs)
Some lows, I mean, I’m never home. A low for me was after that Bullet For My Valentine tour, I came home and I was staying with my girlfriend at the time, in L.A., and I got a phone call from my mom telling me that my dog had died while I was on tour; so I wasn’t even there when he passed. I got him in a kind of emotional part of my life; I had just ended this super, bad relationship with a girl that was just super emotionally abusive. I was incredibly depressed, and I saved this dog from a life that was basically being in a cage 24-hours a day. I brought him home and he was inseparable from me and, obviously, I was inseparable from him. So finding out that I wasn’t even there to be able to protect him or make sure that he didn’t get hurt… absolutely devastating, a very low point.
I mean, our drummer, Devin, he’s had four family members die while we’ve been on tour. James’ dad has almost died twice, he got in a car accident. My mom told me that she had gotten some cancerous skin removed from her ear while I was gone. Just, you miss potentially devastating moments, you know what I mean?
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. Well, on that depressing note… (Laughs) It seems like Cane Hill is being repeatedly factored into the resurgence of Nu Metal. That seems an over-simplified categorization for the band, no?
Elijah Witt – I agree! Thank you!
CrypticRock.com – What are your thoughts on the Nu Metal revival?
Elijah Witt – Cool! Nu Metal is tight. I was never really a Nu Metal kid. The only guy in the band that was ever super into Nu Metal was Ryan, our bassist. We like Thrash, good ‘90s Grunge; ‘90s music in general is our shit, whether it’s heavy or soft. So, if Nu Metal is coming back around, I’m sorry, I don’t think that we’re a part of it, but if that’s what people need to use to classify us so that their brain can wrap around what we are, then okay.
CrypticRock.com – It feels like a bit of a no-win situation with classification, because the other thing that people label the band constantly is Metalcore, and that basically means nothing.
Elijah Witt – Metalcore is super lame! We’re not that either! (Laughs) Metalcore breakdowns are this super (sings the notes for a generic Metalcore breakdown) riff, which we don’t have. A lot of it is because the label we’re on is deeply associated with Metalcore. But yeah, I mean, everyone’s being a real big bitch about genres right now.
CrypticRock.com – Don’t expect that to change, sadly. To move on to the positive, Too Far Gone has been out for just over two months now. What has the reaction been like?
Elijah Witt – Shockingly good! There hasn’t been much negative press that I’ve seen about it, which is good. I think it got torn apart by one website in the UK who are Metal elitists; they told us that we didn’t deserve to do certain tours. We’re just kind of sitting here like, ‘This is like a not good tour; I don’t know what we did to deserve having to go on a bad tour, you’re right!’ They went on to say that we just didn’t deserve to be in the presence of that band, which is ridiculous. Sorry, I’m going on tangents! (Laughs) People seem to really embrace the weirdness of it, and that we didn’t really keep ourselves inside the box that Smile could have created. I think that’s upstanding! Social media was out-of-this-world for a few weeks when it first came out, we were all taken aback a little bit.
We were fully prepared because Smile got the most polarized reviews I’ve ever seen; the only thing worse would have been if everything was negative. We kind of expected for this to go the same way or for people to all fucking hate it. We’re good at setting ourselves up for disappointment! (Laughs) It was crazy cool to kind of see how it went and that people really did love it.
CrypticRock.com – It is a phenomenal album! What was the goal going into the studio this time around, and did you feel you had more to prove, as this is your sophomore release?
Elijah Witt – There definitely was that fear of the sophomore slump! Everyone talks about it, everyone warns you. Everyone’s just like, ‘Yeah man, we’re already thinking about it, thank you!’ (Laughs) We went in stronger than we went with our other record; with Smile we went in with a few riffs, were wildly unprepared. This time we went in with 20 demos, we had more than enough. Then we ended up scrapping like fifteen of them, and just ended up writing more stuff. I think we were pretty sure what we had was cool, but of course we’re going to think that! There were definitely moments where we were like, ‘Hmm, everything’s going really fine’ but with the music industry, uh, I hope we sell fucking 1,000 albums. We beat it, we did better than Smile did – it was tight!
CrypticRock.com – Okay, now sound-wise, would “Slipknot dropping acid with Pantera” be a fair assessment of the band, musically speaking? (Laughs)
Elijah Witt – (Laughs) Nice! Throw in like a hypothetical heroin party with Alice In Chains, then yeah!
CrypticRock.com – Actually, Alice In Chains and Mudvayne would be a better comparison, but your bio mentioned Slipknot and Pantera.
Elijah Witt – Ooo, I like that! I don’t know who put Slipknot in the bio, but I wouldn’t have done that. That’s begging to be called Nu Metal! (Laughs) It’s not a diss at Slipknot, they’re fucking amazing musicians that have done wild things. Like I said, if we’re gonna be like, ‘We’re not Nu Metal’ and our bio says ‘influenced by Slipknot,’ hmmm.
CrypticRock.com – They always select the most popular bands that you might remotely be compared to in any press material, and Mudvayne feels like it could be a little obscure, reference-wise.
Elijah Witt – (Laughs) I don’t think Mudvayne’s obscure! To people who aren’t well-versed in Metal, I guess, yeah, sure.
CrypticRock.com – Okay, so kind of playing off of that, what inspires the band’s unique sound?
Elijah Witt – Honestly, we listen to a lot of ‘90s Alt, ‘90s Grunge. We listen to a bunch of ‘90s Thrash and ‘80s Thrash. It kind of all just culminated from a lot of really bad experiences, so we have all that really sad, fucking heroin music as the soundtrack to these times in our lives. Some really bad trips on acid, relationships deteriorating, pets and family dying – all while we’re gone; kind of just being forced into this really fast-paced life with non-stop touring. Bands that are on this level that they have everything at their fingertips and you’re just kind of like, ‘Yes! Me too!’ But you don’t have that stuff at your fingertips, and it went to our heads and we got really out-of-fucking-control. We lost so much in our lives because of it! So, all of that coupled with purely listening to depressing or angry music, it’s kind of what came out.
CrypticRock.com – So what are some of your personal favorite songs on the album?
Elijah Witt – I like the softer side, personally. I’ve always been the one that listened to the most soft music; I listened to Pearl Jam before James thought Pearl Jam was cool. My favorites are “Why?,” “Singing in the Swamp,” and “The End,” in that order.
CrypticRock.com – Okay, and what songs have you guys been mixing into the live set?
Elijah Witt – Mostly heavy ones! (Laughs) We play “Too Far Gone,” “10¢,” “Lord of Flies,” “It Follows,” and we usually play “Erased.” I think in the upcoming year we’re going to start picking out some of the older songs and throwing in some softer or weirder songs from the new album. Kind of creating a more diverse set because we’ve come to the conclusion that, while the people that come and already know us are very important – and their opinions matter – we probably shouldn’t play songs that are from our EP just because they ask us to.
If we’re a new band that’s four years old with 20 different songs past those, I feel like we should play the newer stuff, the better stuff, the stuff that is getting a better response on the internet and in real-life. When we play older songs that people that know of us know, they are stoked, but when we play our new songs everyone in the room gets stoked! So. (whispers loudly) Why would we shoot ourselves in the foot? (Laughs) We’re selfish!
CrypticRock.com – You should always play what you want to play, first and foremost.
Elijah Witt – Yeah, that’s what I tell people to their faces and they get really offended! (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Those are the kind of people that will not stick around. So speaking of touring, you guys were just in Europe with Motionless In White and Ice Nine Kills, then came back to The States to hook up with Of Mice & Men, Blessthefall, and Fire From The Gods. What’s next for Cane Hill on the road?
Elijah Witt – I’ll give you the simple answer: we have a spring tour that’s coming up . . . It’s around those festivals that we’re playing, Northern Invasion and Rock on the Range. After that, we’re kind of up-in-the-air: I think we’re going to start writing something new; see what kind of weird things we can come up with and take it from there.
CrypticRock.com – That is cool! Okay, so now we move into three random questions, just to shake it up a bit. Firstly, if you could collaborate with any artist, who would you love to feature on the next Cane Hill disc? It doesn’t even have to be somebody in Metal.
Elijah Witt – Oh yeah, it probably wouldn’t be but I gotta think, though. That’s a very important question, if there’s one person it could go so many different ways. There’s a lot of stress on my brain! (Laughs) Jacoby Shaddix would be cool, from Papa Roach, or something even weirder like Jerry Cantrell.
CrypticRock.com – Both make complete sense, musically, and would make for excellent collaborations! Okay, good luck with this one: if you had to put together a 3-song sampler to introduce Cane Hill to someone who has never heard anything about the band, what three songs would you select to sum up the band’s career, thus far?
Elijah Witt – This question is such a bitch! Who is this person: what do they like, what do they do? There’s so many different… what if I show them a heavy song first? They have to listen to all three, right?
CrypticRock.com – Right.
Elijah Witt – Okay, they have to listen to all three. My choices: “Too Far Gone,” “Singing in the Swamp,” and “Gemini.”
CrypticRock.com – Those are great choices! I would have snuck “Lord of Flies” in there, only because that song is so addictive.
Elijah Witt – Well, that’s good! I might be biased because I’m already sick of playing it!
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) You are going to be even more sick of playing five years from now!
Elijah Witt – Oh, I know! I’m looking so forward to it! (Laughs) We’ll just take it out of the set like we always do and be like, ‘Ah, we got new stuff, fuck this!’
CrypticRock.com – Okay, last question. At CrypticRock, we cover music as well as films, especially Horror and Sci-Fi films. Are you a fan of either of these genres and, if so, what are some of your favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Elijah Witt – I suck with Science Fiction! Horror is very hit-or-miss for me because, while I love it, I have a heart attack like a little kid when I try to watch it because I am the jumpiest little bitch.
CrypticRock.com – But the films that are coming out in Horror are not remotely scary!
Elijah Witt – Fucking, they always, it’s the music, man! If that music wasn’t there to force my heart to start racing, I would be fine! It’s like, if there’s silence, ‘Ah, someone just got stabbed, whatever!’
CrypticRock.com – Watch it on mute! (Laughs) So do you have any favorite Horror movies?
Elijah Witt – Hell yeah! Do the Hostel movies count?
CrypticRock.com – Of course!
Elijah Witt – Oh, Hostel (2005)! Hostel I and II (2007). Hostel III (2011) was a shit-show, but Hostel I and II? Great! Definitely had deep, lasting psychological effects on me, though. Don’t touch any of my tendons because I think they’re going to tear. Fingernails, I won’t let anybody touch my fingernails or I will lose my fucking shit because I’m convinced you’re going to rip them out. It makes no fucking sense! Fuck that! Those movies rule!