"The Church Is Hurting People" an Interview With Bryan Gray of the Blamed
The Blamed is a Christian hardcore punk band currently based out of Chicago. Yet, even with the hardcore punk label, hey are known for playing a variety of musical styles, including, of course, hardcore punk but also, pop punk, punk rock, and emo, with a little bit of metal thrown in for good measure.
Originally from California, the band now calls Chicago home, after founding member, guitarist and vocalist Bryan Gray (late of Six Feet Deep and Left Out) relocated to Illinois. The Blamed originally formed in 1994 and disbanded in 2003. Members during this era of the band included Bryan Gray, Christopher Wiitala, Trevor Wiitala, Jeff Locke, Jim Chaffin (late of The Crucified), John Hansen, and Matt Switaj. During their initial tenure, theyreleased three albums, with Tooth & Nail Records, 21 (so named because it was recorded in a mere 21 hours) in 1996, Frail in 1996, and Give Us Barabbas in 2002. The band released four albums, with Grrr Records, ...Again in 1998, Forever in 1999, Germany in 2000, and Isolated Incident in 2001. The Band reformed in the summer of 2016 to play a one off set at Audio Feed music festival. This has since lead to the band reforming and recording a Split EP with the Chicago hardcore band The Satire, a band sharing multiple members with the Blamed. The Split EP was released in November 2018 through Indie Vision Music.
In early 2020, the Band released their second album through Indie Vision Music, “The Church is Hurting People.” This hard hitting, musically and lyrically, album represents a return to their hardcore punk roots while also exploring new sonic ground. The lyrics and theme of the album, likewise, are apropos to the current climate within the church. It’s both a scathing indictment and a confessional. It is compassionate and yet no holds barred in it’s critique of modern Christianity in general and the church in particular.
A few months back, I met with Bryan through Facebook and he answered some questions for me.
The Blamed: "No Difference"
Justin W. Price: What’s the current line-up for The Blamed? The new record has the original lineup again, correct?
Bryan Gray: Well kinda, Jim Chaffin (drums) and I (Bryan Gray guitar and vocals) are the O.G. Members, Jeff Locke (guitar and vocals) joined the band in 98 for the ...Again album and Sid Duffour is the noob on bass and vocals
JP: What's the story behind the name?
BG: The original bassist came up with the name. He attached it to the Bible verse Luke 6:22 ["Blessed are you when people hate you."]
JP: Are you touring or playing any shows in support of The Church is Hurting People
BG: I think we currently have some festivals and gigs that we are waiting to announce
JP: The album definitely sounds like a return the hardcore punk roots of your past. I’m thinking specifically of Frail. How is TCIHP different?
BG: I like the Frail album so thanks. It’s different because recording is done on a computer compared to the old tape days, I think every blamed album previously was recorded to tape. Also we recorded and mixed this one ourselves, with the help of Tobin Bawinkel’s production, he’s amazing to work with.
JP: Why the name “The Church is Hurting People”? Is this a concept record and what inspired the lyrics and theme for the record?
BG: It's a double entendre. It can go both ways, like the word "hurting" can either be a verb or an adjective. Like people are getting hurt by the church, AND the church is made up of people who are hurting. (from Sid)
The Blamed: "Overwhelming Love"
JP: Where do you see The Blamed over the next decade?
BG: No clue? If the phone rings we’ll come play and hang out. Right now 2020 is exciting with the upcoming live shows
JP: Where are you guys residing these days? Are you spread around the country?
BG: Yeah, Sid and I are the only ones that live near each other, Jeff lives in Peoria IL (4-6 hours away), and Jim lives in Fresno California
JP: What is the songwriting process like for The Blamed? Is there a primary song writer or is it a collaborative effort?
BG: Kinda both, I don’t like being the song writer, but it is very collaborative.
JP: Are you or any of the other guys involved in any other musical projects any capacity?
BG: Sid and I play in the satire (sometimes Jeff fills in too), Jim has his hands in a lot of projects, he played on the last Deliverance album, he has a YouTube channel of him playing drum covers, he’s a busy guy and we’re lucky to have him.
JP: Now here’s some just for fun: Which dance move are you the most skilled at?
BG: I think I can floss, but nope
JP: What are your hobbies outside of music?
BG: I have my studio (crap that’s music) and I go to the movies a lot. Jeff is a skilled cabinet maker, Sid has kids, Jim likes to travel and watch the Minnesota Vikings
The Blamed: Live at Tom Fest Texas, 1998
JP: If you could write a letter to your ten year old self, what would it say?
BG: It’s going to be okay.
JP: How would you describe your perfect day?
BG: Going to a movie
JP: What are your top five desert island movies?
BG: I’m not good at top fives, I like movies, I love Big Trouble in Little China
JP: Back to the music Why should people devote their time to listening to your music?
BG: I’m not that cocky or great at selling myself, don’t listen to it, go listen to Spoken In Tongues or the last Stavesacre or some Living Sacrifice? Or listen to it because we tried our best to sound like what we wanted to hear
JP: Who are some of your favorite artists and musicians?
BG: Jim and Sid and Jeff and the previous blamed members Mark, Adam, Jake, Justin, Jerome, Eric, Aaron, Gary, Jeremy, John, Lance, Jason, Matt, Chris and Trevor. Plus Crashdog Crucified and Crux. My guitar heroes these days are Scott Ian and Kurt Ballou, my engineering heroes are Kurt Ballou and Steve Albini
JP: Do you have any advice to young musicians out there about how to handle yourself in the industry—especially in the Christian music industry?
BG: Well it’s ironic, but I thought Christian music kinda died? I was lucky enough to be part of that scene in the 90s and early 2000s. Now? “Good luck kid, figure that social media crap out and give ’em heck!”
JP: Indie Vision is a Christian label, but do you guys consider yourselves a part of that industry?
BG: I mean we existed in 90’s Christian music, we never cared about the labels, most bands didn’t want to be labeled “Christian band,” we were fine with it. And Indie Vision is great, I really enjoy working with Brandon [Jones], he has a rad passion for the scene.
JP: Where can folks purchase your music and keep up to date on upcoming shows and events?
JP: Is there anything else you would like to add?
BG: Thanks for reading this, thanks for listening, if we see each other this year let’s hang out and talk, I like our community, thanks for having us.
© 2020 Justin W Price