By Carl Begai
Anyone who became a fan of Canadian bashers Neurosonic during their short but volatile run between 2006 and 2009 will agree the band should have been much bigger than they were. From a commercial standpoint their debut (and only) album, Drama Queen, had plenty of radio potential that was never tapped, and on the live front Neurosonic was known for delivering the same face-melting show for 2,000 or 20 people on any given night. Sadly, frontman/founder Jason Darr unexpectedly pulled the plug on April 1st, 2009 based on his growing discontent with the music industry. One of the most original almost-mainstream bands to come out of Canada in years had been silenced.
Fast forward to March 2012 and the rise of Crashscene, an outfit that is essentially Neurosonic minus Darr with a few new twists thrown into the mix. Bassist Jacen Ekstrom is now up front as lead throat backed by guitarist Troy Healy and drummer Shane Smith, with new faces Ean “E” Scream filling Ekstrom’s old boots and guitarist Josh Volkov. The band’s debut album, I Fall Apart, is a welcome picking up of Neurosonic’s pieces worthy of serious attention.
“Darr and I are in contact a lot, but he doesn’t want to be in a band anymore because it’s a lot of hard work without a lot of the rewards you’re hoping for,” says Troy Healy of choosing to move forward with Crashscene. “Jacen and I are lifers; we couldn’t run from this if we wanted to (laughs). It’s a blessing and a curse.”
“When we were on the road, me and Jacen talked a lot about writing stuff together if Neurosonic didn’t continue,” he reveals. “There were times when we sat down in a hotel room and jammed on a few things, but we didn’t know if the stuff we were working on would end up on a Neurosonic record or somewhere else, because Crashscene didn’t exist at the time. I think it was the same day I got the call that Darr was packing it in, me and Jacen were on the phone talking about what we were going to do next.”
“Jacen had written six songs and he sent them to me, I was digging them, so I decided to put a few of my songs together, fly to Vancouver and record them with Darr. At that time Jacen was doing some touring with Bif Naked, and he happened to show up at the studio on the same day two of my songs were done. It was like, ‘Hey, cool, come and sing!’ We did a bunch of vocal tweaking because both of Darr and Jacen are amazing vocal writers, so they improved on anything I had down in a massive way. Those two songs ended up being ‘Don’t Tell Me What To Do’ and ‘Against The Wall’.”
Crashscene’s debut boasts the mixing / engineering talents of Randy Staub (Metallica), Mike Fraser (AC/DC) and Paul Silveira (Seal), but there’s no mistaking Jason Darr’s (pictured left) hand on the reins of I Fall Apart. In much the same way he shaped Bif Naked’s post-cancer 2009 comeback album, The Promise, Darr’s industrial rock production values and trademark tweaks give the record a distinctive sound immediately associated with Neurosonic by anyone in-the-know.
“Darr produced the album, so his stamp is all over it,” Healy agrees. “He and Jacen worked together on a bunch of songs, and on those ones I hear more of the Neurosonic influence. I brought in ‘A Suit For Killing’, which also has that Neurosonic vibe, but I think that comes from the three of us pretty much writing that song on the spot around a basic guitar riff I brought in. We wanted a heavy, fast-paced song and we were done writing it by the end of the day. Songs like ‘I Fall Apart’, ‘Don’t Tell Me What To Do’ and ‘Against The Wall’, I think they’re a few steps away from Neurosonic, but yeah, that sound is definitely in there.”
“Darr definitely did some co-writing, but at a much smaller level compared to what he did in Neurosonic. The Crashscene stuff, those are our songs and we wrote them. Most of Jason’s skill came into play on the production end of things; the programming, making sure the songs were tight all the way through.”
The debut album is still fresh to the ears of the buying public, but I Fall Apart is making significant headway through the release of the title track as the first single. There’s no way of knowing how far the song will carry the band and if it’ll warrant more singles – and the record has several to offer – but Healy is confident the album will make an impact.
“It’s been excellent. When people hear the album for the first time they’re thrilled to have found a new band with a new twist. I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s refreshing to hear something different from what they’re getting constantly on the radio.”
“I’m really excited. We had no idea how this record was going to turn out because it’s pretty hard to judge yourself. You can say, ‘Oh my God! This song is so good!’ but that’s followed immediately by ‘Am I being biased?’ I can never tell. Your friends are all saying the songs are great, but you really don’t know the truth. It’s nice to have new people just stumbling across us on the internet and then digging to find out everything they can about Crashscene because they’ve never heard of us before. That’s massively rewarding. And now that the album has made its way into the industry, those people are surprised by the reaction and how the fanbase is sincerely blown away.”
At press time Healy was gearing up to sort through and negotiate touring options for the band. Smart money has Crashscene sticking a Neurosonic song or two into the live set to keep the older fans happy…
“We’ve talked about that and I’d love to do it,” says Healy. “I really would, and I’m willing to bet we will. I liked playing ‘Crazy Sheila’ and ‘Are Solar’; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Are Solar’ slips in there. Jacen and I have talked about it, definitely.”
That said, the members of Crashcene are clearly proud of their history and aren’t wasting time trying to distance themselves from Neurosonic or Jason Darr’s shadow. As far as Healy is concerned there is no shadow, but rather a strong and unique working relationship.
“Jason Darr is a freak of nature,” Healy laughs. “I’ve never seen a person in my entire life – and I don’t think I ever will – who can sit down in front of a Pro-Tools rig and make that shit happen so fast. It’s unbelievable. You’ve got to grab the guitar out of his hands and say ‘Hey! This is my song! What are you doing?’ (laughs). Darr had some great input on the album and the songs wouldn’t be where they are without him. They would still exist, but he brought them to another level and I hope I can work with that guy forever.”
Go to Crashscene’s official website here.