Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley Talks ‘From Parts Unknown,’ Overcoming Anger Issues + More
Every Time I Die vocalist Keith Buckley is one of the most respected figures in modern hardcore and metal music. A lyrical wizard, Buckley is extremely well-read and introspective, helping to create a truly unique sound with the Buffalo, N.Y., based band.
The band’s seventh full length album, ‘From Parts Unknown,’ is set for a July 1 release, having already unleashed the tracks ‘Thirst’ and ‘Decayin’ With the Boys,’ which represent the album very well according to Buckley. Along with the new tracks and their accompanying music videos, Buckley talks about going nuts if he’s unable to keep busy, overcoming anger issues that plagued his personal life and much more.
Read about it all in our exclusive interview with Keith Buckley:
‘From Parts Unknown’ is the new album. I’ve always been so surprised on how quickly you put out new material.
We’ve got a pretty good ‘refresh’ rate going on.
And it never seems rushed, it never feels like you put something out just to meet a contract deadline. What can you tell me about the writing process? Are you guys just constantly writing?
No, actually, we’re not, and I think that’s kind of why we’re able to keep doing it like we do it. We kind of just let things build up and build up and build up in between records and, you know, you’re touring so you’re collecting ideas and experiences and stuff and then once we agree upon a time frame that we’re going to write, you just kind of submerge yourself in it completely.
When we start writing, then it’s pretty much 24 hours a day. This time we had given ourselves some time off January and February to start writing, or at least get our ideas together, but then we got an offer to do a tour in Europe with A Day to Remember and we’re like, ‘Ahh, we can’t pass that up!’ So we’re like, “What are we going to do?” The Every Time I Die mentality is do both, do it all. So we went out on tour and wrote while we were on tour with them which meant, you know, in the back rooms and the bus that we were sharing with The Story So Far, so it was very hectic and both cramped and crowded, but you know, like I said, once you’re in it, you’re in it.
How much decompression time do you need after writing and touring?
I don’t know. I feel like at my age I need a good two or three months, but we’ve had a good two or three months and I’m going f—ing bat-s–t crazy. I actually went to the coffee shop I used to work at before we started touring and I’m like, “Can I come back and just do something during the day?” And my friend’s like, “Yeah, come on back and f—ing make drinks.” So I’ve been going there just because I’m seriously going nuts being home. I’m done decompressing. I need to compress now.
It’s tough going from 100mph to a dead stop.
Yeah, I don’t know how to relax and that’s unfortunate. My wife and I try to vacation and we’ve only been on a few of the tropical vacations where you’re pampered, all of your drinks are free, all of your food is free, and I’m like, “What can I do? Please give me something to do.” She just says, “How about you f—ing relax?” and I’m like, “No, not an option.”
Every Time I Die have always had a very tight sound ever since ‘Last Night in Town.’ Since then, not much has changed in that respect. When it comes to the recording process, how would you compare making ‘Last Night in Town’ to ‘From Parts Unknown’?
"I think that we’re fully back to all of these different tempos; more chaotic but it’s also like we know how to control the chaos now."I think that back then we had no idea what was going on. We had no control over anything. Every idea that we had was out there, we were putting it in songs. There was no structure, there was no arrangement, there was no foresight, there was no long term goal. It was just if we have an idea let’s put it on the record. Put this riff after this riff, after this riff, after this riff. So I think that we’ve kind of just refined it and that we’re just a little more aware of how everything feels as a whole picture instead of just all of these little pieces being stacked on top of each other.
But that being said, I do feel like this recording process was a lot more like just throwing caution to the wind and trying different things that maybe we haven’t tried before. I feel like for a little while there starting with ‘Gutter Phenomenon’ our sound was getting more refined, you know what I mean? It felt a little less dynamic, but I think ‘Ex Lives’ kind of brought that energy back and I think that now with ‘From Parts Unknown,’ I think that we’re fully back to all of these different tempos; more chaotic but it’s also like we know how to control the chaos now.
I can absolutely hear that in ‘Thirst.’ Does that track represent the feel of the album?
I think it does and it was perfect because it’s short, it’s got a ton of content in it, it’s got a mosh part, but it’s fast. I really think that it’s the perfect spokesman for the record. The record’s short, the record’s heavy, the record’s fast and so is that song. So I think that’s like the microcosm.
When it comes to music videos, you guys have so many great ones. I feel like there are some bands that are proving that the art of the music video is not dead, even though MTV basically doesn’t exist anymore. How did the ‘Thirst’ clip come together?
We got the word from Epitaph that we had a certain amount of time to do a video. We knew the song that we wanted to make a video for, which was ‘Decayin’ With the Boys.’ But when we started talking to our friend Doug, who has done a bunch of our DVDs before, he’s like, well ‘Thirst’ is so short, why don’t we try to put that into the video, almost like it’s two songs together as one?
So we got this idea of these guys going to a house party where we’re playing. So, ‘Thirst’ became the preface to the next video. So it’s the story of these two ‘Beavis and Butthead’ dudes who get psyched about an Every Time I Die show and they start partying and they don’t even make it to the party, and then the next video starts with the party that they missed. I want to incorporate them into everything. The crazy thing is, they never knew each other. They knew of each other, just from being in Buffalo, it’s a small town. But they met that day and it was like soul mates. They’re now really good friends and that chemistry they have is for real. Now I really want that energy around us a lot, so I would like to have more videos with those guys.
I can see those guys being your mascots.
That’s exactly what Andy [Williams, guitar] said! When we play Buffalo Warped Tour, to get them as part of the whole show. Who knows?
I think on the last record, especially, I took myself way too seriously. I think the videos show that. I think I lost my sense of humor on the last record. I just wasn’t happy about writing the record, I wasn’t happy recording it. I mean, I like the record, I’m super proud of it, but it was a much more angry record than this one. This one has that feel-good vibe back to it that ‘Ex Lives’ didn’t really have for me. ‘Thirst,’ even though it’s not a fun, funny song, I really wanted to do something cool with it to kind of contrast that.
On that subject, thinking back to the ‘Revival Mode’ video, it’s super dark, but I still feel like there’s a good bit of dark humor in there.
Yeah, but dark humor isn’t fun humor, you know what I mean? You can laugh at things but when you laugh at them sometimes it’s in disbelief and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s funny. So I feel that dark humor was more of an incredulous laughter, like, “Are you f—ing kidding me already?” Now it’s fun again for me, being in this band is fun again.
The very first line on ‘Ex Lives,’ “I want to be dead with my friends,” comes to mind. Does that line represent how you were feeling?
Yeah. I wasn’t around anybody that I wanted to be around, I was not f—ing happy where I was. Everyone that I loved was off doing something else and I just wanted to be with them. I wasn’t appreciative of anything that I had at the time.
You never came off that way when we’ve talked in the past.
Well that’s good! [Laughs] I’m glad, because I’m not normally like that. It was just a really bad spot I was in for a while.
What was the catalyst for this change? Towards being happy again.
"I used to be so much fun and I used to have so much energy. I was just drinking all the time, I was f—ing miserable, I was fighting with everybody."I was just angry all the f—ing time and something snapped one day. I just can’t do this anymore. I used to be so much fun and I used to have so much energy. I was just drinking all the time, I was f—ing miserable, I was fighting with everybody. For ‘Ex Lives,’ the whole process of writing and recording was good. Like, f— it. I’m in an aggressive band. It’s angry music so I should be angry, so I’m just gonna keep being angry. Who gives a s–t? It got to a point where it was so boring, being angry is f—ing boring. So I kind of turned it up a little bit and then we started writing ‘From Parts Unknown’ and approached it with a different attitude. Now I like things again, having more fun again [Laughs].
I’m sure a lot of your fans are going to want to know as much as they can about the lyrical concepts in ‘From Parts Unknown.’ What can you tell me about it?
I think I pretty much did. I was just sick of being miserable all the time. A lot of that is more hopeful than the last one was, it’s a lot less entitled than the last one was, I think. I feel like I expected so much of my life at that point and it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I had been working so hard and I had been doing this for so f—ing long and I’m miserable, I’m poor, I’m f—ing angry. Why is this all happening to me? F— everybody. But this one is like, actually, I have a really blessed life. I get to f—ing tour the world and I should start being appreciative of that.
Can people expect for you to address that in your lyrics?
No. I was just saying that in the last interview. It’s not me addressing it. It’s not me going back and forth and dipping into my old lyrics and saying, ‘Oh, I was wrong about that.’ It’s a clean slate and we’re just moving forward now.
So it’s the product of the change.
Exactly, rather than the process of the change.
I think fans would love to know what you’ve been reading lately.
Right now I’m reading a book called ‘The Souls Code,’ which was given to me by my mom. It’s about, oddly enough, your purpose in life. It’s a bunch of stories about famous people and it starts with where they ended and it goes back through their lives as to how everything they did led up and fit into this big picture. Its really interesting, because its about people that were famous and died of drug overdoses because they couldn’t figure out how to get along with the rest of the world.
Essentially, it’s saying that everyone starts off as a perfect human and you have to figure out how to become mortal, I guess. So you get these huge immortal figures, these massive larger than life people and they never figure out how to become mortal, they end up killing themselves. It’s all these examples of how they died, drug overdoses, suicides. But then it takes all these other ones and shows that this person did this that made them more personable and because they figured out a way to relate to their audience, they became these legends. It’s really interesting. It takes all these awesome stories and goes backwards instead of forwards, like reverse biographies. It’s called ‘The Soul’s Code.’
Some of those themes sound a little familiar to what you were just telling me about yourself.
Yeah, I think it’s something that’s a part of my life and all these little things happen for a reason. I started to appreciate that.
Going back to when you said you were bored all the time, I can imagine you being the type to lock yourself away, be surrounded by tons of books and be perfectly happy.
"I needed to re-introduce myself back into the world."I’m not. It’s kind of charismatic to say, ‘Oh yeah, I lock myself in the house and I just read,” but I don’t. I need to interact with people, I really do. I can’t be alone all the time. I used to think I could and that’s probably why I was so f—ing miserable because I just refused to go out and do anything unless I was getting f—ing raging drunk and then I wouldn’t remember talking to anyone anyway. [Laughs] I needed to re-introduce myself back into the world. It was cool going back to the place I used to work before the band was touring. To go back and work with some of the same people, it was neat.
Any fans drop by and recognize you?
No. Luckily, that’s the cool thing about Buffalo, no one gives a s–t about me. I’m absolutely a nobody and it’s great that way.
It’s really that preferable?
I think so. But that book, how all these little things eventually play into the larger story of people’s lives; I was working at the coffee shop just two days ago and my job there, after making the drinks was to yell out the order so the people in the restaurant can hear. It’s a huge building, so I had to learn how to project my voice at 21 years old and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, this is where I got it from!’ I worked on my ability to project my voice, I worked on my ability to address a bunch of people at the same time. It was all for a reason. I would have not known this had I not gone back.
It’s cool to put life into that perspective instead of just thinking, “Why the f— did this happen to me? All this s–t only happened to me because I have bad luck and God hates me and the world hates me and everyone is against me and f— everybody else!” Instead of looking at it like that, which is how I looked at it for 33 years, even the bad stuff has to be for a reason. I’ll figure it out eventually.
Be sure to pick up ‘From Parts Unknown’ on July 1. To pre-order the album, click here.