Today, April 28, 2012, Bryan Crouch is able to use his voice as well as he could when he was sixteen years old. That is never something he thought he would be saying a year ago, when he was suffering from a vocal cord injury that not only destroyed his voice, but left him spitting out blood every day. He had already been singing through the pain for almost a year before he made the decision to leave his band, Hail the Villain, and seek help. Despite the uphill battle and an attempt to stay away from music, his love of the art pulled him back in.
Now Bryan is back, with a new project and a new voice. He has learned to alter the way he uses his voice, without losing his signature growl, scream and fire, for his new band, Six Side Die. Composed of Bryan and four talented musicians from his past, Six Side Die is ready to set the rock world ablaze with exciting new material, flaunted in the face of a run of ill circumstance and bad luck. To put it simply, it’s time for Bryan Crouch to roll the dice again.
Live ‘N Loud had the chance to talk to Bryan a few days ago. From the vocal cord injury, to leaving Hail the Villain, to starting Six Side Die, with a little hockey thrown in, here are the tales in Bryan’s own words.
LNL: So how have you been?
Bryan: I’ve been good. It’s been a crazy year. A little bit of a change in life and direction.
LNL: But still music, so that’s good.
Bryan: Well, you know what, honestly, I tried not to come back. I tried my hardest but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t stay away. It’s like a drug. And that drug has pulled me back too many times. This time though, I’m definitely doing it just for the sheer love of it.
LNL: So you feel like you’re in a positive, healthy creative state right now?
Bryan: Oh absolutely. One hundred percent. I’ve formed a band with a bunch of guys that I’ve known for quite some time and have done some great things. And I’ve also written with a producer who was my nemesis and my enemy through all of my time in Hail the Villain and before that. It was kind of funny that over a few beers you can change everything. We made amends. I got in the studio and we started making a record and I couldn’t believe how great it sounded and we just kept going with it.
LNL: Where are you right now?
Bryan: I’m in Toronto. I record downtown Toronto. By the old Sony/BMG building where I did a record with Hail the Villain before it was called Hail the Villain. It was called Fahrenheit.
LNL: It’s Saturday night now, what was the highlight of your week?
Bryan: The highlight of my week was getting together with the boys and having one of our first band practices. We got together yesterday. We were a member shy. Anthony was unable to make it. He’s the lead guitar player for the band, so I filled in on guitar, which doesn’t do it any justice. But it was still a blast and it sounded great so we had a lot of fun.
LNL: That’s the point, to have a good time.
Bryan: It’s different for me. It’s a different place, where before it was so serious and over the top ridiculous most of the time and this we just get together and it’s just me. When you’ve got guys that can play that well, you don’t really have to try. You can just let it happen and I can just be me.
LNL: It did seem like Hail the Villain was an entire packaged product, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it sounds like this is more purely about the music than just creating a package to sell.
Bryan: Yeah, I would love to create that package, but there’s two things that make it different this time. The one thing that’s different is money. I’m not sure where I sit with Warner at the moment, to tell you the truth. I’ve done this out of my own pocket. So, I’ve paid for this entire record. The amount of money that was dumped into Hail the Villain was so intense that you just couldn’t compete with that, to do the product that we tried to put together. The other thing is that it was Hail the Villain and I don’t want to associate too much of that with what I’m doing now.
LNL: When you started Hail the Villain, were you all in the same creative space and have the same vision and it changed over time?
Bryan: We did. It never changed. We always loved that vision and we always truly respected it. We thought it was the neatest thing, to come out with a marketing or branding idea but also to do it like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” where it was just creative and crazy. I think even when I left the band, that vision was still there. It’s not something I’m going to go and take from the four of us that made that and try and use it for myself.
LNL: When did you start realizing that you were having problems with your voice?
Bryan: Way before I met you! I knew before we went on Uproar. I knew when we were on the Sevendust tour. At the start of our Hail the Villain touring, I got allergies and I ended up one night… We were actually in Indiana at Piere’s and I popped my voice. I’d never cracked on stage before and I guess I was sick and I pushed too hard. I remember going back to the hotel saying to everybody, “I’ve got to stop. We’ve got to take a break from our next couple shows.” I wasn’t allowed to have the break and we just continued like nothing had happened. By the time I was on Uproar and by the time I met you I was spitting blood on a daily basis. I had a bleeding hemorrhage that wasn’t going to stop.
LNL: What was the final point that made you decide that you needed to stop and seek treatment? Since you sang through all of that, what was the cutting point for you?
Bryan: When I stopped caring what everyone was going to think of me. When I stopped caring how angry management was going to be. When I didn’t care about what the band thought anymore. When I just knew that this wasn’t going to get better. This was just going to continue to be a horrible situation. When I sang in Detroit, when you were there, I actually pulled off everything I used to do. I didn’t scream. I pulled off the mic. I just sang the set and I still hurt myself. I was at a point where I just couldn’t do this anymore and I just kind of grew the balls to say to everybody, this has to happen. Went out on a tour and I blew my voice out first night, when we were in Evanston, and I said, hey this has got to go. I’ve got to go see a doctor. The doctor sent me home and that’s when they had a real good look at things and decided this is a mess.
LNL: Was that when you were going out with Disturbed?
Bryan: No, he blew his voice out. Yeah, I had talked to him about that. On the whole Uproar I had a lot of conversations with Draimen about our voices. His problem was that he actually tore a cord. It had split. Mine was that I’d hemorrhaged it and I had a polyp on the other side and ended up finding nodules underneath my cord. Mine was just a dirty mess.
LNL: What kind of treatment was involved in your recovery?
Bryan: The two things that were essential – The most essential thing was time. I needed to not sing for a full year. That was the request of the doctor. And the other thing was to go through speech therapy and vocal therapy. Surgery was on the table, but surgery happens only when they can actually help you. And if I were to have gotten surgery, they couldn’t have fixed the hemorrhage. It was just going to be a callous that sits there for the rest of my life. Time was what I needed. Six months to a year was the request and after six months I could start to feel like if I needed to shout at somebody, I could shout. And I felt like if I needed to sing a note, I could hold it. And it didn’t hurt anymore. I think those changes were the ones that I needed to see. I was shouting and screaming all day yesterday and I’m talking better than I ever have. It was really just taking care of it properly and those were the treatments and remedies I needed. And time was the most important.
LNL: What have they told you about continuing to take care of your voice from this point forward?
Bryan: Well, the thing that was interesting was not to do what I did in Hail the Villain. That was step one. I could not sing like that, because it’s not humanly possible. It was the wrong key. We were tuned to B and I was screaming up to a high B to try and get over it cause my voice wasn’t low enough to do the low B. So you end up pushing up an octave that you normally wouldn’t. So tuning to E, the standard tuning, has really helped. And just making sure that I’m aware of how far I push things. Like, you don’t need to be rehearsing seven days a week and you don’t need to be out using your voice improperly. I do know how to use it a lot more properly than I did before.
LNL: What would you have done if you couldn’t have returned to singing?
Bryan: I think it would have made my decision to not return to music a lot easier, to tell you the truth. I think the fact that I could use my voice again like I did when I was sixteen forced me to say, I have to keep doing this. And I think that if my voice didn’t come back, I think I would have accepted reality. Because I had done so many great things in Hail the Villain, in my opinion, that it wasn’t about accomplishing any more. If you’re a painter and you lose your eyesight, you’ve got to find some other way to pass your time. I was kind of looking at it like that. I think that’s the honest answer that I can give you.
LNL: The impression that I get from what I’ve heard from other people and what I’ve read on the internet is that you just didn’t get support from the other members of Hail the Villain when you had to stop singing. Is that pretty correct or am I off base?
Bryan: That is a hundred percent correct.
LNL: When was the last time you talked to any of those guys?
Bryan: A year ago. I quit Hail the Villain in May.
LNL: That was when the video for “My Reward” came out, right?
Bryan: Yeah, I had told the band at that video shoot that I was unable to go on the Black Label Society tour. I told them that I went to a speech therapist, I went to the vocal trainer and they told me that I was in no shape to go and that I was actually worse today than when I came off the road with the injury and I need a full year to recover. And I said to them, so it’s either we run tracks, and I’m going to be honest, because that’s the option that we had. I just sing the easy parts and then tracks were going to run the rest of it or we take the time off and you let me get better. And they came back at me with, we don’t believe you, we think you’re full of shit, we think you’re crazy. And they went and got another singer and tried to do it without me.
LNL: And that didn’t go over very well!
Bryan: No! That was the thing, it was a big mess. That’s a big task to ask anybody to do, is to learn a bunch of songs, learn the melodies and learn the words and then try and put on a show. That’s not something someone’s going to be able to do in four days. That’s how long the guy had, four days. So I think my pain was that no one helped me with the financial aspect of getting my voice back. I had to pay out of my own pocket for all that stuff. And then when it came down to it, when I was asking for their support, their answer was, if you can’t do it we’ll find someone who can. And that was to me that was a betrayal of pretty epic proportion.
LNL: So how did your new band, Six Side Die, come together with the musicians who are in the band now?
Bryan: I called them. I put a thing on Facebook asking people that were interested and I picked my friends. I picked people that didn’t actually respond to that, just that I knew were incredible musicians.
LNL: So who else is in the band?
Bryan: Ok, so on drums a guy named Kelly Voelkel. He played in a band called Hollowick, around in Canada, that’s done quite well. He’s a phenomenal drummer. He’s really skilled in all percussion. And he’s just kind of a loony toon, like myself, when it comes to performing, so that should make for some pretty cool banter and some pretty cool stage presence, just the two of us together. On bass is a guy named Pat Kavanagh. And Pat comes to us from Threat Signal, which is a Canadian metal band. Just got off the road with Children of Bodom. They’re very heavy, very skilled band, and he’s just an awesome bass player. We have Anthony Xander on guitar, and out of all the members of the band, Anthony will be the one that will shock everyone the most, probably the most skilled guy I’ve ever played with or I’ve ever seen. He can do whatever you want anytime you want it. If you go to his YouTube channel and check out “Shreddies for Breakfast,” you can see what he’s capable of doing. The other guitar player is an old friend of mine. He’s kind of like a band-whore. He sort of hops from band to band, but he’s a really good guy. His name is Mike Liske and he plays rhythm guitar, plays better than most people and it’s just a treat to have him in the band.
LNL: Obviously comparisons are going to be made between Six Side Die and Hail the Villain, so I have to ask, how would you describe your new music compared to Hail the Villain’s music?
Bryan: This is purely melodic. It’s more simplistic but a lot bigger sounding. We wanted to have huge hooks and huge choruses. We wanted to take the anger out of the music and replace it with a lot of honesty, and just the way I was feeling. I think when I was in Hail the Villain, I was angry. I think in this band, I’m more aware of my surroundings and I’m able to control things a little bit differently. So you can hear that difference in the music.
LNL: When you were in the song writing process, was there anything you were drawing inspiration from, like music or movies or books?
Bryan: Nope. I think I was feeding off the fact that I honestly just felt really good. Musically, I haven’t heard a good rock band in a really long time. And I’m not sure I’m going to, just the way things are headed with music. Roadrunner, our record label, just shut down in the UK. It looks like that’s just going to be an ongoing trend. I don’t think you’ll see a lot of rock bands coming out so I’m not sure I’m going to have that type of inspiration. Books – I’m always into just fantasy stuff and nerding it out, so some of the inspiration comes from that. I read a lot of stuff from the Black Library, if you know what that is.
LNL: Uh, no.
Bryan: It’s got to do with Games Workshop, Warhammer.
LNL: Oh, Games Workshop! I play Talisman, which was by Games Workshop.
Bryan: There you go! I’m into all that type of stuff. I read a lot of fantasy books and sci-fi books. Hence the name Six Side Die kind of makes a lot of sense.
LNL: Tell me more about the band’s name.
Bryan: I have an obsession with luck and fate and chance and choice. Those things kind of don’t play together. I’ve always wondered whether I’ve just had extremely bad luck. And this band is all about second chances. And me just kind of rolling that dice one more time. It also plays to my extreme nerd side, which you saw with the comic books in Hail the Villain and you’ll see with this band.
LNL: So when is the first album going to be released?
Bryan: We’re going to release stuff in EPs, in the start. I didn’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity. So we’re going to be releasing four songs on June 6 and another four shortly after that. The thing is, they’re all recorded. It’s not like we have a lack of stuff, it’s just to pay for all the mixing and mastering. I didn’t want to skimp on it. We wanted to make sure we went all the way. So one EP pays for the next!
LNL: That’s good planning!
Bryan: If only the record companies were this smart. Just think about your overhead before you actually start doing it.
LNL: Yeah, that’s never gonna happen.
Bryan: No it’s not.
LNL: Do you guys have any plans for touring anytime soon?
Bryan: Of course. We’re going to do a radio tour in Canada and hit up all the markets that are starting to pick up on the band. We will make our way as we see fit. It is a self-financed band, so I’m not going to go out on a limb and just start hitting the U.S . unless something pops up, but you know what, I’ve got a lot of friends in high places. I wouldn’t take it off the table that I could be out there soon.
LNL: Do you see Six Side Die fitting in with a rock festival type of vibe?
Bryan: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I think that’s what we’re gonna be bred for. We’re going to be one of those bands that’s really good at just putting on one hell of a show with eighteen other bands being on the same bill. We’ll be the one who stands out.
LNL: You, with Hail the Villain, were a stand out band for me on the Uproar Tour, so I’m sure some of that will translate even to a different band.
Bryan: It’s hard to say that for sure and I appreciate you saying that. It’s just that sometimes four guys together can make a gem. And that gem might not be in all facets. I don’t think Hail the Villain had the music to really sustain itself. I think that was another huge complaint of mine in leaving the band. If you guys aren’t going to suck it up and know that we’ve got to write some bigger songs that are gonna be more radio friendly, we’re going to be sitting in this same place for a long time. I still think the band sold itself with its huge energy and image. And I think it was one of those things that stood out over most other bands.
LNL: Last year I asked you what you would want to do for a Hail the Villain arena show and without missing a beat, you said holograms. Now Tupac has done that, so you would just look like you’re falling behind…
Bryan: Tupac didn’t do that! Tupac’s dead. Tupac was brought back by some of his friends.
LNL: Do you have any more ideas for what a Six Side Die arena show would look like or is there someone you want to resurrect as a hologram?
Bryan: Wow, that’s a great question. Yeah, we’re gonna have Kurt on stage. No, that would be blasphemous. I would get in some serious shit. I might as well have John Lennon on stage with us. We’ve really got to play this band one step at a time and I shouldn’t answer that yet, until I know exactly what our live show is going to look like. So at this point, I know I didn’t miss a beat last time, and I try not to miss beats, but we’ve started jamming. We’ve had three jams together and for us to know the direction of how that show is going to look is something that I can’t tell you. All I know is that it sounds perfect already.
LNL: What’s the most important thing that you want people to know about Six Side Die?
Bryan: Honestly, I just want people to know that it’s a real band. It’s something that’s directly from my heart, something that I feel really passionate about. If there’s one thing that I really want them to know, it’s that the one reason I’m doing this is because I love music and if I didn’t, I could have definitely walked away. So I really want them to know that we put our heart and soul into making this a great band.
LNL: I saw a picture of you playing in the Juno Cup last year. What was that like?
Bryan: Probably the coolest moment of my life! I got to skate in front of twenty thousand people, being with all sorts of NHLers like Paul Coffey, and scoring on Curtis Joseph. And putting Gary Roberts in a headlock, pulling him down after he decks one of my fellow rock star players. It was the coolest thing that you could ever imagine!
LNL: So who do you think is going to take the Stanley Cup this year?
Bryan: Well, my Red Wings are gone, so I really don’t care… I’d like to see L.A. take it. I was really glad that they beat Vancouver because I hate Vancouver. I would say – L.A., they’ve got a really strong team. Nashville has a very strong team. I don’t know. Those two teams look good. From the east, I wouldn’t count New York out and if Philly can get some defense, they could beat it.
Thanks to Bryan for taking the time to fill us in on his struggles and his new project. Keep an eye on Six Side Die’s Facebook page for peeks at the new music. You can also follow the band on Twitter.