The Used

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The Used

“I’m more than happy to be doing an interview with such a cool, free magazine. It sounds like a human movement and I’d love to be of any help to you –­­­­­ we should keep in touch.” Bert McCracken happily announced when he called us to chat about his band’s upcoming national tour with Taking Back Sunday, and their latest album Imaginary Enemy. However, talk quickly turned to his passion for free press, his admiration for the works of Dostoevsky, Noam Chomsky and Stephen King, and his burgeoning initiative for the first “anti business” record label.
The Used are a band that should need no introduction. For over a decade they’ve dominated their genre, earning themselves platinum and gold album status while amassing a cult like following of millions worldwide. Even those who aren’t fans of their music cannot deny their impact as pioneers of the emo-punk scene.
With those thoughts in mind I’ll freely admit I went into this interview with the preconception I’d be speaking to a “rock star”, and prepared myself for repercussions that go along with that. So to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.
Bert McCracken began by remarking: “I love the idea of free thought – that’s what the greatest minds have been about since the beginning of time, especially since the beginning of print and of the press. I’m passionate about that.”
Bert is the articulate front man/lyricist of The Used. He tells me he’s enjoying his new life as an Australian citizen [although he doesn’t much care for our political system] and is revelling in the joys of fatherhood.
He is happy and grounded, but harbours an insatiable thirst for knowledge. He can often be found thumbing through hardbacks at the anarchist book shop in the leafy suburb of Rozelle, in Sydney’s inner-west. He confides that in books he found solace during darker times. “There are also a lot of courageous artists out there, living and dead. Like Theodore Dostoevsky – I really love his five prominent novels, but ‘Crime and Punishment’ is one of my favourites. Stephen King took me from a really terrible place and reminded me that I love to read and learn, so he’s significant in my life.
“One man that inspires me is a professor at MIT. He teaches linguistics but he’s also an anarchist, revolutionary and an activist – his name is Noam Chomsky. He really influenced me on this record [Imaginary Enemy]. I asked him to write an introduction to the three treatises or essays I wrote on the war on terrorism, the war on drugs and the war on poverty – he was nice enough to write me back and let me know that he didn’t have time,” Bert laughed. “I remember when I got his email I felt like a little kid at a concert for the first time, you know? That feeling reminded me that what we do is so important.”
That got Bert thinking about the shows coming up with buddies, Taking Back Sunday. “When we’re on the road it’s like family out there. We’re really comfortable and we have the same kind of ideology. These guys don’t believe in the idea of rock stars either, you know? They don’t believe that people should be treated differently because of the things they’re fortunate enough to get to do. We’re all fans of music first, and that’s the key.
“There’s a quote I love and it says that there are two types of people in the world, those who believe there are two types of people in the world and those who don’t – and personally I don’t.”
Another undeniably influential figure in the band’s early and continuing success is Goldfinger front man/celebrated songwriter/producer John Feldmann. “He’s one of the hardest working men in music.” Bert and Feldmann’s bond was cemented when Feldmann opened up his home to the previously troubled teen while producing their debut self titled album in 2002, and he has continued to work with them on all but one [Artwork 2009]. “His passion and integrity is so rare in this industry. I trust him 100 per cent – we’re so tight, he’s like family. John helps to even out my sometimes overbearing and outspoken attitude, and he’s a musical genius. I hope to do a solo record with him one day and put it out on my own label.”
Imaginary Enemy was released through the band’s indie label Anger Music, in partnership with Hopeless Records, and now they have plans to take it up a level.
“We’ve been working on this idea for the first ever anti business record label within the music industry, we want to call it ‘GAS Union’. Although, we’re still in the beginning of the process and we know it’s going to be very tough to fight all the big money in music,” Bert concedes. “We believe that music should be free. We want to start a kind of hard-core music union. As Australians, [he said with a cheeky smile] we’re lucky and we’ve gotta stick together and maybe the rest of the world will rise up!”
When&Where: 170 Russel, Melbourne – August 25 & 26
By Natalie Rogers