I’ve been to your Budapest show in 2005. Besides that, you only had one show in Seattle and another one in London in that year and you even recorded it on your DVD so it was surely an exclusive event that meant a lot to you.
Greg Bennick (vocals): It meant a huge amount to me to play these shows. Eastern Europe was always important to us and when the opportunity came to play in 2005, we wanted to play in Eastern Europe. And the only way that we could make it happen would be to play in London too, to help paying for the show here because we didn’t want the show to be so expensive that no-one can come. So it meant a lot to us to play here, it always means a lot to us to play in Eastern Europe. And also I remember the 2005 show how much energy there was in the room. And people from all over Eastern Europe came: there were people from Poland here, people from the Czech Republic, from all over people came. And it just meant so much that so many people came to support the band – and more just to support the ideas and to take part in these ideas. It was incredible. So I just remember people singing along and getting so energized. That’s really what this music is about: energy, passion and sincerity all put into focus.
Then in 2009, you came back to Europe for another two shows: one in the Czech Republic and one in Sweden. What made you decide to do a hole tour this time?
After we played in Sweden in 2009, our bassist Brian died in an accident. He was riding his moped, he crashed and he died. And for about a year we didn’t think that we would ever play again. I mean we’re thinking about him every day, all the time. But in the aftermath of Brian’s death we realized that just because one person dies doesn’t mean that everyone else cannot live and experience the band. It’s not just a band to us, it’s not just songs. It’s ideas, passion, motivation and inspiration all in one. These songs mean to me more than anything. So it’s not like we’re just playing rock music, it’s really significant. And we really wanted to continue So we thought why not come to Europe for a month and see what happens. And it’s incredible that it’s come together.
What do we have to know about the support bands, Anchor and Run With The Hunted?
Yeah, they’re great. Run With The Hunted are on their first European tour. They’re on Panic Records which is Tim’s (the guitarist of Trial) record label. They’re from Phoenix, Arizona and they play a very unusual type of hardcore. | It’s kind of noisy, kind of all over the place and at the same time really driving and really energetic. They’ve got a lot to say, they’re smart guys and I just love being on tour with them. One thing that’s special about their band is that often times an opening band on a package doesn’t get a lot of interest from people and every night Run With The Hunted ropes people and really gets people interested. I always joke that Anchor are Europe’s No. 1 party band. I think they’re tremendous, I love watching them and I think these guys can be huge. I mean really, really huge. They’re a hardcore band, they have integrity. They’re just straight edge guys that just want to play hardcore and be vegan and be awesome – and they are all of those things: straight edge, vegan and awesome. We’re very happy to get to tour with both these bands. Anchor are an experienced touring band. And so are Run With The Hunted, just not in Europe. So it’s been fun to be with them and have them experience Europe first hand, for the first time.
The last Trial album came out in 1999. What did you do between 2000 and 2005 when Trial weren’t really active?
I did a couple of things. I took some time off for sure. But I also co-produced some documentary films. And, more than anything else, I was thinking in the back of my mind about another band called Between Earth And Sky which is another band that I have. We were putting song ideas together for Between Earth And Sky during that time. And, actually, the Between Earth And Sky record finally came out just these last few months on Refuse Records from here in Europe after 11 years. Those 5 years, I was thinking about new projects and new ideas and new sorts of things. But when the opportunity came up again to play with Trial I was very happy and I am every time we play again so it’s been pretty amazing to have a chance to play.
What was the reason you stopped back then?
Any band exists as a relationship between its members. Over time, relationships get tense and when you’re in a band it’s like dating four other people at the once so it gets really tense and we just had a lot of internal tensions and we ended up fighting. In retrospect, remembering those times, Tim and I talk a lot now about how we get along now. And we didn’t get along very well sometimes then. You grow and you realize that the things you were fighting about aren’t that significant.
How did you manage to become such an important and influential band between 1995 and 2000 with your three albums?
I have no idea. I’ve been thinking about that and I think about that all the time but I have no idea. People ask that often and the only thing I can think of is that the songs and our approach to playing them live has integrity and sincerity and passion and people connect to that. I mean everybody wants to connect with something real and I think that the Trial songs are without pretension so people connect to that. And I think that during a time in music when we were playing when people were sort of doing what everyone else was doing, playing fast old school hardcore or not connecting intelligently to ideas, then we were doing something maybe slightly different and it just worked out in our favor. It’s really astounding that the band penetrated as much as it has. We were just amazed by that.
You have three albums and there are different versions to all three.
There was a demo and that demo came out on our „Through The Darkest Days” CD. There was also a 10 inch vinyl version of the demo and then there was a one sided 12 inch version of the demo that was put out by a label called Hipster Records in the mid 90s. „Are These our Lives?” came out on another label before Tim put it out on Panic Records and now that it’s on Panic Records it has the lyrics intact. On the other label, it didn’t have the lyrics, they took the lyrics out. So yeah, there’s different versions but not different song versions just different layouts and formats.
How would you describe Panic Records? What is the label’s position like on the international hardcore scene? Is it a strong label, a well known label with a good reputation?
Yeah, I think they’re a label that’s coming up for sure. I think that Panic Records is definitely coming up and they’re putting out good bands and a variety of bands, not all moshcore and people fighting each other and that sort of things. There’s a wide variety of bands on the label and I think Tim is doing really well with the bands that he’s putting out. He’s choosing bands wisely and they’re good bands. Run With The Hunted is a perfect example.
When you think of hardcore as a subculture, it’s huge and what makes it really awesome among many other tings is that you can approach music from so many different ways and aspects and you can convey lots of different messages. Pro-Pain or Biohazard mainly deal with urban reality and street life, then there are Madball and Agnostic Front with their community and family oriented lyrics, Catharsis was a totally political band, Earth Crisis is about vegan life – and there’s Trial that deal with a little bit of everything.
Sure, absolutely. Trial never wanted to be a particular type of band. Even when people identified us as a straight edge band, we never wanted to be just a straight edge band. That was actually the aspect of us not that interested me the least but rather was maybe the smallest piece of the puzzle. We were trying to be more conscious of what people were experiencing in their lives, whether or not they were straight edge. So yeah, we always try to bring a little bit of everything to our songs certainly, because ultimately our lives are a little bit of everything. Our lives are not juts of the streets or of family or of straight edge or of veganism. You’re a subtotal of all these different elements. So I think our songs should reflect that as well and I think that they have.
And this is what your life about also. I mean you’re a keynote speaker, a humanitarian activist, a producer, a writer, you’ve been involved in a lot of different things and different projects. So what came first in your life? These activities or hardcore? Did you bring all these with you to the hardcore scene or did you progress to this direction from the hardcore scene?
That’s a good question. What happened for me is that in a span of about two years I started presenting to audiences and getting involved in punk rock and hardcore when I was maybe 14 and 15 years old. So it kind of came together at once, the idea that through performance or through communication with other people you can have an impact on people and be impacted by them. And all the projects that I involve myself with, whether it’s acting in a film or speaking or being in Between Earth And Sky or in Trial, no matter what it is, all of them are focused on connecting with other human beings about the nature of life. Sure I create art but the purpose of art is not to create more art, it’s to create life. And you do that by connecting with other people and sharing your art. Then they get inspired, go out in the world and they live better lives as a result of the art that you’ve created. So that’s always the goal, to create a more enhanced feeling of life, a more passionate feeling about life in the people I interact with, with all these projects that I’m involved in.
On your website, you’ve been referred to as a philosopher…
I see myself as a communicator but there’s a man from a college in Washington who referred to me as a philosopher and I liked that quote because I would have never said that about myself but he did. But it’s not that there’s any one philosophy that drives me, it’s that we have a very limited time in the world and as a result of that limited time we have to live as fully and passionately as possible or else we’re doing a disservice to ourselves. So when you engage with life in that way, all that follows is what I explore with lyrics or ideas or communication, first place.
What’s the difference between preparing for a live show with Trial or for any other kind of performance? It’s totally different but, after all, it’s all about communicating and performing in front of audiences…
Yeah, it’s totally different but I think the main difference is that for a hardcore audience anything goes. I can scream, jump on somebody, fall on the floor, punch myself in the face – it’s all good. If I’m speaking before an audience, the circumstances are different. I’m not going to scream at the audience, I’m not going to jump on the audience. Instead, what I mean to do is communicate with them maybe intensely but I’m not going to cross a line that hardcore doesn’t have. So I prepare the same way mentally but I don’t prepare for the same onslaught physically. That’s the main difference… Ultimately, what we’re doing when we’re playing hardcore is we’re hitting drums, strumming strings and screaming. That’s it, that’s what’s happening at the core level. But there is more to it than that. There’s an artistry to the guitar, there’s an artistry to the drums and the artistry of the vocalization is communicating a specific message with the songs and the lyrics, at least for me. So when you get a break of 20 seconds or half a minute between songs, the very best thing you can do is engage people, let them know what you’re singing about because otherwise it’s just screaming. People might not be able to understand the lyrics when they don’t have the lyric sheet in front of them or they don’t know the words. To know what a song is about is very important. And if you only have lyrics or you only have music then you only got SO or NG and you don’t have SONG and you don’t have the whole package.
By the way, have you ever used interpreters on stage in places where people don’t speak English so well?
Typically, the people that are coming to our shows know what I’m talking about but I would be O.K. with using an interpreter if we had to. The problem is finding somebody who speaks English well enough that they get the intent of what you’re saying so they don’t change it in the translation.
What was it that you found so attractive and amazing in hardcore back then? Maybe that’s what you found the most suitable to get important messages across?
I’ll tell you exactly what happened. I was listening to metal. All I cared about was Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Dokken – that was my thing. And I still love all those bands. But I was in Connecticut with my friends and we were at a Hüsker Dü show. We were backstage and my friends and I were walking and two of the guys from Hüsker Dü were drinking some water from a water fountain. And my friend said to them: “Welcome to Connecticut.” And they turned around and my friend said: “Just don’t drink the water.” And he was joking. And they laughed. And I thought “Oh my gosh, you can talk to the performers. This is so cool. I can’t talk to Stephen Pearcy from Ratt. Don Dokken isn’t going to laugh at my joke. Vince Neil isn’t going to listen to me when I yell out to him. But these guys listen. This is so cool.” And it was in that moment that I realize you can interact with other entertainers or other performers or the bands in the hardcore scene. And I thought “Wow, that’s really immediate and very real.” Something about that was pretty fascinating to me. That’s what hooked me in there first, the idea of direct connection where people were accessible. And where ideas could be accessible. If you disagreed with somebody, you raised your hand and talked about it, raised your voice and talked about it with them. So that immediacy of connection was really what attracted me to hardcore in the first place.
What kind of stuff did you co-produce or write?
I co-produced some documentaries. One is called “Flight from Death”. It’s about human fear of death and how that influences our behavior. And then another called “The Philosopher Kings” which is about wisdom seen through the eyes of the janitors at American universities. We talked to janitors and custodians at American universities to hear what they had to say about life and how to live it. In terms of writing, I always have potential book projects going on in my mind and I’m always thinking about what could be coming next in terms of a book but I need to be working on a book sometimes years. So ask me again in a couple of months and I’ll have an answer for you for sure.
Did you ever think of writing an autobiography or publishing a tour diary – just like Henry Rollins did – if you have anything like that?
I definitely thought about it in the past and there’s potential for something like that to happen in the future for sure. It would really be fun because I think what Trial brings to this experience of touring and playing shows is this kind of freight train of passionate intensity. And I would love to capture it in a way that’s non-musical and non-lyrical. It would be cool, I would be really into that.
You will finish this tour in a few weeks and probably take a break. Then can we expect a new album or some more tours?
I don’t know if well do an album. I think the most we’ve ever said we would write would be a couple of songs if they ever came up at practice. What we would really want to do with Trial is tour South America, maybe some places we’ve not been. But it’s all up in the air. I mean everybody has other priorities of course. I’m focusing quite a bit on Between Earth And Sky and wanting to write a full length record for next Spring. We’re focusing on different projects so we’ll see. I mean I’m just happy to be here now, it’s an incredible experience, I’m just soaking in every second of it.
Can you sum up in a few words what exactly hardcore means to you as a lifestyle, as a subculture and as a style of music.
Hardcore is a musical genre that’s generally defined by intense music on some level or another, whether that’s loud, fast or emotional; that generally has ideas or passions or politics as the source of its lyrical content. Ask a hundred people and you’ll get a hundred answers as to what hardcore is. What hardcore means to me is the ability to communicate without second guessing myself because in my opinion anything goes at a hardcore show as long as it respects those people who are at the show – and their right to explore their own ideas and feelings as well. For me, it’s a way of life in terms of communicating with other people and connecting with other people. And as time goes on, I think that element of communication is really at the core of what hardcore is about. Communicating ideas in a way that’s direct and intense and passionate, not restraining yourself, not holding back. That’s what really happens at a hardcore shows: people don’t hold back, they lose it in the best possible way.