Tell me how your band Crushed got started and introduce your band mates.
I'm Mark Lauer and I sing lead vocals and play rhythm guitar. Michael Brown plays bass guitar, Mike Halland plays lead guitar, Harry McCaleb plays keyboards and guitar, and our drummer is Jeff Garten. For the longest time, Mike and I handled the songwriting. I wrote the vocal melodies and lyrics; Mike comes up with all of the main guitar riffs. Slowly, in the rehearsals, the other guys started adding their ideas. I was influenced as a songwriter by goth-alternative bands from the 80's like The Church, The Mission U.K., and Sisters of Mercy. Mike was influenced by the guitar players in heavier bands like Prong, Korn, and Deftones. We try to mix all of that together. We were all in different bands and our drummer put out an ad that looked cool. He referenced Jane's Addiction and a bunch of other cool bands that were out at the time. I called his number and it's been the same guys for years. Harry was the latest addition three or four years ago.
Tell me all about your current CD, "My Machine."
We released "My Machine" in December 2006. I would describe us as a very full, very heavy, alternative guitar sound with a few vocals. Vocally, I can emulate just about anybody except for on the high end. I can sound like any of the popular bands in the heavy vein from the last five to ten years. I also like to go back to bands like The Cure, The Church, or Peter Murphy from Bauhaus, and bring some of that style. Imagine heavy D-tuned, seven-string guitars ala Korn, mixed with chiming Rickenbackers and Gretsch guitars over the top of it. If that's appealing, you'll like Crushed. Mike Clink of Guns N' Roses fame produced our record, and he refined our sound more than he changed it. But we did go over my vocals line by line, word by word, and he would change things he didn't like. He didn't really touch the melody or song structure. We tried several mixers until Fred Archambault (Avenged Sevenfold) came around. He embraced it with his heavy style and brought out the punch and clarity you hear on the record. We were on a defunct label from Philadelphia called Red Rocket. We were looking for producers and our demo fell into Mike Clink's lap. He followed up and flew to Arizona to meet us. When it was time to mix, we asked Mike to mix it but he declined. He wanted somebody else's touch and suggested Fred. Music fans can hear Crushed at our MySpace page, www.myspace.com/crushed, or at our website, www.crushed.net. They can download it at iTunes. CDBaby has it for sale, or they can go through our website.
I read a description of Crushed's sound and the writer said your band fuses goth and metal. When that's the sound a band chooses, talk about the challenge as a songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist to also have it melodic.
Our use of goth is not your typical black mood and black dress. I used to do that back in the day but not anymore. I don't paint my nails black. I don't wear all black on stage. It's not like you're getting a goth singer with Korn behind him. It's just goth sensibilities with a heavy aura around it that just envelops it. There is a challenge to singing over heavier riffs, and there are some where I just can't without sounding typical. That's already been done and we're trying to sound different. Mike keeps pushing and challenging me though, and it's very rewarding when we can get it done. We have a perfect example with our song "Lash," which may appear on our next record. It has great verses and a chorus, but there's a part where I just have to let the band go. I don't want to ruin it.
How can Crushed evolve as a band? Also, the Internet overwhelms music fans because of the sheer volume of bands with websites and MySpace pages. That being said, do you think a band can still pioneer and break new ground musically?
That's a good question. We think we've been doing the same thing all these years but we have evolved. We're so close to it that we can't see it. Maybe people are liking new songs we play live because we're adding more keyboards than we ever have. I'd like to try a song with no guitars, just keyboards, bass, and drums. We do have to evolve into something though; we just can't release another "My Machine." As for your second question, I wonder every day about the volume of bands. But every year, a few bands stand out, and they do break new ground musically. We don't know if we'll be one of those bands but we're going to give it the best shot we can. We really enjoy what we're doing, and we have to make the most of our association with Mike Clink and all of his hard work with us.
Talk about your live performance, your touring plans for 2007, and any other aspects of the band that I can help promote.
Live, up on stage, Crushed sounds a lot more open and full and overwhelming in a way at points of our songs. Our fans always say that we sound better live. Right now it's pretty much regional touring in the Southwest. A few years back a record label from San Francisco that we were on had us touring everywhere. We'll get to Los Angeles later this summer. Right now, it's pretty much anywhere we can drive to in six or eight hours. We'll go out there again if we can get any tour support. The Phoenix music scene is really diverse. It's a big college town and bands from here like Gin Blossoms and Jimmy Eat World dominated the local scene for a while. There's a heavy scene, even heavier than ours, where goth-industrial bands throw parties in empty warehouses and 800 kids show up. We have a video out now for our track called "Hovering." That's on YouTube. We mixed old family footage from the 60's with the band playing. We have all of the typical band merch available at our website. We'll really be promoting this record for the next 12 months with a lot of live shows.
Please share your thoughts on the senseless murder of Dimebag Darrell.
When Crushed first started, and even in rehearsals now, we'll play a Pantera riff. There's nothing like the guitar tone that Dimebag had. I never met anybody from Pantera, but I could really relate to what happened to Dimebag. On more than one occasion, we've had a gun drawn on me or somebody else in the band while we were playing in a small club. Luckily, no shots were fired. Somebody always grabbed the gun. My incident occurred in Phoenix, where somebody walked up to the bar wearing a long black coat. He pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and everybody was waiting for him to fire, but he never did. People eventually jumped him from behind and got the gun. Onstage, with all of the lights shining in my eyes, I could barely make out what was happening but I heard all of the details later. After it happened to Dimebag, it brought back all of my bad memories. I really feel for him and his family.