UTG INTERVIEW: Bert McCracken of The Used

The Used

The Used likely need no introduction as they’ve become one of the most popular acts in their respective scene. In the band’s 11 year career, they’ve provided the masses with five acclaimed full-length studio albums, from their 2002 self-titled debut to their most recent effort, this year’s Vulnerable which peaked at number 8 on the Billboard 200 after its March release.

Vocalist Bert McCracken had a little down time before hitting the road again in a couple weeks and gave UTG the opportunity to speak with him about his love and dedication for music, what we can expect from the band in the coming months and much, much more. Read through and take advantage of this chance to get the scoop with Bert and The Used!

You guys have this short tour coming up with Twin Atlantic and Stars In Stereo. How did you choose those bands to bring along with you?
Twin Atlantic, I heard about briefly a little bit ago but since then I’ve kept hearing their name and hearing their name and in my life today, the way I’m living my life, I’m having trouble buying into the idea of coincidences. I feel like I’m slowly starting to believe that everything happens for a reason so I thought give ’em a shot, you know? Stars In Stereo are friends of ours. We did a tour with them and Dead Sara and they’re rad. They’re really awesome people.

So it looks like there’s only about 8 or 9 stops on this tour but you’re following up with some foreign dates into November. What are you looking forward to the most with those shows?
It’s cool to play in arenas and we’re doing a bunch of stuff with Evanescence, and they’re huge. We’re doing some South America dates and also Europe dates. It’ll be cool to kind of expand and play for some people who have maybe never heard of us before and that’s always fun. Also, just getting out. It’s super cold in Europe but it’s always a good time touring overseas. We’re very lucky and blessed to be able to travel and do what we love to do. It is fucking awesome.

What is your favorite part about being on the road and overseas with The Used?
The shows are what inspire me to do what I do. It’s the energy of the show, the positive energy. Just the amount of love that I think everyone can share. Seeing people sing along to words that I wrote that are very personal and knowing that maybe I’ve been able to inspire a few people along my little path.

Whether it be weird, funny or even scary maybe, what has been your most memorable interaction with a fan?
Well there’s this girl that I met, and this is kind of a sad story really but I always think about it and it’s tragic and this world is kind of a fucking rough place at times, ya know? This girl had been talking to a person online for about two years and they were saying that they were Bert and they had developed this really strong relationship and then when we met she was like really devastated. I’ll never forget that.

Wow. Well on a lighter note, Vulnerable did very well this year, peaking at impressive numbers on many charts. How have you been enjoying the success of the album?
It’s awesome just seeing that the fans are still there and we’re humbled by the experience. I mean, to release a record independently and to have it come out at 8 on the Billboard charts I think it was, is more incredible than I could ever explain with human words. To be able to do what I love to do for a living is a gift and a blessing and I’m very grateful for my life and my opportunity and hopefully I can give it all back. As much as I’ve been given in my life, hopefully I can give that all back.

So what led to the decision to switch from the label when transitioning from Artwork to Vulnerable?
We wanted to put our own stuff out for awhile because record labels are just business suits trying to make money and they really don’t give a shit about music and it sucks to have to pay people money when you work really hard for your art and to have people dismiss it so simply. It’s just demoralizing and devastating. So for a long time we just wanted to deal with people and work with people that we trust and that we know appreciate music. That’s why we hooked up with Hopeless for the distribution part of the record. They’re just exactly the same way we are. We’re far enough along into our career that we really understand why we do this. We do this because we love music and we have a gift to give back to the world. Record labels are such a massive, confusing mess of politics really.

Speaking of doing things independently, I’m sure you’ve noticed the recent Kickstarter craze. How do you feel about it?
I love it and I love the fact that it’s available. It’s necessary for art nowadays with so many bands out there and I would encourage people to go to my Twitter and my Instagram because I have posted a lot of Kickstarter stuff for friends and I actually have a little thing up right now for my friend Mataji. If you post more than ten bucks and send an e-mail with a screen shot and your phone number, I’ll give you a call and say thank you. We’re trying to raise ten grand for my friend and I’ve called about a hundred fans already and it’s pretty rad to know that people still really care about music and it gives me faith and hope in humanity and inspires me to be a better writer and a better person in general.

It’s crazy to see how much people do actually still spend on music. Some of these bands have tripled, and more, their original goals.
You know what’s absolutely insane to me are the people that talk shit and one thing that I think fans especially don’t understand is that there’s no fame or fortune in rock n’ roll music anymore. None of us are rich. We went out on Warped Tour and got paid less than minimum wage, you know what I mean? We do this because we fucking love to do it. Period.

Yeah, definitely. It’s the same for people in my field. I don’t get paid to do this but I love doing this and I would do it for the rest of my life with no money, but it is tough.
See, I have huge respect for you and I’m in the same boat, man. I’m gonna make music no matter what, whether I’m homeless or whether I’m fucking rich. It doesn’t make a fucking difference to me. I never started doing this because I wanted to be famous or rich. So those people should probably just shut up and support music (laughing).

Have you guys already begun work on your next effort or is that a ways off?
We’re always writing. I’m continuously writing. I probably wrote for like 3 hours last night. There’s always writing going on and we plan on recording a few songs coming up and it helps to be on tour because we all live in different areas; Dan and Quinn still live in Salt Lake and I live in LA, and Jeph lives in LA, so it’s easier for us to write when we’re all together and that’s how I kind of like to do it. But hopefully we’ll have some new music out by next Summer. There’s some talks of maybe doing some dates on the Warped Tour again so we’ll see what we see, so keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground because we’re always writing.

What influences have come into your life since working on Vulnerable that you could see playing a major role in the next album?
Number one for me is Stephen King. I’ve read a few books from him in the past but I never really got deep into it and I read The Dark Tower series, all 7 books, and I was like obsessed. I’d read for like six to eight hours a day and after I read those I had to start from the beginning so I’ve been going through every novel that he’s written chronologically and he is… a goddamn genius. He’s inspired me to expand my art and hopefully some day I’ll be able to write a novel and get back into school so I can learn how to do it for real. But yeah, he’s made me a better person, a better writer and given me courage to kind of face some of the fears that I deal with on a daily basis.

You mentioned maybe playing Warped Tour again. You guys played the tour this Summer for the first time since 2007. How did Warped feel to you this year in comparison to the last time you had played?
It’s amazing. The sponsors are all crazy big now and it’s gotten bigger every year that I’ve seen it. There’s not as many punk bands this year as there have been the previous years we’ve played it but we set like record breaking numbers almost every day for the Warped Tour. The San Francisco show for example; the biggest crowd they had was like 15,000 and this last Summer they had 22,000 people there. It was absolutely insane to see the amount of support The Used still has, and humbling really.

Have you noticed any significant difference in the crowd as far as age or anything?
Yeah. I feel like we played to a lot of people’s younger brothers and sisters. A lot of people that maybe had never really had the chance to check out The Used and it’s cool to see a younger crowd and to see what they’re into and what they’re passionate about. Pierce The Veil, Miss May I and Of Mice and Men; these are some bands I never really got to check out before and I totally get why kids are crazy about ’em because they fuckin’ rock. It was awesome.

Why did you guys take such a long break in between Warped Tours?
No real reason. We were just kind of doing our own thing. There were two summers where we were actually off to write and we were going through all the stress and contention with the record label. No actual reasons. It just didn’t come up.

I know a lot of people were looking forward to a 10 year anniversary edition of your 2002 self-titled debut. Is there a reason you didn’t release one?
We’re actually working on an 11 year anniversary edition. We thought that would be a little cooler and we have a DVD coming out and tons and tons of special things for the die-hard Used fans that were around in 2001 and 2002.

This goes back a little ways but why did you choose “Under Pressure” when coming to a decision on which song to cover with My Chemical Romance?
That’s a good question. David Bowie and Freddie Mercury are two of my biggest influences I’d have to say. I have quite a few but I love what they’ve done, or what they did, with music. It’s a great song and the message in the song is still so valid and important today.

Based on album sales, the crowd response at shows and your general fan base, do you feel that The Used continue to grow in popularity or have you ever felt like your hey-day has come and passed?
I feel like every day that I inspire one new person is a hey-day and for me it’s not a popularity contest. Anyone that wants to come along on my musical journey with me is more than welcome. I respect everyone’s opinion so if you don’t like my band, that’s fine. Everyone has different tastes in music. That’s what makes music so beautiful is that there are so many different types.

So how does it feel to be a part of a group that have managed to stay relevant in an unpredictable scene for over a decade?
It feels incredible, man. It’s probably the greatest feeling ever. I’ve become so tight with these people. They’re not friends, they’re my family, you know? There’s nothing we haven’t been through and it feels to me just like the beginning. I’ll keep making music with The Used as long as people wanna keep listening. Thanks for all the support. Because of you, we get to do what we love to do.

An old favorite!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfNyKLjHohs]
Written and conducted by: Brian Lion

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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  • motherunhinged

    Great interview, Brian! Really enjoyed this. What a coup for you!

  • Thank you! :)