The California group The Black Hand is featured in this week’s Meet The Band. The Southern California electro metal outfit released their self-titled full-length debut earlier this year. Frontman and former professional BMX rider Chris Hughes introduces us to his band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of The Black Hand.
Chris Hughes: The Black Hand started in 2012 in a garage in Costa Mesa. At that time we didn’t have a name or any songs, we were just a bunch of misfits messing around trying to play some heavy music. We were drinking way too much, sleep was a word we didn’t know the meaning of, and the cops were at our door four days a week. Our neighbors literally hated us.
At that time it was only myself, our guitarist May Garavito and drummer Rob McDonald. Jeremy Grasso (keyboards) would come party with us and jam on occasion and eventually we all decided to make an actual project. Jeremy did all of the instrumental writing at that time and we used the name For The Old Fashioned. After working in the studio on this record we decided to go by a different name, something that was a little more fitting to the sound and easier to remember: The Black Hand.
Describe the songwriting process for your self-titled debut.
Jeremy gets things started by writing the foundation of the songs. After we have that we dissected it with the help of Chris Rakestraw. We would fine-tune everything until we couldn’t find any structural issues. After that I would write the lyrics.
How has your style/sound evolved from your EP?
A little less electronics, some heavier guitars and faster more rap influenced lyrics.
How did you hook up with Chris Rakestraw, and what has his impact been?
I snuck backstage at Warped Tour a few years ago, I looked the part so when I walked past security and told them in a panic I was late for my set, they didn’t question me. (laughs) When I was back there, I made a bunch of friends and one of them connected me to Rake after he heard our demo. His impact was pretty substantial, at least for me. He opened my brain to an entire spider web of views and thanks to him I am a much wiser songwriter.
What are some of the lyrical subjects you tackle?
Personal experiences mainly: the loss of loved ones, drug overdoses, suicide, bullying, mass murder, toxic relationships, addiction and overcoming fears.
The album has been out for a little while. How has the response been compared to your expectations going in?
I had zero expectations, because at the end of the day expectations mean nothing. I prefer to see what happens and react accordingly. Its been really cool to see such positive results. We are all very grateful for the love and support.
Tell us about the video shoot for “Where Are You Now” and the participation of Michael Cudlitz of The Walking Dead.
The video shoot was nothing short of intense, I felt a lot of pressure to perform my best and so did all the guys. Its not every day you work with someone on the level Cudlitz is on. He’s next level in every way, fearless and nuanced.
What has been your most memorable The Black Hand live show?
It’s hard to say. There are so many that are memorable for so many different reasons. Our album release show at the Viper Room was memorable because it was such a legendary venue and the crowd was all love for a band they had never seen before.
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
As for tour plans, we are currently setting one up and will announce via social media/Bands In Town. Stay tuned!
How did you get started in music?
My dad was always a huge music fan and a musician, so it was a part of my upbringing. It was something I always had but didn’t fully focus on until I was a bit older.
What drew you to heavy music?
My best friend introduced me to Slipknot in the 6th grade. That was the first time I had listened to screaming vocals and I was hooked!
What was the first concert you attended?
Linkin Park at the House of Blues March 4th, 2002. Such an amazing show, I got to meet the band after and they were all so cool. RIP Chester B.
What led you to originally pursue BMX instead of music?
It happened organically. I was addicted to the adrenaline of BMX and I was doing really well, making money, traveling and competing so I didn’t have any reason to not pursue it.
How did being a professional athlete prepare you for being a professional musician?
The pressure of competing and knowing that you may be injured severely makes playing shows feel fun and easy since all I have to worry about is performing. In many ways the business aspect of being an athlete got me mentally ready and saved me from a lot of potential mistakes in the music world.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Architects, Bring Me The Horizon, Black Tongue, Traitors, Slipknot, Cane Hill, Of Mice and Men, Linkin Park.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I would like to thank everyone for the support on this record, and I would like to promote anti ignorance. Be kind to each other. Life is precious, keep an open mind, and always know that nothing is permanent.
(interview published December 2, 2017)