The Used with Head Automatica , the Bronx and The Bled at the Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay East), Sunday (October 31). $21.50 (sold out). 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
The used's Bert McCracken is one of those cookie-cutter wounded, troubled rock 'n' roll dudes. A former teenaged junkie, the vocalist suffers from wild mood swings and apparently has a love-hate relationship with booze, which he can't seem to give up even though his pancreas packed up and nearly gave out on him last year.
In short, his biggest problem might be that he's a walking, talking cliché. He's even taken all the negative experiences in life and channelled them into a new quasi-Zen philosophy about living in the moment.
Alas, like many similar clichés (Anthony Kiedis and Dave Navarro leap to mind), McCracken is a dull interview. Couple this with the fact that his tour manager has just roused him out of a late slumber (it's noon in Cullman, Washington) before putting him on the phone with me and you've got trouble.
I wonder if McCracken has met Duff McKagan, the former Guns N' Roses bassist whose pancreas exploded for similar reasons when he was just 29. (McKagan, incidentally, is an engaging interview and charming conversationalist.) Did McKagan's particularly gruesome story, which includes third-degree internal burns, have a hand in scaring him straight?
"Have I met Duff McKagan?" McCracken asks incredulously, then repeats the question twice as though he can't quite believe I've asked such a thing.
Uh, yeah. That's what I asked you.
"Well, yeah, but I don't drink three bottles of hard liquor a day."
So, he's been keeping a up a nice clean lifestyle?
"Not really. No."
The Used is a metal/emo/neo nu punk operation. Their latest and second release, In Love And Death, is an onslaught of power riffs, crammed arrangements, singing/screaming shifts and tortured lyrics.
McCracken sings in that nasal style popularized by Jello Biafra and mercilessly purloined ever since.
The recording of In Love And Death was punctuated by mishaps - drummer Branden Steineckert plays half the record with a broken foot - and infighting. McCracken also says it was a hard record for him to make.
He listens to his own work a lot. One journalist who spent some time with him observed that he listened to In Love And Death three times in one day. I ask why, and what he thinks about when listening to himself.
"That's the most insane question I've ever been asked," he replies. "Lots, I guess. It's therapeutic, almost. I've never been more proud of anything artistically in my life."
McCracken was raised Mormon in Orem, Utah, and spent some time rebelling against the Church. But when it comes to how his upbringing has affected his outlook on life, he's vague.
"It affected me the same way everything in our surroundings affects us."
His family is still Mormon, and they get along just fine.
"I have great respect for what people believe."
The Used are also involved with the first annual Taste Of Chaos tour that hits venues in February 2005, organized by the creator of the Warped Tour.
"We want to make it everything the Warped Tour is not," says McCracken. "Not just rock bands, but more kinds of artists, tattoos, naked chicks and cheap tickets."
McCracken has suffered a few blows this year. He lost a dog to a car accident and an ex-girlfriend to an overdose. This is where his new living-in-the-moment philosophy comes from.
"The experience in my life with death is helping me to appreciate seconds. Each second we're alive is a second closer."