Living in the midst of the thriving Bay Area thrash and metal scene it seemed appropriate to seek out a band that represents the best of what the scene has to offer right now. Hazzard’s Cure, one of the Bay Area’s most talented doom/stoner metal bands, met up with me in a dingy little storage closet at Bender’s Bar and Grill in San Francisco to talk about themselves, their music, the rapidly changing city, and the new generation of millennial metal heads. Since 2009, the band has consistently produced albums that showcase their uniquely Bay Area California sound.
Shane Bergman–Bassist, Vocals
Chris Corona–Guitarist, Vocals
Leo Buckley–Guitarist, Vocals
Tracy: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you guys all meet and…
Everyone: Ahh! [The lights went out in the storage closet.]
Clint: Fear of the dark, fear of the dark! That’s how we met—in a dark closet. Actually, do you remember when we used to—at Bryce’s first house in Oakland—when we were first hanging out, we’d go smoke weed in the closet?
Leo: Oh, yeah.
Clint: You and me and Alex and Bryce Nolan used to hotbox the closet?
Clint: We’d get insanely high.
Shane: We all played in bands that played together. We met at shows and then we all came together; it was like, “I wanna play with you, and I wanna play with you, and I wanna play with you,” and that was basically how we started playing together.
Clint: Eventually you realize which people you get along with best, and you decide to start a band with them because you know that you can stand them.
Chris: When Orb Of Confusion came apart, we wanted to continue playing together with somebody who fit a new idea that we were going for. Shane was the perfect person for that.
Tracy: What was the change from Orb Of Confusion to Hazzard’s Cure?
Leo: Laurie Safdie, our old bass player, worked, but it didn’t quite work. I wanted it to be more metal. She had her ideas of what kind of metal to do. Shane knew what we wanted.
Clint: Laurie had New York metal in her mind. We had to be straight-up Bay Area metal. So we had to get a Bay Area bass player.
Leo: The change with Shane brought what we were wanting rather than what Laurie brought.
Tracy: What’s a Bay Area metal band?
Chris: There are a lot of them.
Clint: For some reason, the Bay Area has produced some of the best metal bands in the world. The Bay Area has a superior metal scene.
Chris: It’s in the water.
Shane: There’s just something about it. You understand where different metal comes from no matter what. Just by hearing it.
Chris: Thrash could go in on it, too.
Clint: Yeah, thrash was born here. Another important thing about the Bay Area metal scene is that it’s not L.A. It’s California and California is the coolest fucking place, but you’ve got the Bay and you’ve got L.A. In L.A., it’s like you’re playing music to be in showbiz, you’re playing music for entertainment, you want to get fucking signed, you want to get big, because L.A. is the entertainment industry. The Bay is different—you’re in the Bay because you want to be in a good scene. You just want to play good and you want to play with good bands and be in a cool scene.
Chris: You know you’re not ever really going to “make it” like you would want to if you were in L.A.
Shane: No one’s looking for it to pay the bills up here
Leo: Well, it’s more creative up here, too. People are more willing to experimentwith all the different kinds of music in San Franciscoinstead of just doing what the status quo is doing.
Shane: They aren’t doing it for the entertainment industry—they’re doing it because they want to.
Chris: When we established this band, it was pretty much natural. Everybody just knew. We could do any style that we want to and as long as we like what we’re doing, it works. It’s really cool.
Clint: We’re only trying to please ourselves. Some of our fans are pleased by the fact that we’re only trying to please ourselves. Thankfully.
Chris: Speak for yourself. [laughter]
Tracy: Are you all Bay Area natives?
Leo: I grew up two hours outside of San Francisco.
Clint: Leo is the closest.
Leo: Well, I’ve been here since ’99.
Chris: I’m a West Coast gypsy. San Diego, L.A., Seattle, here. I grew up mostly in Southern California.
Shane: Yeah, I grew up in Southern California, too. Temecula.
Chris: He’s a desert rocker.
Clint: I’ve lived in Northern California since 1990 and in Oakland since 2000. So I’ve been around here for a while. None of us just moved here.
Leo: But we’ve all been here since our twenties.
Chris: Yeah, ’93.
Shane: I just knew that coming up here, this is where the good music came from and I knew where I could find good people I could play with. And that was very fucking true. I think a lot of people feel that way. There’s just something about it.
Chris: Well, the male to female ratio is whatever. [laughter] There’s always that. (In the Bay Area metal scene, there are definitely more long-haired men than there are women in the crowd.)
Leo: Well, I think because we all came here in our twenties that—at this point it’s changed, but I mean when we were younger, you came here because there was so much culture going on. Every part of the culture is very creative. There are so many different scenes you can find in San Francisco. Whatever you’re into, you can find in San Francisco. And I feel like people in San Francisco try different things—there’s more creativity and experimentation here. Where if I go up to Portland or Seattle, it’s a more homogenized scene culturally and you don’t get the sort of influences you would if you were here—it’s a total melting pot.
Chris: It’s probably because everyone comes here from somewhere else and it’s such a mix of different stuff.
Clint: Hardly any one is a native.
Leo: Most natives move. I’ve found most natives move to SoCal.
Clint: It’s a rite of passage to move away from the place that you were born. You’re sick of the place you grew up in. You always move.
Tracy: Where did each of you move from?
Chris: I’m from Earth. I don’t know where these guys are from.
Leo: I grew up in Salinas/Monterey.
Shane: For the most part, Temecula, California.
Clint: I was born in Ohio, lived in Alabama, and grew up in the foothills of Northern California.
Chris: He was raised by wolves. [laughter]
Shane: Look at that wolf face.
Leo: I heard there was this guy, Lukas, who used to get high back here and forget to make burgers.
Clint: Lukas made a damn good hamburger.
Shane: So let’s talk about Lukas and how amazing Lukas is.
Chris: Have you seen all the artwork he’s done for all of our album covers? (The Ugly album cover designed/illustrated by Lukas Krieg)
Tracy: Yes. They’re amazing.
Clint: He does all the artwork for our band.
Chris: It’s so crazy. You can look at it and keep looking at it and see some new detail that you never noticed before.
Shane: Lukas Krieg is one of our most favorite people on the planet and he does all our artwork for a reason because it all comes from some place…
Clint: His art is just as crazy as our music.
Chris: Yeah. It seems to fit and we love him to death.
Clint: For you readers out there, I’d love to give some background on Lukas Krieg. He hails from Olympia, WA, and his whole life, it seems, has been a spiritual quest of some sort. He befriends the animals. He’s given most of us most of our tattoos.
Leo: I’m still going to get a tattoo from him.
Shane: Leo’s first tattoo is going to be from Lukas.
Chris: Lukas is a fawn. He’s like, a wild thing—energy. Anything can happen when you are with Lukas.
Clint: Anyway, he’s our friend, a very good friend of ours, and he’s on our wavelength for the band. And Lukas Krieg is our Derek Riggs. (Derek Riggs designed and illustrated Iron Maiden’s album covers.) We’re just going to have him do all of our album covers.
Shane: Remember that house we were at with Lukas? We rolled up and we were all partying in the backyard on a bunch of mushrooms.
Clint: We did shitloads of mushrooms. We went to this party where we didn’t know anybody and it was pretty awkward, because we were all on mushrooms and somebody’s wife drops their wedding ring down the sink, and people started pointing fingers.
Shane: “You went inside to use the bathroom,” to Leo. We were just like, “We don’t know what you’re talking about. None of have any wedding rings on us.”
Chris: “Why don’t you all look to see if there’s a ring in the sink, maybe? Let’s check it out.”
Shane: And I don’t know how it happened, but we all ended up in the same room watching Game of Thrones together.
Clint: All’s well that ends well with everybody watching Game of Thrones together.
Chris: It would have been weird if we were watching Lord of the Rings. [laughter]
Clint: This would have never happened if Lukas hadn’t given us a bell jar’s worth of mushrooms he had picked on the beach!
Shane: Full of sand, too.
Clint: Yeah, there was lots of sand in those.
Leo: I ate them over the course of an eighteen-hour period.
Clint: They were gritty. Leo was being so funny. That was the funniest I’ve ever seen him.
Tracy: Okay, so back to the music.
Clint: We just have a drug club called Hazzard’s Cure.
Chris: We’ve done more bumps than Jesus Christ. That’s not accurate truth.
Tracy: You all moved to the Bay Area. What has the evolution been over the past ten years?
Chris: We did a demo—we move pretty fast. Yeah, we did a demo, recorded, and toured. We did some short ones up and down the coast.
Clint: We’ve been touring the West most since the beginning. We’ve done five or six Northwest tours since we formed. We love going up there.
Chris: It’s always good for us.
Clint: There are a lot of really good bands up there. L.A. is always hit or miss. Hazzard’s Cure has only been to L.A. one time.
Chris: L.A. is weird. You can hit some pockets that are great, where there’s a good scene. It’s so huge; they don’t have a real central part. I mean, I grew up down there and I never felt like it had a—there are just so many things going on in so many different places and there are so many people down there.
Shane: And no one knows who you are down there—no one gives a shit.
Clint: L.A. is a big city with not a big scene—it’s got multiple micro-scenes that don’t interact at all.
Chris: They’ll promote their own shows and not go to yours. There’s definitely some cool shit, but it’s really small.
Clint: There’s cool shit, but it doesn’t last long and it’s always moving around. You have to be on point with what’s going on in L.A.
Tracy: As far as scenes that resonate with you, what would you say they are?
Chris: Well, it changes. For a while it’s Inland (Inland Empire)—there are some cool spots here and there that would be good to tour and stop. Doing three shows on the way down or back because it would be better to play in L.A. proper, but those venue shows just really suck. We would be better off to do a house party or warehouse show—that kind of crowd. Trying to play a club down there? Don’t even bother. I’d rather just keep going.
Chris: We played with good bands, though.
Clint: We played with Bädr Vogu. Shane was sunburned as fuck. Before the L.A. show, we were in Santa Barbara and we pretty much all got wasted and fell asleep on the beach. Me and Shane passed out especially hard and got really, really sunburned. I was passed out on my side and got sunburned from my ear to my ankle all on one side of my body.
Shane: My arm was fucked.
Clint: After that, we started calling that tour Weekend at “Burnie’s”.
Chris: I was probably the dead body—I was pretty wasted walking around all day. I slept all the way from Santa Barbara to L.A. You woke me up and we went to the Rainbow. Right when we walk out of Rainbow, I walk into fucking Bonnie Pointer from the Pointer Sisters.
Shane: First she was hitting on Leo.
Chris: Man, Bonnie came up to us with this evil eye and said, “Would you like me to play you a little guitar?” She really liked Leo.
Shane: I just can’t believe one of the fucking Pointer Sisters was sitting right next to us.
Chris: She gave us one of her CDs and signed it. I still have it.
Tracy: Are there other parts of the country that you’ve always wanted to perform for?
Chris: I’ve always wondered what it would be like to play for people down in the South who have never heard us before.
Shane: Like Texas.
Tracy: Where has been your favorite place to tour?
Chris: It would have to be the Northwest, because everything is so close together. You could play a show in Portland and then go play Seattle, Tacoma, and then Olympia, come back, and still do Portland again, or Salem or somewhere.
Clint: We’ve got a lot of good friends up there. It’s really easy. It’s like a second home for us.
Shane: You know, it’s a West Coast thing. Most people have lived up and down the coast.
Chris: A lot of the bands we play with up there, they come down here and play with us.
Shane: Everyone fucking knows each other.
Chris: I always feel bad, though, living in San Francisco, because bands come down and we go to stay at their places and they have fucking backyards and garages and big places, and we’re in tiny little apartments. I live in a studio.
Clint: You can’t have bands stay at your house.
Shane: It’s hard to return the favor.
Tracy: In the five years that you guys have been together, and approximately ten that you’ve all been living down here, what do you feel like the evolution of the scene has been?
Chris: It’s always been pretty marginalized. It’s not the main scene in town, but it’s a good one. There’s always other stuff that’s more popular.
Shane: I don’t think it’ll ever get pushed out—it’s just going to get harder. Rent is insane right now. It’s not going to keep us from playing or creating or anything because, luckily, we all have places right now that we can stay at and afford.
Leo: We’ve all got rent control.
Shane: Yeah, we’ve all been here for long enough, but it’s definitely getting harder.
Chris: It was different, though, back in the ‘90s, when every night of the week there would be a house party with different bands. There were shows at Kilowatt, there was more stuff going on. You could go to four shows in one night easily, just walking around the Mission. Now, nobody has house parties—it’s unheard of.
Tracy: Unless you go to Oakland.
Chris: Yes, Oakland.
Leo: But even there they’re phasing out.
Tracy: It seems like there are a lot of evictions going around.
Shane: It’s a gold rush fucking town. Like, everything comes and goes and dies and comes back again.
Clint: It’s an awkward phase. People who really like the Bay and are really serious about it will stay here and hold on. The Bay Area is going through a trendy phase right now. It sucks, but it’ll pass.
Leo: I feel like every city is going through it. More people are moving in, more money is funneling in.
Shane: It’s these young fucking kids with money.
Clint: Urban living has become very trendy. Cool motherfuckers always knew it was cool to live downtown.
Chris: You usually worked somewhere near where you lived to avoid a commute with your car.
Clint: Commuting used to be cool and now it’s not.
Chris: I grew up in L.A.—it sucked.
Leo: Artists will always try to find a way.
Shane: It also makes what you do more sincere and real and shows that you give a shit.
Tracy: Do you feel like the fight to stay is stronger because of the speed of gentrification that’s happening all over the Bay Area?
Leo: Yeah. Hell, yeah. I feel like, “Fuck you, I’ve been here. I’ve been living here. We’ve been doing this for so long and we are going to continue to do this.”
Shane: They can kick us out tomorrow, but it’s not going to stop us from fucking playing music. No matter what.
Leo: We’ll still figure it out.
Chris: I mean, we don’t even practice anyway. [laughter]
Leo: The desire is always there to do it, but the pool is getting smaller.
Clint: A lot of the bands from the Bay Area have moved to Portland in the last few years, which has diminished the scene.
Chris: Or to L.A., Pittsburgh, or New York.
Clint: A lot of them had to move because it got to be too expensive. I’m not going to say we have a worse scene now, but it’s not as big. Some people want to stay and hang on to it, and some people choose to move away.
Leo: It’s shrunk somewhat, but there are still people who want to make music and want to hear it. Some people are getting older and some just can’t afford it anymore, but the quality is still there.
Chris: It’s always inspiring to me to meet kids who are super stoked and are totally into metal. There are a lot of kids who carry a torch for that shit.
Tracy: Chris, you’ve seen the evolution over the course of decades. Do you feel like it’s still as authentic as it was in the ‘80s and ‘90s? Do you feel like in the 2000s, and now reaching 2015, that it’s held its own?
Chris: It’s still real but there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t, so it’s hard to say.
Leo: I feel like a lot of the people around from the ‘90s scene still do some of the best stuff.
Tracy: I feel like the ‘90s are making a resurgence again, just like with every decade before. But do you feel like it’s as authentic as it was then, or do you feel like it’s taken on a totally different sound?
Chris: It’s always going to happen. There’s always a ten-year cycle. No matter how much time has gone by, you can’t really revive it, but you can celebrate it.
Clint: I think that authenticity is never a problem in the Bay Area scene.
Tracy: As opposed to?
Chris: Well, I don’t want to name names, but I beg to differ. I feel like we’ve been into lots of different stuff and if you listen to our first album, it’s got doom metal in it, a little thrash metal—it’s very technical. It’s proggy and it goes in so many different directions. It’s not trying to be one kind of metal thing. Our third we just did sounds like it’s more together, kind of coming from the same idea, and sounds the same but the style is all over the place. And the stuff we’re about to record in a couple months, it’s all over the place but the energy is all the same.
Tracy: Do you feel like you’re grounded despite the fact that things are evolving around you? Do you feel like you have a specific direction?
Clint: The city is changing, but we’re all on the same page. We grew up in the same scene here in the Bay Area and we have the same influences, for sure.
Chris: Well, it’s all what’s going on around and using that energy. You can’t help it, because it’s what you live and breathe.
Clint: We’re more influenced by local bands.
Chris: Yes, I’ve always felt that’s true.
Clint: Old bands are bigger. We love local bands. And I think that’s what’s great about the Bay Area—that you have some of the best bands in the world at your fingertips. They’re your friends and they’re drinking at the bar with you. We came up in the scene and we were hanging out with High On Fire and Ludicra and Saros and Brainoil and all these incredible bands. We don’t say, “We were influenced by Black Sabbath.” It’s like, that’s the past and the past is good, but we had some of the best bands in the world as our contemporary musicians right here in our scene. And that’s what really influences us—our friends. It’s kind of competitive, but it’s mostly just a friendly thing.
Chris: It’s healthy competition. Really. You really hope for good things that you like. You hope that they get good things to happen. It helps everybody, it really does.
Clint: We’re not trying to kick down the other band so we can get the record deal for ourselves, because we all know there is no record deal.
Chris: Please rip us off. [laughter]
Tracy: I feel like here, people are doing what they love to do and if it vibes with the group around them, great. It’s not for a specific monetary gain or notoriety or fame attached to it.
Shane: No one puts a dollar value on it here. It’s not about, “Oh, I know so-and-so who does this-and-that.” Here, it’s, “This is my friend who plays in this band.” It doesn’t matter how big your fucking band is or how small your fucking band is. We all still hang out at the same goddamned place.
Clint: I honestly can’t think of a good band, a really good band, that’s out there making money.
Shane: Every band that I can think of that’s really great; those guys are still coming back at the end and painting houses to pay their rent.
Chris: You really are lucky if you’re in a band and can just keep being a band. Like, that’s the hard part. That’s why DIY is so important.
Shane: No one is living off their music, no matter who you are. Neurosis isn’t living off their music. They’re one of the biggest metal bands out there and Dave still works a regular job every day.
Clint: The Melvins are the same way. Doing things exactly the way they want. They might actually be making a living off their music…
Chris: They are, but they work hard. Very hard. I feel like if I had all day to sit and make music, there’s no doubt I would make some killer shit, but I can’t. I have to go to work. All of this stuff that I would’ve thought of that day would’ve been cool, but the only time I have to do it is at practice because that’s the only time I have to write music. I mean, my favorite thing in the world is to wake up and get stoned and write music, but I don’t have time to do that every day. But there are some people who do and I hope they write really good music.
Tracy: Wow. The Melvins was my first concert at the North Shore Surf Club in Olympia.
Clint: I actually have the video of that concert!
Tracy: Unbelievable. I’d like to see that. I can’t tell you how many concerts I’ve been to lately where kids are just standing holding their cell phones. No one is dancing, no one is moving, no one is in the pit—it’s rather disturbing.
Chris: Well, you haven’t lived the moment unless it’s on Instagram or the Snapchat video is gone.
Shane: It’s just really weird that no one can actually just be somewhere. It’s like they have to prove it and post it for it to have happened. It’s just so goddamned strange.
Chris: It’s like Star Trek where those people were always connected to the Upper Beings and they could always hear their voices.
Shane: It’s annoying, too. Because you’re up there playing music and you don’t know if they’re taking a picture of the band…
Clint: …or if they’re texting their girlfriend. “Honey, I’m bringing the lettuce home soon.”
Chris: It’s like, the experience isn’t just yours anymore, you know? It’s like, you want to share.
Clint: But also, before cell phones, there were always those people who would just stand there with their arms folded, too cool to move.
Leo: But, still, their attention was focused on what you were doing.
Chris: What it cracks down to is trying to make it not a novel experience.
Leo: I get that we’re all trying to archive events, but still—the only way to experience it is to actually live it.
Clint: Nothing is real for kids today until it’s posted on the internet. Until someone else likes it, it just isn’t real.
Leo: Music is for the few artists who you get to see live. Everyone is trying to capture everything on their phone now so they can remember it later, but they have to go back and watch the video again to remember what fully happened.
Clint: Or you could actually pay attention to what’s going on right in front of you and just remember it.
Chris: In a few years, babies will be born with Alzheimer’s and they’ll need a camera to remember everything. [laughter]
Leo: Well, it’s funny because when there was the fire on the corner of 22nd and Mission, everyone was sitting there and recording shit. You know people are losing their livelihoods.
Tracy: It’s like, why don’t they have buckets?
Leo: Exactly. Too busy recording it.
Shane: It’s weird that everyone has become a voyeur.
Clint: I feel like cell phones and technology have made people even more into just observers rather than participators in reality.
Chris: Listen, people need to come to see us live because when you see us live, it smells like there’s a porno being made live on stage. It really does. [laughter]
Hazzard’s Cure, 2011
The Ugly, 2013