Chris Hornbrook, photo provided by ChrisHornbrook.com
Chris Hornbrook has been one of the most distinctive drummers in music for almost 20 years. Best known for his work with seminal modern metal innovators Poison The Well, in addition to sitting behind the kit for Senses Fail for the last few years, Chris is also known for his work with Big Black Delta and many other live and session gigs. For a guy as accomplished as he is, he comes across as humble and positive; something you can’t say about everyone who has been in the business this time.
Having just reunited with Poison The Well to play two shows, this seemed like a good place to begin:
They were really great and I personally had a blast. The headlining gig was obviously our thing, so that was a bit more fun because we had control over how the show went in terms of venue, lighting, monitors, etc. The set list felt really good, as was the people in the audiences enthusiasm and excitement. Skate and Surf was cool and I had a good time, too. A bit of a shorter set and since it wasn’t our show, the less control over all the variables that can make or break a show. Overall, it was really great.
Poison The Well in 2015, photo by Luis Ruiz
We next asked about the spark that brought PTW back together again and if there would be other shows in the future:
I think it had been in the back of heads for a while. We never stopped playing and recording because we didn’t want to create with one another or hated each other’s guts. PTW stopped because it had become too taxing for some and a few of the band members felt like it was time to take a step back. A break was needed. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the future with other shows. Nothing is confirmed yet.
Looking back, a lot of today’s bands, especially metalcore bands, owe Poison The Well some props at least as one of the originators of the style. We wondered if Chris, when he hears modern bands, does he feels proud, ripped off, or nonplussed?
I mean I would never say we were the originators of the whole “metalcore” thing. There were a ton of bands that came way before us that had laid the ground work down and produced some really interesting and cool stuff. From my perspective, we just wrote the right record at the right time. I think we could modestly take credit for helping popularizing that sound in the early 2000’s. In terms of today’s metalcore scene, I really have no feeling in either direction. I don’t listen to that genre much anymore and if I do dip into something heavy, it’s more of a “boutique” band and/or sound.
Being a band that was innovative and leader in their sub-genre, and then changed radically; sometimes this has the fan base at odds with a band and their creative choices. We asked if Chris agreed or disagreed with this notion:
Thank you and I agree with you. What I’ve come to see and learn is people get very emotionally attached to a record because of where they were in their lives at that point. What that record did to help them out and pull them through whatever time they were having, good or bad. So they REALLY get attached. It’s like they develop a personal and close relationship with that record much like a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife. Additional to that, people don’t like change, which is something that I find ironic as life is constantly changing. But, we’re creatures of habit and comfort…
So with that being said, when you serve up something that sounds different, you’re normally met with, well, whatever you’re met with. Sometimes good, but more likely than not, critical and bad because it’s not what they envisioned you to do. So PTW just learned not to really care, as being creative, trying new things and pushing into territory that we hadn’t been before became number one. This was advantageous and detrimental all at once.
Senses Fail just wrapped up a spring tour and their new album Pull The Thorns From Your Heart (Pure Noise) drops in about a month. What can fans expect from the record?
An extremely heavy record, very different than the bands past work. Once again, this is going to get very polarized responses. I’m trying to approach it the same way I do with PTW, not really caring because negativity can take its toll on you if you let it in.
Over the arc of a long career that started when he was still in high school, Chris has worked with some of the greats in music production. We asked if he had a favorite producer (production team and if there was anyone he’d like to work with given the chance.
Yes, I’m very lucky to have worked with some of the people that I have. I respect all the dudes that I’ve worked with in different ways and have taken different bits from each person, one not superseding the other. Hopefully, I can check off a few more names before I die. I’d really like to work with Steve Albini, Joe Barresi, Ken Andrews, Rick Rubin, Dave Fridmann just to name a few.
Booked for all of 2015 with projects and tours, we asked about his other gigs since he seems to be perpetually working:
Yes! I’m very lucky and stoked to have a full year of work. I’m already starting to hear of plans for next year, which is great. In terms of other projects, I have one with Beau from Saosin, but that’s been put on hold. We’re both really busy at the moment. Hopefully, we can resume sometime towards the end of the year.
Lastly we wanted to know what he does in his down time and what hobbies Chris enjoys
I’m a busy body / work-o-holic. I have to stay busy doing something or I’ll lose my mind. So, with that being said, I generally bounce in between drumming and learning more of that craft, spending time with my girlfriend and friends, and keeping on top of whatever business stuff I have going on. I fill in as much space as I can.
Chris Hornbrook can be seen this summer on the Vans Warped Tour with Senses Fail. You can follow his other projects and book him for lessons via his website.