"I've rebelled against all types of conformity throughout my life, not just Utah's conservative culture," he says. "I rebelled against the Mormon Church by going to other churches. I rebelled against my parents by not eating meat. I rebelled against my friends and myself by doing drugs. And I rebelled against everything that was holding me down by playing music with these guys."
When vocalist of The Used, Bert McCracken is asked exactly what he rebelled against growing up, he'll give you a grin and say the time-old honest answer, "Whattaya got?"
These four guys had to overcome many things to bring their punk, post-hardcore, screamo-tingled brand of music to life. Although every band has some sort of trouble in the beginning, The Used stands out particularly well seeing that their barriers fall into the categories of substance abuse, poverty, homelessness, and the huge battle of breaking down ties in their religious based town of Orem, Utah.
The Used is one of my favorite bands because their music speaks to me, in whispers, and claw-throat screams. First of all, even though singer Bert McCracken's voice is strangely high pitched, it has a raw quality that I haven't heard from any rocker yet, and that draws me in. Another thing is the blood-pumping guitars and still-humble bass lines. Last of all, it comes back to what I said in the beginning: They've gone through so much, and I realize, among many others, if they can do it, so can I. It takes a true straight-laced attitude of a rock band to do that. And The Used's new album, Lies for the Liars, is just the extra sweet icing on the punk rock-fest cake.
But now I'm getting ahead of myself. The Used's before-the-band history can be summed up quickly: Four boys on separate paths of life going nowhere. Somewhere between Spiderman Pajamas and Iron Maiden, they hit a wall. It was only a matter of time before the jumped over it.
Guitarist Quinn Allman, bassist Jepha Howard, and drummer Branden Steineckert were just looking to play music, nothing too serious, and one day they came together with a temporary early vocalist and started jamming. Quinn, Jepha and Branden were pretty happy with the demos, and sent them off to a few random deals. They came back with bad news. "You singer is horrible. Get voice lessons or get a new vocalist, pronto." After the guys re-hinged their jaws, they sent their current singer at the time running, and held up fliers for auditions for a new screaming songbird.
Now, let's zoom into Bert McCracken.
Boy drops out of school and becomes a vegetarian to anger Mormon parents. Boy states he doesn't want to live the Mormon way of life to parents, parents kick him out. He finds drugs and rock and roll, but drugs are most prominent. Boy discovers heroin, crystal meth, marijuana and alcohol. Yet, he is so high and numb he loses job, and is homeless. One afternoon, this certain boy sees a poster stapled to the telephone pole. Boy figures out that there might be a last chance after all.
Okay, going back to first person now. When Bert McCracken shows up for the audition and sings, the guys of The Used are mesmerized. Sure, his voice wasn't perfect. But this guy had more stage presence then the small practice space could contain. Quinn remembered Bert from high school, before the boy dropped out. After the audition, The Used handed Bert a CD with recorded music on it. After McCracken came back the next day with a complete vocal part for the song, they welcomed him immediately
Now that The Used had a steady line-up in place, and raw talent to be discovered, the band started sending their songs to John Feldmann, an American musician and producer who worked with Goldfinger, who was indifferent about their music until he heard the song "A Box of Sharp Objects." That's when he realized he had to work with The Used.
Feldmann called them in for a demo, and when the demo was done in 2001, he got The Used signed onto Reprise Records. Being signed onto Reprise was pretty good seeing that just a few weeks ago they were living in their parents' basements and out on the street.
"In our minds, it wasn't an option to fail," says bassist Jeph Howard. "We didn't have anything to fall back on."
Meanwhile, the band was helping Bert get over his drug problem. Slowly, with the help of his band mates, and the making of their self-titled debut album, Bert began to heal. He came off of many drugs he had been using before the band started, and really began pushing himself into The Used's music. It's evident on "The Used", released on June 25th, 2002, was a big hit, because the sales were excellent in the first week, and those sales continued into months, and as of now, the debut is platinum.
After a many, many months of touring (almost two years including the Vans Warped Tour, Ozzfest, and more recently, Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution Tour) the Used went back into the studio a changed band, somehow. Gone were the boys from Orem, Utah. Now they were real rockers, true and passionate. And they came out of the studio with a rock masterpiece: In Love and Death.
The Used's second studio album was released on September 28th, 2004, and since, the album has gone platinum as well. Although I love all the tracks on this album, my three personal favorites are "Light with a Sharpened Edge," "Cut Up Angels," and, of course, the cover of Queen/featuring David Bowie's song "Under Pressure."
The Used and My Chemical Romance teamed up for a way to raise Tsunami relief-they sold this cover on itunes for $2. I love this song so much, because Bert's higher pitched voice, and the raw razorblade of Gerard Way's (lead vocalist of My Chemical Romance) voice create such a contrast, and the tune of the song is awesome, too.
"Under Pressure" is the last song on the 2005 re-release of In Love and Death.
So, exactly what is In Love and Death made of?
As such, the album has incredible range. On one extreme, there's "Listening," a bullet-shaped juggernaut of syncopated guitar-bass-drums over which Bert alternately caterwauls and croons, simultaneously singing about and approximating a communication breakdown. On the other extreme, there's "Lunacy Fringe," a jaunty, Bacharach-esque pop number arranged for brushed snare, stand-up bass and pizzicato strings. -Star Pulse
"I don't think we could have written the first album again because we're all such different people now," says Branden. "Before, we were just writing alone in our house and we were hungry and we were trying to work jobs and we couldn't afford drum sticks and strings. Those things were easier to come by this time, but we had new challenges and new pressures weighing upon us."
Even with the pressure, The Used's sophomore album turned out great, and there are reviews to prove it.
You can write a book on that, missy.
For the few years after the album, we've followed The Used through extensive interviews, huge concert venues, and near the most recent times, a line-up change.
After Berth a DVD set was released in February 2006, The Used had some drama going on.
Branden Steineckert, the drummer, left the band in September 2006. What was the problem? Bert says. "There were emotional issues and personal issues with Braden and another member of the band. I personally love the guy to death, and wish him luck on whatever he pursues next."
Some theories of Branden's leaving were his engagement to The Used's merch girl, Spike, and his producing other bands.
Currently, Branden is drumming for Rancid.
The new drummer of The Used had been chosen. Dan Whitesides, formerly of New Transit Direction.
After the line-up change, a few months passed of silence form the band, before the single "The Bird and the Worm" was released, along with an amazing new music video that has had heavy rotation on all video networks.
Once "The Bird and The Worm," had caught people's attention, The Used released "Lies for the Liars", which took their breath away. It was by far heir best, most fun, creative album yet. A lot of things have changed, including Bert's vocal performance's, which have improved drastically.
Quinn once described Bert as "as chemical reaction between Mick Jagger and a werewolf." That seems to fit Bert just fine now, including his freshly dyed blonde hair.
"Lies for The Liars," there is not one thing I can say to describe it. I plan on doing a CD review on it as soon as possible. Stay tuned for that.
Now here are the personal biographies of the members of The Used. Since this article is already quite lengthy, I've shortened them up a bit.
Bert McCracken-Vocals: Robert Edward McCracken was born on February 25th, 1982. He was born in Orem Utah, and was raised in a Mormon family. Bert was inspired to sing by Michael Jackson, and got into music by playing the trumpet in his local band. After he rebelled against his Mormon upbringing, his parents kicked him out on the street, where McCracken worked low-end jobs and was submersed in drugs and alcohol. This was his lifestyle for a while before he found The Used. (Well, you know. The rest is history!)
Fast-forward a year and a half: On May 27th, 2003, Bert fell on stage, and found out he could not continue singing.
He was rushed to the hospital where Bert was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, and stayed down-lo for a while. After two months, The Used started to record In Love and Death
Bert has also done some side things away from the band like giving backing vocals to the My Chemical Romance song "You Know What They do to Guys Like Us in Prison" and creating the song "Under Pressure".
Besides being the vocalist, Bert also does the keyboards, piano, and other temporary instruments in the band.
Quinn Allman-Guitar: Quinn was born January 18th, 1982 in Orem, Utah. His family has not particularly fond of Quinn playing the guitar, but if it weren't for Quinn Allman, The Used wouldn't be what it is today. So, what kind of guitar makes Quinn's sound so good? He usually uses a Gibson's SG's as his main stage and recording guitars.
Quinn says that his rig is, "isn't complicated at all. I like it sweet and simple. It's the set and forget type."
Quinn hasn't done much away from The Used besides helping produce the band Evaline's CD while on the 2007 Taste Of Chaos and Warped tours.
He also did a lot of the backstage camera work for The Used's DVD of making Lies for The Liars.
Jepha Howard-Bass: Jepharee Michael Howard was born January 4th, 1979. He's been playing the bass since 8th grade, and it's his one, but not only passion. Jepha is also heavily involved in PETA, and is a vegetarian. (Woot!)
Jepha usually plays a Fender American Deluxe Precision Bass, and does a few of the backing vocals on The Used's latest album. Jepha's other interests are Japanese culture. "It's so weird, yet something I'm really into!" He states. He is an only child. Before joining The Used, he used to be a cook and baker.
Dan Whitesides-Drums: Dan Whitesides is now the official drummer of The Used, and is 29 years old, the oldest member of the band. Before joining the Used, he played in the band called New Transit Direction, for almost seven years! Dan began playing drums when he was 14. He says, "I remember my Dad bought me a drums et one year for Christmas." From there the drums just took off. Dan takes his cues from the greats like John Bonham, Keith Moon, and Mitch Mitchell, but he also has a big place in his heart for drummers like Peter Moffett, and Darren Zentek. Even before New Transit Direction, Dan was playing drums in many bands: Mich!gan, Sandkicker, Fale, Adherence, Farenheit 451, The Federation, Sprinklerhead, The Kill, The Wolfs, Form of Rocket, and Young Blood, and many more. Drums aren't Dan's only talent though. He says he plays a little guitar, and he was also a member of the NBA team the Utah Jazz.
Now that we know a lot about the band, what about their music? The Used's top 5 songs are as follows:
1. The Bird and The Worm
2. The Taste of Ink (awesome song from the debut)
3. Buried Myself Alive
4. A Box of Sharp Objects
5. Pretty Handsome Awkward
I hope you enjoyed The Used's biography. Even though they had a few struggles, these guys are the most down-to-earth rockers I've followed, but not to tame. Fuse had a segment on them, where The Used was called, "Crazy, wild, talented, and a group of very memorable guys." I think that sums The Used up quite nicely.
See you on the road,