MTV rockers Crazy Town bring their scattershot musical formula to Chico
If there’s one trademark the band Crazy Town has established with its first two CDs, its musical diversity.
The group’s 1999 debut CD, The Gift of Game, which featured the chart-topping hit “Butterfly,” used the group’s hip-hop roots as a foundation and expanded from there into hard-hitting rap-rock ("Toxic"), techno-tinged rap-rock ("Darkside"), ambient grooves ("Black Cloud") and strong elements of r&b on “Butterfly” and “Revolving Door.”
The new CD, Darkhorse, retains some of the rap-rock sound but varies that mix with tuneful hard rock ("Hurt You So Bad"), blistering hard rock ("Waste of My Time"), a power ballad ("Sorry") and a tune that deftly combines r&b, rap and hard rock ("Change").
“I’ve been in a bunch of other bands, too, and none of them ever had this much freedom amongst themselves,” said Crazy Town guitarist Kraig “Squirrel” Tyler. “A lot of bands put barriers on themselves, like ‘We can’t do that. That’s too pretty.’ This band doesn’t think that way. If we think a song’s dope, then that’s it.”
And while Darkhorse is eclectic, Tyler is comfortable with the finished CD.
“To me I think that Darkhorse is more cohesive than The Gift of Game. Even so, it’s very eclectic, you can still tell that even [songs as different as] “Sorry” and “Take It to The Bridge” are by the same band.” Darkhorse arrived in November after a period of adjustment for the band.
First there was the sudden success of “Butterfly,” a single that sent sales of The Gift of Game rocketing from 100,000 to 2.5 million.
The chaotic emotions that came with the sudden popularity are reflected in some of the lyrics on Darkhorse, particularly in the song “Drowning,” while tunes like “Decorated,” “Them Days” and “Take It to the Bridge” give a glimpse into the ups and downs experienced by a touring band.
“Lyrically, this is non-fiction,” Tyler said of the Darkhorse CD.
“These are stories about us and experiences and emotions that we have. And you know, it’s a very, very real record. But instead of feeling exposed and naked about it, we feel good. It’s therapeutic.”
In addition to adjusting to their success, Crazy Town also made some significant changes in the band membership. The group, which includes vocalists Mazur and Seth “Shifty” Binzer, guitarists Tyler and Anthony “Trouble” Valli, bassist Doug “Faydoe” Miller and drummer Kyle Hollinger—chose not to utilize the talents of DJ AM (Adam Goldstein) on Darkhorse, although Tyler said Goldstein remains friends with the group and could contribute to future albums.
A bigger change came when the band brought in former Shuvel drummer Hollinger to replace JBJ (James Bradley Jr.), who left the band on amicable terms.
“In trying to make the kind of record that we were making and where we wanted to take Crazy Town, we really felt that Kyle could help us get there,” Tyler said. “JBJ can play. JBJ is an absolutely amazing drummer. But if you listen to The Gift of Game versus Darkhorse, there’s nothing with an r&b vibe on Darkhorse, and that’s where JBJ really shines.
“And Kyle has like a unique and new style,” Tyler said. “I don’t think he plays like anyone else. I think more than anyone he’s made the biggest difference on this new record.”
Of course, dealing with upheaval is nothing new to Crazy Town. In the decade since Mazur and Binzer met in Los Angeles, their lives have been marked by moments of success and occasional mishaps with drugs. In fact, one such episode nearly split the band. Binzer, depressed over the recent breakup with a girlfriend, went on a binge during Ozzfest 2000.
At a tour stop in North Carolina, he tossed a chair through a hotel window. Facing the prospect of being kicked off the tour, Crazy Town pulled out of Ozzfest.
“I can remember getting on the plane and how upset I was at that point in time back then,” Tyler said. “But you’re looking at what has happened since then, and that was one of the greatest things that ever happened to this band, because that’s when we all really realized how quickly this can all vanish and what do you want to do? Do you want to be home selling drugs and hustling or do you want to be out here making music and playing rock shows?”
Life has since settled down in the band. Tyler confirmed that Binzer has steered clear of heavy partying and recently got married. Mazur, as well, has a new positive influence in his life, a baby boy. The lessons they have learned seep into several songs on Darkhorse, most notably “Skull and Stars” and “Candy Coated.”
“I think everyone in this band has grown up a lot," Tyler said. "But that’s living through everything we’ve gone through during the last three or four years."