INTERVIEW: Derek Grant

Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2015

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It took a Breakdown for drummer-turned-frontman Derek Grant to make a breakthrough. The Alkaline Trio drummer opens up to Daniel Cribb on the substance abuse that led to his debut solo release.

He’s been drumming with US punk rock icons Alkaline Trio since 2001, often penning songs for the act, so it might be hard to believe that Derek Grant has had somewhat of a self-confessed writer’s block for a majority of his time in the band.

But, with a new solo record on the cusp of release, it’s clear something has happened in the past few years to reignite his passion. “It’s been pretty nerve-racking, actually,” Grant begins on the solo effort.

“I’ve been sitting on them for quite a while and not really sure if I was confident enough to put them out. It’s been really exciting, but I’m nervous about it in a way that I haven’t been nervous about anything that I’ve put out in years and years, because all the records that I’ve released are part of a group, so it’s easier to lean on other people, but with this, it’s just me.”

And to say Grant’s going full force with the release is understatement. The lyrics alone paint a detailed and personal picture of his life; focusing on a divorce that lead to depression and substance abuse. It’s fitting that Breakdown is the record’s title, and what lead to a wealth of inspiration that shattered his writers block. “The stuff that’s on Breakdown, it was really a breakthrough for me, in regard to writing, because I hadn’t written full songs – meaning music and lyrics – since I was a teenager, so there was this long period of not writing complete songs, and not being confident in my lyrics.

“And then all of a sudden I found myself in a certain place in life where there was an influx of inspiration and I felt like I had to get all this stuff out.”

Grant’s writing so much material, that he’s already working on a follow-up, and Breakdown almost wasn’t released. “It was a very important moment for me to write these songs, so it didn’t feel right to me to move forward without properly giving it the push that it deserves. I feel like the songs might mean something to somebody else, and that’s kind of the whole reason I’m playing music; to communicate an idea to other people and maybe make some sort of connection.

“I’m at a place in my life where I’m really comfortable with all aspects of my life, really. The stuff that’s on Breakdownwas inspired by a lot of turmoil in my life. Right now, I’m at a place in my life where I’m having a lot of positive experiences and I’m happy and content with the way things are going. There are so many things around me that are inspiring that there’s a new influx of creativity.”

With his second record already in the works, he’ll be heading back down to Australia this year, playing drums for The Vandals at Soundwave. That doesn’t mean that Alkaline Trio have come to a complete, halt, though. “We’ve got some ideas floating around – everyone’s been sort of focusing on their solo stuff.

“We just did some shows where we played every record; we played all eight records over the course of four nights and we did it in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, and I think we’re going to do more of those shows. It was quick the challenge, but it was a lot of fun…ideally it’d be great to take it around the world, if we could. We’ll definitely be busy this coming year.”

Breakdown will be released 20 Jan via Red Scare Industries, and you can catch Grant drumming for The Vandals at Soundwave. For all dates and ticketing info, head to our dedicated festival page.

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