May 27, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 02  

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Used singer opines on pop, rock and American Idol

By Anna Coutts
Gazette Staff

Home is where the heart is, and the heart is always home. Unsurprisingly, for rockers The Used, a life without music is like a body without a heart.

“This is what we have all wanted to do our whole life, and I think that’s why we were so hungry for it and still are,” says lead vocalist Bert McCracken. He adds that it was “rockin’ music” that got the band through all the rough years of homelessness, drugs and poverty.

Though the infectious sound of The Used ranges from the lighter “Taste of Ink” to the heavier, throaty screeching of “Box Full of Sharp Objects,” the band manages to maintain an extremely unique rock sound through all its material. Hearing the extreme heaviness of The Used’s sound makes it surprising to discover that McCracken’s childhood inspiration came from none other than the “king of pop.”

“I remember skipping school in like grade one, or maybe it was even kindergarten. I saw this Michael Jackson special — he was performing live, ‘Billie Jean.’ From then on I was going to be Michael Jackson,” McCracken admits. “Michael Jackson was it for me when I was about eight — he started it all.”

McCracken’s love of pop continues to this day. “I’m definitely a huge fan of pop music,” McCracken professes, noting that music which is “dishonest and planned out” bothers him, which explains his thoughts on American Idol. While he believes that the show is “entertaining,” McCracken is disconcerted by the level of discrimination the show reveals.

“You’re never going to see a big huge fat ugly girl on there, because it’s not acceptable. There are a lot of people out there who can sing, and not everyone is as attractive as Clay Aiken’s fucking ass.”

To McCracken, it is a waste of art for someone to become a star overnight because of a “shitty American television show.” He avoids watching such shows and focuses instead on writing his own music. “It’s out of my hands I guess,” he says. “I’m just writing from my heart.”

The honesty in his writing has connected many fans to the band, yet he claims he is not writing as a way to reach out to them or even for himself.

“I’m just writing poetry and music and pulling it together. I don’t think it makes my problems easier than anyone else’s problems,” McCracken explains, adding that though he doesn’t write specifically to reach out to his fans, he does make an effort to write his lyrics in such a way so fans can interpret them as having significance within their own lives.

Fans are a key factor in determining the success of a band, and McCracken is extremely respectful of his. However, he admits it is becoming more difficult to talk to fans as the band’s success continues to grow. “It’s hard for me to talk to one person in particular, because another 20 people will come up right behind them,” he says. “But it’s amazing to hear inspiring stories about my art.”

McCracken admits that his perspective on life has changed after meeting so many new people and seeing so many new places. “I’ve been able to travel the world and it’s been incredible. But the one thing that I’ve found in my travels is that home is really where the heart is. There are a lot of torn, mixed memories for me [at home], but I still love Utah at the end of the day.”

Will this new perspective have an effect on the sound of the band’s next album? According to McCracken, it will, but “kids are still definitely gonna know that it’s The Used.” He explains that the new album experiments with “a lot of different colours and a lot of different emotions... It’s a little bit brighter in some ways, a little bit more darker and cynical in others.

“It will be an extension of what we have created so far. It’s like the next chapter.”



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