Wednesday, July 5, 2017

StoneKracker - 10 Questions

By Sean Claes
In 1998 Austin band StoneKracker emerged onto the scene and lasted just about as long, sadly, as most bands last… about 5 years and one album – The Puppet Show. It was a good run, but original members Dana “Red” Leigh Cooper (vocals), Bruce Ford (drums) and Eric Cooper (bass) felt they had left something undone.

Because of this, or maybe in spite of most norms of the lifecycle of a band, they reformed in 2013 after a decade-long hiatus and have been bringing their brand of “Southern Boogie Metal” back to the stage. They have released two albums since reforming, 2015’s The Book of Crazy and 2016’s The Horror Show and they have solidified their position as solid performers on stage, most recently opening for L.A. Guns at Austin’s Texas Mist.

Courtesy Photo
INsite owner Sean Claes had a chance to talk with Red Leigh Cooper about the past, present and future of Stonekracker.

10 Questions with Stonekracker

1. Sean Claes: I have to ask, what is the story behind the name Stonekracker?
Red Leigh Cooper: A Stone Cracker is a Chinstrap Penguin, so nick-named for their ear splitting call when their nest is threatened.

In other words, they are little bad-asses. They're cute, but don’t mess with them. This all came from a hot July day spent in the Penguin enclosure at Sea World.  

2. Claes: Speaking of bad-asses, bands don’t come back after a decade-long hiatus. What’s the story? 
Cooper: The breakup felt premature the first time and we felt there was more music to write.  We wanted to see where it should have gone past our 2001 release The Puppet Show.

We got back together because Eric and I did a gig under the name as a duo for a benefit.  We were asked to do another show where we could bring the whole band and play covers.  I had reconnected with just about everybody who had been through the band and everyone was agreeable.  After that, we were asked to come back again and play our originals and it just never stopped.

Now as of 2017, I think the focus has shifted to just having fun while honing our writing skills to an even greater degree.

3. Claes: Band members of StoneKracker are in several local bands. Who plays for whom and how does the cross-pollination of Austin bands help StoneKracker?
 Cooper: Eric and I play in a cover band called fUNNER that performs 80’s rap songs, Bruce is in hard rock band Unloader and cover band STAWG.  Bill plays in hard rock band Space Cushion.

I think the question of whether cross-pollination helps or not is interesting. I’ll promote the guys gigs and say “StoneKracker Drummer Bruce Ford plays... etc.” and try to make some cross-pollination happen, as it’s good for our scene.  I don’t think it’s helped in the bigger ways you hope, but if people go to see Unloader or Space Cushion because they like StoneKracker, or vice versa, then that’s pretty awesome.

4. Claes: Your music is defined as “solid, sexy & mean” and “southern boogie metal.” Can you explain a bit more about the description? What are some of your favorite songs you’ve written/released?
 Cooper: “Solid, sexy, mean” actually came from The Horror Show producer, Tim Gerron.  They whole quote is “solid, sexy,’s what’s for breakfast”.  We liked it, so it stuck.

The southern boogie metal one came after a night of too much Fireball, but we liked that one, too, and it stuck.

 What both of them address is that we have a groovy southern style flavor to our hard rock that you are finding in signed bands like Halestorm, Dorothy, Sons of Texas, Shaman’s Harvest, Otherwise, and even In This Moment just released a “swampy” song.  It’s a trend I hope to see continue in modern hard rock.

I think some of our favorite songs we’ve written are “Deaf”, “In Spite of You”, and our brand new one “Disappear.” While all are different, all have that groove that can fall under the solid, sexy, or mean category.

5. Claes: Tell me about your 2016 release The Horror Show. Favorite tracks?
Cooper: The Horror Show tells a story that goes from ultimate betrayal in a relationship, to release of and healing from that relationship.

The title track itself tackles anxiety that a bad relationship can cause in your life.

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite track because they all mean so many different things to me, but I have to go “In Spite Of You.” It’s gotten the most feedback from friends and then also from strangers that any song of ours has.  Being a song about overcoming an abusive relationship, it’s struck a chord with many people, and ultimately, as a songwriter, you want people to be able to relate and say “me, too”.  They are some of my most vulnerable lyrics, written about a true story, so while you wish they weren’t relatable, it’s been cathartic for me as well that people get it.

6. Claes: What made you want to reinvent Phil Collins’ “I Don’t Care Anymore?”

Cooper: That’s an interesting, funny, and maybe not so funny story! We were frustrated because one of the members wasn’t coming to practice anymore. Like would literally show up the practice right before a show. We had reached an end. Someone probably said “I don’t care anymore” to which Bruce would reply with that iconic Phil Collins beat.

One day we just started playing it. When the missing member finally came back to practice we were like “we have a new cover” and he was kinda forced to play it. We have a running joke now about if you miss practice, expect a new cover that you may not want to perform to be worked out in your absence, but thankfully that hasn’t happened since.  It’s a great song though and the way it turned out with Bill Corley (guitars) playing electric violin is worth picking up the EP for alone.

7. Claes: Where and with whom did you record The Horror Show?

Cooper: We recorded, mixed, and mastered The Horror Show at GerronMusic with Tim Gerron. We’ve been using Tim since The Puppet Show.  He’s an amazing producer. We laugh a lot but there is … as Bill would say…. an “appropriate amount of seriousness.”

Tim can be tough, but he always operates from a place of respect, so you are more than willing to do the hard work. His name is going on it too, so he wants the best for everyone involved.

While you may be on the eighth take of a backing vocal or a guitar part, it’s only to get the best performance possible that he knows you are capable of. You work hard and play hard at Gerron Music for sure.
8. Claes: On June 16, 2017, you were tapped as the opening band for L.A.Guns’ stop in Austin at Texas Mist. How was that experience?

Cooper: We were really excited that Jim Ostrander added us to that bill.  I can honestly say that I don’t think we stopped smiling all night. Opening at 8:15 can be dicey; you don’t know if people will show up that early, but show up they did and we were able to keep them engaged.  We sold merch and met lots of cool people.  

One woman said to me “it was so good to see a woman up there…”  That has stuck with me ever since.  I forget that hard rock is still a very male dominated genre and that what we do makes a difference towards shattering that “glass ceiling” per se. I’ll be happy when there is a day that that doesn’t matter and women are treated as equally as men in the rock and roll world.

Getting back to the overall experience though, it was nothing short of awesome for us. We worked hard to make sure our set went off as a rapid-fire gut punch, and I’m so proud of the entire band for delivering.

9. Claes: What has been your experience in the last 15 years watching and taking part in the Austin Music Scene?

The more things change, the more things stay the same. 

On the “change” side, it’s sad to no longer see club owners and bands working together to promote shows. Each saying it’s the other's’ responsibility is not helping the scene, but instead causing low attendance and eventually clubs closing their doors. 

On the “same” side, there are still bands thinking they are “God’s gift” to the world, but hey, dude, you only have a handful of people there to actually see you at your shows.  You aren't that cool. No matter what we do, we aren’t that cool.  I’m not saying don’t be proud of what you do, I’m saying lose the attitude of thinking you're the best and everyone else must be slayed like a mythical dragon and be left in your wake. 

I have more respect for bands that truly treat their scenes like family, support each other, and aren't just out to take each other down. Other bands pick up on that really quick if they think you are just out for yourselves.

10. Claes: What is your favorite local music venue?
Cooper: It’s hard to pick just one because there are a few we like for different reasons, so shout out to Hanover’s, Texas Mist, and Kick Butt Coffee!

Stonekracker is in writing mode at the moment, but look forward to them making their way out a few times in the next few months. Cooper eluded to opening for a few shows with big headliners but wasn’t able to go into detail just yet. Look for a new CD in early 2018. In the meantime, look them up on Facebook at

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. This is week 25 in his "52 Weeks of Austin Musician Interview" series. See the others here: 52 Week Project

1 comment: