Source: Karla Sopp
"We're into musical evolution not revolution." A statement by Karl Middleton, which you will soon discover, is nothing short of the truth when listening to earthtone9. In the past earthtone9 have been compared to renowned bands like Helmet, Tool, and Deftones. The comparisons come as no surprise because Karl once described their sound as "Tool on crack! We've got the dynamics of Korn and Deftones, but we're more heavy and grooving."
It was with the album "arc'tan'gent" when earthtone9 evolved into a kind of music that simply cannot be labelled 'metal'. The album was a piece of art that needs to be listened to as a whole so you can absorb the atmosphere created by vocals, guitars and drums alone. Each song is cleverly crafted to counterbalance the next and makes for a consistent album, making it earthtone9's most proud moment in its six-year existence.
Rewind to 1995 when Owen and Joe were in a band previous to earthtone9 called Blastcage. Their first tour was with Gomorrah, a band described by Owen as "a British kind of death metal thrash band". Gomorrah soon split and three of them went on to form Copro Records. Before this though, Owen had been working as a manager for a small label called Cottage Industry Records. Karl meanwhile, was earning his keep selling and buying limited edition art prints from clients such as the Tate Gallery in London after finishing his art degree.
So it was in a Nottingham pub in 1996 where five guys named Karl Middleton (vocals), Owen 'Oz' Packard (guitar), Simon Hutchby (drums), Graeme Watts (bass) and Joe Roberts (guitar) were to form a band called (after many arguments) earthtone9. The idea 'earthtone9' came from a Helmet song called 'In The Meantime' - the first line of the song is "earth tone suits you".
The guys started practicing together despite the members being dispersed between Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Surrey. After being together for some time earthtone9 started sending out demos, but as in Oz's words "nobody would really give us the time of day" so Oz and Joe turned to their mates who had formed Copro Records. Jose Griffin (the head of Copro Records) put a lot of faith into earthtone9 and released their debut album "lo-def(inition) discord" in August 1998. Dave Chang and Andy Sneap produced it for the sum of £500. The album was received with critical acclaim by the media, thus getting 5Ks in Kerrang! and 8/10 in Metal Hammer.
After touring relentlessly up and down the U.K. with bands in support of "lo-def(inition) discord" the five lads soon began working on their second album. They had been working on material for about three months before entering the studio in February to begin recording tracks for the second album, "off kilter enhancement". The whole album was recorded in a week and again produced by Dave Chang. Around this time Joe had temporarily left earthtone9 and Simon Johnson was recruited to take over guitar duties. After their U.K. tour with Cynical Smile during February and March, Oz went on a six-month tour of Australia and New Zealand; Joe was now back in the band.
"off kilter enhancement" was released in June 1999 and received by the press with praising compliments. Indeed, with Kerrang! describing the album as "a mix of lacerating intensity, paint-peeling aggression and epic melodies" earthtone9 had produced an album that would make songs like 'grind and click' and 'i nagual eye' live classics. The future of earthtone9 was looking very favourable so they decided to give up their day jobs in order to concentrate fully on the band.
By the end of 1999 Oz had come back from his trip down under and earthtone9 had managed to get themselves support slots for the One Minute Silence U.K. tour dates in December. Meanwhile, Graeme Watts had decided to leave the band and Dave Anderson took over so earthtone9 could carry out their touring duties. At the beginning of 2000, the band were still touring their second album, but had also started writing music for their third album. The new album was put back some months due to the fact it was confirmed that earthtone9 were to co-headline a U.K. tour with British metal outfit, Kill II This during the month of April. A European tour in May followed straight after that with Misery Loves Co. and familiar touring companions, Kill II This.
It was in et9's best interest that they were to release an EP to coincide with their upcoming tours in April and May. The EP named "hi-point" contained four songs, two of which were brand new tracks, a re-working of 'vitriolic hsf' and a cover of a Shihad song. The press loved the new earthtone9 tracks and Kerrang! gave the record 4K's with one of the most flattering comments - "Unpredictable, inventive and very, very cool, this is metal which dares to be different and deserves to be heard as much as possible."
earthtone9 finally got around to record their third album in June 2000. This time they got Andy Sneap to produce the album and it took a while longer than previous efforts to record and master the record. A few guests popped up on the album in the shape of Ishmael Lewis (Liberty 37), Jamie Floate (Breakneck) and Gemma Seddon. Little did anyone know that earthtone9 were about to unleash one of their greatest musical masterpieces on us. Throughout July they played a fairly low key headlining U.K. tour to test the new material before it was released and then took a well deserved break before the release of "arc'tan'gent" in September 2000.
'Evolution Fest' was the name given to earthtone9's series of headlining U.K. mini-tours between October 2000 - June 2001. In total there were four 'Evolution Fests' and featured quality acts such as: Skindred, Lostprophets, Guano Apes, Dog Fashion Disco, Miocene, Vacant Stare, and Stampin Ground. Stories of mayhem, people melting to ceilings (!), and condensation practically flowing from the walls was an indication that this was earthtone9's most successful tours.
In between all of this, earthtone9 toured Europe three times (within six months) with Pitchshifter, Soulfly, and Fear Factory. After non-stop touring in support of arc'tan'gent for nearly a year the band took a much needed break and recorded a demo in June 2001 containing live favourites 'amnesia', 'revelation' plus 'house of leaves'. The result of these demos ended up on what was to be their final release, 'omega' which was finally released by Copro Records in April 2002.
Earthtone9 did a short tour of the UK in October 2001, entitled the 'Dave Lee Travis Tour' and support came from Rabies Caste and Thorn.Eleven. Before the end of 2001, earthtone9 headlined the rock sound Christmas party and one of the K-fest gigs, both of which recorded for a forthcoming DVD/video release planned for an October 2002.
After almost three months of 'quiet time' for the band, it was finally announced, on March 25th 2001 that earthtone9 would disband after their last gig at the Garage, London on April 13th, 2001. Owen Packard's official statement read:
"This chapter is just at an end, we've said all we had to say as this band and everyone is keen to move on to other things. we do, however, owe a huge debt of gratitude to numerous people, not least of all Copro Records, Northern Music Management, past band members and, of course, the et9 whiteshirt army. Thank you all for making the ride such fun. we look forward to seeing some of you again, and maybe serving you fries with your happy meal!"
Karl Middleton also added his thoughts:
"earthone9 is dead. We have always been a disparate group of people, for the most part the music that we made was our common ground. Constant touring under difficult circumstances and the added tension of living together has created an environment in which the band can no longer exist. The 'down-time' of the last few months has just confirmed what the four of us already new. This has been an incredibly difficult decision for us to make but it is for the best. File under irreconcilable differences. Our final act of unity will be to make this tour our best ever, bring some protective clothing if you are coming to any of the shows."
earthtone9's final ever tour started in Nottingham, April 3rd and ended, with many tears, with many, many sweaty bodys and a few bloody noses at the Garage in London on April 13th.
earthtone9: "fuck you and goodnight!"
biography written by Karla Sopp
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