DB HOF NO. 82
The making of Tragedy’s “Tragedy”
label: Tragedy Records
During the last half of the ’90s, Memphis’ His Hero Is Gone ruled a small segment of the underground punk/hardcore world. Though, unless you had your ear way, way to the ground, you may not have noticed this subterranean micro-revolution happening, as core members Todd Burdette (guitars/vocals), his brother Paul (drums) and Yannick Lorrain (guitars) deliberately flew under the radar, preferring that any form of buzz or success occur because the listener was moved enough to track down one of their many releases (including three full-lengths), or find and attend one of their seemingly secretly held shows. But, as the rest of the world was knotting their knickers over the possibility of Y2K causing planes to fall out of the sky, the deletion of a century’s worth of electronic data storage and expensive cable packages being rendered useless, the quartet (joined by old friend and recently recruited bassist/vocalist, Billy Davis) wanted their own form of change. While society feared the collapse of the wired world, Lorrain, Davis and the Burdettes feared having to play high-velocity, crusty hardcore for the same people in the same venues until Y3K, or until they kicked the collective bucket, whichever came first. Plus, after a mid-tour meltdown by bassist/vocalist Carl Auge and the understandable desire to get the fuck out of Memphis, they decided to take the drastic step of killing off their proverbial meal ticket, leaving the familiar surroundings of the place some of them had called home most of their lives to form a new band in a new home base.
Enter the year 2000, and with it, Tragedy. The original goals were to diversify their musical approach and get out of Memphis, both of which the quartet did with aplomb. Furious rehearsal begat a more melodic, yet darkened, fury (“The Point of No Return,” “Never Knowing Peace”), sludgecore made more interesting and palatable by instrumental and vocal layers (“With Empty Hands Extended”), and a nose for experimentation and texture previously unheard in the form of “intermezzos” revolving around cello and acoustic guitar, noise samples and piano melodies; not to mention majestic masterpiece “Tension Awaiting Imminent Collapse,” which exposed an exponentially more vicious side to the sound now referred to as “Neur-Isis.” Intensely concentrated recording sessions captured the band’s new direction and lit the fuse for a spell of punk/hardcore majesty that began with Tragedy, has continued onward and upward over the course of four albums, and will undoubtedly push forward into the future.
Decibel had been trying to nail down the members of Tragedy for a Hall of Fame interview for years. Email inquiries went unanswered, communication went dark and those rare times we we’d get a nibble or felt we were on the verge of a breakthrough, we’d hit an electronic dead-end. Thanks to the help of Gordon Conrad, Relapse Records’ VP of operations, and Greg Daly, who books the band’s Philly area shows, we were able to convince the quartet to sit down with us the day after their set at 2011’s Maryland Deathfest. We met the band in the back room of an Indian buffet in downtown Baltimore and, despite their initial reluctance to let an outsider behind the walls of the Tragedy compound, the quartet eventually got comfortable enough to the point where we would dare say they were excitably volunteering information, and often times could be found talking over one another and finishing each other’s sentences as they shoveled in Naan bread, Tandoori chicken and lahori fish while we discussed our Hall of Fame’s latest entry.
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