Interview: Travis Strawderman of Iron Price
After 20 years of being a part of the hardcore scene, I've met a lot of characters. The majority of which are some version of forgettable, despicable, or embarrassing, but very few are remarkable. My friend Travis Strawderman is one of those few. I'm not exactly sure when or where we met, but it was probably Baltimore and I was most likely drunk. A lot has changed since then, but after growing up, getting married and becoming an excellent Dad, Travis still manages to play drums for IRON PRICE.
We've known each other for a lot of years now and I know quite a bit about you, but I don't know how you got into hardcore, or heavy music in general. What drew you in? How old were you when you discovered this nonsense?
I was 11 when I started listening to heavy music on my own. My friend Jason Fairchild and I broke into his older brother Chris’ bedroom while he was in basic training. We got into his tape collection, I latched on to Megadeth's Rust In Peace and never looked back. The first metal thing I bought with my own money was Metallica Master Of Puppets, at Record and Tape Traders in Annapolis. I learned about hardcore from the Biohazard “Punishment” video when I was twelve. I come from classic rock roots from my parents. They were young and still going to concerts and partying. They took me to see my favorite band, at 7 years old, Boston. So I think, one way or another, I would have progressed to louder and heavier things.
I've seen you play drums for a lot of bands, but I'm sure there are some early projects that I don't know about. What was your first band? Do you have any recordings?
The first band I ever recorded with was Divulsion. I was on vocals. That band started when I moved back to Maryland after graduating in West Virginia. I caught up with some friends from when I was in middle school in Bowie, MD. We did record two CD's, unfortunately I have no idea where to find them. Members from that band went on to Carved In Stone, Edge Of Hope, and The Burning Season.
Why did you decide to play drums? Do you come from a musical family?
I would mess around in high school on other people’s kits or play along to songs on the back of my skateboard (using the trucks as a hi hat and ride), but I never really learned how to play. Fast forward a few years Divulsion broke up, some other friends were looking for a drummer so I bought the drummer from Divulsions kit and we almost immediately started playing. Released a CD 6 or so months after I started playing drums. It was terrible, but eh it was hardcore. As for musicians in my family, my mom played the baritone in high school.
As long as I have known you, you have been one of the most level headed and kind people involved in the Baltimore hardcore scene. I know that the bar isn't set very high, but where did you get such a pleasant demeanor?
Thanks Dan, I guess my parents raised me right haha I’m just a small town hillbilly that has kept those roots close. I have a very loving family that taught me to trust in the good of people, that smiles are infectious, stay positive and to believe in the almighty golden rule. I pride myself on being friendly and helpful.
What was your first experience with Baltimore hardcore?
So when I was 15 or 16, still living in West Virginia, I was hanging with some older kids that went to shows. I’ll admit I had no idea what “shows” were back then. I went to a few big concerts like Lollapolooza and Ozzfest, but local shows in Charlestown weren’t really a thing. Anyway, these older kids took me to a show at Phantasmagoria in Wheaton, MD. That show ended up being the Next Step Up “riot” show. I don’t remember too many specifics and to be honest it wasn’t until a couple years later that I would find out who Next Step Up was. We showed up late, and all I remember is someone jumping out from behind the drum set and a fight started, and then total mayhem. We were there for literally 20 minutes, and my friends dragged me out of that craziness. It was awesome! That was my first unofficial experience with Baltimore hardcore. My first shows that I actually got to stay and enjoy were at Hal Daddy’s, The Talking Head and The Sidebar after I moved back to Maryland in '98. There were so many shows back then that they all kinda ran together in my memories. I’m so happy that I started going when I did. So many great times with so many friendly faces. Hard to believe it’s been a quarter of a century. I love this city, I love this scene.
What time period would you have considered yourself most active in the Baltimore hardcore scene?
It’s kinda tough to nail that down. Probably from 2000 to 2011. I went to nearly every show in a few different scenes. I was playing in multiple bands and was kinda everywhere. Everything slowed down for me after we had our first kid, Elliott.
You've been around long enough to see a lot of changes in the hardcore scene. Do you feel that things have changed for the better? Is there anything you miss?
I think things have changed for the better. Baltimore has always had a good family vibe, but the past 6 or so years have been on another level. Maybe it’s just kinda watching how the newer (not really new anymore, but newer?) people bond with each other at shows and online, they really support and love each other. There’s just no animosity, and if there is it really seems warranted. I mean in our hay day it was a party. We were all hammered or laughing at those who were and watching people fight in the parking lots because they were hammered. Awesome Neanderthal type shit. I don’t really see that kinda stuff going on anymore. It’s more of a movement and people connect not only on a friendship level, but because they genuinely want to make people feel better and make the world a better place. I dig it.
You are in Iron Price now and have been at it for a few years. How did you get started with these guys?
Dennis and Matt had been talking about getting together for a project for over a decade. I’ve known those guys forever. We’ve all shared the stage with each other’s bands hundreds of times. Then I was in Manthrax with Matt and he must have enjoyed playing with me just enough to get me in on the new projects action. When Matt explained how he wanted a dark, nasty, slower Crowbar, doesn’t necessarily have to be hardcore, Helmet tinged, maybe a little noisey, sort of Unsane-y type sound, I was in.
I know Iron Price isn't a full time band, but how do you balance out your family life with playing in a band?
I have an incredibly supportive wife. She totally hates my band, but it’s because she likes having me around, so I’ve got that going for me....which is nice. My kids love that I’m in a band. Elliott claims we are his favorite band. He actually used one of our songs in his Summer camp talent show last year. I had no idea. I came to pick him up and the counselors were smiling at me very awkwardly. I had to check to see if I was wearing some offensive band shirt. He told me when we got to the car and we had a good laugh.
We practice once a week and we're all pretty flexible on the
days. The only time we have problems is during the Summer when we go on vacation or have to go to weddings. Why do shows always land on wedding weekends? Fortunately, we have a ringer for a stand in now. Frank of Choking Sands and Execution Hour fame has learned the songs, so my wedding-ing and vacationing won’t slow us down.
What is your favorite part about playing music?
I love playing and creating music with my friends. I love that I can make something that other people can enjoy. I love seeing people happy at shows. It’s the whole package. I live for that feeling when you get to you favorite part in a song you wrote, and you look out and see someone feeling it the same way you are. That connection is magical. That makes dealing with Dennis worth it.
Do you have any realistic, but ambitious goals for Iron Price?
At this point, playing shows again is an ambitious goal hahaha. Before this my ambitious goals were to go to Europe or Japan, but I mean really isn’t that every hardcore bands goal? I think that was realistic though. Now I’d just be happy to play The Sidebar again.
What can we expect from Iron Price in the near future?
Well we have a 12” version of Big Coffin Hunters coming out soon. I’m super excited about that one. I never thought I would be on a 12” record. I can’t wait to give that one to my Mom. We’re always writing, so we’ll eventually put another album out of new stuff. When all of this stuff blows over hopefully we’ll make it to the Midwest or even further out.
Is there a particular moment behind the drum kit that sticks out in your mind as the highlight of playing in bands?
There are so many great memories of playing with so many bands in so many awesome venues. I’ll narrow it down to two. 1. When we played This Is Hardcore Fest for the first time at the Electric Factory I was totally blown away. Getting to play that fest at that venue in front of so many people, with ridiculous sound and being recorded by the insanely talented Sunny (hate5six), was huge. I was soooooo nervous! 2. When Taken By Force got the privilege of playing Ninjafest in London. Holy shit! We were there with all of our friends and just had a blast. I looked out into the crowd and people in a totally different country knew the words to our songs! I couldn’t believe it. It’s totally not lost on me how fortunate I have been to have those two experiences alone, and there were so many more!
As a parent to two awesome kids, how would you feel about your children getting involved in the hardcore scene?
Awwww thanks, they’re alright I guess. I hope they do. I want them to be in it. We have taken them to a couple of shows and they seem to enjoy themselves. I would love to take them to more. I want them to see how tight knit and loving it can be. The camaraderie in it. I want them to be a part of a community that is supportive, and aware. I want them to see all of the smiling faces, all of the singing along. I want them to see how they always have a place to go, even when you feel like it’s all failing, when it’s all falling apart. Go to a show, see your friends, sing along, escape. I found myself in this scene. I found home. So much of my life I owe to just being another weirdo nerd that found hardcore, and I know my kids are gonna be weirdo nerds (the best kind of people are) so I hope they meander down that road too. Right now I think they like what I like, and that’s awesome! Maybe I’ll luck out and they won’t rebel musically. I didn’t.