Living the dream

Vegas metal mainstay Hemlock hits it big with spot on Ministry tour

Aaron Thompson

Turning 30 is a big deal for some. But for Chad Smith, vocalist and bassist for Vegas-bred metal leviathan Hemlock—a band he started in his parents’ garage when he was 15 years old—age means nothing.

Coming up on their 15th anniversary, Hemlock and Smith, now living in Iowa, have attained a new level of success. With full-length album No Time for Sorrow out nationally last month and an opening slot on legendary industrial outfit Ministry’s final U.S. tour locked down, persistence has paid off.

We caught up with Smith by telephone on the road in Seattle:

How does it feel to get the national recognition you’ve been looking for?

It’s awesome. We’ve always been striving and have gotten little bits of pieces here and there … but to actually be out on a full shebang tour is definitely awesome. Usually, like when we go out with Slayer, we’ll do two weeks with them and then book another month and a half around it. But lately everything has been getting bigger and better.

You guys have had a loyal Vegas following for a long time. Have you been able to build that around the country?

Vegas is actually a really awesome city, which I didn’t realize when I was younger and first starting. But we always tried to get people to come to the show—fliers, billboards at the side of freeways, posters and radio ads, whatever we could do to get people to the shows we’d do. When we started going out of town, we did really well in Phoenix quicker. When you get to Phoenix, people don’t have anything else to do like they have in Vegas, so everybody goes to the shows. So it’s honestly easier in other cities.

In 15 years of Hemlock, what has been the most trying moment for you?

Me and my brother started the band with another guy when I was 15, and my brother was in the band for almost 10 years. But then he had a kid, and at the time we weren’t doing the touring then that we do now, so the more and more we were out on the road, the more and more pissed he was becoming. It was hard, but I could tell he wasn’t cut out for the road. At some point you have to choose a normal life, because this definitely isn’t a normal life we live on the road.

You guys went from house shows to European tours to touring with Ministry. Every metal band’s dream, right?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I tell everybody every night, don’t give up your dream. For us, this is a little part of the next level. It’s kind of like a new start for us even though we’ve been around. You just got to keep trucking at it before you might actually get your break.

Opening for Ministry, with Meshuggah. April 9, 6 p.m., $32-$100. House of Blues, 632-7600.

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