Interview with Adam McGrath from Cave In

Joe McRedmond interviewed Adam McGrath, guitarist from Cave In from Methuen, MA, via email about two of the vans they have used over the years.

Published July 13, 2020

What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place, specifically?

Specifically, the band Piebald from Andover, MA was the catalyst for Cave In to take our band to a more serious level. They were close to our age and were already playing shows around and outside New England before Cave In got it together to do the same. They had purchased an old small school bus (named Melvin) and “successfully” toured down to Florida and back which was a mind blowing achievement to us back then. They literally and figuratively gave us the road map on how to take our band out of Methuen and into basements, living rooms and small DIY clubs down the east coast and eventually around America.

Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?

Our first van was purchased from Harpoon Brewery Boston for $1200 via the old analog want ads. It had been previously used by Harpoon for promotional purposes at early nineties beer festivals. The brewery wanted the RV off their property day of sale, so I remember we stupidly drove the unregistered and unplated RV through downtown Boston and back to Allston (Where we had lived at the time) via Sorrow Drive, barely clearing the low hanging bridges. We almost tore the roof off within minutes of owning it.

First Cave In van/RV purchased from Harpoon Brewery. Photo courtesy of Adam McGrath.

Tell us about the van, year, make, model, color – did it need work, and did you do any DIY?

1978 Ford V8 RV black with red trim. The RV interior had been gutted and left with only a captain’s chair and van bench seat that could fold out into a bed. Large windows had been added along the exterior of the RV box, making it almost like a hot greenhouse on wheels. None of these giant windows opened, and the only air flow came from the driver and passenger windows. My uncle had to fix the drive shaft, and three of the eight cylinders immediately, before we could actually travel with it. My uncle also thought I was insane to have purchased the monstrosity I had brought before him to fix. We made some DIY wooden gear storage lockers inside that also had a loft bed at the top.

Any funny or unique features?

The 1978 RV camper had a CB/intercom system that was very entertaining while it worked. We would dramatically announce our entrance or departure at the venues. Or sometimes just yell or say random shit on the intercom and watch people look around wondering where the voice of god came from.

What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?

Berkeley, CA to Syracuse, NY was the longest drive we ever did. I can’t remember the actual first trip, but the 1978 Ford RV only lasted one complete summer US tour (which was Cave In’s first full US tour with the Canadian band IRE).

Were there any van rules you had? Or band rules in general?

We always insisted drivers had a co-pilot to keep them company and awake especially on night drives.

It was your responsibility to throw away your own bottle of urine. We learned the hard way it’s a terrible idea to toss an open container of liquid out of a moving vehicle, because it will just blow back in. So don’t do it.

In the early days our drummer JR would only drive if he could listen to Motley Crue the entire time. 

Do you have a classic nightmare van/police/mechanical/crash/fire story from tour or any other shows?

We had a van fire with a ’91 Ford Econoline baby blue van at a rest area fifty miles west of Philadelphia which ended our 1999 US tour with ISIS (the band). We pretty much lost everything except some luggage and a few guitars. $6000 in cash burned under the driver seat. We had been plagued with overheating problems with that particular van the entire time of owning it. We also concluded later that there must have been some sort of gas or oil leak. We pulled over to the rest area and all went inside to use the restroom and grab snacks. It was supposed to be a quick stop as we were supposed to play Philadelphia that evening. People started stirring around the rest area food court saying there was a van smoking outside and right away we knew it was us. Some of our crew ran outside, and tried to pop the hood and get access to the smoking engine, but they were unable as the hood was already dangerously hot. The rest of us ran around the food court pleading for someone to call the fire department, or tried to find a fire extinguisher to put the fire out ourselves. The fire engulfed the entire front of the van very fast, and soon we realized there was nothing we could do to stop it. Our stash of fireworks blasted out the exploding windows. Tires popping like gunshots one by one from the extreme heat. We got home by renting a U-haul box truck with whatever we salvaged from the burnt gear. To this day I still have the Gibson SG that was pulled out of the van still on fire and put out with the fire hose.

Aftermath of the van fire at a PA rest stop. Photos by Jason Hellmann courtesy of Adam McGrath.
Charred remains of Adam’s Gibson SG saved from the van fire. Photo courtesy of Adam McGrath.

Where did the vans end up? 

The 1978 RV was never the same once we came home from the first US tour with it. We attempted one last trip to Canada but the RV died on the side of 93-N in New Hampshire to the sound of loud backfiring. It was then towed to our drummer’s then girlfriend’s back yard lot where it would then rot for the next couple of years. It was then junked with a dead engine and RV’s roof had eventually caved in. The ’91 Econoline that burned was abandoned in the rest area.

Any other entertaining tour stories?

IRE stuck a bag of feces in the RV air conditioner, which led to days of everyone wondering what smelled so rank and foul. The smell made our eyes water. We all searched corner to corner of the RV, trying to figure out what and where the smell was coming from, to later find a plastic bag of shit jammed in the air conditioner. To be young and derelict!

How can we help promote any releases?

Cave In is currently wood shedding riffs, ideas, and songs to remotely try and piece together a new record. In the uncertainty of current times, there is no definitive timeline for completion, but it feels good to still be moving forward with the band after so many years together. 

Thanks Adam for doing this interview!

Thanks for the interview. Full disclosure: HOOVER was and still is one of my favorite Dischord bands. Hoover/Lincoln split is legendary in my circle of friends. Every time I pick up a bass I play Electrolux! THANK YOU!

Cave In -Juggernaut

Cave In – On the Prowl

Cave In – Night Crawler

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