Interview with Cerberus Shoal

I interviewed Chriss Sutherland (bass guitar, vocals), and Tom Rogers (drums) of Cerberus Shoal from Boston/Portland, Maine, about van touring. Cerberus Shoal was active from 1994 through the mid-2000s.

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

Chriss – We wanted to tour the U.S. and therefore needed a van to do so. There really isn’t much more to it.

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

Chriss – The first van came from a used car dealership up in central Maine where some of us were from. I had my uncle look at it, and he gave me the skinny as to what he thought it might need for repair. 

Photo courtesy of Cerberus Shoal

Tell us about the van, year, make, model, color – did it need work, and did you do any DIY, build a loft, etc.? Did you give it a name? Who maintained it?

Chriss – The van was a white GMC painter’s vans with a sliding door and no side windows. It only had two seats up front. It was probably an ’84 or something like that. We weren’t talented enough to make a loft so we just stuck the gear in the back loose and really unsafe like… we plunked a soft shitty couch/futon type of thing in the middle facing the sliding door and that was it. The van was in my name and I maintained it though we used collective funds. It had no name… we weren’t like that.

Any funny or unique features?, – for example, we had a band member make a jumbo cup holder, and installed the stereo into the glove compartment, so it was hidden. 

Chriss – Nothing really. It had three gears on the steering column (“three on the tree”). We put some weird posters and stickers inside, but it was all utility baby.

Photo courtesy of Cerberus Shoal

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

Chriss – The longest was probably Yellowstone to Chicago or something like that. It’s hard to remember as it was twenty five years ago.

Tom – or possibly Richmond, VA to Miami, FL…during our first tour in the summer of 1995, only Chriss and I had our licenses out of the four of us, Chriss doing a majority of the driving. 

Chriss – The first trip was to NYC to play at ABC No Rio.

What did you listen to in the van?

Chriss – Not much because it didn’t have a stereo system. We brought a little battery power tape player and would jam Neurosis and Iconoclast.

Photo courtesy of Cerberus Shoal

What did you do for entertainment on drives between shows?

Chriss – We did a lot of talking. We were friends and we would discuss stuff… like our feelings, dreams, hopes, fears, etc.

Did you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or motels/hotels?

Chriss – We did it all: slept in, on top, and around the van.. we slept in every type of house and apartment you can think of, but at that time rarely motels/hotels as that was not punk and we had no money.

Tom – I’ll never forget the time we pulled over on the highway in Texas at night on our way from San Antonio to El Paso, and two of us slept on top of the van, the others inside the van. Another time waking up in our sleeping bags at a rest area in the grass in Wisconsin, bystanders looking at us like we were crazy. 

Photo courtesy of Cerberus Shoal

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

Chriss – No rules as that was not who we were. We tried to take care of each other and do everything possible to get to the show.

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

Chriss – At that particular time, and with that particular van, we were very blessed, and it seemed that we had someone watching over us. I think that the intense boredom of downtime between shows in tiny rural zones with no money sticks out most in my mind. It was very adventurous… we once broke into Thermopolis Hot Spring Park and went swimming at night… definitely shouldn’t have been swimming there… we would swim anywhere.

Tom – Yes! Haha, Thermopolis, Wyoming. We had 8 days off and decided to see how far we could go out west and make it back to our next show in Wisconsin. We ended up spending one day in Sturgis, South Dakota, entertained at the world’s largest biker rally, visited Badlands National Park, SD, sightseeing in Yellowstone National Park, seeing Devil’s Tower, WY & as Chriss stated, sneaking into Thermopolis to swim in the world’s largest hot spring. 

Photo courtesy of Cerberus Shoal

Where did the van end up? 

Chriss – I can’t exactly remember. We sold it to buy another newer van.

Any other entertaining tour stories?

Chriss – We sweated a lot in that van, and brought the real punk stuff to many states in the mid nineties when emocore wasn’t popular and young men struggled to make their feelings known. Our band was amazing!

Tom – One of our Los Angeles shows was eventful, we played the Silver Lake Lounge and met the actor Vincent Gallo and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. They were there together to see one of the other bands on the bill, but caught our set and loved it. Vincent invited us to party at his place in the Hollywood Hills, but we didn’t end up going…can’t remember why!  

We were always searched & questioned (sometimes separately) when trying to cross the border from the States into Canada. During that first tour in 1995, we didn’t have the work permit to perform in Canada and I’m still flagged to this day, 25 years later because of that. 

European tour of 2001: our rental van was broken into twice, once in Aarhus, Denmark and once in Marseille, France. Fortunately, all of our equipment was already inside the venue and only some records/CD’s, & my camera was stolen.

Photo courtesy of Cerberus Shoal

How can we help promote any releases? 

Chriss – You can shout out SNAEX (Tom Rogers and I are in this band now) and our new vinyl record “The Nameless and The Named” on El Gran E. Records! 

Tom – on Instagram, can be found at SNAEX

Cerberus Shoal bandcamp

Cerberus Shoal Instagram

Cerberus Shoal Facebook

Cerberus Shoal – Breakaway Cable Terminal
Cerberus Shoal – Make Winter A Driving Song
Cerberus Shoal – The Real Ding
Cerberus Shoal – Wyrm
Cerberus Shoal – Destination Creeps
Cerberus Shoal – Christopher’s Winded
Snaex – Hidden in the Heart of the City
Snaex – Foreign Homes

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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