The Used's Bert McCracken Talks Getting Sober And Why He Now Calls Australia Home
Since The Used's inception way back in 2001, the band has been an unstoppable force in music.
From being the poster boys of the "emo/scene" era of the mid-2000s that had angsty teens across the world donning heavy eyeliner, huge bangs and facial piercings documented in snaps posted to their MySpace pages, to the more mature sounds of their 2017 album The Canyons, there's no denying the massive cultural influence they've had over the past 17 years.
And while they've never stopped making music after their self-titled debut album was released in 2002, they've grown up, the change most noticeable in their lead singer, Bert McCracken.
10 daily spoke to Bert ahead of his performance at Good Things festival about everything from getting sober after hitting rock bottom, to moving to Australia for the sake of his daughters.
Looking strikingly different from the long, black-haired singer we watched on Video Hits back in the day, The Used's frontman now rocks short, blonde hair -- which somehow makes him look more youthful than he did circa 2006.
He kicked off the interview by telling us how excited he is to watch Aussie rockers Tonight Alive play at the festival, telling us he's a "huge fan" of them.
"They're one of my favourite Australian bands. [Lead singer] Jen has got one of the most insane voices. Her range is just incredible... She belts out that high register, which Mariah Carey can't even do," he said. "Who by the way I'm not a fan of -- well, her diva attitude, anyway," he added, flipping off an imaginary Mariah next to us.
McCracken has an aura of authenticity and carefree energy -- a vibe he later told us he sees in Australian fans and is the reason he chose to make it his new home in 2013 -- along with his Australian wife Alison, whom he married in 2008.
"When the wife and I decided to have kids, we lived in LA, and we thought that it isn't the nicest place to raise kids. She grew up [in Australia] and she had an idealistic, trauma-free childhood that we want for our own daughters," he said.
He went on to explain that when he performs in his new homeland, there's a palpable difference in personalities between Aussies and Americans.
"Something's happened to the US in the last 10 years that's kind of sucked it dry. The gaiety, the joy, it's just gone and it's been replaced with cynicism, sarcasm, and ego," he explained.
"I think that in Australia that carefree gaiety still exists... I think the crowds here have this childlike enthusiasm that's just really, really pure. Not that the United States doesn't, but there's so much systematic wash there that you can see how it affects people," he added.
Unlike many of the "emocore" bands that dominated the soundwaves in the 2000s, The Used have had a consistently successful career, having released seven studio albums to date, while other bands of the era broke up or simply faded into obscurity as musical trends evolved and changed.
Asking Bert if he would give his younger self any advice knowing what he does now and having sustained such a lengthy career, the 36-year-old laughed.
"The younger version of me would probably not take any advice from this version of me," he replied.
And he's probably right -- the "younger" Bert McCracken was certainly a different person to the one of today, with the singer having openly discussed his previous substance and alcohol abuse issues that had plagued him since the age of 16.
"I'm a vicious alcoholic, so it took a lot of dragging the bottom, as they say, for me to learn my lesson," he revealed, adding, "I haven't had a drink in six years. I went to rehab, the whole thing -- I'm a very serious addict."
The catalyst for seeking help for his severe alcohol dependency, Bert said, was constantly hitting what he thought was rock bottom -- only to hit an even lower place again and again.
"You have these moments that seemed like nothing could get any worse," he explained. "And then two days later it's worse... And then it's worse and it's worse. It's like, how much more could I possibly take?"
He continued, "I guess that kind of beat down and registered with me, but I think it's a sad statistic about how many people stay sober on their own, and how many people stay sober in a program.
"[Sobriety] is an everyday type of thing. I guess that's what I meant by [performing at Good Things festival] meaning so much to me now. I'm not going to look back and regret anything that happened on this day in particular."
He finished, "I try to live every day like that."