artist interviews

Wovenwar Band Promo 2014From Metallica‘s gig in Antarctica, to the death of Jeff Hanneman, 2013 was quite an eventful year in the world of rock. In a year filled with the good, the bad, and the downright ugly; perhaps the ugliest incident of that year was the arrest of As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis on allegations that the Grammy-nominated singer attempted to hire a hitman to kill his wife.  With the remaining band members dejected and disgusted with their now admittedly guilty former bandmate, the search was on for a new vocalist, and a new beginning.  Enter the mightily talented Oh, Sleeper guitarist/vocalist Shane Blay, and Wovenwar was born.

Shortly before all of the holiday madness, and on the heels of their killer debut effort, I had the chance to catch up with Shane to talk about everything from speeding in cars-to-speaking in tongues.  So grab a cold one, bang it below, and join us for a look inside the mind of one of metal’s newest rising stars. (You might even find out what that quote is all about that brought you here in the first place!)

Special thanks to Shane Blay for so graciously giving me his time, and to George Vallee at Street Smart for making it all happen.  For more on Wovenwar visit the band’s official website here.


Away-Team On Location With STAIND’s Aaron Lewis

(Reprinted From Our April 11th 2007 Interview On Location In Fort Myers, Florida)


Busting up on a tour bus with an interview opportunity from a person that you have a huge amount of respect for but have never met is never an easy task. Noting that STAIND’s Aaron Lewis was due for a Birthday only a couple of days after our April 11th meeting made for an easy excuse to use a Birthday Gift as an ice-breaker. So, Away-Team’s Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall gingerly offered up a copy of The Bob Dylan Tour Diaries DVD, wrapped to perfection…thank-you very much…to the star before admitting, “We saw your acoustic tour a month ago and we figured, after that night, that you were the Bob Dylan of our generation, so we thought you’d enjoy watching this on the bus!”

Not only did he crack a very undeniable smile, but he stood up for a big bro hug and made room for me right at his table on the bus. The Away-Team shoots…and scores!!!

AWAY-TEAM: Aaron, I’ve got to ask you; Seeing you perform your acoustic solo show and then seeing you perform with STAIND, it’s obvious to me that you definitely love your ability to perform “by-the-seat-of-your-pants” without a net…

AARON LEWIS: (smiles) Yes, sir!!! Especially for the solo thing…but, for the band thing, it’s very structured and planned…I don’t even talk! We know what song is going to be played next and we do it. For the acoustic show…there is NO set list…

AWAY-TEAM: …however, if you don’t mind me mentioning, one of your fan favorites with STAIND is the acoustic version of “Outside” from the 1999 Family Values Tour CD that was recorded from that tour. That was a song that you actually did with LIMP BIZKIT’s Fred Durst singing with you. I remember hearing somewhere that the song was not fully…finished, if you will, at the time that you did it that night on tour, and you actually wrote it and performed it all… “off-the-fly”, and for the first time completely during that recording. Is that true?

AARON LEWIS: It is true! I had a chorus and a chord progression and I made up the verses as I went along…

AWAY-TEAM: Everything? That’s what ended up sticking?

Vegas News Tattoo Aaron

Photo Courtesy Of:

AARON LEWIS: That’s what stuck!!!

AWAY-TEAM: Is it also true that you guys used to be, in your early days…like 1996 and ’97…you guys were a pretty heavy band?


AWAY-TEAM: I remember even hearing that some of your earlier influences were PANTERA and SEPULTURA…How did the sound evolve into what we now know as STAIND?

AARON LEWIS: For many years we were trying to accomplish fitting into a Boston-based music scene which was like TREE and THE DROPKICK MURPHY’S and all these heavier bands…BIG BLOCK 454…heavy, heavy growl bands, and we were trying to emulate those bands so we could play shows with everybody and fit in there, so our music was getting heavier. It was a battle that I was basically losing to get the band to play stuff that I could sing melody over…and then Fred [Durst] came in and said, ‘Your singer can sing…let him sing!’. You know, before we actually recorded and put out a record we were covering RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, PANTERA, PEARL JAM, STONE TEMPLE PILOTS…and basically everything that was hot and current and on the radio at that time!

AWAY-TEAM: Which is basically some of the stuff you cover in your acoustic set as well, amazingly!

AARON LEWIS: (laughs) Sure, Sure!!!

AWAY-TEAM: Now, I’ve never been present when this happened…but I am familiar with people telling me that you, as STAIND, have covered “This Love” by PANTERA as a tribute to Dimebag…is there ever any chance that those of us who haven’t seen it will be able to purchase a legit, studio version of this track?

AARON LEWIS: Ummm, I’m certain it’s gotta be on YouTube somewhere, but you know…probably not. It was one of those things that I actually had his Confederate Guitar out on tour with us…I played it for a song or two…and I mean…literally, it was HIS guitar! Rita…you know, his lifetime girlfriend and common-law wife…she let me take the Confederate Flag Guitar out on tour with us. I had to play it! It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck every night when I played it! And, during that time-frame we’d bust out into “This Love”, and Barry from THREE DAYS GRACE has come out and played it with us when we were on tour with them…I mean…I loved that guy, man! He was THE BEST! He was just…I think he loved doing this more than anyone else that you’ll ever see out here!

AWAY-TEAM: Would you ever do it in the solo, acoustic thing???

Zimbio Aaron Lewis Acoustic

Photo Courtesy Of:

AARON LEWIS: Well, when people come to see STAIND…they come to see what we have written. With the solo thing…it’s just so carefree and I don’t really care if I mess up, and I don’t care if in the middle of a song that I haven’t even tried to play in 20-years, I just, off the top of my head decide that, you know…for some strange reason I pick that song off the top of my head to try and play when I don’t even know if I can still play it…it doesn’t matter! Somebody will yell it out from the crowd, and I don’t expect to be able to pull it off perfectly, and I hope people aren’t expecting for me to pull it off perfectly…then again, I go on YouTube, and whatnot, and a lot of people don’t get it. They don’t understand that I’m doing it tongue and cheek. They just don’t get it! I certainly wouldn’t seriously try to bust out “Dead Or Alive” by BON JOVI, but I play a verse and a half of it…just for the laugh factor of it all, the fun of it…and then to go from that to “I Saw Red”, by….ummmm…..



AWAY-TEAM: (Jokingly interupting…) “Puff The Magic Dragon”

AARON LEWIS: Yeah, “Puff The Magic Dragon”, you know? Or even trying to play “Still Loving You” by the SCORPIONS. I’m not trying to do it seriously! You think I’m seriously trying to redo “What’s Going On” by FOUR NON-BLONDES? (laughs) C’mon!!! It’s all in fun! It’s more for the comedy as it is for anything else. I mean, I’ll do “Every Rose Has Its Thorne” by POISON and when everybody starts singing along with me, I’ll stop and bust on them for singing along!!! (laughter) They may call me gay for playing it…but I don’t know who’s gayer…me or them!!! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: That’s hilarious! Listen, the new album, The Illusion Of Progress, there are two singles that have videos; “Believe” and “All I Want”. These two are supposedly…a continuation of each other as far as the video side of it goes. Is this to insinuate that the album, itself, is somewhat of a concept album?

AARON LEWIS: You know…I never really thought about this…but I guess, with the title of the album, life is really an Illusion Of Progress, kind of. We really didn’t write the album with the intent of it being a concept, but I can see how it could be seen as one…but it wasn’t anything intentional at all. In some way, shape or form, The Illusion Of Progress pertains to really, every song on the record. You can apply it to any song on the record…you can apply it anything that’s going on in the world today…again, nothing we did on purpose and it’s nothing too deep or intentionally political…but you can apply it to the Presidency of The United States…

AWAY-TEAM: Okay, now you notice I didn’t bust up in here with any political questions because I didn’t want to set you off, man! (laughter)

High Times Aaron LewisAARON LEWIS: Smart move! (laughs) It’s so much better that you did that because I’m just going to dig myself a hole…get myself in trouble with the left-side. You know, I’m so upset with what’s going on in the world right now. I mean, mid-terms are coming up here soon, and we need to, as the free society which is the United States…which has been the envy of the entire world since its inception, that the government has succeeded in screwing up…that we need to go back and pay attention to those three, ingenious words that were written down on a document…called The Constitution. And the Constitution is there, to protect, us…WE THE PEOPLE…from what is going on right now, in our government. They’re taking way too much control of what’s going on! They’re not supposed to…by design, they’re not supposed to take control of this country. They’re not supposed to tax us, what they’re already taxing us! If you don’t think our taxes are going up, and everything that [Obama] campaigned on is going to become lies…if it’s not already, then you’re blinded by everything that’s blurring it all. Our grandkids are going to be paying for our stimulus package. And that wasn’t political…that was Patriotism!!! (laughter) You know…Goddamnit…I swore I wouldn’t go here, but do you know something? Let me tell you something! Can you believe that it costs me $2,000 a week to pay the 16 employees that I have on staff at my hair salon? I’m serious. (Editor’s Note: At this point, I am looking totally confused because I have no idea what Aaron is talking about…the guy is bald! I am so confused as to what he means by “hair salon”!!!) Just to cut them a paycheck!!! This is before I even pay a dime of Social Security, Wages, or any of that other shit! I pay $2,000 a week in payroll taxes…just to cut them a paycheck! Not to mention the corporate tax that gets put on me, everything else. I gotta pay unemployment, I gotta pay everything else, and I still I have to pay them over $2,000 a week, just to cut my employees a paycheck! That’s small business!!! I only have 16 employees!!!

Okay, so you’re saying you own a Hair Salon, right? What’s the name of your salon?

AARON LEWIS: It’s Salon-Karma!!!

AWAY-TEAM: Okay!!! (laughs) Moving onward…(laughter around)…As the predominately huge figure that you’ve become; I mean, Hit Parader Magazine voted you one of the TOP 100 HEAVY METAL SINGERS OF ALL-TIME…how long is it going to be before we can see Aaron Lewis…the actor???

AARON LEWIS: Uuuuuuum…I don’t know….I-I-I-I….in the beginnings of it…I had a part in Fred Durst’s last movie which, I keep blanking out on it, but Ice-Cube is in it and his daughter is the first female to ever play football…It was a Disney Movie…(Editor’s Note: Although all of us knew what Aaron was talking about, none of us could come up with the name of the flick… “The Longshots”, at the time!)…I mean, Fred directed that movie! And until my schedule became too much to deal with, I was supposed to be in that movie. I mean, inevitably it’s going to happen, as long as it’s a part that I can just be myself in. I mean, I’m not a character actor or anything! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: I’m with you, man. Hey, thanks so much for the interview, bro. Have a great show tonight, and we both with you a very Happy…Early Birthday, my friend!

AARON LEWIS: Hey, thanks so much. I hope you enjoy the show!!!

Devian Tart Staind photo

Photo Courtesy Of: Devian Tart

And with that, we left the bus, only to be joined once again by Aaron and the entire band for one of the most incredibly rocking shows we’ve ever seen the band perform. For anyone that thinks STAIND is just a sobbing band of depressed guys singing songs about sorrow and despair…let this be a warning…they kick at least four monster rockers out before ever slowing the pace in their set, so don’t be fooled by what radio has put in front of you. This band is the real deal and totally heavy-handed in their set-list!!!

Special thanks go out to the STAIND tour manager Matt, label representative Kelly McWilliam, and to everyone that joined us this night to stay until the very end of their set and experience one of the best live shows going!!!

I just laugh to myself as I think about the “art” of waiting; because it is truly that…an art form. As I sit here, at my age, and think about the longest wait in my life, it was merely 364 days until that new GI Joe showed up under my Christmas tree (Thank You, Santa). But then, I remember…I’ve actually waited patiently for over 7300 days for something just as significant. Something so comforting that not even that hand-knit wool sweater from Grandma could compare. Something so invigorating, that not even a few unnoticed nips at the eggnog would even dare. Something so incredibly, motherfucking, cocksucking, knobby-kneed, hairy-legged, prickly-prickly, tick bitch looking incredible…that even a late 40’s scumbag like me would risk his life and limb to stand in line at the local record store to down right fist fight for a copy…..something so comforting that only the Dirty Boys Of The Underground could satisfy…a new KIX album! Well, here it is….Christmas in July, motherfuckers, 7300 days after we’ve heard a peep of new music out of them; and KIX are back to Rock Your Face Off! Away-Team caught up with bassist Mark Schenker to get the skinny on what the past 7300 days have held secret for so long in the KIX camp and why this legendary 80’s musical force is still relevant enough to put out their first new album of music in 20-years to an audience that’s been force-fed earfuls of cookie-cutter crap in the interim. It’s no bars, down and dirty and brutally honest…just what you’d expect from a guy who went from “fan to man” while those 20-years ticked by. What’s it like to watch your childhood heroes rock a stage…while you’re standing two feet from them? Let’s find out….

An Away-Team Exclusive With KIX Bassist

Mark Schenker


Photo Credit: Mark Weiss

Away-Team:  “Hey buddy, I’ve got so much to discuss here with this being the first inkling of KIX music the world has heard in the past twenty years (chuckles), but there’s just so much to talk about, man, let’s just jump right in, okay?”

Mark:  “Go, man….”

Away-Team:  “Roger that…So, twenty years… a new KIX record with all new music: Why?  I mean, us fans love the nostalgia, the tried and true…just good ol’ KIX, man.  You know?”

Mark:  “I hear you, but Craig, you know this about me…I am the biggest KIX fan ever!  I grew up listening to and idolizing those guys.  You know this.  The fans DO want to hear new KIX music.  I’m serious.  I want to hear my favorite band put out new music.  The fans agree!  They tell us all the time.  People do want a new KIX album and I’m here to tell you, I couldn’t be more proud than to be a part of giving it to them.”

Away-Team: “Now, just for the record, I wasn’t saying new music from KIX wouldn’t be cool as hell, but with you, Jimmy and Steve doing FUNNY MONEY (, Ronnie doing The Blues Vultures (, and Brian in Rhino Bucket (, it’s not like the fans weren’t hearing cool new music from their heroes. I mean, new music is great, but I’m simply saying, you didn’t have to do it and you would have still had the fans in droves.”

Kix - Live AfterShow

Photo Credit: Nadine Joy

Mark: “You’re probably right on the money, but as much as we’ve enjoyed the KIX fan support of our other bands, this was still way bigger than just KIX. This was about fans that we have all over the world who have been supporting us since the day the band went on hiatus back in ’95. This was a give-back to the fans that have loved and supported Steve, Ronnie, Brian and Jimmy for all these years. You know, I include myself in that fan base as well. I wanted to hear this record too!!!”

Away-Team: “So why not release it way back during the first of the reunion shows, in like 2003?”

Mark: “Good point, but none of us were sure if it was not just going to be a quick, one or two off, you know? We had no idea when all this started back up that it was going to be accepted like this or blow up the way it did. Once it became apparent that people were still coming to the shows, supporting us the way they did, we realized this was more than just playing a few shows and calling it a day. New music was something that the fans wanted; they love Steve, Jimmy, Ronnie and Brian! I mean, I count myself in that fan base…I love these guys too. And I’m not just saying that because they’re my friends and I get the chance to play in a band with them all…I love these guys and I love the whole KIX vibe, I always have! This album is for people like me, you…everyone who loved these guys in the 80’s and still love them 30-plus years later.”

Away-Team:  “Well, let’s talk about the new record; it’s called Rock Your Face Off, and it’s a smoker, man! [Editor’s Note: See Bam-Bam’s review of the album here:]

Mark: “Thanks, man. We’re pretty proud of it. I think it will be exactly what the fans are looking for. I mean, it’s got Ronnie and Brian’s fantastic guitar solos all over the place, Jimmy Chocolate, my favorite drummer in the world, just slingin’ lumber and then Steve’s voice; it still sounds amazing. The guy is a force of nature.”

Away-Team: “Yeah, he’s ‘okay’! (laughter all around) Seriously though, I remember you telling me a while back that the album was in the can last year. Why is it being released like, almost a year later?”

Mark: “We had some legal loose-ends to tie up. The release date was set for exactly 3-months from the time we signed the deal with our label [Loud & Proud Records], and we couldn’t legally do that until we were out of our old deal, so it took a ridiculous amount of behind the scenes work to get everything taken care of. We actually finished recording it all back in, like the end of October of last year.”


Photo Credit: Mark Weiss


Away-Team: “And I am not sure how many people know this or not, but you are kind of an accomplished producer who did both the FUNNY MONEY albums Skin To Skin and Stick-It as well. You’ve worked alongside Beau Hill (Warrant, Winger, Ratt, early KIX) on some of that stuff too. Why didn’t you double-duty on this one?”

Mark: “As much as I would have loved to be the one to produce the new KIX album, we needed to bring in someone who knew and was intimately familiar with the KIX sound from the inside and someone who could possibly contribute to the writing process as well. It was actually Brian that came up with the idea to use Taylor Rhodes. A lot of KIX fans may not know this, but he was the obvious choice because he worked on Blow My Fuse and Hotwire, he co-wrote like a lot of the big KIX fan-favorite hits, not to mention he wrote Aerosmith’s “Cryin” and a ton of other big songs that still get played…we didn’t know if he’d do it or not, but Brian hit him up to ask and courted him so to speak he came up from Nashville and stayed at my house during the whole demoing and recording process…”

Away-Team: “Which, I’d like to add, your house is like also a state-of-the-art recording facility that basically allows you to live there when it’s not humming with sound, so I’m sure there were many late nights when you two probably hopped out of bed and ran down the hall to the control room and tracked ideas as they streamed through your heads, right? (laughs)”

Mark: “Oh man, totally! That guy is just awesome! I mean, we had a few things that I had done with outside writers like “You’re Gone”“Wheels In Motion”“Rock-N-Roll Showdown”…and then Steve had some really great stuff he was working on with “Tail On The Wag”“Inside Outside Inn”…I mean, we all had a ton of ideas and completed songs so when Taylor showed up, it got real serious, real quick. We had like 30 song in fairly complete form that were all decent demos and he just came in and said, “Yep”, “Nope”, “This is good”, “No way”…there’s no grey area with him, man…it’s all cut and dry. Taylor came up with a better bridge and the whoa whoas for a song I wrote with another writer called “Love Me With Your Top Down”, which is the first single…”

Away-Team: “A very good choice, I might add….”

Mark: “Thanks, bro! We think so too. I actually loved “Rollin’ In Honey”, but everyone pretty much agreed that “Top Down” was the one to launch first, so that decision was pretty easy. At first the title track was going to be the single but we’re saving that one!”

Kix Group Shot

Photo Credit: Mark Weiss

Away-Team: “Did you engineer the record? I know you couldn’t just sit still in that studio, bro. I’ve known you too long to see that happening. (laughter)”

Mark: “Yeah, I engineered the guitars, bass and vocals – everything but the drums. We had a good friend of ours, Scott Spellbring, record and engineer the drums at his studio in Fairfax, Virginia. It was Cue Studios and they had all the awesome mics, the great room…we recorded in the “Red Room” there, everything we possibly needed to record drums for album quality. Scott did an awesome job, which was great because I had enough on my plate with the rest of the stuff, so it just worked out better doing it that way. But everything else was done in my studio.”

Away-Team: “Did that make it easier for the whole band to be a part of the writing process on this one? I mean, this was totally a communal effort, right?”

Mark: “Absolutely! I think it would be more accurate to call it the “creative process”. We all took part in the entire creative process from the beginning. There were some songs that we had that I thought were really great that I just loved and we tried to sell those over and over to Taylor, but they just weren’t KIX songs. As it turns out he was right. So, the creative process was an all-around band effort when deciding the songs we were going to present to Taylor, the writing, the performance…it was a total band effort with Taylor absolutely being that 6th member!”

Away-Team: “How about the running order of the tracks, bro? I mean, I’m probably not alone when I say that the first two KIX albums [Self-Titled and Cool Kids] were just very well put together. The song order JUST MADE SENSE! Everything flowed, everything rocked….total bombast from start to finish. Did you guys go for this when figuring out the running order?”

Mark: “(laughs) Well, I’ll tell you, I think we all knew that “Wheels [In Motion]” was going to be the opener because Tom Lipsky from our record label loved that song as well and we all thought it was just the perfect kickoff to a new album, so that one was pretty much set from the beginning. Steve actually, he creates the setlist when we perform live, and all of us usually banter back and forth over email about the order the songs are going to be played in a live setting, so Steve, he came up with an album order that he liked and Taylor, he came up with an order that he liked from riding around in his car in Nashville listening to the tracks over and over, and like Taylor is intense…he either does it full-on 10 or he doesn’t even bother which is why I think he and I got along so well so fast (laughs), so Taylor had this killer running order, and the funny thing is…it just so happened, that Taylor’s order….and keep in mind, he hadn’t even seen Steve’s email with his choice of running order…both of them pretty much had the exact same running order list that became what you guys are going to hear on the album! There was like maybe only two or three songs that were slightly different but in the same section, and Steve liked Taylor’s better, so we pretty much went with Taylor’s order. It was weird!”

Away-Team: “All meant to be, I guess…you can’t argue with lucky situations in this business, you know what I mean?”


Photo Credit: Mark Weiss

Mark: “So true, Craig. Very, very true. Happy accidents. This whole thing has just been a lucky situation for me, man. I can’t tell you how crazy it all is. I get to see one of my favorite bands in the world, every time they play live….with the best seat in the house. It’s just amazing! Sometimes, when I’m like playing a groove and Steve’s doing his thing with the audience, I just stand there…even after 11-12 years in the band, two feet from the guy and I’m like, ‘That’s Steve Whiteman. And behind me is fucking Jimmy “Chocolate” [Chalfant]…oh, and there’s Ronnie and Brian running around playing some fierce motherfucking guitar’…it’s just amazing, man. And like I said at the very beginning, I think the rest of the fans feel that way too. These guys are loved the world over. They’re just great people, great musicians, and the fans can’t get enough of them. You’re right. This business is crazy like that and I can’t believe sometimes that I get to be a part of all this. I feel like some sort of radio contest winner every night we play! Now, I’m in the band…I get to be a part of it all and still see these guys play their asses off every night…with the best seat in the joint!  (we both crack up laughing)”

Away-Team: “Nice, brother.  I’m proud of you.  Hey, before we wrap it up, let’s talk about what you’re listening to nowadays.  I know you and I have always talked “new music” with each other for years; shit that rocks, stuff with great production, odd-ball crap…what are you listening to these days?”

Mark:  “Oh gosh!  It depends on what kind of mood I’m in, you know?  I’m a music teacher as well for a school called Bach To Rock in McLean, Virginia, and I get to hear all these new bands that my students turn me on to.  I mean, it’s really weird because I’m a bass player and I spend most of my time teaching guitar. They give me all the hard rock and metal kids! (laughs)  So, I hear a lot of different styles.  I mean, I love Avenged Sevenfold as far as the heavy stuff goes.  And I’ve been a huge fan of Bullet For My Valentine for a while.  Those guys just write great music and that dude can sing his ass off, they are cocky as fuck live, they know how good they are and it’s a beautiful thing to watch, and I love his voice!  I’m also really into this new band Blackberry Smoke that Brian [“Damage” Forsythe] turned me on to.  I know everyone compares them to Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I have no problem with that…I love Skynyrd and these guys are projecting similar, swampy kind of thick ass vibe as well.  And of course, as far as bass stuff goes, I’ve always been a huge Billy Sheehan fan and he and Ritchie Kotzen have this band The Winery Dogs along with Mike Portnoy on drums and they’re just earth shattering, they make you wanna sell your instruments and go sell oranges or something!  I just wanna hang it up after seeing them! I really like Asking Alexandria too.  They’re really heavy with a lot of attitude and I love that!  I also love Brad Paisley as far as Country music goes because he’s a great guitarist and I don’t know if a lot of people know this, but he won a Grammy Award for his vocals, man.  He’s got a killer voice!  I even like the band FUN, hell, Steve likes FUN, I’ll pretty much go see anything live, even saw Christina Perri recently but don’t print that! (laughs).  Good music is good music, right?  I may not go buy all their records, but I’ll go see them live and support them.  This kind of thing inspires me and makes me know I still need to go practice my ass off! (laughs)”

Away-Team:  “I hear you, loud and clear.  You said it best; “Good Music is Good Music”.  So, in conclusion, is there any message from Mark Schenker and the KIX army that you want to say to the fans, the people you adore, the ones who can’t wait to get this record and have something else to add to their long-standing KIX collections?”

Mark:  “Yeah, I kinda touched on it at the beginning of the interview, but my personal message to the KIX fans is that I am just really happy that you get to hear your favorite KIX guys play new music.  I really am.  I’m the biggest KIX fan that just accidentally happens to be in the band, so I’m really excited that we all get to enjoy this together, Craig.  You, me, the fans…get ready…here it comes….”

Away-Team:  “You’re coming to Rock Our Face Off!!! (laughs)”

Mark:  “You bet!”

Away-Team:  “Thanks, buddy.  You know I’m real proud of you and can’t wait to see the band enjoy their much deserved success, albeit even if it’s 35-years later than it should have been!  Give em’ hell, bro!”

Mark:  “Thanks, Craig…we’ll see you guys, as they say in KIX world, coming soon to a dump near you!!”


Photo Credit: Marcy Royce

And so ended a conversation that could have continued for another two hours considering Mark is an encyclopedia of Recording Production knowledge, Music History and every strange topic you’d ever imagine from The Discovery Channel – Mark’s close friends actually call him “Mark-ipedia” – because he seems to know something about everything! Check out the boys on the road as they bust out in support of Rock Your Face Off (Loud & Proud Records) which will hit stores and online retail outlets on August 5th. Head over to for all the tour schedules and more, and “Like” them on Facebook: A special thanks to Amanda Cagan at ABC Publicity for all the love getting this interview set up, and to the gang at Loud & Proud Records for their support of the staff here at Away-Team.

In the name of that adored Facebook reminder of how great things were any other time than the present:  Here’s an old, January 2005 interview with DEF LEPPARD drummer, Rick Allen.

The Thunder God Speaks

RickAllen head shotDEF LEPPARD’s Rick Allen
The Thunder God Speaks!!!
By Editor: Craig ‘Bam-Bam’ Stegall
Photos Courtesy Of Universal Records

It was the summer of 1979 and my buddy Johnny and I had conned our parents into letting us take the bus to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit my aunt and go see screaming Ted Nugent and the Scorpions in concert. We were only thirteen years old and we thought we had really struck it big with this move. My aunt picked us up at the bus station, took us out for pizza, and then dropped us off at the Charlotte Coliseum at around 6:30pm. While standing in line to get in, we were introduced to seemingly nice folks who were kind enough to ask us if we were “looking”. We really didn’t know what to say, but the torpedo cigarettes that were shoved up under our noses were some of the strangest we’d ever seen. Yeah, we were rocking with the big dogs now and we knew that Uncle Ted was gonna bust our cherry from concert virginity like nothing we’d ever experienced before. Little did we know, it would be the opening band that night which would have us scrambling to the mall the next day in search of their new album. Amidst all the noise and what I’m sure was a full-on contact buzz from all the funny smelling smoke in that arena, it sounded like the announcer said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, all the way from the U.K., give it up for the Deadly Weapons!” I would later find out on my visit to the mall the following day that the record store clerk was at the same show and he confirmed for me that their name was, in fact, NOT the Deadly Weapons….but Def Leppard. I quickly snatched the copy of On Through The Night that he was holding for me in his hands, and raced to my aunt’s car so that we could get back to her apartment and listen to the tune “Answer To The Master”. That was the killer song with the awesome drum solo that I had seen the night before. I scanned the album credits so I could see who the drummer was…and there, right in front of me, was a picture of a kid who couldn’t have been any older than me at the time! “Rick Allen” was the name, and it was one that would forever be engraved in my young mind.

Later that year, when I started playing drums myself, “Answer To The Master” was one of the songs I would always listen to and dream about being good enough to play. On Through The Night was one of those albums that I held in high regard along with my Kiss Alive record and the first Mother’s Finest album. It was Rick’s drumming on that record and his performance at that show twenty-six years ago that made me a life-long fan of Def Leppard and everything Rick would lend his name to. I studied his drum set up, I noted that he played barefoot, I knew every cymbal size and weight that he used…I was obsessed with his playing. I cried when he had the car accident that cost him his left arm, and I marveled when he came back and continued to play for the band regardless of the fact that he was one appendage short of his counterparts. To say that Rick Allen has always been one of my heroes is an understatement.

Follow along now as Away-Team takes you on an exclusive interview with Rick to talk about the band, his Raven Drum Foundation, and ask a few questions from some of our readers.

Def Lep Old School


BAM2: It’s an honor and a pleasure, Rick, I’ve been a fan for many years dating back to when you guys opened for Ted Nugent and the Scorpions in 1979. I was only thirteen then and I remember that show like it was yesterday. You did a killer drum solo out of “Answer To The Master” that had me hooked.
RICK: Oh yeah, I did used to do a solo in that one. I must not be that much older than you then, if you were thirteen at that show. I’m forty-one now.

BAM2: Yup, you’re only a couple of years older. That’s one of the things I connected with back then is that you were already what I considered famous at the time and yet you were not much older than me. (laughs) I figured I might actually have a chance at fame. (laughs) Needless to say, I never got very far. (laughter) Let’s talk about the band. You’ve got a greatest hits compilation out now called Rock Of Ages and you’ve also got an album of cover tunes coming out on September 20th that is called Yeah!, plus a tour with Bryan Adams…what else is going on?
RICK: Well, I think we’re going to probably end up elongating this tour through December because the interest has been incredible. Also, we’ve been working on some new music. We have this room that we set up at the gigs…we call it “The Sparkle Lounge”. There’s a couple of guitars, some guitar amps, and a small drum kit there and it gives us the opportunity to work out some ideas that people are coming up with. [Band members] will present ideas to each other and we’ll do some rough recordings and hopefully some of those will make their way to the studio when we are ready to record another album. It really makes sense for us to do that because the last thing we want to do is get off the road and go, ‘Oh Shit, now we’ve got to come up with a new record!’. Things are really great right now. People are really behind us, the record company are really into everything that we’re doing…it’s almost like the perception of the band has changed, you know, with all the younger people now that are coming to the shows.

BAM2: You’ve got songs that you could say stand the test of time, though. I have a fifteen year old daughter who still loves to hear “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and knows all the words. I don’t know what has connected the genres the way that it seems you guys have been able to do, but it’s amazing just how relevant you guys are today. The music is timeless, bro.
RICK: That is very true and we’re starting to realize that. You know our last tour, with the X album…you know the powers that be didn’t want that record to succeed. Now, I know a lot of personnel have changed at the record company over the years, so that may be part of why this is happening too, but it just seems that a lot of people are really into the band again.

(Writers Note: At this point I tell Rick the story about seeing him play with Ted Nugent and the Scorpions and how I thought the band’s name was The Deadly Weapons.)

RICK: (laughs) Oh, now that’s funny.

BAM2: Now, over the years, especially with some of the things you have to do with the electronics that allow you to play your snare with your foot, etc.., I’ve always noticed that you have an incredible bass foot. Your right foot in “Answer To The Master” bounces to the tune of what a lot of drummers have to use two bass drums to accomplish. I’ve always been curious, especially since your heroes, Bryan Downey, Ian Paice, and Keith Moon were all double-kick players…why did you never play double bass drums?
RICK: Well, it’s true and Ginger Baker is another one. He played two bass drums. You know, I developed this technique with my right foot which is like a heel-toe technique. Basically what you’re doing is you’re going down with your heel for a downbeat and back on your toe for an upbeat. So, you’re getting this ‘dah-do-dah-do-dah-do, dahdo-dah-dahdo-dah’…

BAM2: Which is almost like a ruff (Writer’s Note: This is a drum rudiment that most drummers will be familiar with, but for those who aren’t…just listen to Rick’s right foot in “Answer To The Master” and pay attention to the drum roll sound he makes on the bass drum to get an idea of what we’re referring to).
RICK: Yeah, exactly. It’s almost like you rock the pedal. You’re just jabbing the pedal to the point where the pedal starts doing all the work for you.

RickAllen drum kitBAM2: Let’s talk about the Raven Drum Foundation. It’s a non-profit organization that you started with your wife that travels around and helps people. Fans of the band are familiar with this organization, but for those who don’t know what it is, let’s give them the skinny.
RICK: Well, let me start by saying why [I started ] the Raven Drum Foundation. I felt as though when I went through my accident, even though it was in England…I felt as though I was really taken care of well by the whole medical profession. I was so well taken care of, and many years later I realized how well I was taken care of and how I could have just died then. So, I’m really grateful for what they did for me, it was just incredible. When I met up with my wife, Lauren, about six years ago, she had this idea. She had been in health care and sort of alternative health care, and she suggested that there was a way we could go into the community and kind of use music and the arts to really empower people. To me it was really a way of giving back to the community and allowing people the experience that I was allowed. I was able to develop and I came back even stronger. To me, the human spirit is the strongest thing I know.

BAM2: And you’ve proven that by just doing what you’ve done. You’ve influenced so many people just by continuing to do what you do, both physically and mentally. I remember everything about that day when they announced your accident. It was my senior year of high school and I remember it like it was yesterday. Just the fact that you kept on going was a huge inspiration to me. I don’t think you ever even thought for a minute that it was going to affect you playing drums with the band. I mean you never gave up, bro.
RICK: Well, that’s cool and that’s what I want to pass onto people. Really, with the human spirit, if you tap into that part of yourself that we really don’t visit very often, then you can pretty much do anything. What [Raven Drum Foundation] is doing now is that we’re going into these special needs groups, women’s shelters, teenage penitentiaries, you name it and we’ve got all these things on the go, and it’s really helping people. We use drum circles to really empower people and give them a sense of self. The drum circle itself is a metaphor for community, and it’s great because it makes you feel as if you’re not alone.

BAM2: Do you ever visit these events?
RICK: Yeah! I get involved. I like going up to these teenage penitentiaries. A lot of [them] are gang related, but when we interview the kids afterwards or even some that have left the penitentiary, what they say is that it really brought the gang members together. They would actually play games together back in their dorms….
BAM2: Whereas normally they’d be trying to kill each other.
RICK: Exactly. One of the kids said that. He said, ‘you know if I saw one of these other gang’s kids [out on the street] now, we’d be less likely to be hostile to one another because of the kinship that we felt in the drum circles’.

BAM2: I have a question here about the foundation that was submitted by Marcy Sorbo of York, Pennsylvania. She writes, With the mission of Raven Drum, what new programs for children and adults would you like to develop that you haven’t already, and what programs would you like to expand upon?
RICK: I think the work that we’re doing with autistic kids and the mentally challenged kids is something that we’re going to develop more and more as we move on. The music therapists that we work with are just incredible, they have so much dedication and such a lot of patience. The beautiful thing about music is that it’s beyond words. If you’re wired differently [than] the rest of us, you don’t necessarily have to express yourself with words. You can express yourself musically, which is so powerful. It’s like trying to describe chocolate. Try describing love. It’s virtually impossible to do. But, if you just do it…if you play, and you play with intention, the group is so powerful that it becomes this wonderful entity that carries the whole group. I think it’s difficult to grasp that concept unless you just do it. It’s really, I mean drumming in general, is such an ancient form or our DNA. If you go back far enough, we’re all tribal. You cannot deny that part of ourselves. It all started with gutteral sounds, body slaps, hand claps…wood on wood, and really to me that was the beginning of dance and ritual, which developed into a form of spirituality.

BAM2: Can someone like myself get involved in the foundation?
RICK: Absolutely, it’s like, we all know we all have so many layers to ourselves, that with these drum circles it’s like pulling back these individual layers of yourself. You don’t have to be a stereotypical “different” kind of person to be a part of what we’re doing. You can be a two-armed or three-armed person and we don’t care. We feel as if it’s beneficial to everyone because it’s such an ancient form.

BAM2: How does one find out more about the Raven Drum Foundation?
RICK: The best way is to go to the website, WWW.RAVENDRUM.COM, and kind of read up on the mission statement and what we’re doing for the year, what our involvement is with the Def Leppard tour as far as the Ebay auctions, meet-n-greet passes, that kind of thing. It will at least let people know what we’re doing and lead to an interview of possibly getting involved at a later date.Def Lep Group

BAM2: That’s great stuff, man. Thanks for sharing that with us. Marcy also wanted to know, what’s your favorite Def Leppard song to perform live, and which one poses the most challenge for you?
RICK: That’s a good question! “Rocket” is always a little tricky, but very satisfying to get it right. Some of the older songs as well, the two arm songs, they can get a bit tricky. Like for instance, the other day we were practicing “Rock Brigade”, and it’s the first time I’ve played that song since I lost my arm, it’s all a bit new even though they’re old songs. As far as favorite songs, I love playing “…Sugar” and….I love playing songs that involve the crowd. You know that anthemic vibe. It’s one thing playing it at a soundcheck, but it’s totally another when you play it live. It’s like a different experience every time.

BAM2: This next one comes from Jason in Green Bay; Jason wants to know is there any chance that you guys will be playing “in the round” again someday?
RICK: Oh, we would love that. I mean, if this tour continues the way that it is and it continues to become as successful as it has been so far, we would love to do that again. We were really in our element [for those shows], that was one of the best things that ever happened.

(Writer’s Note: At this point, Rick’s P/R people pop on the line to tell us that we’ve only got a few more minutes, so I try to wrap up quickly and slip one more question in…)

BAM2: Okay, let’s see if I can slide one more in, Rick, before they cut us off, bro…Chandra from St. Petersburg, Florida wants to know why did you change or back down from what you had on the video screen during the song “Gods Of War” during the Tampa show?
RICK: Basically, we felt as though the footage that was being shown left people confused as to whether we are for the war, or against war. What we [have since done] is that we have thrown EVERYONE in there. Everyone who has ever been a part of making war…is in there now. That doesn’t mean to say that they are right or wrong. We’re just pointing out…the lyrics to the song are “We’re fighting for the Gods Of War, What the hell are we fighting for. The Gods Of War, and we don’t wanna fight no more”. That, to me, is advocating peace!
BAM2: Well Rick, they’re gonna cut us off here, buddy, I just want to say thanks for your time and thanks for the years of great music, man. I could talk to you for days
RICK: Well, thank you and I look forward to meeting up with you soon.

Many thanks to Shannon Herber at Universal Records and Wendy Weisburg at Hello Wendy Promotions for setting this up for us. Also, a big thanks to the folks at WWW.DEFLEPPARD.COM and to Gina Hart and her killer Def Leppard site WWW.DEFLEPPARDUNITED.COM for letting us use some of their photos for the interview. Make sure to check them both out for all the updated news on the band and for some great history as well. Most of all, I’d like to thank Rick Allen for his years of inspiration he’s had on me and for what he continues to do to this day to help make his mark on the world of music and humanity. He is truly the Thunder God!!!

So, what do you aMorgan Soloska guy whose heard every question there is to ask? This is literally the 25th time I have interviewed not just Sevendust…but more specifically, drummer Morgan Rose!

Since 1998 this guy has been dealing with my poignant, sometimes witty, and most of the time; just drunken after-concert idiotic questions! He really had no choice. Given that choice, I’m sure he would have pawned my overbearing, idolizing-like-a-stupid-school-girl fan of his drumming since the ’96 debut, talkative self off on Clint or Lajon, but he didn’t. Nope! He showed up to every interview; whether on the phone, in the radio studio of whatever call-letters would have me at the time, or every dressing room he was set up in…in every town I’ve ever lived since the beginning; eight different ones to be exact!

What keeps a guy like this going? What allows him to continue to look at punks like me every freakin’ year and still be polished, fresh and relevant to what’s going on in this ever-changing music industry? I have only one explanation….he truly has something to say; and this time, my friends, after 16-years and 25 sessions of meeting me at the mic, he’s here to proclaim the existence of pure, demonic evil in the music industry.

“It’s the fucking devil”, Morgan explains. It’s the last words he said as I shook his hand and said “Goodbye” until “the next time”. It was Sunday, June 15th 2014…Father’s Day….and before I asked my only question during this interview, the stage was becoming increasingly more exciting as I awaited Morgan’s arrival…. Sevendust’s Video Tech/Director: “Do you mind if we film this for possible inclusion on the upcoming DVD?” Away-Team: “Sure, let’s let the fans see the real side of washed-up music journalists! (Busts into contagious laughter!) As I wait for tour manager, Yoshi, to bring Morgan to the dressing room, I reminisce with the very late 20’s video guy that Morgan is one of the reasons that a lot of popular drummers today are even in the business. You know; the music business. “Yeah”, he says, “I got some great footage of him in Michigan last night”. I think to myself, “Dude, you have no idea how many years this guy has been busting his ass to perfect that. You have no…fucking….idea!” I let my misplaced anger split as the door flies open and in walks our “hero dejour”. “What’s up, brother?” I say. He answers with a laugh…

“You Again?”

Morgan drum Away-Team: “Unfortunately, yes! (laughter all around)  How you doing, man?  Happy Father’s Day, bro!” Morgan Rose: “Thanks man, good to see you again, seriously.” Away-Team: “Okay, man….1998, WRCQ in Faytetteville, N.C., the very first time we had a chance to sit down and talk finally.  I’ve literally, for 16-years since then, asked you every question known to man about drums, the band, your family, the birds, the bees….and after 24 times at bat, I’m trying to figure out what the fuck to ask Morgan Rose that no one, including myself, has ever asked him before!” Morgan Rose: (Recovering from massive belly laugh), “Oh man, I dunno!  What?  WHAT? ” (Laughter) Away-Team: “I think I figured it out though….I have never asked you about your definition of “work ethic”.  Never!  You and I talked about two years ago on the phone during the whole writing process and recording of “Black Out The Sun” and you told me, in so many words, “we’re gonna take a breather after this tour and Clint is gonna do some stuff, I’m gonna do some stuff…yadda-yadda-yadda….”  What the fuck, man?  You didn’t do any of that.  You just took the normal time off that a 70’s band would between albums, like 6-months, and then were at it again with a press release about a Crowd-Funding campaign for the new “acoustic” record!!!!  Seriously?  Time off????” Morgan Rose: (Laughing) “Okay, Okay, Okay….damnit!  We didn’t take any time off! (laughing)  We didn’t!  We just starting doing what we do, you know….” Away-Team: “Fine, let’s skip ahead, seriously…you guys tour Black Out…, then I see this Crowd-Funding thing come out on Facebook that says you’re asking your fans to donate to pay the cost of recording a new album, which eventually becomes, “Time Travelers And Bonfires”.  Let’s talk about this trendy, new process.” Morgan Rose: “I think this is pretty much where everything is going.  I mean, the fans commit money, they get the commitment of a new record for their commitment in believing there will be one….this is totally re-writing the music industry. And by the way, there’s a lot that wasn’t publicized about that campaign.  We hit our goal in like three days, man.  They [the Crowd-Funding affiliates] kept wanting us to set this small goal so that we would be sure to hit it and the truth is, we knew it wouldn’t take any time at all to hit that goal.  We know our fans!  The problem is, they kept upping the goal as we met all the other goals that they set too low to begin with and it just looked like a big sham on their part.  I think this is totally a great idea and probably the next “thing”, but those guys need to listen to the bands, man!  You know?” Away-Team: “Well look, brother, this was set as a quick 15-minute, in and out, but I want you to know something, bro…after all these years, and everything you guys have been through, I’m proud to say I got to live through it while it was happening because what you do, as Morgan Rose the drummer, and as Morgan Rose of Sevendust is friggin’ inspiring to even old fucks like me, and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to know you and follow you through all this, man!” Morgan Rose: (Stands up for the bro hug) “Thanks so much, man.  I know I’ll see you again, Craig.  Take care!” Sevendust Band Promo 2014

Until we meet again, my friend.  Until we meet again.

Nothing More Promo 2014My first introduction to Nothing More came in the form of an announcement in March of this year that Eleven Seven Music had signed the band to a five album guaranteed contract.  Having known the type of bands that Eleven Seven rosters, my interest was immediately piqued.  My curiosity further grew when I found out the quartet from Texas would be headed to my neck of the woods to perform at Fort Rock, but when I received an advance of their forthcoming album I was completely blown away!  So when approached with the idea of interviewing the band, my answer was as obvious as Axl Rose‘s weight gain.  Little did I know that I would not only be treated to a mind-blowing live show, but I would get to sit down and chat with two of the nicest guys in rock and have a rare interview that literally lived up to the old quote: “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life.”  So join me as we talk, laugh, and even cry (sort of) about everything from beating drugs-to-beating the drums-to-beating the meat. (Yes, you read that last one right)

AWAY-TEAM: First I’d like to start off by saying Congratulations on the upcoming release of your major label debut album! It’s definitely one of my favorites that I’ve heard in a while! You guys really killed it…

JONNY HAWKINS: Awesome! Thanks man!

AWAY-TEAM:  Take us back to the beginning.  How did Nothing More come to be?

JONNY HAWKINS: I originally met Daniel (Oliver, bass) and Mark (Vollelunga, guitar) when I was in 7th grade.  We played in different projects, and school bands, and things like that for years; and then Daniel, by a stroke of fate, ended up living with Mark while they were in college.  They were a little bit older than me at the time, but then at some point we convinced Dan to join our band, Mark and I were in Nothing More.  Dan didn’t want to at the time because he thought we were way too committed, (laughs) and he was like “I don’t know if I wanna do it…”

DANIEL OLIVER: They spent the night at each other’s houses for band practices, and they were like full blown; I was like “I don’t know if I wanna do that” ya know. (both laugh)  I lived with Mark though, and i just kinda lost my mind, I was 20 years old, I quit everything and moved to Colorado.  I road 1,000 miles in a day on my motorcycle with just a tent and my coffee pot, just to kinda find myself again, and find a place where nobody knew me.  That whole experience, I met these amazing people that just, that’s how they lived, they went out and did what they loved despite any adverse reactions from family, or anybody pressuring them to make money or settle down.  This group that just did what they loved, they traveled, and rafted, or they were ski bums.  I came back and, I was studying mechanical engineering, and I just felt like I had to come back.  I lived with Mark and I saw what he was writing, and I was just like “Wow! This is awesome!”   I vividly remember going to a show and Jonny was the drummer at the time before I was even in the band, and it was this epic show, and Jonny does this drum solo; I was like “I can write some grooves with that guy!” (laughs) After that, I was like “I’m in!” We kinda pulled it together and were like “Let’s go out and do it!” Noone’s gonna tell us to drop out of school and not get normal jobs, but there’s nothing stopping us from going out and doing it for ourselves.

JONNY HAWKINS:  And we kind of adopted Daniel‘s philosophy on life.  we each kind of learn from each other, and one of the biggest things we learned from him was “Fuck Plan B! Throw it out the window!” because if you wanna do something that requires a lot of risk, you just have to go at it 100%  A lot of times when the going gets rough, it’s that “Plan B” that becomes your escape route.  So for us we united around that philosophy, and that’s why we’ve got these scars on our arms. (lifts sleeve to reveal scars caused by the band branding themselves for each year they spent on the road)  It represents our commitment to each other, and to the vision, and that we wouldn’t stop until we saw it through to it’s fruition.  We were on our way, and then about three years ago the final piece of the puzzle, Paul O’Brien (drums), joined the band.  We used to tour with his other band, Pandemic, they were from Louisiana and we were from Texas, so they were kind of our neighbor, brother band.  They ended up calling it quits, and Paul still wanted to go.  He always really respected what we did, and vice-versa we respected what he did in Pandemic, and it was just the obvious choice when we were looking for drummers.  The rest is history!

AWAY-TEAM: I know you used to be the drummer…

DSCN4529JONNY HAWKINS: Yeah, when I started out with Dan and Mark I was the drummer for about maybe 5-8 years.  At some point, the band kind of filtered down through a lot of going out there and touring, and it was just kind of a filtering process.  We had Mark, Dan, and myself, even though we had other band members throughout the process; we were at this point where we were like “What are we gonna do? We don’t have a singer…”.  I really felt this, I don’t know what the word is, but my gut, my subconscious; I had listened to it in the past in other really big life decisions, and in hindsight had seen that it would always lead me in the right direction.  I started getting that really strong feeling about being the singer, even though I had nothing but fear and doubt at that time.  Even my parents, who support me in everything, and people around me were all telling me it’s a bad idea because I was not a good singer.  If you would’ve heard me then, it was atrocious, and you would’ve thought the same thing, and I even thought the same thing, but I’ve trusted my heart in the past and I don’t think now is any different.  I really had that strong feeling, so I started learning how to sing over the next few years, and the guys supported me in that.  And it really turned out to be the right decision, and I’m happy that I followed that instinct.

AWAY-TEAM: And I know you’ve got a lot of fans that are happy about that as well! So when I received your album advance, the first song that I heard was “Christ Copyright”.  I immediately loved the sound.  My first reaction was that you guys had this Escape The Fate-meets-Coheed & Cambria or My Chemical Romance type of sound, but there’s a lot more to your sound.  For those who’ve never heard it before, how would you describe your sound?

JONNY HAWKINS: Umm, I would draw a symbol on the wall and say “It sounds like that.” (everyone laughs) But in all seriousness, it’s most definitely in the rock-progressive world.  Sometimes we joke around and say we’re diet metal.  Really we have a variety of influences, and I guess our vision for our music now and in the future, we really wanna extend beyond a particular genre and a title.  So when people ask us who we are and what we sound like, I get real reluctant to answer that question too specifically.  I really just wanna have a pair of headphones and go “We sound like this!” 

DANIEL OLIVER: I think one really cool thing about this band is that as a unit we’re all writers, we all push each other to write.  Ya know, there’s not only one guy writing songs and showing them to the band, it’s really this collective idea based on whatever our influences are.  Like I know for me personally there aren’t a lot of good bass players in the rock world, I don’t think; or it’s not like a prominent instrument anymore.  So to be able to play with a group of guys where I’ll do something, or write something just on bass, and to have it accepted and change how they were writing.  It’s all about building off each others ideas, and I think that’s the only way to get somewhere different.  It’s like the song started out sounding like a particular thing, and then each person threw in an idea that changed the writing of the other individuals to get it to where it’s complete and we’re happy.

JONNY HAWKINS: It really is, we sound like democracy.

DANIEL OLIVER: (laughs) Yeah, we sound like democracy! Democracy pushing it, moving it along.

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs)  There’s the answer I was looking for! (all laugh)… You mentioned having many different influences, who are some of your biggest influences?

JONNY HAWKINS:  Very hard to narrow down…

DANIEL OLIVER:  A huge one is Thrice for sure.  Both musically and lyrically, even philosophically.  That’s a band that really goes out and speaks their mind, they dig deep and they create interesting stuff.  It’s heavy, but then they’ll release something like “The Alchemy Index”, which is all of their interests in a full EP release kind of thing.

JONNY HAWKINS:  We’ve always found a lot of our strongest influences come from bands that, not necessarily musically are progressive, but conceptually are progressive.  What I mean by that is people who really think in layers, and have a deep quality to their lyrics and the music.  Ben Folds is an artist that does that with a lot of his songs.  Tool is a big influence, a band called dredg, The Mars Volta.  Even artists real outside of our genre like Alanis Morrisette, Imogen Heap, Jurassic 5.

DANIEL OLIVER:  There’s a band Fair To Midland, out of Texas, that’s been a big influence of ours.  We run across bands that really push the envelope sometimes, and to have it impact us, them doing something so crazy, I think that’s what really influences us the most.

AWAY-TEAM: You guys recently signed a five year guaranteed deal with Eleven Seven

DANIEL OLIVER: Five albums.

AWAY-TEAM: Five albums. (laughs) Geez, five years, like your baseball players. We’re at the baseball park so I’m thinking baseball deals! (all laugh)

JONNY HAWKINS:  It’s more like fifteen years! (all laugh)

AWAY-TEAM:  A deal like that is nothing to sneeze at.  How did that all come about?  Was it through shopping demos? Was it through someone caught you out on tour? How did that come to be?

Nothing More_Daniel OliverDANIEL OLIVER:  Well honestly there was one other time, like a year and a half ago, before Eleven Seven found us, that Red Bull Records was hot on us.  They ended up passing because they’re owned by an energy drink. (laughs) But, I don’t know, it was a cold call honestly.  No shopping, no great effort to meet labels.  We were playing L.A., en route to Sacramento to play the Aftershock Festival last September; we heard about them (Eleven Seven) about a week before, they said they were gonna send a deal proposal, they sent a couple scouts out to the show and that was kind of it with Eleven Seven. Then that festival out in Sacramento happened, we were the second band of the whole festival, first day, second band, Side Stage; we kinda went in there like “Oh man, you never know with festivals. We might be laying for nobody.”  Our manager was with us and he’s like “Guys, there is industry here.  Just go out there like you always do and slay it!”  Turns out, one it was an epic show, the audience was great, and we got asked to play the second day on the Main Stage at 3 p.m. in front of 15,00 people.  After that everything kinda blew wide open, but at the end of the day after different labels came to us and we talked with them, Eleven Seven was just so passionate about it.  Ya know, there a smaller label, they have a lot of huge bands, and they just dug it, and they got it, and they wanted to push it, and that’s all that mattered.  It doesn’t matter the name of the label, or how much money they have, it’s all about the people who are in charge caring and doing something for you.

AWAY-TEAM: I have heard that about Eleven Seven in the past.  Ed (Sloan) from Crossfade had a lot of great things to say about them. Tremendous label to be with… and there goes Jonathan Davis (as the Korn singer walks by our table)

DANIEL OLIVER: (in a cartoonish voice) Hey Dude! (all laugh)

JONNY HAWKINS: On a deeper level though, it was really just a “Build it and they will come.”  It was not really trying to fight to get on a label.  We had kinda given up hope that we’d even be on a label.  We thought we were gonna be DIY the rest of our lives.  we jsut focused on building ourselves and our show, and it really just came to us.  I think that was a huge lesson, not only about that, but about everything in life, ya know.

AWAY-TEAM:  Now when you signed with them, I’m sure things changed a little bit, you’re still you, but what was the first thing you bought when you signed with them? I know Will (Tour Manager) mentioned you guys were driving a taco truck, so I know it wasn’t a new bus! (all laugh)

JONNY HAWKINS: A ton of cocaine, a Corvette, umm. I’m just kidding…

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs)

DANIEL OLIVER:  No, we really just stuck to what we’ve always done, and that was just reinvesting in what we did.  We spent the money on equipment, and pushing to be a national band, and to do these festivals. We kind of have a complicated stage set up, so to really do it how we wanted we had to reinvest in a bunch of equipment.  we also took that opportunity to set it all up to where we can begin forwarding the next live show, which we’ve always been kinda known for.  So we’re just reinvesting to reinvent for ourselves.

AWAY-TEAM:  That’s probably the smartest answer I’ve ever heard to that question! (all laugh in agreement)  I wanna get to some of the songs that are on the album, I’d love to talk about the entire album but we don’t have enough time! (joking in reference to the 15 song album which will be reviewed right here in the coming weeks) But, the aforementioned “Christ Copyright”, what was the inspiration behind that?  It seems like Texas has kind of a strong Christian belief system, is that how you guys grew up? And is that kind of where this song came from? What was the inspiration? 

Nothing More_Jonny Hawkins 2JONNY HAWKINS:  Totally.  We most definitely grew up in the “Bible Belt”, and there’s usually one of two paths people typically take when they grow up in a very religious area.  They either stay very religious, and they’re just as hardcore as their parents were, or they’re equally as rebellious and opposite of that.  I think “Christ Copyright” was our intent to sort of find the middle ground between the two polar extremes, and try to find the root of these differences.  America is very, very polarized, whether politically or religiously, and with “Christ Copyright” we were trying to put a spotlight on the real problem at hand, that everybody is trying to preach about, or sell to you, or fix.  It’s not what’s appearing on the surface, it’s not what religion you are, or what political party you happen to subscribe to, it’s whether you’re dogmatic or not.  And dogma, which sounds like a complicated philosophical word, is really about whether someone is humble or not, and open to the idea that they don’t know everything, and neither do you, and neither do I.  So I think if we approach each other from this point of view that “Yes. I’ve lived my life, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons, and I do have beliefs and opinions; but I realize that at any moment I could learn something that changes all of that. Because there’s new information that I’d never considered before.” To be open in that way is the way of growth, and really the way of being a real man or a real woman, not a pawn.  I think you become a pawn the second you buy into the idea that red team’s the winner, or blue team’s the winner, or I’m this religion, or that political party.  Because it’s not really about that.  That’s all smoke and mirrors.  It’s really the heart of all of that.  So “Christ Copyright” was trying to convey that, but also say that there’s so many talking heads and pastors who are trying to sell you on this idea of heaven.  You can buy into it, and it may or may not be true, but at the end of the day what I do notice is that when you do buy into it usually somebody makes money!

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) So true!

DANIEL OLIVER:  And I think even more pointedly, like for instance when I lived in Nashville for a year, and we all kind of grew up in the church, I got involved with this crazy charismatic group.  They literally just used fear in the name of God, to try to change people to be what they felt was right.  Just straight up fear.  When you really look at that it’s like, if someone is coming into the presence of quote-unquote God and their first emotional feeling for him is that of fear, out of some unreasonable death sentence to hell that we were all born out of, that’s the same thing as a woman’s first experience with sex is her being molested.  It’s just not right! It’s not right, and there are a lot of people that just fucking don’t see that!  They don’t see that they’re using fear, and they’re manipulating people because of that out of their own penance to God, because of their own guilt.  In the bridge it’s like “If they scream loud, they’ll muscle the crowd.”, and that’s all it is.  It’s just that you’re screaming louder than I am, you’re no smarter, you’re no better.  You happen to have a proclivity to not masturbate at night, so therefore you feel you’re a better Christian than I am? (all laugh as Tour Manager turns his head from a nearby table) You know, it’s like “Fuck You!” Anyway, if that makes any sense.


JONNY HAWKINS:  Amen! (laughing)

AWAY-TEAM: I went to Catholic school up until my Senior year of High School, so I know what you’re talking about man!

JONNY HAWKINS: Oh Really? So you know. (laughing) That’s crazy.

DANIEL OLIVER: Will‘s like “Did I just hear masturbate in an interview?” (all laugh)

JONNY HAWKINS: And it ended with “Fuck You!” and “Amen!” (laughing)

Nothing More_Jonny Hawkins 3AWAY-TEAM:  (Management has given word that we only have another 2-3 minutes. Time flies when you’re having fun)  So there’s a couple songs I wanna touch on, and I know they’re probably a little bit painful for you (Jonny), but “God Went North” and “Jenny”.  I know they’re kind of straight forward and you get the message, but if it’s cool with you I’d like to know the back story behind them.

JONNY HAWKINS:  Yeah, totally.  My mom, whom I had a very great relationship with other than the normal annoyances of having a mom, was a painter.  I learned my creative side, and everything that I do in music from her.  She really instilled that in me.  As I was in High School, I got the news that she had an extremely aggressive cancer that was a 99% death rate.

AWAY-TEAM: Wow! Man.

JONNY HAWKINS: There was no chemo, radiation, none of that did anything for people who had this type of cancer.  So with that news, basically my family went a few different directions, as do most people when they’re given that kind of news.  First we tried to fight it every way we could, through health food and healthy living, and it didn’t really change what was happening.  Then the next thing, my mom had desperation to be here longer with her children who weren’t grown up yet all the way, she got more religious.  As we went through that time, I was becoming an adult and I was in college, my sisters were younger so they really had it harder going through that process.  One of my sisters is named Jenna, which is what the song “Jenny” was about.  As my mom got more religious, in hopes of getting healed, she joined one of those faith-based healing churches as kind of a “Hail Mary”, if you will.  The only way, those churches teach, that it works is that you really truly believe in it.  So she bought in, and the weird thing about it was that she did have a spontaneous remission after one of the weird experiences in those healing services.  It really did go away 100%, or I guess not 100%, but according to the doctors they could not find it anymore.


JONNY HAWKINS:  So her life was extended another year or so more than it should have been.  So that really caused her to further believe this faith-based healing stuff, and as time went on she started getting more and more hardcore, and I was getting less and less religious because I saw a different point of view than she did.  I didn’t think that it was because of the beliefs that she had, as much as it was about this emotional state that she was in during that process that people of other religions have also had spontaneous remissions in.  I had a different theory as to why it was happening, and so it was a struggle for us to be going different directions but to still hold on to her as my mother through that sickness.  And at the end, I loved her and I didn’t want her to die, but she was suffering so much when the cancer came back a year later.  She was down to skin and bones, and had tumors just protruding out of her stomach, her legs were bloated like someone who had been submerged in water for days.  It was just heartbreaking to watch her live like that for us.  So I really wanted her to die, because I didn’t want her to be feeling like that anyomore.  That’s where the whole “If you won’t save her, please just take her” lyrics came from.  And at the same time, the song “Jenny” was written about my sister who at that time was going through her own denial and grieving process.  She got, unfortunately, involved with a lot of the wrong people, and she ran from the problem and got addicted to some hard drugs.  She also had some mental, very clinical level bi-polar mixed in with that.  When you mix a mental illness with hard drugs, that’s usually a cocktail for destruction.  She went down this spiral, and it got so horrible, it was breaking my mom’s heart because she was holding on for dear life trying to hang in there to get my sister through it, as a mother.  There’s a lot more to the story that I don’t have time to go into, but basically it just, those are the two most heartbreaking things I have ever been through in my life.  The one thing my mom… (visibly getting choked up) Sorry.  The one thing my mom taught me, bringing it back to why I started this story, she was a painter, and growing up as she’d teach me to paint and draw, she always taught me that there was no such thing as a mistake.  To be a good painter, you never viewed any stroke of the brush as a mistake, you viewed it as an opportunity for a new purpose, and you went with it.  She was an amazing painter because of that simple view.  With her death, and my sister spiraling out of control, I learned from my mom to look at that as an opportunity, so we wrote those songs together.  I felt like those things were just meaningless, purposeless, God-awful suffering; but I decided at the end of it that it could either be that, or I could make meaning out of it and give it purpose.  With the guys’ help, together we wrote those songs and we gave it purpose.  Now it’s touching other people who have gone through similar circumstances, and I feel healing through those songs.

AWAY-TEAM:  It takes a lot to put that out there for the world, and I appreciate you telling me the story behind it.  I hope everything works out well with you and your family.  Thanks so much for your time! Best of luck with the album! I look forward to doing this again sometime soon.  I feel like we could talk all day about your album, and I appreciate you giving me your time.


Nothing More is currently out doing a few dates with Killswitch Engage, and will be heading out this fall with Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, and Hellyeah.  For more info including tour dates and to pre-order their killer debut album, which comes out June 23rd, click here.





Heavy metal musicians and craft beer brewers take risks with song writing and recipes every day. The similarities in creativity, attitude and the willingness to take things as far as they can go (or “to extremes”) are just a few ways the two worlds are alike in my opinion.

In his Decibel magazine magazine column, Adem points out the metal/ craft beer crossover with a combination of interviews and beer profiles. He takes that concept to ELEVEN in his new book The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing’s Outer Limits. Adem took some time out to answer five questions for us!

When did you notice the connections between metal and craft beer and the fact that it goes beyond references to the Devil?

Well, five years ago when I started writing my Brewtal Truth column in Decibel, I honestly didn’t really think there was a connection. That said, the first piece I did was an intentionally irreverent pairing of specific metal subgenres with different styles of beers. It was just supposed to be funny. In subsequent columns I began to write about brewers who were into metal (like Barnaby Struve of Three Floyds) and metal musicians who were into craft beers (like Dave Witte of Municipal Waste), however, it took a while for me to really see the crossover. In some part, I’d like to think I helped foster that crossover by writing a craft beer column in a metal magazine. It exposed Decibel’s metal-loving readers, who were purely there for the music, to craft beer.

thrash metal

Because you reach a specific audience with your column, do you receive any feedback from Decibel readers who are now choosing good beer over mass market crap?

Definitely! I hear from readers via social media about beers or breweries I’ve turned them onto. In fact, another Decibel columnist (and metal musician), Richard Christy of Charred Walls of the Damned, has mentioned several beers or breweries he’s learned about through my column. Metal heads are super passionate about the things they love. There’s no halfway with them! I also think they like to try things that aren’t mainstream, because clearly the music they like is far from mainstream. That said, when it comes to people’s tastes in food and beverages, they like what they like and there sometimes can be no convincing them otherwise. Craft beer isn’t for everyone, and a lot of people still think it is snooty and expensive, but I think if you’re open-minded enough to listen to, say, Napalm Death or Carcass, you could probably handle a well-made IPA.

What are your consistently favorite craft breweries out there? National or local to you?

Man, that’s a tough question. In writing my book, The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers, I had the opportunity to try some beers that I normally can’t get my hands on and some of them—like beers from Surly, Three Floyds, Mikkeller, The Alchemist and many others—were pretty spectacular. That said, my consistently favorite craft breweries are ones that I have regular access to (mostly West Coast), like Stone, Lagunitas, Bear Republic, Deschutes, Rogue, Unibroue and North Coast. My favorite local brewery here in Victoria, BC, is Driftwood. I love everything they make.

Dave - Iron MaidenWill there be a second volume of EXTREME BEERS or any other book projects in the future?

That’s actually a really timely question. I’m looking into that at the moment. I’d like to do a series of Brewtal Truth books that have the same tone and vibe as this first one, but different content—whether it be more extreme beers, or some other new ideas. If my first book sells well, I’ll hopefully get that opportunity.

What is in your beer fridge right now?

I have a bunch of Victory beers—Prima Pils, Hop Devil IPA, Winter Cheers, Festbier, and Headwaters Pale Ale—that were sent to me by Magrudergrind guitarist RJ Ober, who works as a sales rep for Victory. I also have some Phillips Blue Buck from a local brewery and a couple bottle of Iron Maiden’s Trooper beer that a friend gave me.

Filter-Sun Comes Out Promo Photo


For every art form there are “rules”, for every “rule” there are exceptions.  Richard Patrick has been making such exceptions, and defying convention for 20 plus years now.  Given the tremendous success he has achieved with his band, Filter, it came as no surprise that my interview with he and his guitarist Jonny Radtke was nothing less than extraordinary.

One of the first things every good journalist is taught is to always control the interview.  There are, however, rare occasions where brilliance comes to life by simply listening, and enjoying the rants of a charismatic individual.  I invite you to sit back and relax, and enjoy one of the most unconventional, yet enjoyable conversations with rock n roll royalty as we talk about everything from addiction, to a-dickhead, who nearly killed Patrick’s wife.

AWAY-TEAM: First and foremost, I’d like to congratulate you on the release of the new album, The Sun Comes Out Tonight, which hits stores June 4th.  It’s a great record, I’ve been listening to it non-stop for about a week and a half now, if that tells you anything…



AWAY-TEAM:  I’m really impressed with it!  Now, I understand this album was originally intended to be released independently, under the title “Gurney & The Burning Books”?…

RICHARD PATRICK:  That was always a working title…

JONNY RADTKE:  I mean we didn’t know, we were…

RICHARD PATRICK:  I told the guy like three times.  I was like, ‘This is a working title.’  And he went ‘Oh Burning Books, and da-da’  I was like ‘It’s not really gonna be called Burning Books’

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs)

JONNY RADTKE:  We were in between tours, when we were initially writing stuff, and we had a few demos under our belt, and at that time it was still premature.  We didn’t know where we were gonna be, like as far as what label we were gonna go with, or whatever.  So it was sort of just us kinda having the freedom to do whatever we wanted, and that interview, the guy just sort of kinda ran with it.  It was just a working title.  Obviously when we went into the studio for real, and we were signed by Wind-Up Records, we had obviously a direction we were headed in.  Something that we kept in mind throughout the recording process.

AWAY-TEAM:  So, I mean is that true?  Were you intending to release it independently, and then something came up with Wind-Up?  How did that come about?

JONNY RADTKE: I mean, we didn’t know…

RICHARD PATRICK:  I think Wind-Up was looking  for a signing.  Gregg Wattenberg (Wind-Up Co-Owner) has always been a huge fan of my voice… I think they were already pretty… no, we got signed before we wrote “What Do You Say”.  We started emailing Gregg Wattenberg, and he had met us once, and said ‘I wanna sign you guys, but I want you to write the fucking rock hit, that like we’ve all been waiting for!’  And it was like ‘Okay’, and we just kinda listened to “Hey Man, Nice Shot” and Short Bus in general.  Then Jonny and I sat there with Bob Marlette and pumped out five different parts that we loved, and as they were putting it together in the computer doing drums and stuff, I just started hearing  ‘Hey, What do you say’.  We sent that to the label, and they were like ‘Great!  Go in, finish the record.  We’d love more hits, but you’ve got your first single, we’ll get this off the ground and, if we have to we’ll just release the single, and you guys can finish the record at your leisure.’  And then they were like ‘No. Finish it, and put on as many radio singles as you can.’  So for us, it was like ‘Okay, let’s make it catchy.’  You know, like “Self-Inflicted” is the other one where we intended to sit down and make something that was…

JONNY RADTKE:  The huge impact.

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, and the “Hey Man, Nice Shot” big chorus, smaller verse, ya know.

AWAY-TEAM:  That kind of answered one of the questions I was gonna get into.  Ya know, a lot of guys will go into the studio with something in mind like, ya know, this is gonna be the heaviest record I’ve ever made or…


AWAY-TEAM:  And I noticed that, it shows that you went back and listened to Short Bus, and some of the older stuff.

Richard Patrick-Filter

Richard Patrick-Filter

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah. Also, Gregg Wattenberg said ‘We need super fucking angry, heavy Filter!  We need that. That’s what the label needs, that’s what your audience wants.  That’s what Filter needs!’  So I was finally… cuz Bob Marlette is a great producer, and I’m not gonna say anything bad about him.  It was kinda like, I want fucking heavy man, I want heavy shit!  I was kinda saying that even on The Trouble With Angels, and we always had this bright shiny, glisteney chorus, and I just remember thinking to myself  ‘I wanna fucking scream my ass off!’  The only song we came close to on that, was “The Inevitable Relapse”.  So this was like, ‘Fuck it! Great! Let’s scream a bunch of different choruses on the record, let’s have that screamed out, aggressive sound that everyone wants!’  That left us with a lot of room for “Surprise”, and “First You Break It”, “It’s My Time”, and “It’s Just You”.  Then there were others like “We Hate It When You Get What You Wanted” that’s straight up industrial.

AWAY-TEAM:  Right.  Jonny, I know you’ve been a friend of Rich’s for a while now, but what was it like actually stepping into the studio for the first time with, not only Richard, but a legend in his own right in Bob Marlette?

JONNY RADTKE:  It was amazing! It was an amazing experience, we started working on stuff before we went into the studio, and it just felt effortless.  We both have the same influences, and we both know where we wanna go as far as songwriting, and what we like and think is cool, and we compliment each other very well.  But at the same time it’s surreal sitting next to the dude looking at me, and kinda like ‘Fuck yeah, we’re working on something together’  It’s awesome, it’s amazing!  And then, I’ve always known of Bob, and it was my first time working with him, and it was the same thing.  The guy just shared our vision, ya know?  He understood the kind of album that we needed to make.  We bounced a lot of ideas off each other, we were around each other every day, and all the creative juices were flowing.  Sometimes you get three people in a room together that… Rich and Bob are accomplished songwriters, and myself; there could be a lot of ego, there could be alot of disagreement, but that wasn’t the case.  We were, Rich and I were always on the same page.

RICHARD PATRICK:  Bob and I are old enough that we can’t tolerate; we’ve had other people that we’ve worked with and stuff, and it was just like ‘Man this isn’t working.’  Jonny is the kind of guy where he grew up listening to either bands that I’ve respected, or bands that I’m from, or bands that I was currently in and he always kind of respected that.  Plus he’s got all the other stuff that I like, that he likes; you know A Perfect Circle, Tool, Pantera, Deftones, Ministry, and he comes from Chicago so there’s the entire scene that was going on there.  So, ya know, it either works or it doesn’t, and in this case it was like ‘Hey dude, let’s make this, let’s do that’ and I was like ‘Yeah that’s great!’ and the songs wrote themselves.  When it feels like it’s effortless, that’s when you gotta kinda just back up and just…  He’s the only person I made a deal with BEFORE we went into the studio.  We had already messed around with some songs, and I was like ‘When this record comes out, this is exactly what you’re getting.  This is it.’  The ownership of the song is perfectly split.  It’s not ‘I’m 60, you’re 40′.  It’s not, ya know…

AWAY-TEAM:  Right, right.  It’s your song, it’s not YOUR song.


RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah.  And having said that, here I am singing the vocals, and it’s like ‘Hey, what do you think of this melody?’ (changes voice) ‘Hey maybe try that’  So all of a sudden, it’s just a common good of the best idea wins, and there’s no ego, and it’s all been set in stone.  There was nothing to gain from being the guy that wrote the melody and the lyrics, because I’m not going for 50 percent, I’m just going for the common good of the song.  So, a lot of stuff like that.  Everything is easy, instead of just me. (There’s a knock at the door, and in comes catering with a platter)

AWAY-TEAM:  Rich, you’ve been sober for ten years now, which I wanna congratulate you on…

RICHARD PATRICK:  Oh, thank you man!

AWAY-TEAM:  … I know you’ve had songs in the past that have dealt with addiction issues, “This Finger’s For You”  seems like it may be another one, is that true?  What was the inspiration behind that song?

RICHARD PATRICK:  Umm, that was one of those random kind of songs where it was like I’m upset.  I don’t know exactly what started it, but ‘I can’t drink gin. I can’t do some of that.’  I can’t fall back into the old person that I used to be.  The drug years, the alcoholic, drug years I call the “Gonzo Years” where I was literally in a Hunter S. Thompson phase of my life.  I was trying to press the boundary of mind-altering substances to the point where, ya know, I’m in the middle of “Welcome to the Fold” and the bridge was 17 minutes long as it was.  I’m sitting there going ‘Mama gimme my medicine’, and I’m peaking on mushrooms, and I’m trying to describe being a little kid being held up by this giant tree that is my mom, and just freestyling into this weird shit.  Trying to capture what it’s like being on just a ton of drugs, in the same way that Dr. Hunter S. Thompson would for any of his books, or any of his reporting.  But eventually, you end up not really learning anything, you’ve learned everything and now you’re just a drug addict.  So as soon as I started feeling like that I pulled out.  And I use the drug years as fodder for so many amazing songs.  “The Sun Comes Out Tonight” is about being a “falling through the cracks” type of kid.  Good person, but had nothing to do, couldn’t afford anything, I could afford some cheap drugs, and I could walk around the City of Cleveland, Ohio on acid and break into abandoned buildings, and have a look on the city that no one else would have because everybody else is in a club, or in a home, or a movie, or bar or whatever.  So, ya know, I’m really proud that I went through that phase because; and then once you get really addicted to drugs and alcohol, then all of a sudden that’s a personal battle, and you gotta fight out of that somehow.  It takes a couple years, and then you’re finally grateful that ‘Wow, I can’t believe how much I learned!’ 


RICHARD PATRICK: A lot of stuff right there. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  Amazing stuff! (all laugh)  You mentioned “Watch The Sun Come Out Tonight”, you’ve always been one to sort of defy convention, and I know you did this on The Trouble With Angels, you actually use a bit of vocal effects on that…


AWAY-TEAM:  …which I’m normally not a big fan of, but your voice lends itself so well to it; not to mention that we all know you can sing your ass off without it…

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, that’s a vocoder.  Rick James did a lot of that stuff.

JONNY RADTKE:  It’s basically your voice coming through a keyboard.

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah, like a synthesized voice.

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, it’s totally an effect, and see that’s the thing.  The first entire record was all programmed drums, on purpose, ya know fingers out (extends both middle fingers).  We don’t need a neve console, we need this fucking computer and we’re gonna make it work.  And then we’re gonna run it through a neve console, and mix it, and that was the idea.  We were just literally leaving Nine Inch Nails, and before when Trent and I were working together in Nine Inch Nails we were listening to bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy.  I was never gonna be in a rock band again with like, the regular format.  Because once you experience all the different crazy sounds you can make on a computer, you gotta take that.  Now “The Inevitable Relapse”, I took a lot of shit for that, apparently I’m allowed to use drum machines, but I’m not allowed to use an obvious effect.  Because the song is about going to the club to score, and then the “relapse” is “Drink it, Drink it, Snort it, Smoke it.”  I took a lot of shit for that, and undeservedly so.

AWAY-TEAM:  I’d have to agree with that.  Now there are certain people who make their entire career out of that…

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, I mean I understand getting sick of Chris Brown and stuff like that, but dude.  The interesting about that is, here’s this effect and it’s in your industrial rock band for half a second to make you feel like you were in the club, and then it’s all back to normal vocals.

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah, it’s not very long at all.

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, and it was the first song that was released to the fans, and they shit the bed, and completely freaked out like ‘Oh my God are you gonna do this?’ And I was just like ‘Oh God, here we go.’

AWAY-TEAM:  (Laughs)

JONNY RADTKE:  But now with this song, I think it’s…

RICHARD PATRICK:  That song is, honestly we stole that idea from The Deftones so we’re not even the first band to do that.

AWAY-TEAM:  Over the course of your career, you’ve done a few cover songs, what’s the coolest cover you’ve ever heard of one of your songs?

RICHARD PATRICK:  Well you know what, Brooke White sang “Take A Picture”, and we have the copy because we’re trying to do some stuff with it in film.  It’s actually Brooke White, the song, and Mitch Marlow has done some stuff with it.  It’s an amazing cover, maybe we’ll get that released somehow.  Then there’s all kinds of people doing “Hey Man, Nice Shot”, it’s kinda wild.  Then I met Shaun Morgan from Seether, and I was like (in a low, mean sounding voice) “Yeah I heard your cover.”  (all laugh)  But I was just messing with him, he’s a great guy, he said some good things to me.  It’s a flattering, amazing thing that people would cover your music.  You know who else did it, Lifehouse did “Take A Picture”; so there’s a whole bunch of people out there covering our stuff.

AWAY-TEAM:  One of your covers, “Happy Together”, is now being featured in the movie The Great Gatsby.  

Jonny Radtke & Richard Patrick-Filter

Jonny Radtke & Richard Patrick-Filter

Speaking of movies, obviously you’re the rock star of the family, and your brother is a successful actor, and it’s often been said that every singer wants to be an actor, and every actor a singer.  Have you guys ever talked about anything like that, has Robert ever been like ‘Hey man, let me…

RICHARD PATRICK:  Performance is amazing!  He did, he was trying to get me to be an actor back when I was in my drug phase so I wasn’t into it.  Performing is awesome, and when you have an opportunity to look into a camera or act in something, Jonny and I actually acted in our video.  We had a cameo role in our video for “What Do You Say”, which is a great little short movie.

JONNY RADTKE:  Yeah, it’ll be out soon.  We both had this little acting cameo.

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, it was like ‘Look upset.’ or ‘Look like you’re thinking about it.’  (all laugh)

JONNY RADTKE:  Cook that steak! (laughs)

RICHARD PATRICK:  Cook that fucking steak! (laughs)

JONNY RADTKE:  I think this dude would be an amazing actor!  We fuck around all the time on the tour bus, we’re like brothers.  If we’re not focused on work related stuff, we’re joking about stuff.  He’s got his routines and shit, I think he would be perfect.  You could see him in like a Vince Vaughn, you know that squad of dudes, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, all those guys, Jonah Hill

AWAY-TEAM:  Well I got to see his Forrest Gump first-hand! (all laugh) [Editors Note:  Prior to the commencement of recording, we engaged in an ice-breaking conversation that culminated in Richard comparing his life to that of Forrest Gump, and doing a hilarious impersonation of him]

JONNY RADTKE:  I’d actually like to see him in a film.  I think he could do it.  I think he could also do dramatic work as well.  Me, on the other hand, I don’t know.  I’m not an actor, and never really thought of myself as one! (laughs)

RICHARD PATRICK:  I think you could easily do it. I think performing is all linked up man!  Writing, performing, creativity; it’s all hooked up in some way.  Even though my brother Robert does not have a musical bone in his body!  Check out Filter-So I Quit  w/Robert Patrick; it’s amazingly funny!

AWAY-TEAM:  I definitely will! (laughs)  You’re also close to an Academy Award Winner in your former bandmate, and friend, Trent Reznor…


AWAY-TEAM:  He’s just announced that he’s got this creative fire burning inside, and he’s bringing back  Nine Inch Nails to release a new album.

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, which I knew about for a couple months. (laughs) I didn’t wanna say anything…

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)  Let me ask you this, I know when you were a member of the band you didn’t really get to record too much with him; is that something you guys have ever talked about?  Maybe doing some sort of collaborating in the future?  You know, not necessarily for either band, but in general?

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, I mean I think it’d be interesting if I sang on something.  He had a thing that he was trying to do called Tapeworm, he asked me if I wanted to do something with that, I don;t know if that ever saw the light of day, but… He’s asked me, and now that I’m older, I certainly would wanna do it.  When I was younger I was too nervous, too crazy, you know it was back when I was drinking, crazy addict reporting from gonzo land! (all laugh)  But the short answer is absolutely, I’d love to do something.  I’d love to sing on something, I’m sure he’s got a bunch of music, ya know.    (Trent, I hope you’re listening!!!)

AWAY-TEAM:  Speaking of former bandmates, Frank Cavanaugh had some pretty harsh comments for you after an incident in which your wife was nearly run off the road because she had a bumper sticker that said “Ban Assault Weapons”…

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah. (seemingly puzzled by the comments)

AWAY-TEAM:  Really strange.  The first thing I thought of, ya know Frank’s a military guy, and most military guys I know are staunch conservatives…

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah it’s kinda wild…

AWAY-TEAM:  …you’re a liberal. That must have made for some tough times touring, and working together…

RICHARD PATRICK:  I was out of my mind when I was younger.  I didn’t really have any political stance.

AWAY-TEAM:  Have you spoken to Frank since everything?


JONNY RADTKE:  I talk to Frank all the time, and right before that happened it was like…

RICHARD PATRICK:  You talk to him on the phone?

JONNY RADTKE:  We text, we email, he’s been a friend of mine for quite a long time. Every time I come through Texas, he’d come to shows.  But yeah, when I saw that comment that Frank left I was like ‘Whoa!’

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, because I had said something like ‘The Tea Party’…

JONNY RADTKE:  We were talking about our opinion on gun control, which is to ban assault weapons, and he kinda jumped on Rich about that!

RICHARD PATRICK:  He jumped on it, he was like ‘I can’t believe you would say we’re all treasounous’, and I’m like “You’re obstructing the constitution.  You’re obstructing getting the government working.  You’re attacking the government.  That’s treason to me.”  The United States operates with a manual, and it’s called The Constitution.  It’s an instruction pamphlet from the people that made the country, and you need to follow it!  Filibustering 250 times in the Senate, to block every single thing that the president wants to try and work on, isn’t what we voted for!  We voted for common sense!  The Bush Administration had eight years, they were filibustered six times.  The Obama Administration is not even through it’s fifth year, and it’s had 250 filibusters in the Senate.  What the fuck is going on?  Because I want a vote on gun control, eighty percent of the people in the United States want a background check.  Every single thing that they’re talking about, in Sandy Hook he fumbled on the second clip, so he was putting the 30-60 rounds, and he dropped the first one and fumbled, eleven children ran out the door.  Got the clip in, killed twenty, so practicality, common sense; the laws of this country are what separate us from anarchy, right?  Society is based on laws, it’s based on rules.  We wanna ban anything beyond eleven bullets, or ten bullets, apparently that’s an attack on the 2nd Amendment right.  Okay, so you can’t have a grenade, you can’t have bazookas, but you can have a machine gun that fires as many times as you want.  So it’s essentially an automatic weapon, somehow that’s an attack on the 2nd Amendment.  Well, maybe we should look at the 2nd Amendment.  This is just three gentlemen sitting here talking about this, my wife, we have a “Ban Assault Weapons” sticker on our car because why not?  They’re not practical! You don’t need them, and if we’re in an arms race with our government, well they have the Atomic Bomb, they have tanks, they have more Abrams tanks than you could imagine!  So if there’s a domestic dispute, they’ve got like 10,000 tanks; roll that into any fucking major city, and you’re done!  I don’t understand what they’re going for.  when I think about Ted Nugent, it blows my mind.  I almost hear a panicked gun nut, not too far away from where David Koresh was!   It’s like ‘Dude, chill the fuck out!!!‘, ya know?  I’ve never owned a gun in my life.  I’ve shot some guns, what’s the big fucking deal!!!  You shoot a gun, ‘Wow I’ve hit the target!’, whoopty-fucking-do!!!  Action movies are great, I love action movies, I don’t wanna go out and fucking kill anybody!  It’s availability, it’s availability to the VT guy, it’s availability to the Columbine guys.  It’s gun show loopholes, you know I went to a gun show once and they were like ‘So have you ever been arrested for a felony?’ and I’m like ‘Oh yeah, absolutely.  Felonious assault with a can of beer.’  They’re like (in his best redneck voice) ‘Dammit son, you’re not supposed to say that!  You’re supposed to lie!’  And I’m like ‘Really?  I don’t want a gun.’  (cue redneck voice again) ‘Oh I thought you wanted to buy this thing.’ ‘No I don’t.  I actually was just looking at it.’ (redneck voice) ‘Alright, well I didn’t hear anything anyways’.  They don’t give a fuck, they just wanna sell guns, they don’t give a fuck who they’re selling them to!  I don’t know, I’m so far left I’m in the middle.  I’m so far left of the Tea Party, I’m moderately in the middle!  I talk to Republicans all the time, and I’m like ‘So what about banning assault weapons?’  and they’re like ‘Okay, it’s practical.’   I’m like ‘You’re a Republican.  What the fuck happened to your party?!!!’  It’s Tea-publicans!  That’s who’s running the government!  They’re using the stunt that, every time school’s in session, they’re pulling the fucking fire alarm!  So every time everybody wants to get together for school, they pull the filibuster fire alarm!  When are Americans gonna figure that out?  These are the same people that (return of the redneck voice hilarity) ‘Know there’s something going on out there in that Area 51, and it’s aliens, I’ma tell ya!’  It’s the same shit, they’re the same fucking folks!  (Redneck voice over the laughter of Jonny and myself) ‘I know that JFK was assassinated by the CIA back it the day!  That’s the real story!  What Lee Harvey Oswald, he was the guy in the grassy knolllll!!!!!!’  That’s who’s doing this shit!  I don’t like it!

AWAY-TEAM:  I’m a gun owner, but it’s for the protection of my family…

RICHARD PATRICK:  You know what? I’ve probably been a gun owner at some point in my life.

AWAY-TEAM:  It’s crazy nowadays, with the home invasions and shit!  I’ve got a daughter almost the same age as yours, and I need to protect my family!  But I’m a RESPONSIBLE gun owner, I keep it in a safe etc., etc…

RICHARD PATRICK:  I honestly, the minute I get a chance, I’m gonna go buy a shotgun.  I’m gonna buy a shotgun, I want a 12 gauge pump shotgun.  I don’t want the big, huge, ridiculous long one.  I just want the pump one that’s kinda shorter.  Literally just to kinda scatter some bird shot, and that’s it.  I understand the necessity to own a weapon, and lock it up in a safe, and put a lock on the trigger, and your kids can never find it.  It’s only memorized in your head somewhere, or locked away on a hard drive somewhere.  I stand behind my open-ended request to debate Rush Limbaugh and Ted Nugent.  The debate’s gonna be simple, cuz I’m just gonna ask some questions and let them rant on about like (Limbaugh voice) ‘Buh, duh, duh.  It’s just a scare tactic by Democrats.  Global warming is totally made up by the Obama Administration.  Who we all know resides in Kenya.’  You know, it’s just like their crazy wacko fucking shit!  (laughs) I wanna ask Rush Limbaugh to his face, “Dude, I make music.  I’m trying to bring people together, and I’m trying to make the world a better place.  What are you doing?  Cuz I know you’re rich, you’ve already made your money.’  But stirring up the fringe?  How can that be, I know Bill O’Reilly’s like ‘Hey I don’t care, I’m doing it for the money.’  There’s guys that wanna hear the Democratic point of view, the liberal stuff.  The far right is way crazier!  What’s the worst thing a Democrat has done?  What’s the worst thing?  Are they denouncing science?  Maybe they’re denouncing religion in schools, actually I don’t want a fucking church in my school!  I want the church at church!  What is so wrong from the liberal point of view?  Where are the liberal extremists?  What, PETA? Or the people trying to get between toxic waste dumping out in the ocean?  I don’t know, some of the extreme far left, with the burning of those houses for infringing on forests, I get that.  I’m against that, no one should burn someone’s property.  How is it somehow the Obama Administration is the far left?

AWAY-TEAM:  So we’re here for the opening night of the Summerland Tour with your band, Filter, as well as Sponge (whose sound check graced our eardrums throughout this interview), Live, and Everclear.  What’s the band you most look forward to seeing tonight?

JONNY RADTKE:  I can’t wait to see all of them!

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah.  I mean, how are we gonna pick a favorite?  They’re all awesome bands.

JONNY RADTKE:  The other three bands have all had great success over the years.  Really cool songs, and we’ve all known each other, for the most part, for many years.  So already today’s been kind of a ‘Hey it’s good to see you again’ 

AWAY-TEAM:  High School Reunion type of thing.


JONNY RADTKE:  It’s gonna be fun for all the fans, but it’s a treat for all of us too.  For all of us to be back in a room together, and hanging out.

AWAY-TEAM:  Rich, last but not least, I know you just got a new tat a couple days ago…Richard Patrick Sloan Tattoo


AWAY-TEAM:  So let’s see it!  What did you get?

RICHARD PATRICK:  (shows arm)

AWAY-TEAM:  Oh nice, for Sloan. (Rich’s daughter)  That’s cool!

RICHARD PATRICK:  My daughter Sloan.  She is so, she’s just got such an amazing go-getter attitude.  Just fearless, ya know.  First day of pre-school she’s marching into pre-school holding her bags, her backpack was bigger that her, and she’s like ‘Let’s go!’ (laughs)  She walks in ‘Whatta ya got here?’  Ya know, puts it in her little cubbie at school and just like...

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah, they’re amazing.  They’re life changers!

RICHARD PATRICK:  Yeah, and the funny thing  is that a million years ago, it was that emotional bond that made us more successful, way more so than all of the other bi-peds.  The brain would start to get bigger to grow more emotional.  So having all of these super strong emotional ties, the byproduct of that is what gave us all of this intelligence.  Isn’t that amazing?  So when you have a kid, you’re so connected, and it’s like ‘I have to live as long as I possibly can. I have to take care of myself’ (laughs) When I was 30, I did not care.  I was like ‘I don’t wanna be 40.  I don’t give a fuck.  I’d rather die.  Who cares?’  I was like ‘I’m good.  Became a rock star.  Sold millions of records…’ Then all of a sudden when you have kids you’re like ‘Nope.  I need to see her grow up.  I need to protect her when she’s 30, 40, 50.  I’m gonna eat my spinach.’

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah I know, it’s amazing what they do to us!  Well hey, thank you both!


AWAY-TEAM:  It’s been a huge honor, and a great pleasure to speak with both of you, and I look forward to seeing you tear it up out there tonight! (And tear it up they did!)

RICHARD PATRICK:  It’s gonna be great!  We’re looking forward to it!

JONNY RADTKE:  Thanks for coming out!

For more info including Tour Dates and to purchase music and merch visit Filter’s Official Website.

Special thanks go out to Richard and Jonny for so graciously giving me their time, and to Julie Lichtenstein at Wind-Up Records for making it all happen!



July 13, 2012 – Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD

Away-Team writer: Marcy Royce
Fall From Grace member: Tryg Littlefield


Marcy and Tryg Littlefield (Fall From Grace)

Marcy and Tryg Littlefield (Fall From Grace)

Away-Team: Tell me about last night’s show in Lancaster, PA.

Tryg: Have you been to this place in Lancaster?

Away-Team: Yes, I have.

Tryg: Well, then you’re familiar with the sunken, kind of dance floor. There was literally no one in the dance floor but the whole perimeter was packed with people. I equate it with having sex with that really, really hot chick that just kind of lays there. Because there was loads of people there but nobody was on the dance floor.

Away-Team: Nobody?

Tryg: Well, there was a couple that came out but thankfully they were drunk, so. (laughs) It was strange. Everyone loved us, everyone had a good time. We enjoyed playing. We had a technical difficulty in the beginning. Our drummer, Jesse. We have this huge, epic intro and he has in-ear monitors and with the pro tools that runs through his ears and he was rocking out, jamming. But the rest of us couldn’t hear anything. I just looked at him, like, what are you doing? The rest of us use monitors. So thankfully last night we didn’t cause that would have been really funny. He was just so confused until we figured out what was happening. (laughs)

Away-Team: (laughs)

Tryg: It was an interesting show. The strange this is that when 2 nights before when we were in Vermont it was absolutely insane. It was one of the best shows that Fall From Grace has ever had. Almost 700 people before we ever walked onto the stage. It was like people were coming in from everywhere afterwards. We we selling merch left and right. It was crazy. It’s been very up and down, but a great tour overall.


Away-Team: When did you start this tour with Saving Abel? I know you’ve done the back to back thing with Eve 6 and then going right into this tour with Saving Abel.

Tryg: It was June 7th.

Away-Team: So how do the 2 tours compare?

Tryg: 2 completely different worlds, to be honest. The type of people that came out for the Eve 6 crowd were considerably different than the Saving Abel crowd. Lots of younger fans came for Eve 6, strangely enough. Because they had their big hit, Inside Out, in the 90’s. But they have been constantly reinventing themselves, unbeknownst to us. And so it was really neat to see a lot of young, fresh blood including bands that tour with it. It was more of a non-radio market tour. So bands like The Audition, and Greek Fire that were part of the band package, with different parts of the tour. Both of those bands don’t have any singles out there right now. And Eve 6 is starting work their radio campaign while we were on tour with them. It was really wonderful to see the type of people that came out. A lot of old fans, a lot of new fans. And then immediately coming  to the Saving Abel crowd, it’s a very radio market. So people that are here tonight listen to the radio, or satellite, and they were acquainted with Saving Abel through that. And with Redlight King who were with us for the majority of the tour, who dropped off just a couple of dates ago. And there was another band with us too, Aranda. All 3 of those bands are radio bands and so night after night we kept getting “You’re a great band, but I’ve never heard of you. I listen to the radio all the time, when is your stuff going to be on the radio?” Well, it’s not out there right now but things will pick up. And it has. There have been several stations that playing us.


Away-Team: You were on hiatus for a little while.

Tryg: Yes, we took 3 years off.

Away-Team: What was the reason for the hiatus? And what brought you back?

Tryg: The reason for the hiatus. We toured and did the TV show in 2007. We did our previous record in 2008 and filmed 4 videos in that year. And in 2009, we toured for almost 7 months. And after the tour our rhythm section quit to pursue being at home, instead of always being out and about . They were starting to raise families and that sort of thing.

Away-Team: It’s a lifestyle. Being on the road.

Tryg: Absolutely! And Brian and myself got to work on the new record with our buddy, Mike, and we decided to spend more time with it. We took a year and a half to write that record. The thing about being in a band is that when you are out and doing stuff, and things are catching on, you have to be so fast because the attention span of some people is so quick. You have to pump music out. You have to tour. And you have to keep doing it over and over and over. So we said let’s just work on a new record. It was just Brian and I. We didn’t have a full band so we couldn’t immediately go out and tour. So we took a break after fulfilling our contract with BoDog. So then we signed with Indie Hell Road Records out of Seattle and we kind of put our game plan together. We were more strategically planning. So then we ended up putting the band back together with Ty, Justin, and Jesse. They all came in 2 years ago. We basically reformed the band and pretty much became a brand new band. We had the album but we all had been friends for between 10 and 15 years, knowing each other. There was no audition. We just asked “Hey, want to be in Fall From Grace?” And they were, like, yeah… cool, let’s hang out. Actually, I think the audition process was, how fast can you drink 18 beers.

Away-Team: (laughs)

Tryg: And 20 minutes later we’re high fiving it and you’re in. (laughs). But seriously, it’s been great and we just started playing locally again. And then we hit the road. It’s been awesome. We’ve been getting a lot of love with the new record. I’m really excited about what’s next. We’re gonna write a new record as a 5 piece because now we have 3 other influences coming to the table.

Away-Team: That’s great to hear.

Tryg: We get home in 12 days and we’re going to take a couple of weeks off.  Because we need a little break from being in a van together for 3 months.

Away-Team: Tight quarters for that amount of time.

Tryg: Yeah. Well, you get use to it. But we will all have a bit of separation anxiety.

Away-Team: You guys will be calling each other up and checking in to see what’s going on. (laughs)

Tryg: Yeah. We’ll be asking each other if we’re drunk yet.

Away-Team: Too funny!

Tryg: (laughs)



Away-Team: Ooooookaaaay. (laughs) Let’s continue on with another question. (laughs). What did it feel like stepping on stage at the Download Festival in front of 80,000 people? What is like “Oh. My. God!” Or was it like “HELL YEAH!”

Tryg: Do you have a fear of heights?

Away-Team: Yes, I do.

Tryg: Have you ever gotten onto something really, really high where your toes kind of tingle and your fingertips kind of go numb. You’re so filled with endorphins that you don’t know if you’re going to fall and die? That feeling? That is what it was like.

Away-Team: For how long?

Tryg: Just for like the first few minutes. Because when you’re on tour, you’re so in tour mode that once you strike the chord you’re just in. No matter where you are playing, you’re in front of a million people and you play a good show. No matter what you’re so plug and play at that point. Walking out there was very much like, “are you serious?” You can’t focus on just one face because you’re there are so many.

Away-Team: Just a sea of faces.

Tryg: And you have to give a different type of show. You can’t integrate with just 70 people, or 100 people, or 500 people. There’s so many people, you just kind of have to just give a performance. I can’t even explain it well. It’s just a different type of show. It’s amazing to feel the roar of that many people.

Away-Team: And how about the energy back and forth, the exchange from the stage to the crowd and back?

Tryg: The weird part is that there is not much of an exchange. Unless you give a time delay. (laughs). I would say something and it seemed like 10 seconds before the roar of the crowd came back to the stage.

Away-Team: Okay. I didn’t what that would be like for a show such as that. I’ve never been in such a huge festival like that being a photographer in the pit. I’m more accustomed to shooting bands in the situation as Rams Head Live, or Merriweather Post Pavilion, or any other number of venues that don’t exceed 20,000 fans. Here there is instant energy back and forth between the crowd and the band on the stage.

Tryg: Yeah. There’s always interaction.

Away-Team: I always get caught up in that. And I love it because it’s so wonderful to witness that between the fans and the band.

Tryg: It’s very intimate. Actually prefer smaller shows to be honest. Because it’s one of those wonderful times when your band can be that big to be enormous. But honestly I like the intimacy because then it’s like you play a show and then go into the crowd. And when you hang out with the people. We can exchange with them on a more personal level that they, and us enjoy so much. I like that, I prefer that. Know what I mean?

Away-Team: Yes. I do enjoy that as well when artists that I really care about, and admire, really love their music. When they really connect with me after a show, or even before. Like this. I love this! I was really excited when Shauna and Doug asked me to do this. Then I get nervous. (laughs)


Away-Team: How has it been with Saving Abel the last couple of weeks?

Tryg: Honestly since day one we’ve become instantaneous best friends. Jared and his wife, Nicki, and their daughter, Koda who’s two, are on the tour. The very first night we hit it off and we’ve all been hanging out ever since. We’ve had dinner with Jared & Nicki’s family in Dallas and I sing with the guys in Saving Abel every night. Their from a small town in Mississippi. Yes, they are this huge rock band with six singles and they are about to blow up again but you would never know it. We all hang out and drink and party like rock stars and as friends.

Away-Team: That’s awesome!

Tryg: And it’s amazing. I fully intend on having them up to Seattle and going to visit them in Atlanta. We’re friends for life from now on. Which is good. That to me is more important than playing in front of thousands of people every night, it’s about having good friends in your life that are warm, incredible people.

Away-Team: I know some bands will join each other on stage. Have you guys ever traded like that? Some of your members of Fall From Grace going on stage with Saving, and vice versa?

Tryg: I sing with them on New Tattoo every night. And I have since Dallas, when I joined them for the first time on stage. Ever since then it’s every night.

Away-Team: That’s great to have that relationship with them so that you can do that.

Tryg: It’s gotten to the point now that it’s so fun. Jared and I, we almost have physical banter with each other on stage. He makes fun of me and I let him, and it’s all great.

Away-Team: It’s that stage relationship that works together.

Tryg: Exactly!

Away-Team: And you have fun with it. And it’s not a job even though it is a business and it does pay the bills.

Tryg: Yeah. But, we all do it because we love it. We do it because we’re passionate. It’s not about punching a clock.

Away-Team: You do what you love.

Tryg: Absolutely!

Away-Team: And a lot of people could be very jealous of that. Because there are many people that don’t get to do what they love.

Tryg: My favorite ones are the people that I’ve experienced in the past. There always bands that are helping each other out and doing shows together. And then once one of those bands gets their break, then the other band gets all pissed off about it. And they bitch about it. And start saying “those guys use to be really cool but now their dicks.” Have you ever known what it’s like to go out and tour and have press every day? And get overwhelmed with life? It’s a different world.

Away-Team: Some people become different when you rise.

Tryg: Oh, absolutely. You find out that you’re not a big fish in a little pond anymore, but that you are little fish in a huge sea. It’s a different world. So, that was a little hard for me, personally, to experience in the beginning of this band. With the uprise in 2005, 2006, 2007. But honestly at the end of the day, the people that I have met from being on the road, many of them are still life long friends. I mean, I’m a minister also. Not with the church or anything like that. The Universal Life Church, one of those guys. I’ve done 6 weddings. I did one last summer for a buddy of mine who is a singer in another band. And that couple will be friends of mine for the rest of my life and always will be in my life. It’s stuff like that when you make those kind of friends, and it’s a different kind of friendship, too. It’s not an industry relationship, but true friends that you always will be friends with.


Away-Team: You just had the January 2012 release of the Romance Years. How are the songs being received at the shows on both of these tours you guys have done?

Tryg: Great! Everyone seems to like them.

Away-Team: Everyone is excited?

Tryg: We’ve been with the Eve 6 market which is more of the pop, the rock, the pop punk market. And a little bit of dance. And people love us there. Then we came over to the more active rock market. You can’t get more active rock than Saving Abel and Redlight King. And again, people loved us. So, we’ve been really well received and we’re very thankful for everything we’ve had. It’s just been great.

Away-Team: How long was the writing and recording process for The Romance Years?

Tryg: A year and a half.

Away-Team: Did all of you write together? Or is there a main songwriter?

Tryg: It was me, Brian, and our buddy Mike back in home that did the record because we didn’t have a rhythm section when we did the writing. We just spent a lot of time doing it. Each song took almost a month each to write and record. We had 15 or 16 songs for it originally. We whittled it down to 12.

Away-Team: I noticed the 12 tracks listed when I saw the cd listed. So, did you write some, record some, write some, record some? What was the process?

Tryg: What we did is demo’ed for the new record in the beginning and the demo’s ended up becoming the full deal. So, we were writing a song and then demo it and build it. We spent 3-4 weeks building that song and then we would move to the next song and do the same thing. Some songs we would build in 3 weeks and then we might decide that we just didn’t feel it. Production-wise, we tried to be polished. We had loads of guitars, and voices, on it, and chimes, and tambourines. And we just may have not felt it for that song. One thing we found out was, if you are writing a song that doesn’t make your singer sound good then you don’t have a song. You need to just move on. Or change the key that the song is in. We had a song that was called Heroine that was about the association of a shitty relationship to being addicted to heroine. The song just drug on, the tempo was too slow, the key was too low. We sped it up, changed the key, changed a few parts in the song, and it became a pop song at that point. We decided that it was a really happy song, we can’t really sing this about being in a shitty relationship. This just doesn’t work. So we made it a happy song and it’s now called A Train That Leaves London. That’s the version and title that made its way onto the record. We had the opportunity to do that because we were using our buddy, Mike, his recording studio. There was no time limit. We didn’t have a full band. So we decided to take our time with it. When its done, it done. Then we will go out with it, tour it, and it’s been great. It’s been awesome actually because Ty, Cotton, and Jesse joining the band completed things. We’ve been friends for so long that it was so cool to get great talent in the band, but also old friends. It’s been fun touring, too, as this group. We’ve had a lot of fun and we appreciate every moment.


Away-Team: I cannot wait to see you guys on stage. And the energy and the interaction.

Tryg: Good!

Away-Team: I hear that you are like Energizer bunnies.

Tryg: We can be. We have our moments.

Away-Team: I just wish I had more than 3 songs in the pit to capture the true essence of what happens on that stage. But that’s the rules.

Tryg: You can only capture 3 songs? Nobody is gonna bitch because you catch 6. Ya know?

Away-Team: Rules are rules. But I’ll try to shoot from the house later in the set, as well. Sometimes that is an off limits thing too, but tonight I don’t think there will be a problem with it.

Tryg: I don’t like that rule.

Away-Team: Some bands like the rule, some bands don’t.

Tryg: Personally, we wouldn’t mind. Just tell security it’s okay with us. (laughs)

Away-Team: Are you writing on this tour?

Tryg: No. We’re drinking. (laughs)

Away-Team: Ok! (laughs) I just know one of my favorite bands, Def Leppard, wrote while on tour for the Songs From The Sparkle Lounge cd. I always try to ask that, if a band is writing during your down time while on tour.

Tryg: We’ve done it. Everybody’s done it. However, writing on the road can suck.

Away-Team: Does it?

Tryg: It’s because your shifting gears. You’re constantly playing shows, constantly doing all this other stuff. Things that break the routine are more press, or girls are in town that you know, or family, or friends. And then there are fires you have to put out. Then to say we need to write songs, it’s just very difficult.

Away-Team: I imagine it’s a mindset you need to put yourself into.

Tryg: It is a entirely different mindset. I like shift gears and just shutting my phone off for a couple weeks and getting down to it, writing songs.

Away-Team: It’s part of the creative process with being an artist.

Tryg: It just makes it more sterile. It definitely takes the passion out of it when you must write on a tour because the record company is pushing for that next big hit.

Away-Team: Yeah, the pressure.

Tryg: It’s all about people’s attentions spans being short, sometimes.


Away-Team: What musicians have influenced you? You’re 35, so I’m interested to hear your answer.

Tryg: I would say, Motley Crue, who is the first band I put up pictures on my wall. Next would be Bon Jovi, Skid Row, The Cult… that whole genre of rock. That made me want to play guitar. I’ve always been a guitarist. I only began singing in 2001. And that was because I just kept getting rid of singers because they just couldn’t sing. As far as singer that inspire me, Perry Ferrell from Jane’s Addiction, Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, Glen Danzig because I just love the way he sings even though he can be, well, you know.  Freddie Mercury from Queen and Sebastian Bach from Skid Row.

Away-Team: Totally awesome to hear all of those as your answer.

Tryg: These are singers that when finding my voice, I tried to emulate.

Away-Team: I love Freddie, good choice there.

Tryg: I grew up on R&B, black music from Chicago, and music from the 60’s & 70’s. I had great things to listen to. I didn’t even know who Johnny Cash was until I was in my mid 20’s.

Away-Team: That’s great to discover artist even when you’ve grown older and still are learning.

Tryg: Yeah, yeah it is.


Away-Team: You guys are based out of Seattle, Washington. Where were you raised?

Tryg: I was raised on an island off of Seattle called Vashon Island. It’s a really small, little island.

Away-Team: The music scene in Seattle, and growing up there…

Tryg: There was no music scene. I went to my first concert when I was 18. Everyone else in this band was at concerts at the age of 8, 9, 10. Not me. You had to get on a boat to leave the island and then go into the vast city of Seattle. My parents weren’t really into that.

Away-Team: The scene that you guys are use to dealing with now, from where you’ve come with roots in Seattle, how does that compare to the rest of the country? Is there a huge difference.

Tryg: Yes, it’s quite different actually. Bands like Pop Evil, for example, are a great rock band but they’ve never come to Seattle. The people in Seattle don’t even know who they are. It’s just strange. They have great radio hits and they tour extensively. But, they just don’t come to Seattle. Seattle is a very finicky market, it’s very niche. It’s very Indie, Folk, like the sounds that are coming out for the Alternative. And that is what Seattle prides itself on. It likes to be different, it likes to be artsy. Active rock does do well there but when I say that, I mean bands like Motley Crue. Huge names that everybody knows. And of course Queensryche is from Seattle so they do great.

Away-Team: Well, the ‘old’ Queensryche since they’ve had this recent split.

Tryg: Well, yeah. Right.

Away-Team: The just played here in Maryland at the 2012 M3 Festival back in mid May, Geoff was insane. It was like he was on something, he was just so intense. More than his normal theatrical and instense self. I recorded the last song as a video and one of my fellow journalists as Away-Team made the comment that Geoff wasn’t even there for the end of the song. So I really looked at it, and he was right. The other 4 guys had to finish the song. Dear God, what the hell happened here?

Tryg: Parker is a personal friend of mine. We talk. He’s a great guy and an even greater guitar player. It’s great to see him grow into his position with Queensryche over the years.

Away-Team: I love watching Parker play that white Gretsch of his. His almost swallows him.

Tryg: Yeah, he’s a smaller kind of guy.

Away-Team: But I love his energy. He’s a joy to take in. And I’m sure the energy you have with the crowd tonight will also flow through me.

Tryg: Oh yeah. I’m sure it will.

Away-Team: I just love feeling that energy pass from you guys on stage, to the crowd, and back to the stage. I just love that. It’s so intense. It gives me that rush. I love being a photographer in touch with that and using that energy to capture all the magic that transpires. I love when the engaging process happens with musicians.

Tryg: Oh don’t worry, there will be energy and engagement this evening. (laughs)


Away-Team: Well, I’m down to the more personal questions now, Tryg.

Tryg: Oh boy. Just kidding. (laughs)

Away-Team: What do you do on your down days for fun? What are the top tunes in your iPod?

Tryg: Slow down. I know you’re excited to find out this stuff (laughs). We’ll take it one question at a time.

Away-Team: (laughs) Sorry! I’m just so into all this and finding out the answers to my questions.

Tryg: It’s okay. I understand.

Away-Team: What do you do for fun on your off days?

Tryg: I drink. A LOT!

Away-Team: You still drink on your off days, too! (laughs)

Tryg: Of course! We’re a drinking team with a music problem (laughs)

Away-Team: (laughs) Can I use that? (laughs)

Tryg: Absolutely!

Away-Team: And I see beer is coming into play as we speak. Too funny!

Tryg: Here.

Away-Team: Why thanks so much! (clink)

Tryg: Anytime.


Away-Team: Ok. Back to biz. Sorry. What’s in your iPod?

Tryg: Pick a mood. What kind of mood.  What time of day. What has happened. That determines the songs.

Away-Team: How about the first 2 hours after you are up in the morning.

Tryg: Jimmy Eat World – Chases Life (AT: I hope I got that right in transcription), it’s one of my favorite records of all time. And Rise Against – Appeal The Reason.

Away-Team: Awesome.

Tryg: Jimmy Eat World is very ambient. So very rocking but just epic. And Rise Against is usually my running record. The drums are very, snap snap snap. It’s just very fast so it’s very good to get yourself pumped up and go for a run.

Away-Team: When you guys are done your show, and you are leaving the venue to move on to the next, do you listen to any music? If you do, what do you listen to?

Tryg: It depends. If we are really wiped out and we just want to mellow out, we…

Away-Team: Barry Manilow! (laughs)

Tryg: I don’t think we have any Barry Manilow. But I do think he’s a hell of a song writer. Postal Service is a good one. Enya. Sarah MacGlaughlin. I like everything, know what I mean? Stuff like that.

Away-Team: Okay. What do you miss the most when you are away from home?

Tryg: I live right on the beach so I miss my beach community and my favorite bar. And I miss my girl. Danielle is my joy. She’s been out twice on this tour. She came out recently for our 1 year dating anniversary. We got to go to Dollywood in Tennessee. She’s kind of my ray of sunshine. Because this touring thing is really hard. It’s really exhausting. I can become edgy and having her around…

Away-Team: Grounds you?

Tryg: Yes. And centered. Totally! Not that I’m not grounded but I use to have the ego-driven, eccentric, lead singer, dickhead attitude and when she’s around…

Away-Team: That’s where she centers you.

Tryg: She’s my better half.

Away-Team: So you two work very well together.

Tryg: We do. We really, really do.

Away-Team: That’s awesome. Guess you could call me one of those romantics.

Tryg: Awwwww. It was totally love at first site when I met her at a Hard Rock Café. I can’t wait to get home to see her.

Away-Team: I bet.

Tryg: Her and my car. (laughs)

Away-Team: (laughs)


Away-Team: What is your favorite food on the road?

Tryg: Steak. Porterhouse, mainly. A Filet, a Sirloin. Any kind of steak. Now you’ve got me drooling. I haven’t had a good steak in months. I could really go for a good steak right about now. I did have lobster when I was in New Hampshire. That was pretty fantastic! Lobster back home is really expensive and here on the east coast it’s fairly inexpensive because it’s more readily available.

Away-Team: I get it.

Tryg: But I miss me some STEAK!

Away-Team: (laughs) Well, have some soon!


Away-Team: What question have you never been asked, but you would like to talk about?

Tryg: What advice would I give to other members of other bands?

Away-Team: I like it!

Tryg: If I had to give advice to somebody that was in a band, what I would say is don’t let being in a band or in a touring band be your identity. Don’t let that be who you are. Because when you allow that to happen you lose touch with reality and you lose who you truly are. Because I lost myself in it in 2009. When the rhythm section quit our band, I didn’t know who I was. And I didn’t know what the future of the band was going to be. And with that, I didn’t know what my future was going to be. It was very weird. I had to completely rebuild who I was. Looking back now it was one of the greatest things to do, rebuild myself. I was able to find identity for myself. But if I had to give advice to any artist that is blowing up or have the opportunity to go out and do things, don’t throw people under the bus and try to be a good person. Take care of the people who take care of you and don’t lose yourself in it. You will lose yourself in it to some degree, just don’t become slave to it.

Away-Team: Be mindful, be aware.

Tryg: Surround yourself with people who will keep you on your toes. There are bands out there where you have that one person, that one person who seems to be on top of the world. Seemingly. One thing about this band that is remarkable is that there is no one person in this band that is the shiner and everybody follows behind. We all support each other, and we are all very individualistic. We are a group of friends out creating music together. In turn, this will keep you grounded and you also have to retain your own identity. Plus we are all older, wiser now. We’ve all been there and we’ve all made those stupid decisions.

Away-Team: I totally get what you’re saying. And it’s great advice.

Tryg: Honestly, if you love it enough do whatever it takes to make it happen. And expect nothing out of it. It’s the people that super high expectations when they sacrifice things and don’t get those expected things that bitch and really never understand. They got what they were supposed to get. And if not, it was a learning experience for them.

Away-Team: That good for anybody out there.

Tryg: It’s about life. I see younger people that are pissed off, jaded, that feel they were robbed of something. Expect nothing, celebrate what you do get, you achieve. I had a weird childhood. And my stepmother is the reason I do this. She gave me that swift kick in the ass that made me accountable and taught me how to be tough. I didn’t understand it at the time, and I hated her at that time. But she truly helped me so that I could get through some really rough shit. It’s not about using what has happened to you in the past as a crutch, it’s about learning how to not be a victim, but to learn from it and move on. And be that better person. That’s what people should do, especially in music. It’s such a tumultuous, A.D.D. nature.

Away-Team: As the saying goes, put on your big boy or big girl panties and deal with it.

Tryg: Yes!


Away-Team: And on that note, I want to say thanks so much Tryg for all your time and your patience with this interview.

Tryg: Truly my pleasure. Thank you for being here.

Away-Team: I wish you all the best on the remaining days of this tour. And have a safe trip back to Seattle.

Tryg: Thanks. Enjoy the show tonight.

Away-Team: I plan on it!


In an age where rock bands come and go with every flip of the calendar, it’s becoming extremely hard to find new bands that become mainstays in this writer’s musical rotation.  Enter one of the few constants… Evans Blue.  The world was first introduced to EB back in 2005, with the single “Cold (But I’m Still Here)” off of their debut album The Melody and The Energetic Nature of Volume.  All they have done since then is sell over a million albums and hone themselves into staples in the active rock world.  Not everything came so easy for them however, the band has endured lineup changes (including the replacement of original lead singer Kevin Matisyn), the perils of being major label artists, and personal tragedy along the way.  While most bands that encounter these things get weak and dissolve, Evans Blue has not only managed to persevere, they’ve progressed with each album leading up to their strongest release to date, Graveyard of Empires.  Recently, I had the chance to catch up with founding member and guitarist Parker Lauzon, on the eve of the kickoff of the Graveyard of Empires Tour, where we talked and laughed about everything from “one-man orchestras”-to- one man’s fight for his life with the Czech injustice, err I mean justice system.  So sit back, relax with a cold adult beverage, and join me as we go “Beyond the Stars” with Parker Lauzon.

AWAY-TEAM:  I’d first like to say congratulations on the success of Graveyard of Empires, I’ve been a fan for quite some time, and I think I can say it’s your best work to date…

PARKER LAUZON: Thanks! I appreciate it!

AWAY-TEAM:  It’s well deserved!  (laughs)

PARKER LAUZON:  (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  …particularly form a guitar standpoint.  The album seems to be more riff-driven than those in the past, what can we attribute that to?

PARKER LAUZON:  I don’t really know… I guess I’ll start off by saying that this is the album that, personally for me being in this band from the beginning, and basically the founder of the band, this album is the pinnacle of what I’ve always wanted this band to sound like.  There’s very diverse taste in music throughout the band.  I’ve always been since high school, a metal fan, but then the Staind’s and the Deftones came out with the metal riffs, and the melodies, and that’s what I was kinda drawn to.  So that’s the sound I was always going for, but the albums always turned out a little lighter than I wanted them, and this album turned out absolutely perfect in my eyes.  It is exactly how I wanted this band to sound all along, so I’m very excited about it.

AWAY-TEAM:  The title of the album seems to have many meanings to it, what was it’s meaning to you guys when you picked it?

PARKER LAUZON:  The title, Graveyard of Empires, was actually the working title for the song “Thank You”, that Vlad sent in.  We liked it, we had a few other album title ideas, and we decided to go with it just because of the state of the world, I guess in general, but the state of the music industry in particular; ya know, all the labels crumbling.  We just think it’s a really good time for the little guy, to be independent, to make their mark on the industry.  So we decided to go with that, and we like it.

AWAY-TEAM:  You mentioned the industry crumbling to a point, and I noticed that a lot of bands are going the independent route.  For you, having been on Hollywood Records, and seeing what it was like to be a major label artist, the pros and the cons, what do you make of the whole Kickstarter campaigning that seems to be spreading throughout the music community?  It seems to be a great way for independent bands to work on a major label budget, but do you think it’s something that’s gonna last?  Or do you think fans are gonna start saying ‘Ya know what, I already have enough autographed paraphenalia from this band. I’m gonna keep my money’?

PARKER LAUZON:  Ya know, that’s a good question.  I could take it, or leave it, it seems to work for some bands, but if I were to be giving money to a band to do their album, I would probably want something in return.  So I would think you would have to make the package pretty good, if you give us something we’ll give you a little something.  We’re lucky to have been in the industry to the level that we have that we can do what we want,  I can tell you right now, if we were on a major label right now I don’t think the album would sound the way it does, and that would really disappoint me.  Without having those big heads leering over you, we have our artistic say, and that’s really important to this band.  We want to not be told what to say or do in our songs, we want to write our songs, we don’t want people to write them for us.  I think bands on major labels are losing that luxury these days.

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah, someone’s always pulling the strings behind the scenes.

PARKER LAUZON:  Yeah, it’s really unfortunate.  People are scrambling to figure out how to fix this industry, and I think that the major labels are breaking it more than they’re fixing it right now.

AWAY-TEAM:  Right.  Now, the title track of this album is a little bit of a break from the norm, stylistically, you eluded to it earlier that you all had different musical tastes.  It’s a “piano and a one-man 14 string orchestra”…

PARKER LAUZON:  Yeah (laughs)  Stevie Blacke and Al Jankowski…  Stevie Blacke is on the strings, he is absolutely incredible!  You can go to YouTube and watch him, he sets up his studio like an orchestra was playing in there, and he plays each instrument from the seat that instrument would be sitting at.


PARKER LAUZON:  It’s absolutely incredible to see!  So he did the strings on our album.  Al Jankowski is, our studio is up in Traverse City, MI, he owns a Marshall’s Music up there, and we had the idea to throw a little bit of piano on the album.  We were looking for a piano player in Traverse City, we obviously were there getting some stuff, and our producer Trevor Kustiak knew him.  So he came in, and just owned all the tracks.  The track “Graveyard of Empires” wasn’t originally named “Graveyard of Empires” at first, we had the title of the album, but that part was just an extension of the song “Beyond the Stars” at that point.  And then somebody, I believe it was our producer, came up with the idea to make it the title track, and we had no hands in that.  We just had the idea to go into something instrumental there, with strings and a piano, but we let them have carte blanche to do what they wanted to do with the track.  So it was really cool to have it come back to us and listen to it, and be like ‘Wow! That is absolutely incredible!

AWAY-TEAM:  I was gonna ask you what that was, and I can’t believe that it really is truly a one-man orchestra! (laughs)

PARKER LAUZON:  (laughs) Yeah, he does strings for everybody.  He did like, Avenged Sevenfold, Coheed and Cambria, all the big metal bands.  He’s on all those albums, so we’re really proud to have him on our album.

AWAY-TEAM:  After the departure of your former drummer, Howard Davis, which actually delayed this album, the album was recorded entirely with session drummers.  Who are you bringing out on the road with you for this tour? And what are your plans for finding Howard’s replacement?

PARKER LAUZON:  We have a drummer named Dusty Saxtonfrom Austin, TX filling in on drums.  He’s really, really good; he’s probably one of the better drummers I’ve ever drummed with.  We’re not really in the market for replacing a drummer, like signing a drummer into the band per se.  It’d be nice, eventually someday, but we’re gonna concentrate on the tours, and on the album.  Right now Dusty’s out with us, he was actually suggested by Jason Pierce, the touring drummer for Paramore, who drummed on our album in studio.  So he came with a shiny recommendation, but it was still kinda nerve-wracking, because we had a whole tour planned, and there’s alot of money that goes into planning a tour.  So when we were coming into the studio and jamming with a drummer we had never met, and never jammed with… (laughs)  and having the tour booked, so you can’t say ‘This isn’t working out.’  It was kinda nerve-wracking at first. (laughs)  But he nailed it!  In fact, he sings background vocals for us, and it adds alot to the show.  So we’re happy he’s out with us.

AWAY-TEAM:  With your last album, you had welcomed a new singer in Dan Chandler into the band about half way through the writing process.  You hadn’t really known each other that well, even as you finished the album.  This time around, after having spent countless days and nights together on the road, and sort of gelling as friends and bandmates, how has that affected the creative process this time around?

PARKER LAUZON:  I think you pretty much nailed it.  The first album with Dan, the music was half written before he got into the band, and anybody’s who has been in the industry knows that when it’s time for an album, it’s go-go-go, rush-rush-rush.  So we were just finding melodies, writing lyrics really, really quickly.  This album had time to ferment, to fit in, some of the songs on it were from just after the third album came out.  We had been constantly writing since then, so we had time to sit back, listen to the demos, and be like ‘This is cool, but what can we do here…’  You know, how an album is actually supposed to be done, not ‘You guys have a few weeks, get it done.’ (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)  Right. (laughs)

PARKER LAUZON:  So we had all the time in the world to get it done, and really take our time.  And Dan really just went into the depths of his past, and all the trials he’s been through in his life, and just sing from the heart, and just what he’s been through.  Some of it, he’s had a hard time, and some of the best songs that are written are the most honest songs.  They say This is what’s happened to me.  This is my life.  It’s not a nice part, but people need to hear it.’  I think people can relate to it alot, nobody’s happy all the time, I mean c’mon.  (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)  I hear you!

PARKER LAUZON:  And if they are they’re faking it! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)  Speaking of your self-titled album, “Erase My Scars” has been a vehicle to promote your band’s charity.  Tell me a little bit about that charity, and what brought you guys to create it.

PARKER LAUZON:  The song “Erase My Scars” was written for Dan’s nephew Chase, who unfortunately lost his battle with brain cancer at the age of eight.  So that song is very, very emotional for us.  I lost my mom to cancer, everybody involved with this band has been touched by cancer, (bassist Joe) Pitter lost his father, so that song is very close to our hearts.  We just wanted to do something, we’re not out here making millions of dollars, but if we’re making some money, we want to give some of that money to somebody to help make their life better.  Maybe not help find a cure, but if we can help them get to the hospital, or anything small like that,  ya know, one more doctor’s visit or something.  So we just started the Keeping Chase Foundation to put some of the percentages of our sales into helping people’s lives that have been affected by cancer, make their lives a little bit better.  Just before we left for tour, there’s a friend named Chrissy in Houston, TX, who just sent us a wonderful picture saying that she is cancer free as of right now, and we were helping her out through the foundation. That was exactly our goal, and such a beautiful story, I can’t wait to get down to Houston so I can hug her.  It’s such a wonderful story, and I hope we can make more of those stories.  The more money that comes in, the more people we can help.

AWAY-TEAM:  That is so awesome!  Congrats!  Back to touring, I’m sure you guys have seen your fair share of over-zealous fans, but what do you make of the whole situation with Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe?  And do you think that if that were to happen in North America, it’d be treated the same way?

PARKER LAUZON:  That’s a tough one.  I mean, from the video you can’t really see much, and you can’t see what happens to the kid once he goes into the crowd.  I don’t wanna say anything negative, I don’t think he should be in jail for it, that’s a bunch of B.S. right there.  But, if it happened in North America, no.  It’s obviously, blatently, not his fault.  There’s no way he could control it.  They’re saying that the kid kept jumping up on stage, and getting in their face, and when it comes down to it what I view it as, is ever since Dimebag was killed, that shit is just not cool!  You just can’t come up on the stage, it’s not cool!  He needs to get out of that jail, and I really feel sorry for the fans there because once he’s released that band’s never coming back there.  It’s just a really crappy situation, it’s unfortunate, I hope for all the boys in Lamb of God, and Randy, he’s released soon.  It’s a rock show!  You can’t be held liable.  I hate to say it, but part of me thinks it’s because he’s in another country, and because he’s American that they’re holding him.  Because he’s in an American metal band, and they gotta set an example, and I think it’s a bunch of bullshit!  It’s a rock show, people come to a rock show, you know you’re gonna get roughed up a little bit, there’s gonna be a mosh pit.  If a band tells you to stay off the stage, don’t try to get back on the stage!

AWAY-TEAM:  Absolutely! I liken it to someone running out into a gun range and getting hit by a stray bullet, the guy had no intention of killing you, you didn’t belong there.  It’s not his fault, it’s yours!

PARKER LAUZON:  There are son many variables that can come into play in the situation.  What happened after he got into the crowd?  The crowd caught him? Or the crowd caught him and he got beat up in the crowd.  You can’t blame one person for that, that’s just making an example of an American lead singer of an American metal band!  Because, you know, metal’s bad, and we’re related with Satan, and evil; it’s just a bunch of bullshit!  It’s just stupid, just let him out and be done with it.  It is good press for that city, I’ll say that.  (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah, not for the fans though! (laughs)

PARKER LAUZON:  These people want attention, and it’s really dumb.  He needs to be let out and come back home.

AWAY-TEAM:  Amen to that!  I know you’ve just released an album, but what can we expect from EB in 2013?  Any kind of live album, or DVD in the works?

PARKER LAUZON:  I’d love to do a DVD!  2013?  We’re not that far ahead into the planning, I think we have a lot of ammunition on this album to keep us on the radio, and keep us out for quite a while.  The more touring, the better for us, that’s where we want to be.  In front of the fans, playing shows.  You know this tour, I’m saying this as I’m looking at the stage setup, we have this enormous backdrop, we have all these light trusses, and production, we haven’t done anything like this before.  It’s such an exciting time for this band, especially being independent, we’re just recycling our own money back into our tour, and I think that’s what the secret is.  You stay out on the road, you play shows over and over again, you make the show better and better, because albums (in general) are selling less and less.  But 2013, to answer your question at all, I’d like to see us go to the U.K., maybe Australia would be nice.  Maybe some Sweden, stuff like that, we wanna get overseas because we’re growing a fan base over there, and it’s been a long time coming to get over there and play some shows.

AWAY-TEAM:  Hey, do me a favor, stay the hell out of the Czech Republic! (laughs)

PARKER LAUZON:  (laughs)  No, no rock shows for your for a while Czech Republic! (laughs)  At least not at a club that condones stage diving, I can’t do that!  (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)

PARKER LAUZON:  That’s another thing! You just brought up a good point, that’s gonna kill the national rock scene over there.  Poor fans.  No band’s gonna wanna go over there now!  It’s so ridiculous.

AWAY-TEAM:  Last but not least, you guys recently became the first rock band to have your own tattoo ink color.  Tell me a little bit how that came about, and have you gotten any pieces done with that color yet?

PARKER LAUZON:  I am going to soon, actually.  It was just, Dan had been talking with some guys, and they had an idea to come up with some Evans Blue ink.  He flew out to Oregon, where they’re based, and got some ink done, he actually got an 8 hour session with two guys, one on each arm.  I’m like ‘Man, that must’ve felt really good!’ (laughs)  So he went out there, they released it, and they’re actually doing really well.  We’re playing a show in Hampton Beach in a couple weeks, and they’re flying out for a convention, so I’m working on getting my chest colored in by them.  So Evans Blue ink will definitely be on my chest.  I can’t wait, we all love tattoos.  Dan and I, I’m covered in them, and he’s catching up, it took him a while but.  Yeah, Evans Blue ink, it’s a no-brainer, why haven’t other bands done it before.  I mean, rock n’ roll is so connected with tattoos, and all that.  We just got an email, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about making an ink.  How do your guys feel about it?’  And it came out the same day as the album was released, we were like let’s do it.  Dan’s got it on his arm, it’s a really cool vibrant blue, and I can’t wait to get mine!

AWAY-TEAM:  What are you gonna get?

PARKER LAUZON:   I’m gonna get my chest colored in, but I’m not sure exactly what I’m gonna do.  I have my son’s name written across my chest, so I’m gonna just get it filled in with stuff.  I think it’s about time I got the butterfly logo tattooed on me somewhere.  (laughs)  So I think that’s what I’m gonna do.

AWAY-TEAM:  Well hey Parker, thanks so much for your time.  It’s been a pleasure and an honor…

PARKER LAUZON:  Hey man, anytime, my pleasure.  It was fun.  Some of these are not so fun, they’re kinda like pulling your hair out! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  I hear you.  Sometimes it’s like that on the other end too. (laughs)

PARKER LAUZON:  (laughs)  I bet dude! (laughs)  I’ve met some real characters out here, so I bet.  It’s on both ends for sure! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah.  Best of luck with the tour, and the album.  Hopefully if all goes well, I’ll be seeing you next month when you make your way to Florida.

PARKER LAUZON:  Yeah man, definitely hit us up, come out and have a beer!

AWAY-TEAM:  Definitely!

PARKER LAUZON:  Alright man, good talking to you.

AWAY-TEAM:  You too man, talk to you soon.  Bye.


For more info on Evans Blue, including Tour Dates visit the band’s official website here.

Special thanks to Parker Lauzon for so graciously giving me his time, and to Kenneth Nixon at New Ocean Media for making it all happen.










Away Team: I see you are heading out on the road with Alice Cooper for 8 dates. How did you get hooked up with that sweet gig?

Ven:  Our managers are very close, and have known each other for years. Our manager approached them about touring with him at the end of this year. Alice was interested and said to send over the album for him to check out. Instead of waiting till the end of the year and adding more dates there, he added 8 shows in June and booted the support band off of those dates and put us on them. That’s how it happened and I am still in shock over it.  It’s all kind of surreal and I still don’t believe it. But Monday June 11th I’ll be on stage opening for him, and I guess I’ll believe it then!

Away Team: Very cool! How do you think you guys will do in front of his crowd? You’ve got your straight ahead dirty rock sound, but you’re going up against his forty odd year loyal fans that expect a BIG Alice Cooper style theatrical show.

Ven:  I think we compliment any band that has been out in the last forty years. My partner Jason Womack who writes the music was born in the 70’s. He grew up listening to 70’s rock. We’re a big ‘in your face’ five piece like Aerosmith or the Stones and I think we compliment Alice pretty well. While I don’t think we can be direct support to Iron Maiden like Alice can do, that’s something I wouldn’t want to chew on, but I think we work well with Alice and his music. And I think we’ll get his fans up, hot and bothered, and ready for him.

Away Team: So I read that Venrez essentially started because you needed some work done on your house and the rest of the band were helping out?

Ven:  Yes, it is kind of a funny story. When I was seventeen, I had a friend who was a guitar player, and there was a rich kid drummer who found a bass player and we put a band together. We jammed for about three weeks and it was really sounding good and then everybody just flaked out.  Fast forward many years later and many of my friends never knew I could sing because I just never sang around them or let them know. So I have a condo I was renting in the Hollywood Hills, and a friend of mine came down from Oregon and suggested we build this Tiki Bar on this huge sundeck I had so I said go ahead. What I didn’t know was that all the guys that would come to work on it were all accomplished musicians including Jason Womack who recorded and toured with Juliette Lewis for three and a half years. The building sessions soon turned into jam sessions and I started singing and everyone looked at me like, ‘Wow!’ The next thing I knew, we had a band. That was like August of 09.
The original Venrez band was very different than it was today.  The only original members of the few first versions of the band are Jason Womack and myself.

Away Team: Did you ever finish the Tiki Bar?

Ven:  Yes we did, and it was awesome! It had counterweight logs so the roof opened up in four sections, I mean they went whole hog on it. The funny thing was that we didn’t get permission or pull permits for it at all and after three or four months the landlord went nuts and sued us! Eventually we had to tear it all down but we enjoyed every minute we had it. That’s what Rock & Rollers do; they don’t think about it they just do it! But we had violated like nine L.A. County municipal codes! (Laughs)

Away Team: Your debut album Sell the Lie has this raw dirty Rock & Roll feel to it that isn’t overproduced but doesn’t sound like a garage rock band either. You recorded it live in the studio; can you explain why that was important to you and your sound?

Ven:  Jason writes the music and I write the lyrics and we had played the songs live quite a bit and I felt we really owned them by the time it came to record them. We wanted to go into the studio and give it a live sound and go back to the old school days and get away from the perfectionism of the HD Pro Tools. And also, that way, when we did perform them live, we’d really back them up! So many bands today use the trickery of the studio for perfection and you go see them live and your really disappointed or two or three songs into the set and everything just sounds the same. We just really wanted to differentiate ourselves and just step up. Our band went into the studio and knocked this thing out in three days! Believe it or not.

Away Team: That, Sir, is impressive.

Ven:  That’s what kind of players they are. I think that’s when Alex Kane decided to come in with both feet.  He came in to do the album, and I don’t think he truly understood the quality of the guys he was playing with. He then told me, ‘We’ve got the best band in L.A. man!’ I think when he went into the studio with these guys and played with them, and he’s played with some great musicians, that’s when he said, ‘I’m in something special and I am going to commit to this 100%.’ I went in and knocked the vocals out in seven or eight days, so we did the whole album in about eleven days. Jason produced it; he was the right producer for it because he wrote all the music for it. We didn’t have the funding we have today so Ed and Jason mixed it and they did a great job. We turned the finished product over to Howie Weinberg, the master of Mastering and it made his job very easy. On the next album we might go to Sylvia Massy or someone like that to help produce or mix it.

Away Team: Speaking of the next album, Sell the Lie came out in February of this year, and you are already in pre-production for the next one?

Ven:  Yeah, that’s what we’re doing in the down time. We got lucky and got funded with some dough so we bought our own gear. So we’re not under the pressure of going into a noon to midnight lock down in the studio. I don’t know if people really understand how tough that is. After three days you can’t even see straight anymore. So having our own gear and being able to record at our own leisure is a huge benefit. In the down time, instead of rehearsing that day, we’ll record. We are more than half way done with the next album. I think it will be finished on the next break in August or September. We’ll get it mixed and mastered and ready to be released early next year. And then we’ll tour behind that one. I’m still very excited about Sell the Lie and we still have a lot of touring to do behind it. I do think our fans are going to enjoy the next album behind it very much.

Away Team: My favorite songs off Sell the Lie would be the title track and Melting. Can you tell me a bit about those two songs and the messages behind them?

Ven:  Sell The Lie is a real important track to me! Ed came up with the idea to name the album Sell the Lie and then we went out of our way to make sure that the artwork didn’t make everyone think that the whole album was about Sell the Lie, because it’s not. You have songs like Melting on there too.
Sell The Lie is one thing I feel very strongly about. I absolutely support law enforcement and the boys and girls in the Armed Forces and one of the things I absolutely detest is the taking of lives for profit.  So Sell the Lie is about corporate greed and blood for money. I needed to write it, I needed to perform it, and I needed to get that message out there to get it out of my soul. On the cover of the album we have the wolf in the 20’s tuxedo that represents corporate greed seducing the beautiful woman. The beautiful woman represents us, the masses of all sexes, creeds, colors, and religions. But we’re getting smarter because she’s got that ball-peen hammer dangling. I think the masses are getting smarter and we are going to put an end to this sooner rather than later.
Melting, well, no offense to you but that is unusual. Most of the people that love that song are the girls. I think it is one of my favorite songs on the album too. Like the cover of Can’t Find My Way Home it is melodic and pretty. The guy I was living with from Oregon had a propensity to drink too much and get a little bit out of control. It was really hot, it was the dead of summer and the studio was upstairs and the sun deck was just off it. He kept leaving the sliding door open, and I had complained to him over and over again about keeping the door closed to the sun deck so it would stay cool up there. I finally just gave up and watched him drunk and high go in and out and it was 105 degrees in the studio. So I just sat there sweating watching all these insects come in crawling on my face and I was just like… Ok, I’m gonna write this song ‘before that drink down your throat sinks’…  I came up with that line, it was about him, and that’s where it started. ‘You drunken fool you’re pissing me off’, and ‘those itchy ones crawl on my face’… A lot of people thought I was writing about a tweaker on meth scratching at their face. That’s not what it is about. It was about me melting in my studio being mad at him.

Away Team: Sell the Lie came out in February, you’ve toured with Fuel, you’re touring with Alice Cooper, you’re going to finish the second album in August/September, what’s next for Venrez?

Ven:  Our first show is June 11th with Alice; our last show is June 22nd in Raleigh, North Carolina…

Away Team: That’s where I’m catching you guys.

Ven:  Great! Look forward to meeting you there. So Fuel is on tour right now and we’re going to join up with them again on June 23rd and do six or seven shows with them. Then we’ve got a big show in L.A. at the Whiskey with Junkyard that’s already sold out. Then we’re doing Sylvia Massey’s festival in Weed California August 4th and 5th. Finishing the album, then back out on the road again. We’re talking to two or three really huge bands who are all interested in having us go out with them. So I don’t know who it will be yet, but we’ll be back on the road either September, October, or November.

Away Team: Thank you very much Ven for your time, it was great talking to you, good luck with Alice, and much success in the future, and I’ll see you in Raleigh on the 22nd!

Ven:  Thank you Jim, look forward to it. Rock on!

Away Team: And for you reading this Sell the Lie is out now on iTunes, Amazon, and the band’s website

One year, one major label debut album, countless festival dates, one cutting edge video, and three hit singles that are taking America by storm…  what have YOU done this year?  The aforementioned is just the status quo for Cale Gontier and the boys from Art of Dying.  The Canadian quintet first infiltrated our borders and burst onto the scene in early 2011, and has played the part of Rock n’ Roll’s Pied Piper leaving a trail of followers all across the States.  Recently, this lemming had the chance to catch up with bassist Cale Gontier to get the forecast for this musical monsoon.  So sit back, relax, and grab a cold one as we touch on everything from AOD-to-ESP-to- another Canadian weather phenomenon that involves Leafs that blow year round.

AWAY-TEAM:  Congratulations on the tremendous success of Vices and Virtues.  It’s definitely well-deserved…

CALE GONTIER:  Thank you so much man, appreciate that!

AWAY-TEAM:  Now, it’s well documented that the band takes it’s name from part of an even longer phrase, ‘The art of dying is my life to live…’, but where did that phrase actually originate?

CALE GONTIER:  Ya know man, I think that whole phrase just kinda, it’s kinda how we roll as a band.  It’s just about enjoying your time, and making the best of your time realizing that you’re not gonna be around forever, and just having fun.  Day to day having fun, and doing what you wanna be doing, and that’s what we do as a band.  I think that’s how we all came together, and it’s just sort of our motto.

AWAY-TEAM:  The current single, ‘Sorry’, your third off the album, has probably the coolest, most well done lyric video I’ve seen in a long time.  Where did the idea come from for such an artistic lyric video?

CALE GONTIER: Yeah, that lyric video has taken off.  It’s almost gone viral online, it’s getting tons of hits on YouTube and stuff.  Usually all the videos that we’ve done in the past, the band’s been involved in, and the lyric videos have been fairly simple, but with this one we decided to go down a bit of a different road.  We got a couple of actors from L.A., who did a great job, and the people at Warner Brothers had alot of input on it, and it turned out really cool.  It tells the story of the song within that three minute lyric video, and it was just really well done, and I think that alot of people can really relate to that song in one way or another.  Just needing to apologize for something, whatever that may be, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the relationship like it is in the video.  But yeah, we actually just recorded an acoustic version of the song in Chicago with Dan Donegan from Disturbed, who produced it.  We’re doing this really cool thing on Facebook where, Jonny our singer started this thing after that lyric video, the last scene in the video is where the girl holds up a piece of paper that says “Sorry” on it, she’s apologizing to the dude, so we’re doing this cool online thing where all of our fans and followers online have been changing their profile pictures to a picture of them saying “Sorry” in one way or another.  Most of the time it’s them holding up a piece of paper that says “Sorry”, or they’ve written it on their arm, or gotten creative with it, and that’s kinda taken off online as well.  So what we’re gonna do is choose the coolest pictures, and they’re actually gonna be in the new video for the acoustic version of the song.  We’re actually in the process of doing that right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that turns out as well.

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah, I noticed that myself.  That was actually gonna be my next question.  But getting back to the lyric video, I wanted to ask, being that music videos are now mostly relegated to the web, do you think videos such as the one you’ve just put out are the wave of the future?

CALE GONTIER:  Yeah, I kinda think so man.  We were just experimenting a little bit, but I think with alot of the Fuse, MTV, and MuchMusic it seems like videos are getting less and less air time.  For that same reason, people are spending less and less money on them, and I think Facebook and YouTube is where it’s at right now.  That’s where it’s gonna get seen, so if you can do something that is creative, and that is cool, and is different, and spread the word online, kinda like what happened with that lyric video, I think that’s the new way to go.  It’s not like we spent a ton of money on  it or anything, it’s just it was something cool and creative, and people were digging it, and they can be a part of it with these profile pictures and all that, so it does seem to me that that’s happening more and more for sure.

AWAY-TEAM:  When you joined the band, you had been playing with Thornley at the time, how did you end up in Art of Dying? And more importantly, I’m gonna make an assumption here, how did a Leafs fan end up in a band with a bunch of Canuck fans? (laughs)

CALE GONTIER:  (laughs) That’s a great assumption! (laughs) You know what man, we are all hockey fans by the way, but I don’t wanna talk about the Leafs too much, they let me down this year!  But as far as how we all came together, I guess the conduit was our drummer Jeffy Brown, he is from Guelph, Ontario, and he used to play in a band with my older brother in Guelph.  He ended up moving to Vancouver, and he hooked up with Jonny and Greg, and they started playing together.  Me and Tavis were living in Toronto, playing in a bunch of different bands, we were playing with Thornley/Big Wreck for like five years… and even how that came about, my cousin Adam sings in Three Days Grace, and on their first album I was on the road with Three Days as a guitar tech, even though I had no idea what I was doing, I was just helping out and having fun with Adam, and I went to high school with all the other guys too.  So I was out with them, and Thornley opened for Three Days, after a little while I befriended Tavis and Ian (Thornley).  A year later when that tour was done, Ian was looking for a bass player, and Adam suggested that he give me a call.  He did, and I started playing with them, and that’s how I got super tight with those guys.  We played for five years, and me and Tavis are best buddies.  Then the original Art of Dying, with Jeffy playing drums, came to Toronto to play Canadian Music Week, which is kind of like Canada’s SXSW, and I put the guys up at my place for like 7 or 10 days.  They just crashed on couches and floors at my place, and we just really hit it off as friends.  Everyone was super cool, and we had a good time as friends first, we’d just go out and have some drinks and have a good time, and the idea of Tavis and I going out on a little Canadian tour they had booked came up one night, and we thought maybe it was crazy enough that we could pull this off.  So Tavis and I cancelled a few things, the first time we ever played together was during a sound check at the first show at the University of Calgary, for like eight people! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)

CALE GONTIER:  But, once we started playing together on that little Canadian run, we were already good friends, and musically we just really connected.  One of our things, Tavis and I sang our asses off in Thornley for a bunch of years, and we just love singing harmonies, so we just jumped in singing three-parts on all of the Art of Dying songs.  Then we started writing new songs, and we just felt that we had something special all of a sudden.  That’s so hard to come by, and that’s the most important thing, in my opinion, being in a band, you gotta live with these people ten months a year when you’re touring.  When you get something special like that, you really better lock it in, so that’s what we did.  Everybody dropped everything basically, and we decided to solidify Art of Dying.  That was about five years ago, and it didn’t take long after that.  We started to get on some better tours, Disturbed took us out a couple times, and at that time we didn’t even realize that Dan and David from Disturbed even had a record label.  We just thought they were buddies, and digging our music, but they were watching from the front of the house every night, at our sound checks every day, and in hindsight the couple of tours that we did with Disturbed were actually showcases for their label, Intoxication.  Then they flew us down to Chicago, and said they wanted to sign us.  We were super stoked, and everything’s been moving pretty fast, and going great since then.

AWAY-TEAM:  I gotta tell you man, you’re pretty good, this is the second “next question” that you already answered for me! (laughs)

CALE GONTIER:  (laughs) I keep doing that, shit! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs) No that’s good, you’re making my job easier! (laughs)   You mentioned writing new songs, I understand that the writing sessions for this record involved getting together in some weird locations.  Tell me about some of those locations, and what place was the most inspirational, or productive?

CALE GONTIER:  Well, because we live on different sides of the country, when we’re not on the road we’re not all together as a band.  Jeffy, Jonny, and Greg all live in Vancouver, I live in Toronto, 3,000 miles away, and Tavis just kinda floats around wherever, he’s a gypsy when we’re not touring. (laughs)  So when we do an intentional writing trip, we  always try to go somewhere cool, somewhere inspirational, like you said.  But we’ve done a few different ones, like we met up at our buddy’s house in the interior British Columbia.  This kinda small ski town, just outside Colona, and we just set up shop there for a few weeks.  Set up our gear in the basement, it was just a good vibe, we were barbecuing for ourselves every night.  Most of our songs come from just sitting around with an acoustic, just bouncing ideas off each other.  When we do get together for a little writing trip like that, we’ve all been writing on our own, so we just bounce ideas off each other; and they get better and better, once everyone puts their own twist on it.  Jonny‘s just sick, and comes up with good melodies, and stuff like that.  So that was a good one, when we went to Colona for a few weeks, got alot of good stuff done there.  Another one, we went to Chicago, which Chicago is like our second home now with our connection with Disturbed, and we ended up doing half of Vices and Virtues there.  Dan Donegan produced, and we went to a studio called Groovemaster, Johnny K’s studio in Chicago, that’s just a super cool old building that Al Capone used to own, and just good things always seem to come when we put ourselves in a situation like that, ya know.

AWAY-TEAM:  You mentioned Dan producing, what’s he like in the studio?  Is he more of a demanding hands-on type?  Or is he more of a “Do what you do, and we’ll tweak it later” type?

CALE GONTIER:  Danny is really more of a hands-on guy.  He’s obviously a super talented musician, and he’s got great input.  He’s not always diving in, or getting in there too much, he’ll sit back… but he’s not shy, and usually when he does jump in and say something he’s got a great idea, ya know what I mean.  He’s great, and a super hard worker, we’ll start at 10 a.m. and we’ll go ’til midnight, so we’re not messing around.  We’ll get alot of work done, and he spends 3 hours a day on his hands and knees dialing knobs on the guitar heads to get these sick tones, and he’s got a bunch of cool little tricks.  I think he really respects us, and likes our songwriting, and likes our band, which is probably why they signed us in the first place, so.  He doesn’t dive in too much, he sits back and lets us do our own thing, but when he does get in there he’s got some really sick ideas.

AWAY-TEAM:  You guys have been touring your asses off, as a matter of fact, you just mentioned Chicago, you just played there last night…

CALE GONTIER:  Yeah, it was great! We opened for Shinedown at the House of Blues, and it was off the hook.  It was a good show.

AWAY-TEAM:  When can we expect to see you back in the studio recording the next studio album?

CALE GONTIER:  That’s a good question man.  We are ready to go, whenever the time is right.  We’re writing on the road, and we’re always writing when we’re at home, so we feel like we’re ready to go whenever the time is right.  But at the same time, we didn’t wanna rush into anything.  We’re super excited about Vices and Virtues, and we’re really proud of that record.  We have been touring it hard, we’re on our third single now, but “Sorry” is doing really well at the moment.  It’s in the Top 20, and still picking up steam, so we’ll see how far we can take that.  Then I’m pretty sure we’ll get to another single after that, so I think there’s alot of different factors involved.  We’ve got a bunch of different tours lined up, we finish this little run at Rocklahoma on the 27th, and then we go home for a few weeks, then we’re coming back out at the end of June.  We’re gonna be going pretty hard again, as of then, so.  Ya know, we wanna be on the road supporting Vices and Virtues as long as we can.  So we’ll see what happens.  My best guess is that we’ll tour Vices and Virtues until December-ish, and then we’ll take a look at it then.  Maybe even get out early next year on Vices and Virtues, and then think about the studio, or maybe once we take a break at the end of this year, maybe that will be the time.  I think we’ll just have to see what’s going on with the singles, and what kind of tours we’ve got lined up, and all that.  We are ready to go, and I’m pretty sure the second album is gonna be a step up from the last one.

AWAY-TEAM:  Speaking of touring, and the next single, alot of bands have that, for lack of a better word, that “B-Side” that they’ll break out.  A song that might not have been released as a single, but the crowd goes nuts for it.  What’s your “B-Side”?  And does crowd response ever factor into the selection of a new single?

CALE GONTIER:  Yeah, absolutely man.  I guess for us, right now, a song that is on Vices and Virtues and hasn’t been released as a single, but people really seem to be stoked about, and always ask for is “Best I Can”.  Which is kinda one of the mellower tracks on the record, but it’s a really special song for us.  To be honest, it’s one of my favorites on the record, and alot of people seem to be into that song.  It’s tough when we’re out on all these opening festivals, you only usually get like 30-35 minute sets, 40 if we’re lucky, so we gotta be really selective.  Often we’ll only get to play six songs, so we can’t sneak in a song like that.  People are hitting us up on Facebook the next day, saying “Great set, but I really wanted to hear ‘Best I Can'”  It is, I guess a bit of a ballad, for lack of a better word.  But people really seem to dig that song.  I don’t know if it’s because they can relate to it, it seems to be a special song for alot of people.  We’ve actually had some really cool moments with it live.  Like, we were playing on the Uproar Festival last summer, and one of our more special moments was when there was a huge mosh pit in the middle from the song before, and we kicked into “Best I Can”, and at the back of this mosh pit all of these shirtless dudes fucking picked up this dude in a wheelchair and passed him 80 feet through the crowd, up and over the barricade where the security grabbed him.  That was while we were playing “Best I Can”, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that, I was blown away!  That was a pretty special moment.

AWAY-TEAM:  Man, I’ve got goosebumps! That’s awesome!

CALE GONTIER:  Yeah exactly! That was crazy.

AWAY-TEAM:  Now, you mentioned this earlier, but you actually have two major label recording artists in your family, which is a bit of a rare feat, especially when it’s not a sibling, or someone in the same band.  Who inspired yourself and Adam to become musicians?  Do you come from a musical family?

CALE GONTIER:  Yup.  Absolutely man.  I think our biggest influence would be my older brother, Josh, he’s 3 1/2 years older than me.  He taught me and Adam, both to play guitar when we were twelve or thirteen.  Josh is a monster guitar player, and he’s a great singer.  Everybody in our family is quite musical, ya know.  Josh plays music for a living, he’s not signed to a major, but he plays five nights a week in clubs around our hometown of Peterborough, which is just outside of Toronto.  My mom sings and plays guitar.  Adam’s mom is like a lounge piano player/jazz player, she plays for a living.  Their brother, my Uncle Tom is a monster musician, as well.  So we definitely come from a  musical family.  But Josh taught us to play and it just kinda snowballed from there.  Once we were old enough, we moved from Peterborough, up to Toronto.  I was crashing on Adam’s couch, and we were hosting open stages and stuff like that, playing acoustic, and singing harmonies for $40 and free drinks, and just having fun with it.  That kinda spawned the Three Days Grace thing, and I touched on that story a little bit before.  Adam and I are super tight, we’re pretty much brothers, our moms are sisters, and our dads are brothers, and we’re two months apart in age.  Ya know, we’ve just grown up together, and he’s my best friend, we talk every day.  It is pretty special, it’s pretty cool to look at now, I just wish we could tour together more. (laughs) To be honest.  We did that Uproar Festival last summer, like I said, and Three Days was direct support for Avenged Sevenfold, we were on the second stage in the afternoon, but it was cool to be on a big two month run like that.  Every morning I’d walk up to the main stage area and have coffees with Adam on his bus, and every afternoon he’d come out on our stage during our set and sing “Raining” with us…

AWAY-TEAM:  God damn!  Three times! (laughs) That’s the third one Cale! (laughs)

CALE GONTIER:  That’s the third time? (laughs) I’m sorry man, I’m stealing your thunder! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs) No man, like I said, you’re making my job easier! (laughs)

CALE GONTIER:  (laughs) No but, that was super special for me.  To be able to do that every day, and have Adam up with us every night.  Yeah it’s awesome man, really cool.

AWAY-TEAM:  That is cool.  We recently lost MCA of the Beastie Boys who, alot of people look at him as an MC but he was actually under-appreciated as a bass player.  Name the top three bass players that you appreciate for having an impact on the way you play.

CALE GONTIER:  I think probably my biggest influence is Mr. (Robert) DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots.  I think he’s a monster bass player, and he’s also a great guitar player, and he writes alot of their songs acoustically, which I try to do.  I play alot of guitar, and I’m always writing on the acoustic as well.  But I think his bass lines are the tastiest, they’re not too much, they’re just perfect.  I don’t know what it is, but he seems to have a knack for putting the perfect bass line in there, ya know.  So he’d definitely be my number one.  John Paul Jones, of course, he blows my mind.  If I could ever get to a level like that, I’d be surprised. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)

CALE GONTIER:  He’s a monster.  Besides that man, I think just a couple of my friends.  I think Brad Walsh from Three Days, he plays Ernie Ball Manta just like me, he plays it down just like me, nothing too flashy, but tasty little pieces here and there.  Just a good solid player.  One of my other best friends, Tommy Gardner, he plays in a band called Before The Curtain, from my hometown of Peterborough, and actually Adam just signed them to his record label called Sludge Factory Records.  But those two dudes are a couple of my oldest and best friends, and they’re super solid bass players, so I definitely put them on that list.

AWAY-TEAM:  At Coachella this year they brought back another deceased artist, in Tupac, as a hologram.  There’s been rumblings of perhaps bringing back Freddie Mercury to play with Queen; which Roger Taylor, the drummer, said he’d have no part of.  What are your thoughts on that concept?  Is it good or bad for the industry?

CALE GONTIER:  Wow, umm, it’s a pretty crazy idea.  A hologram of somebody that’s passed away? I don’t know.  I don’t know if I really feel it man.  I think that it’s definitely gonna be like actually seeing them perform live, it’ll be a different experience.  I haven’t thought about it too much, but I think my initial reaction is that I’d rather see them just leave it be, and not mess with a great thing, ya know?

AWAY-TEAM:  Right.  My thought is that it might water down the concert experience.  They might come around and say, Art of Dying is playing in San Francisco, but if you wanna see them in Chicago here’s your hologram, ya know.  I don’t know…

CALE GONTIER:  (laughs) Yeah.  It’s a strange idea.  But yeah, my initial reaction, I don’t really like it.  I like the idea of an old school rock show.  When the band comes to your town, get your ticket, if you wanna get up to the front get in line early and work your way to the front.   I think there’s something special about that whole concept.

AWAY-TEAM:  Absolutely!  Okay, last but not least, we touched on this a bit, but being from Peterborough you’re probably just as big a hockey fan as I am, so who’s winning the Cup?

CALE GONTIER:  Ooh, tough one!  It’s been a crazy year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that’s for sure.  I think right now, I’m putting my money on L.A.  I’m not specifically a Kings fan or whatever, but I think once they knocked off the CanucksJonathan Quick is a guy that could stand on his head and get them there, it just seems to me they’re playing real well, and with alot of confidence.  I think they’re gonna be tough to beat now.

AWAY-TEAM:  That’s where I’m at.  I’m a Pens fan myself, and was a little disappointed, but I have a good buddy who’s a huge Rangers fan, and he already beat me with his damn Giants in the Super Bowl, so I don’t wanna see that happen twice.

CALE GONTIER:  (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  Plus Jonathan Quick went to UMass, and I’m from that area, so.

CALE GONTIER:  Yeah, it was pretty crazy to see L.A. knock off the Canucks in the first round like that.  It was a bit of a disappointment for all the Vancouver fans on the bus here. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)  Yeah, that must have been a quiet ride! (laughs)

CALE GONTIER:  (laughs) Win the President’s Trophy, and get knocked out in the first round, that’s kind of a tough pill to swallow.  But maybe since L.A. knocked them out, maybe that’s why I keep pulling for them.  (laughs)  It feels a little better! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)  Well at least there wasn’t any riots this year! (laughs)

CALE GONTIER:  (laughs) Yeah exactly, right?  Thank God.  That was pretty silly that whole thing.

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah it was.  Well, hey man, thank you so much for your time.  Best of luck in everything you do, and I look forward to catching up with you when you get back here to Florida.

CALE GONTIER:  I hope so man.  My pleasure.  Thank you so much for doing this.

AWAY-TEAM:  The pleasure is all mine.  Appreciate it.

CALE GONTIER:  Alright Jay, take care man.

AWAY-TEAM:  You too. Bye.

For more Art of Dying, including tour dates and to purchase merchandise visit the band’s official website here.

Special thanks go out to Cale Gontier for so graciously giving me his time, and to Andrew Steinthal and TJ Tauriello at Warner Bros. Records for making it all happen.

All photos courtesy of Travis Shinn.

My first introduction to Egypt Central came in the form of “Taking You Down”, off of their long awaited self-titled debut. I was immediately entranced by the strong vocal presence and riff heavy melodies, accompanied by a stellar rhythm section that was well worth the five year wait for the album’s release. John Falls and company showed an impressive musical cohesion, that would be sure to set them on the path to greatness. Fast forward three years later, the band’s sophomore effort lands on my desk and prompts me to write my most enthusiastic proclamation of greatness ever. White Rabbit is a cover to cover musical masterpiece of biblical proportions. So it should come as no surprise that I instantaneously requested the chance to get inside of the minds behind the album. Fasten your seatbelt, and keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times, as we dive down the hole with Egypt Central’s fearless leader and immerse ourselves in the twisted world of the White Rabbit…

AWAY-TEAM: First and foremost, congratulations, you really nailed it with this album. I think I was most impressed by the fact that, usually on a great album you’ll find one or two songs that you can sort of live without, on White Rabbit there is really no weak spots. I very rarely give out perfect scores when I review an album, but congratulations you guys earned it.

JOHN FALLS: Thank you very much man, we read your review and it was amazing! And flattering to say the least dude. I mean your writing is unbelievable man, the way that you tied everything together, and lead it through and made it just like a story is so similar to the way that we try to do things for the fans. It just makes it all makes sense. I was just blown away, Joey and I were reading your review as we left Memphis the other day, and thank you very much man! It was awesome to see an earnest response like that from someone who listened to the record and they got it, ya know.

AWAY-TEAM: Well thank you, I appreciate that. There’s actually more than meets the eye to the title of this album. Explain that to me, what exactly is the White Rabbit?

JOHN FALLS: Well, the White Rabbit represents one side, it’s like the White Rabbit becomes this army of whatever is the black cloud that’s been over the band. This character Fatty Arbuckle is at the helm, and just constantly trying to manipulate, maneuver, and control the band. And our lives. We just went through that so many times, and it’s almost like people see you and see what you’re doing, and they attach themselves to it. Ya know, that’s what this industry does to you. If people see something that they think they can make money off of, and ultimately if people think that they can’t make money off of you they won’t take a chance at what you’re doing. So it’s kinda like six in one hand, a half dozen in the other. You get some people that just kinda try to keep a blanket over you, and keep you all to themselves, for fear that they don’t bring enough to the table to get you to the next level I think. I feel like people won’t stop at anything, ya know, they’ll go to the furthest length to put this wall up around you, and paint this fake world of everything’s kosher, and everything’s great, everything’s going as it should, but in reality nothing is as it seems. It really is our awakening that we’re talking about on this record, as well as any other life lessons, and tragedy, and just ups and downs that we went through in between the first record and the second. But going back to the story of the White Rabbit, when we first wrote the song it was a song about a specific scenario, and specific people, we were getting it off our chests, ya know. All the other conceptual things that attach to the song to go further in depth to actually tell the fans the story came when we started saying ‘Man, we can do some other stuff, other than just music on this record, to really bring it to life. We can do this comic book, and tell this story in depth, but give it an obvious elaborate twist to make it a fun read, like a comic book.’ We’ve all been fans of comic books and things like that, growing up. We’re way into movies and stuff, so we wanted to take the opportunity to show some other creative sides of the band, and attach that to this record. So we’re working on that diligently, around the clock. The fans will be getting four panels in the record, when they buy the record, but there’s also another eight panels as well that Joey also did with a little bit of a story. A little bit of a poetic rundown, from the birth of Fatty Arbuckle to when the band encounters this evil character. We’re gonna start debuting those in a couple of days, on a twelve day countdown to the release of the record.

AWAY-TEAM: That should be pretty cool. I think you kinda touched on this already, but, the record is sort of a concept album, but not in the traditional aspect, were the songs written prior to the concept? Or were they written specifically with the White Rabbit concept in mind?

JOHN FALLS: No, no, that’s the thing… I don’t wanna say that we’d never do a concept album, but the music is the music. It has to be real, it has to be something that you’ve lived, and that’s what makes it relatable. That’s what makes it honest to the fans, and what makes it honest for yourself. First and foremost, you have to be honest with yourself, and get things off your chest. You have to bring things that are in the basement out, and that’s what’s great about music, is that it’s kind of a self therapy session when you’re able to just express yourself like that. So the music was done. It wasn’t until after the record was done that we decided to start playing with some ideas that were concepts. The concepts have nothing to do with the writing of the music. We found a cool way after the record was done, to go back and tie it all together. Cuz, ya know in the writing of it, we basically were just going back and telling the stories of things that happened over the last couple of years from when we released the first record to when we began recording this one. So naturally, there being stories there, it was easy to go back and put together a storyline that connected song to song.

AWAY-TEAM: Yeah, it’s art imitating life.

JOHN FALLS: Yeah, it was all lived in that gap.

AWAY-TEAM: Back to the comic book, is it a little weird the first time you see yourself drawn in comic book form?

JOHN FALLS: Yes and no. It’s actually really cool, cuz I was way into comics growing up. And Joey’s drawn the band before in a couple of different ways, so it’s always been… ya know, the first couple of times I was like ‘Holy crap! Look at me’ (laughs) But in this sense, it’s telling a story where we actually go from what we are in the storyline, to what we actually have the potential to be, and taking on that role of the uncommon superhero is really cool man. And we’ve found a way to connect it to some neat stuff. I think people are gonna really enjoy it. We actually are picking up our new merch guy today, who’s one of our best friends for many years, and he’s been Joey’s best friend for a long time. He’s also an artist, he did the album artwork for the first record, he and Joey did. So we’re gonna have him out here as well working on this thing, so we got the green light to go ahead after we finished these panels this last month, to start working on the full length comic, or graphic novel, or however it comes out in the end. So we’re willing to push it as far as fans go. If it comes out and fans are liking it alot, and it really goes that far, who know’s, the sky’s the limit with how far we take it.

AWAY-TEAM: Well I can’t wait to see it. One of my favorite tracks off the album is “Down in Flames”, which is sort of a call to arms to an entire generation. What was the inspiration behind that song?

JOHN FALLS: Well, I mean, you said it right there. It’s one of those things that, we live in the world, I mean we consider ourselves to live in one part of the world, but humanity as a whole. With everything that’s been going on in the world, with natural disasters, and wars, the economy… everything, all the issues that we have as a race, needs to be addressed. The only way it’s gonna be addressed, is if we all come together and decide to (pauses)

AWAY-TEAM and JOHN FALLS simultaneously: Wake up.

JOHN FALLS: …and truly try to change what’s been going on in the world. Because no one’s gonna do it for us. As long as we continue to keep barriers up, and we continue to get distracted by, ‘Oh hey, let’s watch prime time TV, because this is cool, this is entertaining let’s forget about the fact that we have people dying all over the world. Let’s see who’s gonna be the next American Idol’! Ya know, ‘Let’s see what’s going on with Charlie Sheen and Two and a Half Men’

AWAY-TEAM: Yeah, we’re not focusing on the real problems.

JOHN FALLS: Yeah. Ya know, one thing covers another. I mean, we’re not political, we’re not gonna talk about politics, or religion, or anything like that because that’s to each his own. I don’t think that that’s something that we would choose to take on, with our music or our opinion. I feel like that’s exactly what it is, and everyone’s entitled to their own. I will say that when you have tragedy, there’s no good that can come out of people killing one another. And that gets covered up by another scenario, and you have the thing in Japan, and then that gets covered up by something that happens here. Then you got Alabama, and that covers up Osama Bin Laden. Whatever’s the hot new thing, it covers up another issue, and we stop addressing the things. We get distracted so easily by what we’re being fed in media, that we have to take the extra time to stay involved with what’s going on on our planet! And try to work together, and it truly is a wake-up call that the next generation that’s coming up is gonna have a whole seperate set of issues than what anyone in the history of this world has ever had to deal with. We’re trying to do our little part to make sure that maybe we get a few of them to smell the coffee, and get out of bed. (laughs) And start working towards a better future.

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) You’ve enlisted the services of mega producer Skidd Mills to produce this album, which I found to be really evident in a song like “Backfire”. Other artists that I’ve spoken to that have worked with him have told me that he is a pretty passionate hands-on type of producer. What kind of suggestions did he bring to the table to help make this thing the monster that it is?

JOHN FALLS: He had tons of input on it. I mean he was there for the whole thing, which is what made it awesome. That’s why we went with Skidd, is that we wanted someone who would really get in there and be a part of it, who would believe in the band and see where the band could potentially be if someone really got in there and put in the work that we were putting in. From everything to co-writes, to ideas of us playing with different sounds. It was just going the extra mile to make this record what it had the potential to be. He didn’t fall short on anything. He didn’t take any shortcuts of any kind. He put himself into the record as much as we did, and through that truly became our brother in arms on this thing. He’s an awesome human being, outside of being our producer, and our friend, he is a great family man. We all have that in common with him, so there’s alot of passion on here that you can feel from him, and from us. Even if you listen to the mixes, you can tell that he was in there just rocking out the whole time.

AWAY-TEAM: Well you guys certainly make a great team.

JOHN FALLS: I think so also. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: I had read that you were influenced by a pretty unlikely source in Garth Brooks. Who were some of your biggest influences growing up, and when did you first realize you wanted to be a singer?

JOHN FALLS: I don’t know, I’ve always liked music growing up, and I’ve listened to alot of different things. Not so much even rock, but it wasn’t until… I mean I always liked singing in the car, I’ve just always had a passion for music as long as I’ve been alive. It wasn’t until though, I was riding around in a car with Josey Scott from Saliva, and we were just jamming out listening to some tunes, and he was like ‘Man you really gotta start a band, ya know things are taking off for me, and I’ll help you in any way I can. I just think you have a really cool voice, and I think people will like it.’ And I was like ‘Aww,Shut up dude! Don’t play like that man! I don’t even know anything about music. I don’t know how to play an instrument!’ I think I played trombone for a little bit in junior high. I was like ‘No man!’ (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs)

JOHN FALLS: I was like ‘I don’t know about all of that man. I’m not you…’ He said ‘No man, you really should. I think you could bring something to the table’ Then a couple weeks later we were riding around in a car with a friend, and it was Josey, and I, and a mutual friend of ours, and he just kept going ‘You need to hear John sing. You need to hear him sing’ He kept pressuring me, so we sang a couple of songs and stuff like that. Then after that I thought maybe it’s not such a terrible idea. Then we were hanging out and I met some of the guys that were eventually gonna be in the band through that, and I was like ‘You know what I’m just gonna swing for the fences, and give it a try. Make a complete career change, and give it a shot’ And then when I hooked up with Blake, and Blake brought Joey to the table, I was like ‘OK I got my musical mastermind in Blake, I’ve got my lyricist that could write about friggin’… a frog on the wall.’

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs)

JOHN FALLS: I mean he can write about anything. He just has a gift for it. It’s just unbelievable to watch. What’s awesome is that at the same time that he can do that, he’s also open to anybody’s ideas, and everyone writing. On the first record we did tons of collaborating, everyone in this band is such a team player, it’s not like ‘Hey this is what I do…‘ At the same time you know that certain people have an expertise, so people also stay out of each other’s way, and let someone run with it when they’re just on fire. We’re all truly brothers. We’ve played together, lived together for almost ten years and so we’re all sort of like family. We’re not one of those bands where the singer found the guitar player, and they got a record deal. We are a real band that started from the ground up, in a hole in the wall room in Memphis, TN and just did everything together. Grew up together, learned about life together, fought with one another. We’ve been through it all, and we really are a family who’s out here doing this together.

AWAY-TEAM:You guys were originally signed to Lava Records back in 2003, but ran into some issues with the label and the album didn’t see the light of day until 2008. I had spoken with Sean from Smile Empty Soul, who had the same thing happen to them when they were signed to Lava, the only difference is that they had already put out an album prior to that. Being your first album, and having such a terrible experience with it, how did you perservere and keep focus for all those years? Did you ever consider just giving up?

JOHN FALLS: Well I think that there’s days, naturally, when you’re faced with something like that, that you look at yourself in the mirror and kinda start to question, but. There’s two kinds of people in the world, there’s the kind that when you tell them they can’t, they believe that they can’t, and there’s people that when you tell them they can’t it pisses them off and they’re like ‘I can!’ We’re all fighters in the sense that we don’t give up, ever. Which has raised some crazy, early, youthful arguments and events. (laughs) Cuz we all have that fire in us, none of us are scared to take life on head first and no matter what it throws at us we take it, and just keep going. We always believed in the music, so no matter how many doors got slammed in our face, no matter what the misfortune was, or what got in our way, it was never ‘Ya know what? Let’s just give up’ People were like ‘Change the band name, write a new record, do this do that’ It was always like ‘You know what dude…Kiss my ass!’ That’s just how we felt. No matter what you say or do, this is our music! We made this! And as long as fans keep coming up to us and telling us things like ‘This song helped me out at a time when I was suicidal. It saved my life.’ Or ‘This song helped me get through my divorce. This song helped me when I was at a low point.’ Or ‘This song gets me pumped up when I’m having a bad day.’ As long as it’s affecting people’s lives… if we were changing ten people’s lives who had been in the dark places that we had been in, we were willing to keep fighting. For them. Because we have the ability, and we are blessed to be able to make music and do it for a living, and other people can’t always express themselves that way. So we always just kinda felt that kinship with the fan, that ‘You know what? We’ll say it for you. And we’ll keep fighting, as long as you keep believing.’

AWAY-TEAM: I know you guys, and Joey in particular, are constantly listening to new music when you’re out on the road. When you’re in the songwriting process, do you find it hard to keep present day influences out of your songwriting so as not to sound like everyone else? Or is it something that is welcomed?

JOHN FALLS: Well, I think when we go into the studio, and we’re writing, and we’re recording, we shut the whole world out basically. There’s nothing that exists except Egypt Central. So when we’re in that mode, we’re writing, and we’re listening back, and we’re taking what we recorded that day home and we’re working on it. We’re constantly doing it that way, and not listening to the radio, not necessarily to block it out or anything, but it’s that we’re so obsessed with what we’re doing and making our music the best that it can be. So I think that through the process there’s just not enough time because we’re so focused on our stuff. When we come out we just go right back to listening to what’s out there.

AWAY-TEAM: Well it shows man. Speaking of being out on the road, you guys recently had some trouble with your RV, and ended up having to cancel a few shows because of it…

JOHN FALLS: Man, you did your homework homey!

AWAY-TEAM: Well you know… (both laugh) You now have a brand new tour bus, a pretty nice one I might add, and you’re planning on having all of your fans sign it. Tell me about that, how is that gonna work?

JOHN FALLS: Well, we’re gonna pull in, park it, grab your Sharpie and write something awesome and sign your name!

AWAY-TEAM: That’s really cool!

JOHN FALLS: We wanted to do something for the fans that would be a unique experience. Something that they probably never have seen before, or had an opportunity to do. Ya know, we sign stuff for them any time they want us to, but it’s like you can leave your mark and say ‘I was there.‘ Then when we’re done with this leg, and this bus, we’re gonna take tons of pictures of it, and then it’s probably gonna cost us alot of money to have this thing repainted. But hey, it’s fun for us and the fans, and ya know, alot of bands say ‘It’s all about the fans. It’s all about the fans. It’s all about the fans.’ Yeah well that’s because your publicist told you to say that. For us it really is about the fans, because we were cutting up Big n’ Tasty’s four ways just to feed ourselves. We were splitting hot dogs, one bite apiece for six-seven years just to keep doing this, and the only thing that kept us going was the fans. For us it really is about the people that believe in us and we believe in them. So it’s all about us connecting and coming together as one movement to get the music out. And they work with us on that, they’re proud, and that’s the one thing that’s really cool about the die hard Egypt Central fans. They’re proud to be Egypt Central fans, they’re proud to show you what they call “Their Band’s music” and it’s awesome for people to call us “Their Band”. It’s not just flattering to us, but it also let’s us know that we have this huge clique of people that are our people, and see the world the way that we do.

AWAY-TEAM: I think that’s one of the coolest gifts you can give back to the fans, because yeah it’s cool to say ‘I got my picture taken with John Falls.’ but to say ‘I actually signed their tour bus.’ That’s pretty cool.

JOHN FALLS: Yeah, it’s different. I mean normally if you walk up and sign someone’s tour bus, you’re looking at some jail time. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) Yeah…

JOHN FALLS: But with this, we want everyone to come and have fun with it, ya know. Don’t do anything so stupid that we have to cover it up, because just remember there are fans that are underage. Don’t put anything that’s too inappropriate. Have fun with it, but at the same time, keep in mind we gotta take care of the little people out there too, okay.

AWAY-TEAM:(laughs) The band takes their name from a street in your hometown of Memphis, have you been back to Memphis recently to see the effects of the recent flooding? Are there any plans for Egypt Central to put on any kind of a benefit concert to help the victims?

JOHN FALLS: We actually just spent some time in Memphis. We actually limped into our hometown with the RV, to play Memphis in May, and then it just crapped out completely. So we put it in the shop and they didn’t have a high enough turn around to get it back on the road to make it to Florida to do the last couple shows on the tour. So we were just stuck at home, which is nice because you get to see your family, but we were gonna get about a week off anyway after the Florida dates. So it kinda sucked, but we’re gonna make that up and get down to Florida. We love our fans there, and we’re gonna get back down there and make that up. It was crazy though, they were talking about cancelling it (Memphis in May), the RV was parked on the path down at Tom Lee Park and the river was coming up into the grass, almost hitting us that day. It was on watch all day, it could’ve come up another foot at any time, and if so it would’ve just flooded. With all that electric stuff, it would’ve been a bad day for everyone. Fortunately we got through Music Fest OK, and over the next couple of days at home downtown just got reamed, and not just downtown there are so many areas that are underwater. It’s a tragedy, not just for Memphis, but everyone that’s been affected by the Mississippi River. Zach Myers from Shinedown is from our hometown as well, and has been a long time friend…

AWAY-TEAM: He’s a great guy!

JOHN FALLS: Yeah! He’s currently trying to put together a benefit right now, which we’re hoping that our schedule is going to allow us the time to get back home to do. We’re working on that right now, trying to squeeze it in for the date that he’s looking at. But whether or not we’re able to do that, we’re gonna set up to take some type of donations where 100% of the proceeds will go to the flood victims in Memphis. It’s definitely a blue collar town, and there’s not alot of things set up to help with this. So we’re gonna definitely do our part to try to bring some relief to the people that are in need right now.

AWAY-TEAM: I love to see artists do things like that.

JOHN FALLS: Yeah, at the same time it’s one of those things where we want people to know that we’re gonna do what we’ve gotta do for our hometown, at the same time if you guys need us in Alabama just pick up the phone and call. We understand what they’re going through as well, and it’s unbelievably tragic. I can’t even find the words to imagine what they’re going through, and I just don’t want people to forget that Alabama, alot of it was just left in ruins, and alot of lives were lost over this. We have alot of issues that are going on right now that we have to come together and help out with. So it’s gonna take everyone working together to make that happen. Not to go back to it, but we just have to remember that there are a ridiculous amount of people in Japan right now, who when we had Hurricane Katrina come down on us, bent over backwards to try to help us. We need to continue to try to focus on them right now, and keep helping them out.

AWAY-TEAM: It goes back to what you said before, one thing makes you forget the other.

JOHN FALLS: Yeah, let’s not let the blanket cover up the people that need to be helped man, ya know. Let the politicians take care of the political stuff, and let the other things just filter themselves out. Let’s work on what we can work on together. It’s one of those things, I know everyone’s broke right now, the economy sucks, but if you’ve got that extra five dollars that you were gonna spend to rent a movie tonight, take that extra five dollars and send it to somewhere good. I know people go ‘Oh it’s five dollars, how can it help?’ Your five dollars by itself can’t help, but go and tell your friends to give five dollars because if you do that, and the entire country can do that, we can alleviate alot of the issues.

AWAY-TEAM: Oh dude, I know that first hand. I actually have some business relations in Tuscaloosa, one of which lost her entire house, and we were part of a big drive to aid them, and you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that was being donated. I mean brand new chainsaws still in the box, hundreds of dollars worth of goods from single donors. It was unreal to see how people come together in a time of need like that.

JOHN FALLS: That’s the thing, is that’s what’s amazing about our country is that we band together like no other during a time of need. The problem is that there’s so many needs right now, that we don’t need to forget about any of them. They’re all important, and we just need to attack it man. We need to attack it with extreme prejudice and help these people out.

AWAY-TEAM: The Grand Ole’ Opry sustained some pretty bad damage with the flooding in Nashville last year, do you know how safe places like Graceland and Beale St. are from the current disaster?

JOHN FALLS: It seems like everything, I mean barring a tragedy like a levee breaking, it seems like we’ve gotten out of the fear zone. When I left, that was a couple days ago now, I had gotten word that they’re worried about it continuing to rise at this point. I think that their fear is that if it rises above the level of the levee, what could happen is it could topple. I’m not really sure because I don’t claim to be an expert on that, I’m really pretty ignorant on the matter, I don’t really understand what the dangers really are, and what you would do to prevent it at this point. But, I know that they’re taking every precaution they can to make it as safe as possible. The thing is that, downtown kinda sets up on a bluff, so if it came up over that and then went down, I can’t even imagine what the damage would be. But it’s some of the other low lying areas that aren’t up on the bluff that are being affected. I mean the casinos bring so much business to the area, and them just being shut down, and the damage. I mean, I saw a picture before I left where it had a sign that was like 7 feet or something like that, it was one of those PVC bars that designate height clearance in the parking garage, and it was floating up, like feet above. So far as I know, I read a statement that they made in Memphis, I can’t remember who made it, but he was like Graceland is safe. He said something about like running into hell, or he would do something crazy like that to save Graceland. It’s a huge tourist thing, not just for our city, but for music fans around the world. It’s something that I think people would lay down in the streets to keep safe. They would hold themselves together like sandbags to keep water out of Graceland. I mean it’s the second most visited house in the world, I didn’t know that, but it’s second only behind the White House. It has alot of value in that Elvis, even still to this day keeps people believing in music, especially rock music, and I for one thank him for all of his contributions in life and in death still to this day. Keeping the faith alive.

AWAY-TEAM: Oh dude, I’m a huge Elvis fan. I know where you’re coming from.

JOHN FALLS: Me too dude.

AWAY-TEAM: Alright man, I know your answer about who’s gonna win, but Game 7 today, Grizz by how many?

JOHN FALLS: Actually, I think it’s gonna be a tough game, it’s gonna be a very physical game. They’re both very young teams, but I think that we have a veteran leader in Zach Randolph, and we have a guy whose heart is bigger than the city of Memphis in a guy like Tony Allen, and in Shane Battier. I think that they’re carrying the weight of the city of Memphis. Memphis has just gone through so many things over the last couple of years, in the last decade even, that through their success they’re making Memphis believe. Everywhere you turn there’s a Grizzlies sign that says ‘Believe Memphis’, and it’s got Memphis believing in itself again that we can take our city back to where it once was. I feel that they now know that they’re carrying that weight, and that’s something that when you go into a ten round heavyweight championship fight like what’s gonna go on today, they have a passion going into it that’s not about winning a championship, it’s not about just playing to win. They’re carrying such a heavy load that I feel like these guys are gonna get out there, and they’re just gonna deliver for four quarters, and I think they’re gonna have a huge victory tonight. I couldn’t speculate as to how they’re gonna do it, and in what form, but that’s what’s great about us. We’re a blue collar town, with a blue collar team. We don’t depend on one or two players to get it done, they depend on one another, and for me that’s what makes me love the team even more. I feel like they’ve gone through their adversities the same as Egypt Central has, and they better hope that my set time is not during that game tonight, because we may be missing a show. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) Well I’m pulling for the Grizz too, now that my Celtics are out, so we’ll see how it goes.

JOHN FALLS: Awesome. Go Grizz Baby!

AWAY-TEAM: John, thank you for your time. I really appreciate the kind words too.

JOHN FALLS: It was awesome man. Thank you so much for your kind words, and I’m glad that you connected with it the same way that we have. We listen to it the same ourselves, so thanks.

AWAY-TEAM: Good talking to you. We’ll have to make sure to get together when you get down to Florida.

JOHN FALLS: Oh yeah we’ll definitely have to hang. We’ll do lunch or dinner or something. I’ll be in touch.

AWAY-TEAM: Talk to you soon brother.



White Rabbit hits stores May 31st. For more info on Egypt Central, including tour dates and to pre-order the album, visit

Special thanks go out to John Falls for so graciously giving me his time, and to Amanda Cagan at ABC PR for making it all happen.



  Bowling For Soup first graced our eardrums back in 1994 with their eponymous debut album, seventeen years and several hits later the boys are back. This time around they deliver what is perhaps their best work yet with Fishin For Woos, the band’s first studio album in two years, and more importantly their first sans label. Being the humble superstars that they are, it was no surprise to me that bassist and founding member Erik Chandler took time out of his busy schedule, on the day of one of his band’s proudest moments, to chat with me about everything from “Fishin’” to Phineas and Ferb to football. So sit back, grab a cold one, and enjoy…


AWAY-TEAM: Congratulations on the release of Fishin’ For Woos, which hits stores today. I actually had a chance to listen to it, and was very impressed.

ERIK CHANDLER: Thank you so much man, ya know we’re really excited about it, really happy with the way it turned out. This one kinda… ended up being greater than the sum of it’s parts. Because we actually, for the first time in a while, didn’t have the opportunity to overthink anything, and so it just kinda is what it is, and it turned out really well.

AWAY-TEAM: Now, Fishin’ For Woos is an interesting name, and you guys have always been known for being a little comical, where did that name come from?

ERIK CHANDLER: It’s actually just kind of an inside joke with the band… there’s some things that bands will say from the stage that are designed to elicit a certain response from the audience. One night on stage, something was said, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it got one of those ya know crowd wide screams, and Jaret walks up to the mic and says “OK, well I wasn’t fishin’ for woos, but I’ll take ‘em” So from that night on, that became a running joke for us, that we’re going fishing for woos.

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) On this album there’s alot of songs, such as the first single “S-S-S-Saturday” and “Here’s Your Freakin’ Song” which scream classic BFS. But then you have your softer side coming out in songs like “Turbulence” and “Guard My Heart”, the latter of which you, yourself actually wrote 14 years ago for a movie. What went into the decision to finally include that song on an album after so many years?

ERIK CHANDLER: I wrote that song and it wasn’t… especially 14 years ago, there was no way we could’ve included that song on a Bowling For Soup record. At that point we weren’t really putting non-high octane rockers on our albums. We had gotten approached to do a song for this independent film called Sardines that actually never really did anything, and ya know we went in the studio and did a really quick version of it, and we were never really happy with it so we didn’t ever release it or put it out to where people could get it. But Jaret and I did the song at a couple of acoustic shows, and some fan videos started leaking out around the internet, especially here amongst our street team. Word of it kinda spread and it was, ya know the “secret song” that wasn’t ever recorded, but here’s a little bit of evidence of it’s existence. So people, for years now, have been asking us to play it at shows and we never really played it as a full band. And then, just because the fan response to this “non-existent” song was so great, we finally decided to give it to the hard core folks, ya know. So that was more of a gift to our street teamers.

AWAY-TEAM: Now this is your first album without a label, being now free of the label and being able to call your own shots, what’s the one thing you’ve always wanted to do but never have been able to, but now that you have the freedom, you plan to do?

ERIK CHANDLER: We did it! The first thing, when we were finally free and clear of the whole Jive Records contract, immediately the first thought was ‘We’ve gotta get into the studio and make an album, like right now!’ And for the very first time ever, there was zero input from outside the band. It was all us. Our managers… one of our managers came by the studio while we were in the recording process, but he didn’t even go in the control room, didn’t even listen to anything that we were doing, and it was so awesome not to have that. Ya know, people from record labels come around, and these are business people, they’re not musicians and all of a sudden they start trying to throw their two cents into the studio process and the creative process, and when they’re in positions of authority you kinda feel an obligation to appease them. When it comes down to mix time and everything, everybody’s got an opinion, and for the first time this was all band. The only input that was there was us, and the producer, and I think that honestly speaks to why we love the album so much.

AWAY-TEAM: That’s gotta be a great feeling, after so many years being pushed in different directions.

ERIK CHANDLER: Yeah, ya know, I mean I was saying this earlier today, but you spend a certain amount of your career attempting to get into certain situations, like label contracts and what-not, and then you immediately spend the next portion of your career trying to get out of those relationships to get back to work for yourself. (laughing) And it’s great because, we actually have a record label in place, it’s just we get to be in charge of it now, it’s not like we’re running down to the Kinko’s and making the CD jacket copies ourselves, and what-not. There’s actually a record label there, and real distribution and everything, it’s just we get to be in charge now, and we’re the be all end all, and get the final say in everything.

AWAY-TEAM: You guys have been involved with the Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb, which my daughter and I love, how did that come about? And what was the initial reaction when the opportunity arose?

ERIK CHANDLER: The guys who created that show worked together on The Simpson’s, and evidentally in the Writer’s Room at The Simpson’s, I don’t know if it still happens now, but back then they liked to play Bowling For Soup in the Writer’s Room. Fast forward down the road, they’re doing this cartoon, and they had the 30 second theme song written, and they wanted to turn it into a 3 1/2 minute kinda radio single song, and we were the band that they wanted to do it. So they actually sought us out and asked us if we would be interested, and they took Jaret and flew him to L.A. and showed him some of the unfinished first few episodes. He came back and said “You know what, I think this cartoon is gonna do really well. It seems really funny. Let’s do it.” We jumped in the studio, and two days later sent them back their song and they loved it. That afforded us the opportunity to do a few more songs for the cartoon, and they animated Bowling For Soup into an episode. It’s really cool, alot of fun working with those guys, good folks too.

AWAY-TEAM: I did see that they are actually coming out with a full length movie. Are there any plans to include you guys in that as well?

ERIK CHANDLER: Jaret has written, at least one song for the movie, and I don’t know as of yet if we will be recording it, or if someone else will be recording it. But he will be involved, at least in that part of it.

AWAY-TEAM: One of your biggest hits was the song “1985”, which you wrote with Mitch and John Allen, who are friends of the site. If you could go back in time and could’ve written and performed any song from that era, what would it be?

ERIK CHANDLER: Oh wow!…from that era…hmmm. You’re actually throwing me for a loop here. How about Alex Chilton from The Replacements.

AWAY-TEAM: Wow, interesting choice!

ERIK CHANDLER: Yeah that’s that era-ish. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: So, obviously you guys still live in Denton, TX, and sort of pride yourselves on being just regular guys. After nearly 20 years of fame, in which you’ve stayed grounded and stayed in your hometown, do you still get people around town swarming you for pictures and autographs? Or do they kinda get it and say “Yeah that’s Erik, he’s just a regular guy with a really cool job“?

ERIK CHANDLER: In Denton, that never happens! It rarely ever happens, because that’s the attitude around there. It’s like, everybody’s a musician, some people happen to be doing it on different levels than others. So it’s no big deal, all people are in the music scene, you know who drinks at what bar. You know who you’re going to find at what restaurant on Tuesday nights, because that’s where they go every Tuesday night. It’s a small town, and a pretty close community, as far as the music scene goes. When you move a little further south, like down into the Dallas area, that’s when stuff like that starts happening. Ya know, the staff at a restaurant wants to all at one time come and get a group picture. Which is really cool, but at the same time everybody else in the restaurant wonders why all the service has stopped, and everybody is standing around your table. It’s like “Who are those guys?” that everybody’s over getting their picture taken. That can be a little bit weird at times, but it’s a really cool problem to have.

AWAY-TEAM: I think it’s cool that you can go home and maintain a bit of normalcy as well.


AWAY-TEAM: You and Jaret both have other bands that you’re involved with as well. So when you’re going through the songwriting process, do you ever find yourself struggling with whether a particular song might be better suited for BFS or The Mulberry St. Socialites?

ERIK CHANDLER: Me, not so much. I can remember one song that was kinda in between from my stuff, and I had written it, and I was really stoked and I had sent it to Jaret, and he’s like “Hey man, this might be a really good Bowling For Soup song” I thought that’s cool, that’s great, let’s wait and see, and when it came down to time to nail down the Bowling For Soup songs, he was like “You know what, why don’t you just keep it for your band.” I was like “OK”, and I wrote for the rest of the year, I guess until November for the album, and the song didn’t even end up making my album. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs)

ERIK CHANDLER: It didn’t make the final cut, it didn’t quite fit the vibe of everything else. But I’ve still got it, and we’ve actually discussed possibly putting it on the next Bowling For Soup album, so.

AWAY-TEAM: I was gonna say, it may be another one of those songs you release 14 years later. (laughs)

ERIK CHANDLER: Right, right. (laughing) The thing with our solo, or extracurricular projects if you will, they’re so different than Bowling For Soup so there’s not really that trouble of which does this go to. Ya know, it’s either a Bowling For Soup song, or it’s for something else.

AWAY-TEAM: You guys have been known for playing some really crazy, off the wall covers over the years. With that being said, how do you feel about Prince’s recent comments, that he doesn’t think that anyone should be able to cover another artists song because it detracts ownership from the original artist? I mean, I have tremendous respect for Prince but I find that slightly hypocritical, given that he covered the Foo Fighters just a couple years ago during the Superbowl. What are your thoughts on that?

ERIK CHANDLER: I think that’s completely… I think that’s just bad all together. I think he’s probably upset that Sinead O’Connor’s version of “Nothing Compares to You” was much bigger than his version of it.

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs)

ERIK CHANDLER: It’s really cool to me to hear other people’s interpretations of songs. Especially a situation where somebody can take a song and go completely the opposite direction with it, than how it was originally recorded. It’s like wow, this is awesome, this is a great reimagining of the original idea. But then, if a cover is too close to the original, that doesn’t do much for me. But if you’re able to throw a different spin on it, I think… I mean isn’t imitation the most sincere form of flattery?

AWAY-TEAM: You hit it right on the head. I mean, to me, I think you’re bringing attention to the artist’s song. So ya know, I may hear a cover, and say “Wow, I haven’t heard that song in a long time!” And guess what I’m doing, I’m going right to iTunes and downloading the original, because I had it on cassette or vinyl! (laughs)

ERIK CHANDLER: Yeah, yeah! I mean it’s like, I think it’s a cool thing for artists to be able to say “Hey, this song influenced me.” And I’m putting my stamp of approval on whoever it may be!

AWAY-TEAM: Right on! So have you guys ever thought of releasing an entire album of cover songs? And if so what is the one song that MUST be on there?

ERIK CHANDLER: We have discussed it actually. Just because we’ve done so many in the past. Every tour we slave over the fact that “OK we have to come up with something new. We have to come up with something that has never come up in the past, that would be really cool, that no one would ever imagine us doing, but we could make it perfect in the Bowling For Soup style.” So we’ve ended up with just a giant catalog of those. But I can’t think of one that…. uh, ya know what… “Surrender” by Cheap Trick.

AWAY-TEAM: That’d be a cool one!

ERIK CHANDLER: We actually demoed that. We were gonna put it on an album, a couple albums ago, but we weren’t really happy with the way the demo came out. So we kinda scrapped, in our minds we’re not gonna do it, but… that was the very first cover song that we learned to play in June of 1994, and we’ve been playing that song in sound check for 17 years. Every once in a while, when we’re feeling saucy (laughs), we’ll play it at a show. In 17 years, we may have played it at 25 shows, which is not alot in the grand scheme of things.

AWAY-TEAM: Living in Texas, it’s gotta be almost a requirement that you love football, correct?

ERIK CHANDLER: It’s kinda bred into us down here for some reason. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) So what’s you’re opinion on the NFL lockout? I know we just got some encouraging news yesterday, but we’ve got a long way to go. If we don’t have a season for some reason, what do you think America should be tuning into on Sundays? What should they put on TV in football’s place?

ERIK CHANDLER: I think they replace the NFL on all the major networks with that Lingerie Football League. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: Dude, I knew you were gonna say that! (laughing) When I composed the question that was the first thing that popped into my mind as a possible answer! (laughs)

ERIK CHANDLER: (laughs) I can’t say honestly that I’ve ever seen one of the games, but I’m fairly certain that the action’s not gonna be quite as good, but that’s a decent replacement as far as I’m concerned.

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) Agreed. That’s exactly what I would’ve said too.

ERIK CHANDLER: Maybe we can get Vince McMahon to bring back the XFL! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) There you go! Well hey, Erik, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Best of luck with the album, and I know you’re kicking off a tour in a couple of days, so again best of luck. Hopefully we’ll get to talk again soon!

ERIK CHANDLER: Right on man! Thanks alot, I appreciate it!

AWAY-TEAM: Take it easy.



For more info on Bowling For Soup including Tour Dates, and to purchase music, visit

Special thanks go to Erik Chandler for so graciously giving me his time on such an important day in his career, and also to Tim Tatulli at Stache Media/Sony Music for making it all happen.

Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, and Ozzy Osbourne… aside from being iconic figures in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, what do they all have in common? They’ve all had the honor of calling Tommy Clufetos their drummer. Ever since he picked up the drumsticks at the age of seven, Tommy Clufetos has lived and breathed rock ‘n’ roll, doing more in ten years than most people dream of accomplishing in a lifetime. It’s that kind of dedication that has brought him from keeping time for the Motor City Madman to tearing through the Diary of a Madman. Recently I had a chance to speak with Tommy about what it’s like to play with rock royalty, covering everything from the Prince of Darkness to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. So sit back, grab a cold one, and kick up your feet as we delve into the mind of one of rock’s great stickmen….

AWAY-TEAM: I’d like to start by congratulating you on the success of the current tour, and on semi-recently being named the new full time drummer for Ozzy Osbourne.


AWAY-TEAM: You guys are currently touring with Slash as your supporting act, I know you’ve had the chance to play with him before, how did that come to be?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: You mean how did it come with me jamming with Slash before?


TOMMY CLUFETOS: I was doing this thing with Alice Cooper, not when I was in Alice Cooper’s band, he just asked me to help him out and do this thing called the MAP Fund, which is affiliated with the Grammy’s and it helps those with substance abuse addictions. So we played at this concert, and Slash jammed with Alice when I was playing drums, I think he played “School’s Out” or something. So we played together then, and he just asked me to jam with him a couple times out of that. He’s a total gentleman, Slash, I love his guitar playing. Ya know he’s one of the last guitar hero rock stars out there, so… I can’t say enough about that guy, he’s such a great guy, and great musician.

AWAY-TEAM: Yeah, he’s legendary!


AWAY-TEAM: Now I spoke with Gus G. a few months ago, and he hadn’t yet met Slash, and I asked him this very question, but he didn’t have the answer yet. So now it’s time for an update… have you guys played any songs on this tour with both Ozzy and Slash on stage at the same time? I know they played together on Slash’s album.

TOMMY CLUFETOS: Ozzy sang on Slash’s album, yeah. But they don’t do that during the concert, because we fly in and out of the shows, so it doesn’t really leave much time for us to… ya know, sometimes we’ll get there when he’s already on stage, and we have to get ready, so. The schedule is quite compact, so I don’t think it technically leaves room to do that. But that would be cool.

AWAY-TEAM: Sure would.

TOMMY CLUFETOS: But the package of Slash and Ozzy together is going over really well, and I think it’s a great thing for fans. Alot of tunes that people are familiar with, and alot of tunes where people go ‘Oh, I forgot about that song’, so it’s a great night of rock ‘n’ roll hits for everybody.

AWAY-TEAM: I think the great part of it, is we haven’t seen something like this in a long time, and I’ve said this before, it kinda brings you back to the days of the old Monsters of Rock tours and things like that.

TOMMY CLUFETOS: Yeah. I mean Slash is just an icon, and so is Ozzy, so it makes for a great night for everybody.

AWAY-TEAM: Right. So how did you get the gig with Ozzy? Did you have to audition? Or did they call you and say “Hey, what are you doing? We want you to play with us”? How did that work out?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: I was kinda in the right place at the right time. I was brought in to help out during Gus G.’s audition, he came in from Greece, and their drummer at the time couldn’t make it, so I was asked to do it just so Gus could be comfortable and focus on playing guitar… and the music would be solid. So that’s what I came in to do, and then they asked me to play at a thing called Blizzcon in California, which again Mike Bordin, who’s an amazing drummer, could not make due to commitments with Faith No More. They asked me to do that, and out of those couple experiences they asked me to join the band. So I was very lucky, and excited, and so ecstatic to say ‘Yes’.

AWAY-TEAM: Now you left Rob Zombie’s band to take the gig with Ozzy, I understand Rob was a little bitter when you left him. Have you spoken to him since, and managed to salvage your friendship?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: I have not spoken to him. But I have nothing but great things to say about Rob and my time spent there, and ya know I base our relationship on what I saw when I was there and I have nothing but great things to say about that. I wouldn’t say anything negative, just because of a couple statements in the press. So, no hard feelings on my end. I wish him, his wife Sheri, and all the guys nothing but the best. I still think the world of all of them. So, that’s how I feel.

AWAY-TEAM: These days Ozzy seems to be a bit more energized than he has been in the past few years. I’m sure in part it has to do with some of you younger guys being around. With guys like yourself and Gus being closer in age to Ozzy’s kids, than the man himself; do Ozzy and Sharon treat you with more of a parental instinct? Or are you still just one of the guys?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: The age thing doesn’t really come into play. We play in his band, and it’s business. But this is more like a family than anything I’ve ever been involved with. They’re super cool, and super nice, and ya know we just played an L.A. show and Ozzy’s whole family was out there. They couldn’t be better to us, they treat us all great despite the age. Whether you’re old or young, it’s all the same thing.

AWAY-TEAM: It’s all rock ‘n’ roll. And speaking of that, Ozzy’s still going at age 62, where do you see yourself at age 62?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: I’ll still be rockin’ n’ rollin’ my friend!

AWAY-TEAM: Kick ass!

TOMMY CLUFETOS: I just hope I die on stage. That would be… not too soon! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) Yeah. Let’s not rush it!

TOMMY CLUFETOS: I can’t stop. So I’ll probably be that dude up there that people are saying ‘Why won’t he quit?’

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs)

TOMMY CLUFETOS: At least I know it right? (laughs) I’ll probably still be taking my shirt off when I’m a fat guy!

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) I gotta ask this question… the whole metal world let out a collective ‘What the fuck?” when we first heard that Ozzy was working with Justin Bieber, in fact I even read somewhere somebody said ‘I hope Ozzy bites his head off’ (laughs)


AWAY-TEAM: How did the guys in the band feel about it, see when we first heard we didn’t know it was a commercial, we just heard they were working together so it obviously created a bit of a storm in the media. So how did you guys feel about it? I mean did you bust his balls a bit?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: I mean he’s doing a Super Bowl commercial, so who wouldn’t be in a Super Bowl commercial? It’s like the biggest thing in the world, and I mean he’s Ozzy Osbourne he can do whatever the hell he wants. So I think it’s great, Ozzy is more than music, he’s a cultural icon! He’s like Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola is just fucking cool, and so is Ozzy. So, I mean we go up on stage and Ozzy just rocks balls! Harder than anybody out there, harder than any punk kid. He’s the real deal, so whether he’s in a commercial with Justin Bieber, or in The Osbourne’s, he still IS rock ‘n’ roll. He’s the definition of rock ‘n’ roll, and he proves it when he gets on the stage, and we’re there to back him up on it!

AWAY-TEAM: Speaking of backing him up, current band not included, if you could pick an all-time, all-star lineup for Ozzy, consisting of former band members who would it be?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: Oh man, that’s a tough one. He’s always had such great bands. The No More Tears era was a great band, of course the Blizzard era was a great band, ya know I just feel honored to be in the Ozzy Osbourne band legacy. That’s what I feel lucky about. My name is in those ranks, and that’s just a great feeling, because he’s always had and always found the great musicians. Ozzy’s so good at getting great musicians in his band, and he can see talent, so I feel blessed and honored to be in that category. I’m not saying I’m in that category, but just to be mentioned with the same guys is a great feeling.

AWAY-TEAM: Yeah, I think Gus put it really well. He said you guys get to “…go out there every night and play the Bible of Heavy Metal” That’s pretty fucking cool!

TOMMY CLUFETOS: When we played in Los Angeles the other night, Tony Iommi was out there and Bill Ward came into our dressing room… sweetheart of a guy, total monster, amazing drummer. So it was great to meet those guys and have ‘em at the show.

AWAY-TEAM: That’s awesome. So how did you get started playing drums?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: My father was a musician, and I got drums for my 7th birthday, and from that moment on I’ve known what I was gonna do with my life. So it was full on instantly, blinders on, to get to doing what I’m doing now. So it’s been an endless, relentless pursuit of quality and determination to get where I am now.

AWAY-TEAM: What was the first song you ever learned? And who did you idolize, or style your play after growing up?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: Wow, first song I ever learned (pauses) I think it was, my dad was a musician, so I think it was growing up a song called “C-Jam Blues” which was a Duke Ellington thing. Kinda like a little swing number, and it had little breaks for me to do some fills in, and stuff like that. That’s the earliest thing I can remember doing. I started so early, it just sort of came easy for me. I could just play tunes instantly, so um, ya. Once you look back it’s kinda funny how quickly it goes by.

AWAY-TEAM: So who did you idolize growing up?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: I idolized my parents. Ya know, as you get older it’s harder to have idols, but my parents; I give them the greatest credit for me doing what I’m doing now. They never told me I couldn’t… I mean my mom, I can’t imagine the noise she had to deal with for 20 years in the house, at all times of the day blasting music and playing drums. And my dad always made sure I had drum stuff, and took me out and saw music, and put me in his band, so. The support was always there, and they always told me I could do whatever I wanted as long as I put the effort in. So they gave me the tools to have the confidence, in order to go out and do what I do. That’s really who I’m gonna give credit to. To do music, ya know, you gotta have that right mindset. Being able to play your instrument and be good at it is almost the easy part. Your mind has to be together, and you have to understand your place and your role. So it’s very easy, ya know we’re staying at the Four Seasons Hotel and just got off a private jet, it’s easy to start thinking you’re a big shot. But you gotta remember where you came from, and remember why you’re there. You gotta stay grounded, and I credit that to my parents for instilling those values in me. Ya know, when I did wrong, they put you in your place, when you did good, you got credit for it. So I carry those lessons with me to this day.

AWAY-TEAM: Now you got your first real big break with Ted Nugent, how did you end up playing with him? Had he known you from the Detroit scene?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: I got to first play with Ted, a guy in Detroit, a great sax player named Alto Reed whose played in Bob Seger’s band for the last 30 years, asked me to play on a movie soundtrack that he was putting together. Ted Nugent also played on it. So I first played with Ted during that, and didn’t have any idea of what music we were gonna play, he just sat down and wrote a song, and I immediately followed him. We did one take of it, and we cut it. Then we did another one in one take, and I think I impressed him because he called me the next day to go on tour with him. So, ya know, you get certain moments in life where you go “This is my shot.” If I didn’t buckle down and kick ass, Ted Nugent is not gonna give me another shot. You can work for ten years busting your hump, and eventually your break will come in a round about way, and you get that one opportunity to go to the next level. And I knew that was my moment, my one moment. I’ve had numerous moments like that, that have led me to where I’m at. But you don’t get those moments without the years and years of hard work and preparation in order to lead you to be prepared to take advantage of that moment.

AWAY-TEAM: Right, it’s all about what you make of it. So being with a guy like Ted, it’s almost a requirement to be into guns…

TOMMY CLUFETOS: You know what, Ted doesn’t give a shit. Ted only cares about you working your ass off, and being professional, and doing your job. Of course he’s gonna take you to shoot guns, but he doesn’t care if you’re a vegetarian, if you’re black or white, as long as you kick ass and do what you do to the best of your ability, your his best friend.

AWAY-TEAM: So what’s the sickest weapon you ever shot with him?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: Oh my god. We went out in Texas, he would fly us out to these hunting ranches for his birthday and shoot like, I don’t even know what they’re called. But like insane crazy machine guns, like you’d see in movies, like in Red Dawn. Just stupid, stupid stuff. I’d be firing these things and be like “What am I doing right now!” For me it was crazy, being the city guy, ya know?

AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) Right. Having played with so many greats over your career, do you ever get jaded? In other words, let’s take someone I know you’ve never met, at least I hope you’ve never met! Elvis walks by, is it “So what it’s Elvis he’s just another guy like me”? Or do you still get a little starstruck?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: You picked the one guy, I mean I’m an Elvis nut…

AWAY-TEAM: Likewise!

TOMMY CLUFETOS: …so if he walked by, I’d really be going crazy. Second of all, I would have loved to play for Elvis, that’s one guy I would’ve loved to play for. I am an Elvis fanatic! To me though, we’re people. Elvis would be the one dude that I would freak out about though. But, we’re all people, and at this point you’re either an asshole, or you’re not an asshole! (laughs) So sometimes you meet famous people and they’re fucking assholes, sometimes you meet famous people and they’re the greatest people in the world. So, ya know, we’re all just people. I don’t really let anybody freak me out, cuz who cares. You can’t be intimidated by people either. You can be excited, and have a certain charisma that makes you excited to meet them because they’re exciting. But it’s not just because they’re a star, ya know. Like Ozzy has a certain charisma, where you’re like “Oh my god, this is Ozzy” It’s fucking cool! But it’s not just because it’s Ozzy, it’s because he’s a cool person. If that difference makes sense.

AWAY-TEAM: I know exactly what you mean!

TOMMY CLUFETOS: Like there’s certain guys I’ve played in bands with where I go “Oh my god, this guys a douchebag!” But the guys I play with now, everybody is so cool, everybody is on the same page, and so professional, it’s just a joy to be around. We’re having a riot out here…Blasko, Adam Wakeman, Gus G, Ozzy…all top notch supreme gentlemen, and highest level musicians.

AWAY-TEAM: Of all the legends that you’ve played with, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, and Ozzy, what’s the best advice any of them has ever given you?

TOMMY CLUFETOS: Best advice anybody has ever given me… that’s a tough one. (pauses) I have no idea. I learned alot from Ted Nugent, he gave me my first big break, we’re both from Detroit, share alot of the same influences, come from the same place and look at things the same way so I learned alot of things from him. But most of the stuff, my parents gave me the tools, I knew what I was doing. I was ready when anything came down the pipeline. I’m talking emotionally, and mentally I was ready. The best advice I can give somebody, if they wanna do this, is to keep the music number one. If something else comes in front of your music, or whatever you wanna do in your life you will not make it. Everything I do during the day has to do with me wanting to play music for the rest of my life. And when you get away from that, when you start getting into drugs, and start drinking, when the partying becomes too much eventually, it may take years, you’re gonna fall. I don’t care who you are, when you stop practicing as much you will lose your chops. You will lose it, I’ve seen so many drummers that are like “Oh yeah, I don’t really pick up the sticks in between tours.” WHAT? You don’t pick up the sticks? I have to pick up the sticks, I have to play, I have to stay hungry for it. Or year, after year, after year you will become dull, and you will lose it slowly. You gotta keep the hunger, and you gotta keep the music number one. So that’s my biggest advice, and everybody who I’ve worked for, that’s what they do and they have 42 year careers because of it. So they may not say something, they may not say the advice, but if you’re smart enough and perceptive you can pick it up on your own. Watch and learn.

AWAY-TEAM: Very true. Excellent pearls of wisdom. Tommy, thank you for your time, it’s been a true honor.

TOMMY CLUFETOS: Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it, and all the best to you!

AWAY-TEAM: Same to you. Best of luck with everything, and I look forward to seeing you behind the kit for many years to come.

TOMMY CLUFETOS: Appreciate it. all my best.

AWAY-TEAM: Thanks buddy! Talk to you soon.


For more info on Tommy Clufetos visit and for info including tour dates.

Special thanks to Tommy Clufetos for so graciously giving me his time, and to George Vallee at Sumerian Records for making it all happen.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was originally published on 2011-08-13.

It is 100 degrees in the parking lot of the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh, NC and I am being escorted to Straight Line Stitch’s bus. Well, to the back end of the bus to be accurate, As I tweeted at the time, I’ve done a lot of things in the back of an equipment trailer, but never given an interview, so my thanks to Straight Line Stitch for popping that cherry for me. In the interview we touch on Alexis’ R&B roots, her love of Stevie Nicks and Korn, and the work ethic for one of the hardest touring bands I know.

Away-Team: I am sitting in an equipment trailer with Seth and Alexis of STRAIGHT LINE STITCH here at the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Fest and it is going to be a hot one today, the temperature is predicted to hit 103. So how do you handle the heat like this when you are out on stage?

Seth: I just drink lots and lots of water. And I try to get her to drink lots of water.

Alexis: (holding a beer in her hand as we speak) I never do what I am supposed to do (laughs). Beer is colder to me! It just tastes better.

Seth: She’s like, ‘water has no flavor!’ But I don’t care, you have to hydrate! It’s good for you…

Alexis: He mothers me. If I die from the heat, at least I’ll die on stage, I’ll die happy and full of beer!

Away-Team: Does the heat affect your voice at all? Or is the set so short that it doesn’t have time to mess with your voice?

Alexis: The set is short but it is so hot that it feels like an eternity! I’m up there thinking we’re on the fifth song and we’re on the third song. The affects you because you get winded and tired, and as a singer, you think, ‘if I sing this note, it is not going to come out right.’ (laughs)

Seth: It affects our guitars too, strings stretch, and swell, and go out of tune, but you deal with it the best you can. Yesterday our show was awful! Our guitars would not stay in tune; it was so bad. It sounded like cats fighting on stage!

Away-Team: So when you can feel it derailing like that and you can’t reel it back in, do you just put more energy into the set? Just hope the crowd overlooks the out of tune guitar, the missed note, and just vibes on the energy you’re putting into trying to put on a good show?

Alexis: Yes, yes.

Seth: You jut gotta show your poker face to the crowd, ‘hey, ain’t’ nothing wrong here!

Alexis: More than likely they won’t know there is something wrong going on until they see you up there looking at each other or throwing a fit. If you react badly then they’re like, ‘oh damn, this is a shitty show!’ but if you act like it doesn’t bother it, it doesn’t faze you, then it’s just rock n roll.

Away-Team: At that point it is just the PA’s fault, the sound system is bad, it isn’t the band’s fault! (everyone laughs)

Seth and Alexis: Yes! Exactly!

Alexis: (acting innocent) I don’t know what’s going on, it sounded good to us. (laughs)

Away-Team: So you guys have been around since 1999/2000, Your ‘debut’ was a combination of atmospheric interludes with bursts of manic full bore metal, where The Fight Of Our Lives see you blending the two much better. Is it maturity as songwriters? Was it all new material or did you take things from the past 10 years…

Alexis: Excuse my language but it was a conscious effort by the band to say fuck everything else! Let’s just make an album that we as a band can be happy with.

Away-Team: That was the end of my question, was it because nobody was riding you this time saying, ‘do it this way, don’t do that. We want to hear this…

Alexis: We basically just knocked the monkey off our back and said, ‘This is about us first and foremost, this is OUR dream.

Seth: On the last record we did what they said, and nothing happened for us, on this record we did what we wanted, we put our hearts into it, and I think it transcends to the fans, and they can see that and hear that. So in that alone it has done more for us.

Away-Team: Well if it feels right to you, then it should come across in the music and most certainly in the live show.

Alexis: It definitely resonates more with our audience.

Away-Team: I’ve heard of you guys out on the road on every tour it seems for the last 4 years. I’ve seen you on huge tours like this, and playing tiny little rooms in a one horse town in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina. I see you guys constantly on bills of shows everywhere. When was the last time you had a break?

Alexis: If you are not touring, if you are not performing, and you’re not recording then what are you doing? We have got to stay busy, that is our whole bread and butter. Whether it is a big one a little one, somewhere in between, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, we don’t care, we’re gonna play.

Seth: Also in this day and time everybody and their brother has a band, so if you’re not on the top, always putting yourself in people’s faces, always doing shows, they’re going to forget you.

Away-Team: At some point though you have to recharge your batteries don’t you? Or is that what the studio is for?

Alexis: Sometimes we’ll have a week off here and there; very seldom we’ll have a month off.

Seth: We’d love to do a month on and a month off that would be the perfect scenario. But if an offer comes up, you gotta take it!

Away-Team: The band hails from Tennessee, but actually you all live all over the US and OUTSIDE the US, how does that help or hinder being in a band together and say when it comes time to write an album?

Alexis: I think it is good that we have a little bit of distance at times.

Seth: When we write everyone has their own ideas, and we’ll put them all together, send them around to everyone else, and then come together for about a month and write an album. We don’t put out a song unless everyone is 100% happy with it.

Alexis: Basically we make it work. We’ll tour, then go our separate ways and write. Then when it is time to get back together, we’ll take all our ideas and put them in a big kettle and hash them out and make something of them.

Away-Team: I’ve read one of your main influences is Stevie Nicks, how do you go from Stevie Nicks to the kind of vocals you do now?

Alexis: I fell in love with Stevie Nicks through my step dad. He had a bunch of records of hers, and I would look at them and say, ‘she’s really pretty and kinda kooky, I love that about her.’ So I checked out the music finally and fell in love with her as an artist. It was actually my brother who was into the heavier stuff, Pantera, Ozzy, and Korn. And he introduced me to that kind of music and I fell in love with that genre. I’ve always wanted to be a singer but not necessarily a heavy metal singer. I was the cliché; I wanted to be the black girl that was doing R&B. That’s what I went after. But when my brother introduced me to metal, he showed me a whole new world, and I fell in love with it.

Away-Team: Since you brought it up, do you find it hard being accepted first a female in metal and secondly a black female in metal?

Alexis: I think if I were being a poser I’d have a harder time…

Away-Team: You mean like say Jada Pinkett Smith?

Alexis: Whoa! She was doing her; I’m not going to say nothing bad about that, I plead the fifth. (laughs) She did her thing, and…. We’ve got to embrace each other we can’t be knockin’ each other down. Speaking for myself if I was fake and I wasn’t a good person people would see through that… But people can tell I’m genuine and I don’t use the color card, I don’t use the female card. It’s just about us making music that we love and music that we are trying to get out there. I think people respect that, so no, it’s not hard for me.

Away-Team: What is the best part of being on a touring Festival like this and worst…

Alexis: The fans! The fans are the best part! The bands too the bands are the best part. The worst is the heat, that frickin’ heat…

Seth: And the dust! When we play in parking lots like we are going to do today, there is nothing but a big dust cloud raised by the audience, and it sits right on us on stage. You breathe that in and you got big boogers in your nose…

Alexis: Speaking of race… everyone’s going to be brown today!!! (laughs)

Away-Team: Unity through dust!

Alexis: Yes! Yes! (laughs)

Away-Team: What is the worst name of a band you’ve been in?

Alexis: Smooth As Silk… that was my all girl band.

Away-Team: Was that your R&B phase?

Alexis: Yes, but I still listen to R&B, I listen to everything!

Away-Team: As I think all good musicians should.

Alexis: Yes, me too, I love all kinds of music, all music.

Away-Team: After Mayhem winds down and you wash all the dust off, what’s next for Straight Line Stitch?

Seth: Afro Punk Fest in New York and it is FREE so come on out and support us at the stage! It’s on August the 28th. Then we’re doing a hometown show, first hometown show in about 2 years on September 26th. We’re excited about that! Then we were supposed to go to Europe after that but the band we were supporting had family issues and canceled the tour.

Alexis: They’re having some hard times but we still love them.

Away-Team: Well good luck with the rest of the tour, continued success, and thanks for hanging in your equipment trailer with me.

Seth: Thank you, careful in that heat. DRINK WATER!!! Maybe you’ll listen to me because she won’t! (laughs).

There is a long list of people to thank for making this and all of our Mayhem Fest interviews happen, so, forgive me if I forgot anyone, but thanks to Lilly at Roadrunner, Bill at eOne Music, Rikki, Natalie, and Jessica at Adrenaline, and Laura Jean with Mayhem.

For more STRAIGHT LINE STITCH click here.

“Oh GOD, please help me!”  A phrase we’ve heard many a time, in music, in movies, we’ve all even sometimes uttered it ourselves while paying tribute to the Porcelain God after a long night of drinking.  For former KORN guitarist, Brian ‘Head’ Welch, devotion and thanks to God has become a way of life, one that may have very well saved his life.  ‘Head’ made perhaps the hardest decision in his life back in early 2005, quitting a band which he helped shape into one of the greatest of it’s time.  Brian had come to the realization that if he continued down the path he was going, life would pass him by too fast, or even worse he’d be dead.  After a brief hiatus, a rejuvenated ‘Head’ is back with a vengeance with his latest project LOVE & DEATH.  Recently, I had the chance to speak with the future Rock n Roll Hall of Famer about everything from his new project to his old habits, so don’t move a muscle, unless it’s of course to continue reading this story of a life of Love & Death…

AWAY-TEAM:  Congratulations on the release of LOVE & DEATH’S debut EP “Chemicals”…

BRIAN WELCH:  Thanks man! We’re excited!

AWAY-TEAM:  You had previously released “Save Me From Myself” under your own name, what prompted the change to LOVE & DEATH? And where did the name come from?

BRIAN WELCH:  Well, the whole thing when I left KORN, I went through alot, and I had written songs for myself, and it was more of an experimental thing.  I hit the road with that, and we played that album for a while, and then me and my guys started wanting to write more and do stuff, because we developed relationships and it just kinda fell into place.  I came up with the name, like six months after I was with these guys I was like “I want this to be a band thing.  I don’t want to be a solo guy.”  But management pushed me to wait a little bit, because I had books coming out and it was a brand new thing, so.  I was trying to come up with a name, and just like a few months ago LOVE & DEATH came to me, and I liked it.  It sounded a little eery, and at the same time… I don’t know it just kinda clicked with everybody.  It was one that everybody agreed on, so we went with it.

AWAY-TEAM:  I understand you auditioned band members via YouTube, having such a broad spectrum of candidates it must have been quite a task having to sift through all of the submissions, nevermind pick the guys that had the talent and chemistry to mesh as a band!  Take me a little bit through that process, and what turned you on to each of your bandmates.

BRIAN WELCH:  I love technology, because it’s like so easy… because you could kinda tell if somebody would be a good fit, as far as style.  You just know inside, ya know.  So I just picked the three guys that I thought would be a good fit.  I just went with my gut, my manager at the time helped me through it.  Half of the guys I picked are gone now, they just had other things going on in their lives, the ones that stuck around are with me now!

AWAY-TEAM:  On the EP, you have two versions of “Paralyzed”, and also of “Chemicals”, and then you have a pretty cool cover of DEVO’S “Whip It”.  Not something your fans might have expected to see there, what made you pick that? And furthermore, your guitar player, J.R. Bareis, was 16 years old at the time… Was it hard to get a 16 yr. old kid to commit to an 80’s pop cover?  I mean, most 16 yr. olds I know might think DEVO is some new up-and-coming rapper! (laughs)

BRIAN WELCH:  (laughs)  Yeah, you’re right!  I kinda stole the idea from THE USED, they did a really cool cover of “Burning Down The House” by Talking Heads, and I thought that was really cool.  So we were having delays with the new album, and just getting songs finished, so my manager actaully said “Try a cover and we can release it.”  So I Googled all these 80’s songs, because I wanted a song that alot of people know, even the younger kids know DEVO because of their parents.  I didn’t think when I first looked at it, ya know it was like ‘How can you make that cool? It’s just so cheesy!’  It’s like-(Makes impression of songs beat) Do-duh-do-duh-duh… (laughs)  Then I was in the shower one day, and DEVO came to my head and I just heard the riff, half-time, (imitates riff) with the heavy guitar, and just went for it.  The 16 yr. old was like “Dude, this is my favorite song we’ve done!” (laughs)  So, yeah he’s just really stoked.  Everyone’s stoked on it, so it’s exciting.

AWAY-TEAM:  Well, I agree.  It came out really cool!  When I hear the first single “Paralyzed”, I can’t help but think it was written for your daughter, kinda about your internal struggle over leaving KORN.  Is there any truth to that?  What is that song about?

BRIAN WELCH:  It’s not really about that, it’s just about struggling in life, and needing someone to help you out of your crap.  I want the songs to mean something to each person that listens to them.  Maybe something personal in their life, ya know, ‘I’m paralyzed.’ This place I’m stuck in.  But that’s really cool, it could very well go with what you said, I like that.  I like to get people that get different things out of it when they listen to it.

AWAY-TEAM:  I always say ‘That’s the beauty of music.  Everyone can take their own meaning from it.’

BRIAN WELCH:  That’s art man!

AWAY-TEAM:  LOVE & DEATH is musically very similar to KORN, if you had to differentiate between the two, what would be the main difference?

BRIAN WELCH:  That’s a good question.  Jonathon [Davis], his lyrics aren’t all negative or anything, but I try to have a positive vibe throughout all of my songs.  Even in “Paralyzed“, even though they have a dark feel to them, there’s always some kind of overcoming thing that I like to put in there.  So, I’d say the main thing is aiming toward a more positive conclusion to the songs.  Getting something uplifting out of it, that’s kinda my main goal.  I talked to Jonathon about that, I was like “Man, it’d be weird if we ever toured together because I still sound like KORN  and he’s like “I know, well you’re from KORN so you will…”  And he understands, why I do what I do, so it’s all good.  It is what it is, we’re from the same family, the same genre, and we’re just known for it.

AWAY-TEAM:  Actually, this weekend, you’ll be at The Whosoever’s Conference, and Sonny Sandoval (P.O.D.) is gonna be interviewing both you and [Reg] Fieldy [Arvizu] together for the first time in six years.  You eluded to this a little bit, saying you spoke with Jonathon, but how is your relationship with your former bandmates?  Have you all put aside your differences?

BRIAN WELCH:  Yeah, we’ve got nothing but good vibes for each other.  Fieldy’s doing really well, Jonathon is doing good, and [James] Munky [Shaffer] I haven’t seen face to face in seven years.  But he saw my daughter, a couple months ago my daughter went and saw them, just to say ‘Hi’.  Because they were like uncles to her, she went on tour with us and everything.  Munky said something about wanting to see me face to face, because we haven’t really spoken.  So I’m gonna hunt him down this year, and get into a room with him and just talk for a few minutes.  And see his face.

AWAY-TEAM:  Well, I know you’ve probably heard this a million times, but next year marks the 20th anniversary of KORN’s existence as a band, any chances of a reunion?

BRIAN WELCH:  Oh, does it? Wait…

AWAY-TEAM:  Next year will be 2013, you guys formed in 1993, correct?

BRIAN WELCH:  I guess we formed in 1993, but the first album was 1994.  Wow! That’s crazy!

AWAY-TEAM:  Time flies man!

BRIAN WELCH:  But no, I don’t think it’ll ever be nothing like that, but maybe jump on stage and do a song or two with them.

AWAY-TEAM:  That would be really cool!  The energy in that crowd… I mean, I can tell you I’ve been to a million shows, but one of my most vivid memories was at Woodstock ’99 when you guys came out and did “Blind” and like 250,000 people… nobody’s feet were touching the ground!

BRIAN WELCH:  I know man, that was crazy!  If we weren’t all so messed up as alcoholics and drug addicts, man, I think we could’ve enjoyed that time alot more.  But we were just so thankful to see that.  It was far beyond any of our wildest dreams or expectations for the band.  Ya know, Fieldy will sometimes say he believed it, and he knew we’d be the biggest band, but I really don’t believe that.  I think that all of us were shocked at the level of craziness and the crowd.  It floored me!  I’m thankful for all of the experiences, ya know.

AWAY-TEAM:  Now David [Silveria] has also battled some of the same demons you just mentioned.  I understand he has now turned to Christ as well.  He was recently charged with a D.U.I.  Have you or anyone else reached out to him, to kinda talk to him and see what’s going on in his life, and offer some help?

BRIAN WELCH:  I talked to him about a year ago, and he actually reached out to me, I think he’s still struggling a little bit.  But all of us do, and he’ll get over it, he didn’t have a record so I’m sure it’ll just be a learning experience for him.  It’s hard to stay in contact with these guys, because I’m so busy, I’m booked up to Dec. 9th!  Last time I talked to David he keeps wanting me to go back to KORN or possibly do something.  I’ve just been too busy, and I think if it was more about friendship, and not about moneymaking I’d do more.  But I wish him so well, ya know, I want nothing but goodness for him.  I’m sure everything’s gonna be great.

AWAY-TEAM:  We all get through it somehow.

BRIAN WELCH:  Exactly.

AWAY-TEAM:  Kinda on that same subject, what was the one sort of “rock bottom” moment that made you say “That’s it.  I’m done with the drugs, and the booze, and the partyingI’m gonna devote myself to Christ”  What was that moment? Do you remember that?

BRIAN WELCH:  Yeah.  It was like, being in the mud for like two years and just stuck with all the dirt on you, and having your first bath.  Ya know, just getting totally clean?  And that’s what it was like, cuz I was just a shell, I had no inside.  I’m talking, like my soul was just dark.  So it was actually a spiritual awakening, all the guilt, all the self-hatred, and the physical effects, the messed up emotions, it was like there was evil spirits on me and they just all left when I turned to Christ.  So I was going “How can I feel so good after all this crap so quickly?”  So I knew that it was some sort of invisible exchange through God’s  spirit that helped me out.  That’s what it was like, seriously, like being in the mud.  I’ve never explained it like that, but that’s what it was like.  So I dove in, and obviously, looking back, I got a little crazy with it and said some stupid things, but you shove meth in your nose for two years straight and see if you don’t say some stupid things! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)

BRIAN WELCH:  So, I’m the poster child of ‘Do Not Do Drugs’ or else you’ll turn insane.  But, I’ve got my brain back, and I’m back to normal now.  I still believe in Christ, it hasn’t been easy.  There’s been heated, argument prayers with all kinds of F-bombs and stuff with God because I thought some things would be better than they were now, but I still believe.  I totally believe, ya know.  Sometimes if I step back I think “Man, if somebody saw me right now…” I’m talking to myself in a room to this God that noone can see, and I’m cursing at him.  So I’d look like I belong in a looney bin.  (laughs)  But that’s what the life of faith is, it’s to believe in the unseen.

AWAY-TEAM:  It’s about having faith, like you said.

BRIAN WELCH:  And forgiveness is one of the things that goes with it.  It’s cool, you can have a shouting match with your father and he still loves you, ya know.

AWAY-TEAM:  I’ve asked this question to a couple of different artists recently, but since it’s been a recent hotpoint, I have to ask it again.  You guys were probably one of the most influential bands of the 90’s and 2000’s, well deserving of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame when you become eligible in 2019.  What do you make of Axl Rose’s decision not to attend, and the popularity contest that the hall has become?

BRIAN WELCH:  I don’t like to judge anybody, because I have so many issues in my life.  I don’t wanna say this or that, BUT, as an outside guy looking in, I guess I’m just gonna go against my ruling.  It seems like, there’s one side of it where Axl’s like ‘I don’t even know what this thing is, and who cares about this popularity contest?’ But then on the other hand, I think it has alot to do with this weird bitterness towards the band and stuff.  I just don’t understand 50 year old people, not being able to… I mean life is too short!  Everyone’s gonna be dead in like 30-40 years.  Do you know how fast that’s gonna go?  Get over it!  Get in a room together, just say sorry or whatever.  But, ya know, I’ve been through all my crap, so.  I don’t know all the personal stuff in there, maybe they’ve got all these issues that they need help for.  Maybe Christ, I mean I know Christ could help them too.  I couldn’t have overcome all my stuff with my own strength, so.  I’m kinda just baffled as to why people can’t put aside differences and heal relationships, ya know.

AWAY-TEAM:  You’ve been a musician, an author, a public speaker, a bit of a renaissance man.  What’s the one thing that you haven’t accomplished, but would like to?

BRIAN WELCH:  Hmmm… Death! (laughs)  I can’t wait to see what’s on the other side man. I mean, I can wait, it’s nothing like that.  But, I look forward to the day where all of us are just in the next place.  Because life is short, and we’re gonna be in that next place.  I know, you don’t get an answer like that normally! (laughs) But, I look forward to that, cuz to me it’s like a graduation, ya know.  Put all this junk down, and let’s go to the real party.  Alot of days I actually wake up, I feel like crap when I open my eyes, and I wish I would still be asleep, but that doesn’t happen here. So I wanna get there.  But I do wanna accomplish alot of things as far as helping people, the rest of my life, as much as I can, and make people feel like they can overcome things in their lives.  Just doing positive things, until I’m whatever… 90-100 years old!  So whatever that is, more books, more music, more traveling, just whatever, I’ll give up my life for it.  I’m sure I’ll bitch along the way doing it, but I’m still gonna give up my life for it. (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)  You mentioned helping others, as I understand it, you’re involved with something that actually helps adopt Ethiopian children out of sex slavery?  Is that correct?

BRIAN WELCH:  Yeah, totally! It’s called and the whole concept is for the price of two mochas, you can save these girls from being sold, even by their parents, as sex slaves.  It’s real legit, because my manager knows this guy, and this guy was in the music industry in Nashville, he went to Ethiopia on a trip to see the problem, and then comes back and quits the music business because he falls in love with these people, and starts this organization.  For the price of two mochas, two coffees, $7 a month, they ask people to sign up.  It’s nt like these things on TV, ya know, you give this much, and just give, give, give.  It’s about everybody doing little, doing $7 a month, a bunch of people.  They get these girls out of sex slavery, they get them work, they actually get water to places that don’t have water.  They have to walk a mile to get water every day, so it’s like ‘I’m down’.  If my manager knows this guy, and it’s like totally up and up, I’m spreading it around anywhere I can.

AWAY-TEAM:  Now, I gotta ask you this as a father to a father.  I’m a father of a daughter as well, and I know you had to make the very tough choice to put your first daughter up for adoption back in 1995.  Do you have a relationship with her?  Have you spoken with her?  I mean, I know you have her name tattooed on you…

BRIAN WELCH:  We’ve been sending gifts to her every year, at her birthday.  She turned 17 this year, and she’s doing really well.  Last time me and my daughter visited her, it was a while ago, we set up another visit, but it was just kinda too soon.  She’s at that age, she needs to do her thing, her and my daughter are friends on Facebook so they just comment to each other once in a while.  When it’s time, they’ll get together, and when she wants to see me, I just don’t want it to be awkward for her so I just kinda step back.  But, I have no doubt that it’s gonna be sometime, ya know.

AWAY-TEAM:  Yeah, she’ll realize that you did those things for the right reason.

BRIAN WELCH:  Totally! And it was totally for the right reason, because…

AWAY-TEAM:  I hear you bro! Like I said, I’m a father to a daughter myself, and I know that had to be a tough thing, but I admire you for doing it.

BRIAN WELCH:  Thanks man!  I give it all to my ex-wife, even though she’s crazy alot, she did a good thing there! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM:  (laughs)  Well hey Brian, it’s been a great honor to speak with you.  Thank you so much for your time, and best of luck to you in everything you do, and hopefully we’ll talk again soon!

BRIAN WELCH:  Thank you too!  Definitely come out to a show, hit up management, and we’ll get you in and rap out or something.

AWAY-TEAM:  For sure!  I’d love to sit and chat again!

BRIAN WELCH:  Cool man, we’ll talk soon.

AWAY-TEAM:  Alright man, see ya!

For more on LOVE & DEATH  and BRIAN ‘HEAD’ WELCH click  here.

Special thanks go out to Brian Welch for so graciously giving me his time, and to Doug Weber at New Ocean Media for making it all possible.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was originally posted on 2010/07/23

Two time Grammy Nominees Shadows Fall has been shredding the Massachusetts’ metal and hardcore scene for the last 15 years. In 2005 they joined the Ozzfest tour and began their much deserved rise from kings of the underground to a house hold name around the world as the leader’s of the new Thrash Metal movement. Their style has been discussed and dissected ad nauseam. Are they metal? Hardcore? Post core? Metal core? Reggae metal? Hippy metal? Who cares… They rock; they’ll kick your ass given the chance. They’re touring the world in support of their latest CD Retribution, which they released on their own label Everblack Industries.
Shadows Fall is currently on the road with the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival and I had the chance to sit down with their singer Brian Fair and talk about his views of the current condition of the music ‘industry‘, what the pros and cons are in having your own label inprint, the dangers of slamming a vert ramp with your skateboard after a few bowls of your favorite herb, and how it feels to be metal’s dirty hippie.

AWAY-TEAM: This is Slim Jim with talking with Brian Fair from Shadows Fall. So let’s see, first off you guys just kicked off the first show of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. How did that….

BRIAN FAIR: Yes indeed man. San Bernardino yesterday man, it was killer man, it was a great first show where there was none of the normal equipment break downs or things – just there were regular speed bumps. It went pretty smooth. Everything really worked out well. The show was killer, the crowd was killer! But I’m a little afraid today because since nothing went wrong yesterday we’re assuming it all happens today you know !(laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: Right yeah absolutely. So where are you today?

BRIAN FAIR: You gotta run into the gremlin somewhere. Shoreline which is a little south of San Francisco in Mountain View, California.

AWAY-TEAM: Mountain View, California I’m very familiar with it, I’m from the Bay Area originally myself.

BRIAN FAIR: Oh nice nice. I love Shoreline. It’s one of my favorite venues there is. We’ve done an Ozzfest here before so it’s good to be back. Yeah and bein’ a hippie Deadhead myself I just feel that holy ground you know.

AWAY-TEAM: So how does a hippie Deadhead become the voice of the new generation of thrash?

BRIAN FAIR: Yeah you know honestly I went to as many hardcore and metal shows growing up as I did to Dead shows and Reggae shows and stuff. So I think just kinda keeping that open mind is what’s really allowed us to really kinda push things in directions that other metal bands may not kind of approach. Or just not have the subconscious for the influences that would be there. I’m definitely the dirty metal hippie so it’s… I’m a Gemini, so I gotta have the twin side anyway you know.

AWAY-TEAM: There you go, the ‘dirty metal hippie‘ I like that! (laughs)

BRIAN FAIR: Yup! (laughs)

AWAY-TEAM: So for most people your band Shadows Fall kinda got name recognition within say the last five years. Probably Ozzfest 2005 it is kinda what opened a lot of doors for you, and you became if not a household name, the people outside of the underground really found out about you. But the reality is you guys have been around for 15 years. Your first album came out in 1997. So what do you think took so long…

BRIAN FAIR: Yeah it’s crazy!

AWAY-TEAM: You even have two Grammy nominations in the last three years!

BRIAN FAIR: Yeah it’s pretty crazy cuz you know, we started as like a small little Massachusetts metal band kinda just doin’ our own thing in a very small scene. But it really started to just kinda get back on the radar and blow up. When it seemed like a lot of bands kinda came up at the same time, us, Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, and it just kinda put the U.S. metal kinda back on the map. Metal never goes away. It just may go a little bit underground, but it’s always pretty much full on happening in the scene. So it’s kinda cool that the industry started paying a little attention. I think just even towards like Ozzfest being so successful kinda just put metal in general back on the radar and then us getting in front of those audiences definitely helped.

AWAY-TEAM: So what is it about the Massachusetts area… like you said it’s you, Killswitch Engage, Hatebreed, etc, what is it about that area that’s breeding that metal hardcore theme?

BRIAN FAIR: Well you know it was just a really kind of close knit scene back in the day. Where there was a lot of small hardcore shows and the bands all knew each other and all kind of grew up playing in bands together before that. It was a very open minded scene that was the other thing. People weren’t like limiting themselves to ‘oh we only play traditional hardcore’ ‘we only play straight up death metal’, people were really experimenting melodically and I think that led to bands kind of branching out in different directions and really kinda catching a lot of people’s attention. But it is really funny cuz I mean when we all started, we, the bands, played to each other! There was no crowd you know it was just us. You’d have 10 bands on the bill and that would be 10 bands in the audience. So it’s funny now that it’s kinda like a worldwide thing where we tour Australia and Japan with Killswitch Engage or something like that. It’s just crazy to think about. So….

AWAY-TEAM: You’ve actually got a former member that’s in Killswitch and one that it’s in All That Remains and you guys did a tour together where the three bands were on the same bill or on the same tour together. How does that work backstage? Is there any kinda animosity or does the fact that you guys…

BRIAN FAIR: Aw no! Everyone’s still friends. It’s all good. Like everyone’s just friends. As all the bands were starting…that members were just kinda plucked…When your high school band would break up, you’d meet up with the other two guys. And when their band broke up; then start a new band. So we all we all toured together and played shows and everyone still hangs out. Everyone still lives in the same area pretty much where they grew up so everyone still kicks it.

AWAY-TEAM: So having that close knit familiarity when you guys do tour together, do you guys get real competitive? Does it make you turn it up a notch onstage? Not necessarily to outdo them but to you know…

BRIAN FAIR: I think in general whenever we play with good bands it just motivates you. It’s not necessarily a competition thing, but you just realize, ‘We gotta go out and crush it!‘ But metal lines in general you can’t really half step anyway. They’re gonna let you know. You gotta come out and just kill it anyway. Especially on a tour like this one with so many great bands, you gotta just do something to kinda stand out. Especially in the festival scenario where people are getting little 20 minute shots of you. You gotta make the most of your time and then leave ‘em remembering who you were. So it’s kinda like that when we go out with those bands. It’s the same way you see them go out and crush and you’re like, ‘alright, now we gotta at least hit ‘em just as hard if not harder.’

AWAY-TEAM: Absolutely! You’ve done a lot of label switching over the years. You started out with Century Media, went up to Atlantic, and your last album which was released last year, Retribution, you’ve released on your own label. Is this because there’s more freedom for you to do it how you want it, more creative control, and more monetary control? Or what are the advantages of a do-it-yourself label?

BRIAN FAIR: You know honestly it’s not necessarily the artistic control because Atlantic and Century Media… we would make the records and then play it for them when they were done. So they didn’t really have a whole lot of input that way. But what is great is by doing both the indie label thing for years and then being with Atlantic for a little while, we’ve learned a lot about what works for us as a band and the best way to promote ourselves. And took lessons from both of those experiences to kinda be able to renegotiate our Atlantic deal into a distribution deal with their parent company Warner Music. Where we took the monetary control is the biggest thing too, like budget wise, we were able to spend money in the right places and make those decisions ourselves as opposed to some major labels just want to throw a bunch of money into a video or radio. And hope it hits. With us that’s just not really the way it works. So there’d be a lot of not necessarily wasted money, but money that could’ve been directed in a better direction. So that’s what’s great now, and also there’s no more excuses. Like, ‘oh I didn’t know we were doing this, I didn’t know we were doing that.’ Everyone’s involved so you can all be on the same page and really just try and make the best decisions. But also with the music industry struggling so much, record sales dropping so drastically, it was time to make a new business model anyway instead of getting 10% royalty rate on records. On declining record sales now we at least get an 80%. So we are at least working to put money in your own pocket as opposed to the bottom you know for someone’s car payment on their Porsche.

AWAY-TEAM: Exactly and that that was basically my next question, do you think having the control of your own label will help secure you in, by most people’s estimates, 3 years the major labels will all collapse if they don’t immediately change their business model?

BRIAN FAIR: Yeah that’s the thing you know. It was all about being proactive instead of waiting to see where the chips fell as is the fallout from the downloading mess of the internet… We didn’t want to wait and see what… Cuz you could tell labels were in panic mode. We were lucky when we signed with Atlantic because things were a little more stable. And we were able to get a really good advance and sign a great deal. But those days are gone. Now it’s all 360 deals or they’re trying to take a percentage of your merch, your publishing, your touring, everything! So instead of waiting around to see what was the last of the industry, we figured we’d start our own little business model. I have a feeling that even the CD itself might be gone soon, just the way cassettes and vinyl were before. It’s better to learn as much about the business side and handle as much personally, band for band, as you can. When it gets down to that your gonna have to… if you don’t know what to do then… you know you’re just gonna be sitting there just kinda stuck in limbo so we figured we’d get ahead of the game.

AWAY-TEAM: What I think a lot of people don’t realize is… you mentioned the 360 deals. Most people think that bands make a ton of money off album sales. And in the 80s and 90s there was good money to be made there. But today, and the last 10 years if not a little more than that, your artists and your bands make their money on the road. Selling the t-shirts, selling the tickets, selling all kinds of merch. That’s where you make the most amount of your money. So now labels are doing what they’re calling the 360 deals and they’re taking a little bit of your merch, they’re taking some of your guarantees at the door and your ticket sales just so they can try to survive themselves, and like you said make their Porsche payments.

BRIAN FAIR: Yup and it’s unfortunate for a lot of younger bands. Those are the only options they are being presented with. In a young band and you’re a teenage kid and you just want to get out of the practice space and get on the road. And you think that’s your only option and it may be ok when you’re on a small level. But if you start blowing up all of a sudden you realize you’re like, ‘we’re giving these people money for nothing you know? They’re not even here selling our t-shirts yet they’re getting 10% of every one we just sold!’ It’s really an unfortunate thing; cuz like you said that really is where you make your money. You know touring, merchandising, as well as publishing! Getting yourself onto video games or movies or just random soundtracks and things like that. And as soon as you let the label start dipping into that you’re gonna really be left with nothing else. So it’s really about trying to protect your assets if you can. It’s unfortunate; I remember when we just wanted to rock, now we gotta study tax laws and stuff. It’s terrible but if you want to do it full time, it’s something you gotta really take seriously.

AWAY-TEAM: Absolutely, musicians have never as a rule been great businessmen. That’s what they have the managers for. And now unfortunately you’ve gotta be your own businessman, your own lawyer, your own manager, you’ve gotta take care of yourself because everyone’s getting a piece, or trying to.

BRIAN FAIR: Exactly that’s the other…we’ve seen enough of those Behind the Music’s to know all the things that could go wrong. So now you can’t pretend ignorance anymore. We’ve all watched what happened to Grand Funk Railroad, and all those bands on all those great VH1 Behind the Music’s so (laughs) no excuses anymore.

AWAY-TEAM: So on your label are you going to be signing other bands or is this strictly just to push Shadows Fall?

BRIAN FAIR: Yeah, right now it is just to push Shadows Fall. We wanted really to just see how things worked out. We’ve suggested to other bands to kinda look into a similar deal with the parent company and you know or the independent label group. But in the future if we thought we could help a band in a way without becoming the evil label side of it then that would be awesome. And if they could use our imprint just to help them get like a leg up that would be great. But we would want them to really be running it. It would be more, ‘here’s a platform, here’s a distribution center, now you guys gotta go out and you know run with the ball.’ Otherwise we would just be becoming a regular record label and that business model just doesn’t work. At that point you’re just a loan shark you know?

AWAY-TEAM: So to the bands that are still in the garage or the practice space … What kind of advice can you give to the garage band, they’re trying to make it, how to set themselves apart and get noticed today?

BRIAN FAIR: I would tell them to study hard and get a degree that will get ‘em a real job! (laughs) Honestly I would tell you to really, just get to the point where you just are so comfortable with your sound before you’re just throwing it out there. Really use advantage of all the free networking that’s available, whether it’s putting up songs on MySpace or just staying in touch with bands through Twitter, use all those as much – all the free outlets – as much as possible. Whether it’s YouTube or anything you know, those things weren’t available to us as a young band. We had to just go out on the road and just hand out demos physically as opposed to now, you can just give someone a little flier with all your info and they can hear your music as soon as they get home. It’s such a difference. Shit, they can probably hear it on their phone you know? Like really take advantage of all that and learn as much as you can about how the business side works. Because you’re gonna end up running it yourself at some point if it gets successful. So really, just absorb as much as you can. And also just really get out there and play as much as you can. Cuz the live show is the one thing that can never be downloaded or taken away from the band. The live performance is such a unique experience it really just where it’s all about focused energy, on going out there and kicking ass onstage!

AWAY-TEAM: Ok, enough of the business side, let’s get back to the music. Most of your albums have a cover or two on them from Pink Floyd to Dangerous Toys and even Leeway, how do you guys go about picking a cover? Are these nods to your influences or just songs you want to play putting…

BRIAN FAIR: They’re definitely always an influence you know but there’s two kinda schools we choose from there’s the bands like Leeway and the Cro-Mags that are for us kind of paying tribute to a band that helped kinda shape our sound, but they may not be known by a lot of our either younger fans, or more like not as the underground kids. So that’s where we choose to do a Leeway song or something like that. The other ones like Dangerous Toys and Bark at the Moon, those are just fun. That’s for us to enjoy the studio time and be able to just record a kick ass tune, and for me to be able to sing about werewolves or Teasin’ and Pleasin’. Like I’m never gonna say, ‘I think I got the wrong house’ you know? Like that will never fit into a Shadows Fall song. So for me it’s just a fun experience to just have a little party anthem.

AWAY-TEAM: What were your influences when you started? What made you want to sing to begin with?

BRIAN FAIR: You know I really got into early rock like KISS and Aerosmith and Black Sabbath at a pretty young age. I had a cool older brother and a cool neighbor who turned me onto a lot of good music. But then I got really into punk rock through skateboarding when I was probably like 12, 13. I was listening to Black Flag and the Sex Pistols and stuff, and that led me to going to local Boston hardcore shows and stuff. But the entire time I was going to hardcore shows I was also listening to a ton of thrash metal you know the Bay Area bands – Testament, Death Angel, Metallica as well some of the early death metal so I think that’s really where the kind of combination of sounds of just death metal and old school hardcore and the classic metal kinda all came into Shadows Fall. I think all 5 of us at least shared those kind of common backgrounds even though I was listening to a lot of reggae and jazz, whereas some of the other guys listened to a lot of glam metal and we all had our different stuff. But the common ground we shared the old school metal as well as that kinda early crossover metal hardcore stuff.

AWAY-TEAM: I’ve seen this asked of you before, and reading reviews of various CDs of yours, and when people ask me how to define your sound it’s really impossible to do. I guess it’s because of the various influences but how would you describe the Shadows Fall sound?

BRIAN FAIR: You know just call us a metal band! Because we really do take things from the entire sort of metal history, because we just grew up as fans of all types of heavy music. And you can hyphenate it a million times you can call it like neo-thrash-melodic-death-blah blah blah, and then add metal at the end, but to me it’s just its just metal.

AWAY-TEAM: Ok, fair enough. Retribution sees you guys delving into a bit heavier more aggressive tighter sound than previous efforts. Like almost more focused on a set sound for the feel of the entire album. Was this a natural progression or was it thought out and planned?

BRIAN FAIR: You know it wasn’t really planned but we knew with Threads of Life, the previous album, we definitely pushed the kind of melodic arena rock side of our sound probably as far as it could go so with this record. It was probably subconscious but we definitely started right out the gates writing really aggressive songs. Public Execution was one of the first tunes we were working on, as well as My Demise and War came about pretty early on. And that sort of set the tone where we’re like alright this is going to be a heavy fast record. And there’s still melodic moments like Picture Perfect is a very melodic song with acoustic moments and then a big chorus but overall I’d say it’s definitely probably maybe besides Of One Blood it’s probably the most aggressive record we’ve done from beginning to end.

AWAY-TEAM: I’d described it as tighter, more cohesive, more defined, and straightforward.. just balls out album.

BRIAN FAIR: Yeah there’s definitely a lot of that. We really wanted to balance all of the influences and make them cohesive. As opposed to some bands these days want to fit so much in that they’ll almost cut and paste, ‘alright here’s the death metal part, here’s the breakdown, here’s the big melodic chorus’ and they almost feel sorta just stuck together and forced. We wanted it to be if it was going to be a thrash song and fast it was going to be that way from beginning to end. There wasn’t going to be some weird left turn you know? If it was going to be a melodic hard rock song it was going to stay that way from beginning to end. And I think that’s just us getting more comfortable as song writers. I think song writing is the most difficult thing to progress and learn over time. Everyone gets better as a musician but that still doesn’t mean you can write a song.

AWAY-TEAM: So does the title Retribution reflect the music on the disc or does its meaning lie elsewhere?

BRIAN FAIR: Well you know we wanted a one word title for the first time. Something that just had an aggressive vibe to it, but also we’d kinda been off the radar for about two years between records and we kinda wanted to just stake our claim again. Let people know we were back. There’s just so much metal these days, and there’s so many bands, and it’s so easy to put a record out that we just were like…this was our sort of our coming back atcha thing. Going for the throat sort of record and we just felt like Retribution kind of fit that.

AWAY-TEAM: So how do you as a band go about writing a record? Is it collaborative musically? Do you all sit around and hammer out a song or do you take the riff tapes and piece a song together?

BRIAN FAIR: Our guitar players usually bring a very rough outline of the song or even just a few riffs, and we would just jam on them in the practice space full volume together. And I think that also led to it being an aggressive record, cuz we were actually playing a lot of it live right out of the gates. So it really led to that energy and we were thinking about how they would be onstage as opposed to just thinking of them as just studio pieces. So there and a lot of weird transitions that never would have happened if we would have just emailed back and forth MP3s. Some crazy little wacky idea would come out of nowhere while we were jamming, so I think that really helped make it a cohesive and also just a little more aggressive record. Just crankin’ it and going for it.

AWAY-TEAM: So does the music affect or influence the lyrics or does the writing of the lyrics influence the way the music is written?

BRIAN FAIR: For me, I usually wait til not necessarily the finished instrumental version, but pretty well defined. And I get a vibe from it that will affect the lyrics. If it’s a head crushing heavy song the lyrics have to reflect that. If it’s a long epic kinda song I may get more into a grand storytelling vibe. I definitely usually wait to get that from the music itself.

AWAY-TEAM: As we said before, you’re currently out on the road with some great bands on the Mayhem Festival, what would be your ultimate bill for a show?

BRIAN FAIR: You know we’ve played a festival with them before but we would love to tour with Metallica cuz that’s the one band that I grew up worshipping that we’ve never gotten to do extended time on the road with. And there’s only one Metallica man! They’re the kingpins, so that would be pretty amazing.

AWAY-TEAM: So are you guys sitting around waiting to do the opening for the Big Four then? Is that what you’re asking? To throw in your hat….

BRIAN FAIR: Oh that would be as cool as it gets! But honestly that would be a tough opening spot even to begin with. People would be like ‘yeah great we don’t care, get to the Big Four’!

AWAY-TEAM: Absolutely I can definitely see that. Which hearkens back to the old Bay Area days when if you weren’t Exodus or Metallica onstage everyone would stand with their backs to you and just wait for the band they came to see get onstage…

BRIAN FAIR: Totally it’s just like the opening band getting “Slayer” chanted at them for the entire set. It is definitely some tough spots…Those are the shows that when you do come out and win a crowd over like that, those are some of your best successes. We must have kicked ass tonight because these dudes don’t give a cr-… they don’t care about anybody!

AWAY-TEAM: So I see you guys are performing some off dates while you’re on this festival getting back into the clubs up close and personal with the audience. Everybody wants to be a rockstar, everybody wants to play in front of 60,000 people every night, but which is the better show for you? In the club in front of 300 people nose to nose and fist to fist or something like Mayhem playing for 10 20 30,000 people a night?

BRIAN FAIR: You know for me it really goes both ways. But I definitely grew up playing small, small shows and going to a lot of small, small shows. So to me that’s really probably my comfort zone. The people are there to see you and are right up there supporting and in your face. But there’s something about like… we played a festival in Columbia last week where there was 150,000 people. And just seeing that, there’s really nothing cooler you know? There’s just so much energy and it’s so overwhelming you can barely even focus on one point out in the crowd. Its just so huge and it really can go both ways, but we played a packed club show in Brazil the day before and it was insane! There was so much energy, so much sweat, kids up on the stage and that vibe it brought me back to why I started doing this to begin with. So they both really have a place in my heart but I’d probably always feel more comfortable in a club.

AWAY-TEAM: So how does that change your approach to the show? I mean if you look out from the stage and you see 150,000 people out there how do you connect with that 150,000th person?

BRIAN FAIR: You do have to change the way you do it cuz in the club show you can be standing on the barricade and getting the crowd physically involved in the show so there’s not as much of just a focal point on you. At the big festival there’s a giant security barriers so the focus is just on you, every gesture is a little bigger and you do have to remind yourself to keep connecting with the crowd cuz it is so big. You try to involve them as much as possible, cuz it is really it is a completely different animal. The crowd isn’t part of the show at those big festivals until you make them part of it. Whereas in the club there’s no escape, they’re shoved right up in your face.

AWAY-TEAM: You recently completed your first headlining tour of Canada. Where haven’t you played yet that you really want to?

BRIAN FAIR: You know after doing South America, that was a big checkmark! We went down just recently and did Columbia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. That was amazing! I can’t believe it took us almost 15 years to get down there. For now we have an offer for a festival in China that we hopefully can work out cuz that to me, the fact that we’ve already gone to the Philippines, Korea and all these places I never thought metal would take me, if we can get to China I’m like, ‘Alright now we’re just really we’re runnin’ out of places we’re going to have to play for the penguins down in Antarctica next’.

AWAY-TEAM: That would be really cool, a festival in China wow!

BRIAN FAIR: Yeah that would be amazing!

AWAY-TEAM: So how do you personally get through the monotony of a day on the road without a show?

BRIAN FAIR: That’s why we sold so many off dates. I hate downtime on the road! You usually end up at a Wal-Mart wasting money on DVDs or looking for a movie theater.

AWAY-TEAM: What’s the one thing you can’t live without on the road?

BRIAN FAIR: Let’s see, I’d probably say my pipe but I’d also include my skateboard in that too so…

AWAY-TEAM: And not necessarily in that order right?

BRIAN FAIR: Yeah yeah yeah! And I usually try to keep them separate too!

AWAY-TEAM: That’s probably smartest.

BRIAN FAIR: Choppin’ it on a vert ramp all day can be end up really ending tragically. Although it does still happen from time to time.

AWAY-TEAM: What’s your favorite song to perform live and why?

BRIAN FAIR: You know right now it’s actually been the song War which is sorta, I can’t call it a Bob Marley cover, I adapted some of the lyrics from his version of the Haile Selassie speech that he used in his song, War, but it’s just balls out like definitely the fastest Marley cover ever. And for me the crowd is just like a nonstop circle pit. So it’s a great one to just throw out there and it’s also one of those 3 minute just punch in the throat and then you’re out.

AWAY-TEAM: What’s the one song you didn’t write that you wish you did?

BRIAN FAIR: Pretty much anything on Master of Puppets!

AWAY-TEAM: And my last question for you, what’s the worst name of a band you’ve ever been in?

BRIAN FAIR: Worst name of a band I’ve ever been in? Social Violation. It was a punk rock band when I was literally like probably 12 years old. At one point my whole thing was hitting the guitar with all the distortion up with drumsticks, thinking it was some art scene noise thing. It’s like no, you just don’t know how to hold it!

AWAY-TEAM: Well Brian I appreciate it man good luck out on the road with the Mayhem Festival. You’ve got a DVD coming out ‘Madness in Manila’ next month on the 24th of August good luck with that!

BRIAN FAIR: It’s actually getting pushed back, it’s actually getting pushed back a little bit. We just found a bunch more footage that we had to include so we’re going to actually push the date back a little bit to the fall but ‘Madness in Manila’ is coming.

AWAY-TEAM: I look forward to it! I’ve seen you guys 2 or 3 times, I’ve produced a couple of shows with you and Lacuna Coil in the North Carolina area and I’m looking forward to seeing you guys August 3rd in Raleigh , NC.

BRIAN FAIR: Indeed man it’s going to be a good time! I remember those shows those were good shows! Man, that’s killer!

AWAY-TEAM: Good luck, be safe, and we’ll see you soon.

BRIAN FAIR: Indeed man thanks for spreading the word, we appreciate it!

My thanks to Natalie at Adrenaline PR for the hook up, my transcriptionist extraordinaire melissa for the 15 pages, and Brian Fair for taking the time out of a busy schedule to throw down a great interview.

For more on Shadows Fall click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was originally published on 2010/08/30

The Bay Area Thrash Scene of the early 80’s has been well documented. The most successful metal band of all time, Metallica, helped define it’s sound, and give San Francisco it’s second major music ‘scene’ (the first being the flower power, hippy, acid rock scene of the 60’s). Bands like Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Possessed, Heathen, and Vio-lence where at the forefront of the new scene.
Death Angel released three albums to much critical acclaim and built a very strong following. With the release of ACT III the band seemed poised to jump from a well known underground band to commercial success, but a bus accident at the beginning of the tour cycle sidelined the band with injuries, and they eventually separated in 1991. Fast forward ten years to Thrash Of The Titans a benefit for Chuck Billy, the singer of Testament, who was diagnosed with throat cancer. Many of the ‘old school’ Bay Area Thrash bands united and reunited for this epic event and cause. Death Angel was reborn with a new guitarist and due in part to the crowd response, and the persistence of a record label, Nuclear Blast, the band decided to hit the road and actually record an album. The last 9 years has seen three new albums, several successful tours, and a resurgence of the Bay Area old school Thrash Scene.
Ted Aguilar has been with Death Angel now since the Thrash Of The Titans show in 2001. And while the band was on tour with Soilwork this summer, I chatted with Ted Aguilar after their Raleigh, North Carolina show (and heated Galaga video game match!) about Death Angel, a proposed tour of China, the first ever ‘metal’ themed cruise ship, the soon to be released Relentless Retribution (September 14th on Nuclear Blast), what it feels like to be starring three years of non stop touring straight in the face, and how he was able to take the stage at Thrash of the Titans after only two rehearsals with the band (‘fuckin’ nervous man, fuckin’ nervous!’ was his response)

AWAY TEAM: This is ‘Slim’ Jim Keller with and I’m sitting here with Ted Aguilar from Death Angel. I want to thank you very much for taking time out again for this interview. Congratulations on the soon to be released 6th studio album from Death Angel entitled Relentless Retribution.


AWAY TEAM: So how long have you been with Death Angel?

TED AGUILAR: Nine years now this is my 3rd album with them.

AWAY TEAM: Ok so when they reformed…

TED AGUILAR: Yeah I’ve been with them since Thrash of the Titans.

AWAY TEAM: What brought you on board to Death Angel? They reformed for the benefit for Chuck Billy called the Thrash of the Titans and it was the first time that they’d gotten together in eleven years to perform and so how did you end up in the band?

TED AGUILAR: Actually, I’ve known the guys for a long time even back in the 80’s. I’d been to majority of all their hometown shows from Ultra-Violence until Act III. And when the band started to reform I guess everyone was into it except Gus (Pepa) the other rhythm guitar player. And I mean he just wasn’t into it, he was in the Philippines at the time he just basically checked out of music, well heavy music in general. I’d known Rob (Cavestany), and Rob gave me a call and said, ‘Hey man you want to do it? Gus can’t do it.’ and at first I was like, ‘Are you SURE?’ I don’t wanna step on anybody’s toes since Death Angel was more of a family unit. He goes, ‘Nope Gus can’t do it.’ So in 2 rehearsals I had to learn all the songs on my own and you know I jammed out with some individuals just to kinda get some ideas of the structures of the song. We did 2 rehearsals like 2 days before Thrash of the Titans and boom did the show. It was fun man. I was nervous as a motherfucker though I’ll tell you! But it was fun.

AWAY TEAM: Kind of a big stage to take on for your first with only 2 rehearsals under your belt

TED AGUILAR: Two rehearsals and its Death Angel’s first gig in 11 years! You gotta be on your game! I was nervous as a motherfucker. These guys know the songs inside out I mean they grew up writing it so it was like second nature to them.

AWAY TEAM: So what were you doing before you got the call?

TED AGUILAR: I just played in a couple local bands nothing really big, just jamming around with friends and local bands just played around the Bay Area. And my band played with Rob and Mark’s (Osegueda) band Swarm at the time. We did a few local gigs together and that’s how I guess I got the gig. They never actually told me I was in the band they go ‘You wanna jam?’ and 9 years later here I am today man!

AWAY TEAM: Still waiting to sign the contract right!

TED AGUILAR: I’m still waiting! I didn’t even get a handshake! Put it that way.

AWAY TEAM: So your first album with Death Angel was Art of Dying. What was it at that show or shortly after that they decided or you all decided you should reform properly and actually do something with this?

TED AGUILAR: Well that show was supposed to be a one-off. I mean from what the guys told me Death Angel wasn’t meant to reform, they were just done. They went out on a high note of Act III and they started doing other various projects as The Organization, Swarm, Silver Circus and Big Shrimp and all that stuff. Right after we did Thrash of the Titans… I loved it, and the rest of the guys just felt the overwhelmingness of the crowd. Just very into the band. We didn’t realize how much Death Angel was missed. So after that show there was other offers coming about and I guess we decided let’s just do one more round of touring put out a live album and that’s it, call it a day. But as soon as we went to Europe the crowd was just amazing! The first time we went there we headlined the F&R in 2002 July of 2002 I believe then we did the Dynamo Festival and those shows are just like, ‘Holy Shit!’ I mean metal is big in Europe and again we didn’t realize how much fans around the world missed Death Angel. And we did that and went back out on the road again we got this offer to do two weeks in Europe on a festival with Testament. Nuclear Blast started coming around offering us you know… they wanted to sign us without even hearing new songs! They just loved the band, loved the legacy, ‘we’ll sign you!’ So from there on we just said well let’s give it a shot we did and we released Art Of Dying, we released Killing Season, now we’re going to release Relentless Retribution and it’s been a great ride and we still got more to conquer! More to conquer!

AWAY TEAM: Well you’re currently on tour with Soilwork, Swashbuckle and Mutiny Within; I saw maybe 5 dates left after tonight, what’s next?

TED AGUILAR: After this we’re going to go home and kinda hang out with family real quick. Just hang out and chill, then the album comes out as you know September 14th, everyone go out and get it!

AWAY TEAM: On Nuclear Blast. Find it on Nuclear Blast; pre-order it now you get a T-shirt with it…

TED AGUILAR: There you go! And there’s gonna be there’s a limited DVD too. It’s the making of the record which I kinda filmed, directed, and produced the whole thing. I had someone else edit it. It’s the making of the record from the first riff all the way until the last riff and into the recording studio and whatnot. And September we’re going to do the Mezcal Metalfest the last week of September with Twisted Sister, Destruction, God Forbid, and Obituary. Then in October we’re going to South America for the first time which we’re really excited about then we come back in November. December we’re going out to Europe with Kreator, Exodus, and Suicidal Angels and that’s going to be a thrash fest festival across Europe! Come back for the holidays then in the new year we pick up at that 70,000 ton metal cruise we’re doing with Testament, Forbidden, Exodus, Fear Factory, Uli Roth, Trouble, Swashbuckle, so many bands! Then right after that we start our headlining U.S. tour and who knows what’s going to come after that. I know next summer we still have to do the major European festivals so relentless touring, relentless touring.

AWAY TEAM: So springtime we should see you back in the States then on the road…

TED AGUILAR: Around springtime yeah around there.

AWAY TEAM: Early summer before the European festivals kick in?

TED AGUILAR: Yeah then go back to Europe for the summer festivals then maybe come back in the fall too. Relentless touring! Who knows? But that’s the plan.

AWAY TEAM: On this album you have two new musicians (Damien Sissom – bass, Will Carroll – drums) on it, has that changed how you guys write?

TED AGUILAR: Well it definitely changed this time around because we have a new rhythm section. Andy Galeon and Dennis Pepa are no longer with the band due to personal and family obligations. They couldn’t go out on tour basically so we got a new rhythm section and when we got them, before we even started writing a record, we went out on tour with them. Just played the old songs and we noticed they have a thrashier element. So it was kinda good to go out on the road with them and play some of the old songs and get a feel of what’s going on. I’ve known Damien and Will for awhile, I’ve played with them, so I know what their vibe is about. But it was good in a sense for Rob and Mark because it’s probably the first time in Death Angel history they got to jam with somebody who are not family, somebody totally new. So when we came to writing the album Rob kinda knew what styles Will played, he knew Will’s a thrash drummer, basically like full on thrash drummer, Damien’s a thrash bass player but with a sense of like, ala Cliff Burton, Steve Harris, all those great players. So Rob wrote accordingly to that. The band’s been through a lot of ups and downs in the past couple of years losing members and a lot of personal things going on internally and externally. So all that influence and jamming with new people helped create this record which is the most aggressive and thrashiest record since Ultra-Violence. You know a lot of double bass a lot of fast parts and it feels like a new band. When you listen to the record, for us, it seemed like a new band getting its first record deal, excited! Just going out there again you know? It’s kinda like they helped bring that excitement back which was kinda tapering off with Dan and Andy because they just weren’t into it any more. You can’t really force anybody to be into something when they’re not. And it was really hard for the band because those guys had been with the band since the inception and a lot of fans are like, ‘Oh man! What’re they gonna do?’ But this album’s going to really prove that Death Angel can go on and we’re happy about that.

AWAY TEAM: That’s one thing I’d noticed with the Art of Dying and Killing Season. Act III to most fans out there was the ‘be all end allDeath Angel album and it was probably the most diverse out of the three original albums, very funky, a lot of different styles woven through the basic Bay Area Thrash sound and with the Art of Dying & Killing Season and what little bit I’ve heard of Relentless Retribution it’s like you have gone more towards the straightforward thrash. Is that more angry or just…

TED AGUILAR: It’s a combination of things. I mean it was intentionally to do that and two it was like I said we’d gone through a lot in the past couple of years so all that vibe went into that, and Rob being the sole the chief writer on this one. Art of Dying was good you know it got our feet wet with the band discovering themselves again because it’d been a long time. Killing Season was a great record where everyone like pretty much honed in, but then again, like I’d said in the past couple of years there was tension within the band of collaborating. I mean collaboration is good sometimes you know and it works well when it works well and the past couple of years with everyone it was hard in a sense. And when everyone collaborated it made Death Angel, but this one was more Rob wrote everything. I mean he had the ideas, he had the thing, there was no fighting, there was no pushing and pulling. It wasn’t like, ‘No this has to be that way!’ ‘No this is that way!Rob had so much ideas, and so much to let out, that with our new rhythm section and we heard what Rob was writing and we’d go, ‘that’s it!’ You know he was feeling it, he had all this vibe and ideas, we just ran with it. It was easier for Rob to write. There was no pushing and pulling, he had everything, we just added to what he did. It’s like I said being a band, being in a first band, someone forms a band, ‘I got all these songs let’s do it, let’s do it, let’s do it!’ And when it came to the lyrics, Mark wrote the majority of the lyrics. There’s 12 songs on the record. Mark wrote 9 of them and Rob wrote the other 3 and it’s a heartfelt record. Mark finally got to release. Mark had a lot… you know we all went through a lot of stuff. We were all able to release, and that’s why the record’s more thrashy, more aggressive. It was purposely done that way. Along with the fact of what we went through, so we’re stoked about it. We’re just stoked. And it still has Death Angel elements in there. It doesn’t have the sing-along’s like some stuff on Act III, but there’s melody. It’s just aggressive melody. Who knows how well this album does. We could go on the road even longer. That’s something we want to do. It’s something a proper band should do. And that’s something we never got to do with Art of Dying and Killing Season. Due to the fact that a couple of the guys in the band either didn’t want to tour… we get booked a tour and go ‘I can do that first half but not the second half’ it’s like we gotta do it all! But now that those roadblocks are not there we are able to just tour and we need to tour to promote the record and to get in people’s faces. A lot of people want to see us live and they don’t want to wait 4 years for us to come by. So we want to keep comin’ and coming around.

AWAY TEAM: Yeah I’m getting tired of driving 5 hours to see you guys!

TED AGUILAR: Yes yes yes! We want to keep touring a lot so we can hit other markets where people don’t have to travel to. We’re hitting these markets where people have to travel because we haven’t come around a lot. The more we come around we can hit other territories. The word gets out ‘hey come over here instead of over there’. Cool. You know maybe hit your town so you don’t have to drive!

AWAY TEAM: So you’re doing South America and with the European festivals you’re hitting a lot of Europe, what is probably like the one market or the one place you guys haven’t played that you want to?

TED AGUILAR: Oh South America, one. Central America, probably want to go to Africa. I’ve heard they have shows in Africa. Morocco, Sepultura just did Morocco, they had a couple festivals in like Dubai. We’ve done the Philippines which is great awesome and …

AWAY TEAM: How are you guys accepted there?


AWAY TEAM: I think you and Journey ‘cuz of their new lead singer…

TED AGUILAR: Yeah yeah!

AWAY TEAM: You guys are pretty much the favored children of the Philippines.

TED AGUILAR: Pretty much yeah! Well Journey more than us! We were accepted really well and the fans were awesome the people there were awesome. We want to go back to Japan, we’ve been to Japan, but I know there’s other territories. There’s talks of Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and you know Hawaii… There’s so many places, it’s just trying to get out there. It is hard but we’ll play everywhere where it’s feasible. If we can get out there without losing it, losing our asses, we’ll play! We’ll definitely play.

AWAY TEAM: In the age of downloading, you guys unfortunately don’t make a lot money anymore on the actual album sales. Labels and no offense to Nuclear Blast and some other great labels out there but the big labels we’ll say are slowly but surely crumbling. And if they don’t change their business model then they’re not going to exist in the next few years. Can you still exist and can you make a good living doing this full time?

TED AGUILAR: If you play your cards right!

AWAY TEAM: It’s about being in your blood and wanting to play. That’s one thing. But being able to survive in today’s market…

TED AGUILAR: A lot of bands seem to do it, I mean a lot of younger bands. Thing is to tour one, merchandise of course, you can download music but you can’t download a shirt. And we get people go ‘oh I’ve seen your YouTube performances’ great! And they come out to see us. Yeah you can see it on YouTube, but it’s not the same as going to a live show. Downloading does hurt and I’ve talked to people in bands and labels, it hurts but you gotta embrace the internet. I see it as touring, your merchandise, and just playing your cards right, and just embracing the internet. Don’t kind of shun it, it’s there, it’s not going away. The days of making money off platinum records seems to be over. Not even pop artists sell as much as they used to but…

AWAY TEAM: Which is good actually!

TED AGUILAR: Well in a sense, but for bands like us we gotta go out and tour. And the live show’s where people really see us. And the more we tour the more merch you sell or whatever and just gotta keep going. Putting out records cause the diehards will buy the records and in this day and age you got people like me and you who still buy records. The newer generations don’t seem to, a lot of the hardcore scene people kinda like download, but a lot of metal kids that I talk to, that I meet, have bought CDs and vinyl and want to sign it. So that’s good that they’re buying it. But it’s just touring and word of mouth the old school way.

AWAY TEAM: Well, used to be when you’re starting out you lived on the road. You lived in the back of a van and you toured incessantly just to get your name out there. Now you have to tour incessantly to put money in your pocket! As you get older it really starts to wear on you more, how do you keep up the intensity? Because you guys put on a phenomenal show! Like I was telling Mark (Osegueda – singer) before we started the interview, I’ve been following this band since ’87. I’m from the Bay Area originally and there was a high school radio station KVHS that played metal, and that’s all they played! That was my introduction to Death Angel in ’87. They played the Ultra-Violence and I was hooked instantly. I’ve seen you guys live, since you got back together, I’ve seen you probably 5, 6 times. And they are just amazing shows! And the intensity on that stage whether it’s a huge room or a very small room, you guys just slay. How do you keep up that level of intensity and that energy night after night being on the road for say another 2 years now?

TED AGUILAR: One we try to stay healthy eat right on the road a lot of us exercise a lot you know

AWAY TEAM: And a lot of Galaga!

TED AGUILAR: And a lot of Galaga!! We exercise a lot, we watch what we eat basically, and we’re not excessive drinkers. We don’t do drugs, an occasional puff here and there with the guys. Who doesn’t? It’s basically just really taking care of yourself. Plus when we play the songs that we play we’re just so into it, it just makes us go crazy night after night whether it’s a small crowd or a big crowd. We throw out the energy and the crowd throws it back at us. We love to do it, we love to go out there and perform. People come to see a show we’re going to give you a show! Plus we’re from the old school, where we go to a show and fuckin’ Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, old Metallica, all those bands they put on a show. KISS for example! So we kinda like are influenced by that, but how do we do it? We just rest, exercise, and try to work out and be cautious of intake.

AWAY TEAM: Well I thank you very much it’s been a pleasure again thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule

TED AGUILAR: No problem man thank you

AWAY TEAM: Good luck with Relentless Retribution and the next 16 months on the road and hopefully we’ll see you again in Raleigh in the spring.

TED AGUILAR: Raleigh or wherever you live! Hopefully you know the more we tour, and if the record gets pretty successful which we hope… Countin’ on you guys to buy it so we can hit more than just one city per state you know? So everyone can come out, we’re into it! Hope you’re into it too. Relentless Retribution September 14th via Nuclear Blast GO BUY IT! Come see the shows!

Thank you to Ted Aguilar for the time he took out of his Galaga match to sit and talk with me, Francois for ensuring the interview happened, Charles at Nuclear Blast for setting it up, and Melissa for her great transcription services as always.

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