Interview with Alex
Can you tell us about the formation of Selfish Things? We found our true form in late 2016. I started this project not knowing I wanted it to become anything, really. I’d just left my old band and “Selfish Things” was more a “let’s throw some songs up under this name and see if anything happens” kind of thing, not the typical “let’s get some best friends together and sign a record deal.” Eventually, the universe decided I should take it seriously in the form of a phone call from James Paul Wisner in the summer of 2016. I’d already found Cam as he was an intern at our Canadian booking agency, which led to him introducing me to Mike who he’d known from Barrie and had played with previously. Jordan was the last piece of the puzzle - he was a chef at my wife’s old place of employment, and his project died in fall of 2016, so I scooped him up.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Mississauga, Ontario? We were never really an “up and coming” band in Mississauga. Mississauga never really had a scene for us to “come up” in, even growing up. All of the shows were in Burlington, Hamilton, St. Catherines, etc. which is where Alexisonfire, Counterparts and Silverstein are all from. We played our first real show in February of 2017 and by September of 2017 we were on a cross Canada Simple Plan tour (our feet were definitely not big enough to fill those shoes at the time). It wasn’t until March 2018 that we really began the “tour and play to nobody” grind across North America.
So, when did the first glimpses of 'LOGOS' come about then, was there a particular song or moment that sparked the whole creative process for the record? There wasn’t a particular moment. Immediately following the Simple Plan tour we started to write songs with WZRD BLD. He believed in the band and the writing enough to do it for free until we acquired a record deal, which is insane and so kind of him in hindsight. We shopped five or six songs to a number of people, and ended up landing square at the feet of Jake Round at Pure Noise. He believed in the band from the start and has obviously been a huge advocate for up and coming bands throughout his career, which felt right to us. It took about a year and a half all in to get the pieces together, with the last sessions for the album wrapping in October of 2018.
How did you get to the album title 'LOGOS', and what does it mean to you? I was (and still am) reading a lot of Jung. ‘Logos’ is the principle of logic and structure, traditionally associated with spirit, the father world and the God-image. Jung talks about the Logos struggling to extricate itself from the primal warmth and primal darkness of the maternal womb, which is basically summarised as the unconscious. I interpret it as a battle between our need to be reactive in a primal/evolutionary way while attempting to navigate our sentience with morality, kindness and religious transcendence.
How did you end up working with WZRD BLD? WZRD BLD and our band have the same management - we had breakfast one day in Los Angeles directly across from the giant Scientology blue building and decided to take a stab at writing some songs together. After the first session we knew we had a special connection and he’s been one of our best friends/greatest supporters since.
How did Andy Leo, Spencer Chamberlain, and William Ryan Key become a part of 'LOGOS', and what did they bring to the record? It was all pretty organic. I’ve known Andy since their tour with Asking Alexandria / Black Veil Brides and we read a lot of the same literature. Ryan and our band were set to tour together in the early winter of 2019, and when we reached out asking if he wanted to lend his voice to a song he was more than willing to lay down some vocals. Spencer had previously been managed by Raw Power while he was working on Sleepwave our manager is a wonderful man and continues to keep in touch with artists he’s worked with previously. Spencer heard the album, supported it and opted to hop on a song as well. I think they all bring something special to the album. Rock artists don’t go far enough in supporting one another, and to see so many industry heavyweights on our track listing is still surreal.
What was the hardest song on 'LOGOS' to put together, and why? The hardest song to finish was ‘Hole’, by far. It went through 10 different iterations - I can’t even listen to it without getting frustrated with myself. Why? Because we wanted it to be right. For a song that has so many weird elements and goes pretty far out of our comfort zone, I’m surprised it turned out as well as it did.
How did the album artwork for 'LOGOS' come together, and what does it mean to you? I’d always had the imagery in my head in some capacity. The visual of a young boy taking a baseball bat to a moulded world always seemed like a pertinent narrative in regards to the way I’ve always felt about my life, my struggles, etc. The innocence of youth destroying the structure of the world almost personifies the idea that you can live outside of the structures before they take ahold of you. As for actually bringing it to life, Ashley Osborn and I have been close friends for a couple of years. She’s an incredible artist and we very much exist on the same wavelength creatively and ideologically. She did a wonderful job taking what I had imagined and turning it into something real and tangible.
You've just unleashed 'Hole'! How did it come together, and what does this track in particular mean to you? ‘Hole’ came to being because of familial turmoil that is thankfully now buried and in the past. It was the first song written for the album and is admittedly still one of my least favourite, probably because of how many versions we went through as I mentioned above. I love the lyrics and the iconography that it contains, but I’m still not sure if we “nailed” it the way we had imagined. However, the response says otherwise, so I’m probably just being overly self critical at this point, haha!
What else can we expect to see from Selfish Things in 2019? ‘Logos’ is out now. We’re on tour with Don Broco, Trash Boat and our Chicago boyfriends Sleep On It right now. Immediately afterward I fly out to play three acoustic shows with Cavetown in Portland, Vancouver and Seattle. We’ve got one more tour lined up that is yet to be announced as well!
Interview with Greg
How did The Fallen State originally get together? We originally got together in 2013. There had been a few projects (under different guises) previously that a few of us messed about with but ultimately the 5 of us became The Fallen State in 2013.
How did you get to the band name The Fallen State, and what does it mean to you? The band name actually came from our guitarist Dan Oke. He suggested it one day, and due to the situation we were all in at the time (feeling a bit down and out and wondering where our music careers were going), we felt it represented us nicely. I think somewhere along the line it was suggested that “the” was added so it didn’t get mixed up with us trying to sound like we are American - not sure if that’s helped or not!
Was there a particular moment when you realised that you had the potential to make a career out of music? For me, it came from being a fan. I was fortunate to get to “hang out” and meet some of my favourite bands over the years as a fan and it just inspired me to really think “yes maybe I could do this too if I work hard” so fortunately it kind of worked out in some way or another!
So, touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We recently completed a full European tour as special guests to Pop Evil which was a fantastic experience and great to finally get to play to our fans in Europe. We head out for our own UK tour in October which is set to be our biggest yet. We have some cool support bands and we really encourage anyone to get down to a show if they can! Full dates are available on our websites! I mean I absolutely love touring and playing shows. We have been seriously fortunate to have some opportunities we could only have dreamt of including opening for 3 Doors Down at Hammersmith Apollo in London to selling out our own shows on our previous UK tours. It’s all personal highlights for me which will stay with me forever.
Looking back on the release of 'A Deadset Endeavour', how happy have you been with the response to the record so far, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of The Fallen State? The response seems to have been great. We knew when we had finished it that we had done something we could be really proud of but after spending so much time on it, going back and forth, reworking this and that, eventually you end up thinking “is it as good as we hope it is.... will people even like it?” It’s not until you step away from it and see the response that it confirms whether you did a good job or not - and fortunately this time, the response seems to say we did!
What songs are you still really enjoying performing from 'A Deadset Endeavour' at the moment, and why? We actually haven’t had much of a chance to perform all of the songs yet. We played ‘Torn’ on the Pop Evil tour and we had previously jammed a couple live in previous gigs just to test them as songs but due to not being able to play until October we haven’t had the chance to really see how they sound live. We are very much looking forward to performing them and seeing the reaction in a live situation. We’ve been working hard to get these songs sounding as great as they do on the record so only time will tell if we have accomplished that!
How would you say that the sound of the band has grown on 'A Deadset Endeavour'? I think ‘A Deadset Endeavour’ For me, represents everything we have learnt over the past 5 years of a band. If bands are lucky enough to stay together for a good amount of time it gives them opportunity to grow and develop their sound. This is definitely true for us. We’re always working hard to improve as musicians and to push ourselves beyond what we are. I think this is reflected in the latest record and will hopefully be true for any future recordings we do.
What was the hardest song on 'A Deadset Endeavour' to create/put together, and why? From a personal point of view probably ‘For My Sorrow’. Jon actually presented this as an almost finished piece to the band and at the time, there was a lot of stuff that I was thinking “oh wow I have to really push my playing to justify that” and that presents a hurdle in itself. But it’s a good hurdle to overcome and develop your playing in an unfamiliar style. It’s definitely one of the things about songwriting I enjoy the most now, having the opportunity to push my playing. Jon is such an incredible musician so anything he does I’m usually thinking “ok I’ve got to step it up to be able to put something to that” and every time I achieve that it’s definitely a great feeling.
What do you want the listener to take away from 'A Deadset Endeavour'? Anything they want to! The lyrics, the music, can all represent anything the listener wants to take from it. I just hope they enjoy it and it means something to them. Just like all of my favourite albums did for me over the years. That’s what you strive to create, something that means a lot to people, something they aren’t going to forget and will go back to over the years.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Extremely excited, currently it’s on track to be the biggest tour we have done to date and we can’t wait to get out and play for everyone again. There will be surprises for sure but anyone who has been to a The Fallen State show knows what to expect. Maximum enjoyment, we love being there amongst our fans - we can’t wait to meet them all again!
What else can we expect to see from The Fallen State in 2019? Haha that would be telling wouldn’t it!
Interview with Sam
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Touring has been a huge part of our schedule this year, we’ve visited some amazing new places and had the chance to play in 11 countries so far. There have been so many highlights throughout the year, one would definitely have to be playing our first ever shows in Spain and another would be selling out our headline show in London earlier this year.
So, when did the first glimpses of ‘State Of Mind’ come about? Was there a particular song or moment that sparked the whole creative process? ‘State Of Mind’ has been a long time in the making, but one of the most pivotal moments in writing the album would have to be when we were writing at the Hen House Rehearsal studios in Perth in March. We had just been on tour in the UK and Europe for a few months and we were getting ready to go back into the studio to record. We had a couple of weeks to work on some ideas and during the first week we were sort of writing a particular way, so at the beginning of the second week we spent a couple of hours talking about what we wanted to do & say with our music and what we thought the future was for The Faim. After that, we straight away started to write the title track ‘State Of Mind’ and I think we all felt this feeling of fulfillment.
How did you get to the album title ‘State Of Mind’? I think the feeling we all had when we wrote the song ‘State Of Mind’ was so powerful that we wanted to carry that through the album and ultimately it became the album title. I’m pretty sure we started calling the album ‘State Of Mind’ before we even had a serious conversation about what it should be, so when the time came to think about and decide on a title, anything and everything else felt wrong. ‘State Of Mind’ to me represents growth and I think all the guys would agree that the combined state of mind we had whilst writing the title track is something we want to carry with us through our future writing.
If possible, can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout the album? I don’t think the album necessarily has a main theme or a main influence, it really talks about a lot of very different and human things that we hope people can relate to. As I said before this album has been a long time in the making and I think you can definitely hear the journey the band has made over that period of time both sonically and I think Josh would agree lyrically as well. Linden would say that the album is both a nod to the past but also a nod to the future and where we want to take our music going forward, and I completely agree with him.
Who produced ‘State Of Mind’, and how would you say that they helped shape it? For the album we worked with numerous producers, we really wanted to challenge ourselves and also learn from different people and it was an amazing experience as a fairly young band to have the opportunity to work with so many truly amazing, hardworking and talented people. It would be unfair to just name a few but the album would not be the same without every single person who worked on this album with us.
How did the artwork for ‘State Of Mind’ come together, and what does it mean to you? The artwork came together thanks to a brilliant guy named Taylor. We were at breakfast with Taylor talking about the album and we had this idea that we were all kind of set on for a while and over the course of the breakfast we sort of came to the conclusion that the idea we had wasn’t right for what this album was shaping out to be, so Taylor took the idea we originally had but created something a lot more relevant to the sound and feel of the album. The album art is quite recognizably a human head, but it has no gender, no race, it is completely neutral and I think along with our single ‘Humans’, it really represents that no matter who we are or where we come from, we all make mistakes but that only makes us human and being human is a beautiful thing.
What can you tell us about your latest single ‘Humans’? ‘Humans’ was written quite late on in the timeline of recording for the album. We were on tour and we got sent this progression and a verse and we thought that it had something really cool about it, so we started workshopping some ideas around what was sent in and then after the tour we decided to go into the studio and record it. I think when you’re on tour you get a lot of time to think when you’re going from show to show and when your brain is tired and you’ve been sitting in the van for 8 hours and the only thing you’ve eaten is potato chips, it’s really easy to get into your head and beat yourself up over the tiniest mistakes you make or you made in the past. ‘Humans’ is a recognition of no matter what situation you’re in, you can’t put too much pressure on yourself because you’re only human and it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s how we learn.
How would you say that the sound of The Faim has grown or changed over the last year or so? The sound of The Faim has grown and changed a lot over the past year, the band has changed and we’ve all changed individually too, but we’re starting to find where we want to head as 4 friends in a band and I think that all started with ‘State Of Mind’. For us there is something undeniably wholesome with our connection to rock music that has been present throughout our childhoods that I believe a lot of that energy is going to be harnessed going forward.
Finally, what else can we expect to see from The Faim in 2019 and beyond? A lot of touring for the rest of this year and finally our album ‘State Of Mind’ is being released. We’re looking to release some music videos that we’re super excited for also and I guess it’s time to start writing album number 2.
Interview with Eon
So why did you guys initially decide to take a hiatus? We never chose to take a hiatus from music, but we did agree to take a break/vacation after perpetually touring for a few years straight. Jay and I thought we would take a few months off, and though we never set an end date to the break, we agreed that we would just let the vibe ride until we felt ready to do more Bedouin Soundclash music and touring.
Can you tell us a bit about what you got up to in this time creatively? Both of us took time to dive in to different creative pursuits. Jay wrote a record with a string trio called ‘The End Tree’ and toured Europe and Canada as Jay Malinowski and The Deadcoast. He also wrote his first novel which was a companion piece to the record called ‘Martel’ which provided a new challenge he enjoyed tackling and did so successfully! I returned to DJing (under the name The Soul Proprietor), something that I used to do occasionally as a teen and at University, and I also wrote and recorded some basslines with various artists such as Ivana Santilli and Alysha Brilla for their solo works. I also played live with a few acts around the Toronto area which allowed me to rehearse new styles.
How did Bedouin Soundclash return, and what was it like to work together again? Well, Jay and I never stopped being in touch and we both took the break with the goal of writing more music when the time was right. It wasn't something promised but in our minds, we never left music, we just paused on playing. During our hiatus, we both went back to our homes in Vancouver and Toronto respectively, so when Jay emailed me with a demo version of ‘Clockwork’, I was excited by the vibe and the density of instruments in the arrangement. I went to writing basslines right away and as we hoped and expected, the process of working on music together came with the same ease as it always has. The only difference when we started on this new music was that we were on different sides of the country as opposed to being in the same city or tour bus, so GarageBand and Logic became more important than Jay's Fostex 4-track recorder.
So when did the first glimpses for 'MASS' come about? Jay sent that demo in 2015. He sent a bunch more songs over the next few months and we slowly started working on some ideas. In 2016, we decided to hole up in LA for the month of January to write (and escape the cold). We had experimented with horns on ‘Light the Horizon’ and in the interim, Jay was playing a lot of keys and Nord synth which led to adding new sounds to the music such as layers of horns and marimbas.
How did you get to the album title 'MASS' and what does it mean to you? We discussed the title a lot and went through various ideas, but once the idea of 'MASS' as a title came about, it had so much meaning through the various definitions of the word. "Mass" as physical matter that has weight; "Mass" as a festival or celebration (Caribana in Toronto relates to Notting Hill Carnival which reminds of Mardi Gras in New Orleans etc); or "Mass" as a gathering of like-minded people. With the addition of our friends in Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans throughout the records, we also thought that "Mass" evoked some of the spirit of that musical history and culture as well.
What else can you tell us about the main themes and influences (lyric wise) that run throughout the album? As always, Jay has written lyrics that have personal meanings and references from our own experiences blended with topical issues but told in a universally understandable way. For example, ‘Clockwork’ is about dealing with an attractive, but destructive/difficult energy that only comes your way so often but shows up at the same times under predictable circumstances, like clock work, but an energy that consistently presents a false sense of value to you. ‘Salt Water’ is about being careful about what information you drink in from the public/media and whether it is as nourishing to your mind and soul as it claims to be. There are love songs for family and partner (’Just Like You’, ‘Full Bloom’), songs questioning the afterlife (’When We're Gone’), and songs about gentrification and what we're doing to our immediate environments (’They Gutted This City’).
How did you end up working with Ben Jaffe, and how did he shape 'MASS'? I was fortunate to meet Ben Jaffe on a trip to see our brother King Brittt perform his Sister Gertrude Morgan based album ‘Let's Make A Record’ live in New Orleans many years ago, and I met Ben through King who has been a longtime friend and collaborator. We stayed in touch and once Jay started sending songs with horns as a regular component, we thought it made sense to reach out to Ben to see if Preservation Hall Jazz Band would be involved. Ben was fantastic at ensuring the fellas in the band brought their style and best energy to the recording. He also helped create a very unique and special moment where we recorded our song ‘The Edges of The Night’ live off the floor in The Preservation Hall which was an incredible experience and huge honour that could only be orchestrated by Ben.
Was there a particular arrangement on the record that you just really enjoyed putting together? Hmm...personally, I really enjoyed working on a track called ‘Holy’ which has many instrumental layers. That song has lead vocals, the Asylum Chorus on background vocals, Mike Dillon (Les Claypool) on marimbas, and Rick Nelson (Afghan Whigs and whose Marigny Studios we recorded much of the album in) on string arrangement. The layers created a really lush treatment of the song that gives it such emotion and some of the parts that Mike and Rick added were unexpected and also added new direction to parts on the song.
New Orleans is obviously known for its iconic music scene. Can you tell us a bit more about what you enjoyed the most when it came to recording there? Honestly, just being surrounded by the creative energy on a daily basis was enjoyable. Every day going to the studio, taking a break from the studio, or leaving the studio, we encountered music, art, colour, and creative movement on the streets which we couldn't help but absorb as we spent a month in the city. We got to see various solo artists and bands perform after studio sessions and both King Britt and I got to DJ a few times to a NOLA audience which also endeared us to the local scene and culture.
Now that you've put 'MASS' together, looking at it, how would you say you've progressed/changed musically as Bedouin Soundclash with this release? The release shows that we are really trying to further work within our sound to define it more and more clearly. Jay and I know that this band is as much about the music that has influenced us both together and as individuals, but we also know that this band has its own language that we are in charge of creating. ‘Mass’ is a step that shows us taking time to try to understand ourselves better so that we can communicate our ideas to everyone else even more intentionally and specifically. Jay and I are also so thankful for the opportunity to share more music and to have the support of the music community and fans alike after taking all of this time to try and get it right.
Looking back on ‘Light The Horizon’, how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Bedouin Soundclash? I'm very happy with ‘Light The Horizon’! It was a crucial step for us to confirm that the band would continue with a new lineup (having had our original drummer out by then and adding a new drummer during that time). It also marked the first time we worked with a producer that was rooted in electronic music and also a producer who hadn't done a full project with a band. Beyond that, there are songs on that record that really feel like part of our Bedouin language and also songs that experimented with horns and more dense arrangements for the first time.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? VERY excited for the upcoming tour! We can't wait to get back to playing club dates in the UK which is one of our favourite places to tour. Having had a few shows there this past summer, the fans were incredible already. Fans who come out can expect a well curated show of old and new Bedouin music with some liveonly moments mixed in that don't occur on record and can be dictated by the energy in the room. Fans can expect to sing loudly and dance for at least an hour. They can expect a Bedouin Soundclash that is energised to deliver our music in the best way we ever have as our way of saying thank you for continuing to support us after all of this time. For our fans who keep walking on this journey with us as we keep making more new art.
As a UK based publication. We must ask, what do you remember the most about touring in the UK for the first time? That's a tough question! I think the amount of singing and group chanting that happens during a UK set was welcome and alarming coming from Canada where audiences tend to watch and react rather than come in ready to sing from the first lyric as they can in the UK. I remember enjoying how short the drives are compared to Canada (6 hours ain't a thing for us when you have 13-17 hours between gigs sometimes) but also how different culturally parts of the region can be even if only an hour or two apart.
What else can we expect to see from Bedouin Soundclash in 2019? 2019 has been a year for Jay and I to get Bedouin Soundclash up and running in an efficient, sensible and stable way in preparation for releasing this ‘Mass’ record and building into 2020 and beyond. We will be playing some shows both in the UK and a few back in Canada and releasing some more new music from this record before the year is done. That said, we plan to do our headline tours for ‘Mass’ in early 2020 so look out for an announcement in the coming months.
Interview with Rory
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We finished up a tour with The Plot In You in the spring. Absolutely love those guys and it's been amazing seeing the growth in crowds every time that we continue to tour the states. Other than that, we have just been very busy getting everything ready for the release of 'Sleeptalk'.Â
So, when did the first glimpses of 'Sleeptalk' come about? Was there a particular song, or moment that sparked the whole creative process maybe? Well 'Crooked Soul' was recorded first and that's when we knew we had to do this entire album with Daniel Braunstein. He's an amazing producer and sound engineer and a lot of the ambient elements and ethereal vibes on the record are thanks to him. Once we realised we had this general consensus of wanting to produce passionate music with beautiful, melodic synths, we could feel the album take shape from there.
How did you get to the album title 'Sleeptalk' and what does it mean to you? 'Sleeptalk' came specifically from the album title track. It's easily one of the stronger songs on the album but we felt as a whole, it really summed up what we're trying to do with our sound moving forward. The album title basically stems from a metaphor of someone who is being unfaithful to their partner, and is saying someone else's name while they're asleep next to the person they're in a relationship with. It's a very personal story to myself that I've been wanting to write about for a long time.
How did you end up working with Daniel Braunstein, and how would you say that he helped shape 'Sleeptalk'? I met Daniel while doing some vocals for Silent Planet for their first album. We hit it off really well and decided to do a single with him to see how we vibed and everyone in the band just loved him. He's an incredibly positive person but also very challenging in the studio. We would spend hours sometimes on just recording vocals for a 30 second part of a song and it's because he was absolutely dedicated to making sure I was giving my best performance throughout the entire album. Some days were grueling in the booth but I know he got the best out of me for each and every track on this record.
How did the title track music video for 'Sleeptalk' come together, and what was it like to work with Kevin Johnson? We knew we wanted to try something brighter and much more neon-themed than our last videos. Kevin is a fantastic videographer and we were fortunate enough to also have Kaytlin Dargen come on to the creative process. She's been in control of all of our album artwork and she's the actual model featured on a lot of the artwork. It really turned our creative aesthetics into one, general theme and this video, and album would not have been the same without her or Kevin.
You've said that "We've never felt more confident in our music than this very moment" so, can you elaborate on that, and maybe how else putting this album together has compared to anything that you've done before? I think we just grew up in the last few years and realised we wanted to write what we're passionate about, regardless of how some fans may feel about us going "softer" or less heavy. We've really aimed to focus on just solid writing with really memorable choruses and relatable content. I know this is the strongest piece of music we've ever put out and it feels good to be at that point in our career.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'Sleeptalk' to put together, and why? Great question, I would have to say â€˜The Color Blackâ€™. We had probably 4 different versions of that song before we landed on the final for the album. Some songs are like that where you rework them over and over again to get them right. It was well worth it though, it's easily one of my favourites from the record.
Looking back on 'Dreaming Is Sinking /// Waking Is Rising', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Dayseeker? I am happy with the album but there's a part of me that wishes we maybe toned it back on the heavy, riffdriven parts of the album and maybe focused more on the melodic parts of our band. It was also a concept record which writing-wise, really locked me in a box as far as what I could write about. I'm SO proud of that overall but it was freeing on 'Sleeptalk' to know that I can cover as many various topics as I'd like to and I know there's something for everyone in this album to relate to.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Dreaming Is Sinking /// Waking Is Rising' at the moment, and why? 'Vultures' and 'Sleep In The Sea Pt II' are some of my favorites to play live. They're high energy and definitely fan favourites while we're touring. I also think the content behind them have really powerful messages and we won't be retiring those anytime soon.
What else can we expect to see from Dayseeker in 2019? We just have plans to put out this album, keep touring and I know we'll be reimagining these songs at some point because we just love this record so much.
Can you tell us how you got into playing guitar? I got my first guitar when I was ten years old.
Who were your major influences growing up, and why? As a young kid in Mexico City, it would be classic rock like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin; but then my older brother brought home ‘Master Of Puppets’ by Metallica, and that changed everything, I became obsessed with thrash metal: Slayer, Megadeth, Testament.
Was there a particular moment when you realised that you could make a career out of music? Well, we had a record deal when we had our thrash band back in Mexico, but Gab and I walked away from that and went travelling to Europe instead. We were broke, but then we started busking on Grafton Street in Dublin and making a few quid. When the first album went to number one in the albums chart in Ireland in 2006, that felt like a big moment.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Spring time was promo and gigs in Europe, and then mostly we’ve been playing in the States and Canada, the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles is a special place to play. We are just on a break back in Mexico before we come to Europe for an autumn run. After that, who knows?
When did the first glimpses of ‘Mettavolution’ come about? Was there a particular moment or song that maybe sparked the whole creative process? We were in Japan, on tour in May, 2016, and we recognised we were treading water. We made a vow, there-and-then, to rekindle the spark that fired the passion that we had ten years earlier. ‘Witness Tree’ on the new album is about that moment.
It's been five years since your last release ‘9 Dead Alive’ why do you think it took this long to bring ’Mettavolution’ together, or was it just a much more natural process? We are on tour a lot of the time, and the song-writing is a long process for us. We had gathered a good amount of new material, and I remember there was an Australian tour at the beginning of 2018, where we road-tested some new songs, and after that the shape of the new album came into focus.
How did you get to the album title ‘Mettavolution’, and what does it mean to you? Well, ‘Metta’ is an Indian-Buddhist word for a state of meditation that generates compassion and kindness, and the second part is a reference to evolution.
Can you tell us a bit more about some of the main themes and influences that run throughout the album? Gab calls it a response to “the emergency in humanity”, and I guess you could say it’s about being a better person on the inside, which hopefully helps shape a better citizen out in the world.
What made you want to do a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’, and what did you enjoy the most about taking your own approach to this song? We are both massive Pink Floyd fans, and we love the Live at Pompeii film. We used to cover ‘Wish You Were Here’, and ‘Echoes’ felt like an exciting project; so we started playing it live and it just grew and grew.
How did you end up working with Dave Sardy, and how would you say that he helped shape ’Mettavolution’? We spoke to a lot of different producers over the course of the writing of the album, some of them got what we were about, others not so much. Dave became involved in summer 2018, and we just clicked. We recorded and mixed at his studio in Los Angeles and it all came together very quickly in the end.
What was the hardest song on ‘Mettavolution’ to put together, and why? Probably ‘Echoes’, the original version runs for over twenty minutes, has vocals, and is a full band performance. We had to retain the essence of the Pink Floyd version, while putting our own identity on it, and create a cohesive piece of music that flowed.
Looking back to ‘9 Dead Alive’, how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it’s done for the representation of Rodrigo y Gabriela? I’m not a great one for looking back to be honest, I tend to let others do that. What I would say is that ‘9 Dead Alive’ was a turning point, in as much as my playing was more rock based, as opposed to latin influenced; and I suppose I have continued on that path with the new album.
It's been ten years since the release of ‘11:11’! Looking back at that album, what do you remember the most about putting it together? Going to India, taking a break after the touring madness of the first album, and soaking up the culture. Then coming back to Ixtapa and trying to capture some of what I had experienced. It took a while.
Finally, what else can we expect to see from Rodrigo y Gabriela in 2019 and beyond? More touring. And a couple of exciting projects that will see the light of day in the autumn and winter!
Interview with Briton
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year? Recently touring has been a little slow because of all the different festivals going on this summer but my favourite shows have been the last two Warped dates. It’s crazy we got to play some of the last Warped tour shows ever it’s such an honour.
So when did the first glimpses for 'Pressure' come about? Was there a particular song or moment that inspired the whole creative process for it? We are always writing to begin with. I think we knew it was time to get in the studio for a new record. We wanted to try something new for the record so we went out to L.A. with Drew Fulk to do it. It was my best experience doing a record.
What made you want to release 'Who I Am' first, and what does it mean to you? I think ’Who I Am’ is a song that doesn’t stray too far from the Wage War sound and the meaning is what I love most about it. It’s just pretty much saying before you spout off on a band because you might not like some of the material they put out, you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes and sometimes a song comes out more with emotion than trying to be heavy. We just like writing songs that we feel and have a connection with.
How did you get to the album title 'Pressure', and what does it mean to you? The album name comes at all angles. Pressure to write the best album yet. Pressure from fans wanting you to fit a specific mold. Pressure from being away from loved ones weeks at a time on the road. I think the name speaks for itself through the lyrics.
You've said that "We pushed every boundary we could think of to make this record"? This time we really got out of our comfort zone with Drew. We stayed in Los Angeles for a whole month together and I think it really made us more creative and think more out of the box. The last two records we did were in Florida. Being away from our home made us way more hands on with ‘Pressure’.
What can you tell us about your latest singles 'Prison' and 'Me Against Myself'? Those songs were written on the spot on writing days. I think it was so cool how they came together. Just sitting and writing with everyone was so much different than what we usually do! It was awesome. Both of those songs have a very strong message about mental health and about seeing what’s going on with yourself.
What was the hardest song on 'Pressure' to put together, and why? If I’m being honest I really don’t think we had a very hard time getting anything together. I think maybe the hardest part for me was some of the vocal tracking sometimes but that was because it was a little taxing and hard on my voice. This record was smooth and fun from start to finish.
How does ‘Pressure’ compare to anything else that you’ve done before? ‘Pressure’ is going to show how much better we have become at writing, tracking, and performing songs. I think our fans are really going to love it and see the same Wage War but with a good twist.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I’m very excited! I feel like the UK is a second home to us. UK should expect a lot of new songs being played off of ‘Pressure’.
What else can we expect to see from Wage War in 2019? Lots and lots of touring. We are so excited to get back on the road and play new songs for everyone. I think it’s going to be a very busy year for us.
Interview with Rasmus
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Well this year has been a bit sparse so far touring wise. We have been mainly focusing on the release of ‘The Coffin Train’ and getting that out into the world and on the road. It’s currently the festival season with main touring coming later in the year. Some of our first shows, this year, were coincidentally also some of the biggest we’ve had. We played Hellfest in June, our 2nd show of the year, which was fantastic as that festival had been on the wish list for some time. Then just about a few weeks ago we got to perform at Wacken! The mother of all metal festivals. Wacken was definitely one of the biggest highlights for me and I hope we can return there another time.
So, when did the first glimpses of 'The Coffin Train' come about? Was there a particular song, or moment that sparked the whole creative process maybe? Well it all started in January 2017 with Brian and myself going through his vault of riffs. This time around we approached things a bit differently. Brian would come down to my studio (www.rawsoundstudio.co.uk) in London and we would play through riffs and sections to make up the song structures and arrangements. We had a great creative and mutually respectful process with riffs upon riffs upon riffs coming out the woodworks. I wouldn’t say there was a particular song that started things off in defining the album. It was creatively a healthy growth process in between touring and other commitments. We spent about 7 sessions getting things to a good place before taking it further in the production. I think a bit of space in between the creative work is a good thing. You get to revisit it and find new perspective on the work.
How did you get to the album title 'The Coffin Train' and what does it mean to you? The album title came from the imagery of a dream - or rather a nightmare - I had on tour while catching up on some zzz in the van. I had this image of a dystopian train with carriages shaped like coffins with body parts flying out as it was rushing away from a mushroom cloud. It turned into the title for a song and ended up being the album title which I was very happy with. It’s a powerful image that hits you straight away. Check out our music video for this song on our YouTube channel - https://youtu.be/YFsC6M7x32g. Together with all4band.com we transformed a lot of ‘The Coffin Train’ lyrics into powerful imagery.
How did you end up producing ‘The Coffin Train’, and what was that whole process like? Brian and the guys very trustingly left the production of this album up to me. Brian was confident from our writing sessions and our demoing that I should do it. Doing it in house is a challenge as you have to juggle your artistic side while keeping an objective ear to make sure you are heading in the right direction for the band and album. It’s a difficult challenge to produce an album for a band like Diamond Head. There is so much important history and legacy there that you really have to be on the ball and know what you are trying to achieve with the album sound and writing. The thing I enjoy the most about production is seeing the thing come to life. From the initial writing through to the finished album I sort of envision it like a blurry oil canvas of sound that is getting clearer and clearer until it’s just right and hopefully a beautiful piece of art. It was quite a challenge to create a Diamond Head album that was true to the core of what is Diamond Head, but with a sound for the 21st century. I think we achieved this and so far the feedback has been extremely positive, which makes me very proud.
How did the music video for 'The Sleeper' come together, and what was it like to work with Andy Pilkington? The band left the creative choices on some of the music videos up to me as well. I knew of Andy and his work and really wanted to work with him on the content for this album release. Andy actually worked with us on a couple of videos for the album. He did all the post-production work on our first single video ‘Belly of the Beast’, which was shot on green screen and made it look insanely good. We knew we also wanted a lyric video and Andy is killer good at these things so I contacted him about the song and concept to see if it was possible. Andy works extremely fast so it was easy to add a few amendments and get to the final video. I cannot recommend him highly enough. Not only talented as hell, but also an extremely intelligent and super nice fella. I have no doubt that we will be chasing him for more creative endeavours in the future.
Can you tell us about how the track 'The Sleeper' actually came together? ‘The Sleeper’ started with Brian’s riff, while demoing at my studio, which I immediately thought was hooky and had something to it. Bri and I ironed out the arrangement and demo and then brought it into rehearsal with the rest of the band to add more details and dynamics. There was always half a plan or vision for this track as well as the other album tracks, but like I said earlier I see the songs like blurry images of sound that become clearer as they grow. It’s all a very organic process to me. I knew I wanted to repeat some of what we did on ‘Diamond Head’ from 2016 and add the orchestral and symphonic elements. The concept of ‘The Sleeper’ was, from the imagery, quite epic and naturally leant itself to this sound wise. During the 2017 Christmas holidays while I was at home with my family in Denmark, I decided to do some demo arrangements and composition and run it by Bri. We both thought it worked great and that it gave the song the lift it needed. Added to it, ‘The Sleeper (Prelude)’ was actually an intro we had experimented with for another track, but turned out to work much better with ‘The Sleeper’ to give it an introduction and almost a concept feel about it. It’s funny that a lot have said they loved this track and it’s their favourite because Brian and I weren’t convinced about it until the orchestra was added and almost decided to bin it at one point. It’s safe to say we are happy we kept it on the record.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'The Coffin Train' to put together, and why?
Yeah that is a tough question. Some of the songs have been in the works and or laid dormant for a while in Brian’s riff vault. ‘Until We Burn’ for example was from one riff from 2006 which we tried on the last album and didn’t use then. Between Bri and I it was also heavily rewritten for this album. I think the most difficult song must be the title track ‘The Coffin Train’. Every track had an organic growth to it, but on this one we put so much effort into it and kept adding parts and tweaking the arrangement and dynamics. It kept evolving and turned into this mega beast that we think really has all the Diamond Head trademarks or style. Every track ha its journey and difficulties, but there is a reason we say we feel very proud of this particular track. Brian even says it’s one of the best songs he has ever written with Diamond Head.
How would you say that the sound of Diamond Head has grown/progressed on this album?
With the modern tools of technology and production that you have these days the possibilities are endless. I think the challenge in there is to limit yourself and not do everything because you can. The goal on this record was to make an album that sounded like it belongs in the 21st century while preserving the legacy sound and style of Diamond Head. There have been quite a few first-time experiments on this album and I was always conscious that I wanted and needed to push the album with modern touches in production, without changing the fundamental blueprint of the band. This line-up of Diamond Head has obviously also influenced the sound Dean’s bass playing has added tons of energy with his style and Bri always says my vocals have added a new kind of energy as well. So between some new blood, new ears and pushing the boundaries, I feel like we have achieved our goal with the sound of this album. It feels and sounds like Diamond Head but at version 2.0.
How did you end up signing with Silver Lining Music, and what have they been like to work with so far? Karl our drummer/tour manager had been in contact with Siren Management while we were out on some shows with Saxon and I believe somewhere in their talks they arranged to contact Silver Lining to see if they wanted the record. Thankfully they did and we signed on with them and are very happy to be part of their roster. Working with everyone at Silver Lining has been fantastic. It’s been so nice to be working with a label that actually cares about you and also loves the record that you have created. They have been nothing but supportive in getting this album out to everyone as well as helping push the band up the industry ladder. I expect we will be working with them indefinitely to see what we can accomplish together.
Looking back on your self-titled album, how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Diamond Head?
I think the 2016 album helped the band loads and put it back on the radar. We did that album extremely cheaply and relatively fast back then. It was my first with the band and a testing ground to see if this formation would work and if fans would accept it and myself. Luckily, they did and it set other things in motion for the band. In general, I was never really happy with that album though. It felt liked it was rushed and it needed time to grow and evolve. I always thought it sounded flat and lacked a definitive sound. If you play the two albums next to each other, you can definitely hear what I mean. Regardless of that though it gave the band a huge lift and the confidence to do another album. So here we are in 2019 with ‘The Coffin Train’ out and hopefully more positive things coming our way.
What else can we expect to see from Diamond Head in 2019?
Well the remainder of this year will mainly be touring the new album. We’ve only had a handful of festivals and still want to play more of the new songs live. So far we have settled on ‘Belly Of The Beast’, ‘Death by Design and ‘The Messenger’ and they have gone down extremely well, but the others are waiting for their first live debut. So, in general it’s all about the touring and hitting the road or shall I say the train tracks for ‘The Coffin Train’. There are a few other things that might be happening, but I’m going to zip it before I say too much! All in all, 2019 is an exciting time for Diamond Head.
Interview with Dia
Can you tell us about when and how the idea to reform came about? Meg and I decided to come back together as a musical duo a little over a year ago. It was very casual. Meg was in Utah, and I was in LA and I just called her up one day and asked her if she had any interest in playing music again. I tried to play it cool, like it was no big deal, but the truth was that I had meant to make this call a hundred times before and just didn't have the courage to. I was scared she would say no, and I so wanted to write and perform with Meg again. I was scared that her "no" would send me into a downward spiral. (Yes, I'm dramatic that way). During my solo career, Meg & Dia was always in my mind. I never planned on singing and releasing any music on my own, but after The Voice, and Universal picked me up on their label, it kind of threw me down that path. I always missed playing in Meg & Dia.
What was it like to perform once more as Meg & Dia at Vans Warped Tour then, and what do you remember the most from this event? It was pretty surreal. There were a lot of ups and downs. It felt amazing to be playing alongside Meg again, and to be out in front of a crowd playing our old tunes. It also felt a bit scary, like it was a side of ourselves that had been asleep for so long. It felt like a bit of a shock to wake up on stage with the loud band banging behind us. It made us realise that we need to practice a lot more together, and practice listening to each other and playing off of each other more. It's not anyone's solo performance. We learned we had to pay attention to the other almost more than ourselves. That's when our voices and harmonies and energy really locks in. Our first show, to be honest, was rough, but was still fun. It's always just a learning opportunity.
When did the idea for 'HAPPYSAD' come about? Was there a particular song or moment that inspired the whole creative process? There really wasn't one magical moment...the whole time it just felt like a fun thing we were doing together. We honestly didn't talk much about the album release or what us writing together in a room would lead to. The business side of being a musician - album release, album title, song list, tour - really didn't come up much. For the longest time, we just got to be two kids in a tiny room together banging on a piano with no thought for where it would or should lead to.
So, what made you want to release 'HAPPYSAD' as a surprise album? It felt nice to rediscover who we are, and more importantly, who we are together, away from the public eye. We didn't have to worry about anyone else weighing in on what our sound should be now, or what we should try to chase. We just shut out everything and just wrote music, on our time, with no agenda, and it was really relaxing and wonderful.
How did you get to the album title 'HAPPYSAD', and what does it mean to you? We were having a conversation at a Korean soup spot in K-town and it kind of just popped out of my mouth. Meg and I, and our younger sister Jade, were talking about the ups and downs of life, and how you have to have the darker moments so that there can be light. It's about living in gratitude, and feeling all the emotions, not just the "good" ones.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'HAPPYSAD." The album is really about love and sisterhood and friendship and self-love. It's about our journey to get back together, which was a very humbling experience for both of us. Songs like ‘American Spirit’, touch upon the search for the true meaning of life, love and happiness, while ‘Dear Heart’, is a letter to yourself. ‘Lit Match’ is about taking pain and turning it into fuel, while ‘Teenagers’ is about how the younger generation has the opportunity to change old ways of thinking and make the world a better and more beautiful place.
How important has the time apart from creating music as Meg & Dia been for you, and what do you think it's brought to 'HAPPYSAD'? It's made us so grateful for each other and the opportunity to play music together. We don't take things for granted anymore, that's for sure. We've also learned to trust each other more, and I've found that Meg's strengths are often my weak spots, and vice versa. We have learned to listen to each other, especially in the writer's room.
We've read that these songs "were much more collaborative" so can you elaborate on that, and maybe how writing this album has compared to anything Meg & Dia have put together before? We worked with a small handful of wonderful producers and writers. We like to keep people in the "family" if you know what I mean. We worked with the wonderful Seth Jones and Leggy Langdon on a lot of tunes, as well as some other brilliant musicians. Carlo Gimenez, our guitarist of over 10 years played on the record as well. His solo in â€˜Teenagersâ€™ is still my favourite and he just came up with it on the fly! I also tend to write a lot more geared toward the pop world while Meg is more "indie" and "quirky" and "left of center" so we balance each other out really well.
How would you say that the sound of Meg & Dia on this album compares to anything that you've done before? We've learned a lot, performing live, watching other bands perform live, and working with different musicians and producers, however, I would say the one thing that's changed a lot has been our approach to lyrics. We write a lot more direct, I think, than our last albums. And it's a lot more about our personal lives, rather than writing about a friend or a book or someone else's story. Lyrically, we like to think, "What do we want to say, and how can we say it in the best and most beautiful way that we are capable of."
How did the music video for 'American Spirit' come together, and what was it like to work with Saman Kesh & Justin Hopkins? I was a big fan of Saman's short film, Controller. Watch it, if you haven't seen it yet. It's amazing. We met the incredibly talented Justin through Saman. They work together often. I hit up Saman over Instagram and then we met up for pizza and it was a match. We just loved spending time together, and we felt like Saman was really trying to capture our story and our differences from each other, and not just trying to make something that looked cool. He wanted to really capture our journey together. It was a very interactive, collaborate experience together. We created a google doc, jumped on the phone often, did a table read, and had a few rehearsals before the final shoot date. It was a lot of fun and Saman and Justin really made something unique. It was also Meg's first time acting, ever. I've been in film school in LA and have studied and graduated from UCB's improv comedy school, so it wasn't anything new to me. But it was to Meg, and I think she killed it. She really allowed herself to be vulnerable and it was really fun to work with her on the scenes in the video.
Looking back on 'Cocoon', what do you remember the most about putting this album together? The time we spent together in Tillamook. That album is more about 5 friends in a cabin together making music than what the actual product ended up being. We spent time watching basketball, hiking, writing, and working on the songs every single day. It felt like the TV show Friends, almost, but with writing sessions in between the shenanigans.
What else can we expect to see from Meg & Dia in 2019? Touring for sure! We hope to see you on the road soon!
Interview with Blaine
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We’re right in the middle of festival season and so far it’s been a great summer of shows. TRNSMT up in Glasgow was a lot of fun, as was Truck festival where we filled in for Shame at the last minute. It was the first festival I went to as a teenager as well as the first festival we headlined, back in maybe 2006 so it meant a lot to return to such a warm response. My highlight was probably playing a secret set down the Rabbit Hole at Glastonbury on the Friday night. We didn’t go on until around 2am and were introduced by a dude in a White Rabbit costume who was completely off his chops. Only at Glastonbury.
When did the first glimpses of 'A Billion Heartbeats' come together? Was there a particular song or moment that maybe sparked the whole creative process? In the summer of 2016 I was looking for a change and moved into a deserted office building right in the centre of London where I took up position as the property guardian. I had this great sprawling space where I set up my bed at one end of the room and my studio at the other. Since I lived right around the corner from Trafalgar Square I would wake up most Saturday mornings to the sound of protests passing right by my front door. I took a great interest in them and began to make an archive of the protest placards and field recordings of the chants. Across the space of 18 months I attended everything from a solidarity sleepout for child refugees to several significant NHS and Brexit marches, to the ‘free Tommy Robinson’ protest and Extinction Rebellion’s takeover of central London. Engaging with people from all around the world on the streets provided both a comfort and a connection with causes I felt a strong need to learn more about, in a way I never could have from the media. These protests were when the songs on the album were seeded.
How did you get to the album title 'A Billion Heartbeats', and what does it mean? According to research, mammals have around a billion heartbeats in the average lifetime. It came from an article in New Scientist which Matthew Twaites (Mystery Jets’ co-producer) had been reading and I wrote it immediately in my notebook for safe-keeping. The day after the Grenfell fire, my then girlfriend and I volunteered with many others to sort through donations of food and clothes at a church hall a couple of blocks away from the site of the tower. As the hours passed, cars after lorries after trucks of supplies just kept on coming until we had no option but to turn them away. I was struck with the sense that sometimes it can take the very worst tragedies to bring out our humanity. We spend so much of our lives focusing on our own careers to make enough money to afford things we think we need or desire and are rarely afforded a glimpse of how inconsequential most of it really is. I was trying to find some music to attach these feelings to when I remembered the “billion heartbeats” line and almost immediately the song began writing itself before my eyes. Something about that message felt coded into all the songs across the album, hence why we picked it for the title (after many weeks of deliberation).
In regards to the somewhat political themes that run through the album you've said that "It was about being a mirror for what’s going on, reflecting back the way people are feeling.” so can you maybe elaborate on that, and what else people can expect from the lyrical approach of the album? I’ve always veered away from writing about current topics or the news because there’s always a danger of making something too easily dated or sounding over-earnest, or worse, ill informed. Ultimately as a songwriter you seek to find the human emotion in things. That’s how to make something relatable and allow the listener to find themselves in the music. But at the same time, over recent years it feels like the world has been going through a mass-scale, global identity crisis and people seem more polarised than ever before in my lifetime. Whereas politics has always seemed to me like a popularity contest, seeking to divide us in our views, music unites us and reminds us of all that we have in common, irrespective of our background or beliefs. Songs exist as a document of the time they were conceived in, and whether it’s Neil Young, Radiohead, PJ Harvey or Paul Simon, the artists that have had the biggest influence on me have always engaged with the time they have lived in. Music can provide both a comfort and an escape depending on what you need to take from it.
Who produced the album, and how would you say that they helped shape it? I handled production duties with Matt Twaites, who also co-produced ‘Curve of the Earth’ with us. Mystery Jets has always been a kind of family band and since Matt is married to my sister he’s become something of a big brother figure to us all. He understands each of our idiosyncrasies and how to create an environment in which to bring out the best in us all. Sometimes that means sweating it out altogether in a room, at other times it means giving each other space to try things out in our own time. Every day is different depending on whatever people have going on in their lives. We’ve made the past two albums in our own studio which has allowed us a freedom to explore sonic realms which have previously seemed out of our jurisdiction, under the time pressure afforded in commercial studios.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'A Billion Heartbeats' to put together, and why? William’s song ‘Endless City’ morphed through a few different incarnations - originally it had a driving downbeat and guitars all the way through it, before being stripped back to something far more minimalistic that could have belonged on Talk Talk’s ‘Spirit of Eden’. Eventually he found a way of marrying the contrasting approaches somewhere back in the middle, resulting in the arrangement you can hear on the finished album. ‘1985’ from ‘Curve of the Earth’ had similar trajectory. I’ve often thought that on each of our albums there is a song that should have been on the previous one, and another that belongs on the next one. As well as one which we’ll never quite be able to do justice to live. ‘Lost in Austin’ from ‘Radlands’ was one of those for me.
How did the artwork for 'A Billion Heartbeats' come together, and what does it mean? Towards the end of 2018 we invited our art director Gary Barber over to our studio and tasked him with finding some imagery that felt aligned with the music we played him from the speakers. After exploring several avenues he stumbled across the work of the British photo journalist Joshua Jackson. Like myself, Josh had been avidly attending all the recent protests through Central London and had amassed an archive of street photography in which we immediately recognised as the same spirit contained in the songs. He had even candidly captured shots of me rummaging through piles of discarded placards long before we eventually met. He felt immediately like our guy.
Looking back on 'Curve of the Earth', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Mystery Jets? I’m still very proud of it. It is perhaps us at us most personal - releasing those songs out into the world was a source of extrication. It was also an exiting time. Having built our own studio, in which most of us lived for the three years it took to make, it is the sound of us finding our way around a mixing desk, unsupervised for the first time. Jack had just joined the band and his energy was infectious to us all, which I feel is strongly reflected in our playing. ‘Bubblegum’ introduced a new wave of younger listeners to us which without a doubt inspired where we went next.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Curve of the Earth'? ‘Bombay Blue’ has gone on to take on a life of its own and will be a hard one to switch out. I can’t wait to slide ‘Telomere’ back to later on in the show; it contains the highest note I have to sing in the set so it’s always scary to open with it. I felt like we didn’t play ‘Blood Bed Balloon’ enough, that one always took us on a journey with the audience, particularly at festivals. There’s nothing better than that feeling.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We are putting something together that I am very exited about, that’s all I want to say!
What do you remember the most from your first ever full UK tour? It was July 2003, the summer we all left school and the whole thing was booked by Kai, our old bass player using the yellow pages and his house phone. We took two bands from school on the road with us for a month in the back of a minivan which Henry had bought from the church for £1000. We played pool bars, community centres, anywhere that would have us and most nights we would be playing to a maximum of ten or twenty people. We would get paid £50 a night and spend the entire thing on a big supermarket shop once a day which we would all eat straight out of the shopping trolley in the carpark. In the evenings we’d find a field somewhere on the edge of town where we’d spread out a big groundsheet, and pass out under the stars. It felt like the first taste of freedom.
What else can we expect to see from Mystery Jets in 2019? More music and more shows. Sexy new merch. We will also be announcing something we’re really exited about around the time of our November UK tour which we have been secretly working on for the last couple of years (It’s not a break up don’t worry).
Interview with Robert
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We’ve been busy this year... Upon returning from a South American tour with Judas Priest and Alice In Chains in December 2018 (closing out the Heavy Fire tour) we went straight into the recording studio to track our fourth Nuclear Blast record ‘Another State Of Grace’ in Burbank, CA. with Jay Ruston producing. While we’ve been off from touring with BSR most of this year, BSR has toured relentlessly since its inception. Touring with this group of musicians (past and present) has been an awesome experience! The crew, the band, the personalities are what make it special. Sightseeing, band and crew dinners, hanging out in the dressing room pre/post-show. After the show on the bus is the best! We all get on great, and have a great laugh together.
So, when did the first glimpses of 'Another State Of Grace' come about? Was there a particular song or moment that sparked the whole creative process? BSR are constantly writing new music collectively, and individually. Whether it be with BSR in mind, a solo record, or another artist, we’re working on ideas. Ricky had written a song called ‘Another State Of Grace’ during pre-production for the ‘Heavy Fire’ record. While collecting ideas for our fourth record he wrote and presented a demo version of ‘Another State Of Grace’ that Ricky and Christian recorded in December of 2018. We all agreed that was going to be the title of the record as it captured the general feeling we all had when the five of us (Scott, Ricky, Christian, Chad, and I) began working on ‘A.S.O.G.’
How did Chad Szeliga and Christian Martucci become a part of Black Star Riders, and what did they bring to 'Another State Of Grace'? Our manager Adam Parsons suggested Chad to us as he, and Ricky had met Chad (Black Label Society) on an Australian tour they were on with Thin Lizzy. Chad sent us a video of himself playing drums to a few of our songs and we all agreed he was our guy. Chad's been a great source of positive energy for us. He’s an amazing drummer and person. For me, his drumming style took some time to get used to as I had mostly played with straight rock drummers. Chad’s brought a completely different vision to the songs and was instrumental in some of the arrangements. Chad and I were able to capture “live” bass and drum takes on this record which was a complete departure from other BSR records. For me, it took some time, but Chad and I are definitely locked in now, and I have a new found appreciation for our bond. Jay Ruston who mixed both ‘Killer Instinct’ and ‘Heavy Fire’ and recorded, produced and mixed ‘Another State Of Grace’ suggested Christian to Ricky. Kind of the same process as Chad, we auditioned a bunch of guys and didn’t find the one, only to see a video of Christian playing to a couple of our songs and us saying “there he is!” Christian has brought it all! Songwriting, great guitar playing, vocals, great energy, great guy, funny. All around a great addition to the band! Chad and Christian have brought a synergy to the band that I think Jay captured in the recording of ‘Another State Of Grace’.
How did you get to the album title 'Another State Of Grace', and what does it mean to you? Within the first couple of days of pre-production we all felt the creative energy amongst the five of us. I believe it was Ricky that made the suggestion to name the record after the song he had written and we all agreed as we all felt so comfortable working together. For me, ‘Another State Of Grace’ is a new beginning for the five of us. We weren’t sure how things would go with Chad and Christian in the studio. We had hoped for the best, and we got even more than we hoped for.
If possible, can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout the album? This would definitely be a Ricky Warwick question. I can say as a part of the process that lyrically, Ricky really has something to say. This being my third record with BSR and my fifth with Ricky he never disappoints lyrically or musically. Personally, I feel ‘Another State Of Grace’ is the best record we’ve done together.
How did you end up working with Jay Ruston, and how would you say that he helped shape 'Another State Of Grace'? Ricky suggested we consider working with Jay on our fourth record sometime last year. In truth, I wasn’t so sure. It didn’t have anything to do with Jay or his ability, I just wasn’t sure we shouldn’t consider working with Nick Raskulinecz again as we had made two great records together. Jay’s approach to record making really worked for this group of musicians. He set a positive tone that allowed all of us to get involved and be creative as a group. He managed to bring the best out in all of us, and capture some great musical moments. A very positive experience, and we’d all like to do it again one day soon!
You've said that “This has probably been the most enjoyable experience in the studio" so can you elaborate on that, and maybe how putting this record together compares to anything that you've done before? Jay’s idea of recording the record one song at a time from start to finish allowed us to connect to each of the tracks like never before. A process that worked well for this group of musicians. While we’ve all recorded our fair share of records individually, and collectively. The energy and synergy within the five band members was infectious, and the driving force behind the record. Everything came together so easy in these sessions. Scott and Christian worked so well together. Ricky and Christian’s musical chemistry, Chad and my connection, and Jay putting us in a positive, creative environment I believe made for a perfect musical storm. You can hear and feel it in the recordings.
What can you tell us about your latest single 'Ain’t The End Of The World'? Ricky has a way of taking us on musical journeys that we all seem to connect with. There’s a personal message in ‘Ain’t The End Of The World’ that I think I’ll let Ricky explain as I don’t want to misinterpret his lyrics. For me, it’s a song about the positive and dark side of one’s personality. ‘Ain’t The End’ is one of my favourite songs on the record both musically and lyrically
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'Another State Of Grace' to put together, and why? If this were one of our other records I’d have 10 songs to answer this question with. The truth is what it is... This record all but made itself. The music flowed within the band like never before. I can’t think of one song or part that stumped us in the making of this record.
How did the artwork for 'Another State Of Grace' come together, and what does it mean to you? As with all of our records Ricky had the idea for the album artwork. He worked with Carin Cronacher to come up with an album cover that we feel captures the musical vision we all felt while recording the record.
So, how would you say that the sound of the band has grown/changed over the last couple of years? I feel like we’re just starting to hit our musical stride. Christian and Chad have each brought a different dynamic to the band. Scott and Christian are musically just getting to know each other. Ricky’s songs are forever growing in content and subject matter. This isn’t to say that ‘Killer Instinct’, ‘Heavy Fire’ and ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ are inferior to ‘A.S.O.G.’ We’re just excited to see how far these five musicians can take BSR.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? It can’t come soon enough! It’s like the sands in the hourglass. Is it October yet?! Ha! We’re looking forward to the release of ‘Another a State Of Grace’. To share this great record with the world. An exciting time! The tour is going to rock!
What else can we expect to see from Black Star Riders in 2019? The release of ‘Another State Of Grace’, a lot of touring, a couple of new videos and a group of musicians that dig what they’re doing! We hope to see you at one of our shows!
Interview with John and Moon
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? John: We did Warped Tour in July. It was the best Warped we’ve ever done. Sold out, everyone jumping, it was ballistic. I feel like our band is bigger than ever and I couldn’t be more stoked. Also Back to the Beach was rad!
Looking back on the release of 'The Knife', how happy have you been with the response to the album so far, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Goldfinger? John: I feel like, ‘The Knife’, has been 100% positive. We made a career-changing album. It’s got punk rock, it’s got ska, it’s got reggae… it’s pretty much everything I’ve ever loved. It really speaks from the heart.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'The Knife' at the moment, and why? John: We play about four songs from the album. Playing new material makes me feel fresh and new. I’m super pumped with anything we perform from the album getting a good response.
Moon: Every Goldfinger song is fun to play because it’s all energy! ‘The Knife’ specifically has so many different types of songs going on that it keeps it pretty interesting. I love the energy in ‘Put The Knife Away’ and the way it connects with any crowd. Other fast crowd favourites like ‘A Million Miles’ are fun to run all over the stage to and there’s always room for a little islander-type jam-like ‘Tijuana Sunrise’ to mellow everyone for a breather and get the crowd swayin’ a little.
Looking back on the album, what was the hardest song for you to put together, and why? John: ‘Tijuana Sunrise’ was the most difficult to write because it comes from a very dark part of my life. I have grown a lot since then, but it is still hard looking back on it.
Moon: For me, there was a little guitar moment or two that I was messing with on ‘See You Around’ that was in my head for a while. By the time I was tracking anything on that most of it was all done and Mark had already done his vocals on it. It had become a bit of a favourite for me so I really wanted to make sure anything I did serviced the feeling the song and his vocals gave me as a listener. Love that track
How would you say that the sound of Goldfinger has grown/changed on this album overall? John: I think we made a pop-punk album and that is relevant to the times. I feel like the older I get, the more honest I’ve become.
Moon: I think Goldfinger is always growing but I feel like ‘The Knife’ really shows the range John has as a songwriter and the balls he has to go for it and touch a lot of corners in the house of style and still keep it full on Goldfinger. It serves the older fans but keeps up with the new fans we’ve been seeing over the years. Plus the lyrics are spot on with growth, balls and vulnerability. It’s real and it’s fun.
What do you want the listener to take away from listening to 'The Knife'? Moon: For any record, I write or am a part of I always have the same hope for a listener. I hope the takeaway is whatever that person needs from it at that moment in time. The goal is to make something real that is well rounded enough to connect on different levels. You want a record to have a sound, beat, riff, part or feeling that will move someone when they need it and to have lyrics that will connect at any point. That way every time someone comes back to the song there is always some personal gold to mine.
What do you love the most about touring in the UK? John: I love touring the U.K. possibly more than anywhere else. There are so many rock music fans and we have the best shows over there always. London is my favourite city in the world.
In downtime on the road, what do you guys like to get up to? Moon: Mike and I are usually travel buds and are super chill usually. We both have so much goin' on that one of us is usually asking the other to jump in on a podcast or listen to a song in progress and bounce ideas off each other. When we aren’t doing that we are wanderers. I love to just wander in cities and explore every inch of a new place that I can. Find a good coffee, meal and pub at the end of the night.
What do you think you've learnt the most as a musician from creating 'The Knife' or even performing these songs live? Is there something you'll take forward with you as a musician? Moon: Always learning! I mentioned before that ‘The Knife’ covers a lot of ground when it comes to types of songs and to be honest even some of these songs were done in completely different styles before one was finally nailed down. It’s another good example to me that a good song is a good song. You can do it in five completely different styles and love each one of them. As these songs transformed from one style to the next you tend to pick up a lot of chops that help you better determine what it actually is that makes a song great.
Have you guys started work on new material just yet, and if so, what do you think that fans can expect from it? John: I haven’t started writing anything new…yet.
What else can we expect to see from Goldfinger in 2019? John: We will be touring a lot more this year. I am super stoked!
Interview with Spencer
So how’s the tour going so far? The tour has been exceeding everyone’s expectations, it’s really only our third time overseas and we were pleasantly surprised to see that every single date except I think two have sold out. Most of them way in advance. So it’s been an amazing experience. I’d be content coming over here and having a couple hundred kids come out and know the words, but you know, to be selling out some venues that are 1200 cap venues, 800 cap, with no official support from the States, just some great local support, nothing that was really advertised. It’s been amazing, we’ve been having a great time.
Did you guys not know that you’re as popular over here as you clearly are? I had an idea that there was a nice bit of buzz when we went on tour last time here when we were opening for Motionless In White. We were opening the bill and it seemed like we really had a presence there. Every night I would come out after the shows and do a signing and the line would be really long, so I think that there was some seeds planted here during the last album cycle for ‘Every Trick In The Book’, but I think that when ‘The Silver Scream’ came out it really must have popped over here. We’re very pleased with it.
When did you first come up with the idea for ‘The Silver Scream’ being about horror movies? It all began with the last album really, ‘Every Trick In The Book’, which was based on classic novels and that seemed to work really nicely. Not only did it work and people seemed to really respond to it and think “hey this is something a little different” but it was fun! It was so fun to write because not only are the stories already there but you get to have fun with them, you get to put your own spin on them. Especially with film which I’ve been obsessed with since I was a little kid. For me it’s like a kid in a candy store, just to be able to get in the studio and shoot a video and pretend I’m Michael Myers or pretend I’m in Friday The 13th, or if the dead counsellors were in a metal band what would they sing to warn others and future generations from Jason. So yeah, it all began as I said with ‘Every Trick In The Book’ which was really successful and it seemed like the next logical step. A lot of people were saying “hey, you guys should do horror movies” and I was already thinking about it and it just seemed like the perfect idea.
So you released ‘Enjoy Your Slay’, did you consider that a bridge between ‘Every Trick In The Book’ and ‘The Silver Scream’ with it being a horror book and film? It definitely was a bit of a bridge, some of the books on ‘Every Trick In The Book’ obviously were famous horror movies as well but The Shining was probably the most famous, so to see that work and people respond to it was great. It was cool to have someone from England on the track, Stanley Kubrick’s grandson, Samuel Kubrick, he actually sings on part of the song. He was in a band called Shields and we toured with them a couple years ago, we hit it off with him and when it came to do this song about The Shining we were like, well we really like Sam’s voice, let’s get him on this song about The Shining so we have a cool authenticity to the whole thing.
Would you say ‘The Silver Scream’ is based on horror films or classic films? You’ve got one based on Edward Scissorhands and a lot of people probably wouldn’t say that was horror. Did you consider it a scary film when you first saw it? I guess not scary, but definitely gothic. Kind of like The Crow. Those aren’t what you would consider to be a stereotypical horror movie but there’s definitely elements of horror. With the nature of the story and the cinematography and everything that I think Tim Burton ever does has that tinge of darkness and horror. For me, not only do I like really heavy fast songs and brutal songs but I like ballads, I like rock music and those two numbers when I was working on them, it wouldn’t feel right to be singing a chorus like in the song about Edward Scissorhands and talking about cutting someones head off if it didn’t fit the vibe. I had to find the right movies that worked for those songs. It definitely occurred to me that these two are not like the rest, but I like doing it because it provided some variety and textures, I like to have an album that all flows together but it has its moments and its peaks and valleys of energy and emotion.
When you were growing up and wanting to be an artist, did you ever think one day on your album you’d have the likes of Finch, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, Fenix TX? No, for me that’s like a dream come true ‘cause those are the bands that I grew up listening to and playing music because of. I would go and see blink-182 and see Fenix TX open for them and see Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake and obsess with Finch and Mest. I really looked up to those bands, especially in the early days of the band, we were punk ska! That’s how the band started, so especially in those days, those were the bands that we were emulating. Although we are a different band now that we were then, I very much think those bands still influence my writing because we’ll be playing the heavy death metal and then horns will come in or some kind of catchy pop punk pre chorus into a chorus that sounds like the drums could be right out of a NOFX song or something. Those influences are very much there and I never thought that they would become friends of mine and be on our album but I’m blown away that it really did happen, and humbled and honoured to have them respect us enough to want to be a part of it as well.
Would you say there’s anyone else you’d want to work with? I know you mentioned blink-182. I’ve always just wanted to meet blink-182, I’ve never actually met anyone in blink. They were a big influence on me and most musicians I meet who are even in metal bands. Goldfinger is a huge band that kicked it off for me. Actually the tattoo behind my ear, the day I started the band I was at a Goldfinger show and I ended up getting on stage and singing with them for one part of their song ‘Mable’, and I went home that night and I said this is who I am, what I want. So yeah, John Feldmann from Goldfinger, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, there are so many people I’d love to work with.
That’d be awesome. You’ve got the Deluxe version of ‘The Silver Scream’ coming, are we going to get any surprises in the latest set list for what might be on it? We made a rule a while ago that we never want to play anything live before it’s released, just because if someone gets a video and the sound is bad or something you know, we want the first impression to be our recorded version of it. I’m very excited about the re-release though, we’ve got some big surprises planned, especially for some of the acoustic renditions of the songs. We’ve got guest appearances that will just blow people away, people are going to be like “wait are you serious, he’s singing on this song?” you know. I don’t want to give it away too early but yeah, it’s going to be great. We’ve got a brand new song about Scream that we’re really really excited about and a cover, a great cover. I’ve already sort of let the cat out of the bag that it’s ‘Thriller’, so that’s going to be really cool.
I keep an eye on Twitter, I saw people saying about Scream and you’d said you’d tried and it wasn’t working out. Was it after ‘The Silver Scream’ that you went back to it and realised you could make it work? It was a combination of that and we ran out of time for the last album, this has nothing from the original iteration of what that song should be, it’s a brand new idea and I think it fits really nicely on the album. It’s got some lyrics that I think are really going to blow people away, there’s some really choice words in there that I think do justice to the film, well as best as we can to such a great film.
The songs that you’ve produced are so in-keeping with the style of the films that you’re going for. Like ‘Stabbing In The Dark’, with the piano music at the beginning. You hear it and you know it sounds like Halloween. Thank you. What’s funny about that is that’s one of the first songs that I worked on for that album and the last album was the first time I ever used piano to write, ‘cause I’m not a pianist, I’m a guitarist. It opened up a whole new world for me with writing, you really don’t need to know how to play the piano to write stuff. You probably write more engaging stuff if you knew how to play it, but it really did open up a “whole new world” for me, not to quote Aladdin! Some of those very simple riffs came to me on the piano and I’m just trying to do justice to what John Carpenter did to that movie, without the music it’s not Halloween.
Absolutely. With you mentioning Aladdin, how do you feel about being banned from Disney? Oh, it was funny man. I tell everyone that the only bummer about the situation is that we didn’t get to play in Orlando that day, because we really like Orlando. We’ve since made up for it with a show there that sold out within a couple of days. It was just funny, you know. We weren’t going to get up there and make a post on the internet like “oh this is BS you know, down with censorship!” We don’t care. Clearly we don’t fit the Disney ball and honestly the whole controversy only helped more people hear about the band. It’s great, ban us from more places I guess.
What appeals to you most about horror? I think horror movies, like great music, provide people with an escape from reality. You could be having a bad day at work or you’re fighting with your parents, your girlfriend, or your job is getting you down. You put on a good song or you go to see a band play or you go to see a great film and for an hour and a half you can forget about the problems in your life and just fall into that fantasy world that isn’t filled with your problems. I think that was part of it for me, and I think that’s why maybe people who like our band, like our band. There are bands out there that are political, and bands out there that talk about really heavy subject matter like suicide and drug abuse and all that. The bands that do that are great and also in a way are theraputic. What we do is, we are a distraction from all of that. For whatever reason when I was a little kid I loved the horror stuff, I think it was just an escape, there was something almost like punk music and metal music, almost something a little bit forbidden about it that your school teacher didn’t want you to listen to it or your friends parents said “no you guys can’t watch that!” So there’s the forbidden fruit factor and there’s just something really engaging about a guy that just snaps. Obviously it’s all make believe. Killing people is not a good thing! Whenever people ask me if I think horror movies or violent music is bad for the world, I really don’t because I always go back to the thought of I’ve never heard of a serial killer that they found to be obsessed with horror movies. You’d think that if there had been, it’d be everywhere. You look at Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, well I guess Manson’s not a serial killer he made people do it, but John Wayne Gacy, Dahmer, Ed Gein, you never hear that they were big Dracula fans or that a modern serial killer was obsessed with Friday the 13th. I think that if you are a deranged individual then horror movies are not going to make a bit of difference.
Your videos are very dramatic, have you ever considered going to into the industry of trying to make a horror film? Yeah I love the idea of being involved with film and getting to do the music videos for ‘The Silver Scream’, they all connect so it’s kind of like we are making a movie and it has definitely made me even more interested in doing it. At the same time it has opened my eyes to how grueling it is being on a film set. I think the most I’ve been on a set for a video is four days ‘cause we filmed two back to back, it’s exhausting. Especially if you’re the star and you’ve got to wear the make up and get there at 5am and not leave until 2. It’s definitely grueling but I’m very interested in it and constantly thinking of new ideas, I’m currently coming up with ideas for a new video that will coincide with the release. I love writing, I love horror, I love comedy also so I like intertwining the two.
Do you have plans to come back after this tour? Yes, I can’t announce when, but we just got an offer for something really cool.
How does it feel being asked to go to Australia? Unbelievable! I’ve never been before, I’ve always wanted to go. My sister is a huge fan of Australia, she went for a semester abroad in college years ago and always told me I have to go there. I was a big fan of the band Silverchair growing up and they’re from Australia so it’s just another reason why I like it.
So you’ve done classic books and classic films, where do you think you’ll go from here? It’s a tough call where to go, people seem to be really into the horror stuff but I think if we continue down a similar path we need to find a way to make it not just a repeat but something different. A lot of that will tie into how we put the film together for it, I’ve got some really cool ideas.
Interview with Marc
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? This year we've mainly been finalising the album, we've also been out shooting music videos and getting ready for the release of â€˜EPMâ€™. Apart from that we've played a handful of festivals and a headline show in Mexico. Mexico was definitely the highlight as it was primarily a mixed martial arts expo, so we got to play but also had the chance to watch people getting their ass kicked before the show!
So, when did the first glimpses of 'Extreme Power Metal' come about then? Was there a particular song or moment that inspired the creative process for the record? I think it's something we've been wanting to make for a while. Sam in particular has an unhealthy obsession with the 80s and we all enjoy retro gaming which is kind of where the aesthetics came from.
What made you want to release 'Highway to Oblivion' as the first single from 'Extreme Power Metal', and how did this track in particular come together? In the early stages of the album writing process we had this song as one of the most instantly memorable as it has a catchy chorus and a kind of sci-fi movie feel to the intro. We thought it was the best song to set the scene for what to expect from the rest of the album.
How did you get to the album title 'Extreme Power Metal'? Since the beginning of Dragonforce we have been labelled as extreme power metal anyway. I think the reason being that simply calling us “power metal” doesn't do the music justice, as most of what we do is so over-the-top. It just seemed like the perfect title for a no holds barred album like this.
If possible, can you tell us more about some of the main themes and influences that run throughout the album? The album is quite varied when it comes to the themes that we're singing about. Most of it has a kind of sci-fi / fantasy leaning as that's the kind of lyrical direction that the songs were steering us towards. We have a song about the video game Skyrim, a song about Starship Troopers and a couple of other sci-fi esque songs. We also have a lot of our signature themes, which are normally aiming to make the listener feel good and lift their spirits and spread a positive message.
How did you end up working with Damien Rainaud? He was touring with us with his band Once Human and we really liked hanging out with him and listening to the music that he makes. He seemed like an obvious choice for us!
Also, what did Coen Janssen bring to 'Extreme Power Metal'? Coen did an amazing job on the album, he brought exactly what we were looking for. As you can hear in his band Epica, he's very good at making anything from orchestral arrangements to the kind of whacky futuristic synths that we like on our albums. Having him play on the album definitely helped take some of the tracks to a new level.
What was the hardest song on 'Extreme Power Metal' to put together, and why? I'm going to ruin this question and say none of it, haha. The reason being that all the songs were actually pretty final at the demo stages. Some things were changed along the way, but nothing really stands out as being a harder song to put together than any other!
Looking back on 'Reaching into Infinity', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of DragonForce? I really like the album. I think the songs are well written and I still enjoy listening to how the production sounds on it. In terms of what it did for Dragonforce, I think it helped solidify in our fans minds the ability of Sam and Fred to write consistently great songs, and I think the collaboration between the two of them is what makes this album shine.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Reaching into Infinity' at the moment, and why? Currently we're just playing ‘Ashes of the Dawn’ and ‘Judgement Day’ live, but we were previously playing ‘Curse of Darkness’ which is one of my favourites from the album. They're fun to play because they're very intense songs that get the crowd fired up!
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Very excited, we can't wait to play the new album and we're bringing some great bands with us!
What else can we expect to see from DragonForce in 2019? We're in the process of filming more music videos for the new album, and also gearing up for a tour in the US which ends with the Megacruise! We're working on a lot of stuff behind the scenes that will surprise fans this year!
Interview with Mikael
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Highlights would have been a show we did in the city of Sibiu, Romania. It was fun. Right in the middle of the old town square in front of a lot of people. We played well too.
So, when did the initial vision for 'In Cauda Venenum' come about? Was there a particular song or moment that sparked the creative process? The first song is a track called ‘Universal Truth’. That’s the first one I wrote. It’s a rather elaborate piece of music and it set the tone for the rest of the album, I guess. The record is strange, but lovely and exciting I think.
How did you get to the album title 'In Cauda Venenum', and what does it mean to you? I found it online, that saying. I liked it. It looked cool and I could connect it to the album, the band and the artwork which is always nice. It means ”The poison is in the tail” referring to a nasty or unwanted surprise in the end of something.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes that run throughout the album? Lyrically, it’s more contemporary than the previous records, much because of the fact that I wrote them all in Swedish. It’s almost semi political at times, but not in a pathos type way. I just observe and write about it. It was fun, and the lyrics came out quite humorous at times. So I was influenced by everything and nothing you could say. I didn’t have a theme other than ”life”, I suppose.
There's a Swedish and English version for this album! How did that idea come about, and were there any challenges in doing two different versions of the same songs? The English version is secondary to me and sprung out of insecurity really. I wanted a Swedish album, but I was afraid people might skip on it altogether unless they understood what I was singing about. The English version is nice too, but my version is and always will be the Swedish one. I wanted to do something new and this time around it was the language thing that sparked the whole piece. I don’t know why, but it inspired me to write. The notion of something new always excites me, you see.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'In Cauda Venenum' to put together, and why? ‘Universal Truth’ was gutted and rearranged a few times, but the final version is really nice. I did some of my best work ever there I think, but that’s just me I guess. It has some really elaborate string segments which were quite tough to piece together, but it came out real nice in the end.
Looking back on 'Sorceress', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Opeth? I like it. My favourite songs are ‘Sorceress 2’ and ‘A Fleeting Glance’. We’ve never played those live but they are nice little pieces of music I think. I don’t know what it did for us, but it’s a quality record written without any aspirations to sell more. I only follow the train of thought and heat of the moment. That was it for that album. I just wrote music that I dug, even if I never had the notion that it was going to be a big record really. Turns out it sold more copies than many of our previous albums - and not only that, we also sold the most amount of vinyl copies ever in the history of the label. So that was nice!
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Sorceress'? The title track is always fun; it's simple and heavy. ‘Will O' The Wisp’ works too even if we haven’t played it that much. I like when I hear the whole band. On some of the earlier stuff, you’re so focused on what you’re doing yourself, you tend to miss out on what ”we’re” doing.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Hopefully a great and enjoyable show for everyone. I don’t know what else yet, but we’re talking about the setlist right now. There'll be some new stuff, some old stuff. Some songs will be dusted off that we haven’t played in a while, or perhaps even never played live yet. We have a good idea for the production too, so if it all works out then there are chances of a grand experience. I’m excited to play, but I get panic attacks before going on tour so it’s a double edged sword for me.
What do you remember the most from coming to the UK for the first time? Playing a small pub in High Wycombe. It was still fun. We weren’t worth much back then, but we went down well and the punters seemed to like us a lot. The UK is our band-home away from home in many ways. We’re loyal to the UK and that goes both ways it seems.
What else can we expect to see from Opeth in 2019? Touring. We’ll be playing some really nice venues around the world, including the London Palladium. Not much else to be honest, but it’s all good.
Interview with Valentino
So, when and how did you first get into drumming? I bought my first drum set when I was 14 so my band at the time could have practice at my house & after a year or two of it sitting there I decided to start playing it!
When did the first glimpses of 'Earth & Sky' come about? Weâ€™re always writing at home or on the road so we got kind of antsy wanting to record new music. Locking in Josh Wilbur (Lamb Of God, Trivium, Gojira, Korn) solidified our excitement to create a heavy record.
How did you guys get to the album title 'Earth & Sky', and what does it mean to you? It came from the lyrics of the song, we liked the conceptual nature of it & I feel like itâ€™s about rising above something or a situation. Facing the challenges head on & overcoming it.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout the album? Each song has a story & I think the most fun is looking through the liner notes of the album booklet & unlocking the themes!
As a drummer, how would you say that you've grown/progressed on this album? This album was a lot of fun to create & play on. I was particularly excited because of the producer, I love how his drums sound and I wanted to level up my performances! Each album is different & I love developing a different sound for the drums on each album.
Is there something that you learnt from creating 'Earth & Sky', that maybe you'll take forward with you as a musician? Working with a producer is such an incredible experience because they share so much knowledge with you about music & I feel like we were able to create something really special together.
How did you end up working with Josh Wilbur, and how would you say that he helped shape the album? We wanted to do this album locally & across a span of time where he had some tours in between & we saw Trivium had recorded with Josh at Hybrid Studios, which is basically in our backyard so we sought him out & the rest is history!
How did the music video for 'Earth & Sky' come together, and what was it like to work with director Mark Lediard? Mark is a visionary, we worked with him for our ‘Pain’ music video. His ability to create an uneasy & twisted vibe was what we wanted for our track ‘Mushroom Cloud’ & he knocked that out of the park so we locked him in for ‘Earth & Sky’ as well to continue the vision.
What was the hardest song on 'Earth & Sky' to put together, and why? No single one really sticks out, I think lyrically ‘Linger’ was very difficult because of the subject matter. You can hear the pain in Aaron’s voice, that song really hits me hard!
Looking back on 'Defy', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Of Mice & Men? It’s so sick we got to record our music with Howard Benson & Chris Lord Alge, some of the innovators of the modern rock sound. The songs are incredible & I think it helped shape the sound of ‘Earth & Sky’ because we went out & played the songs from ‘Defy’ & realised what we wanted to create more of.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Defy' at the moment, and why? ‘Warzone’ is an absolute blistering intro song for us, it gets the walls of death & circle pits going. When Of Mice & Men hits the stage, you know we mean business with a song like that.
What else can we expect to see from Of Mice & Men in 2019? More new music! More tours! More festivals! More everything! ‘Earth & Sky’ is out now, don’t miss out & pick up a copy online!
Interview with Nick
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We just finished up a US summer tour run on Disrupt which was insanely hot, but also insanely fun. The highlight from the tour was playing brand new songs off our upcoming album ‘How It Feels To Be Lost’. You like how well I plugged that? I’m damn good.
When did the first glimpses of 'How It Feels to Be Lost' come together then? Was there a particular song or moment that maybe sparked the whole creative process? The spark happened last year when we were in LA for meetings. Our managers said that Zakk Cervini has some free time in his studio if we wanted to just mess around & grease the wheels. There wasn’t a set idea or plans to record an album yet. But, it ended up being the spark that ignited the album making process and 3-4 songs were fully written & recorded in three days. It was just a moment of feeling no pressure & just having fun writing. That’s what it should always be about.
So, how did you get to the album title 'How It Feels to Be Lost', and what does it mean to you? It comes from a lyric that Kellin wrote and it’s something that every human being can relate to at any age in life. What it means to me, personally, is that I’m not alone in those moments where I’m struggling, or doubting, or being hard on myself. Kellin really bares his soul on this album and you can’t help but relate on so many levels with what he’s gone through, and continues to go through. This album represents what’s been going on in his life over the past couple of years, but also what we’ve collectively gone through, personally.
If possible, can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'How It Feels to Be Lost'? Life. The struggles we have internally with ourselves, our personal relationships, and the light at the end of every tunnel. I will not speak on behalf of Kellin and what each song means, but I can tell you how I relate & feel to what he’s saying. And that is what makes our album special. Relating to what he’s saying.
As a guitarist, how would you say that you've grown on this album? Is there something that maybe you learnt from putting 'How It Feels to Be Lost' together? Every album is about progression; as a person & as a musician. Achieving pure emotion through what you’re playing. This album is heavy & aggressive, so bringing back those roots was really fun, but also important. I grew up on punk rock & playing in punk rock bands — having those elements on this album brings back a joy that I initially had when I first started playing guitar.
How did you end up working with Matt Good & Zakk Cervini, and how would you say that they helped shape 'How It Feels to Be Lost'? Zakk Cervini worked on our album, ‘Madness’, and we’ve always had an affinity for him and his incredible work. He’s also a longtime fan of our band, which makes for a very special process working together. With Matt Good, we were in a band together before I joined Sirens, so our history & friendship runs deep. I’ve always brought his name up to the guys and Kellin has always been a big fan of his work. So, when the stars aligned to work together, it just made sense.
How did Benji Madden end up joining you on 'Never Enough'? Benji is a very close friend, but he also happens to be our manager. On top of that, he’s an incredible songwriter, so when we needed his help on the bridge, he came in and laid down a bunch of ideas and we immediately thought, “dude, you should be the one singing on this track.” And that was it! He brought out the emotion that’s conveyed throughout the whole song and takes it to another level.
We've read that this album will be a "return to their heavier roots"? If you agree with that, then can you elaborate on how the sound on this record compares to anything that you've done before as Sleeping With Sirens? It’s “heavier” in every way. From the instrumentation, Kellin’s vocals, & me screaming my nuts off. But it’s also heavier in the sense of lyrical content. If there’s one thing I ask people to do when they listen to our album, please listen to, or read, the lyrics to every song.
What can you tell us about your latest single 'Break Me Down'? It was the 3rd or 4th song written when we started recording. We just wanted to write something fast & nasty. When you have all this pent up anger or aggression, you just want to release it in a way that properly conveys exactly what you’re feeling. The lyrical content on this is really heavy. Kellin really divulges what he’s been going through the past few years in literal terms. No metaphors, really. The lyrical content is raw and the music follows suit with that. It’s insanely fun to play live too.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We are properly chuffed about it. We consider the UK a second home for us. It’s something we always look forward to and we’ve made so many amazing friends over there that we forever consider family. The fans can expect the craziest, high-energy Sirens show they’ve ever experienced in their lives. We’ll be playing a bunch of new songs, but also playing older songs and maybe a few other surprises that we’ve never done before.
What else can we expect to see from Sleeping With Sirens in 2019? New album dropping! And then touring forever on it.
Interview with Stephan
Touring wise, what you have you been up to this year, and what's it been like to play some of the new material live? I was just told that this Summer was the biggest grossing summer tour that we have ever done. It coincides with having an absolute ball with my mates in Third Eye Blind. They are so good and focused, we feel like we can do anything we want. I feel free. I love seeing fans faces when they light up to a new song for the first time.
So, when did the first glimpses of 'Screamer' come about? Was there a particular song or moment that maybe inspired the creative process for the album? It was in a songwriting session with our newest member Colin CreeV in a beach house in Encinitas CA, he played me a beat and it sounded both chaotic and spacious. It created our musical landscape for the sense of hope, rage and passion that is pulsing through me right now. It was from this that I said, holy sh*t I think you should be in Third Eye Blind.
How did you get to the album title 'Screamer', and what does it mean to you? I think the real joy and sense of aliveness in this upside time we find ourselves in comes not from the escapism and nostalgia that is the current pop blather, but instead by being fierce and unapologetically vibrant with a dash of la sexual level of urgency to the times we are in. ‘Screamer’ is saying “this is ours, let’s take it.”
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout the album? ‘Kids’ takes its inspiration from activists like Emma Gonzales and Greta Thunberg in the face of cowardice and prevarication of political leadership. These kids cut through with the power of their voice. This song amplifies how this inspiration feels to me. ‘Ways’ and ‘Tropic Scorpio’ are lighthearted plays on consumerism in current pop culture. I am so tired of pop musics’ laundry list of Gucci, Prada, ice on my neck, blah blah blah. These songs are saying what’s fire is within your own heart’s capacity to express itself. Something like that.
How did you end up working with Billy Corgan, and how would you say that he helped shape 'Screamer'? I played Billy songs that were written and he told me ‘Light It Up’ needed another step. He added a melody and a chord change that turned into the bridge of ‘Light It Up’. Then we went out for vegan Hollywood lunch. It was 2 ½ hours well spent!
Talking of collaborations, you also enlisted the help of Alexis Krauss and Ryan Olson! How did they become a part of the record, and what were they like to work with? While I was tracking vocals for ‘Screamer’ I said “I want this intro to sound like Alexis Krauss from Sleigh Bells if she was leading a squad of Japanese cheerleaders.” My agent Dave Tamaroff then said, “why don’t you just ask her.” It never occurred to me, but I got in touch with her and she said “I’d be delighted.” Unbeknownst we were mutual fans and she of course slayed it. She also stole every scene in the video for ‘Screamer’. She’s a damn movie star. My motto for ‘Screamer’ was keep it weird and I also wanted to have an open door policy in working with lots of different creatives when making this record. We were fans of Polica and Marijuana Death Squad, so I saw Ryan as a happy disruptor of any singer songwriter tendencies that I might fall into. He is a damn stoner genius. I have already made plans to work with him again and the next time, I will let him go weapons free on laser mode.
We've read that you've always been a "little reluctant to open to the door and bring outsiders into their camp", so what has having this many collaborators on one record done for you musically? Is there something you've learnt from this process that you'll maybe take forward with you as a band/musician? I feel comprehended and respected by my peers in music and that gives me the confidence to put my guard down and not feel like I have to protect my space. I would definitely pursue a collaborative approach again, but just the same, I am also down for the insular method as well. I am open to whatever suits the muse.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'Screamer' to put together, and why? Probably ‘Who Am I’ I could never get that song to show up. It was not until Chad Copelin took a crack at that feeling I had playing alone on my acoustic guitar which showed up in the arrangement. That kid is underrated.
Looking back on 'Dopamine', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Third Eye Blind? I really don’t look back at my work. All of the itches I am trying to scratch lay before me in the future. I think maybe that restlessness to move forward translates to our fan base as they are a surprisingly young and eager bunch.
It's been ten years since the release of 'Ursa Major'! What do you remember the most about putting it together? Pain. Deeply felt heartsick disappointment mixed with more pain.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I am off the chain about it! We love coming across the pond and people will see it in our faces. We will be looking right at you. Our band has never played better and we will be there with bells on.
What else can we expect to see from Third Eye Blind in 2019? We are very much underway. There are videos of some kind for every song on ‘Screamer’. Tours and festivals, our album drops on vinyl on October 11th. And we might even go into the studio if we are feeling it. Beyond that, trouble. We want trouble. We want to mess sh*t up.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? I've been pretty busy this year, I've been around the UK, the USA, played Lost Evenings 3 in Boston, and am in the middle of a European festival run. My highlights this year would be the new places I've been lucky enough to visit - Portugal, Greece and Bulgaria. I love seeing new parts of the world and connecting to new people there.
So, when did the first glimpses of 'No Manâ€™s Land' come about? Was there a song, or particular moment that sparked the creative process for the record maybe? I started working on the songs for this album after â€˜Positive Songs For Negative Peopleâ€™ came out. I felt like I'd put out a lot of autobiographical stuff to do date and was interested in trying a different approach to songwriting - specifically a history, story-telling approach. There wasn't actually a gendered angle to the material at first, I was just telling interesting tales that didn't seem to be being told. But after a while I noticed that all the songs I had so far were about women, so I decided to follow that road.
How did you get to the album title 'No Man’s Land', and what does it mean to you? It's taken from the song ‘The Death Of Dora Hand’. It was quite hard to get a title for this album, something that was considerate and respectful in its way. That line just seemed to jump out at me.
You are "A self-confessed history nut" and of course on your Instagram you have been known to do a brief history segment on the town/city you're playing in. So can you tell us about the process of looking back on the women that influenced this record, and how sort of exciting it was for you to be fusing so much history with a Frank Turner record? Being able to unify my two principle obsessions in life music and history - has been really fun, really satisfying for me. The "research", such as it was, was pretty amateur - I wasn't in libraries in cotton gloves or anything like that. I read everything I could get my hands on about the people I was trying to write about, online and in books. Quite often the material available was quite sparse, by definition I was trying to write about people who usually get overlooked.
Some of the historical figures that you're writing about aren't as well known, so was it also intentional to put a spotlight on them, or did it just happen in a much more natural way? I was trying to pick people who are less well known. I didn't write a song about Emmeline Pankhurst or Rosa Parks, as admirable as those people are, because most people already know their names. That seemed less interesting to me.
How did you end up working with Catherine Marks, and what do you think that she brought to 'No Man’s Land'? I wanted to work with a female producer, mainly because the image of two men working on a record about women didn't sit right with me. Once I'd made that decision, I came across Catherine's work pretty quickly, she's probably the best woman working in record production right now, her work is exemplary. She brought a lot to the record, in terms of the arrangements and the overall approach, pushing me to work harder and tell the stories better.
How did the idea for a podcast come about to go alongside 'No Man's Land', and how rewarding has that been to work on so far? I felt like telling a real person's life story in 3 or 4 minutes, whilst definitionally part of the challenge of what I was trying to do, risked being a bit shallow. There's a lot more to say and learn about these people, and I was looking for format in a way to do that. I thought about liner notes, a booklet of some kind, and I thought about a TV type deal as well, but in the end doing the podcast made the most sense. It's a new venture, new territory for me. It's been a challenge, but a rewarding one, I'm really enjoying it.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'No Man’s Land' to put together, and why? I think we probably spent the most time on ‘Silent Key’. It's a song I've released a version of before, but it seemed to fit the brief for this album, so I wanted to include it, but to find a new approach for the song. Among other things I was trying to find a way to make the song heavy without using drums or distorted guitars. It was a real challenge, and one that Catherine was a guiding light in overcoming. I think it sounds awesome now.
You've just unleashed 'The Hymn of Kassiani'! What can you tell us about this track in particular? I came across the story of Kassiani because she's the earliest female composer whose work we still have. I loved her music, and then, on reading her story, knew I wanted to write a song about her straight away. I actually used both her music and words as a starting point for my lyrics, so it's arguably a co-write, across the centuries. Engaging with the music and lyricism of someone from the Byzantine era was a real challenge for me. But I think it came together well, it's a highlight song for me.
So, looking back on 'Be More Kind', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think you learnt the most from putting this record together? I'm very proud of ‘Be More Kind’. It was a very natural, unforced record to write, it came together very quickly after the events of 2016. Recording it was a whole new approach for me, I took a much more meticulous, studio-based road, working with rhythm, sequencers and synthesizers much more than I ever have before. It's different from my other albums (I mean, I hope they're all different, but this one more so), and it includes some of my favourite songs I've written, so yeah, happy with it. I said what I had to say.
'Be More Kind' only came out last year! So how did 'No Man's Land' come together so quickly, or had you had this planned for a much longer time than it might seem? I was writing the album before ‘Be More Kind’, but then the world went f*cking nuts in 2016, at home and in the USA and beyond. I felt the need to respond to that, and did, but once that was done, it felt like time to get on with the project I'd been working on beforehand.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I'm very excited. It's going to be quite different - I'm doing a solo set of songs from the new album, and then the band and I are taking a very different approach for the main set, it'll be more of a folk thing this time around. It's a challenge to get it right, but I'm excited about it.
What else can we expect to see from Frank Turner in 2019? I'm touring a whole bunch, there's a Mongol Horde tour in the USA in December as well. But most of all I'm getting married at the end of the summer, which is pretty big news!
Interview with Grant
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We have played a bunch of festivals and played shows in the USA . We have also been busy doing promo for the release of 'Tallulah', our tenth album. We will also be playing shows later in the year in Singapore, Japan and the UK for the album tour. Highlights on the road would have to be the US shows and Japan. Fuji Rock festival in Japan is always special but UK fans are also amazing .
So, when did the first glimpses of 'Tallulah' come about? Was there a song, or particular moment that sparked the creative process for the record maybe? I wrote most of the album at home on acoustic guitar and in hotel rooms and tour buses whilst hanging around during touring and summer festivals over the past year or so. One of the first songs I composed was 'Youth' which was followed by 'Guillotine' and 'Tallulah'.
How did you get to the album title 'Tallulah', and what does it mean to you? It’s probably my favourite song on the album and the name came from my wife’s best friends 8 year old daughter. I’ve always liked the name Tallulah and the song touches on the importance of children and family.
If possible, can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Tallulah'? The album touches on life, feelings, relationships, childhood and experiences. Sometimes a simple headline, feeling or observation can inspire a song or lyric. I try to write songs that are personal but also universal to the listener in some way.
How did you end up working with Tim Roe once more, and what do you think that he brought to 'Tallulah'? Tim is a great engineer and anchor in the studio. I work very quickly sometimes and he is great at keeping up with the musical flow. We work well together and he has great ears and I like the energy and spark we get in the studio. It’s a very organic process in the way we like to work also. I think this captures the Feeder chemistry well.
You've said that this is "a classic Feeder record" so could you maybe elaborate on that, and how else you think that it compares to anything that you've put out? It’s really always about the songs, melody and dynamic vocals I bring. I think this album has elements of all our previous albums, but on one body of work. It feels fresh but still classic Feeder to us and the response has been amazing so far.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'Tallulah' to put together? Although very simple, ‘Youth’ was difficult to get the right balance of heaviness without losing the melodic and summer upbeat feeling that the song needed. I guess it shows that more upbeat indie - rock side of Feeder that we have not done for a while.
How did the artwork for 'Tallulah' come together, and what does it mean to you? I worked with a very good friend of mine called Anthony McEwan (aka) Rugman. He’s a great urban artist and I have several of his pieces on my walls at home. It was a real labour of love and I think he created a beautiful, iconic and striking album sleeve.
You've just unleashed 'Daily Habit'! What can you tell us about this track in particular? I had the music and vocal melody but wrote the lyrics after a walk to my local coffee shop in north London and after observations from walking around. It’s basically a day in the life love song lyrically that touches on today’s culture and day to day routines. It’s amazing how many interesting characters you see on the streets.
What do you think that the 'Best Of...' did for the representation of Feeder over the last couple of years, and how rewarding was it for you guys to re-visit so much of your earlier material in a live format? It was great to remind people and also ourselves of all those singles we have released over the past 25 years. I think doing the tour and festivals on the back of it has been great for us as a band and it also included a stand alone 9 track album called ‘Arrow’ to introduce some new songs for the fan base and the live shows. It’s still strange that a lot of people know our music but don’t necessarily know it’s by Feeder.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We're really looking forward to it. We will obviously be playing a lot of songs from the new album 'Tallulah' but also a few favourites and some old school Feeder classics for the die hard fans. It will be a good mix.
We know that you are of course a UK band, but what do you remember the most from your first ever "proper" UK tour!? If I remember correctly it was called The Kerrang! twister tour and we spent a lot of time in Cornwall and Devon. It was a fun time and we still love going back to play there for festivals. Maybe our tour time there inspired the lyrics to 'Buck Rogers' in some way all those years later.
What else can we expect to see from Feeder in 2019? Album tour, another single or two and looking forward to playing Japan and Singapore.
Interview with Mark
So, when and how did the first glimpses for 'Walk the Sky' come about, was there a particular moment that sparked the whole creative process for the record? We heard that our timeline was very short on this record. We had about a five week window to record the record. So that got Myles and I fired up to start demoing. So it was a big difference compared to any other record we'd done. It lit a fire beneath us as we had to really prepare separately, complete full songs before we hit the ground running in the studio, working together. So in that way it was a different process for us, and it prepared us more. I think that it turned out well.
You've said that the new album will have an "old school synth-wave" sound on it at times. Can you elaborate on that, and a bit more about the overall sound of the record? I was driving in a car with my buddy, and a song came on the radio called 'Tech Noir', by a band called Gunship. I absolutely loved it, and it had this old school synthwave vibe going on. From there I just created sound loops/existing loops that I would be inspired by. I would write over these loops. Just try to get inspired by the mood of them. Erase them, and do my own thing with them. Then that kind of influenced songs like ‘Godspeed’, ‘Pay No Mind’ and a few others. Myles and I were on the same page, and he really loved the ideas. With every record we do we want to add something a little different into the mix. It was a strange thing that we never thought both of us at the same time would agree on. Especially in 2019, to come up with something like that. I think we both thought that we’d never add synth stuff to our music. When synths first came around they had this almost erie quality, that we both do really love.
You've said that you “Challenged yourselves to not repeat yourselves" so how important do you feel it is as a band to push the sound of what you are doing into new territory, instead of just sticking to the same formula? This new sound was something that was going to be the new ingredient for this album. With every album we’ve always tried to do something a little different. We’ve always experimented with different guitar tunings, to bring out different chord voicing and tones. Messing with our arrangements over the years. Of course, the way you approach your instrument etc. However, definitely on this record, that synth-wave mood was the one element that we used to try and change up our sound a little bit with.
Another track you've released is 'Pay No Mind'! It sounds huge, and shows that synth influence you have already mentioned. How did it come together, and what did you enjoy the most about working on this song? I was writing over a loop, and came up with the guitar line for the verse. That was really the driving force for that song. I just really loved the rhythm, and the pulse of that riff over that rhythm. I just kind of developed a whole song around that. That was really the most essential part of the song.
You just mentioned that you and Myles entered the studio with "complete full songs" So can you tell us a bit more about that process, and maybe how it's compared to anything you have done before as Alter Bridge? With the ‘One Day Remains’ record I had to demo stuff on my own. I wrote everything on it before the other guys heard it. That’s because that was before Myles even joined the band. Ever since then we’ve always written songs together. Every song was pretty much a collaboration. Now, this is the first time since then that we’ve done complete songs separate from one another. That being said, when we got in the studio together, we collaborated a bit on some material. But, for the most part these songs were either brought in by Myles or me in their entirety and everybody put their spin on them once we got together.
You guys have said that this record is the answer to 'AB III' so can you elaborate on that, and maybe why you think that's the case? 'AB III' was kind of a darker voyage, going down the lack of faith, and spirituality. Just kind of a dark record. This record is more of a journey into, Myle’s Eastern Philosophy and Zen. It's a little more uplifting. It’s like finding peace on this record, not the whole of it, but a 3rd of it has recurring themes that relate to that kind of thinking.
How did the track ‘Take The Crown’ come together? You've said that it's one of your most favourite songs from 'Walk the Sky'? It was just one of those things where I was writing the song, and the guitar line that you hear in the chorus is one of my favourite parts. It’s not that it’s too difficult or complicated, it’s just when I wrote it, it felt right. Uplifting. It felt good to play, and it’s one of my favourite tracks.
Obviously at this point in your career you are well known for your work as a guitarist, So can you tell us about how you've grown/progressed on this record? Is there anything that you've learnt that you'll maybe take with you going forward as a musician? I’m always learning new stuff. Mostly it’s just trying to take in as many techniques and styles from other players as possible. Turning them into your own. I spend a lot of time working on ideas. In a room between records, and I put a little bit of that into the leads here and there. As a songwriter, I try to dive into that better approach of writing with those kind of simple loops that inspire a different outcome.
Okay great! So, how did you end up working with Michael Baskette once more, and what do you think that he brought to 'Walk the Sky'? What he always brings. He pulled out the best performance he can get out of you. He makes it sound immense. He is such a great mixer. I would bring in demos, placeholder kind of stuff, and he’d make it sound great. He would stay up until 4 in the morning and play those parts to make them sound good on the synth. He is our synth player. Him and Jeff Moll our engineer, would lay down the orchestrated content that you hear buried in the tracks.
You guys have worked together quite a lot at this point, so would you say he is starting to feel more like a member of the band than a producer? Yeah! It’s a very personal thing. It’s good to have someone like that, where you trust his opinions. He is part of the team for sure.
How did you guys get to the album title 'Walk the Sky', and what does it mean to you? With ‘Walk the Sky’ every time we do a record we print out all of the lyrics, and all of the song titles. We look through there and try and see if there’s an album title. "Walking On The Sky" is the lyric within the title track. So we just abbreviated that to ‘Walk the Sky’ because it was just the most striking. It pulls up the imagination when you read that. We knew that we could create great artwork with that. It was the most thought provoking line within the lyrics. It went along with finding freedom with peace and Zen. It was just that subject matter that we were going for.
Earlier you said that this record will be more uplifting, so can you elaborate a bit more on that, and how else the record compares to what you’ve done before? Yeah I would say that it’s definitely more uplifting to what we have done in the past. That being said, it’s still a hard rock record with a lot of mood in it. Overall it’s just got a nice energy about it. It’s just not as sombre as some of our previous material.
So your brother Dan Tremonti did the artwork for 'Walk the Sky'! How did that collaboration come about, and what does the cover mean to the band? Well I got on the phone with Myles and discussed some of the main themes we were going to go after with the artwork. Then I got on the phone to my brother and explained it to him. He would submit his ideas, he came up with like ten different platforms, and we must of gone through 20-30 ideas. My brother came up with something out of the blue that we all liked. Everybody in the band was like “That’s it, that’s the one!” So we ran with it.
Right, tough question time then. What was the hardest song on the album to put together, and why? None of them were that hard. However, probably the song that might of taken the most work was ‘Dying Light’. On that song everybody had the most input with in the end. As a lot of it happened in the moment. It started out with an idea that I wrote years and years ago. With the music for the chorus. Then the rest of us developed the song for a day or two and finished it off. That’s the kind of thing that only happens when all of us are in a room together.
Between the band you have your solo ventures, so we wanted to ask, by doing that, what has it brought to the way Alter Bridge approach music over the last couple of years? I think by having us do all of these different projects, it gives us strengths in other ways. It’s made me a better lyricist for sure. A better singer for sure, doing my solo material. It’s given me more confidence when it comes to having a better filter on what I think is good, bad, and what I can and can’t work with. Doing all of these other projects brings in a lot of new strengths.
With your solo projects becoming increasingly more well known, what has it been like to work around those hectic schedules this time around for 'Walk the Sky'? We are so used to this schedule now. I’ve done four solo records, and six Alter Bridge records. So I’ve gotten used to the routine with as soon as I’m done recording with either a solo or AB record, I just jump into the process of creation for the next album. The big difference on this one was that we couldn’t wait to get together to finalise song ideas. We had to do them on our own. Myles and I are both used to doing that now. He had done his solo record between AB records, and I had done my fourth solo record between AB records also. So we did it alone. We always prefer to work together, but this time we just didn’t have that option. It worked out in the end.
Looking back on 'The Last Hero', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Alter Bridge? It just helped us grow. It’s another record that solidified our fan base. It got us to bigger rooms on tour, with more people in the seats. With Alter Bridge it definitely hasn’t been an overnight success thing with our fan base, it’s been about building over the years. So it was another record that grew that fan base. We are happy with it. So hopefully this record is just another step when it comes to getting to that next level.
What was your ‘Live At The Royal Albert Hall Featuring The Parallax Orchestra’ DVD like to be a part of, and what do you remember the most from this experience? What I remember the most is just hearing the 52 piece orchestra behind me through the monitors, and just giving you the chills. You put so much work into these songs, so just hearing that kind of support behind you, is just the best feeling in the world as an artist. Looking across the Albert Hall, to the boxes where you see your family and friends looking out there with smiles on their faces, it was a beautiful moment. Working with the Parallax Orchestra was amazing. They’re very professional, spot on, and just pros to the core. We really appreciated everything that they did.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We can’t wait for the next UK tour. It’s an incredible line-up. We are going to pull out the biggest production we’ve ever rolled with as Alter Bridge. We don’t know quite yet what the set lists are going to be, but we’re excited to find out ourselves.
You've also got Shinedown and Sevendust on the tour, so it's a pretty huge, and diverse line-up to say the least? It’s going to be great. I’ve been telling the Sevendust guys that they need to get over here. Over here when a band plays live well they grow, they are appreciated. Sevendust are one of the best live bands that I’ve ever seen. So it’s going to be quite a night. Shinedown are obviously already a well established band over here, with massive amounts of radio success in the States. A big history with us. They’re friends of ours. The Raven Age we’ve done many tours with, and they’re good friends of ours as well. They're going to start the night out, in mainland Europe. We can’t wait!
What do you love most about touring in the UK? We’ve got a long history with the UK. We consider it our home, with the biggest fan base in the world. We really appreciate the UK. The UK really championed this band, and kept us going.
What else can we expect to see from Alter Bridge in 2019? Just a lot of touring. We are going to tour through 2019 – 2020. We are going to tour around the world nonstop.
Interview with Brian 'Head' Welch
So right now you are on a co-headlining tour with Alice In Chains! What have they been like to tour with, and also how fun has it been to play some of the new material live? It's been awesome, it's been crazy to see people jumping up and down to the new song. There's a new excitement right now. We are going to play 'Cold' soon on this tour, however at the moment we are only playing 'You'll Never Find Me', our first single from the album. Alice In Chains have been killing it every night, every single person in the crowd is singing their songs because they're so iconic.
Great! So when did the first glimpses for 'The Nothing' come about? Was there a particular song or moment that inspired the creative process for the record maybe? Munky and I started out with an engineer, we just wanted to get a heads up with the songs. So we went in with this engineer friend of ours and just started doing demos. The first song we wrote was a song from the record called 'The Darkness Is Revealing'. We had a couple of others but they didn't make it. Then we started getting in with our drummer Ray, John Feldmann a little bit and our producer writing more songs. However, that was the first one.
How did 'You'll Never Find Me?' come together? We probably had about 75-80 percent written at this point. If I'm remembering correctly, that song came at about three quarters of the way into the writing process. I remember our producer and our manager were freaking out over it. I was like "It's cool!" I like some of the guitar breakdowns, but I liked other songs on the album better musically. Then Jonathan got on it and did the vocals, and he wrote the chorus for this song with Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins. Once I heard everything put together, that's when all of us were like "Oh that's a great song!" It has a vibe to it, and it takes you on a journey. It's like mellow, but energetic and then chaotic. We love dynamics, going from quiet to loud, and that song has a lot of that.
Talking of collaborations, how did you end up working with Travis Barker and John Feldmann? Oh man, well we've known Travis since back in the day. We've hung out with him and the Blink guys a few times. With Feldmann, we've have known him since 1989, he was on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood California, trying to make it with his band The Electric Love Hogs. I hadn't seen him for about twenty years, but then we reconnected with him and started working on a song. When we were working together he said that Travis lived down the street, and he'd demo a song for us. We were like "Cool, that's one of our favourite drummers!" So we demoed three songs with Travis, and when we told our drummer Ray he was like "Why, I'll play them I want to demo them!" we said ''Dude calm down, he's an old friend" but they know each other and have mutual respect for each other as well. Then we kept coming back, Munky and I were writing with John more and more. We did about 9 songs with John Feldmann, and Travis did the drums on about 8 of them. The 9th was electronic if I remember correctly.
So leading on from that, how did you end up working with Nick Raskulinecz once more, and how would you say that he helped shape the album? We really love what he did with Alice In Chains, in the low end that they had on their comeback album. He did 'Diamond Eyes' by Deftones and that was a masterpiece. He did some of my favourite Foo Fighters songs. So, we had a meeting with him first of all on our last record and he was really enthusiastic, energetic and excited. He made you get excited to do the record. He's like a kid, he's got all this youthful energy, but he's our age, it's weird. He really brings it out of you. So yeah, we just wanted to work with him again on this record. It works very well. What he brings to the table is good structure because we are musicians, we are not the most responsible people on the planet. He brought a lot of creative ideas. He played bass a lot on the writing process, just to have temporary bass. He helped write a couple of riffs, and he is awesome. He pulled a lot of great riffs out of Munky and I, and I'd love to work with him again. We'll see.
We've read that Nick is actually a long time fan of the band, so did that maybe make his input and impact more valuable as a producer? When we first met him, he was like "Man I used to flip burgers listening to KoRn!" We were like "No way!" It's cool because we were a fan of his work, but he was a fan of our work from decades ago. It worked out well. He told us that "Guys you need to get to that intensity that you're known for, you don't have to go backwards and try to re-create something, but you need to be KoRn, you need to be yourselves" Munky and I were searching for that intense guitar sound. It was a good pairing of us coming together and working with him. We wanted it, and he knew how to get it out of us. It was a great relationship.
Over the last few records the band have been recording in different places on the same record. For example, on this one Jonathan was mainly in LA (Bakersfield), and you guys were in Nashville a lot. So, can you tell us a bit about that process this time around, and why it's sort of become a really rewarding way for the band to work? It has been working well. Jonathan is a big family man, he loves his boys and he has three sons. When he is home he does not want to leave the town where he lives. The KoRn studio is there, and the funny thing is that Jonathan loves it, the other guys in the band kind of don't, it's in a bad neighbourhood. It's in this old movie theatre, and for us it seems a bit depressing around the neigbourhood. So, we don't love it, but Jonathan loves it, he just won't leave. We went there for a week and worked on all of the songs with him, and then, we went back to Nashville to fine tune them. It was a collaboration the whole time, and we were always in communication. Right after we were working with Feldmann, we'd send him tracks. Then Jonathan when he did the vocals, he got together with a couple of people to do that, but he said that he wasn't feeling it with anybody. He went with our engineer that did the vocals, Chris Collier. They just did the vocals himself with Chris's suggestion. He has worked harder than he has worked on albums in the recent past. He has had a lot of free time. His kids have grown up, and he went through a lot last year so he just poured himself into this record. He did all these extra things. He gave the album character, he killed it.
Obviously he went through a lot last year. So it must of been a really cathartic process for the whole band overall, when it came to putting this record together? Like, to really see Jonathan get through all of this and channel that energy onto the actual record itself? We were half way through the record when the passing of Deven happened last year. It was just really crazy. I'm glad that Jonathan liked it, he loved the foundation musically for what he could put on this record with all of the emotions that he was feeling. It just worked out. Sometimes in life everything aligns up. When it rains it pours, a lot of negative things happen. It seems like after you go through something bad, everything aligns up good. It feels like there's balance in this world. We had that balance on the record, after a hard year last year.
So you guys are known for being experimental with pretty much every output you put out there, but for you how would you say that you've progressed/changed as a guitarist on this record? I think it's just the kind of same old experimental with sounds. We have a lot of old faithful sounds that we use, that make the KoRn sound. These old digitech whammy pedals that they don't make anymore, but we have a bunch of them. Our guitar tech and gear manager Jim Otell fixes them for us because they don't make them anymore. So those are a huge tool for the KoRn sound. It's just similar things to what we've done in the past with guitar. We went guitar centre pedal shopping, that's always fun to do. We just kind of experiment and find the best sounds that we can find. Nick is really good with that as well. He loves tweaking those sounds and doing all that.
The track 'Idiosyncrasy' contains heavy riffs and also heavy lyrical content. Can you tell us about how it came together, and what it was like to work on? That was fun! The original idea behind it was sort of Pantera themed. I don't know if it sounds like Pantera now, but we had that in our minds, with that guitar at the beginning, when it comes in with that full riff, that's how it started. That song had a couple of variations. We sent it to Jonathan and he said "I love it! That's what I'm talking about!" The bridge section that we came up with is amazing, that's my favourite part of the song. ''God is making fun of me. He's laughing up there, I can see'' because that is what he felt like, when all of the bad things were happening. It's like this darkness chases him. These strange things were happening in his life, and he is basically being like "Why?" So yeah, it's just Jonathan being real and raw. That's how that song came about.
When and how did you get into acting? I was around 26 and sort of flailing around, not sure what I wanted to do. I had a job that wasn't a dead-end, but the road was headed in a weird direction. I had always harboured secret dreams about becoming an actor but hadn't told anyone because I knew it was a hard life and I thought it sounded pretentious. Fortunately, things got bad enough in my personal life that I said "f*ck it" and started taking improv classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade. That lead to being seen by an agent, and that lead to booking commercials.
Who were your major influences as an actor growing up, and why? I've always liked actors who show you a lot without overdoing it. Subtle performances like the more understated work of Bill Murray, or Bob Balaban. Guys who could make you laugh by just raising an eyebrow. It's not that I don't appreciate someone like Jim Carrey, I just really enjoyed the actors who played it small. My dramatic guys were always people like Pacino in the first Godfather. John Cazale in Dog Day Afternoon or Jeff Bridges in absolutely anything.
What was your first major role as an actor, and what do you remember the most about this experience? The one that gave me a real foothold was probably an NBC sitcom called AUSA, which aired for maybe 2 months, but it was about a yearsâ€™ worth of work. I learned a ton because we shot two versions of the pilot one single cam (like a film) and one multi-cam (in front of an audience) and it was a crash course in TV acting.
So what attracted you to the role of Kripke in The Big Bang Theory? Well, I wasn't too picky at the time, please understand that. It wasn't like I was turning any auditions down. But I liked Kripke because he was a nerd bully and I hadn't seen that represented before.
What do you remember the most about your first day on set as Kripke in The Big Bang Theory? It was a very warm set. The cast was incredibly nice and welcoming. The thing I always remember is that I thought Johnny didn't like me because he was the only one who didn't hug me on my first day.
What was the most rewarding scene for you to do in your time as Kripke in The Big Bang Theory, and why? Hard to say. Obviously the basketball scene has a special place, but that whole run of scenes in The Cooper Kripke Inversion, where it's just Jim and me in the office sparring was really fun. Jim's a terrific actor and a great listener. That was a terrific week.
As the seasons went on, were there any ways in which you approached playing the character differently? Did it change for you at all over the years? Honestly? Not really. Kripke doesn't really grow as a person - he starts as a jerk, and then his final moment in the entire series is when he crank calls Sheldon. I grew more confident as an actor, and perhaps I made bolder choices, but Kripke's gonna Kripke.
We must ask, what was the finale like to be a part of, and what do you remember the most from putting that episode together? It was just very bittersweet. There were some terrific jokes in that ending, but just knowing that I was not guaranteed to see any of these awesome people again was hard. Very hard.
With the show now finished, after an impressive 12 seasons, looking back on it, why do you think it related so well to so many viewers all across the globe? I think most shows would have taken a character like Sheldon and made him tertiary, just a constant target of ridicule and a punch line for the other cooler characters. Big Bang took Sheldon and made him a romantic lead. I think people really responded to that.
What do you think you learnt the most from playing Kripke? Is there something that you will take forward with you as an actor? That's a good question. I think when you play a character for 11 years - even sporadically - it could be very easy to rest on your laurels and not treat every scene like a new opportunity. But you watch the way Jim and Kaley expanded their characters and their commitment every year, and it's very inspiring. Keep pushing yourself. Don't get lazy.
Another one of your recent shows that we must mention is of course Speechless! Looking back on it, what did you enjoy the most about being a part of it, and how exciting was it to play Jimmy DiMeo? That was a dream job. At the time, I just wanted to book a pilot. Any pilot. That I booked a pilot was blessing enough. But then it went to series. And then it went for three seasons. And then it was critically acclaimed and then it represented a group of people who are not often represented on television. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and good God, was it funny.
Tough question time. Looking back on the show, which director was the most rewarding for you to work with, and why? We were blessed with really great directors. Obviously, Chris Gernon who directed our pilot set a great tone, but Bill Purple and Rob Cohen have amazing comedy chops and got great stuff out of us. I loved working with Claire Scanlon, too.
We read that you got the roles of The Bang Theory and Speechless the night before they both started filming! Can you tell us a bit about those experiences, and how you went about just diving straight into the deep end the next day? Well, the good news is that I had prepared for both auditions and went in with my lines 100% mesmerised. It was still pretty intense to go from being unemployed to being employed on something kind of big in the space of 24 hours, but this business will do that.
You've obviously worked on a lot of projects, so we must ask you, is there a particular project/part or film/TV show in your career that really deserves a shout out right now, and if so, which one and why? Well, because this is a British publication, I want to shout out series 2 of THE WRONG MANS, which I did with Mathew Baynton and James Corden. I got to play a sleazy drug lawyer who was equal parts funny and menacing. That was really rewarding. James had just been offered the Late Late Show job in the states, hadn't accepted it yet and asked me what I thought he should do. I'm proud to say I was one of the first people to stand up and say: "Not sure, man. It's really up to you."
What else can we expect to see from you as an actor in 2019? I'm writing a bunch. Also I'm in a decent sized movie that's coming out around Christmas, but I'm not able to say which one. Yet. Keep an eye out, I guess?
So, how and when did you first get into acting? When I was six years old I used to help out at the restaurant my family owned and managed in Arizona. I would do things like rolling silverware or taking the bread out to tables, just stuff to keep me busy and out of trouble. One day, some producers were out visiting the area on a location scout and were having lunch at the restaurant. After meeting me, they called my mom over and asked if she had ever thought about putting me in the business. Not long before this, I had mentioned to my mom that I wanted to be on TV, so they gave us some information on how to get started. We took a trip out to California a short while later after getting some headshots taken. The plan was to meet with some agents on the first day, go to Disneyland, and then go back home. One of the meetings went really well and the agency wanted to sign me. So my mom and I spent the next day looking for a furnished apartment where we could spend a month or so giving “the biz” a try. About two weeks later, I booked my first job, an Aunt Jemima syrup commercial, and not long after another commercial. Things kept growing from there, so a few months later, I finally got to take that trip to Disneyland, and we never moved back to Arizona.
Who were your major acting influences growing up, and why? I was most heavily influenced by the amazing actors I got to work with as a child, Howie Mandel, Craig T. Nelson, and of course, Robin Williams come to mind. Actors I wanted to work with or model my career after include Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey. I admired their versatility and their ability to portray depth in comedic or dramatic roles.
What was your first major acting project, and what do you remember the most from this experience? My first feature film was a movie called Cartel. I remember being amazed at just how many people it took to make the movie, all the different jobs, and the scope of the work behind the scenes.
So how did you get involved with Jumanji by playing Peter Shepherd, and what do you remember the most from your first day on set? The interview process for Jumanji started similarly to any other role or project I would have auditioned for at that time. I got a fax with a brief description of the character along with 4-5 pages (probably 2-3 scenes) from the script that I would memorise and practice before going to some nondescript office somewhere in Hollywood. It wasn’t until the second, maybe even third, call that I became aware that the project was something much more significant than I had ever had a chance to be a part of before that. That was the day when I got to meet the producers and see the concept art and storyboards, models of the sets, and all the fantastic visuals that would be a part of the project. The first day of shooting was actually on location in Keene, New Hampshire. This small town in New England was the home of the fictional town of Branford. The most memorable thing for me was the surprising number of people who came out to watch the setup and filming. We had closed down most of their city center for shooting and filled their main street with trucks and gear. It was fascinating for everyone on both sides of the barricades.
We must ask, if possible, can you tell us about what you remember working with the legendary Robin Williams, and maybe how he helped shape the film? I have so many memories from working on Jumanji, and many of them involve the incredible Robin Williams. I remember him as being very kind, generous, and of course, funny. Some of the best memories involve the last takes of a given scene. This was when Robin was given permission to just riff on the scene and say whatever he felt, usually resulting in the majority of the cast and crew laughing too hard to keep rolling. There were many times where something from the improv would be so good we’d go back and rerun the scene with the new line added.
He just finished working on Mrs. Doubtfire around that time, so did he have any advice for the make up process when you yourself were a monkey in Jumanji? Robin had a lot of good advice on how to distract myself from the boredom of the three and a half-hour process. He would sometimes even step into the makeup trailer during the application process and provide some of that distraction himself, although he’d usually leave fairly quickly because productivity doesn’t always follow comedy.
Looking back on it, why do you think Jumanji has gone on to become such a hit? Jumanji was one of those rare movies that appealed to almost any audience demographic. There was something for kids, teens, and adults. It was funny, and a little scary, it was a wonderful escape from reality, which is all most moviegoers are looking for. The movie was filled with light moments that taught us little bits of understanding and morality without feeling like any message or agenda being pushed.
What was The Borrowers like to work on? The Borrowers was a very different experience for me. It was the first project I had done after I had grown in maturity enough to understand that it was a job, and more than just something fun that I was lucky enough to do. I enjoyed working with all of the talented crew, and was thankful for the opportunity to spend nearly 6 months in London. The effects were really incredible.There was a separate soundstage for the human sets and the Borrower sets. Everything on the Borrower side was built at sixteen times its normal size to allow for seamless shots and continuity between the two. For some of the sequences the Borrowers were shot against blue screens to allow them to be added into the human world. It was a very memorable experience to walk around on those sets.
Can you tell us about what Beauty and the Beast was like to work on, and how does voice acting compare for you to anything else you've done? Working on Beauty and the Beast was a dreamlike experience. I was so excited to get to record something fun! I was a good reader even at the age of six, so most of my first line deliveries were just my first impression of the emotion. I would usually say each line three times with slightly different emotion or emphasis. Then I would get notes and make changes for the next set of three. I was a bit too young to realise just how important it was to be a part of a Disney animated film. It still amazes me to realise just how much of an effect the film, and Chip, has had on generations of kids. I’ve always really enjoyed voice acting, it allows for more character freedom than traditional acting, the focus is on the most detailed pieces of the delivery and offers a very different challenge.
Leading on from that, in the last decade you've gone on to do a lot more voice acting work! Which project would you say you've enjoyed working on the most, and why? Picking a favourite project is so hard! I have loved aspects of every project I’ve gotten to work on. Some of my favourite voice work to do is actually background voice work, like the work I did on Fast and the Furious, Pearl Harbor, and most recently Detective Pikachu. Many times this work is uncredited, It generally consists of creating the sounds of crowds and characters that are seen talking but no audio (or at least no useable audio) was recorded. It’s fun because it requires sharp thinking and improv skills, along with a variety of believable voice characters.
So, what would you say is the hardest part about being really famous from a young age? Growing up as an actor provided me with a very different experience than most kids. The positives far outweigh the negatives in my opinion. I learned early the value of hard work, professionalism, and ambition. I learned to trust myself, and the people who supported me, and I understood my emotions in a way most kids my age did not. There were things I “missed out” on, like school events, boy scouts, or sports, but it also afforded me opportunities to see and do things that were so incredible I will never forget them, and wouldn't give them up for anything. The pressure of being notable, along with the time away to be involved in bigger projects, made having close friends a bit more challenging, and changed the way I viewed a lot of my interpersonal relationships. The biggest challenge that came from the successes was the pressure to continue achieving, and the fear that the next big project may not come. I think that was the main reason I stepped away from acting in my late teens. To make sure that I was in it for the right reasons, that I was passionate about acting not continuing out of fear of change.
You took a bit of a break from acting. So can you tell us about what the process was like of coming back into that world again? I had taken my break at a point where the momentum of my career could have carried me over the gap from child actor to adulthood. So I started in almost the same place as everyone else my age, if not at a bit of a disadvantage.There is a definite stigma in the industry about child actors, and their inability to make the leap into adult acting. That expectation made getting the wheels rolling again very difficult. I am still very much in the development phase of my adult career, and look forward to being able to talk with more confidence about the rewards of getting more and more work. For now, I can say that working both in front of and behind the camera is more rewarding than ever. I’m approaching it as the direction for my life and enjoying it in new ways.
What can you tell us about one of your latest projects Deacon (which you produced as well)? I’m very proud of Deacon. The film was a passion project produced alongside my good friend Tyler Cole, with very little budget. I’ve always loved the horror genre and Deacon fits into it well. It’s a suspenseful thriller, with elements of crime drama, the supernatural, and obviously some religion. We were inspired by films like Seven, The Exorcist”, and End of Days. We are hoping to get some distribution developed soon so more people can experience it.
Is there something from the last decade that we've missed that you'd like to really give a shout out to right now? If so, which project and why? I have a few things that I’m involved in and especially proud of, but they aren’t really visible in the media. For the last few years I’ve been involved behind the scenes of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. It’s one of the largest independent live theatre festivals in the world and I’m happy to say that it’s been reinvigorating the live theatre community in Hollywood and Los Angeles in general. It has helped me embrace my own creativity and connect with some incredibly talented people. Another one of the projects I’ve been involved in lately is Purple Owl Productions a theatrical production and event company my partner Bella Luna and I are developing.
What else can we expect to see from you as an actor in 2019? My acting has been more focused on live theatre performance recently. I am working on several shows at the moment including some comedic work and magic routines that will be presented at the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, a Halloween themed event running weekends in September and October.
How and when did you first get into acting? Personally, I never thought I would be an actorâ€Ž, I had no idea what an actor did. It was after I saw Gary Oldman portray classical music composer Beethoven in Immortal Beloved that I started wondering what and how does an actor do what they do. Gary Oldman's work in that film was extraordinary!! His work through the years has inspired me as an artist. Later on, after discovering the works of such playwrights as Anton Chekhov, Clifford Odets, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and David Mamet, my decision to become an actor was fully realised.
Who were your major acting influences growing up, and why? Marlon Brandon, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Deniro, Sean Penn and of course Gary Oldman. I like actors who take risks! Actors who are messy, raw and flawed.
What was your first major acting project, and what do you remember the most from this experience? I remember being cast in one of the lead roles in the Stephen Adly Guirgis play Our Lady Of 121st Street back in 2007 here in LA! I was so into that role and that play. I love Stephen's voice as a writer, his musicality! It was so much fun to be in that. It was messy, raw, emotional and funny all at the same time.
How did you get involved with Red Dead Redemption, and what do you remember the most from working on this game? The video game industry is huge! And that game, Red Dead Redemption was one of the first revolutionary games taking the whole industry forward. It was cool being part of it, it was a big hit! I would like to do more of that. People still come up to me and ask me about Javier Escuella. Crazy!!
Looking back, why do you think that these games went on to be such a worldwide success? These games have done a terrific job of making it feel and seem like a Hollywood movie! The vibe and quality of the game is off the charts. â€ŽUsing the actor's bodies and movements and not just their voices has made a big difference in these games and the whole gaming industry.
How did you get involved with Shades of Blue and what was it like to work alongside Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta? Shades of Blue was such an awesome experience and a bad ass show that should had gone on for years!!! I loved working with the cast, especially the one and only Jennifer Lopez. We had such great chemistry onset and worked well together. People loved it! The writing was terrific and personally as an actor I haven't had that much fun since playing Miguel Zepeda. I would have done it for years!!!
So, what attracted you to the part of Michael in Mayans M.C.? The world of a "motorcycle club" member and the whole vibe of the show was interesting to me. I thought it was a super sexy show and concept so I jumped at the opportunity to play Michael "Riz" Ariza.
What do you remember the most from your first day working on the show? What I remember the most from the first day of shooting Mayans M.C. â€Žis the sound of the bikes - the unmistakable rumbling from the engines of our Harley's!
Looking back, what's been the most rewarding episode for you to work on, and why? Episode 8 of season 2 has been and will be the most memorable. You will soon find out why!!
For those that might of not seen the show just yet, what can you tell us about it, and how would you say it differs to Sons of Anarchy? Mayans M.C. is still a motorcycle club just as SOA was! The world is the same, though the characters have changedâ€Ž. It is a group of disenfranchised individuals who don't feel part of society so they must make their own rules in order to navigate the world.
What project of yours would you really like to give a shout out to right now, and why? You touched on that earlier....Shades Of Blue! What a great role and an awesome show that I wish we could had done for years! Also TNT's new incarnation of Dallas - I had a lot of fun working on that show, especially when Judith Light and I were on screen. I also do a lot of stage work which I think is fundamental for an actor and I've had some good roles thus far such as Constantine in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, Cheche in Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Anna In The Tropics and others.
What else can we expect to see from you as an actor in 2019? With Mayans M.C., my schedule is pretty much full. So as of now I do not have time to do other projects until we wrap season 2. Then I will probably do another play here in LA! Or perhaps a cool Indie film? I hope to one day work on stage in London, If the people over there will have me. The boxset of Mayans M.C. Series 1 is available on BBC iPlayer and Series 2 will be coming soon to BBC Two.
ROAM - Smile Wide ‘Better In Than Out’ has a frantic guitar riff that instantly captures the attention of the listener. The instruments dull a little on the verses, allowing the vocals to take full control, however, the singalong chorus will get heads nodding instantly. It’s a fun, fast paced song that draws you in. ‘I Don’t Think I Live There Anymore’ starts off sounding like ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, but then differentiates itself as it kicks in. Unfortunately, it sounds a lot like the previous song, and ultimately feels like a recycled B-side. Luckily, things pick up with ‘LOUD’ as gang vocals spell out the title. The vocals and instruments feel like a completely different approach, and the chorus is like an anthem. The guitar solo fits in perfectly after the chorus, and the drum solo before the chorus feels like an exciting build up! Other highlights include the rocky ‘The Fire On The Ceiling’, and the funky guitar riff that accompanies the song ‘Piranha’ is catchy enough to get the chorus stuck in your head. To conclude, ‘Toy Box’ and ‘Turn’ are very different in terms of sound, with ‘Toy Box’ being a fast paced clip that feels and sounds rushed, and ‘Turn’ being a laidback and good end to the album, BUT it is also very different to what we’ve heard so far. ROAM’s new album will have heads nodding and people singing along in no time. KB
Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind Five years on from ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’, and twenty years on from THAT selftitled album that launched them into the public consciousness, Slipknot's sixth studio album, ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ has arrived. The first album to feature Jay Weinberg and Alessandro "V Man" Ventura as full members, as well as their mysterious new percussionist, the Slipknot sound has definitely evolved, and it's a big success for the most part. Following the first of several interludes (which have a varying degree of effectiveness), the album proper launches in the best possible way with ‘Unsainted’. One of the best songs Slipknot have ever put together, everything about it is on point from the mammoth chorus to the metronomic percussion. It's already a huge favourite of the maggot faithful and it’s a no brainer to understand why. ‘Birth Of The Cruel’ is a much darker affair that provides more focus to Sid Wilson and Craig Jones' contributions, with scratching, samples and loops. Taking more focus in a more mid-paced, sinister offering. ‘Nero Forte’ is another early stand out on ‘We Are Not Your Kind’. From the moment Corey snarls "Watch this!", the gallop of the main riff and Jay Weinberg's thunderous drumming take the listener along for a violently enjoyable ride. The chorus may not sit well with all listeners, as there are some interesting vocal effects at work allowing Corey to essentially duet with himself. This is one example of an experiment which they pull off with aplomb, something that happens throughout the album. Not all the tracks on the album will be instant hits like ‘Unsainted’. ‘Critical Darling’ and ‘Spiders’ have layers to them that will take multiple listens to fully appreciate. The former has some of Corey's best vocals on the album and a wonderful combined guitar / bass riff while the latter is one of the most "out there" songs in the entire Slipknot catalogue. It proves Slipknot don't have to be heavy to still have their ability to unsettle a listener, in this case a piano and some minimalist percussion do the job very effectively. While sometimes they take the experimental route on ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, there's still plenty of balls-to-the-wall heaviness. ‘Orphan’ is one of the heaviest Slipknot songs ever, with its utterly relentless pace in the verses, some very dark lyrical content and Corey sounding truly angry in ways he hasn't perhaps since ‘Iowa’. ‘Solway Firth’ features multiple excellent riffs and extensive sampling combining to create a brooding, fitting conclusion to what is probably the darkest Slipknot release since the first two. They've always evolved their sound and ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ has been a very effective next step in this process. While it doesn't always get it totally right, it is a album of great quality and one that is going to see Slipknot continue to sit atop the metal world (having scored number ones in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic with it) for many a year to come. JG
Killswitch Engage – Atonement American metalcore heavyweights are back with eighth album ‘Atonement’ which was a troubling time for the band as vocalist Jesse Leach had to undergo vocal surgery during the recording. However, they came out triumphantly on the other side and the album reflects this perseverance with a diverse offering. The belligerent first single ‘Unleashed’ kicks things off and is infectiously catchy and powerful making for a killer way to start. It leaves you hungry for more… ‘The Signal Fire’ follows and what a special moment for fans as it features a guest collaboration from former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones. It is a blistering dominant track, with Howard offering brilliant melodic clean vocals. Their vocals work well together, and alongside a slick guitar solo this is bound to be a fan favourite. ‘Us Against The World’ opens on an epic guitar blazing intro and maintains the high quality throughout. The next guest to feature is Chuck Billy of Testament in one of the heaviest offerings ‘The Crownless King’ which is very thrash inspired and will have you head banging. ‘I Am Broken Too’ is extremely melodic and one of the most memorable and soaring tracks. It adds more depth with a stripped back and vulnerable side to the band which is well delivered. ‘Take Control’ is another belter and it is very catchy with memorable guitar work. This will go down well in the live setting. ‘I Can’t Be The Only One’ is a non-stop rampaging and seriously melodic slice which is ambient and dynamic throughout. Closer ‘Bite The Hand That Feeds’ is a brutal and menacing note that ends things with a crushing blow. ‘Atonement’ is a stunning album from start to finish with great guest collaborations, especially to have the current and former singer together. You can listen to ‘Atonement’ all the way through and want to listen to it again straight away. This is a must listen for any metal fan and it is a great to see that they have overcame their difficult circumstances and used that as ammo to make some of their best material yet. CL
Sleeping With Sirens - How It Feels To Be Lost Sleeping With Sirens are back with their sixth album ‘How It Feels To Be Lost’ which is their first release through Sumerian Records. It marks a return to their post-hardcore roots. First single ‘Leave It All Behind’ is a great opening to pull you in being seriously catchy and displaying their characteristic sound. ‘Never Enough’ follows and features Benji Madden from Good Charlotte, it is a ambient, vibrant and melodic song. Benji’s section works well and he helps to keep it dynamic and diverse. Title track and most recent single ‘How It Feels To Be Lost’ opens on a sorrowful intro and is generally more sombre and more stripped back. It is nice to hear Kellin Quinn’s softer vocals to break things up but it still features harsher vocals in the hard hitting chorus at times to add extra impact, making it a well-rounded track. ‘Agree To Disagree’ is heavy from the off and is very bouncy and energetic. It offers something a bit different. ‘Ghost’ again sees their softer side in the verses at least, and is a haunting ambient track. ‘Break Me Down’ picks things up again and is one of the best songs featured as it goes back to their heavier hardcore roots with great screams. It is bound to be a fan favourite with its anthemic vibe. Strangely ‘Another Nightmare’ is one of the most “mainstream” sounding songs to follow, although it features explicit language it has a heavy electro influence. ‘Dying To Believe’ is heartfelt with vulnerable vocals that highlight some of Kellin’s best work yet. Although it is slower it still possesses an anthemic feel which makes it a good one to end on. It incorporates the best of both worlds for the band’s sound. They never fail to deliver melodic alternative anthems and this new release is no exception. Plus it is good to see the return of their heavier side which should please older fans especially. This is a vibrant, powerful and anthemic album which remains exciting and dynamic throughout. CL
Meg & Dia - Happysad Meg & Dia have returned with ‘Happysad’ their first album since the band broke up in 2012. This reunion came as a surprise to many as when they broke up the sisters seemingly didn’t want anything more to do with each other. but 7 years down the line it seems time truly does mend all wounds. Perhaps this new collaboration even helped get them back on the right track. Opening with ‘American Spirit’ you can hear the heart right away from Meg & Dia as their soft vocals take us through a journey full of truths, it’s done so well that it never becomes overbearing as lyrics of this nature often do. When you also add to that the nice sounding bass line with some stunning synth sounds you start to get a real 80s vibe. It combines together really well from an opening track that gives the listener a taste of what’s to come on this album. ‘Koala’ is really catchy, even though it is rather repetitive. It does its job and certainly is one to remember. This music is very playful in its sound as well as some of the vocal parts and it comes together well to deliver a solid track. Up next, ‘Lit Match’ is definitely more on the “Sad” side of the album. It’s got a very haunting sound, and it addresses feeling emotionally exhausted. This a complete 180 on the tone of the album so far, but it feels like an important change of pace. Again, the soft spoken vocals and the stand out harmonies showcase the hard work of both singers in making this comeback a success. ‘Better at Being Young’ is a snapshot lament of days long gone by; it builds itself up to a one line finish of “I was better at being young”. Listening to the album up to this point got me thinking that Meg & Dia are not trying to have a big funfair reunion and be in the spotlight, they’re baring their souls and every lyric they have for everyone to hear and they do it in such an effective way that you can’t help but be captivated. The final track ‘Dear Heart’ is where the duo showcase their true vocal power with the strongest lyrics on the record. With just an acoustic guitar as backing they ask their hearts for guidance and answers, wondering if they can go back to the beginning, and where they should go next. A question we all want to know the answer to after listening to ‘Happysad’! Overall Meg & Dia have clearly used the hiatus to focus on themselves as individuals, and also deal with the issues between them. They’ve come back stronger than when they left us, and they’ve given us an album that’s modern and exciting. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come. LS
Frank Turner – No Man’s Land ‘No Man's Land’ is the eighth studio effort by English singer-songwriter Frank Turner, released through Xtra Mile Recordings. It is a concept album with songs about women from history, often with connections to music and consists of thirteen songs. It highlights the interesting lives of women such as Byzantine princess Kassiani, Huda Sha'arawi, Nannie Doss, Nica Rothschild, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jinny Bigham, Dora Hand and the CPR training manikin Resusci Anne. Opener ‘Jinny Bingham’s Ghost’ certainly captures your attention and draws you in, being very jaunty with a gypsy folk vibe. Single ‘Sister Rosetta’ is more sombre and chilled back than the upbeat start but still packs a punch. ‘I Believed You William Blake’ shows off some of Frank’s best vocals and is very well composed with a haunting, yet beautiful sound. This album offers up a lot of different sounds and diversity with the quirky and sweet ‘A Perfect Wife’ asserting this more so. ‘Rosemary Jane’ is about his mum and is a very sincere and beautiful moment. It expresses his gratitude in a very heartfelt way. Frank adapts his style and sound to help portray the women and their era in a way that is well structured and clever, making for an interesting and varied collection of songs that are very enjoyable to listen to. It takes you on a historical and musical journey. CL
Press Club – Wasted Energy Stop me if you’ve read this one before: band releases debut album, and then a scant few months’ later releases album number two. Well, that’s exactly what Australian band Press Club have done. The new album ‘Wasted Energy’ is the follow up to debut album ‘Late teens’. Will it be just as good as the debut or have they done too much too soon? Let’s find out. ‘Separate Houses’ opens at quite a brisk pace with frontwoman Natalie Foster rattling through verse and chorus with a lot of emotion and sincerity put into the lyrics. Things slow down about midway through as she repeats the line of “I keep on pretending that I am getting better” to see it through to its conclusion. ‘Dead or Dying’ is a short piece but it packs quite a punch for being less than two and a half minutes in duration. Again, you can hear how much emotion Natalie puts into the vocals, with the band doing an admirable job on the music to deliver something amazing and memorable. Another track that is very much in-your-face full force punk, which I personally love, is ‘New Year’s Eve’. Its power and rawness make it a really good listen and one you will have on repeat. The album has two singles from it that have been released so far, and the first of those, ‘Thinking About You’, depicts an almost stalker like situation and what effect that experience can have on the victim, creating a somewhat disturbing listen that hits real close to home for its relatability. ‘Obsessing’ is for me, the outstanding moment on this album. It's more relaxed than its predecessors but it’s still got some pace to it, and its ebbs and flows are timed so well as its drives its way towards its climactic ending. The music may be stylistically, like I said, more relaxed, but the lyrics have that ring of truth to them, and become something very powerful as Natalie delivers them in her unique way. There’s a lot of variety here in terms of sound, from the fast paced punk style of tracks like ‘Chosen Ones’ to the much slower style of ‘Same Mistakes’. The band display a good skill and vary their range, dipping their toes into several genres. Natalie’s vocal work never wavers and she delivers performance after fantastic performance. ‘Wasted Energy’ is an outstanding follow up to ‘Late Teens’. Both of these albums now give them a solid platform to go out on tour and start drawing in a much broader fan base. It’s the band showing how far they have come in a very short space of time with a developing style and powerful lyrics. It shows how much time, effort and energy they have put in and it has not been wasted. LS
Wage War - Pressure One of the first things I noticed about the album had nothing to do with the music itself, it was the album title and cover. The title of the album is ‘Pressure’ and the cover has a diamond on it. We all know that diamonds are formed due to pressure, so there is that! But also I believe there is a deeper meaning here. It could mean that the band felt the pressure to craft a good album. It could also have to do with the mental state of the band with song titles like, ‘Who I am’, ‘Prison’, ‘Me Against Myself’, and ‘Low’ potentially indicating that. ‘Pressure’ kicks off with the banger ‘Who I Am’. I'm a fan of a good opener and this is just that. I also like the title, if you are new to the band, this serves as a time to let you know, who they are. It's very in your face. It has the “chuggy” parts that people love these days and it also has some sweet singing clean vocals. A very solid opener. Another standout is ‘Grave’. This has “radio hit” written all over it. The vocals of Briton Bond are at the forefront here and at times it has a pop feel. As a matter of fact, the entire song is a bit more poppy, which is why this could be a “radio hit”. It's accessible. But then on ‘Ghost’ we get the Wage War most know, and it makes you want to mosh like no one is looking. We also get a killer guitar solo. One of the aspects that I like about the album is that it has a good mix of songs, half are harder and the other half not so much. So you get an awesome variety here and it works for them. Wage War have not given in to "Pressure" and have instead crafted a really great album. RC
The Gospel Youth – Thoughtless The Gospel Youth grace us with their presence once again this time in the form of a new EP titled ‘Thoughtless’. This EP marks the first music that the band has put out since the departure of Sam Little in 2018, the former vocalist being replaced with new frontman Nick Nowak. Gospel Youth open things up in a typically loud and boisterous fashion with a very catchy song, ‘Talk’; with the new frontman pulling no punches whatsoever. He makes somewhat of a statement as he (along with the rest of the band) give us an idea of what they have been working on since we last heard from them, and if this is a sample of what’s to come then their fans are really going to dig their new if somewhat different sound. ‘A Lie Never Lives To Be Old’ is another part where Nick gets to showcase what he can do as a frontman and once again he does not disappoint. The sound the band produces match the new frontman surprisingly well, Nick’s vocals give them a chance to try new things and yet the feel you get from listening to this track is that the new things never feel out of place or that they misjudged themselves with putting it on record. All the songs on the EP link flawlessly together so that once you start you can't bring yourself to stop as each one comes at you one after the other. It's very clever writing that keeps the listener engaged for the whole ride. The stand out track of the EP, ‘Afloat’, comes next. It’s very much got a pop-punk vibe to it; it’s nice to hear some old school Gospel Youth mixed in with the newer music. The song itself is your standard pop-punk anthem about doing everything to fit in and becoming comfortable with who you are as a human. They capture this so well with the lyrics “I’ve been breaking all of my bones just to fit in.'' This song will appeal to the bands’ long-time fans, and I think it would be interesting to see how this would go down live. They put so much emotion into it, and it has the trademark sound fans have come to associate with The Gospel Youth. They possess the power to make you feel several, sometimes contradictory feelings all at once, but you’re happy you’re alive once the song ends. ‘Throw Me’ and ‘Thoughtless’ are up next. ‘Throw Me’ is a very heavy sounding tune again, with Nick showing what a wide vocal range he possesses, and the rest of the band sound as on point here as maybe they ever did. The shift in tone and pace doesn’t take anything away from it or the EP, and it’s another stepping stone with their new direction. ‘Thoughtless’, having been out for a while is a solid way to end the EP as fans have already come to like it quite a lot. They’ve entered a new phase in their careers, and it’s brilliant. LS
TheCityIsOurs - Low ‘Casket’ hits hard in a way that seems to be a trend amongst new age metalcore - and it is nothing short of an explosion in your ears. This track is surely made for successful live performances. There is nothing about it that isn’t a crowd pleaser and it makes you want to sing along, jump around, scream, and throw your head around like the fourteen year old inside of you that won’t get whip lash. ‘Veins’ slows it down just a touch through the intro, and uses a swelling through the chorus to build progression. After ‘Casket’, I think it was very smart to put something like this after which has more of a tension building element versus a hard hitting slammer. ‘Here At All’ strips down to bare bones, and uses a muted instrumental style against raw vocals before a swelling, moving chorus. It gives genuine lyrics and uses screams against singing to express this. It is really one of the highlights for me on this album and encompasses the talents of these guys through and through. TheCityIsOurs really shine here and they have captured a variety of styles through their hard hitting slammers, crowd pleasers, and intense tokens. An absolute round of applause. LD
Crobot - Motherbrain A week ago if you would have asked me if I ever listened to Crobot, it would have been a very quick no. Ask me that now and it's a very quick yes. And not because I am reviewing it but because they are outstanding. As the kids say these days, I have been sleeping on this band. From the first track, ‘Burn’ I was a fan. There is something about rock bands that have this dirty, smoky, loud feel to them that pulls me in. If someone had used those words to describe them to me before this album, I would have listened to them years ago. With ‘Burn’ you also right away get a taste of their influences, as two of their biggest are all over the track, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. The guitar playing is so smooth and hypnotizing. And don't even get me started on the vocals. Brandon Yeagley is a "Golden God". This man was born to be a rock star. His vocals are stellar and he very well might be one of my new favorite vocalists. He is that good and it shows throughout the album. ‘Drown’ has more of a modern rock feel and that's ok, it is still a really good song. At times it reminds me a lot of Stone Temple Pilots, A band that I adore, so for me to say that is huge. My favorite part is ‘Gasoline’. It's a good song but the reason it sticks out to me is it feels like it should be the entrance for someone in WWE. I can easily see Bautista walking out to it. I'm a fan of songs that make me imagine things, and this one does that, yes it's wrestling but it works. I mentioned the vocals earlier but another aspect that is a highlight is the guitar playing. Chris Bishop is one of the most underrated guitarists in music today and if you don't believe me, just listen to ‘The Hive’ or ‘After Life’, where his playing is at the forefront. This is a release that any hard rock fan will enjoy. It's without a doubt a throwback album but it still has a modern feel to it and I for one appreciate that. I don't want to hear Black Sabbath 2.0 or Led Zeppelin 2.0. Overall this is solid and it has made this guy a fan. I'm about to go listen to their back catalog now. RC
Knocked Loose - A Different Shade of Blue What can I say… if Knocked Loose’s new album, ‘A Different Shade of Blue’ were a person, I’m sure we’d be married with children by now. My love affair with this album began on a gloomy, terrible day, in which my task of brightening up was made much easier when accompanied by this album. ‘Belleville’ opens the album on a hot-rod, slamming riff. The opening lyrics set the tone of what’s to come - lyrics like “make me feel, I need you to make me feel” serve as a flying flag for the hardcore and metalcore community and the emotions that many of us wish to feel all too often. The versatility of vocals really shine here. ‘A Serpent’s Touch’ (with Emma Boster) brings out the more hardcore side of Knocked Loose with harder, faster, and more tempo driven verses and a slamming drop over the bridge. The breakdown of this track is rivalled by none I could practically feel my stomach twisting around itself with the groans and pulls of the guitar. By a long shot, ‘Forget Your Name’ (with Keith Buckley) became my favourite. The short, but hard hitting growl in the first thirty seconds strangely reminded me of a previous intro track, ‘Counting Worms’ which debuted on a barking dog sample. ‘Forget Your Name’ is the anthem of pain and anguish, the resolution to forget the name of those who have hurt you. ‘Misguided Son’ wraps up with a slower paced intro that pulls on the eerie and haunting tones of this album. The way this song progresses through the verse is pseudo-doom. Although not in that realm of heaviness, it is in that realm of tempo, and pull. The pre-chorus makes use of a deep groaning vocal style which is a stark contrast to the way that the chorus proceeds with a quick tempo flip and a significantly higher pitched vocal style. Despite this contrast, the track just simply works. I am always in awe of Knocked Loose, and their seemingly flawless way of combining both metalcore with hardcore into one perfectly wrapped figment of beauty. ‘A Different Shade of Blue’ is no different to me than those great pieces of art in a museum - admirable and timeless. LD
The Ashley Bean Band is a rock band hailing from Peoria Illinois. Over the years, The Ashley Bean Band has had influences that have molded their career into what it is today. Cathy Reynolds, four time CIA Gospel Artist of the Year, Mike Isenberg of the International acclaimed family band, The Jets, back-up musician, Rusty Hall, and John Coulter, Marshall Tuckerâ€™s sound engineer, Journey, and Diana Meltzer founder of Seether, Evanescence, and Creed have helped direct this young energized rock band. The Band has also been featured in several magazines. Their music has been compared to Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, as well as Alice In Chains and Nirvana, what a combo of musical innovators without compromise to follow trends but rather create them. The Band would say it is Classical meets Rock. All of the lyrics and music are Ashley's original creativity, a style of her own. All of the music is heartfelt and unique. But I would say, her voice style and genre is distinct, raw and gives her music an incredible commercial but almost underground sound which is at the same time timeless. Not pretty and pink, but black on black. Facebook.com/ashley21bean / Twitter.com/christinabean73 / Instagram.com/ashleybeanband / Ashleybeanband.net
A fitting name for a band that compose story-telling music. The band were established in 2015 under the name of Fragmented and changed their name shortly after to Black Water, having discovered a world of bands with the same name, the band decided to rebrand themselves in January 2019 to Storylande. You just need to listen to their latest single ‘Storm Born’ to realise their vision.The band consists of: June – Vocals, Mike – Guitars, Chris – Bass/Keys and Richie – Drums. After drummer Richie joined in December 2018 and Chris was reintroduced back into the fold (after a short break), the band started work on their 3rd studio album ‘Secret Journey’, which is due for release in the autumn of 2019. ‘Secret Journey’ is quite different from their 1st album ‘Fragmented’, which had wide contrasts of heavy rock to folk songs. Their 2nd album ‘Diffraction’ released September 2017, saw the band moving in a more powered rock and melodic feel. With ‘Secret Journey’ they have flourished creatively and songs such as ‘Storm Born’ are super heavy but then there is the delicate side too, with a touch of magic added to June’s voice in the song ‘Arca Lepidus’, another story-telling song and first cowrite between June and Chris. Oh and don’t let the title throw you, the song is in English. There is a lot to absorb from ‘Secret Journey’, from delicate piano work to rocking & smooth guitars, enhancing drum patterns, and grooving baselines, all enriched with diverse vocals. The band gig regularly in venues and festivals around England and Wales and have even been as far north as Aberdeen. They are looking to get involved with larger festivals in 2020 and deliver their music to a much wider audience. The album will be available from all online retailers, Amazon, ITunes etc Also from the bands website, where their back catalogue can be found https://storylande.bandcamp.com And if you are fortunate enough to catch them live, you can of course, purchase a signed copy from them direct.
Feeder - Tallulah Welsh alternative rock band Feeder, have put out a lot of great albums within the time span of their career. The lyrical heavy hitters have released ‘Tallulah’ which debuted in August of 2019 and it is every bit as amazing as everyone was anticipating it would be. ‘Youth’ though only the starting track to ‘Tallulah’ perfectly sets the energy for the rest of the album. Standing out also as one of its best moments, it’s a great little end of summer track that has warmth, energy, and replay value. ‘Youth’ shows that the band even after all these years still have it and it is a comforting reminder that they are not going away any time soon. While it’s usually not likely that one track after the next become instant classics on an album, ‘Blue Sky Blue’ breaks that mold with its nostalgic guitar riffs that keep us deep within its summertime grasps. Lyrically like other tracks within ‘Tallulah’, it deeply resonates with the sense of blithe and optimism.
With ‘Fear Of Flying’ although it keeps its energetic summer vibes, the dark lyricism is certainly a stark contrast from the overall theme of ‘Tallulah’. It’s one of the reasons why it is a favourite of mine, as it’s not really noticeable until after the second or third listen. Overall, it shows that this band knows what they are doing when it comes to placement within an album. ‘Kyoto’ is again one of those surprise debuts, where one wishes that Feeder would make another heavier record at some point, as they show that they really do have the musical chops for it. Overall, each song is perfectly crafted with instrumental genius that takes us back to sun-drenched beach days and sitting on the roof of your car sunsets. It’s a sense of nostalgia that won’t leave you even after the album has ended, which only shows how great Feeder are at doing what they do best. SA
Sleep On It - Pride and Disaster Chicago based band Sleep On It have released another fantastic album ‘Pride and Disaster’ via Equal Vision Records. It’s been roughly two years since one of Chicago’s best and talented bands released something to get us ready for the fall weather, so it’s indeed perfect timing once more. From the beginning ‘Racing Towards a Red Light’ greets our ears with a grand energetic style proving that the band has a perfect mastery of their genre craft. Taking us back to an earlier era in pop-punk when it was at its peak in the early 2000s, the nostalgic feeling one gets from listening to this is perfect, and it shows what’s to come for the rest of ‘Pride and Disaster’. Moments like ‘Babe Ruth’ , ‘Under The Moment’, ‘After Tonight’, and ‘Take Me Back’ AND many others on this album show energy, guitar melodies, and lyrical prowess that the band had only scratched the surface of in their 2017 album ‘Overexposed’. Sleep On It have shown that they are willing to play around with instrumental sound and brilliantly written lyrical content to take their sound to the next level. ‘Pride and Disaster’ is an album that has shown growth and change in the best of ways and in such a short time from their last release. It’s an album that calls back to the golden years within the pop punk genre without giving up their instrumental and catchy lyrical identity they are so well known for. One only knows where this band will be within the next few years, but rest assured they will be well-known names within the pop-punk genre if they keep making album gems such as this one. SA
Acres – Lonely World It’s been well over two years since Acres brought us their first EP ‘In sickness & Health’, and now they have returned with their first full studio album, entitled ‘Lonely World’.The opening track is the piano sounds of ‘Deathbed’. It’s very atmospheric and haunting, but builds in pace nicely before it suddenly bursts into life with an almighty drum sound, before fading away again leading into ‘Medicine’. Lead man Ben Lumber’s vocals softly carry us through the track before he explodes into guttural screaming backed by the band putting everything they have into the music. The album’s first moment leaves one hell of an impression on your ears. With title track ‘Lonely World’ you once again feel the emotions in this song, the sadness, the feeling of loss and the pain that accompanies it. It all comes across as clear as day, particularly on the chorus, it really does dropkick you right in the feels. The mixture of normal and more intense vocals work surprisingly well. ‘Hurt’ follows on from this, emotions again here are clear and well conveyed by Ben Lumber and the rest of the band, but in particular the work of Konnor Bracher-Walsh on drums really does give that bit of edginess to it. The raw honesty and sincerity on display in the first half of the album is something to admire. The most recent single ‘Lullaby’ has a very dreamy feel to it, like ‘Deathbed’ it’s more relaxed and calm. It’s a nice listen that is the perfect kind of song to relax and de-stress to. The pop-esque sounds of ‘Sharpen Your Teeth’ are clearly a bit of an experiment, but it’s one the band pulls off very well. Once again the vocals are a stand out aspect, and despite the heavy emotion put into them the band again rise to match Ben Lumber’s vocals most impressively. This is an album that has clearly been a labour of love for Acres. The time and effort that must have gone into this is staggering for a debut. The band has used a wide range of genres on the album to create their own unique and beautiful style. The way they make each part work the way they want it to is incredible. They have created quite the platform for themselves to build on going forward, and this album is worth every minute you spend with it. Acres might well be a band that we’ll be talking about a lot more in 2020 and beyond. Watch this space. LS
Enter Shikari - Stop the Clocks (single) You can't ever be mad with Enter Shikari for putting out a new song you don't like. Their whole brand has been taking risks and reaping the rewards. They've always been able to leap the boundaries of the confinement of genres and stand on the precipice of things that shouldn't work but do, their latest offering ‘Stop the Clocks’ is another step to the unknown. It's not as if they've not wrestled with the radio friendly before, their first single from latest album ‘The Spark’ was the funky and fun ‘Live Outside’, an interesting way of looking at the anxiety of modern life and managing the constant noise in your brain. ‘Stop the Clocks’ goes one further and though we get a bit of frontman Rou Reynolds' trademark shouts for the most part it's a boppy pop song written to entice the listeners to dance. The chorus kicks in from the beginning and the earworm of “stop the clocks, I'm killing time” is one you'll be singing for days to come. Here I was thinking ‘Baby Shark’ was infectious. From the opening lines where Reynolds is backed up by almost operatic performances from the rest of the band it's clear to see that this is new territory. ‘Stop the Clocks’ is a rambunctious, enjoyable track that deserves its place in the sun. When it was released and #stoptheclocks was the top trend in the UK many were supportive. While others spouted “they used to be heavier”. Bands change and move on, they adapt their sound as they evolve. It's a natural progression and is needed to not become stagnant. Unfortunately we cannot “stop the clocks” and things change around us every day. Embrace it and enjoy it. RO
Off With Their Heads - Be Good Although Off With Their Heads hasn’t been a mainstay in my playlists for very long (embarrassingly so, I know), I am pleased to say that their newest album, ‘Be Good’ has secured their spot in the “Lia Davis Car Jams” for the next million years. ‘No Love’ opens with a textbook skate punk intro - fast, spicy, and upbeat. The vocals are a good mix of tonal, and are gritty enough that they don’t lose their old school punk texture. ‘Severe Errand’ has a slightly milder intro than most of the tracks, which I found appeasing. The overall tone of it is far less beat-down and has more of an upswinging quality which is a nice break. Some songs on this album I felt had the tendency to melt together, and this was in part due to intros that were fairly similar. The vocals are really the highlight of this album for me because, no matter what, Off With Their Heads always delivers on genuine, and authentic vocals that keep their promise to earthly notes - no whines and pitchy squeaks here. ‘Locking Eyes’ showcases this really well. It’s one of the longer tracks on the album, but remains just as captivating as some of the shorter and harder hitting ones. The vocals here hit highs and lows, mellows, and bellows, but never waver from the classic authentic feeling - it’s my favourite part of these guys. Overall, despite my slight complaint about the intros, this album is very well done. LD
Korn - The Nothing Korn’s latest release is a very freaky and dark album, sure it is their 13th album, with 13 tracks and released on Friday the 13th but on a more serious note this is their most emotionally heavy record and it is no surprise given the tragedy of Jonathan Davis’ wife passing last August, who died of an accidental drug overdose. With this album Davis really does channel his feelings. ‘The End Begins’ opens with bagpipes and hushed vocals from Jonathan Davis and strong beats, making a great signature Korn intro. The pained anguished noises/vocals from Davis set the scene and make it heart wrenching with Davis even openly crying. Single ‘Cold’ follows and is immensely melodic and crushing, being fast and consuming it is one of the heaviest moments on the record. ‘You’ll Never Find Me’ is very head bang worthy and ferocious with brutal harrowing vocals shouting “I’m Lost, you’ll never find me” and Davis’ signature croon. It sounds like he is genuinely breaking down at the end again giving up pure raw emotion. ‘The Darkness Is Revealing’ possesses a more upbeat melodic sound but towards the end looms back to the dark and breaks out in a fast section. ‘Idiosyncrasy’ is very catchy but hefty and likewise towards the end the anger and frustration oozes out with Davis screaming “God is making fun of me, he’s up there laughing, I can see.” Latest single ‘Can You Hear Me’ opens with eerie keyboard/piano sounds and gives something a bit different and slower, it is still strong but has less emphasis on heavy instrumentation. ‘This Loss’ as you can imagine is ridden with sorrow and sounds haunting. It features some of the best and most varied vocals from Davis, making it a must hear. Closing track ‘Surrender To Failure’ is ambient and atmospheric as it progresses, and it goes on to be quite tense. It ends on a great and emotive note which sums up the essence of this album. This is Korn’s most authentic and heart wrenching release yet. It captures despair, grief and anger, making it an extremely powerful album in terms of heavy forceful instrumentation, tear jerking lyrics and vocal delivery. This is a quintessential Korn release. CL
Ice Nine Kills - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham - 21/09/19 A sign of a good show is when the frontman doesn't need to ask for a circle pit or a wall of death. Rather lead singer, Spencer Charnas adorned with a Michael Myers mask and a knife slowly moves his arms apart and watches the crowd part like the red sea. The night had been a carnival of carnage with costumes, props and cameos. Ice Nine Kills put on a performance rather than a gig. It's quite an accomplishment that this tour sold out with no official support announced, it came however from the energetic Values. A Leeds band who were more than happy to be on the road. The lead singer runs on stage to applause and cheers and fires straight into their first song ‘Glass Houses’. Instantly this band has the audience completely on their side. Frontman Baker bounces around the stage like a wild animal and is very excited to be here. “From the bottom of our hearts we're so excited to be here!.” Though their set is short it's enough for this band to solidify themselves well with this audience. “We are Values” the lead singer says before breaking into the epic ‘Denounced’. You can tell there's no place they'd all rather be. Before their monstrous 'Conscience Cleared' Baker discusses mental health and how important it is to rapturous applause. Ending on the awesome ‘Lost Cause’ they pose for a photo before leaving having successfully warmed the crowd. Most bands would put on catchy songs to get their crowd ready for them, not Ice Nine Kills. They opt for a requiem of horror movie choruses, it built the atmosphere perfectly. As they break into their first song ‘American Nightmare’, lead singer Spencer brandishes a Freddy Krueger claw as he screams down the microphone, the crowd roared with him and moved like a violent sea.
Straight into the Christmas themed ‘Merry Axe-Mas’ and it was clear this was more of a spectacle than a gig. Each band member was dressed in something relating to classic movies, a lone red balloon and a chainsaw attached to a mic stand. It was amazing to behold. The theatrics didn't stop there. ‘Rocking the Boat’ based on Jaws, a shark ran on stage and harassed the band. ‘Stabbing in the Dark’ a woman ran across the stage and was grabbed and killed by the masked lead singer, the whole show was amazing to see. The band stuck mostly to their latest album ‘The Silver Scream’ but still bought out older songs such as ‘Nature of the Beast’ and ‘Me, Myself and Hyde’ which resonated well with this audience who did not stop moving. At no point were pits asked to open up they just did naturally, it was a testament to this band’s power and songs. As a slower song the beautiful ballad ‘Tess-Timony’ worked perfectly with this crowd. People sang the lyrics back with passion and as one of the only moments anything was verbally asked of them girls got on the shoulders of anyone nearby and sang their hearts out. The massive ‘Communion of the Cursed’ was the last track before the encore. “Who's ready for an exorcism?” Spencer shouted before bellowing the lyrics to this song based on the 1971 novel. The encore started with Mickey Mouse walking across the stage, touching the mic stands and admiring the floating red balloon. A little nudge to their ongoing feud with Disney. As the intro to ‘IT is the End’ came on the atmosphere in the crowd was electric. Knowing it was the last chance they'd get to go crazy they did just that. Spencer gazed upon his audience, staring through his clown mask he said “we are Ice Nine Kills and remember” as the audience sang the closing lyrics “We All Float Down Here.” This tour alone has proved that the Pennsylvania band are getting bigger and bigger. With their passion for theatrics and their energy on stage these guys will be back over here and selling out bigger venues in no time. They’re definitely going to need a bigger boat. RO
Muse - Birmingham Arena - 17/09/19 It's surreal to walk into an arena and think “this is a bit small” but when I'd seen the mighty Muse headline a stadium only months earlier that's exactly what went through my mind. As I entered I could hear the opening track from up and comers Nothing but Thieves, it's easy to see why these guys are supporting. The lead singer has clearly taken influence from Matt Bellamy judging from his vocals on opening track ‘Forever and Ever More’. As far as performances go I can't fault them, the harmonies are in check and fan favourites like ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Particles’ go down as well as they can in this crowd. However there's no effort to interact. Musically brilliant but opening for Muse you need more of a show and interaction. Onto the main event, the band had said previously this show will work better indoors and they weren't wrong. As Bellamy emerges from the ground surrounded by trumpet players he sports a makeshift infinity gauntlet, as he brings it up to the light above him it shoots lights in all different directions. That was for the opening song ‘Algorithm’ and from there it just got better and better. An alien comes on the screens behind them and begins the opening for ‘Psycho’ and the crowd in style give their “war cry” when they are prompted, but this sound seems to be the most they can do. I’ve never seen a Muse crowd so stationary. With a few people in the middle jumping, the rest of the crowd seems content to be still.
Of course old classics like ‘Plug in Baby’ and ‘Time is Running Out’ warrant a bigger response from the audience. The band are clearly aware of their hits as well. As Chris Wolstenholme takes to the centre stage in the middle of the audience all of the attention is on him as he breaks into the epic bassline for ‘Hysteria’. As the night draws to a close the band show off some of their best songs in an amazing mash up. ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, ‘Assassin’, ‘Reapers’, ‘The Handler’ and ‘New Born’ thrown together in one is a sight to behold. Especially when a giant and I mean GIANT alien is also protruding the stage. With what felt like a million giant balloons the epic trio obviously conclude with ‘Knights of Cydonia’. They thank Birmingham once again and announce they won’t be playing the UK again for a while. The Simulation Theory tour cycle is over for now, and for me this show is definitely best seen in an arena. The spectacle this band put on is always incredible and it’s always a privelege seeing them do what they do best. RO
Features interviews from the following: KoRn, Alter Bridge, Feeder, Frank Turner, Third Eye Blind, Sleeping With Sirens, Of Mice & Men, Opet...
Published on Sep 30, 2019
Features interviews from the following: KoRn, Alter Bridge, Feeder, Frank Turner, Third Eye Blind, Sleeping With Sirens, Of Mice & Men, Opet...