CKY’s Jess Margera: New Record “The Phoenix” is a Rebirth and Return to Writing ‘Timeless’ Songs [Interview]

CKY have released “The Phoenix,” their first album in eight years, with guitarist Chad Ginsburg taking over vocal and frontman duties for the group, joined by Jess Margera (drums) and Matt Deis (bass), and signaling a rebirth of the band that has held a cult following for two decades.

Rei Haycraft was able to catch up with drummer Jess Margera as they performed on the HIM “Bang and Whimper” Farewell Tour at The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC.

 

REI: Rei Haycraft here at the Fillmore Charlotte with the Jess from CKY! How’s your tour been thus far?
JESS: It’s been really good. Today’s a little rough. Like I was saying earlier, I’m kind of hungover, because Brent from Mastodon came to the Atlanta show last night, and that’s always a good time, but now… I’m paying the price.

REI: That’s awesome! Did he get up on stage with you guys for his solo?
JESS: No. We were talking about maybe doing the song that he’s on the record [“Days of Self-Destruction”] but he kind of just wanted to hang. He showed up a little late, and stuff, so we were like, alright just have a good time. We’ll party later.
REI: What was it like working with him on a song?
JESS: I actually was not there. We did the record and Rancho De La Luna … well we did most of the music there, and then Chad went back to his place in LA and cut the vocals, then he had to go to Henson Studios to record Brent’s solo, because, I guess Mastodon was mixing at Henson Studios, which is pretty funny. There’s probably an Elmo taping going on next door, or something.


REI: Eight years since the last CKY record. You’re probably getting a million questions about what is it like coming back after all that time and as a three-piece. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
JESS: I think it was really good to take a bunch of years off. You know, go mess around and do some solo projects, and stuff. Chad did a solo record. I did some stuff with the company band, which is a band I’m in with Neil Fallon from Clutch, and Jim Rota from Fireball, and Brad from Crew Manchu. So, that was fun. Yeah, after a few years, you get itchy and you’re like, “Alright, I gotta go back to home base. The band I’ve been in since high school.” It was pretty great getting back together with a new energy to the band, because we got pretty burnt out for a while.
REI: Do you feel like The Phoenix is a rebirth for CKY?
JESS: Absolutely. We kind of hit a wall, I guess 2009-ish, and we did that record Carver City, which it has its moment, but it’s kind of like CKY on steroids, and we just went completely over the top and focused more on creating a crazy sounding record versus writing super catchy songs. We really wanted to get back to writing good hooks, and catchy melodies, and timeless choruses. Like we used to do on Infiltrate, and stuff like that. More about the song, less about the, “Hey, look at me. I’m a good musician,” or whatever. You know musicians appreciated Carver City and stuff, because we went a little over the top with it, but at the end of the day, most people just want to hear a good song.


REI: The latest music video that came out was “Head for a Breakdown,” but that was tour footage, kind of compilation.
JESS: Yeah, that was kind of funny how that worked out. We were doing a UK tour, and then we were playing two nights at this place in London, and the Costa Sisters came out. We’d known them forever, and they were like, “Let’s film something.” We’re like, “What?” They’re like, “We’ll just follow you guys around London.” It worked out perfect, because we had a press day, and then pretty much everything got canceled because of the Arianna Grande thing [the Manchester bombing of 2016] happened right then, and so we just had all day to cruise around town. It’s kind of funny. I’ve been to London probably 20 times, but I’ve never done the whole thing. Like, went to see Parliament, London Bridge, and all that stuff.
REI: Did you see where Harry Potter was written?
JESS: I don’t think so. I went to a bunch of cool pubs, where William Shakespeare used to drink and stuff. I nerded out on a lot of stuff like that. I love old pubs. It’s funny, because right by my house in Pennsylvania there’s a 300-year-old pub that’s really cool, but over in England it’s like, “Yeah, this was built in 1210,” you’re like, “Holy shit, the Knights at the Roundtable and shit were drinking there probably.”
REI: It puts things in perspective for sure.
JESS: Yeah.


REI: Then your other music video for Replaceable, that’s a little bit more on the whacky fun side. What was that like to shoot?
JESS: Yeah, it was cool, but it was stressful because we had basically one day before we left for Warped Tour when we found a director and everything. It was like… we were just so busy putting the finishing touches on the album and they’re like, “You guys got to shoot a video for this,” and it’s like, “Well, we have Warped Tour coming up any day now,” so we just scrambled and found a director. Luckily, he was a somewhat local guy. We just made it happen. It all came together.
REI: What was the process like of shooting it with all of the actors, all the props and sets. Do you all have a big hand in that?
JESS: The director, Joffe, he hooked everything up and came up with the concept. We were going to try and maybe somewhat recreate that Phil Collins video where he just keeps firing directors and stuff, like, “hey, you’re replaceable.” We loosely based it on that, but made it our own as well.
REI: Did you keep the sock puppets?
JESS: I think, yeah, I think Chad has them maybe. Chad’s like really into puppets and … you know I’m sure he loved going to Henson to record Brent Hinds. He loves like the Muppets and stuff.
REI: That’s not where I thought that was going.
JESS: Yeah. I know. He came over to my house once. I have four kids. He was just armed with Muppet videos and stuff and was like, “Scarlotte, did you ever see Muppets Take Manhattan?”

REI: What song do you feel has been resonating the most with fans since the record came out?
JESS: I think “Head for a Breakdown.” That was my pick to go to radio with first. I guess a lot of other people saw it differently, so they went with “Replaceable,” but it’s funny, man, you could see as soon as we dropped that video it got … I think it’s up to 200,000 views already, or something. Only came out a week and a half ago. I’m stoked to see people really getting into that song, because probably one of my favorites off the record.


REI: What’s your favorite to play live?
JESS: I have a lot of fun with “Escape from Hellview.” We’re not doing it on this tour, but on our headliner shows, we wrote this whole intro before it kicks in. It’s super Stranger Things-y, John Carpenter-y. It’s fun. We only get a certain amount of time on this tour, so we kind of had to chop that, but yeah, that’s probably my favorite song to play live.

I kind of want to say The Phoenix is the album that should have came out after Infiltrate in my opinion. We kind of branched off on An Answer Can Be Found and Carver City, and tried new things. It was hit or miss. Some songs really clicked, and some were kind of whatever. Most people like the first two albums the most, and I feel like the new album is very on par with those. I feel like “Head for a Breakdown,” or something, could have came out with Infiltrate. It would have fit pretty well on that record in my opinion. It blends good, flows nice, and gets a great reaction every night.
REI: What do you hope that fans take away from this new album?
JESS: We really wanted to try something new, and we went to Rancho De La Luna in the desert, and Joshua Tree, because we’re huge fans of that whole scene, you know Kyuss and Queens of Stone Age, and Eagles of Death Metal, and stuff. The opportunity popped up to go there and record. I mean, it’s just such a one of a kind place. The amps. Everything about it. We were trying to make it sound like if Quincy Jones recorded an album at the place where Kyuss made Welcome to Sky Valley.
REI: I think I heard a quote where it said this album was “as if Quincy Jones had run amuck with CKY”?
JESS: Yeah. Somebody said that I was like, perfect. That’s completely accurate description of that because we love those bands … like stoner rock bands from the desert, and we like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson stuff, so try to blend that together somehow.


REI: What also would you like fans to know about the band or things for them to look forward to?
JESS: Well, we’re definitely going to keep touring and keep making records, much more faster pace than we have been. Yeah, those days are over of taken five years in between albums and stuff. We want to stay busy. We feel extremely fortunate that we still have a pretty impressive cult following after 20 years. Not every band can say that. We don’t take it for granted at all. It’s just really cool to come out here, and do tours with our friends. We’re going to UK with Skindred coming up. Really cool band that we’ve been friends with for a while. Now, we’re doing our own headlining tour in February and March. Yeah, it’s mainly just getting out there again, and touring, and letting people know we’re actually back for real this time.
REI: No more hiatus.
JESS: Yeah. Lots of apologizing. Damage repair or whatever. Half these clubs we’ve played it’s like, “Sorry about last time, man. I think we lit that couch on fire, or something backstage…. Sorry about that.” We’re not like that anymore. It’s been a lot of apologizing and repairing damaged relationships.
REI: In a good way, and giving people new music to boot.
JESS: Yeah.


REI: Do you have any last words of wisdom for fans back home?
JESS: Have a good time, all the time.
REI: Unless you’re burning couches.
JESS: Right. That’s a Viv Savage quote from Spinal Tap, of course—
REI: And, as a drummer it’s dangerous to quote Spinal Tap, because your own fate may hang in the balance.
JESS: I might implode on stage or something.
REI: Well, let’s hope that’s not the case, or else all of your promises of new records are going to go flat.
JESS: If I’m going to implode, it’ll probably be today, because I’m very hung over, but I just had a Hair of the Dog beer, and a bunch of coffee, so I feel a lot better now…. ’cause, this morning was rough.
REI: I’m sorry. [laughs] Well, thank you so much for taking time with us and have a fantastic set!
JESS: Absolutely. Right on. Thank you.

Long Live the Spirit of Tour Life — Exclusive Interview with A LIGHT DIVIDED

Interview by Rei Haycraft at The Milestone in Charlotte, NC.

We caught up with Winston-Salem, NC native rockers A LIGHT DIVIDED as they set out on the “Long Live The Flame Tour,” their ninth regional tour and their first run through the Mid-Atlantic to talk about tour life, their forthcoming album, and some of their best (and worst) tour memories!

Learn more about A Light Divided by following them on Facebook, Reverbnation, Spotify, YouTube, and at their official website at www.ALightDivided.com.

 

Interview with OF MICE & MEN at Louder Than Life 2017

Rei Haycraft spoke with OF MICE & MEN drummer Valentino Arteaga this year’s Louder Than Life festival about the band’s forthcoming album which will be OF MICE & MEN‘s first full-length release without vocalist Austin Carlile, who left the group due to his ongoing battle with Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. After Carlile’s departure, bassist Aaron Pauley stepped in on vocals.

“We’re always looking for that challenge,” Arteaga said of the band. “This one’s our fifth one, and we’re really excited. We’re so proud of it. We think it’s gonna show a good amount of growth.”

“There has been a lot of change, but, for us, like anybody, you’ve gotta roll with the punches and you’ve gotta create your own destiny, you’ve gotta do this. And so for us, we really wanted to channel that into our music and create the next chapter of OF MICE & MEN, to truly show what we’re about and what OF MICE & MEN is about — all the way back to referencing stuff from our first albums.

“Everything about OF MICE & MEN is a collective with everyone that we’ve ever encountered at our shows and everything, and everyone’s so important to us, and we try to really channel that into the music.”

According to ArteagaOF MICE & MEN recently shot a video for one of the tracks from the forthcoming album, and “it came out really, really awesome,” he said.

Valentino also talked about the OF MICE & MEN songwriting process, saying: “We write whenever. If an idea hits, with technology these days, we’re all pretty well faceted with our iPhones, with our Macbooks, with our instruments. There’s V-Drums, there’s little guitars that we have on the bus that we can plug into the computers and they sound like huge guitars.

“This is our life, so whether we’re on tour or we’re at home, it’s so difficult to try and get yourself into, ‘Okay, now I’m gonna sit down and do my homework,'” he explained. “It’s not like that. We try and do it as we go. And we wrote almost half our album on tour this last summer. Inspiration strikes whenever.”

OF MICE is always writing. We’ve already kind of started some new stuff. We just write and then we kind of put an album together with the best songs that we feel [we’ve come up with]. We had over forty [song ideas] for this album; there were so many. So it’s all a process. And we try and be so in tune with each other that we all know, ‘Yeah, we all love this one. Yeah, we all love this one.’ And then putting together the album becomes a little bit easier in that sense.”

An OF MICE & MEN documentary called “Unbreakable” will be released on Friday, October 13. The short film, which was directed by Johann Ramos, follows the band across multiple continents on their tour earlier this year.

Arteaga said: “That documents our summer playing festivals and going and playing small club shows overseas and just really reconnecting with our fans. For us, that’s so important, and our love for our fans and just music — not even just fans. Those are people that support us and support our vision and our dreams, not to mention music lovers.”

OF MICE & MEN in May surprise-released its second new song, “Back To Me”. Like “Unbreakable”, the new track was recorded with Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson (IN FLAMESALL THAT REMAINS), mixed by Grammy winner Chris Lord-Alge (DEFTONESMUSE) and mastered by Chris Athens (DRAKEOZZY OSBOURNE).

Interview with NEW YEARS DAY at Louder Than Life 2017

 

Rei Haycraft got a chance to catch up with New Years Day after their set at Louder Than Life in Louisville, KY about their time headlining Warped Tour, collaborations with other artists, their upcoming “Covers EP,” recording their upcoming album, and what’s left on their band bucket list!

For more information about New Years Day, including tour dates, upcoming releases, and more, visit them at facebook.com/nydrock

Interview with Pat Thetic of Anti-Flag at Warped Tour ’17

Interview video by Rei Haycraft and Divus Moss. Photography by Kevin McGee Photography.

Rei: Rei Haycraft here with Fuel the Scene Magazine, and I’m here with Pat from Anti-Flag. How are you doing today?

Pat: Great. I’m hot, it’s Warped Tour. We’re in North Carolina, so it is always hot here. It’s sunny, and hot, and shitty, so we’re going to rock. Warped has been a lot of fun. We are out here with Sick of it All, and today Big D and the Kids Table are on today, so that’s going to be awesome. War On Women is on, which is another great band that we’ve toured with and had some great tours with.

Rei: You’ve play with a lot of these bands before and you all have been veterans of the scene for a long time.

Pat: Yes. We’ve been a band for 20, 25 years now, so we’ve done a lot of touring with a lot of these bands. A lot of the younger bands we haven’t toured with, but we’re going to hopefully do some touring with them in the future. That’s good.

Rei: Yeah. Now, you all are, I wouldn’t say famous for, but your political activism and being aware of the social unrest, I suppose, in the nation. What has it been like, especially this summer, on Warped Tour with all the things going on?

Pat: Well, the interesting thing about Donald Trump and his administration is A.) he’s a douche.

Rei: Agreed.

Pat: We’ll start with that. What his bigotry has allowed is the normalization of racism and sexism, and we have to make sure that we see that-

Rei: (air quotes) “Locker room talk.”

Pat: Yes. “Locker room talk,” or straight-up bigotry. When we see that, we have to confront it, because just because the president condones it doesn’t mean that the rest of the culture does. When we’re all in our collective small cultures and you hear that racist and sexist talk, you have to stand up against it. That’s what happened at Warped Tour a couple of weeks ago with the Dickies and people felt as though what was being said was fucked up. I agree with them. They spoke out against it. Yeah. The world that we live in now is slightly different because him being a racist allows the other racists to think that it’s okay to be shitty.

Rei: You all have been active in standing against such things for forever, but right now is such a volatile period. How do you feel that has affected the punk rock scene specifically?

Pat: Well, the punk rock kids have always been smart enough to not follow that. The punk rock kids are down here, and we’re just trucking along because that’s what we do. We are always on the right side of human rights and the right side of social justice. The rest of the culture goes in waves of stupidity. Right now we’re in the trough of stupidity, or the height of stupidity, depending on how you want to use that analogy. Yeah. Punk rock is always there. We’re always there fighting against those things.

One of the things that we’ve learned over time being in a band is one of our heroes is Woody Guthrie. He was a singer songwriter activist from the 1930s and ’40s. He sang songs about immigration and the problems with immigration, but the songs that he sang were about Oklahoma people moving to California for jobs. The people in California were trying to build a wall in California and keep the Okies out, as they called them, from coming and stealing their jobs.

It’s the same thing. You still have these people who are afraid of others use this argument of stealing our jobs. Usually there’s an economic, there’s usually people with less money trying to get into a place with more opportunity, but now the issue is the same but the geography has changed. Now it’s people want to come from Mexico or Central or South America or the Middle East into the US, and there’s small-minded people in the US who want to build walls and try and keep people out. What you realize when you see these things and you see this, that the stupid people are always going to be there. They’re always going to be afraid of others. What we need to do is always fight against that and make sure that we realize that when we have people from different places, different ethnicities, different cultures, it makes all of us better rather than less.

Rei: Absolutely.

Pat: We always want to welcome as many people with different viewpoints, and that is actually economically what has made the US strong in the last … in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, was that diversity that came in in the 1900s and 1920s. It brings in different ideas, and economically it’s better for all of us.

Rei: Absolutely. How do you feel in the last decade or so, that the internet and social media has changed that narrative?

Pat: Well, what it has done is, on the good side, it is brought the hierarchy of media down. Anybody can be a journalist now, which is fucking awesome. We all want to be able to get our voice out there, and the more voices we have, the better. That is awesome. The yang to that, or the yin, I’m not sure which it is, but the bad side of that is the fact that you can put out disinformation much easier now than you could before.

It’s very difficult to weed through what is real information and what is fake news, as Trump uses. What you see, and just to be clear, with Trump, whenever he’s accused of things, he attacks for the things that he’s accused of. Sorry. I’m getting a phone call. When Trump says, “Fake news,” he accuses people of fake news, it’s because he is creating fake news.

Rei: Well, it means, “News I don’t like.”

Pat: Yes. He’s also actively, his party and his alt-right are producers of fake news, along with the Russians. We have to figure out ways of figuring out what is fake and what is real. As a culture, we haven’t figured that out yet. I don’t have the answer for that. There’s much smarter people who are going to do that. For me, the way of solving that problem is to see news media from lots of different sources. Then, we could always figure out what is bullshit and what’s real.

Rei: What do you think that the music scene’s part of social justice and activism is?

Pat: The music scene does not have a responsibility for social justice and activism. However, for me, that’s the most interesting kind of music, so I always gravitate towards that. If you’re interested in those things, talking about those issues and making the next generation aware that those things are out there and that they can be evolved … When I was young, there was no talk in school about trans people, there was no talk in schools about homosexuals and the lifestyle where different-cultured people, or people from different cultures.

I didn’t know about veganism or vegetarianism until I went to the rock shows and I was exposed to those ideas. Those ideas made a lot of sense to me, and I live my life within those communities. The rock show, in my vision: the most important part of that is to make people realize that there’s other people out in the world and that if they don’t fit into the homogenous group that they grew up in, there’s another group for them to find.

Rei: Beyond that, what do you feel is your personal motivating factor in this band?

Pat: The thing that we have which is awesome that a lot of other people don’t have is every night we go into a room full of three to three thousand people and meet people who want to see the world different than it is today. When I see those people, we are charged and amped up, and we think, “The world’s changing, man. Things are getting better every day.” Now, I realize when you go to your school and you’re like, “Oh, these people suck and nobody’s changing anything,” it’s not … you don’t have the optimism that we do, but there are amazing people out there who are boots on the ground, making shit happen every day. When we play rock shows, we get to interact with them, and that’s fucking awesome. That’s what keeps us moving forward, because we know that there are people who are willing to fight for what they believe in.

Rei: That’s awesome. For someone who is not familiar with Anti-Flag, what would you want them to take away from one of your performances?

Pat: We will rock your ass off. Yeah. You’re going to come to the rock show, it’s going to be fucking awesome, and the songs are not that bad. They’re pretty good sometimes.

Rei: If you do say so yourself.

Pat: If I do say so myself, the songs will rock your ass off.

Rei: Now, for your Warped set, which the festival sets are a little bit shorter …how much of your catalog do you get to throw in there?

Pat: We play nothing but the hits. Nothing but the hits. Half an hour of straight hits. There’s not any room to put in any filler. We have 10 records and you’re going to pick the best songs that everybody—

Rei:Any new stuff?

Pat: We have a new record coming out in the fall. We’re listening to mixes right now. They’re awesome. We’re excited to get that stuff out in the fall and do more touring.

Rei: What was the process like of recording Live, Vol. 1?

Pat: Live, Vol. 1. We did it in LA at the Troubadour, I think is the name of the room. It was awesome because we went out and did a whole tour of old songs. That was awesome because we got to revisit these songs, and then we recorded it and then we released it. Because it’s Live, Vol. 1, that means that there’s a Live, Vol. 2 coming. It probably won’t come ’til next year.

Rei: Foreshadowing.

Pat: Yeah. That will come in the next year or so.

Rei: Then, the new album: you said maybe end of this year?

Pat: Looks like some time in October, November. Some time around then.

Rei: Love it. What else do fans have to look forward to from you all beyond the new album? I’m assuming you’ll have some music videos coming out for that.

Pat: Yep. All that stuff is in the works and there’s really cool stuff coming. It’s fun because I get to see it before everybody else gets to see it, so I’m like, “That’s fucking awesome.” I can’t wait for people to see that. That stuff’s going on right now, and it’s going to be coming out soon. We’re excited to share that with people.

Rei: Awesome. If you had any last words of wisdom for our fans back home, what would they be?

Pat: Don’t be an asshole, and start your own fucking band.

Rei: I love it. Rule number one: don’t be an asshole.

Pat: Yep.

Rei: We’re just going to start writing that here on the wall.

Pat: Yeah. Just don’t be an asshole.

Rei: I love it.

Pat: It’s easy. It’s easy to remember. Nothing deep, philosophical; just don’t be an asshole.

Rei: I love it. All right. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.

Pat: Thank you.

Rei: Have a great rest of your Warped.

Pat: Yeah. Warped Tour. Fuck yeah.

Interview with Billy Hamilton of Silverstein at Warped Tour ’17

Rei: Alright, Warped Tour. Rei Haycraft with Silverstein.

Billy: Hey, I’m Billy from Silverstein. I play the bass and yell sometimes. Make some sounds with my mouth.

Rei: How has your Warped been thus far?

Billy: Sufficiently warped. Yeah, you know, it’s our seventh or eighth year on the tour. It’s been very hot. I think we’ve got the majority of the both very hot, hot days out of the way, and the very hot wet days out of the way with both Florida, and Arizona, and Vegas, all that. It’s been hot, but yeah, we kind of know how to keep cool. We’ve got a great hangout set up behind our tent. We got pals coming around, we got some AstroTurf laid down and a barbecue and stuff, so you know.

Rei: Practicing your putt back there?

Billy: Yup, it’s been good. We just celebrated Canada Day. It’s great, you know?

Rei: Oh goodness. So, you all, we’ll say scene veterans, started in 2000. You’ve got 17 years under your belt, a ton of material, so coming out and playing a short set like this festival tour, what is it like building that set and deciding what to play?

Billy: Yeah, it’s tough. We’ve mostly been playing half an hour, some days it’s even been 25 minutes because it’s been a tighter schedule. It’s definitely tough for us, yeah, with over 100 songs. I think we just try, you know, we’ve got a couple of set staples. We try to mix it up a little bit, but try to play a little something of everything. Some old stuff, some new stuff, some not so old stuff, you know? Try to pick the fan favorites, as well. I think, though, it’s cool to see people responding and reacting to our newer songs. We’re not just a nostalgic band that people are like, “Oh, I love that record from 15 years ago.” They’re really pumped up about our new stuff, and we’re putting out a new record in a week or two, so …People are fired up. It seems really cool.

Rei: It’s July 14th, I believe?

Billy: 14th, yeah.

Rei: That is so close. Looming, even. What songs are you most excited for fans to hear that you haven’t been playing live yet?

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Billy: You know what, we actually just dropped a new track this morning in Germany via a German website, but I think you can check it out worldwide. The song’s called Whiplash, and it’s my personal favorite on the record. It’s the second last track, which is kind of cool because a lot of bands seem to put the favorite tracks at the beginning of the record, but I think that it’s a real anchor of the album. It’s like a kind of fast, upbeat song, and I think it’s cool to end the record with … I mean, the last song on the record is quite mellow and …

Rei: Brings it all back home.

Billy: It’s heavy and mellow. It’s real deep sounding, and it does kind of bring it all back home, but I think this record’s the real kind of smack in the face before … This song is the real smack in the face before the record’s over. My personal favorite. I think it really was one of the last songs to kind of come together in the studio, and I was like, “Oh, wow, I love this now.” You know, once I heard the hook in the chorus I was like, that makes the song for me. So check out Whiplash, you know?

Rei: If you can find it on the interwebs, otherwise it will be out very, very soon. You’ve created over 100 songs, how has the song process changed as you all have evolved?

Billy: Yeah, I think, I mean our writing process changed quite a bit a few records ago when we brought Paul Marc Rousseau along to play guitar. He’s a great songwriter and he’s contributed the bulk of our catalog since joining the band. He wrote a lot of this record and co-produced it, as well. He’s brought a lot to the table, as well I think like working with a new producer. This guy Derek Hoffman produced our record. He’s a Toronto guy and an old friend. Having his hand in the mix I think helped shape the songwriting.

I that what we’ve been trying to do is maintain a good aspect of what Silverstein is and what Silverstein’s been for 17 years, but still kind of keep up with what’s happening in music nowadays and be able to give it a fresh and modern kind of taste. With this record in particular we did a lot of writing in a heavier guitar tuning, so the songs do have a bit of a heavier sound to it, but I think then that just allowed us to put a little bit more of a pop kind of element to it and have it not be so poppy and radio sounding or something.

Rei: It still has that meat.

Billy: It allowed us to further the dynamic, I think. While we were able to get heavier we were able to get kind of poppier and the songs have bigger hooks and stuff without sounding kind of too cheesy or lame. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I think people hearing the record next week are going to be really stoked.

Rei: As you’re playing Warped Tour you’re gaining new fans that haven’t heard you all before, or may not even be aware that you have such a vast catalog. What are you hoping that new fans take away from your performance?

Billy: I think just that realizing that we’ve been a band for a while, and that maybe some of their favorite bands that are younger might have been fans of ours or been influence by us, or that there’s all this back catalog for them to discover, you know? It’s not just about a new record, it’s not just about an old record, it’s about the whole package. We’ve got I think eight records now, so yeah, there’s a lot to dive into if people are just finding out about Silverstein now. Definitely dive in and check out, there’s a lot of great songs out there.

Rei: If you had to write the memoirs of Silverstein right now, what would be the things that stand out that would be in the first chapter?

Billy: I mean, I think we got our well known … We’re Canadian, we’re well known as being a real friendly band, so nice guys, very apologetic, you know? All the Canadian stereotypes. I think we like to party but we keep it pretty tame, you know? I think people would, yeah, know us as quintessential Canadians.

Rei: Are there any moments that stick out at you? Moments on tour, stories that you can share with us? Everybody loves a good story.

Billy: It’s always the toughest question when you’re put on the stop, it’s like, “What’s the craziest tour story?” And then you never remember because it’s lie every day is kind of the same.

Rei: How about this Warped?

Billy: This Warped so far … I don’t know. We just got a lot of good pals. We’ve toured with a lot of the bands. We’ve been hanging out pretty hard. We hosted the Canada Day barbecue the other day. I did some interpretive dance with the Canadian flag to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. That was pretty wild.

Rei: Multi-talented, this guy.

Billy: Yeah. I don’t know. Things don’t get too crazy for us. We were just in South America and Shane lost his passport, that was about as crazy as it gets.

Rei: That sucks.

Billy: But no, this Warped’s been cool. We got a lot of good friends and were meeting a lot of new friends. We’ve gotten pretty tight with Gwar, who we’re sharing a stage with. They’re veterans as well, but you know, we’ve been able to kind of get in behind the scenes with them and hang out with them outside of the costumes, I guess. They’re really great dudes and we’re stoked to be hanging with them. We obviously got good friends we toured with like Beartooth, and Hands Like Houses, and Hawthorne Heights. Counterparts are local friends of ours. There’s a lot of great bands that are here. Being as an Ocean, you know?

Rei: It seems like people keep talking about it like a family reunion or a rockstar camp, or something like that. Are there any bands that if you had a dream tour you would love to tour with that you haven’t yet? That’s a tall order because you all have done a tone.

Billy: That we haven’t yet. Well, it’s tough to say that we haven’t yet, because Warped Tour really does bring a lot of bands together. I just immediately thought we’ve been trying to do a tour with this band that I love called Defeater for a long time, but they were on Warped Tour three, four years ago and we toured with them then, so that’s tough to say. Trying to think. This new band that I would love to tour with that we have yet to be able to tour with is called Culture Abuse. I saw them a couple times, I love their record. I think they just signed with Epitaph. That would be a band I would love to take out on a tour. I met them, they’re cool guys, you know? Culture Abuse, what’s up? Come on tour with us.

Rei: I was going to say. Don’t worry, go. Google it right now.

Billy: Their record Peach is awesome. It was my favorite punk record last year.

Rei: That’s awesome. What advice would you have for local bands who are trying to do what you all have done?

Billy: I always just say just keep at it. Keep trying to play a lot of shows, recording your music as much as possible, constantly trying to make things better. Practice, play, record, tour. Get out there, you know? Just do it. I don’t want to just say practice makes perfect, but repetition makes perfect. Just keep doing it, pushing along, get your stuff out there. Get online, get your stuff on social media and just push it.

I feel like new bands often tend to wait for things to happen for them, like they just kind of say, “Oh, we’re going to do this and then we’ll wait and find a label to pick us up, or a promoter, or a booking agent.” It’s like, you got to do that stuff yourself, you know? DIY culture is still alive very much, and a lot of the time now labels, and managers, and booking agents are looking for that. Looking for you to do the work to show that you have the ambition and that you’re able to kind of draw a crowd and get people excited about your band yourself. So do it yourself, you know? Just get out there and do it.

Rei: Any other final words of wisdom for our fans back home?

Billy: I guess just check out the new Silverstein record, Dead Reflection. It’s coming in about a week.

Rei: July 14th.

Billy: July 14th.

Rei: So close.

Billy: I’ve lost track of the days. I’m very warped.

Rei: Nice pun there. I see what you did. Well, thank you so much for taking the time with us-

Billy: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Rei: And have a great rest of your Warped.

Billy: You as well. Cheers.

 

Interview with JT Woodruff of HAWTHORNE HEIGHTS at Warped Tour ’17

Rei: Hey, guys, Rei Haycraft here with Fuel The Scene Magazine. I’ve got JT Woodruff from Hawthorne Heights here at the Vans Warped Tour. How are you doing today?

JT: I’m doing good. It’s a wonderful day in Charlotte. No complaints.

Rei: Everything just got started. When are you guys hitting the stage?

JT: Eight-something. We’re last on our stage so we’re closing out the Journey’s Left Foot stage tonight.

Rei: Awesome. What does a typical day on the Vans Warped Tour look for scene veterans like yourselves? You’re usually playing later on in the day. What do you do during the day?

JT: I am working all day. Our band is kind of unique. What we like to do is everything. We have two people out helping us but for the most part we’re very DIY, very hands-on so I’m up every day at 7:30. I help our merchandise liaison Amanda. She and I take the tents out, pick out the spot, pop it up. That normally takes us until about 9:30 or 10:00. Then we find out our schedule and then I schedule my press and, you know, any sort of interviews, then our two signings that we do a day and then our set, so.

Rei: Damn. That is dedication.

JT: Not a lot of rest. Otherwise, we’re hanging out with all of our friends out here in between pockets of time.

Rei: You get time to sleep? At all? A little bit? While you’re driving?

JT: Yeah, about midnight until 7:00 in the morning is my sleep time, so not a lot of late-night partying but I don’t do that anyway, so who cares?

Rei: That’s all right. So this is a huge year for Hawthorne Heights. You all have had a comeback—I mean, you didn’t really go anywhere, but, you know—

JT: Yeah, we didn’t go anywhere.

Rei: But you all are touring like crazy and then there’s the new album coming out. What can you tell us about that?

JT: We’re about 10-12 songs into our new album. We want to write couple more, then we’ll start heavy tracking. We want to get it out by the end of the year. If not, it will be the beginning of next year. We like to take things kind of chill, we’re our own, I guess, bosses. You know, we don’t have anybody yelling at us, telling us we got release dates and stuff. When we’re ready, we’ll put it out. We’ll be good to go.

Rei: Awesome. If there was an overall theme that you’re feeling emerging from this record, what would that be?

JT: I would say that we always try to inject positivity, hopefulness, and just a shining light into like dark seas of sadness, so it’s always going to be a little bit dark, it’s always going to be a little bit heavy, but, you know, we’ll try and add some melody in there but also some sort of positive message to kind of get people through dark times.

Rei: That’s like a hopeful melancholy.

JT: Yeah, that’s kind of, I mean, one of my favorite bands growing up was Smashing Pumpkins. So that’s probably kind of where it comes from, I guess. I’ve always liked sadder-sounding, melodic bands so like you get that sourness and then you get like the sweet melody and the hook and stuff like that.

Rei: I like it. So what has the song-writing process been for y’all this go-around, having put so much material out and having toured the circuit, been around the country, out of the country—you’ve done it all, so what has been different this go-around?

JT: Yeah, we’re kind of a unique band. You wouldn’t think it’s unique but a lot of people have one, kind of one member, maybe two members that kind of write everything. We all write. We all put in the time. I write all the lyrics and melodies for the most part but we all sit in a room together and then we also do our little own, independent writing and then so far everything’s worked out. We’re all kind of on the same page, which is sometimes hard to do but sounding cool, I guess.

Rei: So you feel like everyone has their own voice in the songs?

JT: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.

Rei: That’s awesome. And you are the primary lyric writer?

JT: Yeah, yeah.

Rei: How does the lyric writing process go for you? Do the lyrics come first, do you take pieces from things, or is it the music first and you let that inspire you?

JT: Kind of both, really. Like me as a guitar player, like I’m always writing with a guitar and a pen and a paper but it doesn’t mean that I’ll use the chords that I was writing it to because sometimes it’s just for flow purposes. Sometimes it helps spark a melody and stuff like that, so, really, all hands on deck by any means necessary. You can find a song in any situation that’s happening to you.

Rei: I love it. And I love to see bands that are really working, like, as a cohesive unit to make the things happen because that’s how it can actually, you know, come true.

JT: Definitely. And it’s more fun, it’s more rewarding for everybody. And, you know, it’s just, it feels better for me to do it that way.

Rei: So what has the fan response been this past year as you all have been touring, been on Warped Tour, announcing new material?

JT: Great. I think every once in a while you’ve got to re-energize your fans. You’ve got to give them new music. Constantly touring because it’s fun but, you know, we try to take time off in each market. So we’ll go to like, right after this we’ll not hit the States for a little bit. We’ll go to Australia, finish our album, stuff like that, so … We feel good, we feel fresh, we feel energized. We feel like we’re 20 years younger than we probably are but we feel good.

Rei: If you all were to write your memoir right now of Hawthorne Heights, what’s one memory that would be your opening chapter, something that sticks out in your mind?

JT: That’s a good question. Probably just weird things like being able to tell your grandparents, who don’t fully get what you do, you know what I mean? Like, “Oh, you’re in a band,” but when we were able to do stuff like play Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien and stuff like that, that’s stuff that’s on TV that they recognize. It’s like, “Oh, okay. He’s actually in a band, you know? He’s doing something that like …” So big moments like that are, while they’re big moments but they’re tiny moments to us because of the longevity and how long we’ve been doing things, to be able to, like, show people that and to, I don’t know, it feels good when your grandma has no idea about anything you do and it’s like, “Yeah, you’re on Jay Leno. That’s pretty cool!”

Rei: “I know him!”

JT: Yeah. And me, I’m like, “No way, man. We’re on Warped Tour all summer long. That’s incredible. There’s so many awesome bands.” That’s like more special to me. I love all of it but like being able to play with all these bands is always much more fun to me.

Rei: Oh, yeah. This is a killer line-up. I’m stoked that, like, I can kind of get to hear some of it while we’re back here.

JT: Oh, yeah.

Rei: So what are some final words of wisdom for your fans back home? What would you want them to know?

JT: Our advice is always to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Always search for positivity during dark times. Be true to yourself. Don’t worry about being different because every single human being is different but that’s what makes it beautiful and special.

Rei: I love it. Man, you’re just so poetical today. It’s a great way to start. All right, thank you so much for taking some time to talk to us today.

JT: Thank you, oh, yeah. Enjoy the rest of your day!

Interview with Laila Kahn of SONIC BOOM SIX at Vans Warped Tour ’17

 

Rei: All right everybody, Rei Haycraft here with Fuel the Scene Magazine. I’m here with Laila from Sonic Boom Six at Vans Warped Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here in the heat, the sweltering heat. How are you holding up so far?

Laila: This, you know, right. I’m from a town called Manchester where it gets to about 21 degrees. I don’t know what that is in Celsius, or Fahrenheit.

Rei: 60°?—I feel like that’s like 65°? [Editor’s note: 21°C = 69.8°F. You were close, Rei.]

Laila: Yeah, that’s as hot as it gets. And about 3:00PM, it rains, cools it down. So we started this tour in Seattle, where it was about that—

Rei: —which is a similar climate—

Laila: Yeah, it was nice. It was cool. It rained. Put my jacket on in the evening. And then little did we know, we go to Albuquerque, Phoenix, Florida. I’ve been dead. I’ve come back from death to be here in Charlotte today is all I can say.

Rei: She is sacrificing life, limb, and lungs for you fans.

Laila: Every single part of my body has been sacrificed to the heat, and the humidity, and the sweat.

Rei: And how does that affect your performance?

Laila: Do you know what, funnily enough, before I go on, and I’ve been like, it’s heat that I’ve known where you’re covered in a layer of sweat. It’s like you’ve just got out of the shower. Somebody says to me, “Oh, have you just got out the shower?” I was like, “Nope. This is just me sweating.”

Rei: You glisten.

Laila: You get on stage, you got 25 minutes to open and I’m like, “Oh, I’m dying. I can’t do this.” And then the minute you hear the first note on stage, you just give it your all.

Rei: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Laila: You give it your all because you’re just, that is the only reason we’re here. Heat, humidity, come at me. It’s all good. Come at me.

 

Rei: What would you like to tell everyone about Sonic Boom Six? If you had to tell someone who had never heard you all, and they were wandering by, why should they stop and listen to your performance?

Laila: We’re not like any other band. I was going to say we’re not like any other band at the Warped Tour, we’re not actually like any other band, full stop. And we like to mix, we like positive, bouncy music, but with—

Rei: —and some ska in there—

Laila: Yeah, but with a message. Well not a message, I don’t like to call it a message. It’s more, all our lyrics are about what’s going on in the world today. They’re not necessarily positive lyrics, but at the same time, we have a positive sort of backing so that people can come to our shows, have a good time, and if they want to take anything away from the lyrics, then to me that’s a bonus. There’s enough crap in the world today, and I just want people to have a moment of escape and dance to Sonic Boom Six. But yeah, if I had to say what we sounded like, ska, punk, hip-hop, reggae. I rap, I sing, I squeak.

Rei: Multi-talented. All the mouth noises.

Laila: All the mouth noises, yeah.

Rei: Tell me a little bit about what it’s been like, being from Manchester? The unrest in the music community after the attacks? We’re you all over there? Did that affect you personally?

Laila: I live in London, so I’ve been living in London for two years. I went back to Manchester the week after. I go home every month to see family and friends. I was reading about it on the news as it was happening in the evening, it was about 10:00 p.m. And when it’s your hometown it really, not that it doesn’t effect you when you see it going on around the world, but when it’s your hometown, to me I feel like all the countries that have these atrocities every single day, how must they feel that they have to, you know. And that isn’t publicized, that isn’t on the news. That isn’t an Ariana Grande concert. Not that it makes it any worse, or better, it’s just, we’re living in a very horrible world at the moment.

I think what we need to address is why, rather than how we can stop it. How we can stop it is, opens up a whole can of worms. But to me we need to address, why is this going on? What is causing these young men who are from the UK, who are from the US, to be radicalized? To do such horrific things? And you know, I’m not a politician, I don’t know the, I’m just a human being. Yeah, I went to Manchester the week after, and it was awful. Everyone, the first two days, everyone came onto the streets, and everyone was defiant. And then slowly, less people were out, less people were in town. Like a place where we go for meal, you have to book weeks in advance, it was empty. I just think people are scared at the moment and rightly so, but the people that are doing this, that’s what they want.

Rei: Do you feel like it’s affected the UK music scene?

Laila: Oh, massively, massively. I think ticket sales are down for gigs. Yeah, people are defiant, but at the same time, there’s only so much of a brave face you can put on. I think the whole world has been affected.

Rei: Absolutely. And what’s it been like on a happier note being over here touring in the US?

Laila: It’s been amazing. This is our first Warped Tour. We had no idea what we were in for. Seriously.

Rei: Different animal completely.

Laila: Seriously, no idea. But we’re into a routine, by day three, we’re doing it completely DIY. We don’t have a driver. We don’t have a crew. We, you know, we were like, our first Warped Tour, we’re doing it DIY.

Rei: Love it.

Laila: Because it want to experience, I want to get on site at 8:00 a.m. when everybody else does. I don’t want to be laying in my bed, rolling out of bed when it’s time to play my set. I want to meet everyone. I might never get to do this again. You know what I mean?

Rei: Experiencing those moments as they happen.

Laila: Yeah, there’s six of us, and we all have our assigned roles. I probably got the easiest role, but you know.

Rei: I don’t know about that, I’m a vocalist too, so you know. We don’t get enough respect sometimes.

Laila: No, exactly, exactly.

Rei: “All you got to do is carry a mic.” No.

Laila: Actually, that is all I do carry. I do, I keep things ticking along in the background.

Rei: Solidarity, man.

Laila: Somebody has to tell everybody what to do.

Rei: Yeah, there you go.

 

Laila: It’s been mind blowing. Like already, I’m one of the people, I always look ahead and I’m like, “Oh no, like, when I go home, it’s going to be so depressing. And I’m actually going to miss queuing up in the catering line. I won’t miss this weather, but I will miss everything else.

Rei: But you’ll remember it. It will be ingrained.

Laila: Yeah, a friend, Beebs, who’s in a band called Beebs and the Moneymaker, I met her for the first time about four days ago. She said the best thing about Warped, is when you meet another band, you know on tour, or traveling around, and they’ve done Warped Tour, you’ll instantly be like, “Oh,” like you’ll become friends.

Rei: Warped friends.

Laila: But she’s like, “It’s like Warped veterans.” Like you have your stories and you go, “Do you remember this? And do you remember that?” And she was like, “It’s so special.” And yeah, it’s amazing.

Rei: Do you have any veteran stories yet?

Laila: No, we’re newbies. We’re two weeks in.

Rei: For all I know, some really cool shit could’ve happened this morning.

Laila: Last night was very cool. We got here early last night and Kevin was having a barbecue for the crew and production, and everyone who works here. He is one of the, like you know what, my band are like, “Stop bombing Kevin.” In Manchester, when you really like someone, or there’s a new person you like constantly going on about them, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to go and see Kevin.” You say, “Stop bombing them. Stop bumming them.” So say you love Anti-Flag, and you’re like, “No, no, no, I have to see Anti-Flag. No, I have to see them.” I’d be like, “Oh stop bombing Anti-Flag. Just stop bombing them.” Yeah, I’ve been bombing Kevin Lyman hard. Very hard. He is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Rei: Oh, absolutely.

Laila: Like I’ve never met anyone like him. Super approachable. Super sage. Like last night, we got here, he’d been at the barbecue since 10:00 a.m. in the morning, all the production, all the crew, the people that worked it.

Rei: Oh, that’s fantastic.

Laila: And he was like, “Go and get some food. There’s beers in the cooler.” From 7:00PM til midnight, we all sat around there like just chatting. You know, sometimes like, when I meet important, not important, but when I meet people that are like, I think of as above me. I kind of like, try and be on my best behavior. And I’m like, “Okay, I’m not going to say fuck.” Oh sorry, yeah. I’m not going to like, ten minutes in I was telling them stories about tour. I was telling them what a chewy meant. It was yeah.

Rei: I love it.

Laila: You can google chewy, you won’t know what it means.

Rei: Homework everybody.

 

Rei: All right, what would you like our fans at home to know about your band? And something for them to look forward to, besides the rest of Warped Tour, which they should catch you if they can?

Laila: Sonic Boom Six is a fun band. We love what we do. We’ve been doing this for 15 years now. We’re a band, we want to make music. We’re not in a band to be in a band, if that makes sense.

Rei: Oh yeah.

Laila: We want to make music, we want people to have fun. We want people to escape from their lives. And always, even before Warped, from day one, as soon as we finish, I’m always on the merchandise. If people want a hug, if people want to talk to somebody, because it’s easier to talk to a stranger. If people want to just, whatever, that’s, we’re from Manchester, we’re very open people, and that’s what we’re all about. And I mean, what you’ve got to look forward to is, yeah, the rest of Warped Tour, and then, we’ve been having some conversations in like, in Manchester it’s very, we do music and we work. Just because the life of a musician now. If you can do full-time music, hats off. Not only are you incredibly lucky, it’s tough, it’s tough to be a full-time musician.

Rei: Gotta get that day job.

Laila: Yeah. For us, we were like, “Okay, we do this and we work.” And then this came along, and now it’s like, wow it’s zipping to the more band stuff, and we’re like, “Bring it on. We’ve worked our asses off for 15 years, and we’re not about to stop now.”

Rei: It’s your time.

Laila: I was going to say it’s my time, that shows how egomania, it’s our time.

Rei: Don’t let them dull your sparkle. It’s all right.

Laila: Exactly, exactly. Oh, I love that. Don’t let them dull your sparkle. I won’t do!

Rei: Or the glisten. Whatever you want to say. All right, any last words of wisdom for our fans back home?

Laila: Yeah actually. If you’re feeling down, or if you’re going through a tough time, however difficult it is, and I’m an absolute bugger for this, you reach out to someone. When I’m having a really bad time, my friends will text me, and I won’t text back. Or they’ll say, “Come, come out,” and I won’t go out, because I have to deal with it in my own way. That’s not the right way. That isn’t the right way. If you don’t have people that you can trust, just try and reach out to people, because you know what, there’s no shame in admitting the world is a very horrible, brutal, tough place. But there are people everywhere that want to help people.

Rei: And you’re not alone in any of it.

 

Laila: No, even if that’s through the musical community. Vans Warped Tour is a community. If anyone’s feeling down, you get picked back up again. Every single person on site, that you see is in exactly the same position. Okay, you get your bigger bands that get driven around, and they stay on their bus, but at some point they’ve done this. At some point they’ve been here at 8:00AM they busted their balls, fannies, asses, whatever to do this. Everyone’s in the same position. Never assume, just because you see someone and they look happy, and they’re not going through their own stuff. Everyone has stuff to deal with, so yeah, speak out, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed.

Rei: I love it. That’s perfect. I love that, and it’s a good note to end on. Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us.

Laila: Thank you very much.

Rei: And have a wonderful set.

Laila: Yes, 6:25 I think.

Check out Sonic Boom Six all summer long on Vans Warped Tour and check out more of their music at www.sonicboomsix.co.uk!

Band of the Week #2: Annabel Lee

Our second Fuel The Scene Band Of The Week is hard-hitting Charlotte, NC-based Annabel Lee. Formed in 2010, Annabel Lee consists of Joshua Dean (vocals), Jim Hadeka (guitar), Chad Honeycutt (drums), and Jarred Allen (bass). Combining hardcore and djent sounds with brutal screams and melodic clean vocals, Annabel Lee is a band that will make you feel like you’ve been punched in the face and feel grateful for it. We recently caught up with them to ask a few questions and get a little insight from the guys behind the music.

How would you describe Annabel Lee to someone who has never heard you, and what sets you apart?
We’re a group four dudes who come from different musical backgrounds to achieve a combined dream of playing music, performing and writing. What sets us apart is our passion and drive, and a crazy frontman.

What can fans expect from your live performances and what do you hope fans take away from your shows?

You can expect to get 100% raw, unfiltered emotion throughout every song and at every venue, no matter were we play. We hope the fans take from us a great show experience, and hope to touch them through our lyrics and personal meanings.

What song in your current set or album is resonating with fans the most? 
The Hunter, it’s a very meaningful song to us and a lot of people can relate to it. It’s about being cheated on, and that’s such a dirty feeling. So we all kinda go to a dark place playing that one live.

If you could tell the world one thing about Annabel Lee, what would it be?
That no matter how young or old, don’t let anyone keep you from following your dreams and aspirations.

What do you hope Annabel Lee is remembered for?
We would like to be remembered for how humble and genuine we are as individuals and musicians.
Bonus round: How often does Josh bleed on stage?
All the time, Josh says

For more information about Annabel Lee, check them out on Facebook.

The Beast Is Back: Interview with Newly-Reunited Metal Band CEREBUS

Interview by Chris Matheson. Photos courtesy of CEREBUS and Heaven and Hell Records.

Since the 1980s there have been some good heavy metal to come out of North Carolina. Though what is interesting is that many metalheads in the state never knew some of these bands ever existed, despite the reputation the bands may gain over the years around the world long after their disappearance. Bands who had demos that are now cult artifacts, bands who released albums, got out of their hometowns and toured, bands who’s names actually became known to people around the world.

One of these bands was Greensboro, NC’s CEREBUS. Perhaps they are unknown to those who were not out on the local scene in 1986, but to those who were there the band is fondly remembered. I asked singer Scott Board some questions about the history of CEREBUS, what happened during their hiatus, and what is now going on now that “the beast is back.”

Chris Matheson: It is so cool to look back on the history of a scene and watch it come around again. Thank you for taking the name to do this interview.

Scott Board: Indeed. And thank you for the interest.

CM: CEREBUS is one of North Carolina’s first heavy metal bands alongside only a few others like Maxx Warrior and Overlorde. These bands were sparse across the state. How did the CEREBUS come together?

Scott: Well, Cerebus was formed first as a cover project out of the ashes of a great NWOBHM style cover group called Bastille. Around 1982, Cerebus formed as a cover project doing all the favs of the day from Def Leppard, Krokus, Saxon to Quiet Riot. Incidentally, at this time, I was playing drums and singing some songs while another singer did most of the set. Soon thereafter, around 1984 we decided to go all original and try to go for some kind of record deal.

CM: Did you find it difficult in the early days playing a more traditional style of metal verging into more speed metal areas in a musical climate that was more so dominated with hard rock, hair bands, and Southern rock here in the Carolinas?

Scott: When we began writing material for the new Cerebus band we really didnít set out trying to be “thrash” or ” speed metal”, if there are really any elements in our music that could be considered Thrash or Speed, it would be more about the tempo of the songs and the use of double bass drums techniques with the drumming.

However, most all Cerebus music is heavily influenced by classic Judas Priest, Riot, Saxon, UFO, early Krokus, Thin Lizzy, and Deep Purple.

The local and regional scene at the time we started doing original material for Cerebus was ready for a band to break thru on a somewhat bigger level. Lots of cover bands were still in place and drawing well because the MTV metal scene was still driving all the local scenes around the country.

Banshee on the Loose peroid lineup

CM: The bandís first recording for a label debuted on a compilation record called “Satan’s Revenge” released by at the time, young label New Renaissance Records in 1985 How did the inclusion of “Fight the Beast” come about?

Scott: In late 1984 as we were doing the recording of some of our new material, Eric came into the studio one night and showed us all an ad in the back of Circus Magazine it was for an independent label who was looking for metal bands for a compilation album. The album was to be a “satanic-themed LP complete with added backward masking etc. Warning labels would adorn the front cover. It was a sure-fire sell to new metal fans and disgruntled teenagers.”

Our song “Fight the Beast” was chosen to be put on the album. Ironically, the song’s lyrics are about fighting against all the satanic type content and about the warning not to get caught up in all that garbage.

CM: Bands from the 1980s often speak about how difficult it was to get label attention being from certain areas of the country. Being from North Carolina, did CEREBUS have any difficulty attracting attention from labels?

Scott: It was terribly hard to get any type of label attention back in those days especially being from the NC area. However, I guess it was really luck of the draw that we came across New Renaissance Records being interested in us and we pretty much went with the first label interest we came across. So, it didnít take us too long to get things rolling.

CM: In 1986 the band’s first full-length album “Too late to Pray” was released through New Renaissance Records. How was the record received both at home and the rest of the country?

Scott: When the “Too Late to Pray” album was released it was received really well both at home and worldwide. I think it was popular mainly because of the good press that NRR got us in interviews and reviews. It really took us to a different level seemingly overnight. Good word of mouth is everything.

CM: The relationship with New Renaissance would be short lived. What caused the parting of ways? Were they not interested in doing a follow-up release?

Scott: As our relation with NRR, it was all good but as the band started getting airplay, sales, and fans overseas there were a lot of cool offers coming in to go over there and do shows; some big shows too, some festivals with some of our heroes such as UFO and Scorpions.

We had no tour support from the label and no real management behind us at the time. Couple that with the fact we were in debt for the money to record the first album, both the band and NRR decided to go separate ways after only one album.

It was an amicable split all around. This would free the band to shop ourselves to possibly other labels that might supply tour support or help from management. The decision to do an EP rather than full-length LP for “Like a Banshee on The Loose” 1987 was more of a financial one.

CM: The band wasted no time recording and releasing the “Like a Banshee on the Loose” EP the following year on the bandís own Rockduster Records. Would the EP see a wide release, and did the band find that it was easier to do on your own with the support of a label? The band would also replace original drummer Joby Baker around this time. What would bring this about?

Scott: Joby was a great friend and fantastic drummer. Around the time we were about to write and record our “Banshee on The Loose” EP, Steve Arnold, a highly proficient player known for his lightning fast double bass drumming attack and Neil Peart-like styling when writing drum parts, had just come off the road with a successful cover/original project called “New York”, and was looking for a high-profile gig back home.

We were all aware of the strength of some of the drummers that were out there in the bigger bands in our genre. We were also aware of how very strong that made these bandís rhythm sections both on record and live.

The decision to replace Joby wasn’t a personal one, it was simply a move forward or move up if you will. We needed a drummer who could literally “hang” musically with those pro drummers that were out in our genre at the time.

We simply were making the band stronger to stand up to the other bands.

CM: Over the next few years, the band recorded some demoed tracks. By this time in the late 1980s/early 1990s, it was becoming more and more difficult for heavy metal acts in the country. Was there any interest in the group to shop the material around?

Scott: Yes, throughout the remainder of the 80s Cerebus kept shopping our material anytime we could to contacts to labels or management. Weíve always been proud of each era of the band and were confident thru all periods that there were fans that would enjoy the individual styles we were putting out.

CM: In 1991 you released another EP titled “Regression Progression” again on Rockduster. These five songs would begin to show a change in direction from the earlier brand of U.S. power, style keeping a slight NWOBHM influence, but certainly heading toward a more classic hard rock sound.

What brought about the change in the band’s direction?

Scott: By the time we reached the Regression Progression era 1990/1991, we definitely were progressing stylistically while regressing back to our roots. Inevitably what we as a band listened to personally have always influenced our songwriting.

Nothing new musically coming out was turning us on as much as some of the cool bands so we went back and rediscovered during this time bands like UFO, Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy and the like. These influences were certainly evident on the new EP for 1991.

CM: Throughout the remainder of the 90s, not much would be heard from CEREBUS. Meanwhile, the band were gaining a reputation throughout the metal underground all over the world with fans and collectors who at one time were paying hundreds of dollars for “Too Late to Pray”; Were the members of the band aware of this happening? What did you think when you realized it and what would you attribute it to?

Scott: Throughout the remainder of the 90s after Cerebus, all of us remained close friends as always. A few of us went off and did some different projects but we did, however, work together and write and record together during the 90s in a very blues laden four piece called Shinkicker. It was a very Rory Gallagher influenced project, hints the name some might guess.

Imagine Rory’s music with a Paul Rodgers (Bad Company) style vocal.

We did several live shows in fact with me on drums and vocals. We would continue to collaborate up until we did our 2004/05 demos.

“Regression Progression” did get some airplay with some of the markets we had gotten earlier on however would mostly be sold to fans at live shows locally to NC or sent out thru the mail.

Through all of this time period, I always had my ear to the ground so to speak keeping up on what was going on in the Metal and Hard Rock scene. When the internet came into play I was probably more visual online than the other guys so, time and time again there were always offers that would come my way to reunite Cerebus in some sort of form, if not all original lineup to participate in regional Metal shows or Festivals abroad.

I was also aware of the huge underground collector’s market for Cerebus albums tapes and virtually anything to do with the band. I would always tell the rest of the guys but there really seemed to be very little interest in the part of the original lineup in trying to go back and do Cerebus music again and actually it can be quite daunting to take on that task.

I would attribute the fact that Cerebus was introduced to the metal world by having great press and airplay thru the record label as one of the main reasons as to why we got known in our genre fast. However then after parting ways with the label, we sort of went way underground and it then became very difficult to find anything on the band thus becoming a collectorís item in the process to hardcore Cerebus fans.

CM: In 2005 the band recorded another handful of demos that would turn out to be the last songs recorded with your late guitarist Chris Pennell. These songs see the band going into even more of a classic hard rock direction showing influences of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and perhaps King’s X.

These songs would never really get out; what was the reason for not releasing this material back then?

Scott: I, Eric, and Chris would continue to write record and play live locally as Shinkicker our very Rory Gallagher type influenced blues rock trio with me on drums and vocals. Around 2004 we began work on demos for new 8-songs that Eric came in with.

As always what we were into and listening to at the time influenced our writing. Anything else would have been somewhat contrived really. So the new songs would remain in the hard rock rhythm and blues styling but also much more melodic driven, especially with my vocals.

Some of the vocal harmonies are reminiscent of Uriah Heap. Some lead vocal stylings much like Doug Pinnick of Kings X. Thereís even one rocker, my favorite, called ìDonít Speak for Meî with big Chapman era UFO influence that is evident on that one.

Andy Huffine our Cerebus guitarist actually played the drums on all the songs except for “Don’t Speak for Me,” which I played drums on.

Many of the songs were engineered and produced by Chris Pennell and our longtime friend and sound-engineer John Robbins at his home studio.

We really had no plans immediately for releasing the material. Inevitably momentum on it would fall off somewhat. And the tracks would only be mastered by Chris Pennell and put on CDs for band members and others involved. We are extremely happy Jeremy Golden at Heaven and Hell Records wanted to use the ’05 Demos as extras to the “Regression Progression” re-release package. These songs were, in fact, the last recordings we ever did with Chris before his death in 2010. And these were some of Chris’ proudest moments he put on record. He was very proud of all these tunes and would be very happy to know they’re finally coming out!

CM: In 2009 a Greek label put “Too Late to Pray” on CD. There was much debate over this being an official release or not. This release would send the owner of your old record label New Renaissance on an absurd witch hunt. Was the band aware of this and if so what did you all think?

Scott: As far as the 2009 release on CD that came out I wouldn’t consider it an official release so to speak. I was very excited when the company who put it out contacted me saying they were going to do it and would I be interested in writing liner notes for it?

I myself have no rights to ownership of the Cerebus catalog so I, Scott Board, couldn’t give “official” permission to do it.

However, I WAS happy that the material was finally seeing the light of day onto CD. At the time I thought it was pretty cool that it was coming out. So yes, we did know but it wasnít an official release. The new rereleases and packages from Heaven and Hell Records are far superior in sound quality and the total package being offered, like a Cerebus Box Set, both the new releases are must have.

CM: In 2010 Chris Pennell’s life was tragically ended. How did this affect the band and any decisions to carry on? Throughout most of the 2000s, the band has been absent from both the local scene and the metal/rock scene, in general, Where has everyone been?

 

Chris RIP
Chris Pennell, courtesy photo.

 

Scott: Indeed, the passing of our friend and guitar player Chris Pennell in 2010 truly took the wind out of all our sails as a group even though at that time we werenít functioning as a band, we were still really close other careers and family commitments would be the forefront during the late 2000s. After the death of Chris, Cerebus could seemingly never be Cerebus like we once were.

As far as where band members have been musically since early 2000’s, the other guys have pretty much been pursuing other career paths and as far as myself, Iíve never really good at anything other than music. So, I have remained in countless higher profile cover acts as well as some tributes such as Still of the Night tribute to Whitesnake. Also, I am currently with the Florida-based band, In the Light of Led Zeppelin- obviously a Zeppelin tribute and only Page/Plant tribute to the solo years.

CM: Now in 2017 the beast is back; CEREBUS are reforming and have a few things in the works. So let’s speak first about the re-mastering and re-issuing of the CEREBUS catalog.
North Carolina-based label who has worked with other local bands such as The Reticent, Dogbane, and Salvacion among others are releasing both “Too Late to Pray” and “Regression Progression” in limit CD pressings, both full of extras.

So tell us how this all came about? Will the fans finally be able to get proper re-issues?

Scott: Jeremy Golden at Heaven and Hell Records has been on me for a long time about doing some sort of reunion with the band or in the very least reissuing the old material. Finally, this past year after I approached Eric Burgess about doing the reissues and also about possible live shows I was surprised when he said he was very interested so we were off and running at that point.

At this time, the reissues are out and available for purchase. There is, however, a limited number of pressings and a limited amount available and the packaging is fantastic with lots of extras including our unreleased 2005 demos, the last recordings with Chris.

CM: The project appears to have been worked on by some local talent including your long time engineer Tom Bower, well known local engineer Jamie King, and local artist Wayne Miller who did a great job paying tribute to Chris as well as a nod to the first album cover.

CM: What are your thoughts on the final outcome and was it purposeful to just work with people in North Carolina?

Scott: On the reissues, our longtime producer engineer and publisher Tom Rowan did an excellent job with the remastering on all the material. On The Something More 2005 demos, Jamie King did the re-mastering on with remarkable results. Tom and Jamie are part of the Cerebus family and it only felt natural for them to be a part of the reissues.

The artwork was beyond our expectation. We were really touched by the tribute to Chris on the cover; it was such a heartwarming and tasteful homage to our friend— if not for Chris there would not be Cerebus.

What Wayne created was classy, elegant, and so tasteful. The concept is somewhat paradoxical in how it relates to the first album cover, the songs in our catalog, and the title “Regression, Progression.”

It obviously came out of the mind, or minds that think beyond just slapping a dragon or barbican on the cover and calling it a day.

CM: Currently, there is a CEREBUS line-up together but not with all original members. What was the reason behind not bring in the original line-up?

CEREBUS current lineup Reid, Scott, Eric, Steve, Elio

Scott: The current Cerebus lineup is stellar. You can trust we will uphold the great musicality of the band. On guitars now are Reid Rogers who is also in Salvacion and Knightmare, and Elio Romero as well as “Like a Banshee on The Loose” drummer Steve Arnold.

The only two remaining original members are I and Eric Burgess on bass. Eric and I were always the main contributing songwriters in Cerebus and continue to collaborate as writers. In fact, fans can definitely expect new music from Cerebus in the near future! We look forward to making that a reality.

Andy Huffine, our other original guitarist had to decline to do the reunion unfortunately due to career commitments, however, he may possibly be joining us as a special guest on stage on some shows in the near future.

CM: The band is slated to play Legions of Metal Fest next month in Chicago, sharing the bill with such legendary acts as Armored Saint, Diamond Head, and members of Man-o-war. Word on the streets is the band has a prime slot and attentions are focused on you guys. How do you feel about this opportunity and is there any pressure? In the words of Armored Saint, “can you deliver the goods”?

Scott: We are so stoked and very much looking forward to playing the festival in Chicago. It’s such an honor to be playing with such great acts as Armored Saint and we are very excited to get such a prime spot. We will be playing the debut album “Too Late to Pray” in its entirety along with a couple of additional surprises so if the fans enjoy the show as much as we are enjoying playing these songs again, then they are in for a real musical treat.

CM: Will there be any shows here at home?

Scott: There are definitely plans to play some regional shows this summer and fall.

CM: How do you all feel about everything going on; overwhelming, disbelief, or is it like “whatever?” Did you think this would ever happen?

Scott: The situation with our band right now is very surreal almost like starting over again in 1986.

CM: What other plans are there for the band? Is the beast truly back?

Scott: We are both happy and excited to see where the future leads us from here but both Eric and I are determined to take it as far as we can there will the other festival appearances for sure including the just announced Keep It True Festival in Germany next April.

We are starting to write new material in the old-school Cerebus vein although we don’t have concrete plans on releasing new music just quite yet, we are excited about the possibilities – we are also concentrating on getting back out and kicking the fans asses with some great live music – see you on the road this year!

The Beast is truly back.

Follow CEREBUS on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/CerebusOfficial/

Interview with Barry Stock of THREE DAYS GRACE at Welcome to Rockville 2017

We got a chance to catch up with Barry Stock, guitarist of THREE DAYS GRACE, before their set at Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, FL about recording their next album, the writing process, and being “married” to songs that don’t make the cut. Watch the full video interview here or read excerpts from the transcription below.

FTS: How’s your festival been thus far?

Barry: It’s good I’m just trying to stay out of the sun and stay cool as best I can. … We’re from Canada, so we haven’t gotten used to the weather yet. We’re just starting out on some shows so we’re still trying to adapt ourselves. [laughs]

FTS: What do you think is the largest issue facing musicians starting out today?

Barry: I think it’s a tougher go than it used to be. You know, there’s not quite as much support for some of these bands as there used to be. You know, in the old days, they used to develop a lot more bands. I find today, the ones I know, the younger ones, they have to work a lot harder get their stuff out there. Obviously, with social media that helps a lot, I know that’s a big deal for them. I just think that out of the gates there’s not as much help for these young bands and it makes it a real tough go.

FTS: Do you think that social media and technology today is a help or a hindrance? 

Barry: I think if you’re a new band it’s a good thing, it’s like a tool to reach out to a lot of people. If you’re creative, like some people are, I see some extremely creative people on social media and when they use it right and everything, I see a benefit for them. Without it, I don’t know how they’d get exposure otherwise. I personally think it’s a good thing, I mean, I don’t do much social media myself, but I think it’s a great thing, especially for the younger bands… it gives them an opportunity.

FTS: With a catalog as vast as yours, what does your set for these festivals look like?

We have a lot of singles. So for us, you want people singing.  And we’re playing a lot shorter sets [at festivals] because there’s so many bands, so it’s not like our full show where we can play a bunch of neat B-sides. But for these shorter sets, we’ll usually stick to the hits we have.

FTS: What would you say is the hardest part about being on tour?

Barry: I think just the lack of sleep, maybe? We try to keep up on it as much as we can. You know, the traveling part of it. It’s hard living out of a suitcase, on planes and buses. It wears you out a little bit, but I can’t complain. Over the last year we took some time off, which has been really nice ’cause you know the last three years especially we were super busy. Since September last year, we took time off, we’ve been writing the new record, working over the winter, so everyone got some great family time.

We just have a few summer festivals, we go to Europe and Moscow, I think we go to Russia for a show with System of a Down, and as soon as we get back, we’ll go into the studio to work on the new record. So we’re hoping sometime in the fall to release that.

FTS: Are there any plans so far for singles, future music videos, other media to be released with that album?

Barry: Usually by the time we start recording is when we start piecing it all together. Like we don’t even have an album title yet! That’ll all sort of come as we start to record, and start figuring out the artwork and all of that. And so we’ll get really busy once we start doing that, then we’ll start thinking about videos and all that kind of stuff.

FTS: Are the songs usually finished when you take them into the studio to record?

Barry: You know, we all do demos and stuff—the problem with doing demos is that sometimes you get a little bit married to it. And it ends up changing sometimes. I’ve had some things that I really liked that end up getting totally changed—that’s just the way it is. It’s never really “finished” until it’s finished. Once it’s done and we put the stamp on it.

FTS: Have you ever had a favorite song that didn’t make the cut for an album?

Barry: Yeah, actually—absolutely. On the last record, we had a song that was one of my favorites and our management—you know, Cliff Burnstein—we trust him with our music a lot and we would send him stuff and he’d write little notes on it as he hears stuff. And he wrote “DNP” on the song—that means “DO NOT PURSUE,” right— [laughs]

FTS: Oh, man, stabbed right in the heart. [laughs] Do you ever return to old material?

Barry: Yeah, we do that all the time. Through our whole writing career, that happens. When we first start writing and we don’t have a lot of fresh stuff yet, we’ll always pull out some old stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t work and we’re trying to write it again five times and we’re like, “oh, that’s why we didn’t use it last time.” [laughs]

Having said that, there’s definitely some songs that made it on an album much later—beore it just wasn’t the time, I guess, but it became totally fitting for this time. And this is gonna happen on this [upcoming] record too; there’s a couple of them that we have from the last record, we re-wrote them, and they’re going to make it on this record—so that’s kinda neat.

FTS: Do you have any words of wisdom for our viewers back home?

Barry: Words of wisdom? [laughs] Keep your head up, stick on the ice!

Interview with THE CHARM THE FURY at Welcome to Rockville 2017

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Fuel the Scene Magazine’s Rei Haycraft got a chance to hang out with Lucas Arnoldussen (Bass) and Martijn Slegtenhorst (Guitars) of Amsterdam’s THE CHARM THE FURY after their set at Monster Energy’s Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, FL, the first of the band’s three US festival appearances to chat about the band, their new album, “The Sick, Dumb & Happy,” the inspiration behind their writing, and their thoughts on the current state of the world.

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Interview with PAPA ROACH at Carolina Rebellion 2017

Rei Haycraft got a chance to hang out with Tobin Esperance of Papa Roach backstage before their Carolina Rebellion set and chat about their new album, “Crooked Teeth,” some of the best moments at live shows, and hot yoga.

Papa Roach’s new album, “Crooked Teeth” drops on May 19th, 2017!

 

Something Clever “Season of Light” Album Release Show at The Fillmore Underground in Charlotte, NC

Show review and photography by William Dibble of Panfocal Photography.

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The Fillmore sits on the outskirts of Charlotte amongst a compound of restaurants and other buildings, across from the Avidxchange Music Factory buildings. The Underground sits in front of the Fillmore proper, a low but large building. There is a sort of antechamber as one enters the building where they scan tickets and take care of any necessary purchases or arrangements as needed, and then a set of doors that leads into the actual venue. One of the first observations that a person can make about this venue is how clean, well-lit, and immaculate it is.

Immediately on the right is an easily accessible merchandise section for bands, with lit screens advertising to the concertgoers. The Underground has a total of three separate bars. Two are accessible on the main floor. The first is immediately on the left, running along the wall, with a second in front of the merch section, set up like an island. In front of both of these is the main concert floor. The Underground is a general admission venue, but there is an elevated VIP lounge on the right with couches, reserved seating, and a fantastic view of the stage, at an extra charge. 

Raimee, of Greensboro, NC, was the first band to take the stage. Raimee’s lead vocalist, Rei, boasts an impressive voice reminiscent of Evanescence’s Amy Lee, but with a heavier, more aggressive style. Backed by Kristy’s screams, their sound energized the crowd, preparing them for the upcoming bands in a huge way.

Raimee’s coordinated stage outfits, with its goth-inspired tones, contrasts heavily with Rei’s brilliant hair. When combined with the music, this provides an excellent visual stage presence that matches their energy and power. Their openers included a cover of Ghost’s popular “Square Hammer,” Rei’s vocals loaned the song a new feel, and it was clearly popular with the crowd.

Their set felt like it was over too soon, as they finished up to allow Vices & Vessels to take the stage, but it felt like the crowd was ready to listen to them all night long.

Hardcore band Vices & Vessels are native to the Charlotte area. They initially took the stage in masks with a backing track from the movie The Purge. As soon as the track ended, they played a short introductory track, before launching into an explosive, mosh-inspiring set. The type of crowd energy seen during a hardcore show is substantially different from other types of metal. You get some crowd surfing with both, but metal tends to inspire more traditional, shove-style moshpits while hardcore inspires fist-swinging and roundhouse kicks. Toward the end of their set, the mosh pit began winding down.

Max, of Vices & Vessels, implored the audience to split into two halves to perform the ‘wall of death’, one of the most infamous forms of a mosh pit. After this, Max, one of their vocalists, leapt from the stage into the audience, surfing across the top at the edges of the mosh pit. Despite the storm of mosh violence and emotion, the venue and the audience managed to survive V&V’s set.

Up next was SkinKage. Their brand of hardcore was blended with a little more metal than the previous band, focusing on longer songs as well. They offered shoutouts to both Raimee and Vices & Vessels, as well as Something Clever. Almost immediately, people were being thrown on top of the crowd as their songs assaulted the audience. The photographers in the pit had to duck for cover as the first of the surfers came down in front of the barrier.

As SkinKage’s set wore on, they did not let up with their energy or their songs. The audience gave as much as they could, as well. This is the type of energy one would expect from a nationally touring hardcore band like Dillinger Escape Plan or Car Bomb. Between them and V&V, it would be very difficult to say if either one had ‘more’ energy, as both bands were absolutely fantastic, despite being sandwiched between more traditionally metal bands Raimee and Something Clever.

Before the night’s headliner, Something Clever, took the stage, the projector was put to use again. This time, it showcased the interview video that covered the making of their new album, Season of Light. As the interviews wound down, the audience began cheering in anticipation. A countdown appeared on the screen, and the screen rose as it hit zero. Something Clever opened up with the new album’s first song, “Snake Oil”.

If the sound of Season of Light were to be boiled down to one description, it could be mid-era A.F.I. combined with a dash of late-era Slipknot, and influences of the metalcore movement. This shows in their booming stage presence, making heavy use of a LED-clad microphone stand, bottom-lit stage platforms, and other crowd-pleasing techniques. At one point, frontman Adam jumped out into the crowd, continuing to sing as he surfed over the crowd before returning to the stage to finish the set.

Every band of the night had a seasoned stage presence, commanding the stage and making use of every inch of it. Despite the show being a blending of two very different crowds and genres, the production came together very smoothly, filling the venue nearly to capacity early in the night and leaving the crowd wanting more. If nothing else, the overwhelming success of this show proves a testament to the strength, solidarity, and raw talent of the local and regional live music scene—something that will continue to flourish as The Fillmore Underground welcomes more local bands in the region to share its stage.

Click here to read our review of Something Clever’s full-length album, “Season of Light.”

Aetherial Disturbs the Waters of Oblivion with New Album “The Still Waters of Oblivion”

The Still Waters Of Oblivion

Album review by William Dibble

Australia. Land of kangaroos, the vast deserts of The Outback, the Sydney Opera House, and death metal. Aetherial is a melodic death metal band hailing from Melbourne. They released their debut album, The Still Waters of Oblivion, on November 10th of this year. Their new album clocks in at twelve tracks and forty-seven minutes.

 

The Still Waters of Oblivion opens with the track “The Penitent Man”. Opening with a brutally screamed line, “The penitent man shall pass no more,” this track launches from a slow intro right into a devastatingly heavy guitar and drum riff. One of the notable things right off the bat is the fact that the vocals are very easy to understand, something that is sometimes lost with bands that use screams. This is no problem for Aetherial, as you can easily discern the words in every line of the song. “The Penitent Man” is followed by the blistering “Obscurus”. Where the previous song had a plodding, deliberate feel to it, “Obscurus” is fast, frenetic, and lethal. Right from the first second, it takes you on a journey of killer riffs and lead guitars. “The Fallen Will Mark The Way” continues this pace. One of the things that is remarkable about the first few songs, including “The Insignificance of Us”, is that they maintain a distinct individual sound. The style between songs is consistent, yet you don’t feel like you are listening to the same song over and over.

Ætherial Promo Hi Res

“Back to the Earth” gives an initial impression is a much slower song. Featuring a clean guitar and singing intro, it catapults you straight into a blastbeat-centric death metal song. “One of the Departed” sounds extraordinarily similar to “Back to the Earth” in structure, but features short bursts of relatively clean guitar sound throughout. While they may share similarities, they are two distinct songs. The next track mostly serves as an interlude, marking the halfway point of the album, before “Perpetual Night” begins. “Perpetual Night” is a powerful, heavy track that lets us know that Aetherial has no intention of slacking off during the closing half of their album. “We Who Know the Tempest” is not as strong of an entry as the prior songs. While it is still a great song, the song begins to feel overly long and repetitive by the end. That being said, it is by no means a bad song.

 

“Spirit Against the Flesh” is a shorter song with similarities to punk and hardcore. Coming in at track nine on the album, it offers a sudden and surprising change of pace and tone while keeping with Aetherial’s honed death metal style. “Three Poisons” and “The Unavoidable Conclusion” offer a crushing finale to a very potent album, closing out on notes just as heavy, if not heavier than, the opening songs.

 

It is difficult to believe that The Still Waters of Oblivion is the debut album of a relatively new band on the international scene. Aetherial’s initial offering offers callbacks in style and composition to early-era Gojira and Arch Enemy, two titans in the melodic death metal scene. Fans of death metal will certainly enjoy this work. It is easy to point to technical reasons to enjoy the album, too. The instruments are clearly separate and listenable, and the vocals are crystal-clear. The composition of songs and album are expert, showing finesse beyond what even some seasoned bands do. Pick up The Still Waters of Oblivion today!

Trivium and Arch Enemy are no Trivial Display of Power at Summit Music Hall

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Review and photography by William Dibble

Denver has many music venues, with several of them within a few blocks of each other. Summit Music Hall is one of the larger ones. The venue is located just blocks away from the Nuggets baseball stadium squarely within the center of Denver night life. Most shows are general admission, which includes access to an upstairs balcony section with plenty of room and a fantastic view. The lower floor has a huge area dedicated to merch to the right of the stage, with enough room for several bands to host their merch comfortable while fans line up. Over on the left of the stage is a small dining area and window, from which you can buy pizza and hamburgers. There’s a second, smaller stage near the bar, situated near the entrance of the venue. Tonight’s show promised to be crowded – Summit Music Hall was reporting that it was sold out.

The venue was already filling up even before any of the bands had taken the stage. They’d posted the night’s time schedule next to the door on the way in. Fit For An Autopsy was scheduled to open the night around 6:30pm. Right on time, the metal tracks went quiet, and the lights dimmed. Sometimes, you get shows where the opening bands are relatively new to touring and the stage, and while their music is fantastic, their stage presence is not as notable as the headliners. Tonight is an exception. Each of the four bands are seasoned veterans. Fit For An Autopsy took over the stage right away. They only had thirty minutes, but they made the best of it.

They opened up with two tracks from The Great Collapse, “Hydra” and “Heads Will Hang” before going further back in their discography to play “Absolute Hope Absolute Hell”. While their set was only six songs long, they smashed their way through it energetically. There was no lag between the opening acts and the headliners here- the crowd was energized from the very first moment. All too soon, their set finished, and they were packing up the stage.

It took only fifteen minutes to get their gear off stage and the next band started. Like a well-oiled machine, While She Sleeps was ready to go right on schedule. Like the other bands on tour, they were supporting a new album. They opened with the title track from You Are We, before playing mostly new songs and two older songs. Hailing all the way from Sheffield, England, they were ready to throw down with the Denver crowd. At one point, the singer even climbed into the crowd, riding atop the hands of adoring fans, before closing out with the new song “Hurricane”.

Despite being a changeover of the entire stage from the two supporting acts to one of the two headliners, the stage was ready to go in just fifteen minutes again. Arch Enemy was up next, and they hit the stage like an explosion. The crowd was ready before they’d even started playing “The World Is Yours”. Alissa White-Glutz, who joined the band on their last studio album as well as new release Will to Power, absolutely owns the stage. Not once did her energy flag through their monstrous seventy-five minute setlist, comprised of fifteen songs. Relative band newcomer Jeff Loomis, formerly of Nevermore, fit right in with the Swedish death metal. They drove through a powerful mix of new and old songs, with Alissa showing off her ability to both belt out the songs she’d recorded on, as well as the classics from the band’s other singers. It was clear within moments why Arch Enemy was one of the legendary staples of death metal. Despite having a set well over an hour long it felt like they were leaving the stage almost as soon as they’d come onto it, closing out with “Nemesis”. They left Trivium, the co-headliner, with a lot to live up to, between their honed stage show and their costuming and lights.

Trivium, however, was not about to be upstaged. Trivium’s Matt Heafy may not have an elaborate jumpsuit and costume like Alissa, but he doesn’t need it to command a powerful stage presence. Where Arch Enemy feels both welcoming and imposing, Trivium feels like they’re there to have a great time together with the audience. They opened with the new song “The Sin and the Sentence”, followed by “Down From the Sky” from 2008’s Shogun album. Similar to their co-headliner, they played a wide range of old and new material. Part of what makes Matt’s stage presence so endearing and unique is that he frequently flashes the most friendly, happiest smiles at the audience. At one point, he stopped mid-song. “Are you okay?” he asked, gesturing out to the mosh pit. “I saw you fall. You looked like- Oh you’re okay? Cool! I want to make sure everyone’s having fun.” Trivium had an absolutely amazing set, and was great fun to watch.

Summit Music Hall is a fantastic venue. The sound quality there is absolutely impeccable. Whether you were getting pizza and drinks at the food window, or buying merch, or in the back at the bar, sound is both loud and clear. It never feels muddy or distorted. There is a lot of space for moving around, and two wide stairs to the upper floors. This becomes important at bigger shows, especially sold out ones like this one. The stairs happen to be great viewing stations overlooking the stage at an angle. In fact, you can see that angle from some of our shots. The railings can become decently crowded, so it is important that there is still room to navigate up and down the stairs. There are restrooms both next to the stage and near the entrance.

All four bands are touring in support of new albums. Fit For An Autopsy just released The Great Collapse. While She Sleeps released You Are We, with one song featuring Oli Sykes. Arch Enemy’s Will to Power is available as well, and Trivium recently released The Sin and the Sentence. All albums are available from Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and other music distributors!

You can view the complete set of photographs from the show here: 11-17 Summit Music Hall

The Arson Choir Won’t Be Convicted of Arson with EP “Trophy Nation”

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Album review by William Dibble, images provided by The Arson Choir

In the last five years, the hardcore scene has truly exploded. Many bands have found unique sounds or niches to fill, and many more found other things to differentiate them. Genre-leaders Converge and Zao consistently produce powerful tracks with amazing instrumental work and fantastic vocals. Bands like Sharptooth and Stray From the Path offer uncompromising songwriting combined with strong political viewpoints. Dillinger Escape Plan made a name for themselves with eclectic rhythms and constantly-changing time signatures and sounds. Newcomers to the scene The Arson Choir have just released their EP, Trophy Nation, last month. Consisting of members of several other musical projects from both LA and Chicago, they promise a truly unique and powerful take on hardcore.

The Arson Choir describes their album as an audio assault from beginning to end. This is an accurate description. The first track, “Just the Tip”, immediately launches into a frantic riff with screamed vocals. Their bio document says that the song is about self destruction, and the chaotic sound of the song can certainly be said to embody that. “Tracker Jacker” is notably more coherent in sound and construction, and borrows its name from the Hunger Games book series. In both of these songs, the screams are the most powerful part of the vocal tracks. The sound of the chorus is very similar to the late 2000’s and early 2010’s metalcore movement, especially reminiscent of the clean vocals of later work by All That Remains.

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Track three, “White Girls”, has very powerful and consistently good guitar riffs and drumming. Unfortunately, the half-screamed half-clean vocals clash heavily with the sound of the rest of the song when the lyrics aren’t being outright screamed. The song’s breakdowns work well, but there are parts of the song that don’t mesh well with the rest. There is a spoken word section near the end that sounds like it was part of an entirely separate composition. There are parts of this album that are pretty good- but “White Girls” is not the album’s strongest song. It is followed up by “ABQ Blue”, which is possibly the album’s strongest track. It has stellar vocals, combined with lethally heavy instruments and breakdowns.

“Knife Me For It” is a close contender with “ABQ Blue” for best track on the album. A blistering hardcore piece, this sounds more like the bands that inspired their work. It switches between yelled and screamed vocals without ever making you feel like you lost your place in the song, or feeling like the vocals came from another song. The album closes out with “Lot Lizard”, a frantic and blistering track that follows in the footsteps of the prior two tracks. This song is a good choice to close out the album, finishing on a strong note.

The Arson Choir sets out some pretty high expectations, talking down about djent and metal in Los Angeles, and talking about how hard it was for them to find a vocalist that fit their needs. They set out to reproduce a sound similar to bands like Every Time I Die, The Chariot, and Eighteen Visions. In the latter half of the album, they effectively do that, setting down three powerful and blasting tracks. The mastering on the album is excellent, and each instrument and the singer are always easy to hear. The song names are also clearly inspired by older bands within the genre, similar to tracks from ETID and DEP. Those nostalgic for a day when the genre was ruled by testosterone and song names that you weren’t-quite-sure-are-ironic will enjoy that aspect. While it may not be groundbreaking, Trophy Nation is not necessarily a EP you should skip. Pick it up at their bandcamp page today!

Smoke From All the Friction isn’t just making smoke in new single “The Clumsiest Waltz”

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Review by William Dibble, images and video by Smoke From All the Friction

The music scene in Raleigh, NC, is a vibrant and diverse place. While it may feel like the metal scene gets all the press coverage, there are a number of artists in other genres. Smoke From All The Friction is one such artist. SFAtF is a indie rock band that combines elements of dark pop, rock, and electronic music that was born from the minds of two talented musicians.

Smoke From All the Friction has an established hit single, “Cross & Tattoo,” that plays on several local radio stations. “Cross & Tattoo” is a rhythmic and soothing track that is easy on the ears. It combines soft electronic beats with a soft, clean vocal track. It is a bit heavy on bass, but that mostly serves to emphasize the tempo and rhythm. If you were to take the band Owl City and combine it with indie rock elements, you would have a rough idea of what to expect from this track in the best possible way.

Their new single, “The Clumsiest Waltz”, opens with a combination of vocalizations and piano. The song focuses not on love, or coming of age, in a direct sense, but more about one aspect of relationships. Smoke From All the Friction discusses and covers the fact that two people may not meet all of each other’s needs and expectations, and also that this is okay. “The Clumsiest Waltz” is musically appropriate to this theme, as well. It is soft and poignant, and almost has an ambient feel to it. A person could easily visualize a relationship-themed montage as they are listening. This ambient feel also applies to the drums, and continues through the end of the song. It is a mesmerizing and fantastic track.

As far as local pop and electronic bands go, Smoke From All the Friction is definitely one to keep an eye on. The leveling and mastering in the tracks keeps each instrument easily separated from the others, allowing you to enjoy both the instrumental aspects and the vocals without struggling to listen. This is something that is not always achieved by groups, with the vocals sometimes getting lost in electronic beats, so it is definitely an achievement. Pick up their music on ReverbNation today!