Interview & Live Pics by Lord of the Wasteland
Promo Pics courtesy of Century Media
Massachusetts-based thrashcore titans, Shadows Fall, have clawed their way up through the metal ranks by touring endlessly and releasing three strong albums in a row. Their Century Media debut, 2000?s OF ONE BLOOD, got the buzz going but it was 2002?s THE ART OF BALANCE that really got the band?s name out there. The strength of that record landed them a second stage spot on Ozzfest 2003 and they became the name that everyone was talking about. Sharing a stage with bands as diverse as Cradle of Filth, King Diamond, In Flames, The Misfits, Killswitch Engage, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Kittie hasn?t hurt their exposure either. The band, along with Century Media, wisely capitalized on that momentum and just released THE WAR WITHIN, a ten song slice of aggression, melody, solos and more riffs than you can shake a stick at. Having seen Shadows Fall live twice myself, I can attest to their energy and obvious dedication to reigniting the metal fire in < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />
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So where are you at, man?
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Oh yeah, we were up there on the Headbanger?s Ball Tour last year (www.metal-rules.com/concerts/HBB-2003.htm). That was a good time. I look forward to getting back to
Well since you were here last, your new CD, THE WAR WITHIN, hit stores and there seem to be accolades everywhere for it. REVOLVER named you guys Best New Talent, same with Guitar World and over here it?s best this and best that?it seems like Shadows Fall is everywhere and have become the critical darlings of metal!
Yeah it?s pretty crazy, man! We?re getting some serious exposure this time around (laughs)!
Century Media seems to have you guys mentioned in every magazine out there!
They have seriously stepped it up in such a way that?all you can ask from a label is that as you grow as a band is that they step up and push you further and further. I?ve been amazed at the job they?ve done for us in the last couple years. It?s been amazing to feel that support. It makes you work harder, you know what I mean? It?s just awesome. Especially being on a small label like that compared with some of the bands that we?ve seen step up to the major labels, I think we have just as much going for us as they do. Only we still have all the control (laughs).
Are you worried about becoming victims of your own success and that the bar will be raised so high that anything less next time around will be seen as a failure?
We really try not to even think about it because we built it up from nothing ourselves with touring and clawing our way up as a small band for the last eight years. When you get all those great reviews, there is going to be haters out there waiting to knock you off your high horse but that?s also why we take all this press with a grain of salt, as well. It?s great to have people say a million things about your record but at the end of the day, it?s subjective?it?s music?and that?s all about personal opinion. You can?t please everybody and if you try to, you?ll probably end up second-guessing yourself. We?re selfish when it comes to our own songs (laughs) and there are five critics that really matter to us and that?s the five of us (laughs). At the end of the day, if people want to start bashing you, that?s alright. It won?t really bother us that much.
Have you had a lot of people saying that because THE ART OF BALANCE sold 100,000 copies, now Shadows Fall has sold out and aren?t underground anymore?
A little bit. Mostly Internet chatter here and there. I know I haven?t sold out because, Jesus, I?m just barely paying my gas bill and I don?t have health insurance! If I sold out, that would mean that money was involved somewhere (laughs)! Honestly, this record is as full-tilt metal as we could get. We didn?t tune it down. We didn?t cut out the guitar solos. We still have seven-minute songs. We didn?t write with any outside agenda other than pleasing ourselves and making the best record we could. As long as we?re happy, let people talk!
I don?t see a huge jump from THE ART OF BALANCE with THE WAR WITHIN but do you think the band progressed quite a bit from last record?
I?d say so, just because we wrote as a band in one chunk. Even THE ART OF BALANCE was written over a year and a half here and there. We?d have a break from the road and work on a couple songs and we didn?t have a full-time drummer at the beginning of the writing process either. Once Jason [Bittner, drums] came in the band, we toured for, like, two years and became so much tighter as a band and as a unit. Everyone really understood their role so there wasn?t anybody stepping on anyone?s toes or anything like that. It felt really good to come back, take some time off the road and just focus entirely on an album. We?ve never had that luxury before. Normally, we have to get right back on the road again.
I reviewed THE WAR WITHIN a couple months back and in my review, I wrote ?Shadows Fall has sculpted what could very well be the album that bridges the gap between mainstream success and underground acceptance. Heavy, yet melodic; raw, yet technical; polished, but not too slick.? Do you agree with that synopsis and did the band to try to achieve these things?
I don?t think it was intentional but I can see how you might get that out of it. There is still the complexity of the riff and technical stuff going on. We didn?t hold back the playing or dumb it down in any way but at the same time, we tried to write songs. We are fans of songwriters, first and foremost. To fit all of those elements into it but in a cohesive way is a real challenge and that?s what we were thinking about more. We weren?t trying to write a hit. We were just trying to write great songs. There are definitely some hooks on there, though. You have a song like the last one on the record, ?For Those Who Cannot Speak,? which is as brutal and as crazy as anything we?ve ever done in the past. The you have a song like ?What Drives The Weak? which is really just a straight-up rock song. The new record definitely has something that appeals to everyone. Like I said, I don?t think we lost our underground cred. We didn?t add a DJ out of nowhere (laughs) and try to write the big hit single.
There does seem to be a lot more of the clean, melodic vocals on the new record even more than on THE ART OF BALANCE. Are you trying to move away from the roaring vocals at all?
I?m trying to give them even more impact by building the song up to that peak. For a while, I felt that to get that intensity, I needed to scream all the time but then I realized that that has almost the opposite effect because then it becomes the standard. If you?re just blasting away when the song doesn?t demand it, I think it takes away from those moments that peak out at that heaviness. Also, I?ve just become more comfortable as a singer after a couple years on the road finding that range and having that confidence to try some things that maybe I wanted to do but maybe was afraid to try back in the day. We did a few things on the record that didn?t work out and I wasn?t going to try and force them in there. The same thing happened with the death metal vocals. We tried some stuff where Matt [Bachand, rhythm guitar] would do these low, guttural vocals on parts and it sounded out of place, so we thought why force it in just to have it there? The vocals are really dictated by the riffs and the songs themselves, which is why I usually write the lyrics after the skeleton of the song is finished.
Do you write any of the music yourself or do you focus solely on the lyrics?
I help with more of the structural stuff. I play a little guitar here and there but, honestly, I can?t hang with these guys (laughs). I play a little bit of drums, as well, but I can?t hang with Jason, either. They?ve got that all under control (laughs). As far as when we?re writing the songs themselves, I will help with a structural idea here or there. That?s where we spend most of our time because we?ll have millions of riffs. It?s just trying to filter them through so you?re not just cutting and pasting them together. We want to have that flow and a real cohesiveness to it which can be a real challenge when you?re trying to fit technical stuff into a familiar song structure.
Is Zeuss [producer of OF ONE BLOOD, THE ART OF BALANCE and THE WAR WITHIN] becoming something of a sixth member of the band?
There is no way that we will do a record that he is not involved in. He?s been with us since the demo days and as we?ve grown as a band, he?s also grown as a producer. His studio is just leaps and bounds above where it was when we started. I remember when Zeuss had just a little four-track cassette that he would haul around to practice spaces to record people?s demos. Now he?s got the full Pro-Tools and everything you need. We wouldn?t be opposed to working with someone IN ADDITION TO Zeuss but he?ll always be behind the board. He really is the sixth member of the band when we?re in the studio.
That must be comforting to know that you have someone there who knows your sound and what you expect the band to sound like, too.
Exactly. There?s no explaining because he?s seen us. He was in a band with Paul [Romanko, bass] before and they were roommates. He?s not only a producer, but he?s also a friend, a musician and a peer, as well. He has that same respect for us, but he also knows what we?re capable of so he doesn?t let us settle. That?s where he?s at his best because he will get those performances out of us even if we don?t think we can. He?s got that confidence in us and he?s willing to tell you, ?That was great. Do it again (laughs).? He?s not afraid to tell us, ?That was pretty good but you can do it a lot better and we?re not leaving until you do (laughs)?.
The cover of THE WAR WITHIN is a bit, um, unsettling (laughs). I know you?re the guy behind it, so what exactly are you trying to convey there?
I worked with our friend Tom Bejgrowicz who was originally our A&R guy at Century Media?he signed us actually before he left the company?and it was one of those things where he and I spoke for hours and hours trying to come up with something concept-wise. What I?m really excited about is that actually exists as a piece of art. It is a sculpture in his house hanging up. It?s not the normal Photoshop collage that everyone seems to be doing?including ourselves. I wanted to get away from that. I wanted to have a physical piece that I know exists, which is kind of a cool thing! What we wanted to do with it was have that Everyman?s face in the middle scratched off with no identity surrounded by images of both life and death, birth and everything in between. War, violence, the beauty of nature?everything to show the dichotomy of what?s inside all of us.
There are a few different versions of THE WAR WITHIN being released including an ?ammo box.? Did the band come up with this idea or was it something the label wanted?
Century Media thought it was a cool way to tie in with the title??war.? Plus it was another way to pay back the fans that have been there since the beginning and are willing to pre-order the record and have the confidence in us before they heard it so they can buy it right away. I always love getting limited editions with something extra and the ammo box comes with a t-shirt, a poster, guitar picks, a bunch of stickers, some dog tags and the CD, of course. It?s just an insane amount of stuff and it?s in an actual old M-16 ammunition case that was used by the army. It?s just cool as hell (laughs)!
The first run of the new CD is also a bit special, too. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yeah. It was one of those things where we thought, ?How can we get people to not just download this?? (laughs) In this day and age, you really need to make that first pressing special. I know it?s hard to go out and buy every new metal record that?s coming out because there were a lot this year?and great ones, as well! It?s expensive, you know? So we wanted to make this as special as possible so we came up with the idea to have the special bonus DVD. We contacted the guys at GUITAR WORLD about doing a clinic because it was such a great idea, so we included those plus a drum lesson and some live videos. It?s on for a really low price in stores, too, so it might motivate people to go out and pick it up as opposed to just ripping it off their friends (laughs).
Well you debuted at #20 on BILLBOARD the first week THE WAR WITHIN was out so there are a lot of people buying it!
We were really psyched and honestly blown away and surprised by that. The best part about all of that was that I could finally tell my Mom something that she would understand and be able to put in perspective. She understands that to be #20 on BILLBOARD has to be good (laughs)! Now I?m like, ?See I told it wasn?t a waste of time!? (laughs) It?s a testament to Century Media?s work as well. Getting it into that many stores and having people know the day that it was coming out. That first week, we came out of the gates and sold 49,000 records or something and that just blew my mind!
How have sales been after the first week? Are you nearing 100,000 copies for this CD, as well?
To tell you the truth, it looks like we?re on pace to sell as many records in a month and a half as it took a year and a half of touring with THE ART OF BALANCE. It?s great to know that our fanbase was waiting for this. Kids that have been with us since the very beginning went out and got it as soon as they could and that?s awesome. Now it?s up to us to take it to another level and expose even more people and see how far we can take this. We feel that we?ve been blessed with an opportunity for a small metal band from
One thing I have to ask is that in the CD booklet, it reads that the background vocals are done by ?Admiral Anger and the Gangbang BBQ Crew.? Who is that (laughs)?
(Laughs) Admiral Anger is the lead singer for the pirate-core band, Scurvy, out of western
I just saw your new video for ?The Power of I and I? and that backyard barbeque idea seemed to be captured there, too.
Yeah, totally, man. It?s the same idea. If you look at our last few videos between ?Destroyer of Senses? and ?The Power of I and I,? we just try and use Century Media?s video budget to try and throw a party for us and all our friends (laughs)! Luckily it worked out that the first day of Ozzfest rehearsals were right close to where we were shooting, so we figured we?d invite them over after their soundchecks and have a party. Jagermeister pulled up their RV and started cooking up food and serving drinks. About 10 hours later, there were a bunch of drunkass metalheads hanging in the RV (laughs). We were really thankful that the guys in Hatebreed, Atreyu, Lamb of God, God Forbid, Every Time I Die?all of them came down and it was a blast.
Shadows Fall just did a show for the BloodRayne2 videogame launch and I noticed on your website that you had ?secret guests? listed as playing also. Who showed up?
It was so
So the big
Oh yeah. We?re just on our way down for the first show on Tuesday that crosses over with the Unearth/Terror tour and then we?ll meet up with Damageplan and The Haunted the day after in
I notice that the tour bypasses
We were trying to set up a full-on Canadian tour but it?s been tough to find the time and the scheduling. Honestly doing it in the dead of winter doesn?t seem like a smart move either (laughs). It is our plan for early next year to do a full Canadian tour, though. We?ve had pretty bad luck getting into
How has the live response been to the new songs so far?
It?s been awesome. We went to
How long is your set time going to be?
Probably a full hour set. Damageplan is co-headlining and we?re flip-flopping based on different markets. That?s a huge honor for us to have them consider us to be a band that?s on equal par with them. It?s an honor. Plus, Jon [Donais, lead guitar] has been a huge fan of Dime forever and was one of his first inspirations to be a guitar player. Just to have them give us that kind of respect is just awesome. They?re already talking like they?re going to destroy us on the party end of things so we?re trying to get ready (laughs). I?m a little nervous because I?ve seen those home videos and them dudes is crazy (laughs)!
Have you met the guys in The Haunted yet?
Yeah, but only briefly a few times. They?re from
Are you going to be recording or filming any shows for a live CD or DVD?
We actually have a live DVD coming out. It was filmed at the House of Blues in
Will the DVD be out next summer?
We were hoping to get it out before Christmas but that?s just not going to happen. We keep getting more and more great footage and the guy who?s editing it is about to kill us (laughs)! He?s like, ?You?ve got to stop sending me tapes, man!? (laughs) But every time we send him something, he says ?This has got to be in it!? (laughs) We literally have hundreds of hours of tapes, so we?ll see what happens.
When you were touring in
It was awesome. Killswitch and Chimaira have already made huge waves over there as it is. Roadrunner Records has really helped them out because they really pushed those two bands. We?ve been friends with those guys forever. I was in a band with Mike [D?Antonio, bass] from Killswitch for years and we always try to help each other out, so they did us a huge favor by getting us in front of their audiences over there. We made some big in-roads and had a great time and got an amazing response. It seems like that sound is just as alive over there. There are a lot of bands that are pushing the heavy and melodic side of things. It seems like this is a really progressive time in metal right now and it?s exciting to be a part of it.
You mentioned Ozzfest earlier and Shadows Fall was clearly the breakout band from the 2003 run. How much do you think that trek helped the band?
It was huge, man, because not only the volume of people that you play in front of but the variety as well that opened a lot of doors for us. You have the old school Ozzy fans coming out. You have the young kids who are there to see the one of two bands they know from the radio but want to check out new stuff. Then there?s everyone else in between. That?s what really helped us out a ton. Also, besides us and Killswitch, and then when Chimaira came in to do the second half, we were really the only heavy bands on it. This year, I think in part because of some of the doors that opened up, there were a lot of those bands like that. It was cool because we really stood out and people were like, ?What the fuck is this?? (laughs) We had a great time because it was like heavy metal summer camp, you know (laughs).
One thing that Shadows Fall is known for is your relentless touring. Is it hard when you do get off the road to change gears and adapt to home life rather than road life?
Lately, we?ve had so little home life that even when I?m home I?m not used to it (laughs). We had three weeks off before this tour and our drummer got married last week so we were all out together for a few days and right in the middle of it, we had to fly to
How do you keep your voice in shape? You said that you?ve done six hours of interviews today and you guys start a tour in two days. Shouldn?t you be taking it easy rather than yapping with guys like me (laughs)?
It is like any other muscle. You have to keep it in shape. On the road, I become conditioned just in general. About a week into the tour is when I feel really comfortable. You do have to take care of it, though. I can?t do some of the things I used to do. I smoked cigarettes years ago but haven?t since we started touring. Stuff like that. Now I warm up before most shows whereas when I was younger, I said, ?Why should I warm up? I?m in a hardcore band!? (laughs) Nowadays I have more to be concerned about because there?s no one on the sub sheet. I can?t call someone in to take a shift, you know (laughs). The guitar players can switch their strings or change their tubes and they?re right back up there again. If my throat?s shot, that?s it! You just work on your comfort zone. You scream without doing damage and just learn how to take care of yourself better on the road but it is tough. When it?s not feeling right, you just have to suck it up and hope that adrenaline just kicks you through.
What is going on with all these bands coming out of
It kind of seems that way. The main part of it is that we all supported each other. If anyone gets a leg up, we all give them a boost. There?s no real sense of competition. Maybe between the record labels and the management but that?s their game. We?re just trying to help our friends out. If someone sneaks in the back door, they hold their foot in there so hopefully someone else can sneak in, too (laughs). We?re all really good friends. Lamb of God rolled through the other day and we all went down to the show and I?m hanging out on the side of the stage with [vocalist Howard] Jones from Killswitch and everyone else. There?s such a support system and it?s always been like that. When Unearth was first starting to get out there, we took them on tour whenever we could and when Killswitch went to
There are a lot of thrash elements incorporated in Shadows Fall?s music so are you pretty excited that bands like Exodus and Death Angel seem to be on the comeback trail?
I was so excited that Death Angel got back together. We got to play with them at a few festivals in
Well they were only 15 years old or something when THE ULTRA-VIOLENCE came out (laughs)!
(Laughs) Yeah, exactly. These guys are still kicking ass, though. It?s cool because I think a lot of them still love the music and they obviously aren?t doing it for the money side of it because there probably isn?t that much money in it (laughs). It still is a scene that?s underground. But I think it?s great because there are a lot of bands like us and Chimaira that talk about them and their influences in the press and now these kids will have a chance to go out and see these bands for themselves. Some bands have never disappeared, either. Testament has been kicking ass since day one and continue to! Now we get to share a stage with those bands which is just awesome because I was into them when I was growing up.
I want to ask you about your hair. How long have you been growing it for?
About twelve years. Right after my senior pictures were taken for the yearbook, I was like, ?Okay, Mom. That?s it! You got your last nice photo.? (laughs)
Has anyone ever offered you a ridiculous amount of money to cut it?
I?ve gotten threats that I?d better not pass out around people (laughs). It?s just one of those things that felt comfortable at the beginning. It?s almost like a history lesson for me. Where I?ve come and what I?ve been through. I?ve always joked that I?ll cut them when I figure everything out so I think I?ll end up dead with really long hair because I still don?t know shit (laughs).
So what can we expect from Shadows Fall in 2005?
Touring, touring and more touring. Like I said, we?re not a band to rest on our laurels and sit back and relax just because we?ve sold some records and gotten some exposure. We see that as an opportunity to work even harder. I think that?s what a lot of younger bands don?t realize. One you get signed and get on some big tours, that doesn?t mean you can just chill out. It means you?ve got to step it up even further. Right now, there are so many bands coming out?almost too many?so for us to stay at the forefront, we have to really push it and continue to raise the bar for ourselves.
There?s always someone right behind you!
That?s exactly right! There?s always somebody who will sneak right by you when you take a day off. If an opportunity comes up when we have a day off, we have to take it. There was no way we were going to turn down the MTV2 thing or a day of press. We?re going to continue to push it as far as we can.
Awesome, Brian. Thanks very much for the call today.
No problem, man. Thanks for spreading the word. We really appreciate it. Hopefully we?ll be back up in the
Cool man! Before you go, can you tell me when the new Scurvy CD is coming out (laughs)?
Thanks to George at Century Media for setting up the interview.