Heart of Steel: Interviews

Matt Fisher of Eyes of Fire

Interview by Lord of the Wasteland

Back in the mid- to late-90s, there was a band based out of Orange County, California called Mindrot. When they split up, it's members went their separate ways but two of the members, Dan Kaufman and Matt Fisher, soldiered on and formed Eyes of Fire, a new signing on the mighty Century Media Records. In late 2003, the band released a three-song E.P. called DISINTEGRATE and their full-length debut, ASHES TO EMBERS, hit stores March 23rd. I had the chance to speak with vocalist/bassist Matt Fisher about the new CD and what exactly he's been up to for the last 5 years.

I've had your new CD, ASHES TO EMBERS, for a couple weeks now and it really stands apart from anything I've heard in a while.

That's awesome. Thank you! It's something that we've been working on for awhile.



Have you read any early reviews for the CD and if so, how have they been?

So far, we've been getting a lot of great reviews and response has been very positive. A lot of people are saying that they like it and that it's something different, something new. You can't really pinpoint it, but it's catchy and it's heavy. It's atmospheric. It's got all the elements that you need for different styles and have people come together and listen to one record and still be a part of the heavy music scene.



If you had to classify the band's music, what category would you file Eyes of Fire under?

As far as a specific genre, I don't think we really fit into one. We are definitely metal as far as the heavy guitars, riffs and powerful dynamic, but we aren't traditional metal in the sense that we don't do leads or operatic vocals or anything. We're very atmospheric, kind of melancholy. Some people say we're like Pink Floyd meets Neurosis for people with short attention spans.



(Laughs) That's a good description! The promo that I have doesn't have any of the credits, but who does the songwriting in the band?

We do that intentionally. We don't link ourselves to any songwriting credits. We feel that as a band, it's important to express ourselves as a unit. Dan Kaufman and I are the main songwriters and founding members, as well as the founding members of our former band, Mindrot.



Mindrot broke up in 1998 after the SOUL album was released, but what happened in the last 6 years for you and Dan?

Although it might look like we disappeared for 5 years, quite a lot has happened. We were on the scene as a band called Shiva. We did Shiva for 4 ½ years and essentially changed the name Shiva to Eyes of Fire. Shiva went through 5 or 6 different drummers trying to solidify a lineup that was cohesive and had a strong work ethic. That was what held Mindrot down was the work ethic. Touring was a problem for certain people, so with Shiva, we made sure that everyone was 100% into what we were doing. We wanted it to be a working band, not just a recording band. We did numerous demos and had a few offers from smaller record labels before meeting up with Century Media. We were signed for the better part of a year and a half before the DISINTEGRATE E.P. came out, so we signed with them about 2 years ago.


Do you and Dan approach writing Eyes of Fire songs differently than you did with Mindrot songs?

Well, for one thing, we both take care of the vocals this time around. We don't have a lead singer, so it's a lot easier for us to express our vocal direction. Sometimes he'll bring a song to the table and we'll work on the arrangement together. Other times, Dan will bring riffs and we'll work on the arrangement. I tend to write more lyrics than he does and he tends to write more riffs than I do. Sometimes he'll come up with the first riff and I'll come up with the second one and so forth. That's how we get a wide range of song styles. As long as the music comes out balls to the wall heavy and powerful, it just has to have a kind of melancholy feel to it before we'll put our stamp on it.



Between yourself and Dan, who does the clean vocals and who is the harsher, raspy vocal?

I do both and so does Dan. Dan is the lead singer on the first track, which is "The End Result of Falling" and I'm the lead vocal on the second track, which is "Empty." I have the guttural, deep voice. He does the high-pitched screams. We both do melodic vocals, but I have the raspy smoker's voice that you'd hear on something like the song "Hopeless." I do the lead vocals and he does the clean parts. I do the lead vocals on about 8 out of 11 songs.



I think your voice has a lot in common with the guy from The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones.

(Laughs) Yeah, I've heard that before! Kind of gruff, like Motorhead or something. We're not trying to sound like death metal. We want to have aggressive, cutting edge, raspy vocals but we still want people to hear what each person is saying. We want them to be able to follow along without lyric sheets. We don't want to have a monotone scream overt the music the whole time. I feel that melody brings out the hooks in songs and it's very important to have vocal melody. Over the years since Mindrot, we've been working on vocal harmonies and trying to make them work together. I think we're doing a pretty fair job of bringing melody to the style of music that we play. People compare our music to Isis, Neurosis, Opeth and bands like that, but we still have an American sound. It can be more like Neurosis or Isis but with hooks. You can walk away from our record and still remember the words to it or even sing along with it.



Well, "Hopeless" and "Breathe" are catchy as hell! Are there any plans to even try to penetrate the radio market with these songs?

"Hopeless" is actually going to be the first single. We're doing a video for it this week. We've had a lot of people telling us that could be a hit song! It could cross over. It doesn't sound like anything specific like nu-metal or rock or death metal. It has its own vibe. We're trying to bring melody to the sounds of apocalyptic bands like Neurosis and stuff. We come from that kind of music background-the heavy underground scene.



Which singing style do you prefer? The gruffer style or the cleaner, melodic vocals?

I'd like to expand with the melodic vocal parts. That's what I've been working on lately. We've been doing the screaming and the harsh thing for so long. We want to do vocals that are very dark, melancholy and bleak, but still clean at the same time without sounding sterile. That's very important for us to get across. It helps us connect with the audience, too. When they've never heard your record, they can come to the shows and still understand what it is we're saying. We aren't trying to be corporate rock or anything. When I first started singing it wasn't guttural; it was more death metal. Over the years, I've tried to get away from that satanic death metal voice without losing the heaviness or the brutality. That's how I got into the gruff, guttural vocals.



The band just finished a tour with Lacuna Coil and Moonspell. A bill like that seems like it would draw a real mix of people. How was that tour?

It went very well. The Lacuna Coil fanbase really appreciates what it is we do. Hearing atmospheric metal or any guitar-driven, ethereal or eclectic music, people seem to really have embraced it over the last couple of years. It seems like some of the traditional metallers are into the cutting edge bands like Lacuna Coil. They seem to really understand what we're doing and it feels good. Anytime we can play with atmospheric metal bands, we will.



What are the band's upcoming tour plans?

We start touring the U.S. in the early summer. The schedule hasn't been released yet so I'm not sure with who, but we will be hitting the U.S. and hopefully Canada as well. We intend to do 2 or 3 months of touring. The album drops March 22nd in Europe, so I'm sure we'll be touring there, as well. We'll definitely be following the tour cycle this summer. Once the summer is over, we'll get back home and start tracking our second album.



Going back to the album, one thing that immediately caught my eye was the artwork.

Cool! Thank you.



Who did the cover for ASHES TO EMBERS?

His name is Stephen Kasner. We liked the artwork he did on the Integrity album, SEASONS IN THE SIZE OF DAYS. We liked his style, so Dan approached him to see if he would be interested in an original concept for our album artwork. He was a fan of Mindrot so he was happy to put it together and get some work out of it. He did an amazing job.



The band released an E.P. last year called DISINTEGRATE. Why did you start with an E.P. rather than just release the full-length CD?

When we changed the band name from Shiva to Eyes of Fire, we needed to give people a pre-cursor to our album to let them know that, so we decided to float an E.P. out and get reviews out there to let people know we're out here and we're making noise. As far as the song selection went, it was either "Disintegrate" or "Shelter." I don't feel that "Shelter" is as strong a song as "Disintegrate" and we didn't want to come out with a solid song since that was our first release. The next E.P. we do will probably be five or six songs instead of three. That was just a warm-up for people that were not familiar with us. It was put in stores at a very reasonable price. In fact, you can actually download the E.P. off the Century Media website. The artwork and everything is downloadable.



As for the band's own website, eyesoffire.us, do you have a lot of involvement with it?

We just recently started to maintain our own website. In the future, we'll probably have someone else do it, but right now, it's Dan that does it. It's pretty basic but that's so that we can maintain it. We've had problems in the past with people not maintaining the website. What did you think of it?



I would say more material, but of course that is coming. It could use some updates, too, but it's a start!

It hasn't been updated lately because things have been pretty quiet. We've had better and we've had worse (laughs). It's just something that Dan can control. He just learned how to do websites so this is his first one. When we get out on the road, we're going to have someone else take it over but we needed something that could be update in matter of minutes at our control. It's better to have it at our control and have it just look basic than have no control over it and have it look really sharp. We're kind of in a website limbo right now (laughs). Coming from a big webzine like Metal Rules, I'm sure it looks VERY elementary!



Well I don't do any of the design stuff, so it doesn't take much to impress me (laughs)!

If it functions and it works, then we're cool with it for now.



As long as it's easy to navigate and get through, to me, that's important first and foremost before the snazzy design and effects.

Right. It's pretty self-explanatory and easy to find stuff. You can read plenty of reviews and check out our merchandise, sign our message board, e-mail us…all those fun things.



All right, Matt, that's all the questions I have for you. I appreciate the call and I'd like to wish you the best of luck with ASHES TO EMBERS. It's an excellent disc and I hope this interview and the CD review gets the band some well-deserved exposure anyway!

I hope so, too, I really do. I appreciate the time and I look forward to meeting you someday in Vancouver.

**Read the Eyes of Fire CD reviews at Metal Rules:

**Visit Eyes of Fire official website: Eyesoffire.us

**Thanks to George at Century Media for setting up the interview**