Heart of Steel: Interviews

Unearth
Expanding Horizons
An Interview with Bassist, John Slo Maggard
Interviewed by Chris Hawkins

I got the new mini CD. It sounds great.

Thanks a lot. There are a couple new songs and the demo version of "My Desire" on there.

 

Where did you record?

The three new songs we recorded at Zing Studios in Westfield Massachusetts.. "My Desire" was recorded at the first studio they worked at. I don't know the name of it. That was before I was in the band.

 

How long have you been in the band?

A little over a year now.

 

How are you digging it?

I love it.

 

So what brought you into the fold?

Well, I'm from Western Mass. I'm from Springfield, and I played with a lot of Metal and Hardcore bands around here. We played shows with Unearth so they knew the bands I was playing in. They needed a fill-in for a Canadian tour last year. I ended up hooking up with them. They called me up and I went out, did that tour, and before you know it I was filling in for them full-time. Now I'm in the band.

 

What's your touring schedule like?

We're out quite a bit. We usually go out for a month or so then come back for a couple weeks. We stay pretty busy. We're at home off and on every once in a while, but for the most part we're on the road.

 

When are you planning on going out next?

We're going to take a little bit of time off. We're doing weekend shows and what not. As of December, I think we're going to be going out with From Autumn to Ashes and Hope Conspiracy.

 

Your bio states that the lyrical content is meant to stray from the more clichéd death and destruction topics of Metal and Hardcore, and focus more on uplifting topics. Can you elaborate on that?

We just want to create a positive message for kids, and there's not a whole lot of that out there. Kids these days seem quite depressed and unruly so it's good to give them a positive message so they can hopefully do something good with themselves. I know I went through a bad stint when I was a kid. I turned out all right, but that was because I just concentrated on positive thinking. So here I am. We just want to go in that direction. As for beliefs, each one of us has our own beliefs. I'm a Christian, but I'm not a practicing Christian. I'm not a big believer in organized religion. I believe that what goes around comes around and if you're a good person, good things will happen to you. That isn't always the case, but I like to believe it.

 

It's definitely a different message than what most bands are trying to convey. I applaud you for that. Do you guys get a chance to talk to the kids a lot?

Yeah, we talk to anybody, anywhere, anytime we can. People can just come up and talk to us anytime. We're all really cool and usually have something funny or ridiculous to say. None of us are assholes or anything like that. We're just normal dudes. We just like to play.

 

The sound on the EP is huge, man.

Yeah, we had Adam from Killswitch Engage record us. He did our last album as well. As far as I'm concerned, I've been recording with Adam from as far as 6 or 7 years ago with every other band that I've been in. We've all had a really good relationship with him. We actually just got off a little mini-tour with them last weekend. We love that guy. He's great. He takes care of us, believes in us, and tries to make us sound as good as possible. He does that with most bands. He really cares about the work he does. That's why I would suggest going to him over anybody. I've been working with Adam since he and Joel from Killswitch were in a band called Aftershock. I've been a big fan of them for a long time.

 

So tell me about the Massachusetts scene.

There's an incredible amount of awesome bands in Massachusetts…

I've noticed that…

For a long time it was rough because, especially in the Western Mass scene there were way too many musicians and not enough listeners. So you'd go out on any given night and see two or there awesome bands, but there would be no one watching them because no one really supported each other.

 

So it would be the guys in the back with their arms folded…

Right, exactly. It was the whole, "well, we could've done that better" thing. Eventually over time everyone woke up and realized that the only way anything good is going to come out of anywhere is if we all support each other. Everyone realized that we're all doing a good thing, and because of the former competition we had, we're all really striving to do our best. I think that's what kind of jumpstarting the scene here. Everyone was a kind of a dick to each other and it ended up working for them in the end because they were just really competitive and made just better music over and over. Finally, there are some listeners here now. I think the Massachusetts scene just keeps getting better. More and more kids keep coming out. There's a lot of support. It's a good place to be right now.

 

You even have your own festival.

Oh yeah, Metal Fest at Worcester Palladium. It's a great show, and a great time. I've played it every year for the last five or six years, either with Unearth or with other bands.

 

Do you think Massachusetts is going to blow up into something commercially big or retain its underground status?

Who knows? I never thought I'd make it this far, to see the country and other countries. Only time will tell. It would be great, but I'm sure there are some downfalls to it.

 

You could even make the parallel between this scene and the Tampa scene in the early 90's.

Absolutely. I think we've got a nice little underground epicenter.

There's definitely the European influence in your material, but there's still the Hardcore angst to it all. Though it goes in phases, why do you think American Metal is always so much more brutal?

I really don't know. There's a ton of influence from many different directions up here. A lot of people like the European style of Metal and a lot of people like the Underground Hardcore. I just think that over time it just kind of meshed into that Metalcore, European meets American Metal type of thing. I think a lot of it had to do with a lot of great guitarists out there were inspired by the European Metal. A lot of it is pretty difficult to play compared to other styles. I think they just wanted to show off some ability and some taste and at the same time put it together with something that was already going well in the New England area. With us, we've got five guys that like so many different kinds of music. It just kinds of meshed together. You hear something you like, and you go with it. We're going to keep going in that direction. We're going to put some other elements into our music soon.

No Emo, right????

No, no. We'll still put the occasional singing part, but we're not going to get too much into that, only if it's proper and it sounds good. That's basically the rule for anything we do. We don't want to do a certain kind of Metal or whatever just because someone else is capitalizing on that. We're just doing it because that's what we want to play.

 

So there's no definite blueprint? You don't sit down and predetermine what it will sound like.

We just write riffs, come together, and toss ideas around. Usually things work out on their own, ironically enough. One thing that's kind of happening is we're starting to get a little bit of Stoner Rock influence in our music, which is kind of funny. It sounds really good. In the new stuff we're writing now, we're coming in and out of Stoner Rock riffs and going into some European Metal. It's a good mix, and hopefully the kids will like it too.

 

I can see how that would be easier to jam to as a band.

Definitely. I've got to credit a lot of it to Buzz, our guitarist. He comes up with some killer riffs and he brings a lot of good stuff to practice. Everyone puts in their own two cents with the song structures and everything. There's a really good lay out to the way we do things.

 

Where do you come from as the bassist?

I'd like to say that I bring in the heart to the band. I like to drive everybody, and push everyone to be in a good mood. I think that helps the rest of the band relax a bit. If anyone's in a relaxed state of mind or mood then good things are going to happen.

 

What do you jam to on bass?

My bass heroes have to be Geddy Lee from Rush and John Myung from Dream Theater. The first band I was in was a Prog Rock band, and I was the keyboard player.

 

When do you think the next album will see the light of day?

It's hard to say right now. It could be anytime between early spring and early summer. We plan on writing through the end of December and record.

 

Good Luck!

Thank you.


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