Brian Fair (Shadows Fall) interview
5th April, 2014
Metal All Stars show @Arena Riga, Latvia
Interview by Anna Dumpe
Interview photos by Aiga Leitholde
Just moments before Metal All Stars show kicked off in Riga, Latvia, we had a chance to sit down with Brian Fair – front man of Boston’s most exciting and upcoming metal bands Shadows Fall.
In about 20 minutes we spoke about Metal All Stars tour, his first impressions of Eastern Europe, rockstar egos and what is currently going on with Shadows Fall.
First of all – how do you find Latvia and what are your first impressions of this country?
It’s been great fun so far! I went out on a laundry mission yesterday that took about four hours, but at least now I’ve got some clean clothes! (Laughs)
But luckily, I was able to see a little bit of the old town area, which was really cool as I got to see at least a small part of the town. On few of the shows on this tour we haven’t been able to see anything, so at least we had some time to do a bit of exploring yesterday, that’s why so far it’s been real cool!
Awesome, glad you like it here! How did you get invited to join Metal All Stars and why did you think it would be a good idea to join in?
I was approached with such offer when the organizers were really just starting to put things together and had this idea of doing something similar like The Rock and Roll All Stars tour again. I was already interested in doing this before I knew who was actually playing on this tour, but as soon as I found who would I be sharing the stage with, I was even more excited.
We’ve been a band with Shadows Fall for a while, but we’re not on that kind of legendary status as the rest of the guys on this tour, so it’s kind of cool to be able to fit in. This tour represents anyone from some newer artists like Kobra And The Lotus and Shadows Fall that are more on ‘the underground’ side of things all the way up to Zakk Wylde and UDO – people who’ve been performing for decades. I also thought it was cool, because it made it a very well rounded show with a lot of styles and different kind of metal covered.
Metal All Stars tour is giving all of you a wonderful opportunity to hit the road with some of the most amazing musicians in heavy metal. How do you all get a along and did you know most of the guys personally before this tour?
Yeah, I knew some of the guys before. We’ve toured with Zakk a lot between Black Label Society and Ozzy and we’ve also done a bunch of Ozzfests together. I also know Joey Belladonna very well, as our guitar player John Donais is a member of Anthrax, so we’ve done a bunch of shows with those guys.
I got to meet a lot of the guys in the backing band for the first time and, luckily, it is the group of people that are together, because there’s been a lot of curve-balls along the way and situations where if the people on this tour had more of a ‘diva attitude’ towards things, they wouldn’t have been able to make it work. Luckily on this tour we have dudes who are not only super down to earth, but will always figure out a way to make the show happen and make it as good as it can be.
So it’s really ‘all for one’ mentality on this tour as we know that we just got to get through stuff and get it done. … And thank God for that! If anyone tried to fight upstream or go the other way, it would have made things a lot more difficult, so we’re lucky.
You have done quite few shows with Metal All Stars already. What’s been the highlight of it so far?
The craziest thing I’ve seen was at our first show in Bulgaria. First note of our second song and some guy got thrown up about 20 feet in the air by his friends. Honestly, it was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen! It’s scary when you watch it back on a Youtube video, because you don’t see that guy ever again, so I’m not really sure how he landed and what happened to him. So if you’re out there, dude, I hope you landed on your feet!
So that was pretty crazy, but as far as the shows go, they’ve all been amazing. Our club shows in Turkey were really insane, because I never in my life thought I’d see Zakk Wylde, Joey Belladonna and Max Cavalera play in a club that size together. It would be one thing to see them each do a show like that, but to have all those guys in a small club play for 700 to 800 people, it was just insane and I think those fans had this one of a kind show because of that.
I noticed a photo posted on your Facebook profile (see below) of you guys laying on the floor when stuck at this airport for hours? Tell us about what exactly happened there?
We showed up at the airport in Stockholm after leaving out hotel at 6am and being up since 5am to find out that all the computers for the airline are down. So at first they’re like – “Oh don’t worry about it guys! Go get a coffee while we figure it out asap.”
So we go get some coffee and another hour later they still have all the computers down, so they announce that they’ll have to hand-write our tickets. They literally wrote them in pen just on a blank ticket and gave it us!
I’m used to the US airport security, where you have to have three types of ID and your grandma has to call and tell them it’s really you, you know? (Laughs)
So I’m handed this hand-written ticket and thinking that there’s no way that this little note from my mom is actually going to let me board an airplane, but it did! And again, it was an example of that there’s just no ‘rockstar bullshit’ on this tour. And you know it when you go on Facebook and see that picture where you have Zakk, UDO and all the other guys laying on the floor waiting until the things get done. What’s the best thing after all is that we all made it in the end! Luckily, the airline had a pen and they were able to get us on that flight. (Laughs)
Well, that’s Eastern Europe for you where you can easily get away with stuff like hand-written boarding passes!
Yeah, it was very mellow and cool that it all worked out, but it was definitely the first time experiencing something like that for me!
Let’s get to Shadows Fall. As now you’re sharing guitarist with Anthrax, how does that work out for you guys?
Well, we got to balance out touring based on each others schedules and occasionally we might need to get a fill-in guy, because for John the opportunity to play in Anthrax was just too amazing to say ‘No’ to.
He grew up a huge Anthrax fan and when he first got the offer when Rob Caggiano left the band and called them, I was just about to have my first kid and I was taking a whole year off the road anyway. So here’s my guitarist telling me that his day job will be playing guitar in Athrax? I mean, it hardly gets any better than that, so we supported John all the way.
The only thing that’s kind of slowed down is working on our new record. We have to find time to get together and jam, but for us John being a member of Anthrax not only helps us to spread the name of Shadows Fall, but it also gets John to do something he’s always wanted to do and if we got to work around it, we’ll figure out our ways.
Also, at this point, we’re not touring 10 months out of a year like we used to. We’re more focused on trying to balance out family lives with touring, so it also gets me more time at home with my baby.
Yeah, I bet it’s good to be able to find that balance in life, otherwise it can get a bit hectic and crazy.
Yeah, for sure, but for us to tell John that we’re not ok with him joining Anthrax would be crazy as well!
And luckily, we have our guy Felipe from Boston, who plays in this band called Acara and is an incredible guitar player. He knows all of our set, so if we do need to do a show that’s too good to say ‘No’ to, we’d bring in Felipe and make it happen. And John’s cool with that too, as he feels bad if we have to say ‘No’ to something because of his absence.
And between all of us, we just find the way to make it all work.
Are you guys working on some new Shadows Fall material?
Yeah, slowly, but surely we’re getting some stuff together. As I said, I pretty much took a year off when I was just hanging out with the wife and kid. You know, it was a lot more work for her to have a baby, so I figured out that the least I can do is to be home and help out. So during that time I was just writing ideas and we weren’t really jamming a lot.
Now we’re finally back in the groove of trying to get together and getting some new ideas flowing, so hopefully we’ll be back in the studio by fall or early next year. But that’s definitely kind of the next plan for us.
As you’re here to represent Shadows Fall, which songs of yours can we expect to hear tonight as a part of Metal All Stars show?
Luckily, I get to do three Shadows Fall songs, which is really exciting. With Metal All Stars we get to play a lot of countries we’ve never been to before (Latvia being one of them), so to get to expose some of our music to new audiences is really cool. As well as that, I get to do some epic cover songs with some amazing musicians, like „Raining Blood” sharing vocals with Max Cavalera and „Bark at the Moon” with Blasko on bass, so it’s pretty awesome.
So are you guys doing some Black Sabbath songs tonight?
Zakk does a whole Black Sabbath set with some BLS songs as well.
Would you say Black Sabbath is one of your influences?
Oh, if you play heavy metal, you got to be influenced by Black Sabbath. Even the younger kids who never grew up listening to Sabbath, they wouldn’t have existed if Sabbath never did.
Cool, so this leads me to my next question… Where would heavy metal be today if such thing as Black Sabbath never happened?
Well, probably, at some point something would have taken that turn, but it would have taken a lot longer, because if you look at the time when Sabbath emerged, the temporary bands were like The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead. You know… Bands who were doing really cool and innovative things, just not on that darker, evil and ‘down-tune’ side of things. So to jump from what was happening in the popular music at the time to Sabbath was such a huge deal, so I feel like if that didn’t happen, then metal would be at least 20 years behind to where it is now. We might have stumbled across that, but it wouldn’t just ever be the same like those four like-minded guys living in such dark and industrial place as Birmingham in the 70’s that created that sort of sound.
And another thing – Ozzy’s voice is just unique. No one sounds like Ozzy. Everyone tries, but no one’s done it, so I think that without Ozzy’s voice heavy metal would have not been able to take a path it did, so thank God for Sabbath!
What do you think is the coolest thing about such tours like Metal All Stars for the fans and musicians themselves?
For the fans it’s just being able to see these different musicians in very unique circumstances playing their own music, but with different guys which leads you to do things in a different way. So they really are one-of-a-kind performances. It’s also a great chance to see some of your favorite musicians do cover songs and some things that they would not normally be able to do with their own bands. There’s a lot of freedom.
For the bands and for all of us it’s really all about hanging out together and even if something crazy happens, like those three hours at the airport on the floor, you have a story to share.
Everyone’s constantly on Instagram and Twitter posting pics! …and speaking of Instagram – Zakk Wylde is the king of selfies! If you ever fall asleep on a plane with Zakk Wylde, you will be on Instagram, because he will take a picture of you and put it up there. (Laughs)
So for me as a musician, it really has been the coolest thing to be able to hang out in those kind of scenarios with either people you look up to or have been friends with for a while. It’s all about having thos one of a kind lifetime experiences.
So would you say you’d be up for doing this some other time if you had such opportunity?
Yeah, I would definitely be up for it! Just the idea of it is such a cool thing in general. The thing what I feel we’re doing with this tour is just showing that it can be done. Sure, the organizers will probably work out some of the logistical bugs we ran into along the way and, hopefully, people who said they’re going to do it, actually show up the time next time.
But as far I’m concerned, I will definitely be a part of it, as it’s a wonderful experience.
Maybe bringing this tour to places like UK or US might be a good idea, as fans over there would just go crazy about it?
Yeah, what’s been interesting about this tour is that the countries we’ve played in are mostly places we’ve never played or been before! So it’s really unique for us to go to places that are normally not included in our regular tours.
Hopefully we can do it again sometime soon!
That’s wonderful stuff. Thanks for having time to talk to us!
No problem and thank you for having me!