Assassins made their way into the wilds of Hollywood, performing a super intensive set of tunes culled from their debut album War Of Aggression on Good Fight/eOne Music. The venue was the legendary Whisky on the Sunset Strip, in support of Carnifex on the Die Without Hope U.S. Tour. We caught up with front man Todd Jansen prior to their set to discuss their dynamic songs, explosive live shows, life on the road, a cat named Paul Gray, and other combustible topics of interest. Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Assassins, and how long the band has been together.
My name is Todd Jansen, I am the vocalist for Assassins and we’ve been together since 2010.
How has this tour been going so far and what have been some of the highlights?
The tour has been awesome! It’s been a real honor to be able to tour with some of these bands – especially Carnifex – they’ve been doing it forever so that’s like really cool. Some of the highlights – my favorite show on this tour so far has been Seattle – people there are so friendly – they seem like such loyal, diehard fans. I always like meeting people after we play – and talking to them and seeing what they liked and didn’t like about our set. Those people gave the most awesome responses, so it was cool to talk to them.
Where are you guys from and what is your local music scene like there?
We are from Detroit, Michigan – I guess you could say Metro Detroit – nobody actually lives in Detroit – but we’re all within maybe like a 20 mile radius of it. The local scene there is very interesting. There’s a band of every type in a local show of any kind of genre you could imagine on any given weekend. And it’s kind of cool, because you could go to a local show and maybe you could see a metal band and then maybe you’ll see a Southern rock kind of band and then maybe you’ll see a pop punk or rock and roll kind of band. You could see definitely different types of music everywhere. What’s really cool about the music scene is all the musicians around there are very versatile. I’ve seen dudes from hardcore bands, like beat down stuff, like real simplistic music go to like delay guitar pedal ambient rock stuff that’s something completely different. The Detroit scene is really cool – you could always hear some new sound coming from it.
Is there any story or concept behind the CD title War Of Aggression?
Dennis actually came up with the name of the album. I ran through like 100 different titles and I hated all of them and I just couldn’t come up with it. He explained to me some reason and I can’t remember what it is for the life of me. But he did a lot of research into what all the titles of the tracks were and what I write about. He said this title would be a great fit and I said cool, I like it!
Select two songs from War Of Aggression and what inspired the lyrics.
Waking Up – I’ve always been a big believer that in this life you could literally do or create whatever you want to from nothing. Most of my band comes from nothing – we don’t have like very wealthy families. To be able to afford a tour and do that kind of stuff – you’ve got to make sacrifices. And a lot of the lyrics on the song are about waking up and taking control of your life. Everybody comes from vices and things – but if you really want to accomplish something, you really have to buckle yourself down and realize what your vices are – and either take a step back from them or find a way to moderate them to where you can achieve whatever goal it is that you’re trying to reach.
In God You Trust would be a good one – that one is a little bit political from my end about my beliefs in this country. I’m very patriotic and I do love my country and I’m in full support of our military – but I don’t necessarily agree with what the people in office are doing to take care of us, the people in this country. It’s kind of like one of those songs.
What was it like working with Chris of Like Moths To Flames on The United and have you ever performed that song with him live?
Yeah, we actually did a small tour with them – it was like 10 or so days back in December of 2012. And actually we’ve played shows with them locally when they would come through when they were touring off their EP – back when we didn’t even have an EP and we would open up their shows in Michigan. We’ve kind of known him and the rest of those guys for a long time. Working with him was cool actually – I just hit him,up and I was like, “Hey, man, would you like to do guest vocals?” Then we had to go through the proper channels of making it happen obviously. He was more than willing and he was awesome. The tour he was on at the time came through Michigan, so I picked him up at the venue and then we went to the studio and did it.
What could one expect from a live Assassins show tonight?
Emotion – a lot of it. We’re all pretty passionate about what we do – we’re all very happy and proud of where we come from. Especially being in a van for so many hours of the day sitting here – you really can’t get out and do anything. By the time we hit the stage, we’re all ready to explode. I would say emotional and explosive.
Any strange or scary happening while on the road or at a show?
The most that I could say is that I’ve seen some really weird looking people. I wish I had pictures to show you, because that would probably make it more interesting. Nothing too weird. We’re pretty low key dudes – we kind of just drive, and hang out, and do our thing. I don’t think we’ve toured enough to have any crazy experiences yet…
If Assassins could open up for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
For me personally? Slipknot! Why? Cuz it’s Slipknot! I actually named my cat Paul Gray – after their bassist who passed away, because I was a fan of the band. My girlfriend at the time was like, “You want to name it after Paul from the Beatles?” And I was like “No – wrong Paul – we’ve got to get a metal Paul – so Paul Gray!” I’m not sure how much their fans maybe would or would not like us – I’d make a plaque for myself – it would be like “I opened up for Slipknot!” It would be such a cool experience!
If the music of Assassins was a donut, what kind would it be and why?
Oooh, that’s a good one – I don’t even eat donuts. You know what – actually I lied. We went to Voodoo – it would be the Oreo donut with the glazed frosting. Our guitarist Steve bought one of those and I had a bite and it was the most delicious donut – so I’m going to go with that one.
What’s up next for you guys after this tour is over?
We have some stuff that I unfortunately can’t talk about. But we are going to be filming a music video very soon and definitely a lot more touring. We plan on staying very active and very busy on the road for the next year – year and a half supporting this album. You’ll see a lot of us – we’ll be back in California.
You’re almost at the end of the tour now – I think you’ve got one more day to go. What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home from this tour?
Hug my cat!
Hug Paul Gray?
Yes! I miss my cat! That and probably go to my parent’s house and get a home cooked meal.
And do you have any messages for people reading this who might want to check your band out?
Come see us at a show. Please come hang out with us at the merch table. Come meet us – come talk to us. I love meeting new fans and always talking to people and getting opinions on what they think of our band and our music and everything in general.
Assassins is Todd Jansen, Dennis Tuohey, Steven Taylor, Anthony Gaglio, and Victor Ordonez
(Interview and Photos by Ken Morton)
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