Category Archives: Interviews

Islander: Breaking Out at Mayhem Fest

Islander_1200x900_2It was Day One of the annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in San Bernardino, CA., and one of the up-and-coming bands destined to make a lasting impression would surely be Islander.   Performing all summer long on the Victory Records Stage, Islander places a lot of heart and soul into their live show, and audiences are responding tenfold.  A debut album entitled Violence & Destruction has been issued through Victory, featuring guest appearances by none other than Sonny Sandoval of POD and HR of the legendary Bad Brains.  In the press area. we sat down to chat with Islander front man Mikey Carvajal to find out more about their impassioned new album, the new single Coconut Dracula, touring with Mayhem Fest, and other raging topic of interest.  Read on…

Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Islander.
My name is Mikey Carvajal and I’m the vocals for Islander.

islanderjl1Where’s your band based, and what’s your scene like there?
We’re from Greenville, SC.  And our music scene, its just started thriving a little bit again. It’s been dead for a minute. I think a lot of the world is struggling as far as rock and roll right now and that’s kind of something that lit a fire inside of us to start doing this again. We had been a band for a while then we had stopped. A long time ago we were called something else. And then we were like, man, let’s be a band again. We have passion for actually playing our songs and not using backing tracks and just being a rock and roll band and trying to write the best rock and roll we can write. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. But we think that people are really kind of just restless and tired of everything that has been going on in the scene, so I guess for us, we just want to show people what our hometown used to be. And it’s slowly coming back.  There’s like us and a band called ‘Brigades‘ and a couple of our other friends.

What can we expect from your live performance from Mayhem?
Well it’s a little bit different every day. We don’t like to pre-plan moves or something like that. So its a kind of thing where it’s all like heartfelt, passion, and we’ll be playing the single, ‘Coconut Dracula‘. But it’s Mayhem you know, there’s a lot of metalheads that just want to hear a riff so we trying to play our heavier songs too. That’s what’s cool about us – we feel like we can just adapt to whatever or wherever we’re thrown in.  We’ve just never been apart of anything like this before, so we’re still trying to figure out what to expect at Mayhem.

islanderjl2Is there any story or concept behind the album title Violence & Destruction?
Violence & Destruction in the book of Jeremiah in the scriptures; Jeremiah says that he can’t help but speak violence and destruction and because of his sharing Christ with people, he’s become a household joke to just everybody. They said if he keeps it in he doesn’t share Christ that it burns in his bones like fire and he said I can’t hold it in. And this band, we all believe different things. I’m the only person that claims anything like that in the band. But it’s just kind of the idea too. It kind of goes to the idea of not sweeping things under the rug just because of difficult conversations or that we disagree. It’s kind of beautiful that we disagree, because we can come together, and let’s seek truth together and not tear each other down. That’s kind of what the album deals with – to change the fruit you have to change the root.  I believe that we can become trees that bear good fruit.

Let’s talk about the single Coconut Dracula, what inspired the lyrics?
My uncle. My whole family actually on my dad’s side. They’re Hispanic. And we were hanging out one night and he said something in Spanish that sounded like Coconut Dracula. And he didn’t say that though.  He said something else – I don’t know what he said.  I told him, “I like the way that sounds.  Is that what you said?”  And he was like, no. And I was like, I’m going to write a song called Coconut Dracula.  It’s funny though, because like once I came up with that, I needed a story to put with it, so it has to do with Count Dracula and one day he’s walking and he finds a coconut on the ground and he bites into it and he discovers that there must be something more in this world that is beautiful rather than hurting people or being evil. So he goes and gets his name legally changed to Coconut rather than Count. And he’s roommates with a mummy, a witch, a werewolf, and Frankenstein. And they’re all really freaked about his new nature, his new lifestyle of starting a garden, helping with charities, wearing Batman pajamas, stuff like that. The mummy, the whole song is through the mummy’s eyes saying “you know what I want, what you have, because you seem like you actually have a real joy now and you’re not having to be evil and all this stuff” and he’s like “I need you to teach me what you know man.”  So, that’s kind of what it’s about.

islanderjl3Select any other song on the album and what inspired the lyrics for you.
There’s another song on the record, the first track and its called “Counteract.” The funny story about that is, no one wrote the lyrics to that song. My mom had a dream one night when we were on tour and when she woke up, she said in the dream we were singing this new song. She said she remembered all the lyrics so I wrote them down, she read them to me and I said thank you. I tweaked them, I added a few different things. In the song, it ends up saying, in the bridge “this is not a dream” but the chorus and verses came from a dream my mom had about me singing the song. I guess it’s not a dream anymore.

How did Sonny Sandoval from POD become involved with Violence and Criminals?
I’ve known Sonny for a little while. Actually a huge fan of that band, it goes way back. The thing that’s cool about POD is they’ve always cared about their fans. More than fans, it’s not just about music. It’s about something deeper, relationships and friendships. Like a heart to heart thing. Over the years, I was just going to their shows all the time and ended up building a relationship with Sonny and the guys. We were doing this band and thought, man it’d be cool if we could do a track with Sonny. We did an old, independant track with him a long time ago. It’s floating around on the internet somewhere on YouTube. When we had the new record, we figured we’d do it right. He had recorded some vocals on his Mac and we did stuff, sent it each other throughout the country. This time we actually got to fly to CA, he got to come out to the studio and hang out and write with us. That was awesome. He’s a standup dude, legit. Love those guys.

islanderjl4You also worked with HR from Bad Brains. How did that come about?
I got in touch with his drummer for his solo project and asked if it would be possible to get in touch with HR and he said yes.  He told HR, this band wants you to do vocals on a song and he’s a big influence, you know? We had some dates booked for the recording process, but he missed his flights and we were like you know what? I’ve heard he’s recorded vocals over the phone before, let;s get him to do it over the phone. So I called him on his cell phone and asked if it would be OK, so we went through all that stuff. He’s like, yeah. Called him back and he did all his vocals through the cell phone.  Doesn’t get more punk rock than that.

If Islander could open for any band either now or the past, who would it be and why?
I don’t know if I could pick just one band. I think a band that would be fun to play with, another thing that has influenced us is a band called ZAO. Somebody else, completely different style of music, maybe a Johnny Cash / Elvis show. Bjork? That’d be fun.

islanderjl5What would you like the listener to remember most after hearing your music for the very first time?
That whatever moment they’re in, when they hear the songs, whether it’s good or bad, that I hope it impacts them in a good way. That they’re inspired to seek truth, no matter their differences in beliefs, that they’re inspired to create art and seek truth. I’d like them to take that with them, that goes farther than just music.

Do you have any messages for your fans whom are reading this right now?
We love you guys, even if we haven’t met you, we genuinely thank you for everything you do for us. Supporting us, letting us stay on your floors in your houses. It sounds cheesy to even say it sounds cheesy anymore but it’s true, you guys are the reason that anyone can still do this, so thank you.

Islander is:
Andrew – Guitar
Eric – Drums
Doot – Bass
Mikey – Vocals

(Interview and Mikey Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)

Islander on Facebook

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Getting Deep with Heart to Heart

HeartToHeart062014_1200x900Heart to Heart spent a good portion of their summer on the wilds of the Vans Warped Tour, getting deep with the fans all across the country.  A punk rocking collective from Pismo Beach, CA, Heart to Heart recently unveiled their latest recording Dulce via Pure Noise Records.  Quickly becoming well known for their wondrously unpredictable sets, vocalist Nick Zoppo would light a cigarette and then take swallow it with a chug of Monster Energy Drink right in the middle of one of their more impassioned songs.  We caught up with the band right after their exhilarating show in Pomona to discuss their brand spanking new album Dulce, some of the deeply personal songs, a while bucket list of perfect touring partners, the aftermath of swallowing a ciggie, and other inspired topics on intrigue.  Read on…

hearttojl1Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Heart to Heart. What’s the most embarrassing song you have on your iPod?
Nick: My name’s Nick Zoppo, I sing in Heart to Heart. The most embarrassing song I have on my ipod would be Christina Aguilera. I have so much embarrassing stuff. I dont even think that’s embarrassing. [laughs] Willa Ford, “I Wanna Be Bad.” I love that song.

Justin: I’m Justin, I play bass. Probably the most embarrassed, guilty pleasure type of song would be Shania Twain, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” That’s my jam.

Taylor: My name is Taylor, I play guitar and sing. The most embarrassing song on my iPod would be “Call Me, Maybe” by Carly Rae, even though I don’t find it that embarrassing. I still thinks a bad song. But that makes the most sense for an embarrassing song, it’s a guilty pleasure. Carly Rae is the shit.

How’s this Warped Tour been doing so far? Give me some of the highlights.
Nick: This is our first time on the Warped Tour. We had a little bit of a rough start. We purchased an RV two weeks before the tour, that lasted us a good 6 days. We were forced to buy a brand new van right outside of Phoenix to make the tour on time. But, Texas was awesome. I love going in the line myself, interacting with the people out there. I don’t look at myself any different from them, I love interacting.  Just seeing how many people come to the stage and seeing all these kids sing a long, it’s been nothing short of amazing.

hearttojl2Any story behind the title of the album Dulce?
Nick: I’m half Puerto Rican. I wanted to throw a spanish twist on it. I convinced these guys to roll with it, that was that.

Select two songs from the album and tell me what inspired the lyrics.
Nick: “Daydream” is one of my favorites. I spent a lot of time day dreaming when I’m depressed about wanting to kill myself. What I wrote the song about was how I would do it and how it would affect those around me. I love it. It came out awesome. I like to be real personal with our lyrics.

I like “Bad Habits” a lot. It starts with “I’ve got a list of bad habits” and I shortly name a few things and the end result is it made me the man I hate today, all these things I’ve done. Again, very personal. That’s Heart to Heart. We like to have “heart to hearts” if you will, with our listeners.

hearttojl4I saw you eat a cigarette on stage, is that something you normally do?
Nick: No, that was a first today. I like to entertain and have fun. A lot of people asked me why did you do this, why did you do that. I have this scar on my forehead from our last tour in Texas. I head-butted his bass and it just happened to cut me open. I like to say it’s the stage me, me and him aren’t friend. He’s a crazy guy.

Justin: Last week he took off stage in the middle of the song “Daydream” actually, he was riding a mechanical bull and singing at the same time.

Nick: That’s right, I rode a mechanical bull in Texas and sang at the same time. I never know, I don’t have a plan when I go up there. I like to leave kids with a lasting impression. We’re still a newer band so I like to give them something to remember. It’s Warped Tour, I mean you’re expecting to see crazy shit out here. That’s what we’re here for, we’re here to put on a show.

Will you ever eat another cigarette again?
Nick: No. It was disgusting. I actually threw up in my mouth during our set a little bit, I thought I hid it pretty well. After our set, I was under the stage getting it all out. It wasn’t good. Sorry mom.

hearttojl3Where are you guys from and what is your music scene like there?
Nick: We’re from Pismo Beach, CA. Off the central coast. Our scene over the last few years has sadly come to a downfall. We dont have any local venues. We have one big venue but it’s hard to get local shows in there. We like to play at home, often. It’s where we started out. It’s where we grew. Even though there’s nothing going on there, we never forget where we came from. We like to – we throw shows at tattoo shows in town, restaurants, wherever we can. To have fun and try and build the scene.

If you could open for any band either now or from the past, who and why?
Nick: Two that come to mind, Deftones and Poison The Well. Those are two of my absolute favorite bands. I’ve been trying to get the vocalist Jeff to do a guest part of the longest time. They still haven’t replied, but every time we go into the studio I still try and contact. If anyone out there can get me in on that, that’d be awesome.

Or if he’s reading this.
Nick: Yes. If he’s reading this. I’ve seen both bands multiple times, it’s always a great show no matter what.

Justin: Two bucket list bands, in terms of playing with them either CCR or Queen. I know we wouldn’t fit on the show, but it would be fun. I’d probably just shit my pants.

Taylor: Either Glassjaw or Against Me. Two of my favorite bands ever. It’d be a real honor to share the stage with them.

Whats up next for you guys after Warped Tour?
Nick: We’ll be touring off Dulce for a little bit. Stoked to share that with the world. We’re really going to be pushing the record, then tour tour tour. Hopefully after a few tours, hop back in the studio and rinse wash and repeat, do it all over again.

Heart to Heart isNick Zoppo, Johnathan Hayes, Taylor Stillwell, Justin Bratcher, and Blaze Blanke.

(Interview and Band Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)

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Galvanized Souls at Vans Warped Tour in Ventura

Galvanized Souls1_1200x900Meet Galvanized Souls, a rocking band from the Camarillo area in Southern California.  After having recently won an Ernie Ball Battle Of The Bands compe-tition, Galvanized Souls found them-selves performing a set at the iconic Vans Warped Tour in Ventura.  Unleashing a few cuts from their Self-Titled debut on Rockerazzi Records as well as some new songs, it was infinitely clear that Galvanized Souls was making a good amount of new fans as well as impressing the many attendees already familiar with the charasmatic collective.  Just after their exhilarating performance, we caught up with the four members of Galvanized Souls to find out more about this band on the rise and their tremendously memorable tunes.  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Galvanized Souls and what’s the most embarrassing song you have on your iPod?
Chris: Hey, I’m Chris and the most embarrassing song on my iPod would probably be Britney Spears, “Circus.”

Zakk: I’m Zakk, I’d say the most embarrassing song on my iPod is an old original that I wrote called “Liar” that sounds really bad because I was 6 when I sang it.

Nice, that’s the first time someone has chosen their own song. Cool.
Kevin: The most embarrassing song on my iPod. “ET” by Katy Perry. That’s not that bad. But when you’re driving down in Los Angeles and you have your windows down and you’re blasting Katy Perry and you have colored hair, people look at you differently.

Matthew: This is Matthew, the most embarrassing song on my iPod would have to be KeshaTick Tock.”

When are you guys from and what’s your local music scene like?
Zakk: We are from Camarillo, CA and our local music scene – there’s only one venue in Camarillo, it’s called Rock City Studios, which is actually where we formed.

IMG_6957How did you end up on Warped Tour?
Zakk: We were doing Ernie Ball’s Battle of the Bands and we got picked to come play Warped Tour.

How does that feel, to know you’ve won over all these other bands?
Zakk: It feels pretty good. It’s cool because there’s a lot of talented musicians out there and to know we were able to get here is really a compliment to us, it makes us feel better about ourselves knowing that we’re more noticeable.

Chris: Warped Tour is like a dream come true gig. It’s absolutely amazing to be able to get picked and play on Warped Tour.

Kevin: It’s truly an honor to be playing here. It’s always been a dream of ours to play a show here. I remember a couple of years back, I was looking up at the stage and I was watching the drummer play and was like, dude – I’d kill to be up there. I dont want to be down here anymore. I want to be up there. Now that we’re here, we actually did it. It just shows that dreams really do come true. You can live the dream, you just have to stick to it. It’s been phenomenal, this whole experience.

Select two songs you played today, what inspired the lyrics?
Zakk: “Carry On,” which we wrote because we noticed a lot of our fans were doing a lot of self harm to themselves. We wanted to make an anthem for our fans to be able to listen to so in their hard times, when they’re going through tough times or when something is happening at home, or anything, they have a song they can listen to that’ll help them get through it.

Our new song called “Make a Sound” is a song about standing up for yourself, not keeping anything hidden, if you’re getting bullied but to actually speak up.

IMG_6951What can one expect from your live show and what did people miss who did not catch your set today at Warped?
Kevin: An awesome rock show with a lot of high energy. My friends here, Matt, Chris and Zakk. These guys don’t stay still when they’re on the stage. They jump around and tear up the stage, that’s what you guys missed. You guys missed a lot of awesome energy.

If you could open for any band either now or in the past, who would it be and why?
Matthew: My dream band to open up for would be Queens of the Stone Age.  They’re a band that inspired me and made me want to be in music.

Kevin: My favorite, which has been a true inspiration to me would be KISS. They really went the distance, they built this giant empire. Back in the day when it was the four original members, they really had a strong presence on stage. I think opening up for original KISS would have been beyond a dream come true. That would have been it. Then I could have died happy.

Zakk: I would say Failure. Just because we recently saw them at The Fonda Theater in LA. Not at all what I expected. For being just a three piece, they were the most powerful sounding band I’ve ever heard. I did not know that a guitar could have so much sub frequency to it. Everything was shaking. It’s cool, it was awesome.

Chris: My dream band to open for would be Foo Fighters. They have made such amazing and inspiring music that has inspired all of us to write music. It’d just be awesome to watch right after you play.

Why should someone run out right now and check out your music?
Matthew: Someone should get our music because we try and put messages in our songs and we just want everyone to hear those messages.

How can people get a hold of you?
Zakk: At galvanizedsouls@gmail.com or go to our official website www.galvanizedsouls.com – it has all our links, songs, webisodes, contact, twitter, facebook, etc…

Galvanized Souls are:
Zakk – Lead Vocals and Guitar
Chris – Lead Guitar
Matt – Bass
Kevin – Drums

(Interview by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Edward Brandon)

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Death of an Era: Explosive Secrets Unleashed

Photo Credit: Steven Lipson

Photo Credit: Steven Lipson

Have your attention yet?  Good, because we want to introduce you to this exciting new band from Columbus, Ohio!  

Death of an Erra unleashes an explosive brand of modern metal that should thoroughly enrapture listeners from all across the nation. Their latest endeavor is entitled Black Blagged on Artery Recordings, a compelling album that should launch the band into the big leagues. In this interview, we chat with drummer Michael Cooper about the enigmatically titled Black Bagged, highlights from the road, encounters with friendly homeless people. and other top secrets now revealed at last!  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Death of an Era, and how long the band has been together.
My name is Michael Cooper, I play drums in Death of an Era. Thanks for having me! This band has been together since 2009, started by my brother Chris and myself alongside Daniel and Nathan. Later came Dustin to join us.

Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
We’re from Columbus, Ohio where the local music scene was tough coming up. We really didn’t have the local love until a little later in our unsigned days, but we have an appreciation for those few who have truly been there since the early days.

DOAE_BB_2400-980x980Is there any story or concept behind the CD title Black Bagged?
With the new record title, we named it after the idea that we may be erased or “Black Bagged” for writing about the content we choose to highlight.

Select two songs from Black Bagged and what inspired the lyrics.
The track “Big Brother” exposes the average American following and believing every word that their media or government speaks. While the song “Home” touches on an entirely different lyrical side of Death of an Era. It tells about the struggle of being without the one that you feel at home with.

How does Black Bagged compare to your previous EP The Great Commonweath?
We like to think of “Black Bagged” being a sequel to “The Great Commonwealth” EP. It stays true to the sound we developed with the EP but takes it to a much more advanced level.

How did your tour with The Last Ten Second Of Life go and what were some of the highlights?
Our Spring tour went well! We got the chance to hit some of our favorite cities with some really great bands.  Of course, being from the opposite side of the country, California is always a highlight.

What could one expect from a live Death of an Era show?
If you’re seeing us for the first time, expect a dark, heavy, creepy show.

Any strange or scary happenings on the road or at a Death of an Era show?
Strange is the best word if you want stories from tour. We seem to attract insane homeless people. We’ve had them try to get in our trailer before. We’ve seen them expose themselves to us in the street. It’s honestly entertaining..

If Death of an Era could open up for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
If we could choose to support any band, I feel that we would all say Bring Me The Horizon. They’ve been a huge influence since the start and continue to make incredible music.

What would you like a listener to remember the most after hearing Black Bagged for the first time?
If you can take anything one idea away from listening to Black Bagged, it is to question everything. Don’t be told what to believe just because your media or government says so. Open your mind.

What’s up next for Death of an Era?
What’s next is a surprise for now, keep an eye out for tours supporting the new record!

Any final words of wisdom?
Thank you guys for having us and thanks to the readers for hearing us out! Pick up a copy of Black Bagged if you can. Support the music that supports you! Much love.

Death of an Era is:
Daniel Simpson – Vocals
Michael Cooper – Drums
Nathan Stewart – Guitar
Dustin Colling – Guitar
Chris Cooper – Bass

(Interview by Ken Morton – Band Photo by Steven Lipson)

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Rippikoulu: Through Exquisite Darkness

rippikint1After a slumber of many years due to the passing of a band member, the exquisite darkness of Rippikoulu has returned with an all-out vengeance! Their latest MCD Ulvaja is now available from Svart Records - and it surely depressive doom metal in its finest hour. In addition to the new material, Svart has re-issuied Rippikoulu’s landmark debut album Musta Seremonia. Mystery and intrigue has surrounded the Finnish collective since their commencement, and now Highwire Daze attempts to unravels the enigmatic wonder known as Rippikoulu. Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Rippikoulu and how long the band has been together.
Hello, this is Olli, guitarist of Rippikoulu. Band is formed back in 1989. So it has been long 25 years with Rippikoulu now. 1995 our second guitarist died and Rippikoulu took a break, almost 15 years. But now we are back together.

Where is Rippikoulu based out and what was is the local metal scene like there?
Our training place is in Valkeakoski Finland, just next to a place we used to train in 1990`s. Local metal scene in Valkeakoski? Nothing, except Rippikoulu. Finland is well known for its death metal scene tough.

How frustrating was it to wait 21 years to record new material and were you in other bands since then?
It wasn`t frustraiting at all. Becouse we had decided that Rippikoulu will never play again. It was 2010 when we decided to go jamming again and have some fun. Janne played in a rock-band in these years and I had couple of bands, but just for a fun. And we have a new drummer now and he has played in a lots of bands all the time.

riipikcd2Is there any story or concept behind the CD title Ulvaja?
You should ask Anssi (singer) who does the lyrics. But I think there is some kind of story behind that title. Ulvaja (Ulvajanniemi) is in fact a place where Rippikoulu was formed and we spent our youth. We love our Rippikoulu roots and Ulvaja is one way to show it.

Who did the cover art for Ulvaja and how much input did you have on it?
It is in fact a photo which is taken by Janne, our bassist. And it is a view just behind our training place. We think that it is perfect cover to a perfect title of EP.

rippikoulu-musta_seremonia1When you look back on your previous recording Musta Seremonia, what do you think of it now?
It is still a masterpiece. It has some rare details which are still excellent. And its atmosphere is unique. We love it. Considering it was done in two days and just for a fun.

How did your cooperation with Svart Records come about?
We had many many request to re-release Musta Seremonia in years 2000-2009. Then Svart contacted us and they were serious. It was Finnish starting label back then and deal contained LP version too. We decided to release Musta Seremonia with Svart and that was the beginning with our co-operation.

Has Rippikoulu ever performed live or plan to do so in future days?
We had many gigs all over Finland before 1995 (when Marko died). What happens in future, you never know. Everything, I mean everything is possible.

If Rippikoulu could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Hard question. I have to be boring and say I really don’t know. I love many bands in many genres so it is hard to decide one band. But if I have to say one or two, it might be (old) Sentenced or My Dying Bride (old).

Will we have to wait another 21 years for the next Rippikoulu magnum opus?
Future is totally open. We might do a full length album or MCD or Rippikoulu might not be along us anymore in couple of years. We have other things in life too at the moment but we love playing together, so I really don’t know anything about the future.

What would like a listener to remember the most after hearing Ulvaja for the first time?
The dark atmosphere. When you look at the covers of Ulvaja and listen to it your feelings should be dark, desperate and sad.

Any final words of wisdom?
No, wise words does not come out of my mouth. Thank you for this interview and check out our new MCD Ulvaja.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

Rippikoulu on Facebook

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Comeback Kid: Raging Hardcore at Rock City

comebackkidlive1_032314Comeback Kid was back in the Southland, this time bringing the raging hardcore anthems to Rock City Studios in Camarillo,  On tour in support of their fifth album Die Knowing, now available from Victory Records. the Canadian collective sent the throngs into a slam pit overdrive.  Prior to their exhilarating set at Rock City, we caught up with founding member Andrew Neufeld to find out more about the compelling Die Knowing, working with former vocalist Scott Wade once again, his other band Sights and Sounds, thoughts on the current Christian hardcore scene, and many other topics of interest.  Read on as we catch up with Andrew Neufeld just right before Comeback Kid sent Rock City into the stratosphere…

So how’s this tour been going so far? What have been some of the highlights? This is the last day now.
Tour’s been going pretty cool. We’ve been out for like, 5 weeks.  There were a lot of really good shows on this tour.  NYC was was really fun to play. We got to do a lot of festivals on this tour, which was cool to mix it up. Playing club shows is fun but it’s also cool when you can – even if it’s festivals where we’re a little bit out of our element style wise. It’s fun to have fun, mix it up and play different types of venues. SXSW was cool as shit.

comebackkiddaze032314How does Die Knowing compare to the other Comeback Kid albums?
We set out to do a record that was a little more to the point. Looking back on it now, the songs are noticeably shorter and we just took a fun, simplistic approach to it. There’s still some rippers in there, but when we sat back and looked at the songs we had, we were like, wow there’s a lot of heavy songs on this. So we decided to just pack it towards the front with our heaviest hardcore stuff and then it ends on more of a brighter note. It’s kind of a throwback vibe a little bit of 90s metallic hardcore as well. Some of the stuff we grew up on, we’ve always been into really hard hardcore so that’s some of those influences shining through a little bit.

Select two songs off of Die Knowing and what inspired you to write the lyrics?
There’s a song called “Unconditional” and that’s about – it’s definitely the most chill out song on the record. That song is about a year that went by where my mom had cancer and we went through chemo. It’s about, for some reason I knew she would get through it, and she did get through it. It was one of those things for family members I feel like anybody who has anyone sick in the family – you are always waiting on results and hoping for the best to happen but also have to brace yourself that things could drastically change and really affect you. That’s what that song is about, just reflecting on that.

One song is called “Wasted Arrows,” which is actually my funnest song. We’ve been playing it live. I’m not usually a pissed off person, but that song is just kind of – about someone who’s kind of turned their back on me and just left me out to dry so to speak, is what the lyrics are. It’s an aggressive song, a pissed off song, which is straight and to the point.

Comeback-Kid-300x463One of the songs has Scott on it. What was it like working with him again? Does he ever want to come back to Comeback Kid?
We did some anniversary shows last year with him.  We did a few shows in CA, a few shows on the east coast. We did a small European tour, Turn it Around 10 year anniversary and he came back and sang. I played guitar. We’re super tight friends, we hang out all the time, so we’re always still talking about music. I was like, OK Scott, you can write some lyrics and I’ll write mine and then we were both procrastinators when it comes to it, then we end up smoking weed or something. But the funny thing about that song is, we recorded the drums in California for that. We recorded the music in Winnipeg and then I was on tour with my other band and I did the vocals for that song, because we didn’t finish in time, in Italy and Scott did them in Toronto. Then we just emailed them all and smashed them together.

Figure Four did some reunion shows. How did that feel to do those songs again? Especially since all of them have Christian tones to them?
We didn’t play any of the old Christian stuff. Figure Four – I started the band when I was a kid. 16 years old or whatever. Then towards the end of Figure Four - before the last record, Sufferering the Loss, was going through some changes and growing up a little bit. Started to think differently and not agreeing so much with the Christian aspect, but I was still going through it at that time. That was 12-13 years ago. We just played songs from Suffering the Lost that aren’t really religious.

That’s the best album anyway.
Yeah, that’s the one that can stand the test of time a little bit. That had the best production. I thought the other ones weren’t the best. They never were that great. Growing up for anyone to see every dumb thing I’ve said in my past is – lots of bad lyrics.

ckrock3_1200x900Looking upon the Christian metal scene today, what do you think of it?
It’s weird. I dont know. It’s hard, I notice just as an outsider now looking in how much more things like the world is a lot more politically correct, for the lack of a better term. Christianity, I mean, you even see the Pope pretty much – he gave a statement I saw, he said they don’t believe in a literal Hell anymore and that theres a lot of things, oh and he said all religions are true. That’s something I don’t think ten years ago a Pope would have said. Christianity is really changing, and sometimes people get surprised when a Christian band is homophobic or a little anti-gay. Dude, Christianity has always had that stuff in it. Why is it a surprise? It’s just less tolerated now, which is good as far as any bigotry or fascism or whatever. It’s interesting, I’m really just an outsider looking in. There aren’t really any hardcore Christian bands, is there?

There doesn’t seem to be, no. Just off the top of my head I can’t really think of any.  Maybe Gideon?
I haven’t heard them, but I’ve heard of them.

ckrock2_1200x900I think they’re the biggest band on Facedown now besides War of Ages.
Actually, Jason from Facedown. I keep in touch with him. Not super often, but he’s a cool guy. He’s in Uganda right now adopting a girl, they’ve been there for a few months trying to work all that out.

Facedown Fest is next weekend.
Maybe they’re flying in for it? I don’t knot. When we’re in California, sometimes we see the people from back in the day and get updates on everybody.

Your other band, Sights and Sound, you recently put out a new EP entitled Silver Door. How does it compare to Monolith and the other things you’ve done?
It was a collection of songs that we had, we weren’t real sure what we were going to do with it or how we were going to put it out. Then we ended up getting a tour with the band Bring Me The Horizon, who asked us to go to Europe with them for about 6 weeks. Those were huge shows, OK we’ll put out this record and we got Jake from Pure Noise to put it out for us, kind of an on a whim. We had been working on it for a while but we weren’t sure, but yeah. Then once we had a few tours that we could do, we actually have never played the states before. We were like OK we have to put out the new release. It’s a little more straightforward, also and Monolith was a Devin Townsend produced epic long songs and tons of layers. Sights and Sounds is always about layers, but these songs are a little more simple rock structures. Some are more shorter, I guess. Sights and Sounds is a fun way to play melodic rock stuff.

You said you toured with Bring Me The Horizon, how was that?
It was cool, I mean we were just warming up the shows so it was just interesting to play to thousands of little kids. Sometimes they’re into it, it was a fun tour to be on.

When will we see Sights and Sounds here in the states?
I don’t know, man. I dont know when and if it will happen. Because band members all have to get visas, we’re just a small band. Somehow it’s easier, financially to do a tour in Europe than come to the states, weirdly enough. Its just the way it works.

And when you do go over there, you’re touring with Bring Me The Horizon, [laughs].
We’re a band where if something cool comes up that we can tour, like a support option comes up we’ll do that, or we’ll do some headlining stuff in Europe and Canada. If someone wanted to bring us out in America, that would be cool. Its just so tough here, there are so many bands touring. Sights and Sounds just costs so much money to play.

Is Stu from Misery Signals in Comeback Kid now?
Yeah.

How did that come about?
He almost joined a couple of times. He was a natural fit, and he really wanted to gig and kept on talking to us about it. He was pretty stoked to be a part of this. He’s a great guitar player. We’ve been homies for such a long time, he’s been with us now for a couple of years and I really hope that he stays with us for a long time.

That’d be cool. Well, Misery Signals got back together. Was Stu not involved in that?
No, they’re doing the band without Stu. But actually, this summer they’re going to do a ten year anniversary for Malice, their first record with their old singer. He’ll do a similar thing that Comeback Kid did.

Oh nice. Will Stu be involved with that tour?
Yeah.

This has been a long tour, what’s the first thing you plan to do when you get home?
I live in Toronto these days, we’re driving to Toronto, 40 hours. We’ll leave after the show tonight, then we’ll have a day off. Practice with our new fill-in drummer and then go to Europe.

Do you have any messages for your fans who are reading this?
We appreciate the support. That’s it. We’re just happy to be playing music. Thanks for keeping on checking us out, for sure if you’re into Comeback Kid in anyway, please check out our new record Die Knowing.

(Review and Photos by Ken Morton)

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The Word Alive: Keeping It Real on Vans Warped Tour

thewordalive062514The Word Alive is spending another hot and heavy summer on the Vans Warped Tour, this time with a dynamic new album to promote entitled Real.  Now available from Fearless Records, Real. is a passionate effort showing each and every member at the very height of their artistry.  The band is especially intense live, as concert goers all across North America are witnessing.  We caught up with The Word Alive frontman Telle Smith at the San Diego edition of Warped Tour just prior to their set, where we discuss the concept of Real., a few of the song lyrics, musicians as role models. and what he thought about playing directly opposite Linkin Park at the Warped Ventura date.  Read on as we keep it very real with the one and only Telle Smith…

twajl16We’re here with Telle from The World Alive. How has Warped Tour been going for you so far? What have been some of the highlights?
It’s been great. I think its, unless your bus breaks down or you get super sick, I think its hard to have a bad time on Warped Tour. It’s a great, fun tour. The highlights have been Dallas, that was great. It was the first really great show of the tour. Then Arizona was our hometown show for the band that was absolutely amazing. Then Pomona, probably was my favorite show so far. It was a special day. I think certain shows, cities you really connect with. With everyone. When you can connect with a group of a few thousand people then it just makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.

twajl1What is it you’d like fans to know about the title Real?
I don’t want people to take it the wrong way. I think certainly people could look at it and be like, ‘oh, that’s kind of egotistical’ but I think as fans of music people should want something genuine from bands and artists. That’s what this album is, its genuine. It’s a collection of songs, it’s our art, love and passion. I think it’s hard to not feel that and hear it coming through in the music and vocals. Its just a really honest and open record and we felt the title was fitting.

What or where is 94th Street?
94th Street is the street that our band in its current formation first met up. It’s where Luke came in and we tried him out. It was actually one of our first times we had ever practiced at that new studio. It’s kind of like the place where the band, as everyone knows it today bonded and we were all like, yeah, this is The Word Alive. We’ve been practicing there ever since. So a little over two years now. We wanted a song that was for us. Just the title that was just for us. That’s what it is.

twajl13Was “Never Forget” a hard song to compose?
It was. Zack wrote almost all of it, him and Daniel wrote that song and when I heard it, it was – I had already started writing some – not necessarily journal, but lyrics down. Especially if I’m feeling something. When Mitch (Lucker) passed away, I wrote down a handful of notes and things that I was thinking and feeling at the time. When that happened, I wasn’t thinking “oh man, I need to write a song about this.” But when I heard the music for some reason it reminded me of Mitch. It kind of reminded me of the spirit of Suicide Silence as a band and friends of ours. It’s very upbeat, it’s a faster song and to me its just fun but deep and meaningful at the same time. So when I listened to it, I instantly associated it with some of the thoughts and memories I had of Mitch and the rest of the guys in Suicide Silence. I started writing to it and it took me the longest to write because I wanted to word everything the most respectful way. I didnt want to reach too far and make it too individual based because I think as hard as it is to lose him there’s a lot of fans who’ve lost their best friends and loved ones. I understand more now than I have even in the past for our records that if I’m in this position and I have this voice that I get to speak these words, I would rather them be something that can help someone than be a detriment. That’s what it ended up being, a thank-you to him. A remembrance of him but also a universal song for anyone that’s lost someone that meant a lot to them. Or someone influential that other people, even if you didn’t know Mitch, you know the impact he had on a lot of people and a lot of bands. And the impact Suicide Silence had and still will have moving forward. It’s a tribute to him and to all people that leave something important behind.

twajl2As an artist, is it important for musicians to be positive role models for their fans?
I think it should be, but I don’t think it always is. It’s another thing, some bands, they only want to make money. That’s their only reason for being a band. Or maybe not being a band but being the band that they are. I think some people take routes where it’s very obvious. For every one of those bands there’s ten bands that are doing something positive. I think negative press always gets more press it seems. I know that my family reads the things about our band and about me. I represent my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers. So for me, it’s very important to be that way. But it’s not always beneficial to be that way from a financial or business standpoint, it’s just the way the world is I suppose.

twajl12What did you think about Linkin Park playing in Ventura? How did it affect The Word Alive?
We went on at 5:10 and they went on at 5:25 so we got a few songs in. We started out with a really big crowd and then three songs in, there was definitely a group of people that went to watch Linkin Park, admittedly had I been one of those kids I would have left to go see Linkin Park. So I don’t fault anyone, judge anyone. I love Linkin Park. Chester, as many people know, is a big influence on me and I love his voice, I love that band. It was cool because it’s like the circle of life. I talk to fans, I had a little impromptu speech that was like, there’s fans who are there now that are going to be on the stage that I was on that day. Hopefully on that day when they are, I’m on that stage and theyre speaking to their new fans saying “The Word Alive is a part of why I’m on this stage.” It’s just the circle of life. I just had a real peaceful moment on stage where I felt a part of something bigger than my band and that’s the circle of life, the circle of music. I’m not saying that we will go down as another Linkin Park, but hopefully The Word Alive can be something that influences people to start singing and pick up instruments and be on the Vans Warped Tour one day.

What is the secret to maintaining a healthy relationship with someone while being on the road all the time?
It is a challenge. I dont know that it ever will be 100% perfect. You just have to have two people that want it. That goes for most relationships, friendships, business relationships. The two people or multiple people involved have to want it to work.  It’s not like Hollywood. You have to try in a relationship, it’s not like you find someone and it’s perfect all the time and you don’t have to work for it. People change and grow and especially when you’re gone a lot, it’s easy to potentially grow apart or not understand changes in a relationship. I think being open minded and understanding and willing to try to go above and beyond to let that other person know that you care about them and that they’re part of your life and day, even if you’re 10,000 miles away. That’s what’s really important.

twajl17What’s up next for you guys after Warped Tour?
After Warped we’re going to announce one headlining show in the US and then we have a UK and small run in mainland Europe dates that we’re headlining. We’re bringing out The Color Morale and Like Moths to Flames. Then we have a tour in the US, maybe even a little bit of Canada for November and December, but due to being on Warped Tour, we can’t really say what it is yet. But I’m really excited about it and it will be an opportunity for The Word Alive fans of every era to come out and enjoy. Hopefully people will be paying attention.

Do you have any messages for your fans who may be reading this right now?
Thank you for every person who has purchased our new album, who has shared a link to their friends so they could listen to it on YouTube. Spreading music now a days, whether you’re buying it or telling your friends about it is so important. We understand that not everyone can go and buy every favorite record that comes out. But we appreciate the fans who understand that and try to help in other ways like spreading our music and videos. We wouldn’t be here without you guys.

(Interview and Candid Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)

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Framing Hanley: Rocking Out The Southland

framingdaze060814It has been quite a while, but Framing Hanley made their way back to the Southland at last, performing an exhilarating show at the cozy Saint Rocke out in Hermosa Beach.  On tour in support of their latest magnum opus The Sum Of Who We Are, the Nashville-based collective has experienced quite a bit of changes since A Promise To Burn was unleashed in 2010.   Now finding themselves on Imagen Records, their solid new album featuring stunners such as Criminal and Twisted Halos.  Prior to their set at Saint Rocke, we had a chance to hang out with front man Kenneth Nixon in their RV to discuss their new album, the triumphs and difficulties of being in a band, their old and new bass player, what they really think about their chart topping cover of Lil Wayne’s Lollipop. and other epic topics of interest.  Read on…

How is this tour going? What have been some of the highlights for you?
It’s been good. We don’t get to come out to the West Coast that often, so any time we get to come out here, we enjoy ourselves. We’re a few shows in to this portion of the tour, the eastern part of the US was good. We’ve toured out there more extensively than here, so the turnouts can be hit or miss some nights depending on where you’re playing. We’ve had a few awesome shows and I’m looking forward, no matter how many people show up tonight and having a great show. It’s been fun, it’s fun to be back out on the road again.

framingsaintrocke1Is this your first time playing Los Angeles?
No, we’ve played with Tantric somewhere and we did a headline show at the Key Club years ago. It’s not open any more. I think this is our third show out here, someone said that we played here with Trapt. That was Modesto, and that’s a ways away. That’s where we came from last night and it took us forever, going up the mountains, this thing (their tour van) doesn’t like to go more than 30 mph.

How does The Sum Of Who We Are compare to the last two albums?
I’d like to think it’s more evolution and lineage of who we are as a band. I think any band is selling themselves and their fans short if they want to just put out the same album over and over again. I feel from album to album, there’s been natural growth and progression in our band and at least, I’d like to hope so. So, somehow some people still stay it has the same Framing Hanley sound, whatever that is. But it sounds like we grew up, whatever that means. It’s good to feel like we’re still evolving. A lot of our favorite bands are those bands with every album they put out something different. A band like Biffy Clyro or Incubus, Thrice, Foo Fighters. Those are the band we all look up to, with every album you’re getting a new piece of that band. Hopefully we can continue to do that.

sunofwho1Is there any story behind the title of the album?
Yeah, originally we did the Kickstarter, it was more along the lines of that it was a collective effort, this is us and you guys together. Us and the fans. This album is the sum of us all putting in all hands on deck. Then, through the things we were going through personally with a former label, former management, all these obstacles that kept popping up that made it seem like the album wasn’t going to come out. It was still, the sum of who we are, which was actually a lyric in a song that didn’t make the album. It was “the sum of who we are, always the battle scars and weary hearts.” It was about that situation, no matter how tough the things are that we’re going through, we’re stronger than that. Then, it’s funny because the album took on an even a different meaning I guess, it became a collection of songs that really were things we’ve gone through over the past few years in the making of this album. The sum of who we are definitely has a lot of different reasons, I think, it’s a perfectly fitting title for this album.

Pick two songs off the album, and what inspired the lyrics for you.
No Saving Me” was one of the songs that, I think during the making of the album there were definitely periods where we were like, have we seen this stage for the last time? Are we ever going to please ourselves enough for this album to release it? That was during one of the darker periods where there was disdain and maybe a bad taste in our mouth after everything that we had gone through that we had seen success, and then to have it all kind of fall apart. Not to throw anyone under the bus, but to feel like that wasnt our fault. We werent at fault for things hitting a brick wall. It seemed like Framing Hanley fell off the wall. I think we’re responsible guys to where we’ll accept responsibility for things that we are responsible for. The past four years, I dont think that’s something we’ve even now grown to accept responsibility for. That said, I think it was Darren, making this album it just hit m. I’m beyond in it until the wheels fall off. In some ways, as much as I love doing this it can be viewed as a curse. There’s no saving me. This is the one thing I love in life, I’m lucky to have a woman that supports me. I know the same for the other guys, that support us for doing what we do. Because it can be really hard at times. I can only imagine what it’s like being our significant others, it’s really hard on us sometimes. But, there really is no saving me. I’ve come this far, I’m here until it’s over.

Another song on the album that plays off that but maybe from a different angle is “Cast Away.” That’s lyrically, one of the most special songs. The subject matter that we’ve done on any of the three albums. That was the awareness, yeah, maybe through all the shit you go through – obviously there’s good times a plenty, but you’re going to have bad times with everything. To know that there’s a group of people out there that, despite us falling off the face of the earth for the past three years, that have sat and waited patiently for this album and they’re coming out in flocks at shows all across the world to see us. Again, whether it’s 10 people or 10,000, it’s what we say every night. That’s a special thing, it’s something I don’t think we even imagined of the payoff of doing this when we were young and dreamed of doing this and being “rock stars.” I don’t think the fan part, yeah, that will be cool, but naturally I think its more if you look at it like a kid from the fame side instead of the fact that you have fans. There’s a difference there. There’s a big difference between being famous and having people that are actually fans of the work you pour your heart and soul into. “Cast Away,” there’s a line in there that says “I’ll go down with the ship.” It’s really a testament to our fans. As long as you guys are out there and you want to hear what we’re doing, we’re going to keep doing this because again, there’s no saving us anyway.

framingsaintetrocke2If you can open up for any band, either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Whenever I get asked that, there’s two answers. I think if it could be a dream scenario even though we belong nowhere near a stage with these two bands, but for me it’d be Guns N’ Roses and Queen. GNR is the reason I’m in a rock band, that’s who introduced me to Rock N Roll. Queen because Freddie Mercury is the greatest vocalist of all time and that band is on another planet. Current, bands if you want to say would be realistic even though it’s not, Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro. Two of the greatest rock and roll bands, Foo Fighters obviously everyone knows who they are. Biffy is a band from Scotland, three piece and I always explain them as Foo Fighters meets Failure. It’s a really interesting rock band, I think they write unlike any other mainstream rock band, at least right now. I love both bands and both those bands released my two favorite rock albums in the past 10 years. It’d be a dream to share the stage with them.

framingsaintrocke3Lollipop. How do you feel about that song after all this time? Is it a curse for you to play?
I think we looked at it that way for a period, which was maybe immaturity or the disdain we had knowing that we were known for a song that we did kind of as a joke basically. We covered, not opposed to our own material. During the hours we’ve poured into this album, just feeling more and more confident in this album I was like, you know what? THis album speaks for itself. If people hear this album, the tricky part is creating the awareness of the album. If people hear this album, I’m very confident in saying that they will quickly forget we were the band that covered “Lollipop.” I mean, with that being said, we took it out of the set briefly because of our own feelings towards that song and we put it back in there during the course of the making of this album when we were given some one offs. Just because I started looking at it as, it’s pretty selfish of us to do that when there are fans that made a connection with our band. There’s a memory attached to that song. I had plenty of memories attached with other artists and songs of theirs I heard for the first time or remember where I was. If that was a college party, and someone heard “Lollipop,” so be it. The good thing is, most of those people have stuck around and if that’s what opened the door? So be it. Here we are with an album that blows away anything that we’ve done before. Hopefully they’re still listening.

Who is the new member in the band, and what happened to Luke?
Jonathan Stoye is our new bass player. Luke, he’d have to speak for himself, I just think he wanted to get to a place where he – maybe with how, I don’t know. How fickle this industry is, and how it can all fall apart at the last minute. We all have families. Again, I don’t want to speak out of line. He flat out said that he wanted to get to a place where he felt comfortable and happy with life. There were things he felt like he had to do to change that and he thought he had to take time away from doing this in order to get to a place where he was happy. Again, we all have wives or kids, finances and he was one guy who I think walked away from school to do this and maybe that’s something that he wants to look back into. Stoye, it’s almost like, not to take away from Luke. The years we shared with Luke were awesome. He’s an incredible bass player, saved my ass plenty of times with his awesome backup vocals. Stoye, it’s almost like he was the guy that’s always been here. We were worried about replacing someone that has been in the band for 5+ years and it just being so different, the chemistry being different. But Jonathan Stoye came in and it was one of those things right away where everything clicked. We didn’t even plan on maybe adding a fifth member, maybe just feeling it out as a four piece and having someone play bass with us live. When we met him, we felt it out for a few weeks and said man, this guy is the fifth member of this band. We took a bad situation and turned it into a great situation with Jonathan Stoye coming on board.

Do you have any messages for Framing Hanley fans out here in Los Angeles, a place you seem to rarely visit?
Come out and see us when we do come here. It’s hard to convince an agent to bring you so far away from home if the crowds aren’t there. We’ll keep coming out here as long as people come out and listen.

Framing Hanley is:
Kenneth Nixon: vocals, piano, guitar
Ryan Belcher: guitar, piano, backing vocals
Brandon Wootten: guitar, backing vocals
Chris Vest: drum
Jonathan Stoye: bass guitar

(Interview and Photos by Ken Morton)

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Meet Dianne van Giersbergen of Xandria

xandriaint2_500x416Meet  Dianne van Giersbergen, the new vocalist for the mighty Xandria!  Also the singer for Ex Libris, one could certainly feel the passion and conviction Ms. van Giersbergen has for her craft when encounter the stunning refrains of Xandria’s latest and greatest masterwork.  Entitled Sacrificium and now available for Napalm Records, the stunning collection of songs will surely exhilarate all music connoisseurs looking to be swept away into a sonic adventure.  Here is an interview we conducted with the charismatic Xandria front woman to find out more about her joining up with the noted symphonic metal collective, her thoughts on the previous Xandria singer Manuela Kraller, their upcoming tour here in the States, and many other epic topics of intrigue.  Read on!!!

Prior to joining Xandria, were you familiar with their music at all?
For me Xandria came into my perpective when they started to promote their ‘Neverworld’s End’ album. When I heard the album for the first time I was really impressed and had the feeling that a band finally dared to return to the roots of the genre.

Did you know Manuela Kraller and has she heard or commented on the new album?
I have met her when Xandria started touring with Kamelot and we’ve talked online with each other, we both were members of the ‘Eve’s Apple community’. She is a very nice person with an amazing voice!
After I joined Xandria (and Eve’s Apple split up, though both happenings are not related) we didn’t speak again. Of course I would love to hear what she thinks of the new album. But I also know that starting up a (new) career like she is doing costs a lot of energy and I too am very busy, but who knows maybe in the future.

Is Ex Libris still in existence and what is going on with the band at the moment?
Yes it is! In a few weeks we (Ex Libris) will be travelling to England to play a few shows as support to ‘Imperia’. Our album ‘Medea’ has been released on the 18th of January and both fans as critics have been very positive about our album! I too am very proud.

Of course now that I am also front woman to Xandria, Ex Libris has to be more flexible. But the whole band supports me in this new adventure and all said ‘go for it’ when the offer came to the table.

sacrificium1Is there any story or concept behind the CD title Sacrificium?
The word ‘Sacrificium’ stands for sacrificing yourself, your love, life, etc for the greater good. At first all the songs were to be about this topic but during the whole process we also included some more story telling songs, like ‘The Undiscovered Land’. I wasn’t that much part of this process because when I joined all of the songs were nearly finished and the band was even already recording the first notes to the album.

Select two songs from Sacrificium and what inspired the lyrics?
For the ‘Sacrificium’ album I had the honour to write two of the lyrics: ‘Little Red Relish’ and ‘Sweet Atonement’.

‘Little Red Relish’ is the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ but then told in a different way. The original story, so not the Disney one, is about a girl losing her virginity and so I decided to give ours a little spin: in ‘Little Red Relish’ the girl sets out to find grandmother but is abducted by the wolf and taken to his wolfs lair. She falls in love with her abductor, decides to stay with him and therefore sort of says ‘to hell with grandmother’. In other words: she chooses not to obey her orders and walk her own path.

‘Sweet Atonement’ is a way more serious song. In this battle I wrote in sing about losing a loved one to fatal disease, about building memories with this person in what you later discover to be’ borrowed time’.

Who did the cover art for Sacrificium and how much input did you have on it?
The artwork is done by Stefan Heilemann, a real wizard when it comes to artwork and photography. The coming together of the cover has been a process of going back and forth between him and us, brainstorming and after the idea of the phoenix was born fine-tuning what it should look like.

We are very happy with the end result and have already receive many compliments from fans who too seem to like this artwork.

xandriaint2_2Describe your first performance with Xandria and what was going through your mind at the time?
Haha I think what was going through my mind was ‘this is really happening!’. My first shows were four headline shows in Spain and I really enjoyed it! I think everyone would expect me to be very nervous but the only thing I felt was pure excitement. I’ve studied music for seven years, know my voice, know how to quickly study new material and I have many years of experience on performing on stage. Because of this I knew how to prepare myself for my first concerts so that I knew the material and what to expect well enough to also enjoy what was going on.

Next to that, the four Xandria guys have been real supports and admirers of how I dealt with the workload. They have answered all of my questions and given me the best advice. When we came off stage after the first concert all five of us had a really big smile on our faces and knew that this was something we could build a future upon.

What are you looking forward to the most about your upcoming tour here in the States?
Ooh difficult question! I of course really look forward to meeting all of our fans, seeing the beautiful landscape, hopefully do some sightseeing ánd eat as many pancakes for breakfast as I can!

Would Xandria and Ex Libris ever want to tour or do a show together?
A show may be more realistic than a full tour but even then I would want to hold off on this. When I enter a stage I am there for the full 100%, having to perform twice a day would mean I would have to cut back on that. Both bands have really challenging vocal lines so a concert is a real work out!

If Xandria could open up for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Hmm I must admit that I do not really have an answer to this question. I feel really happy about the chances we get as we go along rather than to hope for something and be disappointed.

What would you like a listener to remember the most after hearing Sacrificium for the first time?
How they truly felt after hearing the album. I think a spoken opinion can only be formed after hearing it for a few times, but the first pure emotions that you feel when hearing the music for the first time is much more valuable then words and must be cherished.

Any final words of wisdom?
I would like to thank everyone for their support and faith in Xandria ànd for welcoming me into this wonderful band! See you all on the road!

Xandria is:
Vocals: Dianne van Giersbergen
Guitar & keys: Marco Heubaum
Guitar: Philip Restemeier
Bass: Steven Wussow
Drums: Gerit Lamm

(Interview by Ken Morton – Xandria Photos by Stefan Heilemann)

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Causing Mayhem with Ryan Neff of Miss May I

MissMayI070514It was Day One of the notorious Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, unleashed within the wilds of San Bernardino, CA.  One of the many bands on the bill was none other than Miss May I, spending a long hot summer on the road with the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and Asking Alexandria.  Promoting their brand new album Rise Of The Lion now available from Rise Records, Miss May I was certainly causing their own intriguing brand of Mayhem on the Coldcock American Herbal Whisky Stage.  Right after their set, we caught up with bassist Ryan Neff to discuss their new album, what to expect from their summer of Mayhem, an announcement of a very major event they’ll be participating in after the tour, and other topics of interest.  Read on…

missmayijl2Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Miss May I.
My name’s Ryan, I play bass and sing in Miss May I.

What can we expect from your performance today?
Judging after today, a lot of sweat and a lot of dirt. It was wild man, completely packed, huge circle pits, big dust storms. It should be a nice interactive one, seems like we’re going to play right in the sun everyday too, so expect a hot one for us this summer. We’ll have dirt boogers for a month.

Let’s talk about the new album Rise Of The Lion, is there an overall story or concept?
Yeah we wanted to do something a little closer to the fans, something where they had a little more to do with it. So, the lyrical content was chosen based upon topics that come from fans and letters and conversations on tour when you meet em. So we tried to use a lot of topics that we knew would play close to home for the fans, which is a completely backwards way of doing it from how we’ve always done it cause, the first three records were 100% about things that we were going through personally not looking at anything through anyone else’s eyes. This time around it was like writing the 10 songs on the record and the 4 bonus songs, so 14 tracks through someone else’s eyes which was a difficult way for us to write lyrics at first, but in the end it opened things up and it allowed us to do something a lot different. Yeah, it was definitely a challenge you know, there were times when we were part of the way into it that we were like man, this is not as easy and not coming out as easily as we thought it would but, we worked hard at it and in the end we liked the final product.

missmayijl1Who decides what bonus songs go on the Best Buy version and Target version?
That was just a band member discussion, it was tough because there were 11 that we thought should make it and 3 that we thought were bonus track material. So, there was one that we had to cut that we were like, really going back and forth on. So, its a band decision collective effort on that one, depending on who you talk to we still haven’t made the right decision, so (laughs).

What did Terry Date (Avenged Sevefold, Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Rob Zombie, etc.) contribute to the recording process, his credits are massive.
When we worked with Machine, we wrote a lot of the record with him, where as when we came in with Terry we had the record pretty much done. The big thing we did with Terry was he let the band be the band, there wasn’t so much rewriting, reworking things in the studio with him, as much as taking whatever we gave him and making it sound the best that it possibly could so, everything you hear on this record is very realistic and straight to the point of the band and what we would write, rather than us writing with the producer who is swaying us one way or the other on certain things.

missmayjl3Has Jay Z or Kanye heard your version of Run This Town?
No. I doubt it. If they have, they probably skipped over it and kept going. (laughs) We haven’t heard from ‘em.

If Miss May I could open for any band, either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Its going to be Slipknot and its going to happen right here in October when we do KnotFest. Yeah, it’s an absolutely wild, wild gig that we’re going to be apart of. So, that should be pretty cool, we always wanted to play with White Zombie, we’ve always wanted to play…you know thats not gonna happen. We got to play with Rob Zombie at some festivals. We got to do a Five Finger Death Punch thing which was neat. You know, there’s a lot of really cool stuff going on, we’re pretty excited about it. But, Slipknot is always on that list, I think it might actually happen for us now, which will be really cool.

Since you did clean vocals, have you thought about doing anything solo or acoustic?
I would love to, I would love to challenge myself, do something a little more fun. But, you know, I’m a little more of a background guy in this band, it’d be fun to take the forefront, but we’re such a busy group right now that it’s so hard to find the time to do anything like that. And I say more fun in the means of just something different. You know, we’ve got a pretty good working formula in the band that, I think until we have some free time open up, we’re pretty much stuck on that right now.

Do you have anything else for your fans reading this right now?
Yeah! Thanks for coming to see us in Mayhem if you have, or if you are. Thanks for picking up Rise of the Lion. Just like always, we’ll be on the road, nonstop be here until next record, so keep an eye on the schedule and come hang out with us.

Miss May I is:
Levi Benton – vocals/lyrics
Justin Aufdemkampe – guitar
BJ Stead – guitar
Ryan Neff – bass/vocals
Jerod Boyd – drums

(Interview and Candid Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)

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