April 15, 2011

All That Remains

The storm has taken over Helsinki the night that I'm supposed to meet up with All That Remains. The traffic is stuck and public transport is a lost cause. With umbrella as my weapon of choice, I walk through the snow and blizzard and finally get to the venue. I'm introduced to Mike, who plays guitar for the band. He has just woken up so he's sleepy, but luckily, honest.

Mike Martin at far left.
“We started in ’98 when Phil kind of started dreading side projects from Shadows Fall. We’ve been a band over 10 years now, just touring, touring and touring and a lot of member changes but you know… such is life.”

Your new album came out just a while back, could you tell us a bit about the album?
The album came out in October and it’s called “For We Are Many”, it was our fifth album and we did it with Adam Dutkiewicz who’s our producer again, this would be the third album he did with this band. Everyone’s really happy with it; we had more time than we’ve ever had to do an album. We had a plenty of time to write it and record it so it was cool. It has done pretty well so far in America and in Europe. The favorite songs on our albums go in phases, you like the first few when you’re first done with it, then you get sick of them and pick another few. Eight now there’s a song called “Some of the people, All of the time” that we’re playing live right now and I really like it. That’s probably my number one right now. It’ll change, I’ll be on tour for a couple of months and get sick of it and change it to the next one.

How would you compare this album to your previous albums?
I think this album’s a good progression from the other albums, I think it’s a better album overall than our last album because of the timing, like I mentioned earlier has been more relaxed. We had a nice rehearsal space and it wasn’t rushed. I would say the biggest difference is in the song writing, the songs are very thought out and with more mature song writing. Over the years we’ve learnt a lot better to cut off a lot of the fat and not overdue it just for the sake of showing off.

If All That Remains’ sound came alive, what would it be or what would it look like?
If the sound came alive what would it look like?! Haha! It’d be like this weird transforming monster, it’s weird because there’s so many different styles of metal. Sometimes it’s really pretty and sometimes it’s really ugly.

How would you describe yourself and how would you say those qualities reflect on your music?
The personalities in this band are five so extremely different. The whole five of us don’t have a lot in common and everyone’s kind of in their own worlds, but for some reason it works. I’m like the sports guy and nobody is even close to like me in the band. I don’t know if my personality directly affects the band, it’s a combination for sure.

If you’re “the sports guy”, what other characters would you find in the band?
Jeanne is like the quiet one that’s sitting in the corner reading a book. Oli plays guitar like… 18 hours per day, it’s all he does! Anytime you see Oli doing anything else without a guitar, it’s the most awkward looking thing in the world. It’s because you only see him with a guitar. Philip’s usually just looking gun-stuff on the internet and Jason plays Wars Of Warcraft all day long. Everyone’s pretty much just in their own separate worlds so it’s pretty hilarious, it’s a weird dynamic but we’ve found a way to make it work.

What goals did you have when the band first started out and how do those goals stand now?
The goals vary, you keep upping it every couple years. You just want to start touring at first, then you start touring and you’re like “okay cool”, then you want to start drawing people, you’re opening for all these bands but you think it’d be cool to play these places headlining and have people come to see us. So you’ve done all that and we’re in Europe now so it would be nice to keep building in Europe because we’ve done really well in America but we haven’t been to Europe as much as we probably should. It’s been the best time we’ve ever had here. The goal now is just to stay a band for as long as possible, a lot of people don’t stay relevant for very long.

How would you like to stay relevant? What kind of a reputation would you like All That Remains to have? Like, when the band comes to an end some day, what would you like to be remembered by?
A band that never got “dated”, you know? Lumped into a timeframe like “Oh, okay, that was cool for a year.” That’s the problem with all the subgenres, you get labeled into this one little specific kind of music and then later on that kind of music is not cool anymore and you’re not a relevant band anymore. Metallica has been a metal band for 20-30 years and no one says “Oh, they’re metalcore, which was cool ten years ago but it’s not cool anymore” so we’re just a metal band and just want to keep playing.

You’ve been a part of many legendary rock tours such as the Ozzfest and Warped Tour, what has personally been your favourite?
We did the Rockstar Mayhem Festival the summer of 2009 in America and that was probably our favorite just because it was just a really comfortable tour to do, there were a lot of friends and the shows were out of control. It was just one of those tours that went by so fast… A lot of tours drag and drag and even two weeks seems like a really long time but that tour was over a month and it was like you started it and it was done. It was awesome.

Do you have any specific fun memories?
Mostly just hanging out with Adam from Killswitch Engage. They were on the main stage of the tour and we would get a kick out of whatever kind of crap he would get into every night after the show. He drank a lot on that tour, hahah! It was fun.

You said you like touring on Europe as well, do you think there are differences between the Europe and the US shows?
For us there’s a difference because it takes us a little time longer over here to get a fanbase, our shows in America are a little bigger still, but the shows on this tour have been, compared to America, pretty even. It’s been really good but it doesn’t feel as different as you may think. You’re playing in Massachusetts or Scotland or Finland and you think it’s going to be this crazy different thing but it does pretty much feel the same. Even in Japan they’re singing the songs live! Like, they don’t know any English but they’re singing the lyrics to the songs, haha… It mostly feels the same. It’s the part besides the show that’s a little weird, trying to go to restaurants and you can’t order food because you can’t understand what they’re saying, so that’s the part that feels different more so than the shows.

Do you go explore the cities a lot in between the shows?
In Europe I don’t. I literally woke up, like you can tell by looking at my face still, a half an hour ago and it’s 6pm.

But that’s good for me because sleepy people are usually the most honest ones!
Haha, that’s true! It’s like “I’m tired I don’t care!” We don’t get to see a lot of stuff in Europe, well, I don’t get to because I don’t wake up. We live in American time, we come here and everyone’s sleeping until 3, or 4, or 5pm, I’m usually the last one until 5pm or 6pm. You get in here right away, you eat dinner and play the show and then you go to the next show. There’s not a lot of tourist time. We’ve seen some stuff though!

Do you think the life of a musician is more glorifying than what it actually is?
Yes. The perception for being in a band is completely… everyone thinks it’s like you’re riding on a magic carpet to the show and…

Oh, you don’t?
No, we have like 17 or 16 people on the bus on this tour; it’s people everywhere, it smells, it’s awful. Haha! Well it’s not awful but it’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks it is. You just have to get used to it, if you can’t handle people’s feet smell and bad breath, you’re in trouble.

What do you think about the changes in the industry?
Downloading music for free is terrible, it’s literally ruining everything. Bands can’t stay bands long enough because nobody’s making enough money to stay a band. Nobody listens to albums anymore, which is a bummer. A lot of people won’t know a band before you say a song and they go “Ooh, you’re the band that does that song” and you’re “the 2-weeks-band”. It’d be cool if they could like find a way to stop that because it would do a lot for good bands to stay bands. It sucks to make 5000 dollars a year playing music or something because you can’t do that for very long so you’ll have to do real life at some point. The downloading thing is bad but there’s nothing I can do personally, it’d be cool If they could stop it. I don’t know who “they” is but somebody figure it out!

Are you afraid that physical albums won’t be released anymore if everything is released on an mp3?
That, not so much. Because at any point we want to, we can go to the studio and two or three songs and then go release it on iTunes and then go on tour, which a lot of rappers do already. They release a single and they tour a few months on it, we would release an album and go on tour for a year and a half, which a lot of bands do. Rappers and in hip hop in general you can write the big club single and go perform for a couple months and that’s it, that can work too. I just don’t see bands putting out albums very much longer but you never know, I have no idea, we just want to stay a band one way or another.

How strong is the connection between the artist and the artwork?
I’m a very meat and potatoes –kind of guy, hahaha! I’m not an artsy guy at all, I can look at the music like in the band’s perspective and I can really analyze it and pick it apart and find everything wrong with it if I want to. But I’m very happy I can also hear it – for the lack of a better word – a moron’s standpoint we’re you’re just “oh yeah, I like that song just because I like it.” I can still do that which I’m happy about, because a lot in bands once you’re in a band and writing music can’t do that. I can hear a pop song and just like it because I like it and not be concerned if other people think I’m not cool because of it. I’m glad I can hear it on both ends but as far as art and all that stuff even matter anymore because of all the downloading we just talked about; if you download one song off iTunes you don’t have the cover art and no one looks at the CD booklet anymore, whenever it’s the time to write those thanks-lists and stuff to them I’m like “Why? No one even reads these things anymore, why even make one?” Mine is usually a fake one.

What do you think is the most important quality that makes a song or a band good or special?
Just music that people can remember, whether it’s a melody in the music or melody in the vocals, stuff that somebody hears and goes “oh, I want to hear that again.” When we started there was a lot of “Oh, we want to impress people with our playing, let’s make sure we make this complicated and show that we can pull this off”, that doesn’t always really work. Adam from Killswitch Engage was a big deal as far as showing us that. You can write a simple song and people will like it, some of our biggest songs are the least complicated ones. We just learned over the years how to make songs more memorable.

Since it’s not so long since you’re latest output, you’re probably not planning the next one yet? So what’s in the near future for you guys?
No, no next one yet. This is the first three months of like a year and a half of touring so we’ll just concentrating to mentally get through all the touring, then we can think about the writing. We’re going to finish this European tour, go home for Christmas and go tour America in January with Buckcherry!

That’s… random.
It’s a weird tour for us. People are freaking out because we’re going on a tour with Buckcherry, people don’t understand that if you keep playing for the same people all the time, you won’t ever expand your fanbase. We just did a tour with As I Lay Dying and Unearth, and it was an amazing tour and we were playing for metal kids who listen to that kind of metal, that’s kids who already knew about us and kids who have already seen us. But they’re going to come again because it was a good show and they’re going to have a good time and those tours were really fun to do. You can’t do those tours 8 times a year because you’ll play to those kids over and over again and nothing happens and you won’t grow as a band. And kids freak out because you know; “You’re going on tour with a rock band, that’s gay”, “What’s wrong with you, you guys are selling out” and it’s like “No, we’re trying to stay a band longer and play for different people.”

Where will you be 5 years from now? (Playing with Britney Spears?)
Haha! We’ll keep it in reason, you know? Cannibal Corpse can’t go tour with Buckcherry, that’s not going to work. But we have music that’s a wider range of styles so we can go on tour with Buckcherry or we can go on tour with Cannibal Corpse. Not everyone’s going to like us at both shows, we’re aware of that. There’s going to be kids at the back drinking or whatever and thinking they hate this band but there’s going to be new people there that wouldn’t normally see you and they’re going to go “Oh, wow, now I know about this band and like this band.” You can’t please everybody, that’s just the way it is.

Any last words or messages you’d like to send out there?
I usually say; go buy the record and stop stealing it. That’s what I always say. Stop stealing or all the bands you like won’t be able to be bands anymore.

Interviewer: Joanna Tzortzis