The Michigan thrash monsters on new albums, drummers and “stewing in your own suckiness”
Album number four: do you feel like you’ve made your definitive statement now?
That’s up to the listener, we’ll let them decide. We stick to the basics man, we write and perform the music we want to hear and then allow the music to speak for itself. From my point of view we are a more confident band these days so I hope that shines on “Rise to Power”.
When you guys started out, were you thinking about album number four, what were the aims?
Much like anything else you work hard at we set goals for the band and took it step by step. It took the longest to find the right members, most the guys we tried out either didn’t fit in or didn’t have the same drive and dedication we had at the time. We weren’t thinking in terms of “album 3” or “album 4”, we just wanted to have a band first and foremost. Once we established a solid line-up and wrote a few decent songs together we took the next step and began performing shows. For us things came and went in stages and as we accomplished one goal we would always push to achieve the next. That’s how its been ever since.
You went through a lot of members even before a record was out. And last year you changed drummers. Do you feel like you’ve finally got your lineup?
Yes we have jammed with quite a few different people but sometimes that’s just how it goes when your band is in its developing stages. The hardest part has always been finding the right drummer, since day one. A so-so drummer can hold a band back, but on a personality level they also tend to think a little differently, haha. Its no secret drummers (and singers) are usually the most odd of the bunch. When Mike Kreger was behind the kit (2007-2013) I felt we really had a boost in our creative juices. We went from a Metallica-wanna-be to something more aggressive and punishing. Then recording “War of Will” with Shannon Lucas on drums really stepped things up in a brutal sense and brought a whole new level of precision and tightness for the band to strive for. Now here in 2015 Alex Bent really kicked things up a notch with this diverse style on “Rise to Power”. Alex can be brutal but he can also play with a lot of feeling, all the while performing very precisely and he makes it look easy, almost effortless. The new album has a lot to offer and each song has its own identity.
I saw on social media you guys talking about Slayer. Were they always the band you wanted to emulate?
Everyone in the band likes Slayer but I can’t say with certainty we’ve ever wanted to emulate them. However Hiran is very influenced by Slayer and you can tell in his riff-writing. On the other hand I am more into the attitude and overall tone (not to be confused with guitar tone) Slayer had in their prime during the “Reign In Blood” era. They were so pissed, aggressive, and straight to the point and I really dug that and if anything I would strive to emulate that quality.
On that point, there seems to be a lot more good thrash music around than at any time for a while. Is the time ready for a thrash revival?
Yeah I don’t know man. Of course I love thrash and more so metal in general, but a “revival” isn’t something that I’m necessarily really pushing for. If it happens it happens, if not than whatever. The way I look at it is: if people want to hear it than they can find it, whether its old or new or in between. We live in a time where most everything is accessible and its really up to the fans/listeners how they go about finding it. I’m happy to hear a lot of newer bands playing more thrashy style metal but it really doesn’t change what we do. Like our singer Kyle (Gunther) says “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel” and that’s exactly true. To us it has nothing to do with a movement or a revival, we’re just doing what we love and we’ve been doing it for a while, its nothing new to us. Of course its nice to see more people embracing thrash but metal has always been alive and well, it just depends on where you look. Its as simple as that.
There’s a huge tour. Is being on the road something you enjoy, or a necessary thing you have to do?
I love being on the road, its amazing. Its not for everybody but if you find yourself enjoying it just embrace it. It is also necessary because touring is part of what we do. Performing on stage, hanging with everybody, and playing shows from town to town is where its at. Its the best part about being in a band. We’re out there pounding the pavement, putting it all out there, and enjoying ourselves while we’re doing it. Its necessary and enjoyable. The main downside however is being away from family and missing out on birthdays, wedding, etc.
What about European shows?
We love playing Europe, we were lucky enough to come by on two separate occasions last year. First with Killswitch Engage/Trivium and then back again for the summer festivals like Download, Nova Rock, etc. We had a blast and we cannot wait to return. European fans are fucking awesome.
You are a Michigan based outfit. That state has an incredible history musically. Is being part of that something you think about?
The only time I ever think of the history here musically is only for sake of conversation. It isn’t something that has a direct influence on the band, for example no one ever says: “we gotta be the next so and so”. I think being from Michigan we had the feeling it was much harder to get noticed. In the early days of the band there was definitely the drive to break out of our state and sort of break free in a sense.
Finally, that history is so diverse, what do you put it down to. What’s in the water over there?!
Its because it takes so much to get recognition. We get to stew in our sub-par sucky-ness until we actually become something decent. It isn’t like Los Angeles where everybody from the country congregates and changes bands weekly to go with whoever is working best for them until they eventually strike it big. Where we’re from you work hard and you stick with it and your loyal to one another. We were borderline terrible for years but by hard work, perseverance, and a little bit of talent we were able to make this thing a reality. There may be something in the water but… I think it has a little more to do with our genuine love and appreciation for music.
Rise To Power is out now