This interview was done with Shadow Falls’ singer, Brian, when they played the Mean Fiddler in Spring 2003. It appeared in Rancid News #2.
RN: So generic question first – how’s the tour been going so far?
Brian: Yeah the tour’s been going great. The shows have been good. And besides been stuck in a tour bus (looking at Soilworks) with the guys from Soilwork who all smell like sour milk it’s all been going real well! (laughs) No it’s been great, yeah the shows in Germany were really good, and really crazy – great crowds! And last night in Sheffield was the first UK show which was awesome, and there were a lot of kids there and I think tonight (Mean Fiddler show) is gonna be one of the best shows of the tour as well!
RN: Talking of shows, were you happy with how the Underworld show went that you did a couple of months ago now?
B: Oh yeah it was great. For us to be able to come, and headline for the first time, and to actually have a couple of hundred kids show up is just amazing. Because I mean the record had only been out a short about of time, and I mean we were getting a decent amount of press but that doesn’t really mean anything until you come over and proove it. So to have kids come out and sing along to the songs was just totally what it’s all about. Plus I like playing smaller venues, where there’s no barriers, with stage divers, and chaos, that’s what I’m used to so…! It was definetly a good time!
RN: How – beyond like magazines and shit – do you think that the record’s been received so far?
B: Yeah it’s been going really, really well actually. It’s kind of surprising for a band who are fairly kind of underground in the style of music, mixing up the thrash, death metal and the hardcore and stuff, so to even get positive feedback and to get support from some of the bigger more mainstream press as well as MTV at home has been really surprising. But it’s cool it seems like that… that the music is really making a come back and that it’s based on muscianship and song writing more than image again. So yeah you’ve got bands like In Flames doing really well, and Killswithch Engage, and Hatebreed and stuff…. So hopefully that will be the way that things continue and people will remember that it’s all about quality above fucking bullshit! So you know (laughs)
RN: Do you think then that people are bored of nu-metal? Sorry that’s another fairly generic question but hey!
B: Yeah I think that it just kind of got too repetitive for people. I mean the first few bands that came out even if I wasn’t a fan they were at least original and they added something new to … heavy music had kind of become stale. Death metal had even begun to become so repetitive that everything was kind of beginning to become meat and potatoes, nu-metal was at least a breath of fresh air! Then it just started to kinda get stuck in a formula where there was a million clone bands. I mean there’d be the original three bands and then there’d be the million clones of those three styles, so with the slipknot rip-offs, or the KoRn rip-offs, or the Deftones rip-offs. So I think that’s what watered it down to the point where noone gave a shit anymore, now they’re looking for something that has more substance. Hopefully!
RN: This something that kind of occurred to me on the way here, but one of the things that makes Shadows Fall stand out is that you have more personal lyrics instead of the usual death metal, black metal….
B: Yeah I mean that’s just the way that I’ve always written. You know I have to get up there and scream those lyrics every night and we tour so relentlessly that if I didn’t have some personal attachment to the lyrics it’d be very difficult for me to get into ‘em! I had trouble when I first joined this band – I was singing some of the songs that had been written by the first singer. And those songs, just live I couldn’t really get into because I didn’t have that personal connection, and we kind of phased a lot of those songs out because of that. And you know I always…it’s always the way that I’ve written and I’d rather give some sort of glimpse into myself, or at least some sort of positive message, or some sort of train of thought that’s probably not normally coming through from the metal scene. I mean I think that the ‘dark side’ has been covered by so many bands, and anyone who knows me I’m not a very evil person (laughs) so I think if I tried to cop some Slayer lyrics, or like try and go black metal it’d look pretty silly for anybody that knew me! So I try and keep it honest and original and really just try and write from the heart, cause it is… this is our outlet!
RN: So we’re not going to be hearing about dragons any time soon?!?
B: Yeah there’s definetly very little dragon slaying in the world of Shadows Fall! We’ll leave that to the power metal bands they seem to do it better!
RN: Where would you like Shadows Fall to get to?
B: Honestly I think that we’ve exceeded all of those little goals that we kind of set for ourselves, because I mean we’ve already been able to play in front of so many thousands of people and we’ve gotten on some great tours so we’re just gonna try and work as hard as we possibly can because we’ve kind of been given a lucky oppurtunity that most underground band’s aren’t; thing like the Ozzfest and things like MTV! So yeah we’re just… I mean a couple of years ago on the Ozzfest it was all basically major label, nu-metal bands, even on the second stage, and this year it’s a little different. I mean they’ve got us, Killswitch Engage, Voivod, Sworn Enemy, Nothing Face… it’s just like crazy! So we’re just going to try and take the ball and run with it, and work as hard as we can!
RN: Well the second stage sounds like something Ozzy would actually enjoy!!!
B: (laughs) Yeah, exactly! And yeah I know that Jack does as well, I’ve heard that Jack’s been giving props to us in the press so that’s cool! But I heard that he’s in rehab now or something so hopefully he’ll get in time to see us play a show! I’ll just have to remember not to offer him a beer (laughs)! Yeah we were ready to party with Jack but now I guess we’re gonna just have to give him some orange juice!
RN: So there are quite a lot of drinking stories around Shadows Fall… have you been deliberately courting that or…
B: Ahh no that’s just something that happens! I mean it’s something that you can’t really avoid, because I mean we’re a beer drinking rock n roll band, but honestly on this tour when you start touring with a finnish band, and a sweedish band you realise that you can’t drink for shit so yeah we’ve definetly been the lightweights on this tour! The thing is that we drink more beer than hard liquor, but the way that Children of Bodom put down vodka it’s just unstoppable! But yeah it’s definetly part of the band, and when you’re out on the road there really isn’t much else to do and it’s easier to get brews than it is to get water at the venues sometimes! Like sometimes, ‘Can we get a case of water please?’, ‘No here’s a case of beer instead!’ (laughs) So … we’re also not one of those always depressed, introspective bands, that’s whining about things that happened when they were four years old. And I mean we grew up listening to bands like guns n roses, and AC/DC and that bands that were all just about having a good time and rocking out!
RN: So have you got any good any good stories from this tour?
B: From this tour! (laughs) Ahh there’s been alot of drinking and passing out! We had this one day off in Canterbury where we just sat in this one pub drank non-stop and it was all good fun… but no nothing too wild, nothing that stands out!
RN: So you’re not going to be going straightedge anytime soon then?
B: No probably not! But I mean it’s funny because alot of the bands that … we’ve toured with alot of bands in the hardcore scene and you definetly get these weird associations and yeah you get people being like, ‘yeah I heard they were these vegan, straightedge, death metal band!’ And you’re like ‘well yeah first off all we’re not death metal, vegan or straightedge!’ you know!?! (laughs) It’s just something that gets stuck on people… I mean I think there are still some people that think hatebreed are straightedge so (laughs)! It’s funny the perception of if you come from that scene people immediatley associate with that!
RN: Yeah it is kind of weird cause I mean in the HC scene you’re really heavily associated with the Massachusetts, or the Boston scene…
B: Oh yeah totally, and yeah we still tour.. I mean like the last tour that we did was with Blood Has Been Shead, which is Howard’s – from Killswitch Engage – other band, Unearth and Shai Hulud! So we were able to kind of step between all those … the funny thing is though if you listen to half those bands, I mean if you shut your eyes and listen to Unearth, and you can’t see what they look like you’d hear a metal band, but just because they came out of that scene they’re hardcore band. The lines are just so blurred. And I mean then you have a band like Converge who are completly undefinable so it’s just …
RN: So do you think that where you’re playing at the moment is where metal and hardcore kind of converges?
B: Yeah it’s definetly where it meets because I mean I think that all those bands had similar kinds of roots, and similar influences growing up listening to thrash metal and hardcore. I mean when I grew up I didn’t seperate it because of genre I picked out bands that I liked. I mean I listened to just as much Youth of Today as I did to Metallica… and uhh that’s what’s funny to me because when I think of hardcore I think of Judge, Youth of Today, Chain of Strength, all the old school, really simply, fast stuff, so when people tell us that, when some like death metal kid says, ‘oh yeah you’re just too hardcore for me’ I’m like ‘woah’, cause I just don’t get it. But I mean that’s what I mean it’s all about perceptions. To me back then there wasn’t really much in division, when you’d go shows you’d see it in the crowds. But now when you go to shows, especially in New England, there’s no difference… In Flames will draw just as many hardcore and metal kids as Hatebreed, it’s just a total mix! I think people are beginning to realise that it’s just about good or bad music it doesn’t matter what else… you can put a million abbreviations in front of it and call it what you want, but the bottom line of it is that if it’s good, it’s good, if it’s bad it’s bad….
RN: So when you started did you ever worry that your muscianship would get in the way of being able to like…
B: We didn’t give a shit about what anybody thought. Honestly man we’re very selfish when it comes to our music. I mean just with this last record we could have gone and released Of One Blood pt.2 really easily, but that wasn’t where our heads were at, so we just write … wherever we’re at we’ll just try and write songs that we’re into and first and foremost it’s gotta live up to our standards that are pretty high standars, so if we’re happy with it that’s all that really matters to us. Honestly, we want to have people get into our music but if you worry about that too much you’ll start to either repeat yourself in a safe formula or you’ll just never live up to your potential because you’re just second guessing everything! I mean that’s what makes bands stand out you see that kind of daring-ness and that willingness to actually push themselves and I think that has alot to do with the success of certain bands. I mean we would never sit down and be like ‘ok that riff was a little hardcore, and we haven’t played something that’s heavy enough’ you know?!? That would drive yourself crazy doing that – you’ve just gotta write whatever works!
RN: Do you do anything outside the band, or have you just been so busy recently that you haven’t had time for anything?
B: Well honestly this year we have been touring so much that we haven’t really had much time to do stuff outside the band. But when I do, I started up a promotions company called ‘Ballpen Promotions’ helping out a bunch of small indy labels as well as some small bands, everyone from Unearth to Cradle of Filth, from Entombed to … we’re just doing the new Lamb of God record right now so it’s just basically doing press promotion, radio promotion in the US, and it’s just another way to kind of for me to learn about that side of the business whilst at the same time helping out bands that I’m a fan of … I mean we only pick and choose bands that I like! Besides that I basically spend my time skateboarding and umm playing basketball, and watching the Celtics, and that’s about it!
RN: So what kind of skater are you then?
B: I think I definetly prefer vert, and parks than I do street these days! I used to skate almost all street and I started fucking myself up in such a way that I had to kind of tone it down a touch, because Boston has some of the illest street spots ever – there’s so much good stuff to skate! Unfortunately you’ve gotta …you’re probably going to get arressted if you don’t go at two in the morning. And on tour they try and make me tone it down a little bit, they don’t want me hitting hand rails so that I don’t end up breaking my ankle and having to sit on a bar stool for the whole set because it’d probably ruin the whole Shadows Fall vibe! But uhh it’s something… I’m 27 years old, and I’ve been skateboarding since I was probably 11 and it’s… it’s something that I’ll probably always do!
RN: So do you take your board out on tour with you?
B: I didn’t bring it to Europe because the amount of travelling it just meant that … and having to go on the plane and stuff just not having the room. But I always have it in the US, always! I wouldn’t go anywhere without and the days that I don’t have it will invariably be the days that we play next to a skate park (laughs) which just drives me crazy!
RN: So what skaters do you admire…?
B: Oh god there are so many. Jeremy Ray is probably the man, he’s just ridiculous, the same with Jamie Thomas, he’s incredible…. but going waaay back Duane Peters was like my hero when I was growing up. Yeah I used to have a picture of Duane Peters up in my room of him doing a frontside air at Dellmarge. He was … he was the Man back then, the same with Jay Adams, Jay Adams, one of the original Z-Boys, just amazing! But yeah I grew up watching the Bones Brigade got Rodney Mullen’s autograph when I was like 12 years old! That was a huge part of my life. That’s what got me into hardcore actually. I’d read Thrasher and I’d be like ‘the dead kennedy’s – that’s sounds cool’ and then I’d go buy the record, so that was exactly how I found this type of music, and luckily at a very young age! I started going to hardcore shows when I was 13 years old, but that was because of skateboarding, all by accident!
RN: So do you think it’s a good thing then that skateboardings like cool and whatever?
B: Yeah I think it’s cool ’cause I mean the skaters are making money. And I mean the cool thing about the skateboard industry is that most of the companies are run by the skaters so at least the money goes back to the people who are risking their … yeah I mean now they’re fucking risking their lives (laughs). I mean it’s almost stunt skating now. I mean it’s gotten to such a level that I mean years ago I knew that I would never get sponsored because I’m not willing to die and these kids are. So it is cool that skating is getting this exposure, but it is definetly getting commercialised, and it’s weird hearing these kids talking about tricks, and you hear these young kids talking about it, and you’re like ‘wow that’s pretty serious if they’re that good’ but then you’ll realise that they’re talking about Tony Hawk pro skater 4 or whatever, and like ‘wow they don’t actually skate they just play a video game’! (laughs)
RN: So what do you think of the advancement of tricks….
B: It’s mind blowing to me I don’t know how the fuck… I mean I can switch ollie and stuff but the fact that people are switch back side tailsliding a railing at this point, it’s just to me it’s like spooky! (laughs) But what really blew my mind was when people like Bam Maguera and Ali Bulara (I know that’s spelled incorectly!) started doing these like ridiculous gaps that were just straight up you’re just risking life and limb, and that’s the shit to me that’s more mind blowing to me than any of the tech stuff. Because I mean with the tech stuff if you spend enough time in the parking lot you’re going to be able to learn whatever tricks you wanna learn, but it takes balls and confidence to jump off a fucking rough. Yeah like if I watch a 411 that’s what I wanna see! It just blows my mind where it’s been taken to. Like when I started skating they were doing like long drops and foot plants and shit!
RN: [looking at the Down t-shirt Brian's wearing] Have you seen those guys live?
B: Oh yeah a couple of times now! Incredible!
RN: I swear they’re never going to come to this country!
B: Yeah we were supposed to play with them this one time in Japan actually and .. I just don’t think they fly, I just don’t think they wanna leave… I don’t know what it is! It seems like everytime that they’re suppossed to go overseas they just don’t! I was lucky enough to see them in a small club, which was just two hours of Down, which was just incredible! And I also got to see them at last years Ozzfest, and they played in the pouring rain and it didn’t faze them at all! It was just great! They’re they band… they’re just the band… we were listening to the new Down record in the studio more than any other record and it inspired us to write an album as oppossed to just a bunch of songs! Because they’re record it flows between heavy tunes, acoustic interludes, to a blues jam, but it all makes sense! It has a flow to it, and that’s what we wanted to do, we wanted to have that…. we didn’t want to have nine songs with the same formula we wanted it to like have the whole flow thing! And that was partially inspired by that!
RN: So are Pantera an influence if Down are?
B: Oh yeah definetly. I mean I don’t know how you can be playing metal in this day and age and not have been somewhat inspired by early Pantera! You know they just prooved that you can just groove and be heavy at the same time, but without having huge egos!
RN: On the subject of egos what do you think the new Metallica albums gonna be like?
B: I have no idea! Because I mean I actually spoke to one of the few DJs in Germany who had heard it, and he was … they pulled him into a room, and they did like a full body search for microphones and everything, under his balls, everywhere! Then this woman came in with a briefcase, handcuffed to her wrist, she, a time lock went off, and she put on the record and stood right in front of it the whole time! He said that the shortest song was like six minutes! The first single off it is like eight minutes long, and it just starts off with complete double bass peddling. He says it’s heavy and crazy, he was just completly blown away! He didn’t even have time to absorb whether it was good or bad because he was just so in shock over it being just so brutal! So I don’t I’m interested – it’s going to be weird though! I mean it’s gonna be weird to have to want to like Metallica again you know, because I mean I’ve had my back turned on them for just so long, it’ll be tough to kind of give them props again, but if they put out a good record, then it’s a good record!
RN: So do you think that the summer tour (with Limp Bizkit, Mudvayne, Deftones etc etc) that they’re doing is weird?
B: Very weird! Especially if they’re coming back with such a brutal record, and the fact that they’re metallica, and that they could tour with nobody and they’ll be thousands and thousands of people there, which is kind of weird for me! I think that … a band like Limp Bizkit is just trying to latch onto anything they can right now because they’re so shot! I mean they’re in such a bad spot that they’re just like, ‘please let us ride on your coat tails’, you know! The other weird thing for me is with the Deftones, because I mean I love that band, and to see them have to open for a tour like that is just weird. But yeah all those bands could go out on their own, yet they’ve decided to go out on this one big tour!
RN: Do you think it’s weird that labels are so het up about MP3s and stuff?
B: It’s just bizarre man. I mean the other thing for me as well is that anyone who can get exposed to your record no matter how it is, especially when you consider that back in the day it was all tape trading, that’s how Metallica got their name out their because it was just people doing shitting tape dubbing of their records to spread their name! So anyway that you can get there. I mean downloading a whole band’s album is a little shitty because you do hurt the bands, but at the same time if that’s how you found out about them then that’s fine! And I think that if you like them enough you will go out and buy the whole record because you’ll want the whole package! And yeah you’ll want the lyrics and the art, and to support the band – hopefully! But at the same time I have no problem with people finding out about us like that through file sharing and things like that! Plus at the same time I go on Kazaa and find all the old records that I have on tape just so that I can have a decent quality MP3 of it, you know… and I see nothing wrong with that – especailly with older music that you can’t find anymore, you know, I’ll track down random songs that I used to love!
RN: So if hypothetically a kid downloads your music from the net, but doesn’t buy the CD, but does come to the show is that still cool?
B: Oh yeah totally. If they come and support the band live, because that’s where we make our money, on tour… we make money! We don’t make any money! (laughs) But you know that does actually mean more to me that any record sale or anything like that. So honestly if they support the band like that that’s great I have no problem with that! Still it would be nice if you went out and bought the record! (laughs)
RN: Do you think something that’s cool about your band is the fact that you’ve been able to tour with such a diverse range of band?
B: Yeah we’ve done such varied tours. I mean back to back we did King Diamond into Glassjaw, which is just about as different as you could possibly get. And then we did a tour with In Flames immediatley after that. And I mean we just get to play with so many bands that we love you know! So yeah I think that we’re really lucky, and I think that we’re cool because we can just sneak in between genres like we do. Because I mean if you’re a specific death metal band, or a specific grindcore band, that’s it you just have your little scene and you stay there! When you can branch out and kind of step in between and I think that in some way shows your originality cause people don’t know where to put you, and you’re not stuck having to adhere to any stupid rules! Like ‘oh we’ve got to have this many blast beats, and we can’t have clean vocals, and blah blah blah’! Or for a hardcore band there’s got to be a breakdown in every song, but we’re lucky enough that we can tour with death metal, classic metal, hardcore, emo-core, it doesn’t fucking matter! Like I mean we played shows with Taking Back Sunday on the last tour, and I mean it was weird, but it was still just really cool! So yeah we got stuck somehow on this little leg of the tour between The Rise, and Taking Back Sunday, and I can remember just coming onstage and just saying, ‘Hi we’re Shadows Fall, and the mood is about to change’! And all the kids that came to see us just started killing people! So yeah I mean even the emo kids were loving it because we are pretty mellow and they were just totally getting into it! It was great! Yeah it was very random but very cool!