I spoke to All That Remains’ co-guitarist Mike Martin on what was for me a cold, wet, Wednesday afternoon. “Where are you right now?” I asked. “We are in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada,” Martin answered. To my way of thinking, you can’t say Vegas without saying fabulous and I told Martin so.
“Exactly!” he responded. Cool—already this conversation was going well.
Just in case anyone isn’t familiar with ATR, I asked Martin to give me a quick history of the band. “Phil [Labonte – lead singer] started it when he was in Shadow’s Fall in, like, 1998. It was kind of a side project. He plays guitar, too, so he wanted to write. But then Shadow’s Fall asked him to leave right around that time so it turned into his main project, involuntarily. From there it was ten years of rotating members in and out…now we’ve had the same five people [Martin, Labonte, Oli Herbert – guitarist, Jeanne Sagan – bass and Jason Costa – drums] for almost a whole two and a half years.”
“Why the rotating members?” I asked. After all, ATR is a cool band, one that has, for all intents and purposes, broken out and people KNOW them. Why would someone leave this band?
“There’s such a variety of reasons, ranging from people not being able to perform the songs well enough, to having drug problems, to people just being straight-up douche bags and we don’t want them in the band anymore. To find a nice balance of five people where we only want to stab each other a little bit when we spend too much time together…”
“Sounds like my family,” I threw in.
“Yeah!” he agreed. “You get snippy at each other here and there but everybody knows their boundaries.”
I asked Martin what ATR calls their music. After all, in the ten years they’ve been doing this, both they and the metal scene have undergone a lot of change.
“We just call it metal,” he said. “Every time someone calls it metalcore we kind of want to punch them.”
I told him how I picked up on that when I was reading about ATR.
“Yeah, apparently it’s a terrible word now. We’re over it.”
With such a strong reaction from the band, I decided to look up the definition of metalcore and why ATR doesn’t want to be classified as such. Maybe everyone out there already knows the difference between metal and metalcore, but not this writer. Here’s what I discovered: “Metalcore” is a cross between hardcore punk and extremely heavy metal, whereas “metal” originated in blues and psychedelic rock. I found this interesting. I read further and now I’ve really got it: metal is supposed to make listeners think of masculinity and machismo. Tell that to Sagan, ATR’s female bassist, I thought.
Since we were already talking about the music, I asked Martin about their influences. To my way of thinking, when you have five different people trying to make music together, each one must bring some preference with them.
“We have a wide range,” he said. “There are the typical ones, like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Pantera, and some pretty not typical ones too – lots of 80s hair metal bands.”
Oh really? That required a bit more explanation.
“Yeah, that’s more me probably than anybody else,” he confessed. “I fell in love with the whole glam world. And then like Death Metal 2, Cannibal Corpse…it’s very wide range of what people like, you know, Justin Timberlake…all that stuff.”
I assured him I would make sure that got into the story, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get him to admit exactly who it is that likes Justin Timberlake.
Since ATR is on the road in support or their fourth release, “Overcome,” I asked Martin how ATR liked working with producer Jason Suecof (Trivium, God Forbin, Chimara) after using Adam Dutkiewicz, guitarist of Killswitch Engage, the producer of their last three albums.
“Adam’s always our number one choice. We always try to get him first so as soon as he says he’s not available, that’s when we start looking for other people…but if he’s available we don’t look at all,” Martin said. “But they’re kind of the same in a way because they’re both so crazy. Both experiences were really awesome. The only thing that sucked about working with Jason was we had to go down to Florida to do it and we hate traveling to record. We love recording at home. We’re never home so having to go down to Florida and actually record the album was a bummer, but Jason did a good job so it was worth doing.”
ATR admits to taking some heat about “Overcome.” According to the press, there’s “less screaming and more singing.” As a listener, I can honestly say I did not know this was a bad thing. What was Martin’s take on this?
“We like each album to have its own sound. I think it’s cool if you can put three different records in by the same band and you can automatically tell which record it is. With our last three records that’s definitely the case. You can tell, there’s a big difference with each one, which is cool, it keeps your fans around longer instead of being that flavor of the month. There are so many bands you see that go on a Warped Tour and get huge for six months and then all of a sudden you never hear about them again and it’s like, okay. We don’t want to be that. We want to put albums out and do this for a long time.”
And what about more singing and less screaming?
“Yeah, there’s a little more singing,” Martin said. “But there’s tons of screaming.” He’s right, by the way. “People make it sound more melodic than it is, but it’s by far our biggest album by like four times, so none of us are really complaining even though this is definitely the album we’ve taken the most crap for press-wise…but [we] have that many positive things happening so it’s not a big deal if some kids on the internet are complaining.”
We began wrapping up the interview with Martin’s thoughts on the music business. ATR has been at this for awhile now and has seen some major changes in the last couple of years.
“The music business is like the worst thing on the planet,” he said. We laughed in agreement at that one. “If you’re in a band you’re pretty much the last person to get any of the money. And, that’s after like the eight hundred other people get their hands on it. CDs are obviously a dying thing. The convenience of stealing records off of the internet isn’t really doing anything for the longevity of bands. At the same time, while the internet sucks it’s really good because the internet gets your band heard by a million different people – it’s a real double-edged sword. I have no idea what’s going to happen with music in general in the next five years. It’s going to be really interesting.”
I asked him if he thinks it all comes down to touring.
“As far as bands like us go, making a living and being able to keep doing it, you have to stay on tour for most of the year, every year.” All I could say was OMG, since ATR tours ten months of the year. “Which is cool most of the time…this has been the busiest year we’ve ever had, constant touring, but we’re holding strong.”
“And how do you bring it every night?” I asked.
“You just drink a lot!” he said, laughing. “Naw, if you work for an hour a day, it’s easy! Everybody else that works for the bands has the hard jobs. The band members don’t do anything. We’re the laziest people on the face of the earth, and even if we have to do a little bit of work all we do is complain about it. We’re lucky to be in the position we’re in. The economy’s bad but we still have people coming to our shows. We’re doing it for a living, so playing the Mandalay Bay in (fabulous!) Vegas on a Wednesday night is not necessarily a bad job.”
No, I agreed, it certainly isn’t.
What: All That Remains
Where: The Venue
When: Sun, Oct 25, 7pm
How much: $22, all ages
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