Mark Hensch caught up with Shadows Fall guitarist/backing vocalist Matt Bachand on Wednesday night to discuss a variety of topics including the band's major label debut, touring, how they have managed to stand out in the current metal scene and more. Here is their conversation
antiMusic: Thank you so much for sitting down for an interview in the midst of a touring schedule as hectic as yours! I've been a fan of you guys for a very long time, so this is definitely a surreal moment for me personally. I've even seen you guys perform in this same venue twice before, waaaaaay back on the first Strhess Tour with As I Lay Dying and Himsa!!! It is really cool being able to do this, so here we go....on to the questions!!!! Let's talk about your upcoming major-label debut Threads of Life. You guys are on Atlantic Records now, which for a band in the metal genre is quite the accomplishment. What kinds of things did you do to further the musical progression of Shadows Fall with Threads of Life?
Matthew Bachand: We didn't do anything consciously! The vocal harmonies and guitar melodies are in our minds the next step in our musical progression. We never entered the studio going, "Hey, we gotta be commercial now!" or anything like that. We just tried to write the best record we could in the headspace we were in. We were also able to hire a bigger name producer, or at least a producer outside the traditional metal camp. We used Zeuss on all our older records and now we tried out Nick Rakelenis (Foo Fighters, Stone Sour, Rush), a metalhead we had been talking about it before. He's a fan of the band so we knew he really wanted to work with us rather than make a big paycheck. We spent tons of time on the vocals in particular to be the best they can be.
antiMusic: Threads of Life is also a chance for Shadows Fall to expand lyrically as well. What kind of topics or themes did the band write about on the new album?
Matthew: There really isn't anything new....it is just like previous releases, where we try to keep things diverse according to our headspaces and stuff. For example, the song "Just Another Nightmare" comes from a short story that Brian (Fair, vocals) thought of. It isn't personal at all, and something we've never done before---complete fiction! But for the most part. there really aren't any changes on the new CD.
antiMusic: Threads of Life definitely has made me feel pretty damn happy over the last few days, almost as if things might be bad but they will always get better. Your band has a reputation for being much more positive than the majority of the metal scene. Is this a conscious effort on your parts or are you just that naturally happy? How do you write such uplifting music in a world with so many things wrong?
Matthew: Music is entertainment---no one wants to be pissed off when they're trying to be entertained, so why write depressing lyrics or violent stuff when we're not depressed or violent dudes? It would sound totally contrived and be really fake. We don't want songs to bum people out, we'd rather let them be entertained and have a good time. That is what music should be about.
antiMusic: I've been very surprised by Threads of Life as it has easily your best guitar shredding and some of your best headbanging riffs since The Art of Balance, but it still remains catchy and streamlined much like The War Within. How do you balance the brutality of the underground with the song-writing chops of the mainstream so well?
Matthew: We listen to different kinds of music and play in different styles. We love the 80's rock and all sorts of earlier stuff, we're all over the map. Because we listen to all that stuff, we can take little bits-and-pieces, something for everyone, and let the random influences come out in what we do.
antiMusic: The cover art for Threads of Life is very strange to be sure. How did you come up with the concept, flesh it out, and accurately capture it for the final copy?
Matthew: We didn't think of it! My buddy "Angry Johnny" used to work with Dinosaur Jr. back in the day, and we looked him up. We wanted something different, original, and physically painted rather than say photoshopped. Basically I played him the album once, told him the title, and asked him to paint! The cover is what he came up with. The original version was different than the cover now but he came up with it on his own and we worked it over from there. It looks amazing and he's a very talented guy.
antiMusic: The ballad "Another Hero Lost" came totally out of left field and simply kicks all kinds of ass. I've heard it has to do with Iraq. Would you care to comment on what inspired this song?
Matthew: This song isn't meant to be political in ANY way. Essentially, Brian (Fair, lead singer) had a cousin who fought over in Iraq and passed away. We wrote this straightforward, kinda power-ballad song about Iraq and what it means to fight there. We're not a political band at all, we're just talking about something that is personal to us. We wrote it simply as a memorial to someone who is no longer here. As for the song itself, we were just embracing a sort of songwriting we've hinted at in the past with "The Art of Balance," "Inspiration on Demand," etc.
antiMusic: Now on to some band-oriented questions. You guys have become famed for your hedonism and insane partying. Got any crazy stories you'd like to tell?
Matthew: I guess anything we could talk about is on our DVD (haha). The funny part is that whenever a really good story happens we're usually too drunk to remember it!!!! Nothing really jumps out per se, but we definitely have lots of fun moments on the DVD (2005's The Art of Touring: Drunk and Shitty in Every City)
antiMusic: Almost all of you have played in other bands before this one. What kind of projects have you been involved in or ARE involved in? Didn't you get your start in another band (Perpetual Doom?)?
Matthew: Well, I did some fill-in dates with Perpetual Doom, I know they have that on their myspace. Brian is doing Transient, a trippy rock project of sorts. I do solo acoustic gigs with a friend back home, kind of Coldplay-ish kinda stuff. It is all original material....other than that, I grew up in death metal so I'm trying to start another death metal project with some friends back home. I don't know if it going to go anywhere though, I've been trying to put it together for 7 years! Who knows?!
antiMusic: They say a musician is his own worse critic. With this in mind, here's a blunt question. What do you think is the best Shadows Fall song? The Worst? Why?
Matthew: I have no idea, I think we suck. I have no idea why people buy it! (haha). To be serious though, "Another Hero Lost" was a song I'm very satisfied with as it was so tricky to write a track in that vein....especially when you're in a band like ours! It took us awhile but it really came together eventually.
As for a song I don't like, how about anything off the other 5 albums (haha)? Seriously, we work so hard and play them so often I really don't listen to my own music after its done. I don't think I have a real favorite or least-favorite.
antiMusic: Here's a fun question. It is for a summer special we are doing down the road. What 5 bands (and/or albums) influenced you the most growing up?
Matthew: My five bands are:
Metallica---Master of Puppets. Everyone says that but it doesn't make it any less true.
Iron Maiden---Live after Death was the album that really got me into metal, and I think it is all the best parts of early Maiden on one CD...just a great, great album!
Exodus---awesome Bay Area thrash....the whole movement in general was good for getting me into music.
Testament---same reason as Exodus.
Megadeth---to balance the Metallica.
antiMusic: You've won all sorts of accolades, awards, and respect for your fantastic guitaring. What tips can you give aspiring metalheads to improve their sound?
Matthew: Just practice your ass off, that is all there is to it! That's pretty much the best thing you can do...I don't know any technique, and I'm self-taught. What people should do is take an album they love and just try to mimic what they hear, really figure out the positions and notes and chords. Nowadays there are machines that you can use which slow down anything you put into it so it is easier to practice. Learning by your ear is much better than tabs, as it develops your mind into thinking about where something is rather than always looking for it on paper.
antiMusic: What kind of future do you see Shadows Fall being capable of? Where do you intend to take things next?
Matthew: It's hard to say...things are almost like a new beginning! We have new crews, booking agents, everything. We're just getting into it now. I don't have any expectations, because if you have those in this business you will be let down. There's no way to expect what the music-buyer will do, they change their opinions so often! Metal will always be around, but it might just get pushed further underground again. Glam rock still exists but you don't hear anyone talking about it---it used to be that stuff was always on MTV fifteen years ago! Hopefully we can ride the metal wave as long as it goes, but you never know. If you don't have any expectations, you'll always end up being satisfied and feeling good.
antiMusic: After the show tonight you guys are embarking on the Jager Tour with dates all across the country. Who are the main acts on that and how did you end up on that tour?
Matthew: Jagermeister has been sponsoring us for years, we have some good friends there. We know the Lacuna Coil people and with that and Jager we felt like it made sense to put everybody together and hit the road! It is a real diverse package, definitely something for everyone. We think it will be a lot of fun.
antiMusic: Thank you so much for your time!!! I have been honored today to do this interview and I hope you guys kick some major ass tonight! The show is gonna slay!!!! [and Mark tells us it did! Check back next Friday at Thrashpit for his review of the show]