Live photos: Erika Kristen Watt
|Photos: Kimisha L. Pierce|
"I wanna be called "Big Poppa"
What can be said about Shadows Fall that has not already been said?!? With the success of the band's newest release The War Within (reaching Billboard's #20 within the first week) and in conjunction with their headlining tour, the band is about to ride the wave of the crest, their phoenix has risen as they shall enjoy their success for many moons to come as their turn of good fortune has just begun. Read on as Brian discusses the new album in depth, the "underground" scene, and his hilarious take on life.
Karma: First of all I’d like to thank you very much for doing the interview.
Brian: Oh, no problem.
Karma: Please describe the sound of Shadows Fall to someone who has never heard of the band before.
Brian: We just kind of bring in all of the elements of heavy music that there is whether it’s rock n’ roll, metal, and death metal, hardcore… We got a little bit of all that in our sound somewhere along the way! [Laughs]
Karma: [Smiles] Okay! How would you describe your fans…
Brian: A bunch of dirty long-haired dudes! [Laughs]
Karma: [Laughs] I mean have they changed much since you began your career as opposed to now?
Brian: Well we definitely have a pretty diverse audience as far as types of you know like from a lot of different scenes. We’ve toured with metal bands, with hardcore bands even with emo bands and every thing in between. So our crowd kind of reflects that. You have the old school kids who saw us with King Diamond, people who saw us with Hatebreed and those who saw us with the mellower bands. So it’s kind of a cool mix because we haven’t been pigeonholed or stuck in one kind of genre yet.
Karma: Well that’s interesting, I was reading somewhere that you had been dubbed the Forerunners of the NWOAHM [New Wave of American Heavy Metal] Movement.
Karma: So how do you feel about that?
Brian: It’s cool to bring back American metal to the forefront because it was so underground for a while. We don’t feel that we’re the sole band that’s doing it since there are a lot of bands that’s doing it. But it is an honor to get mentioned as one of the forerunners but it took a lot to get music back to where it is now.
Karma: You are in great company with the likes of the Chimairas and the God Forbids of the world
Brian: and Killswitch Engage. I mean it’s just cool that we’re a part of something like that if feels like the old days with the Trash Movement.
Karma: Do you think the Movement will get bigger, better?
Brian: Seems like it for right now but when anything gets trendy for a while then it will die down. All the bands that you mentioned, we’ve all being doing this for a while, when it wasn’t cool to do so we’ll keep going. But for the next few years, I have a feeling that it’s going to keep growing and growing.
Karma: Who are some of your favorite artists and how do you support them?
Brian: As far as recent artists?
Brian: I’m a really big fan of the new God Forbid record and guys in Unearth are a great band all the bands we normally tour with: Hatebreed, Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God are all amazing. As far as new bands we’ve been taking out a lot of great new bands like Himsa, All That Remains and As I Lay Dying…bands like that. There’s a lot of good bands out there right now.
Karma: I caught your interview on Declassified on Music Choice it was a good show.
Brian: [Smiles] Cool!
Karma: To be able to hear about the “Ghost of Past Failures”, being a very 80's oriented – Skid Rowesque kind of song. "Eternity is Within" – brought back the whammy bar? Which song is your favorite off The War Within and why?
Brian: Oh, that’s tough! [Smiles] You know I actually have to pick 2 to tell the truth. I love the last song “Those Who Cannot Speak” because I think it has everything that we do in one song it also a seven minute song too. It covers a lot of ground and it’s probably the most extreme song on the record too.
Karma: I have a question about the song later too.
Brian: Oh, okay, cool! So I’d say that one for that but also a song like “What Drives the Weak” is probably one of the best rock tunes we’ve ever written. It’s a lot more straightforward/straight ahead, so it’s a totally different world from that. So those are probably my 2 favorites.
Karma: You were quoted as using Peter Steele vocals on the song "Act of Contrition"
Karma: Just out of idle curiosity, were you able to make amends with the intended subject?
Brian: Oh, oh…yeah! Pretty much! It’s a song about when you know you’ve done something wrong. [Laughs] And usually it’s someone that you care about a lot and you keep doing it! [Snickers] As long as you can accept that and everyone understands the situation… [Laughs sheepishly]
Karma: The subject matter is very serious on “Those Who Cannot Speak" surrounding your niece & nephew dealing with mild autism etc. Would you like to expound on that?
Brian: Well yeah, not just specifically them but just the idea in general. It’s just one of those things the difficulty to communicate through human language, putting images to words and things like that a really difficult for some kids who have autism or different learning disabilities. And it’s just really frustrating for them to try to communicate and can’t understand why they can’t make these links and things like that. It just something being around my niece has a mild form and has gotten over it a lot. I’ve watched her progress tremendously where as my younger nephew who’s real young the extent of his issues. You see huge steps but you see the frustration. When it’s on a 2 year old kid it drives you crazy. It was just something that was on my mind and it kinda came out in that song.
Karma: In the song "What Drives The Weak" you were quoted saying it’s really all about "beers and rock n' roll” or is there more?
Brian: We like to have a good time on the road but we take our shows seriously but we do like to party afterwards and stuff like that. But we do take what we do very seriously as far as the musicianship side of it as well as the lyrical side. I think you have to have that connection with music this intense to really bring that intensity all the time. But at the same time if you are always in that mode, you’ll drive yourself crazy so you gotta relax and have fun! It is heavy metal after all!! [Snickers]
Karma: [Smiles] As far as "Eternity Is Within" it surrounds the spiritual decline in our society; care to explain that a little more?
Brian: Seems like everybody’s worried about dying right off and living with the fear of regretting something they did comes with future consequences and just kinda getting away from living in the moment and always projecting outwardly as their source of salvation. Always looking to an outside source instead of trying to find that inspiration within themselves is the idea. Instead of looking to Heaven for help, you may want to find that strength within because the idea of Jesus being the Savior was more the idea of God within the human. The idea of him being able to come down in human form, to me, is a metaphor that EVERYONE has that power within themselves. To always use that as a crutch or an excuse and say, ‘Oh, I’ll just go to confession and get clean because there’s this guy up there keeping this book’. It’s real easy to find ways to justify and rationalize a lot of things instead of taking responsibility for them.
Karma: Did the song writing differ from The War Within as opposed to your previous releases?
Brian: Mostly due to the fact we were home for an extended period of time working on them all at once. As opposed to a few of the other records songs have been from a few years before and stuff that had been working on different breaks. On this record after The Art of Balance, we hit the road the day after we finished recording it. We were out for 2 years so we really didn’t have anytime to write at all! That was the only real difference; all these songs came out over a span of a couple of months as opposed to over a few years. I think that’s why it has such a cohesive feel to it.
Karma: You did a cover of Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine", if you could another cover tune, what would it be?
Brian: [Smiles] We got a few ideas cooking right now! We always like to take a real random left hand turn with our covers. So we’ll see, but there’s been talk of a Willie Nelson tune, there’s been talk of some Billy Joel and maybe the Police!
Karma: [Smiles] Oh wow!!
Brian: So we’ve got some ideas! We did do a cover for fun for our Japanese Bonus Track this time around. It was satisfying our 80’s metal kick. We did “Teas’n Pleas’n” by Dangerous Toys and had the original singer, Jason McMaster, actually record the vocals!
Karma: How cool is that?
Brian: Yeah! And it came out AWESOME! [Beams] We wanted to do a fun rock tune and have some fun with it and pay respect to a band we looked up to. But with other covers like “Welcome To The Machine” we were trying to recreate something in our own sound and that type of thing as opposed to just rocking out. [Laughs]
Karma: Must have been a real honor to have Zakk Wylde speak so highly of you! As he was quoted as saying "I can't wait to see these kids, they can fucking play"!
Brian: Oh TOTALLY especially for John [Donais, lead guitarist] who’s looked up to him… and to anyone who pays close attention to lead guitar you’ll notice a lot of Zakk’s influence on John’s playing whether it’s in his vibrato or other things. He always looked up to Zakk and to have him respond that way is amazing. They got to hang out a bunch and jam together and stuff.
Karma: That’s great!
Brian: Yeah, Zakk’s a great dude, man he’s rock and roll though! That dude is ready to party at ANY time!
Karma: You won the "Best Metal Underground Award" by Metal Hammer,
Brian: [Smiles] Um, humm.
Karma: How do you feel about that? Do you want to stay underground? And if so, do you think you will be able to maintain that status with the early success of the latest release?
Brian: I don’t know, we’ll see! That’s the whole thing it’s kinda hard to describe what is the “underground” anymore. You’ve got bands that I consider to be non-mainstream bands selling over 100,000 records so it’s kinda weird! [Chuckles accompanied by bewildered expression] And you have bands on major labels that are still definitely not commercial bands whether it’s Hatebreed or Lamb of God or even bands like Poison The Well or Thursday. So I think all of the rules have changed I think “underground” is much more of an approach or an attitude. We keep it that way, we are still really DIY as far as our career, and we are involved with every part of it. We stay involved mostly because we don’t want to release control to anybody because we’ve been used to doing everything ourselves for years whether it be booking our own tours or financing our first records; we put out our first record. We did all that stuff on our own. I think that’s more of what keeps a band with the underground mentality. ‘Cos right now, I’d love to sell a million records, don’t get me wrong! [We both laugh] But I don’t think we’d ever do it at the cost of losing [control].
Karma: Do you think there is a lack of support in the “underground” scene?
Brian: Hell no! It’s huge right now. I think on every aspect of it. Every tour does really well now whether it’s a death metal tour or a hardcore tour or this melodic metal…or whatever it is. Band's are just kinda popping up! The record's been out and we did almost over 40,000 records/Number 20 on Billboard! [Smiles]
Brian: Thank You! It's just crazy for a band like us. We shall see what happens!
Karma: How do you prepare for a show? Do you have a pre-set ritual?
Brian: No it kinda varies a little bit but generally the same. I usually try not to fall asleep a couple of hours before the show like I today! [We all laugh hysterically] I don't know how that happened! It was that damn Morrissey I was listening to!
Karma: He'll lull you sleep alright! [Uproarious laughter from all]
Brian: Yeah, all of his lullabies! But usually I'll stretch out a little bit and I do some simple vocal warm-ups almost speech orientated rather than actually singing just to get the throat warmed up. And then it's usually you hope not to shit your pants before you go on stage! [Laughter from all] I still get nervous before every show to this day! I'm always freaking out right before I go on!
Karma: Well that's a good thing, it shows you still care.
Brian: Exactly! I get real nervous but I think it adds to the energy of the show.
Karma: Okay, here's a Speed Round of Questions.
Karma: As your best friend, how would you describe yourself?
Brian: As an asshole! [Chuckles and we all die laughing]
Karma: What's your mantra?
Brian: Fuck what you heard! [Laughs]
Karma: Metallica or Megadeth?
Brian: Ohh, that's tough! I have to go with Metallica because at the time and back in the day I was probably more in to them but two Megadeth albums stand out better than most things Metallica did: Peace Sells and Rust In Peace. Both of those records could hang with ANY Metallica but overall the first four Metallica records are as good as it gets!
Karma: Pretty interesting that you didn't pick Metallica straight away with your "Master of Puppets" homage, "The Light That Blinds".
Brian: Yeah! But I'd probably have to say Metallica but Megadeth has some records that can hang! They also have some clunkers too!! [Snickers]
Karma: [Laughs] Didn't they both have 'em?
Brian: Yeah! That's what I'm saying!! [We all laugh]
Karma: What is the wildest thing that has ever happened to you on tour?
Brian: Oh Jesus Christ! [Smiles] While we've had our normal drunken shenanigans, I'd say the weirdest thing was ending up at a Nellie after hours party in Minneapolis a few years ago with the guys from Avenged Sevenfold. [Giggles] It was hilarious! We were out there trying to pimp and it we stood out so bad it was ridiculous! It was awesome!! 'Cos people were blingin'! It was great because I was a HUGE fan of "Country Grammar" so I was all psyched to see them. Then one of the St. Lunatics stole Reverend Jim from Avenged Sevenfold's girl that he was kicking it with at the bar!
Brian: It was hilarious it was a good time!!
Karma: What's your favorite quote?
Brian: It's usually like "Fuck You! I'm Drunk!" [Cackles] But I don't know, I'm gonna have to get back to you on that one in a bit.
Karma: Okay! Top 5 favorite movies?
Brian: Ah shit! [Smiles] Scarface…no real order here, the Kill Bills 'cos I just bought in Manhattan and had them and them in my marathon yesterday; I watched them straight through. Run Ronnie Run!; one of the best comedies of all time, David Cross. Apocalypse Now.
Karma: The original version or Redux?
Brian: I don't think I've ever seen the Redux, so probably the regular one. I'll have to check it out.
Karma: Yes, you do. There's a lot of extras that were added.
Brian: Oh, okay! Actually I haven't seen that movie in years but it still one of my favorites. I haven't seen Scarface in a while either. [Chuckles] Shit…
Karma & Brian: Scarface, Kill Bills, Apocalypse Now,
Brian: Run Ronnie Run, and American Beauty.
Karma: Last book read?
Brian: Notes From A Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
Karma: Burn or buy?
Karma: If you could commission another band to do a cover of your favorite song, which song would it be and who would do it?
Brian: Actually there's a cover I've always wanted to do and would love to hear Testament or Megadeth do it, "Synchronicity, Part II" by the Police. Because it's meant to be a thrash metal song. I'd love to do it ourselves too!
Karma: That would be cool!
Brian: [Smiles] Yeah, like a good thrash band do it.
Karma: Now a song of yours.
Brian: You mean someone else covering it?
Karma: Um-humm [Nodding head up and down]
Brian: I'd love to hear a band like Radiohead or Muse or some tripped out band like that do a tune of ours and make it sound totally nothing like what we did. [Sniggles] Kinda like what we do with "Welcome To The Machine." It's like an acoustic ambient song and we put this Judas Priest riff behind it. So I'd just love to see somebody fuck our shit up, man! Something like a trip-hop DJ or something!
Karma: Favorite city played in so far?
Brian: Uhh, that's tough; it really isn't one we've had so many amazing shows but a few that stand out are: Tokyo; London; Worchester, Massachusetts (it's always amazing, it's like hometown style). But on this round we've had incredible shows in New York City, Philly's always amazing, Chicago's usually awesome, LA is always amazing same with Anaheim (Southern California). So that's a tough one, Seattle! [Snickers]
Karma: [Laughs] There's a lot!
Brian: [Laughs] They're all good!
Karma: What legacy would you like to leave behind?
Brian: As a band or as a person?
Karma: Let's do both.
Brian: As a person, I'm gonna leave a lot of dirty hair behind! [Hearty guffaw from all] And hopefully a few decent ideas passed along that I've picked up along the way. As a band we just want to be remembered as a great metal band. I feel like we made a few albums at the time that were significant in the metal scene. I don't know how they’ll rank in history after years go by, but I think at the time we've made some relevant music and pushed the genre maybe not further but in a new direction.
Karma: Introvert or extrovert?
Brian: That all depends. I'm pretty quiet and a soft spoken guy but I can also get a little drunk and rowdy. Like last night was 80's night in Cleveland I was DEFINITELY an extrovert but like today listening to Morrissey, I was pretty mellow. [We all laugh]
Karma: What’s the ringtone(s) on your cellphone?
Brian: N.E.R.D. "Lap Dance" and "Bark At The Moon" by Ozzy for unknown ID's.
Karma: Live or dead: If you could host a dinner party with 5 people, who would you invite?
Brian: Joe Strummer, Bon Scott, from AC/DC, Bukowski, somebody's got to bring the drinks! Oh, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh would have to come as a tandem.
Karma: What's the craziest thing a groupie has ever said to you?
Brian: I've gotten the, 'I would definitely rape you' quote a few of times! Actually once very recently! [We all break out in uproarious laughter] That's always a little spooky!! Yeah! But the weirdest thing I've seen is recently someone came to an autograph signing with a tattoo of an autograph that I did on their arm. And I'm like, 'Whoa! Hey!!' I mean I'm pretty honored but that's taking it to a different level!
Brian: Yup! [Look of shock covers his scrunched up countenance] At least those would be easy to work into something else if you had to.
Karma: What's the ratio of your fans: more male than females?
Brian: I'd say we have more male fans in general because metal seems to be testosteroned based BUT it has been changing a lot lately. It's been becoming much more of a mixed crowd in which I love!! We get some serious mosh action but I don't really like the violence at shows. I want people going crazy and jumping on each others heads. But I don't like the fights and the boy's club mentality that can happen at a lot of shows; so it's nice to see girls singing along in the pit and stage diving. Hopefully we will get more and more and honestly as the band gets more popular, girls show up! And that's cool…
Karma: Thus your raping comments… [Laughs]
Brian: Yeah, yeah!! [Laughing] See, we don't need any more girls like that though!
Karma: If not music, then what?
Brian: Shit, I don't know! I've been in bands since I was 12-13 years old; I'm almost 30 now! I'm a one trick pony, I don't know anything else. I went to school and got a Literature degree, all I got out of that was learning how to read, you know! [We all die laughing] It's not like I acquired some useful skill! I don't know, that would be tough, but I'd probably work in the music industry either that or I'd be growing weed on a mountain somewhere! [Laughter fills the room]
Kimisha: [Laughing]…with a goat!
Brian: [Cackles] Exactly!! Listening to Morrissey!
Karma: First car owned?
Brian: Oh, it was awesome, it was a '76 Subaru. It was the size of toaster! [laughter from all] It was the awesomest pig car you ever wanted to see! It was this little piece of shit, it was awesome!
Karma: Most embarrassing name a lover has ever called you?
Brian: Nothing embarrassing, I'm trying to think of one…but I want to be called "Big Poppa"! [Uproarious laughter fills the room from all] But that hasn't happened yet either!
Karma: It might now!! [Laughter continues]
Brian: Big Poppa Smurf! [Laughter kicks back up]
Karma: If asked by Playgirl, would you pose nude?
Brian: Hell no! My mother couldn't see that! She'd kill me!
Karma: First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
Brian: Where's my weed! [Laughter from all]
Brian: Probably! Honestly these days when we're on tour I try to figure out what the fuck city we're in! That's usually the first thought and where do I get a cup of coffee! You look out the bus and say, 'Where the hell are we? And Where the Hell do I find a Dunkin Donuts?' [Laughter from all]
Karma: What's your favorite drink?
Brian: Alcoholic or non?
Brian: Alcoholic: I've been on a vodka cranberry kick and Budweiser is always a staple. That's always my most drank drink just in general, a cold Budweiser in a glass bottle. I used to be a huge beer snob for years when I worked at this high-end liquor store…it was all free! [Laughter fills the room again] So now I'm like 'Fuck all that shit' give me a 30-pack of Bud!' And besides that I like a freshly squeezed juice, many types.
Karma: If stranded on a desert island who would you take?
Brian: Gwen Stefani, I don't even have to think about that twice. And Gavin, her husband from Bush, cannot come! [Uproarious laughter fills the room]
Karma: What tracks would you take with you? Choice of 5!
Brian: I'd have to cover a different moods: Spiritual - Super Laser Gods of Melodies (a super mellow CD for just chilling); I would need a mix of the Smiths, as many as I could fit on a CD, I'd probably have to go MP3 style so I could fit like 200 on a disc (that's probably the band I listen to the most); Joy Division; Master of Puppets; and I need a good rock CD – an AC/DC mix. Mostly Bon Scott era but you've got to have some "Back In Black" in there!
Karma: [Smiles] Thank you very much!!
Brian: No problem! No problem!!
I'd like thank the band's Tour Manager, Justin, and George from Century Media for setting up the interview.
Click the photo of Brian or here
to see photos from tonight's show