Interview conducted by Suzie Lee. Published on 9/15/2010.
You're currently on tour with Otep and it's pretty obvious that this tour line up is different from what you guys are used to, including the demographic that you play for. What was the motivation for taking on this tour and how are the Otep fans receiving you?
Tom Williams: We never thought about hitting this kind of audience until Otep was interested in us coming out with them so that was what kind of sparked it. We started looking into it and from the beginning we always wanted to play to every crowd as much as we could and this is something we've never done before so it's very cool that they wanted us on the tour. The shows so far are good; it's only like four or five days in. Last night was 21 and older, no matter who you play with its gonna suck. But usually it's been good we've been selling a lot more CDs than usual which is cool because a lot of kids will just download it and buy shirts and stuff which is good, but you know, these people all come here for the music so they buy a lot of records. Which is good because selling CDs isn't what it used to be.
Have you sold more CDs on this tour than on a typical metalcore tour?
Tom: Yes, absolutely. The first night we sold like 40 CDs which is, for any band, that's a lot of CDs. What's cool about these people, you know, they want to come have a good time. They're not looking for anything special, they just want to have a good time and be entertained and hear heavy music. So you know, we go on stage, we give them our all, and they've been into us so we've been selling a lot of CDs which is good too cause they want to hear the music.
I guess this one's for Tom. Your songs are written for two guitar parts but you've been playing as a four piece since the beginning of this year. How do you play both parts live?
Tom: Our old guitar player Justin left the band for whatever reason. We were always skeptical about being a four-piece, especially myself. Then I noticed all of my favorite bands like Deftones, Rage Against the Machine, Converge all those bands have one guitar player and do it. Even my current favorite bands Tony Danza and Veil of Maya, they all did it too. I figured we can do it too so I looked into it. I have a switch that I can do two amps on both sides and I can go on and off and switch back between both of them like to guitar players would, trading parts off. I have a harmonizing pedal so all the harmonies are there. I have a loop pedal which I can record parts and play parts over, which Veil of Maya help me out a lot through because they're really good with the four piece stuff. We weren't sure if we were sticking with it but it's been working out really good since we started doing it so we're going to keep doing it.
So it's safe to say that you're not looking for a new member?
Tom: No, no not at all.
You all had a part in writing lyrics for Make Your Own History. How did that idea come into play and how did effect the overall outcome of the record?
Drew Dijorio: The way the record started was we were writing most of it in the studio, at least half of it was written in the studio, so we really couldn't write the lyrics till the songs were done. We had a long trek to California so we pretty much used the time on our way out to California, to record the vocals, to write lyrics. We kind of all had a hand in it. I had maybe four or five songs written and done by myself and then we kind of took a new approach on writing lyrics with new members so we were all just like, "Yo, lets just all write lyrics together." And that's pretty much how that came about; we just all did it together and it worked out.
Is this going to continue? Are you all going to contribute lyrically?
Drew: Um, maybe. It depends on how we start writing the next record. I already started writing lyrics for it. I have almost two songs done. Whether or not they're going to work out and work out for the songs I don't know.
Tom: We all wrote stuff for the record that didn't even get used. I wrote stuff that didn't get used. It'll probably work out like that too. Even the music was everyone too, like it wasn't just me writing guitar riffs. To top that record Make Your Own History, which to me I felt came out great, to top it I think the same formula which is like all the experience we have playing these songs, to make it the same exact way would be the best. Who knows, we won't tackle that till we get there. Who knows what we'll have ready.
You worked with Misha Mansoor on Make Your Own History before openly invited artists to pursue him as a producer. As a hardcore band what made you want to work with Misha and on the contrary what made him want to work with you?
Drew: Bulb is what made us want to work with him. We heard Bulb, the dudes from For The Fallen Dreams showed us Bulb and we were like "This is insane. What is this?" The guitar tones were unreal to us. When it came time to find someone to record it we were like "Yo, why don't we hit up this dude and see if he wants to record our record." And we hit him up and uh…
Tom: Actually we hit him up and he heard Villains and didn't like it. He wasn't really that into it at first and then we were just like "Yo, let us come and do a song to see if we like it too," cause we weren't sure. We actually went and recorded a demo for the song Manipulator and us and him were so excited right away and we were just like "Absolutely do this, no problem." So that's just how it works. It's funny cause to this day he still doesn't like Villains (laughs).
What was your experience working with a "djent" and progressive metal producer?
Tom: It was awesome. It was cool to actually have a producer on this one cause the last one, we recorded with Kurt Ballou but he didn't really give us any insight with the music or anything. It was cool because there was so much stuff we think sounds awesome to ourselves but we had a guy on the outside who is not used to this kind of music but liked our sound and so he gave us his ideas too, which worked. He gave us a lot of ideas. We used some of them but still it was just good to have a different mind. We could've brought someone in that was just like us, listened to the same shit and it would be different. What's cool is that our playing style, no matter where we record it, we could record it where Celine Dion records her records that are insanely produced, and it would still sound raw just cause that's how we play. Recording with him even though his [style] is very djenty or metal or whatever you call it, progressive metal, still sounds like Stray, at least it does to me. With just the rawness of the way we play our songs and it comes out very powerful.
The transition from Villains to Make Your Own History shows a lot of structural maturity and a stronger sense of musicianship. I read somewhere that you guys are shooting for a late summer early fall release next year for your next record, right? No? Am I wrong?
Tom: Yeah, next summer.
Have you started writing or put any thought into the next CD?
Tom: We just started. We're going to be taking some time off to start writing. We have pretty much all August off besides a couple festival shows. I've already started writing now and sharing my ideas with the band but we're not going to fully hit it until August. We gotta get started soon.
Drew: Like I said before I started writing lyrics for things that I think might be cool. If I have an idea I'll write it down, that's actually how I write the songs, I'll have an idea and then I'll branch off of that so I have some cool things going through. Tom has this thing we can record on our computer now so while we're out on tour we can still be writing. So yes we have started writing.
Can you tell in the early stages how different it's going to be from Make Your Own History?
Drew: Not even close.
Tom: No fucking way.
Drew: Not yet.
You were recently in the studio recording some cover songs and there were hints of a split release. What songs did you cover and how or when will they be released?
Tom: That's a good question because we've been waiting awhile for them but uh…
Drew: I think this split release thing was an idea more than…
Tom: We toured with Stick To Your Guns and we both brought it up, we told them "We're going to do a cover CD," and they were like "That's awesome maybe we should do one too," I was like, "We should do a split" and it was "Cool." And then it's like that band tours constantly, when they're not touring we're on tour, and then we're releasing a record, they're writing one, they're releasing one, we're writing one. So it's like impossible to get it together but I hope it will someday. But we just recorded two with a friend of ours we did "Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine and we did "Burnout" by Greenday and they should surface soon if we ever get them.
How did you come up with the idea of Alternative Hardcore and why do you think this genre or label is necessary for your band?
Dan Bourke: I think we came up with that because hardcore, especially now a days, it's kind of a very loose term. A lot of people have a different idea of what hardcore really means. People think that a band like Have Heart is the only hardcore band but a band like Stray From The Path, we all have those hardcore ideals we all grew up on Long Island where that was extremely prevalent in the way we grew up but we don't necessarily play that old school, more like super dirty style. But we don't want people to think that we're not like that. I guess, especially from myself coming from the other hardcore bands that I've played in, it's nice to still hold on to that super cliché feeling of unity and "we're hardcore kids." You know what I mean? That's the way we all are, we all grew up that way, we play a little bit of a different style of what most people would consider a hardcore band so we just coined the phrase alternative hardcore. We think it fits pretty well.
What is your response when people call you a metalcore band?
Tom: Whatever. The genre is just so dumb. It's like "crabcore!" It's like "Fuckin who gives a shit? Do you like the fuckin music we play or what?" That's what it should be. If it's metalcore they want to call it nu-metal, they want to call it hardcore, alternative hardcore, I don't give a fuck.
Dan: You know what's crazy too is how the genres have changed over the years. I remember when I was in high school my friends would listen to post-hardcore stuff and now people consider… what do people consider post-hardcore? I don't even know.
Tom: Post-hardcore? I don't know. I never even knew what that meant. I got Opposite of December from Poison the Well, I was like "This is sick hardcore shit," my friend used to be like "That's not hardcore you don't know what you're talking about!" I'm like, they play shows, they tour their ass off, they're a fucking hardcore band to me at least. The genre thing is just retarded. Like who's post-hardcore, who's metalcore, who's metal, who's black metal. Who fucking cares?
Drew: People try and group everything into one thing with everything too, not even with just music, but with their friends and stuff. I forget who said it but someone said it the other day like kids try and find reasons not to go to shows today, not just going to shows like they used to. They'll be like "Oh this band's playing? I gotta find something else to do so I don't have to go to that show." And it's stupid it's not how it used to be when no matter who was playing or whatever band was playing you'd go and you'd have a good time. Now it's like "Oh this band's playing? I heard they did this on whatever website," and they find reasons not to go to shows. It's like, whatever, you're stupid.
Tom: I used to just show up to shows where I'd know one band and there were six other bands that I'd never even heard of.
The music industry today is heavily focused on imagery and marketing across the board in all genres, and hardcore is not immune to that. It's not like you always have control, first and foremost you're musicians, but how do you separate yourselves from how various media outlets present you or how you are marketed? Especially when things that they write might not jive what with Stray From The Path is about?
Dan: I think anything that is out there comes through us first anyway. All of our ideas are original ideas. We print out t-shirts that we like. Our CD artwork is artwork that we made up and we like. There's a lot of those cookie cutter bullshit bands out there now, I remember seeing this interview with this band, you know that HardTimes website?
Dan: I won't mention the band but I remember seeing an interview with the old singer of this one band and they were just berating him the whole time asking him similar questions about marketing. "So what do you think has changed in the hardcore scene with marketing?" He's like, "Ah well a lot of bands now have like really bright colored shirts because they pop and grab peoples attention."
I know which one you're talking about (laughs).
Drew: "We got pink n' stuff on our shirts." (laughs)
Dan: Fucking loser (laughs) I, to this day, will watch that interview for a good laugh. But bands like that we want nothing to do with.
Tom: We want to sell our stuff we want to make money, these are our jobs but there's always going to be that dignity that we have. We don't want to do anything that's going to make us be like "aw really?" These are our jobs, there's nothing wrong with making money. If we're going to sell a million records of Make Your Own History and make a ton of money that's sick, because you know what? We all will fucking die for that CD and we all worked our asses off for that CD and I stand behind it, I stand behind everything. If we sell a million t-shirts of our New York Rangers shirt that we'll get sued by the New York Rangers, then maybe I'll see someone from the New York Rangers in court.
Dan: The thing is anything that we put out and all the marketing stuff it comes through us first. We have to approve.
Tom: There's stuff that maybe our label will come up with but they always run it by us. The way they are with us is cool, they know how we are they give us a ton of freedom and that's cool. I know a bunch of labels and a bunch of bands just don't get that. It's a team definitely with our label and our booking agents, managers, and what not, we all work together.
In other interviews Tom as mentioned how some bands are in it just for the moment where they're big now but will fade out in a couple years and get lost in the shuffle once the next trend comes a long. From my understanding you're inspired by bands like Deftones, Rage Against the Machine, and The Dillinger Escape Plan who have been around for over ten years and still putting out relentless albums. What qualities do you believe your work ethic and band have that is the element that will help you transcend the eras of musical trends?
Tom: With alternative hardcore, what that means to me too is [like] with the Deftones how that band, they toured with Korn, Mudvayne, I saw them play with Puddle of Mudd and Godsmack, like that's terrible, what a terrible line up! But they played it and they always did their thing, you know. When Puddle of Mudd was playing the "smack my ass" song and then Godsmack was playing "Voodoo" on bongos, they played "Be Quiet and Drive" you know, they played "Headup". They did their own thing always no matter who they're on the bill with and that's why they're still around because they were always trying to be themselves not even trying to be different but they just were because they just had this artistic feel in their music. It's hard to put, but that's the trace that I kind of see with us. We'll play with Otep, we'll tour with Winds of Plague but we're always going to keep doing our thing no matter who we're on stage with, ever. It's just always gonna be like that. That's why I just feel like we could live on, you know. I think that we have a lot of anger in us, a lot of creativity in us and that we'll just continue to make good songs, continue to hopefully win kids over in different crowds like with Otep, or we just toured with World Alive that's kind of a Warped Tour band, or Winds of Plague, Bleeding Through. We tour with all these weird bands and it's cool. That's what I like about us is we can do any kind of tour.
Dan: We don't go on tour Otep and bust out our nu-metal moves on stage. We don't go on tour with The World Alive and bust out a keyboard player. You know what I mean? Where I feel like a lot of these bands would do almost exactly that. Compromise their own integrity to sling some t-shirts and to get some girls backstage.
Social media has made it extremely simple for bands to interact on different levels with their fans. When you interact with your fans on Twitter, Formspring, Facebook, etc. do you use discretion as you would in an interview or is it an outlet for you to open up to your fans?
Tom: I don't really use discretion in interviews either, I'll say whatever, whenever and I'll talk to kids just like I talk now cause that's what I am, I'm a kid just like them. It's kind of weird playing a show like this, we signed a lot of autographs which is weird. I know it's like a different thing and that's what these kids like which is cool but it's just like, I'm just like them. This is what I do for a living I'm sure he has a job that's different but it's a job. I don't use discretion; I talk to them like I would want someone to talk to me.
And it's cool I'd search a lot of stuff about my band on Twitter if someone says, "Aw shit I can't go, I'm broke, I wish I could go see Stray." I'll hit them up and be like "Yo, we have an extra guess spot just come out I'll get you in." We try to use those things to reach out to kids and show them that we're normal and we just want to help people out and just want people to listen to what we have to say. I love Twitter and Facebook it's like the best thing ever, it really is, just be personal with people. I talk on twitter, I talk to like hockey players and shit like that that's fucking sick, you never could do that. And like those people can hit us up and we can hit them up so it's cool.
It's kind of an off topic question but I saw on your formspring that somebody said "oh you're doing this and this and this, I just came!" I hear that so much in passing or I read it all the time…
Dan: People cumming?
Yeah, they're like "Your music is so sick I just came all over when you played that whatever." I've heard people say it to other musicians in person, have you gotten that?
Dan: I'm cumming right now! (laughs)
And how do you respond to it, if someone says that to you?
Drew: We always get like, I don't know why, but the whole melting your face thing that happens a lot too. You'll get people, even like the MC that comes between bands I think I heard the guy say it last night too like "Give it up for whatever band, they just melted faces!" It's like, what? They definitely didn't do that they just played a show. And it's weird.
Dan: What does that have to do with the question though? (laughs)
Drew: No, because she asked if anyone has ever come up to us and said "I just came in my pants."
Dan: Says weird shit?
Dan: "Oh shit alright, just clean yourself up." (laughs)
Drew: You do hear a lot of weird things. I would never say something like that, but completely different area, completely different people.
You've had some mixed responses on Lambgoat. There are a handful of kids who love your music and then there are those who think you're complete garbage. What is your feedback for your Lambgoat reception?
Tom: I don't take it seriously. I laugh at almost everything except for the people dying thing and they're like "Oh good he was a faggot." That's just insane.
Dan: We have a song about people like that.
Drew: Pretty much our most popular song is about kids on Lambgoat.
Tom: It's the song "Negative and Violent". A lot of people will say "Going to the Stray From The Path show gonna get Negative and Violent!" That is not even close, that is the complete opposite. That song is about people who have nothing better to say so they'll just say something very terrible because it's easy to say that. Even still the Lambgoat thing I just don't take seriously. I know we're gonna get called a bunch of faggots and hope we die or something like that for this interview.
Drew: It's funny.
Tom: Exactly it's funny. I tell my bass player [Ryan Thompson] I hope he dies on daily basis, I really do.
Dan: That's all about gaining internet popularity and trying to be funny on message boards which is maybe one of the lamest things I've ever encountered. It's all about "Well I like this band a little bit but I'm gonna say something extremely awful and someone's going to laugh and it's going to make me feel better about my awful self."
Drew: And you know it's some fuckin piece of shit behind his keyboard with a code red next to him and no shirt on.
Tom: Like the South Park episode…
Dan: Or picking their belly buttons…
Drew: Yeah just like "I gotta go to the bathroom, might as well go in my pants instead of leaving the computer." It's definitely just asshole kids that can't stand up for themselves so they use a fucking keyboard to do it. It's retarded.
Are there any questions that you've been waiting to answer that have not been asked?
Tom: What do I think of Brokencyde?
(Laughs) Sure what do you think of Brokencyde?
Tom: I think they're a bunch of fucking toilets. I hate that rich white boy music and… fight me. I just hate that stuff, it's just my least favorite thing in the world and I just think they're a bunch of toilet bowls and their music is like garbage music and they just sound like a bag of McDonalds.
That's all I've got. Do you guys have any last words?
Tom: Um, no. Thank you.
Drew: I predict 18 posts on this, all negative.
Dan: And violent.
Tom: Go check out the new This Is Hell record.
Drew: New This Is Hell, Stick To Your Guns, Ghost Inside, and the new Brokencyde.
(Laughs) Do they have a new record?
Tom: Yeah it's called toilet bowl.