ON THE ROAD PART 1:
An Interview with members of 3 INCHES OF BLOOD, THE AGONY SCENE, STILL REMAINS AND TRIVIUM
Interview by Ray Van Horn, Jr. - March 2005
I had the enviable position of interviewing all four bands on the 2005 leg of Roadrunner’s Road Rage Tour. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to be inside a venue prior to show kickoff, you will attest to the lunacy that prevails in hurried set-ups and sound checks, overall scurrying and a lot of cussing trying to make sense of the flotsam of equipment scattered around the place. The merch handlers quickly hustle out their shirts and CDs and scribble prices on cardboard while the anticipatory queue outside the club builds with stories of past shows, school problems, general scuttlebutt about people in the area you don’t know unless it’s your direct scene. New friendships bond through common threads as journalists are sneered as they enter the club prior to show time to handle their business. In my case, I remember this precise emotion when I was their ages, but with the shoe on the other foot now, I can honestly say the whispered scathing comments are worth it, considering the fun I had interviewing the guitarists for 3 Inches of Blood, The Agony Scene, Still Remains and Trivium on the Road Rage Tour. If the show hasn’t hit your town yet, go and get some people; these four bands deserve their slots and collectively they will leave you invigorated and broke after a visit to the merch table. What follows is Part 1 of a 2-part interview with all four bands. This installment is the one-on-one individual section, presented in the order the bands played onstage the evening I met with them.
Clark and Justin Hagberg - 3 Inches of Blood
RoughEdge.com: A lot has been discussed about Cam and Jamie’s vocals taking influences by Rob Halford and Udo Dirkschneider, but as far as the rest of the band goes, especially you guys, I hear Grim Reaper all over the place. I don’t know if you guys are into Grim Reaper or not, but …
Shane Clark: I’ve listened to Grim Reaper, yeah.
Justin Hagberg: Not really me, you know?
Shane Clark: I can’t really say I was into Grim Reaper, but just so you know, myself and Justin had nothing to do with the writing of the record. Our influences are very broad as well as the guys who wrote it. Just thought I’d throw that out there for you.
RoughEdge.com: That’s cool. But obviously you guys carry that old New Wave of British Heavy Metal flag.
Shane Clark: For sure. We’re all inspired by classic and traditional heavy metal, but like I said, all of us have so many different personal influences that … as far as what we’re doing, all those influences are all together. My first concert when I was 11 was Iron Maiden.
RoughEdge.com: Right on.
Shane Clark: From then on there it’s always been a big influence on my playing and musical tastes. Would you concur, Justin?
Justin Hagberg: I’d agree.
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) I guess when you look out into the crowd … I know today’s kids may or may not get it with 3 Inches of Blood. Many of them give The Darkness a hard time and I know you guys are kind of friends with them. After the amount of time you’ve been playing these gigs, do you feel the kids are finally starting to “get it?”
Shane Clark: Yeah, absolutely. You know, people may hear the album once and the critics—that’s all they are—they’ll voice their opinion on that. But once you see this kind of show, once you see us play live, you’ll know it’s not a joke. We’re really into metal and that’s just the way it comes across. We’ve got some real trad vocals as well as At the Gates type vocals going along with that, so there’s new and old influences all over the place, too. To answer your question, yeah, lots of kids are loving it. It feels good.
RoughEdge.com: That’s cool. Now how much time, if any—I don’t know if that’s Cam’s or anyone else’s thing—did you guys spend growing up listening to metal and reading Conan books or comic books at all? I mean, that’s what I did in my spare time, I’d listen to old Bathory, Helloween and as I mentioned, Grim Reaper albums, shit like that, and they just seemed to go hand-in-hand, you know?
Shane Clark: For sure. That’s definitely Cam and Jamie. Those two are very immersed in D&D and they’re into mythology and they obviously love writing songs about war and battle, stuff like that. Myself, I’ve always been into metal since I was a kid, but I was into Mad magazine and Cracked. (laughs)
RoughEdge.com: There you go! (laughs) Right on.
Shane Clark: What about you, Justin?
Justin Hagberg: I love my metal. I don’t really write lyrics, but I stick to metal and watching The Simpsons.
Shane Clark: Simpsons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Justin Hagberg: Yeah, that’s right.
RoughEdge.com: Cool, right on! Now, I was going to touch on that Darkness parallel and again how you’re carrying on for the NWOBHM. I’m using a hypothetical question and forgive me if I ramble on (laughs) …
Shane Clark: No worries.
RoughEdge.com: A North American band … let’s pick Twisted Sister, who went over to England on Secret Records before they ever made it big over here.
Shane Clark: Yeah.
RoughEdge.com: Now, 3 Inches of Blood put down its first record in England as well, or no, with The Darkness?
Shane Clark: No, the first album was done in Vancouver.
RoughEdge.com: Okay, I had some bad information. Go ahead and take it from there.
Shane Clark: I think the first album was released in Vancouver and a few singles were released in England, and the band built a big following through the all-ages skate crowd. Punk and hardcore shows, you know?
Shane Clark: Especially in Western Canada they built a big following before we went to Europe, and certainly a huge buzz came from doing that tour because they were big shows and it was right as The Darkness was breaking. So there was tons of exposure. It definitely got the ball rolling when we were signed to Roadrunner too and now we’re just on tour a lot, getting the music to the people, you know?
RoughEdge.com: So I guess where I was going with that was, obviously most of you are based in Canada, but using Twisted Sister, they went over there and came back as part of the NWOBHM. The kind of music that you guys are playing … you’ve got the New Wave of American Heavy Metal that they’re talking about over here, but in a way do you feel like 3 Inches of Blood is bringing back that old British spirit?
Shane Clark: Absolutely.
Justin Hagberg: For sure.
Shane Clark: Yeah. Plain and simple, the answer is “yes.” I agree. I concur.
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) Right on.
Chris Emmons and Steven Kaye of The Agony Scene:
RoughEdge.com: Now, you have Rob Caggiano of Cradle of Filth fame producing your new album, "The Darkest Red," which is due out in May. What do you feel Rob has brought to you guys? To me, I hear a little bit of Slipknot and Chimaira in your sound, which just fucking shreds.
Chris Emmons: One thing he brought was he forced us to work extremely hard.
Steven Kaye: Yeah!
Chris Emmons: It was like, go, go, go, keep doing it over and over.
Steven Kaye: Yeah.
Chris Emmons: Even when you thought it was great he’d be like, “Do it again, practice.” He turned us into a work machine.
Steven Kaye: I feel like the sound of the record is the real Agony Scene, you know?
Chris Emmons: It all came from us.
Steven Kaye: Yeah.
Chris Emmons: Rob came in and helped us arrange things pretty much, but the sound is there and he’s got a good ear for melodies.
Steven Kaye: Oh yeah, very good.
Chris Emmons: You’d be working on something and he sit down and fix it with you; you’d be like, “What do you think of this?” and he’d work through it quickly. He’s got a good ear.
RoughEdge.com: Cool. You guys already cut your video for “Prey” and I’ve only seen still photos of it but with Michael Williams’ face pulling, man …
Steven Kaye: Yeahhhhhh…
Chris Emmons: Yeahhhhh…
Steven Kaye: Zombie!
RoughEdge.com: Right on. So I mean, it looks like you guys had to have had some kind of fun on that shoot. I know video shoots are notoriously long.
Steven Kaye: Ugh!
Chris Emmons: It was fun. I enjoyed it.
Steven Kaye: It was fun, it was tiring, but it was a good time.
Chris Emmons: It was like, 16 hours, I think. It was still fun, though.
Steven Kaye: Yeah, it was way fun.
RoughEdge.com: So do you get to a point in the day when you’ve played the same song, hitting the same fucking notes …
Steven Kaye: Absolutely!
Steven Kaye: Definitely, but it’s going to be a good video. We busted our asses playing the same song over and over and it was … I don’t know. It’ll be a good fucking video.
RoughEdge.com: In my review of "The Darkest Red" I said it was “all that and a romp with Tank Girl in a howitzer.” With Brent Masters laying down some really heavy beats for you guys to get around, I would say The Agony Scene’s groove orientation is kind of giving me my Tank Girl analogy. I don’t know, it’s music full of hard drive, you know what I’m getting at?
Chris Emmons: Yeah, it’s definitely got drive.
Steven Kaye: Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned groove.
Chris Emmons: We just wanted it to slam the whole time.
Steven Kaye: Oh yeah! Not a doubt! Right in your fucking face, man!
Chris Emmons: Yeah.
Steven Kaye: Straight-up groove.
RoughEdge.com: How do you feel about that as applied to your songwriting? I mean, were you looking to find the best grooves possible, because most of your tracks, take “Darkest Red” or “Scars of Your Disease” for example …
Steven Kaye: It just comes naturally, man! It really does! We’ll just sit there and we’ll jam and whatever comes out if we like it, we just do it!
Chris Emmons: Yeah, it begins with all of us just sitting around playing and a riff comes out of it. Nobody writes the whole song.
Steven Kaye: No, we just all get together and sit around and whatever comes out comes out.
Chris Emmons: Some days it does, some it doesn’t.
Steven Kaye: Yeah!
RoughEdge.com: You guys are from Tulsa, right?
Chris Emmons/Steven Kaye: Yeah.
RoughEdge.com: Paint me a picture of Tulsa, man.
Chris Emmons: It is the most average city! Like, it’s not crappy, it’s not great …
Steven Kaye: Yeah.
Chris Emmons: It’s just like any other city that isn’t Boston, New York, LA, you know? It’s strip malls, McDonald’s and all that shit!
Steven Kaye: (laughs)
Chris Emmons: Everything’s the same. No matter where you go, it’s all going to be basically the same.
Steven Kaye: Exactly!
RoughEdge.com: As far as that goes, do you guys have a scene there at all? You never know in some places.
Chris Emmons: It’s off and on.
Steven Kaye: Yeah.
Chris Emmons: It seems like when we first started playing four years ago there was the beginning of the scene that came two years later, and as bands started dying off and people moved away, there really hasn’t been a huge new scene coming up. It’s not really big, no.
RoughEdge.com: It’s almost like it gives you a differentiating factor, particularly in your own hometown where nothing’s going on!
Chris Emmons: Yeah, pretty much.
Jordan Whelan and Mike Church - Still Remains
RoughEdge.com: "Now Of Love and Lunacy" is going to be due out soon. When’s your release date?
Mike Church: Last I heard, May 17th?
Jordan Whelan: May 17th. It’s been changing, but for sure May 17th. We’ve been talking about three different dates overall, but May 17th.
RoughEdge.com: Cool. In some ways off of my first listen, I think of Bleeding Through. You guys have that hardcore edge and the keyboard element into it. There’s a message of duality in the title "Of Love and Lunacy" I’m drawing off the album. It’s almost like a paradoxical chemical dependency between the two, if you will? So tell me how this title applies to your sound?
Jordan Whelan: First I’ll start with … as far as the Bleeding Through stuff goes, I can fully understand how people get the relation …
Mike Church: They’re different from us.
Jordan Whelan: I think people make that generalization a lot because … I can see where they get it from too, because we have keyboards, they have keyboards, they have a metal sound, we have a metal sound. We really try to push the keyboards a lot more. It’s an upfront instrument just as much as the guitar is.
Mike Church: Right.
Jordan Whelan: Yeah, the way we like to consider it is it’s almost like a third guitarist. That’s how important he (Zach Roth) is in the music. As important as our guitars are in metal, so is our keyboard, you know what I mean?
Jordan Whelan: What was the second half of the question again?
RoughEdge.com: I was asking how the title "Of Love and Lunacy" applies to your sound.
Jordan Whelan: That’s a TJ (Miller) thing to ask since he’s the singer!
RoughEdge.com: That’s cool.
Jordan Whelan: I’m not really sure … Mike, what do you think?
Mike Church: It’d be really hard for us to answer that.
Jordan Whelan: I guess to pull something out though …
Mike Church: I know it has to do with the lyrics.
Jordan Whelan: Yeah, that’d be a TJ thing to ask. I would just say that it has to do with … all the songs in the band have to do with issues that everybody goes through, whether it’s bad issues or good issues.
RoughEdge.com: So let’s take your instruments as far as making interpretation for what TJ’s written. Maybe we could go with that angle?
Mike Church: Hmm!
Jordan Whelan: Okay, I understand. I think our songs can definitely go from one end to the other, you know what I mean? We’ll go from metal riffs, three part harmonies …
Mike Church: Vocals.
Jordan Whelan: Plus the vocals. Balls-out heavy. It’s a pretty clarifying sound, you know what I mean?
Jordan Whelan: It’s a good question, though.
Mike Church: You stumped us!
Mike Church: Good job! (laughs)
Jordan Whelan: (laughs)
RoughEdge.com: You guys come from the blue collar town of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Jordan Whelan: Right.
Mike Church: Yeah.
RoughEdge.com: Which I’m sure has presented Still Remains with a little bit of a challenge as far as making a voice for yourselves in that area, much less the whole scene. Am I right? Can you tell me about the scene there a little?
Jordan Whelan: It did take us awhile to establish ourselves with the band coming out of Grand Rapids. That was just tough in general, though we focused more on out of Grand Rapids than in-town. If there was a venue around town then we’d play that, you know? The town of Grand Rapids is definitely a much younger crowd, but we’ve always focused on trying to gain popularity out of town. I mean, you go to like, Ohio, which we’re as popular in Ohio as we are in Grand Rapids, or we’d go to Illinois, you know what I mean?
Jordan Whelan: So as far as establishing ourselves, it’s more like reaching out of Grand Rapids and stuff like that, you know?
Mike Church: The scene of Grand Rapids I would describe as the younger crowd that’s more into the actual music of bands. Like, the older crowd would definitely get more into … it’s hard to explain because I don’t want to put anything down either, you know?
RoughEdge.com: Right, right.
Mike Church: I like the scene of Grand Rapids. It’s kind of split up in different columns. I’m a new member, but even being on the outside view of Still Remains, they always had an appeal for the younger crowd coming up and stuff like that, but since this tour has happened, it’s been spreading to all forms of the crowd. It’s really great.
RoughEdge.com: Right on. I read where you guys suffer from road sickness, meaning …
Mike Church: Illness? (laughs)
RoughEdge.com: Meaning like some people suffer homesickness.
Mike Church: I was going to say, we’ve been suffering from colds! (laughs)
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) You guys are more at home on the road, I guess? Tell me a little bit about that philosophy.
Jordan Whelan: Well, being on the road is something we were all born to do, you know? Obviously our bass player Evan (Willey) being married and most of us having girlfriends, good family, then Grand Rapids is always home, you know? The road is definitely something we’re supposed to be doing but to me it’s not like, my home. It’s really easy to miss home, you know?
Mike Church: Yeah, yeah.
Jordan Whelan: I think we all know that we were supposed to do and are meant to do.
Mike Church: Right.
Jordan Whelan: We all get along so good.
Mike Church: Yeah.
Jordan Whelan: It’s amazing. During the recording of the album we all spent a month-and-a-half in a small cabin in Vancouver, and there were no fights. Of course once in awhile you want to be alone for a little bit, but everyone gets along so good. So when we’re on the road, we feel good, you know? The thing with us too, it’s almost like we’re all brothers, we’re all like family. We can bicker and argue on the road of course, but the minute a problem comes up, a minute later it’s resolved.
Mike Church: (laughs)
Jordan Whelan: We can get into some pretty verbal lashings, but literally five minutes later we’re goofing around in the band again, you know what I mean?
RoughEdge.com: Right on.
Jordan Whelan: It’s really great that we all get along. It’s like at home the only people I hang out with … we’ll go home and I’ll be with a girlfriend, my family and stuff, but the people I’m calling up to hang out with is these guys.
Mike Church: Yeah.
Jordan Whelan: I’ll see them 24-7 on the road but as soon as we get home, I’ll miss them, you know what I mean?
RoughEdge.com: Nice, man.
Corey Beaulieu – Trivium
RoughEdge.com: The last time I spoke with Matt (Heafy) was in November and you guys had just finished as openers for Iced Earth and Beyond the Embrace. That wasn’t too long ago, at least in my mind. In reality it was less than five months ago. Flash forward ahead and here you are headlining the Road Rage Tour for Roadrunner Records. That’s a hell of a step forward in so short a time! Your thoughts?
Corey Beaulieu: It’s been pretty cool because we’ve just been … like, the whole time we’ve been touring since last April just opening for bigger bands, just getting our name out and this tour has carried out … all our hard work shows that opening for all these bigger bands and getting our names out there and stuff, it shows for the first time that we’ve had a decent draw in places we’ve hit a few times on other tours, so it’s pretty cool to see different cities and what kind of fanbases they have.
RoughEdge.com: There’s so many members of the press who are heaping comparisons of old school Metallica upon you guys. Do you think that’s probably a bit too much pressure on you, at this point anyway, when you guys are starting to take stride?
Corey Beaulieu: We really don’t feel any pressure or intimidation by any kind of comparisons like that. We just feel very strong about our music and it’s a good compliment because we all grew up listening to Metallica; that’s one of our biggest influences, so it’s a big compliment for us. We don’t feel any pressure or anything because we just do what we do best and there’s no pressure at all.
RoughEdge.com: Now put me there with you when you guys recorded "Ascendancy" because when I last spoke to Matt, he mentioned that half the stuff was written, that it was simply a matter of getting in the studio and laying it down.
Corey Beaulieu: Yeah, we recorded the album right after the Road Rage tour with Machine Head last summer, I guess September and October, and it was really cool to finally record them since we’d been playing those songs for so long. It’s great to hear them put down on tape finally. I mean, there was a lot of crap going on; we had hurricanes and stuff going on during the recording and guitars that wouldn’t stay in tune, so we had some setbacks, a few things here and there, but overall it went really good and we feel the album came out as best as it could.
RoughEdge.com: You’re no strangers to hurricanes; you guys drove through one to make a gig, right?
Corey Beaulieu: Yeah, we did that on the Road Rage tour also. That was like the hurricane tour for us! It was like, every time you’d turn around there was a hurricane somewhere!
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) So what goes on in your mind when you’re facing such adversity? Is it like ‘Shit, we can’t waste this opportunity, we’re going to go hell or high water!’ Pun intended.
Corey Beaulieu: Yeah, we were in Atlanta and everybody really just wanted to get back home and sleep in their own beds for a night. We didn’t care, hurricane or not, we’re going! So we made it with no problems, we didn’t really get hit by anything, maybe a little rain here and there, but there was nothing too bad. So the drive wasn’t really bad at all.
RoughEdge.com: Cool. "Ascendancy" was just released on March 15th and you already have two videos cut, “Like Light to the Flies” and now “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr.” I mean, it’s enviable that you guys have such polished videos already. Who’d you use for your new one?
Corey Beaulieu: Dave Restighini. He did both of our videos and he’s amazing. He believes a lot in the band and he puts 110% into our videos. He tries to make them as best as possible, so he did a hell of a job and the new video came out fantastic. Because I remember doing the video for “Flies” when we weren’t signed at the time, we just did it on our own and it came out fantastic. The next video had to be even better so everything we do we just try to top the previous. We’re trying to improve on every aspect of what the band can do.
RoughEdge.com: Right on. I guess what I’m getting at is that you and Matt together kind of create a second-gen Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. Maybe that’s also heaping pressure on you too, but that’s merely a personal opinion. I guess Matt’s what, 19 now?
Corey Beaulieu: Yep.
RoughEdge.com: Okay. So your guys’ work ethic is really monstrous for your young ages. So early in the game you’re building your reps. What goes on in your minds that have propelled your craft so quickly?
Corey Beaulieu: Well, we all started playing guitar around the same age, around between twelve and fourteen and everyone in the band was influenced by stuff like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, stuff like that, so that’s how we learned how to play, was learning the old school metal style of playing, and by the time we started playing guitar, the nu-metal thing had made it big like Korn and seven strings and it just being really simple guitar parts. We just weren’t into that, you know? We stuck to the music that we liked and that which we could get actual knowledge from, so we just learned from all the old school bands and that’s how Trivium came to be and that’s how it influenced our writing and stuff like that.
RoughEdge.com: Cool, man.
Corey Beaulieu: Once we started playing, everyone was so into metal and playing guitar; everyone just practiced for hours and hours a day and just tried to be the best possible player we could, so that’s how we did it.
RoughEdge.com: Formula for success, as far as I’m concerned.
**END PART 1**
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