#INTERVIEW: Coal Chamber’s Mikey and Meegs on proving themselves over again

“It’s been 13 years since Coal Chamber put out a record. We all worked so hard on this music to make sure the whole album was a stellar push forward for the band and not some nostalgia trip! If you like it heavy and unique you’ll love ‘Rivals’! This record is full of crushing huge hooks and big down tuned riffs to move ya. Support Heavy music in all its forms!” says Dez Fafara on their new album.

When we eventually come to look back on this year, 2015 will be marked down and under-scored as the year in which the reformed NuMetal band Coal Chamber made a welcome return to the world stage. Not only did they return to the stage, but they came armed with a highly anticipated and stunning new album – ‘Rivals’ – released on Napalm Records.

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If you thought that Coal Chamber were just going to go through the motions and regurgitate the sound from their previous two albums ‘Dark Days’ and ‘Chamber Music’, then think again. ‘Rivals’ is truly invigorating, helped, not least, by Mark Lewis’ (Producer) deft touch in the studio and the bands’ maturity in their songwriting, as well as how they now handle their own personal relationships. The latter had undergone such extremes, it ultimately lead to the band’s break up some 13 years ago.

We caught up with Mike ‘Mikey’ Cox (drummer) and Miguel ‘Meegs’ Rascón (guitar) at The Waterfront, Norwich, on the second date of their UK tour. We began by asking about how the album was put together and the reaction to the release of ‘Rivals’.

Mikey: Yeah, like the response has been crazy! You know, we kind of just write, we don’t plan on “Oh my God that’s right”, like we tried in the past. You try to write a certain way to try to envision what people want to hear. You write it, and you’re like “Yeah, this sounds like us”. With the new record, I think a lot of it is the fact that we’ve all matured as musicians. We just got older, wiser and me and him (Meegs) spent more time on really locking in all the individual parts, but it still sounds like us.  Our Producer, Mark Lewis (who has produced from Whitechapel and DevilDriver), helped us a lot. We wanted a live, nasty, not perfect record; we didn’t sit and make everything perfect. We did Click Track on the record like we always do, but our tempos go up and down like live, you know? We tried to do it with one tempo and it sounded horrible. It sounded boring, because we’ve always been a band that pushes and pulls. When parts get heavier, we go! All the tones on the record, all his (Meegs) wacky guitar shit, we spent four days just getting drum tones alone, which is crazy! It’s a nightmare going through the process, but in the end you know it just sounds nasty. We wanted a nasty record, that’s my best term for it, ‘nasty’.

TCRS: If I can turn to Meegs – Mike’s been talking about what’s gone down in the studio, but could you explain to us what is so different between how you put this album together and for instance ‘Dark Days’ and ‘Chamber Music’?

Meegs: Well on a personal level, the comradery and the way we treat each other is obviously like night and day. Back then, it was all wacky and fucked up and that definitely kinda like penetrates into your music, you know it definitely affects your music, whether it’s bad or good, but now it’s like you know we get along. We’re great friends and on a personal level it definitely shows in the way we write and also from ‘Dark Days’ to Rivals there’s a big gap. Musically, its progressed to the better, so yeah, so just personally and musically it’s just like night and day, definitely.

TCRS: We were catching up with Dez (Farfara – vocals) earlier, and he was recalling the time all got together and listened back to the final mix of ‘Rivals’, and it was quite an emotional moment for you all?

Mikey: Yeah, I mean when you’re writing the songs… you know, we holed up in a shitty rehearsal space and just do it old school. So me and Meegs always had the vision of how it’s going to sound recorded. Other people walk into a rehearsal space and you’re just jamming this loud, it sounds like shit and you don’t envisage how it’s going to sound polished on the record. When I got that music back, even before Dez did any vocals, I used to work for Snoop Dogg and I would travel four hours total in the day, two hours in the traffic and two hours back, and I listened to it on repeat for months and months and every day I was like I can’t believe how good it sounds and it captured everything we were trying to get and the ones Dez laid vocals and I got just the rough, I was like holy shit! To this day, I can’t believe it came out as good as it did. I’m not saying we’re not capable of it, because obviously we are, but you have a vision of where it’s going to go. Sometimes you get a record and oh shit it’s not as crazy as I thought it would be, you know This song is not as heavy as I thought it would be. With this record, I was like every song, top to bottom, I was like “Holy shit! This sounds good!”. Once we heard the final – we only changed the mixes just a little bit, perhaps three or four times with Mark (Lewis), it was very emotional, because I never in a million years thought we would be sitting here, let alone do a record ever. Mark (Lewis) really helped us and every really stepped up their game. To finally get it to happen, it was very emotional. We’re really proud of the record.

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TCRS: You’re currently on tour here in the UK. You’ve certainly got some fond memories of the UK, right?

Mikey: Yeah first time we did a signing here was at the Virgin Megastore in London. I was 19 and we were there for like five hours. Got in the cab and they were chasing us down the street in the cab! I called home and I was like “Mom I’m a Beetle, I’m famous!”. I’m so famous, I’m not rich but I’m definitely famous over here.

Meegs: Definitely not rich! [laughs]

Mikey: Yeah. It’s been really good here. We’re looking at it as starting over. We have the old songs we have to play. We love those songs, but for taking that much time off you have to reinvent yourself and you have to prove yourself all over again. You can’t expect to have the same fan base as when you broke up. 13 years is a long time and a lot of bands come back after two years and don’t do shit!

TCRS: No doubt you’ll be introducing a few more new songs to the setlist, but for the time being you’ve got ‘Rivals’ and ‘IOU’?

Mikey: Yeah. We don’t want to play songs that people over here haven’t heard through someone’s iPhone recording and then post it and people think that’s how the record sounds through someone’s phone. Once this tour is over, we’re going to add four more new songs to the set.

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Coal Chamber’s Meegs and Mikey at The Waterfront, Norwich

Meegs: The fans that we do have, obviously, they’re here to see us preform the old songs. But we want to expand the fan base and have the people really hear what we’re doing now, than what we’re doing in the 90s.

TCRS: You’ve moved on?

Mikey: I think with our area of music, with all the bands that grew up with and toured with back in the day, we all turned into crazy assholes and the bands couldn’t stay together and now I think everyone is growing up…

Meegs: We’re no longer in our 20s, so it’s like you’re kind of invincible, you know, in the head space and physically in your 30, 40s.

Mikey: I mean we pretty much lived the life of 50 people, with all the shit we’ve done and experienced in travelling, that’s more than 50 people combined do.

Meegs: Yeah, like here we just became normal and just we’ve done so much that you’ve lived like a couple lifetimes, so we’re good, we’re not going to be old people going oh we should’ve done it, like “No, we did it!”.

Mikey: Yeah, we’re still a bunch of nut cases, we got our things you know… I think every musician is a fucking nut job, all of them.

Meegs: You kind of have to be.

Mikey: We all think way differently from the rest of the world and you know stuff is not realistic and you’re living in a travelling submarine, so your grasp of reality is weighed. When I get home and I do normal stuff with my son. It takes me a second to go “Oh wow! This is normal!”, because you literally in airports and throwing around and pointing in one direction and but it’s definitely a dream come through.

Coal Chamber’s tour support comes from as. These three bands are worth the admission price alone and didn’t disappoint the Norwich faithful on Thursday night (May 21st, 2015).

Coal Chamber came, saw and conquered, rounding off a splendid evening with 13 songs, all delivered with aplomb.

Take it from us, these guys are more focused than ever before…go check ’em out on tour and pick up a copy of ‘Rivals’!

UK Tour w/ Soil, the Defiled & Dope
20.05.15 UK – Leeds / Stylus
21.05.15 UK – Norwich / The Waterfront
22.05.15 UK – Warwick / Copper Rooms
23.05.15 UK – Nottingham / Rock City
24.05.15 UK – Glasgow / O2 ABC
26.05.15 UK – Bristol / Motion
27.05.15 UK – Exeter / Lemon Grove
28.05.15 UK – Brighton / Concorde 2
29.05.15 UK – Wolverhampton / Wulfrun
30.05.15 UK – Manchester / The Ritz
31.05.15 UK – London / Koko [Sold Out]

Coal Chamber band links: Official Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Thanks for visiting this site. We hope you enjoyed reading the interview.

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INTERVIEW: Perttu Kivilaakso of Apocalyptica explains “‘Shadowmaker’ is a strong journey”

 

logoApocalyptica is a Finnish cello-rock band from Helsinki, formed in 1993. The band is composed of classically trained cellists Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Perttu Kivilaakso and drummer Mikko Sirén. Their music borrows elements from a wide variety of genres including classical music, metal, world, folk and progressive rock. They have sold over four million albums to date. The band’s recent albums included both instrumentals and collaborations with various singers, such as Corey Taylor, Adam Gontier and Cristina Scabbia.

Apocalyptica have recently recruited an official vocalist, Franky Perez, who was part of Scars on Broadway, Pusher Jones and appeared on Slash’s first solo record.

apocalyptica with frankyThe band will release their eighth studio album ‘Shadowmaker’ in April through Eleven Seven Music. We have had a taste of what’s to come as a lyric video of the album’s title track has been released. They’ll be releasing a single, ‘Cold Blood’, mid-Feb along with a video directed by Lisa Mann who has directed a number of Apocalyptica videos.

I got to speak with Perttu Kivilaakso the other day after they had shot a new video for a future single release ‘Cold Blood’ out mid-February.

MJ: A very warm welcome to ‘The Classic Rock Show’, Perttu.

PK: Thank you!

MJ: Bands such as Electric Light Orchestra, Eloy, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Sky, etc., have all used heavily orchestrated arrangements within their work and have been cited as having influenced many an artist/band both then and still do so to this day. What music being created today influences you and how has it manifested itself in the music you have written and recorded?

PK: The band have a large taste when it comes to all kinds of music. We cellists naturally grew amongst classical music, symphony orchestras. I personally have loved opera, especially 19th century Italian, my whole life. I would say that everything we have listened to and loved has had an influence to what we are doing. I still listen to opera and bands like Arch Enemy, Slipknot, as well as Muse, Ellie Goulding, Owl City.

MJ: Apocalyptica perform live shows the world over, and to a heavy schedule. We all think that guitars, keyboards and drums are pretty robust instruments these days. How do the Cellos bear up to the stresses and strains of travel by air/sea?

PK: We have such a great flight cases for the cellos that ever since years back when we started using them, none of the instruments has been destroyed in cargo.

MJ: Do you have any tips on how to keep them in shape and what do you need to look out for?

PK: Cellos are very sensitive instruments and usually need careful handling,keeping them off from heat/cold etc…BUT we are not really a good example for that, so if you watch Apocalyptica banging them cellos, try to avoid all that and you’ll do just fine! [laughs]

apocalypticashadowmakeralbumcoverMJ: Your new album, entitled ‘Shadowmaker’, was recorded in Nashville, TN; not somewhere you’d instantly recognise as a haven for Symphonic Rock bands. Why there?

PK: We went to Nashville just because of Mr Raskulinecz’s studio. We had a clear vision how we would want the album to sound and approach and our choice for producer was very obvious for us.

MJ: As you have mentioned, Nick Raskulinecz has produced the album. He’s previously worked with the likes of Rush, Alice In Chains, Evanescence, Mastodon and Foo Fighters to name but a few. What was it like working with him and his team?

PK: Nick is definitely one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever worked with in the business. He was able to help us find an entire new level for our group, in ways of playing as well as our thinking. This time we were better prepared for the recordings than ever, after months of rehearsing and pre-production, practicing and yet more arranging and jamming together. So, when it came to the final recordings, everything was clear. And Nick concentrated to achieve magical performances from all of us.

MJ: Can you share any instances that occurred in the studio where he got you to think differently about your approach, for example, to a certain section of work?

PK: He had a big impact in how we set out our arrangements. We discovered many cool progressive and brave solutions. In fact our motto for this recordings was “Be Brave”.

MJ: How soon into the recordings was it before you came to realise that you really had made the right choice with Nick as your producer?

PK: I think we all realised it already in pre-production, We had a strong vision for the album, but already from the start Nick encouraged us to follow our hearts and not to worry about anything else, like pressures from outside our band. So this time it is easy to say that the album is absolutely as we felt while composing, arranging and recording. Nick was able to set us on fire!

MJ: How would you describe the album?

PK: Shadowmaker is a strong journey, a story that brings you through various emotions. The album is somehow more serious, it is also totally a “band record”…we wanted to have just one voice, one vocalist, to bind all…better together.

MJ: You’ve already given us a taste of what’s to come by releasing a lyric video. Tell us about how the title track ‘Shadowmaker’ came about?

PK: The Shadowmaker song was so determined; one of the most powerful tracks we did that we wanted it to be album title as well. It is a cool example of the musical variety we have, from sweet vocal choruses to dark metal, pure cello sounds collapsing with horrific distortions. That pretty much sums up what it is to be “Apocalyptica”.

MJ: As on previous albums, you’ve chosen to work with other musicians. How did your collaboration with Franky Perez come about?

PK: We really wanted to concentrate on our band this time around and not to focus anymore with all the “featuring stuff” etc. We wanted to bring in a vocalist who is able to join us for all tours ahead; one guy to sing the album and perform with us ‘live’.

We had quite a big closed audition to find a person who would fit in perfectly. I have to say that we are more than happy having Franky, as besides him being an amazing vocalist, so versatile, handsome and stuff, he is also the nicest guy on earth.

Perttu on set of Cold Blood videoMJ: Which songs from the album will you look to play ‘live’ and do you have a personal favourite?

PK: Of course we’d like to play most of them, if not all ‘live’. I think the whole album is just so cool. As for a personal favourite; I have a close relation with ‘Dead Man’s Eyes’, and that will be so emotional to play ‘live’ as well. I feel like I sacrificed a part of my soul while composing those melodies and making them come alive!

MJ: We’ve come to the end of our chat. It’s clear to me listening to you that the recording of this album and the prospect of what lies ahead for Apocalyptica, has had a significant impact on both you and the rest of the band. I’m curious to learn, therefore, what have you taken from this experience?

PK: Personally, I once again found out few more tricks to play cello differently than I’ve ever done before. Some ultimately fast passages which felt impossible at the time [laughs].  This experience has made me love music even more. I am so excited for the band, for the release of Shadowmaker, all the forthcoming tours, my other musical projects and life in general!

You would have to be brain-dead not to have picked up on Perttu’s enthusiasm. He certainly left me in no doubt whatsoever that the band are a strong outfit. What they’ve seemingly accomplished with this new album is something more than just a great piece of work, of which they’re rightly proud…I sense it’s a new beginning.

The album ‘Shadowmaker’ is set for release in April 2015…and we can’t wait to hear it!

Want more Apocalyptica? Check out the following links: Official website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube

Cheers!

MJx

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Vinnie Paul of Hellyeah talks about Blood For Blood and album producer Kevin Churko, the new line-up and his infamous hats!

Having seen them totally decimate The Underworld last year, I was keen to see how Hellyeah’s new line-up was performing on the back of their ‘Blood For Blood’ release.

Friends and colleagues who saw Hellyeah at Bloodstock and on a number of dates on this tour had already told me that they were sounding better than ever.

10543596_10204135579896955_6514619416179427378_oGreg Tribbett and Bob Zilla have been replaced by Christian Brady (formerly with Magna-Fi) and Kyle Sanders (formerly with Bloodsimple and is the brother of Mastodon’s Troy Sanders) on guitar and bass respectively. These two exponents of their craft have brought with them another level of energy, positivity and musical focus to Hellyeah’s ‘live’ performances. It’s also noticeable that Chad Gray has more than decent enough backing for his vocals as a consequence of Christian and Kyle’s abilities.

We caught up with Vinnie Paul before they took to the stage and asked him about ‘Blood For Blood’, working with album producer Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, In This Moment, Hinder, Five Finger Death Punch) how the tour was going, but I began our chat by asking him about the infamous hats he sports from time to time.

Thanks for listening. Come and join us on a Thursday night by tuning into ‘The Classic Rock Show’!

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Here’s ‘Part 1’ of the John McCoy interview

Hi there

I’ve been afforded some fabulous opportunities over the years, meeting members of bands that I grew up with, chatting to them about their lives ‘back in the day’ and what they’re up to nowadays. This was one of those opportunities which I’ll treasure forever.

John McCoy is a bass player, record producer and former member of bands such as Zzebra, Samson, Gillan, Mammoth and GMT to name but a few.

I met up with John McCoy recently over a pint of ale. Here’s ‘Part 1’ of the interview with John I recorded in a quiet little pub in Norfolk. John speaks of learning his trade with a variety of instruments through to his time with bands such as Zzebra, Samson and with Gillan, a hugely popular band which came to prominence during the NWOBHM era. He delivers an appraisal of his time with the band, the highs and the lows, describing just what it was like being at the centre of a band, leading up towards it’s untimely and rather abrupt end.

I hope you’ll find this an enjoyable listen.
MJ

Link: John McCoy interview (Part 1)

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John McCoy