You guys have a new CD coming out, The Human Romance, how do you feel it’s evolved musically since the release of The Eternal Return?
Umm… I would say it’s definitely a big, big musical evolution going on with the new record. You know, we had kind of like– we had started writing with the new guy, Mike Carrigan [guitarist] on the last record and we had this idea that the record was going to be really aggressive and just like a straight forward, heavier kind of record. So we did it, and were like, “Ok, that’s cool…But now we miss doing more musical, more melodic stuff.”
I think definitely the songwriting’s evolved the past couple of– when we used to write songs, we used to let them– we would keep repeating parts over and over again and they would just be way too long. The songwriting’s definitely evolved to where we think about every little detail a lot much more and how it all fits together and everything.
But the new stuff is definitely like a step in the more– back towards the kind of Undoing Ruin/Deliver Us melodic-era.
You guys are working with the Soilwork guitarist, as a producer, right?
Yeah, we’ve been working with Peter Wichers, and he was great. He’s a really good guitar player, so he really helped work with the guys on guitars, because that’s his specialty. But yeah, he recorded some stuff, yeah. (laughs)
Why did you choose to work with him?
Umm… We had a couple of people in mind and at the end he just seemed like he cared enough, you know? We definitely wanted someone that, like I was saying, could work with the guitars and stuff. That was the big reason why we picked him. Plus, the dude’s Swedish, they just know metal. They just know how to do it, I don’t know; I guess that’s maybe racial profiling. It is true that the Swed’s know their metal, right Ryan Parrish?
Ryan Parrish: Yeah!
John Henry: (laughs)
Same with the Finnish guys!!
Yeah, all those crazy Scandinavian dudes. They get like, 20 hours of dark time in the winter, so they just sit around and make awesome metal! (laughs)
What do you think your fans will love about the new album?
I think our fans will like that it’s a lot more musical than the last record and a lot more melody going on. I would say there are catchier elements, a little more “singier” with the vocals, but it’s not really like clean singing, it’s more like screaming the whole time, but scream-singing, I don’t know.
Kind of like Phil Anselmo??
Yeah. Kind of like screaming to notes, or whatever. Who does that? I guess Phil Anselmo does that, right? …Stuff like that. Not as tough as Phil Anselmo though, not like (growls) “YEAHHHHHHHH!” (laughs)
Ryan: I don’t know how you’re going to print that. (laughs) (growls): YEAHHHHHHHHHH!!!“
John: (laughs) It’d be like, an “E-e-e-e-e-e-e-e, y-y-y-y-y-y-y, a-a-a-a-a, h-h-h-h-h-h-h” (laughs) I don’t know.
So, that stuff’s– there’s a lot more choruses where you have a tie where it’s a screamy/singy chorus, like more stuff like that going on in the more record. People will like that stuff, I hope so!
What were some of the inspirations for not only just the lyrics, but for the musical/instrumentals?
The inspiration for the music… Well, these guys could probably answer better than me, but they all want to just do, to take it up a notch and kind of not do the same thing we’ve been doing in the paste. We were kind of– obviously, we love Swedish metal, but at the same time, everybody grew up to listening to American metal too, like Slayer, Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth, all that stuff.
So, I think the newer stuff is like, we’re realizing we do like this American metal too, and we have had it in our sound in the past, and has been covered up by a lot of the fast Swedish thrashy stuff. Did that even answer your question, I don’t even know… (laughs)
Yeah, (laughs) what about for the lyrics?
The lyrics are… I guess there’s like a whole– there’s basic reoccurring themes that is about humans and kind of how people have evolved into interacting with each other, human behavior’s kind of evolved, and what part of it that we learned through our parents or through school is part of instinct. It’s kind of about human instinct and that’s a reoccurring theme.
So, it’s kind of a concept album…
It’s not like a full-on concept like [album], but it does have that theme to it, it does have that overlying theme. I wouldn’t say it’s a full-on, you read the lyrics backwards and you cast a spell on your friend– I don’t even know, what is a concept record anyway? You know, like… That’s–
Mike Carrigan: A refined theme throughout a record… [is a concept record]
John: But, it’s when the music is involved too. Like, Pink Floyd does concept records. So, I don’t know… I would say it’s not really like a concept record, but it definitely has a theme though. I’m not trying to make any statement, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. I’m just writing it down, writing down a bunch of silly words. I don’t know, really. I think you got it on there.
Theme: why do people act the way they do? Why do some people want to fight each other and just want to do, whatever, bad stuff?
How do you feel you connected to the music with The Human Romance versus your previous ones?
Ummm…. (pauses) How do we feel we’ve connected with the music? (pauses) Ummm…. Well… I know I can’t really speak for everybody… I guess I could say me, personally, I feel like this record, there’s probably a little more of a connection with the vocals and the music because there’s more stuff where I’m doing the singy/screaming kind of stuff and that’s more of the vocals and the music working together, and making one thing sounds cool. So, that’s a little different for me, but that’s something that has been phasing in, like it’s been like that on [The] Tides in the last record [The Eternal Return], but I mean, that’s one way that I feel, at least. You know? It’s like this stuff working together to form a taste in morsels of rock! (laughs)
What do you think will reel in new fans with the new CD?
I think that just the overall musicality of the record, people are going to be impressed with. I mean, we’ve made a lot of music that’s straightforward metal and brutal and I think that people are definitely going to notice that this is much more on a melodic level, just a lot more going on. It’s kind of like, yeah, we know how to play these things a little bit too, Ryan can do some crazy fiddles, (laughs) Lonestar [Mike Carrigan] could do some crazy soloing, or whatever all that crap is, hard stuff on guitar! (laughs) You know, we could do that stuff to!!
So, I think people will notice that.
Do you think people will relate to this album more so than your last few?
Umm… I think people might be able to relate to it more than the last one, it’s a little more (inaudible), a little more easier on the ears, I guess. It’s not just a straight assault of angry metal. I think definitely, it could happen. We’ll see, who knows!
What is it about all of your music in general that makes your fans so passionate to your band? What kind of impression do you think you have made on their lives?
Maybe people– maybe we have like crazy, passionate fans; we do kind of, we have all of these people coming out [to our shows], who will get our lyrics tattooed on them and stuff, have all these band tattoos and stuff. I’d like to think that it’s like, people can tell when you are honest and passionate about your music and when you are about your music, anybody can pick up on it and say, “Ok, these guys are real.” We are all five extremely passionate about it and it’s our whole entire lives. I think people can tell when something is real and when something is phony.
When you are in the studio, how did you guys try to pull your raw stage presence and put it onto the CD?
I think that when we’re recording, it’s like a weird combination of getting that energy but also not overdoing it. Like, Ryan can’t be there playing drums just like “AHHHH!!!!!!!” [mimics over-aggressive drumming]. You have to have the energy, harness the energy, pretend like you’re playing, but still have the control of recording because it has to be perfect for the recording.
For me, it’s like, I just kind of stand there in the booth, and I just breathe real deep, and try to relax, and not think about anything because when I start thinking about stuff, then I start going crazy. And then, they’ll be like, “Do this line.” And I’ll be, “(growls)” And then, it’s this combination of getting intense but controlling my voice so I don’t blow it out because I have ten more songs to sing.
I don’t know, it’s a good question. That’s the hard part about recording, is capturing the feeling because there is no denying that when you’re feeling something whether it’s a drum part, guitar part, or a vocal part, you’re going to perform it better, and it’s going to sound better. So, that’s the trick. That’s what we try to do and I think we got pretty good takes of everything on this last record. I was feelin’ it! Parrish was probably feelin’ it too…
When you are writing, the music and the lyrics, do you try to think of what the fans most react to or what you guys want the most?
I mean, it’s really more about what we think sounds good and what we like. In the end, we’re the ones that are stuck with this record for the rest of our lives, you know what I mean? It’s weird. It has our names on it, we did it forever. In the end, like, we have to be happy with it. I’m not saying that we’ve never tried stuff to kind of–not to gain more fans, but to think outside the box and do something a little bit differently.
Like, we’ve never done– like, even when we did, say, Demon(s) [Deliver Us album], which was kind of like, had the singing and stuff; people thought it was kind of commercial sounding or whatever. Even when we did that, it wasn’t like, “Oh, we’re going to do this and we’re going to get huge.” It was like, “We’re going to do this because we want to try something different, you know? (laughs)
We want to– I want to do something different with my voice; we want to do something different with the music, make it more melodic. So, it’s always been that, it’s always been about– we have to be happy with it because if we’re not happy with it, then you just end up playing something you don’t like forever and that really sucks.
You guys have been celebrating your 15th anniversary of being together as a band. How would you describe the evolution of Darkest Hour from day one until now?
From day one, it was a completely, totally different band. Basically because Mike [Schleibaum] and I were in high school, Mike Schleibaum and I were in high school, I was like 15, he was 17, and we were– we had just started getting into going to local punk and hardcore shows and stuff. And we liked totally different kinds of music back then, we were getting into this– because back then, metal and hardcore had just started to come together and there all these bands like Dead Guy, Integrity, and stuff like that, that Mike and I were into; this 90s hardcore kind of stuff.
So, we just liked playing that kind of stuff. There’s a local band called Damnation AD, from [Washington] DC, that’s pretty much the reason why we started Darkest Hour, and why we sounded the way we did in the beginning. Because, in the beginning, we had this guy playing drums, who was just like this “tough guy/hardcore guy” who was just like, “I just want to play breakdowns!!!”
So, it was– me and Mike were trying to do this darker, metallic, hardcore-ish kind of stuff. So, it was a little bit of a mess because we didn’t really know what we were doing. So, we put out a demo tape, an EP, and then another EP, and then the third EP is when me and Mike finally started hearing At The Gates and Carcass and all of this European metal, and we were like, “Holy crap, this is way better than this crappy, American hardcore that we’d been listening to.” (laughs)
So, we started listening to that stuff, and we were like, “We just got to start playing stuff like this!” So, we had a demo, Prophecy Fulfilled  was kind of like a song that we wrote that has this Swedish fast speed and kind of like a Swedish riff. And then– but our drummer wasn’t into it, and we were like, “Well, we don’t really like you anyway, so we’re going to– we want to get this other guy, Ryan Parrish…” (laughs) So, Ryan comes and joins the band and he is actually a metal head, whereas Mike and I were kind of like– Mike grew up as a metal head, then became this punk-hardcore guy when we were getting into music. Then Ryan— actually Ryan knew all of his shit about all the Swedish metal, and all that stuff. So, Ryan joined the band and then we did The Mark of the Judas , and that was like what we consider our first record. That’s our first full-length.
We consider how this version of the band started basically, because this was when we had the real Swedish influence kind of stuff with the American punk and hardcore stuff mixed into it.
So then, there was The Mark of the Judas, So Sedated [So Secure]  I don’t know if there was that much evolution on So Sedated. THEN, there was Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation , which we went to Sweden to go do and recorded it in Sweden. So, it was this super duper influence by Swedish death metal record. That was right when we got Kris [Norris/former guitarist] too and he was– had played in bands with Ryan too and he was more of a metal head, he knew all about the Swedish metal stuff too.
So, then that record came out. That was a raw, in your face, kind of like Eternal Return-ish kind of record. Then the next records, we’re like, “Ok, we want to change it up. We want to do more melodic stuff.” And that was Undoing Ruin  and that was when we incorporated different kind of elements and it wasn’t all fast, brutal stuff. There were some slower stuff like Convalescence, and nicer, just more musical, more melodic stuff going on. So, that happened with The Eternal Return . Then, we kind of honed that with Deliver Us . Maybe we went really far on the melodic end of Deliver Us and then we were like, “Ok, we want to scale it back and just be more aggressive on The Eternal Return.”
Now, we’re like; the next record [The Human Romance – 2011] is like the jam. It’s the D.H. [Darkest Hour] that should be.
At what point do you think you guys really found your sound that you have now?
Umm… We started to kind of find the sound, I guess with Undoing Ruin because that was when we first started getting into more real melodic stuff, wouldn’t you say Parrish?
Ryan: Yeah, I would say so. That was when we started to mess around with more of the light side than the heavier stuff.
John: Before then, we were all– we all kind of toured forever, like five years completely, like unprofessionally, (laughs) didn’t know. Our gear broke every night, I was like screaming as hard as I could, not even singing to the mic half of the time, just like “RAWR!!” Just, going crazy–
Ryan: Just a bunch of wild animals.
John: Yeah, we were more focused on getting out there and going nuts than playing good. (laughs) That’s definitely something that’s different now a days. We try to play the songs and–
Ryan: (laughs) That’s different now… “We’re playing songs now!”
John: Sometimes it even works! (laughs) Sometimes we can even get through a song! But, I don’t know… Fifteen years later, we’re still– sometimes, you know–
Ryan: Still learning!
John: (laughs) Yeah, still learning. That’s a good way to put it. Still learning. You’re never done learning. If you think you’re done learning, then you think you know it all–
Ryan: And that makes you a jerk. (laughs)
John: Yeah. (laughs) Then you lose…your life.
Not many bands can last fifteen years, what do you think it is that has made you stick together with minimal lineup changes?
I would say, I don’t know… I think that we are really open a lot of times with each other and we’re kind of like– the way we’ve always handled the band, the way we handle it is as fairly as possible, where everyone gets a say. I think that makes a big difference because when you have bands where there’s one dude that makes all the decisions, a lot of times people just don’t like that or it’ll be like, “Screw you, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” So, I think the fact that we’ve worked– I don’t know, because we’re kind of dysfunctional too at times, I think we communicate with each other ok, right?
Ryan: I think so.
John: Some bands don’t have that communication, some bands aren’t even friends with each other. So it’s like, I think that has helped, you know? Just the fact that we are all passionate about this. We are all– this is our life, this is our lives. Even when someone is “Fuck you guys, I hate you guys, I hate everyone, I’m out of here.” Usually the next day, it’s like, “Alright… Alright… Ok, I love you guys.” We will get in fights sometimes, but then we just hug it out and it’s all good. A lot of bands don’t do that. A lot of bands, someone will get in a fight and then there will be tension for ten years or something. (laughs) Ten years later or something, it’ll be like, “You ate my last slice of pizza!!” (laughs) Probably something more severe than that.
Like with Pantera…
Yeah, they probably had some communication issues. Metallica definitely had some communication issues. (laughs) I mean, you see– I saw the movie! (laughs) I saw the movie and those guys have some communication problems. (laughs) I don�t know, that could be something to do with it. That, combined with, like what I was saying, the fact that we really care about– this is our lives, no one wants to give up, you know? Especially now when we can do it and can still tour, you know? We’re lucky. A lot of people don’t get this chance. A lot of people would love to do this and would quit their awesome job to do this. That’s another thing we keep reminding ourselves that this is what we want to do and we’re lucky to be here. That helps.
You guys have contributed a lot to metal over the past fifteen years, influenced newer bands. What is something else that you would like to contribute to metal over the next few years?
Something else I would like to contribute to… I don’t know, I would like, this record to come out and people to hear it and realize that you don’t have to– you can make a sick record for yourself that’s good, you don’t have to– metal shouldn’t be about making music that people want to hear or writing a certain part, putting a breakdown in there just because you want to get that reaction out of somebody, or putting a silly singing part in here because you want to get this certain reaction from somebody. I guess, if anything, I would like people to know that this is real and honest, and hopefully, if any kind of mark we would like to leave, so we don’t have to keep putting out silly crap, I don’t know. That’s just if, probably not going to happen. (laughs) Can’t talk to these kids these days. They’re all just going to want (growls) the fastest blast beats, the slowest breakdowns, the highest screams, and lowest death metal vocals. It’s all about extremes. It is. That would be nice if people would remember us as a band that just wrote songs, not just parts.
Ryan: I could live with that. Seriously, I could. A band that wrote good songs and put out decent albums. I don’t know, that’s a way to put it.
You guys were on Victory Records and now that you’re on E1, would you say that’s a step up from Victory?
I would say anything is a step up from Victory. That’s a pretty (inaudible) ass label, I mean.. We signed to that label when I was 18, just barely legal to do a contract, and they used to have bands like Dead Guy, Integrity, and stuff that we liked. And then, we were like “We should do Victory, they’re the bigger label!” So we were like, “Ok, fine. Wait a second… We just signed for FIVE albums. Holy crap! It takes about 2 years to put out an album for us, so that’s TEN years.” That’s ten years we were on Victory. Victory changed A LOT since we first singed to them then when we left them.
Then they just like, they turned into this label of, whenever something gets popular, they just try to sign a bunch of crap that sounds like it. That label sucks. (laughs) It’s like the worst label out there. So basically, anything is a step up. The guy who runs the label even sucks too and I don’t even have a good relationship with him. It’s just all bad there, all bad news over at Victory Records. (laughs)
Ryan: Victory Records is an epic fail.
John: Victory Records is an epic fail of a label. Perfect! So we’re extremely happy to be done with them and E1’s already showed signs of that they’re actually willing to work with us. So we’re finally going to be in a healthy relationship with our label. We’ve been in this very unhealthy relationship over the last ten years. And when you’re in an unhealthy relationship, you just have to kick it to the curb. And just get out. (laughs) So, we’re out. And now we’re good! I think it’ll be great, nothing but excitement about E1.
What is the most rewarding thing to come out of signing with E1 so far?
The most rewarding thing about E1 is that we’ve dealt with them in the past, talking about artwork, and blah, blah, blah. Getting the new record set up. And they actually like, do it. They actually do stuff and they don’t fight with us about things, they don’t say that they don’t have enough money to do things, they just want to work with us. So, it’s like, that’s what we need. We would have our manager call Victory Records and they’d be like, “I don’t talk to managers.” Well, that’s his job, is to talk to you. What is wrong with you? That’s how this thing works, buddy. But no, it’s great. Just that they can get things done. Just that they have already gotten things done, is amazing.
It seems like you guys really broke out in 2005, I remember seeing you guys TV, like with MTV2, Headbangers Ball, etc. How do feel now that you’ve made it this far, from that point?
Now that we’ve made it this far. I mean, I don’t know. It’s weird because this kind of stuff hardly even exists anymore. Like MTV— do they even have MTV2 anymore? I have no idea. Headbangers Ball, do they even have anymore? It’s hard to tell because after 2004, we did Ozzfest 2004, that’s when our name was first starting to be around, we had the videos and stuff, and that was when our first name was first in the mainstream. That was when it really like, blew up then, I mean we just started to get noticed then and evening out.
I was at Ozzfest 2004 and you told the crowd to download and steal your music…(laughs)
Oh yeah. I told the crowd to just download and steal our music. (laughs)
Ryan: Good call.
John: That’s another example of us being like, not even knowing what we were doing back then. Not that I still don’t agree with that. I still totally think of course that’s how it is, nowadays. I think that if someone is a real music fan and a real fan of the band, then yeah you’ll download a song or two, check it out, then you’ll buy the CD. I have faith in that, we kind of have to have faith in that. (laughs) I still agree with that, but I still want people to buy CD’s too, obviously. I don’t know why you wouldn’t, I like having the something of touch, something to read the lyrics and stuff like that. Hopefully other people do too.
Those are all of my questions, unless you’d like to say anything else?
Thank you very much for the interview, thank you for having good, thought-provoking questions.