How has this tour been doing for you, so far?
It’s been going pretty good, we’re having fun, just getting back into the groove. The Seattle show was off-the-hook, of course, because that’s our hometown, the Portland show was incredible, which we didn’t ever expect because Portland is usually crappy for metal shows, but it was really good. San Francisco was awesome, L.A. was great, and we’re just working our way across the country.
You released The Obsidian Conspiracy a couple of months ago, how has everyone responded to it so far?
Mainly, we’ve gotten very positive reactions to it. I’ll be honest, of course there’s a couple of hardcore fans that don’t like it because the songs are a little more, I guess, I’d like to say focused, but I guess whoever doesn’t like their record would say, they’re too “commercial”, but… Whatever, can’t make everybody happy. We just made a record that we wanted to and all I know is that every one of our records sound different. Though, a lot of people expect This Godless Endeavor Part Two, and they did not get it, and we didn’t want to give it to them anyway! (laughs) It just seems like, you can’t please everyone all the time, but this has been our most successful record yet, to date.
I saw that you guys made it on the Billboard, how did that feel for you guys?
Yeah, we did. First time ever! It’s nice considering how long we’ve been doing this! (laughs) It’s about fuckin’ time, I guess! (laughs)
How did everything materialize or come together for your new album?
Umm… Well… Basically, what happened was Jeff [Loomis] just started sending me riffs and I started working on vocals and we’d swap ideas back and fourth and stay up all night, beat our heads against the wall, and you know, burp the babies! (laughs) Because, they are our babies. The songs are our children and nobody better ask me to pick my favorite child because the others will get jealous! (laughs)
And how many children do you have now?
I can’t count! (laughs) After, what? Seven records, I think, quite a lot! (laughs) …I hate all of my children from the first record though, I HATE them. They have a different mom. …Yeah, just kidding! (laughs)
Were there any certain presences or vibes that emerged from The Obsidian Conspiracy when you were working on it?
Umm… Well, yeah, we got into the groove and all the songs started to get more focused and they kind of turned into a different animal or a different little beast than our last couple of records, everything got more focused, more clear, and we really worked on the arrangements very, very hard to make sure everything was consistent. I still would’ve liked to have done one song on the record that was just like, ten minutes long, because the title track [The Obsidian Conspiracy] was fucking almost ten minutes long before we started butchering it. (laughs) To tell you the truth, I like the longer version better.
Do you think you’ll ever release that down the line with maybe an EP?
I want to.
What is something you wrote in the new album that you feel you may have impacted someone’s life with in a positive way?
Hmmm… Well there’s one song that’s one of my favorites, we’ll probably never play live, but The Blue Marble and the New Soul, that was a completely different song before we went to record it. And when we were in North Carolina, we had this lake house that we turned into a studio, I met this little boy, and he was our producer’s son, and he was only three-months-old, and I was so struck by how pure and beautiful this child was, that I re-wrote the whole song to make it about him. I told his dad eventually, but he figured it out. So, hopefully when he grows up, his parents will let him hear it! (laughs) Because that song is about welcoming a new soul, just saying look out because it’s going to be a rough ride.
Do you have any plans or ideas for another new album soon?
You know, I’m trying to get Jeff– I’m telling Jeff all the time, “Keep writing, keep writing, we can’t wait five years!” (laughs) It’s not going to happen! Strike while the iron is hot bitch, c’mon! Don’t sit on your ass! Do something positive! (laughs)
Would there be anything you’d want to do different on a new album that you haven’t done before?
Well, that’s why we do solo projects. (laughs) You know, Jeff [Loomis] wanted to do completely ridiculous shred music and I wanted to do kind of, more like rock-metal, so that’s why we did solo records. I think Nevermore is always going to pretty much stay the way we are, I don’t see us having a drastic shift in style, but you never know! You just never know… When Jeff and I sit down to write music, we don’t put any constraints on what we want it to sound like, we kind of let it happen, then run with whatever direction it’s going in.
Would you release another solo album sometime?
Yeah, yeah. I’m doing another one. Probably recording it sometime towards the end of the year.
What will it consist of?
It’s going to be heavier than the first one. Most of it’s written already. I’ve been working more with Matt Wicklund [HIMSA], one of the songwriters that I worked with on the first one and his stuff is a little bit heavier than the stuff that Peter [Wichers] wrote, and it’s turning out really good. It’s really fast thrash with ridiculously catchy choruses and that’s what I love! I love a good chorus, I mean, I love all kinds of metal, but it’s hard to write a good chorus. I know that because I slave away for hours to come up with the damn things! It’s not easy when you’re doing hard music, it’s not easy. I mean, pop music, I think is probably pretty easy to come up with catchy choruses because the music is so simplistic.
Yeah, it’s emotionless.
Yeah, I mean, Lady GaGa, c’mon! She probably writes that crap in her sleep. Although, I do enjoy her weirdness! (laughs)
You also have kind of resurrected Sanctuary, I read that you were working on writing for a new album, how is that going?
Well, it’s a slow process, I know, but we’ve got a couple of song ideas. The last one that I received from Lenny [Rutledge], the guitar player, was really, really fucking awesome. So we’re going to take it slow, but there’s going to be another record for sure.
Have any idea of when that will be?
I don’t know because we’re going to be busy people. I mean, Nevermore is our priority, but it’s all about time management, for me anyway, because I’ve got three bands now. (laughs)
Has it been difficult to balance all of these bands you have?
Of course it’s difficult, but like I said, it’s about time management. I’ve got to keep everything separate and focus on one thing at a time and not mix everything up. So, one day I’ll work on Nevermore stuff, one day I’ll work on stuff for my solo thing, one day I’ll work on Sanctuary stuff. I can’t do all of them together because then I’m afraid, you know, everything is going to start sounding the same. But since different people are– since I’m working with different songwriters on each project, it kind of ensures that it’s not going to sound the same.
For the people who’ve never heard Sanctuary before, how would you describe how it sounds as opposed to Nevermore?
It’s like, if I sucked on a helium tank, sang way higher…
So like King Diamond style?
Well, yeah the first Sanctuary record, a lot of people compared me to King Diamond, which is actually a compliment because I absolutely LOVE King Diamond and Mercyful Fate!
What are your favorite King Diamond and Mercyful Fate albums?
Umm…. Abigail… And my favorite Mercyful Fate, Don’t Break the Oath. We got to tour with Mercyful Fate and King [Diamond] is a very nice guy. You know, people would imagine that he’s backstage doing “evil” things, but that’s just not true. He’s a very laid-back, mellow person.
How would you say the music you write communicates through you?
Oh my God, I’ve gone cross-eyed!! (laughs) Well, like any form of self-expression, it’s obviously conveying something within you. I’m not sure how that translates my inner being, but it definitely is– it’s definitely conveying some of my internal conflict and a lot of my personal belief systems.
That was a good answer! (laughs) I’m really proud of that actually!! (laughs) That was a hard question!! (laughs)
What is something you have to do to get into that certain mind-set to write music?
I have to lock myself in my room, kick the cats out, because they’ll just fuck with my shit. They get jealous!! If daddy is looking at the computer, they get jealous; they want to jump on my lap, they want to run across the keyboard, and basically they’re jealous of the glowing screen! (laughs) So, I have to put them out and I just sit; I have to be alone and just, you know, do my thing… Which, my thing is… Being alone. (laughs)
How do you share your connection with the crowd when you’re on stage?
I just give 110% and, you know, if it feels right, I’ll pull people on stage and force them to stage dive. I know a lot of people don’t– a lot of clubs don’t like you to do that, I’ve gotten a lot of problems sometimes for that. After Dimebag [Darrell] got murdered, a lot of people were freaked out about it, but you know what, when it’s your time, it’s your time, and that was such a fucked up situation. And I was scared to death about having people on stage after that, but I like connecting with people. I like to touch their hands in the front, I like to see their faces, and there’s no– I mean, the energy exchange you get from that, there’s no better drug. There really isn’t because it’s adrenaline; adrenaline is the best drug in the world and it’s because your brain makes it.
How would you describe the way your emotions come out through your music?
I’ve gone cross-eyed again! (laughs) Well, usually the way my emotions come out through the songs is, they are coming from a source of personal grief, and especially with my solo stuff, I used a lot of really personal family shit on that record. And that was a good thing for me because it made me address issues that I’d been ignoring for years, with my brother especially, who I still don’t talk to, and he doesn’t talk to me either, especially after hearing that song. I don’t know if he ever heard it or if he did. I don’t know, but it was very cleansing to do stuff like that. And I’m glad I did, but being in a place of emotional distress is never good. And for me, my escape was putting it into words and I still do that when I get in a place of emotional distress, not so much with Nevermore, I mean there were definitely moments of it, but, you know, my solo stuff was a lot more personal.
I was just about to ask… Was there anything that happened to you in your life that made you feel passion for music in general?
The first time I heard [Black] Sabbath and Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and all those old bands, that’s what did it. I remember I heard Victim of Changes from Judas Priest and that’s when I said, “I think I want to do that!” (laughs) And, I saw that concert, my parents actually let me go! And my brothers and sisters, they’re all way older than me, I was the “accident” in the family; my youngest sister is 22-years-older than me. And they told me stories about my parents wouldn’t let them go see The Beatles! (laughs) I’m like, “You fucking actually could’ve gone to see The Beatles!!!! And they wouldn’t let you!!! OH MY GOD!!!!” And when they played in Seattle… OH!! That is so insane!
But yeah, they let me go see Judas Priest, I don’t even remember how old, I was just a kid. But I went with one of my other friend’s parents. But yeah, that was the moment that I knew I wanted to be a singer, when I heard Victim of Changes.
Every metal artist I have interviewed has had some sort of life altering experience that brought them into metal, that causes them to write deep and powerful lyrics, like you do. What is your interpretation of that? Or how do you feel towards that?
I think it’s not just metal music musicians that go through that, I think it’s everyone.
Even with pop music though?
No, of course, because pop music is a commercial commodity that is not supposed to tug on your heart strings, it’s supposed to make you dance and hum along to the melody, that’s what sells records. You know, stuff like, emotional crap doesn’t sell records. I mean, pop music is so completely different from rock or metal, that I don’t know how to describe that, but pop is very vacuous and sterile to me. Metal music conveys a hell of a lot more emotion and feeling and genuine artistry, I mean, I wouldn’t say I could write pop music in my sleep, but I think a lot of people do! (laughs)
What do you think symbolizes Nevermore as a band?
(laughs) Where do you come up with this stuff?! (laughs) What symbolizes us as a band… I don’t know! I mean, we’re just a metal band. What symbolizes us as a band is the fact that we are not definable as far as what genre of metal we play because we have elements of so many different kinds of metal and nobody can say, “Oh, they’re a power metal band, or they’re a prog-band, or they’re a thrash band, or they’re a death metal band.” Because you can’t say that, because we’re none of those, but we combine elements of all that. That’s what defines us and that’s why some people don’t like us. (laughs)