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Articles Home » Music Talk » Interview with All That Remains
Interview with All That Remains

Sitting Down With Phil Labonte

 

By:  Nina McCarthy, Music Journalist

nina@bostonrockradio.com

 

Phil was kind enough to sit down with me and Mike Marion, Boston Rock Radio’s newest Photojournalist, before the All That Remains free show at The Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun Casino on September 10th.  It was great ATR play close to their home base and getting some information about their new upcoming album.  A special thank you to Julia Berlin for making this possible.

 

 

 

BRR:  I work mostly with local bands, so I wanted to ask you about being local boys from Massachusetts….I don't know if you are all from Mass at this point?

 

PL:   With the current lineup, not everybody is from MA.  We have a new bass player named Aaron Patrick and he is originally from Ohio, but everyone else in the band is from MA.  Me, Oli, and Mike are from the Springfield area.  Mike was in Ludlow, I was in Chicopee and Mike was in Longmeadow.  We used to play shows in the Pioneer Valley all the time.  Hadley was where Vertex and Katina’s were back in the late 80s, early 90s.    That’s where I cut my teeth, going to local shows and such.  We’ve been coming down here playing from The Webster in Hartford to New London.  So, yes, we all grew up in Western Mass.

 

BRR:  My question was, you started out as local boys….how did you hit it big?  Can you describe how it came about?

 

PL:  I was really, really good friends with Scott Lee who was the promoter for the New England Metal & Hardcore Fest.  We worked with him, going way back to when we played shows at Vertex and Katina in Hadley.  He was the stage manager there.  Gina M. was doing all the booking and she knew Scott and brought him in and running the stage.  As Gina moved onto bigger and better things, Scott kind of took over for her promoting shows. The shows moved to Northampton, to Pearl Street.  Scotty was the reason the shows moved over there.  They went from Pearl Street in Northampton to Infinity in Springfield.  Scott met Terry, who was manager of Infinity and that's why they started doing the underground shows.  Scotty and Terry went to the Fat Cat in Springfield.  As the scene moved, Scotty was kind of guy that was the life of the scene because he was booking all the up and coming bands.  So, we knew Scotty and he knew me from when I was in Shadows Falls and when I got All That Remains together it was just natural to have him check out what I was doing.  He said, “I'd like to work with you and point you in the right direction and get you in front of people.”  We worked together for like 6 or 7 years when it comes to All That Remains.

 

BRR:  I always say, it's who you know and being at the right place at the right time.

 

PL:  I think it's who you know more than anything else.  Some people don't like that, that this person knows someone so they get that, but life. That's how life goes.

 

BRR:  True, but there has to be the talent there to begin with or the promoters aren't going to keep booking you.

 

PL:  Exactly.  You're not going to be a band that is going to get a lot of good shows if no one likes you.  Granted it does help to know people to get in front of people, but if no one likes what you're doing, then you're not going to get much attention.

 

BRR:  You formed in 1998 and have 7 studio albums.  What do you think contributes to your longevity?

 

PL:  I think that we go for songs first.  For All That Remains, the important thing is that we write a good song and everything else comes secondary.  The guitar solo, the blast beats, whether it's death growls or high screams, any kind of thing that could be an individual showing off... that's the second most important thing.  The first most important thing is that the song you are working on is a good song.  That's genuinely what I believe.  Good songs can change genre, which is why you see so many heavy bands nowadays do cover songs of older songs.

 

BRR:  Like Phil Collins…

 

PL:  Yes and Bad Company with Five Finger Death Punch.  You see R&B and Country singers constantly swapping songs. The reason is because they are good songs.  The genre is really the coat of paint.

 

BRR:  This is a question I had for later that Mike actually had, but while we are on this topic, ATR covered “Believe in Nothing” by Nevermore.  What led up to that?

 

PL:  We just think that's a cool song.  I love Nevermore.  That's also something that at the time we all could agree on.  It's a good song.  That's the long and short of it.

 

BRR:  You are now working on your 8th album.  What's the anticipated release?

 

PL:  Next year some time.  Probably early next year.

 

BRR:  What can you tell me about it?  You probably can't tell me too much at this point.

 

PL:  I can tell you a good amount about it.  You can't hear anything, but I can tell you all kinds of stuff about it.  I can't tell you the name of it, although there is a name.

 

BRR:  Is it heavier or along the same lines as the last?

 

PL:  No, it's not heavier, but it's different.  The most different record that ATR has ever done.  We try to be our own thing, do our own thing and not be like other bands that are out there.  We try to not sound like someone else.  We try to just go ahead and do what we want to do and sound like us, write the kind of songs we want to write and not worry about what people are going to say.  With this record we said, “Let's take all that stuff and take it a step further.”  Me, Mike, and Oli are the guys that are the primary writers and we are all guitar players so anytime a song starts, it's always been a riff first.  This time we thought we'd look at songs from a vocal perspective first.  I went out to LA where Howard Benson is producing the record.

 

BRR:  Yes, I saw your Live video on Facebook.

 

PL:  We sat down out there with Howard and some other guys and we came up with lyric ideas and came up with vocals first.  Then I went back to the guys and said let's write riffs to go with these vocals as opposed to here's a bunch of riffs, here's first chorus, pre chorus, and however you want to structure it.  We flipped it around in a different way then we have ever done before.  We came out with some really different sounding, interesting stuff.  It will be one of the most talked about records next year.  For better or for worse, it will be one of the most discussed records out there.  It's going to polarize people.

 

BRR:  I can't wait to hear it!  And bad press isn't always a bad thing.

 

PL:  Any press is good.  The thing is, the metal community is so militant, you can't do this, you can't do that.  I'm the guy that as soon as you tell me I can't, I want to go do it.  To me, that's part of what makes us us.

 

BRR:  ATR has been called Metalcore, but I don't think you are anymore.  That was a controversial topic with you and Oli, right?

 

PL:  Oli doesn't like the term Metalcore and I don't care.  Call us what you want to call us.  I don't give a shit.  Do you like our songs?  I want good songs.  I don't care what you call it.  I don't care what genre.  I don't care if I'm wearing the right clothes.  Anything that you think about us,  I don't give a shit except for if you like the song.  That's it.

 

BRR:  I've always liked different when it comes to music.  I'm a fan of Hed PE because they are different combining reggae, metal, and punk.  I'm the same way with local bands.  If they have something different, that's what catches my attention.

 

PL:  Something that stands out.

 

BRR:  Right.  Now I know you had Adam D. from Killswitch Engage produce four of your albums and then you switched to Josh Wilrick on the last album, who worked with Lamb of God and now you have Howard. Why the change?

 

PL:  Working with Howard has been really, really cool.  One of the things that we wanted to get was some programing.  I'm really into EDM and wanted to get some of that element in there.  If you listen to In Flames and they've had programed stuff on records for ages and ages.  If you listen to Cloud Connected, there are so many cool sounds going on in that song and throughout that whole record.  I'd love to have that kind of element in our stuff.  We were looking for someone who could do programming and this kind of stuff and that kind of stuff and Howard said he knew a couple guys, so he hooked it up and we sat down and came up with some ideas with them because none of us can program on a computer.  About all we can do is hard bass and drums.

 

BRR:  I know you are big on evolution, to change with the times.

 

PL:  Nowadays if everything you have is an organic instrument being played, that is kind of old sounding now.  It's kind of dated.  I was talking about this to someone else.  If you have a kid that wants to be a musician or wants to play or create music, they're going to use their computer nowadays.  They already have it and it's easier to come up with $100-$200 for a good drum program and create the music in whatever program you can then it is to go and buy a fucking drum kit or to buy a guitar.  Guitars and amps and drum kits are expensive.  You can do the same thing on a computer.  If you are the person who only likes it if it’s two guitars, a bass, and a drummer and a singer.  Well, congratulations, you are 9 million year old.  But seriously, you are the old guy in the room.  You're the guy that is telling people to get off your lawn.  I know where you stand.  You're the one who doesn't like any KISS after 1979.

 

MM:  What happens when you are going to play live now?  How are you going to recreate that?

 

PL:  With computers.  We will just run tracks.  Almost everybody does it now.  Most bands have some kind of computers going with their beat, a click track that is running the drummer so he knows where he is and keeping the tempo.  Almost all records have some kind of electronic element that's running.  In Flames, Soilwork has all kinds of sounds going through their stuff.  It's not really new.

 

BRR:  I mentioned how you did the Facebook Live update.  Will you continue doing them as you progress on the new album?

 

PL:  Yeah, I think as soon as we get some more interesting stuff going on.  Right now we are mixing the record and we don't actually have a release date yet.  We haven't started with the promotion of the record and we aren't in a huge rush.  We don't want to put a record out in November becauses it will come out and then everyone has the holidays and that's all that they are paying attention too.  Radio stations stop playing new music for a month and a half.

 

BRR:  But everyone will want it for Christmas.

 

PL:  Yeah, but I'd rather release it in like the beginning of February so that everyone that got an iTunes card for Christmas can go ahead and buy it.  It used to be January, historically, that was a rough month to release records.  But as soon as the iTunes gift card came out, sales in January started going through the roof.

 

BRR:  I read that you and Mike like Nickleback.

 

PL:  Yes, Nickelback writes great songs!

 

BRR:  I admire when a man can admit that!  What are some of your other favorite bands/musicians?

 

PL:  Lately I really like Bring Me The Horizon a lot.  Historically, I like Sarah McLachlan, Iron Maiden and Metallica.

 

BRR:  I saw Sarah McLachlan in concert and she was really good!

 

PL:  I saw her 4 or 5 times.  She was playing a radio fest in Boston and I drove all the way out there for that.  It was a free show and I was like, “Yeah, I'm there!”  I liked the Cranberries a lot when I was young in the 90s and stuff.  Tracy Chapman was good.

 

BRR:  Boston Rock Radio is an internet station. What is your opinion on internet radio?

 

PL:  I think it's great!  Especially, nowadays where you can just go ahead and stream something to your phone and most people have an aux cable out of their phone where they can plug it into their radio and stuff, although the new iPhones don't.  I think they are brilliant.  From what I hear, the overhead is lower so you don't need as many sponsors and there is a little more freedom as to what they can play.  I think they're great.  They're awesome.

 

BRR:  We play mostly local bands and they are heard in over 900 countries.

 

PL:  Exactly.  anywhere there is an internet connection, they can be heard.

 

BRR:  Do you have any advice for upcoming bands?

 

PL:  I don't know that I could give any good advice nowadays because the music industry is so different from when I started.  I guess the best advice I could come up with is to focus on songs.  Don't focus on showing off.  Don’t focus on trying to outdo anyone.  Don't try to outdo anyones gimmick or anything that someone else is doing.  Just try to write good songs.  If you try to write good songs, you'll at least be okay.

 

BRR:  I always hear, “Be yourself” the most.  “Focus on what you you do have and don't try to be like everybody else.”

 

PL:  Yes, be yourself is good.  Sometimes being yourself does mean you really feel the need to wear a costume on stage.  If that's how you want to express yourself, that's cool.  That's fine.  Just don't try to do something that is cool right now because you think that’s your way in.  Don't follow the trends.

 

BRR:  If everyone else is doing it, what is going to set you apart?

 

PL:  If you aren't setting the trend or around the people that are setting the trend, if you're responding to the trend, then the trend is already over by the time you get going.  We came out of The New England Metal & Hardcore, the new wave of American Heavy Metal...Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, and blah blah blah blah.  For the most part, we were the last band to really be like a Metalcore band and be able to get over with doing that.  As soon as that happened for us, we saw that trend was almost done and we're doing something to get us out of that trend.  We are not just a trend band.  There are a lot of bands that came up with that trend and got some good respect and and some good slots and became respected bands, but when the trend was over, things got hard for them.  

 

BRR:  I think that's great advice.  Thank you so much for taking the time to sit and and answer my questions.  I can't wait for the live show!

 

You can pre-order the forthcoming album and access special bonus content leading up to its release at:  

www.pledgemusic.com/allthatremains

 

 

 

 

 

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