Interview with Sam Totman from Dragonforce on Moe Train’s Tracks
Sam Totman, Monty Wiradilaga, Brian Kracyla
Rockstar Mayhem Festival – Philadelphia, PA
M: First of all, let me give proper respect to one of the top shredders in the scene.
S: Aw, you’re too nice. I’m sure you say that to every band.
M: We’re with Sam Totman of Dragonforce. Thanks for being with us today. First of all, congratulations on having the new album. Did the band think it was a tough task to follow Inhuman Rampage, one of my favorite metal albums of all-time?
S: Yeah, it’s always hard. Obviously, it’s not very hard on the first one ‘cause whatever you do is always going to be kind of original, or original for you I guess. But yeah, it was really hard, we actually thought that when we made Inhuman Rampage, we thought how are we going to make something better than something like Firestorm. You don’t really know if it’s going to be better until you’ve done it. Like when I wrote a bunch of songs for this new album and everybody was like, “They’re rubbish” but I knew what they were going to sound like at the end so I was like, “It’s gonna be cool.” You still don’t really know what it’s gonna be like. I might write a vocal line or whatever, and I might think it’s going to work really well, then when the guy goes out and actually sings it, it might not turn out as well as I thought it was going to be. The whole thing is like an endless kind of job, basically. It took us seven months in the studio to get the final result.
M: So, with the writing process, it’s you and Herman, or is it mostly you?
S: Yeah, it’s mostly me. Herman does more of the gear. I don’t know anything about gear. He works it out to make the album sound good. I do mostly more of the writing and he does more of the gear side of things. Yeah everyone’s got their own job to do anyway.
M: When I heard Hereos of Our Time for the first time I had to stand up during the chorus and put my fist in the air!
S: There you go, that’s the idea.
M: In victory, ‘cause I felt victorious after hearing the track.
S: Good, it’s supposed to make people feel happy.
B: Very epic.
S: Epic, yeah. People keep saying, “Well, what’s the difference with this album?” I say it’s more happier sounding, ‘cause it is. But apparently if you say “epic” it’s a bit less gay. (Laughter)
M: Well, a lot of bands say their next album’s gonna be heavier, faster.
S: Or more melodic, that’s a rather classic one.
M: What’s that bullshit? Isn’t that just saying the same thing over and over?
S: Exactly. How can you be more melodic? It’s either melodic or it’s not. Yeah, it’s stupid, oh well.
M: So what do you say to power-metal purists that down your guys style, that say it’s not the norm? I say fuck ‘um.
S: Yeah! Well, to be honest, the power-metal that we used to like ten years ago, when we first started, doesn’t really exist anymore. All the bands I listened to ten years ago there albums are crap. I’m not trying to be a big-head saying that we’re so much cooler than anybody. I think we sort of come to the point now where I don’t really think that we’re part of a power scene or any other scene. I think we’re on our own. I don’t wanna sound like blah blah blah, I’m cool, but I really think it is, it’s so different. I listened to the a Stratovarius album the other day, which is something we used to really like, I still do, and I was like, this sounds nothing like us now, it sounds almost like an eighties band.
M: You must have punk influences because I a lot of pictures with you rocking out the black Rancid cut-off t-shirt.
S: Yeah, I listen to that as much as metal. People say I’m gay ‘cause I listen to Blink 182 stuff all the time, just as much as I listen to Slayer or something.
M: Well, you wrote a lot of catchy songs, there’s a pop influence with that.
S: Yeah, it’s the same thing essentially. A lot of my vocals and stuff, I listen to a pop music as well, and if you listen to that kind of stuff, I mean, the vocal melodies and chord progressions are not that much different from what we do to say a pop punk band. It’s the same four chords and certain notes that go over those chords that work. A lot of metal people are like, “Nah, that’s gay, that’s gay” but they actually don’t realize that it’s actually the same thing.
M: So when are you gonna have Tim and Lars on stage with you?
S: Yeah, well, they probably think we’re gay. (laughter)
M: With the new album, it seems as if you’ve taken the tempo down a little bit. I don’t know if it was a conscious change or what was it?
S: Yeah, it was in places. Obviously, with all our songs on the last album they were like 200 beats per minute, it kinda made it sound like the same thing, which was cool at the time because that’s what we wanted to do. But now we thought that we’ll put different tempo bits, like for example, there’s more middle sections that are playing over a different drum beat because it forces you to do different guitar solos because there’s only so many licks you can do over a sort of bap-bap-bap drum beat. It’s more to give us more ideas for guitar as much as anything.
M: When you’re writing your dual solos with Herman, what’s the process with that?
S: Well, basically if I write a song, I’ll know there’s gonna be like six guitar solos in this section and I’ll write a bunch of chord progressions and I’ll be like, alright, that’s solo one, that’s solo two, that’s solo three, and then we just decide, alright, who’s gonna do the first one? After that it just alternates. We don’t actually sit there and write guitar solos together. I’ll write a bunch of chord progressions and then we just solo over them.
M: I saw one video of you doing an instructional video of how you guys trade off during your solos. I guess you do certain chord progressions but work other hammer-ons and …
S: Yeah, exactly. We tried to get away from it a bit on this album but on the previous album… basically what we do is just solo over the verse. If you see a song that is normally pre-chorus into the second pre-chorus into the chorus, the solo section is usually just soloed over that, ‘cause then it kinda builds the solo up in the same way as you would build up a vocal section up to the chorus. Obviously, the solo over the chorus is the most catchy and it’s over the nicer chords.
M: Sometimes it seems like you guys are almost having a battle with the guitars. I’m sure it’s always mentioned to you about the video games, that you have that influence. It seems like you guys are having an epic battle!
S: I think that yeah it sounds like a battle when it’s finished but I just think that six guitar solos one after the other is a cool thing to do. I thought it sounded good when I listened to bands when I was growing up. It was usually like one guy would do one solo and the other guy would do one and that would be it. I thought that was sort of cool. You’d hear one guy play it and then the other guy would play it, it’s was kinda like a duet between a singer and a female singer. So I thought, let’s increase that, take it to like six each. It’s not really a battle, it’s just to make it sound good, but then when you listen back to it you kinda say it is a battle.
M: Speaking of battles, I’ve seen a lot of battles caused by you guys, not by real guitar but of course by the video games, Guitar Hero III. How’s it feel to have Through The Fire and The Flames be the holy grail of all songs on that video game?
S: I think it’s cool. It’s obviously, I don’t want to sound like I have a big head again, but there’s not that many bands that have got as much complicated guitar playing in them. You can listen to someone like Steve Vai who’s a hundred times better than us but then, in my opinion, I don’t think he’s got very catchy songs, you know, he doesn’t have very catchy chords. The guitar’s great but there’s no great singing…
M: No fists in the air!
S: Yeah. So, yeah, it should be the holy grail of that game. I’m starting to sound like a real wanker now.
B: Have you actually tried to play it (on the video game) yourself?
S: I tried it once and I was pretty crap at it. It’s not really my style of game to be honest, not because it’s for the guitar, it’s just not my style of game, I prefer other games.
M: What like Final Fantasy?
S: Yeah, or I like strategy games, Company of Heroes, that’s really cool. Shit like that.
M: Thinking about video games being a new platform for bands to get their music out, on MySpace last time I looked you had 11,614,019 listens. That was last night, you probably have 20,000 more by now.
S: Really? That’s cool.
M: What does it mean for the music biz to have new outlets like this?
S: Well it’s cool yeah. Obviously, you sell less records now then you would have in the eighties, we would have sold probably something like 5 million then, because it’s just the way the music business is going. I suppose it all kinda works out, everything balances out. Supposedly more people will hear it but less people buy your records these days. In the end you have the same number of fans I think.
B: More people go to the shows.
S: Yeah exactly, so I think it’s pretty cool.
M: The metal scene is pretty interesting. We mostly cover “indy” music festivals, Bonnaroo, Cochella, that kind of stuff. They have their own scene, metal has it’s own scene. How would you describe the metal scene and the people in it?
S: Lots of fat dudes and no chicks.
M: And black t-shirts. (Laughter)
B: I stuck out like a sour thumb walking around in my white shirt!
M: Speaking of chicks, how’s that situation going?
S: Pretty grim. Well, obviously you only need one each day, unless your really greedy, but you can usually find one. It might not be amazing…
M: You get drunk enough it doesn’t matter.
S: Exactly. They’re not going to be stunning at a festival like this (Mayhem). But we’re not fussy, you can’t be.
M: I know you’re a big fan of the beer. We were going to bring you some Coors.
S: Coors Original is the only one I like. Coors Light doesn’t do anything.
M: When are we going to see you on stage with a beer helmet doing a solo?
S: When I really need one because I’m completely bored, it’s getting there. It’ll serve two purposes.
M: What if we brought a beer bong, would you do a beer bong on stage?
S: To be honest with you, I wish I could because I think it looks cool and you look quite tough but I actually can’t do a beer bong. I can’t skull back a beer. I can drink like twenty in a night or whatever but actually can’t skull back beers.
M: Have you tried though?
S: Yeah, totally, but I always puke. I wish I could, I think it looks really cool. I’ve been bombed out since I was a kid, I couldn’t do it.
M: What is your crowning achievement? Is it the Ibanez Sam Totman Signature guitar or what? And by the way do you have an extras you can spare?
S: I’ve only got like two myself! They said I could have a bunch of them but there kinda both just sitting around my house. Yeah, I suppose that’s quite cool.
M: What was your first guitar?
S: It was a classical one actually, ‘cause I learned classical music. Then about ten years later this skinhead guy I lived with smashed it over my head! (Laughter) That was my first guitar, I felt really bad.
M: You felt bad?!
S: No, I got it when I was ten! This lovely guitar that my parents bought me when I was ten years old ended up getting smashed on my head by a nutter.
M: Finally, I think Dragonforce is the epitome of being triumphant. Your music makes me want to pump my fist in victory and I envision the mighty Pegasus soaring over the clouds of Olympus!
S: Yeah, that perfect. That’s what we want to do.
M: What is your vision of the story of Dragonforce?
S: Basically the same as that. It just supposed to make you feel happy. I like the music that makes you feel happy so that’s what comes out when we write songs. It’s something that’s uplifting. If you’re sad, it’ll make you happy. If you’re happy, it’ll make you even more happy.
M: There you go. Thanks a lot for being with us, appreciate it.
S: Yeah. Cool.
Have you ever popped in a freshly pressed CD, and soon wanted to throw around massive amounts of weight, then put your fist in the back of someone’s puny ass skull? While listening to Burial Mound’s With Honor in my car, I had a huge urge to hardcore dance at 80 miles an hour, but decided that in the best interest of the world around me, and the future of Excelsior, I’d wait till I got home.
If you’re going to name your album With Homor, you’d better damn well better honor whatever you’re trying to honor. If Burial Mound is setting out to honor the metal gods, living and decaying, their offering is pretty solid.
With Honor had to grow on me a bit. Honestly, I was drawn in by the tight, methodical instrumentals. Machine gun drumming, cohesively brutal bass/guitars… Then the thin, un-dynamic vocals dropped in. Ouch. I realize that he was taking some vocal chances with range, but it was too “all over the place” for the music. Still, I listened on, hoping for a moment of musical clarity.
One song later (Sacrilege), Burial Mound brought the fucking noise. With flashes of Atreyu, BM (a tough acronym, but one nonetheless) pushed the shit out, and destroyed it. The instrumentals are very consistent throughout, and the vocals seemed to widen and attain more balance with the rest of the band.
Nothing Is Sacred features a solid guest spot by Paul Goddard from Diecast. The harmonious singing that Goddard brings is welcome change in the album, and frankly, one that could be something more utilized in the future.
Go grab yourself Burial Mound’s With Honor, strap on some steel toe boots, drop kick the next person that gets out of line, and honor your fallen ancestors as well as Team Excelsior.
- The Train
Lamb of God’s singer, Randy Blythe has been detained in in a Czech jail for Fourth Degree Manslaughter stemming from an incident that happened at one of their shows in 2010. Please read on for details:
LAMB OF GOD management will be issuing an official statement on Monday regarding the charges made against singer Randy Blythe. As no formal charges have yet been made and the case is only in the investigation stages, it would be premature to make an official statement filled with false truths or innuendos.
Having said that, management wished to address today one false piece of information that has been included in many of the news stories released so far. Under no circumstances was there a fight of any kind involved. This incident deals with a fan that three times during the concert jumped the barricade and rushed Randy during the performance. It is alleged that the third time, security was not able to reach him and that Randy pushed him back into the audience where supposedly he fell and hit his head.
Again, until the investigation is concluded this weekend, nothing more will be released, but clarity and the facts needed to be addressed on this one reported point which is totally inaccurate.
The follow up statement was released today, which said:
First of all, thanks to everyone who has reached out in support of Randy and each of us in this terrible situation. It’s noted and very much appreciated. We have been keeping our heads down and not speaking out due to the fluid nature of the situation and the constantly changing information that even we receive daily. Within an hour things can do endless 180’s. It’s maddening to try and make heads or tails. We’re taking the time to speak to you as it has been a significant period of time since this situation began and while nothing is immediately clear to any of us, we are not trying to keep anyone in the dark. We have reached out and are making use of the resources we have acquired to help our brother who is still detained in Czech jail. In the two years since, we were never notified of anything related to this incident. Randy is our brother and we assure you, we are all staying very positive for him, working endlessly behind the scenes to provide any and all assistance possible. The best we can do is to stay positive and continue to support our friend that we know is innocent. We know that justice will prevail and we will continue to do our part to support our friend.
- LAMB OF GOD
Minus the Bear Interview
Jake Snider (MTB), Monty Wiradilaga, Brian Kracyla
Moe (MTTracks): All right, we are sitting back here in some alley at Bonnaroo with Jake Snider, lead singer, guitar, from Minus the Bear…
Jake Snider (Minus the Bear): Howdy. Hello there.
Moe: Thanks for being here.
Jake: You bet. Thanks for having me.
M: Hell of a performance today man.
J: Thanks man, I appreciate it.
M: How’s the vibe of Bonnaroo compare to the other festivals you’ve played?
J: It’s definitely laid back. Everything runs pretty much perfectly, so its seems like seems like everyone’s just got it down. It’s just super easy, the crowd it just awesome, one of the best crowds I think of any festival that we’ve played.
M: Why do you think it’s one of the best vibes?
J: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the location, or maybe it’s just the history of the festival, the vibe that people expect from it. You know, kind of a more free-form situation probably.
M: You played a good bit of tracks from Planet Ice…
M: I think that an album’s true test is how it translates live…
J: Yeah, that’s definitely a good record. Live is usually better, hopefully. That’s the idea at least.
M: With listening to your music, I get sort of a sense that you incorporate a bit of jamminess into it. It feels like you’re translating that live performance into your albums and vice versa. You’ve changed your writing style lately haven’t you?
J: The last record, Planet of Ice, is a little more broader sounding I think. A little bit more ambient. It’s just not a tight as the other ones. Yeah, I don’t know, there are songs that are really fun to play live. And I think that that’s what our goal was, to write a record full of songs that we really enjoy playing live…and don’t get sick of.
M: Well, before didn’t you have more regimented songs. Didn’t you cut it short because you thought it would go on too long, and with this record didn’t you change your writing process to let certain parts just flow? Let um go where they had to go…
J: Yeah, totally. We kinda just laid back on that stuff. We used to be really concise, and it is really a lot more fun live and especially to be able to explore things a little bit more.
M: So, do you like this process a little bit more than what you were doing before?
J: Yeah. It’s a lot more fun.
M: What made you go in this direction?
J: I don’t know. It just started coming out that way, I guess. We’ve been playing together for years and years and years, and a lot of the same songs. At that point in time we felt like we needed to try some new shit, you know, basically.
M: It seems to me that you live a bit vicariously through your music…
M: First of all, I’m not gonna go into your funny song titles and all… (Laughs)
J: Okay, cool.
M: I know that you’re probably sick to death of hearing about it.
J: Yeah, totally.
M: What are the main topics that you think in your head that you like to live vicariously through?
J: A lot of the songs are about sex, and a lot of those are kind of fictionalized. So, I do kind of live vicariously through some of those songs. Mostly those songs. I guess most of the songs are about sex on some kind of level, or getting wasted. But all that stuff is just another way to imagine life I suppose.
M: I’ve heard you say that after every show there’s a disco. What are some of the craziest moments you’ve had being out on the road, being on tour, whatever?
J: Well, usually Florida’s pretty brutal for us. We have had some run-ins with the law in Orlando. One of us got a little too drunk one night and ended up getting arrested.
M: Oh yeah, what happened?
J: Oh, nothing. He went to jail for the night. We got him out. And then hauled ass to the next show. He had to pay a fine, or whatever.
M: A little rowdy?
J: Yeah, just a little rowdy.
M: Did you really have a site called Friction USA?
M: What was the deal with it? Was it a Suicide Girls…
J: Yeah, it was similar to that. It started almost exactly the same time as Suicide Girls. Just did it for a couple of years. My wife, it was her idea basically.
M: And it just never materialized or what?
J: It was good, the music thing just started taking over. Once I got into the band, there was just no time.
M: Well, you’re from Seattle, how’s the Seattle scene THESE DAYS?
J: It’s always good. It’s an amazing town for music.
M: What are some of the big things going on in Seattle THESE DAYS?
J: These Worms Are Snakes is a great band. I can’t even think about it right now, I don’t know why, sorry.
M: Question, have you done any sleep walking through walls lately?
J: Nope, only when I was a kid.
M: What happened?!
J: Yeah, my parents were building a cabin, and the walls weren’t sheet-rock yet. My bedroom was right on the hallway for the stairs, so basically, you would walk through the wall and fall right down the stairs, into the bottom of the stairs…
M: Holy shit.
J: Like a full story. So I slept walked through the studs and fell.
M: What happened?
J: Got a concussion and broke my arm.
M: Jesus Christ, that’s a pretty big fall.
J: Pretty brutal, yeah.
M: You’re band has a pretty distinctive sound. A lot of it comes from Dave’s guitar taping techniques. What do you think sets your band apart from the others?
J: I don’t know. We are always trying to find parts that we find interesting and try not to right the same stuff over and over again. I don’t know, that’s a tough question. The combination of personalities, it’s pretty hard to come up with something different. I think it’s just kinda crazy.
M: You guy are definitely always evolving with changing the lineup. How’s the new cohesive unit working?
J: Better than ever.
M: So, what’s next for Minus the Bear?
J: Um, next is a summer where we’re gonna play a few shows. We just re-released our They Make Beer Commercials Like This EP on Suicide Squeeze. That’s also out on vinyl for the first time now. And we’re writing a record…
M: How’s that going?
J: Starting it off, just getting it started, you know…
M: With the new album are you evolving to a new level, or is it something with the same equation that you’re doing now?
J: I have no idea yet.
M: It just comes together.
M: Awesome. Thanks a lot for staying with us.
J: Yeah, I appreciate it man.
Death metal… Brings to mind lots of growling, with aggressive, chugging guitar riffs. The Swedish death metal band, Arch Enemy’s latest album titled Khaos Legions brings much of the aforementioned musical tendencies. The album
took off with a bang, and instrumentally it hooked me immediately. Some say that death metal needs to be minimalist, and raw to be true death metal. You won’t find raw sounding instrumentation on this album. The guitars were full and crunchy, and the drums were crisp and booming. As a matter of fact, they were some of the best guitars that I’ve heard in death metal in a long time.
But then the vocals came in, and I cringed. Not that you can really tell, but Arch Enemy is female fronted by Angela Gossow. (Then I learn that she’s a hot German blonde… Oi.) She belts out the gutteral growls all over the album, but I feel that this band would benefit from a different vocalist. I found myself listening through the vocals and concentrating on the instrumentation. It seems that the music scene has brought more and more instances of standout instrumentation or excellent vocals, but it’s few and far between where bands are able to mesh the two.
Instrumentally, the album gets a 9. Vocally, a 4.
Track of Choice: Bloodstained Cross
MIA is slowing getting tracks out for her new album, and Tracks brings you her latest… XXXO! She’s got 2 great albums to follow up on, and it sounds like she’s bound to put out another club banga! If you haven’t seen her live yet, she’s a must see. Her dancing is a bit suspect, but she puts out incredibly danceable tunes!
To be fair, Raymond v Raymond never claims to be something it’s not; it simply strives to be a top five Billboard album, which it will be. Its chalk full of cheesy ballads and sweet-sweet love-making music, but that can be fun sometimes.
Usher – Raymond v Raymond (6.9 out of 10)
There’s a difference between an entertainer and an artist. Usher is undeniably a really good performer and singer, artist not so much. To be fair, Raymond v Raymond never claims to be something it’s not; it simply strives to be a top five Billboard album, which it will be. Its chalk full of cheesy ballads and sweet-sweet love-making music, but that can be fun sometimes.
Stats: The word “baby” is used 61 times and the endearment “girl” is employed 66 times, yet the ever-dynamic “baby girl” is surprisingly utilized only once. (Yes I actually counted)
Peak: OMG is a good time
Valley: The track Lil Freak contains quite possibly the worst rap verse of all time courtesy of Nicki Minaj: “I keep a couple of hoes, like Santa I keep a vixen. I got that Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Dixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blisten.” …wow.
There is an epic battle raging throughout Head First between its 80’s-montage-electro-pop-awesomeness half and its ambient-Yanni-crappola half. Ultimately, the awesomeness prevails, but not without a price.
Goldfrapp – Head First (7.5 out of 10)
There is an epic battle raging throughout Head First between its 80’s-montage-electro-pop-awesomeness half and its ambient-Yanni-crappola half. Ultimately, the awesomeness prevails, but not without a price. Admittedly, at one point during my listening, I brought the laptop into the bathroom and played it while I showered/manscaped and I ended up dancing my buck-naked ass off. So…
No comment about the album (haven’t given it a good listen yet), but WOW to B’s questionable behavior! hahahah…