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Shadows Fall    
Shadows Fall
Since Metal Update last had a chat with Shadows Fall, a lot has changed. They've endured many tours of the US, Japan and Europe. They've landed an appearance on MTV's "You Hear it First" segment. They've acquired a new drummer. And to top it off, they've completed the follow-up to the successful 'Of One Blood'. Metal Update sat down with vocalist Brian Fair and tackled such topics as the making of their first video, alcohol abuse and Brian's busy lifestyle in the world of music.

METAL UPDATE: What is the band's view on the new album in comparison to 'Of One Blood'?

BRIAN FAIR: Basically this is a more complete record than 'Of One Blood' was - definitely. It's the first record that we had time to really experiment with some shit and do things exactly the way we wanted to. We did 2 pre-production sessions before we got into the studio to record it, which was a huge part of the song writing. And we even took time off before the studio to play the songs live and work out all the kinks and figure out the best way to present them. And a lot of it had to do with Zeus just giving us an open ended time frame and allowing us to experiment a lot without worrying about time restraints or money restraints. Basically he spent the entire budget that Century Media gave him on equipment. There's no other time I've ever heard of a producer basically spending their pay on gear to make a record sound better. We knew that it was going to sound the best that it possibly could so it was killer.

MU: I've heard some negative criticism based on the band's more rock direction. Do you think this will affect the sales of 'The Art of Balance'?

BF: Most likely not because most of the people that criticize are the kids who are on the internet that are going to pirate it and download it anyway before it is even released. Kids on message boards can say what they want. We're selfish when it comes to our music anyway and we really don't worry about criticism or how people respond to it. We basically wanted to make a record that we wanted to hear - that filled a niche and a void that we felt that there was in the metal world. If people don't like thrash metal that's fine with us. But we wanted to make a thrash metal record that we were totally comfortable with, that pretty much summed up all our influences. If people are afraid of rock and roll, then you can spend all night on your message boards talking shit. We don't give a fuck.

Shadows Fall

MU: Whose idea was the additional CD-ROM on the first pressing of the album?

BF: Century Media wanted to make the initial pressing something a little more special and give it a little value as well. We had some live videos from our friend Steve, from the band Thursday, shot at 2 different shows. We played Chrome and CBGB's on the Lamb of God, Unearth, Scissorfight, Darkest Hour tour and they were both amazing. He caught the whole thing and did some random footage besides that and it came out great so we laid it down with the studio tracks. The other video was shot by our friend Stephan from Life Force Records in Japan and we had no idea how crazy that show was until we saw that video. We knew it was a good time and seemed crazy, but watching that video, like, wow - that was nuts. That show was off the hook. People were just flying everywhere and kids were singing along. They were singing along to songs on a record that had only been in Japan for two days before the show. So you can't fuck with that.

MU: So you think the whole lo fi version was worth it on that?

BF: Oh definitely. It's got something that no produced version could have. To watch 500 Japanese kids packed into a club that should have fit 200 going crazy to 'Of One Blood'. You can't fuck with that.

MU: You guys made some daring moves on this album with a cover of Pink Floyd and a couple of instrumentals. Can fans expect to hear this material in the live setting?

BF: I would love to do a live version of the Floyd tune but we don't want to do it without pulling it off to the point where we are satisfied. It was one of those things that we were basically asked to do a tribute album to Floyd that never ended coming out. When we were going through songs, we didn't just want to make another tune heavy. Take like "Have a Cigar" and just make the riff heavy. It would have been easy. You just put some distortion on it and play it the exact same way. We're really not accomplishing anything by doing that. So we took a song that was basically synth guitar and vocals with no drums and no real defined riffs. Took the original, kept true to that vibe and basically wrote our own song around it. It came out way better than we ever expected. The only reason, right now, that we aren't playing it live is because we don't want to do it injustice. We want to have time to really work it out. I'd want to loop the samples and all that on a DAT and really perform it to its potential. Maybe if we do some headlining shows we'll bust it out but on these half hour support roles it's kind of ridiculous to even try. So, we'll see.

MU: Do you think this Pink Floyd tune could take you to another level?

BF: It has been spun by some commercial radio stations but that wasn't even the intent. It was basically, "Let's record this song for this tribute album." It came out better than we ever thought and we felt it was the perfect ending for an album that was fairly intense from beginning to end and it was a nice breather. It was a nice way to relax the end of a record. Of course I am a huge Floyd fan and people who know me, know that I listen to more ambient mellow music than I do metal music. So for me to be able to put a metal stamp on a song like that was just a huge accomplishment in itself. So, we just did it for our own sake, just the way we did everything. We're just a bunch of selfish, obnoxious bastards. We don't really give a fuck about anyone else so if does get us record sales, that's great. If it doesn't, whatever.

MU: What did you try to convey lyrically on this new album?

BF: Basically I always try to purvey a positive and realistic message. I'm not really a fantasy writer. I don't know a whole lot about these epic dragon slaying tales of bands like Blind Guardian and Hammerfall. And as much as I am a fan of that type of music, it's not something that I relate to on a personal level. I don't want to be preachy or get dogmatic on anyone, but I basically describe a lot about what I learn through philosophy and different religions that I've studied throughout the years. Basically, personal restraints and trying to describe the potential that every person has within themselves to accomplish basically anything they want. Even the title 'The Art of Balance' is basically describing how to maintain that equilibrium in your own life - how to balance what you want to do with your own freedom, in reality though, and be able to apply that to everyday goals. And to be able to step up and accomplish goals that you've set for yourself without getting bogged down by other people's expectations or the limits that the world puts on you. Each song is different though. It's really different, but there's basically a positive slant on everything that we talk about. And it's something that's missing a lot in music, especially in heavy music today. I'm not going to whine about shit that happened when I was three years old. I'm not going to complain about the state of the world. I'm just going to tell you exactly what I'm thinking.

MU: So where do you get your inspiration to write?

BF: Lyrically these songs came from sources as vast as the Chinese Buddhist teachings of Bodhi Dharma to the drunken ranting of Bukowski. I've read countless volumes of poetry and literature as well as philosophy and religion. They've all kind of formed into this weird train of thought that I've had for years. It goes back to the Overcast days and the 'Fight Ambition to Kill' era lyrics where I started to touch on subjects like that. Now that I have total freedom with Shadows Fall to talk about this, it's just always been the vibe I've had. It's basically trying to express this really dysfunctional yet peaceful inner voice I have. It's all over the place and really schizophrenic but with a center.

MU: What made the decision to part ways with the Knife?

BF: Well, it was not an easy decision. He's somebody that we became really close with and became great friends with. He really added to Shadows Fall while he was in the band - more as an individual than as a musician. He was just a part of the family and he was a part of the vibe. He could drink and party like no one you've ever fucking seen. He was a legend when it comes to that shit. I love the kid dearly and I miss him as a friend, but on the performance side, he was never a metal drummer. He was more from this free form kind of funk, jazz, rock school. He was really talented but he was never as precise and powerful as we needed in a drummer. It was a mutual decision towards the end. Things weren't working out. There were a few really disappointing performances towards the end that just led to the decision that something had to change. Unfortunately, that meant that the Knife had to just find his own thing. Since then he's really moved on and does some great shit and we've been lucky enough to find Jason Bittner who personality and performance-wise fits like no one we ever expected. It's really pushed our playing and our recording to a completey new level - not taking away from the Knife. He was a huge part of our foundation, but Jason has taken our songwriting to where it needed to go from the beginning.

MU: Between drummers, you had replaced the Knife with Derek Kerswill. How did he work out? Was he temporary from the start?

BF: Derek really, at the time, was helping us out because we had no other options. The position was offered to him at one point to join the band, but his personal life with a marriage and a decent job just really didn't coincide with our touring schedule and the fact that we are a bunch of drunken assholes. He's really the sweetest, most sober, nicest guy ever. And we would have loved to have had Derek join the band and he really helped us out at a time where we needed him. He recorded some amazing shit with us and helped us write some new tunes, but we knew and he knew that this wasn't the perfect situation for him. We weren't going to ask him to sacrifice his personal life to be in the band. His performances with us are documented on the Century Media DVD as well as the 'Deadworld' EP and he was great. He played amazing with us. Luckily, we found somebody like Jason who not only had the rock feel of someone like Derek, but also the metal chops we needed. So, it worked out perfect for everyone. Derek's band Medium is exactly where he should be anyway. So it worked out for everybody.

MU: Bittner obviously fits the mold musically, but how about personally?

BF: He's as obnoxious and as hard-headed as any of us, so, as far as musically, he has such a definite vision and doesn't compromise at all - the same way we don't. As far as in the van, he's the funniest dude I've ever met. He's cracking everyone up all the time. He can also deal with a bunch of drunken idiots. The short term brotherly fist fights are going to happen on any tour and he hasn't let that get to him. He lets it slide. He's definitely the loudest dude in the van. He is as loud and burly as anyone you've ever met and now that he has a megaphone, its pretty much reached levels of full catastrophe. I mean he is a menace. You can't underestimate the power of the Bittner.

MU: He has a megaphone now. Explain this scenario.

BF: Basically, when we were on the Kittie tour with Poison the Well and Killswitch, this band Acacia from Canada opened up for a while - amazing band as well as being completely insane cannucks who were off the hook every night - drinking from dusk till dawn. They had this megaphone that just became the tool. It became the most obnoxious yet funniest thing on the tour, and once Jay saw that, it was all over. The next Radio Shack, as soon as it was possible - boom, there was the megaphone and it was in full effect. It plays 75 songs as well as amplifying your voice to levels that were never, ever meant to be reached. Ask Sully the bull, tour manager for Hatebreed, how much he loves the megaphone. It's his favorite thing.

MU: Alright, you guys are known for your heavy beer consumption on the road. What is the band's drink of choice?

BF: Basically free beer is the drink of choice, but once you're forced to pay for beer yourself, you go to the lowest common denominator which is basically Busch. That led to many T-shirt as well as tour pass designs involving the Busch can. Basically, we're beer drinking metal dudes. We drink a little bit of liquor here and there. We'll do our share of shots, but we're beer drinkers and we'll challenge any other metal band. I don't care if you're Finnish, Swedish, or American. We will hold our own. And if you can withstand the Roulette Wheel of Death then you can hang with us, but until then don't even try and talk shit. Don't even try and front. This shit is for real. We're not talking shit. Look at Paul's gut. . . there's a lot of beers in there.

Shadows Fall

MU: Who can drink the most out of Shadows Fall?

BF: It's tough. It's a tough call. We all have our different talents basically. You were witness to one of my greatest drinking experiences ever - New Jersey Metalfest number one, Shadows Fall's first festival performance with me on vocals. We arrive very early on the first night. I show up with Scotty McCooe, our valiant host, as well as Colin who is now in The Year of Our Lord. We find out there is no alcohol being served whatsoever Friday night at the venue. This is a horrible, horrible thing. Watching Iced Earth sober is just not right. So the next day around 10 AM we plan our assault upon this building. We grab two large bottles of rum. We start drinking rum by the shot filling it into a bottle of coke - even it off as each one gets lower and lower. We roll in to play. Shadows Fall's set time: 1:30 PM. Take the stage in a drunken frenzy. Probably sing horrendously out of key and out of time, but have the time of my life. Me and Scott are holding each other up by our wit's end. We are no longer physically capable of standing. He decides to wander off in his own little metal world and I lose him for awhile. I begin to hear from random friends of mine about, "Your drunk friend. . ." and how, "You must find him, he is out of control." I completely lose sight of Scott. This is 3 PM and things are gone. I don't know where he is. I end up in the beer garden, which exists for the second night only, which we didn't know of before our rum drinking madness. Drinking my ass off to the point of just stupidness. Going down to try and watch Madball. This results in getting my ass kicked like its never been kicked before. Beaten to a bloody pulp only to learn that that little pill I split with someone was actually ecstasy and I'm going to be awake and in pain for at least six hours. There's no stopping so fuck it, let's go to the bar. I end up drinking until 3:30 AM and end up passing out in the hallway of the hotel that doesn't house my band. Little do I know that at some point in the night, Scotty McCooe is thrown into an ambulance, taken to a nearby hospital where he signed himself in of his own powers and was diagnosed with the highest blood alcohol content of anyone to walk through the doors in the hospital's history. If you've ever seen him, he's not a large man. So when he awakens from this horrible nightmare, not only does he pop out the IV that is feeding him life, spreading blood across the bed, he lights up a cigarette before he is shut down by nurses. This is not fake. This happened. So, as I stumble out bloody, bruised with black eyes from my hotel, I wander across the courtyard only to see Scotty McCooe sitting with my band for a buffet breakfast across the street. Thank god we made it home.

MU: So is that the most classic drunken story of Shadows Fall.

BF: That's my most classic drunken story ever.

MU: (laughter) And it had to involve me.

BF: Of course.

MU: Now which bands besides yourselves can party the hardest?

BF: There's a few that are pretty good. Lamb of God can't fuck around. Randy, that dude can drink. We basically had a running drinking contest where both of us had to pound beers until both of us fell asleep and it didn't end. The only band that I've never been able to even touch is Nevermore. You can't fuck with Warrel Dane. You can't fuck with Warrel Dane. In Flames, pretty good. Babylon Whores from Finland, pretty good. Nevermore, untouchable.

MU: So I guess that takes the cake. Nevermore. You're former band Overcast played this past year at the New England Metal and Hardcore festival. What are your thoughts on that?

BF: That was basically the best the band had ever played and best crowd we ever played in front of combined into one and it was four years after we broke up. It was a great time. It was four years in the making and I'm glad it happened because we basically ended on a fizzle. There was no big blow up. . . There was no big controversy. Eight years, it was time to call it quits. We had taken it as far as we could go. But we never really had the final local show that really ended the whole thing. We had been asked for years. Basically what slowed us down was Mike being in Killswitch, me being in Shadows Fall and Pete having a kid, getting married. So all those things slowed us down. But we practiced a bunch. We played amazingly and the crowd just blew us the fuck away. It was probably one of the greatest experiences I've had on the stage to this day.

MU: Are the members of Shadows Fall involved in any side projects?

BF: Yeah, we all try and keep ourselves slightly busy, but it's very hard to keep on top of shit because of the touring schedule we do. John and Paul have their glam metal band that is probably one of the best bands to come out of Massachusetts in years which is Whiskey Whore. They are pretty much unstoppable. If you've ever heard John sing you would realize that Sebastian Bach has died and formed into his soul. It's unstoppable. Matt has all kinds of his acoustic college rock projects. He changes the name of it all the time, so I don't even know. I play drums in a band with Scott from Overcast called Transient. It's more of like a spacerock Spacemen 3 / Spiritualized meets too much herb type of thing. It's a lot of fun. It's one of those bands that has been together for four years and only six people have ever heard. Besides that, Jason has a prog metal band called Of Old with Kevin from Withstand and a couple of other dudes that we are friends with, who are really on that kind of Fates Warning type of really classical progressive metal tip. It's basically something to do when we're all home to break up the monotony. Also, we're all musicians. When we have free time, we play music. That's just something that comes with being a musician. You're not going to sit at home doing nothing. You're going to find a way to express yourself and make some noise.

MU: Tell me about Bullpen promotions. What is your role in this business?

BF: Basically it was a business started by me and my partner, Tara Buzzell, who used to run the publicity department in radio for Nuclear Blast America. She worked for a variety of labels before that as well. She worked everywhere from Tommy Boy to AIM Marketing before it became the Syndicate and just always was involved in the promotion of bands. Once Nuclear Blast America was kinda put aside by the German office, she was trying to figure out what she should do. I suggested the idea of starting our own promotions company where we could only work with bands that we were fans of and wanted to help support as well as labels that we were close with. To start off with, the first record we worked was Iced Earth. It was a great record to be involved with. From there it basically escalated to the point where we were working for labels like Nuclear Blast, Century Media, Candlelight, Peaceville, Koch, Now or Never, Eulogy, so many different ones. And it was great to be involved with a bunch of labels that we were fans of as well as bands that we were fans of. We do radio and press promotion. Basically, when I'm on tour the press promotion side of it kind of dies down because I don't want to take on things that I can't handle when I'm on the road and I want to be able to commit 100%. But the radio department is always running. We're constantly expanding. We're pulling in interns all the time and trying to expand as much as possible. You can check out the website to see what bands and labels we are working with.

Shadows Fall

MU: You manage a band called Medium?

BF: Medium is an amazing rock band from Boston. It features Pete, who used to be in Overcast on guitar, Derek who filled in for Shadows Fall for awhile on drums, an amazing singer named Dean and a bass player Kevin. They are just an incredible mix of Kyuss meets Only Living Witness filtered through years of just rock and metal - kind of a Queens of the Stone Age vibe in that they don't limit themselves to one style. They'll step outside of stoner rock, step outside of grunge rock, step outside of metal and just do whatever they want. They are just a great band that hopefully will get off their ass and tour a little bit - quit their day jobs and become huge rock stars, just like Chris Jericho.

MU: Do you have any plans to manage anyone else in the future?

BF: Not right now. We're friends and fans of Medium and they are at a level where we can do something to help them within their own goals. We can't really focus on a band full time enough to break them on a huge national level whereas Medium is willing to stay a local band until things start to happen. So it is something that is a way to give back to a band I'm a huge fan of without getting too deep into something that I can't control.

MU: OK. Now how did the "You Hear It First" segment on MTV come about?

BF: Basically Ian Robinson of MTV2 and MTV News is a fan of the band. He surprised us by starting to wear our shirt on air and just that alone probably generated more publicity than we've done in like six death metal tours. Just some dude wearing your shirt on MTV is better than playing in 100 cities. He was just into the band. He heard about us from being involved in the underground. He's somebody who's been involved in New York and New England metal and hardcore for years. He approached us with the idea of filming an interview and shooting a live show at South by Southwest because he was there to film the festival to begin with. He had no idea if they were going to run it. He knew it was going to be a challenge to push a band on an indie label that didn't have a whole lot of pull. They filmed it, shot it and MTV was totally into it and decided to push it. And they not only played it right after the festival but they ran the episode before the record release just to push the release of 'The Art of Balance' which to us, we can't thank Ian enough. He's done nothing but try to help this band and other bands. He's given spots to bands like the Haunted, Candiria and Scissorfight. You can't question someone's integrity and their willingness to help out bands when they have a little bit of opportunity. When they do things like that it's just amazing. He's the only VJ I've seen in MTV history that is willing to stand behind bands that he's fans of. We really appreciate what he did and hopefully it turned on some new people to a style of metal that most people thought disappeared. So we really thank him for what he did for us.

MU: He definitely has a lot of power as a VJ and hopefully he'll bring the underground metal back to the forefront where it was.

BF: He is definitely doing his best. Speaking to him as a friend, he is willing to put his full reputation on the line to try and support a band that he is behind. And, like I said, you'll never see another VJ wearing a shirt of a band that isn't already either huge or that their fans of. He's the only one that is willing to do that and people got to give him respect for that.

MU: Now you shot a video this summer for which song?

BF: "Thoughts Without Words" - it was our first video ever and I gotta tell you we were very wary of it. It was something that we almost cancelled right up until about a week before it happened. We really didn't feel like at the time we were ready to shoot a video because we didn't know what it entailed. We didn't want to do some ridiculous concept video that was totally overproduced and overblown. We didn't want some story line that was completely random. We didn't want somebody filming it that wasn't on the same level as the band so we thought it was being rushed. We were kind of wary about it. Basically, I got a phone call from the producer Darren, the director, who was so into the song, so into the band and had such great ideas. He said, "All I want to do is to portray the energy and the emotion that I hear in this band and from what I've seen live onto video. I don't want any sort of weird camera tricks. . . I don't even care if we block the shots to not exclude any background scenery. It's gonna be you guys rocking out." I liked what he was saying and what clinched for us was when was like, "Have you ever seen 'Live After Death' - the home video?" and I was like, "Well, you know, of course I've seen 'Live After Death'. I'm a huge fan of Iron Maiden." He's like, "The dude in the Eddie mask standing on the seat - that's my brother. And I'm the 9 year old dude standing next to him on the chair." Oh yeah! This will work out just fine. We plugged in. Basically, we got there and there was an empty sound stage. There were no props. There was no nothing. There were no lights. There was no bullshit. We set up our gear. He was just like, "Do what you gotta do. I'm gonna run around and film you guys." He had a handheld camera and a dolly and he was rocking out so hard that he totally pushed us and inspired us and it was a great experience. It ended up being the most fun we've ever had doing something outside of a live show. It was a blast. Now, we really look forward to doing videos again. It was that cool of an experience.

MU: What will the video be like?

BF: Basically it's like 5 dudes in a room rocking out. There's no concept. There's no story line. It's just Marshall stacks, a drum kit and the five of us in a room. You can see the table with the beers and the exit sign and the back door. Nothing is edited out. There are piles of trash. Fucking pizza boxes everywhere. It wasn't slick in any way so you'll be seeing it on TRL very soon I'm sure.

MU: So will it definitely be on MTV or MTV2?

BF: I doubt it. I don't know. We have no idea. Hopefully it will be on MTV2 on that extreme rock show. They seem to be playing Soilwork, In Flames and Meshuggah, so, hopefully, we can get an American band to sneak by. All the Swedes seem to have taken over the video spots.

MU: Do you think you have what it takes to be a mainstream act?

BF: I don't think our music is really accessible to the mainstream yet. I don't know if it ever will be. If the mainstream comes around to us that would be great. We would be willing to accept that. But our music is still on a level that challenges the average pop music listener to the point that they are gonna lose it a little bit. I'm not saying that we are over people's heads or cerebral. I'm just talking - we don't follow a chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, normal ABA formula. And as big as metal music is getting, it's not on the level of a platinum selling artist yet. Some of the bands that have broken through the mainstream still have those hooks or still have that gimmick or still have that production value that pushed them into that pop music genre whereas I always think that we'll be a metal band. If anything, we're gonna follow that Iron Maiden formula of putting out quality records, touring your ass off and building up a loyal fanbase that is there forever, without having that mainstream hit or video exposure - basically, building up your following on your own terms.

MU: What have you been listening to collectively as a band?

BF: Lately in the van it has been a rock fest. The tour we just finished with Hatebreed and Six Feet Under, we were listening to classic rock. Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult. Me and Matt were listening to the new Mark Knoppler a lot, the guitar player for Dire Straits. We're all about that. Personally, I have not taken out the new Porcupine Tree since I got it. It is the only record that I have been listening to consistently. Besides that, as a band, we all agree on classic rock - old Aerosmith, Kiss, Led Zeppelin or thrash. Bay Area thrash. Anthrax, Testament, Forbidden, old Metallica, all that. We're gonna always listen to that mid 80's / late 80's thrash as a whole, but, personally, like I said Porcupine Tree, Sundays, just really mellow rock is what I've been into these days. But for new records, this year I'd have to give props to Glassjaw, Down, Killswitch Engage for dropping some of the best records this year. As far as new music goes, those are all amazing records everyone should check out as well as the last Poison the Well. All great records.

MU: What are some future plans for Shadows Fall?

BF: Future plans - we basically plan on supporting and touring 'The Art of Balance' til people make us stop. We have a tour with Mushroomhead coming up next. Then we do some dates with Killswitch Engage and head to Japan with In Flames in December. Basic plans are staying on the road as much as possible. The only thing that is going to slow us down is it looks like our drummer Jason is going to have a wrist surgery some time in January and we may have to take a month or 2 off. But besides that, we plan on hitting the road hard, pushing 'The Art of Balance', trying to get in front of as many people as we can and just let people know that American metal is alive and as well as ever.


Shadows Fall interview with Matt Bachand

review of Shadows Fall 'The Art Of Balance'

review of Shadows Fall live

review of Shadows Fall 'Of One Blood'






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