Shadows Fall 2004

Another find from the archives is Dan's interview with Brian Fair.

9/19/200411 min read

Conducted 9/18/2004 by Dan Barkasi

On September 18th, I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to Brian Fair, lead singer of Shadows Fall. We had a great conversation about their new album The War Within and talked about a variety of topics ranging from videos to practical jokes and the Boston Red Sox (who are now the World Series Champions). Enjoy!

Dan: The War Within comes out on the 21st and my early impressions are that this is the best work you guys have done. How have the initial reactions to the album been?

Brian Fair (Shadows Fall): So far it’s been pretty positive. Revolver gave it a great review, and MTV 2 has really been behind the record. It just seems to getting a great response. We recorded a very selfish record, though. It’s funny. We just did a bunch of stuff we wanted to do. We didn’t let the label hear it until it was done. Our management just kind of did their own thing. That’s probably why we’re so psyched that this is such a good response, because it’s exactly what we wanted to do.

Dan: How did the recording process go for album?

Brian: It was different for us this time. We took a bunch of time off the road to write, record, and demo everything. We weren’t playing shows at all. We weren’t traveling at all. And I think that lead to a much more cohesive record. Like I said, we demoed everything. So by the time we got to the studio, everything was written. We didn’t have any re-writing to do. No going backwards. Once we hit the studio, it was really quick and smooth. Painless!

Dan: Your video for “The Power of I and I” is premiering on Headbanger’s Ball tonight, and it looked like a pretty fun video to make. How did the process of making the video go?

Brian: Oh it was a blast! We just try and figure out a way to use our recording budget to throw a party usually, for our videos and stuff. We did it with “Destroyer of Senses.” This was a little different, because we had cameos from our friends in other bands and we filmed it next to where Ozzfest was doing their rehearsal day, so we brought over the guys from Lamb of God, God Forbid, Hatebreed, Atreyu, Every Time I Die. Everyone was there. Darkest Hour. Everyone. So it was a good time, man. It was just like a big old barbeque!

Dan: The War Within comes off as a very diverse and aggressive album to me. Is there any kind of message that you guys are trying to get through with it?

Brian: Musically, we just wanted to write some kick-ass heavy metal tunes. Kind of focus on some of the more dynamics and a little bit of the melody, but without losing any kind of the technical, heavy side of it either. Some songs are full on rock tunes; some songs are total brutality from end to end. It’s a nice mix, and that’s what we’ve always been about.

Dan: Do you guys have a specific process that you go by when you’re writing material?

Brian: The general process is that Matt and John will have a bunch of riffs and throw them onto a 4 track, like a crappy little digital recorder, get those ideas out to the rest of us, and then we’ll work on it. But, you never know. Some songs get banged out in a few hours; others are re-written and worked on for months. So, it’s a pretty up and down process.

Dan: Following up The Art of Balance, which was a great album; was it tough to do?

Brian: We were more worried about if we were going to have enough songs. We came off the road and were like, “shit! we gotta write a whole record!” We have a lot of confidence as songwriters and after touring a couple of years on The Art of Balance, we were just so excited to write new material and just try some new ideas. We weren’t worried about topping it. We knew the production value was going to be better just because now a little bit more money in with Zuess’ studio, stepped to another level and all that stuff, so we knew that was gonna be no problem. We don’t worry about record sales or any of that shit. We’ve already kind of surprised everyone by doing our own thing anyway and having the success we’ve had that we weren’t worried about what people were expecting. We’ve been told to not do what we’re doing for years if we wanted to make money, you know? So we never really worry about that shit and just kind of do our own thing.

Dan: Is there any specific meaning to the cover of the new album?

Brian: It was cool, because normally…it seems like every record these days; every record is just a photoshopped collage of spooky looking shit. Me and Tom wanted to something really different with an actual piece of art that existed. So we took this old box that he found at some antiques store in Atlanta, and put it with images of life, death, war, peace, everything. Just a mix of good and bad, and the centerpiece is like this everyman picture that we scrapped the face off of, and then sent the whole sculpture to our friend Justin who shot all the photos of it and all the close-ups. So it’s cool because that thing exists, so I know where our artwork is. It’s at Tom’s house! And it’s not just some abstract, photoshopped idea. It was just kind of to show that the idea of The War Within is the two sides of yourself just trying to come to some sort of peace, so that’s why the person in the middle represents that, and everything around it is surrounded by the good and evil.

Dan: Are you guys excited to get the touring for the new album started?

Brian: Oh, definitely! We’re on the third show of this tour. Every show the last couple nights have been awesome. The tours we did in the summer were great. We’re just so happy to get back on the road. We’ll be out for the rest of the year.

Dan: Are you guys excited to be touring with The Haunted and Damageplan?

Brian: It’s gonna be great man! The new Haunted record is amazing. Vinnie and Dime are people we’ve looked up to for years, so it’s going to be a blast!

Dan: About how long did it take to write the new album?

Brian: We wrote and recorded everything from January to April or so. So everything was written before we got in the studio in April. So yeah, a couple of months. Like I said, we re-worked everything beforehand. So when we got to the studio, the ten songs were finished.

Dan: Your band has been one of the brightest rising stars of the metal world. Have you exceeded your expectations?

Brian: Definitely, definitely. We just started off having fun and we’ve been doing this for years. We were all in bands before this as well; just playing in hardcore and metal bands forever. That’s how we all met. And we just kind of figured we’d just be doing this forever and just having a good time, but we didn’t expect things to kind of take off the way they did. So we were pretty psyched. Yeah, we hoped they would, but you don’t really expect it. And now we’re just working harder to see how far we can take it.

Dan: What do you think has been the most gratifying part of your career thus far?

Brian: Just getting to travel. Seeing the world. Going to Japan, Europe and all around the country. Meeting new people and having someone else pick up the tab! That’s probably been the highlight of it; just getting to tour and cruise around.

Dan: Is there any kind of music that you’re into that you think your fans would be surprised about?

Brian: I think everything I listen to, people would be surprised! I don’t listen to much newer metal these days. There’s a few bands I’m a fan of, a couple new records that have come out that I dig. But in general, I just listen to really mellow stuff. I kind of keep it really diverse too. I listen to all types of music to try and find new ides to bring to Shadows Fall; even if they’re not apparent. If you keep dipping from the well of the classic metal world, you just get really repetitive, get stuck in a cliché and start ripping off a lot of people. I’d rather bring in influences from everything from The Smiths and Joy Division, to like Reggae and Jazz, and everything in between.

Dan: That’s good to have a lot of influences. It definitely shows.

Brian: Yeah! Musically, even just within the metal world, we listen to such different stuff together. It’s all over the place.

Dan: You guys played a show with Judas Priest at Mohegan Sun on August 29th. What was it like to share the stage with them?

Brian: It was awesome, man! They were super nice to us. They called us to do the show at the last minute. We were totally stoked. The show was awesome. It was sold out. It was definitely an old school metal crowd, too. Probably a lot of people that didn’t go see them on Ozzfest because they just want to see Judas Priest and they didn’t care about anything else. We got a great response from those fans, which was cool, and the guys in the band were totally super cool with us. They got us all drunk and gave us food! It was a good time, man.

Dan: What is your set list going to be like for this tour?

Brian: It’s a little bit from The Art of Balance, a couple songs from Of One Blood, and three new songs from The War Within. We were going to play a few more but figured we might as well let the record come out first. If it were up to us we’d probably be playing like six new songs and two old songs! laughs

Dan: It must be fun to get to go out and play the new songs.

Brian: Totally, man! Just after touring on the same tunes. Some of the songs we’ve been playing for years and years.

Dan: What do you like to do to kill time while on tour?

Brian: Hang out, walk around the city a little bit. Maybe do a little skateboarding. Play some video games, watch some DVDs. There’s a lot of downtime when you’re on the road.

Dan: Right here we just had a flood, so you could probably go swimming on the main road!

Brian: laughs Yeah!

Dan: In what ways do you think the band has progressed from The Art of Balance to new record?

Brian: I just think we had a little more confidence as songwriters. We’re willing to take the chances that other bands may not. We’re lucky that we kind of get to do whatever we want to do and bring in all kinds of crazy influences. I just think it’s a more well rounded record. The songs are better; the production’s better. We still love the last record, but you always want to step it up each time.

Dan: Metal has really been growing here in the states recently. Do you think there is a ceiling for that?

Brian: I don’t think there is. It’s still a fairly brutal and extreme music. It’s also demanding of the listener; there’s a lot of intricacy and a lot of dynamics to it. I don’t think it’ll ever cross over to a pop realm. But, I think you could get it big enough where bands are living off of it and able to travel, and kind of keep it going because people are definitely responding to this type of music right now.

Dan: What was it like working with Zeuss from Hatebreed again on the production of the album?

Brian: We’ve worked with him every time we’ve recorded, so he’s one of our best friends. He’s like a sixth member, so it was great.

Dan: Were there any specific goals that the band wanted to accomplish with this album?

Brian: Just to fill the void we see in the metal world. There’s a lot of great bands that put out new records that have all filled in their little niches. Whether it’s the brutality of Lamb of God or the super catchiness of the new Killswitch. We wanted to do what we do best, and that’s kind of a more traditional sound. A lot of guitar solos. A lot of things like that. To fill that void, and I think we did.

Dan: Do you guys like to play a lot of practical jokes on each other?

Brian: Ah, we’re a fucking bunch of assholes! laughs I mean, it’s stupid mustache day for Christ’s sake!

Dan: laughs Any other good examples?

Brian: We usually fuck with the bands on tour more than each other to tell you the truth. With Himsa, on the last night of the Strhess tour, we bought this goo goblin granny blowup doll; the most disgusting thing you’ve ever seen. We put some Shadows Fall hot pants on her and some random giant bra we found, and cut in their set, like right in the middle of their big dramatic samples; we just cut it and took over the PA and started playing “Hey Ladies” by The Beastie Boys and gave Pettibone a lap dance from the goo goblin granny! laughs It’s all about having fun, man. I remember too; Avenged Sevenfold, who take their live set very seriously. On the Take Action tour, us and Poison the Well did this thing. Right there on one of their intros, cut the PA, started playing “Lets Get Physical,” and our roadies and couple guys from Poison the Well ran out in short shorts with afro wigs and started doing jumping jacks and aerobics on stage. They didn’t look too happy about it!

Dan: Do you have a favorite song to play live?

Brian: Right now, I like playing “Act of Contrition” off the new record. “Thoughts Without Words,” is always fun because it’s a really crowd orientated song. But, you never know.

Dan: Who do you think the craziest member of the band is?

Brian: It depends on what type of crazy! laughs Jason is probably the most straight up crazy dude in the band, but John is probably the craziest drunk in the band. We’re all different types of crazy! laughs

Dan: You following the Celtics much right now?

Brian: Yeah, yeah. Watching Danny Ainge slowly trying to destroy the team that I love.

Dan: What you think about Payton?

Brian: Yeah, I don’t think Payton will be playing for the Celtics. I hope he retires to tell you the truth, because I’m a Gary Payton hater and I’d have to support him if he was in Celtics green. I’m psyched about Doc Rivers coming in to coach. I’m psyched about some of the young talent like Mark Blount. Obviously Paul Pierce is one of the single best one-on-one men that there is. But I don’t know if they can build a team around it and we’ll see what happens. Right now I’m focusing on the Red Sox who are playing the Yankees right now. They won yesterday in the ninth. That’s probably what all those messages that just came in were probably updates. A few of my friends are at Yankee Stadium today.

Dan: I hate the Yankees, but I love the Sox.

Brian: I fucking hate the Yankees. Jason’s a Yankee fan so we were having battles on stage last night. He’s all like, “2-1, top of the ninth!” While we were playing. I walked in right after the show and watched them go up 3-2. He’s still loading his drums and I’m like, “I think your boy Rivera blew it!”

Dan: Meanwhile, my number one is the Cubs. I’m a big Cub fan.

Brian: Ahh, so you like two cursed teams! That’s rough!

Dan: I want to see both of them in the World Series.

Brian: It should have happened last year man. Between Bartman and fucking not pulling Pedro in game seven. Terrible.

Dan: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Brian: Just The War Within, coming out September 21. Go pick that shit up. We’re gonna be on tour all year, so go check out for tour dates and whatnot.

Dan: Okay, thanks a lot Brian!

Brian: You’re welcome!