Some interviews are like pulling teeth but this one with Mike Tiner, bassist with All Shall Perish (ASP) was golden; he’s easy to talk to, articulate and a bloody good laugh. Right now he’s at home in California, taking it (relatively) easy. So Mike, you’re relaxing , eh? “I don’t know if I’d call it relaxing but it’s an attempt to relax...”
Towards the end of November ASP will be hitting the road once again to tour Australia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. Surely you’re taking it easy before then, or do you have trouble switching from the hectic tour to the laid back holiday? “It’s a little weird sometimes, constantly switching back and forth between touring and just being at home because when you’re on tour it’s just ‘go, go, go’ the whole time – you’re either driving the van or playing a show and there’s no time for sleep but then when you’re at home, it’s exactly the opposite – there’s literally nothing to do for the most part, except maybe clean up the mess that you left at home before you went on tour but then you just sit there for a month waiting for the next one.”
He sums up touring thus: “Get off the plane, get in the car, get out, set up your stuff, play and then get the hell out.” But what about taking a break between the Australia/Asia tour – you guys are heading to Europe in the New Year? He concedes; “For a little while we’ll be taking a break, from the 13th of December until February, when we go to Europe with Caliban.” He laments the difficulty in adjusting to the different pace of life that being ‘off tour’ demands but does admit it gives everyone in the band (currently every member has a wife or girlfriend) some time to devote to their relationships. So you don’t bring the spouses on tour? “Not typically but sometimes they do come out; they come out for a day or two, or sometimes even a couple of weeks. We don’t have the ‘no girlfriends on tour’ rule – unless of course they get in a fist fight with somebody and then they can’t come...but that hasn’t happened yet.”. It’s only a matter of time, Mike, it’s only a matter of time...
How was the gig last week with Exodus, Origin & Decrepit Birth? His enthusiasm pours down the phone: “That was great show. When we heard about that show, it was really, really exciting for us because we love Origin and we love Decrepit Birth; and Exodus - they’re just a legendary band - and we’re from that area too so we just love Bay Area bands. When we played that show, everybody had a good reaction. It was a surprise – usually Hollywood is not so into anybody but the closer. Everything there for the most part is just plastic.”
ASP have been touring on their 2011 release This Is Where It Ends for quite a few months; how is the material going down live?“It’s been very well received so far; it’s been much better than the last few albums that we did but then every album gets better so probably the next album will out-do this one. Everybody knows the songs when they come to the shows, even if we just put it out on Youtube or Facebook or something like that, so the crowd knows all the lyrics and they all sing together. It’s pretty crazy” . We get into a discussion about the newer stuff being more difficult to play live (as opposed to tracks from The Price Of Existence or Awaken The Dreamers) – is it more technically challenging? “Some of it is and some of it isn’t. We don’t try to make it harder to play, we write what we like and sometimes it comes out a lot harder. On this album there are some things that are some of the hardest things we’ve ever had to play; just speed wise and endurance – just keeping the wrist moving that long – that’s been a challenge on some of the songs but there are some other songs on the album that some of the easiest songs we’ve ever had to play. It just depends on what kind of a song we’re trying to write.”
This Is Where It Ends was produced by Zach Ohren (his work includes Decrepit Birth, Odious Mortem and Light This City); you guys have recorded all your albums with him so he's obviously good value? “He was great. He knows absolutely every single one of our personalities, he knows how to get good takes out of us, he knows how to get everything that he needs – it’s getting weird! It’s almost to the point where it’s telepathic – he already knows what we’re thinking before we even talk to him! So it goes extremely fast now – we did that album in about a week and a half.” What?! To record the whole thing? “Yep. It took no time – pretty soon we’re gonna start working in negative time and I’m not even sure how that’ll work!”
You’ll have the next album finished last week, before you even start. It’s all a bit Dr Who but in music terms. Oh! How we laughed. I mention the recent interview I did with new drummer Adam Pierce. How have Adam and guitarist Francesco Artusato slotted into the band? “The shoes were a little tight that they squeezed into; we thought it may be a problem because Chris (Storey, ex-guitarist) could play so fast and the same thing with Matt (Kuykendall, ex-drummer) but these two guys are way more dynamic than Matt or Chris ever were. I’m not saying anything bad about them (Chris & Matt) but these guys are a much better fit for the band and they both bring a couple of new aspects that we never really had before. Matt was really good at playing fast but when it came down to some of the groovier parts and slower stuff, he couldn’t really pull it off on a couple of parts or a couple of songs that we were trying to write at the time, but now with Adam, I haven’t found anything that Adam can’t do yet. What I’m trying to say is if I was a woman, I’d love to be his girlfriend.” You heard it here first...
He continues; “Francesco can pretty much write anything. We never really had a system with Chris where we’d say ‘put a solo here and just go for it’; we’d have to give a lot of suggestions and feedback back and forth and it would take just a ridiculous amount of time just to finally get a solo out – the solo would come out great, just like it is on the albums – but it would take a bit of time and there was a lot of miscommunication. But when we did it with Francesco it’s literally I send him a track and from one minute fifty seven seconds to two minutes fifteen seconds we need a solo there; half an hour later he sends back the solo and it’s perfect. No suggestions, no anything – it’s literally exactly what I wanted and that’s all I’ve said ‘from this time to this time, put something in there’, and it’s worked out amazingly.” You can tell Mike’s very impressed with the newest members and what they’ve brought to the writing/recording process. “It all gets done so fast. On Awaken The Dreamers we spent like six, seven months writing that album; this one we spent like three or four months, and this album’s way better in my opinion.” he says.
So how does the writing process usually work? “There’s a lot of different ways to write; one of the main ways we wrote on this one, surprisingly, we used Guitar Rig Pro 5; you basically write out a bunch of guitar tablature and you write out the riffs the way that you want - we hear them in our head and then we write them out - and then we just start trading files back and forth and they became songs – some of the songs became songs without us even playing them, until we actually started recording them.” Ah! The evolution of technology. Moons ago, when I played in bands, if you wanted to record, everyone got together in a room and miked up the instruments but now it’s all file sharing and the like. Mike loves the advance in technology: “It’s so much easier now to get things done quickly if you know how to use those programs. It makes it ridiculously easy and it makes it so it’s not necessary that everybody lives right next to each other. Before, in the eighties, even the nineties, if you didn’t have all the band members living in the same basic area where you guys could all meet up and have band practice and all that kind of thing, then your band would probably not ever make anything just because it was too impossible to send stuff back and forth; it’s just a tiny little file attached to an email and there it is.”
I bring up Blotted Science’s latest offering; this was recorded in a similar fashion with none of the musicians ever actually meeting in the same room. “That’s pretty much how this album was done too. We wrote a lot of riffs on the road and traded the stuff back and forth but we didn’t even need to do that, we could have just been at home. And for a while, when we were finalising stuff, we were at home – we never really even saw each other. And for the recording process we re-amped the guitars where we recorded all the guitar parts at home, sent them to Zach and he put them through an amp and recorded them for the final thing. So Francesco never even had to come up from LA - he did come up just because he wanted to be a part of it and he’d never really been a part of that kind of thing before - but he didn’t have to. We could do the next thing without even seeing each other – I could live somewhere in Mongolia next time and it’d be fine.”
So the band’s been going for over eight years now. What next? “Where it’s going next, no-one has any idea – it’s pretty much anybody’s guess, you know? We try not to get locked into any one sound; we have brutal stuff, we have melodic stuff but for the most part it just goes everywhere – we have a black metal song on the new album and we’ve never done that before but we all love black metal so we put out a black metal song. The next time you never know, it could be Crosby, Stills and Nash, you never know...I have no idea what’s coming out next.”
I highly doubt that Crosby, Stills and Nash will have anything to do with ASP’s next album. Mike almost promises that but you never know; that’s what he loves about the band; “There could be something that sounds like Dillinger Escape Plan on the next album, if that’s what we feel like putting out – it’s good to keep people guessing. You have to stay relevant; if you don’t then you’re gonna get forgotten.” We explore the whole idea of genres for a while before I ask him to describe ASP. His answer is glorious: “Just metal (you hear that, youngtards?! Metal! It’s all fucking metal! - Al). There is no other word to describe it. You can’t really put a word on it; we’re not death-core because even though we have some of those elements in our music, it’s not all we do. You can’t call us black metal because we only have a couple of songs [in that style]. You can’t call us early death metal like Suffocation because we don’t sound like that completely. The only word you can use to describe it is to completely get rid of all that bullshit and call it metal. Those names are just manufactured to make it so ‘you have a new sound’ but come on! You’re still two guitarists, a bass, drums and a guy yelling so you’re metal. That’s how it is. You might have some electronic stuff over the top, you may even have a third guitar player, you might have two singers – you might have three singers – but come on now, you’re still metal.” Mike loves Adam. I love Mike.
The music video for Royalty In Exile ; where was that filmed? “That was filmed at the DNA Lounge, San Francisco. We just wanted to get a bunch of fans down for one show so we put on a free show on a Thursday and had our friend from New Jersey, Tommy Jones, come out and film it for us.”
I swear I saw a dude in a penguin suit? WTF – I thought I was having a flashback?! “That was our friend, a guitarist from a local band called Falluja – you might recognise him from one of the studio updates that we did (on Youtube) when we were talking about how we recorded the bass – it’s pretty funny, he runs through the side of a shed. He busts through the wall. It’s on the ASP studio updates; number three. It’s pretty funny, he’s just sitting in the corner and then randomly runs through a wall in the penguin suit – he called himself Pinguino Barracho which is Spanish for ‘drunk penguin’. We like to have fun and break things around here.”
That’s just crazy shit, man...
ASP is playing on the Hell & Heaven MetalFest 2011 bill, a fucking HUGE festival in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Megadeth are headlining and Overkill and Fear Factory (plus a gazillion other bands) will be getting raunchy on tequila and tacos. Are you looking forward to that? Mike actually sounds a little in awe of the festival: “We actually saw a picture of the one last year and even the festivals in Europe are not even close to it; there are tens of thousands of people there, I can’t even put an estimate on the number, [the photo] is a really wide frame shot from the stage and there’s no more standing room; it’s just wall to wall people.”
So you’ve played with some pretty big names, do you ever get star-struck? “I myself have never really gotten star-struck by anybody. You see the occasional band that you idolise - for me that was Suffocation – I’ve met all the dudes from Suffocation and they’re just regularly dudes – they all sit down to poo, nothing new there...you cut ‘em, they bleed. They’re into just being people for the most part. That being said, there are bands that, even though you like their music, you meet them and they’re just awful people and you start to hate their music too. And as much as I’d love to name off a few of them, I probably shouldn’t...” You can tell he wants to elaborate but he’s a noble man and his lips are sealed...“I’d love to rattle off a few names and as much as I like outing people, I’d probably get in trouble for throwing bombs. The same thing works in the opposite way too; you meet a band with people you really like but you don’t necessarily like their music – you actually start to like their music too. That one’s really weird; running into that kind of thing is kind of strange. So usually if we go on tour with a band and I like that band, I typically don’t want to meet them; just because I don’t want to take that chance of them ruining the band for me!” Just in case they’re dicks...
This Is Where It Ends made a sizable dent in the US Billboard charts, how was that for you? “That was pretty new for us. It was kind of odd for us to hear that it got all the way up to number fifty but then hearing what it took to make number fifty back when CDs weren’t being downloaded so much, it took quite a bit more – like Meshuggah; they had to sell eleven and a half thousand in the first week but they only made it to number fifty three so now for us at eighty five hundred [sales] or whatever it was, that got us to number fifty. That just shows you that CDs are not gonna last too long - if you’re doing this for money, you missed that day in class because this is not for millionaires; the heyday of the millionaire rock-star on tour wearing feather boas and zebra print pants...that’s just not happening any more.”
He laughs when I point out that it’s been approximately 3 years between each of the releases – can we expect a new album in 2014? “That all depends; we’ve already been writing new stuff – even when we were recording - we were writing new stuff so we may have something that we like far before then or we may have something that we like further down the road; maybe in seven years time. It all depends on when we have something that we’re ready to show the world that we actually like. We write a lot of stuff but a lot of it is ‘Meh’. The whole band has to like it for it to be something that actually comes out.”
So you’ve been to Australia before but what would you really like to see this time around? “I’m expecting to see what I want this time – I’ve seen those signs on the side of the road that say ‘koalas crossing’ ; well, I really actually want to see that. Yeah, I really want to see a koala running across the road – that, I’d love to see, or a kangaroo or something like that. The other thing I’d love to find a place that actually sells Fosters beer because here they market it like everyone [in Australia] is drinking it, like it’s the only thing that Australians drink, but I couldn’t find it!”
Sorry Mike, no-one drinks that filth. He understands why: “Oh, it’s bad. It’s fucking treacherous! But we could not find it for the life of us. We now know that Coopers is much more popular – Coopers is great; I love that stuff. But if you pay attention to commercials over here, you’ll run into some really weird things. I’d love to see Fosters actually make an appearance when we’re there.”. Demand some in your rider, Mike, and I’ll put the word out there to Aussie fans – BRING MIKE SOME FOSTERS!
We’ve been chatting for a solid 25 minutes and I have to go and transcribe this enormous interview so I say my goodbyes and set to work. Mike; a down-to-earth, lovely, lovely fella, touring Australia with All Shall Perish. Tour starts 27th November. Don’t forget the Fosters.