Boston’s Shadows Fall continue to blaze a trail of hardcore inspired metal chaos all over the world, leaving little else but charred ashes in their wake. After 7 albums, the 5-piece is still pushing the boundaries of modern metal music and inspiring any number of promising young fans to learn how to shred. Seriously. The proof can be seen by members’ often-flooded lesson schedules while on the road.
And we’re not talking about some overnight success story here… These guys earned every ounce of their success and deserve all due praise for their hard work in the metal circuit. Especially now, as we continue to see many new acts bastardize the medium with uber-glossy finishes and a visual presence that could make a blind person puke.
Currently touring in support of their 2012 release on Razor and Tie, Fire From The Sky, Shadows Fall supported Hatebreed on what can only be described as a traveling riot. I caught up with vocalist Brian Fair to talk about how Fire From The Sky has been received by fans, this monster lineup they found themselves on, and who he hopes to share a bill with in the future.
G- What’s up?
B- How’s it going, man?
G- Everything is going very well! How about yourself?
B- Very good.
G- Just about to rap up the tour?
B- Yeah. 2 shows left and a great run with Hatebreed! We’ve always had good times with these dudes on tour. We’ve been sharing stages for 15+ years, so it’s really comfortable and fun to be back with those dudes. Dying Fetus has been killing it every night, too, and The Contortionist kind of brings a different vibe to the whole proceedings, so it’s a cool mixed bill. You know, a lot of different styles.
Tour has been great, and 2 more sold out shows to end it. Can’t really ask for much more than that!
G- Right on. Now, the last time we spoke, you guys were just about to release Fire From The Sky. Now it’s out, and it’s been out for a little while. How are the fans taking to the tracks?
B- Really good. The reviews were great, but you know the final test is when you are playing the songs live, you know?
B- And seeing people sing along and knowing all the parts… Knowing when to destroy the place…
G- The air drummers going off!
B- Exactly, and so far the response has been great. This tour, ever though we’re doing a 40 minute set, we’re still getting 3 tunes from the new record in there, so it’s been fun to play some new stuff, and yeah… So far, the response has been awesome!
G- Excellent! And have you noticed any fan favorites off the record at this point?
B- I think live, “Divide and Conquer” goes over really well because it’s just a really straight to the point tune, you know, so it really goes over well live.
The other one I’ve been enjoying playing live has been “Weight Of The World” because it just starts off so crazy and anytime we’re playing the new tunes, that’s what the band is most excited about. So those 2 have been going over very good.
G- Nice. Now, I’m going to stray a little bit, but as the mouthpiece of the band, obviously you’re a metal singer and you’re using your throat… How do you keep yourself healthy and how do you keep your throat in check when you’re doing these long runs like this?
B- It can be difficult because, unlike the other instruments where they can just change some strings or put new tubes in the amp and they’re good to go, with your throat, if it’s not working, it’s not working. So, you have got to be really conscious of it.
It’s more about staying really hydrated and knowing your comfort zone on stage as well. It’s like any other muscle, so you do develop stamina over time, but it’s also knowing how to use it where your not just blowing it out every night and not just going into that danger zone. But also, trying to avoid being sick is the hardest thing… That’s the biggest problem, so usually vitamin C like crazy, Emergen-C, and Zinc. As soon as someone gets a sniffle, I’m just like ‘You’re in quarantine, bro.’
And you just have to be a little more responsible, because you’d rage til 7 in the morning every night because you’re on tour, and then realize after a little while that you can’t do that and go out there and kick ass every night. You have to balance it out.
G- Right on. So, obviously, you started off 2013 on a very heavy foot with this tour. What else do we have going on with Shadows Fall in 2013?
B- It’s going to be a little bit of a weird year for us. We’re going out and doing a few dates with Anthrax, Exodus, and all them on the Metal Alliance in April…
B- But besides that, we’re kind of laying low. I’ve got my first kid coming in June…
B- Thank you. And John has gotten the opportunity to fill-in for Anthrax, because I knew I was going to have to take off a big chunk to help out the wife and just be home for the birth and all that stuff. He got that opportunity and we were all like ‘Cool,’ and it worked out where we’ll be doing the Metal Alliance tour with them, so he’ll be doing double-duty. But we pretty much had to cancel everything else or not make any other plans til I kinda get settled in. I see us getting back on the road in maybe August or Fall at the earliest.
So, unfortunately that came mid album cycle, as far as when we had to take the break, but hey… real life gets in the way of stuff.
G- It’s true. So, to talk about something serious at this point, obviously the metal community is rallying around Randy Blythe from Lamb Of God due to his legal troubles in the Czech Republic, which is a bunch of complete bullshit if you ask me. I’ve seen the videos and didn’t see anything wrong.
G- Fans that go to these shows and get involved with the stage KNOW the risks they are taking when they get up there. Has Shadows Fall had to deal with any altercations with fans, and what do you guys do when there is an issue with the crowd/security?
B- Yeah, you know, we luckily haven’t dealt with any incidents that turned into anything that went beyond the moment, but we’ve definitely seen injuries. Normally, people coming over the barricade, security not being ready or they’re catching somebody else, and they’re (the fan) is just hitting the ground hard. We’ve seen neck injuries, broken legs, things like that, and that’s always unfortunate. Occasionally, you’ll see a scuffle between security and fans, and if it’s a big enough fight that it’s getting crazy, we’ll stop playing. And if we see someone get hurt, the crowd may not know and we’ll stop playing.
The most recent time was at California Metal Fest. A girl went and crowd surfed, and she was the first person that had gone over, and security was not prepared at all. They were more watching the circle pit, and this girl came over and just hit hard, and we stopped. I think she broke her collar bone, but it wasn’t a neck or head injury, which is what it looked like originally. So, she ended up being ok, and we ended up getting a photo with her, a shot in a cast. So, she was ok, but we immediately stopped and made sure she was alright and they got her out there on the flat board.
But it is scary, man. You want kids to have a good time and go as crazy as they can, but you really don’t want people getting hurt. The thing is, once someone does come up on stage, when you jump off… It doesn’t happen often that people get hurt, but the odds are pretty high, you know?
B- You’re throwing yourself into a pretty volatile and violent situation, just physically, so you’ve gotta know a little of that going in. In Randy’s case, from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t look like anything you could find fault with. It’s just an unfortunate all around set of circumstances. From stage diving back in my day, I’ve smashed me head hard before…. I definitely rang the bell and was taking a chance, and that happens, and the next time I was a little more conscious, you know? But, it is a risk, so…
G- Just be careful if you’re going to get involved, kids.
G- You don’t want to get hurt.
B- And it’s changing things. The first time we went out with Killswitch Engage this year in December, and the vibe… They wanted an old school hardcore show/vibe, like when Alive or Just Breathing came out, and there were no barricades for the first 4 shows. Management saw pictures and stuff and were like ‘What are you guys doing?!’ And it was awesome! Crowd surfing, sharing the stage, but they were just like with this Randy situation and all that… We know this is different here, but still, there’s no reason to take a chance. So, within the next few shows, it was back to the barricades. It’s definitely changed things.
G- Umm, now to keep it a little bit serious again, you have a baby on the way, and everybody has obligations. You’ve been doing this for a long time… What would you say is the most difficult thing about being in a band or being a touring musician?
B- Being away, and these days more than ever, since the industry is so… The record industry is pretty much gone. There’s still a music business, but the record industry is gone, and to sustain a career where you can afford to just have a life and money for home/baby/all that, is to stay on the road, because there’s no more royalty checks of just record sales and all that. And unfortunately, with the economy as bad as it is, you try to team up with other bands and do a stocked bill, which means you split less money, and you want to keep ticket prices down so people can afford to come, so it’s just getting more and more difficult to survive without being on the road like 10 months a year.
So, it gets to the point where you don’t even have the chance to see the family, which is really the most difficult part. And as you get older, it just physically gets harder to be on the grind and just out there doing 30 shows in 32 days and stuff.
But, we love playing music and it’s just, as you go along, it just gets harder and harder to stay out there for that long and not miss the people you haven’t seen in years, you know?
G- Right on. And make sure you’re buying merch directly from the bands!
G- Buy from the bands. Don’t buy from the big stores. Buy from mom and pop if you’re going to buy anything, but buy from the bands, because they’re the ones who put in the work and they get all the money, so buy from them first.
Now, let’s lighten it up a little bit… Tell us… What is your favorite song that you’ve ever written and is the most fun for you to perform with Shadows Fall. Or, if you were to give one song to someone who’d never heard Shadows Fall before, to try to make a new fan, what track would you offer them?
B- Hmm let’s see… My favorite one that we’ve written and for me to perform live actually goes back to The Art of Balance record. I think “Stepping Outside The Circle” is one of my favorites. It’s just a fun live song, and I love the chorus. It was one of those moments where it wrote itself, you know, and the first time I heard the music, it just kinda happened. That one is cool.
As far as playing a song to give someone the whole microcosm of what we do, it would either be “The Unknown,” the opening track off of the new record Fire From The Sky, or “Light That Blinds,” the opening track off of War Within, for the same reason. I think it shows a wide variety of everything we do. With “The Unknown,” it opens with a pretty crazy guitar shredding riff into an off-time little groove, but then there’s a total thrash part, a total breakdown in the middle, a little acoustic break, a really big chorus, but there’s also some brutal death metal moments, so it touches on a lot of stuff stylistically that we do.
And “Light That Blinds” for a similar reason. It starts off with the classical guitars, but by the end it’s just a shred fest! But it also has a weird jazz groove riff to end it, so it shows a whole wide variety.
G- (laughing) You guys were never the 3-chord wonder band.
B- Yeah, and we never got stuck in 1 subgenre either, you know? We’re definitely thrash influenced. The bedrock of what we do is thrashy metal, but we’ve always thrown in the little death metal parts and the hardcore parts here and there, so I think those songs kinda show all of those at once. They’re the schizophrenic microcosm.
G- Alright! Well, to finish up today, I didn’t ask you the last time because it was running a little late, but you’ve already shared stages and played shows with tons and tons of bands, but are there any bands that you have yet to share a bill with that you hope to in the future? Or, if you could put together a feasible 3-band dream lineup to go on tour with, who would you select?
B- We’ve been lucky enough to play with almost everyone, but we’ve never toured with Metallica. We’ve done festivals with them, but if we could tour with any band, obviously it’d be Metallica. So, the dream bill would be Metallica, Testament, Slayer, and Shadows Fall. That’d be about as cool as it could get for me.
G- Right fucking on!
B- And actually, I have to change it just slightly… We’re gonna go Metallica, Iron Maiden, Testament, us, and Slayer could rotate in for one of the other bands. It’d still be perfect!
G- That would be a good show.
B- Yup! I’d be into it.
G- Well look, thank you very much again for taking the time to speak with Live high Five today!
B- Hell yeah, man!
G- Get ready for the show tonight, relax, and thank you very much!