Shadows Fall Interview with Brian Fair
Shadows Fall has been a powerhouse in the Metal world for quite some time. Forming out of the ashes of several prominent Boston Hardcore and Metal bands, their music represents many of the best and most popular elements of the new wave of Metal music. But you knew that already…
Before heading to Australia to melt faces in front of multiple thousands of fans, the group played 4 clubs dates in New York and Massachusetts. 4… Clubs… Dates. What… is it Christmas or something?
Now, I’m old and got to see the band play at No Borders No Boundaries (R.I.P.), a small coffee shop on SU Hill in the 90’s, when they were first getting started, but this is ridiculously cool! I got to speak with vocalist Brian Fair at Station 58 in Syracuse about the shows, the new album, and what is happening with the group.
1) What’s up, Brian? So… You’re doing a short run of shows in some very tiny venues… First of all, thank you for hitting Syracuse, and why did you decide to hit the 4 locations you chose?
Brian: Not too much, man. Just starting this little Upstate NY/Central Massachusetts tour … Our world tour of Upstate NY (laughs). And then we head right to Australia so, uhh… We haven’t played since July. We’ve just been in the studio writing the whole time so we wanted to get a few shows under our belt between Western Mass and Upstate NY. It’s been a blast so far and I’m stoked about tonight… Last night was great, and then tomorrow is Albany.
These are places that when we first started playing out we always came to. Usually it was the old venues like The Penny Arcade (Roc) and the Lost Horizon (Syr) and Albany between the QE2 and Valentines. So it’s kinda cool to come and play places of that size. And like I said, we haven’t played in a while and we just wanted to do some club shows to just get back into the groove and get onstage again. We’re debuting a new tune and playing a bunch of old stuff… Just kinda having fun! You know, we’ve been on the couch for WAY too long… We’re all starting to get stir-crazy. And we’ve got a big trip to Australia, too, and we don’t just want to get on a plane for 30 hours and play our first show. So I said ‘Let’s just get on the road and do a little short week, get our groove back’… Cuz once we start this album cycle, we’re gonna be gone for the year, so…
2) Beautiful! So, I personally came up with Overcast and Merauder… You guys pool from groups that were already legendary before Shadows Fall. How did your roots in hardcore help you when Shadows Fall was getting together? How is it different for you guys playing all these huge venues around the world? Did your roots in hardcore help you when getting Shadows fall together?
Brian: You know, the best thing for us that ever happened was that it was a slow, gradual build. There wasn’t that, like, going from our practice space to, like, OZZ-FEST or Warped Tour and on a bus right away. We had to eat shit and do everything ourselves for, like, a decade before any of this stuff started to happen!
Between Overcast and Paul from Pushbutton Warfare and all that stuff, we kinda learned the hard way to do everything and, uh, those days… that experience and the value you place on any sort of success being able to do this for a living… I think you just appreciate it so much more, you know?
You see a lot of younger bands… They have a business plan before they have music! (laughing) They’re like “If we do 2 parts this and 1 part that, we’ll be huge!” When we started, we were like ‘We’re making music that NO ONE wants to hear!”
Me: I wouldn’t say that.
Brian: But you know, back then, metal was a dirty word, hardcore was SO underground… And that’s what made it awesome! People really appreciated it, and the scene… It built sort of organically. So for us, being able to do it for a living is what we always wanted to do, but we never really thought it was possible, so we just appreciate it and try to make the most out of all these opportunities we’ve been given, because we know they are rare.
3) That’s awesome! Are there ever any talks of reactivating any of the old groups for one-offs or tours? Ever think about having a reunion tour with old acts supporting Shadows Fall? That would kick so many asses I can’t even begin to count!
Brian: We’ve done some short Overcast stuff… It’s actually the 20th anniversary, which terrifies me how old I am, of when Overcast first started. We were talking about trying to get together… It’s just really tough scheduling wise. Our guitar player Pete’s got 2 kids. Mike’s in Killswitch Engage, who are doing “OK” (laughs!)
Me: (laughing) Yea, they’re doing ok.
Brian: Yea just fine. So it’s been really tough that way, but when the opportunities come up, we always try to play a show here and a show there. I would love to… We all hang out still and all stay in touch, so it’s definitely a possibility.
4) So Jason (Bittner) has become quite a drumming celebrity and garnered a legion of fans. He does clinics, lessons, and performs… Does anyone else in the band teach or hold clinics when the band isn’t on the road? What do you guys do in your down time from Shadows Fall?
Brian: Yea actually John’s been doing lessons in person and via Skype, so he can do them worldwide, which is cool cuz when we have down time, for those guys its great to be able to not have to, you know, find a friend who will let you hang drywall for a few days for his business (laughs). You know, you can actually continue to be a musician.
Unfortunately, as a vocalist, i can’t really be like ‘Man, just cup the mic and yell!’ and my lesson is over, so. (laughing again) But for Jay and John… They’ve both been doing a lot of teaching which is cool. Jason’s been crazy with it! I mean he’s gone to Australia, Europe… He’s done crazy clinic tours. I actually went to his clinic tour in St. Louis… I’m living out there now with my wife… and it was cool to see him teach.
When I see Jason setting up his drums and playing, it’s just yelling and throwing things around and trying to do soundcheck. When he’s a teacher… I was just ‘This is so odd!’ It’s cool to see.
Me: And what do you usually do in your down time when you’re not singing in the band?
Brian: I got married this Summer, so I just try to spend as much time with my wife because I know I am gonna be gone a whole bunch this year. So yea… I’ve just been chillin’ with my dog and my wife and just kinda relaxing, knowing that this album cycle was gonna kick in.
5) Right on. You are in the studio working on a new album right now… How is the writing going? Is it pretty much complete? How many tracks will be on it? Who is doing the production? Can I get an exclusive on the title for Upstate Metal?
Brian: Hahahaha… You know, we don’t have a title yet… That’s almost there! But everything is tracked. We got our first rough mix like 2 days ago, so we are getting into mixing mode. Hopefully we get that done very soon, and we are hoping for an early May release. We were hoping for before that, but because of the holidays and everything it pushed us back a month or so. And we don’t want to rush it… We want to get the mix just banging and to sound perfect!
Adam D. from Killswitch (Engage) did the production and did an AMAZING job, and is a great guy to work with. I think there is gonna be around 11 tracks on it. We recorded 13, so we have a couple of bonus tracks to play with. And we’re gonna debut a new song tonight. Well, actually we debuted it last night, so Syracuse gets ‘Sloppy Seconds’ on it tonight! (more laughing) And when we start playing in the Spring, we’ll play a couple more.
6) You guys are heading to Australia after this run, and you’ll be in front of thousands and thousand of people. Did you guys ever think Shadows Fall would make such an impact in the music world? Do you ever just look at each and say “Holy shit… Look at what we’ve managed to accomplish?!”
Brian: Oh Hell No… Not at all. We thought we would be that “Masshole” Metal band, you know. (Laughing continues) Like, just out there hacking it out. The fact that we’ve been able to… We’ve gone to China, Korea, Philippines… It’s mind-blowing! To travel the world and see the appreciation for just Metal in general is super cool! People ask ‘Well, what’s the difference (when traveling)?’ and there’s just little differences culturally, but metal fans are metal fans! We start playing, and a circle pit is a circle pit! It’s the same thing… Just chaos, you know?!
7) You’ve toured all over the world with a multitude of legendary acts… Where are your favorite places to play, and can you tell me about your personal favorite shows that you’ve played?
Brian: The favorite place to play… Australia is definitely one of them. This will be our fourth trip, and I mean… The weather is so amazing coming from the East Coast, and the people are super cool! It’s just a cool country. I really love playing there! I absolutely LOVE Japan, and I love the Philippines as well.
My favorite show ever? Hmmm. Well, there’s 2. We played the main stage at the Download Festival, which I still call Castle Donnington, with Iron Maiden. So that, for me, you know… I used to watch Monsters of Rock, Castle Donnington on Headbanger’s Ball with Maiden when I was a little kid! So that, for me, was just the coolest!
It wasn’t our best show physically, but it was our coolest show! I actually wish we played better. (laughs)
And my other one was the last night of the Damage Plan tour. You know, spending the last night with Dime, two days before he passed. That whole tour was amazing, but those last few nights were CRAZY! I mean, the partying was insane, but also the pranks and all the craziness. Like, our whole set, we were covered in powder and Dime is whipping bags full of ping pong balls at us. It was nuts!
NO ONE threw it down like Dimebag did, and so that show will always have a special place.
Me: Nice… Rest In Peace, Dimebag… We miss you.
8) Is there anyplace that Shadows Fall has not played yet that they are trying to?
Brian: You know, we finally got to South America but there’s still a few countries down there I want to get to. We’ve had people from South Africa and Israel contact us, as well as Indonesia… Those are 3 that are kinda on the radar. Like WOW, if we got to play those places, that’d be so fucking cool right now! Those would be awesome!
But we’ve already played, like… You know… If I did the little ‘pins on the map’, I’d be Holy Shit… WE’VE LOGGED SOME MILES!
Me: You’re making this writer jealous a little bit, but I should’ve stopped playing Ska at a younger age.
9) Lightening up a little bit, most bands have a list of favorite bands they listen to while on tour, or at least a bunch of bands that get everyone going while going from place to place. Maybe you can hip us to a few groups and artists that you guys are currently listening to.
Brian: It’s a lot of Rock and Roll… Old School R’N’R. 70’s Aerosmith, a lot of AC/DC. If ‘Johnny Rock and Roll’ has control of our iPod, it’s all Hair Metal! But what’s funny is, when we used to be in the van, there was a ‘No Distortion’ Rule after the show. It was Johnny Cash or some old bluegrass, or just something mellow… Bob Dylan just to chill out. But when we’re partying, it’s all just Classic Rock and all that stuff.
10) Lastly, as a veteran musician, as someone who has all these awesome experiences, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands out here who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
Brian: These days, it’s a lot different than when we came up. When we came up, it was about getting your name out there and playing anywhere, anyhow you can. There weren’t really tours the way there are now. We just used to jump on every single bill anywhere. And there was a lot more D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself), put out your own record, book your own tours.
Nowadays, the key, I think, is first of all… Get your sound together! There are so many bands, it’s so easy to record, and put your music online immediately… And that first impression will stick around forever. So, tighten that shit up at home first before you throw it out into the world! But use those social media things… You can record and pout your music up so easily, which is just a way we were never able to… We were handing out records and cassette singles! I feel like it should be in a museum now!
I would tell kids… if you really want it, it takes a serious commitment. We all had to make a choice when we were in college or about to go to college… Are we gonna do this, or are we gonna go do music, and if you don’t make that 100% commitment, which can be scary, it is a hobby. Which is fine! I mean, do the weekend warrior thing and have fun! But if you want to be full time, you’re gonna have to take that plunge, and for a few years it’s gonna suck! But if you really want it, get out there and spread the word and pump that shit online and just try to open for any local and national acts you can…. That’s always the best way to get noticed!
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