EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PROTEST THE HERO’S TIM MILLAR
MetalSucks recently had the chance to sit down with guitarist Tim Millar of the Canadian art-pro-core-whatever-metal band Protest the Hero, whose new, amazing album Fortress comes out January 29 on Vagrant Records. As one of the first albums of 2008 that we’re totally amped about, we were psyched to have this opportunity. MetalSucks contributor “Scottydawg,” a new addition to our team, conducted the interview and has been kind enough to let us post it. Millar talks about the new album, the writing process, getting caught with weed crossing the U.S./Canadian border and a bunch of other interesting topics. The full transcript, after the jump.
MetalSucks: Thanks for taking the time out for this interview. Now you’re the guitarist and backup vocals of Protest The Hero.
Tim: Well I do some stuff live with growls and stuff like that, but all the vocals were done in the studio by the singer. I play the guitar but I do some screams here or there.
Now you’ve been around since 1999 but as Protest The Hero, it wasn’t until 2003.
Yeah, it’s kinda ambiguous because we’ve been jamming as a hobby when we were younger kids. We went to school together. The band’s kinda been existing for a long time but we’ve been taking it seriously for the last five years or so.
You’re signed with Vagrant Records. How’s the relationship between the label and you guys?
Umm, it’s alright, like we’ve had some issues in the past a bit. It’s been pretty good but there have been some things. They’ve been through some stuff and we’ve been through some stuff. I don’t know if you know, but the other guitar player (Luke Hoskin), he couldn’t get across the border for a little bit.
Oh really? What happened there?
He got caught with weed (laughs). It was weird ’cause he doesn’t even smoke weed. He had some weed in his bag and then it turned into this big nightmare.
What’s wrong with customs? (laughs) You’re a rock band.
The thing was that it was a stupid mistake on our part, which it was, but it’s something that spiraled out of control. It was like point two of a gram and they couldn’t charge him for possession because it was so small. They let us go and we had to pay a fine. Then we tried crossing again and they were like, “no, no, no; you can’t cross this time.” Then right then and there the band wasn’t really comfortable touring as much as Vagrant kinda wanted us to. We’re a fuckin’ band and we do everything together. We don’t feel comfortable leaving someone out of it. That’s when we started writing Fortress. So just right there, they thought we weren’t fulfilling our promises. We said we would do a year of touring on Kezia; which we couldn’t fulfill. So it’s getting better now cause we’re getting play for the new record but just getting over that. I don’t know; feeling that you’re not a priority on the label, which I don’t think we should be, but sometimes it’s shitty thinking you could be treated better. All the industry nonsense and all that stuff.
Yeah I can understand you there. Fortress will be your second album set to be released Jan 29th, 2008 and you start touring Jan 24th. How will this album be any different from your first album?
I like to say that we’ve matured a little bit. We’re all proud of Kezia but we know what we can do better and we knew what worked there and what didn’t work; whether it be live or in the studio. We’re able to have better insight as musicians and songwriters, you know? Try to refine the craft a little bit. We’ve been touring a lot; becoming better musicians and better players. So we can do some stuff that we couldn’t do when we recorded Kezia. Hopefully we got better with our instruments, got better as songwriters, and got better as a band. There wasn’t any change, we just wrote music and whatever came out, came out. It’s just the next step for Protest The Hero. We just become older and better at what we do.
Can you give us a little insight as to how you come together to form your music; the writing process?
Yeah. It starts with just the music. We spent the first month or two just writing the songs instrumentally and just doing stuff. We wanted the songs to be something on their own as instrumental pieces. Basically, we wanted the songs to be unique and finished on their own and then when we bring in vocals, it just adds to the next element just like adding another instrument; where a lot of bands just go for having the music with some monotonous screaming over top. We just consider vocals as another instrument. That’s just the icing on the cake. So yeah, we start with the instrumental stuff and our bass player wrote the lyrics.
So the bassist wrote the lyrics?
Well Arif [Mirabdolbaghi, bass] is a really smart dude. He’s really into poetry and stuff like that so he can poetically put together whatever he wants to write. It sounds really good and we’re all really proud of him and we like his stuff. He just has an interest in writing the lyrics.
With you guys being from Canada, do you find any difference with the music scene in other countries as opposed to the states?
Well, one of the bigger differences of Canada to anywhere else in the world is that we just built the name so much longer here. So the rest of the world knew Protest The Hero when Kezia was released; where we had been touring and doing stuff for years in Canada cause that’s where we’re from. That’s the first place we started playing. So right now we can play bigger shows and we can do some headlining stuff in Canada which is nice; where in the states and around the world, we’ll be doing more supporting stuff. So that’s one of the bigger difference is that we have a bigger following in Canada versus anywhere else in the world.
Sometimes I find that being overseas and in Canada, it’s a more liberal society from the states.
In the states too there’s like different areas where there are certain things that are more popular that rub off on people. But for the most part, I find that people that are coming out to our shows, they’re pretty similar for the most part no matter where you travel.
And you guys have toured with some awesome bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Bad Religion, Fall Of Troy, and The Bled; just to name a few. With this tour that is kicking off Jan 24th, who will you be touring with?
It’s Silverstein, The Devil Wears Prada, and Ill Scarlett. So Silverstein’s headlining and that’s how we’re gonna release our CD. It’s kinda interesting cause that tour, musically, doesn’t match up. But that can be kinda cool because everyone brings their fans and it makes for a bigger show. You know, we’re playing for people that would never come see us. It’s kinda cool cause we’re all drawing a different audience, which could be good or bad sometimes.
That can be cool because you’re able to, for a lack of a better term, steal up a new fan base.
Yeah, we hope that a percentage of the fans enjoy us, or vice versa. For some people that come to see us, they would like Silverstein. So it’s like swapping fans and trying to play in front of different audiences as much as possible.
What are some of the popular bands that you would want to share the stage with?
Yeah, that’s an interesting question. It’s the thing with matching up bands. There’s certain bands that I’m into and I understand that it wouldn’t work if we were touring together. When I’m on tour, I like to see bands that I like because it’s almost like killing two birds with one stone. You feel like you’re at a show every night cause you’re watching it and enjoying and you’re also playing. We did a tour with Dragonforce in April of 2006 and it was just amazing every night to be able to watch a band like that and be blown away night after night. Something like that would be cool. We’re always keeping our fingers together for the Rush tour to come through at some point (laughs). Well they’re Canadian and we’re Canadian and they don’t do a lot of touring; usually when they do they don’t bring bands along. Or something that’s neat like that, you feel proud. I just wanna go on tour with cool people and cool bands that I like. Musicians learn a lot from being around people like that.
Last question for ya, Tim. What advice would you give to local bands that are just starting out?
I would just say play as much as you can and play as many places as you can. Just try to be yourself. Be creative. A lot of people try to follow trends. The music that is written from the heart is the music that lasts. Play as much as possible, practice as much as you can, and get as many shows; in hopes that it goes somewhere from there.
Tim, thanks so much for taking the time out for this interview. We’re looking forward to the Fortress album to be released Jan 29th.
Thanks a lot, dude. Good talking to you.
[Visit Protest the Hero on MySpace]
[Group photo by shawn scallen – www.scallen.com]