EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH EPICUREAN VOCALIST JOHN LARAMY
Minnesota sextet Epicurean’s MySpace page features the catchy slogan “Breakdown free since 2003!” That kind of raised middle finger to the current scene helps explain, at least in part, why their recent Metal Blade debut, A Consequence of Design, stands out from the rest of the progressive melodic death metal pack that’s so prevalent these days. That, and, y’know, that fact that these dudes are talented.
Epicurean front man John Laramy recently agreed to answer some questions for me via e-mail – and aside from what he says, I’m sure he regretted it almost immediately. After the jump, read John’s thoughts on his band’s name, being angry in Minneapolis, why keyboards are metal, and the joys of alcohol and poo. And, oh yeah, I slipped in some serious questions, too.
An epicurean is someone who loves to indulge in luxury and/or sensual pleasures. This is obviously not the kind of imagery one usually associates with metal, so it’s interesting that you chose it as your band name. Can you please let us know why you chose it, and what it means to you guys?
Well, Epicureanism is more about having discerning taste, and wanting to look deeper into things. We chose it because the rough meaning “devoted to pleasure” was pretty much able to sum up what we hope to create with our music.
Can you tell us about your band history? How did you come together? How did you get signed?
Well, there was an alternate “Epicurean” a few years back… Different music and everything, but our drummer [John Gensmer] was in that band. When they broke up, a few of the guys wanted to put the band back together and do something new… so with a few fill-in members, Gensmer started auditioning new members, and I was the first new member to join. Beyond that, we just held auditions for the other positions and it all started to come together. Which actually makes for a cool dynamic being that none of us knew one another before joining the band. And then getting signed, we got hooked up with management who serviced the record to a bunch of labels looking for a deal, Metal Blade (who was the main label we were after) agreed to pick us up.
What is there to be so angry about in Minneapolis? Isn’t it a pretty chill place?
Haha, it’s kind of a lame place sometimes… But really our music isn’t angry anyway, even if it does sound that way from time to time.
So, uh, what is the “consequence of design?”
“A Consequence of Design” is a title referring to the confines of a pre-determined destiny, which throughout the concept is something that our main character is coming to terms with.
True or false: this is already the most annoying interview you’ve had to do?
I should say yes just for humor sake… but no, this is definitely not annoying. Did an interview with a political website with a writer who was very journalistically irresponsible… THAT was pretty annoying, so much so that my answers made me sound like a bit of an asshole, haha.
What is the writing process like in your band?
That differs all the time. Usually one of us will have some riffs of a passage that we bring down, work with a couple of the other guys on it, and then when it’s really starting to come together we begin to work on it as a full band. It changes a lot and now as we gain more and more experience writing with one another we’re able to smooth out the process a lot. We get some things together, then do a crappy recording of it so we can listen alone and decide what needs to be changed, or it totally sucks and needs to get thrown out completely.
Did you have a vision for the album going into the writing process? In other words, did you sit down and say “We want this one to be more melodic,” or “We want it to be heavier,” or whatever?
To a point, I think we have a vision for what we want to accomplish musically, but never really did have a specific vision for our sound. We’ve never really tried to be any “specific” type of band; we never tried to be a part of any “scene” or anything like that. We just make the music we want to make without any caution for what other people are doing, and this album is just the result of that.
How do you approach writing music when metal is so popular and overcrowded right now? In other words, how do you seek to differentiate yourselves from the dozens of other bands making a similar style of music?
That kind of goes back to the answer to the last question. Really, there are always trends and style shifts; things of that nature that all come and go. They spring up, kids dig it for a couple years, and then they become un-cool, and the next batch of stuff comes along. We just really do our own thing, and hope that people like it. If you go out of your way to fit into a certain scene, or please a certain group with your music, when that scene becomes lame and played out, so do you.
Although some metal fans are against the use of keyboards in metal, your band is obviously not. Please tell us why you think keyboards are metal.
I think you can make a lot of things metal, hell Manowar somehow found a way to make Tarzan-style Loin Cloths metal… Keys (if done right) can just add another dimension to your music, and for the type of music that we make, it’s pretty crucial to have those layers.
You’ve already told the Deciblog about the top five musical moments that made the world dumb; so what are the top five musical moments that made the world smart?
Haha, I had put some pretty serious though into those. This is a tough question, I don’t know if I can conjure up a “Best of…” but I can name of some great things in no particular order….
5. The rise of Jazz in America.
This one I think is really important because it became an outfit that really paved the way for truly progressive music. All the exceptional blues and country players found a style where musicianship and improvisation were key. I challenge anyone to find better players than some of the acid-jazz players out right now.
4. “Television” rocks New York
These guys totally sparked that kind of, “hip-art-rock” movement in New York, which totally gave way to the punk movement. This lit a fire under the new subculture, building momentum for the early bands like Bad Religion and Stiff Little Fingers.
I wasn’t even a huge fan of the really early Beetles pop, but what this did was spark a powerful youth movement. They took all the kids that we’re really into rock and roll and over the years led their listeners down a rebellious path towards the end of the 1960’s.
2. Elvis on Ed Sulivan.
Totally tame by the standards of today, but he was definitely the ultimate bad-ass of his time (even if he did steal all his music…)
1. Metal as a whole…
Don’t even really need to explain that one… if it wasn’t for Metal, I wouldn’t be doing this interview in the first place!!! Haha.
If you could see to it that one band in metal never made music again, who would it be and why?
-Now that’s a really tough question! Haha, there are so many possible answers… How about, I just wish that this new metal that is comprised of 90% breakdowns needs to go away, forever. Linkin Park pretty much needs to go away too.
If you could tour with any band in metal, who would it be and why?
I would say either Opeth or At the Gates… Opeth because we all really love their music, and respect them so much as players, it would be really amazing to spend a month or so jamming with those guys. At The Gates, because I was so SO into them when I was younger that it would be pretty killer to tour with them as an adult.
What is your best story from being out on the road?
I don’t know that there is a “Best Story”; all of our time kind of bleeds together. There have been many awesome moments, usually involving alcohol… some involving pooh.
What’s next for you guys?
Just as much touring as we can possibly do. That’s always been something really important to us, and we’ll be following suit and staying out on the road. There have been some talks about us going to Europe by the end of the summer which would be really cool.
Anything else you’d like MetalSucks readers to know?
That we really like free drinks… haha. Just, thank you for doing this, thanks for reading!!! We all hope you guys enjoy the record.