SHADOWS FALL/OVERCAST VOCALIST BRIAN FAIR: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
To many fans around the world, Brian Fair is known as the charismatic front man for Shadows Fall, one of the most successful metal bands of their generation. What younger fans might not realize is that Fair actually got his start as the singer of Massachusetts metalcore pioneers Overcast. Every subgenre of metal has an Overcast – a band that splits up before they really hit it big, and whose members go on to form other, better-known acts. (In Overcast’s case, besides Fair’s joining of the Shads, guitarist Pete Cortese went on to form Seemless, while bassist Mike D’Antonio currently plays with some band called Killswitch Engage.)
Of course, the newfound celebrity of Overcast’s members didn’t dampen old fans’ desire to hear their music – or new fans’ curiosity about how some of their favorite musicians got their start. But before disbanding in 1998, Overcast had only released a small handful of recordings on tiny independent labels, making anything other than low-quality bootlegs incredibly difficult to track down.
With that in mind, the band recently released the appropriately titled Reborn to Kill Again (Metal Blade), an Adam D. produced collection of re-recorded classic and several new songs. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Fair about getting Overcast back together again, re-thinking the band’s old material after all these years, and the possible future of the band. And, oh yeah, he was even cool enough to give me a quick update on the status of the new Shadows Fall album. Check out the full transcript after the jump.
So let’s talk about Overcast. What was the reason for getting the band back together after all this time?
Well it really started awhile ago. We did that first reunion show at the Metal Fest, and it was exciting to get everyone together again. We never really played a last show, it just sort of ended. We kind of came full circle, and also the idea of recording stuff came from a lot of people asking us to re-release the old stuff. There was no way to really remix and re-master that stuff and have it live it up to what we wanted to do, so we just figured that we might as well go back in and do it the way we always envisioned it. Also, we got a few lost songs on tape finally.
So the lost songs were just old songs that hadn’t been recorded before?
Yeah, and some of them hadn’t been totally finished yet. We played one of them live about two or three times at the end. It was kind of cool to finally let people hear them besides the few that had really bad VHS video tapes.
So how was it revisiting this old material? Were there things you guys found that you wanted to change or was it like, “Let’s go and hammer it out?”
Yeah, we changed things when we realized that both the guitar players were playing different things when we were a band occasionally. We got all those ironed out. We listened to the original recordings and we were like “Oh wow, they’re actually doing the same thing.” So we got to do the backup vocals and the guitar layers that we never had a chance to do. We used to record one take and live sort of thing. So we went in and recorded the way we always wanted to, but we didn’t change anything as far as tempo or anything like that. We wanted to keep the energy [of the ] original and things like that. There were a couple of parts that we tweaked, but nothing you would notice.
What about vocally? Your vocal style has evolved a lot over the years.
Yeah, I definitely didn’t sound like an angry 15 year old kid when we recorded this time, but I tried to at least keep the vibe similar. I tried to keep it as raw as the Overcast stuff was. I didn’t want to go in and overproduce the vocals with tons of layers and have that sort of pop feel with the chorus and stuff. That was not what Overcast was about, and so we tried to keep it raw. For me it was definitely a challenge to kind of get back to that style, but I actually really enjoyed it. It was kind of cool to do something a little different. Also these shows that we just finished really put me back in shape, screaming-wise. I haven’t screamed that much in a long time. So I’m actually looking forward to doing Shadows Fall shows with a little more power now.
I think when it was first announced that you guys were heading into the studio to record this, they said that Adam D. was going to produce it but that didn’t end up happening. Is that right?
No, Adam produced it. He makes you work hard, but you never know it because you are constantly laughing at him because he’s such an out of control maniac. It was a blast, and it was definitely cool to finally work with him because I’ve been looking forward to that for awhile.
That’s excellent. Then you guys recorded the stuff a couple of years back, is that right?
Yeah, it actually got recorded on our first break when everyone was at home. We figured that it was old Overcast stuff and that we would handle everything ourselves. We were like “Oh it’s recorded, we’ll find someone to put it out and that’ll be that.” We forgot that we were all on different labels and there was a lot of red tape and all that stuff. That took a good year to work out, and then we really wanted to wait until we found someone who really understood what it was all about. We thought that Metal Blade would be the perfect choice, so all that stuff made it take a little bit longer to get [the album] out. So it was on the shelf for a little bit.
Do you guys think that there will be any more Overcast shows in the future? [Of course, this question has pretty much answered itself since the time of this interview. – Ed.]
Definitely. These six shows this past week were just amazing, and there’s definitely a lot of energy on the road. We were all very excited to be back on stage, and even more excited to see people excited to see us on stage. We planned a show in New York with VoD and Indecision, which totally makes it feel like ’95 again as well. After that we may try to do some shows around December time. That seems like we’ll have the best opportunity because scheduling is always the hardest thing with us. Mike [D’Antonio] and I are both working on new records, and the other guys have families and things like that. So it’s kind of tough to get everyone where they can get away for a week at the same time, but if we can work it out, we’ll definitely do it.
Right on. How do you feel now looking back on this material? You hear the phrase “metalcore pioneers” batted around a lot with you guys.
It’s pretty funny, because at the time it was a lot more of “Keep your metal out of my hardcore.” It’s kind of funny that ten years later it’s become such a norm to have those styles combined. We definitely had more of a kind of Cro-mags and Integrity sort of vibe than anything that’s really going on now. I think our stuff has definitely stood the test of time. When we were playing live recently, they definitely carry the impact and power that they had years ago, which is funny because we always had to down-tune to be heavy.
Do you feel like an elder statesman of this particular subgenre?
Sometimes at these shows, I felt like an elder man [laughs]. I definitely got beat up a few times during the sing-alongs and pile-ons. We definitely didn’t feel like Overcast did back then because the scene was such a contrast to begin with. I’d go to shows with Sick of It All and Napalm Death. The death metal and hardcore scenes were kind of merging together because you had to; because it was such a small underground scene at the time. We were just a product of what was going on in Boston at the time, which was a total mix-match of hardcore, death metal, grindcore and everything.
It sounds like you really enjoyed playing these smaller crazier shows as opposed to…
Oh, totally. It was such a flashback. We even played in places we played at ten or twelve years ago, like Valentine’s in Albany, with all the kids that I hadn’t seen in a decade. It was such a time warp, but it was fun.
Have you had to explain to any of the younger fans that this is not a new band?
Maybe, I don’t know. I know definitely people were asking if Shadows Fall broke up or something and I would just say “That’s still my day job.” Some people might not know [about Overcast’s history], and that’s really cool. And what’s cooler is when kids haven’t heard the records and don’t know that we were in other bands. We want to play shows with the younger bands so we can get the younger audience to keep these songs alive.
Do you think that you might ever want to get together to record new material or do you think that’s just out of the question?
We’ve actually talked about it because Pete [Cortese] and Mike definitely have ideas for songs. We just have to make sure that they’re Overcast songs, you know? And not just a Pete song. Like I said, it has to be tuned to E and there has to be a mosh part that goes nowhere and there has to be random time changes for no reason. All those things have to be there in order to make it an Overcast song. We’re definitely not opposed to [writing and recording new material]. It may or may not happen, it depends on if the songs are quality.
I hate to change the topic, but I’ve got to ask you while I have you… You mentioned that Shadows Fall is going to head back into the studio soon. Is that right?
Yeah tomorrow we leave for about six shows in Canada. After that we’re taking the rest of the year off to just kind of get into the demo mode and hopefully have something late this year/early next year, like December/January would be ideal. We have about four or five songs right now. It’s time to shut down the touring machine for a bit and get back to work.
Do you have any sense from those few songs that you guys already have what direction the album is heading in, or is it still way too soon?
A little bit. We have four or five skeleton songs and those so far have all the technical style of the Shadows Fall sound. So far they are like in the six to seven minute range, but you never know if tomorrow we’ll write a three minute rocker. Right now, with the way things are going, they are more in the technical style of Shadows Fall, but we never go in planning a record with a sound in mind.
Have you thought about who the producer is going to be?
You know, that’s still up in the air. We talked to a few people, and we’re definitely looking to record in Massachusetts this time around and stay at home. We haven’t nailed anyone down yet, so we shall see.
Cool man. Is there anything else you want to add for the fans?
Just keep an eye out for those Overcast shows in November and hopefully we’ll meet up and do what we can. Also check out the new record. We never thought it would see the light of day, but it’s finally out. So that’s pretty much what I’m most excited about.
Excellent. Thank you so much again for doing this. We really appreciate it.
Thanks for helping to get the word out!