EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH WARBRINGER GUITARIST JOHN LAUX
When I was twenty years old, I was trying to stay awake during college classes, attempting not to get fired from my shitty job before I’d saved enough money to take one of those “middle class white kids backpacking through Europe” trips, and dating a girl who Vince liked to call “The Critic” for her alleged resemblance to the cartoon character of the same name.
John Laux is twenty, and he’s the guitar player for Warbringer, one of the top bands in the current thrash metal revival. He didn’t have to backpack through Europe because he’s, y’know, toured Europe. His band just released their second full-length, Waking into Nightmares (Century Media), which was produced by Exodus main main Gary Holt. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, Laux will already have lived a much fuller, cooler life than I have.
I can’t hold it against the dude, though; he’s an awesome guitar player in an awesome band, and his success is well-deserved. John was recently cool enough to answer some of my retarded questions via e-mail. After the jump, get his thoughts on Warbringer’s latest, working with the legendary Mr. Holt, the perils of trying to help a drunken fan cross the border, and more.
Let’s start with your new album, Waking Into Nightmares. How do you feel it differs, if at all, from War Without End?
I just think we’re a better band at this point from all the experience we gained from touring so hard. Our new drummer, Nic [Ritter], is a huge improvement as well and I think we managed to write an even stronger and more focused record than the first.
As you said, this is your first album with Nic Ritter on drums… what does Nic contribute to the Warbringer sound?
He’s pretty much a very versatile, all around kind of drummer. With some of his jazz fusion chops we were able to write and hold down some really cool and unique sounding rhythms. We also like how he doesn’t use triggers, not that there isn’t any room for them, but it’s nice to have a drummer who can really pound his own kit as fast as a hell.
Can you please tell us a little bit about what it was like to work with Gary Holt? How does he compare/contrast with the also-legendary Bill Metoyer?
It’s been an honor working with both of them. I think that Holt was more or less the kind of producer we were looking for. We wanted our record to sound as heavy as any death metal record you could pick up now days, but we had to keep a balance with the classic, old school feel and sound. Gary understands that line very well, he wrote the book on how a thrash record should sound.
The bonus track on the new album is called “The Road Warrior.” Are you dudes big Mad Max fans?
Big movie fans in general. Honestly, since I started touring I haven’t had any time for movies any more, but we watched the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series in the studio. I think that’s why we worked the word “nightmare” onto the album twice. “The Road Warrior” is a very old song from our second EP. We asked Gary to guest spot the last solo on that track!
Not that I’m such an old fart myself or anything, but can all the members of your band legally drink yet? What the hell are you gonna do when you’re 40 when you’ve accomplished so much when you’re 20?
When we’re in different countries, yes. I’m a few months away from 21. With our beards, most of the time you’ll find the bass player and me at the bar with everyone else. I think a lot bands started young and that age is irrelevant to the quality of music, it’s more about experience.
Obviously the thrash revival movement has become quite big over the past few years, and there are now dozens – if not hundreds – of bands playing old school style thrash. How do you think Warbringer stands out from the thrash revivalist pack?
We’re not stopping with just “recreating the thrash sound.” That’s easy. We’re trying to write music that we feel is original and creative. It’s the kind of evolution that a lot of our favorite bands have done with thrash to push and explore its boundaries.
I think a lot of kids are tired of all of the new school heavy metal bands. A lot of those bands are just trying to sound like old school metal bands; that’s it. We play old school metal generally just because we really enjoy it and feel it has a lot of uncovered territory to explore and that’s what we set out to do, expand upon it.
Some people think the thrash revival is just a passing trend. Do you feel this way? Do you worry about Warbringer outliving the trend? Have you ever considered playing a style of metal besides thrash?
Sure it is. Just like every other scene. I just hope that we and a few other bands from this scene put out records that are solid through and through so we can look back and say we accomplished something. I jam all kinds of music besides thrash when I’m home. It helps keep me inspired and critical when I’m writing music with Warbringer. I like all kinds of music including Post Rock, Shoegaze, Hardcore, Indie, and Folk. Enjoying a variety of music is something that is very important to me. My main focus for now is playing sick and brutal heavy metal. I think it’s the best in a live environment. The energy I feel from the shows is just explosive.
Do you prefer…
-American or German thrash? German Thrash! It hits me harder.
-Maiden or Priest? Priest! I think they’re more diverse
-Ozzy or Dio? Ozzy. More songs to get into.
-Metallica or Megadeth? MEGADETH. EASY.
-South of Heaven or Seasons in the Abyss? This is a tie.
-Belladonna or Bush? Belladonna, more classics.
-Souza, Baloff, or Dukes? Dukes. I think he is the best match for Exodus out of any of there singers to date. Honestly, some of the vocal quirks from Souza and Baloff just drove me crazy.
Any good stories from the road you can share?
Haha, I’ll never forget when this Finnish kid followed us to Mexicali and got so drunk that we had to take him back over the border ourselves. The problem was that once we were right on the border talking to the police, he bolts up and out of the car, splitting his head open right on a metal fence!
After lots and lots of bleeding they got him an ambulance to a US hospital and he sent a message a week later saying he had a lot of fun. Go Figure.
What’s next for Warbringer?
Europe, lots of festivals and shows with Sacred Reich and Testament. Were coming back to the US in the Fall with Obituary and we’re going be busy until next Spring when we’re going to have some real time off to put the 3rd record together.
Finally, is it worse to be caught in a mosh or living in a whirlwind?
“Living in a Whirlwind” is all about junkies and hopeless addiction. Our closest thing to a party song is nowhere close to being about something “fun.” I would imagine being caught in a mosh inside of a whirlwind being the worst case scenario, though.
Photos courtesy Jay Valena.