PROTEST THE HERO GUITARIST TIM MILLAR TALKS BEARDS, NEW PTH ALBUM IN METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
Protest the Hero just finished up a massive 1.5 year touring cycle for their fantastic record Fortress, and they’ve celebrated with yesterday’s release of a live DVD/CD filmed in their hometown of Toronto, Canada. Guitarist / World Beard Championship competitor Tim Millar took some time out of his day to answer our questions, via email, about the new DVD, the success of Fortress, the band’s sudden popularity in the metal community, life on the road, and the next Protest the Hero record. Our questions, his answers, after the jump.
Prior to the Fortress album and subsequent touring cycle, you weren’t really well-known within the metal world, whereas Fortress seems to have propelled you head-on into that world. Why do you think that happened?
Fortress was the first record we did that came out in the US and Canada and other markets at the same time. About 2 years prior to the release we had started touring in the US but a lot of it was the first time playing in markets, so it was more about getting the name out and playing in as many different places as possible. I think by the time Fortress was ready, we were ready to tour hard and a lot of the last 2 years had been spent touring in the US so it was nice to see the hard work pay off. And we finished the record cycle with a full US headline run.
Has it been challenging to be one of the heavier bands on a record label that traditionally deals with more punk-minded bands?
I think that it helps us stand out from the pack. It might not give us a lot of opportunities to tour with label mates, but Vagrant has shown that they can develop bands of many different genres. We knew the market and developmental skills were there, so it was just a matter of applying it to the metal community. It seems these days labels in general are trying to diversify their rosters by not only signing bands of one genre, and Vagrant has definitely shown that they’re open to working with bands and artists of a lot of different styles.
As a band that has a lot of metal elements in your music but doesn’t necessary “look the part,” do you often feel out of place on some of the tours you go out on?
This is an interesting question, because we’ve definitely been called out strictly on looks when we’re doing super “Metal or Die” tours. When we were out with Dragonforce, I distinctly remember a guy telling me, “your band sucks but you’re cool because you look ‘metal’.” We never bought into looking the part and spend more time with the music and let it speak for itself, and don’t worry about looks or style.
With your newfound success, did you have to adjust your live show accordingly?
We always like to try to put on a show that is sonicly as well as aesthetically pleasing. We don’t try to over produce the show with too many crazy things, but it’s always nice to have a good-looking back drop, scrims on the stage and a couple lights to just enhance the show and make it a little more enjoyable. Or just blind the shit out of people with an over-abundance of strobes. [This last tactic is exactly the one they employed on their most recent U.S. run. -Ed.]
Discuss the process you guys went through when you decided you wanted to release a live DVD. Are there certain elements of your show you wanted to capture?
Our management suggested the idea and it kind of just unfolded from there. We did it at a home town show, so it was definitely the environment we wanted to capture. It was really a learning experience for us all, and it’s nice to see how quickly you can get something like this together. I wish we had a little more time to sit down with the film crew before the show and give them a shot list of some of the things to look out for, but being involved in the development from start to finish, we learned a lot and I’m sure we’ll be doing another one in the future. We tried to up the production and got some bad ass lights, and we also rented snow machines for the encore (very Canadian I guess) Also, with the bonus footage we also wanted to show that even though we take the music seriously, we’re not very serious guys and like to have fun.
Do you think the DVD accurately captures what you guys are all about in the live setting?
Yes, but it being a home town show and one of the bigger venues we play, we had a little extra production, and also more friends and crew out because they’re all from the area.
Discuss some of the rigors of being on the road and how you guys have been able to deal with them (or not, as it were).
I guess for me I just like to keep myself busy, and no matter where I am, always know I can keep myself entertained. The fact that I really enjoy what I’m doing and am very lucky to be doing it makes the bad days still seem pretty decent. It’s nice to try to take advantage of all the cool places we get to go to, but at the same time, you can’t be a tourist everyday. Lately, I’ve been trying to stay in shape and go for runs and work out a bit. It’s nice to go for a run in an unknown place because it gives you a chance to see some of the city, and also get some fresh air and get out of the venue for an hour or so. We spend a lot of time of the day sitting around and waiting so it’s hard to stay active and in shape but it’s a good way to pass the time, clear your head and feel good about yourself.
What are some of the craziest experiences you’ve had while on the road?
Where do I start? We did a European headline in March where everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. We were crossing into the UK from France and when our driver went to open up the trailer for the customs guard to see what was in there, they found a guy that was trying to sneak into the country curled up in there. The bad thing was that in order to make room for himsel,f he threw a box of our merch away. A couple nights later, we were at a bed and breakfast and in the middle of the night, three guys broke into one of the rooms, and stole two laptops from two guys that were with us on the road, right off the bed side table while they were sleeping. Our sound guy lost his passport that was in his computer bag and was stuck in the UK for a couple extra days. It was kind of creepy watching this all go down on the security cameras in the morning with the owner, but by that time it was too late. Just to name a few things…
The 2 year anniversary of the release of Fortress is fast approaching. Are you guys working on another record yet? How will the next PTH record differ from Fortress?
We took most of the summer off to start up the writing process again. It was nice to be stationary and have a more relaxed schedule. We never have any overall goal with each record we write, but always try to incorporate new techniques and influences into the music and it just happens naturally. I think with this record we’re more open to trying to have a little more dynamic, play both fast and slowly, and maybe even use some clean guitar tones and have some softer parts. That being said, it’s not going to be that far of a leap from Fortress, just more of a maturation. We’re no longer angsty kids.
Do you feel pressure to top Fortress?
No, I’m confident that we won’t release a record if we’re not proud of it. We don’t feel we need to top Fortress and the record won’t be a recycled version of Fortress. That record captures a time in our life and we’ve grown, changed and been exposed to a lot more in the last two years. I’d like to think every album we do would be capturing a different point of our life, and development as a band, always slightly changing and maturing, but keeping the same true core, because at the end of the day we’re still the same five dudes, maybe just a bit hairier.
Have you started to re-grow your beard?
Yeah, it’s coming back at a nice pace. I experimented with the Fu Manchu for a while, but now I’m going all out. May 2011 is the next International Beard and Moustache Championship, and I intend to be there in full force and beard.