Interviews

MAKE ‘ENEMIES’ WITH THE ARMED

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Detroit, MA’s The Armed are your new favourite band, and here’s why in bullet point form:

  • Their self-released debut album, ‘These Are Lights’, rips the tits off a bear. It’s a half-hour of classy modern metalcore that brings to mind both Botch and The Dillinger Escape Plan, and it was mixed by Kurt Ballou.
  • The follow-up EP, ‘Common Enemies’ has just come out, and features a guest performance by ex-DEP drum cyborg Chris Pennie.
  • Both of these releases are available for FREE in high-quality mp3 straight from the band right here.
  • They’ve got all this done and they’ve only been playing together since LAST MAY.

Once you’ve cleaned yourself up, click through for an interview I did with drummer Tony Wolski just prior to the release of  ‘Common Enemies’ earlier this year.

In as few words as possible, describe The Armed

Detroit Punk Band.

How long have you guys been playing together?

Aaron and I have played a lot of different music together for a very long time. Most of the rest of the guys played in another band, Slicer Dicer too. That band sort of, kind of became this band in a way. But this exact group has been playing since…well I think our first practice was last May? So a bit under a year?

You guys snagged Kurt Ballou to mix These Are Lights. How was that? Did you work very closely with him?

I really look up to Kurt Ballou both as a producer/engineer and as a musician/songrwiter in Converge. I think he’s really important to what people consider modern hardcore. Personally speaking, he’s definitely been a big influence on what kind of sounds I find appealing.

That said, getting to work with him in any capacity was great, but he didn’t produce the album or anything like I’ve seen written on some websites…and that’s not trying to diminish his contribution towards the sound we achieved or anything like that. It’s just that I’ve actually never even been to Godcity…it was all done through the wonders of the internet and FedEx.

I spoke to Kurt face to face only once at a Converge show during the recording of “These Are Lights.” He did give tons of advice over the course of the recording process though which obviously helped shape the final product. He answered about a billion emails and really helped guide us through a lot of the technical aspects of what we were doing…and obviously he then mixed our sessions. We were really happy with the results and glad that he found time to mix our new EP as well….

And you’ve now also managed to get Chris Pennie on board?

Working with Chris Pennie was really awesome. As a drummer, I look up to him a ton, so getting to hear him work on a song that I had helped create was amazing.

Me and Aaron have known him for a while and when it was time to record this EP, we sent him a demo of the track and just asked if he’d wanna play on it. He was down so we set up, relatively quickly, plans to go to Jersey and record him. It was really fun and I think the result is great. He definitely plays on the black sheep song of the EP…I’m not sure if some kids are going to be bummed out by that but whatever. I think both parties stepped out on what styles we’ve been most commonly associated with on that track and made something really great.

One of my favourite tracks on ‘These Are Lights’ is ‘I Steal What I Want’, which is pretty much a jazz song. How did that come about? Who is that playing sax? (or is it Clarinet? I can’t tell)

It’s a clarinet solo, and then it’s backed up by two saxes. Mike Jones is the guest on that track…he’s actually Aaron’s dad. He’s a totally sick player and he shows up on one of the new songs on “Common Enemies” as well…but to a much different effect.

We were really focused on appropriate pacing for “These Are Lights,” and really composing the album as an album and not just a list of songs. Putting that song there felt like a really good way to break up the aggressiveness of the first and second halves of the record in a way that still made a cohesive overall product.

So you’ve got the new EP, ‘Friends Through Common Enemies’, on the way, tell us a bit about that.

It’s a short, punk rock EP, written with the 7 inch format in mind (two songs on Side A, two on Side B). Guitar, bass, vocals, and drums. Really angry, stripped down stuff. Three rock songs and one not-very rock song. It’ll be available as a limited-press 7 inch vinyl as well as a 100% free lossless download, just like “These Are Lights”…just give us your email and it’s all yours. There’ll be a short dvd with some cool stuff that’ll also be available to people who want to get the vinyl…a music video, a big interview, some making-of footage, stuff like that.

Where did the idea to set up the “LIAR” page (where the band got fans to record gang shouts for one song from home)  come from?

We definitely wanted to try and foster some sense of community and do something that was very inclusive utilizing the web. A lot of people talk about how much better “the scene” was before the modern-day internet, p2p networks, youtube, social media…how kids used to actually go to shows and whatnot…not just look stuff up online. Most of that is in a way, totally true. However at the same time, now is now and then was then. You can’t just pretend it’s the 80′s again. The internet isn’t just going to go away.

People have to adapt to new circumstance and find a way to make technology work with them, not against them. Doing the whole “Liar” thing allowed us to connect with people all over the world, and actually include them in a recording, no strings attached. As long as they recorded their take in a relatively acceptable format and close to being in time, we put it in. Hopefully the people who participated will feel like they were a real part of our music…which was both our goal and the traditional idea behind a real music community and scene anyways.

Will there be much touring in support of this new release?

We’ll see. There’ll be tons of Michigan shows and some stuff peppering the midwest pretty soon…as well as some East Coast stuff during the summer. Getting out west anytime very soon seems relatively unlikely unless we can find someone to take us out there with them. Same goes for anything overseas.

You covered Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Gave Up’ on ‘These Are Lights’. Did Trent Reznor’s decision to give away NIN’s multi-track files and ‘The Slip’ influence you in giving away ‘These Are Lights’?

Oh yeah of course man. I mean, we didn’t invent the idea of giving out our music…neither did Trent Reznor really either…but he sure presented a great interface to distribute that album, and that helped us out a lot

Aside from obviously providing you a platform to release your album, how has the internet helped you guys get established as a band?

So many bands use the internet as a means to provide ONLY “added value” or “bonus content” or something along that vein. That kind of stuff is cheap and smart people can see right through it. The bands that are going to survive nowadays are the bands that can embrace the web and use it to be closer to their fans than ever before.

The whole punk idea of blurring barriers between the stage and the audience? You can do the same thing on the internet by answering every message that comes to your facebook and myspace and treating people who dig your stuff with respect…not just flooding their pages with automated, promotional nonsense.

I think that attitude has thus far been really beneficial to our band. We’ve been able to connect with a lot of people in a lot of different places we’ve never played. Now we’re just trying to take that one step further, with things like the Liar website and stuff, so we can really make a “scene” that isn’t solely defined by geographical borders.

A lot of your music is pretty technically established. It seems like musicians are just getting more proficient and at younger ages these days. Do you think there’s a conceivable limit in sight? Or will heavy music just keep getting faster and more complex as time wears on?

I dunno, but I kind of hope not. I think that as the trend moves towards super crazy technical playing in aggressive music, there is a disturbing lack of actual song-writing taking place. I really hope that if it does continue, more super technical bands will place more importance on good song-writing. Don’t get me wrong, there ARE bands that are technical and really great at writing songs, but for each one of those, there are seemingly a hundred that just line up a bunch of riffs. That kinda stuff is really uninteresting to me.

I’m all for non-traditional song structure, but there still has to be some kind of glue, some concept or something to hold it all together…a lot of stuff out there feels VERY arbitrary to me right now. I think metal kids have to stop using the “but it’s hard to play” excuse to forgive weak composition. There are plenty of songs out there that prove technicality and good song-writing can coexist.

-Crack Hitler

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