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FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: Ugly Noise don't come easy

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: Ugly Noise don't come easy
BANDS : Flotsam and Jetsam

The music industry and metal scene have seen better days. Kelly David Smith (drummer of Flotsam and Jetsam, returned to the band after a long absence) knows it better than most: he's been around since the mid '80s. After The Cold was received with open arms by fans and media and later distributed by Nuclear Blast, Flotsam and Jetsam wanted to start working on the next album. But the offers they received from interested labels were not considered beneficial to the band. So they turned to Pledge Music, a project that allows fans to directly finance the recording of albums. The result was... Ugly Noise. Kelly thinks this is the future of music. It's better we let him explain, because he's a guy who definitely knows what he's talking about:

Metalfan: Hello, is pleased to welcome back Flotsam and Jetsam. Let’s start with a question about the recent line-up changes. Since the release of
The Cold (2010), two band members were replaced: guitarist Mark Simpson and drummer Craig Nielsen. How was it for you personally to step back into the band after a 14 years absence?
KDS:  First off thank you for the opportunity to interview with you.
For the time I was out I was still keeping tabs and staying in contact with the local guys that I grew up with. My stance in that time was that unless I was invited back it was Craig’s spot this was not communicated to them. I would not try to interrupt what they had going. For the first few years I was not interested I was rebuilding my life with my family and music was second in my life. In the last 5 – 6 years I have been moving my interests back into music again. So when the call came in it was welcomed.

Metalfan: Ugly Noise, your new album, has been recorded with funding from the fans, through Pledge Music. What led the band to the decision of adopting such an uncommon approach?

KDS: When I came back into the band a lot of things had changed in the industry. I looked back at our history and decided that it was time for us to take some control of our music. With all of the options out there in the cyber world, it seemed to make sense to do it ourselves. We joined forces with Pledge Music. Pledge Music allows our fans to become the record label. In turn we get to keep our publishing and copyrights and by the end of the project we are debt free as well. This enabled us to shop for a distribution deal that suits us. Most of the offers we were given were structured as a traditional record deal and didn't provide an advantage for us. Most record deals are like that. We struck a deal with our longtime friends at Metal Blade. We are more of a partnership because of our longstanding relationship. Most of the people who works there have been there for most of our career. So we felt very comfortable working with them.

Metalfan: Were there no other options at the time?

KDS: There were other offers but they were not something that would benefit us in the long run. Some of the communications between them also brought some caution flags for us.

Metalfan: How would you say it worked out for you in the end, are you satisfied with this experience, would you do it again?
KDS: Yes, mainly due to the freedom we have to choose and also ownership of music. We went into this with the idea that we are in school and this is a learning process. We had some minor issues overall from a first run through. We will refine this process.

Metalfan: Would you recommend Pledge Music to other bands?
KDS: Yes, we feel it is the future of music as the fall of the majors and with all of the downloading, record labels can’t sustain the hit. Even though there was a huge wave of downloads after our Pledge release. We can still make records and the cost is not on the band. This also helps solidify the bond between the fans and the bands. We feel that if you are going to download our record, we would say come to the show and support us by buying merch buying tickets to the show. If we don’t eat we don’t write and the band will cease to exist. So it’s up to YOU.

Metalfan: Since guitarist Mark Simpson, who was the main songwriter, left shortly after the release of The Cold, who wrote the music for the new album? Please tell us more about how the whole process.
KDS: Mike Gilbert wrote 100% of the music and AK, Mike and Newsted had lyrics.
The Cold is a completely different concept and written solely by Mark Simpson. Mark is an excellent writer and personal friend as well. He took 3 years to write it and program the drums.
This record is more of collaboration. This was very different than previous records. In the past we would write in the same room all together in a band practice session. Hammer it all out in a day or two then it would move to the stack of tunes, and we would move to the next until we were done. This record was written in stages and we focused a lot of structure of songs. Mike and I looked at our back catalogue of music and had to ask ourselves if we could do this better and what things could be missing.                                
Mike would track his ideas in his studio then send them on to us. Mike and I would get together and hammer it out and record first stage for Ak to start laying his melodies down while we continue to work on songs and get them on tape.
Ak comes in and lays down 3 -4 different vocal ideas. Mike and AK work on that aspect. Mike lays down leads and bass until final recording to just get the idea into a full sound. Ed then adds the colors and shading ideas. From there we listen to them and note our ideas for the song make any changes before final production. If the music doesn’t move us then it won’t move you. We are fans as well as musicians so it must work on that level or it is dead on the floor. Finally the main benefit now is that having our own studio and being our own label. It’s on our time and schedule.

Metalfan: There has been some information online about ex-band member Jason Newsted writing music for the new Flotsam and Jetsam album. What was his involvement in the making of this record?
KDS: I am glad you brought this up. Jason wrote the lyrics for Ugly Noise and Gitty up. No music at all. When Mike and I started to work on this record together we had a lot of stuff on the table. We had some ideas of a schedule to set ourselves with and it seemed that there was more than we could cover in that time. We thought that since Jason was not really doing much that he may want to write some lyrics. It seemed to be a good idea at the time. He came out we had some fun jamming some Doomsday and No Place tunes together. Jason had other commitments as you are now aware of so that was all it was for us.

Metalfan: How would you describe the sound of the new record, compared with the band’s previous record, The Cold, and compared to the albums the band released in the 80s?
KDS: I am not a big fan of comparisons; I can say that from Unnatural to The Cold Is a different style than the previous Flotsam releases. It is really a fans perspective that would best fit this answer. I think that those records reflect what was going on at the time with each version presented.
When Mike and I looked back at the past music that we were involved in, it came down to structure and maturity of the writing in some aspects. UGLY NOISE is a very mature record that fits more in the vein of Drift. The sound sonically is amazing to me, Ralph Patlan who worked on the “The Cold” took this to the top as far as final mix.
We focused on tension and drawing the people into the song emotionally on UN.
The days of 6 -8 minute songs are over and people’s attention span for that has changed greatly.

Metalfan: The new material incorporates some electronic and industrial sounds that have confused some of your fans. Is this a direction the band intends to expand on?
KDS: We had some of that on Drift as well. Our fans have come to know that we aren’t afraid to go there, anywhere for that matter. We love to branch out and experiment. If you don’t grow you get stagnant. I can’t enjoy playing the same crap every record, I /we need energy to feed off of and so do the fans…..

Metalfan: What information can you give us about the actual recording of the album, what studio did you use, did it take long, what other people have been working with the band?
KDS: Lucky for us we were able to use Mike’s studio to track everything but drums. We recorded drums at SER in Gilbert, Arizona. From preproduction to final mix was just over 1 year to Pledge release. Mike, AK, Newsted and I were the main people working on the record.

Metalfan: What can you tell us about the artwork and the cover?
KDS: Mike Gilbert came up with the concept when we found the picture it matches the darkness of the song. It was a picture of a piano that had been set on fire then put out and still smoldering. It is very dark and sometimes with the matching darkness in the way people think of our music it seemed to fit into the ugliness of people’s thinking.

Metalfan: You must have gotten quite a few reactions to the new album so far, are they what you expected?

KDS: It would be arrogant to say that is what I expected but it is what we had hoped for. The response to the Cold was very huge and there was some concern that people would not receive UN in the same way. People/fans like to hold on to their perception of what “their” band should be and they don’t always take changes well. We were pleasantly surprised.

Metalfan: You have recently done some touring in the US with Testament, could you please tell us more about how did you get invited into the tour and how did it go?

KDS: Testaments agent contacted our agent about doing the tour. We have been friends with them for years it made things easy to say yes too.
The tour was one if the best I have been on so far. It was a unified front of having a good time and making sure the fans got a great show. We worked with all the bands to make sure everyone was working things out. Testament reached out to 4ARM and Flotsam to help accommodate us to have a more comfortable experience and in turn a better show. The tour was a huge success for all. Unfortunately Bobby got pneumonia and had to drop off half way through the tour. Otherwise 2 thumbs up.

Metalfan: You have also been invited to play at the 70000 Tons of Metal, the Floating Heavy Metal Festival, what can you tell us about that experience?

KDS: Interesting, we actually played our first live show the day before headlining in Miami and it was a great ice breaker for us. We played with Helstar on that show then on the boat we were in great company. Metal Church, Kreator, Doro, Helloween, among others they were killing it live. 3 stages and an all-star jam 2 different times. It was really good to get to see that many bands all at the same time. Since I was a kid a show is my rock school and I always take something away with me. I took a lot from that trip.

Metalfan: The album has been relased by Metal Blade. How did you get in contact with them and what are your expectations?

KDS: Brian [Slagel, Metal Blade founder] was in the loop from the start and kind of on the side lines for a bit.
We had nothing solid from anyone for a while as we were doing the Pledge Music project they just watched until it was time to proceed. We had been talking with 2 other companies but no one seemed to get the distribution thing so much and offers were more like a record deal which we didn’t need. When we finished we sent MB and the others some tracks and Metal blade had the best offer for us that made the most sense for us.
We expected/wanted to have a company to distribute UN but be involved in it 100%.
In the past this band had a lot of glad handers with their offers out once the deal was done they would just rely on the name and do nothing else. Metal Blade has a true link to us and also a history and a dedicated staff that has been at MB for 20+ years. With a 30 year track record and growing, it kind of makes things obvious. You don’t go to a dentist to get groceries you go to the grocery store. 30 years of Metal. Who else?

Metalfan: After being a part of the metal scene for so many years, as a recording and performing artist with a band that has had a fair share of commercial success and fame over the years, would you like to share with us some of the knowledge you have gathered? What is your opinion about the metal scene of today, about how the music industry has shaped the past and the future of metal?
KDS: What I saw in the beginning was great opportunity as a young band in 1987.
As the years went on and started to see how the labels were whoring out various sounds, example would be when Motley Crew came out every major label would try to find a band to copy that sound even if they sucked. Saw that many times also as free radio would overplay the crap out of every band until you hated them. That has proven to bite them all in the ass as the labels have gone away and people are moving to internet and satellite radio to get away from the repetitious play and commercials.
MTV’s first video, “Video killed the radio star” couldn’t have been more appropriate to what would happen. It was a forecast of what was to come. As a kid all I had was my 12” vinyl with lyrics in the sleeve and even for a little while Cd’s with just my imagination of what they were going to look like or play like live. MTV caused viewers to come to expect the same level of show live which most bands couldn’t provide. It also left no element of surprise or mystery anymore.
Then came the internet… That took everyone down. Double edged sword good for promotion but killed off labels, MTV, Radio, and now with illegal sharing the entertainment business is dying. All the favorite bands you love will eventually all be gone to get real jobs. So in that respect we are returning to the western times of musicians playing in the streets to make money hence the “starving musician” is back more than ever. We as a race are greedy and will eventually destroy ourselves with greed. The need to steal and scam it at an all-time high worldwide and if you haven’t noticed the economy is feeling it everywhere.
The metal scene is thriving again and what I see is that there are still very few making a true success. There is an appearance of success. As most people know there is Metallica then very far down the scale everyone else. There is no one at that level and I am not sure there ever will be again. Lots of great bands for sure. I really am not down with the cookie monster metal or screamo. I think it is over saturated as I stated prior. There are 400 bands that you could interchange the “singer” and you would never know the difference. There is only a hand full that actually make a difference. ( Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, Slipknot, All that Remains to name a few) Classic metal is still kicking ass very well.. ( Anthrax, Slayer, Testament, Overkill, Flotsam, Death Angel, Sacred Reich, Metallica, Megadeth, Machine Head) to name a few.
I am proud to be a part of that crowd that has an actual “Singer”.

Metalfan: What are we to expect in the near future from Flotsam and Jetsam?

KDS: It will really depend on how the reaction goes as to what we will be doing. Our plans are to tour every hole in the wall on the planet if people will allow us to do that.
Autor: Klawz
   April 27, 2013  | 0 Comments  | 9195 Views « BACK

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