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FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: still bring it better than ever before

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: still bring it better than ever before
BANDS : Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest release of thrash veterans Flotsam and Jetsam, The Cold, is actually quite hot and shows a band that's undeniably at the top of their game. We inquiered drummer Craig Nielsen about this wave of renewed energy and creativity that flooded their rehearsal room and he was very quick to respond. Unfortunately, vocalist A.K. was not as easy to reach, so the lyrical content of the album remains to be discussed hopefully on some future occasion.

Metalfan: Hello and welcome to Flotsam and Jetsam has been a high profile act back in the late 80s and early 90s, but at some point it seems like you guys slipped back in the underground again. How would you summarize the career of the band in a few words, how would you describe your most important achievements? Outside the fact that this is the original band of ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, which I think everybody knows, hahaha   

Craig Nielsen: We are very fortunate to have the continued opportunity to record and tour, we have an AMAZING fan base that considers us one of the very best, consistent bands in the world, whats not to like? We continue to get blown away on every tour by some city somewhere, most recently Athens, Thesoliniki and Madrid. Last tour it was Poland and all points Holland, before that it was somewhere else. Mad love in Japan and Mexico City. We would have never imagined. Its all good being in this band.

Metalfan: There's been an important change in the line-up of the band earlier this year, Ed Carlson, founding member, left and was replaced with Michael Gilbert, another founding member, who had left band in 1999 and now came back. I mean, Michael was the ideal replacement, how did everything come into place so perfectly?
Craig Nielsen: Just fate really. We had done a few shows with Mike in past years, there was no bad blood whatsoever between us. He still has the same love for the band now as then and it was very easy and natural for him to rejoin when Ed decided not to do the last European tour in Apl., 2010. And he fell into the pocket with Mark almost immediately.

Michael Gilbert

Metalfan: You started working on the new record a while back, in 2008. Why did it take so long for the album to be finalized?      
Craig Nielsen: Our engineer unexpectedly was asked by "Head" (Brian Welsh/ex-Korn and part owner of our label) to join his solo touring band and other related commitments which of course delayed tracking, editing and mixing of our record. We didn’t expect it to take quite so long, but we were happy with our working relationship with Ralph and hung in there to do it all with him.

Metalfan: Did you work with a producer or did you produce the album yourselves? How did that work for you, were you able to get the songs to sound like you wanted to?
Craig Nielsen: You could say in a strong sense Ralph Patlin was extremely helpful in his expertise of the gear we used, and thus made it technically possible to capture the exact intention of the vibe of the parts that were being recorded. And he made actual part suggestions that worked very well. So in that sense he was co producing. And yes, we did get the end result we were hoping for this time.

Mark Simpson

Metalfan: Mark Simpson wrote all of the songs on this record, how did you guys end up with him being the only songwriter, did no one else come up with ideas? Is this how you usually work?
Craig Nielsen: Mark has been increasingly writing every record since Unnatural Selection (1999), so it seemed like an obvious progression that he would evolve into the main songwriter. This wasn’t by design. Simply, Jason and Ed felt Mark had a stronger passion and spirit for the writing and watched his talent grow for it so they let him run with it, especially for The Cold.

Metalfan: How exactly do you guys compose the music? Do you get together and jam and try different things on the songs until you are satisfied, the oldfashioned way, or are you just exchanging files over the internet and only get together in the studio to record the songs?
Craig Nielsen: Mark writes everything at home and records the first ideas with very detailed drum programming for my guidelines as to basic snare and kick placements and tempo of beats. I then get a cd of it to get basics burned to memory, then spend as much time as required to physically rehearse with him the arrangements and work out of drum beats, fills and accents, then Jason and A.K gets a copy. A.K. likes to write his vocals after the music is pretty well arranged. Of course he will make suggestions to suit his ideas, which we make, then we go into the studio not exactly sure what the final melodies will be, but A.K. is a master at this process and always stuns me with what has been running through his head and what he is able to deliver on the spot in the recording. He is really pretty amazing in his ability.


Metalfan: The Cold sounds different than any of your recent works, it brings a fresh approach on thrash metal, not unlike Cuatro and Drift did back in the nineties, but much more heavier this time. I guess no one was expecting this sudden and significant transformation of your music, what's the story behind it?
Craig Nielsen: There really was not any difference to the actual process. It was simply very fresh and inspired ideas on Marks part, recorded very well with one of the greatest vocalists on the scene. And with Jason Ward you get the best bang for the buck you could ever ask for in a bass player. His parts are always perfect for any given song. It came together as it should. And the engineer made it sound good. 

Metalfan: How would you describe your individual performance on this record? Did you focus on something in particular? Did you try anything different?
Craig Nielsen: I'm finally very happy with the drums on one of my recordings. Ralph was able to get the vibe and the tones from the very first day. And his comfort with the gear made it possible for me to try some things that didn’t consume as much time as in past records, so it freed me up creatively and I was able to stretch out my ideas a bit easier.

Craig Nielsen

Metalfan: I'm not yet sure how to describe the sound of The Cold, but I think that progressive thrash metal would not be awfully out of place. What do you think? How would you describe it?
Craig Nielsen: I wouldn’t call it thrash really as a whole because half the record is more mid tempo, more classic. The thrashier songs are maybe a bit progressive but definitely not in comparison with so many other progressive bands out there. Just some good technique and parts that complement each other. We are all pretty technical players by nature but are seasoned enough to have restraint and vibe on slower parts too.

Metalfan: AK talked about the Nevermore influences on this record and what a big Nevermore fan Mark is. What do you think about Nevermore? They debuted as Sanctuary about the same time you did, in the mid 80s. Ever listened to them or played together?
Craig Nielsen: I was actually the drummer for Nevermore for about 7 months before Van. I did 4 or 5 shows with them. I've known Jeff Loomis since he was 16, way before he joined what was then still Sanctuary. I got him an audition for Megadeth when he was only 17 years old for the gig Marty Friedman ended up getting. And for my very first tour with Flotsam 14 years ago, Nevermore opened for us for 9 weeks across the states. I love Nevermore and think they are one of the most talented bands ever. Mad respect.

Metalfan: The album has been released by Driven Music Group, a "local" label so-to-speak. I see they are making some efforts to promote the album, are the results satisfying so far for you?          
Craig Nielsen: I don’t put too much hope on any label breaking a record anymore. There are hardly any magazines to take ads out in anymore, people know your record is out from the web and through satellite radio, and if they like it, they will buy it. Or download it. The cream rises to the top. If its great, people will hear about it and nature will take its course.

Metalfan: Now that the album is out, do you have any plans to take it on the road? You did a few shows in Europe earlier this year, when do you think the next tour will be?
Craig Nielsen: We toured Europe 3 times in the last 2 years, going pretty much everywhere except Scandanavia. We will evaluate whats next as we see how the record continues to grow hopefully in the coming weeks. This is not a good time tour the States at all and We have to wait a bit before considering Europe again to get promoters to make it financially possible to come back.

Jason B. Ward

Metalfan: The band can't tour as much as you guys would like to, because everybody has day jobs they'd like to keep, but if don't tour, it's harder to reach a wider audience and to start living out of your music. Do you see a way out of this vicious circle?
Craig Nielsen: Not really. The best case is to get invited to bigger festival events to reach more people at once. That would work very well.

Metalfan: The mid 90s were a weird period for heavy metal, alot of bands lost their way, started drifting (pun intended haha) and even disbanded. Alot of people blame it on grunge music. You were there, what happened? How were the 90s for metal music and how were they for Flotsam and Jetsam? Care to go back on memory lane for a few minutes?
Craig Nielsen: The early 90's were the best years actually. Flotsam went on arena tours with the likes of Megadeth, Korn and Fear Factory. Toured with King Diamond and many other great bands of the day. Cuatro and Drift were MCA releases, great, polished sounding records with A list producers. Then, yes, the late 90's started to suck hard in comparison.

Metalfan: Returning to present times, there has been a rise in popularity for thrash metal lately, with lots of new bands breaking through and some old ones coming back to the scene. Do you think we're moving in cycles? Especially since chief grungers Alice in Chains have released a new album, Soundgarden have announced their reunion, too, it's all happening again, hahaha Does history repeat itself in music, too? What do you think?
Craig Nielsen: It would seem so. I've been hearing for a very long time now about the so called resurgence of Thrash but it's definitely not like before and the momentum is still too slow in my opinion. Too many sub styles of Metal still competing with each other. To many bands using the same recording techniques making everything start to sound the same. Great technical talent to be sure and a few are great standouts, we can always hope.

Metalfan: How would you define success? Is Flotsam and Jetsam a successful band?
Craig Nielsen: Very successful. All it takes is too come to a show and see the loyalty and love we get every single night, no matter for 10's 100's or multiple thousands at Festivals. And the mad respect we get from our peers. 13 records, integrity in the entire writing and live process. We still bring it live better than ever before, for real.

Metalfan: What can we expect from the band in the near future? Are you planning to build a decisive comeback on the good response you got for The Cold, to make this a turning point of your career or are you just taking it easy like usual?
Craig Nielsen: Public demand and record performance will determine many things. Of course if we are on to renewed large scale interest then we would be inspired to think along any lines of possibility. Believe me, I hope The Cold achieves the success the press and our fans so far claim it should.

Metalfan: Good luck with that and thank you very much for your time! Anything else you'd like to add?
Craig Nielsen: It cant be said enough, we only keep doing this for the love of it and the thrill of proving you don’t have to degrade with age or any other factor. The metal fire never dies. This band loves its fans, we are humbled constantly by our interaction with them. Thank you again and again. Flots for Life!!!


Autor: Klawz
   October 21, 2010  | 0 Comments  | 6657 Views « BACK

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