Interview With Shadows Fall - September 2009
Photo Of Matt BachandWith new album Retribution, Shadows Fall have professed to having gone a little bit darker, a little bit heavier and whole lot more experimental than on previous efforts. Hearing the songs live, the true power hidden within the staves becomes apparent and, tonight, crammed into the Norwich Waterfront they seem to be gathering strength to prepare a full-blown assault like never before. John Skibeat dragged guitarist/backing vocalist Matt Bachand to one side to try and gauge the mood in the camp.

So far it's not been the smoothest of tours - a few cancellations. What exactly happened?
I don't know the whole story. The show in Sweden, we ended up playing anyway. They [touring buddies Five Finger Death Punch] cancelled, but then the whole thing got pulled. Zoltan [5FDP lead vocalist] was pretty sick for awhile, so I guess they thought it was the best thing to do.

What things do you think will help you stand out from the other bands on the tour?
I don't know. We just get up there and do what we do. We don't have any tricks or crazy stage shit going on. We just get up there and play the tunes and hope that the kids get it, so... that's all we can do and just do it as good as we can.

You’re over here promoting your new album, Retribution - possibly your best album to date. Were you intending to make the songs as heavy as you could when you wrote it?
I don't think we intended it that way, it just happened. We were in such a state of anger, I suppose, and I think that translates through on the music. I think what we try to do is not write the same record twice. Every album we put out separates itself from the others - you can't really say they all blend together. The previous record tends to lean towards more of a rock record; this one's a lot heavier. We try to keep it as interesting as possible, because we're the ones who have to get up there and play the songs 300 nights a year - if we're bored with them, it's gonna show, so we try to keep everything as fresh, for us, as possible.

To counteract the daily grind of a tour do you find ways of keeping things fresh?
Yeah, I suppose so. We had a day off in London a couple of days ago, so that was nice to just kind of see the city and spend some time there. Especially when it's a city as big as London - usually you're just in and out and there's no time for anything.

Did you go on the Millenium Wheel?
No, I'm terrified of that. HELL, NO!

Having Zeuss handle production on Retribution was a masterstroke. How was he to work with?
He's the sixth member. We've been recording with him since he had a four-track in his living room. He knows what sound we want, it's easy and it's right at home. We don't have to book any hotels; we just go right there and do it. We just needed someone different to head our vocal production.

Was there anything that he tried that you disagreed with?
Not really. He didn't change anything musically. He pretty much just engineered and made sure he got the best performance out of us. He didn't change any parts or instruments or anything like that.

The tracks War and King Of Nothing are absolute monsters. Which are your own favourites?
Those are actually two of my favourites. Those two and the opening track [The Path To Imminent Ruin] which is pretty cool too. We wanted to have that opening record with this metalhead thing, kinda like Machine Head did on The Blackening, where it's just pummelling you for, like, 10 minutes right off the bat, y'know?

Brian [Fair, vocalist] was experimenting with his vocal on this record. How much do you think it helped him having that vocal producer you mentioned [Elvis Baskette] on board?
He helped us all. Even with my own stuff, with the clean singing on the choruses. He showed me little tricks... there are layers you wouldn't even know were there. On some subconscious level, like when you isolate the tracks, they're there. Like these crazy high harmonies. Like you know the old Def Leppard tricks? Well, that's the kind of stuff we wanted to experiment with on this album. We haven't been able to do that before so it's kind of nice to have an outside opinion for something like that too.

Did it take a long time to get these techniques right?
Well, not really. For the most part it was pretty smooth sailing. If it's something new then you have to have a couple of swings before you hit it, but it wasn't too much of a chore. Plus we didn't have any distractions. This place is on a private beach in the middle of nowhere. So we were there for two weeks and then that was it. We didn't leave the house for those two weeks - it was all about the record. It was a little scary - got some cabin fever!

[Laughs] You didn't go for a dip in the sea?
It was way too cold. It was, like, February/March. Way too cold!

What have the early reactions to the album been like?
So far, great. Some of the haters who didn't like the last record are getting into it, so... At the end of the day, we're just gonna write records that we wanna write and if you dig it, great. If you don't, I don't care. I think the strangest thing is the people who wrote us off in 2002, when it was all "you guys suck now!" or whatever, those guys are really into this record which is pretty interesting. To have those guys ignore you five years and then, all of a sudden, get back into it again...

You had a few different genre labels pinned on you over the years. Do labels bother you?
I just think it's not necessary. I mean obviously you have to separate something just so people get what you're doing, but why can't you just call something 'rock' or 'metal' - why does it have to be 'melodeath', 'core' or whatever, I mean, who gives a shit? At the end of the day there are only two genre types - good and bad, that's it. It doesn't matter what you listen to - you either like it or you don't. I don't particularly use labels myself. Someone feels they need to though, well that's fine.

You, in particular, seem to have worked your way out of several labels. I think you started out being labelled 'metalcore'...
That's what I don't understand. Where's the hardcore? Where is the hardcore? We've been called 'death metal' - how's that? Acoustic break, clean singing - is that death metal? We've been called everything in the book which is kind of why we do it. We fit everything which is why we can go out on tour with a band like Suffocation and then go out on tour with a band like Five Finger Death Punch and it doesn't matter because we can still sell to both those crowds which is the way we like it.

What were your influences growing up?
Anything really. A lot of the Florida death metal scene in the 90s. Obituary, Morbid Angel. I'd also listen to stuff like Metallica, Maiden. The Bay Area thrash stuff like Testament, Exodus. Those kind of things. That's how I got into it but then it just spins off into things like Snow Patrol... just clear my head, y'know. If you listen to metal all the time - a) it gets boring and b) you end up ripping someone off subconsciously - "Oh, I got this great riff... ah, shit that's on Master Of Puppets, fuck it"... you don't realise until it's too late and then it's...

How do you like to relax outside of the band?
There's not a lot of time for that, if I'm honest. We handle a lot of our own business stuff. I've also got my own studio so I've been getting into recording bands back home. Trying to open that door so, when this one closes, I can move on. There's a shelf-life to anything and we've been doing this almost 15 years now. It's not gonna last for ever - I'm not gonna be 75, still jumping around on stage, I'm gonna be behind a console recording somebody else.

You're soon off to tour Australia with Lamb Of God and Devildriver. You must be looking forward to that?
Yeah, should be a good one. It's going to be summer then so I'm really looking forward to that more than anything. Lamb Of God, we've been playing with them since they were Burn The Priest, so they're family. Being on the road with people you know is a plus. It's nice to jump into something really familiar from day one.

Interview By John Skibeat
 Band Members

Brian Fair
Jonathan Donais
Matt Bachand
Paul Romanko
Jason Bittner
 Band Members
Shadows Fall - Retribution
Release Date: 15th September 2010

1. The Path of Imminent Ruin
2. My Demise
3. Still I Rise
4. War
5. King of Nothing
6. The Taste of Fear
7. Embrace Annihilation
8. Picture Perfect
9. A Public Execution
10. Dead and Gone
 Band Related Links
Shadows Fall Myspace