The Scream Queen Interviews Phil Labonte of All That Remains!
|Date: October 3, 2008|
First of all, how does it feel to have debuted on the Billboard Top 200 list at #16 this week?
As a band with this style, you'd never expect it, ever. You know? Like getting started in bands, my first band was a full on doom metal/rap metal band and that kind of stuff, so to think that we write stuff and play stuff that people would actually go out and buy. I mean we sold a lot of records that week. You know, it's like, holy crap! No one goes out and buys records anymore! You know? It's awesome.
What do you think has made you break into the Top 20 this week?
Probably just constant touring. I think that our record we wrote is good. I love this sucker, I mean I'm real proud of it, I'm real happy with it. But what it really boils down to just being on the road a lot and touring a lot and being out there a lot. That's where bands get their name really.
Do you think that metal has made a "comeback this year" I mean you have Metallica, Slipknot, and then you guys all within the top 20 this week?
You know, maybe? I don't know because you can never tell because metal is gone, or kind of on a on a down turn, and it often kind of changes. Whether you kind of like nu-metal or not, real metal kind of went away and then the next thing was nu-metal, you know what I mean?
You guys were on the Warped Tour this summer, right? Or was that last summer?
I think that was this summer. Yeah, this summer.
So being a part of that tour probably gained more fans for you guys as well?
Hopefully, that was the point. (laughs) We're not really what you would normally associate with, as the type of band that would be on the Warped Tour (laughs). We were the designated metal band for the Warped Tour!
Before you formed All That Remains, did you think that you think that you'd ever make it to this level of success that you have now?
No, no. Because like I said, I was always playing in death metal bands. The biggest bands to me were like Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Grave. I remember I saw Grave in 1995 and there were like 30 or 40 people at the show or something like that. I was flabbergasted - I was like WHAT?! This is the best band in the world -- and to me they were the biggest band on the planet! And no one cared!
You know, I would never think that the stuff that I do would ever be considered to be popular mainstream.
Have any bands ever asked you to cover any of your songs before?
Um, we've gotten a bunch of kids -- well, we've had a few times where kids have sent e-mails being like "Yo, we wanna cover your songs." We're like, it's just to the point where you don't even have to ask, if you want to cover the song, just cover it, that's sweet to me.
It's like the ultimate complement, I would assume.
Yeah, absolutely. If you go on YouTube, you can find covers of "This Calling" and stuff, sometimes poorly, sometimes not so poorly. But they're having a good time, it's fun, so it's all good.
If you could do a cover of any pop song that you wanted, would you? The reason I ask is because I saw somewhere that you are a fan of Justin Timerlake.
Yeah, HUGE Justin Timerlake fan! Love him!
But yeah, we've kicked around the idea of the band, we've talked about doing a cover EP or a cover record and everyone in the band picks two songs. And we all learn it, no questions, no complaints, you just learn the songs, everyone gets to pick two and just does them, no complaining. I would love to cover Possessions by Sarah McLachlan and I would love to cover The Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks - both amazing, amazing, AMAZING songs.
All That Remains is mainly influenced by melodic death metal - do you think, or would you ever want to do a collaboration with any European melodic death metal artists?
You know to be honest with you, I've never really thought about it. Collaborations and stuff like that, 9 times out of 10, they're so difficult to do just because of scheduling and stuff like that, it's really really hard. Really, we haven't put any thought into it. It would be cool. I'd love to go ahead and fuckin call up Tomas Lindberg or Arch Enemy and do something with them. It's one thing to go ahead and be like "hey, why don't you come on and sing on our record" or "is it cool if I come and sing on your record?" or whatever. That's one thing, but if I had to be like "ok, hey, let's get together and write stuff together and collaborate together" -- it's a lot more difficult, you know?
Your voice has incredible range, I know that you take lessons from Melissa Cross... Has that helped you most as a vocalist?
Yeah, probably. I'm not one of those dudes that got my start by doing death metal and stuff. I'm not one of those dudes that naturally is a music singer, it's practice and I've busted my ass. So yeah, I think that working with Melissa really, really has helped me a lot, absolutely.
Is there anything vocal-wise that you accomplished on Overcome that you didn't on The Fall of Ideals?
Yeah. Overcome was the first time that I had ever sung a song all the way through. On the other All That Remains records it was all screaming and singing thing and it was cool to do that, it was really fun. I really like singing and I've been screaming for a long time.
I kind of am at the point where it's like you know, I get everything from being a brutal underground death metal band, to a hardcore-esque screaming band, but I've done all that stuff. I'm not interested in repeating myself over and over and over. Now I think, it's not that I'm saying that the next All That Remains record will be all singing, absolutely not, I don't think there will ever be a record that we put out that doesn't have screams on it. It never could work. At the same time, we don't want to continue to put out the same stuff.
You kind of answered my next question, but what I was going to ask was: is there anything else that you want to do different with your voice on your future albums that you haven't done already?
Well there is some stuff that I wanted to do that I didn't get to do as much of as I would have liked to. One thing that we talked about was layering screams and singing together, having like a melodic line and a scream line going on at the same time. We did it in a couple of songs, we did it in Forever in Your Hands and we did it little bit in Two Weeks where the screams are really, really, really low.
That's something I wanted to do more of and it gives you more options live. Because if I feel like screaming that part that night, I can scream it or if I feel like singing that part, I can sing it-- it still sounds like a song, you know what I mean? That's something I want to do more of as time progresses.
Overcome just came out two weeks ago or a week and a half ago, but still it's like I'm still thinking about what's going to be done on the next record, you know?
What kind of feeling did you get when you first laid your hands on a guitar? Was it spiritual, an emotional connection, or both?
You know, I was 14 years old and I had been asking for a drum kit -- pestering my parents for a drum kit. I still thank God today that they didn't get me a drum kit because drummers get no respect. They got one of the most important jobs, probably the second most important job in a band. They have the most shit to carry and move around and stuff and they're stuck behind the furniture at back of the stage. You know so, I'm pumped that I didn't get the drum kit. I wouldn't say that it was a spiritual thing but when I started playing guitar, that's all I did for a couple years. When I say pretty much all I did, I didn't do homework; I didn't hang out with my friends much and when I did, it was going to band practice and then hanging out at my friends house watching TV or whatever and playing guitar. So, it was definitely a consuming thing, but not really a spiritual thing.
Did you know that when you started playing guitar that that was what you wanted to do - to be involved in music?
No, nope. I would sing into the mirror making believe that I was Bruce Dickenson because I was huge into Iron Maiden and stuff like that. I mean we are by no stretch of the imagination a really, really, really big band. I mean we have good stuff going on and we got some success but I mean to get to the level of Iron Maiden, or Judas Priest, or Metallica, or any of the massively huge bands, you have to be talented, the stars have to align, and everything has to fall into place perfectly.
I guess I never thought that it would happen. I guess I didn't really think that we would get to where we are now. I didn't really think of who I wanted to be in a band, like a rock star; I just played because I had fun and I liked it. I just see it as a normal job. As it turns out, once I started in bands, once I started touring a little bit, like with Shadows Fall in a two week tour and do weekends and stuff like that. Then I started All That Remains and it just became what I do. I don't think of it as work or anything, it's just part of who I am and what I do.
Most artists say that someone special or important influenced them to become who they are today, telling them that all things are possible and to go for their dreams, no matter what anyone says or things. Who was that person for you, or was there that person?
Well my dad was my hero and my role model. My dad wasn't a musician at all though. My dad really instilled in me the kind of attitude that I have that if you want something, you get up, you go out, and you do and you do it yourself, you don't let someone else do it for you. You don't complain if something does go right for you or whatever. You just go out and do it. So yeah, my dad definitely shaped who I am more than anyone else.
What was the most touching story a fan has told you about how your music has changed their life or have helped them through rough times?
A lot of times I get a lot of e-mails about the lyrics and stuff, people often times are asking what's this about, what's that about, and I won't tell them. I don't explain the lyrics because for the most part, if you read them they're kind of self explanatory, usually.
I don't know if there's one particular instance that I was like "wow, this is cool" because I get a lot of stuff where people are like "hey, this really helped me through a hard time." The thing that is most humbling and fulfilling about it is when someone tells me a story and they say "I was going through this situation and this song helped me get through it." I don't want to say they're right, but when they describe what I went through that caused me to write that, that's when it really affects me. Because for me, just like for anyone else, when you hear a song and you relate to it, it hits you and affects you. So when you feel like the person who wrote that song understands what you were going through, it's a two way street. When somewhat goes ahead and says "hi, I lost a family member, I lost my dad, this happened" or whatever and they say that this song really helped them get through it, you know. It really is very touching and very humbling and I'm really, really lucky that people listen to our stuff; it hits home with them.
Would you say that each album you have release has been a storyline to your life?
I wouldn't say each album is. I mean some have captured parts of my life and how I'm feeling at the time, overall. Its song-by-song has got to be a better way to put it. They say or describe you know a specific event or whatever; we don't have a theme to our records or a concept to our records or anything like that. But there's definitely more stuff that I write is all real. Stuff I write is stuff that I experience, I mean I don't write about stories or dragons or monsters or history or politics... It's all about things that I go through and have seen and lived through. It's all real, you know?
Have any crazy female fans ever come up to you and asked to play with your nipple rings?
I've actually had girls come up and ask if they can suck on my nipples -- I usually let them. I have had people come up and address my nipple rings; I guess is the best way to put it. (laughs)
Has there been any moment on tour that a fan has done anything totally insane to meet you guys?
No, not really. All That Remains is really available. I don't have a problem walking around in the crowd. I mean sometimes it'll get a little too much but for the most part we're not the band that hides. We're not the band that avoids our fans and stuff like that; we're very engaged and very normal people. We're not impressed by the fact that we're in All That Remains. Sometimes people come and are a little too excited and get a bit grabby and that kind of stuff isn't cool. For the most part, it doesn't really require anything crazy to meet us, just being at the show, keeping your eye out because you'll see one of us walking around.
That's probably another reason why you guys are #16 on the Billboard this week!
(laughs) Maybe, that'd be cool!