INTERVIEW: Art of Dying (Jeff Brown)

Jeff Brown (Art of Dying): Hey it’s Jeffy from Art of Dying.

MelodicEnmity (New Transcendence): Well, for starters, how are you doing?

JB: I’m good man, I’m good. We’re in Reno. I just had a nice massage. Doing good.

ME: Do you have a show there tonight?

JB: Yeah we have a show tonight at the Knitting Factory in Reno.

ME: I just wanted to say thank you for doing this and congratulate you and the rest of Art of Dying on your upcoming full length and recent EP, “Rise Up.” Is there a set date yet for the release of the full length?

JB: Thank you very much. There is not an exact date, but it will be released sometime this Summer.

ME: It’s been about 4 years since you released “Vices & Virtues” and Art of Dying has been touring relentlessly over that period. At about what time did you guys decide to write a new album and where did the inspiration for it come from?

JB: Yeah, that’s right. Well, we didn’t want to rush into it after “Vices & Virtues.” We decided that it would be a good time to capitalize on a few things and do some restructuring. We really just wanted to start writing, and change the way we write. We started working with David Bendeth, a producer we never worked with, and he challenged us even more to just write better. We decided to pick a lane and decided to just write a heavier record and stay true to hard rock while still having a couple softer tunes that still were in the same realm of having the integrity of a heavy rock record. You know what I mean, just some breaks between the songs, about creating something that is still a rock song even though it’s softer.

ME: Definitely.

JB: So, we just didn’t rush into it. We spent three months in New York and New Jersey writing the record. Then it took a little bit to pick the right time to release it, instead of rushing things and getting it out late 2014 or early 2015 around the New Year. It was just the optimal time to do it. So, we’re excited and thrilled to be out on the road with Apocalyptica; they’re great guys. And, the feedback from “Rise Up” and the EP so far has been absolutely phenomenal. So, we’re pinching ourselves every day, that’s for sure.

ME: I am, as I am sure all of your fans are as well; looking forward to the release of the full record. It is definitely different and heavier like you said while still maintaining the sound the made Art of Dying to begin with as well.

JB: Yeah, we took a lot of risks on this record, but still wanted to keep the integrity of Art of Dying.

ME: One question I wanted to ask: With people having the EP in hand right now, anticipating the full length, how would you describe the full album in comparison to not only your self-titled record but to “Vices & Virtues?”

JB: Well, it is a lot heavier and edgier. Like I mentioned, we took a lot more risks and we wanted to write an album that you could listen to front to back. We wanted to have songs that would hopefully blow your hair back, and if you’re driving down the highway that you’d just need to pull over and say “Who was that? I need to listen to that again!” We wanted to be different. Everybody was using different tunings, to me being the drummer, doing a lot of double kick on this record. So, compared to “Vices & Virtues” it’s just a lot heavier with a lot more attitude.

ME: For our readers, do you have any interesting stories having to do with writing and recording the new record with David Bendeth, which I imagine was at House of Loud in Elmwood Park, New Jersey?

JB: It was at House of Loud in Elmwood Park. Honestly, it was such an emotional record. He just doesn’t want anything but excellence. So, you could think that you just knocked it out of the park and he challenges you with “You can do it better. You can do it better.” David was with us every step of the way. There’s a lot of producers that aren’t 100% present, and he was just there from 2 in the afternoon to 4 in the morning every day. As far as stories, you know we went from a five piece or a four piece. Greg needed to move on. We knew that was coming, but we’re buddies first, so that was the moment we decided to get tighter as a four-piece and stay a four-piece, with no need to replace Greg. Really, the common thread every day was empowerment and getting the best in all of us. It would be Tavis and I in one room trying to write three bad-ass songs, with Jonny in another room, and Cale in another room. Then, we’d come together and play them. We worked really, really hard. You know, House of Loud is kind of in the middle of nowhere, it’s kind of an industrial area there which is just the opposite of where we made “Vices & Virtues” in L.A. It was L.A., and there was a lot more around. This time it was just, get down, dirty, and it was okay to bring in your personal stuff, as that’s where a lot of music comes from. David really believed in that. He’s just an amazing guy and kind of like a dad to us. He would talk about everything from relationships, to family, to why things are the way they are. I really would push any band to find a producer who cares enough to have that approach because it really will get you the best stuff, if you have that open relationship.

ME: You say this is a new heavier and edgier album, and “Rise Up” is definitely a title that fits that equation. What does the title mean to you and the rest of Art of Dying?

JB: To rise up against what you believe in. It’s okay because everybody has a voice, and everybody at the end of the day when they go to bed at night, have a lot to say. People need to speak up, and we want this record to empower people to do just that. Whatever you believe in, get behind it, and believe in yourself, while having the emotional stability to do it. We, as a band, will back you up anyway we can. That’s really the message that we’re bringing to this record, to our shows, and everything from our charities that we’re going to be working with, to our merchandise. The message will be just that, rise up.

ME: You mentioned charities that you will be working with. Can you divulge?

JB: Not just yet. We’re just finalizing a few things. The common denominator will be rising up against women’s rights and stuff like that. We really believe in throwing that back to our fans and giving them a platform to speak. We want to back them up. We’re all in this together.

ME: That’s really admirable of you guys.

JB: Yeah, we’re stoked.

ME: So, you guys recorded “Rise Up” with Dan Donegan of Disturbed?

JB: Well, we didn’t record with WITH him. We recorded with David Bendeth. Dan recorded his parts and sent them over.

ME: How did it come around that Dan ended up playing guitar on “Rise Up,” and what was the writing experience like working with him?

JB: We wrote the music first, and one day felt we should have Dan do one of his classic guitar solos. We just had the idea that we should have one of those epic guitar battles and he thought it was a great idea. It really was as simply as this: we told him, he heard the track, he dug it, and he sent us his parts. That was pretty much it. It was dropped in the track, mixed, mastered, and that was done. So, when we asked him if he wanted to come do the video for it, he just said “fuck yeah.”

ME: It’s nice when things can just work out like that.

JB: Yeah, he’s like a big brother to us and we’re his little brothers. I think it’s just nice to be able to have him on our record. I also think it was nice for him because he’s not touring with Disturbed right now or any side projects. It was a way for him to get his creative juices flowing again, and be involved. I think he was happy to help out.

ME: Well it came out great.

JB: Thanks man.

ME: I’m sure you’ve heard this, but what is your favorite track off either the EP or full length and why?

JB: Honestly man, we get asked this a lot, and I just don’t have a favorite. We’re still kind of new to playing them live, and I’m just really enjoying playing all of them. There are some that really just stand out when we listen back on the bus. We open with “Eat You Alive,” which is a really an up-tempo, heavy song, but then we’ll listen back to everything and go “well, that’s a really crushing song as well.” So, I’m still giddy with playing the songs for the first time live, and just really enjoying all of them. I don’t have a favorite yet.

ME: Where did the idea come from to release 5 songs from “Rise Up” in the form on an EP?

JB: We really just wanted to give something back to our fans for being patient, and we wanted to put something out ASAP. We thought that this would be a good way to do it. Also, people who have already bought the EP will not have to pay for those songs again once the LP is released. That is important for them to know if they decide to buy the whole record, which we hope they will and that they really enjoy it. It was really as simple as “let’s just get something out there ASAP.”

ME: You released it via iTunes. Is there anywhere else people can hear the EP? Are you planning on making a special, limited, physical edition of the EP? Or, is the plan to keep it digital for now?

JB: It went from Spotify to iTunes, and we have the physical EP with us right now actually. We sell it on the road. People can still buy it with a lot of the VIP packages, or just buy it. It’s available right now, so you can go to your favorite place to buy music and you should be able to find it.

ME: What are your plans for the future after the release of the full length?

JB: Well, definitely, as one of the things you mentioned, we will be touring for a couple of years for this record. We’re planning on getting over to Europe for the first time, South America, and stuff like that.

ME: Being from Canada, touring both US and Canada, what are the differences that you notice between the Canadian and US rock scenes? How do they compare to each other?

JB: In the US, I think people are a lot more hungry for it, but in a different way. If there’s a band coming to town, there’s people chomping at the bit to get their ticket. I think Canada is a bit more relaxed. The bodies will still be there, sometimes even a bit more, in both the US and Canada. I think Canada is a little more reserved, but then they rise up once the show starts. There’s also a lot more heavier music in the United States. There’s songs on this record that Canadian radio really can’t play because they’re too heavy. It’s a mixture of both though. You could go to some of the western provinces that will play it, such as Alberta, Manitoba, places like that, while other areas might want to spin something else. But, yeah, that’s probably the biggest difference.

ME: So, what about the local scene in Canada? Are the bands not as heavy as the US can get now?

JB: Overall, not as heavy. That’s right. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of rock bands, and there are some that are super heavy. Just in the States, there are a lot more hard rock radio stations.

ME: Are there any up and coming bands that you or the rest of Art of Dying have been listening to while on tour?

JB: Well, Apocalyptica just makes my jaw drop every night. I’ve actually been fortunate to be filling in for their drummer the past handful of shows because he’s recovering from an injury. That has been pretty awesome. Also, Adam Gontier’s new band, Saint Asonia. He was actually on our bus the other week and we got to hear the entire album. It’s ridiculous, and it’s pretty awesome. I wouldn’t be surprised if we went out with them sometime this coming year.

ME: Seeing that you guys have been doing a whole lot of touring, what do you and the rest of the band like to do during your off or down time?

JB: A lot of us are big poker players, and it’s fun being in Reno for that. I actually just crashed last night, the guys played a lot of poker. We all love the outdoors, and I live in British Columbia which is a beautiful part of the world. I like to fish and do a lot of boating. I love to cook; we’re also all foodies. So, on our down time we love to find new recipes and share them with each other. We all love to grill, and one of the things we did on the last record, instead of going to the classic hotel, we actually found a really beautiful camp ground and brought in the bus where the RV’s normally park. We just shut the generator off, had a fire, and had nice bottles of wine. The crew and all of us had a really nice time. Some of the crew rented a boat and we all went fishing. Just stuff like that because sometimes you just need to bring it back to the basics.

ME: This is a question I like to ask when giving interviews because everyone has such different viewpoints. What advice would you give to both bands that are starting out and already established ones as well in order to take their careers to that proverbial next level?

JB: I think you should get out of your comfort zone and work with as many people as you can. Challenge yourself, play as many shows as you can, get to as many people as you can, because every time you don’t there’s another band that airs. And, make sure you have a band full of positive people. The four of us are truly a family. There is no hierarchy in our band, our business, and that goes a long way. So, I challenge a lot of people out there to run that way. It’s just a much better way to roll and it keeps things awesome. So, that’d be my advice.

ME: Thank you so much for doing this today Jeffy. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today. Is there anything that you would like to say to our readers before we close this out?

JB: I think I just want to thank everyone for supporting us. Without the fans we wouldn’t be here. We don’t forget it. Also, we’re just really, really excited to be getting back out. The shows have been literally, to date, off the charts, and I think they’re only going to get more crazy. We’re just thrilled. I’m actually about to go to my dressing room and start doing sound checks. So, the one thing that I would really want to say is thank you.

ME: Again, thank you so much for calling in. Have a killer show tonight!

JB: Thanks bro!

Buy Art of Dying – “Rise Up” EP now digitally, wherever music is sold, or check out Art of Dying on tour to purchase a physical copy of it. “Rise Up” will be coming out this Summer (2015) and will be available for purchase in music outlets word-wide!