Category: Interviews Published Date Written by Christine Hits: 313
Genre: Heavy/Stoner Metal
1. First of all I’d like you to fill us in on what’s happening in the I DECLINE camp at the moment.
Sure thing Chris. We just got finished with a brief stint of dates with Metal Blade artist GYPSYHAWK at the beginning of the Fall and, at the moment the band is working on new material while we gear up for a mini-tour in the Midwest for this coming Spring. We hope to release a 7- inch to coincide with that tour.
2. Please point out the most important moments and experiences you’ve had with the band thus far, be them good or bad.
The band has been through quite a journey over the last 15 years. I’d say one of the most memorable moments was back in 2002, when we were asked to perform for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for a benefit event at the Double Door in Chicago. We participated in a 5k run in downtown Chicago as a fundraiser and to help promote the event. The entire evening was hosted by Q101 alternative radio personality, Chris Payne and it was a huge success. Other than that, I think our recent CD release event where we hosted an after-party for CORROSION OF CONNFORMITY in Chicago ranks up there as well as when we opened for TOXIC HOLOCAUST, HOLY GRAIL and KRUM BUMS.
3. How would you describe your sound? I’m asking this because your music obviously has a great deal of elements and it’s hard for someone to pigeonhole you.
I like to think of our sound as a fusion of the harder end of the punk spectrum blended with Classic heavy metal and hard rock. That being said it’s constantly evolving. On the latest record (“Time to Shine”), we lean heavily on the punk end of the spectrum with some modern metal as well but currently we’re working on some stuff that is much more metal and than even that release. We have a lot of other influences spread out across several sub genres so we have a tendency to introduce new elements to our style with each song we write. I think I speak for the band when I say that we’ve always been fans of bands that never put out the same record twice. It keeps things interesting. When a band paints itself into a corner it limits what can be achieved artistically. That being said, we also recognize the importance of branding your band so we do want to hone what is uniquely I DECLINE and bring that in the forefront. That being said, defining what is uniquely I DECLINE took a long time for us to do. We had to sort of develop our sound into what it is over a long period of time.
4. Can you present “Time to Shine” to our readers in a few words? Which are the album’s highlights and which its weak moments or elements, according to you?
Sure. “Time to Shine” is basically the band’s commentary on mortality, desolation and broken relationships all in the aftermath of 9/11. When the towers fell 10 years ago, it left deeps scars in every American’s life, sending rippling aftershocks across the country. I think only now are we all seeing how deep those wounds really cut. Here we are 10 years later and the economy is still trying to recover. At the same time, as a band, we each went through some dramatic changes in that 10 year span that are reflected in these songs. Our bassist, Patrick McLaughlin lost his sister to Dementia, a close musical ally and friend of ours, Michael Murphy (FAROUTOFME, LEAVE) passed away suddenly. In the midst of these devastating losses, 3 of our band members had children for the first time. I think that the album kind of represents the darkness and the light, the despair and the hope that comes out of great loss. With any tragic loss there’s opportunity to begin anew and that’s what “Time to Shine” is about. It’s about the chance to start fresh. You can hear this most clearly in the songs “Time to Shine”, “A New Nation” “Radiation Day” and “Grand Ruin”.
5. In which ways does “Time to Shine” differ from your previous works? How and in which ways has the band’s sound evolved and progressed all these years?
“Time to Shine” has a much more focused sound compared to our earlier works. “Soundtrackfortherestofyourlife” was much more psychedelic and complex in terms of arrangements while “The Ides of Riffdom” had a distinct blues-y / stoner rock vibe to it that came about from performing the material live before we were in the studio. This album was pretty much made in the studio from the ground up. The interesting thing is that, despite the more focused sound, the songs were pulled from various eras of the band’s history. There are really about 5 “new” songs on there while others were either songs from previous years that we never finished or that we never felt quite confident about at the time. There was a 7-year gap between “The Ides of Riffdom” and this record and during that time, I was working with producer Johnny K (DISTURBED, SEVENDUST) on several records where I learned the craft of record production. At the same time, the other guys in the band formed a project called HALLELUJAH. Some of the material they wrote in that band eventually morphed into songs that appear on “Time to Shine”. Pat McLaughlin was also in the band OF WOLVES during that time and he brought the song “Your Name in Blood” to the table from that band.
6. Give reasons to our readers to check your work out. What will they find in it?
You can find all you need to know about I DECLINE at http://www.i-decline.com
We’ve got all our music available to stream for free there. I’m sure there are a lot of readers out there that are from modest, blue-collar backgrounds. Our music and lyrics are written from that perspective. We come from the Midwest, where the winters are long and harsh and most of us are raised in hard-working families with a passion for music and art. We’ve always tried to touch on that in our lyrics and our stylistic approach and I think that our music offers solace and fortitude for true-to-life issues.
7. What kind of procedure do you follow when you compose songs? Do you have to be in a certain state of mind in order to perform the songs as you want?
Typically, a member of the band will bring in a song or a riff and we’ll work on that first to see if it vibes with us. We’ll jam on it and maybe come up with other parts or whatever. Once a solid song is formed we’ll demo it and come up with lyrics. That’s the standard scenario, although we do stray from that zone. For instance, the song “Jericho” was a lyric and melody by the singer Dustin Harnish before it became an arrangement. We built it out from that vocal. That was really cool and I hope we do more interesting writing approaches in the future. It keeps us on our toes and opens the doors to other concepts. As far as being in a certain state of mind, personally, I need to be in the writing or creative mood to create a foundational idea but if someone brings and idea in the groundwork is already there. I’d say most of the guys feel the same way although Pat is quite prolific. He writes so much its hard to keep up with him hahaha.
8. Which song or songs do you think are the most ideal to represent the whole album’s essence?
“Time to Shine” for sure. That song pulls together everything the album is about. Other than that, I think “The Administration” is a great fist-in-the air anthem for all of us that feel frustrated with the government. “Grand Ruin” is just a cool darker song about Grand Rapids Michigan and its dying economy. My personal favorite on the album is “Radiation Day” I just dig the drumming I do on that track.
9. Which are your sources of inspiration when it comes to the lyrics? Which are the main topics you deal with?
We all have different sources of inspiration but I’d say as we work together on lyrics we try to make sense of each other’s themes and thoughts so that they work well. We mostly talk about death, destruction, mistrust or dishonesty, relationships, madness, self-doubt. You know all the stuff we all go through as individuals. In the past, more abstract or ethereal subjects have also influenced us. We have a conceptual piece that we never have completed called “The Galaxies”. It’s kind of a HAWKWIND type of concept with 3 parts. The lyrics were very psychedelic and the music had all kinds of echo-plex, moogs, and such. We hope to release it eventually, its just such a bear to even approach a true concept record cause its very demanding and in some ways limiting. I think that’s why we’ve made an effort to write material about stuff we experience in our daily lives instead.
10. Why did you name the album “Time to Shine”? Is it immediately connected to the band? Do you think this is your time to shine or is there also another meaning behind it?
Well, I kind of answered that before but the meaning has several interpretations. I think it’s really best that the listener determine who its for but for us it can be for the country, us as individuals, the world, whoever. The real gist is that when all seems hopeless, that’s your time to shine.
11. Who created the cover artwork? It’s beautiful and I think its message is pretty clear! Plus the golden letters look impressive! However, could you please describe it to us and tell us how it is connected to the album title and lyrics?
Yeah I think I can honestly say this is the first album cover we’ve released that I’m really happy with. It was a painstaking process for us because we had never really given much thought to the album artwork in the past but we were never satisfied with our album artwork before either. Basically, the idea came about from working with three different artists: Tom Denney, Jody Reno, and Bart Powers.
Jody is a local artist in Chicago that we’ve known for a number of years and we commissioned him to do a piece for the album but we really didn’t know what we wanted. He gave us a really evil dark looking piece but it was just too much as we wanted to capture the hope in the songs too.
So we approached a good friend of Dan’s, Bart Powers. Bart has worked with some heavy hitters in the Chicago metal scene like TYRANT’S REIGN. He ended up giving us a couple of killer pieces but they just didn’t quite fit the themes of the songs on this record. But that’s cool cause we have plans for those pieces in the not so distant future.
The problem we faced was with presenting both hopelessness and hope in the same dynamic. We were inspired by the artwork from “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. We also wanted to use symbolism to represent the themes, so, we took what we got from Jody and Bart and approached Tom Denney with some visual concepts: a hero surrounded by zombies and wolves in the horizon of a collapsing city. The zombies and wolves imagery are taken from the lyrics “Break from the Pack, Run to the Light” in “Time to Shine” and “All these Zombies, all Shades of Grey” from “Grand Ruin.”
What Denney gave us actually just worked really well with Jody’s piece so we combined them and that was the result. Bart was kind enough to help us out with the design of the logo for our label “Horns Raised Records”. Also, the logo was initially in silver but our graphic designer, Mike Jennings helped us tweak that too. I think the end result is really effective.
12. Have you got any plans for live shows? How are you going to promote your work?
Yeah, as of right now we are in the planning stages for a mini-tour of the Midwest for the Spring that will land us at the ‘Unrest in the Midwest’ Stoner Rock festival in Ohio to be announced. We’re also planning on doing something special in our home town sometime in the Spring or Summer. We’ve been promoting our work mainly through the Internet, reviews, blogs, etc. But we’ve been tackling radio and print publications as well and hope to leverage that further in the coming year. It’s difficult for us to do the month-long tour thing as we’re all slaves to the wage as well so music is 1 of 2 full-time jobs for us. We have to budget our time well to make this happen.
13. Have you made any video clips? With YouTube I think videos have started becoming a necessity for bands again. How helpful is the Internet?
For sure. We have an HD video we filmed of our live show at Reggie’s last year that we put up. It’s of the song “The Administration”. You can see it on our website at: http://www.i-decline.com/media
14. What kind of feedback have you received thus far? Can you mention a comment, be it positive or negative, serious or funny, that impressed you?
We’ve been seriously humbled at all the positive feedback we’ve been receiving for this new record. We never thought that this many critics would dig the album. One of the nicest comments we’ve received was from Stephen O’Connor of ‘Bornagainnihilist’. He compared our sound to Phil Spector’s legendary ‘Wall of sound’. Man that made me feel good. Also, Leja Siv of ‘Hails Webzine’ who is also working with Metal Sanaz out in Hollywood had some really nice things to say. We’re still trying to break the ice with the heavier players like ‘Decibel’, ‘Revolver’, ‘MetalEdge’, ‘Metal Maniacs’, etc. But we’re really low on the totem pole at this point. Right now we just want to build on our small successes and grow a decent fanbase. All in due time.
15. Do you think that the contemporary metal scene has a place for record labels? I mean more and more bands do everything on their own and more and more labels don’t support the bands or pay them any money… What’s your view on this phenomenon?
Well, I think there will always be a place for labels because as much as we want to believe in DIY, this business can bleed you dry. It doesn’t really make any money unless you’re like in the top echelon of artists and even then you always have to watch your back. So, yeah, I think that artists need labels to promote, give guidance, provide opportunities that they may or may not have. That being said, an established band that has done it from the ground up can almost exist independent of a label entirely, however they still need help and that help may be in the form of the band hiring folks to do things like PR, development, etc. All the stuff that a label would be doing really. The only difference being that those folks become employees of the band itself. So it’s almost like the new dynamic will become more of a bunch of ‘start-ups’, if you will, where the band is an entrepeneurship and labels become investors.
16. What kind of feelings and thoughts do you think your music creates to your listeners?
I honestly don’t know but I would hope that it gives people a positive vibe, something to make them feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in any tough situation. Other than that, I hope it moves them both emotionally and physically. I’m the kind of person that loves the aggression of metal shows so it’s always fun to play in front of an audience that is into the slam dancing and crowd surfing. I think our music definitely makes people want to move.
17. Is there a phrase that you think describes I DECLINE in the best possible way?
New Wave of American Punk Metal.
18. By the way you have an interesting moniker. How did you come up with it and what do you want to say?
Thanks. Glad you like it. Actually, our bass player Pat came up with that name back in 1995, when he received a recruitment letter from the US military. The letter had two peel-and-stick labels that you were supposed to slap on your response card. Pat kept the “I Decline” label and showed up to practice the next day with it on his Fender P-Bass. At the time, Pat, Pez and I were in a sort of mock-metal band called BLOODY BLOOD but we were all feeling like we needed a serious name as well as a direction to take our band in to deliver a message. The name I DECLINE sounded really unique and poignant. It invokes the spirit of hardcore bands like DISCHARGE while at the same time giving a rebellious message. A nice unintended benefit of the name is that there aren’t a slew of similarly named bands out there. It doesn’t fit the model of a lot of the modern “verb-the-noun” template of names, which essentially makes us stand out.
19. Thank you! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yeah, just some final thoughts: To all you metal fans and Behind The Veil readers, if you haven’t checked out our record “Time to Shine”, you should cause it’s a great record and its available for free streaming on our website at http://www.i-decline.com . Secondly, If you live in the Midwest / Ohio area, come to the ‘Unrest in the Midwest’ festival this May 5th, 2012 at ‘The Cove’ in Geneva, OH. Lastly, if you dig our music, please tell your friends, your families, your co-workers, everyone you know. We are a relatively unknown artist and rely heavily on whatever exposure we can get along with readers and fans like you all to spread the word! \m/ Horns Raised to you all \m/