Sunday, 17 December 2006

MPM meets... Darkest Hour - December 16th 2006

Darkest Hour have recently completed a UK tour, supported by Between The Buried And Me and Misery Signals. As a band well known in their genre, the Moshpit team couldn't help but delve into their lives a little, so we pulled up a stool and drank a few beers with bass player, Paul Burnette.

What made you want to be in a band?
Paul: Probably my cousin, my older cousin that was in a band. They sang songs about growing up and gutter scum, stuff like that.

In terms of the guitarists in the band, would you say they're pretty evenly matched or is there one that stands out above the others? From what I've gathered, it's Kris [Norris] that does all the solos and stuff, but I've always wondered, because they both sound pretty hot.
Paul: I would say they're about even. Kris has a lot of technical ability, but Mike [Shleibaum]'s like a powerhouse, like a shredder. He's a rocker. Kris is like a janitor with all the sweeps. They have their strengths. The abilities are exactly the same.
Have you guys always loved metal, or is there still stuff you listen to, but it's just the band that's the metal stuff?
Paul: Everybody listens to different shit. We've heard so many metal bands over the years because we've done so many tours and shows. A lot of the time we listen to mellower stuff, just a wide range of stuff. But we all still like metal. Pretty picky with metal. Like, I don't like heavy metal bands. We all like [Iron] Maiden. I think Kris, John [Henry, vocals] and Ryan [Parrish, drums] like Opeth a lot. We all like Carcass. I like old Slayer stuff. The new Slayer record's pretty awesome.
Are you working on a new record?
Paul: Yeah, we're working on it right now. Well, when we get home.
Got any ideas about a release date?
Paul: It's probably gonna be June, we think. Because we have the studio time to slick it out in March.
How do you think your sound's changed from the other albums up until the latest release?
Paul: I think with the latest one we kinda got better at putting a lot of information into a smaller package. We got better at cutting off the excess. Some of the guys in the band like longer songs just for the fact that it's a longer song, I dunno. But I kinda like a little nice...fuckin'...y'know.
There's quality production on 'Undoing Ruin', I must say. You wrote it with Devin Townsend?
Paul: Yeah, we're going back to Devin again. We're pretty stoked about it. We actually met up with him last time we were in Vancouver and we hung out. He was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and he looked like he'd just been jogging. But it was cool, everybody was amped after that conversation. We've been sending demos to him via internet and it's fucking changed the world.
Do you have a single moment that you would say is the most fucked up party moment that Darkest Hour has ever had?
Paul: Fucked up party moment? Aw, man. I don't know. I guess the last thing that happened...I broke two kid's toes (laughs). A friend of ours was on tour with us. This was the tour we just finished in the States. A friend of ours came on tour with us for five days and was taking photos of us. And it was on Halloween. I was pissed off about something. But, I dropped my bass cabinet and it fell flat on his foot. He tried to catch it but his hand slipped, and it broke two of his toes. Nearly cut one of them off. That was pretty cool (laughs). He was into it, man. Well, he wasn't into it at the moment, but he loved all the attention he got.
Do you find you ever get bored on tour or is it always wild?
Paul: The only time we ever get bored is when there's nobody to hang out with, like if other bands don't hang out. Some bands don't fucking hang out. Good bands do.
Do you guys feel quite influential on the hardcore scene?
Paul: Sometimes, yeah.
There's a lot of bands coming out with a similar sound.
Paul: Yeah, just maybe the past year or two I've started seeing, like stickers on CDs saying 'For fans of...', and I've seen Darkest Hour on there a couple times. Sometimes they just fucking lie anyway, they just do it to sell records. I forget what our record said. I dunno. Slayer and Killswitch [Engage] maybe.
Are there any bands that you're still gagging to play with?
Paul: Entombed. We played with them last year. It was awesome. They're from Sweden. But yeah, those guys are really nice. I was hovering over there at their backstage trying to talk to them. You don't wanna talk to them too much because I didn't wanna weird them out, but I wanted to talk to them. Some good dudes in that band. Some of those dudes don't hang out at all.
Who do you think is the wildest band you've ever toured with?
Paul: We did a tour a while ago with Drowningman, this is like 2001, and somehow we got ourselves in the most sketchiest, fucked-up situations every night (laughs). Like, we got in a fight one night, they're all long stories, but one night we got in a fight with these dudes that were kicking dogs and one guy his a girl in the forehead with a machete and she was throwing up, she was like 16. And another night, we found our way into this dudes house that video tapes gay porn from his house (laughs). And our guitar player was passed out on the couch so we covered him with stuffed animals, and he was on the internet that night. I dunno what else. Ah, we stayed at some girls house, and the party turned into an orgy (laughs). None of us were involved, but our heads were lined up down the doorway just like in cartoons (laughs). Ryan, our drummer, sled down a hill on cardboard naked (laughs). Just mayhem and wreckage.
What's your favourite Darkest Hour song?
Paul: I like playing Tranquil a lot. I was pretty stoked about that one.
Are you playing Pay Phones And Pills tonight?
Paul: No, we're not doing that one. When we write the songs, we have working titles for them, 'cause that one we call something else. I can't remember what we call it, I dunno. We still use the working names for some of them, which doesn't make any sense. Some kid will get the set list and say "What song is that?".
Is there a lot of your material that you just can't stand playing anymore?
Paul: There's stuff that we don't have to practice anymore. But no, there's nothing. Especially live, because live, every time's different. But as far as in practice, we don't have to practise. We usually don't have to practice The Sadist Nation or For The Soul Of The Saviour. Even though we haven't played that one in a long time, I know we wouldn't have to practice it. We'd get out there and be like, 'Let's play that'. That was a song we didn't think we could get away from. We thought we were gonna be on 'Where Are They Now' on VH1 or something playing For The Soul Of The Saviour.
Do you think there were any notable turning points in your career when you thought everything was going cool?
Paul: It's still a constant battle. We the past year...we've started just making a plan to cover our rent and bills at home."
Was it pretty difficult before 'Undoing Ruin'? Did you find that was the album that made you more comfortable financially?
Paul: It made everything kind of in baby steps. Gradual steps up. Even something as big as Ozzfest was still just a baby step for us."
When was that?
Paul: 2005. No, year before. 2004, sorry. 2004 we did Ozzfest. You know, a lot of bands think 'Oh shit, after this...'. There's thousands of people there, and you think of every city, about a hundred of those kids come back, it'd be amazing. But it doesn't work like that. But it's just baby steps.
Did you play Download this year? How was that?
Paul: Yeah, we did. We got lost and shit. We just flew over for the day and played it. Yeah, I lost everybody else. I couldn't find anybody else. I dunno. I think we all just got really... (laughs). But I do remember the security clearing everybody out when Axl Rose was gonna walk through the backstage. We couldn't go anywhere which was ridiculous. We got yelled at by Hatebreed (laughs).
Where would you say the best gig you've ever played was?
Paul: I dunno, man. We've done over 200 shows, just on this record. So, I dunno.
Have any of the band got any weird things they do to prepare for the gigs?
Paul: We just kind of hang out as a band. We don't really warm up.
It's kind of cold in England.
Paul: It's not that bad. I mean, it's about what it is back home right now. Where I live, I think we probably get more snow than you guys.
Yeah, we just get rain.
Paul: It's definitely more wet.
How old were you guys when you properly started playing, properly take off?
Paul: I dunno. We started to tour full time in 2001. 'So Sedated' [So Secure, album] came out. Right before that came out, we decided that's what we were gonna do. We didn't turn down any tours. We just toured, took every fucking tour, which was kind of a bad idea. I think that year we were gone like eight months out of a year. That's when our guitar player [Fred Ziomek] kind of went crazy and left the band. Our first time over in the UK, we only had one guitar player. That was rough.
Do you find you miss him in the band, or was it like a progressive step forward?
Paul: Yeah, we had another guy [Mike Garrity] thrown in before Kris that was old friends with Mike [Shleibaum]. Good-Times Garrity, that's what he was. Good times. Travelled with him for a while.
Is there one person who tends to write most of the stuff or is it group effort?
Paul: It's group effort, but the guitar players come up with most of the riffs. The guitar players have a bunch of riffs and come into practice and we're like 'Yeah, that's good' or 'That's fucking bullshit' (laughs). All five of us work together. And that's the good thing about Devin Townsend, he's like a sixth member. He's got a really good ear and can say 'Try this', and we're like 'Oh shit, we didn't think of that'.

Are you guys away for Christmas?
Paul: No, we're home for Christmas. We go back in a few days, I think.

When do you get back on the road to tour?
Paul: Probably not until the next record comes out. A couple shows here and there, but probably next summer. We're gonna go home now, then we're gonna write, and then we're gonna record. Then mess around, wait for that shit to come out. That's the worst time. Like, the two and a half months between when you're done with the record, and the record hits stores, you just can't do anything.

Do you have trouble with people downloading your stuff?
Paul: I mean, as long as people download the finished product, that's cool with us. I don't want anybody to download some shit version where we're just like, fucking around, and think that's the real thing and not buy the record, or not come see us. But yeah, we all download.

Do you find that the pros out-weigh the cons in the band lifestyle?
Paul: Oh yeah. I mean, the hardest part is being away from friends and family. But seriously, this fucking job's easy. I mean, I've gotta play music for 45 minutes a day.

If there was another question we were to ask you, what would it be?
Paul: I dunno. My hat size? (laughs).

What is your hat size?
Paul: I dunno, 17 something? I think it's probably different measurements over here, but yeah.

Have you ever been attracted to another member of the band?
Paul: (laughs) No, but I've seen some...I've seen some shit. I dunno if the other people involved would like me to tell you (laughs). But it wasn't really...based on attraction. It was more like...well...two of the guys in the band made out with each other, to get these two girls to make out with each other.

Well, that's not that bad.
Paul: That's like a standard thing to do. They took one for the team. It worked out (laughs).

Have you ever thought of what might happen after Darkest Hour?
Paul: I dunno. Just taking it as it goes. I mean, I don't know at this point. Until we know the baby steps upward? Until we start going downhill...I don't know what we're gonna do then. As long as things are going well, we'll keep doing it. I mean, all of us are well into what we're doing. We all love music and we all love the shit we write.

If you made it massively big, what's the first extravagant thing you'd buy?
Paul: I don't know. I'm not really that extravagant. I guess if I won a huge amount of money, if I just fuckin' hit the lottery, I would buy a bus for the band, so we could bring all our friends with us. That's the problem sometimes, we just have a van back home, and although we fit eleven people in it before, it wasn't comfortable at all.

Do you guys lift weights and stuff? Because you see all these hardcore bands lifting weights, like Avenged Sevenfold and stuff.
Paul: I dunno, those guys are kind of a joke. I mean, it's funny that was the band you mentioned about working out and being healthy, 'cause those guys, all they do is brag about being drinkers and doing cocaine. I guess sex is like, athletic but...I dunno (laughs).

Have you ever had any disputes with other bands or anything?
Paul: For some reason, I feel like we have, but I can't remember. I know we tried to make fake-ups before, like fake rivalries. I mean, there's bands that we don't like who they are or what they do or what they talk about, but we don't really...we'd rather keep it positive. Like, we'll talk amongst ourselves, like 'What a fuckin' shit head, that guy's a prick'.

Do you get into many fights and stuff?
Paul: No, we got into one fight as a band and that was a long time ago. That was the machete guy, kicking a dog. He punched Ryan in the face, so we all jumped on him. An ambulance showed up and the cops showed up. We had to take our singer to the hospital 'cause he got hit in the head with a chain with a padlock on the end of it. We just kind of kicked him and punched him down the street. I think Ryan ended up throwing a big rock on his head (laughs). Somehow we ended up with his license, his drivers license, so we got his home phone number and called his dad, and told his dad what a horrible job of being a father he was doing. We gave him a huge guilt trip about his son. And then we posted his ID and his phone number on the internet, told people to call him up and give him shit. I think it was on

Who would you say is the hardest member in the band?
Paul: John punched some kid in the face on the first show of this tour in Newport...not Newport...Manchester. 'Cause when our merch guy loaded the shit inside, somebody stole a bunch of our shit, and after the show they were selling it out front. So a bunch of us ran downstairs confronting them like 'Give our shit back'. And I was lost inside the building, I couldn't find my way out so I wasn't there, but John got all worked up and punched the guy in the face, which is really weird for him to do 'cause he's never been in a fight. Apparently the dude hit the ground. And John's knuckles are all busted up.

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