It’s been a tough time for the American metalcore act All That Remains. A month prior to their ninth album release “Victim Of The New Disease”, founding member and guitarist Oli Herbert tragically passed away. One year after the release of “Madness”, “Victims Of The New Disease” is their strongest album up-to-date and perhaps the most important one. After all, this is Oli Herbert’s swansong.
I had the opportunity to talk to guitarist Mike Martin about “Victims Of The New Disease”. Read the interview below.
Hi Mike! Thanks for taking the time for this interview. First of all, my condolences for the whole band. However, let’s talk a bit more about the new album. Even though it’s difficult times for the band right now, how are you feeling about the release?
It’s exciting, like every album. But obviously, it’s a little bit strange this time around, because of the circumstances. We’re trying to make the best out of the situation. It’s kind of hard, but you know. We don’t really have a choice, do we? We just have to keep on moving, you know.
I understand it’s kind of double. I have to say that it was a bit of a surprise when the news came out you were releasing a new album. After all, “Madness” was only released one year ago. How were you able to work this fast and smoothly on a new release, considering that every album needs a certain amount of time to tour?
On “Madness” we didn’t tour nearly as extensively as we had done in the past. Between that and technology nowadays, you can make an album quite easily. You don’t even need to have your own studio anymore to work on an album. You can just basically go to your friend’s house and if you got a good enough of a computer and some microphones, you can make an album! So, if the material is there, you really can do it in that amount of time. To an extent that was the case for us… But… Well, you know with Oli. Oli was always a machine when it came to writing songs. When we would ask him to write some new material, he’d come up with about 20 songs that were ready to go. He was always like that. So, because of that material has never been an issue for us. There was always plenty of that. Studio time and things related to that are more kind of a problem for us, but this time around it was super simple. The way we did it was quick and easy.
What I remember about “Madness” is that you guys were more focused on starting with the vocals first instead of coming up with riffs. Was that something you did for this album as well? Or did you change your approach again?
It kind of went back to the old way. On this one, I would say that most of the songs, we did the riffs first. We would come up with some vocal ideas, in the very early stages of the songs, but most of the vocals got done last again since that is something we are more accustomed to. I would say that it went back to the old way of how we used to write songs.
How about the whole writing process in general, when did it start?
We did a tour with Alter Bridge at the very end of 2017. So when we came home from that, I texted our friend Dan [Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz], who produced the album, he used to be in The Acacia Strain. Initially, we were just kind of looking for a friend of ours to help us program some drums with the computer, you know, basically someone more tech-savvy. Turns out we started messing around. We asked him if he could produce an entire record if he’d like to and he said he could do it right in this small room here if you want. In January, me, him and Oli would get together, throw some ideas around and put some drums over it. I think the writing of the album was the most scattered so far. A lot of times in the past Oli would write almost everything. This time around, I wrote a few songs, Dan helped write a good portion of pieces of songs and then, of course, there are plenty of Oli’s songs on there as well. Basically, there’s a lot of variety, but it’s pretty evenly split.
Personally, when I was listening to the album three songs really stuck out for me: “Fuck Love”, “Victims Of The New Disease” and “Broken”. I was wondering if you could talk a bit more specifically about these three songs. Why did you choose “Fuck Love” as a single and how did you pick the title track?
As far as what the songs are about, that’s sometimes a bit rough for me to answer since it’s kind of Phil’s deal. He writes the lyrics and all. But you know, Phil went through a tough time with his relationship. It’s pretty obvious. You’re gonna hear it in some of the songs. They’re about hurt, they’re pretty depressing, angrier. That definitely comes across. I think that’s pretty obvious, especially in “Fuck Love”. “Broken” was a song I wrote, it was the first day that me and our producer Dan got together. It was musically also one of the first songs we got together for the album. I think Phil did a really good job with that song. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s a bit more of an uplifting song than the rest on the album. It’s not as angry or dark as some of the others. As far as why we picked out “Victim Of The New Disease”, I’m not really sure what inspired Phil to pick out that one. It’s part of his collection. So, that’s more of a Phil question!
Musically speaking, what does the album in general stand for to you?
I’m just there for the music. I don’t write the lyrics or anything. Musically, for me personally it’s another really cool mixture, it has more songs with a lot of variety. I always thought that the coolest thing about our band is that you can go from something as angry as “Fuck Love” to an acoustic song like “Alone In The Darkness”. So, for me, it’s just a cool collection of songs with a lot of variety.
How do you feel this album differs from let’s say “Madness”?
I think it’s a little bit more to the point. I felt Madness, in my taste, is way too overproduced. I’m not a guy who likes too much of that. I don’t really want keyboards and these super crazy productions with extra backing vocals and all that stuff. I want it to be more focused, to the point, and that’s what we did with this record. So, I think the biggest difference is just that it’s more to the point in general, especially in comparison to the previous one. “Madness” was very overproduced and I think the band collectively was the least happy with the last one out of all of our albums.
When you talk about albums being overproduced, do you think that’s a bit of a problem in the music industry nowadays that technology has taken over a lot?
I do think it’s a problem. I hear a lot of bands that do this. You have a certain budget to record it, you gotta sit there all day long and add layers and layers and layers of things and you know, then when you have to play it live, you can’t really tell what’s going on. It’s hard to replicate and to reproduce live. If you do all those things on a record, you gotta make sure that you can do them live. So, I do definitely come across live bands where you can tell that there is a big difference from them playing live and their studio albums. I don’t think, however, technology is going away. So, I’m not sure if there’s anything that you can do about it.
In that sense, was it for you guys more tricky to play material from “Madness” live than from the other albums?
Not really. A lot of the extras were sampled. So if we have keyboards in a song, we are not going to hire a new band member just to play those. That’s too much of a hassle. You can easily run a sample of an intro or play a piano part live, there are pros and cons of technology and that would definitely be one of the pros. So, instead of hiring a new band member when you need to play keyboard parts live, you can just sample them. Some people do complain about that stuff, but you know, you gotta understand from the band’s perspective. You can’t hire an entirely new member just because you have an instrument on your album.
To go back to the album, another song that stuck out for me was “Just Tell Me Something”, which is featuring Danny Worsnop [Asking Alexandria]. Can you talk a bit more about that collaboration?
I grew up listening to 80s hair bands. I’ve always loved those power ballads. Usually, I kind of come to the table with something along those lines musically, because I think it’s nice to add to the flow of an album. And that’s how “Just Tell Me Something” started. I think Phil was just on the internet one day talking to Danny. They were kind of going back and forth and I think out of nowhere he asked if he wanted to sing on our album. I don’t think Danny took him seriously. But he was like sure bring it on. You know, I think they texted each other about the fact that it is serious. And Phil told him that we have a song we would like him to sing on. We toured with Asking Alexandria way back, 6 or 7 years ago so we have been friends with those guys for a long time. We always loved Danny’s voice so I think it just started off as an internet conversation between Phil and Danny and then it was one of those things that came to life just by talking about it. Danny did a really great job, he sounds awesome.
How have the reactions been so far about the singles and the album in general?
So far everything has been really positive. It’s just that whenever we release a heavy song, people think that we’re finally doing something heavy again. I don’t think people realize that there are a lot of heavy songs on every single record. It’s just that a lot of people only listen to the singles. Because in America they only play the more radio-friendly songs, so the softer songs. We can’t play “Fuck Love” on the radio during the daytime. People would get offended. I think a lot of people just think that there are no heavy songs, they think that it’s been 12 years since we have had any heavy songs on our record, which is completely wrong. If you think about every single song of the last five albums, there are a handful of really heavy ones on those. It’s not like that, we’re not back, it never went away, you’re just not paying attention. Not really our fault.
Our magazine is based in Finland. A lot of metal is part of the mainstream radio here. Raising that point about radio-friendly songs, makes me wonder how the American mainstream radio influences you as a heavy metal band?
It’s a very different setting. We’ve always loved that when we have been over to Finland or we have been over to Sweden, they play our heavy songs on the radio. To us, that’s crazy. We think it’s so cool. We wish… I wish that they would do this anywhere. A lot of times we notice that our biggest songs live in America don’t nearly get the same reaction as they get in Europe. We’re in the process right now of switching our set around to a heavier kind, because people don’t care that much about the radio stuff in here. We are lucky enough to have a big enough of a catalog so that we can play whatever in our set wherever we are going so that we can try to keep as many people as happy as possible.
You guys have been around exactly 20 years now. If you look back to your whole career how do you feel like you have evolved musically, is there still something you want to achieve as a band?
What we’ve already achieved is a much more long longevity than other bands. I think that this is something that we wanna keep doing. To have your ninth album come out, to think that ten years ago that we would have 9 albums out that would have been crazy. Nobody wants to get a real job, especially if you put 9 albums out. I’d love to do this forever, of course, if it’s possible. Let’s try to do our best. As long as people keep on listening to the band, we will try. We consider ourselves to be really lucky, because that’s not always the case, sometimes you gotta go get a real job. I think we’ve accomplished just about everything, now it’s just a matter of how long we can keep going on because it’s been longer than we thought already and we might be going as long as possible.
Do you have any thoughts about what the future is going to look like, are you going to have a break with everything that has happened?
A lot of people thought we were gonna abandon the tour, but that’s never really crossed our mind. This is what everybody does for a living, and I doubt Oli would want us to stop. We’re gonna get through this European tour and we’re gonna have somebody fill in, which I’m sure they’re gonna announce relatively soon. We’re doing the European tour and then we just gotta figure things out, there’s a lot of things we haven’t worked on because it can’t get talked about yet. We can’t really pull the trigger on a lot of things yet, we just gotta figure them out, who’s gonna do the shows, who’s gonna be in the band. We’re gonna have to think about all those things.
Hope to catch you live then during your European tour. Unfortunately, our time has run out. Thank you so much for taking the time. Do you have any comments to your fans and our readers?
Every time we have a record coming out I would just say listen to the whole thing. It drives me crazy nowadays that people listen to one song and make their judgment about the whole album instead. Listen to the whole record. The main thing we get asked about on the internet is when we are going to come through a certain city, so we are gonna be coming to be every city possible within the next year or so. And thank you in general, for everyone to allow us to do this for 9 albums and for 20 years, that’s absolutely unbelievable.