Interview by: Natalie K.
February 14, 2010
Estrella: Can you please state your name and what you do in the band?
Mike: I’m Mike, I do vocals and lyrics.
Estrella: You have been touring with Killswitch Engage little over a week now, how has it been going?
Mike: We had a lot of problems originally, especially Killswitch because Howard (Jones, singer of Killswitch Engage) had to leave the tour because of some back problems. They got Phil from All That Remains and he is doing a great job. We also had to cancel a show in Norfolk because of the huge winter death snow recently. Things have been going well, the shows have been a lot of fun but we have not really hung out with Killswitch much but so far they have been real nice. When we got offered this tour we got really excited about it and it’s been great and happy to be a part of it.
Estrella: This tour ends late March and I know you are going to play around South America in May, what are your plans in-between?
Mike: Really nothing, we have some time in the studio to record an EP which takes up a couple weeks. After that we plan on doing a summer tour still unannounced but it is getting booked right now. It is going to be something a little bit different than what us and our fans are used too and what this sort of scene is used too.
Estrella: As in the artists you will be touring with?
Mike: Um, like the whole concept behind it. It’s hard to say because we have not announced it yet and I am trying not to give it away.
Estrella: Can’t get in trouble.
Mike: Once you hear about it, you will understand but we do have a summer tour going on through the US. Other than that and South America it is just a few festivals here and there.
Estrella: What festivals are you going to do?
Mike: That’s another one I can’t (laughs). I think some of them are, ‘don’t announce until’ but it’s a lot of the Christian festivals we have done before throughout this past year and the year before that.
Estrella: What about Lolla?
Mike: No, it would be sweet if we were though. We have one in Toledo coming up which I know is announced with White Chapel.
Estrella: When not on tour you call Chicago home now, is there any difference playing your home city verse the others?
Mike: For me not really because we are not a Chicago band so it is hard to say this is a hometown for us. We’ve played Chicago a lot through the years, this is our fifth time playing the House of Blues and tomorrow will be our sixth. It’s a hometown for me now because I love it here and I plan on staying here for a long time but Chicago for our band is not a hometown show but as compared to a big city show. It’s the same as San Diego for us or Orlando, it is just a place where the crowds are really a lot of fun.
Estrella: Both shows here are sold out.
Mike: Right, Chicago is one of those places. Even though now I can call it home and getting to go home between these shows is amazing, but it is more of sweet city to play and it has always been that way.
Estrella: When playing a Chicago show do you try and cram in all the things you love about this city, or do you take it easy?
Mike: I’ve only been in Chicago since the summer so we have not come through all that often but today I already went home, went to visit my girlfriend at work, and got to hang out with my puppy dog. Tomorrow I do have a lot of plans to try and cram in, but we’ll see what happens.
Estrella: Do you have any favorite restaurants here yet?
Mike: I go into The Counter but that is not really a local thing. As far as pizza deliveries Sarpino’s is the best. I did try Lula Cafe in Logan Square for the first time today and it was fantastic. So far it has been a lot of delivery food because it’s cold and I’m lazy and I just have people delivery food to me.
Estrella: Your third studio album With Roots Above and Branches Below was released last year which charted extremely well at number eleven on the Top 100 Billboard Charts. What was your reaction to that, were you prepared for it, or do things like chart position not even matter?
Mike: It does matter, it is nothing like we have to do this. There are no expectations really which is amazing because you cannot really be disappointed. Obviously, members of the band set their own expectations like, “Well I hope it sells this much” or whatever. Selling over 30,000 was definitely beyond what any of us expected.
Estrella: Did you ever think you would crack the top 20, because your previous album was 57.
Mike: Uhhh no, I have not put much thought into it, but it is amazing. I wish there weren’t so many albums that came out that week because maybe we could have done top ten. It is definitely a blessing and nothing any of us were expecting. I guess it is something to brag about almost but it is just a blessing and fantastic that so many people are stoked on the album, continue to buy it and are happy with it.
Estrella: Were you surprised, because I know your genre of music is not necessarily played on mainstream radio where you could get the most exposure.
Mike: Right, well that’s why we will never be a number one band. That is not what we are trying to do, if we were trying to do that we would of done it from the beginning. It’s more of doing…
Estrella: What you like?
Mike: Yeah, exactly and making songs that we want to do at that time. I guess it is surprising for a band within our genre doing number eleven. It’s exciting because it isn’t radio, it isn’t like Taylor Swift so it is definitely pretty crazy.
Estrella: The next video off of, With Roots Above and Branches Below is going to be, “Assistant to the Regional Manager”, have you finished shooting yet?
Mike: We did, we shot it two days before this tour started in Pittsburgh and I think they are filming more shots for it now maybe. It is all coming together, but it usually takes three weeks before we see a rough copy or rough edit of the videos. Going into the video we said to make something that is totally different than we have done before so we really don’t know what to expect either.
Estrella: So what did you guys do, just up to be filmed?
Mike: Well we got a rough treatment of it and the ideas. It is more of a Nine Inch Nails weirdness imagery type theme rather than following some story and not understanding. Which is what all of our past videos have been.
Estrella: I watched your last video for “Danger: Wildman” and did not understand it.
Mike: Exactly (laughs) and that sucks. I was like, make something that is not along the same lines as our other videos because our past three videos are all pretty similar and just make something so at the end it’s almost controversial and people go, I never saw that coming. That is kind of the idea behind it.
Estrella: You were named 2009 AP’s band of the year, when did you hear the news and what was your reaction?
Mike: We were in Europe, I don’t remember where at specifically but it was after a show and our manager told us. We were ecstatic because we were really pushing for it. Since we started getting magazine covers and magazine articles it has always been, we want the cover of AP and that was the goal at the time. When the record came out, Taking Back Sunday I think got the cover and it was a bummer but we finally got it with the band of the year thing. It is incredible to have such loyal fans and fans that obviously enjoy us enough to go out and vote to be like, this is the band I enjoyed most this year, I enjoyed their shows and record and everything. It is pretty wild and definitely one of the biggest accomplishments we have ever had by any means.
Estrella: I have to touch on your tattoo’s for bit since in one photo it looked you only had your right arm done, than the next your entire upper body. How many do you have now?
Mike: It is hard to say, I’ve been worked on between twelve to twenty artists and I have no idea how many time’s I’ve been tattooed. I have both legs, not covered but both legs, one thigh, my arms and hands, throat, chest, half of my belly, some stuff around my back.
Estrella: What was your first tattoo?
Mike: My upper right arm which is a ship. It was recently re-done thank God because it was done very, very poorly originally. My whole arm was actually done and then everything but my hand was re-done by Ryan Hadley because it was all done pretty poorly. He just went in and made colors pop, and made everything bolder because he is a great artist and I was not to smart in picking artists for certain tattoo’s on my arms, but whatever.
Estrella: What’s your next one going to be?
Mike: God willing I am actually having Ryan Hadley who did my throat and arm, portrait on my thigh, a little bit on my back, and he is going to be finishing up my chest. After that I want to do a snake with Keith Underwood, and then more on my upper back once I’m back in Chicago so I am stoked.
Estrella: Your entire body?
Mike: Eh we’ll see (laughs).
Estrella: What’s a song that you never get sick of hearing?
Mike: “Last Light” by Converge. It is my favorite song in the world.
Estrella: What is something you have always wanted to do, but have never done yet?
Mike: There is a lot. I like to never be content with the things I’m doing. Not because I’m not grateful but because everything I do I want it to be better than when I did it before. Which kind of means everything I’ve already done I want to do again but better. That applies a lot to music, but also to everything else I do. I really want to play guitar/bass in a band which it what I have been doing longer than vocals but I’ve never actually played in a band.
Estrella: Do you think you would ever do a side project?
Mike: Yeah, I really want too but right now I don’t really have the dudes to jam with. It’s not like a big rush and it’s not like I am trying to do it for money I just want to play.
Estrella: For yourself?
Mike: Yeah and I just want to play in a faster more chaotic band. More hardcore driven as compared to the whole melodic-ish metalcore type sound.
Estrella: Really, because I listened to your last album and I thought it was pretty hard, so harder than that?
Mike: Oh yeah something faster and just raw. Our band is not raw by any means. It is a little bit raw live to some extent but I just want a band that just freaking goes fast. Even if it is not playing fast, just playing stuff that is not completely edited perfectly and something that is just sloppy. I like that kind of thing.
Estrella: If you could see any band or artist perform any song live what would it be and why?
Mike: “Last Light” by Converge (laughs). I’ve never seen then live and sadly when they come to Chicago I will be gone on the South America tour. I always miss them. I missed them on that Mastodon tour because of the Napalm tour that I was on. I definitely want to see that band live.
Estrella: Do you have any final comments?
Mike: I know it sounds cliché to say thanks for your support but it’s awesome how loyal our fans are and keep coming out to see us every time we play in the area. It feels like we have played some of these cities so many times but people will come up to us and say, “This is my sixth time seeing you” and it’s like wow you paid six times. The loyalty in our fan base is unbelievable and we owe the world to them. Any support they’ve given us is definitely much appreciated and I wish all of our fans knew that.