Megadeth, Jag Panzer, Eidolon, Nevermore, Shadows Fall… I suppose those names ring a bell with everyone reading our magazine and most of you have also heard of Act of Defiance by now. I don’t want to use the term supergroup here, as my interviewees Shawn Drover (drums) and Chris Broderick (guitar) don’t seem to like it much, but that’s what it is. The guys took what’s best from their previous bands and this combustive, heavy as fuck mixture surely blows away every modern thrash enthusiast. AoD are currently touring on their new release “Old Scars, New Wounds” and that’s where we started our chat.
You have more sonic diversity on the new album as compared to “Birth and the Burial”. Was it a conscious decision to enrich your spectrum, or did it just happen organically?
Shawn: Well, the main difference is that Henry and Matt both wrote songs on the new record whereas the first record, Chris and I wrote everything ‘cause we didn’t have a band at the time. I think it’s a natural evolution, just getting to know each other better, getting to know Henry and Matt better as musicians and songwriters and we just all contributed and helped each other out so, I think that’s really the main difference.
Chris: I think it shows how we came together as a band. On “Birth and the Burial” we didn’t really know Matt and Henry that well and then when we came together for “Old Scars, New Wounds” you know, we were a band at that point and so we wrote like it.
As far as I’m concerned, you all write stuff, but Shawn is a drummer, Henry is a singer, so, can you all play other instruments good enough to be able to write music?
S: All four of us play guitar. Obviously not as good as Chris, ha-ha! But you don’t have to be the best guitar player in the world to write a good song, you know? There’s certain things that I couldn’t do, and I would just tell Chris, “Hey, add your thing to it ‘cause I can’t do everything, it kinda goes like this.” And I would just leave it up to him. And I’m sure he worked out stuff with Henry as well, all three of us, you know? At the end of the day Chris would add embellishments and characteristics that kinda put his flavour on it too, which is great, but at the same time all the songs are radically different from each other, so I think that’s great as well.
I know you recorded demos at your own places and then you put all the ideas together. Do you find this contemporary way of working on music more convenient, as opposed to sitting in a rehearsal room and jamming?
C: We find it conducive to the budget that we have. I think it works really well, but you know, it would be great at the same time if we were able to sit in a room and jam and spend time together making a song in the same room. But I think this works very well as well.
S: The times are different now. Back when we were growing up you had to live in the same area or move to that area to be in a band, and do it the old school way, rehearsing songs in a rehearsal room and all that stuff. But now with the advent of ProTools and the technology the way it is, you can record a song and send it right over on email, you know?
C: In fact, it’s even crazier than that. You can actually record to a hard drive that’s on a server and have other people working on it in real time as well. We’re not that crazy yet, but we’re getting there, ha-ha!
S: The times are different. It enables us to live in different parts of the country and yet still be a real band. It kinda works in our favour in a way.
So, was it like everyone contributed a few complete, finished songs, or did you still work on the arrangements collectively?
C: Most of it was all of us writing and demoing whole songs but there were a couple of songs that weren’t complete, that we kind of worked on, collaborated together with. But even if there were whole complete songs we all got together and talked about the song structure and melodic ideas behind the vocals or whether it should be heavier or cleaner, you know, the lyric content, all of that stuff was fair game for anybody to put their fingers and their touch on.
You picked “M.I.A.” and “Overexposure” to film videos for, so, why those particular tunes?
S: I don’t know, I just think nowadays video really isn’t as important as it was back in the ‘80s, you know? Certain directions were certainly smarter, to put out something that’s a little more accessible to the metal people instead of putting some self-indulgent 14-minute song, you couldn’t do that. But now you can really do whatever you want. But I still think we’re mindful about… I think “M.I.A.” is just a good lead-off track for the record and it’s a good song, it’s concise, it’s not too long, it’s not too crazy…
C: I think it’s probably the song that represents us as a band and then “Overexposure” is probably the song that I would say has the most commercial value to it, you know, that most people would listen to it and catch the melodic hook of the song.
I’ve got a few non-AoD-related questions now. Shawn, there’s been no new Eidolon album for 12 years now. Is the band still active at all?
S: Oh my god, no. You know what, I love a lot of stuff that we did with that band, but not enough people care for me to take the time to resurrect something that nobody really cared about in the first place. There’s just a chosen few that really like it. It led me to where I am today, that band got me into Megadeth, that’s how I got into Megadeth, and that’s essentially how I ended up here. It was kind of a stepping stone, but to resurrect it and to do another album, I just can’t be bothered.
Talking about Eidolon, you guys were on Metal Blade, so, was it easier for you to get the deal for Act of Defiance? Did you approach any other labels at all?
S: No, it was the easiest decision for me personally ‘cause it was just like putting on an old pair of shoes, you know? We know all those people, I’ve known Brian for years, Chris has known Brian for years, so I knew that we would be taken care of with the band, you know? And that’s certainly been the case.
Chris, what are your favourite memories from your time with Jag Panzer?
C: You know, quite honestly sometimes the most trying time is the most memorable time. The first headlining tour that we did in Europe, I think it was in ’98 and Harry was promising me, he was like , ”Yeah, we’re gonna be staying at 3-4-star hotels” and all that stuff and we came over here and it was like just the slog it out tour of the century, in the middle of winter, you know? It was December, East Germany and stuff like that, it was so bitter-cold. The funny thing is that it was really hard but you really leave with a lot of fond memories, because of how people kinda stuck together and made it happen. So, we became really close because of all those hardships.
So, Megadeth, Jag Panzer, Nevermore, you seem to have always played with another guitarist. How is it working for you now, especially in the live setting?
C: Yeah, you know, it’s a little bit harder, you have to put yourself out there more and try and just sell what you’re playing a little bit more. The way I see it, I love playing with other guitarists and quite honestly it would be great to have another guitarist in this band but at the level we’re at it logistically makes things harder. Things are hard enough right now so, we’re keeping it simple and I’m working on my ability to just put my playing out there.
S: Black Sabbath did it… So did Van Halen… We’re fine, ha-ha!
OK, back to AoD. You guys left Megadeth and just a few months later you had an album out. So, did you just work like crazy or did you have a collection of song ideas while still in Megadeth?
C: We worked our asses off. I had a couple of ideas, but nothing was complete. But we knew we wanted to get ideas out there, we knew we wanted to keep the music coming out and we knew we wanted to have it out as soon as possible. At the time, now it’s pretty funny because we were like, “No problem, we’ll be able to rip out a CD in no time” and it was a lot of work to get it out.
S: Find the band, find the record label, find management, find everything. Write music, come up with a name, everything. But from the time that we quit our previous band to the record coming out I believe it was less than six months.
C: Well, if you think about it, we started really working on it in December and we handed in the record on May 1st.
S: Yeah, but that was finding the singer, demoing different singers with music, all of that stuff. I mean, looking back now, I don’t know how we did it. We were just so focused and determined to do it. I’m really proud of that record too. I think it’s a great record.
You guys left Megadeth simultaneously. Was there any particular event or situation that made you make this decision?
S: No. Everybody’s looking for some big drama-filled stupid ass reason. Honestly, we wanted to create our own music and we wanted to go in a heavier direction. For me, I was getting to the point where if I don’t do something soon, I’m gonna be too old to start a new band, ‘cause I’m not 25 years old anymore. So, it was the right time, the band was taking a year off, so I just kind thought this would be the time to do it if I wanted to do it. And I kinda found out that Chris was thinking the same thing.
C: It was a long time in coming really, I mean it was a decision of creativity and being able to kinda lead the direction that you wanted to go in with the music and the way you carry yourself, the way you present yourself. All those aspects you kind of had to conform to the Megadeth idea and I wanted to write music that I felt was mine and carry myself that way as well. And so Shawn actually left right before I did but because of where we were I knew he was right, he made the right decision. Dave was calling us down to start demoing the next CD and if your heart’s not in it, you know, it would be pointless to go down there and start recording.
S: It was the right time. There was a big break, it was not like we were quitting in the middle of the tour or anything like that, you know? If there was the time to do it, that was the time. And that’s what we did.
Did you know Matt and Henry before you founded the band, or did you hold auditions? How did you complete the line-up?
S: I knew Matt. I’ve known Matt for almost 20 years now, my brother was in King Diamond, and they did a tour in America for “House of God” in 2000 and Shadows Fall was the opening direct support for that tour. And I actually was on that tour, I was like teching for Andy LaRocque, ‘cause they couldn’t get a guy and I said, “Look, I’ll help, I’m not a guitar tech, but I’ll certainly help.” So, I got to know all the Shad guys and became friends with them and I remembered that Matt was a really a kinda cool laid back kinda guy, he wasn’t an obnoxious retard, you know? And that stuff is important, when you’re in a band with people essentially you’re living with them and it’s important to get along and have the same vision of what you want to do musically and all the other things involved. I remembered Matt was a pretty cool guy, laid back, and played bass as well as guitar. Shadows Fall just stopped when we started looking for a bass player so I just rang him up, “Hey, we’re doing this, what do you think?”, “Yeah, I’m in.” Chris will tell you more about Henry.
C: Henry was more of a search for a vocalist. We started making a list of people that we would love to have in the band as well as just looking on the Internet for potential unknowns. And we started reaching out to all those people and whether it was through personal commitments to other bands or logistical reasons, we limited the list down and we sent those people demos and when they came back, when Henry’s came back we knew Henry was the right singer for the band. He fit.
You’ve all played with some well-known bands and you know how it goes for so called supergroups, people have higher expectations. Were you at all concerned about meeting those expectations?
S: No, I wasn’t personally.
C: That wasn’t a concern with the band, because all we were really concerned with was writing what we wanted to get out, you know?
S: You know, that’s just the tag put on by the media. A lot of things that are that, a lot of those things are just projects, which is great. There’s a lot of great projects out there but we wanted to establish right away, we’re a band, we played over a 110 shows on the last record, we went to Manilla to the Phillipinnes, we did 4 North America tours for that record and now we’re finally here. That was the next step. Getting to Europe was our priority for this record. We wanted to get over to Europe. We’ve accomplished that now so it’s slowly starting to build organically, you know?
The band is still relatively new, having released just two albums, but you’ve already decided to headline your own tours. So, is it working better for you than supporting bigger bands where you get more exposure?
C: We’re trying to get out and tour any way we can. We would prefer direct support slots or support slots on tours, but if that doesn’t happen, we definitely wanna get out regardless and headline.
S: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Obviously, it’s more beneficial to us to be on a bigger tour, but the thing is the other 150 bands are in the same position as us so, it becomes a matter of politics, this booking agent knows that booking agent, you know what I mean? But if we don’t get that opportunity, we’re not gonna stay home, we’re gonna say, “Look we’re gonna tour for a month, we’ll go here, we’ll go there”. The more records we put out and the more we play, the more opportunities will be presented to us.
OK, let’s wrap-up. What’s next for the band?
S: Take a break after the 7-week tour and we’ll do something sometime in the fall as well and carry into next year. We haven’t toured enough on this record.
C: Yeah, I feel like we’re only mid-cycle as far as touring on the CD.
S: We’ve got to do a couple of shows in Canada, if we can get anywhere in Latin America, South America next year, that’d be great, all that stuff. We wanna keep going, there’s no rush anymore like it was back in the day. You don’t have to put out a record every 12 months. You can put out a record every 2-2,5 years and it’ll still be OK.