FROM AUTUMN TO ASHES – interview by james wright
“ We got up at five in the morning and went straight to the studio. I screamed my head off when the morning was still in my throat,” explains From Autumn to Ashes frontman Benjamin Perri.
The 5 A.M wake up calls were part of the grueling schedule From Autumn To Ashes endured to create their epic sophomore outing “The Fiction We Live” with producer Garth Richardson. The effort is the band’s most musically diverse offering to date and one that is sure to turn many hardcore kids on their ear. Modern Fix caught up with vocalist Benjamin Perri to talk about his band’s beautiful sophomore effort, the hardcore scene and why meeting Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden left him in awe.
When you released your debut, you became Ferret’s best selling band. Did you ever think you’d get the reaction that you got?
Ben: No, we never think that. We just thought that we were going to have fun. We’re doing really well, it was a surprise and we’re happy with it.
You guys were on the road for months and months for your debut. What was the hardest part touring as an independent artist?
The hardest part was actually going to these cities and not having our album available in stores. So the hardest part was the distribution being very limited. The only way for us to get people to come to our shows was by pummeling the city, tour after tour, after tour. Word of mouth eventually got around that people should come check our band out. That was probably the hardest part; everything else was easier. Being away from home, that was easy, playing the shows, touring around, that was the easy part. The hard part was actually getting people to listen.
What were some of the high points for you over the last couple of years?
Just being able to play in front of so many kids each night. Being able to let them see our work, that’s the best feeling anyone can ever have. Having someone feel exactly what you’re feeling and relate to it and sing it back to you, it’s an amazing feeling.
You recently did the Donnington Festival in England, what was that like?
Pretty much like a dream world. You have festivals like Hell Fest, which is a hardcore/punk rock festival in Syracuse and Furnacefest, which is another hardcore festival down in Alabama. It’s just a bunch of your peers, and then when you go to Donnington, it’s like you walk into the true rock stars. You can walk backstage and run into Marilyn Manson, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, you can run around a little more and run into Metallica. When you’re a kid, you watch these people, and they’re surreal. Then you’re actually back there with them, talking to them, watching them. It’s a strange, amazing feeling.
Were you star struck at all?
I wouldn’t say star struck, but when I met Bruce Dickenson from Iron Maiden, one of my favorite bands ever, I wasn’t star struck, but I was in awe. We had a good conversation and he actually looked through the program guide for the show and said that his kid liked our band a lot. I was amazed.
Was that like the ultimate compliment? It came full circle because his kids enjoy your band, just like you enjoyed his?
Yeah, exactly. It was awesome; I was definitely flattered by it.
What prompted the decision to sign with Vagrant?
Just that they were behind us 100%. Whatever we did, they said, “You write your record, give it to us, we’ll put it out”. There was no, “Change this, do this, sound like this, write a radio song”. They let us write our songs, go in the studio, put them down in CD and put it out.
I heard a rumor that you guys were going to sign with Island Def Jam.
Yeah, they weren’t behind us 100%. They wanted us to change stuff, do this and that; we want to be our own band. We write our own music, it’s from the heart, and it’s not just music. We needed to have 100% control of what we did.
Getting into the record, can you explain the concept behind The Fiction We Live?
There’s not really a concept. It’s more like the study of human emotions and seeing how people deal with those emotions.
Would you say it’s a study of your own human emotions, or people in general?
People in general. We’ve been on the road for the past two and a half years; we’ve got to witness a lot of reactions from people in different situations. I got that stuck in my head, and that’s how I formulated my lyrics.
Do you think that you’ve grown as a person in those two years?
I definitely have, and I definitely reached the point where my maturity caught up to my age, finally. It took a long time for that to happen, but I think it finally happened.
This record is a lot more melodic and dynamic than your debut. What do you attribute that growth and development to?
Just being in the band three years with each other and growing as a group. You definitely have to grow, I wouldn’t say necessarily change your sound, but play what you feel and don’t compromise everything for everyone else. Do what you want to do, just write what you feel inside.
If you could send one message out with that record, what would that message be?
Never answer your own problem, there’s always an answer, and I think our lyrics say that. Just know that there’s never a dead end, there’s always a way out of something.
Can you give us an idea of who the character of “Autumn” is and what she represents?
I’m not really the best one to explain who she is. In general, I think everyone in their life knows an Autumn, someone who has everything going for them. They’re at the top of their class, they can do whatever they want to do and just reach unlimited levels, but then something in their life triggers a collapse and they fall down to the bottom of the barrel again. That’s pretty much what it is.
Are you hoping that your music can be there for them when they are at the bottom?
What’s your take on the hardcore scene in general?
There are a lot of good bands coming out. It’s a healthy way for kids to come out and explore their insides. I think that the music industry was trying to make it the next trend, but since it didn’t really catch on, they let it go, which is good.
When you started the band, originally, did you have a clear vision as to what you wanted to accomplish?
No, it was just to get out on the road, tour a little bit. Just have some fun, this is a dream come true.
Do you still set goals to keep yourself going?
Definitely. We just want to keep doing this as long as we can, as long as we’re still having fun. I’m going to do it for as long as I possibly can.
What was it like working with Garth for this record?
That was one of the best experiences ever. He was a hockey nut. It was right during the playoffs, and Vancouver and Toronto were playing and Toronto’s his team. We were in Vancouver recording and Vancouver lost the game. He decided to buy a Vancouver flag and go outside one of the studios where a bunch of Vancouver fans were, light it on fire and burn it in the middle of the street. He’s out of his mind; I love him.
So how did he help the band achieve the sound that you wanted to achieve with this record?
I think he realized that we were more than we were when we first walked into the studio. He pushed us further; he pushed us right to our limits. We got up at five in the morning and went straight to the studio. I screamed my head off when the morning was still in my throat. He thought that it was the best time for me to get the deepest, roughest sound. I had no idea I could sound the way I did; he pushed me that far.
I guess that working with him helped you develop the band a little bit?
Definitely. I think that we’re where we are today partially because of him.
Do you think that you’ll work with Garth in the future?
I would love to. We had a good studio relationship; we had a good outside the studio. We played in New York a little while ago and him and his assistant came out to see us. We’re going to be in Vancouver in a couple of days, I’m sure he’ll be there. It’s not just a producer/ band relationship I think we became friends.
How do you want people to remember you in ten to twenty years from now when they look back over your career?
I hope they can separate us from the package a little. I hope we stand out in people’s minds by helping people through tough situations and help them grow as people. I hope we get them through a tough time, or this or that; that will be important to me.
Do you get that reception when you go on the road?
Yeah, I get e-mails all the time and people at shows telling me that these words helped them through something. It’s probably one of the best feelings I’ve had before. I’m still a regular person, just like them. I’m on the stage, and they’re in the crowd, that’s the only difference between us.
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