(In this interview conducted by phone last month, NCS writer BadWolf caught up with Bob Meadows of Philadelphia’s A Life Once Lost, who have a new album in the works — the first since 2007’s Iron Gag. The band played the inaugural Metal Suckfest in New York City last November (reviewed by BadWolf in a two-part feature here and here), and the live photos accompanying this interview except for the one above were taken at that show for NCS by Nicholas Vechery.)
Bob Meadows is angry.
And why shouldn’t he be? As vocalist for A Life Once Lost, it’s part of his job description. More than that, his band has been jerked around within the industry on a near-continual basis for their entire career. It’s a common story, but a tragedy nonetheless. It’s been nearly five years since 2007’s Iron Gag album, and since then A Life Once Lost has gone through innumerable lineup changes.
But all that’s in the past. This year, the Philly bastards will release a new album on Season of Mist. They’ve already done some smaller gigs, as well as played the Metal Suckfest.
So why is Bob so angry? Maybe it’s got something to do with the toxic in-fighting that pulls our great art-form into infamy. It might also have something to do with the youngsters following in Bob’s footsteps. These Djent youngsters owe him some credit as well: A Life Once Lost mixed Meshuggah-like math grooves with melodic hardcore sensibility (before Hot Topic co-opted that sound) over a decade ago.
His views on these and other subjects, after the jump!
BadWolf: So how’s the new record coming along.
Bob Meadows of ALOL: It’s taken three years, one guitarist, one drummer and one bassist to write but it’s finally coming along. We’re all very excited to play some shows, soldier on and get things moving.
How many songs are we looking at?
Around nine at this point. About a half hour or forty minutes—nothing too crazy. The songs have this completely different attitude that I think people responded to in New York City. It sucks that we lost one guitar player, but at the same time it’s kind of cool. Before, each guitar player wrote songs and they traded on and off, so you could hear who wrote which material. This will be our first record with one consistent attitude all the way through.
I was anxious at first when I saw you live and I only saw one man setting up, but from where I was standing you pulled everything off really well. It doesn’t sound like having one guitar has really hurt you live.
Yeah we haven’t missed out on much live as a four-piece. In the past, I think what made us unique was two very complementary guitar sounds, and we might miss that.
Really, it took us up to that show [Suckfest] to fall into step. We did a little four-day run and it was fun but it wasn’t anything to write home about. We just wanted to see what people thought of these tunes. Some people liked it, some people didn’t.
Isn’t that how every release is with an artist.
Well yeah, but you’ll always get these douchebag kids yelling ‘play “Flies”!’ Come on, man. If you haven’t matured past that then you’re wasting your mom and dad’s money and your fifteen minutes of fun. You miss out on originality if you at first glance dismiss something and not give it a chance.
I don’t think you’re going to pull a Morbid Angel by any stretch.
Oh nonono. I’m not ‘gonna be singing, we won’t be an industrial band, that’s for sure! We do have one song that’s just straight pummeling with industrial-style riffs, but it complements us. That song will melt people. The idea of the riff was to pay homage to other influences that we haven’t before—like Ministry.
Does the new record have a title yet?
Not yet, I keep throwing things at walls and they won’t stick.
A little cognitive dissonance?
I’m frustrated. You spend all this time working into a musical scene and so quickly get swept aside in favor of this new wave of bullshit which plagues us. I mean these bands that feel they need keyboards and vocoders and bullshit. They loose touch on what makes them metal, that you couldn’t really understand it. Now all these kids are being forced by independent record labels . . . well labels that pretend to be independent . . . making these bands into pop bullshit they never wanted to be.
I feel like Djent may be the death knell of metalcore because there’s so many preconceived notions about what it should sound like that it stifles people from making any real creative decisions. It’s so homogenous.
It gets tagged back to Meshuggah, but to me all these bands are more poor man’s versions of Fredrik Thordendal’s Special Defects. In my thinking that record was revolutionary and it came out so many years ago. To see people turn around and rip that off all these years later is sort of revolting. Of course we also get compared to Meshuggah, but when we put out A Great Artist back in 2003 we took that band as more of an influence that we blended with other influences like Pantera, Black Sabbath, and Candiria, while these kids blatantly rip just one man’s sound off.
I can like the people. Misha from Periphery is an awesome guy, but I can’t stand his music. It’s too Coheed and Cambria, too Circa Survive. It doesn’t have anything I enjoy in music. I want to like you as a person, not as a guitar player. I’m glad to have had the chance to get to know them—they’re cool dudes, I just dislike their music.
Does that happen often, where professional musicians like one another as people but not one another’s music?
I don’t know. There’s sort of a veil. There is an absurd amount of fake people that sort of salute the scene to this point where . . . I don’t know. You can’t like every band out there. It’s just not possible.
For me, I look for more of a human contact or personality than anything. If I can’t carry on a conversation with you then what’s the point? Maybe your band’s sick as fuck, but I’m 32 years old, after a while that wears thin. But I’m going to be a bit more real to you than some of these fake as fuck people who headbang to everything. You don’t need to kiss my ass!
I’m sorry it has to be that way.
It’s unfortunate but that’s just human nature. There’s always a guy to look out for and that’s usually #1.
This is going to sound cynical, but bear with me. If people didn’t suck, you wouldn’t be making the music you make and I wouldn’t be writing about it.
That’s a good point. We all need shitheads in our lives to enable us to write music. The same with the album—some people will get it, some won’t, but I’ll be doing my job regardless.
It’s cool that you’re still angry enough to write music with a certain conviction. A necessary one, I think. Lyrically, though, what’s the new record about?
It’s always about my relationships with people. Some songs collectively talk to a bunch of different individuals, compared to a song directed at one person. I’ve experienced some crazy things in the past few years that I didn’t really plan on experiencing. I don’t feel as though I bait myself for these events where the outcome is completely out of my control and I feel defenseless and helpless. So I have a lot of revenge-based songs. [laughs] It’s funny that people can come at me on a message board and think that’s it not going to come back to me, but in person act like nothing happened. These people are cowards. I’ve been inspired by a lot of situations like that, lyrically.
The older you get, you see the true colors of people more. I have seen the absolute scum of people and the things they will do to have themselves step up within a scene. Politically, when a group of people hate on one person or thing it becomes more of a clique, more ‘elite,’ and people get off on that. I was in a side project and was kicked out through reading things and hearing things; and the man never said anything to my face. Shit like that shows people for what they’re worth. I’ve sort of lost faith in humanity at this point.
I mean, why put all my eggs in one basket if this is the way you will treat someone you could at one time call a friend? I see no point in it. I don’t have the time for it. I don’t have the patience anymore. I can’t wait to be still doing this at forty years old, and that much more bitter than everyone around me.
Y’know, the night before I saw you at Suckfest, I saw Today is the Day. I have never seen anyone look so pissed as Steve Austin, and he’s got to be 45 or older now. I love bands that age who get more pissed.
Look, if you’re in a metal band you’re not supposed to be happy. You’re not supposed to be funny. You’re not supposed to have stupid song titles. I know I sound like a nazi when I say shit like that, but Metal has always been aggressive. It’s always been the music that you play when you want to take a brick and throw it through your neighbor’s window. I don’t know one true metal singer out there that appreciates life in that way. I don’t enjoy waking up at 5AM to go to work and bust my ass for minimum wage, and I don’t see how someone who does can go onstage and pretend that they’re so fucking happy that they want to laugh and giggle and squat in unison. Fuck you. Get out of my scene.
You’re so honest—it’s a breath of fresh air.
I’ve done it. My band has been stepped on, alienated, blackmailed, been told that if we don’t take a certain band on tour we’d be dropped, and then dropped anyway. Fuck you, man. Just be straight up with me.
Is there anyone you still do respect?
I respect my parents! When everyone else sold me short, my family was always there for me. The guys in my band have my respect. I learned you need to give respect to get respect.
So, on Suckfest, I did not one hear one song off Iron Gag. What went into that decision?
Well, as a four piece we had to play within reason. It’s not as if we’re never going to play anything off Iron Gag ever again, but for that set we wanted to be lean, fierce, and pissed. I don’t think Iron Gag was that fierce or that pissed. We played three new songs, three old. We want that new material to fit in with our old material—we’re proud of all of it. Iron Gag is a good record; it has some good songs and sick grooves all over it. And great production. These are all things that have been crossing our minds.
I feel we’ve only just hit our stride a few months ago. The stuff Doug has been writing is consistently above and beyond my expectations.
And Seasons if Mist is putting it out. Any thoughts on your new label?
I was kind of nervous at first, but it grows on you. The label has an amazing metal roster of the sort we’ve never been associated with. Ferret was more of a hipster or hype label. Deathwish was a hardcore label. Robotic Empire was a punk label. We’ve never had a label full of metal bands. We finally have people working with us that are awesome. Working with Maria Ferrero and her amazing track record is a sudden reassurance. I would say Season of Mist is the European equivalent of Relapse Records, which is good because we’ve never had a European push. Well, Rise Above did some promotion for Iron Gag, but it did nothing for us. So, we’re excited to see how this first record goes. I think our deal is one with an option, so if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I have a decent feeling that something cool could happen.
We’re doing it ourselves. Writing, producing, and recording ourselves. I handle all vocal production—I’ve been working on it two or three days per week. I’ve developed my own thing by working with people like Randy Blythe from Lamb of God and of course Melissa Cross to develop my own ‘thing.’ There will be no guests of any sort on this record, at all. Vocally, I want this to be the record where I really step up to the plate. I’m looking forward to having it done. There’s going to be lots of layering–a huge influence of ours is bands from the late 60’s, early 70’s. Think psychedelics over pulling, groove-oriented riffs, but you’ll still hear the old A Life Once Lost in there.
We’re shooting to release in the middle of the summer. You’ll get some tidbits around April. We’re going to play some shows, but not over-extend ourselves, at this point. When the record comes out we might hit the road harder.
I think one of our faults in the past is that we were constantly on the road. I think these younger bands don’t understand that. Over-touring hurts a band, you saturate a market, you hit a ceiling.
People want something to look forward to.
It’s not everybody; there are diehards that will be there every show. Diehards make it worth it for the band to come back emotionally, but you hit a point where it doesn’t make sense anymore and you burn out. Being on the road ten or eleven months out of the year doesn’t help unless you’re going overseas or at least crossing some sort of border. Markets are like plants—if you over-water them they die.