Fri, 25 Mar 2011 18:52:04
Los Angeles rock band Immune could just be the cure for local hard rock. They blend an ethereal and haunting sense of melody with heavy jagged sonic delivery for a sound that's explosive in absolutely every way. Songs like "Scream All I Want" and "3 Feet Deep" will etch a place in any listener's psyche with a combination of unforgettable, undeniable vocals and rip-roaring guitars.
Right now the band is in the process of recording their next EP with Seth von Paulus and preparing for what promises to be an incredible show at House of Blues on April 18 supporting Steel Panther, but Rob Shulze and Mike Longworth took the time to sit down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for this exclusive interview…
Is it important for you to incorporate flourishes of different styles of hard rock into what you do?
Definitely. We're all fans of many different types of hard rock including classic rock, progressive rock, punk, hardcore and metal. Mike likes to refer to our style of music as "American rock", but we are influenced by bands from all over the world. If it sounds great, it doesn't matter where it comes from. Sometimes bands from specific parts of the United States or from certain countries might share a signature sound, such as when bands from Seattle were dominating the music scene in the '90s. We try to incorporate all of our different influences into our songwriting in a way that ends up retaining our own identity while giving a nod to our favorite bands. Each of us has different hard rock bands that we consider to be our favorites, and having a wide variety of influences helps keep our music from becoming stagnant or predictable.
Do you aim to tell stories and conjure visuals with the songs? There's definitely a vivid sensibility.
Absolutely. When we worked with Sylvia Massy (best known for her work with Tool and System of a Down), she told us that a great song "takes the listener on a journey to another place and time." It's true - music is the soundtrack to our lives. A great song can make you laugh, make you cry, make you angry, and make you think. It can make you want to fight or make you want to have sex. You hear certain songs and you are immediately reminded of a specific place and time in your life or a person you know or someone you once knew. It's like an imprint on your soul. It's always an amazing sense of discovery when you hear a great new song and find yourself asking, "What the hell was that...and how soon can I hear it again?" We definitely try to paint a picture with our music, starting with the song titles and lyrics and ending with the drum beats, guitar and bass riffs, melodies, arrangements and production. We want a story to unfold in your mind when you listen to our songs, and the best part is that everyone has a different and uniquely personal interpretation of what a song means to them and how it makes them feel. If you're in your car and a song comes on the radio and you find yourself instinctively cranking up the volume, pressing down harder on the gas pedal and singing along at the top of your lungs, then that band has done something right.
What's the story behind "Scream All I Want"?
The story behind "Scream All I Want" has to start with the title of the song...it's a tribute to a joke Chris Rock told in one of his comedy specials. We're sure some people will know exactly what we're referring to, but for anyone who doesn't or for anyone who decides to try to figure it out for themselves, we'll offer one small hint - we replaced the word "you" with "I". Chris Rock is kind of an unlikely source for creative inspiration given the nature of the joke in question, but the best ideas often come from the most unusual and unexpected places. There are times when we finish a song before we give it a name - when that happens, the lyrics usually have a lot to say about what we choose for a title. There are other times when we'll have a song title before we write the song itself, in which case the song often takes on the character of the title we're working with. That was definitely the story with "Scream All I Want" - the title demands intensity and urgency. It's a song which focuses on individuality and autonomy and the notion of self-determination - doing what you want and making up your own mind rather than letting convention or practicality dictate the terms of your life to you.
In terms of influences outside of music, do you guys read or watch a lot of movies?
We're big fans of movies and we also enjoy cracking open a good book depending on the amount of free time we have. Books and movies are an amazing source of inspiration and creativity and they are a great way to decompress, unwind and unplug. There are some shared favorites as far as films that we all enjoy - "Escape From New York" and other John Carpenter classics, the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the original "Star Wars" trilogy, pretty much anything directed by John Hughes or David Fincher (particularly "Seven" and "Fight Club"), and classic comedies such as "Vacation", "Caddyshack", "The Naked Gun" and "Fletch". A list of favorite books would include "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn, "Where White Men Fear To Tread (the autobiography of Russell Means), "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie, "Fight Club", "Survivor" and "Choke" by Chuck Palahniuk, "The Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini, "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls, and pretty much anything by Bret Easton Ellis, Stephen King or Richard Matheson. Rob also reads the LA Times cover to cover every day.
"3 Feet Deep" remains my favorite. What's up with that track?
"3 Feet Deep" is one of our favorites, too. Each pair of lyrics in the verses is about someone (or something) specific. Some of them know who they are - some don't. When we started writing the song, we actually debated whether or not to use specific names. We decided against it because one of the challenges of writing songs is to take something personal and make it universal. "3 Feet Deep" is halfway to "6 Feet Under" - it's meant to be a reminder that life is very precious, very fragile, and much too short and that people who choose to embrace their existence with enthusiasm and vigor should be an inspiration to us all. Nobody wants to go through life half dead and all dumb. With the help of producer Seth von Paulus, we'll be working together to make this song as special as possible.
If your EP were a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
What a unique question! We'd definitely have to include "LA Confidential" and "Point Break" as bookends for the fact we're from Los Angeles; Oliver Stone films such as "JFK" and "Wall Street" because their conspiracy theory vibe meshes well with the social and political overtones found in some of our songs; "The Matrix", "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and other movies that create a sense of alternate or idealized reality; and any bad ass action movie or classic Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone "spaghetti western".
What's the plan for this new EP with Seth von Paulus? When do you start recording? How do you think the sound will evolve?
We're really excited to work with Seth - he's been a great friend and mentor to us for quite some time. We're deep into pre-production - the five songs which will appear on the EP have been chosen and now it's a matter of fleshing out the details of the arrangements, the melodies and the rest of what goes into making each song as memorable as possible. Working with Seth is going to be a huge sonic evolution for us because he is a brilliant musician who can play almost any instrument. It's easy for him to communicate with us because of his ability to pick up a guitar or bass or sit down at a keyboard or a drum kit and show us exactly what he wants to hear. He also has great ears and an amazing collection of vintage guitars, basses, amplifiers and other assorted gadgets and devices. We'll be able to combine classic tones with a very modern and aggressive songwriting style. We'll start tracking as soon as possible and we plan on having the EP recorded, mixed and mastered by late spring/early summer. At that point we'll find physical distribution or release the record ourselves digitally.
Which artists shaped you guys?
This could literally be an endless list and it would include everyone from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and other classic artists to Radiohead, Muse, Nirvana, Pantera, Slayer, Tool, and Linkin Park. One of the songs we're recording for the EP is influenced by Avenged Sevenfold, AC/DC, Metallica and Alice in Chains, but it still manages to have its own identity. Our fans tend to have very different opinions as far as who they think we sound like. Some of the bands they mention are definitely artists which have had a big influence on us; others, not so much. It's important to never try to talk a fan out of their opinion. The fact that they enjoy our music is all that matters.
Tell me one thing no one would know about IMMUNE.
Rob, Mike and Johnny were in a band together on the east coast before eventually reuniting in Los Angeles as members of Immune. Drew is originally from Virginia and joined the band after seeing us play live at a club in Hollywood where he was working.
We'll finish our EP with Seth, release it and then head out on tour. We played OZZfest and the Rockstar Mayhem Festival with Korn and Rob Zombie last summer and we'll be building on the success of those performances while we continue to stay closely connected to our fan base. We personally respond to every message we receive and our fans can attest to this fact. As a result, we have almost 3 million total song plays on MySpace along with nearly 32,000 MySpace friends and almost 9000 Twitter followers. A groundbreaking music video is also in the works; filming is scheduled to take place in and around Los Angeles in February. The new songs will also get a big music licensing and radio push - we're looking forward to great things in 2011 and beyond.
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