Other than being the phrase that philosopher/economist Karl Marx is probably best known for, Opiate For The Masses, is now also the name of a relatively new and extremely intense hard rock band from Phoenix, Arizona. Just like Marx, Opiate For The Masses, is going to go down in history as being something totally unique. Not your average hard rock band, this quartet’s music boasts elements ranging from industrial to metal and even punk and electronica. Sure, you say this has been done tons of times before, but trust me, these guys sound unique (and more importantly, sick!) Currently touring in order to promote their full-length Warcon debut The Spore, Opiate For The Masses, is getting their music out to the er… masses and winning over audiences all across North America. Thankfully, when these awesomely cool dudes stopped by Toronto whilst on tour with Ill Nino and Static-X, I was able to hit them up and throw around some Q & A pertaining to their early history, their life on the road, and their near future.
It says on your official site that before you guys got together to form the band you were all in rival Phoenix bands. Are any of these bands still together today and why exactly did Opiate for the Masses form?
Jim: Well actually the bands that we were in… we quit those bands to start this band so the bands aren’t still together. I was in a band called Projex and Ron was in a band called 5 on 1 and we were great friends, but there were always these battle of the bands you know? They’d win and then we’d win and then they’d win and we’d win… Ron and I had went to high school together the year prior to that and we were acquaintances in high school and knew that we had kinda had the same taste in music. And after a while of watching each other’s bands play we realised that we’d be better off playing together.
On your website, it’s noted that despite the fact that there is a big music scene in Phoenix, bands tend to have a very short shelf life. What do you think it is about Phoenix that doesn’t allow bands to stick together for very long?
Ron: It’s too hot! [laughs]
Jim: It just seemed like when were growing up there, there was a pool of musicians and everyone kinda played with each other and then switched it up ‘cause bands weren’t getting deals, bands weren’t going on tour. A lot of the Phoenix mentality for bands when we were there was, “hey, let’s take over this town. Let’s be the biggest band in this town.” That’s kind of an approach that we took for a while and if we had stayed on that path we wouldn’t be playing together because we went and started touring and released and album nationally… internationally actually and then started touring around the world. That’s what kept us together. I think that a lot of the bands in Phoenix… we were really young too… we were eighteen years old, so I guess many people at that age just don’t realise that you have to get out and tour.
Obviously your band name comes from the philosopher Karl Marx. Are you guys actually into philosophy, or did you just think that it was a cool name?
Ron: We love history, we love philosophy. History Channel rocks! The name came about in a conversation that we were having about philosophers and different schools of thought and stuff like that….
Speaking of Karl Marx and philosophy, what are some of the motivators you use when writing and recording music? Do your songs ever boast messages or worldly insight?
Jim: Uh, sometimes. In the past we’ve written a lot of I guess you could say political or motivational type songs. But this record, The Spore, is more personal based you know… it’s more about things that have happened to us which then could be looked at things that happen socially or to a society… to a group of people. But most of the message that we have is just for people to think for themselves and not go with these huge… the church or the state or whatever institute is pushing some idea down your throat… spit it back out and look at it before swallowing is basically our point.
It’s funny, because just looking at the Opiate for the Masses line-up you guys all look so different. Do you each have totally different influences and how did your sound come to be so diverse?
Jim: Yep! [laughs]
Seven: Well we’re all kinda into the same stuff.
Ron: Yeah, there’s definitely a common ground that overlaps on all of our liking. But then, we each incorporate stuff that’s kinda out of the realm of the other guy and then we all become interested in that too. It’s a matter of time before you see a certain genre that you’re never really deeply influenced by and you see the connection between that type of music and maybe the transition of how it influenced the types of music that you really are into like from jazz, classical, all that stuff… we’re all into all that. But when you see a direct connection suddenly it all snaps together, “Oh wow this ‘40s jazz tune is totally like “Hot for Teacher.” The beat is the same you know?”
In late April of 2005, you guys released a full-length album called The Spore. In terms of sales and fan feedback how has this record done so far?
Jim: You know at first it was kind of… us being a new band to come out nationally a lot of people hadn’t heard of us and we had really stepped around the South West mostly and done some East Coast touring, so it kind of had a slow start. But now it’s picking up fairly rapidly. Actually the last month it’s done really really well in comparison. So it seems like it’s picking up. When we wrote and recorded the album we didn’t have a record deal, we were just writing an album. We were just making an album to fulfill our artistic needs and obviously to see what we could do with it. So we’re happy with what the record’s done. It’s definitely something that’s gonna take some time for people to understand, it’s kind of a complex record. We never really expected it to blow up right away and… it’s just something that’s gonna take some time… it’s hard to digest.
When compared to your previous work, how do you personally feel about this recording?
Jim: I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done!
Ron: Yeah for sure! Sonically and just the writing and everything… we did it all on our own… we made our own rules for the record. With the other stuff that we’d done in the past we were placing a lot of faith in the producers we worked with and said you know… ‘cause we wanted them to influence us as thinkers and writers and stuff like that and so we really let them define who they thought we were you know what I mean? We played by their rules and we learned a lot from all these different types of guys. We worked with Ed Stasium who had done stuff like Ramones and Talking heads all the way to Biohazard too, so he definitely had a heavier idea of what we could do. He just saw us as more of a raw rock n’ roll band with some electronic influences. Whereas when we worked with Charlie Closer on a recording and he was coming from the industrial end of it. So it helped Jim get a grasp of how to do all the crazy Nine Inch Nails type things, like actually physically going into a computer and manipulating everything. I think it took those two different ends for us to define who were. Because we were that and that, but not exclusively one or the other, you know what I mean? So we wanted to make an album that incorporated all these things in tandem.
Although you’ve been touring hard for quite some time since this album’s release, have you found any time to work on new material and do you have any plans on a new album?
Jim: Yeah we… well we’re always writing you know… just as song writers and artists you can’t really shut it off… you can’t really turn it on either, sometimes you can’t write and it sucks. [laughs] We’ve been writing, we wrote… we have a recording rig with us that we set up in hotel rooms and sometime in the back of the bus… this bus is kinda sketchy with the electronics so we haven’t really used it on this one. But on the coach that we had on the Warped Tour we did a lot of writing on that. We definitely have more than one more album written, we have over 150 songs.
Whoa! Like already prepped?
Jim: Yah. Already demoed out and ready to go into the studio and do real drums and real guitars, not just pot guitars. So yeah, we’ve been writing, we have some material that we’re looking forward to exploring a little bit more as well as songs we had before we went into the studio with The Spore that we purposefully didn’t put on the record to save for later. You know, we didn’t want to put all of our good eggs in one basket at that point. We had at least three or four before we went in to record that are gonna make the next record or the album after that. Then we’ve written probably 30 songs, 40 songs since the recording of The Spore.
Speaking of touring how has this tour been going so far and furthermore, how did you get added to this bill?
Jim: This tour’s been great for us man. We love playing with these guys and Static’s audience and Ill Nino’s audience has taken really good to us. And I think we’re just friends with the guys and they asked us to come out on tour. I guess Static-X always hand picks the bands they tour so they asked us to kinda help us out I think.
From Ministry to Avenged Sevenfold, over the years you have already come to share the stage with so many big-name bands. Of all of these bands was there one in particular who you were super-stoked to play with and why?
Seven: Ministry was pretty crazy because they were such a big influence on all of us. We all grew up listening to those guys and that was cool. Pretty much we’ve been really fortunate, like every band that we’ve got to tour with we’ve been killer friends with. From Drowning Pool to Avenged of course, Disturbed, Static, this whole year we’ve been really lucky to get to tour with people we’re actually friends with and we dig hanging around.
Jim: I totally agree. Ministry was the most influential band that we’ve toured with so far.
Ron: That’s why I first wanted to pick up a guitar, like listening to “Psalm 69.” Just the simple mind-crushing guitar riffs you know? Chugging on the low chords, that was it for me.
Any final words or shout-outs?
Seven: www.opaiteforthemasses.com or you can check out us out at www.myspace.com/opiateforthemasses, in addition www.purevolume.com. That’s about it… go buy music! Don’t download, if you like a band go buy their shit!
Jim: If you like our band buy our record, if you don’t like our band don’t buy our record. But if you like any band, buy any band’s record. Just buy records please! The bands need it and I don’t think kids realise how important it is to every band. [ END ]