F5, the band formed by thrash metal bassist David Ellefson and drummer extraordinaire Jimmy DeGrasso are preparing to release their newest CD, The Reckoning, on August 19th. Heavy yet melodic this record is a must for metal fans of all kinds. F5 combine catchy hooks with unforgettable melodies that will draw the listener in and will have them singing along and banging their heads long after the record has stopped playing. The Reckoning is a very well produced CD and a solid record from a band we are certain to hear more from in the future. Bassist, Dave Ellefson was kind enough to talk with me about the new CD The Reckoning and about the music business in general.
Your brand new CD titled The Reckoning is set for release on August 19th. Now that it is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Dave: I think the whole band is very happy with it. It’s heavy and it shows a more musically intricate side of the band, which I think is a good move forward for 2008 with F5.
What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Dave: We wrote the first batch of material on the US tour back in 2006. We’d be on the bus and would write them, rehearse them at sound check and then play them that night in the set at the show. Some of the songs that came out that that made it to the record are “My End”, “Cause For Concern” and “Control”. From there we wrote another batch of songs in the off time after the tour later in 2006 and early 2007. Some of those are tunes like “Wake Up”, “The Reckoning”, and “No Excuse”. Then, we finalized the rest of the material right before the recording of the album. Everyone writes so we tried to go with the best material available, regardless of who brought it to the table.
The band keeps things interesting thematically. Can you talk about some of the subjects you tackle on this record?
Dave: Dale wrote all the lyrics on this one and he takes a unique perspective when composing. To me, many of the songs seemed very vengeful and spiteful so one day I asked him who he was so pissed at, who he was writing these about. He said, “They’re about me!” Dale’s got a great rock n roll spirit about him and has had a real gypsy type mentality over the years, which helps him write some really cool lyrics.
Give us some insight into the record The Reckoning and the meaning behind its title?
Dave: Dale explained that The Reckoning is sung from a perspective almost like him singing to himself in the mirror, basically beating the shit out of himself for all the bad things he’s done in his life. He looked up the definition in the dictionary to confirm that a reckoning is a punishment for past mistakes or deeds. I was under the impression that a reckoning could be about reconciliation with an enemy, but it’s not. It’s about flogging them (or yourself in this case) for all the bad stuff they’ve done. Ironically, I think this record was a sort of house cleaning of Dale’s past life, a reconciliation of sorts for him as he’s moved on from a lot of baggage from years gone by. He’s in a good space now in his life so he’s not having to go through this tortured phase as much as he’s looking back on it having moved forward from cleaning some stuff up from the past.
Can you offer any advice to any of the younger readers who may be reading this out there and are trying to etch out a career in the music business?
Dave: I just played with a great drummer out here on the Rock n Roll Fantasy Camp tour and my advice to him is to get his stuff up on MySpace, YouTube and utilize the networking tools that are available for all musicians. When I was young I had to relocate to Los Angeles to really get in the game but today you can pimp your stuff online and really use those tools for networking. I mean, didn’t Journey just find their new singer on YouTube? Hell, if they’re using those tools to find musicians why wouldn’t anyone looking to get a foothold in this business NOT be using those resources?! Obviously, they work.
When you compare the early days of Metal to the scene today what do you feel has changed for the better? What do you feel has become worse?
Dave: You know, I think life moves on and if you don’t get on board with what’s happening now you get left behind…PERIOD! We all get comfortable and then freak out when someone comes up with a new idea that people like because change is not well received by most humans….we like our comfort zones! However, this whole movement of retro-metal bands and thrash music becoming cool again is mostly because a new, younger generation is discovering it through things like “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” as well as music being placed in video games and things like that. The whole method of how music is sold, distributed and discovered is radically different today than it was years ago so you have to go with the flow to stay current. I don’t look at all this like it’s “better or worse”, it’s just changing. I’m not down with the whole “bring back the old-school” thing that people started saying years back when metal started changing because it has two words I don’t like; “old” and “school”. Isn’t that what we rocked out against? It’s like we’re getting all nostalgic and conservative when we just long for some past glory days. Life moves on….
What is the toughest lesson you have ever learned in the studio and or on the stage?
Dave: In the studio playing in tune and in time is probably the most crucial thing for any musician or singer, and is something that really comes with experience. That’s why I think it’s crucial to record yourself as much as humanly possible so you get to hear what you REALLY sound like, not what you THINK you should like. For playing live, I think too many times we musicians look at the whole thing like the audience is there to bow to us serve us, when in fact it’s the complete opposite. They paid US for some entertainment and now it’s OUR job to give them their money’s worth. We’re there to serve them, not the other way around! That’s one problem I have with the whole rock star god-like worship mentality that so many artists think they deserve. No one likes a diva…especially other musicians!
All of that passion that you play with must be tough on you physically. How do you prepare for the physical demands of a tour?
Dave: I exercise 3-5 days a week at the gym, with sports and so forth and I try to eat well and take care of my physical health. That’s why if certain musical settings are toxic and not healthy I have no problem walking away from them. In addition to that you have to practice and rehearse to get your road stamina up. Practicing parts on your own is crucial but it’s not the same as sweating it out in rehearsals for a tour for hours on end. Believe it or not, I’ve worked with a lot of musicians who don’t like to rehearse which bothers the crap out of me. Who wants to go on stage and suck? I like to be prepared in all that I do and to be the best I can be. You build physical endurance by repeatedly running through the set and tweaking things to improve them and that’s what makes for an athletic type performance, which most of music requires to really perform it well. Great performers have to think and train like an athlete if they expect to stay around for a while. The days of just being all doped up and partied out, and then giving bad shows, is not cool anymore. The audience deserves more than that with the price of tickets, t-shirts and even gas to get to the show now.
When you are on the road for a while I am sure you see and experience many different things you might not even have known existed. Are there any stories that stand out in your mind as being exceptionally strange or odd?
Dave: It’s all cool to me. I like to get out and experience life while I’m on the road. I find traveling to be very invigorating and creative. I write my best when I’m on the road because I’m stimulated by new sights, people and experiences. Of course you need breaks to rest and keep grounded but overall I have no problem with the road.
How has MySpace and the internet impacted your band and do you think downloading helps or hinders the artists?
Dave: Downloading is part of our culture, like it or not. With F5 we have a mechanism on www.f5theband.com whereby you can purchase our CD’s, download them immediately, and then the actual CD is still shipped to you by mail so you have a hard copy of it, too. It’s like the best of iTunes and your local record shop where you get both experiences. Let’s face it, the Internet has changed our lives and will continue to do so. I think fighting it is silly. I think it’s better to embrace change than fight it. That’s probably been one of my biggest lessons I’ve learned in recent years… go with the flow and you won’t be so worn out by trying to swim upstream against the current!
What is next for F5?
Dave: The new album comes out this month and from there we are looking to see if touring makes sense for it whenever and wherever possible. It’s a much different world than it was many years ago for touring so we have to weigh all the options for a new band like F5 to be able to tour effectively. Obviously, we’d love to play everywhere so we’ll take it as it comes. Until then, enjoy the new album! [ END ]