Vocalist Jonathan Huber and guitarist Evan Hughes of the band I Declare War took some time out of their busy schedules to answer some questions about their latest disc, Malevolence. The buzz around these guys has been huge and I have been anticipating this disc for some time now. Let me tell you, I think Malevolence lives up to all of the hype. This is a rock solid metal album that I am certain is going to go a long way in getting the band noticed. Here is what the guys had to say about the disc and their plans for the upcoming months.
Many of your songs are so hard and intense that I am sure they translate well into a live setting taking on a whole new life in front of a live audience. How does it make you feel when the emotion and power that you envisioned in the recording studio, come to life while playing in front of a crowd?
Jonathan: Our biggest hope is people take the time to read the lyrics of the record and realize there’s actual substance behind it. Our older albums were more pseudo-angry and had more to do with personal things in my life, and I really wanted to try writing not just for myself but for the greater good of the music scene we’re in because a lot of bands just put records out there and there’s no substance to them, it’s just whatever they feel like writing about. I’m not saying we’re going to come out with concept album after concept album but I just want people to realize that you can be really fucking pissed off and still have important things to say.
Evan: It’s a really surreal feeling. There’s nothing like playing this kind of music live and having a record that gives people a really good idea of what they’ll be getting live, it is so good for us. I did a lot of the recording in my basement for the last album and it just didn’t turn out like we had hoped, but this one really gives a better impression of what we sound like live. I think now that Jonathan has more relevant and relatable lyrics people can get into that emotion that we feel too. When we get up there and slam ourselves around we do it because that’s how it makes us feel – we feel the intensity just as much as someone watching, usually even more so.
Now that your brand new CD, Malevolence is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Jonathan: I’m definitely satisfied with the artwork, all the production, and with how it all came out as one formula that just flows together. One thing I had qualms with while we were mastering was the level of the vocals. If I could go and turn them up, that would be it.
Evan: We are all extremely happy with it. I really feel like it’s a complete work from beginning to end and there is no wasted space on it. There are songs with a lot of melody, songs with a lot of groove, songs that are just plain heavy… there’s a ton of variation but it still feels like everything fits. Everything sounds like us and there isn’t a random song that doesn’t belong. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, so it’s really rewarding and humbling to know that people like it so much after all the hard work that we put into it.
Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?
Jonathan: Evan usually writes at home with his guitar, tabs it out, and then goes to practice and we all give feedback amongst each other. I read all the lyrics I write to the guys and there’s a couple of spots we changed but nothing that changed the overall depth or meaning of a song, just changing a word here or there.
Evan: It’s definitely a little bit of both. I wrote the majority of the riffs and arranged most of the songs on this album. Everyone brings riffs and parts to practice, and
everyone helps out. The more technical riff-based parts on the album are usually me sitting down with a basic idea and then critiquing the hell out of it with a tab program until I find exactly what I like. I literally go note by note and try to make it exactly how I hear it in my head. Writing can be extremely frustrating but the work definitely pays off in the end. I couldn’t be happier with how the album turned out in terms of what we put together as a band.
What is it that normally gives you inspiration when writing lyrics and was there a theme or themes behind the writing of this record?
Jonathan: What inspires me to write lyrics is looking around the world and seeing how really messed up things are as well as the fact that people are very ignorant and blind to what goes on in their every day lives. The fact is, their ignorance is leading to the downfall of mankind and the human race. Watching and hearing about things in our political system also inspired me. I think it’s stupid we are spending and wasting money from our society towards destroying humanity instead of fixing it. Overall, I was inspired by a lot of things socially and politically in our society. It wasn’t meant to be a theme record but it all tied together.
We all don’t necessarily agree or have the same political or social views, but we as a band can all agree that the world is on a downward spiral that just seems to be getting worse. People need to wisen up and see the bullshit that’s going on and be more aware of what’s actually going on in the world. It wasn’t necessarily a theme, I wrote about what I wrote, some songs I started writing over a year ago right after we released our last album. It was more about writing what was meaningful to people of all sexes, races, genders, ages and creeds who could feel the message I was getting across, not just something personal that had to do with my life. The goal was something that’s pissed off and passionate and has substance to it, which I feel we definitely accomplished.
Evan: I’ll leave this one for Jon.
What can fans expect when they pick up a copy of Malevolence?
Jonathan: Angry, aggressive, heavy and meaningful music with intelligent lyrics – not just yelling about how your girlfriend broke up with you.
Evan: They’ll probably need a friend or two to pick it up, it’s that heavy. I’m sorry, that was awful. Seriously though, I think they’ll be surprised to find something they like no matter what kind of heavy music they listen to. We’ve got a lot of slam-type grooves, straight up heavy breakdowns, a good mix of vocal styles, and a few surprises along the way too. We’ve progressed a lot from our last album and there are some things someone who thought they knew who we were weren’t expecting. A lot of people have told me they listen to it from start to finish without skipping any songs, so it’s nice to know that people are finding it to be a cohesive work as a whole, which is definitely something we intended.
What kind of touring plans do you have in support of this record?
Jonathan: Going out on the road as much as we can. There are certain bands each of us would love to tour with us but who knows what will happen. For me, touring with Molotov Solution is like a fucking dream.
Evan: We’re pretty much booked through March of next year as of right now. We’ve got a solid line up of tours that still give us nice little breaks every few weeks. We just got hooked up with Matt Pike from The Kenmore Agency for booking, so we’re gonna be doing some really exciting tours that people are going to go crazy over. We’re going pretty much everywhere so if we miss an area on one tour, chances are we’ll be there very soon.
The public perception of life on the road differs greatly from the reality of it. Can you tell me a little bit about how you travel? (Bus, Van etc…) What accessories do you equip your ride with to make the time go by? What are the living arrangements like while on the road?
Jonathan: The best part of tour life is playing, and hanging out and meeting other people on the road. Other than that, it’s not all that glamorous. There are days that you don’t get to shower, you don’t change into clean clothes if you’re not showered. We make the most of it and try to have a good time. We travel in a 15 passenger van with the two back benches pulled out so it’s a lot easier to sleep in. We used to alternate who would have to sleep in the front seat before we pulled those benches out, or take merch racks out, lean them against the trailer, hide them under Ryan’s drum rug and lay head to head outside the van.
Evan: We’ve got a 15 passenger van and a big trailer. We basically live in the van on tour. We took the back two seats out and built a bunk. It’s got a mattress on the top so when we pull off the road and sleep, we can pretty comfortably sleep six people – two on the top, two on the bottom, and two on the remaining bench seats. We’ve fit seven in there before, but six is much more tolerable. We just finished making shades for the windows too so when we do have to sleep in it we won’t get woken up early in the morning by the sun. We always appreciate fans that let us stay at their place and get a shower. We spring for a hotel room once in a while if we’re getting really smelly, but a lot of the time we just have to rough it out! The most important thing in the van is the power inverter so we can keep ourselves sane with our electronics – iPods, phones, and computers need to be charged at all times. The iPod adapter for the stereo is a must, too. I think we’re spoiled by all of our electronics now – bands doing this 20 years ago wouldn’t have had so much to keep them from going crazy on 12+ hour drives.
Do you have any special rules or rituals that you follow while you’re out on the road?
Jonathan: I don’t share drinks ever. I always use my own microphone – never a venue’s mic out of fear of getting sick. I also try not to drink a lot of soda pop and to drink a lot of tea or sports drinks, pretty much anything that will keep me hydrated.
Evan: The only rule that we really have is absolutely no cell phones – talking or texting – while driving. If you’re barreling down the road going 70 miles an hour and five other people’s lives are in your hands, the last thing you need to be doing is getting distracted by your phone.
What is a normal day on the road like for you? Can you walk me through it?
Jonathan: There’s two difference scenarios. Either you wake up and you’re gross and smelly because someone let you sleep on the floor or you wake up in a crowded hotel and get to take a shower which is hard with six guys in the band and merch. Find something to eat. If we have to hit the road we’ll usually do about 4-6 hour drive shifts, get to the show, unload, set up merch, set up gear or backline. On a day off or if it’s a short drive, we try to find something to do or sightsee if we’re in a big city. Showering is usually the biggest priority for us though.
Evan: Wake up. Start driving. Make fun of each other. Get gas. Wander around truck stops while we look at ridiculous stuff. Eat less-than-desirable food. Drive more. Van mosh. Find venue. Load gear into said venue. Sit around. Be bored. Play. Hang out. Drive into the night. Talk about the stupidest things and laugh because we’re all delirious. Repeat.
Do you find it difficult being away from family and friends for such an extensive period of time? How do you cope with the separation?
Jonathan: I love my family to death, my mom and dad and my younger sister are amazing. I’m really close to my dad so that’s hard. I do definitely miss my buddies and really miss the northwest in general. I just cope by talking to my friends – my best friend of almost 7 or 8 years started these BMX trails with me so he keeps me up to date on how they’re doing. The key is just staying in contact, sending picture messages. I definitely will say that it’s going to be really interesting what this tour is like because this is definitely our longest tour and the first time I’ve had a girlfriend while being on tour. We’ve been together for about six months and we’re making a really conscious effort to make this work while I’m out on tour.
Evan: It’s definitely hard to keep relationships going. Luckily we’re in this age of cell phones and computers where we can keep in touch easily, but it’s still hard sometimes and it’s definitely not the same as being home. That’s exactly why we need the power inverter in the van so bad!
What is the one thing you travel with that you just can’t live without?
Jonathan: My iPod, definitely. Clean clothes, and hygienic products – shampoo, toenail clippers, soap – any chance I get I’ll jump in the shower!
Evan: It might sound lame but I have to say a sense of humor. Keeping a positive attitude and taking things with a grain of salt is the most important thing to do in a touring band. Being crammed into a tiny box with five other guys for weeks on end can easily get to you if you’re not prepared to laugh at yourself and each other. Things suck sometimes and things go wrong; that’s just how it is. If you can keep yourself level and as calm as possible, it not only makes it more fun for you, but it makes things so much easier for everyone else. As far as possessions go, it’s definitely our phones… and a generous stock of sunflower seeds. We go through those like crazy on tour.
What does the future hold for you guys as a band?
Jonathan: I hope more touring, more national exposure, possibly international exposure – we’d all like to do a Canadian/international tour. The future depends on how people perceive and interpret the album and our live performances. That’s how our past has been, based on how people interpret us live rather than our albums. I’m hoping touring can let people see what we bring to the table instead of what they just hear or see online.
Evan: Only time can tell from here. I can’t wait for more people to hear the album and to play these songs live for people who have never seen or heard us. There’s nothing like playing music and traveling the country, so I want to do it as much as we possibly can. The tours we have lined up for about the next ten months are going to be so much fun and really exciting for us, so things can only continue to go up from here. I’m so excited for the future and making new connections and strengthening the ones we already have. [ END ]