Quebec band, Blessed By A Broken Heart (BBABH) recently signed to Tooth & Nail Records to release their upcoming studio album, Feel The Power. I recently got the chance to ask drummer Slater a few questions about the new record, signing with Tooth & Nail and his switch from keyboards to drums. Read on to learn more about Slater and Blessed By A Broken Heart.
You guys have released your Tooth & Nail Records debut Feel The Power. How has the reception been so far for this release?
Slater: Its been freakin’ awesome! We definitely stepped out of our comfort zone on this record, and to be honest, we didn’t know how our fanbase would react. We had concerns that some fans would complain that it wasn’t “heavy” enough, or too classic rock. We wanted to escape the cheese and make something with more purpose and meaning. We wanted to develop a larger sound sonically and not just write another mediocre record like a lot of bands do. Unfortunately in today’s music scene, fans don’t always embrace change… they want the same ol’ crap and want a library of stolen music that is all the same.
We explored new musical realms on Feel The Power. We took the chance knowing that we could lose some fans… but we didn’t care because we would rather lose some but gain many because of the new sound and style. But the reception has been awesome though throughout the world – Blessed fans, new and old, are stoked on the record. We’ve had fans claim it to be their “favorite record of all time” and stuff… We have the best fans in the world! Review have been positive – always super high ratings and stuff… we’re waiting for someone to come out and hate this record already… haha!
How did you guys get hooked up with Tooth & Nail Records?
Slater: Tooth & Nail was always interested in Blessed but we just never tied the knot. Back in 2007, the band chose Century Media over T&N. At the time the deal seemed more appealing, but in the end we regretted it. Pedal To The Metal was released on CM and it was a horrible experience… so we got out of the contract and became free agents again. I am a producer / engineer and the rest of us know the business so the plan was to just go DIY and self-release the next record, with no label support at all. We had the contacts and distribution worldwide to do so, but it still costs a lot to get the job done right. In today’s YouTube world bands don’t always need labels… unless they need money, haha. T&N had always believed in our sound and vision and wanted to join forces so we went to Seattle, met with them over some coffee, and it was a done deal. The T&N crew is amazing and we couldn’t be more satisfied. T&N Records / EMI CMG is our label in North America, but we are licensed out to Rude Recorz (U.K / Europe), El Shaddai (Australia), and Grindhouse Records (Japan). So really it’s a team effort worldwide, with only one goal in mind… World domination!
Any certain bands on the label you really enjoy?
Slater: We all use to listen to T&N bands when we were younger… back when it was a pop / punk centered label. Bands like MxPx, Anberlin, Further Seems Forever, Zao, Beloved, Stretch Arm Strong, Norma Jean, O.C Supertones… haha the list goes on. Those bands got us through our youth! Currently, there are few bands on the roster that I think are rad like Underoath, Demon Hunter, August Burns Red, and Family Force 5.
This is also your debut album with Blessed By A Broken Heart. How did it come about having you join the group?
Slater: Funny story… I was working at a Guitar Center in Orlando, FL, slavin’ 9 to 5 in the Pro Audio Dept. So, I’m just mindin’ my own business and then this guy comes in looking for a pro tools rig to put keys tracks on playback for a band he was managing. We end up talking about gear for about an hour and then he was like, “these guys are so dumb, they are not gonna be able to run this rig, I just need a real keyboard player”. I then finally asked, what band he was gettin’ this for, and he said Blessed by a Broken Heart.
I freaked out, because I was already a huge fan. My former band opened up for Blessed a couple months before that and I was stoked on them. The band was different and the best live act I’ve ever seen. So I told the manager, “Why don’t I just play keys for you?” and then I left 2 weeks later for my first tour. I got the gig! Haha, some say it was luck or chance… I see it as divine fate. I was born to do this!
I played keys for a couple tours, and then our drummer left the band so, I moved over to drums. The rest is history. I was blessed to join Blessed. I got the opportunity to join a band I loved and be a part of
something great. I get to tour the world and live the dream. I’m not the most insane drummer in the world, but what I bring to the table is my producing & song writing. I’m consumed in my studio and spent over two years writing Feel the Power… I got to join a team of talented musicians and make magic with them.
What made you decide to switch from keyboardist to drummer?
Slater: Our former drummer, Bird Wazo, decided to leave the band to produce. I went to school for piano, but I’ve been playing drums my whole life. So I just filled the void. I still write the keys / synth parts and now we just have keys tracks on playback for live (ironically!).
How did you guys go about writing for this album?
Slater: We wrote the record over the course of 2 ½ years. We toured the world over a few times for a couple years on our previous release, Pedal To The Metal. I have a mobile recording rig, so we just always “opened up the studio” on the road. Having the ability to write & record on the fly makes life a lot easier. What’s funny is the record is so diverse from song to song, and I think that has to do with where we were at the time of writing that song. Some songs we’re written in Japan and some songs we’re written when we were broken down in the middle of nowhere in Texas. Whenever we were home from tour, Shred Sean and I would meet up at my studio in Orlando, FL or I would fly up to his NYC crib. Every song was finished and demoed out before we hit the studio to actually make the record.
Surprisingly, the entire record was written all inside the box, never once did we all get in a room and write a song from scratch and jam it out. Everything was all in the head and just tracked out on the rig. We have a good team. Shred Sean and I write most of the music and the other guys write the lyrics / vocals. But sometimes, it’s give and take… we all come from different musical backgrounds and when we join forces, the unique sound of Blessed comes out of it. We don’t try to sound like anything or anyone – we just blend our influences to make something different and to make songs that can last forever.
Check out the song “Forever” here.
Any favourite tracks on this disc?
Slater: “I’ve Got You” is my baby. The song has a back story – it was originally called “Soarin’ High” and the first version of this song was not a ballad…in fact, it was far from it. It was an upbeat, super synthy flashback to the 80s, Van Halen meets Huey Lewis and the News type of song. It was so cheesey, but so good. When we got into the studio, our producer, James Paul Wisner, wasn’t feelin’ it. He hated the cheese and the lyrics, but he loved the progression and melody. He joked around and said, “Re-work it from scratch… make it a ballad or something… if not, its not making the cut.”
So we had like a week left in the studio and we’re all freaking out because it’s even harder to re-write a
song as opposed to write from scratch… and we we’re runnin’ out of time but I wasn’t gonna let my baby go to waste! So, we all went back to my studio and started brainstorming mushy lyrics over the weekend. I then took the previous song’s session and started changing up all the synth tracks – re-arranging them into piano & string parts.
I didn’t sleep that weekend, trying to get in the zone and evolve this song into a rock ballad. Other songs usually take a while to write because each of our songs has so much substance, and I was worried that throwing something together so fast wasn’t gonna turn out so good because you can’t rush greatness. A ballad is the hardest type of song to write because it can’t just be notes and words, it has to change the heart. I learned that sometimes, it’s the material you throw together last minute that could be the most special. It changed my view of song writing and now I know that I can write under pressure. It’s a miracle we pumped it out and that it came out so well. When I tracked out Shred Sean’s solo on it it knew this song was “the one.” The true test of a good ballad is the reaction you get when you play it for a girl. Every girl who has heard the track starts crying and stuff so we know we pulled it off! Bands in the 80s got huge off their ballads, so maybe this song gets us there! I don’t care how tough you are – you listen to this song and it brings out your inner romantic.
How did you guys come about naming your album Feel The Power?
Slater: We were at Wal-Mart one late night on tour and Tyler found this awesome shirt with Wolves on it. He loves tees with wolves on them. Only at Wal-Mart, right? haha. Anyway, you know this shirt – everyone has seen it has the three wolves howling at the full moon. The shirt was so awesome that we all bought one. We noticed on the tag a sticker that said “Feel The Power.” This shirt was like a top selling shirt and it had name! (haha, again only at Wal-Mart!).
A few months later, I stayed up all night writing “Forever.” I had to get the demo out to the guys and I couldn’t figure out a name for the song, so in the email I just called it “Feel The Power.” The song matched the title so well. We tried to write lyrics for it, but then “Forever”ended up turning into a power rock love song so we ditched the “Feel The Power” title. We were all so let down because we wanted to use this phrase somehow, some way. When it was time to do a photoshoot for the record, Tyler and Tony wanted to do something crazy and have a Mad Max-like photoshoot. The photos turned out so good, we had to use the concept for the record. Feel The Power just made sense. Just look at the cover – it screams Feel The Power. So much power, the title couldn’t even make the front cover!
How would you differentiate this album from the prior BBABH releases?
Slater: We had some personnel changes – new members, new vision, new sound. The end result is just better from beginning to end. There are no dead tracks on this one. We all grew as musicians and wanted to break out of the scene we were defined in. We challenged ourselves and wrote it collectively, whereas the last record was just one guy writing almost everything. We had more time, so the songs are more technical, more melodic, and more refined. We wanted to make a record that is shred-tastic, pulse- raising, head bang inducing, 80’s influenced, sing along, infectious, real rock n’ roll from beginning to end.
Recently a music video for “Forever” was released. Who directed it and came up with the concept?
Slater: We had always wanted to do a video with Robby Starbuck. His videos have great concepts and they look amazing. With the video we wanted to have more of a cinematic type feel and actually tell a story. The song “Forever” is really deep and is a reality for most of us. Livin’ the dream as a musician with the money, power, and fame that is here today and gone tomorrow, and in the meantime, we lose the ones who really love us – basically the battle between the love for music and the girl. So, the video is very straight forward – Tony is married and has to leave wife to tour and their relationship suffers. His bandmates are all about the party and he is struggling with the lifestyle and being away from her. He wants her, but can’t have her because he’s torn away from her with his career. In the end, he leaves the band for the girl, so he can be with her forever. Robby wanted the live shots to be in an abandoned desert in So Cal. He got a sweet location and the shots look sick. The final takes were at some dive bar 3 hours outside of LA in the middle of nowhere. After we wrapped it up, we stayed and partied with the locals, singin’ country classic karaoke until 4am! It was a blast. Robby is a great director and has a great team. We shot a second video with him the same weekend… so look out for that one real soon!
What are your plans for 2012?
Slater: Dominate… Take over the world… Bring back real rock n’ roll!
Any last words you want to tell the readers?
Slater: Shut up and ROCK…