I recently had the chance to speak with renowned drummer Gene Hoglan about the release of the new Meldrum album, a project that is near and dear to his heart. Guitarist and co-founder of the band, Michelle Meldrum had just completed writing and was recording the soon-to-be-released third record when she passed away unexpectedly in 2008. After a hard fought battle to finish what Michelle had started, the remaining members of the band were finally successful in completing and releasing, Lifer, a heartfelt tribute to a beloved friend and musician. Here is what Hoglan had to say.

I know it has been a long hard battle getting Lifer released, but now that it is finally out, how do you feel about it?
Gene: I am very satisfied with it, the whole band is satisfied with it and I hope Michelle’s family is happy with it as well because they are who we did this for. We did it for her family, her friends and the fans, this is the last piece of music that she wrote and we wanted to make sure we got it to them. I was so happy to be able to finally finish the record and get it out there; we love it totally!

It must be a sort of bittersweet kind of feeling as well though, right?
Gene: Absolutely, and as amazing as this album is I would trade it for a horrible Meldrum album just to have Michele back with us. This is the best way we could keep her spirit alive and let her fans know that she is still with us. I wrote the liner notes for it and boy, let me tell you there are a lot of tears in there. I have written a lot of things about Michelle in the last few years and the waterworks always happen. I love her, we all love her and she is here with us and I wear her around my neck every day; I have her ashes around my neck. We are just trying to capture the spirit of where she was at at the time and just leave a legacy to her.

Check out the song “A Toast To Romance”

If understand correctly, at the time of her passing the whole album was recorded except for her guitar tracks, is that right?
Gene: Yes.

So how did you go about finding suitable replacements and was that difficult process?
Gene: Well it was actually very easy because fortunately we had hired Laura Christine to play the bass and she was already an extraordinary guitarist in her own right. I think it was at Michelle’s services when her family told us that they would be okay with us continuing the record. So we were stoked and Laura Christine came in and played all of the leads and the majority of the rhythm guitars and did an incredible job. She had to learn the songs by herself because I was on the road with Dethklok and I could not show them to her. She ended up learning them on her own off of Michelle’s scratch track. That to me is an absolute testament to Laura’s playing ability. There were no tabs for this stuff she just had to sit down and figure them all out on her own and she did a great job.

Do you have a favorite track, or is there a track with a good story behind it?
Gene: Well lyrically the song “’68 Blonde” was written about Michelle and it is a heartfelt song and it is a kick-ass song musically. For me I like the opening track “A Toaster To Romance” because it just comes out and kicks you in the teeth.

Looking forward what is the plan with Meldrum? Is there a plan to continue and record or tour, or is this it?
Gene: Well that remains to be seen. I am not quite sure what is going to happen. I am pretty sure that this project is the closing of a chapter. It would be pretty hard to do Meldrum without Michelle. I think this might just end up being a fantastic testament to her longevity, her spirit and her fire. I am really stoked about the record and we never know about the future.

What about plans to do something live with Meldrum?
Gene: Yeah we are really not sure about that one either. This is a multinational band and we all have our own things going on at the moment. Something awesome will come from the ashes of this I know that, but it remains to be seen what that is.

Any closing words?
Gene: I love everything about this album, but it is bittersweet because Michelle is not here. We were able to catch the fire I think. This is the last thing that Michelle will have her name tied to and I just wanted to make it awesome. It was being done for her family, friends and her son and it just comes from a place of love. If anybody out there wants to hear some kick ass music they should pick this record up.

Check out the song “Blackened Blue”