It is no secret that All That Remains’ vocalist, Phil Labonte, is notorious for stirring the pot on hot button issues, and prides himself on telling it like it is—even if the internet doesn’t agree. The metal band has found themselves making headlines for this reason, but as of late their brand new full-length album, The Order of Things, has been getting some attention as well read our review here). I was lucky enough to chat with Phil about their Billboard charting LP The Order of Things, his bad guy reputation, and even got to hear a few funny stories from the road. For the record, Phil Labonte was one of the most laid back, well spoken, and clever rock stars I’ve interviewed to date.
The Order Of Things reached number 25 today on the Billboard Charts, which is a huge victory for you and the metal scene as a whole. Big congratulations on that! How did you react when you found out?
Labonte: To be honest with you, I didn’t really know. I don’t pay attention to charts and stuff like that. The music industry is so weird nowadays; it’s so different than it was 10 years ago. It’s tough to figure out where things are going to land, so I don’t worry too much about it. I think we did 20,000 copies our first week, so that’s cool, especially in today’s day and age. Last year it took until November for artists to have a platinum record, it took all year. It used to be that platinum records would happen every week, so chart positions and album sales—I don’t really pay much attention to that stuff.
What was the writing and recording process like for The Order Of Things?
Labonte: It was cool, Josh [Wilbur] is a great guy, and he’s a lot of fun to work with. It was similar to every other record we’ve done. The only significant difference was our producer (Josh Wilbur). We’d sit down with the guys and come up with some riffs. Usually Oli (Herbert) comes in with 3 or 4 ideas for songs, and we pull them all apart and throw pieces around, change them around until they resemble an All That Remains song. Working with Josh was the first time I worked with someone else on lyrics. Me and Josh went ahead and wrote lyrics, kind of as we went along. It wasn’t written before we actually sat down with the songs.
Check out the song “No Knock”
I was lucky enough to see you guys play in Columbus, Ohio this past summer which was a really great show. You’re on the road now promoting the new album, so how is this tour going?
Labonte: It’s with In Flames, and it has been awesome. I think the crowd In Flames draws, and the crowd we draw overlaps significantly so it’s been a really good time, the crowds have been great, we’re selling a bunch of merch which is a good way to judge how you’re doing.
Having had almost no lineup changes for the better part of a decade is almost unheard of for a band these days. Do you have any advice for bands on making it work in the long run?
Labonte: Everyone has to be on the same page. That’s not to say it has to be done a certain way, it’s just that the band has to agree on the way that the dynamics work. If you have someone that writes a lot of stuff, other people who don’t write a lot of stuff shouldn’t be like, “oh well it kind of sucks that you write everything.” If you have someone who doesn’t like working, and someone with a type A personality you need to figure out how to work together. The biggest thing is making sure that everyone is open and honest in what they expect from the band.
According to the song “Tru-Kvlt-Metal,” you definitely have some strong opinions on trendy, elitist metal acts. Anyone in particular you want to call out for this?
Labonte: Not really. It’s just a general kind of overall vibe that you get, and it’s not just in metal, I Just see it most in metal because I’m in a metal band. You hear a lot of people talk about how much they hate pop-country, they don’t like this type, or whatever, “it’s not really country”… “It’s not really this type of rap, because it doesn’t have these criteria” and that is the same in most genres. People are going to say that it’s not really whatever genre you’re talking about just because they don’t like the band. Just a general elitist attitude. Nowadays you don’t only need to come up with a band name, you need to come up with your own genre too.
In a similar vein, I wonder what your thoughts are about the band Nuclear Hellfrost, the one that vandalized Dimebag Daryl’s grave.
Labonte: That’s just gross. As far as I’ve heard, it didn’t really happen, and they blamed it on their ex-singer who they tried to distance themselves from. I’ve seen some screenshots where they were laughing about it with each other. It is just gross. It is that elitist attitude; they’re that “extreme” band who think that “Pantera isn’t true metal, they suck”… That attitude. It’s stupid, gross, childish, and hopefully nobody ever books their band again. Hopefully they end up as sandwich artists working at Subway.
You’ve been deemed Metal’s “Bag Guy.” If you don’t mind me saying, that’s pretty metal. But you’re also known for being a sarcastic social commentator. You’re a big target for Internet judgment, but I want to know – how would you define yourself?
Labonte: I think I’m just a pretty normal dude. When I’m sitting down in a room, talking to people, I say the same stuff I say on the Internet and nobody is aghast. Most of the time people are like, “yeah, that’s true.” Well I know I’m a big target, but I’m cool with it and I’ve definitely embraced it. The NWO is really popular in wrestling for being really bad guys and it is funny to see how people get worked up, so I’m cool with it.
Can you tell me about the first show you ever played? Not necessarily with All That Remains.
Labonte: First show I ever played I wore shorts, and as I was playing I was like “this is a terrible idea, everyone can see my knees shaking.” That really happened. I was a guitar player at the time, and I think I was 16 years old my first show, I wore shorts, and the whole time I was like “I should not have worn shorts, I should not have worn shorts, everyone can see my knees shaking.”
What was your weirdest fan interaction?
Labonte: There was a time that I signed a dude’s dick. That was really weird. This dude was like “sign my dick.” and I was like, “No I’m not signing your dick.” And he was like “Come on you got to sign my dick.” We were shooting a DVD, and they got a shot of this guy on the DVD but I was like “I really don’t want to sign your dick.” But then I was like “fuck, alright.” It wasn’t easy, because it was all flaccid and probably sweaty. I didn’t touch it; I used a marker, obviously.
Check out the song “This Probably Won’t End Well” here.