Logan Mader is a man on a mission when it comes to his music. Best known as the original Machine Head and Medication guitarist, as well as a stint with Soulfly, he has now moved away from his recent day job as producer and engineer, and back on the stage with his latest band Once Human.
They have released their debut album The Life I Remember (out now via EAR Music), and Mader talked about how he was originally introduced to his now vocalist Lauren Hart as a potential production deal. He explained how he got involved in the project.
“It started off as a production deal with Lauren [Hart]. Monte Conner [former Roadrunner Records and current Nuclear Blast Entertainment A & R] referred her to me as a possible production deal with this girl and helping her build a band. I’ve done that before and I’ve had a bit of success. I have a passion for developing new talent and turning it into something real intangible. I got a couple of bands signed and in my production deal process I’ve been doing that. Monte signed one of my bands that I did so I was the first person he thought of when he got Lauren.”
“I thought it was interesting. I took a meeting with her and she started talking about her musical influences and the kind of music she wants to do, and it was really heavy. She was coming from a black metal background. As a fan of music, it’s like Dimmu [Borgir], older Opeth…Dimmu is her favorite band.”
Once Human was chosen as their band moniker based on lyrics about their views on society and their outlook on where it is heading. Add this on top of their already extreme modern metal sound, the band has a message that is quite direct and not sugar coated.
“It’s a real reflection of humanity in general, that we were all once human and all got lost. We just lost our way as humans. I could see it everywhere. I see it in the social and economic systems and religion is all broken. It’s all fallen apart. I think it’s all about to break. Something’s got to change. That’s where the name comes from.”
“Within our lyrical content, lyrics are quite relevant. Observations about the way we live and the way we see things,” he explained.
Having credits on a wide array of recordings ranging from Cavalera Conspiracy to Gojira to Five Finger Death Punch, he is far too familiar with the realities of the politics behind creating music. Leaving that aside, he was enamored with the fact that Once Human was real metal and far removed from the commercial accessibilities he was used to working with.
“I thought that was refreshing too because it was something that didn’t think about dollar signs or radio or being commercial. It was like real metal. It started to wake up my inner metal guy that had been kind of sleeping for so long. I hadn’t really been playing guitar unless I have to. I’ve been producing and mixing. It felt like it had that original spark that made me start playing music when I was a kid.”
Prior to being involved in Once Human, he was asked to play guitar in a solo project of Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch. While this got him interested, the realities of Moody being busy with his main band made this idea short lived.
“Another thing is that recently before that, Ivan Moody from Five Finger Death Punch approached me at the Golden God Awards in 2013. Out of nowhere he said ‘what’s up man! I want to start a side project and I want you to play guitar and be one of my writers.’ I was like…really? You have time for that? He’s like ‘yeah I wanna do it.’,“ he said.
“I hadn’t thought about playing for years before that moment, and I thought about it for a couple of days. Then I was like ‘I want to do that.’ I wrote a couple of songs and we were going back and forth through email about the project about some music. But when it came down to actually scheduling the recording to make the demos that we did, he just didn’t have time. He was in the middle of a double album touring cycle and every time he would have a short break, something would come up with his family or logistically it wouldn’t work out. So we got to the point where we’re all like it’s not the right time to do this right now. We both wanted to do it. He probably still wants to do side projects but it’s not realistic with his schedule with Five Finger [Death Punch] because it would always take the back seat to Five Finger.”
“There I was with my guitar in my hands, standing alone, a little bit disappointed but I ended up that I could play again. I wanted to play again so it’s almost like I had blue balls. I was ready to go but no…just stop. Then Lauren came along…and I don’t have it any more!,” said Mader, with a chuckle.
Once he began collaborating with Hart, they began writing together and seeing how their chemistry meshed. He discovered early on that the magic sparked and this band would be something special.
“The first song on our album “Time of the Disease” – that’s the first song we wrote together. By the time we were in the middle of the second song, I decided that the music was something I was really passionate about and I didn’t want to just build a band for someone else and set it free. I saw more out of it and I wanted to be part of it.”
“The band arranged to take a different path and we were still being experimental about what our sound is. The freedom was always there. We’re not worried about making radio songs. We’re not worried about sounding like anyone else. Just be passionate and be expressive and be the musicians that we are and feel it.”
Unlike many meetings where the artist comes in with rough versions of songs, Mader said all of the songs heard on the album were written together. Taking her ideas and combining it with his musical ideas, they created sounds that eventually shaped Once Human into what it now known as The Life I Remember.
“None of it. We wrote all of this together – 50/50,” he explained. “It was all from scratch. It’s the result of our creative chemistries combined. It’s not like she came in with a demo and I came in with songs that I had written before. We started from the ground up.”
“She’s really into orchestral music and she plays piano and guitar. She’s gone through most of her life hearing symphonies in her head – like all the time and she never had a way to let it out. When you hear the orchestral arrangements in the compositions from the intro of the album “Trail of Tears,” that’s something she’s had in her head for years. Working with me, we were able to lay it down and record it.”
“That’s where some of the orchestral elements within our music and certainly it’s been done before and in black metal a lot, as well as a lot of different kinds of music. I was excited to not have boundaries about what kind of additional production we can add into our metal to make it cooler, cinematic, darker, and epic. I’ve had some experience doing orchestral elements within visual media music. I worked on Metal Gear: Rising the video game. I did music for that. I’ve done a bunch of movie trailers where I do organizing orchestral elements with rock and with metal. I scored a couple of movies.”
“Over the years after my Machine Head and Soulfly days, part of my studio and creative development was about working with different mediums like orchestral elements and electronica and industrial and metal. Using those elements in Once Human came naturally and it felt right.”
Aside from Mader and Hart, Once Human features bassist Damien Rainaud and drummer Ralph Alexander, who played on the record. Since the record, the band did some lineup shuffling, which Mader had praises for all of the people who took part on the album and are incoming for the tour.
“They were not involved in the writing. Damien Rainaud wrote one riff. He was around since he was in the project, but all of the writing was handled by Lauren and I. Damien wrote some stuff, submitted it and a lot of it was pretty cool but didn’t make it except for this one. He did have this one awesome riff on ‘Ground Zero.’ “
“Ralph is this drummer I know from around LA, and one of my favorite drummers. He played on the record but we announced that he’s not going to be available for touring. I have a new drummer now. He’s on board to do this now. He’s performing in our music video and he’s going to be on our tour. His name is Dillon Trollope and he’s amazing. He’s a sick drummer and he gets off.”
“I also added another guitar player. I wanted to have two guitar players. We didn’t need another guitar player when we were writing the album. I did want some sick six string solos so I hired Bill Hudson to do them. He’s a great guitar player and I’ve worked with him on some projects. He’s really talented and he’s a sick shredder guy. He did some solos. I did half of the guitar solos and Bill does half of them on our album. If you read the credits, you’ll see which ones he did. But he’s one of those guys who’s in 20 different bands and he can’t commit to one because he goes on whatever band’s tour will pay him. That’s his sole source of income is playing guitar. He couldn’t commit to a baby band like ours because he doesn’t have an income at the moment. We’re just waiting to go out there and develop.”
“I got a guitar player who’s in the band now and his name is Skyler Howren. He went to MI on a scholarship. He got the Synster Gates Scholarship through Musicians Institute and he finished that. He was looking for a band to play in so he auditioned and played all of Bill Hudson’s solos and he’s killing it. He’s really good.”
Mader thought with the new members the lineup is set for now, and looks forward to what is to come for the band.
“I think the lineup is really solid. The lineup won’t change but you never know what happens in the future. As far as the creative force, it’s Lauren and I, and that’s the foundation of it. That’s the part that probably won’t change.”
“Damien is a good friend of mine and he’s happy to be playing in this band. He moved here from France to try to get in a band and also to work in my studio. He’s an engineer and my assistant. He’s a pretty good engineer and works on a lot of stuff. He worked on the new Fear Factory album. He just mixed a live DVD for Dragonforce. He’s working with 9Electric. He’s starting to get some good jobs as a mixer.”