If the Nobel Prize judging committee are to be believed then we should start thinking about music as literature. The awarding of the 2016 literature prize to Bob Dylan may have had as much to do with attempting to appear “relevant” and garnering headlines as it did about celebrating the musical and lyrical genius of the American songwriter. Whilst this, in time, will be regarded as the last truly great hurrah of the Baby Boomer generation, the award, at the very least, asked you to start thinking about his music through a very different lens.Continue reading
Logan Mader has faced many challenges over his two decade plus career in music. Whether it was coming up the ranks with a much talked then new bands like Machine Head or Soulfly, or his many studio production projects, he has found his way around each situation and helped shape their sound into what is now heard publicly.
He spoke about the creative process behind the album, and how he managed to write and record songs while he still maintains a busy schedule in the studio at the same time.
“It’s happened real fast. We initially had three songs over the course of two months. It was done sporadically. It was in between jobs I was doing. I would get together and write with Lauren. We did actually four songs over a short period of time in May/June 2014, and then I shopped it in the summer time. I got this demo together and put a band together and shopped it to seven record labels. Six of them passed on it and one said yes and they believed in me. They were getting it,” he explained.
He bucked the trend of joining the stereotypical supergroup model for collaborating with younger, hungrier musicians who are driven to find success. Considering the circumstances behind maintaining a new band, he likes the potential he is working with in Once Human.
“It’s a real brand new band in that respect. These guys are doing it for the first time. There’s something special about that because I got to do that for the first time with my first band Machine Head. It was huge and amazing. That inertia, inspiration, dedication, and willingness to get out there and do it for passion…and passion is first.”
“I would get a bunch of guys that were more experienced and older. It’s not as easy to hold it together. At that point they have other bands and other responsibilities. They’re just hungry and ready to get in a RV and tour. It feels good. I want that around me. It’s a new experience for me too.”
While he is no stranger to shopping various musical projects to recording labels over the years, he quickly learned the realities of getting a new band signed and where he needed to be in order to make it happen. Even a guy as connected as Mader found various roadblocks along the way, and things became tougher than expected.
“After a while there was a lot of rejection. I was quite discouraged actually. I did shop it prematurely. Normally a band in 2015 can’t just make a demo and shop it and think you’re going to get a record deal, even if you have history and reputation like I do. It’s not easy to make that happen. Your band has to grind it out for two years and play shows in their local scene and then try to get on some tours and have to have social media numbers and an existing fan base and a story. We had nothing. No announcement of the project and no social media. We had never played a show. We just had the music and my name and this amazing frontwoman on it. So I can’t blame them.”
“Monte [Conner] wanted to sign it actually. He liked it but his bosses at Nuclear Blast in Germany didn’t want to do it. So he was the first person I got it to. I have a lot of history with Monte as well, and Nuclear Blast is a great label. I’d like to be on that label.”
“For the rest of the labels, the main thing I got was that it didn’t really fit into any kind of currently trending subgenre of metal. You can’t put your finger on what it is. I think it is pure metal. It’s heavy as fuck. It is whatever it is. It is what we were feeling at the time or feeling right now, like being the guitar player, our collaborative energy as a creative team – it’s our souls. It’s real and we feel it. It’s a passion project. I don’t think anyone’s gonna get rich off of it but I feel really fulfilled creatively about it and I’m happy playing it.”
He eventually found a home for Once Human in EAR Music, and Mader talked about their new home.
“EAR Music in Germany – it’s Edel Music Group which is a pretty big European label and they have good info structure for distribution and with a team of marketing. The guy who runs it used to work at Roadrunner in Italy when I was signed to Roadrunner in Machine Head many years ago. He took a chance on this thinking and believing something good will come out of this. I think he was right. Once we got the green light for the record deal, then he put the pedal to the metal and started writing the rest of the album. The first five songs on the album were all written after the deal offer came. A few of the songs were…I feel like really were starting to find our groove and our sound, and started to define our own identity more so than on our first couple of songs that we wrote.”
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.”