It's been said that in order to create a great metal record, you have to listen to everything but metal. If that's really the case, then Phil Labonte, front man of All That Remains, has got that system down pat. The band -- currently Labonte on vocals; Oli Herbert on lead guitar; Mike Martin, rhythm guitar; drummer Jason Costa; and Aaron Patrick on bass -- has released seven studio albums since 2002, and for just as long, Labonte has vocally been influenced by all genres, and has never been one to pigeonhole himself or the band.
The band's latest record, "The Order of Things," which dropped last year, contains some of the heaviest songs from the band to date, but also some of its most melodic, like the track "For You." Before the band plays the Montage Music Hall on Sunday, May 22, City Newspaper spoke with Labonte about his views as an artist and the process of writing the band's recent record.
City Newspaper: You guys are absolutely uncompromising in your artistic vision and what you want to create. Was that something that always was a part of the band, or was there a time in your career where your music was more dictated by outside factors or influences?
Phil Labonte: I think we've always written what we've wanted to. We come from the metal underground, and you don't go there wondering what people are going to think about the music. Worrying about approval is something we never really thought about. But it can be a double edged sword because sometimes we take heat for not making the record people think we should make. And I'm sure we'll take heat for that in the future.
You've talked many times about having musical tastes all across the genre board. Do you think your open-mindedness is something that other bands should take note of?
No; I don't want the competition. They shouldn't pay attention, and don't look at the man behind the curtain. In all seriousness, I've never been one to tell someone what they should and shouldn't do. It's a part of who I am. People should do what makes them happy. If they want to write a record that's all breakdowns, go for it.
When you write lyrics, particularly for "The Order of Things," they're really reaction to both events in your own life and things in society around you. Is one subject always harder to translate into a song than the other?
I think the personal side of stuff is generally easier, because everyone can relate to that. If you're trying to explain how you felt when a girl left you, that's pretty universal. But when I get a little political in songs, and I try to disguise it, it definitely gets a little harder when you try to talk about bigger ideas and social commentary.
What was the most notable change in the recording process after moving from having your previous records produced by Killswitch's Adam D to Josh Wilbur?
Going to Josh, he was the first person who's ever had any other input on lyrics. Everything until that point was just me. We would talk about ideas and come up with lines. That was probably the biggest change.
What's the story behind the title "The Order of Things"? Is it a reflection of the fact that so much has changed so fast in the world as of late, or perhaps in your own life?
I turned 40 last year, and I think it's a bit of me getting more comfortable with coming to grips with the idea that I'm not responsible for changing the whole world. You don't want to not be doing anything, but some people drive themselves mad because they try to manage and control so much. It's an admission that sometimes you're not able to control everything in your life.
Music and the industry has changed a lot since you started. Are there any changes that have impacted your creative process or the band?
Well using modern recording equipment for sure. You can come up with an idea and have a rough demo in a few hours now. The advent of computers, Pro Tools, Cubase ... all these things are great to have around. There are still bands that are apprehensive about using these things, though. But using these tools allows you to put on a better show for your fans. Kids are going to have computers already, so if you can inspire kids to use the computer to help with the creative process in music, then that's an important change from the past.
Between touring and recording and writing, what's your favorite moment of something brand new? Recording a new song, coming up with a new idea, or starting a new tour?
It's always when we write a song and put it in a demo form for the first time and I can just sit back and listen. I don't have to worry about remembering lyrics or anything. Once you get it down and just listen, it's the best feeling.