Interview with John Cross
How long have you been a member of Three Sixes? Tell the readers how you joined and the process by which you learned their material.
Starting from way back in 2005, I ended up with a copy of the first Three Sixes album when it was released. My parents had a friend who had heard of the band or was connected somehow and brought them a CD after seeing a show. That was when I was starting to get really into music and I wanted to hear it, so I put it on my iPod and listened to it during lunch at school. The first two tracks, Hell’s Home and Holy Man stuck out the most, but I didn’t spend too much time with the album, but on June 6, 2006 I gave the album another listen to celebrate the date. So that was my first introduction to the band, and I didn’t hear or see anything from them for years.
When Damien was getting ready to release the latest album, Know God No Peace, he contacted me through a mutual friend of ours asking me if I would be interested in reviewing the album. I accepted, and he sent me a press kit. I listened to the album a few times, wrote up my thoughts, and sent it to him. In the meantime, Damien had seen a couple drum covers that I’d done, and that I also wrote a couple songs of my own which I posted online, and he saw a lot of potential in collaborating with me and getting my input in future song writing. So he asked if I’d like to audition for the band. I saw it as an excellent opportunity to play in an established band with members who knew what they were doing, so after some thought I accepted and I was sent a few songs to learn. At the time, I was practicing on a couple of practice pads because I had nowhere to set up my actual kit and play, so my audition was the first time I played the songs on real drums. They filmed my audition; it was really rough and painful to go back and watch, but it was clear I put the work in to learn the songs. We all knew that if I continued to practice, then by the time the band was ready to play live again I would be kicking ass. So I was made a member of the band in January 2015. I spent a lot of hours practicing while Damien got some other stuff set up for the live backing tracks as well as looking for new members. I knew I would have to work hard to get to where I needed to be, so I just focused (and am still focused) on getting myself better at drumming. Learning the song arrangements is the easy part for me, but I’ve started taking lessons again to try to engineer my play style to compete with a lot of the other modern metal drummers. It’s a long, difficult road, but I’ve made it a surprisingly long way and hope to keep making progress.
What lasting impression did Hell’s Home and Holy Man from Three Sixes’ first album leave with you and made you want to hear more from the band?
Back then I was really just starting to explore all kinds of music and trying to deviate from my comfort zones. I liked to listen to heavier bands, which for me at the time was late era Pantera, Machine Head, Slipknot, and a few others. Hell’s Home and Holy Man fit right into that heavy sound I was looking for, where Hell’s Home had a strong groove and flow to it, and I really like the drum pattern on the last chorus. Holy Man was just fast, ruthless, and exciting. The funny thing is, I didn’t really get hooked on any of the other songs. I wasn’t into the rap metal sound of some of the later tracks, but Hell’s Home is still my favorite Three Sixes song because it showcases most everything this band does, from catchy riffs to an aggressive bridge section, and the use of backing tracks and samples throughout. When KGNP finally released, I was very happy to hear the band was pushing towards all the aspects I liked about the first album.
How important do you believe it is for a band to produce something original since the mainstream is so inundated with mainstream friendliness?
I think bands should produce the music they'd want to listen to. I want to listen to different music, so I’ll be making different music based on my influences and feelings. Once you make music you don’t believe in, you have to question your motives. The mainstream is determined by the amount of people listening to a certain genre or band (or artist), and it seems most people these days want something that’s easy to listen to. Metal is an acquired taste, and it takes effort by the listener to really appreciate it, and many people unfortunately don’t want to bother themselves. I feel that those who do invest themselves get a much more fulfilling experience and can get lost in the music they listen to for longer periods of time. Lots of pop music is easy to leave in the background while you occupy yourself with other tasks or activities, and metal just isn’t really good background music. I believe anyone can get to the point where they can listen to heavier music, it’s just that many people either aren’t exposed to it enough or don’t want to put the time and effort into it.
I read recently that metal is more popular than pop on Spotify, so would this be an example of how it pays to stick to your guns regardless of what trends are in vogue?
I actually read that too, and it was cool to see. I wonder if it’s because metalheads spend more time listening to music on Spotify as opposed to other individuals, or if the market is moving more towards the genre. There are many factors that could contribute to the statistic, but it’s exciting nonetheless. I always hear about bands breaking up because they can’t support themselves while touring and such, but there’s so many bands that keep coming out anyway playing heavy metal, so I feel like it’s a natural result of the love for the music as opposed to a resistance against the mainstream. When I make music, I make the music that celebrates my own interests, and those of us that have the tenacity to come out with an actual product will have that tangible representation of our passions. You could say that we stick to our guns because that’s what we’re passionate about and we want to create more music that reflects that.
Also, I’ve noticed a dissatisfaction lately with groups like One Direction, where the main guys don’t play any of the instruments, it’s just an invisible, unnamed backup band and whereas the bands opening for them in the same show actually played their own instruments (Babymetal can get away with it because the music is such a big part of the sound). There’s a lot of popular music that focuses on the people rather than musicianship. Taylor Swift used to play guitar, but now all her stuff is computer pop. She might tour with a backup band, but that’s not what you’re hearing on the new albums. Same with Justin Bieber; he tours with a live drummer but I’ve never heard real drums in any of his songs. People who follow mainstream pop are exposed to vocalists, not the rest of the band or people making the music, so when they see a band who performs well, it’s refreshing. Lucifer willing, we may see a push in demand towards full bands rather than artists in the hopefully near future.
I’ve never heard of One Direction, but I don’t care much for Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber because they are basically rehashing the same formulaic pop that has been on the air since 2000 or so. Do you see indications that this will eventually fade out as full bands receive more attention? How can we avoid it becoming a trend?
Pop music has been around since at least the 50's, back when Elvis was up and coming. It's always been formulaic and processed, with faceless people writing music for trained musicians. I don't think it will ever go out of style, because it's easy to access and easy to listen to. Some pop artists are really good, but most are mediocre at best. I find it funny how some of the more talented pop stars of today, like Demi Lovato and Lady Gaga, are fans of metal, which might be a correlation between their appreciation for a wider range of music and their drive for a stronger and more impressive performance. I think that their interest in metal may have sparked interest in others, so we'll see how far it goes. Maybe they'll start making heavier music in the future - we already had a "collaboration" between Lady Gaga and Alestorm, and more of the higher acclaimed live performances showcase real musicianship. Jimmy Kimmel has had several metal bands perform on his show fairly recently, like Slayer and Lamb of God, which is great exposure. I don't think Three Sixes will be on Kimmel anytime soon, unfortunately.
In the eighties and nineties you wouldn’t have expected to see thrash bands on talk shows as you do today, and these days some pop singers like Madonna and Katy Perry are putting on darker themed shows. Does this indicate that times are changing?
I don't watch TV, so I don't know what talk shows are hosting bands. Last I heard, That Metal Show was going to be taken off the air, but I never watched or kept up with it. I watch clips of talk shows on YouTube, but it's usually interviews with actors. Any interviews with musicians I usually find through Facebook posts from Metal Injection, Metal Sucks, and a couple others. As for the darker themed shows, I think it's a common theme among lots of mainstream outlets, especially movies. Everyone wants to make dark and gritty versions of these super hero movies, and it seems to be the next step our common entertainment has taken, and these artists are just following suit. There's nothing wrong with having darker themes, I am part of the demographic, but it's interesting to see the whole market move in that direction. I can only hypothesize on the cause, but I would say that those who grew up with a lot of lively colored cartoons now we want to see movies and shows that explore a different side of the spectrum. I'll bet that the next generation will move back to the happier more colorful versions of media, on a largely general scale.
How much more important are Metal Injection, Metal Sucks and other sites for keeping up with news as opposed to TV fare like That Metal Show?
They’re probably all good sources for getting the biggest news in music, but since a TV show is on at a specific time, lots of people are going to miss it. You can check Facebook posts or website updates anytime. I feel that’s the main advantage that online outlets have over television. I wouldn’t have the channel it broadcasts on. I have the internet, and I can check reruns or highlights that are posted online, but I can also check blog posts and other online sources for the information I’m looking for. Another thing is there’s probably more people contributing to online news sources, so there’s more articles covering more information. They can afford to have more content because they’re not limited to a timeframe, and can spam as many articles as they can write.
Do you see more people turning to the internet for information that’s unavailable on TV?
The information may be available on TV, but it's not easily accessible in comparison to the internet. The internet contains records of all the information that has been released and can be accessed at any time from most anywhere, so the convenience of it is much more appealing and will attract the wider audience. However, you'll always have anomalies, with people who'd prefer live TV or paper magazines. There's also instances where information is removed from the source website, but it could have very easily been copied or reproduced on another site. People have already been moving away from live TV, and I don't see myself ever subscribing to cable channels. All the news I would need is on YouTube or blog sites, and all the entertainment I would need comes from video games, Netflix, and also YouTube.
What spoke to Damien about your review of Know God, No Peace? Do you remember the feedback you had for that album upon checking it out?
I was asked to review the album before any talk of me joining the band, so I was still in the position of an observer and a fan. My approach going into my review was to be as brutal and critical as I could be because I wanted it to be useful information. If I only said good things, then my input wouldn't really say much, and after doing some studio work of my own I have all my preferences as to how I like to hear things. So I listened to the album all the way through four times before writing anything, and I wrote out everything I thought, from overall production comments to little parts of each song. It was about four pages of text, but I sent it to Damien with a disclaimer that it was all subjective, and despite any negativity I really enjoyed the album and was looking forward to seeing how the band would continue to evolve. Damien actually responded positively to my critiques and comments, and we talked for a bit afterwards. Later when he asked me to join, he mentioned that my honesty was appreciated, and is a trait that is needed among the members in this band.
I don’t want to get specific about what I wrote in my review because I don’t want to contaminate how anyone else perceives it, but generally it spoke about track levels and tones, song arrangements, performances, and what I would do differently as a songwriter or producer. I also included a lot of what I liked, what parts really stood out and grabbed my attention, the best hooks and highlights, and praise of the clear evolution of the band towards a more grand and mature sound.
Since I’ve been reviewing for a long time I see there is a difference between constructively criticizing an album and trashing it because the band’s genre is not “popular” enough or someone doesn’t understand where a band is coming from musically. What would you consider a review that is genuinely constructive?
I feel that a good review points out the strong points as well as the weak, relative to the opinion of the reviewer. But the key to pointing out weak points is to suggest what could be done to improve them. The best reviewers I watch on Youtube and read online do this whether or not they realize it, and it's something I've taken note of. KGNP has a lot of strong points and a lot going for it, but I felt there were some aspects of it that I would change, and I wrote down exactly how I would change them and why. In order to do a constructive review, you have to give a piece of art every bit of your appreciation and really try to like it for a period of time. Whatever good feelings you get from that piece of art, you write it down and document it. If you end up disappointed in some areas, that's where you explain why you feel that way and what you might have expected, and the artist can take it all into consideration.
Have you reviewed other full lengths before you got to KGNP? If so what did you like and dislike about those recordings?
I’ve never done any other formal review of an album. There’s plenty of albums I like for various reasons, from production to songwriting to album art. I usually try to take inspiration from all my favorite aspects of an album, and tend to compare those aspects between albums by the same band to see how they develop on their own.
For example, I reference SepticFlesh quite often because they really got me into orchestral death metal. Communion I’d say has the most powerful sound because it’s really low-end heavy, but there’s a sharpness to it that accents all the details. The songwriting is surprisingly simple aside from the drums, but the arrangements of a variety of instruments and a good mix allow for a big sound. The Great Mass has a more balanced sound and a much more complex orchestral arrangement, but several of the songs build up and never come to a powerful, over-the-top conclusion. Their last album, Titan, has the most diverse and complex musicianship, and by far the weakest production. The snare is flat, the mix is unbalanced, and there’s far too much compression on certain sections, and it’s very distracting. And while the musicianship is great, the flow of the songs is often abrupt and lacking in continuity. In the song Dogma, before the chorus there’s a guitar riff going on with some double bass drumming, and when the chorus hits suddenly the entire orchestra and choir kick in without any buildup. Both parts are good in their own right, but there’s nothing bridging the two parts so it’s abrupt and awkward.
Did you ever consider reviewing for zines or webzines? How would your reviewing benefit the underground?
I have some opinions about the music I listen to, but I've never considered publishing them or writing full reviews for the music. It takes time and I have no audience, there's other things I want to do with my time if it's just going to be for me. I'd consider going out of my way to write reviews if I knew it would be received, like how I wrote a full detailed review for Three Sixes because I was in direct contact with Damien and knew my views would be heard. I don't think I could write four pages about every album I listen to, but I could dole out some quick thoughts after a couple listens, like I just did with SepticFlesh. As far as contributing to the underground, I don't know how much my opinion would be validated because everyone has their own tastes. I like a lot of music that no one else seems to like, and there's a lot of popular bands that I can't get into, like In Flames. I've seen them live twice and have most of their albums. They're a really good and reputable band, but it just doesn't connect with me. The best way for each individual to find out what they think is good is to go and listen to it. YouTube is an excellent resource for finding new bands. Look up a band you like and follow the related videos.
What bands have you recently discovered through Youtube? How much does social media help underground/unsigned bands in your view?
There's a few sources to find new music, but YouTube is the best place to sample bands. Occasionally I'll look up the best metal albums of the year, and look up each one on YouTube to see what they sound like. Some of the bands I've found and gotten into recently include Whorion, The Seer, Wuthering Heights, Decapitated, Mechina, and some bands I've found in the past include Pagan's Mind, Persuader, Amorphis, Cattle Decapitation, Sons Of Seasons, Obscura, Ouroboros, Adagio, Ne Obliviscaris, MaYaN, Outrun The Sunlight, David Maxim Micic, Royal Thunder, and plenty of others. I know some of those bands have been around for a while, but they're new to me. The internet is the best thing that's ever happened to music distribution because it allows the entire world to access all the music from any time period. Just ten years ago there wasn't a platform like what we have now, and finding music was pain. Now it's just a matter of following a tree of links. It's time consuming, but it's easy and accessible. Paying for the music is another story. These days you kind of have to just go on the honor system that you bought and paid for music, but downloading/streaming music can also lead to some benefit, as far as growing interest in the bands, as well as increasing concert attendance and merch sales.
Ten years ago Myspace was where you could discover new bands, but since it went ultra-corporate many have gone over to Facebook. Was it that way for you?
I switched to Facebook just to follow my friends, since that’s where everyone was going. I checked Myspace for a while too, until I just stopped getting any updates. I do remember looking up bands on Myspace, and it was really cool that you could sample their material, or whatever material they put up, but it was difficult to find related bands. You had to know who you were looking for. Today if you look up a band on Youtube, you’ll get fifteen videos that are all related, and you can open them all in new tabs and have all this new music playing at once and each one has its own set of related videos. It’s so incredibly easy to sample music and access music that you would have never heard or even considered hearing. I found this band called Fairyland a while back, and thought I’d listen to hear how ridiculous it was going to be, but I actually ended up really enjoying it and ended up buying a shirt. Score To A New Beginning is an amazing album for fans of cinematic metal.
Does the system you described on Youtube help more bands get their names around that people would otherwise not hear about?
I think YouTube helps get anything out more. I talk about it a lot, but I spend a lot of time on there, productive or otherwise. Everyone knows what it is, everyone knows how to access it and use it and everyone can share its contents, so it makes for an excellent platform for sharing. As long as someone posts a quick link and I have time to check it out, I'll give it a listen and see if it sounds appealing (that's how I found Decapitated). If I'm on a related video search, good artwork has a lot to do with what links I'll follow or albums I'll check out, but as long as a band comes up in that related video section, they have a shot at getting looked at.
What were the songs sent to you and how much work went into learning them for your official audition?
I was told to learn Lead Winged Angel and Unit 731 to test my blast beats and speed, and Arch Enemy to test my groove and time changes. They were regarded as the most difficult songs to play, and if I would be able to get through those then I could play the rest of the set. I got to work for a couple months playing on my little practice pad setup trying to build up my speed and endurance, playing an hour two at a time several days a week, and finally came to a point where I was ready to schedule an audition. In January I rented out a rehearsal room and Damien and Marko came over to watch me play, and I was able to get through it well enough. They said that I played all the hard stuff fine and just needed to refine things, so from there I continued to work, learning more songs and trying to become a better drummer. After a month, we were able to find a rehearsal space for me to set up my kit so I could practice properly, and since then I’ve been able to play and get better and track my progress. I’m at the point now where I can play the complete set straight through, and I’m continuing to push my limits to get to where I need to be to play the songs how I want them to be played.
Describe the practice space the band settled into after you joined? What kind of an environment does it provide to work in?
The first room we had was basically a small drum room. I would go in by myself and practice, and in the meantime Damien was looking for other band members. It's a 24/7 access lockout, so I would go in after school or work and jam for a few hours, or until 1 in the morning sometimes, working on building up speed and getting comfortable around the kit again. I used to play a lot up until 2013 or so and then my living situation changed and I had to put the kit in storage and get a practice kit, so playing on the real acoustic drums again was refreshing and invigorating. After a few months I got to the point where I would be comfortable with auditioning new members. I need to be able to play well for the bass player and guitar player to follow since the drums are often regarded as the backbone of the band, which especially applies to us because I have to play to a click track, and so I need to be in top shape for others to rely on. So once I was at that point, we moved to a slightly larger room so there would be space for others to play in and move around. We've gotten more gear moved in so we're now looking for an even bigger room.
It's a pain to travel to a spot to practice, especially since I have to sit through an hour and a half of traffic after sitting at work all day, but when I get there all that goes away and it's just me and my drums for the next few hours and I can play without distractions and just focus on music for a little while. I'll take breaks and go on my phone for a little bit sometimes, but it's a great setting for focusing just on drumming.
How long have you been a drummer and what made you interested in playing that instrument?
I’ve been messing with drumsticks for longer than I can remember. I got my first kit at two years old and messed around for years. But at nine years old I began taking private lessons, and that’s where I learned all my basics, how to read and write rhythms, and that got me past all the tedious bookwork to the point where I would look forward to playing drums and it was fun to be able to jam to Alice In Chains and Soundgarden without having to stop and work things out. I took private lessons for three years until I joined the band in junior high. Then in high school I joined the drumline and was taught discipline and technique, which I always refer to as the turning point in my drumming career because that’s where I learned most of the lessons that I apply today. My experience with a private instructor allowed me to advance through the drumline ranks much quicker than usual, and that extra time spent on the more demanding instruments helped to reinforce those lessons. After drumline, I turned my focus back towards drum set, and since then have been playing on my own and with other musicians, pushing myself to emulate the drummers I hear in the music I listen to today. My main method of practice is to jam to music that I like, and experiment with different drum beats, and it’s a method that keeps my playing fun, refreshing, and addictive.
How has figuring out Three Sixes’ material helped you develop as a drummer on your own terms? Who are some of the drummers whose work you most admire?
I've kind of taken the approach of just becoming an overall better player, with a focus on speed and endurance. If I'm a better drummer then the songs will inherently be easier to play. So after I got comfortable with the arrangements of the Three Sixes songs, I began focusing on my technique, playing exercises and trying to train myself to play better. There's plenty of songs that have demanding drum parts that I'll use as a benchmark for my abilities, whether they're mentally challenging and require me to count and focus, or if they're physically demanding songs that have lengthy sections of fast double bass or blast beats. There's a band Ne Obliviscaris that has a bunch of ten minute songs with constant double bass upwards of 220 bpm, and playing along to that serves as a great exercise if I'm feeling good and doing it right. There's other songs I like to play that are slower or faster, and depending on what I'm feeling I'll play different songs. If I'm drowsy or having an off day I'll play along to some Alice In Chains or Oingo Boingo, but if I'm feeling especially cocky I'll put on Hour Of Penance or Cattle Decapitation and try to get through it.
There's plenty of bands I like to play along to where I don't know the name of the drummer, or I'll play something ridiculous over what they're playing. I like to play blast beats along to Seal because I don't have the pressure of having to match what the drummer is doing, so I'm not stressed about that, plus the music is relaxing so it helps me to play more relaxed which allows me to play faster and with better technique.
As for the drummers that have actually stood out to me and I follow their material, Mike Portnoy was really the first guy that blew me away. When I was first exposed to Dream Theater I couldn't get over the technicality and musicianship. I like to say that I played drums before I listened to Dream Theater, but I became a drummer after listening to Dream Theater. That's when I first started paying attention to how music. Since then, some of the big names I've gotten into include Van Williams from Nevermore, Jason Rullo from Symphony X, Gene Hoglan mostly from Strapping Young Lad, Dirk Verbeuren from Soilwork, Ken Bedene from Aborted, James Payne from Hour Of Penance and Matt Garskta from Animals As Leaders.
I’ve heard Flo Mounier of Cryptopsy is one of death metal’s fastest drummers. Do you like anything released by them?
I've never actually listened to Cryptopsy but I think I read something about them recently. Some of the fastest drummers I actually know and like are Franceso Paoli from Fleshgod Apocalypse, Dave McGraw from Cattle Decapitation, and then James Payne and Ken Bedene who I listed in my influences. Of course, there's so many others who are worthy mentions, but those are the guys I think of first. And while being fast is very impressive and a constant goal of mine to achieve, I like to think of the drums as a musical instrument as opposed to a driving force, and I like to accent the melodies and features of the music, and so I listen to drummers who do the same so I can get more influence for my own playing style. Dirk Verbeuren is excellent at keeping a groove mixed with his blast beats, and Ken Bedene is like Dirk on crack. That's also the reason I'll never reference George Kollias as an influence because while he's an incredible and influential drummer, I can't stand to listen to him in Nile. He came out with a solo album that was much more fun to listen to, but I'll always think of him as the single stroke fills guy.
Many people don’t understand the talent required to play blast beats in death and black metal, especially considering the time changes, different types of beats and different speeds. How would you explain it?
The most important and overlooked aspect of playing anything fast is the amount of focus, control, and most importantly, relaxation that is involved. To play blast beats consistently and effectively, you have to be in perfect synch between your body and mind, and the sticks/pedals. Unlike other disciplines where you’re focusing on your body and what it’s doing, you have to be able to perform based on muscle memory so you can focus instead on what you’re playing and what you want to play next. This requires many, many hours of practice (months to years of dedicated basics training), an incredible amount of discipline, tenacity, and drive. It’s been compared to working out, where if you want to build a lot of muscle, you have to work out constantly and build your life around your passion. If you want to have fun and think of it in terms of warriors, I’d say speed metal drummers would be like the samurai of drummers - focused and mindful yet efficient and effective. Their entire life revolves around their role as a samurai, just as I must dedicate myself to music and drumming in order to attain my goals.
The vocals of death and black metal likewise require a certain discipline (I have watched tutorial videos on Youtube explaining this further), though people still closed mindedly dismiss it as screaming into a microphone.
I've heard that death metal growling can be compared to opera. Obviously there's a lot of people who just scream, especially in the hardcore scene, but to create that really demonic growl like you hear in Opeth and Scar Symmetry, it takes a disciplined approach and you have to train your voice to make that sound. I wanted to do it myself for fun because I wanted to emulate that vocal sound I hear in the bands I listen to, so I looked into how to do it. I compare it to just a loud whisper, even though the actual sound isn’t actually loud without a microphone. If you exhale from your lower diaphragm while putting a bit of rasp in your vocal chords, you'll end up with a growl, but you have to train yourself to get better, grittier, louder, and learn how to do it without hurting anything. There should be no pain involved, but you may get fatigued if you're not practiced. There's lots of tutorials online for more information, but you do have to put your own work in and get your own feel for it. It takes time and development, you can't just do it immediately.
Are more people realizing extreme metal bands need a great deal of ability to compose and perform as its mainstream popularity increases? Will these subgenres eventually be known as legitimate musical forms?
I know that people who invest their time into listening to metal know about the skill required. People who try to play instruments have an even better understanding. But there’s many people who won’t try to engage themselves in understanding because they have no connection to the music being produced by the musicians. They won’t seek it out, they have to be told to watch it, and until they invest themselves into it, they’ll never know the skill behind it. It’s kind of disheartening, but there’s so many different types of people, you’ll never win over all of them. I think it’ll have to be a combination of the right people performing the right songs on the right media to really establish metal in the mainstream. Disturbed’s cover of The Sound Of Silence [Simon & Garfunkel] recently sparked a sort of resurgence for them, so hopefully more bands follow suit. But until that happens most people will be oblivious to the musicianship found in metal and just think of it as pounding and screaming. However, those that are familiar with metal I think already identify subgenres as legitimate musical forms, to some degree. You can get kind of crazy with the labels, but the overarching subgenres like Progressive Metal or Power Metal or Death Metal will always be there and respected. There’s some weird ones though, for example I don’t understand “post-metal”. I think it implies it comes after metal, but we still have metal, so I dunno.
Getting back to Three Sixes, how does a typical practice session with the band go?
For practice, I always show up early to warm up and play on my own, anywhere from a half hour to an hour. If we practice on a day I have work, we'll schedule it in time for me to make the commute and for me to warm up, and then Damien will show up either alone or with Johnny, and we'll start running through the songs we can play together. When we've gone through the whole set of songs, we'll talk about it, go back and fix anything that was really bad, and then go home. It's a pretty simple process, but it'll go between an hour or two of rehearsal, and then with my warm up time I'll be in there for at least a few hours. When it's just Damien and I, we'll play straight through the set. We'll start the samples and they’ll just go from song to song. When Johnny comes in, we'll work on the songs he knows and play each one a few times to get it locked in between the three of us. For our location, we have a lockout in Fullerton. I live in Cypress and work from Manhattan Beach, so the commute for me can be brutal when there's traffic because I take the 405 and 91 (for those who don't know, they're two of the most congested freeways in America), so I try to work and practice early to beat the rush hour.
Where does the band usually rehearse? Does Three Sixes have their own studio? What are the advantages of that as opposed to renting studio time?
The band rehearses in Fullerton, which is in Orange County, California. We don't have a full recording studio setup, but it's a room where we keep all our performance gear locked up, and we can access it at any time. I used to do the rental rooms where you'd have to pay by the hour, but it puts extra stress on you to get your stuff done and be out in time, and that pressure is totally gone with a lockout, which is nice for those days where you want to be in there a little while longer to get some stuff worked out. And if you use the room a lot, it's way cheaper. As for a recording studio, we have a few options. I have my laptop where I do all my own composition, and it's plenty enough to record a nice sounding demo and get ideas fleshed out, and we can take our time with it. But for future albums we'll likely be hiring Marko again and utilizing his studio, equipment, and expertise, once we have a product we know we want to make.
How much input have you had into the songwriting process so far?
I have had no input on Three Sixes material so far since we’re working on really nailing down the existing material. I have quite a few ideas that I’ve been sitting on that I feel could work for this band, and when the time comes to write new music, I see myself being an integral part of the process. Any future songs and albums will definitely have my input on them. I want to make this band more epic and extreme sounding than it’s ever been.
Speaking again of covers, what are your thoughts on the cover of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck from Know God, No Peace? What song would you most want to cover on future releases?
I think it's pretty sweet, it's always cool to hear a song redone in a different style. Three Sixes has a few different aspects to its sound, so there's room for experimentation. Since it was a rock and roll song, and Three Sixes does a lot of sampling, it was cool that the cover focused primarily on the samples and brought a completely different vibe to the song. I've done a few of my own covers, which usually involve making the song bigger and more extreme by adding orchestration, more aggressive and down tuned guitars, crazy drums, and full death metal vocals. I'd like to continue to do some more covers of my own, and have plans to cover some classics. As for covers with Three Sixes, I'd want to be clever about what song we pick to make sure it fits with the theme of what we'll want to do in the future, or change some of the lyrics to make it fit, but I'm confident that with my experience making covers, I'll be able to contribute quite a bit to the process.
What ideas do you have in mind to contribute to Three Sixes on their next full length? How well you do you expect the band and Marko will work together next time around?
I've worked with Marko a bit, we've done some recording, and we get along great. I've done some DIY recording engineering in the past, and continue to try to hone my skills, and the stuff I come up with keeps sounding better and better. I hope I am able to make significant contributions to the song writing process and the recording process. As for the song writing, I have a few ideas for riffs and sections, and I'll see what the other guys think about it. My ultimate goal is to make this band bigger and more extreme than ever, so whatever I bring to the table will likely be a lot of over the top crazy business, but since the core song writers are Kill and Damien, the band will still have the identity of Three Sixes. Think of it as putting a new engine in an old car. It'll take time and effort, but I have good feelings about what this band has done, and what it can become.
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