Interview by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
We met up with Once Human guitarist Logan Mader [formerly of Machine Head and Soulfly] before their debut Irish show while on tour with Fear Factory. He told us a little about touring, their first album and albums he couldn’t live without.
Alan: Welcome to Dublin. It’s great to see you here. Thanks for visiting. I know you [Logan] have played here in Dublin before with your other bands. What about you Skyler?
Logan: Yeah, I’ve played here with Machine Head and Soulfly.
Skyler: No, I have not played here before.
Alan: Actually, for those who are not yet familiar with Once Human, maybe you can tell us who’s playing tonight, because I know the lineup is slightly different to the lineup when you recorded your first album The Life I Remember?
Logan: Skyler Howren is the other guitar player with me. Dillon Trollope is our drummer, who didn’t play on the album. Then there’s Lauren Hart (our singer), me and Damien Rainaud. We all played on the album.
Alan: I saw that Ralph Alexander played drums on the album, but is now playing in Robert Downey Jr.’s son’s band. Is that correct?
Logan: Yeah. Ralph is actually a childhood friend of Skyler. That’s how I met Skyler. Ralph is a friend of mine that I know from L.A. He’s an amazing drummer and he did the record with us but then he got this gig in Robert Downey Jr.’s son’s band. So it was a really rare and good opportunity for him, and he couldn’t pass it up. He would love to be here with us now, but I couldn’t compete with Iron Man’s salary!
Alan: And how has the tour with Fear Factory been? It’s coming to an end now.
Logan: Yeah, it’s been amazing. We just did a month with Fear Factory in America, and then we had five weeks off and we came over here to do this with them. It’s 23 shows and it’s almost done. We’ve only got four left. There have been really good crowds and a great response for us every night. It’s nice to tour with Fear Factory, they’re good friends of mine. We’re sharing a tour bus with them.
Alan: You were on the bus when it crashed in Germany?
Logan: Yeah, we were all on the bus. No-one got injured. It was a relatively minor crash, but still pretty scary. I’d never been in a bus accident before so it kinda freaked me out a little bit. I was sleeping in my bunk and I think I woke up when we were braking and then there was the impact when my feet hit the back of the bunk. Our bass player; the impact woke him up and in his mind he thought we were going off a cliff, because it was really quiet after the impact. He was holding on, and nothing else happened. That was probably more traumatising for him than it was for me. I was more annoyed by it. I didn’t even want to get out of my bunk.
Alan: You got sorted out with a new bus pretty quickly?
Logan: Within hours we got a new bus and then we even got that same bus back, repaired, like a week later because we really liked that bus.
Alan: Also supporting Fear Factory on this leg of the tour are Dead Label, who are a band from Celbridge which is near here. Have you had a chance to listen to them?
Logan: Yeah. Every night. We’ve been hanging out with them. They’re really cool people and we love touring with them.
Skyler: Yeah, they’re awesome [shows off his Dead Label T-shirt].
Logan: We’re happy to play here with them in their home town tonight.
Alan: Do you find it tough playing in front of the die-hard Fear Factory fans? They probably don’t know a lot of the new Once Human material yet.
Logan: I think it’s the same as if we were playing with anybody. Because it’s a new band, a lot of people have not heard us before. I get people coming up saying “oh my god, I know you from Machine Head. I didn’t know you were in the band that was playing tonight, but I really liked it”. The general response is that we’re winning the crowds over a couple of songs in. You can see it in the mosh pits and from the general energy and response. We’re also doing a Machine Head cover [‘Davidian’] at the end of the set and that always gets them into a frenzy. It’s fun to do.
Alan: You took quite a long break from playing live yourself, and got into producing. Has performing with Once Human given you a taste for it again, or do you see yourself going back to producing?
Logan: I’m not stopping producing at all. I was mixing in our dressing room today on a mobile Pro Tools rig. I just wanted to start playing again as well, and I’m loving it. It’s like a passion project. I’m serious about it and I want it to develop into something legitimate and as big as possible, but my life doesn’t depend on it. I’m doing it for the pure sense of enjoyment at the core, which feels really good. It takes the stress and pressure away and just makes it fun, which is really what it should be. The reason I started playing music in the first place was because I love live music so I got back in touch with that.
Alan: Is there any one album that changed your life?
Logan: I think the album that stands out in my mind and is really nostalgic because of when it came out and where I was at, is Ride the Lightning. When that came out I was a freshman in high school or eight grade or something. That sound of Metallica really spoke to me and really made me realise that I love metal. That’s my shit and I want to play guitar. Any time I hear any song from that album I go back to that moment right there. I grew up in the Bay Area which is where bands like Testament and Exodus and Death Angel were happening around that time. So that was my ground zero of metal.
Alan: And if you had to pick three albums that you couldn’t live without, what would they be?
Logan: I feel weird doing that, because what if I leave someone out? Well, Ride the Lighting from Metallica. AC/DC – Back in Black; This goes even further back when I was ten years old. That was my first taste of hard rock that really spoke to me and scared me a little bit because I was ten years old. There was this bad-boy kid at school and he had a guitar and he was like “Check this out. This is AC/DC Back in Black and he was playing the riffs”, and I thought that’s fucking cool. And the last album would have to be Burn My Eyes [debut Machine Head album]. I couldn’t live without that. I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for that.
Alan: Sure. What were your inspirations or influences for The Life I Remember, lyrically or musically?
Logan: Well, this first record was written by Lauren and I together, the music and the lyrics. I was just happy to be playing again and I wanted to collaborate with her in a way that she wanted to. She came to me as a production deal. I was going to produce the project and just put a band around and then I started to fall in love with the music, so I decided I wanted to play in the band too. We ended up with no real agenda. She comes from a black metal and death metal background as a listener and a fan. That’s what she grew up on. And I’m more of an American groove metal kinda guy, so I think we just took our personalities musically and mixed them together and that’s what came out. We didn’t try to make it sound like anything or try to make it fit into a genre. It’s kinda got its own unique identity. It’s got a lot of classical metal, pure metal, and a little bit of black metal, a little bit of death metal and a some orchestral and a little bit of electronic. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not metalcore.
Alan: What about lyrically?
Logan: Lyrically, we would just come up with phrases and pieces of music that sound good and put them on a loop and patterns would just come out of the music. Even words would come out of it and we would just build on top of that.
Alan: To bring up the serious topic of the attacks in Paris a few weeks ago. Did it make you think twice about touring, and the safety of your band, crew and fans?
Logan: Yeah. We were getting on a plane on the 14th, so the night before we were hearing about this happening in Paris, and it was terrible. It was crazy, terrifying and sad. We didn’t know how bad it was or how many more things could happen. Nobody knew, so we actually had second thoughts about whether we were going to come or if the shows would be cancelled. We thought all the France shows would be cancelled but none of them were and we even playing in Paris on the 21st, one week later. We didn’t want to feel afraid or defeated by it.
Alan: I know some bands including Lamb of God cancelled some shows, and opinion on social media was split on whether that was the right thing to do or not.
Logan: Well, I heard from a source that there was a suspicious guy in a ski-mask caught on camera outside the venue right before they played, taking pictures of the venue. Security went to confront him and he ran away and got in a car and sped away. I think it was Tilburg. This was from a pretty reliable source; one of the crew guys. It does seem really weird though. If a terrorist was going to case the joint, would they go with a ski-mask on. It seems really suspicious.
Alan: I hadn’t heard about that, but I suppose if that was the case, then they really had to cancel. You can’t take a chance like that. If there had been an attack and it came out afterwards that this guy had been spotted on CCTV and nothing had been done about it then the venue, security and band would be in serious trouble.
Logan: Yeah. I don’t know what I would do if I saw that. I would be really on edge. We were already on edge to begin with. It’s gotten easier as the tour went on. France felt like one of the safer places to be because the whole city was on lockdown and the security was heightened, and there was more awareness and preparedness for such a thing. But every time we would walk into a venue I would look around to see where all the exits are.
Alan: To lighten the mood, let’s talk about Christmas. What’s on your wish list this year?
Logan: Well I’ve got kids, so I’m going to go and spend time with them and jump back into studio work.
Alan: And what does 2016 have in store for you?
Logan: Well, we’re working on getting out in America, but I don’t have any details at the moment. I do have an offer to do ten shows in France in April which I’m going to try to build into something more than just France and stay over as long as possible. We definitely want to come back to the UK and Ireland and Europe in 2016.
Alan: And how about European Summer festivals?
Logan: I don’t know if that’s going to happen for us this year, but I would like to. If not, then maybe the next year.
Alan: Iron Maiden have Trooper beer and Megadeth have Blood of Heroes wine. If you were to put the Once Human name onto any product, what would it be?
Logan: I don’t know. It has the word “human” in it. Once Human Sushi! Haha. How about Once Human dog attire. Dog shirts. I love dogs!
Alan: Tour shirts for dogs! Great idea! Well, that’s all we have time for. Good luck with the show tonight.