Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Flotsam and Jetsam, arguably one of the most influential and prominent acts from thrash metal’s birth in the early 80s, has returned to Metal Blade Records to release their new album, Ugly Noise.
Ugly Noise is the band’s eleventh full-length album, their first release on Metal Blade since 2001, and the follow up to their 2010 album, The Cold. The record also heralds the return of original members Michael Gilbert on guitar and Kelly David Smith on drums, who haven’t recorded with Flotsam and Jetsam since High in 1997.
excerpt from http://www.metalblade.com/
Hi and Good evening Eric its Mark from Myglobalmind,You have returned to Metal Blade records after many years apart. How has that come about?
Eric”They are actually not our label, we just have a distributing deal with them around the world for us.”
This latest album also sees a return of two original members to the band?
Eric”Yes Mike Gilbert and Kelly Smith are back in the band.”
Why now, was the time right to reintroduce them to Flotsam?
Eric”I just decided if I was going to make another stab at Flotsam as a group, Id better get the original members back and make it real. They were eager to jump back in,and its been a pretty good fit so far.”
Was it difficult to track them down, or had you stayed in touch over the years?
Eric”No I have been in constant touch with those guys since they left the band. We have been friends and brothers for many years before we were even in the band. I have always been in touch with them. They were not in a place in their lives where they were ready to get back at it and now they are. Everybody is doing a good job and its really comfortable.”
Where did you record the album and can you please discuss its creation?
Eric”We recorded most of it at Mike,s house and then we had Ralph Patrick mix it for us. He has done the new Head record and a bunch of Jamie Foxx stuff. Hes a really good dude,and we had him mix it, and he did an amazing job.This is now our eleventh record.”
Over the years the music industry has drastically changed compared to when Flotsam started in the eighties,is it harder to survive?
Eric”I don’t know if it is harder its just different, there are so many bands now all with the same accessibility to the public. It is harder as the audience is still the same size, but there are many more bands to divide that up. It is hard to get to that next level where you can make a living at it, and do it as a profession.”
Also many of the major record labels have disappeared?
Eric”Yes that’s true and many are just doing distribution and marketing without operating as full record labels. Its harder now for a band. Easy when record labels gave you a big cheque and said “here go record”. When you have to come up with that on your own, or do the legwork yourself-that’s when it gets difficult for newer bands. It wasn’t that tough for us because we did the Pledge Music thing and our fans stepped up to the plate, They said “yeah we want to hear another one here is my money”
That type of scheme where fans can contribute financially to recording costs is increasingly becoming common.?
Eric”Yes we can keep them up to date with pieces of video,songs or stuff like that.We want them involved in the process and they can communicate their thoughts through Pledge Music.We take all that stuff to heart and change and fix things as we go along.”
How do you account for the enduring appeal or thrash metal? There are a lot of your peers, bands like Metallica,Slayer,Exodus,and Overkill that are still around.
Eric “Yes all those bands are still around. It seems to be coming back even stronger. Many of those eighties and nineties bands are still having a pretty good run out there and touring. We are definitely going to jump on that and see how long it lasts.”
Moving on to the new album “Ugly Noise”, does it explore any different lyrical themes from its 2010 predecessor “The Cold”?
Eric”Yeah “The Cold”was a little darker,I think. I was in a very frustrated spot when I wrote the lyrics for that one. This one has more of a “look out because here we come”feel. With all of my original members back together, with unlimited studio time as we are at Mike,s house. I can then pretty much let the creativity flow”
Looking at the album,if we can examine the tracks and you can give me the insight to each. I suppose that fans would like to know the story behind the songs. First up “Ugly Noise”
Eric” Jason Newsted (former bassist from the early days of the band)wrote that one, he came into town and hung with us took us out to dinner, him and Mike got together,and wrote a couple of songs. He said we could use them on the record, so we did”
What about then track two “Gitty up”?
Eric”That is also by Jason Newsted, those were the two songs that he contributed on. They turned out to be a couple of the best songs on there.”
I feel that the whole album stands together well,it is consistently strong with no weakness. It retains the classic elements of Flotsam but also has a feel of freshness.
Eric “Well thank you very much for those compliments.”
Next up “Run and Hide”
Eric “That is one of my favorite songs, that one was…jeez . I have to think now.(laughs)i think Mike Gilbert gave me the idea for that one. It was kind of that same”Get out of my way” run and hide and don’t be messing with me vibe. We are going out strong and swinging. Basically that is just the gist of that song.”
” Carry On” any particular story behind that one ?
Eric”Most of these songs, Mike Gilbert would give me a title for, this is what the song sounds like to me. I try to just kind of run with that. I’m having phone issues,and also trying to recall the song lyrics..”
What tracks then stand out for you personally on the new album?
Eric”I have different favorites for different reasons..”Play your part”I think is one of my vocal favourites, I poured a lot of heart into that one and it came out really well.”Rage”I pretty much wrote all of , and some of the music also. I am really proud of that one. That is exactly what it says, its all about being on the verge, not being able to turn back from something bad happening, because you are that angry. Everything has got to that point.”
Generally the album is more positive than its darker predecessor though?
Eric”You mean like the track “Rabbits Foot”for example which has a positive message on it?.You look around,be positive and take things as they come. There’s also a little bit of anger on the album with a track like “Motherfuckers”That one is basically about a friend of mine who’s wife was messing with him.I just heard him coming over and complaining, crying on my shoulder about the situation. That night I was writing the lyrics for this song and it kind of rolled out of me at that point.”
Flotsam’s plans then after the albums release, anything lined up touring-wise?
Eric”We are going to hold off on the summer European festivals probably till next year as we were a little late to get on those. They are pretty much already full. Its ridiculous trying to tour over there when the festivals are on as nobody will go,we will probably wait with the European stuff until 2014. We just did the Testament tour over here in USA. We are trying to get on a couple of bigger tours that are coming up. However we cant actually shop those until the album has been released. There are a couple of festivals that we are doing,over here. On tour we are going to try to hit a bunch of places that we have never played before. Australia we want to get down to Brazil this year, and do some South American stuff. That is what our focus will be for this year. During that we will then be writing some tracks for next years European stuff.”
Is music all life consuming or do you have any outside hobbies or interests that you pursue?
Eric” Its pretty hard to do anything else, but I fly helicopters as a hobby. It gets a little expensive so I don’t do it very often.I got my provisional pilots licence a few years back and I fly on and off with that. I know Kelly Smith likes to go deep sea diving, and he does that a lot. We don’t have so much time for that stuff now because we are so into this new Flotsam record and going out and making a push.”
Getting back to touring plans for Europe in 2014,will that include some UK dates?
Eric”Its a little too early to say right now, because of the timing we need to be kind of sitting on our hands right now. I do think that we will end up with a nice big world tour with somebody cool. We will see what happens.If not we will definitely be looking everywhere to start booking stuff as soon as we can.”
I’m sure that the band are keen to get out and play the new material as soon as possible?
Eric”Yes we did the little Testament and Overkill tour for about 28 days here in the Us ,and that really got our hunger going. I am already sick of sitting at home and we have just been home for two weeks. Our set on those dates was about half and half mix of new songs and old classics.The new songs were very well received,indeed we would have liked to do all new stuff. However we cant get away from playing the classics or people would just go crazy. A lot of people were already singing along to the new tunes.”
Since you first started the band,looking back what where the personal highs and lows for you?
Eric”There have been a lot of low points,highest point was maybe the Megadeth-Korn tour.That was a great fun tour and opened a lot of major markets for us. A lot of people really dug us a lot, so that was one of the high points. The first trip to Europe with Megadeth was another high point. There has been a lot of low points, I don’t know if there is a lowest. The highest is still yet to come.”
The rejoining of both Michael and Kelly on this new record must have restoked your enthusiasm?
Eric”Yeah,it really did a lot for me,it renewed my faith in the industry,and in my band.The tour with Testament did the same thing really.It got me psyched to keep this going,and make something with it.”
What would you be most proud of in your life,either personally or professionally?
Eric”When I get a fan coming up and telling me that I am the best singer in metal, that’s a huge high every time for me. That’s gotta be one of the biggest things of my whole career that I like above everything else. Somebody telling me something like that-wow! I feel that I don’t get a lot of notoriety as a metal singer. Flotsam were never in one of those VH1 metal movies,or anything like that. I got an emailed drawing one day of all the great singers in metal and it had everybody in there except me, that’s the kind of notoriety that I miss out on and stuff like that. Its not a big deal ,just irritating. So for just one fan to say yes you are the greatest singer in metal that really gets me going a long way.”
If you were the interviewer now,and sat down with one of your musical heroes what would you ask them?
Eric”Wow,that’s a great question…….(long pause) My biggest metal hero is probably Rob Halford. I have actually sat down and asked him a bunch of questions.He is one of the coolest guys in metal i would have like to have sat down with Dio, but that’s not going to happen.”
Do you listen to any musical styles or genres,which may surprise your fans?
Eric”I listen to everything, including a lot of stuff that people would give me crap for listening to. I listen to Frank Sinatra, Nickelback through to Slipknot I listen to it all.I don’t know if there is anything out there that really has me starstruck.”
Just to bring the interview to a close. Have you any goals and ambitions as yet unfulfilled?
Eric”I would like a Grammy, that is on my bucket list.I think to headline Wacken would be cool, maybe we will get to that point some day.If the new album does well,and we get another one out right away.It might take a few years to get to that point, if we go full speed.I don’t think that it is out of the question and that would be a big thrill.There are some big names I would like to play with, I’ve never played with Maiden and would love to do that. The Grammy though is a big ambition.I would like to make a comfortable living in this business.I am up and doing it and trying to muddle through as best I can but there is always the next step up that you can take. I try to keep my goals pretty reachable”
Thanks for chatting Eric. Good luck with the album release,and the live shows.Hope to see you next year thrashing it up in the Uk.