Interview with All That Remains: Making Good

All That Remains is one of metalcore’s most heartening success stories. Something of a late bloomer in the fertile Massachusetts scene that gave birth to acts like Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall, the quintet gained attention after 2004’s This Darkened Heart, but it wasn’t until 2006’s The Fall Of Ideals and the band’s appearance on Ozzfest was it clear they were going to be serious players. Their reach expanded with 2008’s Overcome, which even saw a single, “Two Weeks,” breaking into the mainstream rock charts, a surprising development for traditionally tame rock radio.

And like clockwork, two years later, they’re about to tee up another album.

Currently in the studio recording with about one more track to go according to guitarist Mike Martin, All That Remains are taking a break for about a week’s worth of touring with industrial metal legends Fear Factory to shake off some live cobwebs. They’ve again enlisted their buddy Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage to produce the next record (who has done most of their records with the notable exception of Overcome), who is as much of a help keeping ATR comfortable as he is a hindrance in getting things done. With the kind of cutting investigative journalism The Aquarian Weekly is known for, we open up on Martin with the tough question.

Why is it taking so long? Are you just goofing off in the studio with Adam D?

Yeah, we’re just screwing around. We’re too good of friends with Adam and everything takes longer because we like hanging out and having fun with him so much.

Is there a particular reason you’re using Adam again, or was it just a matter of timing that he didn’t do Overcome?

Yeah, he would have done Overcome if the timing was right. The thing with him is he lives near us and the studio is near us, and the comforts of home when you’re off tour is so much better. The last time we had to do Overcome and Jason Suecof, who did the record, is down in Florida. He did awesome and it was cool working with him, but we were all so fried from being on the road and it sucked. It sucked having to go down to Florida while we were home. We’ve been spoiled and we’re kind of used to recording at home so that took like more time to go sit in a hotel room for a month or two in Florida after not being down there for like 10 weeks or something ridiculous like that.

I guess recording is hard enough as is.

It is to an extent, but when were at home with Adam and stuff and our studio that we used to, for me personally, it’s the most comfortable thing in the world. I love it; it’s my favorite part of being in a band. Going to Florida was miserable. Jason is a great guy, and he did a good job on the record and we have no complaints, it’s our most successful album we’ve ever had. It was all done for a reason, but if we get the chance to stay home and do it with Adam we usually prefer that just because of comfort.

You would say that recording is your favorite part of being in All That Remains? Not the writing or the touring, it’s the recording aspect of it?

Yeah, I think it’s the funnest. For the most part, it’s always been my favorite part, just being home and doing that stuff, as long as you have the luxury to do so, which we have. Before you’d have to go home, and you’d have to work 70 hours a week at some job just to stay afloat, now we can go home, nobody really needs to go and work 50 hours a week while were writing. It’s nice to be able to go home and kind of enjoy it.

Well yeah, back then I’m sure you were busy making back the money you were losing going on tour.

You don’t make any money in music for like ten years, at least.

So the writing process has been happening since?

January, February, March, so, well three to four months, a lot of April too. We were supposed to go into the studio in April but we got pushed back a little bit.

Was that while Phil [Labonte] was out with Killswitch?

Yeah, that was actually. We got home, we started writing the record in January and wrote for like a week or two with Phil and then he left for six weeks. That’s what I forgot to mention earlier with timing and kind of being a little bit behind; Phil going on tour to sing with Killswitch for six weeks definitely didn’t help matters. That kind of put a little kink in the plans. But we still got it done almost on time.

What comes first in the writing process these days? Is it melodies first, is it just a riff, or a general arrangement?

Usually, it’s just a guitar part first, or a number of guitar parts, we’ll work with Jason [Costa] to see whatever he wants to put over, drumbeat wise. Basically, all the music gets worked out collectively in the same room while we are together. I know as far as vocals and lyrics and all that stuff goes, Phil is like a super last minute guy. He’s a big part of writing the music too, so he’s like in there doing the music stuff with us the whole time, so once the music is done and we go into the studio to record, Phil’s like ‘Oh shit! I’ve got to write lyrics.’ He waits last minute all the time on that stuff. I think he likes the pressure.

Some vocalists aren’t even there for some of those sessions at all.

Phil has tons of arrangement ideas, he even writes guitar riffs and stuff like that. He’s a big part of that. When he was gone, we were writing this stuff kind of wondering ‘Is he gonna like this?’ [We were] sending demos back and forth. It was a pain in the ass. It would have been easier if he was there.

Are you playing anything new on these dates that you’re doing?

Yeah, we’re going to do one song, because the album isn’t going to come out probably for another three to four months probably. I’m gonna say one just because when you play too many new songs live, it has a tendency to kill the crowd’s energy because they don’t know what it is. We’ll play one just to give them a taste but that’s about it, but we’re not going to go out there and play five songs off of it.

What’s the name of the song that you’re going to play, or have you decided?

God, I have no idea. We have no real titles for the songs. All the stuff is written and recorded and almost done but Phil hasn’t told me any real titles yet. We come up with fake titles for a lot of stuff so that is kind of our reference point.

What general theme do your fake titles have?

Oh god. Sometimes we have awesome fake titles. This time around, we didn’t have so many good ones. We have a song called ‘9-year Diploma’ because it took Oli [Herbert] 9 years to get his college diploma. He didn’t have to go to school for 9 years but it literally took 9 years for them to send him his diploma in the mail. So there is a song called ‘9-year Diploma,’ there is a song that I wrote a couple parts in, and I’m Greek so they call it ‘Baklava Hero,’ it’s a Greek dessert, there is—I’m trying to think if there are any cool ones. I know in the last one we had some really cool ones like there was ‘Pulled Pork Surprise,’ and ‘Pirates of the Penal System.’