March 30, 2015 Interview – Phil Labonte of All That Remains
Life in a band is never easy, but it is those who stand together which triumph to the top. For fifteen years now, New England based Metal act All That Remains have been one of the most tireless touring bands in North America, and with an ever progressing sound, have become one of the most well-known in a crowded genre. Breaking through into the mainstream with their third album in 2006, The Fall of Ideals, it was 2008’s Overcome which launched the band to a new level, highlighted by the increased use of Phil Labonte’s powerful singing voice . Now after continued hard work and a slew of highly charted singles, All That Remains up the ante in 2015 with perhaps their strongest record to date, The Order of Things. Recently we had the chance to catch Labonte for a look into the history of All That Remains, their new record, life on the road, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – All That Remains is going on fifteen years, and in that time the band really has progressed in style and become one of the bigger names in the Metal genre. Clearly it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication. Do you feel like the band is right where you should be at this point in your career?
Phil Labonte – Yes. When we started out we did not go into it thinking that we wanted to be the biggest band in the world and we wanted to do X, Y, and Z. We were just happy to be able to put out records, so the fact that I can do this as a job is just the icing on the cake.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. Many may forget all these years later, but you originally sang for Shadows Fall back in 1997. Do you feel like that experience allowed you to grow as a vocalist when you began All That Remains?
Phil Labonte – Maybe. I was not with them for very long. I think that most of my growth has happened in All That Remains. I was in Shadows Fall for maybe a year and a half. That was the first band that I actually sang exclusively in because of other bands that I had been in before that I did played guitar and did backups.
CrypticRock.com – Obviously, leaving Shadows Fall and starting All That Remains, that really worked out excellently as you can see all these years later. One of the most progressive elements of All That Remains has been your voice and the expansion of the singing range from album to album. What was the turning point for you that made you realize you had the ability to offer up such dynamic singing style?
Phil Labonte – Just trying different things. It was always an experimentation whether it be from when I first started out doing the Death Metal stuff with just lows, then just opening up my valves and learning how to do highs, plus doing little bits of singing here and there. It has always been a work in progress.
CrypticRock.com – Many would say the clean vocals that have been interjected on the last four to five albums have really added a wider dynamic and has expanded the bands audience. What do you think ?
Phil Labonte – It is possible. I think it does probably add a dynamic, especially with this new record The Order of Things. Having Jeanne Sagan’s voice as a females voice on the record is something that we are always trying to change and do new things and try different stuff. So yes, I think that it probably has.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly shows. The band’s latest album, The Order of Things, was recently released on February 27th. This is the band’s first record in three years. What was the writing and recording process like this time around?
Phil Labonte – We worked with Josh Wilbur who has worked with Gojira, Lamb of God, and he has also done a lot of other Pop stuff. That was a big change and actually really a lot of fun. Josh is a really good dude, he is really easy to work with, and very creative. He had some really great ideas.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, as you mentioned, you said you worked with Josh Wilbur whom helped with the writing and the production of the record with you .Was his input something that gave you a different perspective?
Phil Labonte – Absolutely. This is the first record where somebody else had any kind input on the lyrics. Up until The Order of Things, all the lyrics were written by me. This time, both Josh and I came up with ideas and bounced things off of each other. He was easy to work with and he did not act like he had any kind of stake in it. If he had an idea and I was not into it, he would would just say “OK, cool,” and we moved on. He is really easy to work with and he brought a lot to the record.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and it really did work with the record because the record certainly has a lot of strong melodic and brutal tunes on it as well. It is obvious that All That Remains has done a good job over the past few years of getting that delicate balance right between the brutality, the melody, and everything else in between. In this record, many would feel like this is the most complete record you have done in a really long time. Do you feel like this time around the band was firing on all cylinders putting this one together ?
Phil Labonte – I think so. I think that everyone was in the right head-space. I think that Josh had a lot to do with that. I think that he came in and made everyone feel really comfortable and excited about putting it together. Yes, I think the band was definitely in a good head-space.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it definitely shows in the songs. They are all very strong songs from beginning to end, from the start of the record till the end. The band has had pretty much the same lineup for a really long time now. Do you feel like the chemistry has really developed over the years, and how well do you feel that you know each other now after working together after so long ?
Phil Labonte – Pretty well. We know what to expect when we get together in a room. We are completely aware of each individual’s quirks, how they act, and how they respond to the things. We play accordingly and go in knowing what prospective everyone is going to have. We each try to make sure that when we are writing we are maximizing everyone’s ability and not wasting too much time.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, and sometimes people forget how difficult it is to keep a band together, especially for a long period of time. There are a lot of different personalities going into one piece of work.
Phil Labonte – Yes, it is tough. A lot has happened and nobody in the band has children, but me and my wife are talking about it. Jeanne is getting married and everyone in the band has a significant other at the time. These are things that the band has to take into account about, the families and the home lives of everybody.
CrypticRock.com – Right, these things absolutely change as lives progress, like you said. All That Remains has been known to be road warriors whom constantly tour. You recently completed with In Flames, and will pick up with them and Periphery in April again. It seems like a band has to tour to make a living. How did that tour go and what are some of the most important things you have learned being on the road so much?
Phil Labonte –That tour was awesome. The guys from In Flames are super cool. The crowds and the fans were great. We had actually taken most of last year off from touring so it is nice to be back on a full tour where there is the solid package and quality bands. As for what I learned from the road, I learned to bring a lot of socks, underwear, and that kind of stuff (laughing).
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) That is a good life lesson right there. Being on the road a lot is not a normal lifestyle; you are sleeping at different times and you are not eating healthy. How do you keep yourself healthy on the road.
Phil Labonte – We try and get to a gym as much as we can. Get in and get some exercise and we try to make sure the bus is not full of garbage food. We have a rice maker, crock-pot, and an electric grill. We cook as much as we can so we do not eat McDonald’s every day.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is actually pretty good that you do that. Being able to cook something on the road, that is really great. One would imagine it is nice because many would not want to eat that kind of food all the time (laughs). As stated, it certainly is difficult for a band to sustain themselves, especially in the climate of the music industry over the past fifteen years. Having gone through the fire, what advice would you have for bands coming up?
Phil Labonte – Don’t! (laughs hard). It is hard to make a living with a band. There are a lot of bands that get worked up about people downloading music and stuff like that. You just have to get your music in front of as many people as possible, whether it be through a YouTube channel or on tour. Just get in front of as many people as you possibly can. At some point, it does become a numbers game. If you put yourself in front of enough people there is going to be some people that are going to like it. It is a tough life and you have get out there to as many people as you can.
CrypticRock.com – Right, that is the name of the game. That is why you guys have probably been on the road a lot, as any band, to sustain yourself because no one buys records anymore. If you want to get your name out there, you have got to tour constantly right?
Phil Labonte – Yes, you really have to do that. You have to stay out as much as you can and, a lot of the times, you have to get in front of the same people a few times before you kind of convince them, or before the song they hear on Liquid Metal or Octane clicks in their head and they say, “That is a band that I saw a couple of weeks ago.” It takes time for the connection to be made for people, so you really have to get out there and push it.
CrypticRock.com – Yes that is imperative. Speaking of making a record and touring, when you go into the studio to make a record, like the most recent one you released, do you go into it thinking, “We are making a twelve tracks record, it is really a cohesive piece, but how many people are actually going to hear this as a cohesive piece.?” Does that ever frustrate you knowing that many people are not actually going to listen to the record from start to finish, buy it, and listen to it as it is supposed to be listened to ?
Phil Labonte – I guess it is a little bit annoying, but trying to fight that is like trying to fight the internet. People today, you talk to kids, they do not have albums on their phone. They have songs, and they say, “What songs do you have on your iPod.” They do not ask, “What record do you have?” They do not have records, so yes, it is a little bit frustrating. At the same time,getting too worried about it because it is a complete waste of time. There is nothing you can do to change it and the way that people consume music today.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly is. The bottom line is that you know you make these records obviously for people to hear, but you make it because it is your creative expression. You have to put that first.
Phil Labonte – Yes, it may sound selfish, but I have heard Metallica say this, they make music for ourselves first, and that is what we do. We write the stuff that we want to hear. Trying to write music to please a certain group, you are never going to please everybody, so you better write stuff that you believe in. I think that people will get behind that.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, and, quite honestly, that makes the best music. When you write something that you believe in, then that makes the best music because people can see through phony music.
Phil Labonte – I would say so, people have their own opinion on the music regardless of what you do. You better write stuff that you dig (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Yes, everyone is a critic nowadays, especially with the internet. My last question for you is regarding films. CrypticRock.com is a Rock/Metal and Horror news site, so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of Horror films, and if so, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Phil Labonte – Yes, I like Evil Dead series. I have been a fan of Horror movies since I was a kid. I have got pictures of myself when I was a teenager with Kane Hodder, Robert England, the guys who played the Cenobites from Hellraiser (1987), and Linda Blair from The Exorcist (1973). I have been a fan of Horror movies all of my life. I would probably say that there is even a couple of little call outs on the records from stuff that I took from the Evil Dead movies, just kind of did a little homage. I am a big fan.
CrypticRock.com -That is great that your really into Horror. What did you think about the new Evil Dead released in 2013?
Phil Labonte – It was cool. I liked the fact that they caught the comedy aspect of the first Evil Dead. I like that the new one is a little harder edge and a little more serious and tried to be scary. It was a cool movie.