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FLOTSAM AND JETSAM - Interview with Eric A.K.
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Flotsam and Jetsam US thrash band
This year's Killfest was a truly amazing event. Not only did fans have the chance to see one of the best US thrash bands Overkill and the German thrash forefathers Destruction, but the event was opened by Flotsam and Jetsam, who seem to be in absolutely top form these days, collecting accolades for their excellent new album "The End of Chaos". Their early releases such as "Doomsday for the Deceiver" and "No Place for Disgrace" are the epitome of speed/thrash, but they've been covered in hundreds of interviews before so, in my short talk with the singer Eric A.K. I focused on the new one.
I believe it's the last date of the Killfest tour tonight so, how has it been, touring with this amazing line-up of old school thrash bands?
Crowd wise, it's been amazing, almost sold out every night. It's been a really good tour. The other bands are easy to tour with so, we have a lot of fun, not very much sleep, but a lot of fun, ha-ha! And we've toured with both bands before so, we're good friends with everybody. It's been a really good tour for us, we've gained a lot of fans.
And why did you actually decide to join a tour like that? I mean you can only play like half an hour sets so, is it a better option for you, as opposed to headlining smaller venues?
Opening up for someone else is always a good option for gaining new fans. You know, your hope is that you go up there and win everyone over so, it's been working out very well for us. And it's building a following for us so, when we come back and headline we can have decent crowds.
Do you see a lot of young fans in front of stage or is it mostly the old guard?
Both really. It's funny, because some of our older fans who have been fans since mid-'80s bring their children with them and they're all wearing Flotsam shirts, you know? So, it's been a little of both actually, a lot of new fans and a lot of old fans.
"The End of Chaos" has received probably the best reviews since "Doomsday for the Deceiver" or "No Place for Disgrace" times and you've charted quite high with the album. So, did you expect such a terrific response?
We've learned not to expect anything, but we were hoping. We really like this album a lot and so far there hasn't been any bad reviews. We're already writing the next one.
Your new guitarist Steve was the main songwriter on the last two albums, along with Mike. They turned out great, but weren't you afraid that by bringing in a totally new young songwriter the sound and style of the band could change too much?
I was a little worried about that at first, but once he started sending me songs my worries were over. He has a very easy to listen to songwriting style and between him and Michael, they get together and they turn out some really good things. So, they gave me I think forty-two songs for the last record and they said, you know, "Dwindle this down to fourteen." Great, thanks, ha-ha! But we have a lot of leftover songs that we're going to rebuild and revamp for the next one and they've already sent me another five, six new songs. So yeah, they like to write. Steve has written for a lot of other people. He's written some Megadeth songs and some Queensryche songs, he's written a lot of stuff. So, he's kind of a professional writer and a great guy to tour with.
You've got kind of a legend in the line-up now; Ken has played with bands like Accept, Fifth Angel, Chastain and even Alice Cooper. So, how did it come about that he joined Flotsam and Jetsam?
Him and Steve have been working together in the studio for a long time producing other people's records and writing songs and stuff and when we needed a drummer he was talking to Ken and just kind of mentioned it to him and Ken made the mistake of saying, "I'd like a little drumming challenge" and Steve said, "Ohh, wrong thing to say", ha-ha! So, we snatched him up and it's been a big challenge for him, but he stepped right up, no problems.
I know you have recorded some of the stuff at Ken's studio, but did you actually work there together as a band or was the album conceived the modern way, with everyone working at their own places?
A little of both. Ken did all the drums and all my vocals at his studio, guitar players did all their stuff at home and then sent it to Ken and he does the editing and all that stuff. So, it was kind of a collaboration of everybody's studios.
The vocal lines on the new album seem to be a little bit more melodic and catchier than before. Did they just turn out this way or were you deliberately trying to bring in more melody?
I think they turned out that way from experience and from listening to other bands for 40 years now. I pick and choose the things I like from other singers and use them in my own style. I think after all the years of making records that's where I'm at now.
You chose "Demolition Man" to shoot a video clip for. Why this particular tune and also are there any Stephen King fans in the band?
There are some, I think we're all Stephen King fans, ha-ha! You know, that song, when we picked that one to be the video, we had a completely different vision of what the video would be. And we handed over to the producer and he came back with this idea that we ended up with. I didn't really get it at first, but it turned out really good. I envisioned, you know, things blowing up and buildings collapsing and he had a completely different vision in mind so, it turned out well.
Do you have any favourite songs on the album?
All of them, ha-ha! OK, "Recover" is one of my favourites, that one has a lot of deep meaning to me and "Survive" is another one that has a lot of meaning to me. You know, with the lyrics, I tried to dump a lot of emotion and a lot of personal experience into them and those two have the most of that.
After 35 years you brought back the lizard on the cover artwork. Why now, why not earlier?
Personally, I've always wanted the lizard to be on the cover, on every record. You know, he's our Flotzilla, he's our guy. But there's one song "Prepare for Chaos", which is all about his life story and once I turned that song in and said, "This is what I want for the cover," the other guys said "OK, I get it." So, we had to have the new lizard on there.
Let's talk pre-history now. When you were releasing your debut album some of the American thrash bands were already on their second or third album. So, how much of an influence were they on Flotsam and Jetsam's direction and style in the beginning?
I try to give some of the bigger bands credit for our style and direction, but you know, I don't actually write the music and my melody lines and my lyrics are kind of defined by what the music sounds like to me. So, you know, if they come up with a style I've never heard of before I have to fly with that and try to write my stuff to that. But you know, all the greats, you know, Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford, they've always had a big influence on me.
After the first two albums you started to experiment a little bit on "When the Storm Comes Down" and the album wasn't received as well as the previous two. So, what caused the departure from the old-school sound?
That particular album was almost all written by Troy Gregory, our bass player at the time. And he was a strange one. We would write one song, he would write five. So, by the time we got to the studio, almost all the good songs were his so we kind of went with it. And he wrote most of the melody lines and lyrics and everything on them. So, that was kind of a weird step for us.
And why did you decide to re-record "No Place for Disgrace"? Couldn't you just re-master it?
It was on Elektra Records when it first came out and Elektra Records has been bought and sold so many times, that when we went to them and said, "We would like our masters so we can remix them," they said, "Flotsam who?" So once we had lawyers look into it and people investigating where our masters were, we found it would be much easier and quicker to just re-record everything.
OK, it's a wrap. You've been recording and touring for some 35 years now. What makes you keep going?
I love doing it. You know, we still once in a while have shows with very few people, when we're headlining in weird areas, but it doesn't matter to me. I love the hour and a half on stage, that's what my whole life is about. Studio recording is my favourite thing ever, but that hour and a half on stage in front of people enjoying your music, it's better than any drug you've ever done. I mean, it's amazing so I'll keep going until I can't, ha-ha!
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel

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Tags: Flotsam and Jetsam, thrash metal, Eric A.K, The End of Chaos
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Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations or corporations without the prior written permission.
© 1997-2020 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.