Interview with Brian Griffin
Enslain: What are you currently working on?
Griffin: We're working on the new Em Sinfonia record, my side band. The first one came out last Spring, just for mail order and stuff, it was just a four song EP, but we have a bunch of new songs that we've written, so we're starting to lay down the music now, and auditioning a couple different singers starting tomorrow. Our other singer didn't work out, she lives too far away and didn't really want to move here and, you know, put any time into the band, so we pretty much decided that we had to move on and find somebody else that could come to rehearsal, and do all the recordings and stuff.
Enslain: When do you think that album will be out?
Griffin: Hopefully by the end of Summer, provided we find a decent singer, who can come in and do the stuff that we've already written.
Enslain: Is everything already written?
Griffin: Most of the music is, we're doing like the pre-production now, just pretty much laying down the tracks to see what it sounds like so we have time to write lyrics too and stuff like that.
Enslain: How does it compare to the last one?
Griffin: The last one is pretty slow, we kinda went overboard on being slow, and the songs are really long, we have like a 9-minute song on there, so we pretty much compacted all the writing into shorter songs, and a lot of the stuff is a little bit more up-tempo this time around.
Enslain: What else do you have coming up, any tour plans or anything?
Griffin: No, not really, we just did a tour with Broken Hope this past fall... It was one of those tours that wasn't put together too well, the booking agent that put it together was brand new at it, and he kinda screwed up a lot of the routing, and we ended up missing some of the cities... Actually we had drummer problems as well, the drummer that we took on tour didn't really work out too well, so now we're still looking for a drummer... And Joe backed out like two days before the tour started, so we had to get someone to fill in for him. Luckily, the guy we got to fill in for him knew all of our lyrics already, and he's a pretty good singer, so it wasn't too much of a problem. But once we got back from the tour, Joe decided that he still wanted to continue with the band, he just couldn't do the tour at that time because he had too many things going on.
Enslain: But you don't see that as being a problem for future tours?
Griffin: We'll, definitely we'll have to make sure that, he says it's not going to be a problem next time around, but we're definitely going to have to watch him more closely. We should have saw it coming this past time, because he wasn't coming to rehearsals, and we should've pretty much figured that he wouldn't have been ready. He made up a lot of excuses, you know, as far as him not being ready, and not getting enough practice time, and stuff like that. I don't know, we practiced every day for almost four weeks, so, obviously other things were more important to him. But he's kinda changed, so, we're hoping that this time around everything works out much better.
Enslain: Do you prefer touring or recording?
Griffin: I have a lot of fun touring if it's a good tour, this last tour we did with Malevolent Creation was put together so poorly, that it was just basically a pain in the ass at the end of every day, the booking agent didn't send out any contracts, so every day we showed up at a show it was, you know, getting screwed over constantly, and not making enough money to keep yourself on the road. We actually had to cancel the trip early because we didn't even have gas money, and we just had to come home. Malevolent Creation quit half way through the tour because they weren't making enough money to stay on the road, so when we played Tampa, they just stayed in Florida, so we just stayed in Florida, and we had to finish up the rest of the tour by ourselves. Internal Bleeding was supposed to be on the tour, they couldn't get any money to do it, so they had to drop off the tour before it started. Other tours I've done with bands like Deicide and Six Feet Under have always been great, not a problem, everything went off without a hitch, I did sound on the last US Death tour last year, and that tour was picture perfect. Some of them are good, and some of them are bad, it all depends on how big your band is. The smaller death metal bands pretty much get screwed over. That's why you really don't see much of them out on the road, 'cause none of them can afford it, they don't make any money on their record sales, they go to play a show half way across the country for a hundred dollars and don't have enough gas money to get home. It's not easy. Once the scene got flooded with all these bands, everybody was willing to play for a hundred dollars, they got all their local bands to do shows and make money, but now to get like a national act out on the road and be able to make enough money to keep them out there, it's pretty tough to do it, nobody wants to do it.
Enslain: Will Em Sinfonia be touring?
Griffin: Probably not, I mean, it's pretty much up in the air still, off of the EP we got a pretty good response, but as far as, we had 8 people in the band at the time, so putting on a show like that is kind of expensive, and that kind of style isn't really that popular here in Chicago, so even playing local shows would've been kind of a pain, plus with having two of the members living so far away, we didn't really rehearse at all. But now it's looking like everybody's going to be living in this area now, the violin player moved here back in September, so everybody will be in this area provided we can find a singer that's from this area. Then we can do more rehearsing and then decide on whether or not we can do some shows, we've just never really been offered any. We're hoping that when the album comes out people will get a hold of it a lot easier than the EP which was just strictly through mail order.
Enslain: Any other line-up changes?
Griffin: Actually it's almost all the same people, except the female singer. We're not so sure about whether Paul from Novembers Doom is going to have enough time to do it, because Novembers Doom is doing another record in March, so we're not sure if he's going to be able to do this. He wants to, but, you know, we'll see what happens when the music's done. Same thing with Mary, she's also in Novembers Doom, we're not sure if she's going to be doing it again. Because when we first started it was just a side thing that we all did for fun, and the rest of us wanted to pretty much make it a full time thing, and with Novembers Doom being a full time thing for them too, they don't really have much time for rehearsing, but they want to do the recording, so... I guess we're just going to have to see what happens.
Enslain: Which project do you enjoy doing more?
Griffin: When it comes to Broken Hope, I pretty much do all of it, so it's a little bit less enjoyable than Em Sinfonia, because Em Sinfonia, I have a bunch of different people writing, but the past two Broken Hope records I've written most of the material, I pretty much played all the guitars in the studio. Basically when Broken Hope goes into the studio it's just me and the singer Joe and whoever's playing drums. This time around we had different bass players, I played most of the bass on the album too... So it's been getting kind of stressful. Plus, you know, there's a lot of death metal bands out there nowadays so it's hard to be different from everybody else, where with the Em Sinfonia thing we can pretty much do whatever we want, and it just helps having a lot of different people helping me write the songs. I'd have to say that Em Sinfonia at this point is more enjoyable, less stressful.
Enslain: What advances do you think have been made in death metal in the last decade?
Griffin: I would have to say that the musicians have gotten a lot better, back when death metal first started it wasn't very much like flashy guitar work and, you know, super drumming, it was just basically heavy stuff, but now over the years, a lot of the musicians in the bands have stepped up their playing a lot. And there's a lot more different styles now. Then again, the market has been kind of flooded with a lot of bands too, so... It's kind of hard to differentiate between, you know, all of the different bands back in the day, there was like certain bands where if you wanted to listen to a certain style of death metal you would listen to that band because they were the best at it, but nowadays there's so many different bands to pick from.
Enslain: Do you see this as a problem?
Griffin: It can be, I guess, I mean, a lot of bands are ripping off other bands, I mean, you can pretty much pick up a CD of one band, and say that they sound like somebody else. I mean, when we first started everybody said we sounded like Cannibal Corpse, and I'm sure a lot of people still do. But there's always those bands that were there in the beginning that you're going to be compared to. But nowadays, I mean, you can't go anywhere without, like when we did the tour, every city that we played in, we had like four or five local bands on the bill. But when we first started touring it was more like just one local band, but now there's so many bands in every city that are doing death metal, it's pretty flooded.
Enslain: What do you think the solution is to that? I mean there's not really that many different sounds you can come up with.
Griffin: A solution? To too many bands? I don't know! Some bands just do it better than others I guess. It's so much easier to get a record deal now than it was back when death metal first started, I mean practically everybody's getting signed these days because a lot of bands are accepting, you know, no contract, just you record your music and we'll put it in stores for you, and the bands get nothing out of it, and a lot of bands are willing to do that. So you get a lot of new upstart record labels that sign bands for a thousand dollars and sell CDs for the band. And it's so much easier to go out and find a death metal record nowadays.
Enslain: So do you think that makes it harder for bands to actually get further?
Griffin: It makes it hard for bands to make money and sometimes when bands aren't making money they don't stick around very long. Because if there's too many bands playing the same style of music, it's a lot harder for the other bands to get tours. I mean there's so many death metal bands but you don't really see many of them on tour, you pretty much see all of them playing their local shows. But still you can find their CDs everywhere.
Enslain: What bands do you particularly listen to?
Griffin: Lately I've been getting into a lot of stuff other than death metal. My favorite band is Theatre of Tragedy. I like them, I like Lacuna Coil, I mean, being a recording engineer I pretty much listen to all styles of music. As far as death metal goes, I still like the old stuff like Morbid Angel and Deicide... As far as new death metal bands, I really don't listen to too many of them, to be honest with you.
Enslain: Who do you have coming into your studio?
Griffin: Fleshgrind wants to come in soon, I think they're still working on their budget with Pavement, and like I said Novembers Doom, I'm going to be doing that album in March for them. I have a local band called Spirit Web, just a local metal project that I've been working on here and there, they're looking for a singer so we recorded all the music, and once they find a singer we're going to finish that up. Not much else is really planned, I was going to do the new Hate Plow record, but I think they're having problems writing some of the songs, so that's kind of on hold right now. That's about it, all that I have planned for this Spring so far.
Enslain: Do you record stuff that's not metal in your studio?
Griffin: Hmm... not really, no! (laughs)
Enslain: But would you?
Griffin: Would I? Yeah, definitely. I'm up for anything. Most of the non-metal projects pretty much go with the bigger studios, I just have my own studio in my back yard that I run, I don't really work out of some huge professional studio that charges a lot of money, where most, like, pop bands and stuff like that, they go to the bigger studios because they can afford it.
Enslain: Do you have intentions of upping your studio?
Griffin: Yeah, someday. Once I decide that I need to get out of touring and get out of trying to write music... I mean I'm always going to write music, but being a part of a band, and then working full time at a studio where you have to pay a lot of money to have really good equipment, you pretty much have to be in that studio seven days a week just to pay your loan payments, but right now I pretty much enjoy being able to be in two bands and not have to work all the time to pay my bills. But some day, yeah, I mean as I get older, I'm going to want to just go professionally into just recording, and that's it. There's just not enough time to have a big studio and be in a band at the same time unless you're rich or on a big record label that's supporting you.
Enslain: What new sounds have you explored on the new Broken Hope album?
Griffin: New sounds? Nothing is really new, other than the new musicians that we had, I mean the drumming is a lot different on the new Broken Hope, a lot more talented than in the past. The drummer we had, Larry, who also drums for Em Sinfonia, does a lot better cymbol work, and he's a more consistent drummer. As far as the overall sounds of the instruments and stuff like that, nothing's really new, I mean the production has gotten a little bit better, and everybody's playing has gotten a little bit better, but our songs are basically the same style of death metal, nothing too fast and nothing too slow.
Enslain: How did you get your start with music?
Griffin: I just got into it when I was in high school, I got into music a lot, and I decided when I graduated that if I wasn't going to make it in a band, I was going to go to school, learn how to be a recording engineer, so I could always be in music. So I did both to see which one worked out. I always wanted to have something like the recording thing to fall back on, because it's really hard to make it in a band. I mean, you can get somewhere in a band, but it's really hard to support yourself by being in a band. And I figured if I was going to have a job, I wanted it to be related to music.
Enslain: How do you think the name Broken Hope symbolizes the music?
Griffin: Actually, I have no idea, I never understood the name myself! (Laughs) Jeremy, the other guitarist, he wrote a poem in high school, and the poem was entitled Broken Hope, and I guess when him and Joe started the band, they had a different name for the band, called Crypt or something like that, and they thought it was too cliché for death metal, and they both liked the name Broken Hope, and they decided to use it. I didn't join the band until 1990, and they started the band I think in like '88. It's not your typical death metal band name, that's for sure.
Enslain: What are your feelings on the current state of metal, both in this country and elsewhere?
Griffin: I think metal's coming back in this country, it kind of went down with the alternative music and the hip hop and stuff like that, and now bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn are kind of taking away from true metal, but I think it's coming back, not like in Euorpe, where in Europe, metal is king and it always has been, but I think it's on an upward swing right now, hopefully it gets better. You don't see too many metal tours going through the states like you used to, back in the 80's. Back in the 80's you could go to a huge collesium or a stadium and see a metal show, all the time. Now you pretty much have to wait for something like Ozzfest to come around to see a big metal show.
Enslain: Don't you think it's a lot more personalized playing smaller clubs closer to the people?
Griffin: Yeah, and it's a lot less expensive to do that too, I mean putting on those big shows costs a lot of money and the only way it really flies is if you have multiple bands doing it. Back in the day you could put two or three bands on the road and still play big colliseums and stuff, now you gotta have those big festivals going on to have a decent sized show with a decent amount of people. I much rather like to go to club and theatre shows myself, you actually, you know, you can see the band. And a lot of times you get the opportunity to meet them if you want to. I like it the way it is, you can actually get to hang out with people and see the bands, instead of sitting way in the back and paying $20 for a ticket for three bands.
Enslain: Do you have any intentions of playing any of the metalfests?
Griffin: Actually we were supposed to play last year, but we got screwed out of it, we were told we were supposed to book like nine months in advance for Milwaukee Metalfest, and we were a little bit under that so we didn't get on the show. Nowadays, I mean a lot of the bands are paying a thousand dollars just to play the show. I don't like it, because I went there this year to Milwaukee to see a lot of bands and I ended up getting screwed because some of the bands I wanted to see were playing at the same times as some of the other bands I wanted to see. So you pretty much have to pick who you want to see. If we were to play metalfest against somebody like Morbid Angel or something it's obvious that everybody's going to go watch Morbid Angel, and you're going to get screwed out of your crowd. Back when Metalfest first started there were only two stages, and now it's like four stages, and it's really hard to get to see all the bands you want to see. I just think there's too many bands. Nothing runs on schedule. It's just way too spread out, I mean it takes you ten minutes just to get to one show after you've seen another one, walking through all the vendors and all that kind of stuff. I heard about the New Jersey one, where it was freezing cold, and the sound was really bad. That's another big problem with metslafests, the sound is never taken care of. And they put you on stage for twenty minutes, what are you going to do in twenty minutes? And then they put a lot of bands on a big stage, where the band doesn't really belong on the big stage, and then when you go to watch the band, it sounds like shit, because there's nobody in the crowd to suck up the sound. It's all politics nowadays, a lot of bands pay money to get good time slots.
Enslain: Have you played any European fests?
Griffin: No, I've never even been to Europe. I was going to go to Dynamo this year, but it didn't work out, I had to work. But I'm hoping to get over there soon, I'm hoping that some day Em Sinfonia will get over there.
Enslain: You don't think Broken Hope will?
Griffin: We've been trying, but nobody seems to want to bring us over there. I don't know why! Trying for years... Maybe some day, I don't know.
Enslain: Any last comments?
Griffin: I just hope that people can locate the Broken Hope album, and that everyone who buys it enjoys it. And look for a new Em Sinfonia record by the end of Summer.
-- Lady Enslain