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Exclusive! Kerby's Interview With Shadows Fall Vocalist Brian Fair

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Tuesday, August 12, 2003 @ 3:37 PM

Shadows Falling and Temperatur

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Shadows Fall is currently touring their summer away as part the second stage of this year’s Ozzfest where they’ve been receiving quite a buzz from both the media and fans alike. When I say “buzz” I’m simply talking about positive words spoken regarding a band going out and the playing the type of music that it loves—I’m NOT referring to any activity that may or may not have taken place in the trailer before this interview. Nope, I don’t recall any discussion of bongs being broken in… hell, even if there was a pipe around, I’m almost positive that it was specifically designed for tobacco use only…. so any smoke-based activity going at that time was most certainly legitimate and on the level. Now, if you ever find yourself backstage at Ozzfest and decide that physical fitness is more of a priority for you than spiritual enlightenment, fifteen feet away from the “cough, cough” tobacco smoke were members of Sworn Enemy pumping iron behind a tour bus in the skin-searing heat of the midday New Mexico sun. Yep, it’s business as usual by the buses at Ozzfest -- where the music is loud and abrasive… and not a girl to be seen anywhere—although that probably had more to do with the Secret Service type security than it did about the popularity of any of the bands.

It becomes evident pretty quickly once encountering the members of Shadows Fall that they aren’t the type of band that complains incessantly about the various prickly aspects of the music business, nor do they appear to possess any primadonna-type sense of entitlement either. When vocalist Brian Fair first held open the door of their tour bus for me, I thought at first that he was just being polite when in reality, the truth probably had more to do with the fact that he seemed to possess just the expertise needed to keep this chicken wire laden apparatus from falling to the sandy ground below. It didn’t get any better once crossing the threshold of this traveling sauna either -- no, hands down it was the messiest bus I’ve ever seen. Clothes were thrown all over the room in the back and a couple of porn boxes were loosely tossed over to the side on a table. If Animal House had taken place on a tour bus instead of at a fraternity, this is what it would have looked like.

While Brian sat happily in front of me amidst this disheveled mess in it’s circulation-deprived atmosphere, he relayed the fact that his joy stems at least in part from the fact that his band, Shadows Fall, has definitely had it worse. Even as dilapidated as this bus most certainly is, it’s still quite a step up from the conversion van they used to tour in—a vehicle which had more miles logged onto it than a groupie at a Warrant show. With such traveling accommodations, stretching your legs out at 3 AM on the way to a venue housing dozens of fans, rather than thousands, just isn’t as possibility. Yet, it’s easy to get a sense that there was no other place they would have rather been on this scorching July day than right here, playing music and hanging out with their buddies from the other groups and that whatever Shadows Fall had to endure to get to this point was well worth it. Now, with their current album entitled The Art of Balance, outselling other higher profile groups on the second stage and with Shadows Fall t-shirts available at Hot Topic, the band has already achieved more fame and accord than they ever thought possible… not bad for a bunch of self-professed metalheads from Massachusetts.

KNAC.COM: I know the beginning of this tour hasn’t marked a really easy transition for the band, and that you were recently in a bus wreck—what’s the story on that?
FAIR: It was… pretty intense. The beginning of this tour wasn’t as smooth as we had hoped it would be. We got on the bus at 8:30 AM on the first day and found out that our bass player, Paul [Romanko], was in the hospital. We were panicking at first wondering what we were going to do. Then, we found out that he was going to be all right, and that he just needed some rest. He was like, “Just go, do the shows, and I’ll meet you there.” We were a man down and just went out and played a couple of really good shows without him. Luckily, the crowds were cool about it and understood the situation. At that point, we were like, “What else could go wrong?” Then, later we’re going about 75 mph down the highway at 8 in the morning, and it felt like we had a flat tire. Then there’s this “boom” and we have a blowout and go hitting into the side of the road. The sound, this screeching noise just comes out of nowhere. I couldn’t even imagine what it was, and no one else even woke up—bunch of drunks didn’t even realize what had happened. I was in a panic, so I ran up and the bus driver who was just shaking. Luckily, he kept us up or we would have flown completely over the guardrail. There ended up being about a hundred foot rut in the road where the axel had drug the highway. We all ended up being alright, but unfortunately, we had to rent a van for the people and a 24 foot truck with a trailer for equipment. Since it was Sunday, it was totally brutal trying to find anything, so we ended up in this big clunker of a truck going through the mountains somewhere, and the trailer popped off the ball so that it was only attached by the chains. It ended up smashing into the back. All this, and it was still only about the third day of the tour. Things have gotten better though, although we did have part of a bridge fall on us recently and smash the windshield of this bus. It’s been an exciting ride to say the least.

KNAC.COM: Are you starting to feel a bit cursed?
FAIR: No, we just always have the black cloud that follows us. [Laughs] We play great shows, but we really pay by having to work for it. Nothing comes easy.

KNAC.COM: What ended up being the situation with Paul?
FAIR: Paul just got sick, and they gave him this medication that he just reacted to way too brutally. It just kind of shocked his whole system and was some serious shit, so he just kind of reacted to that. At that point it was just a matter of resting a couple of days in the hospital. Unfortunately it happened right as we were leaving for tour. Paul’s a tough kid, so he probably just held it off until the last second. It was probably 5 AM that day, and he was probably still saying, “No, I’m going to Ozzfest.” Luckily, he got better and it’s all worked out, and he’s back there in the prison yard working out. We got the workout room going on out there.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, all they’re missing are the orange jumpsuits.
FAIR: Yeah, it keeps us in shape though. Sworn Enemy, Killswitch Engage have all been working out a lot and trying to stay in shape.

KNAC.COM: So you do spend some time working out and don’t spend all of your time in the trailer?
FAIR: No man, actually they were all making fun of me because I was back in the trailer instead of lifting weights -- but c’mon man, it was a brand new bong, and we had to break it in.

KNAC.COM: Hey, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, right? On the cd-rom that comes with the new disc, there is a lot of interview footage discussing how things haven’t always been easy for the band. Even though you may not feel like you’ve gotten as far as you want to go, would you say it’s been worth it?
FAIR: Ah, yeah, man. We’ve already achieved all the goals we ever set for ourselves, so we’ve really surpassed all of where we ever thought we’d be.

KNAC.COM: Really?
FAIR: Yeah, totally. We’re just a small, Massachusetts metal band that grew up in the hardcore scene playing people’s kitchens. That’s what we were used to, so eventually we made a commitment to tour and really try to see what would happen. Later, when we felt like we were writing great songs, we committed a little more to the band, and then this happened. This is all just amazing. A lot of the bands on this tour are the same that way—we all worked hard, and it does kind of show you that if you do commit to what you’re doing and just go out and play and don’t worry about being the next flavor of the next week, that it can pay off. Like Sworn Enemy is one of the toughest touring bands that you’ll ever see, and they did the first part of this tour in a van. Killswitch Engage -- those dudes were in bands with us before we were in Shadows Fall, and we’ve all done tours in like an Escort with a doghouse full of gear. Nothingface is another band that’s just out there working their asses off. It’s great to see people supporting bands that just aren’t major label that are being pushed on the radio every day.

KNAC.COM: I know that Hot Topic is sponsoring the second stage and that they’re selling some of your merchandise in their stores -- have you actually had a chance to go into a mall and see a Shadows Fall T-shirt for sale yet?
FAIR: Actually, I haven’t but they do have them in some stores. It’s pretty cool that it’s happened. I did go to the mall by where I live in Boston the other day because we got some gift certificates, and I was wondering what they had in there. I just thought it was pretty cool that you could go into a mall in say a smaller city, and it could have Clash vinyl or something else that used to be really hard to get. All these Poison The Well CDs and things just couldn’t be found when I was growing up, and here they were at the mall. I think it’s great that kids can go out in an area where there may not be much of a scene and find out about these bands. It’s definitely a cool thing. They definitely support a lot of underground type bands. It’s pretty killer.

KNAC.COM: It’s obvious that the bands on this tour not only like each other but they respect one another’s music as well. Do you find yourself going out into the crowd a lot to watch the other bands?
FAIR: I always hang out in the crowd. I’m used to playing hardcore shows where there’s no separation between band and audience. It’s just all for one. I’ve never experienced the type of autograph signing and stuff like I have on this tour. The kids definitely recognize you, and it’s kind of hard for me to hide with this hair. Basically, I tour to meet new people and see new cities. I’m not one to hang out back in the bus all day—unless it’s to come back and take a quick bong hit. I love checking out the other bands, and I have nothing else to do during the day besides hang out and check out some music every day. The cool thing here is that there are so many bands that you can check out a different show each day. I just pick out like three different groups each day, and I still don’t see the same ones for about a week.

KNAC.COM: Also in the cd-rom, one of you guys said something to the effect of “They lied to us—you don’t get any chicks playing this kind of music.” Like it was a surprise that road life didn’t look like a Motley Crue video. How much truth is there to that?
FAIR: Yeah, Motley Crue and MTV! No, we were just kidding around. People just think that if you have a video on MTV or a shirt at Hot Topic that you’re making money -- but man, this is the least glamorous life possible. It just means being dirty, sweaty and living by the lowest means possible just to get to the next show. It’s cool, but definitely not glamorous. You’ve gotta love it. Being here and doing Ozzfest is bigger than anything we’ve ever done. This is the first tour we’ve done with a tour bus, so for that alone, it’s amazing. Also, to play in front of this many people and actually see girls out in the audience instead of just a bunch of dudes in Morbid Angel shirts out there beating the shit out of each other is kind of a cool thing. Not that we don’t love those dudes coming out, but it’s nice to have some variety.

KNAC.COM: Well, you’ve got variety out there right now.
FAIR: That’s what’s cool about something like the Ozzfest though is that you get to cover every style of heavy and underground music. You’ve got more melodic rock bands, you’ve got thrash bands, you’ve got the kinda the new metal stuff—you’ve got Cradle of Filth. It’s crazy. It covers everything.

KNAC.COM: I was talking to your manager before the interview, and we were talking about how all the second stage bands kind of hang out together, but is Cradle one of them?
FAIR: Yeah, yeah. We’ve been playing a lot of off dates with them too, so we’ve been seeing them a lot.

KNAC.COM: So, they’re just hanging out in regular clothes and stuff, right?
FAIR: Definitely. I give those guys all the props in the world though for withstanding the heat of some of these shows in full leather, long pants and all the makeup—and they even play for 45 minutes which is more than most of the other bands out here. Being in this type of intense heat in that get up is just insane. They still totally hang out, and they’re a great band.

KNAC.COM: On The Art of Balance, there is a lot of aggressive music present on that disc, but there are also some melodic instrumentals present as well. What do you attribute the diversity in your music to?
FAIR: Basically just the ridiculous variety of music everyone in this band brings to the table. Everyone listens to a variety of music, and this disc was written to be a whole album rather than just a collection of songs. We just wanted it to flow, and some of those interludes come between really brutal tracks. It really just gives the album a place where you can breath and gives it some space. We were really conscious of that this time around.

KNAC.COM: This was also the first time the band had a chance to take its time and make this a total collaboration, right?
FAIR: Yeah, the first album was really rushed. We were excited, and I had just joined the band. We just wanted to get it out and let everyone know what we were doing and what we were about. We also didn’t really know how the sound would be, and we really wanted to capture that live feel and make it raw. This time we really wanted to take our time and write a record. It’s cool to have the chance to do that.

KNAC.COM: How hard is it, or would it be for any band playing a style of music that is similar to yours, to achieve any degree of real popularity?
FAIR: It’s not easy because you need to prove it. You really just need to get out there and play. That’s the only way kids will really respond to it. Now with Headbanger’s Ball being back [on MTV2], it really helps. That’s the widest group of people you can reach at once—there may be tens of thousands watching. The thing with touring is, it is something that just steadily grows. The kids see these videos, and if they see you, and you can’t throw it down—forget about it. There’s just so many bands to choose from. Before, the major record label bands were the only ones you could read about, hear or even find, so you had to buy it. Now, with independent records, smaller bands are able to survive, although there isn’t that much of a likelihood of guaranteed platinum success. That’s what I try to tell younger metal bands starting out. They need to wait until they are totally stoked with what they’re doing and find their own style and be totally confident. Then they should just go out and play anywhere and everywhere, but watch your ass because everyone will try to steal all of your money. The music industry is shady.

KNAC.COM: How many people do you come in contact with think that you’re rich?
FAIR: A bunch. I bounced my gas bill right before we left on this tour. I’m broke. I send rent over to an empty room just so I can stay on tour to pay for the rent. It’s cool though as long as you love playing music. If I can survive, that’s great. It took us a long time to be able to be able to even to that, but it’s worth it. None of us have health insurance, and half the band has their stuff in their parent’s house in the basement. You just have to go out there and do it because you love it. It definitely isn’t a money thing. Sure, you always hope that maybe things could turn around and we could sell a lot of records next year, and if we did, that would be great, but we aren’t a band that’s going to go out looking for a hit single or an easy way out. We’re just gonna keep working and doing what we do for whoever wants to listen—it’s what we love.

(Photos by Sefany Jones/KNAC.COM)

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