Josh Schwartz is the guitarist for the Washington D.C. based rock/metal band A Sound of Thunder. Media Mikes recently had a chance to talk with Josh about the band’s new album titled “Out of the Darkness”.
Adam Lawton: How would you describe the new album?
Josh Schwartz: I consider “Out of the Darkness” a “classic heavy metal” album, but not in the way the term is being thrown around in the metal scene these days, which usually refers to NWOBHM style bands. When I think “classic metal”, I think of the days when metal was not so separate from mainstream rock ‘n’ roll, when bands like Black Sabbath and Yes could tour together, and you could put something heavy and evil on the same album with a ballad or a classical guitar piece, and not be considered a sellout. Nobody questions that “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath or “Killers” by Iron Maiden are classic metal albums, even though “Planet Caravan” and “Prodigal Son” aren’t really metal songs at all. It seems like it’s harder to get away with doing melodic music in metal these days, unless you’re a prog-metal band or have operatic vocals. I don’t consider us a prog-metal band; I consider us a classic heavy metal band with some minimal elements of prog-rock (not prog-metal) thrown in. We definitely aren’t an operatic band though Nina is belting it out like Dio or Bruce Dickinson.
AL: What is the band’s writing process like?
JS: Generally I will write all of the music, either during rehearsal jams or on my own. We arrange songs as a group and either Nina or Chris will write the lyrics. Everyone in the band does write music to some degree. Jesse wrote the bridge to “The Day I Die”. “The Night Witch” started with a vocal melody written by Nina and Chris wrote the vocal melody for “This Too Shall Pass”. Nina will often throw a simple idea at me that I can use as a starting point for the music. For “Calat Alhambra”, she asked me to write something in a Spanish/Flamenco style. For “Kill That Bitch” she asked me to write something in the style of Accept (not sure I succeeded there or not!).
AL: Did you take any different approaches to recording this time around?
JS: Yes! Our debut EP “A Sound of Thunder” and first full length album “Metal Renaissance” were both recorded on analog tape, mostly without a click track, and with minimal overdubs and vocal harmonies. They were both self-produced. For “Out of the Darkness” we worked with a producer for the first time. Kevin “131” Gutierrez (Shinedown) produced the album and recorded everything in ProTools. While we did sacrifice the vintage analog sound a bit, this allowed us to get a much more powerful, crisp sounding record. It also made it much easier to add more vocal harmonies, keyboards, effects, etc. Recording digitally is just much faster and cheaper which is obviously a consideration. Some day we may go back and do an all vintage analog sounding album similar to the “Ghost” record.
AL: Is there a track off the albums that you are most looking forward to playing live?
JS: We are excited to add “Discovery” to our set. “Discovery” is a bit of an epic, at almost nine minutes. The song features keys, a string quartet, and lots of guitar and vocal harmonies. It’s been a challenge arranging it so that we can pull it off live as a power trio, but I think we’ve done it. Our drummer Chris switches to acoustic guitar for part of the song, which has been a great live moment for the crowd thus far. We’ve also added some extended guitar, vocal and piano improv with our bassist Jesse switching to piano for a bit. We play a lot of our heavier stuff live but “Discovery” will be more of a nod to classic rock with its extended length and improv sections.
AL: What are your tour plans for this year?
JS: We’ll be going out on our most extensive tour yet in May. It’ll be 12 dates in a row, ranging from Washington, DC to St. Paul, MN, Aside from that we always like to keep busy playing at least 2-3 shows each month closer to home. We may look into another small tour of the south or the north-east later in the year. We’ll be recording a new album over the summer so that probably won’t happen before the fall.