by Franco Cerchiari
In the world of music, there is one universal fact – keep your fans wanting to hear more. While certainly touring and public appearances can keep rabid fans at bay until the next release, in the world of rock and metal, – keep the music coming. In response to this, Connecticut’s own rockers Fools Faith will soon release the follow up to the sensational Undone, with Sinister F.
Hardrockhaven.net staff writer Franco Cerchiari recently had the opportunity to speak with his friend, Fools Faith drummer Marc Chandler and what it took to make Sinister F a reality, as well as what the band has been doing since Undone and his take on the music world around us.
Always outspoken, never hesitant to speak his mind but genuinely a decent guy, Marc has always been known to speak candidly with Hardrockhaven, and the resulting interview is no exception.
HRH: Thank you Marc for taking time in speaking with us here at Hardrockhaven.net. Let’s begin by asking, what has been going on in the Fools Faith camp since the release of Undone? And what can we expect to see coming from the band?
Marc: Well after releasing Undone not much of anything was going on until shortly after the last time we spoke. In April of 2009 everything changed as we won a global contest sponsored by digital music provider Airplay Direct that kept us quite busy throughout the remainder of ’09 well into 2010. We literally played non-stop beginning in May straight into late winter where we subsequently began the recording process for the next album. As things stand at the moment we’re somewhat on a hiatus until the next album is complete. We’ll occasionally do a random show but we’re not actively seeking anything until it’s done and wrapped.
HRH: With the new CD, any variations from what we heard on Undone? Undone was an incredible mix of metal with some cool, almost progressive keyboards, so will there be any change in the sound, vibe or feel with the new CD?
Marc: Absolutely there will be a number of changes especially our overall sound. What most people are not aware of is the fact that on Undone close to 95% of the lead guitar work was from our former guitarist Bill DiNapoli while John really just dropped bits and pieces in to spice up the overall tracks. (Bill left the band shortly after the final tracks were recorded but just short of mixing and mastering) Once John came aboard full time we listened back and decided it was too time consuming to re-record all the leads so we just dropped some of Johns flavor in here and there which in reality brought so much more out of each song. Going into this new album there was a change not only in our sound but in our vibe, feel and emotion.
HRH: Tell us about the songs on the new CD. Any tracks come to mind that you think will immediately connect with your fans? As you know, music is the most sincere form of expression on the planet. From a band’s music we, as the listener should be able to feel the same anger, hate and passion that the songwriter felt as he was writing the song. Any tracks on your new release do just that?
Marc: Trying to gauge what will connect with people is a difficult as picking the winning lotto numbers. We just write from the heart and hope that each song strikes a chord where the listener can relate in some way to an experience of their own or have an understanding of what the song is trying to convey. There are certainly times where we’ll go “this is the part where people will just go nuts” but in all honesty our songs are not written for the listeners reaction or for that matter their benefit. We write what we feel and hope for the best.
HRH: There have been a few what I consider to be true “masterpiece” releases thus far in the world of music. To name just a few, Stevie Wonder’s 1976 Songs in the Key of Life, Pink Floyd’s 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s 1970 Led Zeppelin III. What do you think goes into the recording of a masterpiece, such as one released by The Beatles, Cream, or Queen? Or do you think it makes a difference that bands like those mentioned have a “leg up,” because music was their full time job?
Marc: Well the best example I could give of a masterpiece album would be Guns and Roses Appetite for Destruction. In my opinion that album is the definition of a “masterpiece” simply because every single song stands on its own and there’s not a bad apple in the bunch. AFD was the right album, at the right time handled perfectly by their label. Situations like that are few and far between evidenced by the fact that it’s been 23 years since we’ve seen anything like it in music. Think about it, “Welcome to the Jungle“, “It’s So Easy,” “Nightrain,” “Out ta Get Me,” “Mr. Brownstone,” “Paradise City,” “My Michelle,” “Think About You,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” “You’re Crazy,” “Anything Goes” and “Rocket Queen” all on the same album!! That’s like a greatest hits release yet all these great songs are on a debut album no less.
Other examples would be:
- Pink Floyd The Wall
- Kiss Alive
- Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime
- Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet
- Metallica Master of Puppets
- Megadeth Peace Sells…
- Nirvana Nevermind and even Dave Matthew Under the Table and Dreaming are all great examples as well.
I don’t believe any of these bands had a set formula to record a masterpiece, they just went into the studio and began cranking out what they believed would be another album yet the stars aligned and presto, magic was created. I certainly do not believe any band because they play music for a living has an advantage over a band that doesn’t. A pro band can record a hundred albums and still never create that “masterpiece” yet any band in any garage or basement right now could be in process of doing just that.
HRH: Having asked that, allow me to ask this – when one hears of Fools Faith’s influences, (many of whom have recorded amazing releases) and those influences which can be heard on Undone, does it make you, as a fan of those influences, want to work harder on making the next release even better than the one before? And does that love for your influences drive you to bring the level of playing to new heights?
Marc: It really isn’t a conscious decision. We just create music no differently than they did and hope it’s accepted in the same regard. I think every musician shows their influences in different ways yet the toughest thing to do is to balance that with originality to a point where the influence doesn’t outshine the originality.
HRH: As a drummer myself, I know of the rhythm the drums can generate to drive a track forward. Or, conversely, drag a track down. As the band’s drummer, what motivates you to drive that track forward? Is it a style? A feeling that the track gives off? Or is it some particular tracks “grab” you and make you want to push that track further and further ahead?
Marc: What and how I play is in direct relation to the mood and feel of the song. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain songs I get caught up in and push the tempo perhaps a wee bit more for what the song would dictate but eventually I’m brought back down to earth and hopefully lock back into a more respectable feel and groove.
HRH: To be sure, Undone was proof solid that Fools Faith is a true metal band – when was it that the members of the band came together and said collectively as a group, “we want to be a metal band.” At any time, was there a chance that the band would go toward another genre?
Marc: Well the one thing I’ve never heard us being defined as is a “metal band” but I can understand how at times we can be confused with one. We never sat down and tried to define what type of band we would be because we simply got together to do what we love to do. As far as switching genres is concerned to this day I personally couldn’t define exactly what genre we fit into to begin with so I can’t imagine that’s a conversation we’d ever need to have. We are who we are however if you put a gun to my head and asked me what genre of music we fit into the only answer I could give would be we’re a Rock band with the ability to sound like whatever we choose.
HRH: Tell us about the songwriting for the new CD, Marc. Who was involved in it? Did each band member have the opportunity to give their ideas for certain tracks? Or like in some bands, there is one principal songwriter, and each member using/playing the music already presented to him/her.
Marc: The creative process for this CD was no different than any other we’ve done. We all had a hand in the writing process once the initial melody was established. To be fair Joe, Andy or John would create the basis for the song and it would flow from there. I do not think in the years we’ve been together I have contributed an ounce of the initial melody or riff to any song we’ve written but I’ll certainly put my stamp on it once the ball starts rolling. Where the lyrics are concerned that responsibility usually starts and ends with Joe however there have been times where we’ve offered different lyrical ideas that worked better.
HRH: John Bonham, Bobby Rondinelli, Randy Castillo, Cozy Powell, Carmine Appice, Carl Palmer, Eric Singer and Ginger Baker to name just a few, but what happened to the thundering drum solos of yesteryear? Who today inspires you? Any one drummer that stands out?
Marc: As a drummer I can appreciate a solo however anything longer than say 3 minutes becomes nothing more than musical masturbation. There are certain drummers that can pull off longer solos simply because they are drumming monsters but for the most part it becomes boring rather quickly. If you’ve ever noticed, the “solo’ sections during any concert is when people head to the bar for a refill or the bathroom to drain for the pending refill! I’m usually much more impressed with drumming within the context of a song rather than soloing and sometimes the best drumming is the most simplistic. Personally I’m just not into the whole look at me type of playing and truth be told in my entire professional drumming career I’ve played 1 solo and that was over 23 years ago!
My inspirations start and end with John Bonham & Buddy Rich for a number of different reasons however I’m never above plagiarizing others to suit my needs. (LOL…..)
HRH: Illegal downloading – without question the most supreme form of stealing from an artist. What can be done? Or is something that has come with the times? What changes do you see happening to make music more accessible to the fans? Or is there a time coming that you as a musician say, “Well at least our music is being heard.”
Marc: *Sigh* – THIS subject has always been a sore spot with me yet the reality is that as long as the internet exists the ability to fully protect ones music has expired. Technology being what it is dictates that artists have to become more creative in distributing their music and maximizing that opportunity to collect on their creations. Conversely with the creation of the internet the ability for others to access your music in an instant is endless. The internet has made it possible for artists to have their music heard worldwide where just a few short years ago it would have taken years or been downright impossible for a band to get its music heard outside of their local area. The internet & (legal) downloading in general is without question the best way for an artist to be heard and in some if not most cases found now. Years ago it was fanzines and countless dollars in mailings of demos to create your own exposure whereas now one uploads their creations and bam, everyone has the opportunity for discovery.
HRH: Let’s get back to your new CD. “Change of Direction,” was a haunting almost brooding track with some incredible acoustic guitars. Tell us the story of that track.
Marc: It’s a relationship song pure and simple. I normally hate to describe what a song is about or what it stands for as I like to leave it all out there for interpretation. I think the minute you put the true meaning of a song out there all ability to make it your own is gone. No 2 people read into something the same yet the story and meaning within this song is fairly easy to decipher.
HRH: How do you mix your love for music for the fact that “life happens.” And despite knowing the mortgage has to be paid, kids attended to and professions made a priority, is there ever a time when you look around and say, “Why can’t we be the next Led Zeppelin,” or have the one break out release that will make music my full time job.
Marc: I don’t believe there’s an artist out there that doesn’t ask themselves that exact question yet it also takes a supreme amount of dedication to make the balance between life and ones dreams work. One of the greatest assets an artist can have is the support of our loved ones. They are the reason we’re able to continue to chase our dreams.
HRH: If it does to the inevitable conclusion that your band will only become your one passionate “hobby, “does that ever get you down?
Marc: Honestly, no it doesn’t. I simply love to play and more so to play for an audience. The reality I face all the time is that at my age my drumming has to become secondary or a “hobby” if you will because I have those responsibilities as we all do. Until I make a living playing music it is technically a hobby although my passion for it hasn’t changed nor will it.
HRH: How will you decide what tracks from this new release and previous releases will make it on to your concert play list.
Marc: We change our set list every time we play so that’s a difficult question to answer. What I can say is that there will be more stuff from the new album in there and maybe a fewer older more obscure songs. The fact is that we’ve beaten some of the songs from Undone into the ground live and the likely hood of them remaining as “regulars” is slim at best. I’d love to go back into our older catalog of songs and maybe pull a few from there as well as perhaps making changes to others to use as we need.
HRH: Who in Fools Faith gathered everyone together and said, “Ok guys, it’s time to make a new CD.” Who started that conversation, and how did that originally go over?
Mar: We never have had that conversation as we’ve been cycling as a band since day 1. It’s been write, record, gig right from the start. As far back as 1995 when Joe, Andy and I started playing together it’s been that way. Since then we’ve released more than just “Undone” together so at this point it’s more of a natural progression than a planned action.
HRH: Two things people realize when seeing a band in concert – first, the band wants to play, and be at the venue and second, the band wants the fans to have a good time and be part of the musical experience. So let me ask this – is giving the fans the concert of their lives the same as a store clerk giving the best they can in customer service?
Marc: First and foremost the band has to be enjoying what they’re doing because the fans can instantly sense if the band even wants to be there. If the band is enjoying what they’re doing the fans will follow. There are always going to be people who simply will never be satisfied no matter what you do but if that’s what you concentrate on it detracts from the ones who love every minute of what you’re doing.
HRH: 30 years from now you are telling your grandkids about Fools Faith – what are you going to tell them?
Marc: Providing I live so long I would tell them that their Grandfather was blessed with a talent that provided him the opportunity to touch other people’s lives and affect their emotions. How that talent afforded me the opportunity to meet great people from all walks of life that I may not have met otherwise and most importantly it gave me the opportunity to make people smile and enjoy themselves.
HRH: What to you about music is important? And do you think we are losing sight on what music is today?
Mar: What is important to me about music is everything that is wrong with music and the business in general today. (Drags out the soapbox…)
The “sight” of what music is today is a tragedy. What passes as “popular” music today is frightening because it’s not “music” anymore. It’s repetitive melody wrapped around programmed beats with heavily altered or “fixed” vocals that is making stars out of less than deserving performers and more often than not these “stars” are having material handed to them rather than creating it themselves. Pre-fab entertainment is what seems to excite the general populace and that is a frightening realization for those of us who have paid our dues. There are so many talented bands and performers out there that we’ll never know of or hear from. Every major market has that radio station that plays the same 12 songs in rotation for weeks on end yet there are millions of songs written every day. Songs we’ll never hear because that band or performer isn’t “marketable” enough to generate what the record companies only seem to concentrate on anymore, profit margins. Whatever will sell is all that matters yet look at bands from years past that had they been judged on their first album they never would have had an opportunity for a 2nd. Had they been judged solely on their appearance would they have even been given a shot at making it? The music business is no longer about the music and hasn’t been for a long time, then again they don’t call it the music business or the business of music for nothing.
HRH: If you had no financial limitations, the finest in audio engineering available and absolutely no time constraints, what musically would you create within the confines of Fools Faith that would set the bar by which all other metal bands would be judged? What about what you are doing now would be any different than what you have done in the past? Undone was a fantastic release, but any changes you would have made to it? Or how about with future releases?
Marc: To a certain extent we are already in a place with no time constraints because having our own studio affords us whatever time we need to create what we do. To set the bar, so to speak, is subjective at best. The minute you believe you’ve set some sort of bar you find that someone else set it better before you. I can’t think of anything we would or could have done differently because where we were prior is why we are where we are today. Timing is everything and considering one cannot control time things have a way of playing themselves out regardless. Either you’re destined for greatness or you’re not. As long as you enjoy or enjoyed the ride the decisions you’ve made were the right ones.
HRH: Music in schools – it seems more and more school’s choirs and bands are being cut from a child’s curriculum. Do you think that we are creating a world where a child is not being taught the joy of sound and music and gaining a love for gathering within a group and feeling what it is that music can bring? Tell us Marc, how will that (if at all) change a child’s perspective on the world around him or her?
Marc: The Arts have traditionally been the sacrificial lamb when cuts need to be made in the education system and speaking from first-hand experience it’s something that will continue regardless. From the day I entered school until I graduated I was a part of the music program in each school I attended and the one common thread throughout were the constant cuts made which cost each program greatly. Music programs will always have to a large degree be self-sufficient because the schools would rather invest their money into a losing football program than a winning music program. My junior year of high school our football team was horrible yet they were afforded whatever they needed meanwhile our marching band covered every one of our own expenses and went on to win the state championship in our class while the football team won a total of 1 game the entire season. Education politics as usual!
HRH: Having been your friend for as long as I have, I can say that from hearing your music, reading your blog and listening to your words, one thing is certain -“Fools Faith is indeed about the music.” Anything you would add to that?
Marc: Nope, that about sums it up in a nutshell.
HR: True or false – to be a good musician you need to listen to yourself as if you were hearing it through the ears of your fans?
Marc: FALSE! To be a good “musician’ you need to practice your ass off and be willing to sacrifice almost everything for your craft. The worst trap any musician can fall into is writing music to please their fans because of the fact that no matter what you write someone inevitably will not like it. Taste is one of the most subjective arguments and no 2 person’s tastes are the same so to not write for yourself first is the biggest mistake a musician can make.
HRH: From every sentiment, whether it is from first kiss to divorce, rock and metal have always found a way to express life’s best and worst. How do you as a songwriter convey what you may be feeling?
Marc: We simply write from the heart and go from there.
HRH: Given a choice which would you rather play the most colossal of stadiums or the smallest of venues? In which one do you think you would feel the most comfortable?
Marc – Given a choice, a smaller yet not the smallest of venues is the way to go however the stadium shows are clear indications you’ve made it. The stadium and large venue gigs lack that feeling of intimacy where the crowd is up against the stage right in your face. As a performer, at least it’s this way for me, you can feed off the direct energy of that closeness yet feeding from 15,000 to 100,000 people isn’t bad either!! (Or so I’ve heard)
HRH: How will you work with promoters to get Fools Faith music out to the public? And as time wears on do you think that there will be a difference in how promoters work with the artists? How about how the labels work with the artist?
Marc: I’m willing to work with in every way any promoter who is willing to work with our best interests in mind. We’re not doing what we do for anyone’s benefit or happiness but our own to start so as a promoter if you’re more concerned with making a venue owner or manager happier than we are no thanks. In theory a good promoter should need no prompting or direction, they know from the beginning what needs to be done and gets on it. I shouldn’t have to tell a promoter what to do; they should be telling me what needs to be done to help them reach our mutual ultimate goal.
HRH: Do I think there will be a change in how promoters work with artists? No, nothing will or should change in promoting as the definition of promotion hasn’t changed in years. What has changed is the quality of the promoter.
Marc: As to how labels will work with artists is an oxymoron because the larger labels usually dictate as opposed to “working with” their artists. When a band reaches a status where a “major” label is involved they’re no longer in control of their own destiny or in some cases final decisions. The “indie” labels usually are willing to work with their artists because when the artist benefits so does the label as opposed to the majors who always benefit before the artist and rightfully so. They are the ones who finance the recordings, tours, promotion, etc but it also places the band into a “slave” type atmosphere where they’re beholden to the label and their whims because of that debt alone.
HRH: Which would you rather – produce a CD by yourself, or have the name of a huge label behind you?
Marc: Well because we already produce our own albums a huge label behind us could only be a benefit provided we capitalize on what that label can do for us. The financial benefits of a large label certainly change a lot of things however if the product is lacking the label benefits are useless and in the long run can cost a band dearly.
HRH: 2010 was a horrible year for metal with the deaths of Avenged Sevenfold drummer Jimmy Sullivan, Slipknot bassist Paul Grey, Gotthard vocalist Steve Lee, Type O Negative front man Pete Steele and of course the passing of the true voice of metal, the master, Ronnie James Dio. Any words of memoriam you would like to share?
Marc: Yea, 2010 has been a shitty years for musicians and yet what cannot be forgotten is the fact that 2 of those deaths were to a certain extent preventable.
Of those mentioned I only had the opportunity to meet one and that was Pete Steele back in early 1994. I was playing with these cats out of Brooklyn and we recorded a few demos at a studio owned by a friend of Pete’s. He happened to come in one weekend and stayed and chatted for a few hours like a regular guy. No star attitude, nothing. Just another guy, who just happened to play in one of the biggest bands at the time. He was an imposing figure who was as nice as could be. He kept joking that if his drummer ever bolted he would give me a call but obviously that never happened.
To lose Ronnie James Dio was like a loss of a part of my childhood. Ronnie was always there throughout my life and to know I’ll never have the opportunity to see or hear him live again is without question saddening. He was without argument the greatest voice the Rock world will ever know. There are great rock vocalists like Paul Stanley & Steven Tyler still left but the void left by RJD’s passing is one that will never be filled. R.I.P!
HRH: If you were a promoter, what would you do different when dealing with artists than how perhaps your band has been treated in the past?
Marc: As a promoter I would do everything in my power to put as many asses into the seats as possible so the band has the optimum opportunity to showcase their music.
HRH: Tour plans? Any upcoming shows that you can let the fans of the band know about?
Marc: There is nothing immediate in the works for touring or for shows. Our only focus right now is getting the next album done. Once it’s done we’ll begin the next stage of planning.We never seem to be at a lack for gigs but to continue to play and plan future shows only distracts from our goal of finally finishing this album and getting it out there.
HRH: Thank you again Marc for speaking with us here at Hardrockhaven.net. Fools Faith rocks, and we wish you all the best. Any final things you would like to add?
Marc: Once again many thanks to everyone at HRH and yourself for your constant support and interest in Fools Faith!!