10 Years: From Here On Out
Coming off the back of a massive few years notching up Billboard #1 records, MTV Music Video Awards, and support slots alongside KoЯn, Mudvayne, Breaking Benjaming and Hatebreed, Tennessee alt-rockers 10 Years have finally found their way back to Australia after nine long years away. Currently lapping the country with Aussie prog dogs Dead Letter Circus and Guards Of May, we grabbed guitarist Ryan “Tater” Johnson to talk about the Aussie exclusive of the band’s latest album, From Birth To Burial, what lies ahead for 10 Years, and catering to Aussie audiences (furry tree critters included!)
It’s been a long time since you graced our shores with your presence! Did this play into the decision to give your Australian fans the exclusive tour edition of From Birth To Burial? Did you feel like you owed your Aussie fans something?
We kind of wanted to do something different with that, yeah. We’ve never done a club tour in Australia before so we thought doing something to commemorate that would be a good idea. We are glad to be doing it. We love being in the club environment and we’ve never gotten to showcase that here in Australia.
You’ve had a massive last few months and have been touring this album nonstop – how’s it all been for you guys? What’s the response been like for the new record?
It’s been hectic. After we finish up in Australia we go home and have our first real break of this album cycle. It’ll be good. We’ve all run pretty hard on this and it’ll be a good thing for us all to have the time to reflect on the year. The response has been good. It’s a much different album for us I think; it’s a bit more raw and translates really well live.
What was the recording process for the new record like? Did you face any major setbacks?
Working on this album was a bit different. All the music came really fast; it just kind of happened and we struck while the iron was hot. Jesse [Hasek, vocals], however, had some of the worst writer’s block of his career. He ended up shaking that off by writing about the writer’s block and the fear and anxiety that comes with that, the fear of having nothing else left to say. I think that’s why the album is a bit darker – there is a lot of frustration and some resentment running throughout, while musically it’s kind of exciting because it just happened so fast and we were just in a flow.
What was the main concept behind the record? It seems to be harbouring some pretty dark lyrics. Other than Jesse’s writer’s block, what was going on for the band while you were putting it together?
I guess the main concept is when will this [band] end? How will it end? Will we know when we should let it end? It was pretty intense. We are over a decade in now and we’ve put out three albums on a major label and now two albums on our own label. There was a lot of soul searching that went on in making this record. Jesse never wants to shy away from talking about something that may be dark or awkward or uncomfortable – it’s therapy for all of us. This was a hard subject for us to really be open about, I mean really, how many bands are able to openly talk about the fact that the end could be near? After getting through it it was refreshing to look back on – like a weight had been lifted.
How did you find releasing the album through your own label, Pale Horse? Do you feel as though doing this over the last two records has given you more creative freedom?
It allows for a lot more freedom. Our first record we had the majority of the songs before we went into the studio, so that was okay. The other subsequent records we had to work pretty quickly on because of label deadlines and we were being pushed in certain directions like, “We need another ‘Wasteland’” or “We can cross over to Top 40 if…” With our own label and Brian [Vodinh, former drummer and current producer] having his own studio, we are able to go in and just write and work without deadlines, without outside expectations, without outside influence and pressure. We are able to do what we want and at our own pace. If something doesn’t work, we can scrap it or come back to it later. We are free to explore and record at the same time. It’s really freeing.
Your sound has often been described as alt-metal or post-grunge – did you try to avoid pigeonholing yourself with this new record? Was the aim to just create a sound that reflected what the band was feeling at the time?
The aim is always to reflect what we are feeling at the time; we never want to make the same record twice. We don’t try to avoid anything necessarily, we just do what comes naturally while still trying to challenge ourselves. We can only be us and do us.
It’s been said in previous interviews that the band views Jesse’s voice as pretty, but the new album sees him experimenting with some screamed vocals. Was this change intentional to further the dark message of the album?
Totally. There was an emotion of extreme frustration and exhaustion. A lot of times when people are more silent on the outside their insides are screaming for release. That was kind of the point I suppose. We wanted to get that point across. Sometimes how you say things is more important than what you say. We wanted to do something different and Jesse really wanted to challenge himself a bit and try something different.
You’ve got some classics like “Wasteland” and “Beautiful” that are mainstays in your live set. Given you’re partway through the tour, what new songs have been getting the most love over here?
We actually aren’t playing “Beautiful” over here. We feel that song doesn’t really represent what the band has progressed into over the years. We came over here with the mindset that we are new band over here and we can be something new. In the States there are songs that kind of need to stay in the set because fans expect them and like them and they paid hard earned money to come out to the shows so it would be a little unfair and selfish of us to not play some of those songs. But over here, we are a little more free to represent ourselves as we currently are and not partially based on our past. “Wasteland” will never leave the set because of what that song means – to us, to Jesse and to the fans. Each night it’s a very surreal feeling to have people sing that song back to you considering the content is so personal to Jesse, but it’s also very real in different ways to the audience. It’s a very special experience that we feel privileged to have. Our title track, “From Birth To Burial”, has been getting a great reaction. We’ve been opening the show with it and it’s been a real mood setter off the bat. “Miscellanea” is our first real single released over here so it’s been cool to see people’s mouths moving along to that one as well
Are Australian audiences particularly memorable to perform to? Is there an experience that’s stuck out for you over the years?
It’s been a little bit of an adjustment actually. Since people here aren’t as familiar with us there have been a lot of “watchers”. We aren’t really used to that in the US. You can tell during the first or second song that they’re trying to figure out if they like us or not. It’s kind of fun because we are a little weird and we come across with a bit more of a punk attitude. By the end of the set there are quite a few people moving around. It makes us feel like kids again. We have to win these people over and that’s what we do best. We played in Melbourne a few nights ago at an incredibly historic venue. Looking around at the walls that are plastered by bands such as Oasis and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and, of course, Puppetry of the Penis (thanks Wikipedia!)… It’s just such a beautiful building. Actually, I remember playing over here back in 2006 with Disturbed and KoЯn. We played this big outdoor shed that was located right next door to a wildlife preserve. During soundcheck there were koalas sitting in trees watching us. That was pretty damn cool.
Dead Letter Circus / 10 Years / Guards Of May Tour Dates
Fri Oct 16th – Waves, Wollongong (18+)
Sat Oct 17th – UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney (18+)
Sun Oct 18th – The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle (18+)
Fri Oct 23rd – The Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast (18+)
Sat Oct 24th – The Triffid, Brisbane (18+)