Los Angeles' The Human Abstract recently released their second full-length, Midheaven. Punknews interviewer Sarah El Hamz recently chatted with The Human Abstract's Brett Powell about the new album, as well as their recent stint on The Warped Tour and what lays ahead for the metal band throughout the rest of the year.
So you guys were on Warped Tour again this year, how would you say that went?
Warped Tour was really awesome. It was our second year in a row doing it and we got a bus, compared to a van like last year. I really think we were able to appreciate Warped Tour a lot more this year, especially because we didnā??t have to drive ourselves and we had an air conditioned place to go. At the same time, we learned so much last year having to play under such rough conditions. We had little sleep and little food, and we were newcomers who didnā??t really know anyone. This year we got to share the bus with All That Remains and weā??ve been friends with those guys for awhile.
Your new album, Midheaven came out August 19th. Is there a meaning or a concept behind the albumā??s title?
The whole album was really written as a concept album. When we originally began to write, we had an idea for each song to be like a chapter in an overall story based around one character that represents every man in some way. We even shot a video for this album before we actually knew what song the video would be for. There were stills taken from the video that we ended up using as the album artwork. Itā??s chapter-by-chapter story about this man who lives post-apocalyptic land by himself and he is trying to reinvent some of the natural elements to sustain life. By the end of the story, history repeats itself to build back to where it once was, only to fall again. It shows the cycle of humanity from generation to generation beyond just our existence. We wanted to leave it open to peopleā??s interpretations and experience.
How do you think your band has grown since your last album?
Itā??s really a completely different record, and it is as if it is a whole different band this time around. Last time we were all 18 and 19 years old and we wrote the record before we ever toured. We listened to a lot of really technical stuff and we wanted to be really technical in our composition and promote being really solid musicians, rather than focusing on actual song writing. We have really matured a lot through touring, and each day we have been on tour has influenced out new record. Last time we recorded in basements, and this is our first time recording in two major studios in Los Angeles. The recording and writing process took about six or seven months, where as our first album was done in around three months. We really knew what we wanted this time around, and I think it really shows.
A lot of reviews of the album are comparing it to Nocturne by saying that it is a lot less heavy, but far more artistic. Do you take that comment as a good thing?
There are a lot of bands who just find a sound that works and make a carbon copy of that over and over. I think that is a cop out that bands do just to get a pay cheque. I really respect bands that make a different record every time. To me there is nothing exciting about making the same record again. We could have easily made Nocturne 2, and Nocturne 3, but we would not have been proud of that at all. We had to tour that album for so long that the songs got engrained in our heads and we got sick of it. I think that every album we ever write is going to be a drastic change from the last.
That can be a good thing.
Yeah, we just really wanted to be experimental with this record and use a lot of instruments. Our old sound was very mechanical, and we really wanted to sound dynamic and textured. To me, that is what makes a long lasting record, not something that is overly straight-forward and robotic. Human expression is not machine-like or perfect.
Your style of music incorporates several different genres. Do you ever feel restricted people try to place your band in a specific category?
Yeah, itā??s just funny because so many people would argue about what genre we were when our last record came out, but now we are completely pulling a 360 with this new record. We were never thinking about genre when making Midheaven; we tried to think about what mood the character was in to create a story. We wanted to relate sounds to experience. For one song, we wanted to make it sound like someone was being electrocuted and what it would be like to actually feel something as powerful as electricity. There was another song about what it would be like if it never rained and if there was a major drought. We really wanted to make a dramatic record.
You guys are going to be touring with Dir en Grey, and they have released seven full-lengths all with the same line-up. Do you look up to a band like that, or aspire to have a career like that in any way?
Yeah definitely. I donā??t know too much about Dir en Grey, but I do know they have changed genres with every record. They have also changed their image, and I love that they are open to drastic change. As for line up changes, I donā??t think it really matters as long as you keep the key members who are really interested. Some of the best bands in history have had 30 member changes, especially in prog music, and I think what is really interesting about those bands is that new musicians can bring a different influence to the sound. A band like Dir en Grey has also gone through a lot of image changes with their look in general, making them feel like a newer version of the same band.
Do you think visuality is an important aspect for every band?
Yeah definitely. When we go see live show, sometimes we think "Wow, this band sucks so bad" but they will have a cute guy in the band and a catchy band name and they are able to draw in so many kids. It makes you wonder how a band like that is doing so much better than a band who is ten times better but may not look as cool. At the end of the day, so much of this industry is based on that.
Earlier you were mentioning line-up changes and how they affect a band. With A.J. leaving your band, how would you say the band dynamics are right now? Are you all in a stable place?
A.J. wrote a lot of Nocturne a few years back, but the music we were writing with A.J. for our second release (when we were pursuing that with him) was all really soft, with a dark classical feel. It was definitely really cool, but there was not any screaming or double bass, and it was shaping out to be a totally different record. Itā??s funny because people think now that we made a totally different record, but itā??s probably only 20% of what it would have been A.J. If we kept working with him, the difference in sound would have been so insurmountable that we would have needed a different band name. We did what we had to do to still maintain our vocals and style.
A lot of band members will agree to disagree on the direction they want to take when writing their new album. Is it important for you guys to all have the same musical vision?
I canā??t say that we all have the same musical vision. Dean, our guitar player, is still the metal guy of the band. He just loves shredding and screaming parts and any type of heaviness in music and he really pushed for the amount of that stuff that we have on the record. Adding keyboards on so many different songs also made the song writing process really different, instead of always writing the music based on guitar parts. This time we all worked together and incorporated different styles and thatā??s what I love most about this album.
What can fans look forward to from The Human Abstract?
We are definitely booked up until next summer right now. We really want to tour in Europe, because that has always been a dream of mine to play music all over the world. We are trying to get out to a lot of new people with this new record. I realize that a lot of people are not going to have heard this first, but already a lot of people who didnā??t like the first record are telling us that Midheaven is moving them so much more than Nocturne. Some of my favourite records I couldnā??t stand after first listen became some of my favourite records after listening to them more. I think we are going to keep busy promoting our music and really showing that we are more than a band who can just shred. Music critics, and those people who just love to hate like a lot of people on Lambgoat, need to realize that music is not a competition, itā??s expression. Our live shows are going to be more different than ever and I really canā??t wait to see how this all works out.