Earlier this year, Mest revealed their reformation, and this time round, it's back to square one, with no major label backing and plans to self-release their new album. Soon after, they announced their return to the live music circuit with a month-long European tour where infamous frontman Tony Lovato bared all and spoke very candidly to Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull about the band's reunion, battling his demons following the murder charges he was swiftly acquitted for in 2007, his former white power ties, and more, ahead of their recent headline show in Newcastle, UK.
What made you feel the world is ready for a Mest reunion? Was it for your own self-fulfillment or for the fans? Or a bit of both?
Thatâs a good question. I guess, a little bit of both. I had pondered the thought of the record a lot and I went on the road with my buddy, Craig, from a band called Escape The Fate, and I was sort of already starting to write some songs. I wasnât 100% sure on writing the record, but I was thinking about it, and then I went out on the road with him, and all of the opening bands would come up to me and be like, "Hey dude, whatâs up? What you doing on the road?" A lot of them didnât know that me and Craig were friends, so throughout that five week period, they all came up and enquired what I was doing and asked about Mest and my other band, Kisses For Kings. They would tell me how they were big Mest fans growing up and shit, then I was like, "Yeah, Iâm actually thinking about doing another Mest record." And every time Iâd mention the idea of making another record, they were super stoked. Just hanging out in the clubs and stuff when theyâd be playing, Iâd get random kids coming up to me and fans telling me the same thing when I mentioned a record, which is amazing when the bandâs been broke up for seven-fucking-years. Like there was no real announcement made, it was sort of my own thing. So, it was a little bit of both. I want to play the old songs; I definitely want to play other new songs. I missed playing punk rock shows. I think on that tour, I was like, "Ok, I need to do another record, kids are stoked."
Youâve done a reunion tour before, are you back together permanently?
I guess so. I mean, Iâve been asked that question and I said it was, so I guess I canât take back my word. I think Iâll be able to balance the two bands, do the Mest record, tour on that for a little while, then take a break from that and start doing Kisses For Kings stuff. I like writing music, so Iâm sure Iâll have enough material to keep doing both. I like touring and I spent six years of my life touring straight, so this is sort of normal to me. Itâs when Iâm sitting at home not doing anything it feels a little weird. I donât know what to do with myself. Youâre laying in bed and itâs like 10am, and everyone else has already gone to work and shit, and then youâre laying there and then itâs noon, and youâre like, "What the fuck am I supposed to do?" At least when youâre out on the road, you get to play a show every night.
Since the last Mest tour, what have you been up to? Have you always been involved with music doing other projects?
Besides all of the public shit - yeah, Iâm in another band with Rich and Mike, Kisses For Kings, we did one tour with Hollywood Undead and released an EP. Musically, thatâs what I was doing. There were a few years I took off from drinking, that was boring, but it was good. I needed it when I went through all of the drama. I think with all of the drama stuff too, there was a time period where I needed to be a normal human being for a little bit. I went home for a couple of months and then went back to L.A. and I donât think I was ready to be away from family and friends so quickly, and thatâs when I started partying way too fucking hard, and thatâs when I had to get sober for a little bit.
Iâm guessing the partying hard and drinking was a result of the drama and charges brought against you?
Yeah, looking back at the time, I think I was thinking it was just recreational use and I was having a good time, but then I realized thereâd be two or three days where Iâd be laying on the couch and I wouldnât even get up to eat, then Iâd have such bad anxiety where I couldnât even get in my own car to drive two blocks to Burger King or something. I think it was noon one day and we were up all night doing drugs and my heart was racing so fast, I was like, "Fuck, I need to take a shower to come down." And I remember being in the shower where I was having one of those moments where I thought somethingâs not right. It wasnât fun drug-use anymore; I realized it was me trying to cover up a bigger problem. I couldnât go back to Chicago, because in Chicago, Iâm like the hometown hero, so everyone wants to buy you a drink and give you a bag of cocaine and want to party with you. Then out in L.A., everybody that I was hanging out with was doing the same shit. This girl that I used to live with, she was just a roommate, we would wake up at fucking 1am and go out at 2am, we wouldnât even go to the clubs or bars, we would go to the mansions up in the hills, and their after parties were just cocaine fests. So, I couldnât be in Chicago and I couldnât be in L.A., so if there was no place for me to go, I guess the thought of suicide came into my head for a quick second. Like the idea of not being able to go anywhere scared the shit out of me. I would never do that, but it was something I thought about, because I was so fucked up at the time and thatâs when I got sober. It was a good two years and I was able to face the reality of the problem, which was, I really wasnât ready to be away from family and friends yet after something as traumatizing like that happened. I had trust issues; I was constantly looking over my shoulder. Like when youâre attacked and someone is trying to kill you, itâs pretty fucked. I just had to get my head straight.
Are you, mentally, in a more stable place now?
Yeah. I mean, I would say I was stable back then, itâs just that I didnât allow myself go through the grieving process and deal with it completely properly. I was trying to rush back into life too quickly, and I wasnât ready for it.
So, being back on the touring scene, have you tamed down on the partying?
Itâs just a different type of partying; we just drink. It was Richâs birthday too, so the past two days weâve been partying. Itâs just drinks, man. People want to buy you drinks and I want to take them, so I do.
How has the line-up for Mest changed?
Well, little Rich is on the drums, Mike Longworth is on guitar, I play guitar, my brother, Steve, plays bass and Alex is playing a third guitar for us now, because on the new record, a lot of the stuff Iâm not going to play guitar, because I just donât want to. On the old stuff, we just have more guitars playing, which is fine. When you record a record, you layer guitars. Everything is layered and doubled, itâs alive and cooler, you can do more stuff. Theyâre all, technically, better musicians - not to take anything away from the other guys. At home, Richie has a normal job and heâll work 10-hour days, then heâll have two hours left at night and heâll go to practice drums. I donât know anybody who does that type of shit, I wouldnât be able to, Iâd be too tired. Mike is an amazing guitarist and Alex is an amazing guitarist, so weâve definitely got more musically inclined players.
Did the original guys not want to be apart of it after all of the drama?
Itâs just that I live in Los Angeles, two of them live in Chicago, and one of them lives in Detroit. I see my cousin on holidays when I go home. Jeremiah wasnât really my friend; he was more of my brotherâs friend. Jeremiahâs younger brother was one of my best friends and he still is. Since the band split, Jeremiah and I went back to being how we were before we were in a band - he was an acquaintance. Then me and Nick didnât talk for half a decade, and when one of my best friends, Eric, got married, we were both at the wedding and that was the first time we crossed paths. I went to the wedding pre-party thing and I walked in, I was a little late, and I said hi to Eric, and Nick came up to thank him for the gifts and that was the first time I saw him. We had a little talk at the wedding, we both went outside and pretty much said, "You have one thought of how things happened and I have one opinion on how things happened. Thatâs not going to change, but itâs over with and let it be." Weâre not going to be Facebook friends anytime soon, but weâre not enemies. We shared a huge part of our lives together. His mom passed away three weeks ago or something, and I had his number, so I sent him a text, and I was like, "Hey dude, sorry to hear about your mom." and he was like, "Thanks, I appreciated it." Weâre adults, it is what it is.
You have a new album coming out called Not What You Expected , and the single youâve released, ""Almost"", still sounds pretty Mest-y, but a little heavier, would you say that song is a good representation of the record as a whole?
I just wanted to beat people to the punch about the record, so I guess thatâs why we titled that. I canât imagine how many interviews Iâm going to do and when people review the record, theyâre going to be like, "Well, it wasnât what I expected." Iâm just giving them the stupid fucking thing that I know everyone is going to say. I have to take the blame for the heavy part of the record. I still wrote all of the songs, but the ideas in my head, theyâre easier to get out when you have better musicians playing with you. I have Little Rich, who Iâll sit with and weâll just play music together, and I was never really able to do that with Nick, because Nick was more of a simpler drummer, so we wrote simpler songs. When writing the songs I wrote them in very similar way, where Iâd get an acoustic guitar and start writing stuff, but with Little Rich on the drums, it made it easier, because Iâve always had drum ideas in my head, but Iâm not that great of a drummer, so Iâm able to just tell him what Iâm thinking. Melody-wise, if you listen to the song "Almost", the chorus sounds very Mest and I think the verses do as far as the melody goes, but then thereâs some fucking heavy parts throughout the song and I think that song as a whole represents what the record is going to sound like. Thereâs the little tidbits of the heavy shit and then thereâs the super melodic, poppy chorus, then the bridge which is some anthem-y sort of thing, so if you take each part of the song and break it up, thatâs what the record sort of is. Hopefully, kids will like it. I like it.
As youâve talked about, youâve obviously been through a lot since the last album. Would you say the lyrical content mostly draws from the past few years? I mean, from what I gather, Almost seems to relates to the drama. Is it a big basis of the album?
Yeah, because Iâve never been in a super happy, loving relationship - well, I dated a girl for a couple of years, but I wasnât writing songs at the time - and write about the shit thatâs bothering you. Itâs like going to a therapist, you sit there and pay this person a lot of money to just talk, and once it comes out of your mouth, it sort of gets out of your head a little bit. Itâs the same thing with writing songs. A lot of the lyrical content is based on the shit that Iâve gone through and relationships Iâve gone through, and being in this business, too. Iâve definitely seen the darker side of the music business, where if people donât think theyâre going to make loads of money off you, they donât give a fuck about answering your phone calls. Thatâs why I wanted to do this record by myself, anyway. Weâre signed to a label in Japan, but in the States, we donât have a label and everyoneâs asking if weâre going to shop it and Iâm sort of hesitant to. I want to do it myself to prove a point to these people, that I can do this and I donât need you, and have the record come out and do some touring on it, and then have a label come in and want to license it, because then the ballâs in your court and youâre not going to be signing your life away. Itâs sort of my way of saying "fuck you" to the whole business and the people who are in it who donât give a shit. Itâs a quick, easy way to find out who you want to work with and who you donât want to work with.
Did you have negative experiences on Maverick?
No, not really. Our label was rad, we put out four records on a major label and that was back in the day where kids bought records and records sold. I think we did 30,000 units on our first record, which any label would drop now. Then on our second record, it was up to 85,000, when they decided they wanted us to do another record and the reason was because, by the time we were done with the second record, we were already touring as a headlining band, so although we werenât selling 500,000 records, there was the equivalent of kids, of a band who sells that much, coming to our shows, because we had toured so much. I think the label knew, had they dropped us, that another label would pick us up and probably be able to give us the radio promotion and then that would just look bad on them. Guy Oseary, whoâs Madonnaâs manager now and ran the label, he just believed in the band, he liked us, so I donât have any beef with them. They did a great job. Itâs just in the industry, in general. People are hesitant to get involved, not a lot of people want to do the work anymore. Everyone wants everything handed to them.
Have any labels approached you since youâve announced the new record?
Not in the States. I mentioned a few times about doing another Mest record on Twitter and thatâs how the label in Japan hit me up, so I was like, âAlright, they can give me the money and have the rights in Japan, and Iâll have the rights everywhere else.â Iâm not really worried about the States right now with all this stuff like Twitter and Facebook, weâre able to let everyone know that the record is coming out and we have a tour coming up where weâre going to have 1,000-1,500 young kids every night that still go to shows and buy records, who are going to tell people. Weâre going to be able to release a record and be able to sell it at an affordable price, so hopefully kids will actually support it and buy it. If the record costs $4/$5, just donât eat a McDonaldâs meal once and support a band, because when you donât support bands that are putting records out on their own and doing that type of shit and then they get mad, because the band stops making records and not touring, well, itâs like youâre not supporting the band by at least covering the cost of the record, kids donât get that.
Now that youâre doing everything DIY, does it feel like youâre starting out again?
Yeah, I was always involved with all the decisions that were made in the band anyways. Iâm definitely doing a lot more work, because Iâm self-managing myself too, so I think itâs time I let a manager back into my life, because it just gets stressful trying to balance everything and trying to keep everything into control and remember everything. We didnât have a deadline or anything on the record and the label in Japan didnât give us a deadline, so we were just going at it real slow, just going into the studio and writing songs. Then out of nowhere, the tour for Europe was being booked and then we have a US tour the second weâre back, so there was no time in-between. So, at that point, it was like we had four weeks to finish writing the record and record it, then we had to sort our merch situation and start working with a merch company, then I had to set up the tour in the States before we even came here, so balancing all that was fucking stressful. I would wake up in the middle of the night and start thinking about things. Iâm a little bit of a control freak, so I guess thatâs a good thing to be in control.
Do you feel that Mest has to re-build a name for itself? Or are you hoping to get by on the bandâs past legacy?
I want to re-build it. I donât want to see this as starting over, because I still want to play the old songs, because a lot of kids who come out want to hear that shit, but to me, yeah, I havenât done a record in six or seven years with Mest. When we go back home in the States, weâre doing a tour in a van; I havenât toured in a van in ten years. Even when we did the Hollywood Undead tour, we used my buddyâs RV, which was bigger than a bus. When youâre out on the road with people you get along with and youâre having a good time, it builds camaraderie when youâre around each other that much, so Iâm really looking forward to it as weird as it sounds. Of course, being in a bus is great, because itâs easier to sleep in a bunk and all of that shit, but I like getting in a van every night with everybody watching movies and hanging out. These are all new guys as well, so I think itâs a good thing to do it this way, to sort of build it together and earn things together, and so they understand they have to go through this stuff. You donât just join a band and then youâre in a bus touring and everythingâs made for you. I like the idea of starting over and I like the idea of it being something new. The old Mest booking agent loves the music and heâs an honest guy, he has nothing to gain by backing the music as much as he does, but he was like, "Maybe you should just not call it Mest?" But it is, it was written as a Mest record. Thereâs an idea if it has a new band name, then itâs something new, so then you can go sell it to someone as if itâs a new product, but I think thatâs sort of cheating it too, because it is Mest and Iâm going to be playing Mest songs and I wrote it as a Mest record, so we were pondering over that, and you know thereâs Sublime With Rome? I think that was an idea he was having as well, like trying to have Mest in the band name somehow, but I started Mest when I was 15. I fronted the money for the first record and Iâve wrote every record since then, and whether or not, itâs Matt playing the bass to the chords I wrote or Mike Longworth playing it or my brother, itâs still the songs that I wrote. Itâs my band, but itâs definitely starting over.
How do you feel about people who regard Mest as some sort of novelty act?
I donât give a fuck what people think, I never have. I donât know what it is; I just canât, because people who have a negative outlook on things or try to talk shit in anyway about somebody else, itâs always because thereâs jealousy and envy involved. Those are the emotions we get when we want what somebody else has, a lot of it turns to anger. The more people that are envious of me, then at least Iâm doing something right, because that person wants it. Thereâs these websites that kids go on and complain, like absolutepunk.net or whatever, and what Iâve noticed on those websites is that itâs kids complaining and whining, and itâs like, "Dude, itâs fucking music, what are you crying about?" I donât get it. Listen to another band or find another band that you like or start a better band, but quit complaining about that fact that thereâs someone doing what you wish you were doing. I donât get those kids; I was never one of those kids. I grew up listening to punk rock and that was my thing, but I appreciate any musician in every style of music.
Have you found that a lot of the people attending these shows seem to be older and mainly going for the nostalgia?
Yeah, of course. A lot of these places, weâve never played on this tour, so for a lot of these kids, itâs the first time hearing these songs and thereâs a lot of kids that have spent the younger years of their life listening to these songs, and since then, maybe they got married and have kids, so they donât get to go out that often, and go to a show to relive the memory. Like when you hear a song that you heard 10 years ago, it brings you back to that place. Look at a band like Social Distortion, theyâve been touring for years and years. Iâve been listening to Social Distortion since I was 11-years-old and I remember pretending to be Mike Ness in my bedroom, before I could play guitar. Then 15-years later, we were on tour with them and watching them play "Story of My Life" and "Sick Boys" and all of these songs I grew up listening to, and it made me remember things from when I was a little kid, itâs that quick little five-hour escape of fun.
Do you think that your music has dated well?
Yeah, like I said, it sort of takes kids back to the younger, fun years of their life, before they turned into adults and working all of the time and having real responsibilities. I guess when weâre young, we donât realize how good life actually is until we get older.
How do you aim to appeal Mest to a newer generation? Is that why youâre touring with bands like Escape The Fate?
I couldnât really let ego get involved with the making of this record or the idea of what I want to do with the band again, and thatâs why touring in a van is something that a lot of people who had the success that I had with Mest wouldnât do, but that doesnât matter to me. Iâd rather be doing what Iâm doing, being able to play the music I want to play, and if I let my ego get involved Iâd be sitting at home with a Mest record that nobody was going to hear and I wouldnât be playing these songs to anybody, or Iâd go out and play songs to just Mest fans. I like the idea of getting up on stage in front of 1,000 kids who donât know who Mest is or saw songs on YouTube that donât really represent us too well as a band, because the label always picked songs that were hokey sort of songs. Although, weâre not serious as people, when we write songs weâre serious musicians and, of course, thereâs the fun songs, but thereâs a lot of serious stuff. I like the idea of getting on stage and proving myself. If you want to be a generation band, then you have to play to different generations. Green Day didnât sell that many records, because people that were my age, 25-years-old when American Idiot came out, it wasnât us buying those records, it was the young kids, so they become a generation band. Thatâs the idea behind it, if you want to be a successful musician and have a career, you have to keep getting new fans, not that I have anything against the older fans, thatâs just how it works.
It seems that people are always drawing up your past and associating the band with it. Is that something you think will forever tarnish the band?
I donât give a shit; itâs called real life. My life is like a movie. Iâd rather my life being talked about than sitting back and laughing at someone elseâs life. The reality is, if you decide to play music for a living and become somewhat of a public figure, youâre going to have to deal with that type of stuff. People are going to want to know about your personal life and start rumors, like there was a rumor that I was dating someone from the Teen Mom series and I had never even met the girl, and there were stories in these magazines about us dating, and my mom would ring me freaking out and crying. Thatâs the only thing that pisses me off, because it upsets my mom, but thatâs what those magazines do, so that some housewife that hates her life and sits around watching Jerry Springer all day, reads these magazine because her life sucks. Thatâs what these magazines are for. The kids that listen to my music arenât going to give a fuck about that. I donât think itâll tarnish the band. I think that the kids that listen to my music are kids that like honesty and real stories, they donât want to listen to Katy Perry sing songs about fireworks that somebody else wrote for her. If thatâs what youâre into, then yeah, go find an untarnished artist.
Is it not a little frustrating when your music isnât even acknowledged? For example, on posts about your reformation on sites like Punknews, people seem to focus more on your past and go as far as bringing up your time in a white power band when you were a kid.
When I first started out, people made a bigger deal out of it than it was. I lived in a neighborhood where you grew up, it was the crew that you were apart of and in order to be able to walk around and be somewhat safe, you had to be part of a crew. It was like a community jail, you had to hang out with whatever race you are, the whites had to hang out with the whites and the blacks hang out with the blacks, and thatâs the way it was in my neighborhood, in a sense there were gangs in each corner and thatâs who you hung out with. I was 12-years-old, who knows what youâre doing at the age of 12? I just grew up a little bit faster than most people, because when I look back and I see a 12-year-old, and I think about the people I was hanging out with and how easily influenced 12-year-olds are, thatâs the scary part, but there was no way I was going to deny that I hung out with those kids, because I had nothing to hide. Then about a year-and-a-half later, when I was 13/14, I was wise enough go, "This isnât who I am. Iâve got Mexican friends and Iâve got black friends, and I donât dislike them, so how can I be part of this when my true feelings are everything thatâs not that?" Who at 14-years-old is smart enough to leave all their friends behind and have them become your enemies? Then have all the kids who I used to be enemies with still not accept me. So, it went from having a crew of people who would protect you to them hating you, along with everybody else still hating you because of your past. Thatâs when I turned to punk rock and it became me, it was my outlet from everything else.
Didnât you become involved with Anti-Racist Action? Was that something the label pushed you to do?
No, those were just friends of ours that we met on Warped Tour and one of the girls that ran part of it, we were just friends with her. The only way to change things is to help educate other people from shit that youâve gone through. Half of those kids that are on those websites bringing all that stuff up, I guarantee are talking shit and probably every other word out of their mouth is a racist remark. The reality of it is, is that I went through it and I understand it a lot better than those kids ever will, because I lived it. They donât understand what the scene is like, they donât understand how fucked up those people are that recruit those young kids, and the reality of it is, like myself, I was forced into it in the sense that it was a survival thing in the neighborhood and when youâre a kid, you just hang out with your friends and whatever your friends do, you do. So, the only way to help is to educate and to ignore those people, because those people are a lot to do with why world is still the way it is, all they seem to want to do is to judge and judge and judge. Theyâre so dumb that they donât realize that theyâre essentially doing the same thing that I was doing when I was 12-years-old.
For those hearing about Mest for the first time and the kids going to the Escape The Fate tour, is there anything else you want to clear up?
Hopefully, kids are smart enough to do their own research and know not to believe everything you read. Anybody can write anything, thatâs the only truth, so as long as kids come out and have fun. I canât wait to get on the tour, I just want to get out there and play a real rock show. I donât know if the bands out there today are influenced by the bands I grew up listening to, so I think weâre definitely going to be the outcasts on that tour, which I like because if there are bands that sound similar and thereâs one band that sounds different, then kids are at least going to go home remembering us. So, yeah, hopefully, theyâll just do their own research.
You were a big name in the early â00s pop-punk scene, do you have any thoughts on the current scene? What about the whole âpop-punkâs not deadâ and âdefend pop-punkâ thing thatâs happening at the minute?
I think thatâs just all marketing. Pop-punk, I think, is one of those genres of music that can never die anyway, even if itâs not cool for a couple of years. I remember when pop-punk became uncool, because I was part of the pop-punk scene and it was like, "No, I canât like Mest. I like these harder bands with screaming." But the reality is, people like good songs and people like melody and people like singing along. Not everybody wants to hear people screaming the whole time. Everything cycles anyway, Green Day came out in â94 and they were the biggest band in 1994, and then ten years later, they put out another record and became the biggest band in the world. Itâs just a cycle.
Do you feel like you fit in with the current pop-punk movement?
Iâve been putting out records since 1998 when I was 18 years old, so I would think that I fit in with something I was apart of. Weâre all trying to accomplish the same thing, which is write good songs, write good records and play shows. Thereâs not that much thought behind being in a band, itâs just to have fun and write songs. Iâll play with anybody, obviously since Iâm doing the Escape The Fate tour, so thatâs very different for us.
Do you have any thing planned after that tour?
We have a few shows booked in Mexico City and then weâre going to South America or something, but weâre figuring out that next tour, because itâs at that point where you book tours three or four months in advance, so now thatâs booked, weâre figuring out what weâre doing this summer, and the album comes out on April 24th as of right now.