This band seemed interesting enough for me to want to interview them. A WANTED AWAKENING answers from Jason. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
I don’t get this modern metalcore sound. How would you like to explain your sound to somebody new to the band like me?
-Well, metal is a peculiar type of music, wherein people like to divide sub-genres into smaller and smaller sections until it contains only bands that they like and not ones that they don’t. So, we have to follow this guideline in order to relate to fans. But, we try to mix as many different types of metal as we can into our songs. This strictly comes from the fact that there are five people in our band and each of us has slightly different taste in metal. So, we try and put some of each of us into the songs, so that we are all proud of what we create and can see ourselves in it. With that said, we incorporate some thrash riffs, deathcore breakdowns, progressive song structures, technical instruments, djent trick rhythms, and lots of different vocal stylings. There are lots of different variations on metalcore today, but this is how we write.
Do you feel that you are an American band in the way you sound or do you draw influences from other countries?
-We hold no nationalism in our music. We try and draw influences from everywhere that we find inspiration. Our main influences come from the States, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Canada, Denmark, and Germany. It is interesting though that American metal is still the melting pot that the country has always been. For the most part, European metal bands hold very true to what comes from their country. Whereas US metal bands steal from all those other countries and mix different aspects together in new ways. This is obviously not always the case, US bands come up with new things and European bands draw influences from US bands too. But its far more likely for a Swedish sounding band to be from Sweden, than an Brazilian sounding band to be from Sweden. America has both Swedish and Brazilian sounding metal bands though.
How did A Wanted Awakening come to life?
-Our former vocalist Rick Hardy started the band under the name Atlas Dying in 2001. He made a record called Images Inward in 2004 with that band. Jason joined the group in 2005. But, A Wanted Awakening really came into existence in 2006 when Evan Carney and John Tree joined on drums and guitar respectively. We threw out the old songs and started fresh because the sound of the band became very different at that point.
I guess that there is a greater meaning to the band name than just random words put together?
-Wanted Awakening was actually going to be the name of our EP. But, the name held enough meaning to all of us that we thought it could be an overarching concept for the band, not just one EP. To us the name signifies to desire in all of us to find something so meaningful that it instigates a personal awakening of mind, spirit, or consciousness. We feel that everyone is looking for a way to make their lives better and more like their dreams, and this band is our personal search for that experience.
How important is the presentation of the band to you? Is there anything that you don’t want to be associated with?
-I have studied the art of performing for ten years through education and musical experience. So, the presentation of the band is very important to us. This is not limited to our onstage persona’s, but extends to every piece of merchandise, artwork, music, photos, articles, interviews, and business interactions. We strive to be as professional and polished as possible in all respects, while still being the goofy odd characters that we are personally. It is a tough balance to maintain, but we have gotten into a good rhythm in that respect over the years. After playing shows for the past 6 years, we have seen a lot of unprofessional antics ruin what could have been great shows for other bands and we decided to try and learn from other peoples mistakes and cut all that stuff out of our lives. This band is not only our passion, but our business and we treat it as such. We want to be known as a stable, dependable, hard-working band that puts 100% into everything that we are associated with.
The only things that we don’t want to be associated with are the things that are sometimes assumed of us because we are a metal band, but that just aren’t the case. We don’t use profanity. Not from a moral stance, but because it is just not that creative or interesting. We are not angry people with angry songs, which people assume because of the screaming vocal delivery. We are not stupid metal heads, as if there’s not stupid fans of all music. Our music is written from an educated background, and our lyrics are intelligently poetic. We don’t condone violence. We are always happy when fans move to our music, it pumps us up. But, personally we don’t mosh because we want to watch the performance of the band and see what they are doing. And there is a big difference to us between moshing and fighting. When people pick each other up, have fun, and get some frustrations out then moshing is awesome. But, beating up someone smaller than you or punching people in the back of the head is not ok, and it does happen unfortunately.
Something that I often is how you control the way your band is perceived? How do you stay in control?
-There are certain things that are in your control and other things that you just have to let go of. You can be aware of everything that you put out into the ether, or say, or do. But, perception is in the eye of the beholder. So, you may think that you are doing everything right, but others may not see it that way. All you can do is what you think is right and hope others agree. We typically keep as much centralized as possible. We use a single outlet for each type of media and everyone checks them regularly. This way there are multiple eyes on everything that we do. We also know what each persons strengths are and try to keep people doing what they are good at and away from what they are not. If we make a mistake, we try and apologize and remedy the situation as soon as possible. And most importantly own our mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, and so does every band. But, pushing blame on someone else is unprofessional and childish. We try and take responsibility for our actions and therefore people usually understand that even if the actions we took weren’t the right ones, we were trying to do what we thought was the right thing.
How much of a DIY band is A Wanted Awakening? How important is the DIY ethos to the band?
-We are almost completely a DIY band. Every unsigned band has to be DIY at some level. We do like to be in control of our image, music, and band activities, so DIY is important to us on some levels. But, in order to get to the level of awareness that we would like to achieve, we will need help. Jason did all of the recording for our full length Catharsis, but we had it mastered professionally. Rick did a lot of our artwork, but we also bought the more recent T-shirt and album art. We prepare all of our statements and press releases, but we recently work with Clawhammer PR to disseminate them to a wider audience. We did two week long tours recently through a booking agent, but wound up doing a lot of the work ourselves. So, we don’t want to have to do everything associated with the band, because our most important job is still to write music. If we can find people who are really good at what they do and we can trust them, then we are happy to have them do what they do. Bands need to have too many skills in the current music marketplace to excel at all of them. You have to be able to write music, write lyrics, perform live, book shows, design artwork, set up retail displays, network, write press releases, record music, design websites, utilize social media, make videos, write blogs, book tours, negotiate guarantees, promote shows, sell tickets, court radio dj’s, and much more! There is just no way to do all of these things as well as someone who focuses on one of them and does that all day every day. You have to pick what is most important to you, focus on that, and review everything that you outsource.
When you release an album how much in control of its outcome are you? How important is the way it looks?
-As an unsigned band we are much more in control of the results than if we were signed. This has positives and negatives. We decided when to release the album, where to do it, on what platforms, cd release shows, which reviewers to solicit, and so on. But, each of these things takes time and money. We decided to release through CDBaby which was a good choice financially for us. Through them we had access to iTunes, Rhapsody, and Amazon. But, there is a lot of paperwork for each of these outlets. We obtained our own ISRC codes, barcodes, and copyrights; all of which takes time, money, and paperwork. We got our music on Pandora which took a ridiculous amount of time and several attempts to get Amazon Advantage to list our tracks properly so that Pandora could access the. We had around a dozen reviews of the album which ranged from stellar to mediocre. But, each of these reviewers was handpicked and solicited on our own, which took a few months worth of emails. We made several videos for new tracks on Catharsis, but we did them all on our own so that was time consuming. We feel that the release went well considering it was our first full length and we were working with a limited budget. But, for all the talk about how you don’t need a label anymore, we feel that in order to make enough money to live on as a metal band that just isn’t true.
The look of the album is still very important. We spent a full month making revisions to the artwork for the album. We needed to album to look the way that we wanted it for our own satisfaction, as well as the marketability. We sell a lot of albums at shows before we even play, just because people are intrigued by the artwork. As well, music fans have ever shortening attention spans in our internet driven lifestyles, so if the artwork doesn’t grab them right away, they move onto something else. Just as important for online sales though is the formats that you offer the album. We try and make our music as accessible as possible to as many different people as possible. So, we offer mp3’s, AAC’s, Waves, FLAC’s, 24/88.2 high res, among others. Everyone listens to their music on different devices and for different purposes now, so we try and accommodate as many different lifestyles as possible.
How important is touring these days to keep a band’s name alive? What kind of touring scene is there?
-Touring is hard. No two ways about it. There are fewer and fewer venues every year that accommodate live music. The venues that are around don’t have the built in audience that used to exist, so they rely on bands to bring the crowds. Promoters do less and less promoting and simply book bands and collect money. Bands rely on social media to spread the word on their shows and don’t actually go out and meet people anymore. Independent radio that used to advertise local shows in nearly nonexistent. Hardest of all most shows are ticketed, so that the promoters can make sure the bands are promoting. It is very hard for a touring band to sell tickets for a state they haven’t yet arrived in. Our experience however, is that if you can make a tough situation work, and your band is good, the second time you want to play for a promoter they will bend over backwards to get you back. So, don’t burn bridges and always remain professional, because this industry is small and you will see these people again.
With all of that said, touring is still completely necessary. Local shows are great and the first step to making something out of your band. You need to workshop your songs, stage performance, and professionalism at the local level before you try and show your product to the world. But, you have to take that next step and tour in order to have anyone take you seriously. The internet makes the world smaller, and we have fans from all over Europe, South East Asia, South America, and so on. But, there is no substitute for seeing a band live. The casual fan is made on line, whereas the dedicated fan is made in person.
What would the ideal future look like for the band?
-The ideal future for A Wanted Awakening would begin with us continuing to make trips all over the country and eventually the world. We would record a new album in the next year or two. We would get picked up by a metal label who is really into our sound and they would put us on the road with some appropriate headliners. We would tour constantly and build up a loyal fan base. Most importantly this would lead us to make enough money to live comfortably by doing what we love.