All That Remains’ Phil Labonte Talks Music, Politics, Raging Against Tom Morello + More
All That Remains continue to rock ear drums with their sixth studio album ‘A War You Cannot Win.’ Their latest single ‘What If I Was Nothing’ has been making a big impact on rock radio, and the band is wrapping up a tour with Asking Alexandria before embarking on a series of dates through Dec. 28.
While on their Rock Allegiance trek with Volbeat and HIM, we had the privilege to sit down with All That Remains frontman Phil Labonte at the Kent Ale House in Brooklyn while he boldly donned an anti-Obama shirt (seen in the photo above). He talked all about ‘A War You Cannot Win,’ the band’s new single and his style of writing lyrics. Labonte also spoke candidly about the music industry, why he is not a rock star and explained exactly why he talked “crap” about Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello,
The band’s latest album ‘A War You Cannot Win’ was produced by Killswitch Engage’s Adam Dutkiewicz. With both of you being musicians and friends, what did he bring to the album?
He’s just a great producer. He really knows how to put together a good song. A producer’s job is to take what the artist brings and then come up with ideas and ways to enhance the artist’s ideas. So you’ve got a situation where we’ll come in with a song and we’ll record some stuff and he’ll go ahead and stick his nose in it and say, “That sounds dumb do it differently.” We’ll be like, “You got a better idea,” and he’ll go, “Try this.”
Were there memorable moments you remember recording when you look back on it now?
‘What If I Was Nothing,’ our latest single, that was really hard for me. When I was in the studio, me and Adam were talking when I was doing vocals and stuff. When it comes to singing, I’m a machete, I’m not a scalpel. I’m far better at screaming or yelling in key than I am at soft, tender singing so the song was a struggle to do. It was cool that we actually got it done, there were moments when I thought, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it sound the way I want it to sound.” It was tough, trying to make a machete act like a scalpel.
It’s about a year since ‘A War You Cannot Win’ came out, are there gears turning towards new material?
There’s not a whole ton of writing on the road but if I do come up with ideas – like I came up with a song title yesterday. I saw something and thought, “That would be a cool song title” so that sort of stuff is kind of going on all the time. After recording a record for six months I’m done and not even thinking about writing, the creative juices are exhausted. Usually by the time we get to the 13th song, I’m just like “What the f— am I going to write about now?” I need a subject.
Bruce Dickinson can write great songs about events in history, I find that really difficult. I don’t feel like I write good lyrics unless it’s something I relate to. It has to be something I’ve experienced in my life and I think the best things come out when I’m actually experiencing it currently and presently.
Being in this industry for quite some time, what would you say is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Don’t take yourself or anyone else too seriously. People love to go ahead – especially because I’m really active on my Facebook and Twitter – and a lot of times people say “You’re a rock star” and I’m like, “No, I’m a dude that sings in a band.” People look up to you and that’s cool, I’m really flattered. I have a great platform and I’m really fortunate to have that but I’m not a rockstar. Rock stars are dudes that think they’re better than everyone; rock stars are bad news.
There’s that misconception: “You’re in a band so you must be massively rich.” Some dude emailed me the other day and he’s like, “Hey you want to invest in this mining company?” I make a normal person’s income, I’m not a multi-millionaire. So there’s this misconception, left over from the ‘80s and ‘90s where people were still buying records; people don’t understand that record sales are so small in comparison to what they were in 1980. The music industry in and of itself is so small because of the entertainment options and because of the Internet — they have expanded exponentially.
All that Remains have never been an “in between band” with fans. People either really love them or they don’t. From your point of view, why do you think there’s no middle ground?
Because we’re not cool anymore. Well the thing is we came out of the underground and we still write metal songs, on all of our records we have songs that are screaming all the way through. We still do that but we added in pop aspects and that is taboo in the metal industry. So if you’re really into extreme metal and heavy metal we stopped being cool as soon as we started writing songs where we sing all the way through and got something on the radio.
So we’re not the cool band anymore, we’re no longer a band that an elitist can grab onto and say, “This band is true and cult.” So you … it’s like you know what … get f—ed because they’re probably downloading all your music for free so I don’t care.
Well you mentioned earlier that you’re very active on your social media networks. Not to mention your shirt — it takes a lot of balls to wear an anti-Obama shirt in NYC.
I specifically wore this shirt because I knew I was coming to New York. In fact the girls sitting down there gave me a look when I was coming to meet you and were like, “Look at his shirt” and I’m like, “Yeah, look at my shirt.” Nobody’s f—ing punk rock anymore, I was never a punk rock guy but punk rock is supposed to be against the machine, against the establishment.
I was talking crap about Tom Morello because how can you be Rage Against the Machine and then vote for someone that’s in the party that controls both the House and the Senate. So you’re against the machine but you’re voting for the candidate that is supported by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. That’s not raging against machine, that’s jumping into the machine’s pocket, that’s lining right up behind the machine.
Political correctness has permeated the society that we live in to the point where – it used to be okay to be crap, you’re free to be crappy. The freedom of speech doesn’t exist so you can say, “I hate the New York Jets or I love the New England Patriots or whatever” it’s so that you can say really controversial s—.
We need another G.G. Allin.
Well, I’m not going to s— myself onstage [Laughs]. He’s the ultimate. That’s the thing, all these people in the music industry that think they’re so extreme but 99 percent of them are just falling right in line, saying what they’re supposed to say, thinking what they’re supposed to think and they’re just sheep.