Eighteen Visions’ Keith Barney: ‘We’re Definitely Back Together and We Just Want to F–king Get Out There’ [Interview]
Welcome back, Eighteen Visions! The veteran Orange County hardcore metal act made their mark in their early 2000s before announcing plans to split in 2007. In the decade since, the band members went their separate ways impacting the music scene in other ways. Sadly, bassist Mick Morris passed away in 2013 and in the years since there has been a reconnection amongst several band members that eventually sparked their return. Now, on June 2, a little over a decade after their final show, the group will return to the stage to mark the release of their new album XVIII.
We had a chance to speak with guitarist Keith Barney [seen at right in the photo above] about their new album, and he also opened up about the reunion, the changes he's seen since the band last recorded and promoted an album and his thoughts on returning to the stage as a group for their first show in a decade. Check out the chat below.
I'm so glad Eighteen Visions are back. Had a chance to listen to the album and you guys had me right from the opening moments of "Crucified." Sounds great.
Thank you very much.
There's no guarantee that things are going to work when there's a reunion, but it definitely sounds like everything went well. Can you take me into the studio and tell me about the first experience getting back in and playing with these guys again?
You know the whole time 18 V was a band, it was abnormally easy compared to any other bands I had been in or from other bands my friends have been in that did all the traveling and touring together. That's not an easy thing to swing. We always got along great and then this time around, I mean, this whole process has just been super fun and super easy and smooth.
There was an initial barrier to get over which was less guys in the band because obviously Mick [Morris] had passed. So that's one thing that was quite obviously different. And then Ken [Floyd], he couldn't join us for this record just out of pure crazy scheduling. He tour managed this DJ Zedd. That guy's just all over the place. His schedule's really crazy so he just like, "I just can't even put time in it. " So it ended up and being myself and James [Hart] and Trevor [Friedrich] doing the record. We just had total f--king blast.
Ten years is a nice round number, but was there a specific reason why now? Was it just the right timing to do this?
It really worked out perfectly. We had played around with some music back in like maybe it was 2012 or something like that where James and I recorded one song together. And I had demoed a few more and actually that song ended up being the second track ["The Disease, The Decline and Wasted Time"] on the new record. It's one of the only songs from back then that made it cause we still loved it and it came out good. We explored at that time making more music. We met together and all the stuff, but then, at the time we were just trying to transition into our adult life and schedules and it was really hard to make it work, so things were kind of, the timeline was moving along further and further. Nothing was materializing quite yet. We kept waiting and then eventually making a path and then at that point we just put everything on the shelf and just stayed away from music for quite a long time.
There was no intention for it be like this 10-year thing. I've had in my own personal life and I just had my second kid. Once that was a little bit under kind of control and my personal life and I felt like my career and my family was in a good place, I felt like I finally picked up my head for the first time in a long time and devoted myself to music a bit. That's when I started writing music and I had contact with the guys again. And it wasn't until much later that we even realized it was like, "Oh s--t, this is actually like 10 years later." And then that's when we decided to announce everything on like the exact 10 years since our last show and all that stuff. It just kind of worked out nicely like that to be honest.
Can you talk about what it's like coming back in, seeing where music has evolved and viewing how your influence has been felt since you've been gone? What's it like bringing Eighteen Visions' music back for a new generation?
Yeah, well, you know, 18 V wasn't around but we were still going to shows and seeing our favorite bands and we're still lovers of music. So it's not like we left music or anything like that and stuck our head in sand. We saw everything evolve and It was interesting. It's definitely interesting to see on this side of the fence now being back in the band, releasing a record and doing press and the whole bit, like how it kind of works now compared to how it worked back then. It's kind of been an interesting experience you spoke of for both me and the obvious changes that have taken place and the kind of wash of like how people listen to music now or find out about music for the first time or how well videos work or labels versus a community and all that kind of stuff. It seems a bit of like a wash, just like a big swab of noise. It must be hard for new bands. We obviously have a bit of history behind us so that helps us. But it's interesting to kind of go through and learn more about it every day.
I know that Eighteen Visions is listed as the three of you, but really Mick Kenny comes in and adds some production on this and has a key role in the band's return. Can you talk about what Mick brought to the process as well?
Mick, it's funny, he's actually a bit of a catalyst for making the record because he was Trevor's roommate for a long time and they were living together at the time, I think, and they were driving around and I'm not sure if Trevor played it for him or it came on randomly but he had heard that demo that I was talking about earlier for "The Disease, the Decline and Wasted Time," the second track on the new record. He had heard that whole demo and he said, "Hey, what is this?" He said it was an old 18V demo and he was like, "Oh this is f--king cool! What are you doing with this?" We just had it. He's like, "You should let me record it for you." This conversation actually just randomly took place around the same time that I was just starting to write new music and stuff, so it worked out perfectly. A lot of things during this process have worked out quite nicely like that. That was one of them.
Trevor contacted me and was like, "Hey, Mick said he would love to record this stuff for us." That helped get the ball rolling so we got into the studio with him. We didn't even know how many songs we were going to make at the time. We had considered an EP at first and we were just gonna put it out ourselves. Then Rise Records was instantly interested and that kind of kept the snowball going further. So Mick played a crucial role. We never worked with him before and although he was Trevor's roommate, I had never met him. So the first time I met him was actually just walking into the studio to work on songs the first time.
Straight away, he was just a great guy in the studio. He's a guy to get along with and he was just a great extra mind to have around the music. I would always come to the studio with songs written but if we were ... as with any creation process, there's always twists and turns and forks in the road. "Oh! I heard this new thing in my brain that maybe that would sound even more f--king sick, so, let's try that." He was just another respected opinion to have around and help and guide and [he'd be like] "That would be great" or "No I don’t think that'll work."
Getting into the music here, the first song that people are getting a chance to hear is "Oath." Can you tell me a little about where that comes from and why that ended up being the song that people get to hear first?
"Oath" is an interesting story because at the time, we had written nine songs for the record when we thought the record was done. We were just gonna do nine songs. Just because I was in the writing mode, I just was in my garage writing a new song, demoing the song just for fun. I wasn't going to use it for the record or anything. I just had an idea of the whole intro part of that song which is pretty chaotic, I just had that concept in my mind during the day so I just started playing around with it and I had stopped, basically, somewhere in the beginning of that song.
Then, the next day, I'm in a four-way text with the guys in the band and our manager Biggie, and Biggie was like, "What do you guys think about doing 10 songs? Even ten always sounds cool. It's just cooler than nine." I was like, "I don’t know, I kind of have this thing that I started." So I went back in that night and finished the song and so it almost didn't even make the record but we put it out as a first song, which is kind of funny, but it just came around really perfectly.
I think that first night I approached it it was super chaotic and crazy which was fun and then the second night I worked on it, I brought in simplicity and the heaviness, which was a cool yin and yang for the beginning and then the end of the song and kept it short. It's just a real quick f--king punch in the face, which is I think what we wanted as a first track we come out with because there's so much aggressive stuff on the record. We just wanted something that was to the point and kind of captured some of our favorite bits, which was to load up on the chaos and the energy and then the real heavy stuff and of course James' vocals which were just total chaos and then the end has that simplistic, "keep this oath" which is certainly a straight edge song, which is something we've kept with us throughout the entirety of the band's existence. That song really came together really nicely.
I wanted to ask about "Live Again," which is a tribute to Mick Morris. Some time has passed since his death but it's definitely something that you still feel still and embrace. Can you talk about "Live Again" and including this on this record?
These guys in your band, they become brothers. Mick was, although he's from Salt Lake City, he wasn't from Orange County like the rest of us, but he's just ... as anyone who had ever met Mick will know that he was just this ... there's just guys that you have in your life or in your circle of friends that are just always so easy to get along with that you kind of marvel at them. Like, how is it that everyone likes you? [laughs] And really, Mick was that guy.
He was so easy to tour with. When you’re in tight spaces like touring vans, it's hard to do that stuff. And on the other hand of it, Mick was this encyclopedia of music. He was such an awesome guy to be around, in a band, because he knew so much about so many different types of genres and bands. He and I both were raised on classic rock. Our music from our fathers passed down to us, so that heavily influenced us and then we kind of both took a bit of the same turn. We both got into the grunge music and that whole thing together and conquered it early on. I think he got into metal earlier than I did as a kid but we both got into that. It turned out to be such a perfect piece of the puzzle. So now that piece is missing.
It was really strange. We knew we wanted to do something for him on the record, so yeah, it was a really important song for us to do. I think musically, the lyrics were written for that song afterwards. Musically that song just had a nice, had the right vibe to be the bed for that music, and the end of that song has that just straight f--king breakdown at the end and it just kind of wraps the whole thing up nicely.
I love the "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass" reference to start "Underneath My Gun." Just curious, who is the They Live fan in the band?
Actually, I'm the one who found the clip, but James is the one who is definitely the superfan. So we kind of went in on that together and it just really f--cking fit perfect. And that clip really speaks to what that threat of this tongue-in-cheek ... I mean, we're a serious band, but don't forget that we're having a f--king good time. And so I think it was another perfect element, another perfect layer for the record.
Absolutely, and then there's also "Fake Leather Jacket" where, and I honestly can't place the clip but it sounds like it's Elvis ...
It's Nicolas Cage. It's Nicolas Cage in Wild at Heart. It's someone making fun of his jacket, and along the same lines, it was funny as f--k to us, and Trevor brought that one to the table. When he played it for us, I think I'd seen Wild at Heart when I was way, way younger and I mean we just laughed for like a half an hour. He just kept playing it over and over and while we were working on the sample and trying to fit it into the song during production, it just kept making us laugh, so it was perfect.
June 2, you're going to be back in Orange County where you played your final show and bringing it back full circle. Have you started thinking about set lists and working the new music in and what it's going to be like getting back onstage together?
Yeah, we've got practice tonight and this will be our second practice. The first one we did just the three of us and tonight, we'll add in Josh [James] from Stick to Your Guns. He's kind of helping us out with all the live shows. He's been a good friend for a long time and we played shows with his old bands in the past. We brought him down to the studio when we were making the record and we were making sure everything was cool.
So we've got practice and we've got a s--tload of songs and it's going to be so fun. We definitely have brought out older end of the spectrum material in the set because we know that people definitely want to hear it, but we also play stuff from every single record. That was one of the most fun about this is that we're able to span ... if you can imagine everything that you've created, spanning 10 years later and looking back on all of it with like 20/20 vision of being like, "Okay, what do I feel like we did the best?" So now we can look at all of our songs and be like, "If we could do the master list of our favorite songs we did, what would we play?" So that's what we're doing here.
Obviously we have the album coming and the June 2 show. Anything you want to tease beyond that?
Well, we're basically working on that right now. We're talking about other shows we want to play and that's all in the works right now with our booking agents to set up some other cool stuff because we definitely want to get out and play. We want to play the new s--t, we want to play the old s--t, but for the future, we're definitely back together and we want to just f--king get out there.
Our thanks to Eighteen Visions' Keith Barney and we too are excited to see them "back together and f--king getting out there." As stated, the band's 'XVIII' album is due June 2 through Rise Records and you can pre-order the disc via Amazon, iTunes and Google Play. At present, the lone show on their schedule is the June 2 record release show at The Observatory in Santa Ana, Calif. They'll be playing with Retox and Seizures and tickets can be found here. Stay tuned for more coming from Eighteen Visions in 2017. Hear some of Eighteen Visions' new music below.
Eighteen Visions, "Oath"
Eighteen Visions, "Crucified"
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