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Pop Evil’s Leigh Kakaty Talks ‘Torn to Pieces’ Video, Michigan Heroes + More

Spencer Kaufman, Loudwire

Pop Evil are reaching new heights in their career, as their ‘Onyx’ album continues to generate hit singles. ‘Loudwire Nights’ host Full Metal Jackie recently caught up with Pop Evil frontman Leigh Kakaty, who spoke about the emotion generated by their current single and video, ‘Torn to Pieces,’ being from Michigan and how some of the state’s music heroes have rubbed off on him. Check out Leigh Kakaty’s chat with Full Metal Jackie below.

‘Loudwire Nights,’ Full Metal Jackie. With us on the show tonight is Leigh Kakaty from Pop Evil. How are you?

Really good, how are you doing?

I’m doing great. Happy to have you on the show. Pop Evil tours more than any band I have ever known. I feel like you guys tour constantly and are barely home.

That’s the truth. You know what I mean? It’s all we know how to do, man, since we started here in ’07, with that deal. It’s just all been kind of a roller coaster since.

Tell us about the tour that you guys just finished up recently with Five Finger Death Punch in Europe. How was that?

Amazing tour. It was our first time to Europe. And who better than to go with our brothers of Five Finger Death Punch? I mean, they’re just on top of their game. Everywhere we went, sold out. Lots of new fans. It was just great. Our album comes out in Europe in May, so only people that knew us just for the fact that they been you know finding music on their own here in the U.S., whether it was on YouTube, or socially. On the Internet, whatever they could find on the Internet that’s how they knew us, it was just kind of exciting to be out there. Kind of starting over in a way, with all the success we’ve had here, it was starting over just from scratch in Europe. It was kind of nice to kind of be a tourist and kind of play at night, it was just a great experience, man.

Let’s talk about the new video that Loudwire just premiered this week, ‘Torn to Pieces.’ A very personal song, written from a place of real vulnerability. Leigh, as the song came together, did it weigh on your mind, whether or not to share so much of yourself?

Oh, big time. I was against putting the song on the record from the beginning. That song was part of my healing when my dad passed in 2011. We were on tour pushing ‘War of Angels,’ ‘Monster You Made,’ you know our big song there, it was one of his favorites. And I remember singing it to him on his deathbed, and being there rubbing his head and singing in his ear, man, just seeing if he’d wake up. He had a heart attack, so he was in a coma and he never really woke up. So it was real tough, and anyone who’s gone through that… you just get through a real blurry stage, man, it’s a real rough time for me, and I think just a feeling of selfishness came over, being able to do, you know, rock music, do music for a living. It just felt like I could have been home. So you got a lot of those feelings, because being on tour, being there for me, I felt like I missed out on some quality years, I didn’t know those were his last years.

The band was like, look, if we can help people with this song, I think you need to spend some time in prayer and figure out if you can really get past it and begin to heal, so we can put this on the record. Spend some time personally with it, and I talked to my family about it. We really felt like, if it could, one person, life could be affected by it, in a positive way then it was the right thing to do, and that’s what Dad would have wanted. And then it became a single, and I was kind of terrified about it being a single, because now I got to sing it forever. It was definitely tough for me with that, and then doing the video, again, it’s like a three-step process, now, do I want to use actual footage of dad, and you know it felt like, I haven’t been able … and what I think is what fans don’t realize is I haven’t been able to watch any footage of dad.

And I guess people deal with loss in their own way, but, I just kind of had to put it away and being on tour, it just feels like I haven’t ever gone home to see him. You know, it still feels like he’s still there. I just haven’t, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to see him, so I guess maybe that’s my insecurity, and trying to handle the situation.

When I first saw the video done with the footage, it was just tough not to get choked up, and tough to not remember those days and those moments when those clips were shot, just what it’s like to be a normal son missing his dad. I think that once we knew how we are all being affected by it, we knew that it was the right thing to do. And with Loudwire debuting it there it was just, felt like the right thing to do with all the positive feedback we’ve had. It’s been awesome, but it’s been overwhelming for me at the same time, I mean I’m still kind of dealing with it.

Pop Evil, obviously a Michigan band. Leigh, there is so much rock ‘n’ roll history in Michigan, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Kiss Alive. Now with hindsight, what aspects of that rich history do you think was part of your subconscious throughout the making of ‘Onyx’?

Yeah, I mean I think we’ve always been affected by it, the Michigan roots. I mean, I think that when you name all those bands, if you take one thing in common from all those bands it’s just the pride they have in where they come from. Maybe it’s just because the economic situation’s always been a struggle, you know? I mean, we think about our parents, and how we were brought up, it was just the one thing that was constant was the rock music, was the radio. I think that’s where that passion and drive comes, again, if you’re just going to get up and play your instruments you’re going to get booed all the way to your door. Michigan fans growing up want to believe that you write the songs, you believe in the songs that you write and bring onstage.

And I think it’s that pride that I think that I think we wanted to do with ‘Onyx’ this time around, you know? The first two records, it just felt like a lot of people talking in our ear, you know, trying to do this, and we were real new to the whole recording with an A-list producer process, that, we just wanted to learn. So we sat back and listened, and now this time around with ‘Onyx’ it was totally different. It was no, no, no, we’re doing it this way. And we’re making a record for our rock and roll fans. I mean I think that rock fans in general are so amazing, they go to shows, they’re spending money on merch, they’re looking at your Facebook, they’re looking at your Twitter, they’re doing all the little things, and they’re doing it all over again, everyday. And every time you come back to town, if you’re not coming soon you’re going to hear about it online.

There’s such a pride that these fans have with their rock music, and of course with our Pop Evil fans, especially. It’s just a different responsibility we had coming into ‘Onyx.’ We wanted to make something that we could understand, and play for the rest of our careers. It’s not what Johnny K, our producer, wanted us to do, or what our manager or our label wanted us to do. We were over there. We were going to take risks, and at the time, having a risky song like ‘Trenches’ was something we’ve never done before. We had no idea how the fans were going to receive the song, but we knew in our hearts that it was just honest, it was just like you could talk the lyrics, waiting my whole life to get out of the trenches.

You know literally, I remember being on my phone, this old beat up iPhone, I dropped the phone like eight times, the screen shattered, and I just refused to get a new cover for it. I was like, look man, I got to find this rhyme, and literally was like wait a minute, you know I’m looking for rhymes on the second half, like literally just talking the lyrics can be told, and same thing with ‘Torn to Pieces.’ And I think those are some of my favorite songs but, you take the music away, lyrically the content still stands up, and to try to challenge yourself as a lyricist. That’s the beauty, that’s the fun in it, you know?

And I think that that’s been the process, the maturation process that I know our band is going through, and continues to go through, individually as well, that, we’re just trying to take different risks and make better music. And you know, put together I think the best live show we can make, if you think about the songs we have live, what other songs can we be writing that can make this show the best of the best?

You think about, another one we forgot to talk about, Michigan wise, is Kid Rock. You know Kid Rock is one of my idols growing up and it was just like, what he does live, even though when you listen to his albums, man, you just get this amazing vibe, and the songs are great. But when you see a Kid Rock show, he just takes you to a place, filled with highs, filled with lows, and he brings you back up, he’s literally got you in the palm of your hand. Same thing with Eminem, another great Michigan musician. These guys, what they do live, it’s just … and again, the reason I say them two, was those two were blowing up and just becoming huge when Pop Evil was just starting, so those guys were right in our face. Just to see how they transformed their music from the CD to their live performances is insane. Again, watching what Five Finger did in Europe, what those guys have done, and being kind of our big brothers, taking us in, kind of showing us the ropes. It’s important to suck all the knowledge in as a sponge and I think those life experience are going to really pay dividends when we get ready to make this next record.

Leigh, you’re part of a generation that came up in the music business at a time when touring is an essential way bands build an audience, and it’s not always easy spending so much time on the road. But what is it about being on the road you would miss other than being on stage of course.

It’s funny you say that, because we were just talking about that as a band. I think that’s why we call the band Pop Evil, and I think people don’t always understand the name. Pop was a bad word when we were growing up, when we were just getting started, and getting our breaks, you know, pop radio was abandoning rock. Every year it was just less and less care for what rock people had to say. And that always kind of upset us, so we wanted to use this name, our band name, as fuel to like, when things get rough and all the adversity that I know our band’s gone through, we look at that Pop Evil, we need bands to fight, you know?

And understand that rock ‘n’ roll has something to say and we want to be heard and I think when we’re not touring, you know, it’s just like, you get that itch to get back out there, it’s like, man, I got something to say, you know? I want to get out there, and feel that energy of the crowd, and be with my fans, be with the Pop Evil faithful, you know?

It takes bands, and again, we’re just one band, it takes plenty of bands out there that are making a huge rock statement, to say, hey, look man, it’s going to take a band of brothers, you know what I mean? I was talking about it with [FFDP's] Zoltan on the tour, it’s like, there needs to be a group of bands that all come together to say, look man, let’s stop this hate, let’s stop this I’m better than your band, I didn’t know there was a law that you couldn’t have, you know, there wasn’t a law that said you couldn’t have tons of new music and tons of band on your iPod. The only law is how many gigs your iPod has, so it’s, just like, I just think that once that mentality can change, you know I think that the doors can open, and I think being at home, nothing happens. So I think we love being on the road because that’s where you’re making the most different.

Look out for Pop Evil on the road with Escape the Fate. Leigh, really appreciate you being on the show. And I wish you the best of luck with your nonstop touring.

Aww, thanks so much for having me on.

Thanks to Pop Evil’s Leigh Kakaty for taking the time to chat. Pop Evil’s ‘Onyx’ album is currently available at Amazon and iTunes. Look for Pop Evil on tour at these locations. You can listen to ‘Loudwire Nights’ with host Full Metal Jackie Monday through Friday at 7PM through Midnight on more than 20 stations across America. To find out where you can hear ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.

Watch Pop Evil’s ‘Torn to Pieces’ Video:

Pop Evil's Leigh Kakaty Talks Race in Rock, 'Onyx' and More

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