RED’s Anthony Armstrong Talks New Album, Winter Jam Tour + More
RED’s latest album ‘Release the Panic’ was recently unleashed and hit the Top 10 on the Billboard album chart in its debut week. The disc, which features the hit single ‘Perfect Life,’ marks the first time the band has worked with producer Howard Benson (Halestorm, Papa Roach, P.O.D.).
The band is also in the midst of Winter Jam Tour 2013, an annual Christian music festival featuring artists in many different genres. After that tour wraps up, they plan on embarking on a headlining run in April. Loudwire recently caught up with RED guitarist Anthony Armstrong to discuss the album and tour, staying connected with his faith, the first time they heard a RED song played on the radio and other topics.
How did the songwriting and recording process for ‘Release the Panic’ compare to previous RED albums?
They are all pretty comparable. We spent about a year and a half writing this record. A lot goes into it. Picking a producer was a challenging process. Once we got that locked in, we started the pre-production process.
How did you decide on working with producer Howard Benson?
He wasn’t the only guy that was on our radar. We did several interviews and talked with different producers. Howard spelled it out pretty clearly for us as far as what the process would be with him. You don’t waste a lot of time with Howard. A lot of things get done. We took about 2 1/2 months to make the record and actually moved out to Los Angeles for a while to work with Howard.
He made it very clear that he’s not the best at everything. That’s why he has a team of guys. He’s not the best ProTools guy, so he has the best ProTools guy in the business. He’s not the best amp engineer, but he’s got the best guy in the business. He said the process would work really well for us, and he was right. We got in the studio and it was all about the music, not wasting a lot of time on the side trying to get things worked out. If something went wrong, he had a guy there to fix it and get us ready to go. It was cool.
How do you think the band’s sound evolved on this album?
Each record is its own thing. You go into it wanting it to have its own identity more than anything. That’s what we wanted with this record. We didn’t want it to be another “Until We Have Faces,’ another ‘Innocence & Instinct,’ another ‘End of Silence.’ We wanted it to be its own thing, and I think we accomplished that by taking some production elements out, to try some new things. The whole idea behind making this record with Howard was to get to the point. Let’s not be so dramatic and poetic when we don’t need to be. It’s about getting to the point faster and making it memorable.
Were there more electronic elements on this album?
I wouldn’t say electronic. It’s mostly programming elements. You’re not hearing as many symphonic elements. You’re not hearing as much piano or strings. These things have always been in our music, you’re just hearing more of them out front more than ever. People say we’ve “gone electronic,” but we’re doing nothing different on this record as far as that is concerned. Like I said, it’s a mix thing. We just decided to bring it out and make it more prominent in the mix.
You’re currently in the middle of the Winter Jam Tour. How has that been going so far?
This is the fourth time we’ve gotten to do Winter Jam, and that’s definitely a highlight for us. It’s a great tour, and a great time to release a record. Playing in front of thousands of people every night is definitely going to help record sales and help generate new fans and give everybody a chance to hear the record. You have to be in people’s faces for them to get a taste of what you’re going for. Winter Jam affords us that opportunity. It’s the biggest tour in the world during the first quarter. It’s great for any band.
You’ve also developed quite a production to accompany your live show.
We’ve kind of painted ourselves with that brush, and it’s something we look forward to. We have created more of a theatrical element to our band. We’re big believers that there has to be a visual element to carry along with the music. We have focused on that with our live show. We’re working on our new set right now. It’s a whole new fresh look We want to show the fans what we were going for and give them something to visualize along with the new songs.
When you’re playing with such a diverse linup in Winter Jam, how difficult is it to win over the crowd, many who may not be familiar with your band?
It’s a challenge. There are people covering their ears, people cowering in their seats in the fetal position (laughs). They aren’t there for the hard rock element. But our meet and greet lines are wrapped around the arena. We know that there is a need and a want for this type of music. We’re here to do our thing, and I think there are a lot of kids that relate to this type of music. Winter Jam is a great place because there is every type of person that comes to this show.
What do you have coming up after Winter Jam?
We’re going to take 10 days off, then we start our headlining run. We’ll be doing a brand new show in support of the new record.
RED appeals to many different audiences; rock, metal, Christian, secular. How do you balance all those different marketplaces?
I think the balance comes from not labeling ourselves. We don’t call ourselves a Christian band. We don’t call ourselves a mainstream band. We’re just a band. People find comfort in throwing a label on a band. We just set out to play shows It’s easy for us because we know exactly what we’re there for and what we’re doing.
Every band has to learn how to tour, learn how to be on the road, learn how to be professional. When you were starting out, who were some of the bands that helped you learn?
I feel like we went through band boot camp. We went through a lot of growing pains on those early tours that we were on. Bands like Sevendust, Breaking Benjamin and guys like that had crews that had been on the road for 15 or 20 years who weren’t willing to put up with greenhorns. They whipped us into shape really quick. It was a matter of us staying humble. There’s a pecking order and you have to earn respect. It worked out well for us. We just kept our mouths shut and worked our butts off. If you listen and learn, your band grows.
Being on the road so much, how do you stay connected to your faith?
It’s difficult for anyone to be on the road, even if you’re doing devotionals and group discussions and Bible study. On Winter Jam, we have ‘Jam Church” on Sundays. On a tour with ten bands, you’d be surprised how many guys aren’t at Jam Church. You have to make the time, you have to put in the effort to stay connected. One of the things the pastor on this tour says every night to the audience is that I have this iPhone, but if I don’t plug it in, it doesn’t work. If we don’t plug our faith in, how is it going to work? How are we going to be useful in the right moment? We just have to make the time. Because the four of us are like-minded and believers, if one person isn’t motivated, the other three are and can provide encouragement and accountability.
These days RED songs are on the radio all the time. Take me back to the first time you heard one of your band’s songs on the radio.
We finished our first four songs. We were in Franklin, Tenn., about 10 to 12 miles away from downtown Nashville. A local rock station played what they called “the local buzz” on Sundays. We had given them our four songs. That Sunday night we got together and went up to the top of this power station on the top of a hill in Franklin to hang out. The guy on the radio said he didn’t know where these guys came from, but I think they have a bright future, and then he played our song ‘Breathe Into Me.’ I can’t tell you the feeling when he started playing it. We were so overwhelmed with excitement. We thought we had made it and were on top of the world. As young and green as we were, we didn’t realize how much work we had ahead of us.
Watch RED’s ‘Perfect Life’ Video