Throughout my ADHD-addled and caffeine-fueled career as a music and occasional entertainment 'journalist', I have graciously been afforded with a veritable wealth of opportunities to work with artists and groups that the public at large (i.e. you, the increasingly faithful reader, listener and viewer) are quite possibly unfamiliar with. As a result, I have frequently found myself openly embracing what can only be described as an increasingly mind-boggling array of international and national acts that are--in my ever so humble opinion, at least--deserving of your time and hard-earned money. Thus, my insatiable quest for the ultimate under-promoted musical experience continues unabated, with my focus now wholeheartedly centered on the Peterborough, Ontario Canada-born Christian Hard Rock icons Thousand Foot Krutch and their latest hook-laden opus Exhale.
Todd: What was the primary motivation behind releasing Exhale (2016) and Oxygen: Inhale (2014) separately?
Joel: “That's a good question. ...The best way to put it is that it was meant to be a double disk in the first place. We were trying to shell out all of the lighter aspects of the band and all of the heavier aspects of the band between the two records. In doing that, you are distilling what you have always done and refining it as much as you can in hopes of coming up with the best version of your own identity that you can. I think that if you feel even more confident in the songs and in the way they feel for you, that will show when performing them live. A lot of thought goes into what they will translate like live. I think it's all a very big part of it, if that makes sense.”
Todd: Were you concerned with how the group's die-hard/core fans would react to such a showcase of diversity?
Joel: “It's an interesting issue because you never know what that's going be like. I think that the core fans, for the most part, are very forgiving and very accepting. At the same time, there are some true TFK fans that really are all about the Hard Rock. We've noticed that they appreciate it. They were thankful for another record and at the same time, they were like 'Let's make another one quick and let's make it Hard Rock'. It was well received, but at the same time, I think they're not scared to show their opinions about how heavy they like their music to be. We like to foster an honest and open relationship between us and our fans. They are like friends and family.”
Todd: How have the show in support of Exhale been received? Is the group considering a 'package' with Skillet?
Joel: “Really good. ...You're always looking to have a package that isn't exactly the same thing because at that point, it's all vanilla ice cream. Vanilla iced cream is great, but if you can have vanilla ice cream on top of brownies, that's even better, right? It works really well. We are fortunate that there is a cross over that happens there. We've toured with Skillet before. It's been years now, but we've toured with them before in the past and we're excited to come out and do some more shows with them again. They've always been really well received.”
Todd: When touring in support of Exhale, what type of set list have you been working with? Do you make a conscious attempt to represent each release from your catalog? I would imagine it's difficult to satisfy everyone.
Joel: “There is a little bit of everything. At the same time, I was look at it recently and we're not playing anything from our first label release Phenomenon (2003). We don't have any songs off of it right now. I'm leaning pretty heavily towards the last three records with some other handpicked songs from the older ones. I think it's just what feels good in the set. We have got enough records not that we can pull together whatever for this particular tour we had to take about an hour and fifteen minutes of music. We just went into it thinking about which songs we wanted to play off of the new record, which songs we had already been playing for the last one and then build backwards from it. We feel pretty confident and it's been pretty well received from the shows that we have been playing. ...Even on the new record, we had picked the songs we were going to do and then we've had a couple songs in particular from it that we aren't playing that people were like, "Oh, I really thought you guys were going to end up doing this." Then the others, the obligatory, we aren't playing rock piece in the set right now which is contention to some people. That's not I think is phenomenally been in every single show we've done for almost 20 years. I don't think it's a defining ...I mean maybe I'm just ignorant but I don't defining songs for the band necessarily. As far as the sound is concerned. I do get that it was a really break out piece for us way back when. That said, we made a conscious decision to not have it in the set this time around. People have been forgiving at the same time at the end of the night, a bunch of individuals yelling a song out, the song title out, wanting us to play it. Unfortunately, we have a fill-in drummer right now and he doesn't even know the materials from Phenomenon, so we actually have a pretty solid alibi for not doing any of it right now.”
Todd: Is there a focus--intentional or otherwise--to include some of the group's lesser-known material in the set?
Joel: “Sometimes, but we tend to pick some of the bigger stuff. We've never gone that obscure. We have talked about the fact that we're coming up on the twentieth of Phenomenon. We've talked about the possibility of doing a tour where we play the entire record because we have never played all the songs on our record before. It would be a fun experience. We've played half the record, but we have never played the whole thing. ...It comes back to something we've also talked about with Welcome To The Masquerade (2009). It would definitely be something where we would be energizing our core fans because if new fan were to come to one of those shows, I think they would enjoy it, but at the same time, they would probably be like 'What? Where is this band from?'”
Todd: How are your audiences reacting when you do actually play material from Welcome To The Masquerade?
Joel: “It's funny because we have a couple songs from ...Masquerade that we're playing right now in the set. It's an interesting thing to see the reaction of the core fans that are coming out to the shows and obviously know the songs. I do feel like that material is very time stamped. Personally, that's my point of view as a bass player and as a songwriter. ...I want to say it sounds dated, but dated is the wrong word because eventually everything becomes dated. But at the same time, it's not as timeless as a straight-ahead Rock song might be. It's very reminiscent of what was going on at the time with Modern Rock. I'm sure there is a time where it's going to come back as all styles will do, but for the foreseeable future, I don't see it as something that will truly take off.”
Todd: From a strict 'performance' point of view, it must be exciting to have a variation in the tempo of your set...
Joel: “It really is. We like having a broken down, lighter moment in the set. When knew that “Be Somebody” (from The End Is Where We Begin) was going to be in there, but we also wanted to put “Honest” (from Exhale) in there as an acoustic song. Then, right before we left to come on the road, we had two days of rehearsals and our radio team hit us up a said 'We are going work pretty hard on getting “Push” out there. It would be smart if you had it in the set' and we realized that it was easier to pull out “Honest” and replace it with “Push” than it was to start taking everything else out. All we had to try was to learn one more new song and take another out.”
Todd: At this point, what are your plans in regards to filming a new video for Exhale? Is there a track you all have in mind? I would imagine choosing which songs should have videos shot for them would be quite difficult.
Joel: “That's a good question. We were just talking about this last night. We just started servicing (the single) “Push” to radio and because we had already done a video for (the song) “Running With Giants” (from Exhale), we thought 'Does it make sense to do a video for “Push”?' and then we started to think about what “Push” would be like in a video fashion with the style of the song. Ultimately, we decided that we should hold off on a video for it. We have another really high energy song on the record that we believe will make a vista. ...Obviously, we don't write video treatments for the songs, but at the same time, you want to think about what song would translate really well within a video format without having to rely heavily on an incredibly scripted treatment. I think there is some thought that goes into that for sure. Sometimes, it's just inevitable, though. If a song does really, really well and people really want a video to go along with it, then we will do that. We have not made a ton of videos in our day. The first time you shoot a video is one of the most awkward experiences ever because you really aren't doing anything. You aren't really playing, even though you are, right? It can be awkward, but when it comes right down to it, we always tend to try and do the best we can. If we're making a video for a new song, it's a new song to us. There's still a significant emotional connection to that initial experience with a song. I think we all try to tap into that connection and use it for a catalyst to be as high energy as we possibly can be. ”
Todd: Musically, what are your influences? Am I correct in understanding that each member of the group brings a variety of influence and style to the songwriting 'table'? Are you also drawing from your non-musical sources?
Joel: “Obviously, we all listen to different music and can draw inspiration from whatever we're listening to. You can hear what's influenced some of the songs. At the same time, we all go to the movies, get cups of coffee and have really great breakfasts. These things can also be inspiring and you never know when it's going to strike. I've seen Trev get an idea at thirty thousand feet and go into the lavatory with his phone to document an idea or even write it down on a napkin. You never know when inspiration is going to strike and I think that's the beauty of it. Learning how to take inspiration from just about everything, not just the obvious musical sources. I think inspiration comes from just living life. ...It's the strangest thing. You can literally be walking down the street and for some reason, a melody will pop into your head and you'll be like 'Wow'. Sometimes, it's another person's song and sometimes it's something brand new and you do what you can to document it as fast as possible. We live in a world now where our phones are pretty smart, so you can at least get a voice memo going to get everything documented. Then, once you can get a guitar in your hands, you can elaborate upon it much further.”
Todd: Do you feel as if some of the group's lyrical contents could be misconstrued? Is this a legitimate concern?
Joel: “I think so, especially on the new record. We have had a few bits and phrases and some rare content that can be misconstrued. I don't want to call Exhale a violent record, but I think it can be misconstrued, for sure. At the same time, the best part about it is that for the most part, any song that we have ever released has a description or a bio that goes along with it that tells you what it means and what he is trying to say. If people dig hard enough and really want to discover what's happening, they can. ...The core fans are pretty savvy to it now.”
Todd: The group has obviously experienced a certain amount of line-up changes. Has there been a common denominator behind the changes? Once changes occurs, how difficult is it for the group to find the right person?
Joel: “No. I think it's just some people are in it for the long haul and some aren't. The road is a truth be-telling platform to how long someone can handle doing this for. Some people are cut out for it and some people think they are cut out for it. That's pretty much it. ...We have been pretty fortunate. I can honestly say that if any of us we're going to bow out at this point in time, which is not going to happen, I already know where my brain would go to have a really solid person in place. In this capacity right now, I feel like everyone gets each other and everyone has been doing it long enough now that we understand the rules of the road and personal space. ...It's one those things where you have to learn that out and we all have days too, that's the other thing. While I might be predictable for week and a half. That eleventh day for some reason I am just having an off day, just being human. Like I said, for the most part, we have all been doing this. There is no one in our band or crew right now that hasn't been doing it for fifteen plus years. At that point, you really know about personal space. If we need it, we just take it. We just go for a walk or go somewhere else depending on where we are at. We are blessed enough to be in a bus which gives you at least your own bunk and your own area. There's also two lounges, so you can split your time between them. For the most part, there are zero issues. We all have days, but that is just human nature. I don't think anyone is going anywhere. ...Then again, stranger things have happened.”
Todd: Taking into consideration the success of Thousand Foot Krutch, will there be another FM Static 'release'?
Joel: “I don't know that Trev and (drummer) Steve (Augustine) have plans to continue with it. They have talked about the fact that there are some songs that they could easily pull together that would work for it. ...Essentially, it's because the styles were so different in the beginning. Steve really wanted to continue with that style of music, but knew that it was so drastically different from TFK. I think we have just been so busy with touring and looking towards more recording that there hasn't been a lot of time for them to sit on it much less also think about who is going to be on it. It's hard to say. I don't think they ever will, but I know they haven't been talking about doing it any time soon. ...While I'm sure it was a fun and I know we would of had a blast doing it, I made a conscious decision to not go down that journey with them together. While I know they loved it and they both have a passion for it, I don't see it as something that will ever happen again. I don't know how they'd have time.”
Todd: At this point, how do you view the Shutterbug (1995) era? Do you feel as if the material hasn't aged well?
Joel: “Fortunately, I had nothing to do with it. I don't look back at it at all. I think Trev does, though Again, I think Shutterbug had more of a 'talent show' sound. …But in the beginning with their first independent releases, that's what a lot people do. He had just come off of being really into '90's Grunge, but he was also big into Hip-Hop and had always been. It's all over the map in terms of style, but we love all styles and forms of music and genres. Picking off the style differences is a lot easier than trying to cram all of them into one record. On Set It Off (2001), you can definitely hear some of our earliest progressions, but at the same time, I don't think Trev is ashamed of any of them at all. I think he understands the foundation that was Shutterbug and Set It Off were each just building blocks. At the same time, he still has our fans coming up to him asking him sign their copies.”
Oxygen: Inhale (2014)
Made In Canada: The 1998 - 2010 Collection (2013)
Metamorphosiz: The End Remixes, Vol. II (2013)
TFK Remixes EP (EP) (2012)
Metamorphosiz: The End Remixes, Vol. I (2012)
The End Is Where We Begin (2012)
Live At The Masquerade (2011)
Welcome To The Masquerade (2009)
The Flame In All Of Us (2007)
The Art Of Breaking (2005)
Set It Off (2001)
That's What People Do (1997)
Shutterbug (1995) *
* recorded as Oddball
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