If Hope Dies - Waiting for Extinction

By Dr. Abner Mality

We'll kick off this time by going into a Spinal Tap moment. Not the band's. Mine.

May 20,2005. I arrive at the Jewish Community Center and get the feel of the place. After telling the kind folks at the merch tables that I am here to talk to If Hope Dies and The Red Chord, one helpful fellow takes me outside and introduces me to a gentleman unpacking a box of DVD's. "Here ya go," he says.

I shake the new guys hand and tell him it's an honor. "Let's get right into it," I say, turning on the trusty tape recorder. "Your guys' new record "Clients" is getting a lot of hype these days. What do you think about that?"

The dude looks at me with bemusement and says "You got the wrong band. I'm Gary from If Hope Dies!"

SONOFABITCH! Somebody show me to the nearest large rock, I want to crawl under it. Of all the idiotic things! So there you have it. My biggest Spinal Tap moment in the interviewing business so far.

Apologizing profusely (I would have kissed his feet if he had asked me to), I start over again. And we have a very interesting chat after recovering from my initial blunder.

If Hope Dies deserves better treatment than that. They've been around for a fair amount of time now and their excellent melodic thrash-cum-hardcore sound is a lot more polished than so many of the younger bands jumping on that scene to cash in. I saw them play an excellent set in Freeport earlier this year and tonight they also scorched the JCC.

Now that confession time's over, let's delve deep into the surprising world of If Hope Dies...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: The current tour with The Red Chord and A Life Once Lost is kind of a dream tour. How's it been going so far?

GARY MANN: In some of the markets, it started off kind of weak, because the South is...kinda behind. But as soon as we got up around Virginia and north of that, it got back on track. And the West Coast is always amazing. Up until a week ago, Bury Your Dead was on this tour as well. Bury Your Dead, The Red Chord, A Life Once Lost and's just amazing.

WC: It seems like you've been on the road forever...

GM: (groaning and laughter) Oh, we're so tired, man!

WC: How do you keep it from wearing you down?

GM: It's really hard. We've done small tours before but this is the first time we've done it full time. Earlier this year, we did a tour with Zao, Fear Before the March of Flames and the Agony Scene. Then we went right into that tour with It Dies Today and Twelve Tribes that went to Freeport. And now this tour is two solid months long. Two months is a long time.

WC: It's probably hard to tell what town you're in or what day it is.

GM: All that stuff doesn't even seem to matter anymore. It's so hard to remember where you are, where you're going. We've all got girlfriends at home, and families.

WC: But you're making inroads. It's safe to say more people know who you are now than six months ago.

GM: Exactly. And just today we found out we're going back out with Still Remains, Scars of Tomorrow and The Warriors. That tour's gonna be short, just 3 or four weeks, but it's gonna be awesome.

WC: Your style of music is often described as metalcore, but I disagree. I consider it more of a melodic thrash band.

GM: Yeah, that's what we aim for. Now we have breakdowns, so I can't say we don't have hardcore influence in our music. Kids can punch each other to us and they can also circle pit to us. It often depends on what tour we're on. I guess the best way to describe us is metalcore, but leaning way more towards the metal side.

WC: You have a lot of good twin guitar work, too.

GM: We're definitely more of an In Flames and Soilwork influenced band.

WC: How do you keep from falling into the trendiness trap?

GM: It is, it is a trap, especially with our name. Coming up this July will be our seventh anniversary as a band. When we started the band, there weren't bands named It Dies Today, Every Time I Die...

WC: Three word band names...

GM: Exactly! And usually with the word "dies" in it. Now that we finally start getting some attention and doing good stuff, everybody has a similar name. It Dies Today is playing Ozzfest this year and Every Time I Die is getting huge. We're just starting to get national attention now. We do get lumped into metalcore and people kind of write us off before they hear us. We just have to win them over live, keep touring until everybody gets a chance to hear us.

WC: You think an Ozzfest slot might be a possibility for next year?

GM: I hope so! After this tour we have about two and half months off and we're gonna go home and bust our ass writing as hard as we can. That album will be our first with Metal Blade handling everything on it. We're going to be recording at the same place Trivium did their new one, the producer is amazing. His name is Jason Suecof...

WC: From Capharnum?

GM: Yeah, from Capharnum. And also Crotchduster. So we have all the makings to make a lot of huge things happen for us next year.

WC: You've got some pretty strange song titles. It's almost a trend now to have whacky song titles but I sense there is more of a meaning to some of yours. You got a song called "Shop Till You Drop"...I suspect that's poking fun at consumerism.

GM: Yeah, yeah, yeah! Back in the day, that was a really stupid TV show. Even though we have IPods, so we contradict ourselves a bit, it's based on the fact that most people buy stuff they don't need. Almost everything people buy today is stuff they don't actually need. All the commercials pounding your brain. For example, the song "Roddy Piper's Magic Sunglasses"...

WC: I was going to bring that up next! Somebody in the band is obviously a fan of "They Live"!

GM: Yeah, exactly!We're all classic horror movie fans and that's what that whole song is about.

WC: Do you think that movie is a pretty good representation of the way things really are?

GM: Pretty much. Billboards could now be as blunt as the ones in the movie.People are so used to being bombarded by crap that they don't even care anymore. Here's a perfect example. We went to see the new "Star Wars" movie today. They played a commercial that had a string of messages and then they just put up "Pepsi" at the end. What are you talking about, what's all that got to do with "Pepsi"?!

WC: The only thing I thought was science fiction about that movie was that aliens were behind it. The truth is, we did it to ourselves.

GM: Seriously. People are so concerned about terrorism. Really, we are just going to kill ourselves. That's the way it is. People know it now,too...they've been told over and over again, they just don't care. We're going to keep using up every single thing...using up all the oil, using all the resources until they're gone. And then we just wait to die. And that sucks. I'm not saying that our band is unique in pointing this out. But at least we have to try to get people to pay attention.

WC: Getting back to Roddy Piper, any of you guys wrestling fans?

GM: (laughing) Actually, kinda! We're doing a shirt that has a picture of him on the front and then the line "I came to kick ass and chew bubble gum..."

WC: (laughing) That's one of the greatest lines in any movie!

GM: Exactly! He's a clever guy, he was funny in wrestling and he was funny in that movie!

WC: Wrestling's another good example of something that isn't as good as it used to be.

GM: Yeah, I got out of that in the early 90's, I don't even know what's going on anymore.

WC: You say you're getting ready to write. How is your sound changing? Is it evolving even on this tour?

GM: Well, what's cool about this tour is that all four bands are completely different. We're more of a thrashy band, Red Chord is grinding death metal, A Life Once Lost has a lot of groove to their sound and Bury Your Dead is tough guy hardcore. So it's like every night we get to hear a different kind of music over and over again. We see why certain things work for certain bands. Yeah, we're thrash, we go crazy but A Life Once Lost just kind of jams. Why does that work? We are starting to pay attention to that sort of thing. Our new stuff...we want it to be faster but at the same time we want it to be heavier. I like Testament, Testament's one of my favorite bands. I can't believe that band is so heavy.

WC: And more now than they were back in the day.

GM: Their CD "The Gathering"...I love that. I want that to be an influence on us. You know how heavy that is? That's what I want for us.

WC: Sounds like it would be a dream for you to open for them.

GM: They are playing a fest maybe 3 hours from our hometown. We're gonna be home around that time, but I think it's too late for us to get on it. Testament, Flotsam and Jetsam are on it.

WC: That must be the Louder Harder Faster festival. That's a very good line-up of bands. It's kind of what Milwaukee Metalfest used to be and no longer is.

GM: I went to Milwaukee a couple of years ago., We drove all the way there and it was about the most miserable time I ever had.

WC: If you had to pick your favorite If Hope Dies song, what would it be and why?

GM: There's two songs that I really love in our set, but if I had to pick one, I'd say "Roddy Piper". It's just fun. We open up with that song every night on this tour. I like a lot of our songs, but there's not too many hooks that keep you there. That song has an awesome hook in it. I love that song. It thrashes and then it has a brutal breakdown at the end of it.

WC: With all your road travels, you must have some kind of "Spinal Tap" story.

GM: We're actually pretty tame. We're probably the worst touring metal band ever because we're all animal rights, we're all vegan and we're all straight edge.

WC: Even so, you must have some problems with equipment...

GM: This tour has been ridiculous for that. Our van broke down twice. A Life Once Lost's van broke down and they had to fly back and get their things. Red Chord's van broke down three times in four days! Ridiculous!

WC: If they were straight edge, they must have felt like getting drunk and killing someone...

GM: (laughter) Seriously, dude! Our problems took a chunk out of us, but not enough to pull us off the tour. This is the longest we've ever been out and we're fried.

WC: I didn't know about your vegan stance. You don't push it in your lyrics.

GM: Oh, no, our drummer actually eats meat so we don't wanna say something. We don't really want to be preachy. We believe in what we believe. If you ask us about those beliefs, we'll tell you about it, because we love it. We're not going to be like "if you're not straight edge, go to hell".

WC: Any last words for the fans?

GM: I just hope kids keep coming out to our shows no matter what tour it is. All the tours we've done this year have been really different so we hope we've hitting every avenue and everybody likes it, man!

If Hope Dies' Official Website