15 Questions with Guitarist Adam Savage of Mongrel
By Natalie Perez
Female-fronted rock act Mongrel meld their punk and metal influences to create a sound that’s unique yet familiar.
Below, Mongrel guitarist Adam Savage discusses the band’s latest release, 2012′s Reclamation (released September 25 on Darwinism Failed), and how it differs from their past releases. He also looks ahead to the band’s future.
For more about the band, check out their Facebook page.
1. How do The New Breed of Old School and Reclamation differ?
Reclamation is about 22 minutes longer and has six more songs [laughs]. Just being a wiseass. The New Breed EP was six re-recordings of songs from our prior full-length to re-introduce the band with a female singer after Jess Sierra joined the band. Reclamation is the next evolution in our songs, branching out into a few other directions and really bringing our range of influences to the table. I think it’s some of our best stuff to date.
2. Was your songwriting and recording process any different than usual for this CD?
Not really. Jess helped re-write the chorus for the song “The More I Bleed” on this CD, so it was cool to get her writing a bit. We work well writing together so I’m really excited to see where things go on the next album since most of this was written before Jess joined the band, though she definitely added her own flavor to the songs. We recorded at the same studio with the same engineer/producer that we used for The New Breed of Old School and Declamation, so it was very comfortable and easy for us being in the studio working on this.
3. How has the band’s sound evolved from The New Breed of Old School to Reclamation?
The New Breed EP was mostly live in the studio with some overdubs for particular parts but mostly a quick recording process. With Reclamation, we did take more time, did more layers and tracks to flush it out a bit more. I think Reclamation is a bit more refined than New Breed, but not refined in the neutered, corporate sense. I think it’s just a mix of songs that I feel were well written and a band that was a bit more experienced recording and playing together, making it happen in the studio for this one.
4. What inspired the album title? Is it a concept album?
Reclamation is a companion piece to our Declamation EP that was released in May 2011. We recorded both at the same time and from the same batch of songs we were working with. Some of the tracks we knew had to be on the full-length and just worked together better so we split the others off onto the Declamation EP as a teaser of sorts, which was very well received. But that’s why the two CDs have similar artwork and titles. With both of them, it was us declaring our independence and survival from the past lineups of the band, that the band lived on, the songs lived on, and that we were coming back stronger than ever to reclaim our band and our spot in the local/regional/and now national scene. So it’s not really a concept album in the sense of story line throughout the songs but definitely a concept in the naming and visual components of these last two releases.
5. This album took four years, five bandmember changes, two studios, two labels and more. Why so much drama behind it?
Yeah, I’d long half-joked that this album was my Chinese Democracy with all the delays, changes, etc. The parting with our old label (Screaming Ferret Wreckords) was mutual and amicable. Tim over at SFW is a great guy, and we’re really grateful for the opportunity he gave us on our last full-length album back in 2008, so nothing bad to say there. Now we’re working with Thom Hazaert and THC-Music, so it’s another great opportunity.
As far as all the drama, there were just a lot of tensions and deteriorating personal relationships in the band back when this process first started. Once some of the long-coming changes took place, it was time to start the album over with a new studio, new people and a newly liberated energy, making the band fun to be in again. While the process to get to this point was at times incredibly frustrating, sometimes things happen for a reason, and I feel we’re now at the right time, at the right place and with the right people in and around the band to make things happen. So if that’s the case, then all of the stress and bullshit is all of a sudden worthwhile.
6. Did the band have any definitive goals they were shooting for before the recording process began for this album?
To make the best album we could of course!
7. Are you using any new instrumentation you’ve never used in the recording process before?
No. We told the accordion and banjo players to sit this one out, so it’s still the guitar/bass/vocals/drums instrumentation we’ve always been thus far.
8. When did you start writing for this album? How was the songwriting process different/similar to previous Mongrel albums?
Some of the songs go back as far as 2006; well, actually “No Gods No Masters” was one of the first songs I brought to the band back in 2003. It really wasn’t that different in that I wrote nearly all the lyrics and the basic songs that got flushed out over the years into their current forms. When we get the opportunity to work on the next album, I have no doubt there will be more collaborative song writing with Jess and the rest of the band as I think we finally have a good set of song writers in place.
9. The New Breed of Old School was a sizable critical success. Did you feel any pressure to follow it up?
The critical success of New Breed was awesome since we really were testing the waters as far as seeing how the fans at large would respond to us with a female singer after years of male singers. The response we got for that was amazing to see and got us to quickly get back in the studio to start work on what would become Declamation and the new album, Reclamation, with a “If you like that, wait till you hear this stuff” as a mindset. So we were very excited to follow it up, certainly not intimidated.
10. Can you go into one or two tracks on the new album? Give us the track title and a brief description of how the track sounds and how it came about.
We can go with “Bored to Death,” which is the lead-off track of the new album and the “single” we did a video for, which is out now on YouTube and has been getting a great response. The song is a high-energy hard rock song with a punky edge to it, kinda a Rolling Stones/Dead Boys/Trashlight Vision vibe if I had to describe it. As far as the song’s lyrical basis, it’s about finding yourself in a bad relationship that just beats you down and realizing you need to do something to make changes. “Zombies of War” is a more dingy track that really shows off Jess vocally and addresses the political and military-industrial complex’s policies over the last decade where we are lied to and sent to die for profits, power and personal grudges.
11. How was the vibe in the studio?
It was a lot of fun, very relaxed, great energy and a lot of excitement over what was coming out.
12. What are your expectations for the album?
I don’t know if I’d say we have expectations. Nothing is guaranteed in this industry and economic climate, but we’re hoping the fans will respond really well to the new album, that we’ll further get our name out there and hopefully with a little luck and a lot more hard work, get more cool opportunities to present themselves.
13. What is your favorite song to perform live?
“No Gods No Masters” is always fun because it’s a high-energy song and a great crowd-participation song. I know “The More I Bleed” is a favorite for Jess because she gets to show off her aggressive vocals really well. But since the great response to the video, I’m really enjoying “Bored to Death” live and seeing more people singing along to the song, which has been awesome.
14. Any big plans for the near future?
Playing shows, promoting the new album and seeing how it all plays out in the coming months. Fingers are crossed, though!
15. Anything you want to say to your fans?
First off, thank you. We have amazing fans who’ve been so supportive and patient waiting for this new album but have stuck by us, which is so appreciated. We really hope everyone will check out the new album. If you’ve liked us thus far, I think this will be an album you’ll be really happy with. We’re also always very appreciative of hearing from the fans, so please hit us up at our website, on Facebook and Twitter.
Southern Californian Natalie Perez has a fiery passion for music, writing and photography. Dying to know more? Connect with her via her own reality she calls Natalie’s World.