How did you get past the personal and professional challenges that faced you while writing and recording Black Rivers Flow?Alex Lackner: With everything that was being thrown at us during the process of making this record many would seem to fail. We didn’t even allow that to be an option. To start with, the whole ‘sophomore album’ being the ‘make or break’ album, it wasn’t something we were worried about from the get go. We really wanted to write an album for us. It was our chance to prove our songwriting skills to ourselves. We wanted to see what we were made of and not worry about what anybody else thought. So we just went for it. As far as personal challenges, which were probably the leading factor in certain slumps we may have found ourselves, we actually used them to our advantage. Basically just telling ourselves that if we didn’t finish this album the way we wanted it to be done we’d be letting down those that we care for so much. We lost some great people that were very close to us but we knew we had to make an amazing album for them. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. You either stand in the way and get hit or you swing for the fences. We opted for the latter.
Do you think you avoided the ‘sophomore slump’ on Black Rivers Flow?
Alex Lackner: As mentioned before we weren’t even worried about it, but in those terms, yes. I’d say we avoided it pretty well. It really shows progression and growth from The Onslaught. We knew some people wouldn’t like it because they’re too involved with their strict concept of ‘thrash’. Then again we also knew that most people would love it and we’d open up to more fans. It turned out to be a great album that is getting great review and in our minds we definitely believe it to be our best work. It really shows an evolution and that was the biggest thing we looked for with it. It was a way for us to have our own sound and show that we are capable of making great music.
Vocally, you’ve split up things. How have the split vocals helped the songwriting?
Alex Lackner: One of the major factors with Black Rivers Flow is the upgrade we’ve made vocally. On The Onslaught Jeff was the main vocalist and Dan only had a few backing vocal pieces thrown into the mix whereas on the new disc Jeff steps back a bit and allows Dan to really shine. Dan is a great vocalist and with him incorporating his pieces for this effort we’ve really found what we’ve been missing. The last album was very monotonous vocally. So this time through we decided to really focus on the vocals and make them a major part of the songwriting. It really shows our capabilities. Plus, it’s just better when you’re fans can really sing along.
What is Black Rivers Flow about?
Alex Lackner: Personal struggle. The overall theme really has to do with challenges in life and having to overcome them, mentally, and physically. This was probably the hardest thing we’ve had to accomplish during such tragic times. So lyrically a lot was inspired by our own personal struggles. You can see the metaphors and analogies incorporated. A lot of the lyrics, when read, seem very straight forward about prisoners and war and life. But a lot of that has to do with us personally and the trials we’ve had to face and conquer.
As a young band, what do you make of the music industry, downloading, and your place in-between?
Alex Lackner: Downloading is a part of everyday life it seems now. It has affected the music industry so greatly that it is nothing like it was 20 years ago. There’s no such thing as the ‘rockstar’ anymore. CD sales have plummeted. The only way to accomplish anything anymore is through touring. It’s all about big tours with big bands. Bigger shows, the better the turnout. And I’m not talking about festivals alone. Sure they work, but even a solid tour with a solid line-up will draw a crowd. With the way things are going in the industry today I can certainly see music being free sooner than later. Most of it basically is with everyone downloading. The worst part is that these people don’t realize how much it actually hurts sales and deters a band from continuing. At this point it’s already too late to change any of that. So, then we get free music. Artists would focus more on touring than actual sales and hope it works out. It’s like the industry is lost and doesn’t know where to go. If were to come to free music I think we could embrace it. It just then becomes a matter of finding a way to keep people showing up at your shows. Hope to God your music is good enough. [Laughs]
What do you think bands (at any stage, really) can do to better connect with fans?
Alex Lackner: Be a fan yourself. Connect with them personally. Just because you’re famous and people know who you are doesn’t mean you can’t get to know them too. When you’ve befriended someone they really feel special and want to be a part of what you’re doing, no matter if it’s even the smallest piece. They really feel like they are a part of something bigger. Think of Dimebag Darrell, for instance. He was in one the world’s greatest metal bands and yet he still had time to hang out with his fans and make them feel like family. I personally believe that is one of the biggest compliments someone can give. When another looks up to you so greatly and you’re kind enough to give them the time of day, you’ve done something right. After that, it’s all about having a good time. If you are, so will they.
You’ve stated you’re just regular guys from Wisconsin. Isn’t that what metal is about?
Alex Lackner: Yes and no. Doesn’t everyone want to be a regular person doing what they love? Of course, but that doesn’t mean that’s what happens. A lot of people really look to it as being a bigger than life sort of thing. For us, yes we’d love to be a huge band that everyone knows about and everyone goes to the shows, but at the end of the day we are who we are and we love to hang out and have a good time. The more the merrier! It’s a party. Why not enjoy it. Would you really feel like it’s a good time if you’re partying alone? If so you may have some serious reflecting to do. Get out and meet people. Have a good time! The Midwest isn’t the nicest area in the world, and honestly some of the seasons tend to suck. Yet we find ways to have a good time and interact with others so everyone has a good time. We’re a party band. We take to what we do professionally, but we like to have some fun while doing it.
There are a lot of people out there that haven’t heard Lazarus A.D. What’s your napkin pitch to would-be fans?
Alex Lackner: We’re not the average run of the mill band. We don’t categorize our sound with that of others. Similarities? Yes. Influences? Yes. None-the-less, we are a straight forward, Heavy Metal band with a sound that catches your attention, doesn’t let go, and keeps your head banging through and through. Now, if one were to ask specifically what bands we were influenced by we would state three bands in particular. Metallica, Pantera, and Testament. Those are the majors. Plus, how can you really go wrong with those bands?
OK, without further ado, here’s “Casting Forward”. Circle pit in 3, 2, 1…
** Lazarus A.D.’s Black Rivers Flow is out February 1st on Metal Blade Records. Order it here.