An Interview With Everett Mason of APE
Everett Mason is one busy guy. As singer, songwriter, and guitarist for Canadian metal band Ape, he doesn’t get much time for anything besides his music. Add to that the fact that Ape is currently an unsigned band who just released their second album, "Survival of the Fittest," and are busy marketing the album and themselves to the Canadian and U.S. music scenes. Fortunately, Everett took time out recently to chat with me about the unique origin of the band’s name, the struggles of self-promotion, and what it’s like to be a metal fan and musician.
Nichole Nash: First off, where did you and the guys meet, and how did Ape come about?
Everett Mason: Galen was my next-door neighbor growing up. It was just a fluke that he was learning bass and I was learning guitar while we were right next door to each other. I was about 12 when I moved in, and I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 17. So the first 5 years I knew Galen I had know idea he could play the bass or that we’d ever be in a band together. I think his dad is a bass player and that his grandfather was a bass player too. So it’s in the genes for the guy to play bass. I will bet good money that if Galen has a kid, he’ll play the bass too. The first song we jammed and the first song I learned was "Paranoid." As the months went by we started jamming more regularly and I started writing songs. I always showed them to Galen first for two reasons: he lived right next door to me, and he was the only other person on the planet that hated hip hop as much as I did. After playing for a few months we got a couple of friends to fill in on second guitar and drums positions and we started playing shows. We probably covered "Paranoid" for the first 4 of them. The line-up of the band has been changing ever since. Galen and I have definitely been the lifers in this band.
Nichole: Where did the name Ape come from?
Everett: Originally it was an acronym for the Alcoholic Pussy Eaters. It was more of a joke at first; then we just ended up going by the name APE. The name suits us perfectly because the essence of this band is about being real and genuine. The name refers to how people evolve and how music has evolved. Even the name of the band itself has evolved. Although we are not trying to be a throwback band, most of our influences come from classic metal and hard rock. I like the vibe of the older records - they were much more raw and real than a lot of the new stuff that comes out these days. I want for APE to have a unique modern sound and to capture some of the feel of the more classic records.
Nichole: Your self-titled demo was released in '07. How long before that had you guys been playing together?
Everett: Galen and I had been jamming since 2001. We had gone through about four or five guitar players and ten drummers before we recorded the first demo. Finally, I just decided to play lead guitar on the record and for us to get a session drummer for the record. The band has remained a three-piece ever since. After we made the demo, we knew we were no longer just friends playing in band as a hobby. We knew this is what we wanted to do for life as a living. This demo solidified us as a band. Although I can’t stand to listen to the production of the demo I am still very proud of the songs themselves. The material was good enough to create an epic release, but looking back I should have been much more assertive in the recording process. We weren’t picky enough in choosing a good studio, and we let way too much slide during the mixing process. I was much more involved when we were recording and mixing "Survival," and I think because of that, it is a far better record than the first demo.
Nichole: "Survival of the Fittest" has been out a couple months now. How’s reaction been so far?
Everett: The reaction has been unbelievable. Every time you leave a session at the studio you think you’ve just created something special, but you never really know until you hear feedback from people who listen to the CD. I think some of our fans will have to get used to this album because it is quite different than the first demo. I was going for more melodic vocals with fewer screams and more harmonies. I think the guitars sound big and the solos fit every song nicely. I was really trying not to over play. I think "Survival" has the potential for mass appeal, and I love that we haven’t had to compromise our sound one bit to make it.
Nichole: The album is available on ITunes and in HMV’s across Canada. Any plans to market it in U.S. stores, or are you relying more on the web for promotion?
Everett: Yes. Hopefully we’ll be in U.S. stores very soon. We are doing a cross Canada tour in August so it made sense for us to get it in stores across Canada first. Hopefully a U.S. tour will follow and our CD’s will be available there too. Right now we rely pretty heavily on the web for promotion, even here in Canada. It’s just part of the times I guess. If you are in a band you have a website, and you need for your music to be accessible online.
Nichole: Speaking of digital downloads, what’s your take on music downloading? Do you have a preference among digital, cd, or maybe even vinyl?
Everett: If I like a band I always buy the CD. Vinyl is cool too, but I don’t have a record player. I like reading through the lyrics and looking at the artwork. I think metal heads are the best for buying CD’s instead of downloading. To me, if you value a band’s work then their CD is worth 15 bucks. With that said, I am not against downloading. In some parts of the world certain music, especially metal, is very had for people to get their hands on. So it’s good that they get the chance to listen to the same amazing music we do.
Nichole: Any particular bands you’d like to tour with?
Everett: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, ACDC, Black Label Society. Hell, you’ve got to dream big.
Nichole: You wear a lot of hats in the band – vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. How do you juggle it all, and which one do you think is your primary responsibility?
Everett: As a fan I always liked the singer and guitarist best in every band. I could never decide if I wanted to be Slash or Axl, Ozzy or Tony, Phil or Dimebag, so when it came to forming a band I just kind of became the singer and guitarist. The fact I wrote most of the material helped too, because I would only have to show my songs to the bass player and the drummer. If I had to pick between guitar and singer, I’d probably pick being a singer. I like being the voice of the band and talking to the audience between songs and all that stuff. I feel like I have a lot to say and if I was only the guitar player I wouldn’t get that chance. Sometimes it is difficult singing over some of my guitar parts but you get used to it. The pay off is that I get to do two things I love in one band. Other musicians might need a side project to keep them happy, but I get to put 100 percent of my musical ambitions into APE. Writing songs is truly a gift. I don’t know where it comes from but I am lucky that I always have musical ideas popping in my head. Maybe one day that will stop. Hopefully it never does, but you never know.
Nichole: Where does your inspiration come for the lyrics?
Everett: When it comes to lyrics I am all over the map. It is very rare for me to stay on the same topic for an entire song. That’s the way my head works. I write based on my own experiences and how I feel at any particular time. For me, singing is the best way to release frustration and anger. I don’t really feel compelled to write lyrics when I am happy, which is probably why I am so drawn to metal.
Nichole: You reference bands like Guns n Roses and Pantera on your website. What bands influenced you, growing up, and as a musician?
Everett: I was and still am huge into Zeppelin. When I first started playing I was also into GNR, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and Pantera. There are too many to name now, but when I was learning guitar those were my main bands.
Nichole: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as an unsigned band?
Everett: I think there are a lot of shitty bands out there, and a fair share of them are signed. So if you are unsigned it is assumed you are terrible. The worst part is that often the music is the last thing you are judged by. You have to earn respect every inch of the way. If your gear sucks the soundman won’t respect you. If you don’t bring a lot of people to your show the promoter won’t respect you. If you don’t have a nicely written bio on your website the booking agent won’t respect you. It’s a struggle, but when you choose to pursue a career in music you have to tell yourself that playing music is the pay. I get to do something that I love. I don’t leave my shitty job, then start my hobby. My job is my hobby, my passion, my way of life.
Nichole: Have you been in talks with any labels since the release of "Survival of the Fittest?"
Everett: Not really. We are going to give it a few weeks and let the album grow a little more. I think first impressions count and we want to make sure that they know we are ready. We know we are ready but we have to convince the labels of that. On the other hand, signing with a label has to benefit us. So many bands get so worked up about getting signed they often don’t care who tries to sign them. I have heard the horror stories of bands not selling enough records and then having to pay off thousands in debt back to the record company.
Nichole: Promoting yourself and writing, singing and performing your songs doesn’t leave a lot of free time, but what other hobbies or activities do you do in your spare time?
Everett I love going to concerts. It is the second best thing to playing. Barbecues and beers are always fun. Watching hockey and Tiger Woods play golf.
Nichole: I understand you’re getting ready for a video release. Which track have you selected, and where will it premiere?
Everett: We are in the process of making a video for "It’s Not." We are not sure where it will premiere, but there is a good chance it will be on You Tube before anywhere else. We hope to air it on television.
Nichole: Where do you see you and your music going in ten years?
Everett: I don’t know. You look at other bands’ careers and see how their music evolves, and see if the same thing would happen to APE. Every band’s path is different. I’d much prefer the career path AC/DC or Iron Maiden has taken rather than what Metallica or Areosmith have become. They are all huge bands with lots of success, but some bands keep their integrity. I never want to be labeled as a band that follows the trends. From a fan’s standpoint it is especially heartbreaking when one of your favorite bands goes from being one of the best things around to not that good of a band. Fans have a lot of loyalty and they’ll still stand behind you even on the decay. Band should never take advantage of that.
Nichole: You really sort of blur the lines between rock and metal in your music. Is that intentional, and how would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it?
Everett: It is not intentional at all, it just comes out that way. If you listen to Slayer and then AC/DC, we are probably in the middle heaviness wise. The only thing intentional about our music is to sound unique. Our versatility keeps us unpredictable. Whether it is a rock album or a metal album we always strive to make a timeless release. Whether we are able to pull that off is another story. I think all good music stands the test of time and often you have to wait 10 or even 20 years to judge an album.
Nichole: You’ve worked with a lot of Canadian and internet radio sites to get airtime, but a lot of your songs aren’t ones that would be considered radio-friendly in the U.S. Is this a problem you’ve encountered in Canada as well? What do you think are some of the differences, if any, between the music scenes in Canada and the states?
Everett: We are actually starting to hear from some radio stations that they want to play some of our material, which is very flattering. However they are all Canadian station so we’ll see if we hear anything from some American stations. With that said, we didn’t write this album so that it would be played on the radio. We made this album hoping it would be a good listen from start to finish and that the songs would transfer well live. About half the bands I love are on the radio regularly, and the other half are rarely played at all. So I am fine with us being in either of those positions.
Nichole: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Everett: Thanks for checking us out on Metal Underground. So much of our success is based on word of mouth. Spread the word that APE is here and the world has a good rock band making good records for the next little while.
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