Single Bullet Theory's Matt DiFabio Discusses New Album "IV"
On November 26th, 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt DiFabio of the metal band Single Bullet Theory. The band recently released their fourth album entitled "IV" through Goomba Records (read the review here.) Matt discussed the band's history, their latest album, his song writing process, and gives advice to aspiring musicians. I hope everyone enjoys his responses and picks up their latest album, "IV."
Zack - Tell us about the history and revolving line up of SBT.
Matt DiFabio - Well, first I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. I m a big fan of MetalUnderground.com. Regarding the member changes of Single Bullet Theory.... There hasn't been as many "official" changes to the band. For many years the bands core members were (former) bassist Bill Mez and myself. We had a guitarist for the first 3 years named Doug Rush (who left to pursue a beautiful pyramid scheme). Then we had a friend of ours fill in (Carlos Alverez from Shadowdance). Carlos was cool enough to do the Amorphis / Into Etenity tour with us. After the tour, we hired Dan Loughry (polterchrist, seeds of perdition) and Dan played with us or almost 4 years. In 2008, I decided to end the group temporarily and at that point everyone went on to different things. We haven't had a permanent drummer since 2003 and we have been fortunate enough to have some great players (like Matt Thompson from King Diamond) on our first three records.
The Current official line up is myself, Jeff Kalber on bass and John Ruszin III as our lead guitarist and producer. Unfortunately, John is unable to tour so we have two guitarists that will be doing our regional touring with us. Both of which our awesome musicians and great guys. They are Patrick Brose and Joe Brannigan and they are from the band Of Wrath and Ruin. I'm hopeful to have both Joe and Pat involved in the making of our next cd as well. I think it would be off the hook to have John Ruszin and Patrick trading off leads. In that respect, Single Bullet Theory will have three guitars live (which is something I have always wanted).
Zack - Why has it been hard to call a label home? Is it the line ups? Bad deals?
Matt DiFabio - We actually have been with the same label since 2002. Crash Music was our label. Then we disbanded. When I reformed the band.... I wanted a new label and a fresh start. We reached out to Eclipse Records and worked out a deal with them. During the making of "IV", I began talking with the former owners of Crash and was very interested in the new label they were forming (Goomba Music). We were released from Eclipse and now we are back with our original label family. I like the owner of Goomba a lot and consider him a friend, so its nice to be where I am at.
Zack - Were you ever formally trained in music?
Matt DiFabio - Not at all really. I took bass guitar lessons for about a month back when I was about 13 years old. I had no real interest in "theory." I just wanted to play man. Looking back, I wish I had learned a little more. I have an easier time constructing solos now that I know a little more about modes and scales. I was never a big theory dude and like to play by ear. However, disciplined guitarists are most likely "technically better" than I am.
Zack - How do you go about your writing process?
Matt DiFabio - Typically, I will have an idea floating around in my head. I hear the whole piece a lot of times. Meaning, when I throw the guitar riffs down, I usually have the drums already mapped out. I have a pro-tools rig now so everything gets laid out in that. I used to use this line 6 program that was easy for arranging pieces but a little limiting. Once I get the song written, I give the song arrangements to the other guys and they learn and/or write their respective parts. Its actually a very easy process for us. I give the drummer his on creative freedom and just asked that he stays "somewhat close" to the feel or vibe. I encourage that everyone does as much to the song as they want. I love drum fills, big bass lines and blazing solos so you wont ever get a complaint outta me for "overplaying". After everything is recorded, edited and cleaned up 100%, I begin laying down vocal tracks and experimenting with vocal arrangements.
Zack - Any advice to vocalists? Guitarists? Songwriters? Bands?
Matt DiFabio - My only real advice is to stick to your guns 100%. We get a lot of shit from people who cant really classify us as one genre or another. I thinks its horseshit. We are a metal band, plain and simple. If your a musician, I feel that you need to run your flag up a pole and keep it there. Either people will salute it or they will tear it down if they can. Fuck 'em. You cant please everybody and I think its very important for new talent to remember that. New bands seem to try and get on the latest band wagon more often then not. Its really UN-inspiring and an easy way out. Be original and be yourself. It will be much more gratifying personally for your band to get a fan base solely on your own unique approach to your craft.
Zack - Do you try and spread a message in your music through lyrics? Does the current state of the world influence this more?
Matt DiFabio - In the past I had written a few songs about the state of the world. I feel that its sorta depressing to do that. The state of the world is fucked up, so what. I mean, its not like anything we do as Americans change anything anyway. Our last president was fucking TERRIBLE, this one is only slightly better. I figure that we as Americans really shouldn't bitch about the state of our country as the rest of the world is much worse off. I also don't believe that bands should really mix politics with music that much. Music should be an outlet for people to escape everyday horseshit. I really don't want to watch CNN and get bummed out then put on a cd and get even more bummed out. Most of my lyrics are personal experiences laid out to a sound track. I am not an ambassador, congressman, senator or state official so there would be no reason for me to get out on a soap box and try to change the world.
Zack - Do you ever go through dry spells that many months or a year? If so what motivates you to get 'in the zone'?
Matt DiFabio - I do sometimes lyrically, I can usually pick up the guitar and come up with something acceptable. Sometimes, when its time to write words, I hit a wall. I usually just move on to another song or part of the same song. Its not out of the ordinary for me to write a song in the complete opposite order of its playing sequence. I get motivated to write music when I get new equipment or grab one of my guitars that I don't usually play. The different feel of each instrument makes me play parts differently then I would have on another piece of gear. Also, I like to experiment with tones and such and I feel that certain parts get translated differently through different amps. That inspires me a lot.
Zack - What has helped you more in your career so far: connections or your talent?
Matt DiFabio - I'd have to say talent. No one is lining up to do me any favors. I have some small "connections," but I rarely call out for help. I think that "connections" really can only go so far anyway. I mean, if you have little or no talent.... Its gonna be exposed rather quickly. Then the person with the "connections" looks like an asshole for helping you out anyway. The two of which have to go hand in hand.
Zack - What was it like to work with so many talented musicians on "Auctioneer of Souls"?
Matt DiFabio - Well, it was fantastic. Imagine having some of your favorite guitar players contribute to your vision. Words cant describe the gratitude I have toward each and every one of the soloists that did their thing. Everyone was great and it really is a true masterpiece (in my humble opinion).
Zack - Did you know who you wanted on the song to begin with? Did anyone say no/hard to get ahold of/hard to work with? Was the song fully written before the guests performed on it? Were some solos 'cut?' How did the process happen?
Matt DiFabio - The song originally was just over three minutes and was going to feature just solos from myself, John Ruszin and our other guitarist then Dan Loughry. I thought about getting a few guest guys on it and it really just grew from there. I think there are 17 total solos and 13 total guest players. Tim Roth (Into Eternity) gave us two solos so I guess he had an unfair advantage... We began adding parts as more people agreed to be on it. I even re-wrote a complete section for Jeff Loomis' part as he wanted a key change mid-way through his solo and I am glad he requested that. As far as getting turned down, yes Jake E. Lee was asked to be part of it and after about two weeks of being "on the fence," he declined. Also, we were originally slated to have Jed Simon (Strapping Young Lad) on it, but for whatever reason, it never came to fruition. Regarding the process, it was pretty easy. Each guitarist was able to have his own 20-35 second solo in the song. We would send the mp3 over to them and they would cut their individual solos and send us just the solos and harmonies back as wav files. The files were all rendered to zero so they dropped on (pretty much) right in the correct spot when we imported them into the session files. We did our best to make sure that each guitarist got a stripped down version of the song as I didn't want anyone really feeling like they had to "top" anyone. I think it all came together beautifully.
Zack - How would you define talent?
Matt DiFabio - I think "talent" is the ability to write a good song and the consistency to play the song convincingly. I know that the traditional form of talent is to be the very best what what you play or do. However, a band like Alice in Chains aren't very technical but they are write great shit. Talent is the ability to make someone excited and react to something that you have written or you are performing. I also think that persistence is much more important than talent and with persistence, your talents will go more recognized. I read a quote once from Calvin Coolidge that I have always loved and lived by. I am going to para-phrase here:
"Nothing in the world can take place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
Zack - Whats your opinion of Spotify?
Matt DiFabio - I really am not familiar with it. However, I have heard that the artists makes little to no money from it so therefore I think its shitty. I am not even a real big fan of Itunes. I think it really marginalizes the artists status in the music business. Being "signed" really doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot if EVERYONE can get ANYONES music. At one point getting a record deal was all any band wanted to achieve. Now, merely uploading their songs into a database yields you the same chance to get heard.
Zack - Do you think it is safe to have the dream of making a decent living solely off of music (not necessarily the band), or is it all just a fantasy?
Matt DiFabio - Well, define a "living!" Can I make my living in the business, fuck no! Is it possible to survive and pay your cell phone bill and live at home until your 30?,.... Sure! I have friends that are in much bigger bands that cant really pay bills, cant afford health insurance, have shitty cars and "survive." I think its getting harder and harder to make it. Even on the other side of the business, for example: A real record producer used to get tens of thousands of dollars to get in the studio with a band and shape their sound for them. Now, I have heard quotes from big named guys as low as $2,500. Its sad really. I don't know where the industry is heading, I know that I do this based on the sheer will fact that I love playing and recording. If I had delusions of grandeur about "making it," I'd spend a light of days really fucking depressed.
Zack - Do you prefer playing live or being in the studio?
Matt DiFabio - Live totally, I hate making records. Its a life sucking siege that is usually grueling, daunting and overly redundant. I like the finished product and I enjoyed making "IV" a lot more then previous records. But the whole process is really emotionally challenging for me. I have to over-see everything (including the engineers responsibilities sometimes). Regardless, I feel that the band has always come across live a lot better. I like looking people in the eyes when we are on stage and trying to connect with them as much as possible. I am really looking forward to getting the band back out on the road this time around.
Zack - What bands/musicians do you look up to?
Matt DiFabio - Depends on what aspect we're talking about. As players, I look up too a ton of bands. As people I look up to others. I have a lot of respect for some of the great rock bands from the 70's and 80s that are still doing it. (I.E. Whitesnake, Judas Priest, Ozzy)
From a business stand point, I like chatting with Dan Lorenzo (Hades, Non-fiction) from time to time. His perspective of this business is usually enlightening. I think from a guitarists stand point, Jeff Loomis is the best there is right now. He is also a great guys so I guess I look up too him a lot. From a vocalists stand point, I like tons of different people. I do however think that David Coverdale and Steve Perry are the best rock "singers" ever. At the same time, I think that Peter Dolving (the haunted) has one of the best "metal" voices.
Zack - What can we expect in the future? Any tour plans? New album in the works? Any last words?
Matt DiFabio - We are currently in rehearsals now for live regional shows. I would expect to have SBT out on the road in January. I want to write a new record with the guys involved in SBT now so when that process begins, who really knows. Id like to really spend some time supporting the "IV" record, so I don't foresee us recording anytime soon. I want to thank you for your time and supporting SBT. We are back 100% and I hope that anyone reading this will look into "IV" as well as our back catalog.
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