A Life Once Lost Vocalist Bob Meadows Talks About The Band's Latest Album “Ecstatic Trance”
For A Life Once Lost, the five years between “Iron Gag” and “Ecstatic Trance” was a period of transition that drastically restructured the band. The lineup was cut down to vocalist Bob Meadows and guitarist/vocalist Douglas Sabolick, who forged ahead as a duo in the aftermath of these changes. Working on a new album took years, and after a few complete ones were scrapped, they hunkered down and got down a collection of songs that proved satisfactory for the two musicians.
A Life Once Lost has been a polarizing band ever since they got noticed back in 2003 with the excellent “A Great Artist,” and Meadows is proud of how they have always done their own thing without worrying about fan response. That looks like it will continue with “Ecstatic Trance,” judging on the mixed reactions the few songs that leaked so far have gotten. I got into a lively discussion with Meadows about this situation, what “Ecstatic Trance” represents to him as it relates to the band’s status, and his thoughts on the Internet’s influence on the music industry.
The band is getting ready to release “Ecstatic Trance” in late October. What direction did you want the music to take this time around, compared to the last few albums?
I think we were just evolving within our sound and what we’ve done on the previous albums. We’ve always tried to push past what we’ve done in the past. I think on this record, we’ve excelled on and moved past what we’ve done previously. Taking something from “A Great Artist,” which was very polarizing and the tempo remained the same...with “Hunter” and “Iron Gag,” it’s kind of moved into more of a songwriter’s perspective...it’s a more mature sound in a way. This next record is just us evolving even more so, just growing up and getting older, allowing the influences of different bands and musicians to influence stuff that we’ve done, whether it was bands from the ‘60s and ‘70s to the Afrobeat scene from Africa. It was our way to pay homage to them through what we do metal-wise.
Was it always your intention when you first started writing this album to have those types of influences shine onto the music?
Yeah. We spent five years trying to evolve, whether it was losing members - we lost a drummer, we lost a guitar player, and we lost a bass player - and me and Doug writing. Our flavors are a little bit more exposed here than they were on previous records. It’s not a bad thing at all. I think it’s kind of beneficial to be able to continue to play music and continue to grow and progress, instead of putting out the same album over and over again. This is kind of the way that we both see this band going, and we’ve always seen it going this way. You try to outdo yourself, and try to satisfy your own wants and needs musically.
We didn’t really write this record to gain fans and do all that shit. It’s not really that important to us. We’re past that; we’re beyond that with this record. It’s really satisfying to be able to put the time in that we did put into this record, to climb over the hurdles and all the obstacles that were in our way. To end with this final result was pretty awesome. You just can’t keep doing the same things over and over. There are some bands out there that find that formula and they don’t really stray too far away from it, because they feel safe. You have to take a risk in life, whether it’s getting in the van and touring or whether it’s walking away from the band and pursuing a career in something else. You have to take risks in life in order to make some kind of impact in society. You just don’t do that by accepting it for what it is. I don’t really agree with that. I’ve never lived that way. I’ve always tried to excel past my own accomplishments, and I think that keeps me going and it keeps me wanting more, whether it’s learning or doing.
At what point in your career did you decide that you were less concerned about a fan’s opinion, and more what you take away from the music on a personal level?
“A Great Artist” was the first installment of that. We developed this local following within Bucks County, Salem, New Jersey and Philadelphia, where we were known for heavy riffs with these technical, harsh parts; a little bit like Dillinger Escape Plan/In Flames style. Then I think once we established ourselves with that, that’s when we changed and did “A Great Artist” and we pursued that a little more. Once we did “A Great Artist,” I remember going out and playing this one show... we came out and we played “A Great Artist” in its entirety. I had a blast. I had a great time playing it. It was awesome to see people’s reactions, to hear the heckling.
It was weird. I embraced it, but at the same time, I was kind of disgusted. It makes you a little upset that people just can’t appreciate the band, appreciate the musicians, and the effort they put into it, whether it’s a month of writing or whether it’s a year of writing. Fans come because they expect one thing, whether it’s Hatebreed playing “Under The Knife” or whether it’s Unearth doing “The Oncoming Storm.” You have the fans that come and expect a certain thing, and if you don’t deliver that, of course they are going to be pissed and upset.
Then again, if you’re sitting there and just doing what they want you to do and what they want you to play, you’re just a fucking puppet. I’m not a fucking puppet. I have feelings. I have a soul, and I have a purpose on this fucking planet, whether it’s playing music or whether it’s living. I’m not going to live to somebody else's standards; it’s not who I am as a person. There is such a high turnover rate within the music culture, so why are we going to try to hold on to people for a period of a few months, when you turn around the next day and they are gone? You don’t play it for them; you play it for you.
With the Internet as popular as it is, allowing people to hate on a band or say negative things under the mask of anonymity, do you think that is also one of the problems that has been plaguing the music industry?
Yeah, it’s not just affecting the music industry; it’s affecting everything in society. When you have to hide behind a computer, or you can’t just be a man like it was in the 19th century...when you had a problem with somebody, you went up to them and said it, because you have the nerve to do it. Now, they curl up behind these smart phones and these computers. They can just sit there and talk shit and make fun of people behind a computer, but the day they actually come up and say it to someone’s face, it’s a completely different fucking story. At home, you don’t face that reaction, and the only reaction you face is just what other people say, whether they are bashing you or agreeing with that scumbag.
People are soulless now, and it’s a shame that there is no balls in human nature anymore. It is all texting and messaging and blogging about shit. If you don’t like it, then say something. You have to be aware that when you say something, there is usually going to be a reaction, and it’s not going to be on the positive side. One thing I do love is touring in foreign countries. You can play a show in Germany, and I’ll probably have a person come up to me after and be like, ‘You know, your last record was not so good. Why is that?’ They are honest; they are not going to sit there and talk on Lambgoat. The stuff I’ve been reading about us is stuff like, ‘Oh, this isn’t A Great Artist.’ If you want “A Great Artist,” you can find the disc and you go home and listen to it and it can be 2003 all over again. You can live in that era, but for a music lover, you embrace the changes and embrace everything else.
A few songs have already been released from “Ecstatic Trance,” and the reaction has been mixed to say the least. Were you expecting that kind of reaction?
Yeah, you’ll see people say, ‘Oh, this isn’t A Great Artist.’ No shit. We’re not that band anymore. A Life Once Lost is two people now; it’s myself and Doug Sabolick. That’s it. Everyone else moved on with their lives, for better or worse. There are no hard feelings. I remain friends with everyone, except one individual. People grow up and people grow away; that’s just human nature. They feel that they’ve reached a plateau within A Life Once Lost, and now they need to grow and do something else and excel elsewhere. I applaud them for that; it’s brave. It takes a lot of fucking balls to be able to look me in the eyes and go, ‘This isn’t for me anymore. I need to walk away from this.’
That’s fine. There are days that go by when I’m like that, but A Life Once Lost is two people. This is our interpretation of the band right now, and people just need to realize that. If people hate it, they hate it. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. I don’t see them making the effort to write music or do anything creative or worth anything that’s going to actually mean anything in life. For me, I’ve done a lot. I put out a few records, and played a lot of shows, and gone to a lot of countries. I’ve done a lot more than the people that are sitting there talking shit about my band. The few people that like it, there’s going to be one person that hates it, and vice versa. Again, I don’t care. It’s not the thing that drives me and makes me move forward with playing music.
You mentioned that A Life Once Lost is just two people, and both of your interpretations of what the band is now. Going forward in the future, is that how the band is going to be? Just you two, and other members coming in?
Yeah, probably. I think that it will always remain me and Doug for now. We’ll always be A Life Once Lost. We’ll always do our thing. We’ll have people coming in and out. We’ll definitely have the outside influences as well, but I think for the most part, it will be the two of us. Whether this album sells a million or whether it sells a hundred, we’re going to put another fucking record out. We’re always going to play music. It’s just the way that we are.
What’s the one thing you’re most proud of about this album? Anything you can look back and say, ‘This is awesome. This is exactly what I wanted to do’?
This whole record. It was the whole process of writing it. This was a long fucking process too. This time last year, we scrapped an album. A year and a half before that, we scrapped another album. We actually had two other albums written that we totally scraped, because it just wasn’t us and it wasn’t good enough. This record is fucking awesome. I give a lot of credit to Doug. He was able to really envision a lot of the stuff that I brought in. I would be sitting at night and listening to records, or on the computer looking for music, and I would come across something and I’m like, ‘Holy fuck. This is sick. Listen to this riff,’ or if it’s not the riff, ‘Listen to their approach.’ It’s amazing to be able to interpret your influences in other ways...it just feels good. It feels good to be able to still play in a band.
Tell me how the band got involved with KEN Mode and Revocation for the tour coming up in October/November.
We’ve toured with Revocation before. I don’t think the tour was long enough to get the full experience of each other. I’m a fan of KEN Mode, but I’ve never toured with the dudes and I’ve never seen the dudes. On their album, I think the band is fucking awesome. They do what they want. They are heavy and loud and just good fucking tunes. With this tour package, it was cool to be able to work with Gordon Conrad (Label Manager, Season Of Mist), and work with people who want to work with the band. Gordon is sitting here and he believes. When you believe, you’re more willing to push and the drive is there. For Gordon, it’s not about the money. It’s not a financial thing, where he thinks that he’s making money or taking checks without doing stuff. I’ve been his friend since 2000. I met him when he was just starting up Escape Artist. Every band that he put out on Escape Artist was just killer. He had a great vision and to be able to finally work with him after all of these years is a dream come true. Knowing what he’s done in the past with Relapse, and even prior to that, he’s always been the guy I wanted to work with, and I did.
Do you still get the same thrill out of going out on the road that you did a decade ago?
It’s different now, but yeah. There are days when I fucking hate it and there are days when I love it. When I love it, it feels great. The thing that I hate now is that you’re getting older. Taking the time off to tour, financially, you struggle a little more. Now I work and I work to save money and I save money so I can pay my bills while I’m away. It’s just a part of growing up. It kind of drives you a little crazy. The other things are leaving loved ones and relationship and family and girlfriends and stuff like that. It’s different now because you’re getting older and the feelings are slightly different than when you were a 22-year-old or 23-year-old kid not knowing any better and jumping into the van. We toured years throughout the country without insurance on our van. We’d go to borders and we would smoke weed and drink and be ignorant. It was fucking crazy, not caring that you only have 25 bucks because some schmuck promoter fucked you over at a pizza shop.
Just getting in the fucking van and going and doing it; that’s the only thing I still have, is that I can get in the fucking van and love it. I still have that same passion. I’m not afraid to get into the van. I’m not afraid to put my time back in to get to another point. You do have that same feeling. It’s the difference between myself and Doug and the other guys that were in A Life Once Lost. Over time, they lost that feeling. They felt the need to go back to school, or to pursue other careers and other lives and begin lives. Everyone grows up. It’s just different for everyone.
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