Fireworks Magazine Online 64 - Interview with Anti Mortem

ANTI MORTEM: Interview with Zain Smith

Interview by Dave Bott

When I was first approached to do this interview Anti-Mortem were a new name to me. On listening to the debut CD, 'New Southern', I was impressed to say the least, even more so when I found out exactly how young the guys in the band were. By the time you read this they will have played their first ever show in the UK, at Download, so I decided to find out more. Travelling between gigs in the U.S., I managed to grab fifteen minutes with guitarist Zain Smith.


Anti-Mortem

First of all Zain congratulations on the 'New Southern' CD, I received a copy only a few days ago so I could get a feel for Anti-Mortem and have to say that for such a young band I was surprised how mature it sounds. Is it too early to tell how it's been received by the media?

"The record has been doing fantastic. Just to see a physical copy getting released to the masses after all our hard work feels awesome. It's such a huge step for us. It's taken eight years to get where we are now."

Anti Mortem will be a new name to many people so could you tell me how the band got together?

"We all met in high school. Corey (Henderson, bass player) and me actually met in elementary school. Larado (Romo, vocalist) and Levi (Dickerson, drummer) lived in a place called Rush Springs, which was about fifteen minutes away from where we were. We all had guitars and just hung out at lunchtimes learning how to play Metallica and Skynyrd songs. It really wasn't long before we started to write our own material."

The PR that comes with the CD states that the music is a cross between Pantera and Black Stone Cherry. Do you think that's a fair assessment?

"I guess so, though we have several sounds going on in our songs. Some people even hear some Led Zeppelin and Soundgarden or even Stone Temple Pilots. As far as our music goes Pantera is definitely an influence, especially on me. I'm a huge Dimebag fan and I also like listening to Lamb Of God."

Is the album title a statement that you're a new band with Southern influences or is there another reason behind the title?

"We came up with the song 'New Southern' and the whole album concept just followed. It's kinda like a new take on the music from the South and also a reflection of what it's like to live where we do, Oklahoma. I guess you could say it's almost like a mentality really."

So early in your career you've managed to get signed with a major label, Nuclear Blast, who specialise in quality Metal bands. How did you manage to secure the deal with them?

"We played a lot of shows in Oklahoma and recorded a bunch of demos there. We met a guy called Provo, he plays guitar in a band called Skinlab and around three years ago we opened for them. Steev Esquivel is the singer/bass player with the band and after watching our set said he could hook us up with someone from Roadrunner Records, a guy called Monty. Unfortunately after spending eighteen months doing demos for Roadrunner the deal fell through and Monty was laid off. Luckily he got a job at Nuclear Blast and just took us with him."

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You secured the services of Bob Marlette to produce the record, someone who is in great demand these days with a number of high profile artists and has actually worked with Black Stone Cherry. Did his involvement have any influence on the material and sound or are all the songs band compositions?

"Monty put us in contact with Bob Marlette because he had worked with Black Stone Cherry and also because he had a good vibe about our sound. We worked on four or five songs with Bob. He would pitch lyric or riff ideas but most of the material is our own. '100% Pure American Rage' is one that Bob worked on with us and we've chosen it to be the first single. At the end of the day the album is basically the best thirteen songs that we had, including the Mr Big cover, 'A Little Too Loose."

That run through of 'A Little Too Loose' is a great way to finish the album, it's always good to hear covers of songs that aren't so well known. So how long were you actually working on the songs that appear on 'New Southern'?

"The Mr Big cover is something we really enjoy doing and thought it would make a nice bonus track. Some of the original songs go way back, especially 'Stagnant Water'. Years ago we paid $500 to record three songs. 'Stagnant Water' was one, along with 'Where Hate Breeds' and 'Same Old Thing', which we no longer do. Two years after those initial recordings we went to Nashville to record some more material and we re-did 'Stagnant Water'. It's kinda come full-circle now because we've had to re-record the song one more time for the new record. We've got so many songs and some of them go way back to when the band first started."

The artwork, by Brent Elliott White, is really striking. I know he's worked most notably with the likes of Trivium, Death Angel and Whitechapel. Was he given a detailed spec regarding the design or did he have free reign? It reminds me of a Molly Hatchet cover.

"We sent Brent the songs that were to be included on the album and he came back with some rough ideas that he had. We pitched some more ideas of our own but for the most part the concept was all his. We wanted it to have a kind of native feel to reflect where we are from. He is a great fan of the guy who did all the Molly Hatchet covers so he wanted it to have that kind of vibe. The design has come out better than expected and it looks really cool on the front of a shirt."

So what is in store next for the band? Is it just a case of touring to promote the album or have thoughts already turned to a follow-up?

"Right now we're just trying to get some tours sorted here in the U.S. At the moment we're on the road with Kyng and then go out with Lacuna Coil. We're playing Download in the UK in June but we'd love to stay longer and get Metal Hammer involved in setting up some more shows for us. In July we're back in the U.S. with Machine Head but we really would love to take a break from touring here and play somewhere different. A UK tour with someone like Black Stone Cherry would be cool, we know they do really well over there."

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