flotsam and jetsam’s michael gilbert
By Jay Oakley
I’m sitting here with Michael from Flotsam and Jetsam. Michael Gilbert, first of all, thank you for taking some time to sit down and chat.
Thank you so much, glad to be here and I appreciate that you guys are interested in The End Of Chaos, the Flotsam release. Thank you very much.
Let’s start with the tour and how it’s going so far.
The tour is going fucking awesome. Attendance has been up and it seems like the hype on this record, since the last record, has been up too. It’s a different level. It seems like the self-titled album was kind of like a re-ignition of Flotsam and Jetsam and hen with this one it’s even stepped up another notch and (Eric) A.K. with what he did vocally, he fucking killed it, man. The guy knocked it out of the park with his choruses, big huge choruses and put us in almost, I wouldn’t say a different genre of metal but it’s putting us in another one as well. We’re a speed metal band but I think it’s also encompassing a little bit of the power metal with it, with what A.K. did, which is cool. So, we did a tour last year with a band called Hammerfall, which I know everybody, knows about, which went over very well for us.
Absolutely and with yourself and A.K. being in it to win it the whole time with Flotsam it really has felt like these last two records have put you on a new level. The fans are excited; the hype, like you said, has risen. What can you say about these last two records that you think really benefited you? Maybe you tried something new; maybe the writing went a bit differently.
The last record, the self-titled with (Jason) Bittner, we were all bringing something to the table. Everybody had 20% in the songwriting stuff where before it was just a couple members that were writing songs and that’s how it has always been for years. But, since the addition of Steve (Conley) and Ken Mary in the band it’s shown that everybody has songwriting techniques to bring to the table and all kinds of tools so that really helps a lot. Plus, Ken’s got a top notch studio at his house, Steve’s got a studio, I’ve got a studio so it always helps. Yeah know, when you’re in the studio and you’re paying for it and you know that you have to go in and one o’clock in the afternoon and sometimes you’re not always feeling it but you still have to lay down tracks. The cool thing about having a home studio is I can wake up in the middle of the night and feel like doing this now and I kind of do that. I rerecord my guitar parts four times or whatever and to the point, everybody’s got tools that they bring to the table as songwriters which is really important.
When it comes to the songwriting, how would you describe the process in Flotsam, even with various lineups? Of course, I imagine you and A.K. have the most creative control but have you always been open to it being a family affair with multiple members having input, not that that you would shut down anyone’s individual ideas but have you always been down to hear everything?
Yeah, somewhat. Usually the riffs respond from either me or Steve writing it. We submit it but before any of that even gets down we have a general template that we’ll use. We’ll throw some phony drums on there just to get a vibe out of what we’re going for as far as if it’s a slower, more dramatic song or even an upbeat, fast song. So, the past members had different ideas about that and they would take one of your ideas and change it around and then you’re kind of like, “Ehh, it’s not what I’m envisioning anymore.” So, if it’s a collaboration that sticks to what the idea is, I think it’s great. Everybody’s got to be on the same page for the song to work otherwise it’s going to turn into a piece of shit; it’s just going to be lost. It’ll never make it on a record.
When it comes to the history of Flotsam, what would you attribute the longevity to? From day one to day present, what would you credit? Comradery in writing, hitting the road, the fan base, I know everything has its part to play but talk about your longevity and success.
I guess, the longevity probably comes from the first record (Doomsday For The Deceiver) was a classic record in the metal community. So, people still want to hear “Hammerhead” and off the second record, which they still consider a classic record too, they always want to hear “No Place For Disgrace.” So, that kind of keeps us in the game, even though we had a high point at the beginning of our career, in the middle it kind of dipped, now it’s coming back to another level again and it’s very dangerous because a lot of bands hit that middle level and they just keep going and the next thing you know they’re all working day jobs, they’ve got families and more bills and stuff like that and they have to stop doing it. But, we’re lucky enough to tour enough in the past to keep us on the map, to keep us out there and touring’s a big part of it. Cool looking merch and you’ve got to keep releasing records, that’s super important.
I really like hearing you say that because it is important. I did an interview recently with somebody where there are two dueling versions of his band. When I interviewed him about why he jumped from one version to what’s considered THE version now, he said it was because he wanted to record new music. His band mate from the previous version was fine with living in “Nostalgia-ville.” That’s not a bad thing but the guy wanted to record and I think that’s super cool hearing that from you and how important new music is.
There has to be new music and we’re terrified. Well, not anymore. We’ve made it past that but with the last record we were terrified about even playing new music. We want to do it but people want to hear the classic stuff. So, with this record, with The End Of Chaos, we took it to Europe first, we started there and we threw two songs into the set and at the first show they were singing the two songs. We were like, “OK, this is kind of new to us.” The Europeans are doing that and they want to hear the old shit. They’re like, “Fuck you! We want to hear the old shit!” but they want the new stuff now. So, we added two more songs in for the States tour, for this tour and people are singing along. So, you can’t ask for anything more than that. That’s super important and I’m very grateful.
Absolutely, I think “Control” and “Snake Eye” are the two songs off the album that I’m really hot for. I’m really digging those two songs, man.
We’re doing “Control” tonight. That is the hardest Flotsam song to play, for me. You miss one note and you’re like, “Ahhh!!” [Laughs]
With the current tour you’re on now and, of course, supporting The End Of Chaos, what can you tell us about what else is going on this year? We understand that as fans and with journalism that there are some things we won’t be able to talk about but how is everything shaping up this year for Flotsam? Exciting?
Yeah, we’re going back to Europe three more times before the end of the year and hopefully we’ll have a second leg for The End Of Chaos either the beginning of next year or a little bit after the beginning so that’s what it’s looking like. We didn’t do all the dates in the big cities this tour because we’re planning to come back around and make another run of the States.
So, are you doing the States now and then a series in Europe and then back to the States?
Yeah, we go back for the festival seasons and we just did a tour with Overkill and Destruction so we’re going to revamp that in September and do that again and then we come back home and start the States again.
That’s awesome. I’ve got one final question for you and this is just for me about tonight because it’s a song I love to death. Are you guys doing “She Took An Axe” tonight?
Yes. It’s such a goofy song. The arrangements and stuff on it, they don’t make any sense mathematically. Music is all fours but that’s like fives and threes in that. It’s just a totally weird song but everybody loves it so thank you.
Oh absolutely and thank you. Its super exciting that we just got you with Hammerfall and now we get you back so quickly as a headliner. Michael, thank you so much again for taking the time sit and letting us rock with you guys.