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"I think it's always good to evolve your tones and create new and interesting sounds." | Photo: Century Media
"I think it's always good to evolve your tones and create new and interesting sounds." | Photo: Century Media
Petr Adamík -

Brett Rasmussen (Ignite): As Long as You’re Writing from the Heart, That’s the Only Thing That Matters

Masters of melodic hardcore Ignite from Orange County, California, released their eponymous album on March 25th, their first studio album after they changed vocalist. Founder and bassist Brett Rasmussen is extremely pleased with the result and says the whole plan has come together as expected. He reveals more in the following interview. 

What was it like to be back in the studio after almost 6 years, this time with a new singer Eli Santana? 

It was definitely a different experience, but also very similar because we had almost the same team. The same producer as on the last two albums, the same studio, the same people, except for one member; it was very comfortable. We worked really hard, so when we got to the studio we were really prepared. It's probably the fastest album we've ever done. It only took us a couple of weeks, I think it took us maybe fourteen days to record, which is really fast for us. The last album took us almost a year and a half. We were much more prepared this time.

Was Eli the obvious choice after Zoli left or were there any other options?

When we started looking for a new singer, there was no real obvious choice. We talked to a bunch of different guys, but once we heard Eli sing, we were excited about his voice. We knew right from the start that his personality would fit perfectly between the four of us. We only had one rehearsal and then we started working on new songs right after that. 

It's always hard to change the lead singer, especially when the band has such a charismatic frontman like Zoli. But Eli handled it perfectly, which was appreciated by your fans. A lot of them were skeptical, but in the end they were surprised. Were you prepared for the possibility that the fans just wouldn't accept Eli?

Yes, that's normal. We worked hard and we were very happy with the recording, so the only thing we can trust in is if we like the music. Whether or not they would accept it was something we couldn't really control. That was something we didn't talk about, we could only control the songwriting, recording and trust in ourselves and in our songs. 

It is said that for the previous album A War Against You you had maybe 40 songs prepared, from which you then had to choose. Is that how you usually do it? How was it with the current album? 

Yes, this time it was similar, only we now we had completely finished vocals, lyrics, everything. We showed the songs to the producer and he told us which ones he thought were the strongest. Then each member of the band picked the songs that were their favourite. Eventually the list got smaller and smaller, and we made small changes to the songs and then we had the complete list.

You mentioned producer Cameron Webb. Do you see him as a sixth member of the band?

Yes, of course. He's a very important part of the band because he's interested in the whole thing. He's putting his name to it and he's really sort of the sixth member of the band. We started working together I think in 1999 on pre-production for the album A Placed Called Home, maybe it was back in 1998. He did all the demos for the record with us at that time and was involved in the post-production. We've been working together for almost twenty-five years now.

Have you used any ideas from earlier years?

Not really. All the stuff on the new album is relatively new. We had a lot of songs and at the end, we thought we'd write four more songs. And I think three of them made it on the record. 

What about the lyrics? Most of the lyrics were written by Zoli, if I'm right. Who took on that role this time?

Nik and myself wrote the songs on the previous albums Our Darkest Days and A War Against You. Nik wrote a lot of the lyrics for the new album and then Eli joined him and brought his lyrics too. We have a good songwriting team, guys who can write music, guys who can write lyrics. Eli is great in that he's also a musician and he writes songs. So he contributed musical ideas as well. For example, the song This Day is completely his work, he wrote the music and the lyrics. It's great to have such a creative singer who can write a song and play it for you on guitar. He's also an amazing guitar player.

Your lyrics have always been socially and politically oriented. Do you think that lyrics in hardcore, or let's say punk rock in general, should deal with serious topics or do you accept the more relaxed side of the genre where the words to the music are mostly just fun?

You always have to write from the heart. So as long as you're writing from the heart, that's the thing that matters most. If a band wants to write about political, social or personal issues it's not that important to me. The topics come to the writer through what you see on TV, and what you experience. We choose to write about these things. Topics have never been a problem for me. Bands have been writing political lyrics forever, just like personal songs or love songs. It's all art.

You've always supported various non-profit organizations as a band, such as Sea Sheperd or Doctors Without Borders. How and why do you choose the organizations you support. Do you discuss this together as a band or is there someone who is specifically looking after these issues?

Most of the groups we've worked with were from Zoli. These are things that the whole band agrees on. With an organization like Sea Sheperd, maybe one member of the band brought it into the group, but everybody thought that it was something strong and important enough to support. 

Have you had a chance to play the new songs live? What has the audience reaction been like?

Yeah some of them, we played about four songs. We've played six small shows and the response to the new stuff has been great. It's great to see people singing along to the new material. That's always a good feeling when you're in a band. You write a song and a year or two later you can finally play it in front of the people who know the lyrics and are singing them back. 

I read that the reason you play bass was Peter Hook from Joy Division. And actually, the bass part on Let The Beggars Beg on the new record reminded me of Peter Hook. Does he still inspire you?

Yes, Peter Hook was a big influence on me. Joy Division, New Order, those were the first bands I really got into and that's when I started playing bass. I was listening to those songs a lot and learning those bass lines, where he plays high basslines up on the neck and it sounded unique. It was a big influence on the way I started writing my own songs. I was coming up with melodies and playing high basslines rather than just following the chord structure.

You also like Duff McKagan from Guns N Roses.

Fantastic bass player with a cool style. The bass lines on Appetite For Destruction are some of the best in rock music. 

Your bass sound is full, fat and even though there are two guitars in Ignite, the bass is still there. How do you achieve your fat sound?

I use Orange amplifiers. During the recording process we experimented, using a bit of chorus or reverb to achieve a wider sound, like in "Let The Beggars Beg."

So you don't use any pedals during gigs?

Not live, just the distortion pedal that comes with the Orange amps, where I can use a little knob to adjust the distortion level, turn it up and down when I step on the button. I first used the distortion on two songs on A Place Called Home and have used it on various tracks over the years. Not a lot, but it's always fun to mix it up a little bit, so I started using it in live playing as well. I think it's always good to evolve your tones and create new and interesting sounds and make them interesting for the listeners. A friend of mine was telling me the other day that he loves the sound in the intro of "On The Ropes." He likes the massive sound, the great reverb and stuff like that. So yeah, it's nice to keep evolving in that way.

Ignite are from Orange County. A lot of punk and hardcore bands come from that area. Why do you think it is?

I don't know. Probably it´s because of some of the early bands that were very popular and influenced a lot of musicians. There were a bunch of bands that came out of here, whether it was No Doubt, Offspring, Social Distortion, Adolescents or T.S.O.L. I think those bands were a big influence on everything that came out of the local scene. When punk rock was coming up and they were so big, the shows in Southern California were really big, so it hit a lot of people. I wasn't involved in punk music until my 20s. It wasn't until shortly before I started Ignite that I actually started going to punk rock shows. But I'd heard stories from the original members of Ignite about the events they went to and that they were really massive. A lot of them were in Los Angeles, and the biggest events on most bands' tours were at Fender's Ballroom and similar legendary clubs where several thousand people would go to see them. The punk scene in Orange County has always been massive. As a place to grow up, it was always a mellow place, and I think it still is. It's a fantastic area.

Tagy Ignite interview

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Petr Adamík
In 1999, I co-founded the punk'n'roll band Degradace, with whom I'm still going strong. I've been working at the musical instrument store Hudební Svět for a few years now, and a while ago I decided that I'd like to write about…