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Do you consider yourselves metalcore?
Martin: I think that word sucks. It’s a dated genre.
Herbert: I hate that word with a passion. My problem with it is that it signifies a trend. It’s a fad. The word metal has been around for over 40 years, starting with Black Sabbath and so forth. It’s a very enduring kind of music. Hardcore has been around I think since the late-’70s punk era. That’s also an enduring kind of music, but when you put those two elements together there’s just something disingenuous about it.
Do you care that what you write affects your fan base?
Herbert: I don’t care one iota. I’m not trying to sound like a dick, but this is our job. This is what we do. Obviously, we listen to our fans, but at the end of the day we’re going to make decisions that make us happiest. People have to accept us for the music that we write. I’m not putting my finger in the air and looking to see which way the wind blows.
Martin: Yeah, but if we write a song that sounds like Paramore, people are going to be pissed. [Both laugh.]
Where do you guys come from, musically?
I started taking lessons when I was 8 years old. For four years, I just hated it—because I was in my, “I just want to play sports” phase. My dad bought me a Les Paul—which was just way too nice for me to have—when I was 10 years old. My friend Aaron was like, “You should start playing guitar again. You got that Les Paul sitting under your bed. It’s annoying.” [Laughs.] He got a band together and played one or two covers at a show called The Top 40 at my high school. The whole school went to see it. I thought that was really cool, so I said, “Wow, I wanna play in that show!” So we started jamming on songs together and getting whoever we could to play. Then we started getting into the heavy stuff and our local hardcore metal bands. Then I started playing shows with the local bands, and that’s how I met Phil and the whole music scene in our area.
Herbert: For me, it all started in 1988: I started taking lessons and it was all about metal— Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer. Primarily, I wanted to be a rhythm guitar player because that’s what drove me to really play. I wanted to play riffs. I didn’t like solos for the first year I was playing because I thought of [Poison’s] C.C. DeVille and that high-pitched wankery. Then I remember being in a high-school cafeteria and this dude was like, “Check this out!” It was King Diamond’s “A Mansion In Darkness.” I’m listening to it and the solo comes and I was like, “Oh my God! Whoever this guy is, he’s now my favorite guitar player!”
Herbert: Yeah! His playing just spoke to me. Yngwie-ish but not so over the top. He plays to the song, and that’s kind of who I’ve latched onto for all these years. Also all the guys of that era, like Marty Friedman, Alex Skolnick, and Jeff Waters from Annihilator.
Do you guys challenge yourself with other styles outside of the band?
Martin: No. I don’t practice enough to be versatile. Oli is in the back of the bus practicing 10 hours a day. I have no attention span for that at all. But I have been going on YouTube just to learn songs for fun. There’s a song by John Mayer called “Edge of Desire” that has a really cool guitar line through the whole thing.
Herbert: I’m really concentrating on jazz. I’m trying to perfect all my melodic minor scales and arpeggio fingerings—just trying to get the feel for it. It’s fun for me, and it’s interesting. I think it’s opened me up more. I’ve always dabbled, but I never really went full bore.
Do you play with any other bands?
Herbert: No. I’m doing instructional material for Rock House. I’d rather focus on that first to kind of get my points across. When I feel like the time is right, I’ll do a solo album and clinics and all that stuff.
Martin: The touring that we do is so unhealthy that there’s no time for anything else. [Laughs.] I’m not good enough to do a solo record by any means.
Oh please! I really dig your playing.
Martin: Thank you! But I don’t think I have enough material—I don’t think I could write a whole record by myself. If there was time to do a side thing, I would like to play in a regular rock band. Something less heavy.
What’s your number-one guitar?
Herbert: I play the Ibanez Xiphos 27-fret. I like the way the neck feels. I think it has a cool shape. It balances well both standing and sitting, and I can swing it up on either leg and do some cool stuff.
Martin: I just got a PRS Custom 22, which is the most awesome guitar. It’s my favorite guitar that I’ve ever touched in my entire life.