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Do you ever not put a part on record because it might be too difficult to pull off live?
Donais: Let’s put it this way: I won’t write anything that I can’t play. I mean, who wants to look like a jackass up there?
Speaking of difficult, the opening track, “The Unknown,” is an alternate picking tour de force.
Donais: I really like to work out the fine details of my picking. Even when I write out my solos, I try every combination like picking some notes, picking all of them, or doing legato.
Bachand: I was always more into rhythm guitar. I always wanted to be the Scott Ian or the James Hetfield. I’m more about writing a song for structure and being memorable as opposed to showing off, which is amazing, but nothing that I ever personally wanted to do.
Jon, your solo on “Lost Within” contains concise and distinct phrases, all neatly arranged into four-, eight-, or even two-measure chunks. Where do you get your sense of structure?
Donais: I always like to balance things out. I feel the solo should be a part of the song. You want to hear that solo live because it’s a part of the song just like somebody singing a chorus. I like to do a couple of measures of going crazy, then slow down and play melodically to let somebody who doesn’t play the guitar have a chance to get into the solo. Plus, people who do play the guitar will like it, too, because there’s some fancy stuff in there.
You guys have seen the music business totally change since your formation. How have you adapted to this?
Donais: It’s a lot harder now. It’s just totally different from when we started. The record companies don’t have any money to support you. A lot of people that don’t see that side of the business don’t really understand. They’re like, “The music should be free and you can make money on the tickets.” Well, no because now everyone wants a cheap ticket price and a stacked bill so bands can’t afford to go out on tour like they used to. People have families and houses to pay for. It’s kind of tough to get out there and do your thing for the fans when you’ve got a friggin’ day job at Dunkin’ Donuts.
Bachand: It’s a pretty scary time in the business. I don’t think anyone can adapt to it at this point. When you think you’ve got it figured out then something else just gets in the way and it completely changes again. There really isn’t any structure anymore and it’s kind of hard to guess what’s going to happen next.
Does this affect how you operate as a band?
Bachand: Obviously we want to make the best record we can, and make it sound as good as possible. But at the end of the day, the budgets that the labels are giving to record an album are that much smaller because no one’s buying records. And if you simply don't have the budget to record it, there’s nothing you can do. Say you have two weeks in the studio and that’s all you can afford when normally you’d have two months in the studio and have time to put out the best product you can. Well, now you’re rushing to get it done because you only have X amount of dollars.
Matt, I understand that you also took some music business courses at Berkleemusic.com, even after you guys were already established.
Bachand: I strictly did the music business course. Yes, we were already busy and doing stuff but the number one thing band members can do to help themselves is to learn the business because if you don’t, someone is going to come in and they are going to screw you over. There’s so much to learn as far as publishing and mechanical royalties, and all of these things that people don’t really understand. I’m not saying you have to know it backwards and forwards but it’s definitely helpful for a band to know at least a little bit about what’s going on in terms of business because there’s so many other sides to it besides just making records and going on tour. On a certain level, you simply can’t afford to live just on being a touring band anymore. I’m always looking for new projects.
Matt, Is that why you engage in side projects like Times of Grace and Trumpet the Harlot?
Bachand: I’m a workaholic, man, I’m going 24–7. I can’t stop. I’m one of those people that gets real bored, real easily. I don’t have any of my own “relax” time, where I sit in front of the TV and do nothing. It just doesn’t happen. I’m always looking for something to do, whether it’s repairing amps and guitars, recording stuff in the studio, or helping other bands. I’ve been booking tours for Trumpet the Harlot and helping them on the management side of things now. I’m just trying to stay involved in any way I can, staying busy within the business.
Tell us what got you interested in working with B.C. Rich guitars on your signature models.
Bachand: The first thing, obviously, is that they’re willing to build us what we’re looking for with the exact specs. They were proactively interested in working with us on all kinds of levels like putting us on clinic tours, which I’m interested in starting to do as well, as opposed to a company that just says, “Here’s a couple of guitars, have fun.”
Donais: Right now I’m playing a regular, USA-made Gunslinger. Grover Jackson is actually making them, and I’m totally psyched about that. This is the only model he makes for B.C. Rich. I have a B.C. Rich signature Gunslinger coming out. I moved the volume knob out of the way on that one. A big problem for me used to be that I would accidentally turn the volume knob down because I play with my fingers open.
Like the way George Lynch has his picking-hand fingers splayed out?
Donais: Yeah. Now I just move everything out of the way—any kind of toggle switches or anything—so it will be comfortable for anybody who plays with that kind of fanned fingers out.