Formed in 2008, when its members were young teenagers, Oklahoma’s Anti-Mortem has built itself up the old-fashioned way—through constant rehearsal and songwriting, and playing shows whenever and wherever it can. The hard work paid off, with the band signing to renowned metal label Nuclear Blast, which will release its debut album, “New Southern,” on April 29. When Anti-Mortem’s tour supporting Texas Hippie Coalition came to Baltimore Soundstage in Baltimore, Maryland, Live Metal’s Greg Maki caught up with loquacious frontman Larado Romo to get a detailed history of the band and all the details on the new album.
LIVE METAL: You’re in Baltimore on tour with Texas Hippie Coalition. How has it been going so far?
LARADO ROMO: Oh, it’s been going great. The guys from THC are awesome dudes. We’ve known ‘em for years now, like five or six years—if not longer than that; I met ‘em when I was 14. We played shows in Oklahoma City together at a venue called Bricktown Live, where we pretty much got our start. At that time, we were just kids, and Big Daddy Rich, the singer, was like, “You boys did a good job. Keep up doing what you’re doing.” And then, a few years later, we got signed, which is now. We got signed, actually, about two and a half years ago. Anyway, we went on tour with Holy Grail and Monster Magnet, and then we’ve been recording our record. It’s officially done. It’s coming out April 29. Anyway, though, they hit us up. They were just like, “You guys wanna go on tour?” We were like, “Fuck yeah, we want to go on tour.” So here we are now. Basically, this has been more of a Northeastern tour, above Florida all the way up to New York.
You’re a new band—at least nationally—but you’ve gotten some exposure through places like Octane. Have you had fans come specifically to see you?
It’s so awesome. When we play in Oklahoma, we get a lot of people to show up. We get thousands of people to come watch us in Oklahoma, and that’s why we’ve gotten to where we are now, having such pull in Oklahoma. But that’s all we’ve played. So now that we have that and we have a label now to actually back us up, Nuclear Blast—who’s badass as fuck!—we show up to West Virginia, South Carolina or North Carolina, these first times—the only place we played so far on the tour was Atlanta, Georgia; we’ve been there before. Monster Magnet had to drop off the tour the last time we were in Atlanta, Georgia, and Royal Thunder also had to drop off the tour, and we were the third band. We actually got to headline that night, though, and there was all kinds of people from out of the country and out of the state. Probably like 150 people were forced to stay there and watch us play, and we had to play for like an hour and a half. All those people stayed and loved it, so next time we came, like 75 of those people were there, plus there was like 20 or 30 there who were like, “Man, I heard you on Octane. I heard you on Liquid Metal. I heard you on the Music Choice channels.”
Basically, any TV conglomerate that has a music channel on their thing, they’ll play us now, and it’s so great. Every show, there’s at least 20 people that come up to us like, “I heard you on Octane. I heard you on Liquid Metal.” And we’re like, “Fuck yes.” There’s some that are like, “We heard you on our radio station.” That’s what I love. There’s only a few places that play us right now. I think there’s 10 places right now across the country that play us, but we’re gonna keep trying to make that more.
I know you were really young when you started this band. How did you get into music to begin with?
I always loved music. I started off, when I was a kid, just singing. I always loved listening to the radio and singing and shit. All kinds of different styles. There was a long time where I was only into country music. Actually, I have to say the whole time I was into country music, my mom loved country music and she loved some rock songs, but my dad was always into Metallica and rock songs like that. He would try to change his musical style for my mom, and he would try to listen to a lot of country, but that only lasted for like two years, and he was like, “I can’t do this anymore. I have to go back to rock.” The whole time, though, he was listening to “The Chronic” and things like that, too, and we always listened to oldies music, as well. Also, every Sunday—we were Mormons for like 10 years—we would wake up and listen to church music, too. Then I was in classical bands and played tuba, so I was listening to classical music at the same time.
I’ve always loved music. I was singing choir as a Mormon. Of course, I’m not a Mormon anymore. I got over that stage of my life. Anyway, I was always singing in choir, and that was the only part I honestly liked about going to that church. I hated going. Every Sunday, I’d wake up and be like, “Oh my god, I don’t wanna fuckin’ go to this shit.” I was like 8 and did not want to go. But anyway, I’d show up and we’d sing, and I’m like, “OK, I like this part.”
A few years after that when we quit being Mormon, the one thing I still loved was singing. I loved all my favorite rock songs, and I was getting really angsty at that point, because I was 11 and I was religious for my whole life and people were like, “That’s bullshit, we lied to you. We’re sorry we lied, but we thought it was right.” I was like, “What the fuck? What do I do now?” I started listening to a lot of rock ‘n’ roll a lot more. I always liked Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Metallica at that age, but I started to get to a point where I was like, “I kinda feel like I know what these guys are talking about.” Before, I was just singing because it was pretty, you know, like Nirvana says, “He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs. He likes to sing along, but he don’t know what it means.” That’s how I was until I got to about 11. I was like, “I am pissed off, and I need to put that somewhere.”
I remember singing “The Gift” by Seether—those aren’t my favorite bands or anything, but I just like that song a lot—singing Days of the New, “Touch, Peel and Stand.” I remember just sitting there at that young age trying to make my voice crack like they did. I didn’t know how to do it. I knew it’s kinda like yelling but singing. One day, though, after just trying and trying, my voice broke, and I sounded like a 20-year-old man when I was 11. My brother was with me, and I was like, “Did you hear that shit?” He was like, “Oh my god. No way did you just do that.” “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails was another song I like to sing a lot when I was that age. I would just walk around and sing those three songs forever—over and over and over. Then I would start trying to tackle other songs.
The biggest music that ever influenced me, the moment I got done with the Mormon church and my brother got a guitar—he was about 12 when he got a guitar, and I was only 10—and he started to learn a bunch of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page and shit like that. We thought he was the shit when he was learning that. Anyway, though, our original drummer named Mitchell Henderson—he was 15 when Nevada was 12 and I was 10—he had been playing drums for a few years, and we played together when I was like 5 as little kids. And then we met another guy that sung, and his favorite band was Mudvayne. I had never heard metal like that before ever. I didn’t know music existed like that. I only knew Metallica. I was like, “Yeah, Metallica is really heavy, and that’s about as hard as I can listen to.” Then I heard “World So Cold” by Mudvayne. I was young at that age, so I didn’t understand there was stuff before that by them. I thought I was like, “Oh, this new thing.” It blew my fuckin’ mind. I was like, “This guy sings so pretty at some points, and then his scream—oh my god. I want to scream like that all the time!”
Even though I was originally the bassist—I was 10 years old, and Nevada had his guitar when he was 12. Nevada turned 13 and had been playing guitar for about a year and a half at that point, and my mom was like, “We want to get you a bass.” So I turned 11, and the day I turned 11, she got me a bass. The very day I turned 11, the guy that lived up the street who was the original drummer, him and the other singer were like, to Nevada, “You play guitar good. You should come join our band, but we need a bassist.” Nevada was like, “Well, my little brother’s been playing bass.” And I had just gotten a bass. My first time ever playing bass was in Anti-Mortem. I never even held a bass until I went to go have Anti-Mortem band practice.
We lasted like that for about a year, not really being very serious, but that was the whole I time I was getting exposed to Mudvayne. From 11 to 12, I was listening to everything they did. Then we moved a town over and met Zain. That whole time, though, I wasn’t only trying to play bass like Ryan Martinie, I was trying to sing like Chad Gray, just ‘cause I loved singing. I was just doing that on my own time.
So then we moved to Chickasha, and we went to basically reunite. Our drummer from Rush Springs came over, and the singer came over to my house. Mitchell, our original drummer, was like, “You guys wanna have band practice?” Me and Nevada were like, “Fuck yeah!” And the singer was like, “I want to go hang out with my girlfriend.” He just left, and I was like, “I can sing. You want me to try?” We did “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails, our own version of it, and our drummer was just like, “That’s good enough for me. He can sing.” And that’s pretty much how it all started and how I got into music.
I read in the bio that the label put out that you guys used to rehearse in the Smith family barn. How did the Smith family feel about that?
They loved it. That’s the next step, so I’m glad I left it off there. We got us three ready to go, and we were looking for a bass player. We had another band me and Nevada had formed. It’s not important, but we just formed a little, stupid band on the side trying just to do something musically, because Anti-Mortem we thought was done. We thought, “Oh, this thing’s over. We live in this town. We’re kids. We can’t drive there. Our parents aren’t gonna take us. So there goes our band. We’re gonna have to start a new one.” But the whole time, me and him were writing new songs.
So anyway, Zain was playing guitar in another band of ours. Zain heard Anti-Mortem, and he wanted to make music like that. We had four or five songs we had written at the time, and we sounded pretty much like what we sound today at that age. Zain was always into heavier music, as well. He was like, “Man, I really don’t want to play in any other band. I want to be in this band.” And we were like, “Well, bro, we really don’t need another guitarist. We need a bass player.” And he was like, “I’ll play bass.” So he started playing bass for that band, and after a year of playing bass, he became an insane bassist.
At this point, I was like 12 and he was 14, Nevada was 14 and Mitchell was 17. Zain had gotten so crazy at bass, and he always wanted to play guitar anyway, and he was like, “Guys, we should find a bassist, and I want to move to guitar.” Nevada’s never had an ego about guitar playing, so he was like, “Fuck yeah, I’d rather have two guitarists anyway,” so somebody can play rhythm while the other guy’s playing lead and the rhythm never drops out. That’s what we talked about then, and that’s what we still do now.
Anyway, how we got to the barn was, after Zain joined the band, his parents have always been super helpful and have always really loved the fact that we wanted to make music, ‘cause they were big music fans the same as everybody else’s parents in our band. They had a big barn and a big shop, and what happened was, Steve, Zain’s dad, used to work on cars in the shop and keep his motorcycles there. But after he had a lot of kids, he worked and he didn’t have enough time all the time to be working on stuff. So he was like, “If you guys want to, you guys can have practice out there.” So we started practicing out there. Days it was really hot, it was really fuckin’ hot. The days it was really cold, it was really fuckin’ cold.
But I kind of skipped the in-between phase. Before we started practicing out in Zain’s shop, we practiced in their house. So what happened was, we would stay at their house on the weekends from Friday night until Sunday night. Right after school on Friday, we’d all go to his house and have band practice for like three and a half days, and then we’d go back to our house. Well, they weren’t always home on the weekends. They worked on the weekends. They worked security at this other shop that was a city over, so they’d go stay in that city. We’d be at their house, in the house all day. His older brother would be sitting in there. We were just jamming. He was cool about it, but at the end, we blew so many sockets and stuff, we blew so many fuses, we flipped the breaker so many times running half stacks and shit inside the house and PA systems—they were just like, “Man, the shop, that thing has electricity that’s not gonna blow. It’s meant to run heavy machinery and shit, so you guys should move out there.” And so we moved out there.
Anyway, but like I was saying, it was hot when it was hot, it was really cold when it was cold. We would have band practice wearing like Eskimo gear. If you’re a singer, it is hard to sing when it’s cold, but you do it anyway. So it’s made me better. When we go play on a stage here, we don’t get hot because if it’s 110 degrees in Oklahoma, it’s 110 degrees in our band practice.
We still practice in that shop til this day. So we’ve been practicing in that shop for six or seven years now. I love it. “Truck Stop Special,” if you’ve seen the video to that, that’s where we practice at.
Three or four years ago, we built the stage in there. Why not? We used to have parties out there. So we’d have parties with like 500 people—our whole high school and middle school. It would just be a bunch of kids partying, and even college people and adults would be out there, too—just a mix of people. Everybody was really cool. Nobody was weird or anything like that. Oklahomans around that area really aren’t that weird. Everybody trusted each other. Plus, Steve and Page, Zain’s parents, were there the whole time. Our parents were there some of the time. There’s so many parents nobody was being stupid or anything like that.
So we played out there for years without the stage, and then finally, Steve one day was like, “Boys, I really think we should put a stage out there. I just think that would be badass as fuck, and I can get everything together.” So he brought everything out there, and we built the stage out there, and we still practice on that stage today. That’s the stage that’s in “Stagnant Water.”
What’s the music scene like in Oklahoma?
It’s badass as fuck. It’s actually really cool. You have to start out, first of all, with the music, what kind of music it is there. There’s a lot of metal. It’s mostly all metal—like really heavy metal that most Southern people are into right now, to be honest. If you’re not into country in Oklahoma, you’re pretty much into metal, which is surprising. I had no idea it’d be like that when I was a kid getting into that shit.
The way we started out in the scene was playing those parties. And we would play random bars sometimes. We had to get permission slips signed by attorneys so we could go play in bars when we were kids. They’d be like, “He’s here to work. Just don’t let him by the bar, and it’ll be OK.” We started playing in Chickasha, our hometown, and there was a guy who was going to college at the time named Ty Greenhall, and he wanted to get a lot of live music there. So he would rent a building. It was like a two-story building, and the bottom floor was a split stage that was like 10-by-10, 10-by-10. It could hold about 250 people. Actually, it could only hold like 100 people to be honest, but we would have people lined up down the street. All those people that used to come to our parties, and we were like, “Man, we need to start making money, and we need to start doing this the right way. Stop having free parties and actually go play a venue.” So that guy was like, “Bring it to my place, and I’ll split it with you guys.”
So we would play the venue like once a month and make like $600 or $700 for the guy’s rent, and then we get paid, and then he would keep it open and have 20 or 30 bands play throughout the month, and we’d play again. We kind of made our name ourselves in that town. Like they say, build it and they’ll come. When you’re starting a band, you have to basically grassroots it, like, “Do you like me? Are you my friend? Come to my show.” That’s pretty much how it all starts. “Bring your friend, too, if you guys like me at all.”
But we would freak the fuck out. Our favorite bands, we would buy the live DVDs or just get on YouTube, which is so badass, and just watch how they get down. Being a kid, you’re just like, “Oh, I can do that.” So you go to play that night and you’re thinking about Trent Reznor, trying to act like Trent Reznor on stage, or you look at Chad Gray and try to act like Chad Gray on stage or act like Robert Plant on stage or act like Ozzy on stage, act like James Hetfield on stage, act like anybody you can think of who’s a singer. Doing that so many different days, it’s been so many years that it’s turned into me. It’s no longer like I go on stage and emulate someone, I go out there and it’s just me now. So that’s what’s cool about it: We’ve had so much training to do that.
But back to the music scene: We played in Chickasha, and there were really no bands in Chickasha. There was psychedelic weird guys that were going to college, just psychedelic, trippy bands, which is kinda weird that that’s what the college scene was. But that’s cool. Anyway, then we moved to the city. Everything was a lot of metal. There was a lot of metal and a lot of Southern-sounding bands, so we fit in perfect with them. And everybody supports everybody so much there.
The way you get anywhere in Oklahoma, you just have to be cool about it. The promoter has to make money, is all there is to it. So when you have to make a draw, you have to go make a draw. You have to go sell your tickets to people. It makes total sense why you have to do that. So they’d give us 500 tickets, and we would go sell all 500 tickets. We would not fuck around. We’d be like, “OK, I have nothing to do this week. I’m 12. I’m gonna go sell 500 tickets.” And we would do it. After a while, we would sell so many tickets and make the promoter so much money, they’d be like, “Hey, there’s a big band coming through. Do you want to put these guys on there with them?” They’d be like, “Well, they’re pretty good and they sell a lot of fuckin’ tickets, so let’s do it.” Everybody’s really helpful. You just have to help everybody else out, too. That’s the way it works.
When did you start writing original material? Was it from the beginning?
When I was 10 and Nevada was 12 was when we were first really getting into the idea that we wanted to do that. Once he got a guitar and I got a bass—I was 11, he was 13—we started. That’s what we always wanted to do. A lot of people just want to play covers. We played covers, but we didn’t ever think to ourselves, “Why would you not write music?” The moment we were able to write music, we were like, “I’m fuckin’ doing it.”
I’ve always been into poetry, too. I would go to the library when I was 8 years old and read Edgar Allan Poe books. I liked scary movies and shit like that when I was kid, and I liked darker books—“Goosebumps,” all that stuff when you’re little. When I got older, I’d go there and I’d see Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t even really know how I heard about Edgar Allan Poe to begin with. I think my brother might’ve told me, ‘cause I think he read it in middle school in Rush Springs.
So we would go to the library every weekend. When we were off school, we’d ride our bikes to the library, and we’d just stay in the library for days. We weren’t only reading books. We were renting movies, ‘cause they had movies there, getting on the computer—all that shit. But we always read books, too. We always had a darker tone quality to how we wrote, even at that age. Plus, listening to rock ‘n’ roll and metal, it went perfect with that. Really, it’s kind of wanting to be not a horror writer, but the dark tone that they bring to it is really what rock and metal is nowadays. We’ve always wanted to write, basically, the moment we started.
So you were doing really well in the local scene in Oklahoma. When did you start getting interest from labels?
About three years. We met Provo (Provenzano). He used to be in Rikets, and he’s in a band called Everybody Panic now, and he’s also in Skinlab. He’s got his own studio in Purcell, Oklahoma. We spent $20,000 on recording when we were 13 and 14. We were like, “We’re great! We’re fucking amazing! We know we’re great!” We went to Nashville, and recorded at Omni Sound and Sound Emporium. That’s where Robert Plant did his fuckin’ record with Alison Krauss, and Kings of Leon recorded one of their albums there, I’m pretty sure. There were some big names. We got a guy, an investor to go half with us and pay $7,500, and then Zain’s grandparents donated the other $7,500 because they believed in us then.
When we went there, all of us got to miss school for a week, we drove all the way to Nashville, we stayed at a really nice fuckin’ hotel—the Embassy Suites there; it’s still to this day probably the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in, and now we’re a touring band and it’s nicer than any hotel we’ve ever stayed in. So we were just there partying, 13 and 14, having a great goddamn time. We’re like, “Dude, so you’re telling me that if I get signed, and if I become famous in a band and all this shit—even if I don’t become famous, I just make money—I don’t have to fuckin’ get a job, I don’t have to go to school, I can just go make music for a living? I’m down. Sign me up.” That motivated us at a young age to be like, “We’re not stopping. We want our future to be that, and we’ll do anything it takes to make that be our future.”
(So we had) all these demos that we were giving to people, like, “Hey, can we play your show?” It was 13 or 14 songs we wrote before any of us were like 15, and recorded decently. They were all live recordings. We would just set up together, record that shit, and then there it is. Provo was playing in Rikets. He was a national act when we were young. Provo was like the rock star of the city pretty much, is what it was. Provo was the biggest name in the Oklahoma City scene. We heard he had a recording studio and could make professional-quality shit for a pretty good deal. One day, we were just, “Bro, can we record with you?” You look at Provo when you’re fuckin’ like 14—Provo’s terrifying. Look at the guy over there with the black dreads. He’s a nice guy. I was 15 at that time, and I’m just saying, that motherfucker is terrifying when you’re 15. But he was cool as fuck. The moment I talked to him, he was like, “Yeah, bro, that sounds good.” I was like, OK, my heart started again, like OK, this guy doesn’t want to stab me or something.
We recorded with this guy. He hooked us up a lot. We recorded 12 or 13 more songs with him that were really professional-sounding songs. If we didn’t go to Bob Marlette, we wanted to go with Provo. We wanted to record with him, but the label wanted us to check out a big producer, ‘cause we never worked with a famous producer before.
Anyway, being friends with him and him recording and trying to get us our demos ready to go so we can start sending ‘em to labels—Skinlab, after Rikets broke up, asked Provo to be the guitarist for Skinlab. And Steev (Esquivel)—I’m pretty sure he’s the bassist and singer for Skinlab—knew Monte Conner from Roadrunner Records really well. Skinlab came and watched us play, ‘cause we opened for them one time thanks to Provo—and Tony Proctor, Big Papa Productions from the city. Steev told us, “There’s only three bands that I’ve ever showed to Roadrunner”—36 Crazyfists, I think Ill Niño maybe—I’m not sure if it was Ill Niño, but there was one other band—and all three of those bands they signed. He’s like, “I think you guys are good enough that if I show you to them, you guys will get signed, too.” And we’re like, “I love you! Thank you.”
He called Roadrunner and was talking to Monte. We went out to the parking lot and followed him. He was like, “Monte, these guys right here, you gotta come check ‘em out.” He was like, “Alright, when can I see ‘em?” We had just gotten booked on a Black Label Society show. I was like 16 at that time, getting to open for BLS, the label’s gonna come down and watch me play. He came and watched us, and he was like, “Man, you guys are actually really fuckin’ good.” But what he asked us at the time was actually really funny because our song “Truck Stop Special,” the hook to it is “a fool’s errand.” The only thing that Monte really had to say about our songs—he loved it, “but what’s with the ‘Truck Stop Special?’ Why don’t you call that ‘Truck Stop Special’ song “A Fool’s Errand’?” I was like, “That’s the point, man.” I’ve always been a guy where it’s like the song “Truck Stop Special,” the name of the song is what the song means, but it’s not the hook of the chorus. You have to actually think about the song title and think about the lyrics to actually know what I’m talking about. I love that shit. I think you can write lyrics that are face value, but the people that actually like to read and actually like to fuckin’ read poetry and things like that and looking for deeper stories, they like it when 10 years from now, you’re just like, “No shit. He was saying that the whole fuckin’ time and I didn’t realize that?” So I told him that, and he was like, “OK, that’s a good idea. I get you.”
Then after that, he was like, “Let’s go eat.” So we went and ate at Spaghetti Warehouse with the guy, and he was, once again, telling us all these good things and how he wants to work with us, and he wanted to send us out to California to work with Bob Marlette to record five or six demos and write two or more three songs while we’re out there.
We go out there, and we record three or four songs, and then write two songs, and they really liked one of the songs we wrote, “100% Pure American Rage.” And they liked “Truck Stop.” They were like, “Let’s do this.”
But then all of a sudden, the guys that owned Roadrunner (Warner Music Group)—Roadrunner started, I guess, to drop sales, I think when Nickelback switched over, because they were signed to Roadrunner at one point in time, and then Slipknot was pretty much the only band that was making them any money. Monte signed all the heavy metal bands, and they fired Monte. They dropped half the fuckin’ label and just—what do they call it?—consolidated. So we just recorded all these awesome demos, they put all this money into us—fuck.
The good part that happened about the time, we got signed worldwide with Century Media, our publishing company. We found Justin, our manager, who works with 5bam Artist Management. We got the demos recorded, too. So all these things wrapped up together, and we’re like, “Well, basically, we’ve gotten everything we need to be a touring act, besides being a big name that can get on the radio, besides that we’re not signed to a label now.” So Roadrunner really did actually help us out a lot, because by going out there, we made the biggest connections we ever had at that time, and they were like, “This is a serious act. These kids are serious. They’re young. These guys are good.” We’re like, “The manager of Corey Taylor thinks we’re great? Oh my god! Holy fuckin’ shit!” So that got us pumped, and we kept going and kept booking shows again.
We went right back to Oklahoma. We didn’t find it in California like we thought we were going to, so we’re going back and playing shows in Oklahoma and just trying to grow our name. We played Kattfest. If you’ve ever been to Oklahoma, there’s a radio station called Rock 100.5 The Katt. Those guys helped us out a lot. They played “Truck Stop Special” for six months in A-list rotation. So almost every 10 songs, it would be “Truck Stop Special.” The DJs loved us. They were really nice to us. The Katt’s a cool company. We went to number one on the Pure Rock 20, which is their countdown. With all that help, that’s how a lot of people in Oklahoma know who we are. But finally, the radio station’s owners were like, “You guys gotta stop this. We’re not making any money playing these motherfuckers, and they’re not making any money. Stop playing their CD.” So the moment we went to number one on the charts, they just stopped playing our song. But still, they played it for six months, enough to let it go to number one on the charts. That was really nice of them.
Anyway, we played Kattfest. Guys from Metal Hammer magazine, who were really good friends with Monte Connor’s new label, Nuclear Blast—he told us at the time that we weren’t heavy enough to be signed by Nuclear Blast. We were like, “Alright, Monte. Thanks for all the help, though. You’re an awesome guy. Stay in contact with us. If something comes up, let us know.” We talked to Robert from Century Media. He’s a really good guy, too. They liked the songs that we didn’t like. The songs they liked the most about us were the songs that we didn’t like. We were like, “We don’t want to sign with you. The song you like is our least favorite song we’ve written? And you want us to sound like that all the time? Sorry.” And we just turned ‘em down. “Sorry, dude, but we don’t want to be that song.” And he was like, “Oh, well damn.”
But we played Kattfest, and Monte Conner got a call from Metal Hammer, and they were like, “This band Anti-Mortem. Do you know who the fuck that is? Those motherfuckers are badasses. I don’t think they’re signed to anybody.” And Monte was like, “They not signed to anybody,” and I guess he talked to the guys at Nuclear Blast, and they were like, “Sign those motherfuckers.” And so we got signed to Nuclear Blast through that. So there you go. It’s a long story, but that’s exactly what happened.
You already mentioned recording demos with Bob Marlette, and then you did the album with him. What was it like working with him?
It was great. It was a big learning experience, for one thing. We learned a lot of things that we want to do with our album, and we learned a lot of things we don’t want to do. That’s where it comes back to the songs that Robert from Century Media wanted to sign us on. Those were some of the songs we wrote when we went out there with Bob. Bob is a certain type of producer—produced Shinedown, produced Saliva, produced Lynyrd Skynyrd, produced Tracy Chapman. Think about what those are, and then think about the fact that we kind of sound like Pantera, Metallica, Alice in Chains. It’s not of the same category, not in the same space at all, not the kind of music I want to be. I want to big music, famous music. I want to be popular, but I don’t want to sound like popular music to get popular. I want to make my own music that’s original to try to get popular.
That’s pretty much what we learned. We were younger guys, and Bob Marlette, everything he does, he does with good intentions. And that’s why this record came out so well. He did such a good job on helping direct us in a lot of ways. There was a lot of spots where we would put songs together, and Bob would be like, “Why’d you guys do that there? What were you guys really trying to do on that spot?” And we would be like (mumbles). Bob would be like, “Think about this, though.” And we’d be like, “That’s a good idea, Bob.”
Also, I talked about our original drummer earlier. When we went to go do the demos with Bob, we had Mitchell Henderson in our band since I was 11. I’ve known him since I was 5, and we went to record the demos when I was 16 and a half. So at that point, I’d known that guy for 10 and a half years. Bob saw him play drums, and he pulled us four aside—Corey, me, my brother Nevada and Zain—while Mitchell was loading his gear up at Guitar Center and was like, “Man, I hate to say this to you guys, but if that guy practiced for 10 years, he could not be as good enough drummer as you guys need to be in the band you’re in.” And we were like, “Fuck you, Bob.” Bob was like, “Dude, I’m not trying to offend you guys. I’m trying to tell you that you guys only have this X amount of time to record your record and do your demos, and I can’t use him. We have to program the drums for your demos, because he’s not good enough to do it in a week.” And we’re like, “Whatever, Bob.” He’s like, “Dude, I’m being serious with you right now. So that’s between you guys. To save his feelings, we’ll just tell him we don’t have enough time to do live drums.” He told Monte Conner. Before we were even signed, he told that to Monte, and Monte was like, “If you guys want to continue working, if he really thinks he’s that bad, you guys gotta get a different drummer.”
So we went through that. We were like, “Sorry, Mitchell.” We were going through kind of a friendship turmoil at the time, too, so we felt it was getting this way. He stopped practicing the drums. He had lost sight kinda. So it’s like, what do you think is gonna happen if you don’t practice drums? If you’re the drummer for a band and you want to be a professional drummer, you gotta drum.
Doing the record, though, after we got everything in line and after finding Levi Dickerson, who’s been in the band for about two years now—and Levi’s a fuckin’ badass. It’s funny ‘cause the moment we got Levi, we were like, “Yeah! Damn right! We were supposed to do that. That’s what he’s supposed to sound like.” Mitchell still pushed us all. When we were young kids, Mitchell had the dream of wanting to make it. By the time I was 16, he was like 23. I was 17 when we finally signed, and he was 24. He had just basically lost the drive to keep doing it, because it had been so long. By the time we finally got there, he wanted to go to college, he wanted to do all this other stuff.
But anyway, the record. We got Levi—awesome, badass motherfucker. We worked with Bob. Bob was a good guy. There were certainly songs that we really fucking love. There’s certain songs, like “Truck Stop, “I Get Along with the Devil.”
That’s one of my favorites.
And that’s one of those songs that we didn’t have to change. That’s a song that we wrote that, and that’s exactly how it was when we showed it to Bob, and Bob was like, “OK, there’s no problem with that song. Let’s put it on the record that way.” So Bob didn’t have a hand in that song at all. He just helped record it, mix it and did his magic to it. “Truck Stop Special,” another song we wrote before came to there. “Jonesboro” was a song we wrote before we came there. “Path to Pain,” Bob helped out a little bit on that song.
“100% Pure American Rage,” the way that started, Bob was like, “I’ve been listening to your music, and I’m not a guitar player, I’m a producer, but I just want you guys to know that I was listening to all your riffs and I feel like this is a really cool riff.” And he went, (sings the song’s riff). We’re like, “That’s fuckin’ stupid, Bob. That’s so dumb, Bob. That’s not us. That’s not us, Bob.” Bob was like, “Just try it, guys. Just see what happens.” From there, his riff, we took it to whole other level sitting there, writing with each other and working it out.
The whole process altogether worked great. We got to put a bunch of amazing instruments on there that Bob has. Bob’s mixing skills are amazing. His mastering skills are amazing. He made the overall sound of the record so big, so brilliant and powerful. That record sounds really intense and powerful. My vocals sound really intense and powerful on the record. Most of those songs on there are, to us, gems—really, really, really, really great songs. There’s about two or three songs—I’m not gonna name the names of ‘em, because people will go listen to ‘em and you’ll know the ones I’m talking about—that we are just not as pumped about as we wanted to be. As we heard them, we were just like, “Yeah, we’ll try that and go in that direction.” But that’s what we are. Anti-Mortem is a living, breathing machine, so we are fine with trying to try things. You’re not gonna progress if you don’t try. So we took a step out there on the limb to see what would happen for us, and now we realize we’re gonna step back off that limb and go ahead further out the limb we were already on.
That’s what we’re planning to do for the second record. We’re already writing songs for that one. When we went to go work with Bob, we already had like 500 songs written. It wasn’t 500 songs. It was about 100, but we have about 500 to 1,000 parts and lyrics and other things like that to pull from. So “New Southern,” that song, we came up with the hook—“A new Southern, I live this way”—in the studio with Bob. I was looking for the next part of the chorus through all my lyric books, and I found a song we had written when I was 14 called “Rainy Day,” and that hook goes, “I’m going to straight to hell on a rainy day.” So I pulled that and made “A new Southern, I live this way/Going to straight to hell on a rainy day” from a song we had written however many years ago. “Stagnant Water” we wrote when I was 13.
So there’s a lot of songs on that record that had been really thought about and really pre-written. Bob was really good at taking songs and being like, “You guys should do that five times less.” And then we’d be like, “No, we only want to do it two and a half times less.” Bob’s like, “How about three times less?” So we’re like, “Fuck yes, Bob! Let’s do that.” Bob’s definitely a good writer, he’s a good producer, and he’s awesome at what he does.
What is the meaning behind “New Southern?”
Neil Young, Southern man. That’s kind of how my brother and I feel about a Southern man should be. I love Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I despise the fact that they made fun of Neil Young in the song saying, “A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.” That’s a lie. He may have been a Canadian man, but at the same time, that guy right there, the whole idea of acceptance and peace, that’s what we’re about in a lot of ways.
Basically, we’re Southern guys, we’re from the South, we’ve been born and raised in the South, we do a lot of Southern things—we’re into shooting guns, we’re into fishing, all the stuff you do in the South. But the only difference between us and everybody else, we have a lot of new-style ways we live by. It’s a lot different than a lot of Southern people, and so basically, the idea of it is “A New Southern, I Live This Way” is the full record title. That’s why it’s the song, because we’re literally saying to people, “Listen to this album, and this is how we feel.” We’re basically saying, “I get pissed off when people piss me off, and I write songs about it.” That’s pretty much what it is.
My favorite thing in life is when I got to tell people, being a kid and being like, “I noticed something about you, and you’re a douchebag.” You’re like 12, so you can’t just go tell a fuckin’ 40-year-old man he’s a fuckin’ cocksucker. So I wrote about it. Then I’d notice things about the government and notice things about religion, notice things about people in general, and I’d just write about them. So that’s why it’s so angry. I’m not an angry guy. I write about stuff that makes me angry, hoping that it’ll change it some day. So that’s how we are. Anger is a good step to making people live a new way, as well.
I really love the album cover. Did you have input?
Brent White—he’s done a lot of things. I’m pretty sure he did Job for a Cowboy’s cover. He did a few other ones, too. Justin, our manager, hit him up. He was like, “This guy is gonna listen to your album and give you a draft of what he thinks the album cover should look like.” So he sent us a Death figure. Our band is called Anti-Mortem, which literally means against death. And he sent us Death, and I’m like, “I love you. I like that. That’s a really good idea, man.”
We wanted it to look Southern. There’s a Civil War battle on the front, and you see Death riding out of a grove of trees. It’s not that everything about us is from the South. It’s just that the idea of the album cover was “A New Southern, I Live This Way,” so we wanted to embody that.
The thing we really like about the South—everybody thinks cowboys and shit like that—we like Indians. We like the way they lived. A lot of people don’t know that our Constitution is based off a lot of peace treaties the Indians had with each other. So we’re trying to remind people of the better things about the South, and how in the South before all the people came and made it what it is now, there was already people there, and they had really good ways of life. The people that moved there—some of them—still have a lot of the Southern hospitality that was continued there. So that’s what we wanted to get across.
Basically, both sides of the battle, you can see the guys—even though they’re fighting each other—they both pause to be afraid of Death. Basically what we’re saying with that is that all those guys are looking for is death, and they’re gonna find it, because they’re putting themselves in that situation to find out. We have the dreamcatcher on the scythe to say you don’t really understand what’s gonna happen after that. It’s a Native American look to him.
That’s pretty much how the album cover came together. We gave him a few cues on what he had already drawn. He drew the whole thing with him coming out of the trees, the Death figure on the Death horse, and we were just like, “Alright. Southern-ness, Native Americans, dreamcatcher,” and then it went from there.
What’s next after this tour for you guys?
After this tour, right now, the next thing we have booked is our May 2 album release show in Oklahoma at the Diamond Ballroom, which is gonna be badass as fuck. We’re excited for that. And then after that, the next show we have booked is Download Festival. So we’re fucking excited as fuck. We played Rocklahoma before, which is a big festival, for like tens of thousands of people, but Download is fuckin’ Download. It was our dream when we were young kids. We would watch Lamb of God play Download Festival, and we were like, “Oh my god. I want to be that one day.” We’re finally getting to actually play, so we’re so excited.
Looking ahead to the future, what kind of goals do you have?
For our band, our goal right now over everything is we want to write a record that is like a 10 out of 10. That’s our goal. We think this record is really, really fuckin’ good. We’re very excited about this record, but like I said with the whole walking back off the limb and going in a different direction with some things, we know the things we really want to do now. Before we started, people only had different bands to compare us to. People would always tell us we’re like a culmination of 10 bands in one. Now that it’s been recorded and it’s going global with it, we can be like, “We’re not a culmination of 10 bands in one. We’re Anti-Mortem.” And now, these are the things are the things Anti-Mortem likes to do and the things we don’t like to do. And from there, we can progress and make our music even better.
So that’s looking into the future. We’re gonna keep playing shows every fuckin’ day of our lives when we can. Anybody that wants to take us on tour, we’re fuckin’ down to go. So that’s pretty much what we’re doing. We’re just looking out for our music and looking out to go play some fuckin’ shows.
Anything else you want to say?
Big bottoms, big bottoms, talk about mudflaps, my girl’s got ‘em. That’s all I’ve got to say.