Daniel Powell and Alexisonfire's Dallas discuss everything from gig etiquette to the band's previous albums, and everything in between
The Leeds Metropolitan University is like a fucking maze. As anyone who's been to Star on a Friday night will tell you, navigating the vast labyrinth of staircases, corridors, doors and passageways that all lead back the way you came, is a total nightmare. So its just as well then that after pissing about in the freezing cold waiting for someone who looks official, I am ushered upstairs (along with my trusty snapper Dani) by Alexisonfire's American tour manager Stu, who directs me into the small but comfortable looking dressing room where guitarist/vocalist Dallas green is waiting. Since Dallas is finishing speaking with someone and eating what is probably his only meal of the day, I sit patiently beside him and fiddle nervously with my tape recorder. When he does approach me however, what was thought to be a simple catch up on how the tour is going turns into a running debate on pretty much everything from gig etiquette to the bands previous albums, and everything in between.
So Dallas, having almost completed touring for 'Crisis', have you begun working on anything new?
Yes, absolutely. I'd say we have maybe 8 or 9 solid ideas that we are looking to turn into songs, or that we think will make good songs. Nothing complete yet though, because we have been constantly on the road. I find it hard to complete things when we're touring. We prefer to take it back to the jam space and fine tune it. But there are lots of things going on for sure.
And what kind of direction are you taking, heavier?
Bits of both heavy and melodic really, you know how every Alexisonfire record sounds different but still sounds like us? It's pretty much like that I mean I couldn't tell you what it sounds like, I honestly don't really know at this point. It's sounding a bit more rock and roll.
Do you think it's fair to say that there are less of the screaming, hardcore vocals on 'Crisis' than on previous records?
I don't know, you could probably argue that.
Especially if you consider it against the first album.
Yeah but on the first album, George (Petit, vocalist) and myself, we were kids, and we didn't really know what we were doing. But if you listen to the song 'Crisis', George sounds like a demon. But the vocals usually come together at the end so we never really know right away.
Would you say your acoustic side project (City and Colour) ever dictates what the band might do, or pushes the sound in a more melodic direction?
No, no, I just did a whole new City and Colour record, that's gonna come out in February, they're separate things really. I mean I have no need to mix them, that way I have two outlets for the different things I might want to say.
So who does the majority of the songwriting in Alexisonfire?
Well, it usually starts with myself or Wade (MacNeil, guitar/vocals) on a guitar, and we'll bring a riff or whatever we have to the band and see how they feel about it, we build off of that and just take it from there until we're all happy with it.
Has having more time and money at your disposal not affected the process in any way?
Well we don't really, like with the last album we took a month to write it and a month to record it, just as we have done for 'Crisis'. We might be a little more popular as a band now but we still tour just as much as we used to. Saying that though I'm hoping this time to take a whole lot of time off to write and come up with lots of songs, to really see what we can do as opposed to just writing enough songs for an album.
So would you say you prefer to get an idea recorded as soon as it comes or do you like to play with it for a while?
Well we've never really had the chance to expand much on stuff, like we just kind of get a song going, we write it, and that's it. And that's kinda what I wanna do this time, take a couple of months and write songs and sit with them, maybe go and do some shows and come back to them, see how we feel. Saying that though some things do change in the studio, like if you hear a part in the studio more clearly you might be like "wow that really sucks", but pretty much how we write it in the rehearsal space is what ends up on the record.
And how do you feel about 'Crisis' now that you've had time to sit with it for a while?
I really like it. It's the only one that I like still.
You don't like the others? Not at all?
No, get them away from me (laughs). But they're not for me right? Like you'll write a record, put it out there and it gets taken by all these people and whatever. Let's just say I don't listen to them. Playing the songs live is different though, because I get to improvise and play songs differently, and that way I build new relationships with the songs. But 'Crisis' I still really appreciate and feel the same way about, because it's the only one that's come out exactly how we wanted. The first record was basically demo songs, collected together because we didn't have the time or money to put out a real record. And our second album, 'Watch Out!', was our first time in a real studio for that amount of time, and we went a little crazy. But with this one we went in there knowing what we were doing.
My first experience of your band was with the first album, and I think that will always be my favourite for that reason.
That's too bad dude! But of course we appreciate that. A lot of people say they prefer their first experience of us or whatever but for me, as a songwriter, I strive to outdo myself, do better and not repeat myself. So for me to say any other album was my favourite would be like a backward step.
What about shows, how do you feel playing the bigger venues this time around?
Well it's based on demand right? Like I would love to play a room like the Cockpit again, but then that would mean that 700 more kids who wanna see us, and who I wanna play for, wouldn't be able to. It's kind of a Catch 22. Like I wanna play for as many people who wanna hear us, but at the same time I'd love to be able to play little intimate shows to 50 people.
Which do you prefer?
It's different right? There's something to be said for playing in front of 10,000 people, it's a good feeling, but it's also a really good feeling to play on the floor in front of 100 sweaty kids. Thankfully I have been able to experience both of those. Like we've been a band for a little over 6 years now and worked for everything we have. This is probably our 6th time in Leeds, and our 14th in the UK, and every time more people show up and I'm happy with the way it's gone, and that our fan-base has come along with us.
Do you think your fan-base has changed much over the past 6 years?
Well we've gained a few new fans and I'm sure we've lost fans too, which is okay. I used to listen to a lot of bands that I don't any more. But if a band puts out a record that you're into and it affects you in some way, then that's good, like you needed it at that time in your life or whatever. Then they might do another record that you're not into, but a ton of other people will be into it, and you'll find something else that makes you feel great. And that's what I love about music. I don't want everyone in the world to listen to my band, that'd be boring. If everyone listened to the same type of music, that'd just be a bummer.
Would you prefer people to have an opinion on it, even if they don't like it?
Not even that really, I don't like every band I listen to. If you don't like it that's fine and I know we aren't writing songs for everyone in the world.
So you write songs for yourself?
Well yeah, because if we didn't, you'd hear songs that were like 3 minutes and 20 odd seconds, pop gems that are constructed for radio and mass appeal. And there are people that do that, which is fine, if you're in it to make money. You follow the guidelines and get yourself on the radio and make money, but I got into it because I've been playing guitar since I was 8 years old and I can't go a day without it, even if we aren't playing. So yeah I write for me and if people like it, bonus, you know?
What do you think of this new scene emerging over here at the moment, bands such as Gallows and Ghost of a Thousand?
Well I have heard both of those bands and obviously we're on tour with Ghost of a Thousand, and I like it, I think it's cool. But I can't help thinking that Gallows are doomed, you know? What with the hype machine behind them.
We were discussing the same thing earlier in the bar actually.
It's like everyone is calling them the next best band in the world or whatever and they're not, I mean, that's not a diss to them but they aren't and I bet they know it too. I mean, they signed a million pound record contract, and they're going to put out a new record that probably won't do what the record company expects, and if they do sell a million records then that's amazing, but not many bands do these days. And for all these magazines to be calling them 'the next Jesus Christ' or whatever is just ridiculous.
At this point in the conversation the entire room gets into a heated discussion about why Gallows are not the 'Most important punk band since The Clash', with arguments raging on for several minutes. It is finally decided that, whilst Gallows are a great band, such tags should not be bestowed so freely. Add to that the fact that, whilst Dallas appreciates these bands, he doesn't really listen to that kind of music. Which brings me to my next question...
What do you listen to when you're on tour, during the downtime?
Midlake. They're a band from Texas who I absolutely love at the moment. Like when I'm playing heavy music all day everyday, that is the perfect thing for me. I don't want heavy music.
I heard that same thing from Brian Deneeve (From Autumn to Ashes guitarist)
Really? Was he hammered?
The whole room explodes in fits of laughter, and it would appear there's some kind of inside joke that I'm not quite in on. I explain that I spoke to Brian before a show in Leeds, and that it was around midday. Apparently this makes no difference. The room explodes again.
He said a similar thing in that if he's around heavy music all day, that's the last thing he needs when he gets back to the bus.
Well when you're around it 24/7 you don't want it. I mean sometimes I'll have my moments where I'll throw on some Converge or whatever but I'd rather listen to Neil Young or The Band.
I've recently been asking people to suggest music to me that I would never listen to, just to hear something different.
Well like with this band Midlake, I saw their advertisement in a magazine and I thought the name was interesting. I listened to it and I love it. That's what I like to do, find magazines or the internet or whatever and just look for things that interest me, and they don't always have to be things I'd normally listen to.
Well I've tried to like Midlake, I really have.
You don't like em?
Not that I don't like them, I just can't get into it.
The new record is something else man. But that's for me, not always gonna be for everyone else. Who do you like that you wouldn't normally listen to?
Bat for Lashes. Not a band I'd normally go for but I have been listening to recently.
They're another great band, she does a great Bruce Springsteen cover. I like that band too.
I usually have to know a band before I get into them.
Well that's okay, that's you're way of doing things, and that's just it. There should never be rules when it comes to music, like you and I could listen to the exact same song and take it in completely different ways so why should we follow the same approach at finding music we like?
Agreed. So back to the band, what's next for you guys?
Well after this we go on a Canadian tour, which will be cold.
Surely not as cold as here?
Stunned silence from the entire room.
Dude you've obviously never experienced a Canadian winter. The only way to describe it is brutal, every day (everyone agrees).
Well that's my ignorance exposed!
Well you're half right in that we getsome sun. You guys must be allergic to sunlight since the sun doesn't ever come here. But in Canada, the sun could be blasting you in the face and it will still be minus thirty. But like I say, at least the sun is there. Anyways, so we go to Canada, and hopefully after that we start writing, but no real concrete plans, maybe go to the studio in the summer. I think now we've afforded ourselves the luxury of a little time.
What about festivals?
Well we did the Give it a Name thing again this year, but that was weird, like a load of kids were there just to see The Used or HIM or whatever. And most of those bands were touring around that time anyway, like Jimmy Eat World. In fact, didn't they play here?
Yeah, I was here for it, amazing show.
Wow, small show for them. I bet that was pretty awesome.
Yeah, unfortunately next time they're playing the Uni up the road, which isn't a great venue.
Really? You should try going to see Ryan Adams with a big, stinky drunk dude sitting in front of you, who gets up to leave and throw up and comes back again. And then he falls asleep smelling of vomit, but his stupid drunk buddies wake him up. And to the left and right of us it was like, people like my mom, and little kids, sleeping babies, the quietest, most respectful people, and we're stuck with the drunken assholes in front of us, stood up too, whilst everyone around it seated.
The guitar tech joins the conversation.
Tech: there was also one of the dudes in front of us tried to start a clap along, like for two minutes would not give it up he was like "COME ON!"
Dallas: I got people like that at the City and Colour gigs, and it was like my worst enemy as a performer, was sitting right in front of me at a Ryan Adams show.
I was once at a festival and a friend of mine got pissed on whilst watching a band.
Tech: Dude, that is really not cool. Someone just whipped it out and pissed on your friend?
Yeah, pretty much.
Tech: she might have been into it.
Dallas: I want that as the quote for the entire interview. "She Might Have Been Into It". That's amazing.
And on that note, I believe the interview is over. There was absolutely nowhere else an interview can go after that. Drinking, cold weather, piss and vomit. They might be into it.