"Dying For Breakfast"
An interview with James Lewis of Antithesis
By Mark Fisher of 1340mag.com
-Check out more on Antithesis at www.antithesismusic.com andwww.nightmare-records.com!
-Check out Mark Fisher’s 1340 mag at www.1340mag.com.
"All the little chicks with the crimson lips go 'Cleveland Rocks!', 'Cleveland Rocks!'" Never was this more true than the night of April 28th when Poundhound, Savatage/Fates Warning, and Antithesis/Hades all descended on a quiet little industrial town…..
I was pleased to be on hand for the Antithesis/Hades show at The Agora and quickly learned it was the hottest show in Cleveland that night! Antithesis' show was the release party for their sophomore effort "Dying For Life" on Nightmare Records, and the band debuted songs off their new cd, played some old favorites, gave away some great guitars, and brought the place down. Some would say metal is long forgotten, but as Antithesis proved that night, metal music could be at its best in the year 2001! James Lewis, bassist/manager for Antithesis, joined us the next morning at a Cleveland Denny's to eat, chat, and do an interview. Here's what transpired…..
MF - Since this is the morning after the unveiling of your sophomore effort, "Dying For Life," to the world, how do you feel?
JL - I feel pretty good! We were pleased with the turnout given the competition that we had last night. I felt we played well. It was the first time we had played (the song) "Dying For Life" out, but we have been playing the new stuff periodically for the last 3 months. We had saved the title track for last night though! It was an honor to play with Hades also.
MF - In the last year you guys have gained quite a bit of momentum. How has that changed the band, personally and musically?
JL - Personally, it's only changed us in that we're a little more excited that we may have an opportunity to make an impact in the music scene. So there's a little more drive there, with me in particular cause I've been
ready to hang it up. I have been like, "I'm done working so hard to do this!" But now since we are starting to get some more recognition, I start going, "Well, maybe I can do it one more week." Then, "Next month, we'll see where we're at." So personally I think we are all a lot more motivated and already looking forward to the next record. We started writing for the next record last month. Musically we have shifted from the first one to this one in that this one is a little heavier and it's a lot more technical. I think what
we've come to is that we don't want to go much beyond this from this record to the next one cause then we would be verging on that realm where you can't listen to it and enjoy it. We are going to try and stay on this path, maybe even write some things that are a little simpler and more straight forward musically.
MF - Tell me a little about why you chose the title "Dying For Life" for your new record and what it represents.
JL - Depends on if you're a pessimist or an optimist!!! They're the antithesis of each other, incidentally! The concept was based off the song "Limbo" from the first record. We wanted to extrapolate on that concept a little bit. Originally the song "Dying For Life" was supposed to be a story before "Limbo," which is the aftermath of what "Dying For Life" would have been. In the process of writing, Ty [vocalist] decided he was gonna change it a little bit and it ended up becoming what it is now. "Dying For Life" from
our standpoint would be that in order to gain life one has to die. Of course, that's the optimistic view and of course the pessimistic view is people taking it for what it's worth, "from birth death begins." That'd be like a death metal thing but that's not what were doing. We are definitely on the optimistic side of that! Did you see on the back album cover the writing above the gate? There is script/symbols above the gate in Aramaic. Read right to left it says, "Through death, life eternal" and that's what that means above the gate. I had found a website where a guy was retranslating the bible back into Aramaic. So I asked him if he could translate it for me into Aramaic and he did and sent it back to me. That's on the gate because I wanted people to understand that that was the gate to heaven, not hell because of the demons. Actually they are gargoyles, which are good things. Gargoyles were on castles to ward off evil spirits, like having a scarecrow in your garden. Despite popular belief gargoyles are not an "evil" thing.
MF - Tell us a little about the cover art and what it represents. The European cover is different right?
JL - The European cover is computer generated. There is a picture of an older man that is supposed to represent God and then two fetal embryos on either side of him. There are some skulls starting smaller and becoming concentrically bigger coming up through them. It says, "Dying For Life" with death being the skulls and life being the fetuses. I thought the artists did a really nice job. It's hard to explain. You'd have to see it, cause it's a real person, it's not a drawing. Now for the U.S. version, I had had in my head what I wanted to portray with our artwork. I had written a script (our artist that did this cover used to draw for DC Comics) of what I wanted to see on the cover but I can't do it myself. There's a guy that is dying and he looks emaciated and he's crawling amongst corpses. Then there's this tree that is half dead and half alive and on the alive side there's more grass and as it approaches the gate the colors are more lively and vibrant and upbeat to give the "Dying For Life" scenario. Originally in blood on the sand I wanted the seven deadly sins -- all but one, the missing one would represent the man crawling. The man would be the seventh deadly sin. We were gonna leave him be sloth because he's crawling! The other ones are cooler anyway so you want to see them written. Sin is cool! [Laughter all around the breakfast table!] The idea then for the back cover was to have a gate and then Eve at the gate. That's what he is crawling towards. Then the gargoyles were because, as a metal band, we couldn't have cherubs with flaming swords! If we were Britney Spears, then maybe. Gargoyles were much more metal. And then of course the writing. I think the album cover was designed to cover the concept of "Dying For Life." I wrote it all down and
then Ivan drew it!
MF - Yeah, it all flows together really well. The concept, the lyrics, the music, and the art.
JL - Yeah Ty did a great job with the lyrics and Ivan did a great job deciphering what was going on in my head.
MF - So, you have a new label home with Nightmare Records? How did that come about?
JL - Yes. Well, Lance King, singer for Balance of Power, that's his label and distribution company. I had received an email from him advertising his distribution so I thought, well maybe he would like to get our stuff to see if we are worthy of his distribution. We were, so he carries our first cd. We already had good distribution in Europe so we whittled down his contract so we could hit the markets we weren't already in. Then he said to send him the new record when it was finished and we did. Then we assigned his label
insignia to it. Just sorta happenstance actually! I didn't seek him out till I had gotten something from him. I had been a Balance of Power fan but I had never equated the two until I saw Lance King. Then I was like, "Hey wait a minute! Are you the same guy?" He was like, "Yeah" and I was like, "Cool!" Cause Balance of Power rocks!
MF - My favorite track off the new record is "Politicide." I know Ty wrote the lyrics but I was curious if there was a particular news item that spawned it or anything?
JL - Mostly the election process with all the hassles and garbage that was going on. Just the Clinton administration. All the things he said would happen didn't happen. Not like he's the only one to ever have done that but he is the only one to have gotten caught doing the things he was doing. The media in general and how they cover those types of events really set Ty off to want to write those kind of lyrics. The music I had written for that was heavy enough that we needed to be fairly aggressive with the lyrics, so Ty kinda tailored what he was trying to say to the music.
MF - So with a new president in tow, do you think George W. Bush is gonna be good for the country?
JL - I think so. The first mistake people make is that they think that the president has something to do with the economy. He has nothing to do with the economy! It's bad or it's good with or without him. Alan Greenspan runs the economy; he determines what happens. What they don't realize, and this is what I get mad about, people think that the economy is all of a sudden bad. It's been becoming bad six months to a year before the election! It has nothing to do with George W. Bush, it just has to do with the fact that
the Bull Market can not contain its pace it was running cause everything was overrated. If you give the people back their money that they're putting into all these stupid social programs, then they'll spend it on the things they feel are important like retirement savings and goods, then the economy will be fine! It's not bad, it's just slow! It hasn't even been slow for three straight quarters.
MF - The song "Times Of Trial," again I realize that you didn't write the lyrics, could you tell us some about it? It seems a lot more "intimate" than a lot of your songs.
JL - Paul had written it for Ty, to help him out with the lyrics. It has a lot to do with his brother passing away due to an illness. He had committed suicide to allow himself to stop suffering. After that (Paul and his brother were very close), Paul had suffered his own illness which had rendered him unable to perform on his drums. He had a stroke and was unable to do a lot of things. Through all of that he had maintained his faith and his belief that everything would be all right and that God would provide. That's what he
was trying to portray with that song and that's why it's so long. It drives my wife crazy! She says, "It's three minutes too long! It's great right up until the break and then you lose everybody!" The music though fits the lyrics really well in that the emotion that is brought up. The first five minutes is one thing then after that little break the lyrics change and the message in the lyrics changes and the music changes with it. It's a real nice match of the two.
MF - "Dying For Life" -- how would you say it's different from your first record?
JL - It's quite different. It's cliché to say but it's such a progression from where we were. I don't think it's so much different musically other than the production. We have learned a lot. It's probably a bit more
technical than the first record, at some points somewhat heavier, but for the most part it's just Antithesis with much better production. That brings out the music more. We did all digital the first time and this time went to analog and I think we got a better sound this time. It's a step forward for sure but we didn't go from "…And Justice for All" to the black album!
MF - What's next for Antithesis?
JL - Well, we have one more show scheduled and then we start writing again. We want to focus on writing cause it takes us a long time to write. It was a year and five months between the last record and this one, and we were finishing the writing in the studio. We have part of one song and half of another and we hope to be back in the studio by February 2002. The other thing is the European market, as we are negotiating with a label over there and trying to get things worked out with them. Hopefully next year if that deal goes through and we sell plenty of records over there, which I think we will, we'll get to go there. I'm really hoping we'll be allowed to go there and tour around for three weeks and have the opportunity to play for people who really enjoy that kind of music. Or maybe we will just turn into Limp Bizkit and sell a whole bunch of records right now!
MF - Yeah, then people can get crushed at your concerts in Australia!