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Fired Up & Rockin' With Bob Rock: An Exclusive Interview With The BLACK VEIL BRIDES

By Lisa Sharken, New York Contributor
Monday, October 13, 2014 @ 4:37 PM


"It’s a little unfair to pay your money to come see a show and only hear songs from a record that just came out or you haven’t gotten yet."

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BLACK VEIL BRIDES are gearing up for a mega tour to promote the release of their upcoming self-titled album, which is the group’s fourth full-length disc that’s scheduled for release at the end of October.

Formed in 2006, the band gained popularity and exposure as headliners for Warped Tour, then performing at Download, Rock On The Range, as well as through touring with artists such as SLASH, AVENGED SEVENFOLD and MOTLEY CRUE. BVB’s last single, “In The End” off the group’s last album,Wretched And Divine: The Story Of The Wild Ones, was voted “Song of the Year”, earning a Revolver Golden God Award in 2013. Fans are hungry for more.

The song caught the attention of renowned producer Bob Rock and he sought them out, expressing interest in working together on new material. They entered the studio with Rock earlier this year and emerged with a powerful assortment of tracks poised to become BVB’s biggest album to date.

Frontman Andy Biersack, bassist Ashley Purdy and drummer Christian “CC” Coma sat down with KNAC.COM while visiting New York City and indulged us with a chat about the experience of making an album with Mr. Rock.

KNAC.COM: Tell us about the new album and how things came together.

BIERSACK: The new record is a self-titled album. There are 11 tracks and it was produced by Bob Rock. We’d been actively working on it since April. We knew that going into this next record we wanted to do something that was a bit heavier, but also return to the kind of the simpler songwriting we had done in the beginning of our career, and not such a grand sweeping idea, since our previous record was a concept album. We happened to fall into the fact that Bob became a big fan of our last record and loved the songs. He happened to hear it on the radio where he lives in Hawaii. He was very excited that there was this young band doing the kind of music that he likes. He reached out to us via a mutual friend of our manager and said he’d love to meet the band. So we wound up meeting him for breakfast and had the big moment — “Oh, we’re meeting Bob Rock!” — and that was very cool! But the rest has been a fully collaborative effort. As Ashley has said many times, Bob was like the sixth member of the band in making this record.

PURDY: Our approach was that we wanted to make one of the most timeless rock and roll records, and we’ve done so much before now that we just wanted to strip it down and get to the heart of what we wanted to do. We were kind of wearing our hearts on our sleeves with this one. It’s more straightforward, straight up rock and roll. It’s heavy, but in a classic sense of heavy — maybe not what people consider heavy today.

KNAC.COM: Bob is certainly well known for his work with many artists. How did things begin and what was his involvement in your creative process?

BIERSACK: Bob happened to hear our song “In The End” on the radio and dug the sound of the band. I think one of the coolest things that’s important for you to know is that for us, it was just so neat to have Bob Rock, who is obviously a very storied producer, interested in our band and willing to come out of what is essentially a retirement of sorts. He’s still producing and winning Grammys, but not in the rock world. He hasn’t made a hard rock record in quite some time. One could argue that he’s not made a heavy metal record since the last METALLICA record. So for him to kind of be done with that genre and then hear our band, and something in our band excited him to come back to that, it’s pretty amazing. It’s a huge compliment. That in itself is amazing, let alone the fact that he’s willing to work with a band in this genre that is in some ways antiquated, and to also want to do it at a time when the budgets are not what they used to be for rock bands. Bob was willing to take much less money than he would normally get to do a record, just because it was a passion project. His interest in the band was very genuine, and it fed us both musically and emotionally to be around that positive energy. The vibe and the excitement towards our band was invaluable.

KNAC.COM: Was Bob involved in the songwriting?

BIERSACK: Bob’s not so much a songwriter; he’s more of an orchestrator. You write the songs and he’s the guy who will teach you how to put an element of movement to the song that will change everything, like the evolution of the bass line, the rhythm, etc. His seemingly small contributions to a song will change the dynamic greatly, and that’s something I think is the true mark of a great producer, and not necessarily something we had worked with before. Bob is someone who can sit back and listen for an hour and a half, and have only one note, but it’s that one note that will change the whole dynamic of the song.

PURDY: I think a lot of our songs went through a whole evolution in how we would bring it to the table and then he would orchestrate the whole thing to become this whole other aspect. Through his guidance we learned a lot of new techniques and ways to approach songwriting as well. So we all grew in that sense because of him picking out some of the simplest things.

KNAC.COM: Did you use different gear in the recording process than what you typically use on stage or have used for recording in the past?

BIERSACK: Yes and no. We were introducing Bob to some of the things that we use. For instance, the Kemper Profiling amplification system was something that Bob was not familiar with. Honestly, most of the old-school guys write it off and think of it like a Line 6 modeling amp or digital thing, but the detailed nature and the tone you can get from it is amazing. He bought two Kemper amps for himself because he was super amazed by it. So we brought that to the table. But the mixing and sound qualities was really where Bob was at, and finding the right desks for the right songs, finding the right rooms, and those things that we wouldn’t necessarily know off the bat — the things you could really hear and tell the difference. The drums sound is bigger on this album because they were recorded in a great drum room.

PURDY: That’s another asset we got from him too, because he was a mixer before he was a producer, and he mixed a lot of records that we like as well. He wanted to be hands on with this record, so he was our producer and he was also our mixer. He didn’t want someone from outside to come in and mix it. He wanted full control of this record.

BIERSACK: Bob worked with [producer] Bruce Fairburn for years, recording AEROSMITH, LOVERBOY, BON JOVI and all the great albums of that era. Then he moved on and said it’s time for me to do it, and he wound up making the biggest heavy metal record of all time with the METALLICA Black album. So he certainly had the chops in both worlds as a mixer and a producer, and his engineer, Eric Helmkamp, is so sweet. We couldn’t have had a better, more professional, and positive work environment. You’re talking about guys that live in Hawaii and have the sweetest of dispositions. Bob is a Canadian who lives in Hawaii. He’s very easygoing and we had such a great time. I find it so funny when I read these articles where people that have worked with Bob say he’s a taskmaster. I only imagine that he would be a taskmaster if you didn’t come ready to work, and we’re a hardworking band. We expect to have to get there at 10 AM and have to work all day, but we also like doing that. So we never had to butt heads with Bob. There was no yelling and there was no craziness. We showed up on time and worked our asses off.

KNAC.COM: Did you rehearse the new songs together before you went into the studio with Bob?

COMA: We started at Mates rehearsal studio, and during the rehearsals, Bob was like the sixth member of this band. Even from the first day of pre-production at Mates, Bob was there with us, and he was orchestrating and conducting us, telling us to do this or that here, and even something as miniscule as bumping up the speed of the chorus 1 BPM. Little things like that, which Andy and Ashley touched on earlier, just made a world of difference. So we started at Mates and started to write some songs, and some of them ended up completely different than the way they started. We went on for a couple of months there and then we started tracking drums at Steakhouse Studios in North Hollywood. Jake did his guitars in his studio, and while he recorded his guitars, we did the vocals and all the backgrounds up in Vancouver. Then we came back down to Los Angeles and Hollywood to mix.

PURDY: What was different in the process was how we started in Mates, which was kind of old school, where we set up our instruments and just jammed. We had never done that before when we went in to record. In the past, we would just record our parts, and then cut and paste with Pro Tools and the modern technology. So that was different.

KNAC.COM: It’s very interesting to hear how much Bob was involved from so early on because a lot of producers nowadays will meet you in the recording studio, but not in the rehearsal room. You are expected to be ready to go when the producer enters the picture.

BIERSACK: Bob insisted on being involved in the pre-production. As he described it, that’s the process he likes to go through. He insisted on being there every day in the rehearsal room and being around for the gestation of the songs, and really making sure that there weren’t elements being added that were unnecessary. He really wanted to be involved, and to his credit, he was there. So we were all working together in this little room at Mates in North Hollywood, and that’s really where it all started.

COMA: It was cool to see somebody who we’ve all looked up to in our lifetime come in and be so excited about a bass pedal that he wanted to plug in, telling us “You guys have got to hear this!” It was really cool to be a part of that.

KNAC.COM: You guys were obviously very open to Bob’s input and willing to try different things he might suggest. Not all artists can accept outside suggestions or accept criticism. Some people are only interested in carrying out what they envision, and don’t want somebody else attempting to make changes to their creations.

BIERSACK: A lot of people are stupid! At the end of the day, why hire someone for a job? The thing that bands or artists tend to forget sometimes is that you are bringing someone else in with your money, so why would you hire someone to do a job if you don’t want to let them do that job? Then just produce it yourself if you think you know best. We had the understanding that Bob Rock knows a lot more things about rock music than we do. So we were bringing him in to combine our talents with his. That’s how you make a record! If we ever feel that we know more than our producer, than we should fire him because that’s a huge waste of money. We produced our first record because we couldn’t afford a producer. Now that we can, we’re going to utilize him!

KNAC.COM: It sounds like you had the best possible guy to take your music to the next level and help you grow as a band.

BIERSACK: Absolutely! As a band, our relationship was improved because of it because we were all involved. We all felt like we were a part of something as opposed to working with a producer who’s only focusing on one or two members of the band or only caring about this one element. All five of us felt like we were involved in the entire process and Bob did a really good job of placating the egos of the band as well, making sure everyone felt like they had something to do.

KNAC.COM: There are some producers who will completely strip a band to its core and then attempt to build them back up to make them stronger, but it can end up tearing the band apart.

BIERSACK: This experience was the opposite. We’re probably closer as a band now than we were coming out of our last record.

KNAC.COM: In what way do you think you’ve each grown as musicians from this whole experience? What have you taken away?

COMA: We’ve all grown as songwriters, but as a drummer, Bob taught me to take inspirations from different things for particular songs. There are certain songs where he made me go into the control room and listen to the ROLLING STONES and LED ZEPPELIN, and try to channel that kind of energy and that feel for fills or the beat, or whatever it might be. At one time, he had me come in and listen to SLAYER for a thrash beat, which was cool, because I’ve never really done things like that, where I’d go and listen to something for inspiration. I might have thought that I wanted to do something in a certain vein, but I never actually had a producer ask me to come in and listen to something like he did. And at the same time he was giving me direction, he was not being controlling, and he definitely let me be myself while he was trying to give me that different perspective. It was really cool to do that. So that’s something that I would take on to do in the future.

BIERSACK: From an outside perspective, it was interesting to watch somebody like CC, who is a very talented drummer, work with Bob. Sometimes it’s a very difficult balance that I see producers have while trying to get the drums tracked, and then taking away the ability of the drummer, or their interest in doing it. For the layman, there’s a very thin line between hearing drums that a drummer feels sound great, a take that sounds great, and what is essentially a great take that doesn’t have any heart or soul in it. Bob, as far as I could see, was able to walk a great line with CC, where he didn’t feel like his soul was being taken out of the songs, and yet we were still getting the takes and the things the songs needed, which is the mark of someone who is a very talented producer.

PURDY: What I took away from this experience is all the awesome stories that Bob had to share. I love the stories about the rock and roll history and the lifestyles. Bob has a lot of really cool stories to share. He’s partied with all of our heroes. It’s like we had to live up to those expectations in that regard, so we had lots of fun with Bob.

BIERSACK: It was also fun being around Bob because it seems that everybody wants to be around him. So by the end of it, we thought nothing of Bryan Adams or Paul Stanley and people like that, just coming around to see Bob. So we got to meet a lot of really cool people.

PURDY: We went and saw THE CULT, Dwight Yoakam and we went out with him. When we weren’t in the studio it was great to have that camaraderie and brotherhood.

KNAC.COM: Most people who are fans of the band know that all of you have a wide range of influences and listen to a variety of different music. Were any of the bands you went to see with Bob the kind of artists you may not necessarily have seen or listened to before?

BIERSACK: No, we’re all fans of many different artists and we take influence from a lot of different stuff. Bob is super into a lot of outlaw country kind of stuff. I’m really into singer-songwriter kind of stuff, like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, James Taylor and that kind of stuff for the lyrical end, not necessarily when I’m jamming in my car. But I really like and respect James Taylor and Springsteen. The lyrical prowess is insane to me, and that’s something I associate with as a writer. CC is very into not only rock music, but also dance music and things that are beat oriented. As a drummer, it’s all things that associate in some ways with our sensibilities, but maybe a little left of center.

KNAC.COM: What might surprise people, as far as some of the things you listen to?

BIERSACK: Probably what CC listens to more than anything else.

COMA: Yes, I listen to all kinds of wacky stuff. I’m all the way from SLIPKNOT to IMOGEN HEAP. I take inspiration from everything — not just inspiration, but I can appreciate the music, just being an artist myself. I think people like IMOGEN HEAP are absolutely brilliant, but at the same time, I’ll be in traffic on the 405 and put a SLIPKNOT record in, and I’ll give everyone the finger! I’m kind of all over the place in that sense. And like Andy said, I listen to a lot of dance music and go out to clubs, check out the DJs, and do that whole thing. I guess I’m well versed as a fan of music.

BIERSACK: Our fans are pretty open. I talk candidly about the different things that influence me. I think there are a lot of different types of BLACK VEIL BRIDES fans because we appeal to a wide range of people from six to 60. I think people can understand that what they’re hearing in the music is different. Someone who is maybe 14 years old and doesn’t necessarily listen to heavy metal music is listening to BLACK VEIL BRIDES and they’re hearing it in a way that maybe someone who’s 46 years old is and listening because maybe they see us as a throwback in some ways. It’s all different perspectives, and so in that regard, the fan base itself is inherently open to different ends of influence because they’re seeing it in a different light anyway. A band like Slayer is being listened to for the same reason, whether someone is six or 16 years old. We are fortunate that our music is interpreted by different people in many different ways, and that so many different people can hear something in it that appeals to them.

KNAC.COM: For each of you, which songs are your current favorites on the new album?

PURDY: I’ll go with “Drag Me To The Grave”. That one is another anthem that follows up “In The End” and “Fallen Angels”, and that one will translate pretty well live.

COMA: My favorite would be “Heart Of Fire”. It’s the lead single, and it’s like a meat-and-potatoes put-your-foot-on-the-gas-pedal kind of tune. I also like the last track, “Crown Of Thorns”. That one is a real moment for the record. There’s a space of air and it’s definitely a different mood than “Heart Of Fire”. Both of those songs are equally my favorites.

BIERSACK: You obviously love a record for what it is and it’s like asking you to choose between your kids. For me, a song like “Goodbye Agony” stands out quite a bit because it really is emotionally close to my heart. While it is a softer song, it still is a heavy song, and I really enjoy the vibe. It’s one I love to listen to, and that’s an interesting thing when it’s your own music. It’s a very proud feeling to have a song and feel that whether I did this song or not, I know for certain this would be the kind of vibe that would always make me excited to listen to in my car. So I certainly associate with that one quite a bit.

KNAC.COM: Tell us about the upcoming tour. When does it start and what do you have planned for this time around?

PURDY: It starts in the US the week before Halloween.

BIERSACK: We’re starting on October 1st in England and then I’m not quite sure of the date that we land back in the States. It’s going to be an excellent tour. We’ve been fortunate in our career to have a lot more financial possibilities now, so we’ll be touring with production trucks and a much larger stage show. We’re able to bring LED screens, and a lot of the cool stuff we’ve always wanted to do, so we’re able to up the game. That’s been something that’s been fun for us. The larger we get as a band, the more of a chance we have to put on a really cool theatrical show for our fans. So that will be a first in many ways with the production elements of the show. We’re playing something like 37 or 38 shows in the States. At this point the set list is about an hour and 45 minutes, close to two hours. It’s the most comprehensive set list in terms of material from our career. We really wanted to make a concerted effort to do songs that we never played live before — material not only that’s just new, but songs from previous records that maybe never got a fair shake live or were just never taken out — deep cuts. There’s a song called “Coffin” that we have a video for, but it was never played live for whatever reason, and we decided this would be a great time to do it. So we’ll be playing a lot of material from the first album, a great deal of material from the second album, and I think that we’re focusing heavily on kind of the deep cut thing with that. And potentially, we’ll be playing up to five or six songs from the brand new record live. So we’re kind of running the gamut of our whole career.

There’s a lot of excitement for this tour and we know the whole record live, so there’s a possibility of playing all of it if we want to. But I think at the end of the day it’s also about the audience because they want to hear songs they know. It’s a little unfair to pay your money to come see a show and only hear songs from a record that just came out or you haven’t gotten yet. While it’s fun to hear a new song live, we want to give them plenty of opportunity to hear the songs they know. Why do you go to a rock show? You go to sing along and have a good time! We’re definitely aware of that, so we want to make sure that the people are hearing stuff that they know and have a good time with us! We’re really looking forward to these shows!

COMA: It’s all killer, no filler! So bring your party suits!


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