Having staked their reputation as one of modern music’s leaders of discordant hardcore, Norma Jean have returned with their most straight forward (and opinion dividing) release to date, The Anti Mother.
Front man Corey Brandon caught up to talk about The Warped Tour, working with Chino and keeping it real…
Hey man, how are you this morning?
Feeling good man, how are you doing?
I’ll be honest, I’ve got the flu so I feel awful.
Bum out man, ha ha, sorry to hear that.
You guys just finished off the Warped Tour, how was the gruelling summer heat this time around?
It was pretty gross, ha ha. It was a fun tour and it was definitely one of the more fun tours we’ve done, but it was long dude… something like eight and a half weeks.
That’s pretty solid. I take it you took the chance to road test some of the songs off your new record?
Yeah, we’ve been playing a couple of songs live and it’s been awesome man.
And what’s the reaction been like to your new material?
At first it was slow because nobody really knew the new songs, which is totally normal, I think it happens with every band. But as the songs got released and the record came out it definitely picked up and it’s just been amazing.
Our fans have definitely accepted it, which is awesome.
You guys started working on The Anti Mother at the tail end of 2007 correct? Four records into the band’s career, what was the vibe like in the Norma Jean camp when it came to working on new material?
Well, we it was definitely a pretty chaotic time because we starting writing knowing that our drummer was leaving, so we weren’t writing with him, so we were just writing on tour by ourselves and that tour ended (which was his last tour), so then we got a new drummer and just started writing immediately.
We didn’t really know what we wanted to go for on this record (musically), so we just kind of went for it. We just got into our rehearsal space and looked at each other and said, “ok, what do we want to do here” and yeah, we just started churning out riffs.
We’re really stoked, we didn’t pull any punches musically and did exactly what we wanted to do.
You were obviously happy with Ross Robinson’s work on Redeemer as you got him back to handle production duties on The Anti Mother. What does Ross bring to the band that made you want to work with him again?
Ross has a very, very interesting style of producing. He definitely focuses more on the intention behind the songs and he wants the message of the song (whatever it is) to come through the song because he thinks it brings a different life to it.
We like that a lot and it makes us play differently and yeah, we just play better with each other and it’s a really cool thing and he really knows how to push that button to make it happen. That’s definitely the coolest thing about the way Ross works.
He’s just this super, really cool, understanding guy, which makes it so easy to work with him. It’s definitely still a struggle because you’re making a record, but that struggle is a good thing because it makes the record better and that’s the goal. We’re there to make a record you know, not to be best buddies the whole time.
The Anti Mother features a few notable collaborations, Chino Moreno (Deftones) and Page Hamilton (Helmet) being the two most prominent names on that list. Firstly, who came up with the idea to get guests to co-write their songs on the record rather than do the straight up guest vocal spot?
It was kind of something we’re all into it. You know, it’s definitely easier to write a song than to have someone come in and just throw some vocals on there. To me, that’s kind of like, “here’s a song we wrote and by the way, this guy sings on it, so that makes it cool”, but we really wanted that personality to come through on it just as much as our personalities.
Having them come in and write a song from scratch really puts that on there and makes them a part of the song rather than being just a voice, and it really adds to the flow of the record which makes it so fun. We treated those dudes like they were a part of the band while they were there… we all had ideas and we all wrote the song together and we learnt so much that way.
The one thing we feel in Norma Jean is that we’re never above reproach musically, we don’t want to be that band that becomes music elitists. There’s so many bands that get that way and then they plateau out, so we don’t ever want to get that way… we feel there’s always more to learn, and what better way to learn that to do it from your favourite artists, you know?
Chino and Page are definitely two of our favourite artists ever so we’re just happy that we could make it happen.
Secondly, and I mean this with no disrespect whatsoever, but those guys must have been asked to play on hundreds of record, so how do you even get someone like Chino or Page to guest on your record, ha ha?
Well, with Page, we’ve known him for a while. We’ve been friends with for ages and we’re fans of each other’s bands, you know, we’re all huge Helmet fans so yeah, we met him at a show… he came to one of our shows at The Avalon in Hollywood and surprised us, ha ha. We’d never met him but we became really good friends.
Whenever he was on tour with Helmet he’d come through our city and hang out and yeah, it just kind of came up in conversation when we were hanging out backstage at a Helmet show. We were like, “hey, do a song with on us on the next record”, and he was just like, “ok”, ha ha.
Easy sell then, ha ha.
For sure, ha ha, and he really dedicated himself to that song. He wrote with us, came into the studio and did his guitars parts and then he left and just came back and did his vocal parts later, so he really dedicated himself to the song, which was so cool.
With Chino it was a little different because we didn’t know him, we were just acquaintances, but with him we just got a hold of and asked if he was into it, so that kind of worked out too.
Were you at all concerned that your fans might think the development in your song writing was purely because of collaborators, and not because of your growth within the band?
Not really, I mean, that’s not something we’ve really thought of. I think the main thing is that as far as collaborating goes it’s just something we really wanted to, but at the same time, there’s still eight tracks on the record that are pure Norma Jean. We wanted to do those collaborations to experiment and yeah, the songs came out really cool and they’re really different… I listen to them and it’s kind of weird to listen to them because you can definitely tell there’s another influence in there, but I think it’s cool because it just adds to what we do musically, so I’m not really concerned about it at all.
What did your new drummer Chris Raines bring to the band this time round?
He’s just been awesome man. He’s a really great drummer and an awesome dude and he’s just so excited to be here, which is such a big deal to us because he’s dedicated himself to this band and us. He’s already taken over in some areas, which is what we wanted… just for someone to dive in!
Now I read that you actually played a lot of guitar on this record. Does that mean you contributed to the writing more than you had in the past and if so, do you think The Anti Mother is a more accurate representation of Norma Jean as a band than your older records?
What’s funny about that is that I’ve played guitar on every record since I joined the band, but we’ve never really advertised it…
Well, now I feel like a dickhead…
Ha ha, no, no, it’s ok. I don’t ever advertise it but on this record specifically it is different because I’ll be playing some of these songs live on guitar, and that was kind of the idea behind it because I’m going to have my own parts, whereas before I was definitely a big part of writing in Norma Jean, like, I’d do certain parts and lead bits to add flavour, but it was never a full on guitar part, it was just something that’d get done by someone else live. But on this record I’ll be playing separate parts.
So it’s definitely different but I do think that we are definitely (more than any record) representing exactly what we want to do musically.
Now that you are going to be playing guitar live do you think it’s going to affect how your intensity as a front man?
Well, I’m not going to play on every song but I don’t think so. I think it might actually be the opposite, it might actually be weird when I’m not playing guitar, ha ha.
You know, you’ve got that third guitar and everybody’s going nuts on stage so it’s going to add a totally different sonic feel. I honestly feel that the sound that’s coming through is eighty percent of the intensity that’s coming from the band. I’ve definitely been so stoked to see a band just because they’ve sounded so good, but they’ve just stood there onstage, ha ha.
I saw that you guys are headlining the Solid State tour this year, very admirable considering a lot of bigger bands tend to forget their roots. Do you guys enjoy taking younger and less established bands out on the road?
Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely not the most ideal tour that you’d think of, but it’s an opportunity that came up and we really feel like our label and everyone else was backing the tour.
The way we routed this tour isn’t like this big “A Market” tour where we play all these huge venues… we mix it up a bit and go to these smaller “B Venues” and some “C Venues” too. We just did Warped Tour and it’s just huge where we’re playing for thousands of people a day and a lot of new fans each day, so with this tour we don’t necessarily have to hit those same places again, so we can kind of go and do whatever we want with this tour so we just thought we’d take out some bands from the label that we thought were cool so we could go and do something different.
Awesome! Just a few quick questions to finish up mate, what’s been your favourite record of 2008?
Oh man, so much has come out this year… let me think. I’m trying to think of what I got recently.
I can definitely think of new records I have but I don’t think they came out this year, ha ha
Well, 2008 isn’t over yet, there’s still so many great records to come out. I actually got to hear the new Acacia Strain, which is pretty sweet, but it’s not out yet…
It’s actually out here already, we seem to get everything a little early these days.
Oh really? Ha ha. Well, it’s a great record, I’ve been rocking that recently! Slipknot is coming out with a new record, which is kind of cool too, but I think my favourite record coming out is ours, ha ha.
If you could take any three bands on tour, who would it be and why?
I’d definitely love to do a tour with Helmet, they’re one of our favourite bands ever and a band we’ve wanted to tour with forever but it’s never happened. As far as us taking out bands, I feel most of the bands we want to tour with would have to take us out.
I’d love to tour with Nirvana if they were still a band, but there are definitely a lot of bands out there that I’m into and would love to tour with.
And finally, when are we going to see Norma Jean in Australia again?
We’re trying to come there this year as a headliner. It’s up in the air but it’s definitely something we’re talking about.
That wraps it up mate, anything else you’d like to add?
I think that’s pretty much it man.
Thanks your time.
Head to Norma Jean‘s Myspace page for more info. ‘The Anti Mother‘ is out now