Parkway Drive have been an institution in the Australian heavy music scene for almost ten years now. The uncompromising work ethic that the metalcore juggernauts employ has placed them at the forefront of the genre, spearheading successful international tours and selling thousands of albums to rabid fans worldwide. This year, the band is set to release their fourth studio album as well as a new DVD. Drummer Ben Gordon spoke to Kill Your Stereo about Big Day Out, the Sick Summer II Tour, and how the band will continue to evolve and push themselves with their next album.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your role in the band?
I’m Ben Gordon, I’m 25 years old and I’ve been in the band from the start. Me and Winston actually started the band, with me playing drums, and that’s me. I’m not really one to talk about myself, but I love to surf, I love playing drums, I love travelling, and I’m just a pretty normal guy, really.
What was the inspiration behind a second Sick Summer Tour?
Well, the first Sick Summer tour went really well, that was a couple of years ago now. We had some time allocated to tour Australia, and we just thought rather than do major cities, we’d go back out to some of the places that don’t usually get shows very often. We love playing out there, kids out there get psyched on the shows and the tours because it never really happens. It’s good to see Australia and travel around, and we always bring our surfboards to get some waves. It’s good fun.
Are there any towns in particular that you’re looking forward to returning to?
Not anything in particular. There’s always good ones and bad ones, but it just depends on the particular time. I love going to the South Coast of New South Wales, it’s always good ‘cause there’s always good waves there. Generally though, we’ve never really played bad shows out there with anywhere we’ve been. They always tend to be good, so I’m psyched for all of them.
The band is set to play Big Day Out for the first time since 2006. Are you excited for the festival?
Yeah dude, I can’t wait. In 2006 we just played one show on the Gold Coast, just opening up this little stage. Even at the time, we got off stage and said, “That is the biggest and best show that we’ve ever played.” We actually thought that it was the pinnacle of our band. That was psycho, talking about three, four thousand people watching us, and we couldn’t believe it. Now obviously the band’s grown a lot and we’re on the main stage for the whole tour this year. It’s the 20-year anniversary of Big Day Out so it’s a pretty great, iconic Australian tour and we’re stoked to be on it.
Are there any bands or artists playing that you’re keen to see?
I don’t mind Kanye West, to be honest. He was my warm-up music for a while. Being a drummer, I was warming up to a metronome every night, and I realised that I was bored of the “beep beep” sound in my ear, so you can just warm up to anything electro or anything basically to the beat of a metronome. I ended up warming up to Kanye West every night for a few weeks, and I like some of his songs so I wouldn’t mind watching him.
How does playing to 300 people in Western Sydney compare to playing for 100,000 at Download Festival?
Haha, we’ve never really played to 100,000. I think that the biggest show that we’ve ever played would be about 50,000, which is still absolutely massive. That’s the thing with this band though, we’ve played some giant shows and we’ve played some tiny shows. We just did a big tour around the world where some shows were played to less than 200 people, and it’s great because they offer different things to be stoked on. If it’s a small crowd it’s more intimate and you can connect with kids more and it’s kind of better, but when it’s a big, massive crowd it seems almost surreal and we think it’s absolutely amazing that so many people are standing there listening to our music. Every show has its appeal, we like playing big shows and we like playing small shows, we just like playing any show.
The band undertook an extensive tour of Central and South America last year. What was that like?
That was insane, actually. It was amazing. We did four shows in Mexico, then we played Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. Most people haven’t even heard of half those countries. We played there, and most of those places, particularly Guatemala and Panama, basically no bands go there, so the kids were totally psyched to see a touring heavy band there and they just couldn’t believe it. I’d say that that tour was one of the best tours we’ve ever done. When we got down to Brazil and Columbia and Chile it was insane because they are so passionate about music down there. We played to 600 kids in Chile, and we felt more like celebrities playing a show like that than playing to 50,000 people in Europe because we literally couldn’t walk out the front of the venue without getting swamped and riots starting. They’re just really into it down there. It was just really amazing. It was like the first time we toured Europe and just having kids from far away getting into our music who’d never seen us before. It was a different place, more far away, more foreign, and it was just an amazing tour.
Did those countries have a strong local hardcore scene?
Some of them, but it varies from country to country. Brazil’s was really strong and the same goes for Chile, but some of the smaller places I mentioned don’t really have anything going because no bands go there. I think it’s hard to have a strong local scene when bands never tour there. Even if a local band is doing well, it’s pretty hard to sustain a scene without shows basically.
Is there a new Parkway Drive album in the pipeline?
There sure is, mate. We’ve written about ten new songs. We’ve been writing ever since Deep Blue came out, and we should be recording in a few months. It should be out mid-to-late this year.
Do you know who you’ll be recording with and who’s producing the album?
We have ideas that we’ve been throwing around, but I’m not sure if anything’s confirmed yet. I’m not sure if I’m eligible to say that, but we’ve got ideas and we’re working on that side of it now.
The band’s sound became more refined and matured on Deep Blue. Will the band continue to evolve with their next release or will they return to their roots?
We’re definitely going to evolve. The stuff we’ve written is by far the most dynamic music we’ve ever produced, and some of the parts are definitely some of the heaviest music we’ve ever written as well. I feel that all of our albums have had a natural progression, and it’s a change that didn’t really happen straight away, so I think the new album will be the same thing again. Still our same style, but a bit different and better, in my opinion.
Do you feel that the band has become more technical with what they’ve been writing?
Yeah, I feel that. I feel that we’ve been constantly moving forward. Me and the main guitarist Jeff definitely push our technical abilities, so I’d say the new album is already more technical than anything we’ve written before.
What are some of the lyrical themes that have been explored with the new tracks?
Well, Winston’s been writing most of the new lyrics, and I’ve been reading some of what he’s been coming up with and loving it. There’s no real kind of theme or concept to this album, so I think we’re just concentrating on the 12 or 13 individual tracks that will be on it and making them the best songs that they can be. You’d probably have to ask Winston about the lyrics, because we’re very much a band that leaves each member to do what they want to do. The guitarists write the riffs, I write and play the drums, and Winston writes and sings the lyrics and everyone does their own thing. Very rarely does someone step in and say, “I think you should do this,” unless it’s really necessary. I’ve been reading some of his lyrics and interpreted them in my own way, but most of the time that’s not actually what they’re about, so I probably shouldn’t comment on that!
What local and international touring plans does the band have for 2012?
Well, we are recording as you know, so it’s gonna be a slower year. Apart from recording this new album, we’re going to be releasing a new DVD early-to-mid this year. The DVD is basically footage of those tours I mentioned. We played in heaps of crazy like Central and South America, and also Asia as well, and the last show of 2011we played was India. That was by far the most crazy place that we’ve ever played. So yeah, we’re making a DVD, it’s coming out in a few months, and we’re gonna take some time out to make the DVD and record the album. After they come out, I think we’ll be touring pretty hard towards the end of the year, but until then I think we’re gonna chill out a bit.
Who has been your favourite act to tour with and why?
Well, we’ve toured with that many. I think we were talking about it the other day, that every band we’ve either grown up listening to or liked we’ve either toured with or become friends with, or both. I think it’s a pretty amazing achievement. A lot of these bands I thought were the best things ever when I was growing up, and I never thought I’d get the chance to meet them or see them, and now we’re mates with them. Still, my favourite band of all time is Bad Religion, and we had the honour to tour with them on the Warped Tour for eight weeks in 2007, I think. That was the only band I’ve toured with that I’ve watched their set every night without a hiccup, so I have to say Bad Religion.
What are some new and upcoming bands that you’d like to recommend to your fans?
Oh, shit. Well I’m not really one that keeps up to date with the scene these days, and because we haven’t played in Australia for a while. I mean, I hear these bands and I hear good things about these bands, but I haven’t really looked into it enough to comment on it. I know Confession released their new album and I’ve been listening to that and really like it, and obviously Crafter’s our mate and he’s in it. That’s one of the things I was excited about the new tour for actually, the new Sick Summer tour. We are playing with a lot of Australian bands and there are a lot of local bands on the lineup, so I’m pretty psyched to see how the Aussie scene is doing these days.
Tell us about the craziest thing the band has ever done?
Actually, that question used to be very hard to answer to up until we went to India, and now the answer is playing India. We played Calcutta, the city was, and we were the first heavy band of any kind to play there. We’ve played 57 different countries now, and that was by far the most crazy and the most different and diverse, the actual show itself as well as culturally. It was like being on another planet, and some of the stuff that happened was just so surreal being there. That’s by far the craziest thing we’ve ever done.
The band has come a very long way since its early beginnings. Where do you see Parkway Drive in five years?
Five years ago, we thought that we’d be broken up in five years, so I have no idea. I think we could easily peak on this next album and start being that old band that nobody really cares about anymore, or we could keep going. We’ve still got a lot in us. Some of the members are kind of old now, Luke’s turning 30 later on this year which is pretty funny to us, but we still feel like we love what we’re doing. We love touring and we love writing new material, so we’re going to continue doing it for as long as we can, but who knows. Who knows what the world’s going to be doing in five years, and who knows what we’re going to be doing, time will tell.
So you feel like the band hasn’t reached its peak yet?
We definitely could’ve, we could’ve reached our peak with Deep Blue, but I feel with this next album that we could top Deep Blue and peak after that. But who knows, we could already be on our slow decline.
Any comments you’d like to finish on?
Well, I hope to see all our fans come out on the Sick Summer Tour!