Interviews

Interview: Phil Labonte of ALL THAT REMAINS

All That Remains were just another noisy band to me, one that I foolishly dismissed and never further explored the band’s musical back catalog and legacy. A few months ago they lost one of their founding members which brought them more into the public consciousness. Seeing that they would be soon playing the UK with a band that I had been a fan of for a long time, Sevendust, I actually decided to dip into their musical history before attending their gig. I was fortunate enough to be allowed some time with lead vocalist Phil Labonte ahead of their Manchester show.


ANTIHERO: I understand things are a bit behind schedule. The tour has just recently hit the UK and All That Remains have just played a couple of shows with Sevendust. How are those going, an unusual pairing I would suggest?

Phil Labonte: They’ve been great. This is the first time that we’ve done a properly actual UK tour, more than just a Download Festival or something I think in four years. So, it’s great to be back. The show last night in London was awesome, or two nights ago in London was awesome. The first show was in South Hampton, I think. It was killer. Tonight, I think it might be sold out already. So far, the shows have been great and we’re really excited to be back and be playing.

ANTIHERO: What about Sevendust, are they a band that you grew up listening to yourself? They’ve been around quite a while.

Phil Labonte: Yeah, I mean I remember listening to Sevendust when I was just starting all of this. They had some stuff going on the radio and stuff like that. So probably early ’90’s, late ’90’s, early 2000’s and stuff. We’ve known the guys for years and years, and they’re some of the nicest people that you could possibly want to hang out with and tour with. They’re really, really great dudes. I’m hoping that we can put something together for the States with them. We’ll see what their schedule and our schedule would look like, but it’d be cool to do something with them in the states again.

ANTIHERO: Has this tour been particularly difficult for you guys, playing live again?

Phil Labonte: If you’re referring to Ollie, it’s definitely weird.

ANTIHERO: Emotional.

Phil Labonte: Yeah. There’s never been an All that Remains show that Ollie didn’t play.

ANTIHERO: That first show that you did must have been extremely difficult.

Phil Labonte: It was tough. It’s definitely an adjustment. But Ollie lived and breathed metal. He loved everything about being in a band and touring and everything. He definitely would have wanted us to keep going and keep carrying on his legacy and stuff.

ANTIHERO: I would suggest that it’s maybe also been therapeutic, it’s helped you?

Phil Labonte: It’s a little too early to ask that or to answer that.

ANTIHERO: Playing the songs without him must be difficult.

Phil Labonte: It’s weird.

ANTIHERO: I don’t want to dwell on it too much, obviously. it’s still raw and emotional for you guys. Got a new album to promote, you’re touring, you’re doing interviews. Was that difficult decision to make to go ahead, you said that he would have wanted that, but at the same time, something like that happens to you with somebody that you’ve been so close to, is it not better maybe to take a little break? A step back?

Phil Labonte: I don’t know about better. I don’t know that there’s a right thing to do.

ANTIHERO: It’s difficult.

Phil Labonte: My dad passed away in 2000. Me and my mom had a couple conversations about what it was going to be like. One of the things that we agreed on and decided on is there’s not really a right way to handle a loss like that.

ANTIHERO: My sister passed last year. I know where you’re coming from a little bit with that.

Phil Labonte: It’s difficult to say that there’s a right or a wrong way. Sure, you don’t want to do something that’s going to hurt anyone else or whatever. But if you’re not hurting someone else, the person that’s passed is passed. So, you really need to do what’s right for the people that have survived, the people that are still surviving. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way.

ANTIHERO: Okay. Getting back to music, then. The band’s albums have been a whole mix of styles. Do you find that you like fucking with people’s perceptions? Just when they think they’ve got an idea of what All That Remains is, you just go off on completely different tangents. Do you like messing with people?

Phil Labonte: (laughs) It’s not so much that I like messing with people. The intent isn’t to mess with people. Although it’s kind of funny to see people being like “What?” To get those strange looks. We’re musicians. We like a bunch of different kinds of music.

ANTIHERO: The other guys chip in? Do you all come from a variety of influences and styles?

Phil Labonte: Yeah. We all like a bunch of different stuff. Jason, our drummer, likes a lot of rap music, me and Mike like a lot of pop music. We all converge on metal. But then, beyond metal, we all have our own other things that we like. I like a lot of electronic music and a lot of EDM and stuff. For us, we just look at it like we’re able to do what we want because we’re in a band. I do think that there’s value in the argument that your fans expect a certain thing. That is true. We haven’t put out a record that doesn’t have heavy stuff on it. We’ve put out records that have less heavy stuff than other records.

ANTIHERO: A good balance, you mean. “What If I Was Nothing” compared with “Fuck Love”. They’re worlds apart, really.

Phil Labonte: “What If I Was Nothing” is our biggest song. That’s got 60 million views on YouTube.

ANTIHERO: So, you didn’t expect to write something like that when you started?

Phil Labonte: No. But because we’ve had a certain amount of success, we’ve been able to push what we feel is acceptable as a metal band. Our last record, we had a lot of stuff that was really, really different. Some people embraced it, some people didn’t. For us, it was cool to be able to try different kinds of stuff and push the boundaries a little bit. I wouldn’t be surprised if our next record is something different again.

ANTIHERO: There was also the Garth Brooks cover.

Phil Labonte: Garth Brooks cover indeed.

ANTIHERO: Bet you that’ll mess with a few heads. Going by cover versions, is there any sort of cover versions that you guys mess around with during sound checks and stuff that you haven’t actually put on an album yet? Have you heard any original different cover versions of your songs?

Phil Labonte: I’ve heard some dudes on YouTube and stuff like that that’s really cool, yeah. It’s hugely flattering. There’s a lot of acoustic covers of “What If I Was Nothing”. A lot of people do it on the piano. A lot of people have covered “This Calling” and stuff. It’s like I said, it’s hugely flattering. It’s really awesome.

ANTIHERO: First music that you recall hearing?

Phil Labonte: First music that I recall hearing. It had to be oldies driving in the back seat with my parents when I was a kid. My parents used to go … We’d just go on a drive in the country for an hour or two and they’d put on the oldies station, and I’d listen to stuff from the ’50s and ’60s and stuff. So that was the very first taste of music I had was the Beach Boys and stuff like that.

ANTIHERO: What about the first song that you performed live? Might be your first band?

Phil Labonte: It might be my first band, I don’t remember what the first song we played was that night. But it was the first band I was ever in was a band called Perpetual Doom. We paid some shows when I was a teenager. Then we had some shows when I was a teenager and so that’s where I first stepped into live playing. I was playing guitar and I didn’t do any singing at that time.

ANTIHERO: Something that followed around and came later.

Phil Labonte: Yeah.

ANTIHERO: Greatest album of all time? Do you collect albums?

DreamHost

Phil Labonte: I really have a hard time picking favorites of anything.

ANTIHERO: It’s not one album that you go back to?

Phil Labonte: Early Metallica’s great.

ANTIHERO: Kill Em All, Master of Puppets.

Phil Labonte: Yeah. I was a big fan of Iron Maiden in the ’80s and ’90s, early ’90s, I was a big fan of Judas Priest. I’m still a big fan of Judas Priest. I’m still a fan of all these bands. But those are the bands that I really cut my teeth on for Metal, at least. From there, it was … Then it got into Cannibal Corpse and Entombed and Carcass and stuff like that.

ANTIHERO: Best record that you’ve personally made. I know you want to say the latest album because everybody does.

Phil Labonte: It’s a record called the ‘Victim of the New Disease’. It’s out on Razor and Tie Records, available on iTunes, Spotify.

ANTIHERO: I mean do you prefer, to focus on the now and move forward rather than looking backward to the past?

Phil Labonte: Up to this point, I think my favorite All That Remains record is For We Are Many. I’m really happy with Victim of the New Disease. But For We Are Many is the one that I keep going back to. I think that we really had some songs on there that really, really stuck with me, stuck with me as things that I’m really into.

ANTIHERO: Best live band that you’ve seen?

Phil Labonte: Killswitch Engage.

ANTIHERO: Most underrated band of all time?

Phil Labonte: Of all time? Story of the Year.

ANTIHERO: Not familiar with them.

Phil Labonte: They had this one song that was huge in the US. Then they never had anything that quite got to that same level. We toured with them and their performance and every night, every night just was astounding. So, Story of the Year I think might be one of the most underrated bands that I’ve ever come into contact with.

ANTIHERO: What in your life are you most proud of? Is it something that you created musically or maybe something personally?

Phil Labonte: The Follow Ideas was cool. I’m really proud of who my dad was. I wish I’d had more time with him. If it’s a personal thing, I’m really proud to say, my father, Roger Monty was my father. From a professional level, the Follow Ideas was pretty cool. The fact that it’s touched so many people and meant so much to so many people.

ANTIHERO: Nice. Outside of music, what do you do in your spare time? Do you have interests, hobbies?

Phil Labonte: I go to the gym a lot. I like to build guns at home. I’ve got a buddy that’s got a gun shop and we’ll go shooting or put stuff together at his place. A lot of gyms. I’ve got a girlfriend, so that takes up a lot of time.

ANTIHERO: They usually do, don’t they?

Phil Labonte: They do.

ANTIHERO: Music industry, your band’s been around 15 years plus.

Phil Labonte: 20. Since 1998 we’ve been together.

ANTIHERO: So, obviously the music industry has changed quite significantly since you first started out. It was all record companies and direct money, not direct money, you always had to pay it back. But what are the good and bad aspects of being a professional musician?

Phil Labonte: The good aspects is the fact that I haven’t had a job since I started being a professional musician in 2004, I think.

ANTIHERO: Still able to get a living out of it. A lot of bands I talk to say that when we’re not touring, we go off and we got a part-time job.

Phil Labonte: It’s hard. There’s still other stuff that I do on the side. I’ve got a bit of a hustle. I have some property that I rent out to people and stuff like that. There’s other stuff that I do. But the band has put me in a position where I can do those things. The band is still my primary source of income.

ANTIHERO: Do you find you’ve more direct input into the band and maybe merch design, tours, et cetera? Rather than having people pulling strings like a large record company?

Phil Labonte: We’ve always been pretty hands on. I’ve always been most involved in writing music and in basically the overall business side of it. I’m not a really visual artist, so when it comes to art design and stuff like that, I’m not really good at that. I’m really good … I can say I don’t like that or I do like that, but coming up with the ideas. That’s a little tough for me. But I’m definitely involved in the strategic stuff that the band’s doing, like what the business plan is and what our goals are and stuff. So that’s really awesome.

ANTIHERO: Speaking of goals, what are dreams, hopes, and ambitions do you still have professionally as a musician?

Phil Labonte: I’d love to tour with Metallica. Just playing a show with Metallica, that would be cool. Those are the big-time things.

ANTIHERO: Final one, who would you personally like to interview? Maybe a personal hero, inspiration, maybe not even a musician. That’s always something that always stumps people.

Phil Labonte: It’s a tough one. I don’t know. Living or dead or they have to be alive?

ANTIHERO: It doesn’t matter.

Phil Labonte: Living or dead, Thomas Jefferson. No, James Madison, but the guy that really spent the time working on our constitution and had the biggest hand in writing it.

ANTIHERO: So, you like history? Do you like reading up on different things? People wouldn’t have expected that. That’s great. Thank you very much.

Phil Labonte: Thanks a lot, man.

All That Remains

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Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver - Photography by Olga Kuzmenko

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