How did the writing and recording process for Failure Tactics compare to Gather Scatter?
Scott Flaster: Gather Scatter, being our first album, was a collection of songs and ideas that we had played live on for a bit and then went into the studio and recorded in a frenzy. When it came time to think about our second album we approached it differently. The songs on Failure Tactics were written and then demoed almost three times over the last two years.
Not that it made us overthink the process, but it allowed us to play with different tones and ideas. While Gather Scatter didn’t experiment with a lot of guitar tones, Failure Tactics goes heavy on the effects in more of a '90s shoegazer fashion. It still sounds like Millions of course.
Did the geographic divide between band members make it more difficult?
Not that Million is the most social band to begin with, but the divide definitely lent a feeling of isolation that comes across in the recording and its intentional that we embellished it.
How has the band's sound progressed/evolved on this album?
The band’s sound originally was resulting from the social anxiety and pace of living in Chicago and being pushed and pulled within the traffic of the city. With myself leaving the madness of the bigger city to reside in the mellowness of Portland, I think it has lent a voice to the band to chill out a bit and allow our songwriting to be an escape from the stress of living, as opposed to being the soundtrack of anxiety.
What inspired the album title?
Lots and lots of sarcasm, even though it’s our best effort at being positive! Failure Tactics as a title represents our opinions that the modern day advances in technology just make us dumber and lazier as a society. Bloggers have become the new journalists, and handwriting is slowly become extinct. The real time effect of social media has refined our needs to communicate to 140 characters or less. The other day I watched a video of a 3D printer forming and designing a cake, so I can only assume our skills and trades might be the next to go.
How did you divide up vocals?
We’ve always had an open policy on all of us being part of the songwriting process. One person brings in the initial riffs and often the majority of the lyrics and vocals. We aren’t Sinatras though, so we often trade off vocals and combine our voices, as we sound better as a whole than individuals.
How did you decide on Andrew Ragin to produce the album?
Andrew is pretty much the Phil Spector to The Atlas Moth’s wall of sound and we were looking for the same treatment. We’ve always tried to only record with people that had a liking for our band and had ideas on how to put our vision to tape. Andrew has been at our shows for the last couple years and is always a good person to have a drink with. It was a no-brainer.
How was that experience?
Stellar. We recorded the basic tracks at Wall To Wall in Chicago and the drum and bass tones were amazing. So not to burn out Andrew we then left the studio and recorded the vocals and a ridiculous amount of extra guitar tracks in our friend’s loft in Chicago and in a studio in Portland. We then brought those tracks back in to Andrew and he made sense of the mess. In no way was this record meant to convey a live band recording. If you want that, come see us play live.
What are your expectations for Failure Tactics?
We’ve learned not to expect anything, as we are not following any blueprint for a sound or instant success. We just want to get this album in the hands of as many people as possible and hope that it inspires an enjoyable thought process outside their daily routine and monotony.
What are your upcoming tour plans?
Midwest and East Coast touring for the rest of 2012 with a full West Coast tour planned for 2013. Being dual homed has its advantages.
What has been your most memorable Millions show in a good way?
The shows at The Charleston in Brooklyn were always memorable with great turnouts and meeting new people who dug what we were doing. It’s always amazing to look in the crowd and recognize no one, but to see them into the songs. I’m sad to hear they aren’t doing shows at The Charleston anymore. Some other great memories are shows in Indianapolis, Prague, and Paris.
In a bad way?
Flying across the world, playing a show in Essen, Germany… and clearing the room.
Describe an interesting person you've met on the road.
So many people come to mind! In Scotland, We met Irish Rob, the current bass player of the Exploited and went our drinking afterwards and had a blast. Fight Amp have also been great friends on the road, as have the U.K. band Attack! Vipers! Again, did I mention we are anti-social?
What inspired you to form Seventh Rule Records?
Seventh Rule was formed by my wife Cara and I while we lived in Chicago in 2003 as a response for our love for heavy music. There was way too much soft rock going on in the independent scene, and we felt like antagonizing the general public as metal was still a genre that made people uncomfortable. Being inspired by homegrown independent labels such as Relapse and Hydra Head, we saw it possible to take some of the amazing bands we were seeing at the time and share them with the world. Nine years later, we still have the same vision.
What are you looking for when you sign a band to the label?
A good sense of humor, and no sense of entitlement. Our current roster is bands that I feel represent a good collection of amazing music, with a strong work ethic to back that music. While it’s easy for us to push a band out of the gates with the release of a record, the band has to be willing to continue to support the record. Touring is a must. Since we reside in the Pacific Northwest, a good percentage of the bands that we work with are the bands that play shows in front of us in Portland. It’s also not uncommon for us to all have BBQs together and other family events.
What sets Seventh Rule apart from the usual label?
Nine years of ignoring the current musical trends isn’t the smartest business plan, but it’s important for us to be able to stand behind the releases. This entails not just being the label, but to also be a fan of the music we are releasing. After all those years we are just hitting our 29th release. I don’t feel it necessary to shotgun dozens of albums into the wind every year with the intention that something hits.
Every record we release we love and it’s an extension of our musical tastes. We are also a small shop and I work with the bands on every release to help balance out their vision into something that our fans will enjoy.
Is it difficult to balance running the label with being a musician?
Time wise it can be something I have to balance, but Seventh Rule is a label run by a musician and I think it helps to be able to put myself in the shoes of the bands I release. I know that being out touring can suck three nights out of the week and its soul crushing to be so far from home and have no one at a show.
I know the recording process is very expensive and exhausting as its something I experience first hand. Yet, on the other side of the coin I know that trudging through all the brutalness has its rewards and I never hesitate to encourage bands on that front.
Anybody you've passed on signing that you've later regretted?
What releases do you have coming up?
2013 is going to be busy for us with new releases from Batillus, Eight Bells and Megaton Leviathan in the first part of the year. We are also doing a vinyl reissue of Thergothon’s Stream from the Heavens that is nearing its final stages in the manufacturing process. I’m really excited and proud of everything we have on our plate and there are a couple other releases brewing, but not cooked enough for announcement.
Anything else you'd like to mention or promote?
Do yourself and your future-self a favor by paying attention to your local businesses and supporting them. This includes record stores, bookstores, restaurants, hardware stores, and hundreds of other self-standing operations that keep our lives from becoming 100 percent homogenized. Thanks!