Flotsam And Jetsam are back on the tracks

In a certain way, Flotsam And Jetsam are cursed. They are prisoners from their distant past stuck in the head of those who, as stated by singer Eric AK himself, “never listen to any stuff after Doomsday For The Deceiver or No Place For Disgrace”, their first two records and thus aren’t recognized for what they have become and are today. Flotsam And Jetsam’s career is yet characterized by an excellent power/thrash metal, executed by incredible gifted musicians and one of the best singers of this scene. But Flotsam And Jetsam’s career is also, and that’s what stands out from the whole interview, a path made of disillusions and hazards.

But today, motivation is the key word for Flotsam And Jetsam with the release of the follow-up to the excellent The Cold: Ugly Noise. This record sees the comeback of the band’s most creative line-up which gave birth to the bomb Drift in 1995 and the involvement of Jason Newsted, the band’s first bass player, in some of the song writing. Eric AK, aware of the band’s current potential, expresses his will to conquer again our metal hearts and to rekindle Flotsam And Jetsam’s flame in the metal world. He assures that “our creative peak is actually still yet to come”.

« We’ve answered Jason Newsted questions in every interview for the last 25 years! (Laughs) »

Radio Metal: Craig Nielsen left the band in 2011. It’s a surprise because he seemed very motivated by Flotsam And Jetsam. What happened?

Eric ‘AK’ Knutson (singer) : When Craig was in the band, it was more of a hobby than a career or a business. When I decided to take another shot at making us a career and what I do for a living, it made sense to go back to the original members.

I remember someone in the band mentioning Craig’s “undying determination to keep the band together and playing all over the world.” In that respect, won’t Crag’s drive to move on be missed by the band?

It was a win and lose situation. Craig was booking as many shows as he could to keep us out there, but he was booking them for so little of money that it wasn’t making any sense. We were losing money on trips and made promoters fell that they didn’t have to pay us much anymore. It really kind of hurt the band.

Kelly David-Smith returned to the band fourteen years after his departure, making the current line-up the same who has recorded Cuatro, Drift and High. Many fans look at Cuatro and Drift has the best Flotsam And Jetsam albums. Would you say that this was your creative peak?

No, because I think that our creative peak is actually still yet to come. For Cuatro and Drift, the band was feeling most comfortable with each other and our creativity. We’re back to that point now with the new stuff.

Does that bother you that most people know Flotsam & Jetsam mostly for your first album, Doomsday For The Deceiver, only because Jason Newsted played on it and tend to overlook the rest of your discography?

That happens a little bit, but not as much as you would think. It does bother me a little bit that people didn’t listen to anything past Doomsday For The Deceiver or No Place For Disgrace. They’ve listened to our first two records and that’s it: they don’t even bother to search into the rest of our stuff to see what we’ve become. I think that now, in terms of song writing, we’re better than we ever been and I’m really proud of the new record. I think it’s going to do well.

How does it feel to be that line-up again, almost fifteen years later?

It’s like putting an old shirt: it’s very comfortable! (Laughs) We get along really great, we’ve always have, even when the members were not in the band. I still hang out with them, talk to them as if they were my brothers: it seems to be very comfortable and fit really well to be all back together.

When we spoke with Craig Nielsen in 2010 he told us that “when Mark Simpson stepped in, it allowed everyone else to start being lazy” and that it would be “really hard to replace him as a songwriter”. Did the rest of the band force itself to be writers again, I’m thinking especially of Mike Gilbert and Jason Ward who have been great music writers in past…

Michael Gilbert wrote most of the new record, even if we had a little help from Jason Newsted. I wrote almost all the lyrics. It came very easy and natural and we didn’t have to work out very hard: I would go to Michael’s house where he would show me some riffs that he started on, and the next thing we’d have was a song and then we’d start another one. So far, I think it was the right step to take.

« I like to sing to pretty much anything that’s outside metal, even rap. I love what my voice can do and I love to use it as much as I can, whether if anybody is listening or not. »

There has been a lot of comings and goings in Flotsam And Jetsam these past years. How does the band succeed in maintaining a cohesion in such situation?

It’s been really tough. We’ve had to fight back the feeling of just saying: “Forget it! Let’s give up” and battle on. You know, every time we do anything, we have some kind of trouble that comes around and we have to fight hard not to let that get us down. We have to push through it and keep going. And we’re succeeding pretty good.

Jason Newsted co-wrote some songs on Ulgy Noise. How did he end up being implicated in the writing of the album?

Jason and Michael got together just to hang out. Jason came into town just to jam with us and have some fun and it ended up with four songs out of it. You know, we were brothers back in 1982 and once in a while, he comes around here to jam and hang out and be pals. Jason said that these songs were a labour of love, that we could have them and do anything with them.

Was there actually any thoughts about having Newsted rejoin the band?

We talked about it a little bit but Flotsam And Jetsam is not really the direction he’s looking to go. His new band, Newsted, is more in speed and his style and he’s really good at it. I think he made the right choice in doing his own thing. It’s very him.

Didn’t you think that having Newsted implicated in the writing of the album would not help the band to break away from being considered as “Newsted’s ex-band” and to the contrary revive this image?

Yes, we were worried about that a little bit. You know, we’ve answered Jason Newsted questions in every interview for the last 25 years! (Laughs) He’s a good guy, a good friend, so we don’t mind answering questions about him. He made it pretty big, so we can’t shun away from that at all. Between having to answer a bunch of Jason Newsted questions and not having him been a part of it, we’d rather answer this bunch of questions about him.

The new album has an over whole pretty dark mood, where does this mood come from?

That’s a good question. I used to have answers for that! I think it’s not a habit, it’s just where my mind goes when I start writing lyrics. You know, I used to have all kinds of things to blame: the industry, ex-members, ex-managers… There’s really not anything to blame my dark lyrics on: that’s just how they come out.

There are some synthetic effects here and there on the album and even a piano on the title song. Did you guys want to experiment a little bit with some sounds or arrangements?

We’ve never been a band that stifles ourselves in any way, so if a piano part is what we’re feeling, that’s what we put in there. We’re not really worried about how “metal” it’s going to be and how it’s going to be perceived. We just write a song how we think it should sound, so if it comes out with a piano, it comes out from a piano. If it’s bagpipes, that’s what we do. We write parts for songs that feel they should go in the song. It doesn’t matter what the repercussions are going to be, whether we have to hire someone to play those parts on tour with us or do samples or whatever it is. If it’s part of the song, it should be there.

« If I can pay my bills and go on the road and hang out with the fans, that’s really all I need. »

Craig Nielsen told us three years ago that “it would be a waste of AK’s talent if all we did was to throw heavy riffs and speed metal at him all day.” What do you think about that?

I don’t know if it’s a waste of my talents. I like to sing to pretty much anything that’s outside metal, even rap. I love what my voice can do and I love to use it as much as I can, whether if anybody is listening or not. I love metal, its fans, the metal bands out there that I’m big fan of, so it’s definitly not a waste of any of our talents to be doing the music that we’re doing.

You had left the band in 2001 because you felt demotivated before returning in 2004. From what I know, during the MCA Records and Elektra Records days you guys had a lot of budget to make your records but never made money out of it, although managers and agents did make money. In the end, have you come to terms with the fact that you’ll maybe not really make money with Flotsam And Jetsam?

You know, we used to have the American rock star lifestyle in our minds: we should be driving around in the back of a limo, living in big houses and going to party all the time. Once we came down to earth, we realized that we could make a decent living at this without having to go do day jobs. It became a whole more comfortable, much easier entity to deal with. We just have to protect ourselves from the mistakes we’ve made in the past and move forward from here. If I can pay my bills and go on the road and hang out with the fans, that’s really all I need.

What have actually motivated you to continue with the band up to now?

I’ve got a hold of Kelly Smith and we sat down, had a little meeting and talked about how serious we want to be with this or what direction we’re going to take. The more we talked about it, the more excited we got about it: we’re making a full push at this as the only thing we do in life. We’re taking it very seriously. We’re going to get out in the eye of the entire world and see if we can make get it go further. I was ready to give it up a couple of times because it became more of a nuisance than anything else. I wasn’t really getting anything in return, except love from the fans, but once I realized that love from the fans meant a lot more to me than I thought it did, then the decision to come back and try again was very easy.

Interview conducted by phone on April 8th 2013 by Metal’O Phil
Questions sheet: Spaceman
Introduction: Spaceman
Transcription: Jean Martinez – Traduction(s) Net

Flotsam And Jetsam official facebook page: flotsamandjetsam.official

Album Ugly Noise out since April 16th 2013 via Metal Blade

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