The Devil Wears Prada interview (Mike Hranica)

"I would love there to be good Christian bands that I would listen to, but I don't think there are"

11/11/2013 @ 13:01
Just before The Devil Wears Prada took Glasgow by storm, I was lucky enough to steal a bit of their frontman's, Mike Hranica, time and a seat in their tour bus. Join us while we discuss about their latest album, the current state of metalcore and Interpol! Enjoy...

The Devil Wears PradaHey Mike, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions.
No worries!

I’m guessing this is the first time you are taking to a Greek music medium...
Umm, perhaps so. Nothing comes to my immediate recollection...

So, as this is the first time, how would you introduce your band to the Greek audience?
I think, to a traditional metal fan, I would sort of categorize us as a modern American metal band. I mean in America we would probably say 'metalcore', which is a very broad term and sometimes...umm... not the greatest title to have. It definitely has some bad press associated to it. But I guess modern American metal is the best way to go.

The Devil Wears Prada - 8:18This is album no. 5. Album no. 3 is what normally firmly sets your character as a band, your identity. What does no. 5 mean to you, what type of landmark would you say it was?
Umm, I think in album no. 3 we kindah started to bend... I remember with "With Roots Above And Branches Below" I thought that we were being drastically miscategorised as far as being a screamo band, when we were trying to be more of a metal band. I think with that album we started to turn that certain corner and with "Dead Τhrone", and the "Zombie" EP in between, we certainly did. With this album, it always kind of ends up with you fine tuning and tweaking your sound until you get exactly what you want to hear. I think that what "8:18" did, our 5th full length, is more focused on the looser, more jammy, not so heavy side of things. We did our best to also encapsulate everything that is 'moshy' - what we did with "Zombie" and "Dead Τhrone".

So you wouldn’t say that album no. 5 has confined you into a specific kind of pigeon hole.
No, definitely not.

The Devil Wears PradaLet’s talk about "8:18". It is clear that it has some sort of Biblical reference. What's new with "8:18" that we wouldn’t have previously heard in a The Devil Wears Prada album?
I think in a certain sense it is just trying  to hone in on a little more of the organic elements of the band. I think that that is one of the most predominant things that we did with the album and certainly the stuff I’m most proud of, as far as just trying to make songs and try not to impress anything very specifically but rather just make exactly what we want to hear. I know that with "Dead Throne" I started to have a great appreciation for songs like "Kansas Or Chicago" and with this album, songs like "War", "8:18" and "Care More", the stuff I really want to hear. I know that the other guys also really like those songs, so it really put much more attention there, but at the same time still maintain ourselves firmly in our roots within 'mosh' and songs like "Martyrs" or "Gloom".

I kindah get the overall 'theme' of misery and pain throughout it. Where did that originate from? Or why did it prevail?
I think it started with "Dead Throne" but I’ve always had a very immediate attraction to everything sorrowful. I feel that it is the most urgent and immediate, and I feel that it has a certain level of longevity. So when you see a sad film in comparison to a happy film, for me, the sad film is the one that is going to have the most effect. I know that as I’ve gotten older, with age, that the sadder songs are the ones that mean the most to me and are those that stuck around with me for the longest. With that, I’ve just tried to hone in on the sort of tribulation and woes that I exist within, and I try exploit that and make it into our songs. I know that it is melodramatic, but I think that it is an important characteristic of The Devil Wears Prada.

The Devil Wears PradaIn general terms, you guys are rather comfortable under the 'Christian metal band' label. How  have your faiths and beliefs driven you as a band? If you didn’t have those types of beliefs, would be a totally different band?
Maybe. Its hard to say because we have always been honest and I have always tried to be transparent. Honestly, it brings a lot of criticism as far as like 'Oh, you want to drink beer', 'Oh, you curse sometimes'... Its all due to our imperfections. I think that regardless of faith having such an important role on this band or not, I would be as honest and truthful as I am. I don’t make decisions based on the expectations people decide to put on me because I say that I believe in Jesus. I truthfully do, I grew up with a faith and that has always been the mainstay for me. Thats really just how it goes. I mean, we’re all... you know... I joined the band when I was 16, Chris was 16. Nowadays we range from 24 to 27 (soon 28 I think), so it is becoming into our own, it is about becoming a young adult. That foundation with God has always been the thing that holds us together, and I always attribute our general lack of lineup changes to that. We kicked out James, but otherwise we are still this. I think that that has a lot do with faith. As different as we are as people,we can come together and try to spread this message of faith that we all love and adore.

The Devil Wears PradaDo you think that that labelling in particular has held you back in some sort of way? I’m talking audience-wise. Has it alienated you from a specific type of audience?
I think so, yeah, but everything does. I mean our band name holds us back from certain people. I don’t blame them, cause it is a stupid name (laughs). It’s so hard and such a worthless endeavour to waste your time focusing on labelling. You know, we are talking about metalcore and its like 'mmmmm', you don’t really want to call yourself metalcore cause so much of it is bad. It is the same for being a 'Christian' band. You know, I would love there to be good Christian bands that I would listen to, but I don’t think there are. I don’t think that they are making good music honestly. I would never hold that against them. Labelling always has its sour sides. Being called a Christian band is going to hold you back some ways, being a metalcore band is going to hold you back, but again, we just mean to be truthful and honest with our songs and writing and I think that anyone should worry about in the first place, so...

I consciously didn’t  want to wander into the realm of 'stupid band name'. I’m sure you get it all the time, so I’ll do you a solid (laughs) So you recently toured with As I Lay Dying who are in the news for all the wrong reasons. How did you react to the news? I assume you know Tim quite well...
I do. Tim was on "Dead Throne"... The first time we toured with As I Lay Dying was 2008, it was one of the first metal bands I ever listened to and  I just love that band. The stuff with Tim, I don’t really care to speculate on. Obviously its a messy situation and honestly I shouldn’t have a say, and I don’t. But what I will say is that the dudes in that band are the best and they write fantastic songs. Listen to their records. They’re awesome.

The Devil Wears PradaThis time around, Adam Dutkiewicz (Killswitch Engage) is listed as an executive producer in your new album. How was it working with him? What was his actual role?
It is sort of a weird adjustment because Adam did all of "Dead Throne" as far as mixing, producing, engineering... and now he is an executive producer. We demo out everything before we go to the studio, so we go there being very well prepared, thus we only have to make slight changes to our songs. That all went through Adam. We kept on sending him songs. He had his critiques and we all read the notes he had 'well, why is this part in this song?', etc. Thats exactly what he did with "Dead Throne". Then we got down to Atlanta and started working with Matt Goldman, and he did all the same things as far as the role of the producer goes, he knew what he wanted to do with the songs. Then Adam came down to Atlanta before he went out with the Killswitch tour, and while Matt was doing guitars and bass, Adam was just in the 'B' room with Jeremy and I, doing the vocals. I love it. I couldn’t say enough good things about Adam cause I think he is absolutely brilliant  and him and I, I think have a really good work ethic. He gets me. A lot of people don’t really get me. I love him. He had a complicated role, cause it is Matt Goldman’s record, not Adam’s record. He didn’t want to step on Matt’s toes, but I don’t think he did. I think he did everything he could to make "8:18" the best possible, same as Matt did.

The Devil Wears PradaYou mentioned that you prepare all demo tracks before recording. Before that, how would the normal writing process for a The Devil Wears Prada album go?
It has really evolved and I think now we are at our best point and I love how streamlined and efficient we are with it. Chris, our guitarist, he demos a lot of songs on his laptop and he programmes drums. Then he will take these songs - and sometimes they don’t really change at all - everyone just records what he did and I write my vocal parts, John writes keyboard parts and then thats the song. In other songs, with respect to "8:18" for example, "War", "Transgress" and the self-titled one, those were the songs where we just sat in a room and they come out of nothing. Someones plays something and we’re like 'Let’s make a song'. I think that makes some of the slower, less aggressive songs, to me, emotional. Regardless, Chris tracks all of that out with rough demos. I mean if we aim to get 13 tracks done in the studio we normally have 9 or 10 that are already properly demoed with vocals on them. So we can just came in and Adam, or this time Matt and Adam can hear them and just chop ‘em apart right there, rather than us sitting around, playing the songs, and them going 'whoa! Re-play that part for us'. It is now just in front of them in the computer. It is very efficient and I am most pleased with our system and our formula to writing records now.

Mike Hranica (The Devil Wears Prada)How 'bout the albums artwork...
With "Roots Above" we had different options and I kindah picked it out. I had different ideas for what I wanted for the cover, so I kindah took the reigns. Chris (guitar) is also a very gifted artist, whereas I’m not good at drawing or painting, so we started working on it. I had all the ideas for the "Zombie" EP photos and then I brought back the same artist for "Dead Throne", which kindah turned into me doing art for it. With "8:18" I wanted it all to be locally sourced, I wanted everything to be a genuine sense of communication between me and the people that were bringing this all together. So, I wanted someone out of Chicago, where I live, to do it and I found Dan Hojnacki who did a bunch of different paintings and we picked one for the cover and used the rest for oud deluxe boxset in the States. I love it. Dan did a great job. "8:18" is kind of an abstract title, so you know, it couldn’t be a photo of something, so I wanted it abstract. Ι love the way that Hojnacki’s work envelopes the textures and even though it is just a flat thinγ on a computer, when you look at it there is so many dimensions to his work. I love what Dan did, he is a great guy.

The Devil Wears PradaOne of the things that I got from "8:18" is that you have a slightly different approach to some of the vocals. Was that a conscious decision?
It was. I don’t like recording. I get very anxious and frustrated. My voice starts to break down after yelling for so many hours. You have these ridiculous timelines to meet. I don’t really like it and I have never been very comfortable with it, but I’ve always known what I can do live. So, I attribute it a lot to Matt Goldman, just being able to do the things that aren’t perfect, that are a little bit off time, and a little bit desperate, and my voice cracks, and its loose... By no means flawless and shiny and perfect. I love that because I know thats what I’ve been doing live for the past 8 years, and I thought that I should encapsulate that because to me that is the most honest thing I can do.

It adds nicely to the atmosphere and the darkness. I don’t want to say that gives an impression of 'decay' cause I feel like I’m insulting your voice...
(laughs) No, no, no I don’t find that insulting at all. Its not meant to be perfect. My voice is not perfect. I don’t think of myself as a musician or a singer or whatever. Thank you though, I’m glad you like it, as it  is just meant to display and reflect all the raw emotional aspects of what these songs are meant to be.

The Devil Wears PradaWe like to end these type of interviews with your 5 album picks for this month...
Umm... not regarding the record... the five most recent played records... Savages - "Silence Yourself", which I think is my number two favorite of the year... "Honeys" by the Pissed Jeans which is more like a Black Flaggy type of hardcore. Really good. Thats also a new record and maybe my number three or four for this year... As far as 'heavy'... umm... Weekend Nachos are about to release a new album and I am listening to their last records, "Worthless", which is cool. They’re a Chicago band... What has been on my iPod continually? Last thing I listened to was Interpol, but I listen to then all the time cause they are one of my all time favorite bands. Umm, I listened to Our Love To Admire when I ran yesterday... Umm...How many have I said?

Well what is your number one pick for the year then, or is your record?
Haha, no no, not our record. My favorite was Nick Cave’s new album. I haven't listened to it for the past couple of months because I had it on every day since its release. One of my favorite bands that no one really knows and I don't know why are Young Widows. They are out of Louisville Kentucky, they are a three-piece and I think that they are the greatest thing. Listen to either "Jesus Lizard" or "The Birthday Party". That would be my pick.

All right then, thats us. I hope we get the chance to see you in Greece some time...
I would love that! Thank you Sir!

Jason Tsimplakos