(Interview with Mike Ransom)
April 15, 2002
Chris McKay: What's going on with Adema right
Mike Ransom: Right now, we're headlining dates and doing radio festivals. We just got back from Europe. We're about to do a little tour with Static X and that's pretty cool. Then we're going to do the OzzFest on the main stage. Our record just went gold like a month ago so there are a lot of exciting things going on for us.
CM: Are you doing more headlining dates now or do you prefer doing the festival circuit?
MR: It just depends. I mean, the big shows are always exciting because more people are being exposed to your music. Playing the smaller shows, though, when you're playing for fans and stuff, that's exciting in a different way. When you go new markets, you feel like everyone has heard of you or they're not going to, but then you find out that's very untrue. You find out just how big of a difference touring makes. The more you go out, the more new fans you see and that's cool. At the big shows, there's ten thousand out there to be sold on your band. At the big shows, you can do that, you know?
CM: Do you approach the big shows and the club shows any differently?
MR: We just go out there to rock it. That's the one way you can do it. It's almost like a sport in a way and you go out there and play your game.
CM: Do you feel a sense of competition with the
other bands on the bill?
MR: The only competition I feel is how well I can best the last show. You can sit there and say "I want to try and sell more records than them," but it's your career. It's not a football game. You're just trying to have a good music career and be successful and that's your only goal. Other people are at different stages of their careers and they have a different way of doing things. There are some bands that radio or MTV broke them really fast. We're not one of those bands. We're one of those bands that's still in the process of breaking and we're doing it through touring. We do have a lot of radio support and we have gotten some run on MTV, but most of everything has been from our touring.
CM: Well, "The Way You Like It" did get a lot of play on MTV and it seemed like a fun video to shoot. Didn't porn directory Gregory Dark direct that?
MR: Yeah, it was killer. That dude's pretty cool, man. He's had a lot of experience in film (laughs). It actually came into play because the part where Kris is standing there peeing in the sink in front of that chick... he really was doing that. Kris is kind of an exhibitionist and he said, "Hey, can I do it for real?" Gregory's all "C'mon, who are you talking to?" (laughs) So he really did it and that ended up being a great shot.
CM: Thanks to that video, you also come across
as more good time oriented than other heavy bands. Was that something that you set out to
do to differentiate Adema from the rest of the pack?
MR: One thing we try to do is to be as much ourselves as possible. You know what I mean? If Britney Spears can make a record, anybody can! Oh shit, I shouldn't have said that, but whatever. With all of the Pro Tools and shit that's out there, you can fucking chop and cut and make anything, so I think the only thing that's tangible to an audience is when they're right there watching you do it. It's like, "Well, now do it," and we do. We have our own way that what we do translates live. We had a feeling that we wanted from the record, but that's not necessarily the way you do it to make it translate live.
CM: Yeah, something else that I noticed about you guys on record and live is that there are a lot of techno touches and layers that are not present live, but that are not needed in that environment.
MR: Yeah, and we do a lot of it live, but we do a lot of things differently. Some things might be added or taken away. Sometimes I had three or four guitar layers on a song and maybe it didn't need any of it for live, but for the record it was good. We put what's necessary to be in there to rock. You put crap in there for the crowd and they're not really going to be able to hear it right. It's just going to be a bunch of noise hitting them in the face instead of music. All the studio production in the world won't make you sound good live.
CM: The record seems to have a lot of potential singles. Is that something you were striving to do? Did you work to have a lot of songs suitable for radio?
MR: You know, we didn't try to do that. That's what we were. It's funny how people always try to pigeonhole us into that nu-metal shit and I just don't see it. We're not trying to do that. We're just writing songs and we wrote close to twenty songs before we went to track the record and then we picked the twelve that we thought would be the best focus for a first record from a new artist. We weren't trying to fit a sound. We were just trying to write good songs.
CM: So you don't think you fit the "nu-metal" category. What elements do you think make up Adema's sound?
MR: We're a guitar band and that's a big part of it is how the guitars interact together. Of course Marky is singing and not rapping. He's really melodic and that kind of plays with us, me and Tim. That's a huge part of it. I don't know...I think the main thing is how the five of us collaborate together and the kind of chemistry that we have as writers and musicians. That's really what it is. I can write a drum beat, Kris can write a fucking guitar part or Marky can write a bass part. It doesn't even matter. We just do whatever it takes to write a good song. When all five of us get together in a room and jam it out or fight it out to get a song going. That's what makes our band.
CM: How do the songs come together? Is it more like someone bringing in specific ideas or knocking them out together as a full group?
MR: The first thing is that you have to have something to work out. Someone will write a riff or whatever and someone else will say, "That's a good riff." That's kind of like a foundational piece. Finally we all get together in a room with our instruments and start trying to make a song out of it. First we just play the parts and make the parts sound good together, then we say "Okay, let's go from this to this." Then we'll go from that to that, you know? Then you're sitting there boxing it out and making up new shit as you go. That's the way it happens. Once it feels good and you're all sitting there, go back and put it on tape to see what it sounds like. Then you know, "That's cool" or "this part needs to be cut." "This could be shorter, this could be longer, this could go there...let's try it again." Then we go back to the room and go again. That's how it happens. You know what I mean.
CM: Yeah, and then there's a lot of personal stuff in the lyrics that add intensity. It's a bit incongruous how fun you seem image wise with how dark you are lyrically.
MR: Absolutely. It's all pretty real. It's all very personal to either one of us or to Marky or to someone close to us. Marky likes his lyrics to be really personal, which is great.
CM: I think the lyrics will lead you have more people that feel connected to what you're doing.
CM: Have you any clue what "nu-metal" means since you're allegedly a part of it?
MR: I know, huh? I think nu-metal is supposed to be the bastard resurgence of heavy metal which is kind of stupid, because metal's never really been away. Just because it wasn't mainstream doesn't mean it wasn't there. The current mainstream sound of metal is what nu-metal is supposed to be.
CM: What did you listen to in your formative years?
MR: I listen to a lot of shit. I think we're vaguely influenced by Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Metallica, Pantera, Stone Temple Pilots, Tool, Rage Against The Machine and a lot of the other rock bands.
CM: So you're into a lot of the hard rock bands that just happened to come out in the early '90s and got tagged with the "alternative" label, and you're stuck in the same thing now with "nu-metal" (laughs).
MR: There was a lot of other stuff that I was into also like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. The sound that they had really made an impression on me. The stuff that Dr. Dre would program on keyboards is a pretty big influence on how I play lead guitar. I love that shit. I never saw why it couldn't work in rock and I think I kind of make it happen.
CM: Do you think that's your specialty in the band? Everyone in a group has a specific role. Is that yours?
MR: Yeah, that's mine. If I had a role, it's that after something is already happening and it needs something else, I add that something. I'm like the layer guy. I can do layers all day long (laughs). I would just go and get really stoned and go in there and make up as much shit as I could. That's how we did it.
CM: Speaking of "stoned," there are a
lot of references to drug use on the record. Do you ever get any flak for that?
MR: No, which is kind of surprising. You would think that it would. It's not glorified, though. The record talks about how drugs fuck things up. It's about how drugs fuck you up in more ways than one. A lot of the lyrics deal with negative topics, but how he dealt with them in a positive manner. That's the whole thing. Drugs ruin lives, they kill people.
CM: Do you feel a bigger responsibility to be careful about what you may represent to the younger members of your audience or a bigger responsibility to be honest in your music?
MR: Both. We would never do anything that would glorify kids using drugs or anything like that. At the same time, we don't hide the fact that we drink beer and smoke weed or whatever. I don't really think those are bad things so who cares? We're also adults and we are an adult act. We have a warning on the record for explicit content, because we do deal with explicit, strong issues. I have this guitar that I play live that's a Les Paul that's got the Jim Beam label across it. They wanted me to use that for the "Giving In" video. I wouldn't use it specifically for the reason that I didn't want some little kid watching MTV to think it was cool for him to drink Jim Beam, you know what I mean? But live, it's different. It's an adult show. I give the fans enough credit to know that it's just a guitar. (laughs)
CM: What's the next single?
MR: We're going to go with a song called "Freaking Out." I'm glad that we're coming out with another heavy track. A lot of bands come out with the heavy and then follow it with the slow, mid-tempo and we're not going to do that. We're going to rock. We're going to wait and see how radio reacts to the track before making the video. If the numbers are there and the research is there, we'll come out with the video. We'll put the money into it and make it?
CM: So how does that work, do you just owe and owe the record company?
MR: Yeah, we're still recouping for sure. We're not going to see money for a long time, but that's okay because we're trying to build something right now. Just having a gold record in less than a year is a sign of success. It took seven months to go gold and that was all through touring.
CM: Yeah, I know the "Giving In" video didn't get much support when the record came out.
MR: And it wasn't because it wasn't a great song either. There are people in the label that are radio promotions people that have your single that they want to push and they go to all the stations and say "This would be a cool song to add" and blah blah blah. Well, radio started playing it long before people even went to start doing that and we weren't ready. By the time we had the video ready, the song had already peaked on radio. So without the radio behind it, it wasn't able to do anything on MTV, but that's probably going to be a song that's huge for us throughout our entire careers. "The Way You Like It" hit at the right time. We were ready. We got it done. We had a video when the numbers were showing in radio and MTV started playing it because radio was supporting it.
CM: How much more life do you feel like is left
in the album?
MR: It all depends. If this next single goes really well, fuck, who knows? If we get another one after that, then that'll be crazy. We're prepared for anything. We're prepared to go into the studio as early as October. We're already writing and we just want to be ready for anything that happens. We'll just keep going until it dies.
CM: Are you starting to feel burn out from the
MR: It's almost been a year. We're going to take a break before OzzFest. We're going to take a couple of weeks off which should be nice. I personally love being on the road. I don't have a girlfriend or anything so it's not like I have someone waiting for me. I've got my dog and everything, but he's cool and that's about it. So this is the ideal lifestyle for someone like me. Fuck it. That's all I am.
CM: Are you looking forward to OzzFest?
MR: Oh, fuck yeah! We're second on the main stage. It'll go Black Label Society, us, P.O.D., Rob Zombie, System Of A Down and Ozzy. It's going to be so huge.
CM: What are you personally looking forward to seeing?
MR: Down (metal super group featuring members of Pantera, Corrosion Of Conformity, Crowbar and EYEHATEGOD) is going to be playing the second stage. They havent had hardly any shows because theyre all in other bands so its going to be really cool to see them do this. Rob Zombie is going to be dope, man. Theyre fucking great musicians. Itll be good for them to just be able to get past all the heavy production and just rock cause they fucking rock, dude. It's going to be incredible. The whole show's going to be great. If there's someone playing the hot dog stand, it'll be dope.