Rock Impressions
 

INTERVIEW with Joey Eppard of THREE (italian version)
by Giancarlo Bolther

The End is Begun is your fourth studio album and (in my opinion) you did an impressive growth since your start, would you like to do a balance of your career?
We began as friends doing what we love to do and that hasn’t changed. Of course our playing has improved over the years, but the passion has always been there.
3 got its start in 1993 in the basement of my parent’s house. It was me and bassist Chris Bittner, who went on to co-produce all of Coheed and Cambria’s records to date. We needed a drummer so we shoved a snare drum in front of my little bro, Josh and it just clicked. We were kids but we were very serious about what we were doing. We got our start opening for a stellar NY prog/punk band called Peacebomb. It was their creative arrangements and spontaneous live show that inspired a lot of the early 3 material.
We quickly developed a solid local fan base and a reputation for playing music that was highly sophisticated for such a young group of musicians. We traded labor hours for studio time to make the demos, which eventually led to our first deal with Universal. We were about half way through the making of our first record, “Paint By Number,” when a large corporate merger left us sidelined. They dropped every artist that hadn’t sold 150,000 records that year. Because we had yet to complete our first album we stood no chance. This was a crushing blow and soon after the first incarnation of 3 dissolved. Josh quit playing drums altogether, and Chris went on to intern at the studio where we’d been working. After some time off, I transformed my frustration into determination and decided to forge ahead with the project.
In the years that followed, I assembled a new band and released several albums on Planet Noise Records. Meanwhile, our good friends from Coheed and Cambria, known as Shabutie at the time, needed a drummer and asked my brother who’d begun to play drums again after a 2 year hiatus. They signed a deal with Equal vision and hit the road, quickly rising to national popularity.
By 2004, I had finally put together my dream line up including key members of the very band who’d influenced 3 in the early days, Peacebomb. The project had come full circle, making a matured return to our progressive roots. With the new team in place we took matters into our own hands, setting up a studio and recording “Wake Pig,” our self produced Metal Blade Records debut.

In your opinion, which are the main differences between your studio records?
Paint By Number” (2000) is a very melodic and diverse collection of songs. The producer chose to focus more on our pop sensibilities than our progressive ones but the music is still intricate and powerful. This record features the original line up of “3.” Chris Bittner on bass, who went on to co-produce all of Coheed’s records to date, and Josh Eppard who went on to be Coheed’s drummer. www.planetnoiserecords.com
Half Life” (2002) was an attempt to capture the live energy of the band and add some studio polish. Most of it was recorded live in Kingston, NY. There are several other live tracks from radio and television performances as well. There is a good chunk of improvisation and this was also the funkiest era of the band. I had been touring with George Clinton a lot and it had a big impact on my writing. www.planetnoiserecords.com
Summer Camp Nightmare” (2003) Our second official studio release, this record put the focus back on our deeper songs. It was a return to our Pink Floyd influences and also an evolutionary leap for the band as we really began to cultivate our own sound out of the myriad of diverse influences. This record has a very vintage sound as we used all old tube gear and removed all computers from the studio because we didn’t like the vibe. www.planetnoiserecords.com
Wake Pig” (2005) By 2004 I had finally put together my dream line up including key members of the very band who’d influenced 3 in the early days, Peacebomb. The project had come full circle, making a matured return to our progressive roots. With the new team in place we took matters into our own hands, setting up a studio and recording our self produced MetalBlade Records debut. This is the record we’d always wanted to make. www.metalblade.com
The End Is Begun” (2008) After touring Wake Pig for the last couple years we were good and ready to come home and create a new masterpiece. We had over 30 song ideas to choose from and eventually paired it down to 13. We set up recording rehearsals in which we multi-tracked everything and could listen back and make compositional adjustments. This also helped the band feel comfortable in the recording situation. This time around our compositions are a bit less orthodox, there are also more progressive elements. TEIB has a bigger and more classic sound to it. It was mixed by Toby Wright, where as I mixed Wake Pig. This album has the feel of 2 different sides as well. The first half is very different from the last. This plays into the duality that we wanted to portray on this album. This is some of our best work to date. www.metalblade.com

Can you tell us about the songs from The End Is Begun and what does the title mean?
The Word Is Born Of Flame”: This is the intro to the record. It starts like a movie, with the camera slowly zooming in from above. The vocal draws the listener in instantly with softly sweeping melody drawn upon a spine of acoustic triplets. You immediately get the sense that “something is about to happen” and it does. You’ll have to see the movie to find out what happens...
The End Is Begun”: The Launching point of the record. This started as a wicked acoustic flamenco driven demo and evolved into pretty heavy tune. When I was a kid I used to listen to Zeppelin for hours, and then sing through a fender twin with the reverb on 10 doing my best Robert Plant. They used to call me “The Electric Squirrel.” Some how that part of me resurfaced in the chorus of this tune. People keep asking me: “who did you get to sing on the chorus?”
Battle Cry”: A solid, dynamic, melodic and progressive tune. A lot of fun live, just as good on record. We wrote the harmony guitar solos while driving in our van all over the US.
All That Remains”: The first single from the record, it represents the band well. The drums have that special shuffle and The Gartdrumm is in full effect with his tom and ride work. The percussion has a bit of an afro pop feel in the verses, complimented by very choice bass playing. The guitars are unique, one a rollicking rhythmic spine of triplets weaving through the other’s dark epic rock chords. At the fore we are confronted with a strong heart wrenched vocal melody and revealing lyrics... “Aiming at the enemy I only smash the mirror. Pluck out your wicked eyes, see for the first time in your life defending All that remains, Drowning in flames, the same old story but the names have all been changed.”
My Divided Falling”: The first tune we had composed musically speaking. Lyrically it took a while to come to fruition. This song is an interesting groove; it has that feeling of falling down the stairs the way each note is anticipated.
Serpents In Disguise”: The last tune to be finished lyrically. I stayed up for 48 hours straight to finish lyrics and vocals on this track. Then I hopped on a plane and flew to the mix. I broke some new ground on this one.
Been To The Future”: The Title track from 2002’s Been To the Future (my solo album). I was doing a little acoustic gig in my hometown of Woodstock and I played this song. Our other guitarist, Billy, was in the audience that night. At the end of my set he came up and insisted that 3 does a version of that song on the new record. I agreed!
Bleeding Me Home”: Some of my favorite lyrics and vocal arrangements on the album, this song features a lot of Keith moon style wild drumming.
Live Entertainment”: The oldest tune to make this record. This was written before the Summercamp Nightmare era. It’s a great pop song, even if musically it is the shallow end of the record. It has a raw but smart energy that translates very nicely in live settings.
Diamond In The Crush”: This tune scared me when we first wrote it during the making of “Wake Pig.” It sounds a bit like Motley Cure and Elvis Costello combined. A natural born rocker with a memorable hook.
Shadow Play”: Originally conceived for my next solo acoustic release, the music for this song was written during a heated ping pong contest in our friend Rudy’s basement. This one has a Zeppelin quality when the drums come in.
These Iron Bones”: Just in case you thought we were getting a little soft we threw this one in to shake things up. This was the last piece of music we recorded for this record.
The Last Day”: This song was an evolutionary leap for my writing, and marks the cross pollination of my progressive and folk influences. The song is its own journey and is a hybrid of melancholy and hope rising up out of the ashes of our self-destruction / deception. “It’s the last day of the world, all the stars fired up to unfurl. Gonna meet you in the space within. You and I, we’ll race the light and win.”
The next question pretty much covers the meaning of the album title...

Your new album is very strong and dark, which is the message that you want to give with this story?
Yes, at first glance it seems rather dark. Yet any ending is a new beginning, so it’s a matter of interpretation. It’s all in how you frame it with your own perspective. We’re often taught to fear and resist change, but change can be good. The truth is, humanity is on the verge of an ending of sorts. We have to be. We can choose to end the cycle of violence, of needless suffering and the abuse of our planet’s resources. Or we can choose to allow the end to consume us. Either way, we must live with the consequences of our actions or inactions. We determine whether the end is a good or bad thing. We have to face the darker possibilities, master our fears in order to look beyond them. There is so much more to the grand scheme of things than our physical senses can provide us. It is in these realms that our true salvation awaits. This record is a hybrid of melancholy and hope rising up out of the ashes of our self-destruction / deception. I think the final line of the final song sums it up best: “It’s the last day of the world, all the stars fired up to unfurl. Gonna meet you in the space within. You and I, we’ll race the light and win.”

My fave one is “All That Remains”, it deeply touches me! Can you tell me more about this song, please?
Much of this song was written in the van during travel between gigs. Billy had a Pandora’s box and some battery operated computer speakers that he wore around his neck and I had an adapter that allowed me to play through the stereo system. We worked out the entire harmony solo that way. Conceptually the song deals with duality: “Ordinary town” / “Devils underground” Things are not always as they appear to be. “Pluck out your Wicked Eyes” is a reference to your physical sight limiting your spiritual perception. The song revolves around the epic struggle of light and dark dressed in different situations and names.

In your songs you usually use complex rhythms, but in a very natural way, how do you go about the process of composing songs?
For this record I started with a lot of acoustic demos, some were well developed and others a bit rough. We would listen as a band, choosing the ideas that were most fitting for what we were feeling at the time. The next step was pre-production where we basically practiced recording the songs. This is where we would make decisions about arrangements and compositions. Once we had developed pretty solid full band demos I would take them home and perfect vocals, melodies and lyrics.

Where do you find inspiration for writing your lyrics, can you tell me more about them?
I don’t usually write from a logical standpoint. It’s really more based on feeling and intuition. I’ll begin by finding the melody and the allowing the notes to form shapes and words. Soon I’ll see a concept developing, and I just go with it. I try to stay out of my own way. Much of what inspires me is the great mysteries. There is so much that we don’t know and yet we can sense the possibilities. I know with all that I am that there is so much more to our existence than what our physical senses have to offer. I think we’re being faced with so many great challenges, challenges that require us to strive to see absolute truth without succumbing to our own prejudice. I think the purpose of all that we face, and indeed of life itself is the evolution of consciousness.

It seems that you have tried to face some philosophical aspects of life, do you want to wake up people about the reality that surround us, or it’s just a personal reflection about what was happening in the world?
I don’t even know for sure that I’m awake, I only know I want to be. My main goal is to dissolve the illusions of life, to better grasp the truth, the totality of reality. Contemplation is a big part of who I am.

Your music and your lyrics have got a spiritual vibe, can you tell me more about your belief and how much important is spirituality in your life?
Spirituality is reality to me. We live in a materialistic age, which I believe is incredibly dangerous to the soul. In fact in my studies I have discovered evidence that your thought patterns between birth and death may, in a sense, create the “landscape” of your afterlife. Essentially you become what you think. After death those who believe they are nothing more than flesh become bound to the physical level of reality until they can develop sufficient spiritual knowledge that will allow them to rise into the higher realms. This can take a very long time. Those who have developed in life, proper conceptions of worlds beyond the physical, have indeed created those possibilities for themselves. If you’re curious about these concepts I suggest checking out some of Rudolph Steiner’s work. Specifically “Secret Brotherhoods and the Mystery of the Human Double.”
If my music has a purpose (and I believe it does) I would think that it would be to give the listener a sense that there is something more to the totality of reality than merely the physical side. Not to tell them exactly what that may be but to plant and nurture that seed of curiosity.

It seems to me that the interest for spiritual belief is increasing, do you feel the same?
I know for myself it has, and I believe it is an important aspect of human evolution.

What kind of feedbacks are you having back from the messages in your albums?
All very positive. I think people find an honesty in what we do that has been obscured from a lot of other music. People often say we’ve changed their lives for the better.

Some people doesn’t believe that rock music was made to change the world, on the contrary they think that rock music aim is to help people to forget the problems…
Rock music is art, and therefore it is up to the artist as to its purpose. Certainly a lot of rock is just about having a good time and there’s nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact if everyone went to a show, let go of their problems and had a good time wouldn’t that would change the world?

What do you think about the tendency to link hard rock and heavy metal with evil contents?
People fear what they do not understand. It began with Zeppelin, who cultivated an esoteric identity for themselves as part of their general band “mystique.” We’ve all heard “Stairway” backwards and such. I don’t know if there is any validity to it. Certainly there are some bands that like portraying themselves in a darker light and even some may be malevolent in their nature. Of course it goes back even farther to the “cross roads” in which the blues guy sells his soul to the devil in exchange for fame. We’ve never sold our souls and that could explain some of the difficulties we’ve had building an audience!

In your opinion, can song lyrics really influence young listeners?
Sure they can. But I think the combination of lyric and music is particularly powerful. I think its possible to absorb concepts into your being without even consciously comprehending them at the time. Eventually the seed grows into fruition later down the road.

Can you tell me more about the meaning of the band’s name and why did you choose it?
3 is a concept. We live in a 3 dimensional physical space, experiencing time as past present and future, in a form that consists of mind, body and soul. 3 is the apex of the triangle, the transcendence of our dualistic “good versus evil” view of life. We are a 3 dimensional band, with more than one side to what we do. I feel like the name chose us as much as we chose it.

Another thing that hit me a lot is your guitar playing style, a mix of nu-metal, flamenco and virtuosity, how have you developed it?
I started with finger picking which led to more percussive applications of my thumb and fingers. I have never used a pick. Billy, our other guitarist has always used a pick so we get a nice combination of sounds when we play together.

When you listen to a guitar player, what is that you like and what do you dislike?
I like rhythm and soul. I like tasty tones and well orchestrated parts. I don’t like notes for notes sake and constant shredding all over the place.

You have crossed many different music styles, funky, soul, pop, metal, prog... and as a result your sound is very impressive, what kind of music you are shooting for?
We’re just being who we are, and that kind of honesty is central to creating music with an emotional impact. I want listener’s to share in our passion to explore music. I don’t know exactly what to call that. All I know is that we are blessed with multiple musical facets. The whole of our artistry contains and yet transcends the paradox of our music’s duality.

What kind of music do you listen to? What are your favorite bands actually and what are your inspirations from the past?
I like “good” music. I have an open mind so if it is played with passion and soul chances are I’ll dig it. Stevie Wonder and John Lennon were two of my biggest early influences. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Police, Prince, Steely Dan, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Ani Difranco, Joni Mitchel, Elvis Costello, P-Funk, Sly and the Family Stone...

Last year you have played with Porcupine Tree and the Scorpions, two very different bands with very different audiences, what can you tell me about this double experience and how have you faced both situations (i.e. different set lists...)? Did you was satisfied at the end?
Yes, these were very different tours. I think it’s a testament to our band that we were so well received by both audiences. With PT, it’s really like being at home. We really connected with the audience. We were able to play some of our more ambitious stuff and it never went over anyone’s head. Instead we were a direct hit night after night. With Scorpions we soon realized that certain songs weren’t working as well, like “The Word is Born of Flame” and ‘The End Is Begun.” The songs with the really epic and memorable chorus’ seemed to rise to the top, like “All That Remains” and “These Iron Bones.” Our tour with Scorpions was very successful and we picked up a lot of new fans. We always learn from the tours we do.

New York has got an impressive musical scene, what can you tell me about it?
I live in Woodstock, NY about 2 hours North of the big city. It’s a small arts community but runs very deep with musical talent and history. I used to rehearse in a barn where Jimmy Hendrix played. I played my first gig in a bar that Bob Dylan used to live above. David Bowie and Mick Jagger have homes in the nearby mountains. You never know who you’ll run into.

In your MySpace profile I’ve seen (and listened) that you’ve got some great music still unreleased, don’t you plan to do a new solo album?
Yes, I don’t know when but it will happen!

Can you tell me something about your future projects, please?
Look for me to do something with my bro Josh. We just did a gig together last night and it was badass!

The End is Begun... Do you have a word of hope to end this interview or we must live in fear?
Any ending is a new beginning, face the fear and conquer it. Our bodies may come and go but we will never die.


GB

Reviews (only in italian): The End Is Begun; Revisions

Web Site + MySpace



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