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The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Tony Asta Battlecross - Interview
The Rockpit interviews
TONY ASTA
BATTLECROSS



READ OUR REVIEW OF "RISE TO POWER" HERE

Battlecross are one of those bands that I came across a couple of years ago and which I took an interest in based on a couple of tracks that I had heard in passing. But it was their latest album "Rise To Power" which really got me hooked and completely blew me away. Hailing from Michigan, the 5 piece thrash/hybrid band first formed a little over 10 years ago with their debut album "Pursuit Of Honor" released in 2011 and as we found out, have only been actively touring extensively for the last 4 years. With the new album due in a couple of weeks, I caught up with guitarist Tony Asta just before their appearance at Heavy Montreal to discuss the new tracks as well as some of his influences and how the band have gotten to where they are now.

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Andrew: So how's things with the band at the moment?

Tony: Things are going good, getting ready for Heavy Montreal this weekend. We got rehearsal tonight and tomorrow and just looking forward to jamming these songs out.

Andrew: Yeah Heavy Montreal has a pretty sick lineup, any bands you are looking forward to seeing at all?

Tony: I've never seen Faith No More and that would be pretty sick. I'm sure there's a bunch, I would have to look over the list but yeah, it's going to be sick! We got a lot of press to do that day so I'll be trying to dodge in and out to catch some stuff but we'll see how it goes. But after all is said and done, I will probably be glued to one of those stages.

Andrew: OK cool. Well your label sent us a copy of your album a few days ago and I have had it on heavy rotation the last couple of days. It's an amazing album, in fact I will go out and say that this is a contender, for me personally, as one of the best metal albums of the year so far. So you must be super proud of this album!

Tony: Dude that is awesome man, thank you for saying that! You just made me smile big time, that's fucking awesome!

Andrew: Haha well I'm a huge fan of this album, love the stuff that's on there! Love the hooks, great riffs. As I said, you must be super happy with how this album came out.

Tony: Oh dude, definitely! It was definitely a process and I think what helps this time around was walking into the writing process with an open mind and being just less attached to certain things. Like maybe I would write a riff and it didn't flow and everybody didn't like it, then OK cool, we'll try something else instead of trying our hardest to make it work. And that's just an example by the way. So I think that being more open minded and approaching it in a way where we are confident about what we're doing, we know what we want to do, we're playing the music we want to play and writing the stuff we want to write. Just being confident in each other, we got a great lineup, Alex (Bent) has been on drums this time around and just working with the right people in the studio, being confident working with them before. I think just having that behind us and just having that attitude walking into the studio especially, was just a great, positive, healthy vibe for the band. So I'm hoping that came out on the record and we'll let you all be the judge of course, so we're obviously very happy with it. We wouldn't of put it out if we didn't like it.

Andrew: You mentioned confidence, was that something that has come along over the last few years from all the experience that you have gotten playing different shows and all that kind of stuff?

Tony: Yeah definitely! Playing the shows and the tours and meeting the bands and also seeing how they conduct themselves in a professional manner. How to take things, how to have the right attitude about what we do I think really rubbed off on us and I think looking back 4 years from before now, even though I was in my mid-20's I was still pretty immature for who we are, a younger band. We've been doing this a while but we haven't been touring that long, so we've been touring for almost 4 years and putting that all into perspective and a culmination of all of that and the experiences that we've had and the influences that we got from other bands definitely rubs off on this album. I think, like I said before, having that confidence of walking in knowing what we want as far as the feel of the songs and being confident in that I think, is a great thing to have on your side. Not to say that we weren't confident before but we're definitely more confident now in what we're doing.

Andrew: Absolutely yeah! One of the things I noticed on this album, sonically it's an amazing sound, the production is really good. Was that something that you also focused on in this album?

Tony: Yeah definitely, that's always a factor. The production is always something that...I mean the main reason we went to Audiohammer is because we know those guys. We know they're pro and they take it seriously [but] not too seriously, don't get me wrong. What I mean is they know their crap, they know what you're going for and I think the production is definitely a big factor that we wanted to step up on this album. I think just having everything be authentic and real and playing with our tone from our fingers and Alex hitting the skins away and just getting the best out of us is very important and essential and that has a lot of to do with who you are working with in the studio, who is your producer and guys like that. Anybody can have the best stuff n the studio but unless you capture the best take or you hit that note just the best way, otherwise you may get something that's just a little sub-par. So I think working with Jason Suecof and Mark Lewis was very important for this record and something that we definitely shot for and wanted to do. So we're very happy and honoured that we got to work with those guys.


READ OUR REVIEW OF "RISE TO POWER" HERE



Andrew: Now you mentioned Alex as well which is his first album with you guys so what was it like working with him?

Tony: Oh dude Alex is awesome! He's a well rounded musician I have to say. He's very versed in many different styles, back home he plays in churches, he's played death metal for a few years, he has it all. He can do anything, he does stuff that I would never be able to comprehend but he plays it smooth. He knows how to transition, he knows how to really be a drummer and I feel that is something that we really need. Especially for the stuff that we're writing on this record, it isn't just straight up one thing, it's a mix of a lot of stuff to make up maybe one part or two parts or whatever else. So I think that having him be diverse in that way really brought the songs to life and smooth them together. But yeah man, he's a baddass!

Andrew: Awesome! Well speaking of diversity, there's a few tracks on there that stand out for me. My favorite song on the album is "Not Your Slave", absolutely great song! But one of the other ones on there "The Path" which is the last track on the album, it has a very classic rock kind of sound. Was that something that you were trying to go for on that particular song?

Tony: I couldn't really label it. I just think that when I wrote the majority of that song, I wrote the guitars and I programmed in some drums and I sat on it and mixed it up a little bit and tried to make it the best I could. And I think the vibe, the way I felt was I came up with some things that I thought were really cool and it inspired the next thing and inspired the next thing and kinda just blossomed into this song. I really like structure, I don't really relate too much to music that doesn't. It's just not me, some people do, some people don't, it's just not my thing. So I think that growing up especially being highly influenced by Metallica and Pantera and bands of that nature, I think that song definitely has that kind of vibe, to me, that Metallica kind of vibe to begin with. So I think that helped me to decide how I thought it should be structured and so on. And then later in the song as the bridge that kinda breaks up a little bit and then it has this swinging kinda bluesy feel that's really sick, and I didn't know what I wanted to do there initally. I just knew I wanted to have that classic swinging kind of feel that, I don't know how to...it's just very swingy and kinda Pantera in a way, they dabble with that in a lot of their older stuff. When we went into the studio, Kyle (Gunther) our singer hated that part, he's like, 'Why's that in the song? It doesn't even fit', and I'm like, 'Dude, just wait! We're gonna come up with something cool, it's going to be sick!'. So we worked on a solo, Jason and I collaborated, he actually recorded the solo for that part. That's Jason Suecof playing that lead so he get's credit for that, it's listed on the album. It just came out great and it has a great, epic feel and "The Path" is definitely one of my favorite songs on it.

Andrew: OK cool. So as mentioned before about touring and playing Heavy Montreal, will you be playing many songs from this album?

Tony: Yeah we'll be playing at least 3 new songs for Heavy Montreal because we only have a half hour so we can't just play all new songs, although that would be cool but it just wouldn't work. We have to play songs that people know, they are our fans. And then we have some CD release shows whic starts in Detroit, we have 4 CD release shows that we're doing like Detroit, Chicago, Kokomo, Cleveland. Just this general regional area and we'll be playing at least half the record on those shows and immediately after that, we're going out with Gwar and Butcher Babies and our set gets shorter again for that. So we're going to have to mix in old songs with new songs just to make it cohesive and appease the fans.

Andrew: Is it difficult to put a setlist together?

Tony: It can be but I think there's certain songs now that we know that we love to play but we also know pleases the crowd. For example "Push Pull Destroy" is just one of those songs that if you know Battlecross, you probably know that song, so we're going to play that. Another one we definitely always play is "Flesh & Bone", so those 2 songs we'll always play so it's a matter of mixing in some of the other ones whether it be "Beast", "Force Fed Lies", "Never Coming Back", "The Will To Overcome", "Man Of Stone", "Breaking You", "Leech", "Misery". So we'll just mix it up and find the best vibe for that tour and just kick ass.

Andrew: OK cool. The first time I discovered you guys was when you were on the Orion Music Festival, it was the first time I had heard of the band and the music as well. Do you find that when you play festivals and supporting slots and that sort of thing, that is where a lot of your fans come from and discover you?

Tony: Yes a lot of people discovered us from Mayhem (Rockstar Mayhem Festival), a lot of people discovered us from the year before when we did the Trespass America tour which was headlined by Five Finger Death Punch. That was kind of our, I guess you could call it a break for us, because before that point we were playing more club shows and stuff like that and then when we did Trespass, that was our first festival type tour which was amazing. The best thing about playing a festival type tour is obviously you get to play in front of a lot of people at one time, the only disadvantage to that is it's kinda over before you know it and then it's on to the next band. So unless you really set an impression for the audience or they don't get there early enough, they may just forget about you. However we love doing it so if we can play Mayhem every year, we would. Obviously it sounds like it's over now.




Andrew: Yeah that's what I have heard as well.

Tony: Yeah which is sad because I didn't get to go this year but obviously the year that we played, off the hook, it was insane! It was probably the funnest summer of my life, we were sweating everyday and pounding water and pounding beers and I still lost weight. That was the skinniest I've been in my life at that time. So I mean playing festivals are a wonderful thing and I definitely think that's a big way to get the name out, is to be on a festival. However at the same time you could be overlooked.

Andrew: Yeah sort of both sides to it I guess. We have a festival [in Australia] called Soundwave Festival, not sure if you have heard of it.

Tony: Hell yeah!

Andrew: We would love to see you guys come over for it.

Tony: We would love to do it!

Andrew: Yeah I think you guys would have a huge impact. It's hard to pinpoint your music exactly and I know you guys have been labeled as a thrash band but you have a few different influences in there as well like a bit of Black Dahlia (Murder) and a bit of Pantera and so on and so forth. Who do you consider to be your biggest influence that got you into music in the first place?

Tony: I would have to say, and it might sounded cliched, but Metallica, dude. Metallica since I was a kid was my go to band, so Metallica got me into guitar, Metallica got me started. Learning those songs, they are a very influential band and they are kind of a gateway band too because once you get into that, then you can get into other things that are more extreme and that's exactly what happened. So I definitely give a lot of credit to that band, Pantera as well, Slayer, Testament, even Type O Negative. Just that feel, that fucking brand dude, all that kind of shit. I didn't really get into bands like Megadeth or Anthrax and stuff like that until way, way later and just the core bands that started me off were my foundation. That's where I'm at even to this day, I'll check out newer bands and 9 times out of 10 I'll go on with my day but once in a while there will be somebody that fucking kicks me in the ass and I'll like that.

Andrew: That's kinda how I feel with you guys when I discovered you a couple of years ago. And speaking of the Orion Music Festival, Metallica handpicked you guys out so to be saying that Metallica was a huge influence on you, that must of felt great to have played that festival with those guys.

Tony: Yeah when we first found out, we were blown away, it was beyond anything we could ever dream of doing. It was unreal just to have the chance to play it and to meet some of the guys from Metallica, especially James Hetfield who is a huge influence and an idol of mine. Just to shake his hand and talk to him for a little bit and then he actually introduced us on stage for our set [which] was unreal. So that day goes down in history for me as a highlight of my life so I'll never forget that.

Andrew: Awesome! Well that brings me to my next question then, if you could be a fly on the wall for the recording of any classic album in history, what album would that be?

Tony: Kill 'Em All - Metallica. That would be super sick

Andrew: Out of all the Metallica albums, why that one?

Tony: Just because they were so young and hungry and straight up and just no bullshit, in a way maybe reckless. Just to see how they were in the studio to come up with their first full length album, to be such a huge, inspiring, world changing thing. So I think to see that and be there in that moment, to be a fly on the wall and just sit in that room without being seen would just be un-fucking-real.

Andrew: Do you feel that way with your first album? How you first started and taking your influences and trying to make music?

Tony: Yes in a way. I think when we did our first album, the biggest difference between then and now is number 1, we had a lot of time to write it and tone it and maybe overdo it in a way. But at the time we were more adolescently hungry and reckless or whatever you want to call it, and just hell bent on whatever it was. And now it's not necessarily the same in that way because we're older now, which I think is important to not really be what I was then because it wasn't really the best thing, as far as drinking and everything else like that. Now I know we're more focused on what we're doing, I have a life and I have more positive thoughts about the world and so I think you kinda have to leave those things behind and just live in the now and let whatever you write be an expression of yourself at this point in time. And I think that also helps not make the second record twice or 3 times, I think that's important to be honest with your music and honest with yourself. If I could admit anything about the first record, I definitely think I was more pissed off then the whole time. Whereas now if I'm going to write a song and I'm pissed off and I'm going to put it into the song and it might only be a few songs that I'm pissed and you can feel that. And then the other stuff is just coming from somewhere else.

Andrew: Yeah I think you are right. To be true to yourself and to your music I think is the best way to do it and just be honest about it. I think you can't go wrong with that.

Tony: Definitely.

Andrew: Well as I said, the new album is absolutely fantastic and we will have nothing but good things to say in our review of it, a definite contender for best metal album of the year. Thanks for your time today, good luck on the tour and hopefully we will see you in Australia some day!

Tony: Hell yeah thank you so much, hope to see you soon man! Thank you.


Catch Battlecross on tour in the U.S. with Gwar and Butcher Babies in August and September



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Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on August 5th 2015