Alesana Interview

A Conversation with frontman Shawn Milke

Pukkelpop Festival 2011 - 18.08.2011 - Hasselt, Belgien(via E-Mail in 2011) So what are your thoughts on the new record now that is has been released?

Shawn: IT IS DEFINITELY A RELIEF TO HAVE THE RECORD BE RELEASED.  AFTER MONTHS OF WORK IT IS A SORT OF CELEBRATION TO RELEASE THE ART TO THE PUBLIC.

How did you write the new songs, what were your personal goals for them? And when did you write the tracks, because you've been on tour constantly.

WE WROTE THE NEW SONGS WITH THE SAME APPROACH WE HAVE ALWAYS PUT FORTH. PATRICK AND WRITE THE MUSIC WHILE DENNIS AND I CONSTRUCT THE STORY.  WE WROTE THE TRACKS AT HOME IN EARLY 2011 BEFORE WE HEADED TO RALEIGH FOR PREPRODUCTION.

Did you feel any pressure because "The Emptiness" was like a break-through record?

I GUESS MAYBE THERE WAS A LITTLE BIT OF PRESSURE BUT AT THE SAME TIME, WE'VE ALWAYS WRITTEN WITH THE SAME APPROACH AND GOALS IN MIND:  TO BE BIIGER AND BETTER AND MORE DIVERSE WITH EACH RECORD AND WE WILL FEEL AS THOUGH WE ACHIEVED THAT WITH THE NEW RELEASE.

Just like "The Emptiness" your new record is a concept record. It's based on "Dante's Inferno". How did the idea come to your mind to use this drama? Did you change anything to make it more like your "own" storyline?

DENNIS AND I ARE BOTH HUGE FANS OF LITERATURE AND WE WANTED TO USE A STORY THIS TIME THAT SPENT TIME DEALING WITH MAN'S FLAWS AND THE IDEA OF THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS.  THERE WAS NO BETTER OPTION THAT THE BEAUTIFUL AND HAUNTING INFERNO OF DANTE.  IT IS IMPORTANT TO STRESS THAT WE USE THESE STORIES AS INFLUENCE BUT THEY ARE NOT DIRECT INTERPRETATIONS.  OUR STORY AND OUR CHARACTERS AND A COMPLETE WORK OF ORIGINAL FICTION.

Unterwegs in - © sumnersgraphicsinc - Fotolia.comFor those who don't know the story: What's it about?

IT IS ABOUT TEMPTATION AND DOUBT LEADING A MAN TO DESCEND INTO HIS OWN OBSESESSION.  

Did you feel any kind of fear to lose some fans because you're still moving away from what was tagged "screamo" by adding a lot of new elements to your sound?

HONESTLY, NO.  OUR TRUE FANS WILL REMAIN AND THE FANS THAT DO LEAVE WERE CLEARLY JUST FANS OF A GENRE OR TREND INSTEAD OF BEING FANS OF ALESANA.  ANYONE WHO HAS FOLLOWED OUR CAREER CLOSELY WAS LIKELY NOT CAUGHT OFF GUARD BY OUR PROGRESSION.

Are there any plan so add musicians for the tours, so you don't have to use samples?

A DREAM AND A GOAL OF MINE IS TO DO SEVERAL DATES WHERE WE PLAY THE RECORD ALL THE WAY THROUGH WITH A STRING QUARTET, HORN SECTION, CHOIR, AND ACTORS. WE ARE HOPING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN SOME TIME IN 2012.

"A Place Where The Sun Is Silent" is over 60 minutes long, which is far more than many other bands put on their records nowadays. Did you talk about this, questioning if many listeneres even have the will to spend that much time listening to a record?

MANY OF MY FAVORITE RECORDS OVER THE YEARS HAVE BEEN QUITE LONG, MOST RECENTLY COLORS BY BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME.  A RECORD SHOULD BE AN EXPERIENCE, NOT JUST A COLLECTION OF SONGS, AND IF IT TAKES THE ARTIST AN HOUR TO FINISH HIS STORY THEN HE SHOULD ALLOWED THAT LIBERTY.  I TELL YOU ONE THING, I'VE CERTAINLY NEVER COMPLAINED WHEN A BAND THAT I LIKE PUTS OUT TOO MUCH MUSIC, SO AS A FAN WHAT IS THERE NOT TO LIKE ABOUT A GOOD, LONG RECORD?

Let's talk about your history. How did you guys meet and how did you start the band?

PATRICK AND I MET IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND WHILE I WAS STILL PLAYING IN ANOTHER BAND CALLED "THE LEGITIMATE EXCUSE".  HE JOINED THAT BAND TOWARDS THE END AND HE AND I STARTED WRITING TOGETHER.  WE MOVED TO NORTH CAROLINA, FOUND THE REMAINING MEMBERS, NAMED THE BAND ALESANA, AND THE REST IS HISTORY, SO TO SPEAK.

Which bands did influence you? And which ones influence you today? Was there a shift?

MY NUMBER ONE INFLUENCE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE BEATLES.  HOWEVER, MAE, SPITALFIELD, BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, MEW, AND SILVERCHAIR ARE ALL HUGE INFLUENCES AS WELL.  IN FACT, THE PROGRESSION THAT TOOK PLACE OVER THE COURSE OF THE FIRST FOUR SILVERCHAIR RECORDS HAS PLAYED A HUGE ROLE IN THE PROGRESSION OF ALESANA RECORDS.  SILVERCHAIR BEGAN AS A HEAVY GRUNGE BAND AND GRADUATED INTO SCHOOLED SONGWRITERS WITH STRING ARRANGEMENTS, PIANO COMPOSITIONS, AND CHOIR INVOLVEMENT.  IF YOU PAY ATTENTION YOU CAN CERTAINLY SEE THE SIMILARITY IN OUR GROWTH.

A Conversation with frontman Shawn Milke of ALESANA

Unterwegs in - © Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.comWhat are your thoughts about your records? It would be great if you could tell me something about each, starting with "Try This With Your Eyes Closed" and ending with "The Emptiness". And can you mention one or two good and bad memories about that period?

TRY THIS WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED WAS OUR FIRST EFFORT.  IT HAD A LOT OF HONESTY, DOUBT, AND HOPE.  I STILL HAVE THE BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE THAT WE CRACKED WHEN WE FINISHED IT.

ON FRAIL WINGS OF VANITY AND WAX WAS OUR FIRST TRUE RECORD.  WE HAD A PLAN GOING IN AND WANTED IT TO LAUNCH US INTO THE INDUSTRY, WHICH IN MANY WAYS IT DID.  WE RECORDED IT IN 17 DAYS AND I TRACKED VOCALS IN A BATHROOM.  SO MANY GREAT MEMORIES FROM THAT EXPERIENCE.

WHERE MYTH FADES TO LEGEND WAS A HUGE CHALLENGE CONSIDERING IT WAS OUR FIRST "FOLLOW UP".  WE DID EVERYTHING VERY ORGANICALLY AND CONTINUED OUR LITERARY THEMES, THIS TIME FAMOUS FAIRY TALES.  WE LIVED IN CALIFORNIA FOR 6 WEEKS AND RECORDED WITH STEVE EVETTS WHO ALSO RECORDED "THROUGH BEING COOL" BY SAVES THE DAY, ONE OF MY FAVORITE RECORDS OF ALL TIME.

THE EMPTINESS WAS OUR OPUS.  WE WERE FINALLY WITH A PRODUCER WHO FELT LIKE A TEAMMATE AND WERE AFFORDED OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPERIMENT WITH OUR SOUND BY BRINGING A LIVE STRING QUARTET ON BOARD, WHICH WAS A DREAM SINCE DAY ONE.  I WORKED AROUND THE CLOCK EVERY SINGLE DAY AND ENDED UP WITH A STOMACH INFECTION ON THE FLIGHT HOME FROM ALL OF THE STRESS AND PRESSURE TO FINISH THE RECORD THE RIGHT WAY.

For the "Punk Goes Pop" Series you've covered a song by Justin Timberlake. Why did you chose him and why exactly 'What Goes Around Comes Around'?

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS ONE OF THE FINEST ALL AROUND ENTERTAINERS OF OUR GENERATION SO I COULDN'T FIND A REASON NOT TO CHOOSE HIM?  THAT SONG IS MY FAVORITE OF HIS AND FELT LIKE THE MOST ENERGETIC CHOICE.

Are there any goals you still want to reach in the future? Like getting a platinium record or any musician you want to be part of a song?

I HAVE ALWAYS HAVE GOALS, I THINK THAT IS WHAT KEEPS AN ARTIST MOVING.  A LOT OF MY GOALS INVOLVE NEW MUSIC PROJECTS AND HOPEFULLY A CHANCE TO MAKE A FILM.  MY NUMBER ONE GOAL WITH ALESANA IS TO FINISH THE TRILOGY THAT WE HAVE STARTED WITH THE EMPTINESS AND A PLACE WHERE THE SUN IS SILENT.

What does a normal day look like when you're not on tour?

I SPEND A LOT OF TIME WITH MY WIFE, MY DOG, AND MY FAMILY.  I AM VERY INTO VIDEO EDITING AND STORY WRITING SO I DO QUITE A BIT OF THAT.  RIGHT NOW, I AM PLAYING THE NEWEST ZELDA GAME, "SKYWARD SWORD".  I AM DEFINITELY A HUGE ZELDA NERD.

Interview © by Sebastian Berning