Let Us Prey – Determination for Domination Part I

Wednesday, 13th July 2016

Dead Rhetoric: How were the songwriting and recording sessions for the EP – what challenges or obstacles came up, as it’s a highly professional effort on all fronts when it comes to the production, tones, cover art, and performances?

Lopes: Challenges… well. The challenges basically were, we recorded everything ourselves. Pete Rutcho who ended up mixing the record, he did record the drums in a big room. I’d rather go outside with that. Jon and I recorded everything else- we had some keyboard players come in and rework some of the stuff I had written. I’m not a keyboard player- I’m not professional. Probably the biggest challenges for me personally- I arranged it and produced it, so I was overlooking everybody’s stuff. All the guitar leads, sitting down with other people and working with them. Trying to record my own vocals, changing stuff as you go along as you always start second guessing yourself. Dealing with my depression, you get into a down mode. When you get really in depth with what you are doing, it can play havoc with you. I found I had to go to a really dark place to get some of this shit out. Sometimes when you go to a really dark place, it’s sometimes hard to get out of it, you know what I mean? You want to visit it sometimes for inspiration, but you don’t want to stay there. I found I was staying there a little bit too much- it had nothing to do with drugs or drinking or any of that, it was more of a mental state.

If you talk to any artist that is really into what they do, you will find that they go there to. That’s what pulls out the real emotions of things. I don’t know if that’s true for everybody. At the point where you are doing the record and you are like ‘you are finished’. You never think it’s good enough when you are doing things yourself. I could have done that better- yeah, you could have gone over it again fifty more times and you’ll never think it’s good! You have to trust your gut and learn how to be instinctual. Run it by people a couple of times, see what they say or think, other ears can be good. Which is why I’m very happy we have a producer for the next record, so some of this burden will be taken off of me as far as those aspects. I’m a little nervous working with somebody else because I’m a little worried about not being able to tap into that stuff- I think with the right person, which I believe I have, that was one of the top discussions. You can get the right tones and record guitars and that’s great, that’s know how. I trust all my guys, especially now. I’ve never worked with a musician I trust more than Jon- my respect level for him is so far beyond anyone I’ve ever worked with. You can always count on him- that’s very hard to find.

Dead Rhetoric: Lyrically you tackle a number of different subjects, including artificial intelligence, dark saints, war, and your own journey through depression. What methods work best when it comes to developing your topics and words – do particular moods or times of the day work best, or are you consistently writing, revising, capturing ideas in the moment?

Lopes: Good question. Inspiration can come at anytime, anywhere. I find personally dark, alone nights I will definitely be more inspired. I’m not much of a day person when it comes to that- I do record a lot during the day which is kind of weird. Writing-wise I’m more towards the nocturnal time of the day. As far as inspiration goes, I love movies- I’m into sci-fi, horror, a lot of social conscious material too that I may not necessarily talk about in public, things like depression- that is easy to write when you are in it. You’ll find a lot of things come out of there- I take notes, I write stuff on my phone or computer. I will go from one notepad to another. My biggest inspiration lyrically is Emily Dickinson. I channel a lot of her into my work- kind of like what Bruce Dickinson did with William Blake. That was a big inspiration, as Bruce is my eternal idol. Emily Dickinson can paint a picture with such a minimal amount of words, and that’s what I like about her. It’s so awesome… can you say a lot with so little? And that’s important, as I’ve always been a fan of bands like Maiden and Priest, story teller type of bands. Even Billy Joel, stuff like that- painting a mental picture in a song. It’s something that I miss about today’s music that a lot of the older bands did. I am into artificial intelligence, the whole concept of it and human intelligence, reality and the Matrix. I pull from that… war is a topic also that I’ve written about forever, so have a lot of other metal bands. The horrors, the tragedies, the triumphs- how can you not, whether it’s metaphorical or literal. Look at Sabaton, they based their whole career on it!

Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned Emily Dickinson, being from New England have you had the chance to visit her house?

Lopes: That’s funny I have not. Especially because it’s in Massachusetts! That’s definitely on my bucket list for the summer.

Dead Rhetoric: You also perform in a number of different tribute/cover bands beyond your original activities- Hell Bent for Metal, Metal 101, and Kobra Kai to name a few. How do you balance things out, and is it frustrating that the marketplace dictates that these cover/tribute activities draw and pay better than original metal in 2016?

Lopes: Oh yeah, here we go. This is a great subject to talk about – you go on Facebook and there is a fight about this on there every other day. It’s funny, because growing up… if you were in a cover band or a tribute band, you were a pussy. It wasn’t cool. Well unfortunately it came to a point where now that’s all you see. Perspective-wise, my first encounter with being asked to be in a cover band was Kobra Kai. Now of course that has members from Shadows Fall, Anthrax, All That Remains- at the time even Fates Warning. I figured I would play with those guys- the devil’s advocate on that was the type of stuff I had to sing, it was a party band with Poison, Scorpions, stuff like that. Now mind you, having never sung covers before, just singing straight out metal before, it was a nightmare for me. It took a long time to get used to it and actually learn to adapt to realizing it was a great place to exercise, so to say. That’s when I got into Metal 101 at the time, that was more doing Maiden, Queensrÿche, Helloween, stuff like that- and even then as much as I grew up on that stuff, trying to do covers of those bands is a whole different beast. When you do originals it’s one thing, as opposed to emulating to do the covers- people are going to hear the songs like they remember them. If it doesn’t come close, you’ve failed.

Now I love doing the Priest tribute thing because for me vocally, it can’t get any better than trying to do Priest for exercise. Going out to do 2 hours of Rob Halford material, running around and sweating on a daily basis or a weekend. If that doesn’t get you road ready, nothing will. I’m getting paid to always be prepared to do my own thing. I have fun, but you aren’t going to find me hanging out much. You’ll see me at a Holy Grail show, but you won’t find me at a bar on a Saturday. I’d rather be writing or playing, so if I want to hang out with my friends, I might as well play music and get paid for it. That’s my perspective of it- some people out there take it way too serious. That’s where you get the bad rep.

To the next part of the question, as far as the whole original/cover thing- it blows my mind and it’s sad. I’ve always been an advocate of originals. If I’m playing a cover show and there is a killer original show down the street- go to the original show, I don’t care. Go see my brothers play- support the cause, because that needs it more than what I’m playing out. That club is going to have another cover band the next night, they don’t care. They will have a drinking crowd, the older people who are going to be there. A huge thing I find with the original scene, there are a thousand bands now! That’s cool, I’m all for it, artistic integrity, and that’s amazing. But, you also have to admit the quality of these bands- that’s where you will turn off a lot of people. I’m not going to condemn or dismiss anybody for trying and doing what they do, do your thing- from an outside perspective, people want to spend their hard earned money and they may want to go to something they are more familiar with. A lot of stuff is the same, and people don’t want to go to a show where there are fifteen of the same style band. That’s not going to work for them. I prefer working with a promoter like Justin (Marcotte) in Rhode Island where he throws in different styles together for a festival, which is like what they do in Europe. You could go see Queen, Helloween, and Mayhem on the same day- that’s cool! A lot of bands are just following the fashion, so to say. Originality is tough to come by nowadays, and to draw people to get excited to go, that’s where I think the problem is in part of the scene.

I went down to Saint Vitus in New York- what a great little thing they’ve got going on there. It was a revitalized metal scene. I went to go see Toxik- there was five bands on the bill, and they were five different bands. A power metal band, a thrash band, a death metal band, another power metal, and Toxik. This is great, good variety, all the bands played very well. The crowd, 19-20-year old kids were singing along to Mercyful Fate through the P.A. system, I was like what? It’s there, it’s a matter of not oversaturating things and quality over quantity.

Part II of Matt Coe’s interview with Let Us Prey will post tomorrow night, July 14th.

Let Us Prey official website

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