Light the Torch – Musicians and Best FriendsThursday, 17th June 2021
Frequently cited as a supergroup, the members of Light the Torch have been through a lot together. Legal battles over previous moniker Devil You Know, in addition to personal problems, such as guitarist Francesco Artusato suffering major injuries after a car crash in 2019, have led the act to become something much more. All of this shines through in the songwriting on their fourth album (second as Light the Torch), You Will Be the Death of Me. We spoke with Artusato to get a better picture of his current health, the personal impact of the new album, working on both visuals and music, and much more.
Dead Rhetoric: Before the album, you had been involved in a car accident, is everything okay now?
Francesco Artusato: Yeah, the car accident was a little over 2 years ago now. The first year was pretty rough. There was a lot of rehabilitation, going to chiropractors, physical therapy, acupuncturists, getting spine injections, there was so much. It was a whole year of just dealing with it. Last year, we were considering surgery, but that was when the pandemic hit. All of a sudden, I couldn’t go to physical therapy or that stuff anymore. They were closed for a few months. So things started getting bad again. But I have been working a lot and doing exercises, like the physical therapy. I use elastic bands a lot. Progressively, my back has gotten stronger. The spine injections that I had also helped a lot.
Things are getting better. It was a kind of a weird year. A month after I had the accident, we had to go on tour. The first run was three months straight! I had the doctors telling me that I absolutely had to cancel, and even management was saying that I should too. But in my head I thought, if I cancel this, I am going to be so depressed that my mental state would be worse. I would rather be on pain medication, wearing harnesses and things. Before and after shows, I would be taking a ton of pain meds. Muscle relaxers and all that. Unfortunately, all of that stuff affects your playing. Everything feels loose – you don’t feel as in control. But I was still able to do all of the tours and play the shows. There was a lot of pain. I could not lift a guitar case. The pain was crazy! But I managed to make it happen. It helps that when you are on stage – I was in pain so I was making weird faces, but people think it’s a metal face [laughs], so in a way that worked. But I’m doing much better now, thank you!
Dead Rhetoric: In that sense, what does You Will Be the Death of Me mean to you on a personal level?
Artusato: For me, it actually brings back a lot of the darkness. In between tours, in order to not feel completely horrible, I would play music. The more I would write, the more I would forget about not feeling good. Also, not being active. I was used to exercising, and then all of a sudden it hurts to go up stairs. I needed to be helped with everything. Music really became the escape, even more than it had been before. In between tours, I was living somewhere else and the A/C broke. This was in August. I was in pain, my wife was always gone, so I was home alone dealing with unbelievable heat here in LA. I was sweating at my computer writing music. Honestly, those are some of best songs on the record! Even last year, when we finished the record, I was thinking about how it all was connected. Music was the only way for me to feel decent at the time. So a lot of that is in there.
The other guys in the band, they share that with me. Howard [Jones] was really aware. When we started getting to preproduction mode and finalizing demos, even his lyrics had a darker vibe from what they were in the past. I think the music pushed that. I’m not afraid of talking about that time, but I also had to start seeing a therapist. Mentally, I was not in a good place. Also, self-medicating constantly to feel better does something to you mentally. It was a very intense and weird and dark time. But it does feel like a personal evolution for me. I came out of that time, and I’m so different. In a way, my therapist tells me, it was a way to prepare for last year and the pandemic. I was already feeling pretty shitty before the pandemic, physically, so last year I was able to get better because of having more time to dedicate to that.
Dead Rhetoric: You again have a new drummer with Alex [Rudinger]. What do you feel he is bringing to Light the Torch?
Artusato: The deal with drummers for now, with us, even with first record as Light the Torch, we never really felt like “He’s the band’s drummer.” I’m sure people can imagine, after the stuff that Howard, Ryan [Wombacher], and I had to deal with Devil You Know, as well as my previous band All Shall Perish – the same deal with lawsuits and band names…it got to a point where we knew we needed to protect it. Light the Torch became the three of us. At the moment, it feels like the three of us and we get to hire a drummer to do the record and come on tour with us. We are still in that place. In this specific case, I’ve been a bit fan of Alex’s playing – he’s such an unbelievable drummer. I had been talking to Alex a year before doing the record in order to play with us and tour. But his schedule was way too busy.
In the end, when we were starting to plan the recording we asked him if he was available to record. In a way, it kind of works since I write the music. I try to prepare demos that are as polished as possible before we go to preproduction. I send all of the music to Howard and Ryan and they give me feedback. So I program all the drums. They are such an important part of the song. It’s like the directions. The idea of getting an exceptional drummer like Alex is to be able to follow those guidelines and grooves, but add his own flavor. It was amazing. I’m so happy with the decision to ask him. I realized, while working with him, his musical sense. He really understands the music and what’s good for the music. I have worked with drummers where they need to be told where things don’t work with the rest of the music – the vocals or interfering with the riffs with big, flashy parts. Alex, who can play anything, was so careful to play just the right things to compliment the music. Not only did he add so much flavor, but he was so easy to work with. He brought different versions of everything he would play and ask us our thoughts.
Also, he really understands the type of environment of the band. It’s a service. You come and record what you are supposed to. Honestly, I’d love to work with him in terms of writing music. After I saw how it was to work with him, I’d love to do more with him and potentially play live with him. We’ll see, he’s a busy guy.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you go into the relationship between yourself, Howard, and Ryan at this point?
Artusato: Right now, the way we see it is that we are best friends, and we kind of happen to work together. We literally became best friends through the tougher times in Devil You Know and then through the years seeing each other in some of the worst places we have been, personally and individually. We always show each other that we are there for one another. I think this created a bond that really feels special. The music, when we are together in the studio, the vibe is so good. I’ve honestly never experienced this before. It feels like every record, it gets better. It’s because of the love for each other we have. We respect and love each other. It’s actually a weird, because it’s so normal now.
We hang out on days off – sometimes when you tour with other bands the guys are trying not to spend time with each other on the days off. For us, we love to go camping and do things together. It’s just fun! We’re best friends. It’s made this life so much easier. Going on tour now, in this time of our lives, after doing it in our 20s and 30s, its way more fun. It’s bizarre, because you’d expect the good days of touring to be in your 20s and you can just party and you won’t care. Now we don’t party and just hang out as good friends. It’s such a good relationship and vibe. It’s so much easier to work on music. I’m lucky that both of them that they respect me so much musically, doing artwork, and all of these things. It’s hard to find people that pretty much anything you do, they just like it and encourage it. It’s really special and a different kind of vibe we have.
Dead Rhetoric: I know when started the band as Devil You Know, it was always ‘supergroup this, supergroup that.’ It sounds to me that as the three of you have built these bonds it has transcended that more superficial supergroup thing and it’s just friends hanging out.
Artusato: Yeah. A lot of times when you see supergroup on the title of something or a poster, or Blabbermouth, it’s always something that helps when you look at the names. But fans see it as a cashgrab. It’s putting names together to secure some sales or things like that. It’s understandable. For us at this point, we never even think about that aspect. It’s our job and we love it because we do it together. It’s changed a lot.
Dead Rhetoric: Getting back to the album itself, you worked on the art part as well. Could you discuss working on the visual aspects as well as the musical side of the record?
Artusato: Basically, at the time we did the second Devil You Know record – I had always spent time looking at images and paintings and artwork in general. I was so dedicated, music was everything so I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. But I started feeling the need to express my creativity in a different art form. I started getting into, especially the 3d and 2d software. Everything I do is digital art. I just fell in love! Right away, I started feeling how connected the two were, music and artwork. I really fell in love with doing concept art. A concept artist is basically a songwriter. It’s kind of crazy. When you start reading a book about what a concept artist does, you can translate it with musical terms and its basically the same concept. To me, it’s a different way to see the same process. So I have been doing it more and more.
I see music in colors, and so because of that, I always felt that music gives me so much in terms of emotions and how I feel. I would love to find a way to shift, in a way, to do so. Long story short, it has become a big part of what I do, and I started doing work doing this stuff. It’s so much fun. If I am on the road, I’m on my laptop either studying software or working on things. I am always doing artwork for other people and things. The past year and a half – things have picked up a bunch, which I am very grateful for because music and touring being on hold, having something else was very gratifying creatively. The artwork, to me, after the first week of preproduction, I started getting this vibe and these colors in my head. That’s when I started working on the artwork. It all started from the colors. Howard gave me a title and then I started working on shapes and things. It’s all done in 3d. You could actually 3d print it. I might actually try to do that. I have done things for some companies that ask me to send something 3d printable in a file.
I created a visualizer for one of our songs (“More Than Dreaming”) and animating it. I started using Unreal Engine. Last year I started studying that program, and I am doing animation. To me, I like that it’s both the music and the visual aspect. Even the ideas for a photoshoot, it ties things together in terms of color and vibe. I think it makes it more complete, for me. It’s the first time where I feel I have good enough skills for the visual aspect, so they are at the right level for the music. It’s made it more special this time around.
Dead Rhetoric: You have been in All Shall Perish before this. What have you learned from a lifetime in music?
Artusato: The biggest thing, in terms of doing this job and being a tour musician, is that you need to be a decent person [laughs] to be around people. So many times, even in the past, I would wonder why a band got a person and thought that maybe they could get someone better. But it’s not really just about that. You want someone who is good at their job playing their instrument, but again, 23 hours a day you are around those people. The other hour is playing a show. If you can’t hang with them, it is not going to work. Even as a studio musician, you have to be a decent person to deal with. So that to me is #1.
I understand big ego, and with going out with other bands in the past, you go on tour and it’s not fun. It could have been an amazing tour but it isn’t because people are being shitty to each other. You see it 23 hours a day and it ruins the whole thing. That’s why we are so careful with bringing someone in. With drummers, we hear that someone is great, but then it’s like, I don’t know if I want to live with this person. Going on tour is like living with a person. So there’s definitely that. Before I started touring, all I thought I needed to do was practice a lot and be good on stage. Later on, you realize that is only one part of the overall job.
Dead Rhetoric: We talked about music and artwork. Are there any other big, important hobbies you have outside the band?
Artusato: I like golf [laughs]. Obviously, due to my accident I couldn’t play for a long time. Recently, I started trying again. I’m going super easy and it’s getting better. To me, I’m fascinated by the swing. If I told myself in my 20s that I would like golf, I wouldn’t believe it. At that time, I was all about martial arts. But now, I love studying the movements and how perfect it needs to be. Every position matters. It’s kind of a challenge with yourself in figuring it out. I love cars too. Unfortunately, I bought a new, 6 month old car and that was in the accident and totaled. It was such a big bummer. We got rear-ended and it was completely smashed. But I love cars and I love watching Formula 1. I’m really into automotive and follow the industry. We all love camping in the band too. Ryan and I, with a few other guys, just got back from camping a few days ago. Things are starting to reopen.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your plans for the year? I saw that the Killswitch Engage, August Burns Red tour got pushed back again to 2022.
Artusato: That’s correct. As of right now, we have some festivals lined up for September and we are working on putting together dates and things. It’s very early. You see bands are starting to announce tours. I think what will be safest in the beginning is going to be outside. The type of tours that we usually do, in venues, I don’t know. I don’t know how long it will take to feel safe doing that again. But hopefully soon! So as of now, we are focusing on pushing the record and hopefully we can play live as soon as possible.