INTERVIEW: Chris Broderick – Act Of Defiance

Emerging in 2014, US extreme-metal quartet ACT OF DEFIANCE were one of the surprise new acts to appear in recent memory, pairing former MEGADETH guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover with ex-SCAR THE MARTYR frontman Henry Derek, and SHADOWS FALL axeman Matt Bachand on bass. Their debut album Birth and the Burial was a refreshingly exciting thrash metal record that excited fans of its members’ previous work and perfectly showcased their combined potential as a unit. Now, two years on from that release, the band have returned with their sophomore effort Old Scars, New Wounds, and we caught up with Chris Broderick to find out more about what went into making it, and about the band’s continued growth and evolution.

Old Scars, New Wounds, ACT OF DEFIANCE’s sophomore album just came out a few days ago – how exciting is it for you to be getting this record into people’s hands?

Chris: It’s extremely exciting y’know, and especially with the feedback that we’ve had on it, I think people are really pleased with the diversity that’s there. And it’s always kind-of interesting to me because you really get the sense that even though you may not hear it through a lot of bands; it’s like you hear a lot of sameness a lot of times, but with the songs people tend to pick that they like the best at the moment, it really does kind-of point to this want of more diversity, which I think we brought this time.

It must be a great thing for you as a musician to have been seeing mostly just positive feedback  so far then?

Chris: Yes, but y’know, ultimately you’ll never please everybody and I definitely can’t live my life by trying to chase that. And ultimately even if it were very negative, I write music that I feel passionate about, and at the end of the day I can’t do anything but that. And so, if people like it or they don’t like it I’m fine with that either way.

Going into the creation of the album, did you have any specific goals in mind with regards to what ACT OF DEFIANCE wanted to create?

Chris: Not specifically to the songs themselves. I know that we were all planning on writing and contributing to this CD, which definitely happened, so that’s a good thing. And y’know, we really had no criteria on how it should sound or if we were going off in any different direction or anything like that. It was definitely just the idea that we all wanted to contribute this time equally. For me, I did have some ideas of what guitar techniques I wanted to include and incorporate, so that was kind of a personal thing more with my own soloing and guitar playing than the songs themselves, but as far as the songs go, nope we had no criteria.

How did the writing and recording process for Old Scars, New Wounds compare to that of the previous album, Birth and the Burial?

Chris: Well there were elements that were similar and then definitely some that were totally new. So it started off similar in the sense that we all started presenting songs fully demoed on our own, and so for this CD I wrote four songs of music, I think Shawn wrote three, Matt wrote three and Henry wrote one. And we actually have another song I think that we wrote but we’re gonna save that for a special release or something like that. But yeah, so we put them all together and that’s where the similarity ended because this time we had the input of Matt and Henry and so we started talking about song formats together, we started talking about melodic lines of the vocals and y’know “Ah, maybe this chorus should be lengthened” or “let’s transpose this”, “let’s speed this one up”, things like that. And so we spent a lot of time on really the format of the songs collaboratively together and also lyrically to – it was a little bit more of a collaborative effort. So that’s where it diverged greatly really from the last CD; the last CD was much a shotgun-wedding where Shawn and I were very much forming the band while we were writing the music and trying to get it out as quickly as we could, you know?.

So this one feels like much more of a ‘band’ record than a ‘Chris and Shawn’ record then, would you say?

Chris: Absolutely, yes.

Is there any particular moment or track on the new album that stands out to you as a personal highlight for whatever reason?

Chris: Well, I’ve said this in the past, I think you can, just like with the comments about the diversity of the CD; you can find something about a song that you like for different reasons, whether it be the crushing guitar riffs or the chorus, the vocal line, things like that. And so there are attributes I like about each one that kinda comes out stronger or weaker in a certain area, but right now for me, I’d say Rise of Rebellion is probably my song that I identify the most with. I just think it’s a great anthem, a fist-in-the-air kinda song and it’s got diversity with some clean Leslie guitars mixed in and then it’s got this epic solo section that I love. I love guitar playing, so that’s where I live.

Going back to the whole recording process thing – this new record was again recorded in various studios across the US, including your own home studio in LA for your parts – what effect, if any, do you think that had on the final album?

Chris: Uh, no, because I think ultimately I think the way the recording happened would’ve been the same; I think if we were all local we maybe would’ve done some of the song formatting and collaborative stuff prior to recording the demos, but that would be the main thing. Ultimately I think the recording process and us being in individual locations would’ve remained close to the same, it’s just that we would’ve been able to get together in the same studio and make decisions earlier on I think, before the initial demos came out.

Is this likely the same way you’ll be recording for any follow-up to Old Scars, New Wounds then?

Chris: Yeah, yeah. I mean, one: it works and it works for a lot of bands. It works pretty well; I don’t think you lose very little, if anything, in this kind of process with this style of music. If we were in a jam band I would definitely beg to differ on that factor but we’re not – this is very orchestrated, very composed music that you have, and therefore you can get things down in this sort of nature where you make something very static, you record it and it is exactly how you want it. Y’know, you don’t want variation because that’s how it is in your head. And so, whether you’re doing that across-country or not, there’s no, y’know, even play in the recording process. But like I said, it’d be cool; it probably could’ve saved us a little bit of time because we would’ve gotten the song formats and stuff like that earlier on, which would’ve meant less time working on parts that may not exist or got chopped or whatever.

ACT OF DEFIANCE had a new producer on this record as well, Dave Otero – what’s he like to work with as a producer?

Chris: Dave Otero, yeah – great producer. Loved working with him and we plan on working with him again for the next CD. First of all, we love his mixes and he was very open to allowing us to have our input in the mixes and he was just very accommodating and just knocked it out of the park in my book.

At this point, you’re now three years into ACT OF DEFIANCE being your main band – how do you feel ACT OF DEFIANCE has evolved in that time period?

Chris: Well, the funniest thing is that it’s actually become a band over these last three years. That’s the evolution, its inception, to tell you the truth. When Birth and the Burial came out we really didn’t know each other that well. I mean, I knew Matt from hanging out with him at the NAMM show and meeting him in passing on tours and stuff; Shawn knew him better than I did, but that’s not what you’d call really knowing someone, you know what I mean? I knew he was a cool guy and I’d seen him play but that was all I knew. And with Henry it was even a little bit more unknown because we were kinda looking at all of these various different singers as potentials and he was definitely interesting to us, and so when I contacted him I was doing my best; luckily he lives here in LA, so I was doing my best to get to know him and see what he was like and what his preferences were, and so it’s quite amazing to me that it’s worked out so well because you never know how you’re gonna get along with people, y’know? And it’s worked out really well. So that’s just the inception of the band, and then really from there all the touring we’ve done in the past two years together as a band and having to lug it out on these club tours and harsh travel conditions and stuff like that really shows what kind of a person you are, and if you can work together in those conditions you can work together in most I think. So that’s really I think how we’ve grown as a band, we’ve gotten to know each other, we see each others’ likes and we rely on each others’ strengths.

Given the ‘supergroup’ nature of ACT OF DEFIANCE, do you feel like there’s extra expectation on you in terms of performances, or has that lessened as time’s gone on?

Chris: I don’t know if I see it collaboratively; I mean maybe a little bit. I see statements like “Oh with them coming from these bands you know it’s got to be good”, and things like that, but I don’t think I feel the pressure – that doesn’t affect me personally. Y’know, we’re all musicians and we’ve all been fortunate in our pasts to have had some great and awesome gigs, and that’s really what it’s all about. I’ve never really liked the idea of ‘supergroups’ because y’know, it’s somehow stating that we should be elevated in some way, and the only thing that I think that really gives us is really good experience and knowing what to expect and what to do and how to go about trying to make this band something people really want to check out.

On the last album cycle ACT OF DEFIANCE toured supporting the likes of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE and HATEBREED as well as headlining your own shows, so presumably, you’ll be looking to do similar for Old Scars, New Wounds now?

Chris: Correct, absolutely. That’s probably our main goal is to try and go out as direct support or opening act for a larger band because I think we’ve gotten our people who’re gonna follow us and I think they’re gonna like what we’re doing, but we also need to make more people aware of us and you can only do that through exposing people that wouldn’t normally listen to you to your music.

Do you think that’s where one of ACT OF DEFIANCE’s main strengths lies, in the live performance?

Chris: Yeah, I think so, and that comes from the experience that we’ve got. I think like, for example, if I were just coming out 20 years ago and going on these kinds of tour I would’ve been just a lot more stationary performing and all about the music, which, I love that idea but I’ve really come to see that metal music fans come to see a show so that they get the whole package, the whole angst and anger that comes with the music, and they get a show that kinda backs that up and shows that as well, so we’re moving around and engaging the crowd, we’re getting into it as much as we can every show night-after-night and I think that’s one thing that’ll help sell us to potential new fans.

Have you got much in the pipeline already with regards to touring that you can talk about yet?

Chris: Well, we’ve got a tour – I’d say we’ve got it on the hook but we haven’t reeled it into the boat yet. So we can’t talk about it yet but it is early-2018 and it’ll be a North America tour. And then, from there, our booking agent and management is working on getting us down to South America and of course Europe for the summer festivals, we’re really starting to look at those, and even trying to get back to the Pacific Rim.

Is there any message you’d like to give the readers of Distorted Sound who might be fans of the band?

Chris: Yeah, I just wanna thank them for their support and thanks for following us to see what we’re about after some of the larger bands we’ve been in. You know, this was the whole reason for ACT OF DEFIANCE, was to be able to have our say in music and our musical career and we appreciate it greatly.

Old Scars, New Wounds is out now via Metal Blade Records.

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