INTERVIEW: Frankie Palmeri – Emmure

One of metal’s most controversial bands must be fronted by controversial figure. This goes without saying for EMMURE‘s Frankie Palmeri. Hot-headed, motormouthed and passionate, Frankie is the driving force behind this polarising deathcore hate machine. Fresh from the success of their latest release, Look At Yourself, and the addition of new members to the band including the legendary ex-GLASS CLOUD guitarist Josh Travis, the band headlined the Impericon Never Say Die! Tour in the UK and Europe. We caught up with Frankie backstage to get behind the eyes of deathcore’s most wanted.

How’s the tour been so far?

Frankie: It’s been good. We’ve done two German dates, a Belgium show and then London last night. We played a really big show in Wiesbaden in Germany, that was massive. London last night had a pretty decent turnout too.

Yeah, Germany seems to turn up pretty hard for bands like yours.

Frankie: I mean, yeah. I don’t know, I don’t really pay attention to numbers. I could play to a thousand people, but if they’re just standing there watching me and they’re not interested, I’d rather play a show to a hundred kids that are losing their minds than play to people who are just waiting to drink beer.

What have you thought of the feedback to Look At Yourself so far, compared to other releases?

Frankie: Well, I subscribe to the idea that Look At Yourself is the best EMMURE album to date, so if people can’t vibe with that then they’re completely missing everything the album is about. So yeah, the positive reviews are great but the people who think it’s not our best record yet are just complete fucking idiots.

Do you think that placing the new album so highly casts a bit of a shadow over your other records?

Frankie: I think that Look At Yourself came out when it was meant to come out. It trumps everything else I’ve ever done creatively. Even I hear the record and I’m like “I can’t believe that I was a part of that.” It’s surreal. That’s how good the record is to me. I’m very proud of what we did in 2017, now in 2018 there’s gonna be another record that comes out and it’s gonna be a similar band, so hopefully when we get our next album out it’ll be a chance to show face. I’m really happy with what we accomplished.

Would you say that your new material is definitely an evolution from your old material, then?

Frankie: Honestly, not really. The reason why it was such a leg up was not only from teaming up with Josh being such a jump up in ability for the band, I was also able to sit down with someone who if I told them an idea they’d say “okay, let’s do it”. Rather than three or four people being like “oh, I don’t like it, I like my idea, I like my riff better and so on”. Almost every EMMURE album, there are points that I like, but I’ve never been able to say an EMMURE album is good front to back, apart from this one. Every single track makes sense. Whether or not people can understand how much better it is, that’s their loss. The songwriting is better, the tone of the album is huge, there are so many things about it that are just above and beyond anything we’ve done before. It’s great that people enjoy the past records – I’m not taking that away from them, but this is definitely our best. I don’t even know what we’re gonna do after this record! [Laughs]

Maybe an acoustic version?

Frankie: [Laughs] Shit man, maybe! I don’t know, we’re gonna have to do something creative.

What’s the story behind the lyrics and the name of the album?

Frankie: It’s funny, people always go to these moments in time where I’ve written more…absurd lyrics like “I wanna watch you suck his dick” or “ask your girl what my dick tastes like”, people seem to focus on that. But, there’s like over a hundred EMMURE songs. So, to only reference those two tracks says more about the person than it does about my lyrical content. I’m only writing from my perspective. The lyrics on the new album – there are no dick lines. But, that’s nothing to do with what I think of those lines. I’m just going with what the music pulls from me. If the music pulls something out of me, that’s what I’m gonna say. It’s unlikely for me to premeditate something like “I wanna say this line”. It’s more creative and spontaneous.

So, you listen to the songs before you add the lyrics?

Frankie: Sometimes. Like I said, I don’t premeditate, so it’s more about what that song is calling for. I’m not embarrassed about anything I’ve said in the past, though. Anything I’ve done has only elevated me in a certain direction. I do think there is a certain maturity on the new album though, like I was able to kinda hone in a little more on my craft and change it up a bit, I guess. I don’t think it’s too much of a departure from anything EMMURE has done in the past, it’s just another chapter in my life, really.

Look At Yourself is a reference to you, and how you see yourself, in that sense?

Frankie: Yeah. It’s an introspective album title, and an introspective album in general. For listeners, it can be whatever they wanna take out of it. I hate explaining things like this, because for me, if you explain art – you kill art. The reason art exists is to make someone feel something and question themselves. When you explain anything, it means nothing now, it’s transparent. I don’t like doing that, I like doing something that makes people question, maybe something they don’t initially get, and have to do a little research. There have been EMMURE songs or album titles where if you don’t do a Google search, you’ll never understand it. I like that, because it gives people more of an incentive to invest their time in the art. Mystery to me is more interesting than seeing straight through something.

How are you feeling about Josh being in the band, since he’s pretty well known as an archetypal 9 string player?

Frankie: It’s funny you should ask that, I got asked recently if there’s gonna be any more technical riffs on the new EMMURE album, and I’m like…the new EMMURE album? We have a new album, it just came out! They say they mean the next album so I’m like – “okay bud. If you know anybody that can play our new album, front to back perfectly on guitar, bring them my way. I bet you can’t. I know you can’t.” Anyone who tries to say anything about the technical ability on the album is an idiot. What you can do with your instrument is not relative to what you create. That being said, anyone who knows anything about guitar has heard of Josh. I consider him to be one of the Mount Rushmore guitarists of our generation, he’s one of the best ever, pretty much.

How has that affected your experience of the band?

Frankie: It’s great, it’s just a blessing. I’m in a band with three people now who are great performers, great writers, great musicians, great people, so it’s been a hugely positive experience for me.

What do you think of the genre label deathcore?

Frankie: I think it’s overused, but it doesn’t bother me because I’ve been into music since I was 11 or 12 and I’ve heard pretty much every sub-genre there is. Do I think EMMURE is deathcore? No. To me, deathcore is death metal – death metal being progressive fast riffs and blast beats, with breakdowns. That is deathcore. SUICIDE SILENCEThe Cleansing? That’s a deathcore record. There is not one EMMURE record that’s a deathcore record.

What are they, then?

Frankie: I think it’s a mixture of different sounds. There’s metal involved, there are all kinds of hardcore elements.

Yeah, I’d say you attract quite a hardcore-based fanbase, more so than a deathcore one.

Frankie: I don’t like labelling things, because I think it’s very limiting. But, I don’t really care what people call us. Call us deathcore, I don’t care. Nu metal, I don’t care. When I got into music, I never gave a shit what the genre was. It didn’t matter to me. I like what I think sounds good. To me, EMMURE is the same idea – what sounds good. When me and Josh first sat down he asked me what I wanted it to sound like and I said ‘dude, what are your best ideas? That’s what I want it to sound like.’ If it ends up being hardcore, cool. If it’s on some fucking obscure shit, cool, who cares? Labelling things and putting them into genres is cool, but it’s personal. It’s just another variable of being a music fan.

What sort of stuff are you enjoying playing live at the moment?

Frankie: New stuff is cool, old stuff is cool. I just like playing stuff that makes the most sense to play live. Especially with old members of the band, they’d push for things to be on the record and I’d be like ‘okay, this goes on the record. But I’m willing to bet my life that we’ll never play it live.’ And we never do. It never catches, it never happens. Music written for a live setting and an album are different things – you can’t always expect them to work on the same level. So, every song we play live is a live song. Some songs, no one gives a shit, and then we play a song like Torch and the place fucking explodes.

Do you have a favourite country to play in?

Frankie: Nah, I don’t care where I’m at. Everything is kinda a big melting pot, it all feels the same. Everywhere I go, I’m doing the same thing. There are five things I like to do – music, graffiti, girls, getting paid, and I like art. That’s what I do, and what more can I ask for? Everywhere I go, as long as I do those five things I’m pretty happy. Oh, and weed, I forgot weed. Weed more than girls, actually, girls are a big waste of time.

Does the contrast in positive feedback for your new album and the criticism of your old material make you feel bitter at all?

Frankie: No, not at all. I’m not dumb, I get it. I get that things were lacking in our old material, I was the one who was experiencing it. I was fighting really hard to always get the best material. Literally, probably 90% of the music we play live now, I wrote for the band.

So, it was the old band members that were holding you back?

Frankie: Absolutely. Not to say that they weren’t part of the positive side of the music back then, but there were a lot of times where there would be disagreements on what goes on certain records, we would have to make compromises – and that’s what separates the new EMMURE experience from the old. But I had to bank in on the science of only needing 4 or 5 good songs on an album. For the album to do well, you know? This is the first time where every single song is good. Every track goes. You can play the record from start to finish and be satisfied.

As you mentioned earlier, is there currently no work on a new EMMURE record?

Frankie: No, but for me personally, I’m always in a constant state of creativity. But when it comes down to putting the real helmet on, I’ll know it, but we’re not there yet. Josh is literally a computer, so we can have him on call when we’re ready. It’ll come together soon enough.

You have a lot of confidence in this lineup, then?

Frankie: Yeah, I don’t have a plan to ever change it.

Awesome, thanks for chatting to Distorted Sound!

Frankie: Likewise, man. Cheers.

Look At Yourself is out now via SharpTone Records.

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