INTERVIEW: Will Putney – Fit For An Autopsy

FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY are close to the release of their newest album, The Great Collapse, which is out March 17th via Long Branch Records. We caught up with FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY guitarist and esteemed producer Will Putney about the album, breaking genre boundaries in extreme music, and his work as a producer.

Will: Thanks for covering us and getting us a little more exposure over there, I appreciate it!

Thank you for taking the time to do it, I can only imagine how busy you are!

Will: I’ve got shit to do today, but it’s all good.

Well, after listening to the album, it sounds like you guys have gelled together a lot more since Absolute Hope…Absolute Hell. Are you happy with the outcome?

Will: Yeah, I think this is my favourite record that we’ve done up to this point. I think on the last one we started to sort of expand what the band does and try to find a bit more of a sound that was more, kind of, our thing. That helped us be our own band. It’s something I’ve always happen with it, you know, and we started to get lumped in with a lot of other bands and we really didn’t feel like we had the same kind of ideals, or sonically we didn’t feel like we were really aligned with them. So, we kind of made a point to stick out a little bit from here out and bring in some of the other influences that we like that are kind of unique to our band and our genre. I feel like on this record, we were able to do that for the first time, like, fully realised, and it feels good.

So, do you feel like you’ve found your sound more in this album?

Will: Yeah, definitely. Like, I can listen to it now and there are these moments where, I think a part of our sound is kind of doing more ‘outside-of-the-box’ stuff and elements into heavy, aggressive music. It’s the difference between a band going one route with their music and incorporating influence and changing what the core thing of their band is into something else, and I feel like we were able to maintain this aggressive, heavy thing that we do, this death metal/deathcore-y kind of base for our sound, but then bring all this other stuff into it and make it a bit more interesting than just more of a straightforward thing like we used to do. And I think that’s our thing now. I was really happy that we were able to do it to the fullest extent on this record, and if we’re known as the deathcore band that does that, I’ll be really happy about that.

What was the writing and recording process like for the album?

Will: Usually I’ll write a song and I’ll sort of like, start to finish obsess over it until it’s done, and then it’s kind of done and we just go and record it. This time, I sort of did more songs but I left them more open-ended because I wanted to try to really nail some of the new stuff we were doing. I figured it would take more attempts than a usual FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY record, so I had more than double the amount of song starts than I’ve ever had going into doing a FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY record but some of them were incomplete, so I was able to sit on these for a long time and just think about them and stuff, and then narrow down what I thought would’ve been the best one for the record. And then, just finishing those was really easy because I was able to see what I had then, and I’d have my drummer come in and we’d jam on some stuff and then I’d quickly wrap up the songs if the ideas were already in my head. It was cooler to leave these songs kind of open, let them sit for a long time before it was time to record, I feel like I got the maximum amount of time out of weeding out filler tracks, and I think it made for a stronger record this time.

Instead of sticking with the initial idea, it’s better to let it space out over time, because you can go back and re-evaluate what you’re doing and make sure you’re completely happy with the finished product.

Will: Yeah. Because I didn’t fully finish all the songs months ahead of recording time, I didn’t get attached to completed songs. I left these, like, holes, so I could hit them fresh months later when it was time to actually sit down and record them. And that was, like, my favourite part of it because I feel like I wasn’t just boxed into that one period of time when I was writing whatever I was trying to do, I was able to come back to it with new ideas on it, and it definitely worked out cool for this record.

You’ve described the album as a reflection on mankind’s relationship with the world?

Will: Pretty much. That’s loosely what the record is about. There’s sort of two different approaches to this record, it’s “What’s going on around you that makes you mad?”, and there’s songs that talk about some of those things, whether they’re political or social or environmental issues, or personal issues. Then the other side of it is “How do those things affect you?”, so some of the songs take a more personal approach, speaking from the first person, like “Well, you have to exist in this world so what kind of person are you, how does that make you feel?”, because when I’m writing, I go through both of those things. I get pissed off about something, and then I get kind of sad about it, like “Ah, fuck, I’m stuck here!” *laughs* and I’ve got to live in this world, so I write from two angles, where I’m on the offense and then just reflecting on myself, you know? For me it’s a more rewarding way to get the thoughts out; when it’s done, I feel like I haven’t skipped over the other half of it. I feel like the human element of that is a pretty important thing that’s not really ever written about, you know, you have a political song, or you have a band that’s very political and they just pack stuff and they go after all the issues, and they make sure that everybody knows how they feel about that but they never really talk about what that’s doing to you as a person, how do you feel personally when you look at the world now? How’s that changed you? And that makes for some pretty cool lyrical concepts, I always see one or the other when I’m listening to records, and I thought it’d be cool to try both on this one.

So, especially with having both perspectives, do you think people will relate to this record more?

Will: I think so because I do. I mean, some of my favourite bands are the bands that go one way or the other because I think you really get to take it as far as it possible can go. But for me, I felt like I was shorting one side of it or the other one by not including it, so for me, I get more complete experience out of it and I hope other people feel like that too.

Would you say that’s your main goal for the album?

Will: Yeah, I just want people to be affected by it. Truthfully, I don’t know how big or successful a band this extreme and ‘out there’ could really be, you know, I don’t know how well-received commercially this could ever go, or what the ceiling is. But I hope it makes people think a little bit and it sort of inspires people to just look at some of the things we talk about, relate it to their lives and hopefully something positive comes out about it. Like, we’re not really a positive band, we don’t really have positive, happy endings, so we don’t really present solutions in our music, you know? I never really thought we had the solutions or we were the people elected to do such a thing, so for me it was always like “Yeah, let’s just keep it kinda dark and let that stir up, and get emotions in people that maybe inspires them to take things on their own”.

So, how do you feel you’ve developed, both as a band and you yourself in this record compared to your previous work?

Will: I feel like every time you write a record, you look back on it, two years later, a year later, whatever it is, and you think about the things you’ve done right and the things you’ve done wrong. I think it’s always like a learning process, and no matter how many records you spin, we’ll always be looking to be ourselves. And a lot of that, this time, was more focussed on the song writing side in that sense to just write better, stronger songs that’ll hold about for longer, that won’t die with a certain style of heavy music or a certain genre, things that’ll be a little more timeless. I really like our first record and stuff, but I can definitely hear a sound from a time that falls out of fashion, and I wanted to try to evolve the band on this record where 10 years from now, 15 years from now, these are still going to be cool songs. So, that’s definitely where my mindset had changed, you know, going into this one, and I feel like it definitely helped evolve the band, I think we’re in a better place now because we all have more of a long-term picture. You know, we never honestly thought we’d even be a band for this long, so to now have the bigger platform than we’ve ever had and to be doing better than any other point in our career right now, it’s made us think more long-term, I guess I’d say. So this record was kind of designed with that in mind, like, we want this to work a decade from now or two. If these songs stick around longer than we do, then that’s cool.

You’ve worked with a load of bands over the years. Do you feel like your experience behind the scenes helps you playing in a band and vice versa?

Will: Yeah, think it does. I mean, obviously, I’m around music all the time and I’m able to hone my personal tastes by constantly hearing different styles of heavy music in different approaches, and I’m sure I bring in those influences when I write involuntarily. It’s just there because I’m constantly thinking about music and song writing and arrangement issues and things like that, but if anything, it kind of teaches me what to avoid when I go into our [FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY] stuff. I get to see the stuff that works or I get to see maybe the stuff that people are chasing and copying, and it helps me kind of go “Yeah, okay, everybody’s trying to do that, don’t do that”, it helped me focus the band by eliminating things, if that makes sense.

Yeah, that makes sense. What kind of things do you try to avoid?

Will: It’s not just heavy music, it’s all music, but when something comes out and it gets popular and has its moment, it’s followed by a wave of artists that want to imitate that, and they go for that. Whether it’s a certain type of sound or a certain chord progression or a certain style of mix or production, there’s this trend to just follow the things that’s popular and it happens on every level of all music, pop music, us, the labels want the next band that’s like that, bands want to copy the sound, everybody all jumps into that machine. I never wanted our band to do that. I always thought it’d be cool if we just did our own thing and didn’t really play that game, and I feel like we’ve been fortunate enough to get to where we are by kind of avoiding some of that stuff.

Definitely. I mean, arguably, the beginning of more modern extreme music, deathcore etc., started with that sort of thing with breakdowns and that sort of thing. So, it’s hard to find that niche, and then once you’ve found it without it being exploited by other bands, you’ve got to make it your own.

Will: Yeah, and I think like, for me, because I’m fortunate enough to have a career in music for a living and stuff, if I was going to do a band, there’s no real point in doing it if it’s just going to be some copied version of another one, I might as well just stick to making records. I don’t even really see it like a reason to do it in another way. I’m already happy and doing pretty well, making music on a daily basis, so for me it’s like a misuse of my time to get involved with a band that doesn’t have that set of ideals nowadays.

So, when you’re producing your own music, do you feel like there’s more pressure on you to do a good job?

Will: I used to. Definitely, maybe when I was not as established and the band was smaller, I used to think that these things would be more ‘under the microscope’, and maybe they are for some people, so I definitely used to sweat that a little more I guess than I do nowadays. The past two records though, I didn’t really care. It was a bit more rewarding. Usually when I’m mixing, or if I’m trying to get some sounds all referenced or there’s stuff that I like, I try to make sure I’m in the ball park or I’ll always get an ear on something that I think is sonically gonna be competitive with it. I don’t even know if I listened to anything on this one [album], I just went for it. And it’s cool, I kind of have faith in myself to know what’s going to work for our band and what I kind of want it to sound like, it’s real rewarding not to give a shit *laughs* and to just go through with it and be happy in the end. And then, on top of it, to see people that other people are stoked on it, it’s cool. It’s definitely a bit validating and it makes me happy to continue to do that with this band and not really care so much about that side of it.

Yeah, I guess it makes you enjoy the actual music creation process more as opposed to the management at the end?

Will: Yeah, and you know, I deal with that all year with my other projects so this is more of a release for me, and the last thing I ever want to do is turn this into something where I’m copying myself for my own project.

Following that, how do you feel you’ve developed as a producer since Absolute Hope…Absolute Hell?

Will: I mean, from here until now, I’ve done so many records, so much has changed in the music scene and with the people that I work and the styles, how the trends in heavy music has changed, you know, I’ve kind of been able to ride the wave of it. I’m in it now, where I can feel like my perspective on it all is always getting sharper and improving and, you know, I’m really fortunate now that I’m able to kind of be a little more selective about the projects that I can take on, and the bands that I work with. I guess I’m having a lot more fun working with bands with like-minded ideals than I ever have, you know? It’s been nice to be able to weed out stuff over the years and do the stuff that matters now, and I think it’s made me better too by sort of letting go of some of those things, whether or not the pay check was good, or what. There’s a level of not caring about the stuff that isn’t important any more that I’ve been able to apply to my job, and it’s definitely help me make better records in the past couple of years.

Do you feel like you enjoy yourself more now too?

Will: Yeah, it’s definitely gotten better. The grind of it all is less stressful, I don’t feel like I’m working for no reason, like sometimes I have in the past. I’ve been lucky enough to be in a room with a lot of artists now where I feel, like, satisfied with all the records that I make. I used to not always be like that and now, you know, I’m starting to feel good about all my projects and yeah, it’s definitely moved into a place where I’m happier.

Excellent! Sounds like it’s a hard industry. What advice would you give to someone who’s looking at starting out in the production business?

Will: You have to do this stuff yourself. You have to be hands on when you’re recording and learning about how all this works, you can read about it and watch tutorials about it, take classes in school about it, but you don’t really get a grasp of how it all happens until you start working with bands and recording. Aside from the social side and the dynamics of working with people, and you know, how to be the boss of your own project, there’s also just the learning of trial and error. So, my best advice would be to find somebody who you back as a producer or engineer whose records you like and get under them, and learn how they make their records. It’s what I did, I used to work with Machine, I started as his assistant and worked my way up from there. I learned more in a month from him than I did from all my classes in school and everything I could learn on my own. So, that’s the big thing that I always stress.

I suppose it’s one of those things where practical experience is paramount over everything else.

Will: Yeah, it definitely is the game changer in this world.

Just circling back to the album, how do you think this album [The Great Collapse] is going to stand out from other bands at this moment?

Will: I think we just approach stuff differently. We have all the influences that our peers do, death metal, deathcore, aggressive music, but I feel like there’s a whole other layer of stuff from our post-rock influences and weirder, more atmospheric, moody stuff like, I just feel like there’s another half of our band that might not exist in some of the other bands. So, when you hear some of the tracks that get a little more ‘out there’ on our record, I feel like it doesn’t sound like anything else somebody in our genre would do right now. I think a lot of that is just our taste, we’re not really metal guys like how we used to be, my taste’s changes, my genre tastes have changed, and we sort of bring in outside influences to this genre where I feel like sometimes that’s written off, like “Nah, you can’t do that, it’s not brutal enough, it’s not extreme enough”, and we just kind of do it anyway. I feel like, for better or worse, it’ll definitely be our own thing.

Who are your biggest influences?

Will: I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff outside of our genre lately. I grew up in the hardcore scene, and got into the more chaotic side of that when I was a kid, like the early CONVERGE, that was sort of my sweet spot, those were kind of my favourite times for heavy music. It was really experimental and bands took stuff in different directions, and I still feel like those records haven’t been touched to this day, you know? It’s always been a lot of that, I’ve just now figured out how to do things that are in their world or similar, and it’s a lot of cooler indie-rock stuff that has sadder, more interesting movements in their songs. From a song writing approach more than any real sonic thing, but it’s just, like, how you can take melodies that are simpler and take the macros a journey in a song, is something I’ve been more impressed with. A lot of it comes from the instrumental bands. I’m a really big fan of RUSSIAN CIRCLES and THIS WILL DESTROY YOU, and there’s a few bands in that world where I’m constantly impressed by how well songs evolve.  A lot of it is because they’re instrumental bands, they have to let a different melody shine and in a way, because we don’t have a ton of singing, we kind of have to do the same thing with our instrumental arrangements. So, a lot of influence, I guess, is borrowed from that world because they’re able to pull off that same kind of trick without a singer singing, you know? And I’ve sort of been like “Oh, we don’t have a guy who sings, the top line isn’t the vocal melody”, so I kind of look to that stuff to see what they do and how they evolve songs without really having a frontman singing over it, and then I work in Joe (Bodolato). It’s mainly those two worlds mashed together, which is very weird, but along with all the metal background we’ve had, so it’s like we’re a metal band but we try to bring those two things in with it, and I feel like that’s what’s making it its own thing.

After the record release on March 17th, what are your plans, both yourself and as a band, for the rest of the year?

Will: We’re going to be on tour through the Spring all through the US, then we’ll be in Canada, then we’ll be back in America for another tour, which I can’t unfortunately announce yet. In the summer, we’re going to go over to Europe, we’re doing a few off the summer festivals over there, I don’t have the whole list in front of me, but we’re playing a lot of them and we’ll just be routing dates around Europe, playing as many shows as we can in between the festivals. And then, we’ll be back here [America] in the Fall, hitting some of the places we didn’t hit in the Spring, and then trying to get to Australia or South East Asia, somewhere cool at the end of the year as, sort of, “Okay, we did a lot of work, let’s go somewhere nice when it gets cold” break at the end of the year *laughs*. Yeah, the guys will be out pretty much all year, it’s a pretty busy time, and with this record we really want to play these songs live. I know everybody’s antsy to do it because we’ve been sitting on this material for a while, so I think the dudes will be excited to go out there and play all this stuff. I’m just busy making records here, throughout. You know, I’ve got stuff booked pretty much until the end of the year too, a lot of really cool records that, you know, I unfortunately can’t really get too far into, but I have a really fun year ahead of me at the studio too. So, I think it’s going to be one of my favourite years recording bands, for sure.

The Great Collapse is set for release on March 17th via Long Branch Records.

For more information on FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY, like their official page on Facebook.