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Invitation To The Band: A 40 Below Summer Interview

By Alicia Downs, Pure Rock Patroller
Friday, April 5, 2002 @ 10:00 AM

An Interview With Vocalist Max

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If you have not heard of 40 Below Summer already just give it a few months. One of metalís promising acts is presently racking up the frequent touring miles on the Jagermeister Music Tour with Ill Nino, Coal Chamber, and Drowning Pool. They can already list opening for American Head Charge and Biohazard on their touring resume, and have a steady string of devoted fans back in their NJ/NYC area.

Their debut album Invitation To The Dance is getting re-push from Warner Brothers records at the same time heavy speculation is brewing that they will be a member of the freshman class at this summerís Ozzfest. Everything about 40 Below Summer implies a band on the brink of nationwide explosion.

A few days into the Jager tour, front man Max Illidge of 40 Below Summer sat down to talk about the album, the tour, the future, and just how possible it is for a nu-metal band to have success after a member cuts their dreads.

KNAC.COM: You all are presently on the Jager [tour] -- You guys were a late addition to the bill -- did you expect this tour to go through or did you think you would be somewhere else right now?
MAX: I expected to be home right now. We are very glad that we got this tour, but it was very last minute.

KNAC.COM: 40 Below Summer is definitely one of the heavier acts on the bill... at least I think so...
MAX: Have you seen us live yet?

KNAC.COM: No, actually tonight will be the first time.
MAX: (Laughs) We are a lot heavier live.

KNAC.COM: Four shows into it, do you think that you all are definitely able to get the crowd going?
MAX: It hasnít been much of a problem. Just the beginning of the tour things werenít working on technical side. This is like the biggest tour we have ever been on, so itís like a lot of different patching so we have had some sound problems the first three shows. Once we got a system worked out we are getting our shit together. But you know even if we got our set cut short we have gotten up there and played three songs and usually got the kids moving.

KNAC.COM: Do you think you are coming across as a tough act to follow?
MAX: Well, Ill Nino goes after us, so they can more than handle their own. Weíre all friends for years and years and we are all friends and we grew up in New Jersey, so itís like they push us to do better and vice versa. Great bunch of guys, and we did our first tour with them ever, and this is our first "big" tour and we are doing it with them.

KNAC.COM: Well you have toured with some heavier acts like Biohazard and American Head Charge, so whatís it like to be on a tour with a few bands that are a little more radio friendly?
MAX: A lot more people.

KNAC.COM: Different audience?
MAX: Well this is a pretty heavy tour to begin with. You know Coal Chamber is not exactly your mellow band...

KNAC.COM: No, but they have had their share of commercial success.
MAX: Yes but that doesnít mean they arenít a heavy band. Ill Nino is starting to see some commercial success as well but they are also a heavy band and then Drowning Pool is just brining back heavy metal. Those guys are just a ton of fun man. We toured with them actually in December and that was great...

KNAC.COM: Was that the tour with Stereomud and Lennon?
MAX: Well, it was supposed to be them, and it ended up being just us and Drowning Pool. American Head Charge are also like family to us and we love them to death. Touring with them was fun as well. We toured with them and Mudvayne for like a week and thereís a band with commercial success and thatís a heavy tour.

KNAC.COM: Back home in the New York / New Jersey area you all have a very solid and devoted fan base. What was it like selling out venues like Birch Hill and still not being known outside of that realm?
MAX: It was pretty interesting. I just figured if we can do it here, we can do it somewhere else. Now we just have to get the deal and get the record out there. I just figured we can do it here, we can do it anywhere across this country.

KNAC.COM: On the same hand, do you feel overwhelmed being a band with such a solid base and on the brink for a national explosion? What does that feel like?
MAX: Weíre just going to see what happens -- that is all I can say. We donít have any expectations or anything like that anymore. Everything you think you know it is supposed to be one way and it ends up being the other, so you are better off just not expecting anything.

KNAC.COM: Point taken. I know that there was a time when Hector used to jam with the guys in Nonpoint. Any other strange history that you want to fill in about 40 Below Summer?
MAX: Such as?

KNAC.COM: I know you were on Broadway.
MAX: No, letís not go there.

KNAC.COM: No? Donít want to bring that up?
MAX: No, letís not bring that up.

KNAC.COM: But with that as a history, when did metal start coming into the equation? How did you go from there to here?
MAX: I was always into rock music. I guess when I was around 12 or 13, I started playing the guitar a lot and doing a lot of metal stuff. I played the metal music and it was just back and forth between playing guitar and trying to write lyrics, and you know, practicing vocals. Eventually I just met the right people and we started this.

KNAC.COM: And I guess you are content with this?
MAX: Well, I am never content. There is always room to grow and expand and go further.

KNAC.COM: So where are you looking to improve, expand, and grow further?
MAX: I donít know. I canít really say.

KNAC.COM: Well, musically, personally?
MAX: Everywhere. As a musician and as a person. As a band and as a vocalist and just everything. You canít stay stagnant.

KNAC.COM: I know Garth Richardson produced Invitation to the Dance. How was it working with him?
MAX: Heís a lot of fun. Heís crazy too. Definitely a crazy little fucker, but heís a lot of fun and a very talented guy. He definitely helped unlock some doors inside of me.

Ē[At our shows, people] are like, ďWhat the fuck is this?Ē But then, like by half way through the second song, they are all bopping and jumping. They are like, ďYes! They are psychotic and they can play...Ē
KNAC.COM: So you thought that he captured your sound well and where you guys are as a band?
MAX: You know, he just basically, from my stand point as a vocalistÖ we really just had a connection melodically speaking. I mean opinions are opinions and sonics are sonics. The record sounds damn good and thatís all there is to it. And I am just talking from a musical standpoint and a production standpoint. He just has a knowledge of song and music. Thereís lots of guys out there that can turn a knob and push a feeder and get a good sound but what I am talking about is getting a good song. You can have a shitty recording but if itís a great song, itís a great song.

KNAC.COM: The album has a real broad musical range from slow and melodic to some heavy moments obviously. Do you ever think that maybe you were a little too expansive on the album to the point that there is not a definitive sound?
MAX: No.

KNAC.COM: Definite no?
MAX: Definitely no. You look at a band like 311 or something, and they jump all over the place. I donít consider-- I mean to me that is just music and you can do whatever the hell you want.

KNAC.COM: Some of the longs like "Wither Away" and "Power Tool" offer a prominent melodic sense and a lot of the heavier metal fans snub their nose as at that. Any thoughts on that?
MAX: Well, we have actually gotten some pretty good responses from those.

KNAC.COM: Well, I have heard some fairly negative things said about "Wither Away" in regards to the fact that it is a little too radio friendly and that they wouldnít want it released as a single.
MAX: Well, yeah they still like the song, they just donít want it released because they donít want us to sell two million records, because they want to keep it small and close. You canít think that way. For the fans out there -- I love you all and I understand that you want to keep that band closer to you and you donít want everyone else to have it. I understand that, but by thinking that way and feeling that way you are hurting the bands that you are supporting-- you are holding them back. We have to eat, too -- itís the truth.

KNAC.COM: On the album, your vocals seem to have a lot of layers to them. And I did not notice a backup vocal credit, so you did all the vocals if I am correct...
MAX: Yeah but live we...

KNAC.COM: I was just going to ask you how that translates to your live show.
MAX: Live everyone sings. Everyone but Hector sings.

KNAC.COM: Also wanted to talk about "Rejection" -- listening to it I could hear moments that were tender, then rap at some point, and then nu metal crony sounding -- do you all intentionally set out to encompass three separate styles in one song?
MAX: No, itís just that Joey came up to me with these guitar parts and he said I have it and I have the idea for the hook. That is the only lyric Joey probably wrote on the record and that was just the chorus of screaming rejection. And you know the rest of it I wrote the lyrics and kind of just filled it in later. It just happened that way. We were just thinking of something that was really spacey and trippy and then coming in and crushing your face.

KNAC.COM: Well it definitely seems to run the gauntlet in one song.
MAX: To me, "Falling Down" does the same thing, cause it starts off melodic and then comes out really hyper.

KNAC.COM: There are a ton of Ozzfest rumors going around. I know you cannot confirm anything...

MAX: I canít confirm anything because I donít know. Believe me if I had an inkling of any confirmation I would be yelling ďYEAH WEíRE GOING!Ē But as of today weíre not...

KNAC.COM: But can you tell me what you think getting a tour like Ozzfest could potentially do for 40 Below Summer?
MAX: I mean, what do you think it is going to do? You know you are doing to play for three or four thousand people, metalheads, a night. They are looking for something new, and weíll give it to them.

KNAC.COM: So basically you would just go out there every day and tear shit up?
MAX: Yeah, basically.

KNAC.COM: So, if the OK came down you all would definitely be ready to handle it and put it all out there...
MAX: (Nods)... yeah. I feel that we are ready to take on the world. I donít see any purpose in dilly dallying.

KNAC.COM: Thereís nothing wrong with that. There is so much talk that 40 Below is a band to watch -- how much of that pressures you all to break hard and have a successful album?
MAX: I donít give a fuck. I just go out on stage and you are either going to love it or hate it or whatever. But we are going to go out on stage and give you 110%. We are going to tear shit up and tear shit apart and thatís it.

KNAC.COM: How do you feel about the business aspect of the music industry? Do you feel creatively stifled by it at all if you want to go in one direction and your label wants you to go another?
MAX: It doesnít really matter because I just do what I do and we just do what we do. We never plan anything, it just happens.

KNAC.COM: Well, what about image? Because you know, every new metal band has to have a dreadlocked member in it if they want to be successful and you went ahead and cut yours, and now you are walking around with a panty on your head (Interviewerís note: Max was wearing fishnet stockings on his head throughout the interview and on stage that night).
MAX: Well, I cut my dreads. I had my dreads for several years. I always kept them shoulder length since I didnít like them real long but I figured it was time for a change. Iíll grow them back-- when everyone is shaving theirs off I figure mine will be long enough to dread back again. I mean, come on, Iím wearing ladies fishnets on my head.

KNAC.COM: So I see that, I am missing something there?
MAX: Nah, itís all in fun. You know, I am not opposed to having a good time.

KNAC.COM: Thereís nothing wrong with having a good time.
MAX: No, not at all.
KNAC.COM: Obviously, back homeÖ 40 Below had a quick growing reputation as a great live act-- do you think that reputation will continue to develop with this tour?
MAX: The fact that we like spit on each other and kick on each other and just go completely ballistic kind of helps. I mean I come out with a fishnet stocking on my face and white eyes while Joey is spitting all over the place and kicking Jordan in the chest. People are at first like, especially these markets because people here donít know us; weíve never been here before, they are like Ďwhat the fuck is thisí but then like by half way through the second song they are all bopping and jumping. They are like ďyes they are psychotic and they can play...Ē

KNAC.COM: And that is always a plus...
MAX: But you know we are not like an evil scary Slipknot kind of thing. We are sort of more like a...

KNAC.COM: Well you guys look relatively normal. Max, you probably look the most creative of the bunch, but Hector looked normal when I first met him. You all look like normal guys on the street. No face paint, or spikey hair with baseball-playing uniforms with bloodied bats last I heard...
MAX: NO! Who does that?

KNAC.COM: Mudvayne.
MAX: Oh, Mudvanye. They donít beat each other with bats.

KNAC.COM: No they donít beat each other with them, but they have the innuendos with the blood paint all over them. I saw it at the show I went to the last night of Merry Mayhem -- I think it was up in Secaucus or East Rutherford.
MAX: Nah, I didnít see that show. They did theClockwork Orange theme thing when we toured with them.

KNAC.COM: I heard at some point during the tour they were like wearing bunny suits...
MAX: Really? I like Chad a lot.

KNAC.COM: I think heís an interesting guy to talk to.
MAX: Chad is very cool. I have had fun with Chad the few times I have gotten to hang out with him, I havenít gotten to hang out with him that much but... I met Chad in LA way before they started blowing up. Their album had not even been out two months and it took off slowly, but it was before the ďDigĒ video came out and we were just signing with No Name. That was the week me and Jordan had flown out to meet the guys from No Nam,e and Clown was there, and it was a perfect set up since Mudvayne was in town and playing at the Roxy or wherever. So we got to go to the show and hang out with those guys and it was like a set up cause they knew they were going to just reel us in...

KNAC.COM: Wel,l there you go, but it worked...
MAX: Yep it worked.

KNAC.COM: I have not heard any talk of what single was released on this album -- I assume that you have one and it was released?
MAX: Well, we released a single to college and metal before the album came out -- "Step Into The Sideshow." But that was just without any real radio push. London-Sire, I guess, decided that "Falling Down" was going to be the first active rock single and they wanted to -- I have no idea why they didnít do the video for it...

KNAC.COM: I was going to ask you like if there were any video plans for anything...
MAX: The songs really heavy -- not something you would hear on an active rock station but it made the top 40. It made it two weeks actually. Like one week it made it to number 38 and then the next week it dropped off, and then made it back into the top 50 for a few weeks. We could have made a video for it and maybe if the video was shocking enough it would have given us a bigger push, but London-Sire just decided to scrap "Falling Down" and go with "Wither Away" for the video and then they folded on that. I mean we were literally going to leave in like a few days to shoot the video for ĎWither Away" -- en route to LA -- we had the plane tickets and the actresses schedules and just all that, and we were about three days away from the day of shooting and we got the phone call that we werenít doing it and they were going to wait until early next year, but we knew that they were folding. We are not ever going to get that video. So we went back home and basically the label folded, and aside from that week with Drowning Pool we sat at home that whole time. So now the plan is Ė no, not necessarily re-release the record but to re-push the record with ďRopeĒ as the single with a video and then we will go to "Wither Away" later...

KNAC.COM: Ahhh, release the infamous second single ballad.
MAX: Well, I wouldnít say it is a ballad. "Drown" is more the ballad.

KNAC.COM: In comparison to some of the other songs, "Wither Away" is your ballad.
MAX: "Drown" is much slower.

KNAC.COM: But "Wither Away" has that...
MAX: ...That radio vibe.

KNAC.COM: Definitely. Anyway, do you have an insight into where you see MTV2 and MTVX fitting into your career- they are really picking up on the heavier music lately.
MAX: We donít have anything to give them yet, so weíll see when they give them something if they spin it. We are going to have Thomas Mignone probably direct the video for "Rope" and itísÖ he did that Mudvayne video and his name is getting up there and he is a freak so...

KNAC.COM: You have faith his treatment is going to be what you want.
MAX: Well, we have already seen his treatment and itís fucking brilliant. So we just have to figure out how to make it look cool Ė well, not necessarily cool, but just completely and totally striking. Itís going to really stimulate the senses, you know, visually as well as audibly.

KNAC.COM: I think I probably covered more then I needed to here -- so you have any final thoughts, ideas, or shameless plugs you might like to throw in?
MAX: Anyone that reads this -- just go out and buy our record -- I mean, what else could I say? Smoke lots of pot and have a good time. Donít let anyone else dictate who you are.

For more information about 40 Below Summer check out their web site at: 40BelowSummer.com or catch them as the second act on the Jagermeister Music Tour running until the end of April.

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