Dying Scene / Metal Riot recently had a chance to sit down with Emmure vocalist, Frankie Palmeri, before their show in Oakland, CA. The band released their most recent album, “Slave To The Game”, back in April, and DS / MR was able to chat with Frankie about his thoughts on the new work, re-signing to Victory Records, the new drummer Mark Castillo, what’s in store for the band in the New Year, and (randomly) a solo life mission to Japan.
Head here to read the entire interview and check out some photos from the band’s live set.
F: I’m Frankie Palmeri, I sing for Emmure, and I’m hangin’ out here in Oakland, chillin’.
How did you guys start? What are you all about?
Well…it was 2003, I was 16 years old, and I had a thing where I wanted to be in a band really badly since I could remember, and nothing really worked out locally in my neighborhood. All the kids I grew up with were already in bands together, or I’d try to start a band in another borough whether it be in Brooklyn or Manhattan, and things would just kind of flake. People weren’t as serious or dedicated as I was, especially being as young as I was, so I decided one day no matter what, I’m gonna do it, I’m gona be in a band – if I had to relocate or go to another country or out-of-state, I don’t care, I’m going to do this. And with that way of thinking it led me to meeting some kids on a messageboard -this is pre-MySpace, pre-Friendster, pre-social networking – so all you had was messageboards and random strangers you had to talk to. And there was these two kids in Connecticut, I went down to “tryout”, and the next thing you know, fast-forward to here. I mean, member changes have happened, but we have been steadfast and survived tons of trials that would usually end a band.
So what were some of your influences going into this endeavor of creating a band?
I think it was really like a calling, like really feeling like you have a purpose. Follow that good feeling – I mean, I tell that to everybody – whatever it is in life that gives you that good feeling, always follow it. For me it was music and i had to do it, I just had to…there was nothing anyone could say that would stop me from doing it. Looking for people that were like-minded was definitely a big deal to me, and over time things change and people change, but I’m still here doing it…I think music is the best catharsis for my feelings…as far as trying to cope with reality – I think everyone’s got their own special way – music is definitely that one for me…The clothing line was kind of influenced more by the fact that I grew up with being aware of brands and noticing certain brands doing certain things. And as I got older I’d see these streetwear brands start to come to life like A-life and Supreme and all that stuff is pretty cool. They all had seemed to have their own little thing, that kind of said something about the brand and the person wearing it, so I wanted to kind of create my own feel for me, and if people enjoy it that’s even cooler too because you know I got tired of buying other people’s brands when I could pretty much make my own.I draw, but I’m a graffiti artist so I wouldn’t consider what I do to be conventional art that people would normally expect. But I definitely enjoy that culture heavily, and I’m pretty involved in it.
Let’s get back to your current tour, which you’re about 1 1/2 weeks in right now. How are you enjoying it so far?
So far, so good. I’ll be honest with you, this has been like one of the best tours that we’ve done in awhile, and considering this is the first tour of 2013, it’s a great way to start the year. Every single show has been seriously phenomenal, tons of great fans every single night, juat tons of energy. It definitely has surpassed everything I thought it would be and getting to reconnect with Whitechapel, whom we haven’t toured with in literally like 5 or 6 years, is like an awesome feeling. To finally come back together is great. 2013 is awesome, the tour is great.
February 11th is the last date, and it’s in New York City, which is my hometown, so getting to end the tour there is pretty cool. I’m looking forward to it.
After you wrap up this leg of the tour you’re heading to Europe for a tour in April. Have you noticed a difference in the fans between European and American fans?
No, not at all. I think the people there are just as eager and just as interested in having a good time, and be involved with the music, which I think is what everyone goes to shows for. They want to get their monies worth, have a good time, and lose their mind. Whether I’m in America, could be China, could be Europe, it doesn’t matter, it’s the same feeling everywhere.
Are there places in the world you would like to tour (ie Australia/Japan)?
We’ve done Australia. The band has not gone to Japan. I have been to Japan, by myself, on like a solo, life journey mission a few years ago but we’re going to get there pretty soon. One place I would love to visit are like places in the Middle East…
Aww man, that was just like…I wanted to escape whatever I was going through at home, and when you have this frame of mind like you don’t know where your life is going, you end up wanting to do things that you just feel like, fuck it. I’m just going to go do it. While I still have the chance to. I found a really cheap round-trip ticket, I happened to have the money, and I just went. Funny thing about the trip…it was so coincidental…it just so happened that while I’m at the airport walking to my gate and I see [bassist Chris] Beattie from Hatebreed and then I’m like, wait a minute, there’s Jamey and all of them! And I go up to them and I’m like hey what’s up guys? They’re like, “Hey what’s up?” And I’m like nothin’, just going to Japan. And they’re like, ” You going to LoudPark?” I’m like, I don’t know what you’re talking about haha. They’re like, “We’re going to Japan right now to play a festival,” and I’m like oh sick can I come hang out with you guys for a day or whatever? So I got to go kick it with them, and go see LoudPark which is like such an insane metal festival there, I never knew that went down there. So, the whole entire thing in itself must have been fated I guess.
Being it a “life mission”, is there something you’d say you took away from the whole thing?
I guess I learned that, it doesn’t really matter where you go – fuck how does the saying go – no matter where you go, there you are. You can’t run from your problems.
I read somewhere a quote of you saying, “No matter what I’m doing, it’s the right thing.”
Yea. I mean, it was definitely very humbling to be there by myself, and have the time to reflect on things, and…I was also a lot younger, so my headspace was different then too, but I’m looking to back for a lot of reasons. It was probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to in my life.
Yea I got to visit Roppongi, Tokyo, and another town over, the name of which I regretfully can’t remember the name right now. But yea, I got to see a lot of cool places, and it was just like, everything there leaves you in awe…everything. Literally, from the alleyways to the streets to the buildings to the trees, everything there is just like, you can’t believe it. It’s awesome.
That’s great man. So getting back to the issues at hand. You’ve been on tour promoting your most recent work, “Slave To The Game”, which was released last year on Victory. How do you feel it’s been received?
You know, I hate to sugarcoat it, but to be quite honest I think it’s our least successful album for a lot of reasons, mostly because there’s not as much transparency within the music. I think what people really enjoy about the band is that I’m very vocal about personal issues in my life, which I think reflects on people who maybe feel alone, or are looking for an escape or at least some kind of shoulder to feel like, you’re the only person going through things like that. Our last record, for me, was hard because there was so many problems internally in the band that I think that really carried over into the music. I could not inject myself into the music to make it really what we are, and I think it spoiled the experience. And there are some tracks that I think are great, and those are the ones that are fan favorites that we still play now, but overall I don’t think the album was what it could’ve been and what it should’ve been. Maybe that was for the best, because our next record is definitely going to trump that so we’re actually setting ourselves up for something bigger and better. Can’t complain about that.
That kind of leads me to my next question. You’ve mentioned in the past that on the album, “The Respect Issue”, you have some regrets about the whole album-making process, and if you could go back and do it all over again, you would. Do you feel the same about “Slave To The Game”?
Yea…but not as deeply. I think “The Respect Issue” has a lot more content and a lot more substance versus “Slave To The Game”. “Respect Issue” has a bunch of lackluster ideas that I don’t agree with considering the artwork, and kind of the production of the album. There were some things that I definitely wish I could’ve changed, but I’m not unhappy with it in a way where I think that the album reflects poorly on the band. I just think where we were at the time was such a struggle – I consider that time in my life to be more of a struggle – especially being in the band and making that CD.
He’s got his own like, entire style and energy unit on the kit and that definitely shined through on the album, but not enough to where I’d say it sculpted or changed our sound. I just think he was a really good, smart addition to the band, because #1 he is so talented, and #2 he has tons of great ideas. He’ll take my or Jesse’s single one-two pattern and turn it into some kind of magical drum thing, so as a musician and an artist, he was able to help us with that album.
Can you talk a little about how he came to replace Mike, and what led to his departure?
Yea, Mike Kaabe, our ex-drummer, was a good friend of ours growing up; I’ve known him for most of my life. You know, it’s just one of those things where someone gets put in a position, and they don’t really respect it, nor understand how to fully appreciate what they have. I mean, it seemed that he just thought he was bigger than the band. It’s just one of those things where attitudes like that can really bring down an entire ship, so we couldn’t really hang with that anymore. It is a shame because he really is one of the more talented people I know, but it just wasn’t working out with us as a whole. And Mark was someone who we had toured with when he was in Bury Your Dead, he became a good friend of ours, just hanging out with him, being on the road with him. We got a call, literally a couple days after word was out that we needed a new drummer, and he was just like, “Hey, I’ll play for you guys.” And it was just so funny because he was the band’s number one pick for a new drummer – like we all wanted him to join – but we were all like, nah we can’t, he’s got his own thing going on…
Yea! And then he ended up being like, “Yo, I want to play for you guys”, so we’re just like done deal. He came down to play the songs for us, and it went terrible but we didn’t even care. We’re like, don’t worry, you’re in the band haha. He really is a blessing. I think his presence in the band has helped us in so many different ways, not just the music, but just us as people and how we view each other and get along. This is definitely what the band was always meant to be. It took a while to get there, but we survived it.
So it sounds like it’s a pretty tight lineup right now…any thoughts of other additions/replacements?
No, no, no. I think we’re all really locked-in with each other, and this relationship that we have built together I think is stronger than ever now. And I really say that with confidence now. Every single day we wake up, we all still feel very blessed to be able to do this with each other. It’s awesome.
Talk a little bit about the how the songwriting process goes down.
Sometimes it’s like, my guitar players (especially Jesse) will have an entire library of riffs or parts he’s been working on, and then I’ll kind of like, compose it a certain way, or I will have a set song that I want to write, and I’ll be like, yo play this like this, and this like this and I’ll compose it that way, and then I’ll write lyrics for it. Sometimes there are lyrics that are motivating me to make a certain part a certain way. So it’s all of those things combined, and sometimes there are so many “cooks in the kitchen” so to speak with us, but we end up making something great. It all depends on what’s going to work.
So you don’t feel like there’s necessarily one leader driving the train?
Well, it’s not so much that there’s no essential leader to it, it’s just that there’s no reason for me to act like I am the only leader doing it because we all know that’s not the case. I mean, I’m an essential part, I think we all are, but what makes us a collective whole is what matters to me most. The songs that we play live, those are mostly songs that I wrote, the ones that people consider to be fan favorites – and then there are some tracks where I wasn’t the whole composer of, and those are also fan favorites. It goes both ways and I definitely give credit where it’s due, and I’m sure they would say the same thing as well. We’re all very vital to the writing process.
You recently remarked that the band has recently entered a “new realm of consciousness”. Can you elaborate?
I just think that we’ve all been very lucky to have done this for so long, and still doing it, that our behavior towards it has become so much more aware. We’re so much more open to what this could possibly become, you know? We don’t squander ourselves to this obscure world of “we’re just another heavy band”. I really think we’re more than that. I really think we have the ability to touch more people with our music than the average metal/hardcore band can. And that’s not to say any band couldn’t take it to the sky, I just think we’re doing something a little different, a little more honest than what most people are used to hearing or experiencing in heavy music.
Man. Love yourself first, that’s my message. It’s funny ‘cuz I’m 26 now, when the band started I was 16, so I really feel like all the lyrics up until now have been a coming-of-age thing, you know? It’s been like this progressional thing where I’ve been dealing with similar issues, or certain problems keep re-occuring in my life and I find ways to deal with them and work through them, and I think like any natural artist is going to have these things in life, those little mountains you climb to get to the top. And when you really think you’ve seen the summit, you’ve got another one right in front of you. That’s like my whole thing – never give up, put yourself first, and have fun. I don’t really know how else to say it.
So with all the success you and the band have seen, why are you still pissed off?
Haha. Because I think there are things that I will never be able to accept for what they are, and I think that has a lot to do with coming-of-age and getting older and, I’m still young and I’m still pissed. I’m not only angered for myself, but also I think that I serve as a monument for other people who maybe don’t have a voice, or who are frustrated about the same things that I am, or were never able to express it the same way. I consider that to be my purpose – to be able to stand in front a hundred people, a thousand people, it doesn’t matter how many people, and if they feel a connection, and they feel like they’re really there and alive, then I did my job.
So we’re still in the first month of the new year, 2013, whodathunkit. Individually, and as a band, you want to throw out some resolutions?
The resolution is to have zero fears and seriously take everything I can, the best I can, live every single moment like it’s my last, and enjoy the hell out of it. I’m really blessed and very lucky to do what I do and I think everyone in the band feels the same way. We’re out here to win it, and now’s the time to really step up and be that band that becomes – I guess you could say – that staple band of a generation almost. I mean, I think that we have survived a lot of shit that a lot of bands haven’t. I look back on tour laminates, flyers, all this shit and I’m just like, where’d all these bands go? We’re still here, and I think that says a lot about us so we’re going to hold onto that attitude and keep doing what we do to keep reaching more people.
Let’s talk a little about your side projects True Vision Management and Cold Soul.
Oh my god! Haha. What was and never was at the same time?! Haha yea…I had a stint in my life where I was interested in artist development. I wanted to take bands I thought had potential, and I wanted them to succeed. I really learned a lot from that whole thing, mostly because I’m not cut out to worry about someone else’s career. I tried. You know, worrying about the egoes of 6, 12, maybe even 18 other people in different bands is just not something I’m ready to do right now. I think I’m more interested in focusing on my own career and helping the people around me that I truly care about, and maybe one day if the opportunity comes and I can get a gig managing bands or doing artist development or even A&R [Artists & Repertoire] or whatever, I’d do it. But I think I have a long time before that’s kinda what my gig is. It’s funny that you asked me about that. I haven’t even thought about that in so long. As for Cold Soul – that’s definitely one of the more successful ventures I’ve undertaken. I have, at more than one point in my life, bit off more than I could chew, doing so many things at once but Cold Soul has genuinely been something that has kind of just like organically taken off. People are really interested in it.
I don’t like to take away money from what the band could be making. I don’t think that’s fair, you know? I’m lucky enough that people already know who I am, so if they’re interested I can tell them to get it online. That’s enough for me. There’s no reason for me to cross-pollinate those two worlds into one thing, I don’t think that’s fair to anybody.
Understood. Finally, the band has re-signed with Victory Records. What did Victory have to offer that compelled you to stay?
It was two things. It was the continuity of a relationship that was working…it’s kind of like, after four years you’ve been dating this girl, you think you’re going to break up with her, then you think, you know, things are actually kind of good, things have been working out, so you just decide – let’s go ahead and keep doing this. The continuity means that people who already bought our albums and want to buy the next one, boom VictoryRecords.com. Easy as cake. As compared to – let’s say we didn’t re-sign with Victory, we put a new album out, and 50,000 people who normally would’ve bought our album from Victory Records will have no idea. We wanted to keep it in the realm of continuity not only just for us, but also for our fans. So that was #1, #2 was the ca$$$h hahaha. Both were a big deal for us because we’re out here on the road almost completely full-time nine months out of the year so they really came correct and gave us an awesome little bonus and everything. It was cool. We only had to sign for one album, which I think is another miraculous thing. You can’t deny picking up some cash to make a record.
I would love to say that we’re going to have new music out by summer, because I think that is a crucial time for us heading into the festival season and stuff like that but I can’t guarantee. Definitely sooner than later, because it’s been far too long already and I think that we really need to get back into the groove of showing people that we have a lot to offer in music, so that’s kind of the goal.
Thanks to Jessica and Jon for setting up the interview, and a big thanks to Frankie and the rest of the band.