Music creates different reactions in different people. Different strokes to rule the world, so to speak. Heavy music is just as divided over sub genres as indie rock or electronic or rap. Some people only like death metal or prog or love or hate metalcore. Don’t even get me started on how many styles of punk people like to bicker over.
Writing is a bit more matter of fact. Stripped of the noise of guitar or screams, words alone can invite in or dissuade anyone. Whether you are a fan of singer Mike Hranica’s very popular band The Devil Wears Prada or not, I’d strongly suggest anyone read his new book Three Dots & The Guilt Machine. Order it HERE.
Mostly poetry or reflections on travel, faces met along the way or the numbing or raw feeling filled clamor of the modern world, the book is really, really good. It is probably my favorite thing Mike has actually had his name attached to, though I am a big fan of his band’s fifth record 8:18.
It was nice to have a very mellow phone chat with Mike about the five year process of making this book, wrestling with incomplete work as well as what to keep personal, the power of memory and some additional discussion of his band’s recent conceptual Space EP. Check it out BELOW.
.Hi Mike, how are you?
Mike – Good, how are you?
. Well. I’m upset I missed your Clifton Park show but I was very sick. So
probably for the best. (laughing)
Well, you know…we’ll be back around.
. Yeah, you tour hard. You don’t want to take bands for granted though. Not
that I think anything is going to happen to you guys and make you vanish.
(chuckling) Hope not.
. How’s the tour going with Motionless In White?
Good. First time playing this venue today in Pittsburgh. It’s one of my
favorite cities to play. So I’m looking forward to tonight.
. There’s a good hardcore and underground metal scene in Pittsburgh. I find
out about cool bands from there often like Slaves BC.
Yeah, I mean…not too much on my radar. I think they might be from middle PA
but I just got into a band called Full of Hell.
. Oh yeah, they’re killer.
. I’m really enjoying your newest book. I enjoy how you condensed things.
Some pieces are very short but powerful. Poetry can be harder to write because
you have to get a lot of feeling across in a short amount of space. There are
a few passages or even two sentence ones like “Back Home” in here that were
very poignant. The book took you five years? There are a few parts I want to
ask you about. What was the process like for you?
First, thank you for the kind words, most of all. It’s been about five years
in the works accumulating. Kind of speaking about the divide and seperation
between what goes into the work I’d do in “Three Dots…” as compared to
Prada, yeah…there are sort of incomplete thoughts that felt better outside
of the band. I still haven’t been able to put my finger on what creates that
separation. I have much much much much more. About 2-300 pieces all together
but I got rid of a lot of them. They didn’t finish off or feel right the way I
wanted them to. I condensed and filtered down. This is the completion of it.
Very personal work and stuff I was pretty worried to put out. Then I finally
thought ,”Ok. I’m ready to go and release this.”
.Maybe that’s healthy. You are finding time to have it gestate and have a
personal relationship with it first. Probably with song lyrics too, I’d
Yeah, most certainly. It’s …a relationship changes or feelings about a
different work can shift once it receives attention from more than just
yourself. With that I’ve kind of stepped away from this project. I did the
same thing with my other books and really all the work with the band. Once I
finish it I just kind of abandon it or rather give it out and move on.
. I think Jerry Garcia of all people said a similar thing. But it must be nice
to have closure with the material also. I want to read a part you wrote from
“I really can’t describe why I have not written this summer. In usual
circumstances I’ve jotted down a handful of ideas in a notepad: as if storing
a collection of roots in glass jars, waiting to be released from their
preservative juice and planted into what might be a respectable fixture.”
. I love that section because as a singer myself or a writer over the years,
I’ve always beaten myself up so hard for the things I didn’t finish or the
times of sort of creative quiet. It almost feels aborted or like I failed
these children, so to speak. I like how your passage feels like things waiting
to be born or grow.
It really is…that’s the way things sit with me. The notepad in my iPhone and
snippets in my notebooks, I can relate as well. You almost feel like you
abandoned them if you never finish them. I get an actual uncomfortable sense
of anxiety if I start something and never finish it, especially if it comes to
something outside the band and writing stories.
. Yeah, like the characters lives got cut short, or something. But you have to
accept, I guess, sometimes life pulls us in other directions as writers. Time
is so precious and it is hard to prioritize sometimes. It’s important to me to
write long form fiction, for example, but I end up just (laughing) blogging
about metal bands. Because no one buys records and I believe in rock n roll
and want to like actually do something helpful with short term impact. And
people’s attention spans are such shit these days. It must be nice to do
I can relate as far as music. Loyalty can be shifty as far as music. Things
move fast. As far as writing, I don’t think I’ve established my writing enough
to let people be unfaithful.
.Mmmm. You are sort of maybe still introducing that side of you. On the flip
side, maybe you can relate to this…this has happened to me a lot. I’d start
writing something and then whatever band I was in at the time and it turns
into a song instead. I’ve started so many stories that way and then am like
“God dammit. I just turned it into another stupid song again.” (laughing)
(chuckling) Really, I can be very intentional when I find it time to start
writing a Prada song. With my writing outside the band I find myself doing
that much more than like back in the day where everything I write would become
a song. Um, yeah. I think that’s the pressure or excercise of however many
full lengths we’re up to now. It can be work work to write a song. I love it
but sometimes it might not have as much of a release as writing something
outside the band can be. That feeling, it can be different…anymore. Being
ten years in.
. It’s interesting to hear you say that because maybe you write one thing for
one reason or it changes place but, being that you are in a popular band,
you’d think your music would be digested by more people than perhaps your
writing. I mean, I don’t know what your book sales have been.
Yeah, most certainly. I haven’t really felt that pressure. The fact that
writing something is going to be read by less people outside of music. I think
writing outside of music also lends more attention to the writing. Um, I’d be
lying if I said I wasn’t offended from time to time over the years from people
not paying “enough” attention to the lyrics or certain thoughts not hitting as
hard as I’d have liked.
. Well, that’s human, too. I get it.
.I guess I retract or rather to restate better, just because something isn’t
as popular as your biggest song or whatever, that doesn’t mean it can’t feel
good or cathartic to articulate or get on paper. Thoughts are so slippery,
God. You can go to write something and in the minute it takes to write a
sentence you can already have had ten more thoughts. It must be cool to get it
down in any form.
Most certainly. And it’s also, I hate to use the word exercise again, but it
changes when you play a song however many hundreds and hundreds of times. Um,
a lot of the times I feel like the meaning can sort of evaporate or become
less meaningful when it’s being performed all the time. Even if you don’t want
it to, on those days.
.Yeah, and you don’t want to sell the song short or what it can mean to fans
who have their own relationship to it. Sure.
Yeah, and you gotta get up and do it even if you aren’t feeling well or like
performing that day.
.Or the flipside where you have maybe done it and gotten a bit numb from
playing a song a lot then it kind of roars back and you reconnect to it
someday. That’s gotta be awesome when it has happened for you, I’d imagine,
Yeah, most certainly. Some of my favorite Prada songs are slower songs or…we
haven’t performed the songs “8:18″ or “Chicago” in a long time. We actuallu
very intentionally retired “Chicago”. If we were to play it again, it would be
very, very cathartic without doubt.
.Right on. Speaking of cathartic…there’s a lot of sense of travel or
loneliness in the book. Or wrestling with maybe confidence? I like that. I
really liked a part you are talking about high school in a portion called 48
hours and compare foolish mistakes to “drowning in a deep pool of killer
wales”. Such an awesome, cohesive image for that psychotic growth or creative
energy, social pressure, hormones or even danger you can feel at that age. You
don’t know maybe where your future is headed. Everything is changing. But I
love also you said that … “Things often seem to crack down to not knowing
what to do and in that there is the inevitable demise of something we all
cherish.” I look back at some of the crazy shit in high school…I used to do
heroin. Stuff I would NEVER do now. And I wonder how that became my youth?
Where’d the glory go? I don’t want to talk to much about myself, but that
passage really hit me.
Yeah, that was actually something before editing and so much revision. It was
to much that I revealed and I ended up deleting a bit of it. I was very shy in
school and waiting to get out, to be abrupt. Thinking of those dreams back
then, I think I wrote about a dream I had in the book of dancing with the
popular girl in school. It’s funny those tiny, tiny little stems of thoughts
that even if they meant nothing or were just a bit of nonsense, they still
resonate. That dream about drowning in a pool of wales, which was real…it
still rushes up in me with such an impact. And yeah, I’m happy you liked it.
Thanks again for the kind words, but yeah…that’s the vivid recall that can
happen with certain things.
.Isn’t it weird how the brain can make certain memories or images into almost
archetypes? Think of like the white horse in Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 or
Salvador Dali’s idea of symbolism. You can recall some things and have to
dredge for memories a bit more but other memories are like spikes or the
bullet points of life , childhood or adulthood. I have some memories that
really jump out in pictures like being on the beach with my dad and my sister
Cambria as a kid or a broken window on a car or a face of someone during a bad
argument. Know what I mean?
Yeah, definitely. I think that’s what I was getting at with the recollection
of the dream.
.Was it hard to pick or choose for the parts of the book from touring life and
the band that you included? It doesn’t overpower the rest of the book but you
get a sense of the travel. Or that things are on the move. There’s one at an
airport about seeing girls and faces staying the same, I believe.
Yeah, yeah. That has a lot of meaning to me personally as far as how travel
has changed a lot for me compared to what it meant in the past. Youthful and
energized and hopeful and bright as compared to now where it can feel honestly
scary or too much. That’s a thing or emotion the book leads too a lot. Things
being too much. But yeah, I wanted to try and capture some of those feelings
that happen all the time with tour and jot down the anxiety I deal with. How
that reveals itself when you’re living that life bouncing around a lot and
without a home that is considered more ordinary.
.You mentioned you are shy or were. And you get on stage and share energy.
Maybe people are fans or giving it back and there is a feedback loop. On a
good night. The adrenaline release or vulnerability of being in front of
people. And then contrast that to the sort of whitewash of travel…did you
really write the Space EP because you are ready for Star Trek teleporters
(chuckling) Uhhh, no.
.I don’t know why that popped in my head. It can be a lot to give so much
energy on stage.
It might not be super predominant in the book, but the physical repercussions
of tour are becoming more on the surface. I feel like I’m getting old.
.Dude, get those omega 3′s or eat coconut oil to lube up the joints. Cuz I’m
37 and my ankles hurt, dawg (laughing). Thanks for your time today. I wanted
to ask you about Space briefly. My only main critique was that I wanted it to
be longer. I felt like the concept was just getting there and I was ready for
Yeah. I went and saw The Martian the other day and thought ,”well, I could
write another EP now.” (laughing) This is a cruel thing to say but I would
rather give not enough that too much.
.Well, a lot of bands want to do a headlining tour and then they overplay and
aren’t as popular after awhile (laughing).
Right. It’s good to build anticipation and generally as well, we were just
writing some short songs. “Alien”, for example. Without Chris in the band and
Kyle and I’s tastes, I can say that we are gonna continually pursuing sort
songs. Which I’m pumped about. I love short songs.
.Yeah, it’s a great short burst of energy. Also wanted to say that I was
watching Suicide Silence’s new live “Sacred Words” video today and then was
leading up to this interview with you and…it’s cool to see a next generation
of hard working bands that have kind of, those of us who follow the scene have
seen you sort of develop into your own thing before our eyes over the years
and pull more people into the scene. Maybe it will never be as big as Kiss or
Metallica but you can affect a lot of people. That kind of goes with the
pioneer adventure spirit of Space to me. Has it been an insane ten years?
There are expectations. I can’t say I don’t have expectations when we make
something like Space. Not getting to arena status. We never had those
expectations. Any musician can strive for that. As we get older and are
continually confronted with the status of our band. It only makes things more
honest. That’s how it’s gonna be forever. I never had any doubts but am only
getting more certain of how honesty is important to us. The furthest we’ll go
is maybe bring out shitty bands on our bill we really don’t want to, but you
have to pay the mortgage (laughing).
. (cracking up) That’s really funny. At the same time, maybe coming from a
more humble place but still having ambition, it might protect what you have.
Some bands overshoot their mark or blow cash and make poor choices.
Yeah, I mean…if the creative process and being in a band is so driven on
business and “making it”, I think it is inevitable to ot be as truthful and
honest as what I strive for, personally.