Few things in life are unforgettable. The first day of high school. Your first kiss. Your first stage dive. Wait…what? Yeah, I said it. I’ll never forget that first fantastic lift off into the crowd with Australia’s mega metalcore quintet Parkway Drive at my back. As I was talking with their singer, Winston McCall, later backstage, he told me he has “always been a fan of the stage dive.” I felt I did him proud and true, and now as my bones ache Winston, I think of you.
He and I had a great chat in the backyard of The Beaumont Club in Kansas City, Missouri after their set. We covered such niceties as winning an ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) award and having your idol on your new record. Winston talked to me about writing and recording for the newest album, “Deep Blue,” and how they really wanted to “be themselves” and “make a record that sounded like us.”
Click here to read the full interview.
First of all, congrats on winning an ARIA. That’s big news dude. From what I read, that’s the first one you got.
Yup it is. It’s pretty weird for a band that sounds like us to win any sort of award, let alone that thing. Yeah, I have an award. I have a legitimate award for what you just saw. (Laughs). How does that compute? Doesn’t really work.
Was there any sort of acceptance speech or a suit and tie?
(Laughs) No. It was me being in my bunk on a bus in Germany getting a text message from our manager. I think I acknowledged it for possibly about three seconds and then went back to sleep.
Sounds like heavy metal here in American music awards. How are you liking the tour?
Loving the tour. You can’t really play a show like that and then come out and say “aw, that sucks”. That was mental! I know I saw this every time, but this is the best tour of North America we’ve done.
How have the fans been into it?
The fans have been insane. It’s great cause we have been able to play a bunch of venues that don’t have crowd control barriers, which means they can stage dive, and it seems people take the opportunity to do that which is nice. I’m a fan of the stage dive (laughs).
How do you compare American fans to your Australian fans?
Back in the day I would have said Australian fans are way crazier, just because it’s our hometown, home country or whatever. But if you compare this tour with anything in Australia, it’s pretty much on par. It’s absolutely insane. I’m not saying anywhere sucks, but I can’t believe the amount of support people put behind this band.
No doubt. I got in contact with a girl from our sister site in Australia and she was just blown away at how far you guys have come and how big you are.
Well, so are we! I mean, we’re from Australia! We’re halfway on the other side of the world. It’s ridiculous.
There was some collaboration on the new album. [Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion - backup vocals on "Home Is for the Heartless" and Marshall Lichtenwaldt of The Warriors - vocals on "Hollow"]
We had Brett, and Marshall from The Warriors . They’ve both got difficult hard names, but they’re both friends so they wont mind me saying it. Yeah, we had them.
How did you get in contact with them? How did they end up on this new record with you?
Virtually, the first one came about, Brett, being the owner of our label in the States, Epitaph, and also plays guitar in our favorite band in the world, Bad Religion. Um, when we wrote the song and had the idea for the part and as you can hear, it doesn’t really sound like us and we thought “maybe we can get Brett to do it.” Seemed like a really odd idea cause he’s been doing thing for like 30 years. Let’s see if he has time for this. He actually gave a fuck and did such an amazing job on the song. I’m still blown away to this day that he’s on the record. So, yeah. That’s how that one came about, just pure us asking and a guy being that nice to do it.
That’s a pretty big deal for someone with a name like Bad Religion to come and step in. You guys probably grew up being like, “this guy is awesome!”
That’s it! That’s exactly it. Bad Religion has been my favorite band since I was like 12 and the same for like three other guys in the band.
It’s probably completely flattering.
Yeah dude, it is. And like when he said he’d do it we expected him to be “aw oh” and he was completely psyched to do the track. He nailed it! We were like “How is this guy excited to do our stuff?” It’s amazing. He’s a legend.
Marshall came about, he sings for a band called The Warriors and they were actually the first band to bring us out to the States. They started us touring the States. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have anything and the gear you see us using tonight and the rest of the tour is all their gear. They still lend us all their stuff when we come over.
Oh, well that’s nice.
Yeah, legends. Like best friends. Amazing. I’ve been a fan of their music and them as people in general for a long long time and when we wrote that part on “Hollow” we though “man, Marshall would kill this” he has such a unique personality and way he uses his vocals. I couldn’t do it as well a he could. It’d be just great to be able to share that track with our friends. We kind of traded off. He did that track and then said “I’ll do this track if you do one on our new one,” which just came out on their new one just the other day. So yeah, we traded.
“Feed Them to the Pigs” from the last CD, “Horizons”, can you shed some light on that one please?
It was the first time we wrote a simple song. It was like the second song we ever wrote for “Horizons.” We thought “lets just make a song that starts out fast, like a punch in the face, and ends just as quickly as it started.” There is no room to breathe. It’s just fast, heavy, fast, heavy. Done. That’s pretty much it. That’s the whole idea of the song. Pissed, but that’s how I write everything.
“Karma,” from the new CD, “Deep Blue,” really spoke to me. It just seems like there is some real toil, trial, tribulations and getting through the hard stuff that makes life tough but in the end it’s going to be ok.
I think you pretty much nailed it. It’s not so much everything is going to be ok as it is about not laying down and saying “ok world, walk all over me. There’s nothing I can do.” It’s a song about not giving up. The reality of it is, we live in a world that is so far from perfect there is no one in this world that lives without trial. I think every single person can relate to actually having to stand up and engage and fight for something they want, whether small or large.
So with a show like tonight and tomorrow and the next, what do you do to prepare?
(Laughs) You’re going to hate me when I say this, but nothing.
The vocals come pretty natural to me these days which is really, really nice. I do lose it every now and then. I’ve kind of got a gruff voice now, we had a bit of a dust leak in the van so I had a throat coated in mud, so that ran it raw a bit. I just try to be energized and them I’m jelly-legs after the first thirty seconds.
What other tricks did you guys use on “Deep Blue?”
Actually you know, we didn’t actually pull a lot of tricks, we just used a lot of different techniques. I think the whole idea behind the album was to leave the tricks behind. There is so much now that can be done with just a computer. The idea was that so many bands these days use so many tricks and you see them live it sounds nothing like them. We wanted to make a record that sounds like us. Everything we do, let’s actually do it, not just let a computer do it. As far as the mics and stuff go, when it sounds like the room was mic’d, the room was mic’d. I was just standing in a room yelling at the walls to see which way it would bounce off. There was so many different mic and amp combinations, so many things I never even thought of cause of Joe.
Joe Barresi, that guy has a laundry list of awesome after awesome band. Tell me more about working with him.
Yeah, Genius. Class act. There is a reason so many bands have worked with him cause he’s damn good at what he does and he gets you. We went into this record wanting to do something a little different, as you can tell from the sound and everything, and we explained it to him he said “yep, I know what you’re trying to do and here’s the tools you need to do it.” “Whatever gear you need, whatever sound you want, I’ll show you the combinations to get the sounds.” It basically went from there. He was instrumental to this album.
How about three words to sum up Parkway Drive?
(Laughs). After a show like that, you’re looking at five idiots from a small town in Australia somehow causing a prison riot in a small club. Definitely lucky.