So it’s no secret that a couple of us here at Metal Riot were able to visit the biggest and best metal festival in the world recently. Yes, I’m talking about Wacken Open Air silly. Well, while we were there we got to spend a little time with John Henry (not the steel driving man) the lead singer of the one and only Darkest Hour. We brought him a little whiskey and he was kind enough to sit down for a super candid interview. So if you ever wanted to talk shit (literally) with the man himself here is your chance to see what it would be like. So please click right here to read on, and enjoy yourself.
So this is your first Wacken Ope Air correct?
Yeah, this is the first one. We’ve been trying to do it forever and we finally got the offer and were like, “Fuck yeah.”
What’s your impression of the whole thing so far compared to other festivals you guys have played?
Well it’s fucking huge first of all. We’ve played some big ones before. We played like download and fuck I don’t know…Hellfest, we just did Hellfest and that was pretty huge too. But yeah, we actually haven’t really gotten to walk around the main area yet since we just got here like an hour ago.
Yeah, yeah. We’re playing at 2:30 or 2:55 maybe, so we’re playing early which is good because then we’ll be done at like 3:30 and then well drink this whole thing haha (pointing to the bottle of whisky we brought for the band). We’ll drink this entire bottle in probably like 20 minutes haha.
That’s awesome. We actually had to try and stay slightly sober since we had to do this interview haha.
Yeah, we’ll just do pass it around until it’s gone style.
Hey that’s what friends do.
Right, if there’s like 6 or 7 of us then we should be able to knock it out pretty quick. And then, we’re gonna run around like idiots.
Awesome. Are you guys planning on seeing the sights and checking out the grounds?
I mean yeah, we pretty much just wanna run around and see the craziness you know.
I know you guys have played Germany before and one problem I’ve found with being over here is trying to score weed. Have you run into the same problems at all?
Haha! Well I guess we have a little bit leftover, but you know, we’re looking too.
Yeah it’s funny, we met some kid last night smoking splits and he hooked me up with a little nug.
Oh man I hate that shit, mixing it with tobacco.
Yeah, me too man. I offered to pay him but he said no and told me to roll it into a joint because he had never seen someone smoke a straight up joint before. So he smoked his spliff while I smoked a joint to my head.
Haha! Yeah, I don’t smoke tobacco so I totally understand.
Since we’ve been coming here we’ve noticed the atmosphere seems totally different than in the US, just the fact that you can have a show with almost 100,000 people and there’s no fights and everybody gets along…
Well yeah, there’s been some…well you know even in America we don’t have too many fights at our shows. We used to have a lot more fights at our shows back in the day but we haven’t seen too many lately. I mean you never see any over here but people just seem so much less violent over here in general. Metal’s just a much more accepted thing. There’s also something like 20 gun murders in Germany a year you know. People are just here to have fun so it’s cool.
How do you feel about the female presence over here? We’ve noticed much more girls into metal over here as opposed to the states.
Yeah dude, the last two shows it was like almost all girls in the front row. It was awesome.
Yeah, they’re hot girls too haha.
Yeah I’m totally into it haha.
We’ve had to master the clock system so we don’t get caught staring
The security too seems a lot better over here. Two years ago I was standing on a picnic table getting hammered with a ton of like 50 year old Germans screaming along to Maiden and it was fine. I was always expecting to get tackled by a bouncer in the back of my mind though.
Yeah it’s awesome man. It seems that the bouncers in Europe are actually here to do their job which is to keep shit from happening you know. Where as American bouncers a lot of times are just like looking for a reason to bust some heads.
People seem to self regulate here too. I don’t think they want to ruin it. So I know you said you’re going to mingle a little later, but is this European tour pretty much strictly work or do you get to go out and have fun when you want?
You know, we don’t really get to go out that often or get to see too much, but we’ll usually try and make a point of it if we know we’re gonna have some time and are a relatively short drive from somewhere we want to see or go. A lot of times we’ll just go and walk to the city center or walk around and see all the old shit. Maybe go out drinking in a local place.
Are there any bands you’re looking forward to seeing while you’re here?
Umm…I definitely want to see Insomnium but they’re playing at like 1 am so I’m either going to be super drunk, or will have gotten super drunk, passed out, woken up and got super drunk again…so you know.
Exactly. So this is a little more serious, but what do you think about the whole Randy Blythe situation?
Well, I don’t really know. I don’t exactly know what to think, I haven’t really been keeping up on the Internet or news and it’s hard to say what’s actually going on. Plus I don’t really want to base my opinion on what’s on the Internet. All I can say is that I feel for him and I’ve been in situations before where if there’s been a kid on stage who’s been up there too long I’m like, “Alright you’re outta here,” you know? Now I’m thinking, “Fuck that could have been me.” It’s pretty scary man.
So has it made you think twice or worry at all during your shows?
I don’t know. Last night I did jump into the crowd so apparently I’ve learned nothing haha. Yeah you know, I feel for the dude and hopefully he gets out soon. It’s just unfortunate for everyone.
It really is because it adds to the stigma that metal already has at times.
Right, there’s just nothing good going on in that situation. It’s pretty brutal man, it’s nuts.
On a lighter note, What are your bathrooms like?
Yeah, clearly you haven’t been to the fairgrounds yet but it’s just straight up awful.
Oh. Well we have porta potties in the back stage area but they’re probably…I don’t know what time is it?
Haha. Yeah ours are pretty much the same. Halfway through the first day there was just shit all over the insides of them.
Gnarly. You’re better off just grabbing a roll of toilet paper and heading in the woods man.
But there’s no woods! We’ve stamped it all down.
It’s alright, I can shit outside. I’ve done it like that a few times.
Like find a tree and lean up on it?
Yeah, yeah. You just like find a tree and back up on it. I did it in Australia one time. We were driving for like five hours not seeing anything you know so I got out and a guy was like, “Hey make sure a snake don’t bite your balls.” (in John’s best Australian accent) I was laughing like, “Oh yeah that’s funny!” and he was like, “No. Really mate, they’ll see them and think it’s like an egg or something.” (also in John’s best Australian accent) I was like, “Oh great that sucks,” and got all nervous. So I’m all looking around trying to make sure there’s no snakes that can bite my balls.
I would just shit myself. I used to work construction with a friend of mine and he was a big dude. Like 6’6″ and he fell in his shit when a tree he was holding onto snapped in half. He had shit from his ankles to his neck. Funny part is that it was the second tree that snapped and the first time he hadn’t started shitting yet. We couldn’t go anywhere so he just had to clean himself up the best he could with his shirt.
Oh no! That’s horrible! Just terrible!
So you guys got a couple new members this year and another one back in 2008, how is the chemistry going?
It’s fantastic. We’re a well functioning healthy unit. Everyone is happy it’s awesome.
Great! Is it a little tough when you start out with new members getting everyone up to speed on the material for the live shows?
No, we really just made sure that the guys we got knew what they were doing. We knew that they could handle it. We went to HS with Aaron the bass player and Tim the guy who’s playing drums we’ve known a long time. He used to play in a band called Dead To Fall that we used to tour with like 6 years ago or something. Good dudes, holding it down.
So you’ve worked with the guitarist from Soilwork in the past how was that?
Right yeah, he worked with us on our last record and was really great. E specially working with the guitarists he was really good. He’s a sick shredder so it worked out well, he definitely had a lot of sick input in that department.
Any plans to work with him again?
I don’t know, we like to change it up and move onto new guys to work with. Plus now Mike produces bands too so the next record will probably be like a mix up of different people with us doing a lot of stuff ourselves.
Obviously your sound has evolved a ton over the years, you’ve moved from some more hardcore stuff to more melodic stuff. Being from DC how much of an influence did the whole DC hardcore/punk scene have on you guys?
Definitely a huge one. I mean I got into music through punk and stuff. First really through like Nirvana and then into the more hardcore punk stuff like Minor Threat and Bad Brains and all that kind of shit. It definitely had a huge impact on our lives. Not so much in the sound of DH but in the way that we’ve always run things. We’ve always tried to be somewhat ethical or as much as we can be. Were not totally DIY, we have managers that help us out and that kind of thing, but I definitely think it helped shape who we are as a band though. It really helped shape a lot of the whole music scene in general too and it’s cool to be from an are that has a history like that too.
Yeah, I grew up around Boston so it was pretty much the same thing.
Yeah, exactly. Do you still live there?
I’m like 10 minutes north now, but I spent the last 10 years in Portland, Maine and New Hampshire.
Oh man, Portland is a cool city, it’s like totally bricks everywhere right?
Yeah it is. The scene’s alright too. There’s a lot of good shows and you can walk the whole city in no time.
Alright, so pegasus or unicorn?
Umm…I guess I would have to say pegasus because he can fly. I’d rather be able to fly than be able to stab stuff
Right, you can defend yourself with a horn but if you need to get out of a situation…
You can just fly away.
You could also tape a horn to your head.
Haha, yeah definitely a pegasus.
This is a little random, but you’re on the road eating shitty food and drinking all the time, have you ever shit yourself on stage or had an emergency?
I’ve had a couple like wet farts but never full on shit myself. There’s been a couple times where after the show where I’ve had to throw my undies out. I do know guys who have shit themselves though. While singing specifically because you’re clenching up and flexing trying to scream.
I could see it happening to Corpsegrinder.
I’ve had a few bad ones at work because I was on the road all the time.
Lonestar our guitar player, he’s shit himself at Best Buy two different times.
The deals are that good?
Haha! So he has a song that goes, “I shit my pants at the Best Buy…” (sung slightly melodically) and there’s some other weird stuff in there I can’t remember.
You’re not gonna get in trouble for saying that are you?
No, no. I don’t give a fuck. There’s another thing. What was the other shitting his pants thing…fuck I don’t know. Shitting your pants at Best Buy is good enough I guess.
If you’re a man you’ve done it and you should be able to admit it.
Pretty much, it does happen. Oh right, there was the time Lonestar almost shit himself on the tour bus. We were driving to a show in Belgium I think and we were in stop and go traffic. So, Lonestar had to shit real bad and you can’t shit on the tour bus. It’s like the rule. So he’s like, “Fuck what am i gonna do I’m gonna shit myself.” So I told him to grab a bag, you know shit in the bag. So he takes the bag in the bathroom and shits in it. He comes out and the bus just wreaks of shit because he’s holding this bag. So we’re like, “Dude get rid of the fucking bag! Fucking throw it out!” So he’s like, “Alright cool,” and he hits the door and it slides open. We’re going at like 5mph and he just tosses the fucking bag out and as he does, this cop on a motorcycle goes right past us and the bag goes right past his head. He was like maybe a foot away from hitting this cop in the face with a fucking bag of shit! So the cop throws on the blues and pulls the bus over and is like, “What the fuck what are you doing, what are you doing?” in broken english or whatever. So, Lonestar is just like, “I’m sorry, I just really had to go to the bathroom.” So the cop is like, “Are you serious?” When he realized he almost got shit on his face and was just like, “Get the fuck out of here!”
Thats fucking hilarious!
He did issue him a ticket for like 50 euros which is not bad for throwing a bag of shit at a cop!
Seriously! Do that in the states and it would have probably ended a lot worse.
Yeah he probably would have gotten his ass kicked.
Who would have thought a question about shitting your pants would evoke so much response?
Hey everyone loves talking about shit
It’s true. I used to be on the road and the back of my truck was closed in so we’d shit in buckets or boxes or whatever. It was cool because you could climb over the seats and into the back. But one day I had to go bad and when I went to push myself up off the seat I shit all over myself. I had no change of clothes and had to go back and walk through the shop. It was bad.
Do you guys have day jobs at this point or are you just living off metal?
Sometimes some of the guys do. Some of us do different shit on our downtime, but we haven’t had that much downtime lately. If we’re home for like a few months you know. Like Mike does production and I started recording singers. I live out in LA now so I’ll do that at times. I don’t have like a real day job though.
Now you and Mike used to be bike messengers for a while correct?
Yeah, for a long time. That was nuts. It was awesome though, it was a good way to get a feel for a city
You’ve had your fair share of trouble with the law and the FBI at times right?
Yeah, one time we were doing a photo shoot under a bridge and Homeland Security rolled up and were like, “This is a soft target,” and we were like, “Ok whatever we’ll get out of here sure.” So you know we’ve had a couple run ins with 5-0 here and there. Fuck the police. Fuck all them.
Haha! Nice. (John is fondling the bottle we gave him) We definitely weren’t supposed to bring that in.
What you should try is what I always do. Always just walk fast and like you own the place or mumble stuff about not having time to talk.
Yeah, at work I used to walk fast with a clipboard and try to look pissed. Worked every time.
Yeah a clipboard will get you anywhere.
Definitely. You guys excited for tonight?
Stoked, we’re playing in like two hours so hopefully well see you out there.
So that’s it. Hope you enjoyed yourselves, and if you haven’t seen our exclusive Wacken coverage part 1 or part 2 please check it out. Plus don’t forget about our exclusive Wacken interview with Warbringer!