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Interview with Billy Howerdel of Ashes Divide

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Q:  When growing up in New Jersey, what is your fondest memory music wise as a kid growing up? Like a show you went to or something like that.

A: The more I think about the limitation of growing up in a small town, it’s just that- it’s a limitation, you don’t have constant access to things. Even something as simple as getting to the record store – it was such a huge task that it became part of the journey in music appreciation, unlike growing up in a big city or like having the internet now where everything is at your fingertips. There is something special about having one record and really digesting it. It becomes the soundtrack to a moment in time, and that moment can then last for a long time. It was just part of small-town living.

Q: What was the first show you went to and first album you owned?

A: The first album I bought with my own money was “The Cars” first record, on vinyl. The first concert I went to was Elvis Costello, at Asbury Park in New Jersey.

Q: What experience being a tech was the best personally and professionally for you?

A: Definitely Nine Inch Nails, “The Downward Spiral Tour”.  That tour was so crazy on stage and you never knew what was going to happen. All of us working as techs on that tour had to come up with a community plan to fill-in for someone having trouble during different times of the show- whether it was picking up bloody pieces of keyboard parts or having a speaker cabinet fall on their head because they were in a bad spot- every night was different and dynamic, but at the end of every day, we all felt like we had accomplished something. It wasn’t just about making sure things worked, it was making sure we all got out of there alive.

Q: Was forming the band A Perfect Circle harder or easier than Ashes Divide?

A: Easier. Just by having Maynard involved, with his fame and resume behind him but also just having someone creative like him to bounce ideas off of. I still get feedback from friends, but it’s mostly me helming the ship now and it’s a lot of work at times buts it’s the most rewarding thing professionally I’ve done to date.

Q: When and how did the idea for Ashes Divide come up?

A: I’ve always wanted to be a part of a band where I was singing or doing a solo project, but the solidified idea was born in 2003-2004 when we were out on the road with APC on the 13th Step Tour. Maynard was always pushing me to sing, and after the 13th Step Tour he was going to be doing a new Tool record and then Puscifer, and that just gave me the window of opportunity to bring ASHES dIVIDE to life. We didn’t know when we were going to reconvene with APC anyway, we had no confirmed plans. APC was coming out of a record contract, and it just seemed like the perfect time to do ASHES dIVIDE. And now it’s been years in the making, and it just feels like it’s always been here as an entity but now the touring part is brand new and fresh. We have been out on the road for a month now, but it still feels like we have a long way ahead of us.

Q: What kind of influences have you drawn from in the past?

A: The music I have always been influenced by was British new-wave and alternative music in the truest sense of the word, like The Cure and Pink Floyd and others. That was always musically where I felt the creative spark. And then working as a tech for so long, you just get the bug- you kind of become immersed in this business, it can take you in a lot of different directions. Some people get caught in the depths of drugs and getting side-tracked with the nonsense that comes along with it, but if you get shown the right way or if you have friends that can take care of you , there is a way to survive it and come out alive. I have always been very lucky to be at the right place at the right time with people that I’ve been around.

Q: Personally, what is your favorite track of the new album?

A: I have always narrowed it down to two: “Sword” and “Too Late”, but if I had to pick one I would pick “Sword”. I can play that song to almost anyone and feel proud of it- whether it’s your mother’s friend or your too-cool friend from the too-cool part of town, normally you might play two different songs, but with “Sword” I think I can play for either person and feel strongly about where I was coming from.

Q: Why was “The Stone” chosen for the first single?

A: I don’t really pick the single, I can obviously override the choice, but I usually leave it up to the record company or management. I think I am just too close to the music, like most musicians are. During APC, Maynard and I were almost convinced “3 Libras” was going to be the first single, but it took a lot of convincing for us to go with “Judith” for the first track. With ASHES dIVIDE, I didn’t know which song was going to be the single. I usually just float down the stream with that side of the business.

Q: How much fun was it to film the video for the single?

A: It was great. Paul Brown was amazing and very easy to work with. He was kind of up for anything, and was able to pull off a lot with very little. It wasn’t a long shoot, he did all the post-production himself and really took some very loose descriptions from me and transformed them into a living 2D world that came out really cool.

Q: How do you prepare for a tour right before or after your album(s) hits stores?

A: Preparation for the tour started in December trying to find band members, as well as programming guitar sounds and keyboard sounds, and trying to figure out how all the textures and nuances from the record were going to be translated in the live show and that’s what takes the most amount of time. So once I had the band in place, I had a good month of rehearsals with the guys- Andy Gerold on guitar, Jeff Friedl on drums, Matt McJunkins on bass, and then we brought on Adam Monroe on keyboards for the remaining three weeks, and then tightened everything up from there. It all really doesn’t take place until you hit the stage with the people in front of you, with the energy, and then you feed off everyone in the crowd.

Q: Are there special rituals that you go though before you hit the stage?

A: I do a bit of vocal warm-up before sound checking and getting on the stage. I’m not one for being ready too far in advance. I’m usually getting ready seconds before the emcee is announcing us at a festival show and then I rush to the stage.

Q: How psyched are you to be playing on the Projekt Revolution tour?

A: I am really looking forward to that whole tour. I think it will be a really fun time. I have heard from other people that have been on that tour before that it’s a really good time. It feels like this is almost the second launching pad of this whole campaign for the record coming out and going on tour and then starting Projekt Rev, it’s just the next wave of what we are doing. For some reason, it feels like the start of something very new.

Q: Will you be playing any others songs that just Ashes Divide stuff?

A: Yeah, we are doing one cover song right now. That song has been growing, but I guess you will have to come to the live show to find out which song it is. We might do different things throughout the year.

Q: Are you guys involved with the internet at all? Like the website or your MySpace page?

A: Yeah, we are on the MySpace page quite a bit. And we have our website- that we are getting more involved with everyday. And we are trying to find some interesting content to put on there every few days.

Q: What is your favorite combination of food and beverage? Like pizza and a beer…

A: Steaz energy drink and a triple decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Q: With all of the comic book movies coming out, which is your favorite? Spiderman, Hulk, the new Iron Man, ect…

A: I think Chris Nolan’s “Batman” was one of the best movies in recent time. I think it is probably difficult to take a comic book story and make it err on the side of dark and serious and I think he did the best he could do with that.

Q: What’s in your CD player right now?

A: A live show from ASHES dIVIDE from our last tour that I just mixed.

Q: Okay, this is the last one and I always finish it up with this one. If you can share the stage with anyone ever, who would it be and why?

A: I think it would probably be The Cure. That band had such a dramatic impact on me, just as a fan of music I just have been lost in so many records by that band. To share the stage with The Cure would be a real highlight of my musical career.

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