Normally this is where the intro goes, but if you’ve read any of my past interviews with Art of Dying frontman Jonny Hetherington, you already know there’s no room for extra words. Grab a beer and make sure you’ve walked the dogs, because when Jonny and I talk about their PledgeMusic campaign, the new “Torn Down” video, and Shiprocked, we lose track of time.
Shockwave Magazine: I feel like at this point we’re almost friends, Jonny, because I talk to you all the time.
Jonny Hetherington: I know, it’s great, right?
Anytime you guys have something going on, we’re on board, and you always have something going on. You and I talked at the end of August/beginning of September, just before you released Nevermore, your very successful six-song EP that led into a very successful tour, which I believe is done now. Am I right?
Yeah, it was quite the little whirlwind releasing new music and touring new music all in a few months. It was great.
You didn’t come near me, but I understand it was amazing.
Yeah, we had a blast. We want to go everywhere, of course, but this was 40 shows in seven weeks. So, it was a pretty mad pace and we tried to cover as much ground as we could.
Yeah, we took those two bands and then we had local openers pretty much wherever we went. It was great. Cool blend of music, nice good people, good bands.
I have worn out Nevermore, so let’s jump into this new project. You are crowd sourcing for the new project coming next year.
Yeah, we just launched — well, actually it’s halfway through right now — our PledgeMusic Campaign, which is brand new to us. It’s a crazy little progression from how the music business has changed and kind of evolved over the last decade. We’ve been on labels, and major labels, and we’ve been independent, obviously in the beginning, and we’re back to being independent now. I think it’s just an amazing time to have the fans that love the music and want to hear more music have the opportunity to help us make the music, but also be involved in new ways. So, through the PledgeMusic campaign we started a fantasy label, so there’s a couple of label positions like A&R, and President, and things like that, where you can be really super involved in what we’re doing, if you wanna be. And then, there’s some gear and some memorabilia that we’ve never released before. If you’ve never done this PledgeMusic or crowd funding thing before, it’s really simply just preordering the actual album, so that instead of waiting until it’s done and buying it, you’re buying it ahead of time so you can help us make it through the preorders. So we’re doing some exciting stuff, like, we’re actually releasing it on vinyl for the first time. We’ve had tons of fans wanting vinyl over the years, and this is one of the real advantages of being independent and making your own decisions, we’re able to do that now.
A lot of bands have turned to PledgeMusic and crowd sourcing, but what you’re doing, I think, is a little bit more unique in terms of the fantasy label positions. You’re not just offering your memorabilia or the CD ahead of time. You’re actually bringing your fan base in to be a part of the process.
Yeah, and there’s multiple levels that you can get in on. One of them is really simple; it’s just getting your name in the actual liner notes of the record, just to say that you were a contributor and you helped make this. That’s one way you can do it. There’s a Junior Label position, where basically you would become a fly on the wall with a major conversation between us and our managers, or us and our producer. It would be a conference call, and you’d be on it, and you’d kind of get to see how all that goes down. And then of course, you’d be on the record as a contributor, and we’re going to make up some really cool commemorative gold records for the fantasy label staff. So, it’s just kind of that whole thing where you can hang a gold record in your office and really get involved in helping us make a record. The President of the label will be actually flown out to the studio, and this is where you really will discover what it’s like. You would be involved in the recording session. You would see the blood and tears session with us, and our producer, and the whole thing. We’ve thought of our fans, really thought of them. They’ve always been really supportive, and now that we’re independent we almost really think of our fans as our label now because their support is what contributes to our ability to fund a record and fund a marketing of a record. It’s kind of exciting. In many ways, it’s the way it should be. The users, the listeners are the people that actually are contributing to the creation.
Have you ever run into a situation with songs where the song you thought everyone would like is overlooked, while the “one-off” or song you didn’t expect to hit is the one people gravitate to? Is that kind of your thought process in going about this fantasy label and record position that you’re offering to your fans?
It’s funny when you look back on how you selected songs for records. It always seems obvious to the public, and that’s one of the things you would learn if you got involved at this level. I’ll go back to my notes for our Warner Brother’s record Vices and Virtues, and “Die Trying” almost didn’t make the record [laughs].
I go back into our notes and actually — you know, we were a five-piece at that point — and I have pages of notes where it’s like everyone voted for their top 20 songs when we were about to go into the studio. And I remember seeing “Die Trying” on numerous peoples’ lists in the band that were above the 12 songs. So it was kind of like, “Oh yeah, ‘Die Trying’ is my sixteenth favorite, but I really want these 14 ahead of that.” And then, to go and make the record we recorded 14 songs in LA, so the 15th would have not made it on. So it’s just really interesting.
I think “Paradise” off the new record is that song, where it was kind of never a front runner, and never a song that any of us were putting as our number one. Now that it’s on the record our fans have been able to hear it and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from some friends in the industry, and friends in other bands even, “Paradise” is poking its head out as a song that people think is really different than the others. It’s kind of unique how these things come up over the years and it’s actually really fun to look back. When you’re involved in it, give it some time you know four or five years down the road, and think, “Wow, I can’t believe we made that choice because that would have never happened,” you know?
That song is synonymous with Art of Dying. If I asked your fans for their top five, you know that one would be in there. That’s really interesting to think what that project would have been like without that tune.
You guys just released the video for “Torn Down.”
Yeah, that song is the first single from Nevermore and that’s the one that we actually closed our shows with on the 40-date tour. It’s such an inspirational song. It captures that “Die Trying” energy or that “Get Through This” energy that we’ve always loved. It’s another song for getting through and fighting through adversity. It’s a really crazy emotional story that got that one started.
There’s a girl in my neighborhood in Vancouver, her name was Amanda Todd. Unfortunately, she’s no longer with us. She ended up committing suicide after being targeted online by a predator. She was just a 15-year old girl. The story hit my community really hard. So many people were just upset about the situation and, obviously, so many people felt this loss when the community lost Amanda. For us as a band with a message, you know, we see every day on our social networks, we just see the struggles out there that people are going through. It’s hard, you know, it’s difficult to be alive, at any age. If your 15, I get it how some things are just more difficult, but there’s people struggling at every age and we see that. So for us as a band, it feels so amazing to be able to wave a flag and say, “Hey, you’re not alone, and hopefully you can be stronger than you think you are and get through what you’re going through.” “Torn Down” is that song.It’s so fun for us to play that live and to just see the faces and the fists come up, and people really letting loose for that one.
It is really important, and I think you guys have always remembered this, that you have that platform and you do use your voice. People forget that what happens online has real world consequences and it’s really special when people like you, who are so fan-based, and so fan-friendly, and so genuine, take the time to put a message out that could save someone’s life. I locked onto it because it did have that “Get Through This” vibe, right down to the video that was filmed on stage, back stage, behind the scenes, like “Get Through This.”
Totally, yeah, it definitely has some of that energy and that’s who we are. We never set out to write a song like that exactly, we just trust in our feelings and let songs come out in that way. A lot of the other songs even on Nevermore — you know, I had a guy I’ve worked with in radio for years call me up and say, “Wow, this is a dark record.” And I thought, “Wow, I never thought of it as a dark record.” But then, it’s nice to be reminded that the dark and the light, it’s all part of it. We never set out to be a band that’s just saying “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” I think what’s almost more important to say sometimes is that we’re in the darkness with you. Some days are hard and that’s okay. It’s not going to be easy all the time. That lyric in “Torn Down” is just so cool. “I’m sick of being torn down. I’m sick of getting back up” and you don’t know if you can get back up anymore, but you hope that you can.
I’m glad that video is out there. Personally, I’m loving it. For those who didn’t get to see you on this tour, it’s great to get to see you interacting on stage, and having fun, great energy, it’s just a treat. Any other videos coming from Nevermore, or are we moving forward into the new project?
We are just planning that out right now. I believe we’re going to go with a new single from Nevermore in the New Year. Most likely, there will be a video along with that. It just really depends on how we roll in the New Year. We’re also thinking about the new record through the campaign, so it’s fun, but it’s busy. It’s interesting to be working our current record and then also writing the next one and looking forward to that. Again, the whole being independent and being at the helm of our own career, we can bounce around and be able to do things at a pace that we’re comfortable with. We’ve always felt like we’ve been waiting for labels, and managers, and we’ve always felt like we finally get out on the road again, and then people after the show are like, “What took you three years to get this record out.” It’s like, man, you wouldn’t believe how long it takes to sign a record deal and have this group of lawyers go back with this group of lawyers for nine months. It always takes two or three years to get back on your feet.
It’s like holding your child hostage.
It’s crazy, right? And the time just goes by. You don’t even notice it because you’re making the record, writing the record, and it’s just held up all the time. We’re no longer in that position. We just went from releasing Rise Up to releasing Nevermore very quickly, independently, to now writing and starting to think about recording this brand new record that’s funded through the PledgeMusic campaign. It’s all within a 12-month period. So without all that industry-dragging-around-the-ankles kind of thing, we can really sprint around a lot more.
Going back to the Pledge campaign, I want people to know that anyone can be a part of this, from 10.00 dollars to advance pay for the download, all the way up to having you come and barbeque in their backyard and give an acoustic show for them. There’s every level of fan interaction, but I think the label thing is an opportunity for someone interested in getting into the industry to see what happens behind the scenes. I also want to make sure people know there are only eight more opportunities to get your name in the liner notes. Any more of Cody’s drumsticks? There are two sets left. One of my favorite things that you’re doing is the Skype serenade, and there are only nine of them left, by the way. Tell them about the Skype.
One is a phone call from any band member. So if you want to talk to Cale, me, or Tavis or Cody, you can just request a phone call conversation. I think a lot of people are buying those as gifts. “Hey, this Christmas I got you a 20-minute chat with Jonny in your stocking, ” [laughs] or whatever. We’re also doing a serenade where we’ll jump on Skype and sing to you, or you and your friends over Skype. It’s just so fun, you know? It’s really about a great experience for the people that want to be involved, but also knowing that the 100.00 bucks, or the 75.00, or whatever it is, is going into the recording of the records. It’s a really fun way to be involved and say, “You know what? I did that. I helped make that.”
This time next year when we talk, there’s going to be this awesome list of names on the back of our vinyl record and our CD, and it’s going to be all the people that contributed and helped make this happen. It’s very grassroots and very cool. The bigger levels on there, the private acoustic show and backyard barbeque, we’re really excited about that, obviously, because that’s where we have the most fun in our lives. If the four of us were just to get together this summer, that’s exactly what we would do, just throw a big barbecue and grab the acoustics and play until the sun came up. That’s our vibe. We’ve already had a couple people that were talking about important weddings and celebrations coming up in their lives this year that they’re thinking about getting the acoustic performance for. So obviously, there’s no real blueprint set out for how that’s going to work yet. It’s just going to be a celebration of music and a private performance by us. And you know I love cooking, so I’m going to be definitely bringing a culinary aspect to it. So, if it’s you and your friends and your family, then let’s barbeque at the place. If it’s a wedding and the catering is already taken care of then we’ll just figure something out that makes sense for the event. It’s could be a bucket list kind of thing, where if some of these songs that we’ve been playing for the last year have affected you, and if we were able to come and sing that at your wedding, or at your graduation, or whatever it is, that would be insane.
For people who don’t know, these guys don’t know a stranger. I know wherever you go you’ll be the life of the party. I’ve been on a boat with you before, so I know this to be fact.
[Laughs] We’ve got another round of Shiprocked coming up here in less than a month. That’s crazy.
Oh, we know.
Yeah, Shiprocked is becoming our annual thing now. This is my fourth year in a row, and we’re back as a band on the boat again this year, so it’s going to be a crazy event that we can’t wait to do. It’s a super, super great community. We were really pleasantly surprised that — you know, we have our group of fans that we call the Diehards, and we just know them quite well because of their interaction with us online. We weren’t terribly surprised to see that many Diehards out on this tour; we were kind of expecting it. What we were surprised by was how many Shiprockers came out on this land-locked tour. It was absolutely amazing to see the gang at each show. We were just like, “Wow, a group of Shiprockers coming everywhere we go.” It’s such a great family.
And that’s the thing too, and I think you already live by this, but you get back what you give, and you guys give so much in just personal interaction and just the friendliness, and the way that you interact with people, and then you’re stuck on a boat with us. That’s loyalty. You get back what you’ve given us. We’re happy. We’re all very excited to see you. Are you going to try out any new songs at either the Shiprocked pre-party or on the boat?
That’s a great question. We live all over the place; there’s a couple of us in Toronto, I’m over here in Vancouver, and Tavis bounces around between Vegas and the mountains, so we’re all over the place. So, people always ask us when we rehearse and the answer is: we don’t [laughs]. That’s why it’s so exciting for us when we get together. I think that’s part of what makes an Art of Dying show bring a little extra fire. We haven’t seen each other in a while so we’re really excited to be there. So for Shiprocked, we will figure it out in the weeks coming up. We’ll probably figure most of what we’re going to do in the cabin the day of the show.
You have a tendency to video tape that and share it on social media, so I hope that we get to be a part of that.
We’ll put a camera up for sure.
What are you most looking forward to about being back on the boat this year?
Seeing the people is really the main thing for us. Those late night conversations, those crazy bump intos. It’s really special for us because we get to see a lot of the other bands that we don’t see during the year as well. So, I looking forward to connecting with a bunch of the musicians that I haven’t seen in a while. I actually wrote a little bit on the boat last year and I want to continue that trend. Do some writing and collaborating with some other people. It’s always a blast. And the shows, I think we’re playing like four or five shows in like three days or something. We’re doing the acoustic launch party in Miami the day before we sail, and then we’re doing two Art of Dying shows. I’m not sure if there’s going to be a beach stage again this year.
No, no there’s not.
There’s no beach stage? Okay. Last time we were one of the first bands on the beach stage ever, and that was a thrill.
We miss the beach stage. I’m just saying, Alan [Shiprocked promoter], we miss the beach stage.
It was a lot of fun, right?
It really is. You did that acoustic of “Broken Wings,” which is still in my top five favorite acoustic performances live, ever.
Oh wow, cool.
If you get around to doing that again, I’m certainly not going to cry. Again. If I jump in, just put your hand up and security will take me to the brig. You guys are also judging the door decorating contest, you and Tavis.
I believe I heard something about that.
It was announced that you and Tavis will be cruising the hallways and picking the winning door. So the Shiprockers that knew I was talking to you today want to know what you and Tavis will be looking for.
We are going to be looking for pizzazz, I think is the main thing. Originality. Most importantly, probably be looking for a lot of very nice Art of Dying pictures [laughs].
That’s exactly what I was thinking.
No, no, you cannot kiss the asses of the judges, so no, we will actually frown upon any hearts around Tavis or myself. It will not get you any points.
Alright, okay guys, you heard it. There’s nothing I can do about it. You can kiss the judge’s ass, but it’s not going to get you any favor. Just do it to be nice.
That’s right. Just think outside of the rectangle on this one.
Think outside the rectangle of the door. Alright. I can’t wait to see you guys again. I’m so glad you guys are coming on board. I’m so glad you have a new project coming out because that gave me an excuse to set up an interview and talk with one of my favorite frontmen. It’s always a pleasure. Let’s push again this PledgeCampaign. His hat sold out. Jonny’s scarf sold out. His pants are sold. He’s literally almost naked.
I don’t even know what I’m going to wear.
You have one pair of shoes and one shirt left. I don’t know what you’re going to wear either. All he has left are a black shirt and some amazing white boots, that if I could stretch my feet into I would have already bought because, you know, the scarf and the hat sold before I could get them. But hey, somebody is going to wear them with lots of love, and joy, and pride.
Or someone is making a voodoo doll of me and we’re in big trouble.
That’s — no. You can track who is actually buying these, right? You know, just in case.
Maybe it’s a Halloween costume.
Naw, that scarf was pretty sweet.
Actually, Alexa from Letters from the Fire has a pretty good Jonny Halloween costume going already. Check out somewhere on their Facebook, or our Facebook, she dressed up like me and she actually nailed it, and then she wore that for her show.
I just realized you and Alexa do have a similar hairstyle, don’t you?
You’ve let the mohawk lay to the side.
Yeah, the mohawk is down. The mohawk is growing. Alexa, she’s a great girl. I absolutely loved hanging out with those guys, and if you haven’t seen Letters, they’re on the boat as well, on Shiprocked. They’re just amazing. She’s got such a great voice. We ended up doing a few acoustic songs together on the tour and one of them was your favorite cover.
No. And I missed it because you didn’t come close enough. I’m going to have to cash in some frequent flyer miles if this keeps happening.
Totally. Well maybe we’ll bring her up on the boat.
When you talk to her, tell her that if she wants to wear that outfit for one of the costume nights, we would not mind.
I’ll let her know.
I think that maybe we need to have a secret theme night. I’ll talk to the rest of the Shockwavers and see if we can get a Jonny Hetherington costume night.
That would be the worst costume night ever.
Well, we’re going to have to hunt down some red pants, honey, and I don’t know if we have enough time for red jean-finding. You know we love you. Again, thank you so much for taking so much time with me today. Anything we missed?
You covered it, I think you got it. It’s a great opportunity to be a part of our new record and we’re excited about it. We’ve got a lot of good stuff at artofdyingmusic.com as well, where we have our own merch store and we’re able to bring in whatever we want, so keep your eye on what’s going on there.
Definitely. Alright my love, it has been wonderful talking to you, as always, and I will see you in just a few short weeks.
Yep, always a pleasure. See you, Hon.