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Interview von: arne mit Rob Watson, am: 01.01.2016 ]

Der vierte Longplayer der Kalifornier hat auf sich warten lassen. DafŁr haben LIONHEART eigens fŁr dessen VerŲffentlichung in Nordamerika das Label LHHC Records aus der Taufe gehoben. In Europa hat sich Beatdown Hardwear Records die Rechte gesichert. Das Quintett aus Oakland pršsentiert sich auf ĄLove Donīt Live Hereď in bekannter Manier. Der Metal-Hardcore der Gruppe ist an die 1990er Jahre und Bands wie Hatebreed, Terror und Madball angelehnt. Die Stšrke der Formation um Shouter Rob Watson besteht nun darin, trotz der Nutzung bekannter Stil-Elemente und Strukturen einen halbwegs eigenstšndigen Heavy-Sound zu erschaffen, der nachwirkt.


Musicscan: First of all: Lionheart has always seemed to me to be an underdog band, always maintaining a high level of respect from their peers, though never quite attaining the ďcommercial successĒ that the band was due. Would you agree? Where do you see the reasons for it?

Lionheart: I do agree, and I think the reason is twofold. First, and most importantly, weíve never been a band that played the ďindustry gameĒ. We always did what we wanted, and sometimes that comes with a cost. We didnít pay attention to the cliqueís and politics in hardcore. We didnít worry about taking out the ďrightĒ or ďwrongĒ bands on our tours. We werenít on the ďcoolĒ labels. And, most notably, we didnít jock all the bigger bands to get on their tours. We didnít do any of that, and we still donít. Thereís no shortage of bands willing to suck the industryís dick just to get the right tour, and that shit is downright embarrassing. Thatís never been us and never will be us. Secondly, weíve never really changed our style. The only thing that has ever evolved has been my vocal approach, and thats been basically the same over the last couple releases. Weíve always stuck to our particular brand of heavy hardcore, even when the trends seemed to go a different way. Weíve been around for a long time, and seen the trends move from tough-guy stuff, to mosh, and now into this 90ís worship thatís in right now. It is what it is, and trends come and go. I stay honest and upfront with my lyrics, and donít hide behind convoluted and overly-dramatic poetry like some bands do. Not everyone enjoys that particular approach, and thatís fine with me. We are bigger now than we ever have been, and I think it can be attributed to those two reasons I just gave. So, in retrospect, I wouldnít change anything, and Iím happy to see the band growing more now than ever.

Musicscan: Hardcore/punk has always been an underground genre, but there has been a surge of more mainstream orientated bands and big success for some of them over the years. How would you classify the state of hardcore right now compared to its early days or the days when you started with Lionheart? Where do you think is it going? Do you feel hardcore/punk is losing its edge by having more and more bands with no real political or social stance these days?

Lionheart: First off, I think if a band can gain mainstream success, then good for them. Itís a shame when a band is vilified or put on trial by the scene because they happen to come upon success. Music, or ďartĒ in general, is the only industry where success is looked down upon. If you are a salesman, for example, and you climb the ranks and eventually get promoted and promoted and promoted, then your congratulated on your successes. However, in contrast, when a band starts in the underground and works their way into the mainstream with any type of measurable commercial success, they are immediately looked down on for ďselling outĒ. A bandís genre shouldnít defined by the amount of people that like or dislike them. I donít think thereís a ton of bands in the HC scene that really have this problem, but thereís obviously bands like Hatebreed who have broken out of the underground and I think thatís not only great for them because they deserve it, but because bands like that end up being a ďgatewayĒ band to kids that are new to heavier music, and that can eventually funnel them to bands like us. That being said, I think hardcore is bigger than ever right now and I think itís awesome. Hardcore is in an interesting place right now because thereís so much diversity in whatís classified as ďhardcoreĒ. I think thatís great and thatís how it should be. As far as the lack of political stances in current hardcore that youíve asked about, Iíve never been a fan of that style anyway, so Iím not missing any of that. That always felt like more of a punk-music thing, which is part of what drew me out of punk and into hardcore in the first place. I got tired of listening to undereducated teenagers whine about the government. Itís annoying and juvenile. Iíd rather turn on Blood For Blood or Hatebreed and hear lyrics about the day-to-day struggles someone is going through that I can actually relate to. It takes real guts to sing about personal struggles and empty your heart out onto an album. It takes absolutely zero guts to whine about a government from some stage somewhere. To choose just one example: I couldnít ever get past the hypocrisy of anti-capitalist punk bands. Wether or not I agree with capitalism is a different story, but the very nature of a band is the complete embodiment of free-market capitalism. You, essentially, start your own business, enter the market, advertise, promote, sell, and attempt to differentiate your product from that of the rest. You drive around the world in a gas-guzzling Ford or Mercedes (if youíre in Europe) van selling merchandise (on cloth sewn by children in some 3rd world country), drinking brand name beer backstage, wearing vans or nikes or Doc Martens, and yelling at other people to shun commercialism and capitalism? Please. Shut up, sit down, and get a fucking job. Creating and operating a band is the definition of free-market capitalism. Period. To pretend that itís anything else would be foolish at best and criminal at worst. Iím thankful that the majority of that hypocrisy is delegated to a scene of which I am proudly not a part of.

Musicscan: Speaking about the feeling of community: Do you feel that the sense of unity in hardcore/punk is still as strong as it was a decade ago? A lot of bands claim to not be interested in the scene as such anymore. Do you still stick to that scene?

Lionheart: This is a difficult question because I think hardcore today has so many sub-genres and they donít always mesh well together. Thereís also far more bands putting out albums and touring today than there were a decade ago. Thatís a great thing because it can breed diversity, but it also can pit bands against each other. The more bands out there the more competition there can be and sometimes that leads to even greater divides in the genres and cliques. I can really only speak to my own feelings, and Iíve always felt that another bandís success doesnít hinder your own. Thereís bands I like and get along with, and thereís bands that I absolutely do not like and do not get along with. Thatís just life. Bandís are made up of people and in the real world people donít always get along, so I think itís foolish to think hardcore would be any different. Like I said before though, I think hardcore is in a great place right now and itís bigger than itís ever been.

Musicscan: Lionheart is being around within the metal and hardcore scene for ten years now Ė did you ever imagine the band would be still jamming together in 2015/16 when you started it? It seems that the band is bigger than ever and still kicking out vicious metal hardcoreÖ

Lionheart: Honestly, yes. Since I was a kid all I wanted to do was play music. I started this band for that purpose and that purpose only. I didnít start the band to get signed or gain fans or something, I just started the band so that I could have an avenue to tell my story on. Iím more than grateful of the opportunities that Iíve had to see the world and make new friends and impact peoples lives, but if none of that ever transpired from my music, Iíd still be writing the same music anyway for my own enjoyment. We are fortunate enough to be still growing, even after all these years. The band is bigger than ever and Iím excited about the future.

Musicscan: How do you feel about your place within the metal and hardcore scene at all as well as in between tradition and gaining new ground to bring forth what the heroes you grew up with did before Lionheart were around?

Lionheart: I think we were our influences on our sleeve, and I think we do a good job at moving the genre forward as well. I grew up on Blood For Blood, Hatebreed, Madball, Agnostic Front, etc. and I think those influences are always at the forefront of our sound, but I think weíve also come into our own sound with Welcome To The West Coast and our newest album, Love Donít Live Here.

Musicscan: Do you think it's more important for bands to observe the traditions of their style, or to push the genre's boundaries? Is there a way to achieve a balance between progression and tradition? Whatís to say about what Lionheart are doing in this regard?

Lionheart: I think that should be up to the band. I think thereís a lot of great bands in HC right now. Some choose to observe the traditions and follow those guidelines closely, and others choose to expand on those traditions and push the boundaries of their genre. Iíve always just written whatever I wanted to in terms of LH, and I donít get hung up on sticking to any set boundaries. I think that defeats the purpose of writing your own music in the first place.

Musicscan: What exactly does Lionheart sound like from your point of view? Is it any kind of departure to what people might expect from you if you think of reviews and fan reaction. Do you feel "understood" to say so?

Lionheart: To be honest, Lionheart is my favorite band. Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again: If youíre playing in a band thatís NOT your favorite band, then you should re-think being in that band. I think the goal of anyone playing music should be to create their favorite band. So, when I write, I write EXACTLY what I want to hear. I write my favorite music and I honestly canít imagine why someone in another band wouldnít do the same. If youíre not writing your favorite music, then youíre writing someone elseís favorite musicÖ youíre just writing something that you think OTHER people want to hear, or that you think would gain you fans. That process just seems dishonest to me. Iím honest with my lyrics and honest with the music that accompanies it. Iím not saying Lionheart is the BEST band, because it most certainly is not, but it is my favorite because I crafted it exactly how I wanted it. For the most part, I feel we are ďunderstoodĒ. That being said, I think thereís a lot of people that just ďdonít get itĒ. My lyrics are very straight forward, honest, and to the point. Iíve received criticism in regards to my lyrical approach. There are some that donít think I do enough in that department, but I think itís quite the opposite. I donít candy coat anything, I don't hide my true feelings or purpose behind a song with poetic coverups and insinuations in some sort of juvenile effort to sound ďinterestingĒ or unique. Iíve never been a fan of bands with lyrics like that, so Iíve never written like that. I tell stories, and Iím very direct about them so itís not always for everyone. Iíve been through a lot of shit in my life and been a part of some horrible things, so if someone canít relate to that type of shit then they probably arenít going to appreciate my particular style. But I write my music and my lyrics for the people that HAVE been through some shit, and HAVE crawled out of their lowest point to see another day. And those are the ones that understand me and relate to the lyrics and thatís all I need to feel successful.

Musicscan: Are there any principles you would never give up to with Lionheart? What kind of? What can be said about your attitude towards being a touring band, what fuels your anger?

Lionheart: There are principles that I live by in my personal life, of course. When it comes to the band though; this is not our job or our career. We only tour part-time, and we all have jobs and careers and families outside of music. Lionhearted is my vacation and my escape from reality. Writing music allows me to vent and get out all of the bullshit that Iíve been wrestling with my entire life. I love to tour because it gives me the opportunity to see the world and interact with new people every day. My favorite part of any show is meeting someone and having them tell me a personal story about a hardship they endured and the connection they feel to my lyrics. Thatís a feelings thatís honestly impossible to describe and thatís why Iím still doing this. I can honestly say Iím living my dream and I love every single second Iím allowed to play music. Nothing compares.

Musicscan: After so many years of playing with the band, after all these trends in hardcore, all these bands coming and going Ė are there still things left to say and worth singing of? What influenced the creation of Love Don't Live Here?

Lionheart: Absolutely. I write all the time. I probably have another 2 albums worth of lyrics written down already. Lyrically, Love Don't Live Here is definitely one of our darkest albums. Iíve never been this honest or straight forward with my stories as I was during the writing process this time. Iíve been through a lot in my life and this album tells that story.

Musicscan: Is Love Don't Live Here a record you consider to be something special in your career or is it ďjust anotherĒ Lionheart album?

Lionheart: Iíve never been this excited about a record before and this is easily our best material to date. Weíve really come into our own sound and this album reflects that in every song.

Musicscan: What stands out in your mind about the chemistry of the recording of Love Don't Live Here? How did this contribute to the overall sound and feel of the album?

Lionheart: We write a little bit differently than most bands. I start off by writing all of the lyrics to a song, and then the music is built around that. I write all of the music too, along with our longtime guitarist, Evan. Evan canít tour anymore, so he and I just write all the music together. This makes recording really easy too. For this album we recorded with our friend Cody Fuentes, who owns and operates Rapture Recording Studios in Hayward, CA, and I can honestly say it was the best recording experience weíve ever had.

Musicscan: Is there something like a guiding line listeners have to know about to get a better understanding of what you are trying to tell them with Love Don't Live Here?

Lionheart: Iíve said it before, and Iíll say it again: this band is my escape, not my job. I wrote this album because Iíve been to hell and back and lived to sing about it, so why not? This album means the world to me. Itís dark, heavy, angry, and, above all, honest. I always say what I want to say and donít sugarcoat it or hide behind bullshit analogies and corny poetry. The album is pissed. Period.

Musicscan: In February you will be touring over here in Europe with Fallbrawl: what are your expectations for this tour, and how do you remember the shows and tours you already played in Europe?

Lionheart: Yeah the full tour lineup is Lionhearted, Desolated, Kublai Khan, and Fallbrawl. Iím very excited about this one. Itís our album release tour and I think itís going to be huge. The bands on it are awesome, and every one of them has new music on the way so I think itís a really exciting lineup. I love playing shows in Europe and we always have great crowds, so I canít wait to get out there for this one.

Musicscan: Lastly: what type of ďsuccessĒ did you hope to gain with Love Don't Live Here?

Lionheart: I honestly donít really have any aspirations of success when it comes to this album or the band in general. This isnít my job or my career, but something I do for fun because I truly love writing and playing music. Like I said before, I have a job and a career outside of this band, and that allows me to kee the writing honest. I think when youíre in a band for the money and as a job, it makes you less likely to take chances on new songs and less likely to expand the boundaries of whatever genre youíre in. Instead of writing a riff just for the fuck of it, youíre writing a riff to pay your rent, or youíre writing lyrics that you think would look good on the back of a T-shirt- not lyrics that mean the fucking world to you. I would imagine thatís not the case for everyone, but Iíd rather not even take the risk. I can write my music with absolutely zero confines and if people feel it; great. If people donít feel it, then thatís alright too. It doesnít really change my day to day. Iím here because I have to be, for my own sanity. I need to write these songs and I need to play this music because itís in my blood and I love it more than I can explain in an interview. So, if thereís anything I hope to gain from this album, or my music in general, itís that someone going through the same type of pain or struggle or bullshit that Iíve gone through find my music and relates to the lyrics in a way that gives them a break from that pain. Thatís my only real goal. And thatís how Iíve always measured our success.

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