Latest release: (How to Live) as Ghosts (Mascot)Website: www.10yearsmusic.com
10 Years have been around for close to two decades and during that time, this alternative metal band from Tennessee has released eight studio albums and endured tumultuous times. They’ve toured with a host of big names in hard rock and metal circles, garnering solid live experience in to further hone their unique sound. Having survived some intriguing music chairs personnel wise, the band has effectively reanimated themselves with the return of two key band members to the band as a touring unit in 2016 that allowed their latest album (How to Live) as Ghosts to eventuate as opposed to seeing the band fall apart. Those two members are rhythm guitarist Matt Wantland and lead guitarist Brian Vodinh who also contributes drums in the studio. Loud Online spoke to Brian Vodinh to find out about the latest chapter for 10 Years and how their new album sees them moving onwards and upwards.
The latest album is quite involved yet direct sounding. Given the recent changes in the band, how did the producer selection happen?
Well, we started writing for it about a year ago. It was interesting when we started talking about producers and who we wanted to work with, the first name on the list was Nick Raskulinecz [AIC, Deftones, Foo Fighters]. He’s produced all those great records and so we kind of thought that if those other bands who we so look up to so much trust this guy with our music then we should do so too. He was always the first name on our list and our label ended up talking with him and we meet with them and that was it. Luckily we were able to get him. Nick really helped us to not over think our album so as far as production goes, he played a huge role in telling us to stick to the core ideas of the song; the meat and potatoes. It was important to not try to make it too cinematic or too cloudy. He just wanted it to be a stripped down, abbreviated but more deliberate version of 10 Years. He was the biggest part of the machine that got us to make this record and the way that it ended up being.
Jesse Hasek’s vocals are not necessarily sparse, but they are not as layered as previous albums.
Yeah and that was a big thing for him. He told us from day one that he wanted to strip away a lot of our layers because he said that some of our sincerity was hiding behind a lot of those layers. I think that in a lot of ways he is right. For Jesse, it is easy to hide your vulnerability by adding so many layers whereby at that point it becomes more of a cinematic feel and more ethereal than it is vulnerable. That was a big thing that Nick wanted to make sure that we did not do this time. He did not want too many layers. So, yeah it is definitely a more deliberate approach.
Song writing wise, things must have changed given that both you and Matt [Wantland] returned to the band, effectively altering the line up again.
Yes, I mean, really the band from the previous album was in an unhealthy and toxic state. If we didn’t come back and write this record and do what we did, the band was basically going to stop. Jesse named the previous album From Birth to Burial because he really felt like that could have been the last album. So it did take the line-up change with myself and Matt coming back to really reinvigorate us and to be honest, we feel like young kids again where we are refreshed and I think it shows in the music. The songs have a different brightness to them that they almost didn’t have before and I feel like this album, for us, is a lot more optimistic.
Potentially calling it a day would have been a difficult decision to make given you’ve had some hits and have a stack of albums under your belt.
Yeah, it would have but it was just that with line-up being the way it was with the last album cycle, it just got to such an unhealthy point. By then it was Jess and one other original member [Ryan Johnson – lead guitar] who were still there at the time and it just wasn’t working. Jesse knew and he called me to discuss if I would be open to coming because he knew that if a big change didn’t happen, that being the line-up change, there probably wouldn’t have been a future for the band. So, I’ve been a part of writing every song the band has ever had and I started the band out of my parents’ garage when I was about sixteen years old. It was just such a part of me that I definitely couldn’t walk away from it for good.
Understood. When you’re performing live you obviously cannot do both guitar and drums like you do in the studio. So, do you have to emotionally let go of the drum performance aspects in a live scenario and let Kyle [Mayer – drums] just do his thing?
Yes I do and I think that we have figured out now that on the albums I will still record the drums because there is something about my drumming that has a signature sound to it that really is part of the 10 Years sound. But playing live, it just works really well for me to play guitar and sing the backing vocals with Jess. I actually started the band as the guitar player. So when I was sixteen when I first formed the group, I didn’t even have a drum set back then, I just had my little half-stack Marshall amplifier and my Les Paul guitar. I was all set to be a guitarist and we had some other drummers try out but one of the drummers ended up leaving his drum set at my parents’ house for a really long time so since it was there, I just started playing on it. All of my friends were saying, ‘I don’t know how, but you can play the drums’, and I thought that was kind of cool so I agreed to play one show on the drums and then it ended up being my new role.
When you are playing live, which guitarist plays the more atmospheric sounds as opposed to the heavier rhythm parts?
Historically, Matt Wantland has done more of the atmospheric stuff but on the new album I had a good handful of that stuff that I have taken over. But I think in general, my style of playing is usually a bit more heavy and aggressive whilst Mike’s style of playing is a little bit more melodic. Sometimes we do flip flop those roles but usually the contrast in our playing is such a bit part of our sound.
The song structures use space and dynamics quite well going from say a quite verse to a loud chorus. Does it take a lot of rehearsal to do it live without it becoming overpowering?
I think it is just one of those things that when we write the songs and especially for this album because we wrote it in a room together, it is something that we have to practice. We have to create and construct the song to make that effect happen. So if we know that we want the verse to be more ambient or building [momentum], then we have to figure out the right guitar tones, the right drum parts and everything that makes that feel or vibe happen. Then if we know that we need to explode into the chorus that is just basically experimenting with sounds and figuring things out. A lot of times on the guitar we’ll go from a clean guitar sound to a heavier, distorted guitar sound in the chorus. So yeah, a lot of that comes about from us just jamming in a room and trying to figure out the dynamics that will make the song and the song lyric have more impact.
When you were touring with bands like Linkin Park and Deftones, did you closely watch how they do a similar thing live?
Oh yeah, those are bands that we learned from too. When we were young, Deftones was one of our favourite bands. They still are so we grew up on everything from Metallica to Nirvana to Tool to Rage Against the Machine to Deftones, Incubus and even Nine Inch Nails. For us, growing up, our entire youth was spent studying those bands and how they constructed their songs. We have our own sound but we definitely learned from the greats and we have always tried to apply the things that we have learned from them.
Deftones are one of those bands that are now totally into using digital gear where possible and therefore travelling light. Is that something that 10 Years has adopted into the touring logistics as well?
You know, we are still into big, heavy, clunky amplifiers. Maybe one day we will experiment a bit more but for me, especially as a guitar player, I love Mesa Boogie, Bogner and Marshall stuff. I just love the sound of a loud amplifier on the stage. I think that for international travelling, to use a digital unit that is comparable is definitely very convenient but we are kind of old school when it comes to that stuff. We still like a really loud stage and a big, old, clunky bass amplifier.
One of the songs on the album, ‘Blood Red Sky’, apparently initially came your solo EP [Little Mirrors].
Yeah, when I took my hiatus from touring back in 2013, I came home and I had started writing some songs that I wasn’t sure if they would ever be intended for 10 Years related material. I definitely wanted to do something on my own because I’d spent so much time and so many years touring and writing with other people that I just selfishly wanted to write a solo EP and just to see what would happen. ‘Blood Red Sky’ was one of those songs and I really did know that Jesse had ever listened to my solo EP but he had that song. We were compiling songs for this record and when we got to the studio to go over song ideas with Nick, the producer, Jesse had my song on a CD. I did not know he even knew of the songs at that time and I was shocked when he played it, said he liked it and had an idea for it if I was prepared to open up a dialogue on that. So Nick actually fell in love with the song when he heard it and said, ‘I think we should work on it’. So, we definitely changed it but there are a lot of similar elements to my solo version so it is really neat for me. I love both versions so I think it was really cool that we were able to bring that into the fold for the 10 Years album.
For those fans who know of you through songs like ‘Wasteland’ of ‘Through the Iris’, are there any songs on this latest album that you’d say take those songs and evolve the sound at all?
You know, I do, I absolutely do. There is a song called ‘Burn Out’ and one called ‘Insomnia’. I would say that ‘Insomnia’ is probably the most The Autumn Effect like song on the new album. It is pretty much a throwback to the sound that we had in 2004 because it is very similar to something that we would have written back then. But, you know, it is a newer song and it didn’t stem from an old idea or anything but I think that just goes to show that there are always going to be certain elements in this band that goes back to that same core sound. As we get older, we elaborate and we try to evolve the sound a little bit because we want to grow as musicians and as writers. I think that a song like ‘Insomnia’ is very much a core 10 Years throwback, old school feeling sound for us. There are a few others but I feel like the rest of the record, whilst it is still us given that especially by Jesse’s voice you can tell it is 10 Years, but I fell that the sound of the band has definitely evolved a little bit.
Lyrically, I guess growing into adulthood is something that is more evident in your song themes and delivery?
Yeah, with our earlier records I always say that we were so young when we wrote them that we hadn’t really experienced life yet. When we signed our record deal, I still lived with my parents, I didn’t have any bills, and I didn’t have a wife or children or anything. So, back then we were writing artsy lyrics for the sake of writing artsy lyrics. Now that we are in our thirties and also both Jesse and I have marriages plus I have three kids and he has two kids so that has really changed things a lot. So now we cannot help but to write about life sometimes and you know, we have adult things going on so it is just more of an influence on our writing and our emotions these days.
Indeed. Finally, you toured here with Dead Letter Circus in 2015. Is there any chance that you might be touring to Australia again soon?
Actually, we are working on that right now. We are hoping to get there next year. So, I think that is actually in the works. Hopefully we will be seeing you in 2018.