Latest release: Miracle (Riot!)
Band site: www.nonpoint.com
Florida’s Nonpoint have been one of modern hard rock’s more prolific outfits since their formation in 1997. With the band due to make their inaugural visit to Australia this month as part of the Soundwave Festival and assorted side shows, Loud conversed with bassist/vocalist Ken McMillan about their latest disc Miracle finally receiving an Australian release, the Australian shows, dodging heavy music trends and more.
Q: Miracle was released last year in most territories, but is only now receiving Australian distribution. How has the reception to the record been from fans and critics?
A: The response to the new material has been fantastic. There was a lot of buzz about what Zach (Broderick, guitars) would bring to the table because of the lineup change. Once we got the music in the hands of the fans, we got more love then we knew what to do with.
Q: Good to hear. In what ways do you feel the latest album is an improvement upon your past releases?
A: I think the most obvious improvement is the quality of the songwriting compared to our previous releases. We’ve always had that definitive “Nonpoint sound”, but I feel like Miracle really takes that to a whole new level because of how fine-tuned it is.
Q: The record also features a guest appearance from Mudvayne’s Chad Gray on the title track, as well as a cover of Pantera’s “5 Minutes Alone”. Do you feel that Gray brought a unique edge to the song that no one else could have?
A: Having Chad on the track just seemed like a natural fit. His voice complimented Elias’ (Soriano, vocals) so well in the pre-production process that we felt it would bring a whole new dimension to the song. Chad was kind enough to jump on board and it’s a better offering because of it.
Q: Any particular reason you chose that Pantera song to cover?
A: We got the offer to be on the Dimebag tribute release at the last minute. We had two days to learn the song and track it, so Zach just picked the one that was the most fun to play. Little did we know it was also one of the most difficult to learn. But we busted our asses and got the riffs down, and we ended up with what you hear on Miracle. We got mixed reviews about Elias’ delivery of the vocals, but I think that can be attributed to the scrutiny of Pantera purists. They see the song as music by an untouchable band that should never be redone. We saw it as an opportunity to pay homage to one of the greatest bands in music. We were both honoured and humbled by the chance to take part in the dedication.
Q: Indeed. Gray and Mudvayne guitarist Greg Tribbett also co-produced the album with the band. How was that experience?
A: It was refreshing to see the super professional side of the guys. We’d known them for almost a decade when they first signed on to do the album. All we ever knew them as were crazy ass dudes that wore makeup and destroyed the stage. But they couldn’t have been more nurturing once we started tracking. It was a really nice change to be able to work with outside ears, as we’d self-produced all our albums in the past.
Q: In many media outlets, Nonpoint has been associated with various heavy music trends during the past decade or so – nu metal, “post-grunge”, alternative-metal and more. Are you at a point now when you’d rather people simply perceive you as a rock ‘n’ roll band?
A: I couldn’t have said it any better myself. For years we’ve been sick of people trying to lump us in with every other band that came out around the time we did. We’ve always tried to write what we felt moved us, instead of writing to fit the current trend. That’s a big part of the secret to our longevity. We’re not a huge band, but we’ve always been relevant because of our ability to write music that doesn’t sound like anyone else. And rock ‘n’ roll would be a wonderful place for the Nonpoint name to reside. Unfortunately, our current genre lies in the hands of whoever is trying to categorize us at any particular moment.
Q: At the time the band’s debut album was released in 1998, the heavy music world presented a vastly different landscape to now. Since that time, nu metal has gone, traditional metal bands such as Iron Maiden have experienced a major resurgence in popularity and genres such as metalcore have also popped up and gained popularity. What are your memories of the heavy music scene a decade or more ago, especially compared to now? Is it healthier overall, or less so in your view?
A: Metal has always been a huge influence on our writing. We’ve never seen it as a dying genre. It’s obvious that in the past decade it’s gained a huge amount of momentum, and we couldn’t be happier about it. You’re never going to extinguish the aggression and passion that inspires a metal fan and pushes them to write music themselves. Though there may seem to be a lull in its popularity from time to time, the genre as a whole seems to grow with each new generation of listeners.
Q: The band will make your first trek to Australia as part of the mammoth Soundwave Festival bill. What are your expectations of Australia?
A: We don’t know what to expect because it is, in fact, our first visit to the continent. But we plan on treating it as we do with all of our trips into new territory. Just do what we do and enjoy the surroundings while we have the opportunity.
Q: Despite the band’s lengthy career, to a lot of the younger fans attending Soundwave, Nonpoint is an unknown entity. How do you go about making the best possible impression in front of a festival crowd filled with newcomers to the band, especially when you may only have 30-40 minutes on-stage to do it?
A: This band’s strongest point is our live show. From the first four count until the set’s big rock ending, we go at 150 per cent. If you ask the bands that we’ve toured with, the 30-45 minute set time is where we shine the most. Primarily because we can beat the crap out of ourselves and not have to worry about pacing ourselves for a headlining timeframe. And boy do we LOVE to get on-stage and kick the crap out of everyone sharing it with us. Not in a disrespectful way, mind you, but purely a healthy competitive manner. We see the stage as a war zone. If you’re going to be on the bill with us, you’d better be ready to give it your all or else you’re going to get demolished. We know fans pay a tonne of cash to come see a show and nothing pisses us off more than bands that go on-stage and sit there trying to look pretty as if they’re afraid to get sweaty. The people in the crowd are there to see a show, and we do all we can to give them their money’s worth every single time.
Q: What bands do you plan to hang out with and/or catch live at the festival?
A: Maiden will definitely be at the top of our collective list. Zombie is a personal favourite. But I think I’m the most interested in seeing both The Sword and High on Fire. There’s something about those two bands that makes me want to dress up like a viking and pillage a small town (laughs).
Q: On a more personal note, what new releases have you been enjoying lately?
A: I’m in the gym a lot, and that’s where I listen to music the most. I’m a really big fan of your hometown boys Parkway Drive. Their Deep Blue album is insane. I also bump the shit out of The Devil Wears Prada’s Zombie EP. Anything to do with a zombie apocalypse really gets the juices flowing. And what better motivation than an extinction event to make me get as pumped as possible? Otherwise, anything by Clutch will do the trick.
Q: Final question – any famous last words?
A: You only get one shot at this life. Make it worth the effort it took to get you here.