Legends among the Hardcore scene Ignite mark their return this week with the release of their highly anticipated follow up to 2005’s Our Darkest Days. With it now being just over ten years since the band released new material we caught up with bassist and all round lovely bloke Brett Rasmussen to speak about all things Ignite. Describing to us what it was like re-entering the recording studio after such a lengthy absence, what the band’s bright future might hold and how transposing songs, originally written in Hungarian can be quite the challenge…
You can listen to the unedited interview below the full transcript below, owing to a technical fault unfortunately the recording contains a buzz. The first four minutes are hard to hear but it settles down after about the four minute mark! Apologies as such I have transcribed the entire chat below. Enjoy!
So hello Brett and thank you ever so much for speaking with The Metalist tonight, how are you?
I’m doing great! Sitting here in sunny California!
I’m very envious, we’ve got cold, wet, rainy and dark haha!
Yeah we’ll be expecting that!
Oh yeah you guys are coming over in January,
Yeah we’re doing a European tour and then we’re going to do a one off show there but yeah it’s going to be a really cool run of shows.
Fantastic, so your new album A War Against You is scheduled to be released January 8th I believe
Totally. Exactly correct.
Before we delve into that what have you guys been up to this year?
This year, we kind of carried over from last year because we starting recording from the early summer of 2014 and that carried over to about June or July. When we finished it up and then after that there was the process of getting it mastered working on artwork… Worry about t shirt designs and tours. You know you feel like, oh good the albums done and that’s when the real work starts haha! Just on top of each other, so that was kind of what this year has been finishing the record and then doing the set up for next year and all the touring and everything.
Let’s get onto the new record then! What was it like going back into the studio ten years after Our Darkest Days?
Going back in the studio with Ignite, well it had been a long time. We were all excited on getting back in there and doing this record. We had originally planned on writing songs in 2008 when we would finish touring in 2009 that would probably be a good time to jump back in. We toured about three years off of Our Darkest Days, which is a little bit longer but we were just getting a bunch of really cool touring opportunities that we didnt want to turn down, new countries to go and see and all that stuff. But yeah getting into the studio again with Cameron was awesome, you know he’s kind of like the extra Ignite member. He really cares about the band, really cares about the songs and we were all really happy with the album that we made the last time Our Darkest Days. Everbody was really proud of that, it was a cool challenge to get into the studio and we felt like we had something to prove and we were pretty happy with how the whole process went.
So you returned to the studio with the same producer?
Yeah we did and actually you know it was the same producer that we had worked on the previous album before Our Darkest Days. We did all the pre production with Cameron in 1999 with A Place Called Home and then we did the album with him and we wanted to go back in with him. And of course it’s local, it’s a ten minute drive from Orange County it’s an easy commute for us and we trust Cameron a lot.
I can imagine that over the years you must have built up quite a good relationship!
Yeah, Cameron’s an awesome guy and he cares about the band a ton so that’s super important for us.
So could you tell us about the writing process for A War Against You?
You know, as we started making the demo’s it was interesting because back when we were doing the previous record it wasn’t as easy to just jump on your laptop open up Garage band make a demo and send it all to your band mates. That whole process has simplified and created a lot of more content that you can get written. It’s easier to demo songs before we go into the rehearsal studio, you know bring a recorder, record it if it was something we liked, then go home maybe burn a CD… It’s a lot longer process and technology has really simplified things. So that’s probably the biggest thing! We were able to write a lot more songs and we were able to interact with each other. So that’s been a really cool thing that was different from the last time. The song writing process itself, we all write so it’s cool we can bring in a riff or a whole song. Collaborate together right by yourself or at home but there is no real formula you know? Sometimes a song get’s written in an hour and it’s done and sometimes you kinda heat a song up for a year and it never gets finished so the song writing process is always this changing, evolving thing. It’s always interesting!
It changed from Our Darkest Days then, in terms of technology you mean?
Yeah exactly! We all have our Apple laptops, the ability to demo songs, email them back and forth I can send a demo session to one of the guys in the band and he can add in guitar. You couldn’t do that as easily ten years ago.
Definitely, so what about the overall recording process when you actually got into the studio?
That was, we kind of did it the same way we did the last record. We never really liked the idea of going in, having a set four or five week’s of doing a record and then finishing it like that. We kind of spread it out over quite a few months, where we could go in do the drums, sit on the songs listen to them. Work on stuff at home, add guitars… Build it slowly, I think that for us it gives us a good idea of where the record’s at? It allows us to write songs in the process make changes and create I think a better record. You know if you have a record nailed and you have fifteen songs that are undeniable and you go into the recording studio and bang em out that’s one thing. That’s kind of a daunting task, for us we like to build it over kind of a bigger timeline and adjust to changes and see where we’re at and for us that works the best.
I’ve noticed that a kind of staple in Ignite’s songs are that you have so many cool dynamics. You’ll play the same riff but it will be ever so slightly changed, there might be palm muting on it or something slightly different. Is that because you sit on them?
I think that’s a combination. Cameron he wants to make every part of every song interesting, every part has to be great so he likes to add things to make the second verse of the song slightly different to the first verse because we need to add a little different element but all those little nuances and all those little things I think help make the songs, you know really cool! It makes them shine, for me I really enjoy listening to our stuff and hearing that kind of after, you get lost in the recording process. You think “what song did we do this on?” it’s all kind of a blur. Then you sit back when you get the final mix and you go, wow there are some really cool things going on in these songs that sometimes you may not have paid attention to while the tracking process was going on but that’s Cameron. He has a game plan and he has a direction for how a lot of the songs on the record should go.
What about themes on the album? Is that kind of solely Zoli’s kind of area?
Zoli writes a bulk of the lyrics but some of the rest of us in the band also chip in on the lyric writing. I think typically with Ignite, we have kind of followed a bit of a pattern, there’s a lot of songs on our albums that have to do with personal issues. Then we tackle social issues, there’s politcally themed songs there’s like environmental songs. Zoli brings almost all of the environmental angle to the table, it’s something that he has been involved since before he got into Ignite. That’s a lot of where that passion comes from but those are the four subjects that we typically, not subjects but four ideas that we sing about. The personal, political, social and environmental and I think you’re gonna find a lot of themes on this new record as well!
Definitely, I’m allowed to talk about the song titles I think?
I believe so! Wait, were the song titles released? I dunno let’s talk about them anyway!
I was going to say “Oh No Not Again” sounds like a more political kind of one.
That song was really cool. Zoli’s great uncle passed away in Hungary and Zoli had a chance to go through the memoirs of his uncle who was a teenager fighting in World War II and a lot of these diaries, memoirs that he wrote talks about the atrocities, these horrible conditions that these teenagers fought with out on the battlefield. Nobody wanted to be there to shoot other people, they just wanted to go home and be done with this so Zoli took some inspiration from those diaries and wrote that song. “Oh no, not again, just another army coming marching in” is the chorus hook and it just basically took the inspiration from these diaries and turned it into the song.
That’s awesome! So you’re taking from personal experience and then bringing it into a more political climate.
Exactly, it applies today you know? War is always prevalent in this world. So it’s not something that anybody is going to see is going away anytime soon.
What about the album’s artwork? I know that it’s orange, was that to do with the Orange County sort of thing?
I dunno where the colour scheme came from! We were working with a good friend of mine and we were kind of bouncing some ideas. We wanted something and Zoli said, let’s get something that’s a little bit catchy, not like a fire thing but just something that kind of jumps off the cover so we bounced ideas and settled with the one where the light is kind of shooting through. I dont know if the colour had anything to do with where we’re from haha!
Yeah, I think I’m probably reading a bit too much into it maybe haha!
Exactly how was it trying to get back into the mindset of going back on tour when you’re making the album.
From when the last record came out to now, we’ve been touring pretty much the whole time. Even when Zoli was in Pennywise we were still doing some Ignite tours in Europe, more part time in that time of course and we were actually touring whilst we were doing the record. We’d record for two weeks, do some European run of festivals, then come back and do a run of East Coast shows in the states here so the touring part doesn’t really feel foreign but what is going to be cool is going to be actually getting on stage now and playing new songs. It’s been so long since we’ve played new songs, not only new songs but songs people are going to know. We’ve played two or three of these new songs live, you know when you play a new song live and nobody knows the song it’s always of course different when everybody knows all the words and all the parts, so this is going to be cool for us to play new songs that people have had the chance to listen to!
Can I guess, is one of these new songs “Nothing Can Stop Me”?
Yeah! I think, the second track on the record. That’s actually the oldest song on the album, the music was writting in 2007 – 2008 and we kind of played a few different versions live over the years. Of course by the time we got into the studio it evolved and changed into the way it is now, that’s definitely one of the ones we have been playing and one we will most likely be playing on these upcoming tours.
So it’s an older song then!
That one is musically and actually there have been versions lyrically of songs. We started playing that song live in 2008 or 2009 and then it started morphing and changing of course so there’s probably versions out there on Youtube that have nothing to do with where the song is at now lyrically haha, so that’s one’s an older one that we held onto. Typically when you go into the studio, we always end up playing the newer songs that we have written simply because they are more inspiring and a little bit fresher for us but yeah “Nothing Can Stop Me” is one that has been around for while!
How did you guys come up with the name Ignite?
You know we had three names on the list, it was right when we started the band. We were sitting here and I think we were sitting in our rehearsal room and he came in and said he we have a backyard party in Long Beach that we can play and we had never really played any shows. So we need to figure out a name. The names were Fuse, Ignite and Shade. We really wanted to call the band Fuse but we had heard, we couldn’t of course do a Google search in ninety three haha, we had heard that maybe the guys in Sonic Youth had a side project called Fuse so we didn’t want to name the band something that we would have to eventually change. We picked Ignite, we put our name on the flyer and that was kind of it.
Wow, so it’s as simple as that!
I think whenever you start a band you have the big list of names that the band is going to be and everybody goes in and starts crossing of names they don’t like. Our guitar player Joe at the time, he was in a band called Unity in the eighties and there was a line in the song “Ignite the killing flame” so he pulled the wrod from that lyric and it ended up being the name of the band.
And the rest is history…
And it ended up looking good on a shirt! That was one of the things we were really happy with it, we didn’t think about it at the time because you don’t think of merchandise and t shirts down the line but it looks cool on a shirt!
What can we expect in 2016 after the album is released?
Like we mentioned before, we’re coming directly over to Europe a couple of days after the record is out. We’re playing two shows here in Southern California, one in Los Angeles and one in San Diego then we jump on a plane two days later. Land in Warsaw, Poland start the tour there and it ends three weeks later in Budapest so that’s going to be great. We’re playing with Terror, H20 and a bunch of other really cool bands on that tour. Then we’re just going to be booking shows and festivals and hopefully some support runs on some bigger band’s tours. All that is in the works right now with our agent but yeah, it’s exciting times! It’s gonna be a fun year, it’s gonna be fun to get out and playt these songs. To see people’s reactions to these songs, you never know. When you’re in the studio you have your favourite songs, you have that you think are going to be good and you have one’s where you think weeeell maybe that song won’t be as popular and it’s interesting to get out there and see what the people connect with and see which parts of the songs people really react to. Which lyrics people sing back to you, so it’s pretty exciting. It’s going to be pretty exciting! To see the reaction of our fans and new people too, we’re probably going to get some new people that have never heard of Ignite before coming in and this will be the first album they hear, it’s going to be an interesting 2016 for sure.
Excellent! Logistically there wouldn’t be any problems with Zoli in Pennywise?
Well he was in the band from 2009 to 2012 so they got Jim back at the end of 2012 I think so there’s really no ties to that anymore so yeah we’re just Ignite full time!
As you’ve mentioned you’re a socio-political kind of band. In terms of music what is your opinion of the kind of political climate? Do you feel that songs can try and inspire people to be more politically active?
You know, it’s interesting. Some bands are involved in political things and some are and some aren’t, you can do whatever you want as a band. You put your years in, you do your albums you can do whatever you want but for us its important to deliver, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a political message. We feel that we have been given the opportunity to share a positive message to the people that we play for, our fans, the people who come and see us play. To inspire people, to possibly open their eyes on issues that we think are important in the world or maybe they haven’t heard of or maybe a new angle on something. We feel it’s kind of our duty, we’ve been given this opportunity to play in front of a bunch of people to inform them of things that are going on in the world that maybe they should open their eyes to.
Ok, so on a slightly different note. I know in the past, obviously Zoli being Hungarian. On Our Darkest Days, is it the last track that he sings in Hungarian. Is that just like a little easter egg for the fans, for the Hungarian fans or…
Kind of, we started it on the previous album. We did the title track “A Place Called Home”, it was actually written in Hungarian first! When we were working on the music Zoli sang the song in Hungarian first and sometimes he does this. So a lot of the time we have the Hungarian version of the song first. He speaks both languages fluently, so sometimes he will write a song in Hungarian first and you kind of fall in love with the melodies and you like the sound of the certain words he uses. It’s always been something cool for us to do, for that opportunity to connect with the people from Hungary speaking the language. This album we have actually taken it a step further. We’re having a proper release in Hungary on Sony and we have recorded three of the songs in Hungarian so they will be feature tracks instead of hidden tracks this time on the record. Which is cool we’ve always done really well in Hungary and it’s a great place to tour, so to give back and show those people, to give them a couple of songs as feature tracks is definitely something cool for us to do.
Does it translate, well not translate but you mention the melodies that Zoli creates. Are they very different because of the use of the words?
It’s such a pain in the butt. I’ve gotta be honest haha! Because some of the songs that are in Hungarian were written in English first so he had to find the right words that work for the syllables to fit in to keep the melody. English is pretty loose with where you can put emphasis on words but the Hungarian language is very strict. The meaning of the words change on the inflection of the syllables so Zoli is trying to sing something to make the melody fit and he’s completely changed the meaning of the word and it’s kind of funny to put this jigsaw together of making the songs that he writes in English first to make them fit in Hungarian. It was a big task! A friend of his mum came in to make sure that he wasn’t talking about a cat instead of war or something hahah! To make sure to not change the meaning of the words but it’s hard when you’re singing the words to stick to how the words are enunciated. It was a challenge, it was fun though. It was really cool to see the whole process coming down.
As the year is kind of coming to an end now. What would you say has been your highlight of 2015?
We had a couple of really cool festivals that we did, we had the Volt festival outside of Budapest with Rise Against and Parkway Drive. It was a packed show, it was super fun. Zoli went out on stage with the Rise Against guys and sang “Satellite” with them that was really cool… I dont know if that was this year, the guys in the band Machine Head covered a couple of Ignite songs on an EP that they did and we played this big festival with them called the Summer Breeze Festival. They were the headliners and they had us come out on stage and Zoli sing the two Ignite songs in front of 25,000 people. Those were some pretty cool moments this year! Playing with In Flames in Germany, those guys are huge Ignite fans. It’s just fun to connect with big bands like that and it was cool when they asked Zoli to come out on stage and it also opens up their whole fan base to our band too which is always a really cool thing.
What two songs did you play live with Machine Head then?
They played the first two tracks off of Our Darkest Days. “Our Darkest Days” which is the intro and then the song “Bleeding”. They played both those songs back to back on stage. There’s actually some really footage of it on Youtube, a multicamera angle cut that we posted and yeah it’s pretty fun!
And finally what has been an album that you’ve been listening to over the last six months to a year?
I was at Coachella last year here in Southern California and there’s always new bands here for me playing because it’s so hard to keep track of every new band that comes out and so I hadn’t had the chance to see Royal Blood yet. So I walked over to the stage and thought of that’s two guys that should be pretty cool and I was blown away by how giant two guys can make music sound. So I immediately bought all their record, came home and have been listening to that. That band for me has been pretty to discover this year and seeing them live! So when they came back in town and played a club show of course I went and saw them. So for me that’s one of the many of this year that I have been listening to!
Well thank you once again for taking the time out to speak to us today and I think that about does it!
Listen to the interview below on our Soundcloud if you prefer, however I must apologise for the slight buzzing on the telephone. A curse of the modern day technology!
Ignite’s brand new album A War Against You is set for a January 8th release via Century Media!