Max Illidge, vocalist for the New Jersey based metal band With Daggers Drawn, sat down with us for a few minutes to discuss their debut release, Heart of the Universe, and his other plans for 2012.
Type 3 Media: With Daggers Drawn released Heart of the Universe a couple months ago; how has the response been so far?
Max Illidge: I haven’t gotten a bad review yet. We put it up and a couple thousand people have downloaded it so far.
Type 3 Media: What was the biggest challenge with self-producing and doing everything yourself?
Max Illidge: I’ve been doing it for a while. With this band it really isn’t about self-production — I’ve been producing and engineering for a lot of years — with this band, it’s about getting to know these guys, because I was in my other band, 40 Below Summer, for years, and I was in Black Market Hero for almost five years after that. This band is a little more progressive and a little more technical than most bands, so it’s a more time consuming process to make sure everything is right. The most important thing is the performance, and then it’s about how you record the performance. As with anything else, it’s a learning experience for me as an engineer and for us as a band. With this band it’s all about precision and accuracy and getting a feel for how each band member works — with the exception of Joey our rhythm guitar player, because he’s been in every band with me for the past fifteen years, so I know how he works.
Type 3 Media: Are people surprised when they learn you recorded all analog?
Max Illidge: Yeah, some people are definitely surprised when they hear this. I just feel like that if you can do it, do it. A lot of bands out there don’t live up to their albums because they can’t pull it off. They rely too much on editing and computers to fix their mistakes. A lot of bands will write and record parts that they can’t play and can’t pull off live. That’s not to say every band has to sound perfect, there’s got to be a difference between live and album. With this band, it was difficult to do this with little to almost no editing because it is a fairly complex album with fairly complex songs and parts. It was a task.
Type 3 Media: A lot of punch-ins and retakes?
Max Illidge: Yes. At the end of the day, it came out alright.
Type 3 Media: Why did you decide to offer Heart of the Universe as a free download?
Max Illidge: Honestly we just figured we’ll get it out there. People who buy it are going to rip it anyway and give it to their friends, who’ll rip it and give it to their friends, so we might as well give it away for free. This band hasn’t really done anything yet, so it wasn’t like we could really get much money for it. Just let people take it and give it to their friends or send them to the site. If people really dig it, you’ll have a huge fan base and you charge for the next one and make money.
Type 3 Media: Where are you playing tonight?
Max Illidge: Webster Hall in New York City.
Type 3 Media: How do you find the New York crowds compare to the New Jersey crowds?
Max Illidge: How do I answer this without offending many New York people? New Jersey people are way better. They go much crazier. Don’t get me wrong. Even with my old band, 40 Below Summer — we put out two albums, toured all over the country for many years and we had a huge loyal following — northern New Jersey to Manhattan is only 35 to 40 miles, we do a New York City show and 500 to 700 people show up, we do a New Jersey show and 1500 to 2000 people would show up. It’s the same radio stations, so you’d think the crowds would be close to the same, but it was more than double the turn-out. With Daggers Drawn… the jury is still out, we haven’t played all that many shows, but now that the record is out we’re hoping that when people hear the music they’ll start coming out a little bit more.
Type 3 Media: Any plans to take this project on the road?
Max Illidge: Little by little. On January 21st we’re playing a show in Worcester, MA at The Raven Music Hall. That should be a good show. After that we don’t have anything currently booked, but we will be booking more shows.
Type 3 Media: I heard that 40 Below Summer has something brewing too?
Max Illidge: We’re in the works for a new album. It is, as of yet, untitled and we’re still in the pre-production and writing stage. We’re getting toward the home stretch of that. We have all the material, it’s just a matter of putting the last couple of songs together and finalizing the lyrics. Hopefully, in a month or so, we’re going to start tracking the album, then from there it’s just another month and a half to two months to make the record. By the time we’re halfway through the tracking process I’ll book the CD release show at the Starland Ballroom in New Jersey.
Type 3 Media: It’s probably premature to ask, but is there label interest yet?
Max Illidge: No, not at all. The last time we talked to a major label was in 2004. I wouldn’t think there’s any interest until the album is done and it gets into certain people’s hands. Am I banking on it? No, I don’t really care, because to be honest 40 Below Summer can make plenty of money without a record label. Unless a record label comes to us with an offer of yesteryear — they don’t hand out deals like that anymore — I don’t even see us wanting to sign with a label because it doesn’t make sense. If you can get paid three to ten thousand dollars per show, and sell the album at shows — sell 300 copies, or 100 copies, or even 50 copies a night — and T-shirts as well, you’re making plenty of money. What do you need a label for? Your loyal fans will come to the show any buy your record. Look at a band like Chimera. They’re on a label, but the label is just distributing their record. They didn’t need the label for tour support. They went out on the road on their own and they kept all their money. Bands can do very well on their own now. Bands are a lot smarter than they used to be.
Type 3 Media: So much has changed over the past decade.
Max Illidge: Yeah, I’m not some 22 year-old kid who can just say “oh I’m going to go out on the road and not worry about bills because I really don’t have any,” then go out for two or three years and make no money. It’s not an option for me at this point. It has to be done intelligently. There has to be money involved. There has to be a living. I’m not saying that I’m greedy and I want to get rich. I can’t end up on the street from touring, or not have a car to drive, or a phone to do interviews on. [laughs] The bottom line is that I love making music, but it is a business too and I have to make a living.
Type 3 Media: And you’ll be busy making music for the next several months to come.
Max Illidge: With Daggers Drawn is about halfway through another EP which we’re hoping to have come out during late summer or early fall 2012, if not sooner. This was only our first record, and the band definitely has more music in it. Everybody should stay tuned because we’re not going to wait a year-and-a half to two years to put out another album.
Type 3 Media: Any closing thoughts?
Max Illidge: Everybody out there, please check out With Daggers Drawn and download Heart of the Universe for free. Believe me, you will be pleasantly surprised. For all you 40 Below Summer fans, sit tight, the album will probably be out in 2012.