ack when I was a kid, you had these groups of guys called rock bands who played music and obsessed about fame and that often times elusive recording contract. Nowadays, it's all about the DIY and making things happen on your own with a steady stream of live gigs, music that is available on all of the right platforms and a strong social media presence. And of course, a music video wouldn't hurt. Yes, it's all at a band's fingertips these days and as a result you hear less and less about that aforementioned recording contract. Breaking with this rather recent tradition is the Pennsylvania-based metal band SILK9 who have signed that dotted line with the fledgling label RFL RECORDS. Their raucous 5-song EP RETRIBUTION is a gritty look at life and all of the ups and downs that go along with it and the struggle depicted is not only real, it's engaging as hell. ROCKWIRED had the chance to speak with the band's guitarist and founding member ANTHONY LEONE. Here is how the interview went.
RETRIBUTION is a fine EP. How do you feel this release differs from the band's previous releases?
Going from what we did the first time to what we did the second time, I think it's a huge step forward. Everything from the songwriitng to the production and the mastering, everything has jumped up a notch. I know everybody in the band is really happy. We know for a fact that JON over at RFL was. I think it turned out really great.
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What do you attribute the change in sound to?
I'm gonna put all of that on our engineer's back and that is MIKE OFCA at INNOVATION STUDIOS. Going back to the first EP we did - we were doing the tracking and I wasn't gettting what I wanted out of the guitar tone. I wasn't getting the sound that I wanted. I almost bagged it and then he asked me to sit down and work on this stuff and we did and we got a good guitar tone out of that album and then we just took it to another level on this album where I think he really hond in on what we were after. It all just fell into place a little bit easier the second time around. So it got better.
And describe the production of this EP. Who helped you behind the console?
It's a little bit of everybody putting int heir two cents in to make the songs what they are but at the end of the day I give MIKE OFCA of INNOVATION STUDIOS full reign over what the final mix is going to be. Sometimes even the final arrangement. I put my two cents in and I know that SCOTTY BOYD the vocalist and I have sat down listening to it and going over things and making suggestions. But I've told SCOTTY and everybody else that we're letting MIKE make those decisions and he hasn't steared me wrong yet. I put a lot of trust in him to do what we need and he is like the fifth member of the band.
Is this EP a standalone release or is it a taste of an LP to come?
That keeps getting dangled in front of me so I don't know how to answer that. I know that JON from RFL RECORDS has been pushing for a full length but we'll see what things bring. Right now I want to enjoy the work that we did on this and get this out there and see where it takes us. If we do get a chance to doa full lngth album we would be ecstatic to do it.
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What has inspired the songs on RETRIBUTION?
I'm always writing songs. I'm always putting ideas down. I think when the former band kind of disbanded and I caught up with CHARLIE who plays the bass and JUSTIN WALKER on bass and SCOTTY BOYD on vocals, the whole thing kind of took a different direction as far as the music goes. I think it's a little harder and rougher. I think that's why this album sounds a little meaner. There are some messages on this EP. KNIFE IN MY BACK kind of speaks for itself. DAMAGE speaks for itself. I DON'T KNOW is a different one on the album. There is a duel thought behind that. With SCOTTY writing the lyrics, it had more to do with coming out of drug addiction and putting all of that behind you. My thoughts on the songs were sinmply about struggles in every day life. We meshed those two ideas together and we came up with what we've got.
What was your musical experience before SILK9?
I was playing with another original band and I had just decided that it was time to spread my wings and start writing songs. I had been a songwriter for a long time but it wasn't something that I was really serious about. So I sat down in my basement and started wrting songs and I couldn't find anybody that could sing. My vocals weren't good enough to do it. So I was on FACEBOOK one night and I reached out to a friend of mine ISAAC OTT and I asked him if he knew of anybody who could carry a tune. I needed someone with a decent ear who could sing. He suggested that I try his buddy JAIMIE ROHR who lived out in Ohio. So he and I hung out together and that was what started it all. The first song that we wrote when we got together to form this band was YOUR HAND. It's a song that we still do. it all picked up from there.
That's quite a drastic line up change.
Absolutely. It's been a little bit of struggle keeping people in place just becasue being in an original band, you have to go in with the mentality that there just isn't any money. A lot of guys want to get paid to work and I completely understand that but when there is nothing to give you can't squeeze blood from a rock. I don't think I ever left on bad terms with anyone but you do what you have to do. Business is business and music is no different. It's tough. You see bands breaking up all the time and changing their line up for whatever reason. I had a game plan in place so I just stuck to my guns and stayed the course. Some people didn't like that along the way. They had to spread their wings and do other things.
Describe the line up you have now and what it is you think each member brings to the table that makes this thing work?
It's a phenomenal line up. I couldn't have asked for a better line up. We've got SCOTTY BOYD on vocals. He brings that extra grit - that extra attitude and professionalism and he's got a great ear. It made creating these songs in the studio much easier becasue we were able to do much much more with his voice. He's got a great range. When we let someone hear some of the songs that we had recorded they said that we sounded like a cross between PANTERA and DOKKEN. That's like two ends of the spectrum but SCOTTY's got that kind of range where he can do anything from gritty to melodic. He can do anything. He's not pigeonholed and it's great have that asset in this band. CHARLIE HUGHES we call him CHARLIE DAWG. He's another experienced guy. This album verses the last one is so different because this guy has a great bass tone. He plays SPECTRE basses which I love. He knows what to play and how to fill and that is what he did and that worked out great. Also the drummer JUSTIN WALKER works really well with CHARLIE. They compliment each other so well. All of the grooves and the basslines add so much thickness tot he songs tat I can kind of sit back and keep it simple. I don't have to worry about filling in gaps and holes and things like that. They take care of it and I can just do my thing. It works out really nicely and it meshes very well. The four of us mesh really really well.
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What drew you to music in the beginning?
I picked up an acoustic guitar when I was seven years old and that was when I started playing folk guitar and stuff like that. I was just strumming along and I didn't really get serious until I was a teenager. I was in a few cover bands and things like that. Just because of the way bands go and trying ot keep things together I got out of it for a while. I got a little stressed out. Then when I got back into it I had decided that I was going to do all original music and that I wasn't going to do the three set cover band route because I didn't get any fulfillment out of that. My fulfillment is writing songs. My fulfillment is getting up on stage and standing by the guys next to me and watching people singing along to our lyrics and waving their hands to the songs that we wrote. Not that somebody else wrote.
Describe the songwriting process within this band. How do you guys go about it?
It all starts with a rough idea. Typically, it starts with an idea that I come up with on guitar whether it be a lick a riff or a melody. A lot fo thee stuff w did on RETRIBUTUION was done through technology becasue the members of the band live pretty far apart from each other. I'll put the idea that I have a for a song up on my software and send it out to SCOTT and he record his humming over my guitar track. He'll hear an idea and we'll try it. We may kep some stuff and we may not. Some lyrics we keep and some we re-write. It starts off with just alick and a melody or anything really.
Have there been reactions tot he music that have surprised you or that you didn't see coming?
The biggest surprise for me came when we had what is calleda soft release for the EP. We were opeing up for WARRANT and JON MARCHEWKA from our label had gotten some special CD's printed off. It was just the album artwork withthe girl's fce on the actaul disk. He had 60 made and had given a few away and there wee 55 left. We signed each copy and we sold them at the show. We sold every copy. was grabbing JON and saying that he had the other few in his car. He went to his car and was digging through trying to find his copy. Every copy that we had we sold that night and that was pretty special. I've been in this band going on six years now and If I sold five or six CDs at a show was normal but to blow through fifty or sixty CDs in onenight was amazing. JON was really happy. We were really happy. He's put a lot of work into this and to get that type of reaction was pretty good. That soft release was in October but now our CD release party is coming oup on January 27th in Oakmont Pennsylvania. We're getting prepared for that and everyone is excited. If the soft rlease was any indication, this should be six times that.
And describe the relationship between the band and RFL RECORDS?
JON and I met over a year ago now. I saw that he was starting a label. I've been approached by a lot of people with a lot of dreams and a lot of BS. I take it at arms length when I hear certain things. When I met JON it was different. I felt like he had a good idea for how he wanted to handle things. I thought he had a good plan. He didn't promise me the world but we sat down and discussed a distribution deal that would work out for both of us and so far everything JON said he was going to do he has done for me and us and i have no complaints. Things are starting to kick off for RFL RECORDS and they've signed some very good bands like HYDROGYN and BLACK NOTS and THE PERFECT STRANGERS. It's a nice small line up and hopefully int he ner future we're going to do a show together which would be really good for RFL.
What would you like for people to come away with after they hear RETRIBUTION?
I want them to come away thinking that we sound national and that we're not a local band. I don't consider us a local band. I wanted to create something that coud stand next to something that could be released nationally out of a huge professional studio or a big band. I think that's important. I think that the product - that's your heart and soul. We were on a very small budget and everything comes down to dollars and cents. People think all you need is a great studio and a great engineer but all of that stuff costs money. We did this under our budget and we are right there with the quality. Everything is just right there.
With this release behind you, what's next for the band musically?
We're hoping that things pan out and that everything that JON has been working on that we'll be doing a full length soon. That is the hope. If we can get some baccking for a full length then that is where we'll be heading.
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