Confessor Interview

Band Name: Confessor
Interviewed: Steve Shelton
Date: 2005-08-09
Previous Confessor Interviews

Hailed as one of the most original acts to emerge from the extensive mid-1990's underground scene, Confessor wowed fans with a potent combination of intense technicality and masterful songwriting. Fate would have it that the band would experience a downturn following the issuance of the band's "Condemned" debut that would find the group going their separate ways, with bassist Cary Rowells and drummer Steve Shelton going on to form Fly Machine. In 2002, with the passing of guitarist Ivan Colon, the group decided to reunite to perform in his honor. That performance sparked a reformation that finds the group, after a twelve year hiatus, prepared to issue a second full length album via Season Of Mist Records this fall. With a renewed focus on musical dynamics and a hunger to get out there again and prove to the world why they are one of metal's most engaging acts, Confessor is certainly a name that you'll be hearing a lot of inside the metal community in the months to come. Steve Shelton talks with The Gauntlet about the band's reunion, their recent teaser EP and their forthcoming platter of powerful metal hymns

The Gauntlet: Why did the group originally disband?

Steve Shelton: Confessor dissolved one member at a time over the course of a few years until we no longer resembled the band we were before. Ivan quit first in order to pursue higher education. We replaced him with a great local guitarist named Chris Nolan but unfortunately, by the time we were ready to play out with him Scott was eager to move on and dedicate himself to his next project, a band called Drench. Scott's farewell show consisted of three mini-sets with a rotating cast of guitarists, past and present, the last of which included Graham Frye who was an original member. Had we known that it would take two years to find a singer who would fit in, we probably would have let that be the end of it, but we pressed on and eventually started playing shows again. The long search did wear out poor Brian however. He packed up his guitar and stopped playing music altogether. Our new singer also happened to be a guitarist, so he filled that void immediately. We decided to drop the name Confessor partly out of respect and partly because we were simply ready to move on with a new identity and a new sound. At that point we became Fly Machine, and we played as such for a few years.

The Gauntlet: For what reason did you decide to reform the group after all of these years?

Steve Shelton: Ivan Colon died in February 2002. At that time Fly Machine wasn't doing much at all. In fact, we were really just going through the motions. Cary and I had a lot of fun practicing all of the old songs again for the benefit show. It gave me a whole new appreciation for what Confessor was all those years ago. It never felt as though Fly Machine's direction had journeyed so far from that of Confessor's, but after the show I found myself missing some of our old flair. Six months later another opportunity for Confessor to play surfaced and after that weekend we decided to bury Fly Machine and work towards writing the long, long overdue second Confessor record.

The Gauntlet: Was it difficult for the band to perform the tribute upon Ivan's passing?

Steve Shelton: For me it really wasn't. Ivan lived his life in such a way that he had no regrets. While he certainly died too young, all of my thoughts and concerns were with his wife. They had only been married a few months, and she was far too young to be a widow. I could not imagine the grief she must have felt after losing such a gift. Six months earlier they were on top of the world, and then it all disappeared in a matter of days. Playing a show to try to help out was the right thing to do, and in that context it was very humbling.

The Gauntlet: Was there a magical feeling when the band first got back together?

Steve Shelton: No, not at first. Things sounded pretty rough when we first started practicing. Graham had not played any of those songs in years, and Brian had not even touched his guitar in five years! No, the magic did not appear for me until the night of the benefit. That night was pretty amazing. There were so many faces that we had not seen in years. It really was like a huge reunion. From my spot on stage all that I saw were hundreds of people singing and smiling. I have never felt such energy from a group of people before! Though we were all there because of a tragedy, everyone was excited and happy to be a part of this unique event. I know it sounds silly but you really could feel it in the room. It was a very special night to have been a part of, and I had the best seat in the house!

The Gauntlet: Why did you choose Shawn McCoy as the new lead guitarist?

Steve Shelton: Shawn is a local guy who has always been at shows and in other bands. He was a big Fly Machine fan and a huge Confessor fan. His name was always the first to come up as someone to talk to if we ever needed to find another guitarist, so when Chris quit Shawn filled the spot right away. The benefit that Confessor did was with the "original" line up (I am not even the original drummer), but Graham did not play the next couple of shows with us. Shawn happily filled in, kicked butt, and was the obvious man for the job once we decided to reform.

The Gauntlet: How did you come to be involved with Season Of Mist Records?

Steve Shelton: Season Of Mist contacted our singer through the Internet not long after we got our website up. A lot of people e-mailed us to say that they could not believe we had gotten back together after so long, or that they had always hoped that one day they would hear of us playing out again. It was really nice to see that even after all these years people could still get excited about us, and especially nice to see that a label like SOM was interested in working with us! It was a thrill to read so many vivid descriptions of Confessor related memories. Soon, very soon, there will be new ones to hear about.

The Gauntlet: Why did you choose to release an EP instead of a full album at this time?

Steve Shelton: Season Of Mist believes that 'Unraveled' will be a really big deal, so we decided to release a limited pressing of the 'Sour Times' EP in order to generate a buzz before the record comes out later this year. Most of the EPs have been sent out to magazines and radio stations but there are a few that are available to fans. The EP has some very hard to find recordings on it as well, so collectors will have something to brag about.

The Gauntlet: What are the emotions that typify a Confessor song?

Steve Shelton: Most of Scott's lyrics are about retreating from everyday experiences in a way that anyone would be able to relate to. Fear seems to be a recurring theme in our songs, and dealing with Ivan's death has inspired a lyric or two. To me, Scott's lyrics help people see that succumbing to the feelings that keep a person down emotionally can really be detrimental. It is so easy to be bitter about things but man; you will poison yourself if you justify feeling that way!

The Gauntlet: Do you feel that the metal scene is as strong today as it was back in the early nineties?

Steve Shelton: Metal certainly seems to be a more commercially viable force in the music industry than it was back then. The metal-pop cross over scene has made a lot of money for some people and it has brought a lot of attention to the metal scene. I think that there are so many bands now that it is much harder to stand out than it was fifteen years ago. Back then all of this was new and there were a handful of bands leading the way, so you either liked the whole genre or you didn't. There was a stronger sense or camaraderie, as everyone was a fan of the same sound. Now, as is the case with every movement, things have become so factional that it can be more difficult to find a band to fit all of your needs. Metal is not going away. Metal carries rage and rebellion where rock cannot in the same way hip-hop does, but as it grows the bands that do it for all the right reasons become harder to find.

The Gauntlet: The new songs on "Sour Times" reflect a matured sound that seems to be even more crushing than before. How did you go about determining the direction of the group upon reformation?

Steve Shelton: We took a much more relaxed approach to writing the songs for this record than we ever tried before. We really just wanted to have fun and enjoy the process.We did not feel obligated to write anything specifically for a certain crowd. One of the things that I realized as we were getting together for the benefit show was that Confessor rocked in a way that was not necessarily "metal". We tried to hang on to that feel as a basis for these songs. We are definitely a metal band, but there is an underlying thread that keeps us from being all metal, all the time.

The Gauntlet: Will the songs on "Unraveled" be along the same lines as the two new tracks on the EP? Can you tell us a little bit about some of the new material?

Steve Shelton: The EP has two songs from the full-length album, 'Sour Times' and 'Hibernation'. 'Sour Times' is the slowest song we have ever written and is predominantly vocal driven, whereas 'Hibernation' is faster and busier and sounds more like old Confessor. We tried to open things up for Scott because his approach is so unique, we felt like he deserved a chance to try some different things on this record. In retrospect, 'Condemned' was really one dimensional. We are a more dynamic band now, and we are not afraid to go with something even if it feels a little different. Some of the songs are still busy and complicated and feel like what we did before, but some of them we slowed down a bit so that you actually could get the license plate of the truck that just flattened you!

The Gauntlet: What is it about heavy metal that attracted you to it in the first place?

Steve Shelton: Heavy metal was a great release for aggression when I was younger. I always liked bigger, more dramatic songs as a kid and in between the decline of disco and the rise of new wave, heavy metal was the only kind of music that had any drama in it. I was pretty docile as a kid but I always felt like an outsider, and old heavy metal really appealed to the inner nerd in all of us. My inner nerd was/is bigger than most peoples' so when heavy metal told me that ripped up jeans and a spiked armband would make me a metal warrior that no one could defeat, and that the darkness that I saw in everything meant that I had an elevated sense of awareness, beyond that of the serfs and dullards that kept bumping into me in the hallways at school, I said "This music was written for me". Besides, you can't headbang to Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me with Science".

The Gauntlet: How does it feel to have been an influence upon so many groups which haunt the scene today?

Steve Shelton: As an artist, you do what you do because something or someone inspired you to try something new. You see or hear, or think of something so interesting or profound that you decide to change your approach to your craft to see if you can recreate that spark and make it your own. Inspiration is a wonderful thing and when I occasionally hear of an interview in which someone claims that Confessor was an influence on their music I am deeply honored and humbled. The underlying purpose in writing music is to communicate with people, to share your ideas and reflections. When someone tells us that Confessor is their favorite band or that I inspire them as a drummer it makes me realize that we are doing something meaningful. Music is such a personal form of expression! For a person to single out your band as one of their favorites is the ultimate compliment.

The Gauntlet: What types of fans will enjoy the new album?

Steve Shelton: I think that people who like provocative music will be psyched to get their hands on this record. 'Unraveled' is a metal record, to be sure, but it is not so much so that it will turn people off whom like other forms of music too. We are not so extreme that we will isolate our audience to one or two of the genre's subsets. There is something for everyone who likes heavy, interesting music.

The Gauntlet: There has been talk of a forthcoming world tour in support of the album. Where will this tour be taking the band?

Steve Shelton: So far the only real traveling that we will be doing will be a trip to Oslo, Norway for Season Of Mist's Sonic Solstice festival at the end of September. Beyond that, who can say?

The Gauntlet: If there is one thing that you could change in regard to the group, what would it be?

Steve Shelton: I would go back in time and have us sign with a different label for the release of our first record. The relationship we had (if you could even call it a relationship) soured pretty quickly, and they left us waiting around without any news or information for a really long time. That lull created the environment for people to get restless and begin to think about other things that they could do. We were having the time of our lives for a while there and then the label just dropped off the face of the earth. Who knows what could have happened if Confessor had released a second record to follow up Condemned? Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful to Season Of Mist for giving us this opportunity, but the second record is just a few years too late.

The Gauntlet: What would you like to say to fans that have been looking forward to the new record?

Steve Shelton: Anyone who has been looking forward to this record after twelve years of inactivity is the most dedicated type of fan that a band could ask for! We have been blown away by the support and encouragement that we have received from you guys and cannot thank you enough for your dedication. You deserve a record that you can be proud of because you have hung on to your old recordings and memories of Confessor for so long! Thank you for your enthusiasm, your loyalty, and for every time that you got into an argument with someone because you dared to call yourself one of our fans! This new record belongs to you first, and everyone else second!