Between the Lines

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Occasionally I like to break up my more ‘broodle’ musical leanings with something a little more amicable. Stuff like Protest the Hero, the recent Barishi album, maybe some older Killswitch Engage or Life in Your Way. A few years ago, the debut, On the Bottom from Canada’s metalcore act Odium was that break, and I still play that album fairly regularly (the track “Serenity’s End” just still kills it). Its mostly due to the simply excellent clean vocals of Thomas Emmans- a mix of Tools Maynard Keenan and Howard Jones.

Well, in 2012 the band released the follow up, Burning the Bridges to Nowhere , but Emmans left soon after. A recent news item came across my desk about a new Odium track, but when I listened to it, I discovered that Emmans was no longer the vocalist. Some quick internet research led me to discover that Emmans was in another Canadian band called Deathpoint and they released an album back in 2013 called Sinister. It’s a fine slab of modern metalcore/metal with Emmans being the expected highlight. Using my varied and deep network of underground metal connections (Facebook) I was able to secure an interview with Emmans and not only break the cycle of Frank Rini interviews with bands whose logos you can’t read but talk to one of my favorite metal vocalists of the last few years you might not have heard about and he was kind enough to give some super detailed, insightful answer to my moronic , basic questions:

Let’s get right to the crux of the matter. You are no longer in Odium but in a new band called Deathpoint. What happened that you left Odium and joined Deathpoint so quickly ? It seems like after Odium’s second album you were ready to take it to the next level. Is Deathpoint a band you formed or were they already in existence and you simply joined them?

Deathpoint was already a band and I had known them for a couple years. Odium used play shows with them a lot. They lost their singer and hired me to record the vocals on their new record Sinister. I was only supposed to write vocals for the songs their previous singer, Jonnie Barr hadn’t already finished (four of the nine tracks were written by Jonnie before he left) and record all the vocals for my songs and Jonnie’s then leave. I decided I wanted to stay on and tour the material personally instead of handing it over to a replacement. Odium had been gradually slowing down and the drive just wasn’t there anymore. It became clear to me that the dreams of days past were no longer shared the way they once were. We all used to talk about all the places we wanted to tour and how we’d give anything to get there. Now every other show someone was complaining about money or missing work or not having a life because of the band. Don’t get me wrong they’re all great people and some of them were still as hungry as I was to get out there when I left. It’s great that they are still going. I wish them all the best. I was willing to do both bands but some of the guys made it clear that this was not okay with them.

In a final phone call with me on one end of the phone and the other four guys on the other I was told to choose which band I would stay in. I told them Deathpoint and I thought that was it. They called back a few minutes later and told me I could do both bands and I said fine. Later that week after much thought I called Joe Mullen who I had started with all those years ago and told him that between the difference in goals, the fact that Deathpoint was such a source of drama and a whole lot of other issues after a month of us debating whether I should leave, I had made my decision. I left Odium and joined Deathpoint full time who were more than happy to have me and who shared the exact same goals as I did. The same dreams Joe and I used to have.

The musical styles are pretty similar, maybe Deathpoint is a bit more rock based. Why join a band who almost sound the same as your prior band?

Although Deathpoint is similar to Odium in many ways I felt that there was still enough difference to warrant putting the time into this record. Besides the fact that they were friends and I wanted to help, I also wrote songs for this record that really made me believe in Deathpoint. By the end of the recording process I knew I needed to be the one out there supporting this record.

Was there any temptation to leave metal all and just branch out into something even more commercial?

Eww. No. (Laughs) I’m in another band right now called Choices which is more of a hard rock/ metal band where I don’t scream as much as usual but that’s about as light as it gets. Any style of music is cool if you believe in it but I’m personally into dark, heavy music. Even my clean singing is there more because I was originally an opera singer than because I’m trying to be commercial. I want to succeed but doing something I wouldn’t even listen to does not fit into my personal definition of success.

As far as I can tell you were just responsible for lyrics and vocals in Odium, are you more involved in the music writing process in Deathpoint?

Actually it is kinda the other way around. I had a huge part in arranging the music and deciding what riffs stay and which ones go in Odium. A lot of the time guys would just bring in long, free flowing riff after riff tracks and we would then sit down and decide what we wanted to use. I had a huge say in how I wanted the instruments to flow in order to compliment what I’d be doing in the songs. Many nights Joe Mullen ( drummer and other founding member of Odium) and I would sit around until the small hours of the morning cutting up demos to properly craft the songs to set me up perfectly for those huge singing parts. In Deathpoint the album was already written instrumentally by the time I got there so I just wrote my lyrics and plugged them in the best I could. I will be much more involved in the full writing process of the next Deathpoint record and you will hear a big difference.

I’m a pure death metal guy but your vocals are just amazing, one of the few clean singers I enjoy. I have often thought Tool’s Keenan Maynard was a comparable vocalist to you- who do you consider a vocal influence or look up to?

Well thanks I really appreciate it. Maynard is a huge influence and I definitely take that as a compliment. Corey Taylor, Serj Tankian, Matt Holt, Mike Patton, Trent Reznor, Bjorn Strid, Anders Friden, Randy Blythe, Phil Bozeman, Howard Jones and Jesse Leech have all also been big influences for me just to name a few.

You mention Howard Jones- Another prominent metalcore singer,  formerly of Killswitch Engage and he released and album in a new band, Devil You Know. Any thoughts on his high profile split with KSE and his new material?

I honestly don’t know much about it. I like Howard and Jesse so it was cool to see Jesse come back. Howard’s technical ability surpasses Jesse but I like Jesse’s writing style more so hearing a new record from him was exciting as an old KSE fan. I heard some of the Devil You Know stuff and I wasn’t blown away but it’s not bad by any means. At a different point in my life I would have probably loved it. It was the same thing with the new KSE record. They’re both good and it’s really cool to hear what two of my influences are doing now but I’ve just kinda moved away from metalcore as a listener.

Killswitch Engage has to be and have been somewhat of an influence on you and both Odium and Deathpoint right?

KSE was one of my early influences. As someone who wanted to both sing and scream they were a good example of one of the ways to do it right. Alive or Just Breathing and End of Heartache were huge for me in the early years. I spent hours in highschool trying to learn their vocal tones and studying the pacing of their phrasing. I guess ten years later you can still hear that huh? ( laughs)

Canada seems to be full of killer metal vocalists who can actually sing- you, Roddy Walker of Protest the Hero, Dennis Tvrdik of Affiance, whoever does clean vocals for Will of the Ancients, Bryan baker of Tibune and even The Agonist’s former and current singers Alissa White Gluz (now of Arch Enemy) and Vicky Psarakis are a few that truly have range- do Canadians take pride in such great varied vocals?

Well I certainly take pride in what my country has to offer the metal community. There are a lot of great bands here with some amazing singers. Burning the Day, Endast, Derelict, Aquila and yes even the current Odium are a few rising stars just to name a few.

So you have heard Odium new song and singer? Any thoughts on it?

The new singer Andrew Fullerton was the guitarist when I was in the band. He should be very proud of what he has accomplished. He was always a great singer but always focused on guitar when I knew him. He has really stepped it up and sounds awesome on the new track. The playing is also top notch as always. That song would have never happened when I was there. I would have arranged it very differently and taken a different approach. That is not an insult at all. I enjoyed the song. Andrew’s approach is quite different and it made it much more interesting than if they’d just gotten someone to mimic my style. I look forward to hearing more from them and I encourage anyone reading this to continue to follow Odium as well.

Canada is know for its brutal technical metal like Despised Icon, Cryptopsy, Augury, Beneath the Massacre etc ever had an inkling to dabble in that style, even though it would not suite your clean singing style?

Absolutely! I love that stuff. I did a project called Dumpsterfire with Matt Macintosh( Terrorhorse) and Kevin Talley(Suffocation, Daath, Six Feet Under) a few years ago and it was a lot of fun. I’d actually like to see if we can fit some more extreme stuff on the next Deathpoint.

It seems like Deathpoint’s 2013 album Sinister didn’t get a huge PR push in the US – I didn’t even hear about it until I asked your old Odium PR guy John Asher your whereabouts. Is due to being on a small Canadian label based on Nova Scotia (Spread the Metal Records), or are you simply happy catering to more Canadian fans?

We did some stuff to push Sinister in US markets after the band charted at 19 on the Top 40 Rock charts in June and we did the interview circuit with some metal stations across the country. The band didn’t really tour over the summer though. We hope to do more in US media but we want to be able to tour there as well to support the media presence. Because we are just starting out essentially we are just targeting the markets in which we are touring. So far they have only been Canadian but we do plan to spread this thing across the border soon.

Talk a little bit about the closing sort of ballad on the album Sinister, “Thirty Stitches” it’s a great tune and really shows your vocal talent.

“Thirty Stitche”s is the first song I wrote for Deathpoint. It is about a phone call I got at 4am one morning from a close family member who was bleeding out in an ambulance from a botched suicide attempt. It took thirty stitches to sew them back up. They still carry the noticeable scars from it to this day. The music and subject matter called for a lot of cleans so I got to show off a bit I guess(laughs)

What’s next for you and Deathpoint? do you have any other irons in the fire personally?

Right now I’m supporting Sinister with Deathpoint and touring as much as we can with that. I’m also writing an EP with my rock band Choices and doing some shows with them as well as a few other projects along the way. The thing I am most excited about though is writing and touring the next Deathpoint record. I can’t wait to see what happens when we all write a record together and I’m there from the beginning of the process.


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