Mike LePond tunnetaan parhaiten amerikkalaisen progressiivisen metallin huippuihin kuuluvan Symphony X:n riveistä, mutta mies on mukana useassa muussakin projektissa.
Basistin johtama Silent Assassins -yhtye on tammikuussa 2018 julkaissut toisen albuminsa “Pawn And Prophecy”. Lisäksi LePond soittaa ex-Manowar kitaristi Ross The Bossin yhtyeessä, jolta on myös ilmestymässä uusi albumi ”By Blood Sworn”. Symphony X on puolestaan viettänyt jonkin aikaa hiljaiseloa, mutta basisti vahvistaa Metalliluolalle yhtyeen käynnistävän pian uuden levyn valmistelut ja seuraajaa ”Underworld” –albumille (2015) on odotettavissa vuoden 2019 alkuun mennessä.
Koko haastattelu luettavissa alta:
You were responsible composing the whole first Silent Assassins –record, how was the creative process this time around? Did the new songs take a lot of work or did music come naturally?
I learned a lot about writing, arranging and producing from the first Silent Assassins record. This time around the process was much easier and faster. The new songs still required hours and hours of hard work, especially the title track. That took two years to write.
Compared to first album, would you say are the main differences and does “Pawn And Prophecy” keep the same sound?
I think there are very few differences between “Pawn And Prophecy” and the first album. They both are classic heavy metal records at their core. If I had to really think about it, I would say that the new album goes a lot farther with my folk influence. Also, my Symphony X influence is showcased as well.
The epic title track has many vocalists and a storyline in many parts, can you describe the process of the track and how did it come about?
The title track tells the story of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I had this idea for ten years. I originally tried to get Symphony X to do it, but it just never happened. There are important female characters in the play, so I thought it would be fun to hire female singers. I knew it would be long, so I kept the song moving in different directions with certain themes returning throughout.
You also play rhythm guitar on record, what is your approach in playing with yourself on record as both guitarist and bass player?
Obviously, the bass playing part is very easy and fun to do. The rhythm guitar playing, and recording are very new to me and I am learning more and more. I usually only use guitar for writing, so I had many struggles recording the guitar and finding the correct sound.
The record’s out via Frontiers which usually focuses on melodic hard rock, how did the switch in labels come about and how has been working with one of the most prolific labels out there?
I released the first album in two ways. A label called UDR released it in Europe. I self-released it for the rest of the world. UDR has since gone out of business and I am now so proud to be a part of the Frontiers family. They have all my favorite bands as well, so I am blessed.
Can you list your bass gear, what are you using both on stage and in studio nowadays?
I play Caparison basses and Peavey amplifiers. I also use Tech 21 effects and D’addario strings.
What is the status of Symphony X at the moment? Any chance for new music or live shows in the future, with vocalist Russell (Allen) still on board?
At the moment, Russell is finishing a tour with Trans-SIberian Orchestra. Michael Romeo (guitar) is also finishing up a solo album. As soon as he completes it, Symphony X will start writing songs for a new record. We are hoping to release something by the end of this year or early next year.
With Symphony X you created a long list of metal progressive metal’s greatest moments, is there anything you feel particularly stands out from your impressive catalogue?
I am so lucky to be a part of the best progressive metal band in the world. The first album I recorded when I joined the band was the “V” record. For me, this still stands out as the best CD that I ever played on. It has all the elements of greatness wrapped together in a fantastic metal package.
What’s up with Ross The Boss at the moment?
As a huge Manowar fan, it was an honor to tour the world in 2017 with Ross. In December we went into the studio and recorded a brand new album of original songs and a few Manowar classics. The album is called “By Blood Sworn” and will be released in the spring with more touring to follow.
As a bass player who were your main influences when you started out as a musician?
When I first began playing bass, my big inspiration was Gene Simmons. As I got older and more into heavy metal, I began being influenced by Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) and Joey DeMaio (Manowar). Geddy Lee of Rush was also very important in shaping my playing style.
What kind of music do you listen to yourself when at home?
When I’m at home I try to keep up with all the new metal bands that are coming out as well as revisiting all my favorites from my childhood. My favorite non-metal band is Blackmore’s Night. That band’s style has had a profound effect of my songwriting and playing technique.
You seem to have kept yourself busy with various projects, is finding the time and keeping priorities in line a challenge for you?
I love to keep busy by playing the bass. I have probably played on more metal projects than any bassist ever. Every recording challenges me and makes me a better player. I am a very organized person, so I can easily find the time for all the work. I dedicate myself 100% to each and every project.
You have worked with many great musicians and artists throughout your career, anyone in particular you still would like to collaborate in the future?
I have been lucky enough to work with some of the best and most famous musicians in the world. I am very blessed in this regard. Of course, I would love to work with my childhood heroes like Ozzy, Ritchie Blackmore and Rob Halford.
Any touring plans regarding Silent Assassins for 2018?
One of my biggest regrets was that I did not tour to support my first album. At the moment, I am working with Symphony X’s manager to find touring opportunities. I would like to play festivals or a cool metal tour. I have a live band ready to go at a moments notice. I should have news on that soon.
Last greetings for the readers of Metalliluola?
To everyone that has followed and supported me for all these years, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the reason I get to live my dreams and I love you all for that. I will see most of you on tour in 2018. If you see me, please say hello. I would love to meet you.
Haastattelu: Miika Manninen, Jussi Krannila & Ville Krannila
Artikkelikuva: Jatzi Nieto Photography