There’s a dedication and there’s Pop Evil. These guys take dedication to their fanbase and living on the road to a whole new level. The band just finished their first European tour with labelmates Five Finger Death Punch. ThisIsNotAScene caught up with frontman Leigh Kakaty to probe his mind on the band’s latest album, rock and rock excess, working with producer Johnny K (Megadeth, Disturbed) and the new reality of a changed music industry…
You just finished your first European tour in support of Five Finger Death Punch. How do you look back on the whole experience?
It was just fantastic, almost like a dream come true. We’ve always wanted to visit Europe one time and we’ve done that with our label mates of Five Finger Death Punch. People came out early to see us and in between gigs we took a lot of culture in as well. The live shows went great and I can’t wait to come back again.
Any peculiar experiences you’d like to share?
Hmm, nothing really special to be honest. Just like the guys in Five Finger Death Punch we’re more interested in having a more healthy lifestyle while being on the road. Of course there are the occasional bouts of partying and drinking, but nothing out of the ordinary. Staying healthy on the road is quite the challenge in itself and we have a hefty touring schedule coming up for the rest of the year and we want to give our fans the best live experience that we can possibly give them. They are the ones we’re doing this for and they make it all happen for us as a band. No Motley Crue style debauchery for us (laughs).
Your latest album, “Onyx”, is a very solid modern rock record. Are you happy the way it came out?
Certainly! Onyx really signifies a new chapter in the history of Pop Evil. We used the experience we gained all the touring for our previous albums and put it in the new record. It’s also quite an emotional record for us to make, because it deals with things like alienation, sadness, sorrow, loss, temptation and whatnot. We really want to take our fans through a journey on this record, first to break you down and then build you up again. It was also the first record on which we really didn’t care what any outsiders would think of the songs we’ve written. These are our songs and we have to play them for the rest of our careers, so we’d better put the best ones we can write on record. I really felt that some magic was created during the writing and recording these songs and I get the feeling each time when we play live and how the fans react to them. I couldn’t be happier.
Onyx is stocked to the brim with incredibly catchy songs. How important is it for you to write memorable tunes?
We really put a lot of attention on all the details of the individual song parts. Each bridge, hook, chorus and vocal line had to be catchy and memorable. If it didn’t worked we would ditch a certain part. As a vocalist I’m not really involved with the songwriting process per se, but I know that Nick and Dave have a great chemistry going on and they have their specific way of going about writing the perfect song. Within Pop Evil, it’s all about the songs, man (laughs).
What are the hallmarks of a good song to you and why?
It’s all about a catchy hook. If you hear a song and you can sing it back partly or in its entirely, than that’s a good song to me. It doesn’t mean that I actually have to like what I’m hearing, but when I can it back after hearing it once, that’s a good song to me. Disney has those type of songs in spades.
Can you take us through the motions of writing and recording the album?
Of course! The album was recorded back in January and February of last year. We had to track the album in two months, which added a lot of pressure on the band. Because of all the hassle going in the music industry and with ever shrinking budgets labels demand high quality against low costs nowadays. I was actually sick in the first month of the recording, so I had to record all my vocals in the second month. I was still sick at the time, but I felt well enough to at least being able to record them. We also experimented a lot of different guitar tones and amps and we had a lot of confidence of recording the album and we had a clear vision of where we wanted to with “Onyx”. Despite all the pressure going on, we had a great time recording the album.
On Onyx you worked with producer Johnny K. How was it work to work with him and what did he bring to the table as far as ideas and advice goes?
Working with Johnny was great as ever. He’s like a brother and a father to us sometimes. He wears so many hats and plays so many different roles during the recording of “Onyx”. This time around we had a clear vision where we wanted go with this record and Johnny really respected that. This time around he was more of a studio technician and less as a producer. He taught us a lot of things on how to be better studio musicians on our previous records. That really payed dividends while recording “Onyx”.
Pop Evil had to deal with several lineup changes the last couple of years. How do you reflect on those? Necessary evil in order to move forward?
It’s a necessary evil, but it made Pop Evil a better band. We are a blue collar touring band and we spends the biggest part of year on the road. That type of lifestyle isn’t suited for everyone. The musician bit is only one percent of being in a band. The other 99 percent is about sitting in a tour bus packed together travelling from gig to gig, so you’d better along with each other. The current Pop Evil is the best one so far and this energy really comes alive during our shows. We live to tour and bring our music to the fans.
The music industry is in shambles nowadays. How does this influence the way you conduct business with Pop Evil and your own outlook on a career as a musician?
I try not to think about it too much. We spent most times between the four walls of touring bus, so we don’t have the time to really think about it. Bands make their money on the road playing shows to their fanbase and not in album sales anymore. We haven’t made any money from the album sales from our previous albums, so I really don’t care about album sales anymore. For me, all that matters is being on the road bringing our music to our fanbase best we can or die trying. We are a blue collar working band and with us the glass is always half full. If we can bring rock and metal back to the mainstream we certainly want to play our part in this. Touring and playing live is what Pop Evil lives for.
Crowdfunding is pretty big nowadays. What are your thoughts on that?
It’s an interesting development and I’m certainly not against it. Luckily we don’t to have to use it yet, but when you’re in a band and you a have solid fanbase that means you have a community of brothers and sisters with a mutual appreciation for the music. When a band is in dire straits crowdfunding can be a great tool to raise enough money. When I love a certain band and they asked me to pledge a certain amount of money as a fan, I certainly would do it.
Finally, what is next for Pop Evil as further touring plans go?
We just finished this European tour with Five Finger Death Punch and we’ll be in the US touring throughout the Summer playing festival gigs. There’s co-headliner tour planned with Escape The Fate and we’re going to take our labelmates from Avatar with us. We’re also looking into putting together another European tour, so we’ll be busy until the Holiday season. We’re looking into a recording new album again in early 2015 and tour for that album. Like I said before, Pop Evil is made for living on the road (laughs).