While attending the magnificent Metal Blade Records 35th Anniversary show in Los Angeles, which featured the lineup of Whitechapel, Cattle Decapitation, Goatwhore, Allegaeon, and Necromancing the Stone, I was able to speak to a couple of the bands. Allegaeon vocalist Riley McShane sat down with yours truly before the show.
After discussing the group's previous Patreon controversy, we talked about the musical direction Allegaeon plan to go towards as the next album will be McShane's first in which he is part of the entire writing process considering he joined during the middle of Proponent for Sentience. Check out the full interview below.
First off, quite the rad lineup for this tour. How has it been so far?
It's been good. There's been lots of packed shows and making new fans. It's nice having such a diverse lineup. It's something for everyone. If someone may not like or know of every band on the package because they're super into another band, they will often walk away enjoying everyone. In terms of Allegaeon, we've toured with Necromancing the Stone before, but I've been on the road with Cattle Decapitation in 2010 when I was with Sons of Aurelias and with Goatwhore in 2012 when I was covering vocals with Fallujah. The only ones I had to really meet was the Whitechapel guys and they're awesome dudes.
You've had a slight lineup change recently. How has that been?
Yeah, our previous tour was Corey's last one with us so we've had Andrew Grevey from Wretched filling in on bass for us. For now, he's just touring with us and we've tossed around the idea of a permanent member. We also have a couple other people on backup that we want to look at. We don't want to rush to any decisions with that, but Andrew is doing great and he's a rad dude.
So in relation to Corey’s departure, there was clear financial issues with the band. Was there ever the consideration of if the band should break up at this time?
I mean, yes, but it wasn't so much of a consideration more than a harsh reality. We were in a situation with lots of cancelled tour dates and we were unable to finance the trips to and from the venues without having some kind of supplementary income. So, that is what sort of started the whole idea behind our Patreon and having a fan club to build some extra income on a monthly basis.
In hindsight, was there anything you could’ve done to avoid this financial conflict?
I think most bands face a financial hardship at one point or another. Our biggest maybe misstep was in the presentation of the Patreon in that it almost seemed that the money was our sole purpose for having it. It came from a place of good intentions to reach out to our fans. We also just wanted to be straight-forward with our fanbase, who we figured would be the ones subscribing, but maybe that honesty was a bit too straight-forward for a lot of the people who were on the outside looking in. There was backlash and it makes sense from all the angles, but there some pretty poorly-informed smear pieces with clickbait out there as well.
Overall, do you have any advice or words of wisdom relating to the music industry from a financial perspective?
Every band is a small business when it gets to the point where you're releasing albums and touring. It's very important to keep a tight lock on your finances. Make sure you're not making any unnecessary expenses and all your contracts look good. Before you say yes to things, think five steps down the road on how you're going to budget whatever it is that you're going to be doing with the financial stability that you have available. Just treat it like a business and know that every business has the potential to fail if you're not careful and aware.
Would Patreon be a platform you'd recommend to other bands?
I think it's very situational and not for everyone. We did it because we felt like we had enough of a fanbase to warrant starting a fan club. I think Patreon is a great platform, but yeah, I definitely think that most bands, once they build up enough of a following, should probably create some form of extra incentive program for their more dedicated fans. And bands have had fan clubs for decades. Even in the 80's, you would mail in money for signed merch. It's a tried a true method. Now we just live in an era where there are more tools available than sending in an envelope with cash.
Allegaeon released their fourth LP last year. Looking back, were there any moments of the writing and recording process that stood out to you?
I jumped in during the middle of the writing cycle, so there were definitely a few songs that already had been detailed. Greg wrote a few choruses lyric-wise, which were set in stone, but writing around that was a cool challenge for me. And writing for Bjorn from Soilwork was also really interesting because I wasn't super familiar with his style. I listen to Soilwork and enjoy them, but haven't dug deep enough into them enough to write his parts. Working with Dave Otero as well was new because his method of production was very hands-on. We'd have four or five different takes that are just slightly different from each other.
I would say this last record is the band’s most progressive. Was that a conscious decision or did you bring that to the table when you joined?
Like I said, I came in halfway through the process. And while there were songs that were still under construction, I feel like the band was already going in that direction. I just tried to fit that progression the best I could.
And it is my understanding that you play guitar as well. Are there plans to write guitar for Allegaeon in the future?
Yeah, that's right, I do. I didn't write any for this album though, but for the next one, Greg and I have begun writing some pieces. But for this one I think it was a little too late. I was just so focused on trying to fit the mold and fill the shoes that Ezra left behind while also introducing people to my style. Greg and Mikey have already both laid down several skeletons of future songs to work on. We're basically always writing so we're never stagnant with the writing process.
Although it has been less than a year since the last release, can you talk about the direction these new songs are going?
It's definitely continuing in that more progressive and melodic direction. At the same time, we are aware of how much more progressive/melodic Proponent for Sentience is in comparison to Elements of the Infinite or Formshifter, so we've been trying to keep those super brutal riffs in the back of our mind. We definitely want to work on stuff that is way heavier that the material that was on Proponent for Sentience.
There’s been a lot of controversy going on in our country. As an artist, do you ever use this as inspiration towards making music?
I think I find outlets outside of the music to deal with that. With Allegaeon, we're more focused on talking about science and philosophy than about politics and sociology. As much as I'd like to write showing my points of view, it's probably best for the band to keep doing what we've always done. If the EPA gets cut in funding though, I might have a few things to say.
After this tour, what are the plans?
Just more touring is on the table. Maybe do a co-headlining run in Canada and then support a tour overseas in Europe. I'd love to tour with bands like Between the Buried and Me, Devin Townsend, Gojira, or Opeth, but I feel like they're maybe a bit too big league than where we are right now. I have never seen Gojira live and I've only heard amazing things. I'm such a huge fan of their records, but it's never lined up tourwise.