Mike LePond (Symphony X, Affector, solo) - interview

*** MIKE LEPOND (Symphony X, Affector, solo) - "Emotions that can be echoed through the music..."***

One of the rules of the music industry - these days in particular - is that the band activity doesn't really exclude the band members going solo and achieving their full potential also elsewhere. Actually, in many cases it works well for them both to take place simultaneously. It's something the American musician Mike LePond knows particularly well. Since the late '90s he's a member of the Progressive Metal ensemble Symphony X - their most recent effort Underworld saw the light of day in July 2015. To promote the album, the group will play in Poland in March 2016. However, the band activity is just one of many in LePond's schedule. For years he collaborated with various musicians in bands and projects such as Dead On Arrival or Affector. A year ago he also released his first solo album - Silent Assasins - featuring guest participation from Mike Chlasciak (Halford, Testament), Michael Romeo (Symphony X) or Alan Tecchio (Hades, Watchtower). What does future hold in store for the ambitious bassist - will it be another solo album? Will Silent Assasins remain a one-off side project only, or perhaps it is more of a regular band now? What are the inspirations behind the aforesaid album? And what are Mike's expectations as far as Symphony X's upcoming gig in Warsaw is concerned? If you want to find out, please check out the short interview he's given to us in the middle of his work in the recording studio.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Although we’re going to focus primarily on your solo project Silent Assasins, I’d like to ask you first about the upcoming gig in Poland with Symphony X. You’re going to play in March in Warsaw. Any expectations?

MIKE LEPOND: We played Poland only one time in 2007 opening for Dream Theater. It was a great experience and now we look forward to giving your fine country a full headline show.

Mike LePond na scenie podczas koncertu HARD ROCK SERVICE: You remain a member of Symphony X since 1998. Last year, though, you went solo. What’s prompted you to do so?

MIKE LEPOND: My first love has always been classic Heavy Metal and I have wanted to release a CD in this style for many years. After Symphony X released Iconoclast, I was able to write my solo album on our tours of Europe and North America.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: What kind of difference there was between working on your solo album and your regular activity in Symphony X? Which do you feel more comfortable at?

MIKE LEPOND: There was a big difference. With Symphony X we all write our own parts so there is much less to do. With my solo album, I had to write all the music, all the lyrics, and produce. This was exhausting work but I loved it.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Silent Assasins is technically your solo album, but what the ensemble behind the recordings is referred to is the infamous “super group” term. Do you see this as your solo side project, or a regular band?

MIKE LEPOND: When I began writing and recording the album I had only intended it to be a side project for fun, but after the great response I would like it to be a side band.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Do you plan any more recordings with people involved in making Silent Assasins?

MIKE LEPOND: I am close friends with all the guys who recorded on the CD. I intend to continue working with all of them.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Are you satisfied with the result of the recordings? Is there anything you’d improve on now that it’s been more than a year since the album saw the light of day?

MIKE LEPOND: Overall I was very satisfied with every aspect of the recording. The only thing I would have changed was in the packaging. I should have included a booklet and photos of the band members.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: What kind of feedback do you get for the album?

MIKE LEPOND: Almost all of the feedback was amazing. Great reviews from the media as well as the Symphony X fans.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Onto the details of the album – there’s certain lyrical quality to Silent Assasins, song lyrics based on mythology, literature and history. Why have you decided on building an album around such themes?

MIKE LEPOND: In my opinion, these epic themes work perfectly with Heavy Metal. They invoke so many different emotions that can be echoed through the music.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: What did your songwriting process for the album look like?

MIKE LEPOND: I treated my songwriting process kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. I just matched the moods of my lyrics with the appropriate musical pieces.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: When writing, is there anything else you draw your inspiration from beyond what’s been developed on the album? Is your songwriting only about exploring certain themes from literature or history, or is it blended with real life experiences?

MIKE LEPOND: Sometimes the songs can have a double meaning. For example, Apocalypse Rider is technically about Atilla the Hun, but also about riding your motorcycle.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: The epic, anthem-ic quality to the songs and certain lyrical themes which are characteristics of Silent Assasins are often said to be a Heavy/Power Metal cliché. What do you think about it?

MIKE LEPOND: That may be true but I just love writing like that. It feels natural to me.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Do you see the album as an entity, or are there any songs you think stand out in particular?

MIKE LEPOND: The answer is yes to both questions. I see the whole thing as a work of art to be enjoyed from start to finish, but I think there are some tracks that stand out.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: You’ve already had some experience in Metal super-groups. In 2012, you co-founded a Progressive Metal band Affector. Is it on hiatus right now, or can we expect a follow-up to Harmagedon very soon?

MIKE LEPOND: Songs are currently being written for a second album. I am looking forward to it.

Mike LePond na scenie podczas koncertu) HARD ROCK SERVICE: Symphony X and Affector are Progressive Metal acts, whereas Silent Assasins is Epic/Viking Metal with certain classic Heavy/Power background. Which is closer music-wise to your personal taste? What kind of bands do you listen to?

MIKE LEPOND: My favorite music is in-your-face, pure, raw Heavy Metal. I listen to the classic Metal bands, the epic Power Metal bands and the Folk/Viking Metal bands.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Which musicians exerted an influence over you when you started to play years ago? In spite of developing your own style, do you think your roots and inspirations are still to be found in music you play and write?

MIKE LEPOND: My influences are Gene Simmons, Steve Harris, Joey DeMaio, Geezer Butler and Geddy Lee. You can still hear all those guys in my playing today.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Now a question that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek – why do you think there are so many jokes centered around bassists? What’s your approach to them?

MIKE LEPOND: I love all the jokes. It is probably because bass players are usually not the focus of a band but we are very important.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Getting serious again, what are your current plans? Anything related to Silent Assasins perhaps?

MIKE LEPOND: I am currently recording a second record and I am assembling a live band.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Is there anything you’d like to add in the end?

MIKE LEPOND: I would like to thank all the fans who have been so loyal over the years. I love you and will see you on tour soon!

Interviewer: Aleksandra Mrozowska

(All photos are used with permission.)

Autor: Aleksandra Mrozowska

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