Interview: Tom Gabel (Against Me)

Our own [UTG] Ashley had some time to sit down with Against Me’s Tom Gabel to talk about their new release, White Crosses, their influences, computer hacking and future plans.

UTG: How’re you today?

TG: I am doing pretty good, not bad can’t complain

UTG: Your new album, White Crosses, hit stores just over a month ago. How has the reaction from the fans been?

TG: Its been good, I mean it was technically physically released on June 8th but it leaked a couple months before that. Its weird cause it’s been out but it hasn’t.

UTG: The overall sound of the album is a lot cleaner than the previous releases, was this a conscious decision?

TG: Sure, I mean for us every time you go into the studio its a learning experience. You hope that your getting more of a grasp on what your doing and you can, kind of control the sound that your going for and realize the vision you have or whatever if that makes sense. We have also been lucky in that every time we have gone into the studio we’ve had a little more time. Like the first time we recorded an album we did it in a day, recorded and mixed it in a day, 10 songs, 11 songs. Then the second time its like we had 8 days to record and mix it. And then the third time a month, fourth time three months so you know we just had more of a luxury of time to go in and make a record.

UTG: That is awesome, you can grow and you can actually spend time going back in fourth seeing what you want.

TG: Well for sure and I mean really the first time you go into a studio its intimidating. Your like omg what do all these things do, you know like all these knobs and buttons and everything like that, you know how do you control this stuff and so your kind of at the mercy of whoever is recording it. But again as you get more knowledge of what your doing and you know how things work. Every time we have written a song I have a sound in my head that I would like it to sound like and sometimes I struggle getting that down.

UTG: There seems to be a lot of strong influences on this album, many have even compared the songwriting style to “Born to Run” era Springsteen. What would you say were your biggest inspirations during the writing process?

You know I really think that every song has its own place that its coming from. I think that you know their is definitely the song “Because of The Shame” which has a real Springsteen influence. The song “High Pressure Low” definitely was going for a Tom Petty mixed with a Ramones type vibe. Then the song “Were Breaking Up” is kind of a David Bowie type feel. The song “White Crosses” is trying to go for kind of a Primal Scream type thing. I mean its kind of all over the place. A lot of that stuff is kind of subconscious too. You don’t even realize what’s working until your done with the song and your like oh yea I guess it kinda does have that kind of feel.

UTG: Continuing with the new album, the song “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” plays like autobiography set to music. Could you give us a bit of that song’s backstory?

Really when I started out writing that song I didn’t mean it to be self referential or anything I got stuck on the line “I was a teenage anarchist” I just thought it was a cool line you could kind of build a song around kind of like in the way the Michel Landon movie, “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” or The Cramps song it was the same thing. I just thought it would be like kind of a sensational type feel to it, like confessions of an teenage anarchist. I thought what would be the thing that would be confessed? I thought it would be kind of an ironic twist to have it where the young revolutionary joins the anarchist movement thinking that he’s joining up with freedom fighters and free thinking individuals but then to find out they are just as bad as the fascists I thought that would be a cool twist and as the song came together I realized that it was inevitable people were going to draw conclusions it was referential to myself or my past but that is not where the song started out.

UTG: Moving on to the actual release of the album, you were victims of piracy due to the PlayMPE website hack in April. Everyone knows that leaks hurt record sales, but some have come out defending the idea. Having seen the effect on this release cycle, what are your views on digital piracy?

TG: Well I think that it something that is really out of my control. There is a lot of ways you can look at it. I mean it’s not my job to sell the records. Our job is to write the songs, record the songs, and make an album. Its a record labels job to get that music out to people, so if the record label can’t control music as in how people are getting it. Then thats their problem, its not my problem. I do think that unfortunately that in this day in age downloading often leads to devaluing music in a way, mp3’s in general do that. An mp3 is a ghost it’s nothing physical that you can hold. I am someone who I collect records. I put value in vinyl particularly. So there is that end of it, but it doesn’t change the record you make. As long as people are listening that is kind of the bottom line, or what I am concerned with and for us it kind of worked out to our advantage in a sense that often times when you put out a new record and go on tour and support it, people come out and your playing the new songs, no one knows, it so they are just standing there staring at you. Where as to have people already know the songs when you start touring cause they have already heard it, it is a lot more fun of a show. So you know I am the one that has to get up there every night and play the show so I would much rather have people singing along.

UTG: Also, on the topic of releases, you’re a band known almost more for the vinyl versions of your records than any other format not only because of variety but number of pressings. Is keeping vinyl alive really important to the group?

TG: For Sure 100%, I would be fine if CD’s totally die away and everything was just vinyl and mp3.

UTG: I mean you go to record store or even places like Hot Topic and you can find vinyl over CD’s.

TG: Well that’s what it comes down to is vinyl is a collectors culture. Where as the casual listener just wants the song they heard on the radio. So go to itunes for that but you know the people who collect music will always want the record.

UTG: There is just something so real about having the album in your hands, reading the lyrics, and thank yous.

TG: I mean that is how I discovered most bands growing up was reading the thank you notes, and seeing what bands thanked other bands and going out and checking out those bands then seeing what bands they thanked.

UTG: We touched on this earlier when we talked about fan reactions to the new record, but how has tour been for you recently?

TG: It has been a little hectic. It’s been great as far as the shows have been awesome like Andrew our bass player left the tour a few days ago because his wife had a baby about two months early so we were kind of scrambling for a second didn’t know what we were doing, then our friend Adam luckily flew out and is finishing out the tour with us, so that’s been hectic. Our bus broke down a couple days ago and we were really late to a show and that was stressful but again the shows have been fantastic.

UTG: With doing shows like this and I know tomorrow you will be in Detroit with Silversun Pickups, do think your giving more to the fans doing something like this which is more intimate or is just another show?

TG: Well definitely when your playing your own headlining show it has more of a feeling of well this is our show, its our deal. It’s going to be our fans, our crowd and everything like that, so you approach it in a different way. Where playing with Silversun its like were playing with their crowd mostly and you know its cool to mix things up, it keeps things interesting for us and I wouldn’t necessarily say I prefer one over the other. Although I would probably lean towards our own headlining tours.

UTG: The sound of the new album is a bit more alternatively driven. How does playing the new material compare to old live?

TG: I think it flows well. I mean from our perspective playing it I can’t really tell the difference. Playing a song, is playing a song.

UTG: Following this run, what are your future tour plans?

TG: The Silversun Pickup’s tour last until Lollapalooza, we’re playing Lollapalooza and then we go to Europe for all of August for a bunch of festivals then I think in September, were going to Canada. Then in October, Australia, and New Zealand, then Europe at the end of that, will be in Europe for November and then hopefully after that we will do a headlining US tour.

UTG: Before we go, you’ve always been a band with a message in your material. What would you say is the one thing you want people to take away from White Crosses?

TG: I don’t know, again I think that each particular song kinda comes from its own place and has it’s own meaning behind it. I think overall your really just hoping you making a connection with people. I am not a politician, I am not a sales man or anything like that. It’s not like I am pushing an agenda or something, your just really hoping you make a connection with people and make the world a little less lonely of a place.

Interview by Ashley Abdenour

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