As a huge Fates Warning fan, it’s hard for me not to be at least a little giddy about interviewing the band which has former drummer Steve Zimmerman as one of its core members. It would be easy to make this about his Fates Warning years, but for this piece, I’m more interested in the band that is Enemy Remains. The Metal Cyndicate is about supporting and promoting local Connecticut Metal bands and Enemy Remains is one of the big names in the scene.
Enemy Remains was formed in 2005 and has gone through several lineup changes since then and settled on their current personnel. Though Steve Zimmerman and Tommy Blardo are founding and core members the addition of Jeff Craig, Jesse Friedlander, and Glen Reed have filled out the solid progressive sound of the band. There is no shortage of talent in Enemy Remains.
Jeff Craig - Vocals
Tommy Blardo - Vocals & Guitars
Jesse Friedlander - Guitarist
Glen Reed - Bass
Steve Zimmerman - Drums
I made a special trip to The Room in Brookfield, CT, where Enemy Remains was on the bill opening for Eye Empire, a national making their way to the east coast for the second time this year. In a quieter spot outside the venue I talked with the guys for a few minutes before their set.
Agrippa: Tell me how you guys came together as a band.
Steve: After I was no longer with Fates (Warning), this guy here Tom, was in a band with my brother and my brother had just recently left. He wasn’t doing anything and I wasn’t doing anything so...I had jammed with another band called Eleventh Hour, but that kind of fell apart.
Steve: Right. Me and him looked at each other and said, “How come we’re not playing together?” So, we started jamming and it just fell into place. It’s taken us a long timeto get the right lineup. We’ve gone through 10 people: guitar players, singers, bass players. It’s always been me and Tom. We finally found the right lineup and here we are today.
Glen: I’ve been here for about a year now.
Jesse: I’m the newest.
Agrippa: How about the name, Enemy Remains?
Tommy: We were in a Florida studio and we had no name for the band. We all put up names on a cabinet. We lived there for a week and every day we’d just look at the cabinet and by the end of the week, everybody just agreed with that one. That’s exactly how it came up. No crazy shit behind it. Everyone said this name sounds kind of cool. Let’s go with that.
Agrippa: You guys have a progressive sound. It doesn’t have to be a metal band, but who are your musical influences?
Jesse: Dimebag Darrel for me.
Glen: Mercyful Fate, Overkill, Slayer, Testament, Anthrax.
Steve: I have a heavy influence from my old band, Fates Warning. That was my favorite band when I was in it. As far as drummers go, I like John Bonim, all the drummers from Jethro Tull, Ian Pace (Deep Purple), and a few others that are back in the 70’s and 80’s but that’s my influences. I like the progressiveness, so I mixed that all together and that’s what i get out. That’s my sound.
Tommy: I grew up with Fates Warning, so I’m very influenced by them.
Jeff: I’d have to say Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) is a big reason why I sing now. It’d be surprising enough to know that I like James Taylor. I listen to a lot of soul music and a lot of Motown. I grew up with my parents listening to it. I like to switch it up a bit too.
Agrippa: You probably have thousands of albums in your collection, between the five of you. If you had to pick one album to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Glen: Mercyful Fate, Dead Again.
Jesse: Cowboys From Hell by Pantera.
Jeff: Iron Maiden, Live After Death.
Tommy: The first Maiden album.
Steve: I can’t do it. There’s just too many favorites. I can’t pick one. If I can’t hear them all then I don’t want to listen to any of them.
Agrippa: Who do you think is the joker in the band?
All: Steve Zimmerman
Agrippa: It’s unanimous. On the opposite side of that, who’s the serious guy?
All: Tommy Blardo.
Agrippa: You guys have been in the live music scene for quite some time. Do you still get nervous before a show?
Jeff: Every single time. Every time, just because it’s more or less the anticipation to get on. Once I get on stage it goes. It’s all gone. It’s the whole build up to the time to actually performing that I’m always nervous. I don’t if we play in front of two people or two thousand. It doesn’t matter.
Agrippa: What do you do to deal with your nerves?
Jeff: I use it. It’s my motivator. Once I get close to the time when I’m going on stage I really just start being introverted and thinking about the lyrics that I’m going to sing, the timing of the songs, and just pretty much running through it in my head. I do a lot of that just to be prepared.
Steve: For me, I don't really get nervous playing. My nervousness comes from the fact that most of these times we’ve been doing shows, and the way it is these days with six or seven bands, it’s the anticipation of “Hurry up and get on.” and “Hurry up off.” That’s really what my anticipation is. You know, with the big kit I have it’s kind of difficult to throw it together quickly in two minutes. I love playing. It’s my life, so I’m never really nervous about playing.
Jesse: I would have to say not so much nervous, but just anxious and excited. Full energy. Ready to go.
Glen: The same thing here. I don't get scared. I don't get nervous. I’m the one that’s looking for something to eat before we’ re going on.
Tommy: Like he says. You never know what you’re walking into when you do shows. We have a big lineup and a big backline and we never know if we’re going to have enough room. That’s my biggest worry is walking and going, “What! What is this? We can’t fit.” That’s the biggest worry for me.
Agrippa: Have you ever been stuck playing some really small clubs?
Tommy: Oh yeah.
Glen: My nightmare is always, when i go to a place and we haven’t check it out first, you get there and find out you’re not mic’ing up. It’s like “Hey, where’s the sound guy?”, “It’s that fifteen year old girl over there.”
Agrippa: On that same subject, what was your worst live nightmare that you’ve ever experienced as a band?
Jesse: Breaking a string during a show. It’s scary.
Tommy: Having bad monitor sound and having me and him lsing touch of where we are in the song. That happens a lot with us. When you get a shitty monitor sound for the night...he’s got so many drums that he can’t even hear the live sound, yeah know? We’ve got to get eye contact and just work it out.
Jeff: I got electrocuted one night playing a show. We were actually the only band to play at Vigilante's, they’re a motorcycle club. It was a rainy day and they had eight hundred feet of extension cords going out to the venue and the first song started...I was playing guitar at the time...As soon as I went to touch the mic to start singing the first verse, all I saw was blue. It was not good. So, pretty much I had to stand four feet away and yell. That was terrible. Good show, but it the electrocution wasn’t good.
Glen: I don't know if it pertains to a particular show, but I did tour last year. I went to Chicago and back and came down with the worst head cold I’d ever had in my life. I was playing in places when I was sick as hell. That’s a nightmare right there. That’s the worst.
Agrippa: What is your favorite Enemy Remains song to play live?
Tommy: “Remember Tomorrow”.
Jeff: I’m going to have to go with that. “Remember Tomorrow”. Absolutely.
Jesse: “Remember Tomorrow”. That and “Breathe Again”.
Glenn: I’d have to say “Upside Down”. I like playing that one live. We open with that one and there's a lot of energy.
Steve: Live, at this point, would be “Remember Tomorrow”, but one of my favorite songs that we do is “The Blame”, which we have not played out. I hope we will be playing that one.
Agrippa: Now this may not be your favorite song, but what do you think is the most definitive Enemy Remains song?
Tommy: “Live for Today”. It’s on Rockband. It’s got our signature sound to it.
Agrippa: There are a shit ton of Metal bands in Connecticut right now. You guys have probably played with your fair share of them. Who’s your favorite band to play with?
Tommy: Probably Graven Image. We’ve got a lot of stuff coming up with them. They support us and we support them.
Jeff: It was an absolute honor to play with Arch/Matheos, ex-Fates Warning members. To play with Steve and them on the same venue. It was just amazing.
Tommy: What about Agrippa93?
Agrippa: You guys don’t have to kiss ass.
Tommy: I get the prize.
Glen: That was a great night though.
Agrippa: What’s your favorite Connecticut venue?
Jeff: The Webster main stage.
Steve: I’ve played at Toad’s in New Haven. Toad’s is nice. Other than that, all the other places seem kind of small. Not to say that it’s a bad experience or anything, but as far as nice places I think Toad’s or The Webster.
Agrippa: The Webster main stage is like the promise land.
Tommy: it is.
Agrippa: How about the writing process for the band? Can you give me a run through of that?
Tommy: We’re in the process of writing the second album now, so we’re getting a lot of our ideas together and working on stuff.
Steve: Tom usually comes down with an idea and I play along with him. We get a rough recording and then we start working on an arrangement. Then we start bringing more people in and get some recordings of it. After some editing and re-arrangements...we got to get it so we can hear it over a hundred times in a row and still love it. If we can’t hear it more than twice, how can we expect anyone else to like it? We keep re-arrangening it unitl it’s totally loveble by us.
Agrippa: I think it was Sting who said that a song is never finished. It’s always in a continuois state of development.
Steve: Yeah. Even live something will come up by mistake and it’s like, “Oh, that’s cool.”
Glen: That’s the one thing I don't really like about recording is, at the time that might be your best effort and best shot, but after playing it live for a year or so, the next thing you know you’ve worked in all these new lines into it. You’ve finally perfected how you’d like it to go, but you can’t go back and change it.
Tom: That’s what the second album is for. Or the third one.
Agrippa: But, then again, that’s what makes the live experience so much better. You get that extra stuff that’s not in the recordings.
Glen: The evolution over time. It’s always evolving.
Agrippa: There are always new bands popping up in Connecticut, what would be your advice for some of the brand new ones just starting out?
Jesse: Practice. Stick with it and never give up. Never give up on your dreams.
Tom: Just work hard. Look at us. We’ve been doing this for a long time, We’re still waiting for that shot.
Agrippa: I’m a bit of a gear head when it comes to music technology and equipment. What’s that one piece of gear that you just can not live without?
Agrippa: What guitar do you use?
Tommy: Pro Tools. I can’t write without it.
Steve: My kit. I’ve spent years getting my kit to where I like it. I have everything on it that’s professional and solid. I got to have it the way it is.
Agrippa: It must be more of a challenge when you have to scale back on your kit a bit like for tonight and also the Webster show.
Glen: I’ve gone through a lot of changes with my equipment over time. With Enemy Remains we have a certain level of sound that we have to be at. We can’t have a shitty sound. I’ve tried many basses. There’s been a lot of times when I’ve come to practice with some new piece and try something new, but I finally got my combination of stuff. I got my MXRA Bass amp. I started playing some Fender Jazz basses. That was the key to my sound right there: The Jazz Bass.
Agrippa: Isn’t that what Geddy Lee uses?
Glen: Yes. It’s working for a lot of people. Again, when someone is young and just getting into it, if you see professional bands out there, you gotta look at what they’re using for their equipment. Check out their guitars. Check out their pick ups and amps. They’re all using that stuff for a reason.
Agrippa: Any last words?
Tommy: Thank you for the interview.
Agrippa: Thanks for your time.
Tommy: Thanks for supporting the local scene, man.
Find Enemy Remains here:
About the author Agrippa is a the general adviser, internet tech sorcerer, and a reporter for the Metal Cyndicate of Connecticut, as well as the author of his own blog about music and music production,Agrippa: Thought Manifest. He can also be found fronting his own band, Agrippa93, on vocals, synths, sequencers, samples, and piano. Agrippa also has an industrial solo project called, Agrippa’s Laboratory. Both projects are produced through his label and studio, Sickle Pation. You can follow him on twitter via @agrippa93, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.