Josh Moore - Vocals, Mike Castro - Drums, Doug Lenington - Guitar, Chris Millet - BassMushroomhead and Hed (P.E.) played the Webster Theater in Hartford, Connecticut and as a bonus, Fear the Masses was on the bill for the supporting stage. I had seen these guys a couple of times and made a point to get there to see their set. As always, they delivered their brand of goods to an audience that was primed for that genre: A little bit of Hip Hop mixed with Metal and splashes of Jazz/Funk. Fresh off the stage and hanging outside the Webster, they let me take a few minutes of their time for a Metal Cyndicate interview.
Agrippa: Tell me a little bit about Fear the Masses.
Josh: We started about a year and a half ago with me and Chris. About a year ago we picked up these two fine gentlemen, Michael and Doug. We kind of formed up to just play music. When we first started, we didn’t really have and idea of what we were doing. We were kind of like’ “Let’s mix Hip Hop with something.”, and then it just progressed from there and got angrier.
Chris: I think the history of us is that we all come from very different backgrounds and...Josh, you started out doing Gospel and Hip Hop and all that stuff like that. I started off playing Ska, Jazz, and Blues. Mike just does whatever the hell he wants, and he was a marching band drummer. Douglas is a real Metal, kind of a classical guitarist, so it all kind of blended together to play what we felt like. We weren’t really limited by “Oh this is Metal.”, we just want what we wanted.
Agrippa: How about the name, Fear the Masses?
Josh: I came up with the name Fear the Nation and then we didn’t like Fear the Nation, so we started tweaking it. It eventually became Fear the Masses. It pretty much goes along with the theme of the band. It’s like this political-social activist style music, which pretty much most of the country can identify with. Just fed up with shit, so that’s what we talk about.
Chris: I think the funniest part was the initial names that we threw around. Our old guitarist threw around...he was like a 70’s Metal guy...he said, “Why don’t we call ourselves Drop City?”. Immediately we said “No! Just no.” Happy Clown Time was another one. It was weird. I think with Fear the Masses it really came along because we didn’t want to put our opinions out there. It’s more of making the masses of the people...giving them knowledge of what’s really going on, rather than listening to the media.
Doug: It’s basically a point of not interjecting our thoughts and opinions, but taking actual facts, like different bills that have passed through Congress. Different laws that have been passing that we don't agree with, that people as whole don’t agree with, like Josh discussing police brutality cases. Some of the ones that people don’t know about; the ones that happen locally and the ones that happen off to the side that, everyone’s too busy watching American Idol and doesn’t pay attention to. That’s another big thing Josh’s writing is key on.
Agrippa: Nobody really likes to box themselves into a specific genre, because we think, “We play what we want to play.”, but as a band it’s really important to actually put a label on your type of music. What would categorize your music as?
Josh: I guess it’s Post-Hardcore/Hip Hop with Metal and Jazz tendencies, if I really had to narrow it down. That doesn’t make too much sense, so we just kind of are.
Mike: If you listen to our music, the new song we just wrote, for some reason we decided to throw in a Jazz-Bluesy thing. That whole song has more of a Funk feel to it than an actual Metal feel.
Chris: We have like Jazz interludes, because I have a Jazz background. A lot of us have Jazz backgrounds, but it’s also because we write music that we enjoy as musicians do, but we also think it’s fun every once in awhile to take the crowd, when they’re really into it, and just do something completely different, so they kind of turn their head a little bit. One of our songs has a little 70s porn groove in it and it’s one of the defining moments of what we do.
Agrippa: Plus most people have a short term attention span, so it’s good to mix it up.
Chris: I think what really set us into doing stuff like that was having the ability, because when me and Josh initially started, we didn’t have a lot of growth potential. Our old drummer and guitarist were caught in their own ways. We found Sir Douglas and Mr. Mike here and...Doug will do anything you ask the man to do. He’ll write some amazing rhythms and solos and stuff and they’re absolutely beautiful. We just have something and give it to Mike and will do something or rather. He’ll do it. There’s never a time when we’re not like that.
Mike: And I never like anything I do.
Doug: Yeah, Mike hates everything he does.
Mike: I always hate typical Metal grooves, like a heavy straight sixteenth note line and then you just wale on the cymbals and stuff. I’m glad to be in this band, because the element of Hip Hop just takes so many different styles in it of itself, that I’m able to just try out different beats. I actually have fun on the kit, rather than just sit there and make a crap kind ton of noise.
Agrippa: It makes it more interesting for you.
Mike: Yeah. It makes it more fun for me being on stage.
Agrippa: How about your influences?
Josh: Public Enemy and Deftones.
Chris: I would say Real Big Fish and The Who, actually. That’s pretty much where I come from.
Mike: I pretty much try to draw influences from every single genre I can get in touch with. Growing up I listened to Buddy Rich a lot. Big fish was another influence. Then you got The Who, Rush. You got the gods of drumming. I would just pull from them. I would listen to almost everything in high school when I was learning the kit. I would sit and listen to the local pop KC101 station and drum along to that just to find different grooves even if I hated the music.
Doug: I’m with Mike on that one. When I started playing guitar I took lessons. I went in and the teacher said, “Oh, what song do you want to learn?”. I said, “I don't want to learn a song. You have a degree from Berklee, so I’m going to learn theory. I’m going to learn music styles and genres. I’ll learn the songs on my own.” It just came from learning different playing styles. There’s bands I love. Thrice is one of my favorites, hands down. I like music that sounds good, really.
Agrippa: Along with that theme, if you had to throw away your entire music collection, aside from one album, what would it be?
Doug: Illusion of Safety. Thrice’s album. I love that CD. It’s real good.
Mike: Honest to god I would just shoot myself in the head. I would not be able to listen to just one band. I can pick on CD from each genre, but I could not...unless it was a best of every genre band. I would just kill myself.
Chris: Turisas, The Varangian Way.
Josh: The Best of Stevie Wonder, or something. Probably.
Agrippa: Every band has their own personalities within the group. Who would you say is the joker of the band?
Chris: You have Josh who brings out the really big political mindset and I kind of bring in the tone of humor just to make people enjoy the show. That’s just my nature. I have to joke around, because I just fell all this energy and that’s how I get out, you know? I’m always making jokes at the expense of everyone else.
Agrippa: I think I already know the answer to this one, but who is the serious guy?
Agrippa: What do you think is your most memorable show?
Josh: The CD release was good, but honestly every show gets better. Every show we play better. Every show we’re tighter. The crowd responds more. Every show we get new fans and selling more merch. Every show is better than the last and I don't see that stopping anytime soon.
Agrippa: How about your worst gig nightmare? Can you remember what your biggest catastrophe on stage was?
Doug: Easily. My wireless set up falling off. That’s why I have like six different velcro straps on my wireless now, because I was jumping around and all of a sudden I didn’t hear guitar. I look down and see it on the floor and I’m like “Oh well.” I just pretended to keep playing and yelled in the microphone until the song was over just to keep going. That was also a night where I was having feedback, cable problems and the people at the venue were dicks.
Chris: I think one of the worst...We played a show at The Space in Hamden and Josh had been sick for two days. He shows up, looks awful, and immediate goes off to throw up.
Josh: It was weird. It was one of those things where I couldn’t move without throwing up. I had a stomach virus. I threw up before I left the house. My girlfriend had to drive me there five minutes before we started. I threw up right before I went on stage, almost threw up on stage, then threw up once I got off stage. I went home and went to sleep.
Chris: I think the stomach bug was probably one of the worst. That’s dedication.
Doug: How about the time we played with Agrippa93? No just kidding.
Agrippa: I can’t believe you survived that show. What bet did you lose to get on that bill?
Agrippa: Out of all of your songs, what’s your favorite to perform?
Doug: I think “Crosshairs” right now, only because I like the change ups. My favorite part is when it goes from the first chorus back to the second verse and there’s that pause. Then we immediately go back to clean.
Chris: I would have to say...I’ll have to agree with Mike and say “Breathe”. Also, our single, “Make Me Your Leader”, is probably one of my favorites.
Josh: I don’t care. Not to be a dick, but I don’t. It’s whatever the crowd is feeling. Like tonight, everybody got into “Capitalist”. I had the most fun playing that one. It all just depends on what everybody’s feeling. If people are feeling it, it makes me all that more happy to play it.
Agrippa: What do you think is the definitive Fear the Masses song? The song that you would give to someone who’s never heard you before.
Josh: Probably “Make Me Your Leader”. The single. I pretty much gives a good general outlook of the views of the band, along with kind of what we do, which is Hip Hop mixed with Metal mixed with singing. There’s just all kinds of craziness in that song. I guess it’s like the antithesis of what we are.
Mike: “Make Me Your leader” is the first song that we as a group worked together. Us as a unit, with doug and myself joining the band, a lot of the stuff was already in the works when we got in there and we just kind of finished it off. This was the first one we really got together and collabed on. It was just this perfect storm of rock, of all these different things that we blended together for it.
Agrippa: What’s your favorite Connecticut venue to play?
Chris: I’m going to have to advertise The Room. Vern is the man. He’s so nice to bands. He did what I thought was impossible. He made an all ages venue that’s fun for the band to be at.
Mike: you’re up on stage and there’s ice water free flowing when you need it. there’s a fan next to the drummer. It sounds so minor, but you go there and they really take care of the bands. They’re all musicians.
Doug: and his business model is pretty good. He has this good flow. This is where you set up. This is how you get off. This is what you need to do. He says flat out, “I need you to sell ten tickets and here’s why...”. He doesn’t just say, “Sell this. Do this and I’ll see you later.” He’s very interactive with everyone. Even when you’re outside and waiting to go in, you see him patrolling the outer area and making sure people aren’t smoking dope or doing things they’re not supposed to be doing outside. There’s a lot a of good venues in the state, but if he was able to manage or run something closer down to the shore line it would be a huge hit. He’s got a touch for running a venue. They even sell ice pops and Kraft mac & cheese.
Chris: I mean they have Ramen noodles there. Not only that, but I’m really thirsty and I look over to Josh...a girl right next to me is handing me a bottle of water.
Doug: Not to say that any of the other venues are anything less. We like Vern. Verns been good, but I mean even the Underground that we’ve played a couple times now is awesome. The Cave in West Haven. They’re a fresh venue, but they’re all musicians too. They’re awesome. Any venue that will really take us. There hasn’t really been a bad experience.
Agrippa: It makes a difference when there’s seasoned musicians running the place.
Agrippa: What’s that one piece of gear you can’t live without?
Mike: My drum sticks I guess.
Doug: My XBox 360.
Chris: Obviously my bass, because I’ve had it for seven years now.
Agrippa: What kind of bass?
Chris: Fender Precision 2001 Special Edition. I’ve modified it and made it mine. I’ve played it for about 6 or 7 years now.
Agrippa: How is the writing process in this band?
Chris: We just start playing and jamming something. It actually starts with us just messing around sometimes. Then one of us will start playing along the line. It usually starts with me Doug playing a line and then Mike will come in, then Josh will throw some lyrics on top and we’ll have a general structure or something. Then it’s all about refining parts.
Doug: Another great part about the writing process with us is...other bands that I;ve been in and stuff, that I’ve gotten along and lasted for a time is...when we write and somebody doesn’t like something, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. If you play something and someone says, “Hey, I’m not into that.”, then you put it in your bag of riffs or whatever. Or you try something else and when you reach the end and someone says, “Hey, what about the outro?”, then you bring that riff back again. You say, “Well, I tried.” Everyone is pretty vocal about what they like and what they don’t like. Nobody takes any hard feelings. No one is controlling. No one tells you that this needs to go here. If somebody really has a strong feeling of why something should be there, then they’ll usually say, “Hey, I like it because it does this for me, or it sounds like this. I think the crowd would go this way.” Even the song “Breathe”, the funky one...the chorus is as simple as you can get. It’s three notes constantly. There’s no magic there, but the intent is to get people to just jump constantly.
Chris: That chorus was built from a song we were going to write, but we took that, because we really didn’t like where the song was going. We took the chorus and put it in that song, because we ended up thinking it would fit there. We just kind of mix and match what we feel like. The real rule is that if you don’t like something you got to tell me why and if you really want something there you need to explain it.
Agrippa: That sounds like a valid system. If you had to pick one band to open for, who would it be?
Agrippa: Stop kissing ass.
Doug: Alright, fuck them. They open for us.
Agrippa: Someday maybe.
Josh: Probably Deftones. It fits our style and just knowing the background and the history of that band it really kind of fits with our...or at least my upbringing.
Chris: I would think mostly because they’re my favorite, but also I think would be really fun to do...Tonight I would have loved to open for Hed (P.E.), because they really do have the same similar feeling. I think Trivium, because I’ve always loved them. They just a great feel to them and they’re a great band.
Mike: I’m going to have to go with something super stereotypical, but something I’d like to do is open for Zeppelin back in their heyday. I know everyone says that, but that’s what I grew up on. Or I’ll go out of nowhere. I’ll open up for either Count Basie and his orchestra or Earth, Wind & Fire.
Doug: I would just say a festival. A festival would be awesome. Any of them.
Agrippa: What are your plans?
Mike: I think after this we’re going to get some pizza.
Agrippa: Yeah, that’s short term.
Doug: We have the show, our next one, the big one for bar radio; one of the other internet radio sites that helps us out. We’re gonna play down in West Haven. We’ve got The Space and others. Local shows and play everywhere we can. Play more shows. Network. Every band...The band that played before us...I already talked to the guys from there. I tell everybody that if you like what we do, we want to network. Hard Rock and Hip Hop and some Metal we can blend with, so we can try to make the local scene stronger. There’s just way too much of the part rock cover band thing going on.
Doug: Yeah, those guys are great. We already talked to them the last show we were here two weeks ago. We really like those guys a lot. There’s a couple of them that we talked to.
Chris: I think it’s our long term plan that we really want to start playing outside of Connecticut. We want to kind of, you know, just stretch out a little bit. Not go ridiculously far, but a show in Massachusetts, a show in New York, Jersey. Stretch it out a little bit. We’re really trying to hit home as well to play Connecticut to kind of hit the scene more and more. It’s not necessarily about us just getting a ton of fans and getting people to come. The big thing with us is that we have a message that we want to bring and the more people that hear the better. It’s not necessarily about having people, like “Oh, we need people to like us.” What Josh sings about and what he raps about is what we want to talk about. It’s what we all think is prevalent. We want to bring that message to as many people as possible.
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.