California’s IGNITE ended an almost 10 year drought between studio albums when they released their latest, “A War Against You” on January 8th of this year. This new full length features 14 new songs that once again showcases their ability to write melodic and powerful hardcore tunes that are delivered with pinpoint precision. Having Zoli Teglas’ one of a kind voice on the microphone adds another dimension to an already amazing sound… one that when you hear it is undoubtedly Ignite. The rest of the lineup is filled out by: Brett Rasmussen on bass, Brian Balchack, guitars, Kevin Kilkenny, guitars, and Craig Anderson on drums. We caught up with the bands bassist and founder Brett via phone on the night of June 4th. A big shout out is in order to Sick Of It All’s Craig Setari who got us connected with Brett to make this whole thing happen.
Lead photo by: Silvy Maatman, Graphics by: Bas Spierings.
IE: Hey Brett, where are you physically right now and what do you think you would be doing if we weren’t doing this interview?
Brett: I am in Huntington Beach, California sitting in my living room and I was in the middle of watching a college World Series baseball game between Cal State Fullerton, our local team and Louisiana Tech. It went on rain delay so this worked out well. I guess I would have just kept watching this game once it started back up.
IE: A popular question you have been fielding as of late surrounds the length of time between your last studio album and your new one “A War Against You” which is close to 10 years. When the decision was made to move forward and write and record this new album was there any feeling of “Shit, we gotta get something new out there because it’s been forever since we put something new out" or was it more of a relaxed vibe throughout with all the band members being on the same page?
Brett: We had that “we should and get something new out” feeling in 2008, after our previous album “Our Darkest Days” had been out for about 2 and a half years. It’s funny because we actually started working on some of the first songs for “A War Against You” at the end of 2008, but we came across some delays as a band, then a little while later Zoli joined Pennywise and he was dedicated to that for about 3 years. Once he was out of that band and Jim rejoined (Pennywise) we started talking about recording a new Ignite album again. There wasn’t any rush at all at that point because quite a few years had passed and we just wanted to make sure it was a great album with great songs regardless of how long it took.
IE: Century Media has been your label over the last couple of releases. Do they at any point start coming to you asking when you will have a new studio album once the time between the recordings started to get a little lengthy?
Brett: We signed a deal back in 2005 with a division of Century Media called Abacus. We didn’t sign directly to Century Media worldwide, even though they put “Our Darkest Days” out in Europe through the Century Media office. Once Abacus folded we basically became free agents to sign with anyone. We talked to a bunch of different labels and eventually we went back to Century Media because we love the people that work there. They understand us and they know us. Music has a lot to do with your relationships with the people you work with from labels to agents to management. That is why a lot of these independent labels hold on to their bands, because of the relationships bands built with people in those offices. We played Century Media the new songs and demos and they got really excited about the idea of putting out another Ignite album. It was cool to see them very excited about continuing to work with our band.
IE: You have now had a few months to digest the new tracks and play them out live as well. With that said is there anything you nitpick at where you think little things on the recording could have been done better?
Brett: We didn’t get much of a chance to play new songs live when we were making the new record. Sometimes you do get to work on the new songs on the road, but it is kind of weird now because there are people at shows recording the songs on their phones and putting them on You Tube the next night, so if you are going to play new, unreleased songs and they aren’t done you are kind of letting the cat out of the bag. In regards to new songs on the new album, you really don’t know what songs are going to work live until you go out and play them. You have some idea in the studio which songs the crowd is really going to react to, but sometimes you get surprised which songs end up being great live songs. We have never been a band where we say let’s write a song for the radio. We write songs that we feel are going to come across great for our fans in a live environment, because that is the only thing we can count on and control. We can’t control if a radio station is going to play us and there is no reason to rely on that ever.
IGNITE @ TIVOLI, UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS. PHOTO BY: SILVY MAATMAN
IE: Has there been any talk of making a video for any of the tracks off this new album and if so what tracks are being considered?
Brett: We were talking about making a video for the song “Oh No Not Again”. The label is actually interested in us doing a video for that song too. We do not have anything set up at this time though.
IE: Zoli’s vocal style really shines again on the new album and sets Ignite apart from the many bands out there playing a similar style to yours. How did you first encounter Zoli and get him in the band and when you did get him in the band was there a feeling I guess like in sports when a team lands a really good free agent?
Brett: That’s kind of funny that you say that because that is exactly how it was. We had a couple of singers at the beginning of Ignite and we pieced together a couple of demos to get a CD out there. However we didn’t have a singer when we got our first tour offer, so we started auditioning all these guys. Zoli was seriously the last guy we were going to audition. He was a friend of our former guitar player. When he came in the rehearsal room and we started playing the first song, we all stopped playing halfway through the first song, it was pretty apparent that the guy had a ridiculous voice and he could sing in time, and he was on key and good at projecting. At that point, I kind of thought the sky was the limit with Ignite. I knew we had the ability to write melodic and aggressive music and now with a great voice over it I thought it would open up a lot of doors and it did. A year after our first support tour we did our own headlining tour in Europe in our own bus. We were all in our early twenties, on our own tour bus, it was unreal. Things moved really quick and it was cool to be involved in that whole process. We are very thankful and we don’t take any of that stuff for granted.
IGNITE @ PHILADELPHIA'S THE BARBARY IN 2011. PHOTO BY: ANNE SPINA
IE: Did Zoli ever take lessons to shape his style or as far as you know did he just come in with a natural talent to be able to really sing well?
Brett: Zoli has had lessons since he has been in the band, but more to protect his voice, proper warm ups, proper warm downs, and that kind of stuff. He basically has raw natural ability and it has been cool watching him through the years hone that into the incredible instrument that it is today.
IE: A lot of bands go through rough patches early on. When you think back to the origins of this band were there ever times early on where you might have been discouraged as to the bands progress or any other stuff where you may have all decided to pack it in?
Brett: No, it’s really weird because it all happened really fast. We started the band in ’93 and by ’94 we were on tour in Europe opening up for Slap Shot on this two month European tour and that was pretty much the catalyst that started everything. At that time the Metallica “Black Record” was just blowing up, Green Day and Offspring were getting really big so all this music around us that was in this world of the heavier stuff was all blowing up at the same time. Bands like Strung Out and Sick of It All and punk bands were playing all these major festivals in Europe and Australia and it was just like this perfect time to start a band. It all kind of went forward from there.
IE: What kind of pre-show routines do you have if any leading up to the time just before you take the stage. Do you like to practice on your bass, maybe take a nap, what is it that you may do to get you mentally prepared if anything at all?
Brett: I usually stretch. I don’t do any kind of workout but I stretch my hamstrings, my back, things like that because playing bass and jumping around on stage for 20 years definitely has taken its toll on the body. Me and our guitar player Kevin stretch a lot. Zoli does a lot of vocal warmups, Craig sits there doing paradiddles on his little drum pad. I will get on my bass and do a warmup right before we go on stage. We take it pretty seriously. We don’t party before we play. People paid money to come see us and they want to hear the songs done the right way. It is important to have your fans be excited and stoked to see your live show and you owe that to them because you are only as big as your fan base. Once your fan base goes away you’re kind of done as far as doing it as a serious full time thing. I think it is really important to respect the live show.
IE: When the band is on tour and you get some downtime what kinds of things do you personally like to do?
Brett: A couple of years ago I bought a bike, a foldable bike and I took it to Europe. It is a Schwinn bike that collapses down into a box and I stick it under the bus. I often get up, go and get breakfast, find out when sound check is… sometimes you are in the middle of nowhere but if you are in Paris or Berlin or something I will jump on the bike and go cruise. Sometimes I will go on the subway but I like riding my bike around the city because you get to see a lot more. On the Persistence Tour that we just did in January it was freezing cold, the tour started in Poland, it is snowing everywhere out and you are kind of holed up on the bus or backstage for pretty much most of the day. It depends on the season. If it is really cold you just kind of stay put.
IE: Within maybe a week of the new albums release you guys hit the road and went over to Europe and headlined the Persistence Tour followed by some shows in Hungary which all in all maybe totaled 2 weeks of shows. You also have dates announced that go all the way out to September of this year. You guys have been playing out but there really hasn’t been like these intense blocks of dates where you guys really go out and grind out a month long tour somewhere. Not as of yet at least. Are there plans to pick up the pace of the touring or is this what you see for Ignite going forward?
Brett: It just depends on what is offered to us. It makes more sense for us to do more of the short bursts. We are going to be doing some Europe stuff where we fly in and do festivals, going to Mexico and doing some shows here and there. When the opportunity comes to do those longer runs if it makes sense were definitely up for that but the days of getting into a van and grinding out a 2 month tour, yeah, I don’t know how often that is going to happen anymore. It makes more sense for us to go down to Australia and do 5 shows in the 5 big cities and then go and head up to Japan and do 3 shows up there on the way back. That kind of stuff has more appeal to me. That’s just kind of where we are as a band right now.
IGNITE IN WARSAW, POLAND JANUARY, 2016
IE: As far as you know what is the largest crowd you ever performed in front of?
Brett: Let’s see, the biggest crowd… I am really not sure to be honest with you. There have been some really big festivals in Germany, Hungary, Holland and Belgium that we have played. Maybe in the 20-30,000 capacity range. We have done quite a few of those. We have never played a 100,000 person gig where you can’t see the end of the people. We definitely have played our fair share of really big festival shows. It all starts to look the same after 10,000 to be honest.
IE: Over the course of your life you have probably played with literally hundreds if not 1000’s of other bands at who knows how many concerts. When you go down that personal list of bands you have shared the stage with what names jump out at you where you say to yourself, I can’t believe I played a show with that band?
Brett: Yeah it is kind of cool when you get do a show with Metallica or KISS or other bands along those lines. It is pretty fun to see your name on the poster with bands like that, but for me it is more about having played with the bands that influenced us. We got to play a bunch of times with the Bad Brains, Social Distortion and bands like that. We have toured with Pennywise a bunch and it was really cool for me because their album “Unknown Road” was the album that I learned how to play fast music to. Then sometimes you become friends with these guys and you go on tour with them. To me it is just cool to see that process for a band that influenced you to learn how to play your instrument or your songwriting and then you end up touring with the guys and a lot of times you end up becoming friends with them.
IE: Metallica and KISS are obviously huge names in the rock world. Do you have any cool stories from running into more “rock star” types where they turned out to be cool and down to Earth people?
Brett: A few years back I was in Sweden and was hanging back stage with Dave Grohl and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy. When you meet people you look up to as musicians or as people and they end up being friendly it is a cool feeling. Sometimes I guess it is better not to meet them because I don’t know… maybe they are having a bad day and if they aren’t being cool it can kind of make you view the band differently. One time we were in Leizpig Germany and we flew in for a festival and we went out to a restaurant and at the bar was the drummer for Motorhead. Mikkey Dee was there so we hung out with him the whole night and he was awesome, totally down to Earth guy and it was like “oh yeah, were playing the same festival tomorrow”.
IE: What band is still out there on your bucket list I guess that you would totally geek out over playing with?
Brett: Most of the punk bands we have played with. I think the only really big kind of punk band we haven’t played with is Green Day. They are pretty much like a mainstream kind of rock band but I still view them as a punk band. A band like that would be cool to play with. I can’t think of literally any other punk rock band. We have played with a ton of metal bands from Guns N Roses to Slayer to almost every metal band because most of those European festivals, the bigger ones have the metal bands on the main stage and then the punk and the hardcore bands are on these tent side stages during the day so you end up playing with just about any band you can think of. We played with Motorhead like 20 times.
IE: Your coolest piece of hardcore or punk memorabilia that you own or used to own?
Brett: I don’t geek out on that stuff too much. I’m not really a collector. We did do a tour with the Misfits in 2000 and we had a great run with them. Zoli actually ended up filling in with them after that. Anyways, Jerry gave me a shirt one night when we were standing at the merchandise booth after a show, I am sure he gives away shirts all the time, but it was pretty cool getting something from him as an appreciation for doing the tour together.
CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO "THIS IS A WAR" OFF OF IGNITE'S NEW ALBUM "A WAR AGAINST YOU"
IGNITE GUITARIST KEVIN KILKENNY WITH PRODUCER CAMERON WEBB AT MAPLE SOUND STUDIOS
IN ORANGE COUNTY, CA WORKING ON THE NEW "A WAR AGAINST YOU" ALBUM
IE: Outside of playing music what kind of stuff do you like to do in your free time that people reading this may not know about?
Brett: I play a lot of sports and try to stay as active as possible. I am a big golf guy. I grew up playing a lot of basketball, baseball. I also do a lot of work now with filming, which is a passion now and another way for me to be creative.
IE: I would guess the majority of you are either in your 40’s or real close to it and have been playing in bands for the majority of your lives. What is it about playing this music that still motivates you?
Brett: We really enjoy getting up on stage, we enjoy playing live. The experience of being in the recording studio is a lot of fun, writing songs, working with producers, the process of taking an acoustic guitar and writing a song in your room and bringing it to band practice and turning it into a song with a full band and putting vocals on top of it and going in and recording it and having it end up on a CD, having that CD get released and then traveling around the world and having people sing those songs back to you I don’t think is ever going to get old. It is such a cool process. That whole process of creating something out of nothing and turning it into something that ends up being someone’s favorite song or if It ends up motivating someone to do something. It is such a unique experience. You go about your daily life. You go to the store, you pay your bills, and stuff and then you go on the road or you get an email and you have someone tell you that you are their favorite band or you changed their life. It can be pretty heavy and it is pretty cool and it is something that a lot of people don’t get to experience in their lives. We don’t take any of this for granted. We are so appreciative of these opportunities that we have had to play music and travel and meet people in other bands and meet our fans. That is the motivation right there. On top of that if you can get paid to do it and it doesn’t kill you to go on the road it is a win win all the way around.
IGNITE IN UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS, JANUARY, 2016. PHOTO BY: BAS SPIERINGS
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH THE VIDEO FOR "BLEEDING" OFF OF IGNITE'S 2006 LP "OUR DAKEST DAYS"