Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Infiltrator Interview - 12/5/2012
Back in December, I interviewed Steve Jansson of Philadelphia's Infiltrator after a local gig at Kung Fu Necktie. The inimitable Keith Carney of Fallout Zine chimed in as well. It was windy, I had no baffle and luckily the audio was discernible for the most part so, aside from a few spots, particularly near the end of the interview where Steve defends Metallica, we get a fairly lengthy insight into what makes Infiltrator a class act!
Steve Jansson (Infiltrator): ...Eating kind of healthy for a few days... like fairly health - I'm a vegetarian.
CT: Are you really?
Steve: And then... Yeah!... and then I crash and eat something really greasy and then I run a bunch but then I just negate everything I do because I've had a long day and I like to drink beer at the end of the day.
CT: That's phenomenal. So considering... let's get this over with (the interview).
CT: So how did Infiltrator come to be as a band?
Steve: Well, initially it was a solo project at first. It was... ah... I just wanted to do something... I wanted to do something really high energy speed metal but with really traditional... traditionally influenced... but kind of combine a lot of the really cool over the top guitar playing. That was the initial goal in the long run. Vocally, I guess in the beginning I guess it was more intended for traditional style vocals but... I couldn't make it happen. Quite frankly I didn't want to... part of the beauty of being a one man band was that you could work at your own pace and get things done the way you needed to so.. that's just kind of how the chips fell.
CT: How did you come across Chris (Grigg Woe, Krieg) and record the demo at his place?
Steve: Oh.. Uh, well Chris and I have been friends for years now. We've played music together for a long time. And he's been a really good friend of mine. He offered to do it. I've been talking to him about this for a while now and I said to him... he said when you do it let me know. And that's just basically how it works.
CT: So he just decided to play bass also or was that a necessity kind of thing?
Steve: Well, Umm.. that was a tricky thing because starting off I didn't know exactly what I was doing at first. He had umm... you know I didn't know what I was going to do with him. We discovered we were going to play live shows... Chris had already known a lot of the songs - how to play bass - because he recorded them and he's an incredibly fast learner and he's a super friend of mine. So that's actually how he ended up playing bass.
CT: And your drummer... whom I'm not familiar with his name...
Steve: Oh Jeshik... He... that's another thing, Jeshik had inquired about the thought of maybe playing drums for the band he... beacuase I guess things... He was in a band he didn't want to... uh... things weren't going quite the way he wanted them to... and he had contacted me - we had known each other for a while - about maybe making some stuff happen with that. So then we talked and he jumped in there and it all clicked and so... you know, that's how that whole thing came about.
CT: He was in a band before that he wasn't happy with. What band was that?
Steve: Ohhh... well... Probably shouldn't say... I don't want to say too many details.
CT: Understandable. Anyway...
Steve: Make it seem like, you know, spreading some things. That's his thing and I don't want to seem like I'm kind of speaking for him on that.
CT: So tell me about the two tracks you have online right now. You have uh, what was it... Crush the False and something about driving into hell or something...
Keith Carney (Fallout Zine): Hellripper...
CT: Hellripper, yeah that's it. Thanks Keith.
Keith: I'm too drunk to be on record right now. - Laughter all around -
CT: Too bad. Haha... So tell me about those two tracks. Are those two tracks the first tracks you had written for the band?
Steve: Yeah. Those were tracks that I had just kind of... you know I wrote them... I spent a lot of time just writing by myself in my room. Like I said I wanted to do something that was real high energy... um... but with a lot of really cool guitar playing so these two songs just kind of happened over the course of a little bit of time and then I just decided that if I was actually going to make a project happen I just had to get it over with and record them. It was more or less shit or get off the pot, kind of do or die thing. You know? And then I recorded them and - I don't know - I guess I kind of discovered what I was looking for in other music, in other bands. I guess that's kind of vague or weird. It's more or less just me playing music I wanted to hear.
CT: What came first? DId the band come first or the music come first?
Steve: Music came totally first.
CT: Is the band the end to the means?
Steve: Uh... What do you mean?
CT: Is the fact that you have a band now (audio impossible to decipher here - it was an incredibly windy night)
Steve: Well now things are a little different. Now it's legitimately very much a band now. It's not just a solo project anymore but everybody is very like-minded and understands and agrees on what we wanted to hear... I guess... musically and what we would like to hear other bands do and how we're all kind of working together to acheive that sound... it's no longer just me trying to do that.
CT: My first run-in with you was at the Morbid Saint show. So what's your overall... that was your first show as well... what's your first... what would be your overall opinion on how that show unfolded and do you feel that the reception you got at that particular show... was that more or less than what you expected to receive? Tell me about your particular opinions on that show.
Steve: Honestly, I didn't have any sort of expectations being a new band... just... um... going up and opening a show for a million great bands was, you know, great. As far as reaction goes, I gotta say I was, we all, were pretty overwhelmed by the fact that it was eight oclock, there was a lot of great bands playing but it was fucking packed in there for an opening band and those kids just ate the shit up... you know, they went nuts and knew the songs or at least knew the demo and just clearly... you know it was encouraging it was cool to see that people were, you know, were into it I guess, so to speak.
CT: Do you feel that um, especially in this area, there's been a lot of... a resurgence in more traditional metal and, you know, in that particular era of music in general? Do you feel that you're a part of the resurgence in that sense? In people being. Or, maybe not a part of but that you can be an aspect in which people see a band such as you guys and it really gets them interested in the heyday of metal because a lot of what you play is very much, you know, old school metal. It's influenced by the stuff from the 80's that a lot of newer fans don't get to hear or they're not immediately initiated into. Do you feel that you could be a certain particular force to propel people to listen to traditional metal bands as opposed to just the newer bands that people are usually accustomed to seeing in promotional stuff and headlining bigger shows and such?
Steve: If that's the case that's wonderful. Um... I'm not one to say that I'm bringing anything back or that I'm trying to, you know... um... you know what I'm saying though. Like I'm not going to pretend like I'm bringing anything back it's just... that was... I noticed... it was just one of those things. I noticed a shortage in it and I noticed, um, quite frankly - and some people may argue this as far as you saying the traditional stuff; like the vocals in Infiltrator, aren't really traditional but I had to work with limitations - what I'm getting at is...
CT: They're traditional in the sense of Venom and that first wave black metal stuff...
Steve: Yeah, exactly.
CT: ... and hardcore punk and some of the crossover stuff from the 80's so they're not really... they're still traditional in that sense.
Steve: Yeah, the idea was to keep it very traditional... um... but not just try... not just make a half-assed demo of lazily rehashing things that other bands have already done. Like I said, I just wanted to do something high energy that was traditional and classic but was... had some new tinges such as like some really cool guitar playing and good song arrangements and just stuff like that. It was nothing that... there was nothing wrong with keeping it from being strictly traditional - that's great; I love that kind of stuff - that wasn't the goal. I definitely wanted to be rooted in that or still want to be rooted in that. We're sitting on two songs right now. So uh... but... I don't know if that really... that might be a bit unclear but, um... Yeah as far as your original question.... (audio drop out) if people here our music and it encourages them to listen to older metal, you know, like older classic records, that's fucking cool. That's great. That's definitely a reward for us.
CT: When you think about the two tracks that you have online now umm... talk about those two tracks as far as the lyrics of them and some of the... I mean, I don't even know if... are the lyrics to your songs particularly... (audio drop out)
Steve: I'd be lying if I said I like spent a ton of time on lyrics. I spend a lot more time on the music than I do the lyrics, which some people might think is bullshit but that's whatever. I guess it does go back to what you were saying about embodying the old school mentality of traditional metal. Umm.. Crush the False, if you want to use that as an example, I wanted to be an anthemic song. I wanted it to be the song that, when people are hanging out and listening to music in their living room and they listen to that and you kind of fist pump and sing some of the lyrics...
CT: Jersey Shore fist pump?
Steve: Jersey Shore... can't say I'm familiar. But uh, it sounds kind of corny but yeah.. it's just one of those things where, obviously anybody into this style of music has a bond, or even way cornier, a kinship as it is with this kind of metal.. so... you're either here.. you're either into it or your not. I guess. If that makes any kind of sense.
CT: So when you talk about say, that particular track, Crush the False, would you say that... how would you particularly categorize the "false" in that sense if it even matters or if it doesn't matter, is it just an aesthetic kind of theme that is common in metal that you threw in there?
Steve. Crush the False...
CT: Are there "false."
Steve: I mean... this is a... actually very good question... I don't want to say that people that are false are people that don't wear denim jackets with patches all over them and people who necessarily... I don't know... that's sort of like, that hesher mentality that's just typically associated with you.. know.. 'death to false metal'... which makes sense but umm as far as 'false'... let me think about something... I've been drinking a little...
CT: What have you been drinking all night?
Steve: Ah nothing special, just beer.
CT: You think about that... I'm going to go to Keith. What did you think of Infiltrator's first show which you put on at O'Reilley's with Morbid Saint.
Keith: I think they completely stole the show. I mean, I was actually looking forward to Infiltrator's set more so that Morbid Saint, and I think a lot of people were and I think... I've said this 100 times - I've said it to him, I've said it to other people - I think Infiltrator completely stole the show... It's not even a question of whether that's true or not. I mean, they did.
CT: I felt the same way.
Keith: They completely stole the energy of the whole show and it ruled. I don't think you could for a band's first show, I don't think you ask for anything better. I mean, the venue was completely packed at... what was it... 8:30 when they started. When the fuck to people show up for a show at 8:30 for a show ever. That place was wall to wall people. The headcount was just below 200 at the door.
CT: That's pretty awesome for an east coast metal show.
CT: Often times I see shows in this area at like 50 people. Or at that range.
Keith: And a band that only put two demo tracks up on the internet.. I mean I think it's something and I think Philadelphia is so entrenched with Death Metal and grindcore and punk and I think like bringing that like speed influence... that old style back where everything came from, I think that like really grabs everyone's attention. I think that's just what everybody needs. I think, you know.
CT: So Steve, how would you compare what you saw at Philadelphia to what you experienced playing your second show in New York. (Brooklyn - opening for Abazagorath and Deiphago among others - CT)?
Steve: Oh man, Philly was definitely more active and interested. People were clearly more interested and people really wanted to... I mean, the kids in Philly were fucking crazy. Like they were really moving, they knew the songs. They were so into it where as in New York... we're a new band. I'll admit it. New York from my experience has always been kind of, crowd reactions are always luke warm at best and people are kind of you know... stoic... you can say whatever you want... either they like your band or they dont. In my experiences there I never know if they like a band or not... there were people there but people didn't react nearly as well as they did to the show in Philly.
CT: Well, you're from Philly. Do you think that might have had something to do with it? Do people know you here so they're out to see you guys cause they know you. Because they're expecting something or is it solely based on the fact that this is a better scene down here which is... we're talking only forty five minutes or an hour away in terms of driving time?
Keith: I think it's about an hour and half almost.
CT: Hour and half? Ahh.. yeah alright... an hour and a half.
Steve: Well honestly, I can't really answer that fairly due to the fact that I've never really spent a lot of time up in the whole scene of New York but I think definitely here in Philly where we're from and... obviously I know a lot more people here than in New York... it got around here more and it got probably more buzz so it's totally not (audio drop out) but Keith caught wind of us and Keith is more Philly based so that's a good example. It got around here.
CT: So, going back to the music. Who would you list as your influences as a guitarist and for the band itself? What bands do you really look to for inspiration as a band and musician?
Steve: As a band. Ahh.. well.. Old Metallica. I guess you could say traditional Iron Maiden, Judas Priest. Stuff like that. Ahh.. but it's definitely... there's a lot of stuff... a lot of Venom. A lot of Bathory. There's definitely epic tinges to it. But it definitely.. it's very... definitely you can especially in a lot of the riffing especially in the demo that there's a lot of Metallica in there. A lot of the song structures... I would say Metallica, Bathory, Venom and like Priest and Maiden.
CT: And as an individual guitar player?
Steve: My favorite as far as guitar players... My favorite.. My three favorite guitar players are Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert and Marty Friedman. I listen to a lot of guitar players though. I'm totally into that whole thing. The old Shrapnel (Shrapnel Records - CT) stuff and then a lot of fusion stuff like modern stuff like Guthrie Govan... and uh... guys like Greg Howe but that's... you know... kind of... that's above my level of playing but I definitely dig that kind of stuff but...
CT: It's important to aspirations...
Steve: Yes... uh... absolutely. But yeah, there's a lot of different guitar players but as far as you know like... I would say that a lot of influence on songs and the playing is what Jason Becker and Marty Friedman did with Cacophony and like Paul Gilbert and Bruce Bouillet in Racer X where it was a lot of metal but just a lot of total ripping guitar playing but I guess it was a little on the fluffier side.
CT: So... you mentioned Metallica...
CT: Common band, everybody has opinions on (audio drop out for forty seconds... Steve responded to the question again via a message online:)
Steve: ...Going back to those albums is what I love and you can agree or disagree is that those guys put so much time and effort into making each one of those tracks be a standout track on each one of their albums because when you say, you know, you can name so many of their songs by name... everybody knows the track names. Every track has a purpose... Anyways, one thing I should say is that for Infiltrator "Kill em All" is really the record we kind of look to from Metallica as a whole. It's catchy, it's urgent. It's just metal to the bone.
CT: Because I have to take a piss, and for lack of me wanting to spend twenty hours typing this conversation up. I guess we'll wrap this up. You mentioned at the Morbid Saint show, you're planning on putting out like an EP or something in the upcoming months or something. What are you're plans as a band as far as putting out new music goes. What's on the books as far as Infiltrator goes.
Steve: Haha. Ok, that's a question I can answer actually. Next month in January, 2013. We will be recording our songs for a 7". So it will be more songs, like two new songs but we'll actually have a hard copy. We'll be doing that stuff but we're going to be continuously writing more material, doing some extended tours on weekends and everything like that and furiously working up to a full length for 2013. So that's the goal right now. 2013 is going to be, I guess you can say, a big year. We plan on it being a big year. But that's the goal right now.
CT: Thank you for the interview. I'm sure we'll catch up again. When the next album comes out, I'll definitely get in touch with you.
Steve: No problem. Thanks.