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A Dirty Dozen with ASHES TO OMENS – June 2021

| 15 June 2021 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Ashes to Omens is a five-piece multi-genre rock band, hailing from Athens, Georgia. The band formed in the summer of 2017 by James Branton when he met guitarist David Gaines and bassist Christopher Blake. The 3 musicians had immediate musical chemistry. Their sound has been described as “melodic” and “haunting”, brought to life by powerfully rhythmic instrumentation that gives every track a sense of depth lacking from the genre. The bands lineup is rounded out by Michael Mitchell (guitars) and Derek Johnson (drums).” We get the band to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release. What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through? Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

James: We’ve always wanted to create music that we feel like would be something that is relatable but also refreshing. We haven’t ever had the opportunity to work with anyone that has had violin or viola experience and we finally were able to with this single. It’s very subtle throughout the song and we’re hoping that people will be able to pick up on it quickly.

Derek: It’s definitely more of a ballad than any if the other songs we’ve written, and it’s a very personal song to all of us.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Chris: I realized it when I was about 12 years old and I heard the song “Like a Ston” by Audioslave. After hearing Tom Morello play that haunting guitar solo, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to elicit the same emotion to others that I felt the first time I heard that song.

Derek: I’ve been into music as long as I can remember. We started off with an old organ at home, then we always played around on my grandma’s keyboard. The moment I realized I wanted to be a musician though was when I first sat behind a drum set. It felt like home and I knew I had to have music in my life to some capacity as long as I live after that.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

James: Chris Cornell, Brent Smith and Benjamin Burley have heavily influenced my writing and singing for as long as I’ve been playing music.

Chris: There’s too many to sit here and name to you. Once I stopped listening to music casually and started trying to understand it on a deeper level, I began drawing influence from bands and albums that I wouldn’t have given a second listen to. I don’t have a specific music taste. I appreciate different styles of music.

Derek: The album that may have started me down the rock lane was Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park. After that, as I got introduced to grunge, metal and eventually post-hardcore and metal core, those started influencing me more. Silverstein’s first two albums as well as The End of Heartache by Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying’s first 2 albums really moved me forward as far as who I wanted to emulate with my playing.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

James: Oh that’s a tough one. Other than my influencers I’d have to say probably Rich Ward from Fozzy or Jared Leto or Post Malone.

Chris: Tough one. I honestly don’t know if I can name anyone specifically. But if I had to say, I would want to collaborate with the late Chris Cornell if he were still with us. He’s been a big influence on me since I started really listening to music.

Derek: Anthony Green of Circa Survive / Saosin fame. He’s an amazing songwriter and has a unique voice that lends well to just about anything. Also maybe Adam D from Killswitch since he’s such a tight and technical guitarist. He’d be a blast to work with.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

James: Since becoming sober I’ve spent my spare time playing Magic the gathering with friends and working on creating a board game.

Chris: Outside of music, I like writing stories. They’re therapeutic to me to create fictional universes that I can control the direction they go in mainly because you can’t control everything in your life. Things happen that are outside of your control and you have no say in the direction it goes. Writing fictional stories that are semi based on my later teen years and young adult life is very therapeutic to me. I also like to play The Sims and Grand Theft Auto 5 online with my brother and friends Katie, Larry, and Joseph.

Derek: I’m a computer nerd and just started learning some coding languages, and video games are obviously a great de-stresser. I also like reading true crime books, watching true crime documentaries, listening to true crime podcasts, etc.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

James: We’ve always described ourselves as a multi-genre rock band so we feel like if you enjoy grunge or any modern rock or active rock you’d probably enjoy us.

Chris: I don’t think anyone has compared us to any band that made me cringe. We’ve been compared to many bands. From Tool to Creed to Three Days Grace. But if someone asked how I would describe our music, I would just say it’s hard rock. Think late 90s to early 2000s with a little Alice in Chains mixed into it.

Derek: It’s a mix of different genres in the “rock” grouping, but not one thing specifically. I think we have a lot of different songs that can appeal to a lot of different people. As far as a comparison I disagreed with, nothing has really come to mind, but there’s always time for that to happen!

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Chris: When we hang out and it isn’t band related, we don’t often do anything with music. We just hang out as 5 guys who are cooking out or going to the lake with our significant others and/ or friends. Yeah we’re a band but we’re also friends and music isn’t the only thing we have in common. But to answer the first part of the question, James would be on the grill, David would be having a beer, Michael would be on the guitar noodling around with some riffs, me and Derek would be trying to find ways to annoy James.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

James: It’s been a while since I was star struck, but about 3 years ago I saw Nature Boy Ric Flair in Buford, GA at a restaurant and I was pretty star struck. I wasn’t able to speak with him at the time and had several opportunities to. Hopefully I’ll get that chance again someday.

Chris: I had the opportunity to meet Mike Rodden from Hinder. I was starstruck the entire time.

Derek: Probably talking to Aaron Pauley from Of Mice and Men after their show a few years back. He was a completely normal and chill dude, but it was awesome that he’d just come up and start a conversation with me while I was standing outside.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

James: For me, it’s being onstage and hearing the roar of the fans singing your music back to you. There’s no feeling in the world like that. Or having a fan come up to you after a show and telling you how much the lyrics inspired them or helped them when they were in a dark place. Dream job would probably be acting.

Chris: Best part of being a musician is creating something that will leave an impression on people forever. Having music out there for people to hear and appreciate is one of the greatest feelings in the world. When I’m dead and gone, I will still be here in some way. If I wasn’t a musician, I’d probably want to be an author. I used to want to be a pro wrestler but you have to have a great physique for that and I’m more on the dad bod size without being a dad.

Derek: I’d say being able to meet new people as well as having a creative outlet are the best parts. I’m always seeing new faces and experiencing new things. And having a medium to express myself is critical to staying sane in this crazy, fucked up world we live in. If I couldn’t be a musician, I’d definitely want to teach music lessons full time. I also wouldn’t mind trying my hand at writing novels, short stories and the like.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

James: Question I’m tired of answering? What does our name mean haha.

Chris: I want an interviewer to ask us what inspired a song to be written. What is the true meaning behind the song? Music is subjective and people should take it in their own way, but I like to know what the lyricist was going through when he/ she wrote it. Also, we got asked a good question one time on the B’Flo show about how important the bass guitar is in music. Too many people have what I call lead guitarist syndrome where they think the bass isn’t important or a band can do without a bass player. A true musician knows that every ingredient is important and saying a certain position in the band isn’t important is ridiculous. I’m tired of all the generic questions. What does the name mean? How did you guys form? What bands influence your music?

Derek: I haven’t had many interviews yet so I can’t say I’m tired of any one question. But the most important question is… Which way do you hang the toilet paper roll? The only correct answer is over, not under.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

James: Releasing music too soon before we’ve had a chance to fully digest it. There was a time a few years back where we were really trying to get some music together and we released something a bit too quickly. As far as having a “do over” on, I think it would be neat to hear what our indie ep release would’ve sounded like if we had waited 6 more months.

Chris: No honestly. If we didn’t have the missteps, we wouldn’t have learned anything. Mistakes are inevitable and teachable moments. We try to learn from them and become better musicians and people.

Derek: I can’t say there’s an individual moment that can be pinpointed, but I definitely could have been a better person all this time. Everything I’ve been through has made me who I am and I’m ok with that, but I still strive to be better than I was yesterday.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

James: Zeppelin IV is that album for me or maybe even A Night at the Opera by Queen. Just to be there in the presence of amazing musicians and watch them work.

Chris: I don’t know honestly. I would like to have been in the room with a lot of artists as they recorded their records, but honestly I think recording sessions are sacred to bands and I wouldn’t want to have been there to disrupt their magic. But if I had to pick, I would have loved to have been in the studio with Mötley Crüe when they recorded Dr. Feelgood. I just love the Dr. Feelgood album. Wish I had a deeper message about it than that, but it is what it is.

Derek: On Letting Go by Circa Survive, no doubt in my mind. It’s the record that helped drag me out of my depression and still influences me to this day. Amazing instrumentation, great production value and songwriting, and an overall incredible set of musicians.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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