Claire Robinson: What went through your head when the new album reached No 7 in the Billboard Charts, your highest album position yet?
Mike D’Antonio: It’s pretty awesome to get that high on the Billboard charts, it would have been unheard of ten years ago for sure. To tell you the truth if Michael Jackson didn’t die we probably would have been number two or something like that. He got the first five or six spots. I was very grateful, we have awesome fans that helped us out by buying the record right up front and I attribute it to having great fans, awesome, awesome fans.
CR: You did the graphic design for the new album, as with the others, what influenced the leopard style image used?
MD: Most of my record covers have a lot of layers and I wanted to strip it down to one single image that I could easily use on merchandise, that we could use if we were going to spray paint it on something or make stencils, something that would work almost in any application and the leopard seemed to stick out in my mind. I think it was a statue that I found somewhere that added the tongue to it. I just really wanted it to be the focal point without any extras here and there. But there was no real reason other than it looking cool.
CR: Do you try to create images that relate to the album or are you happier to go with images that 'look good'?
MD: I take photos everywhere in the world, it’s one of the cool parts about the job is that I can get many resources, everywhere. I take gigs and gigs [gigabytes] and just go back to them maybe two/three years later and say ‘oh wow, I remember this, it will work pretty well with what I’m doing right now’. I like lots of textures and statues and cemeteries and stuff like that.
CR: You have a song on the album called ‘Save Me’. We all have ‘save me’ moments in life, what was your most recent?
MD: We did a show in Dubai at one point and it took quite a while to get off the ground when we were leaving and I remember the flight was very very long. It was the most uncomfortably turbulent flight I’ve ever been on, it was scary. Girls sitting next to me crying their eyes out, people screaming, the hatches up above with everyone’s gear opening and things falling out and hitting people in the head, old ladies pulling out their bibles. It was pretty gnarly, we were pretty sure we were gonna die. We got through it and landed, I guess we were in the wrong spot, or we came in too late and we sat on the runway for four and a half hours after that and that was probably the save me moment. I could deal with it for about four hours, then the last half hour I was ready to murder somebody. It was not happening anymore, we were so close to the terminal, all they had to do was open the door and let us walk. But they let us sit there for quite a while.
CR: You all like to have fun onstage but Adam certainly takes it one step further with moments like putting his foot in his mouth, have the band ever turned the tables on him and stunned him into silence?
MD: That would be a really hard thing to do, so I’ll just answer no, although maybe it could have happened at one point. It’s always the silly stuff, we find it really funny when we actually fuck up on stage, when we play the wrong note or something like that and everyone looks at each other and laughs. Then usually, if it’s that bad, we’ll talk about it later on in the dressing room when we’re taking showers and stuff like that. A lot of that stuff can sometimes bring Adam to tears depending on how terrible a note you’ve hit.
CR: Tell us something about the other members of the band that we wouldn't know?
MD: Justin is the biggest Yankees fan on the face of the planet and he actually gets bitterly angry when they lose, so much so that you almost can’t talk to him for a few days. Baseball in America is six months out of the year, he can get kind of crazy sometimes. Luckily the Yankees won the World Series this year so he was very happy. Joel started a band called Brutal Technique it’s just a funny death metal band that he mainly started just to come up with funny titles to songs like ‘Liver Die’ and ‘I Found Your Blood In My Stool’, totally ridiculous stuff. Adam has Chihuahuas, he’s a big Chihauahua fan. Howard sleeps 98% of the day, every day.
CR: Is there anything you did differently on the new album that you did that you’d love to do again?
MD: We definitely went into it a bit different as far as writing. I used Garage Band on Macintosh to do all my demos and actually never really knew how to ‘play guitar’ and sort of learned it to write my demos to bring to practice. I thought that was really cool, I can definitely see us using that sort of mish-mash of people’s ideas smooshed into one single song again. You know, we played it for all the guys and we would listen pick a part or just go straight to practicing it right away and maybe adding to it here and there. We will do that again.
CR: You have a song on the latest album called 'Never Again'? Is there anything you've done that you'll never do again?
MD: I would say I wouldn’t eat meat again, for sure. I’m an 18 year vegetarian so never again will I eat meat. Although, I do crave chicken once in a while, unfortunately. One of the downfalls is you still like meat if you did like meat before you became vegetarian. The idea of meat or the smell can get you once in a while but I will never again eat chicken.
CR: You originally became vegetarian after being inspired by a talk by Ray Cappo, and Brian of Shadows Fall became veggie with you. How did your other friends react to the news and did you find it easy in the early years?
MD: I had a lot of friends who were [vegetarian], at the time, and I didn’t really get it and then it just finally clicked. I was just like ‘wow, OK, I really don’t have to kill something just because I want a snack’. It just seems so frivolous to have something die just because I need to eat or even most times you don’t even need to eat you just want to shove something in your mouth. It just seems completely ridiculous to kill something for that. It was very hard, extremely hard. This was 1991. In the States it was brutally hard to be vegetarian. There was nothing on the market that you could buy to eat except for maybe Tofu-Pups, like the hot dogs. But now, pretty much every supermarket you go to there is stuff vegetarians can have. I love coming over here; you guys have cornered the world in the Quorn market, it’s everywhere. I loved it when McDonalds had that Quorn burger for quite a while, Goddamn is that a good burger!
CR: You've talked about how your parents weren't into you being vegetarian in the early days. Now it's been 18 years, have your parents gradually come to accept it?
MD: It took them about four or five years, but I was the type of kid who would be in and out of doing things. Maybe they were just thinking ‘I like Star Wars figures now’, ‘I like GI Joe figures now’ ‘I don’t like toys at all’. I remember when I got my first bass they were like ‘are you going to do that, you paid a lot of money for that thing’ and I kept playing it ever since. I was really into skateboarding and they were like ‘how much longer are you going to skateboard for’ and it ended up being a good solid almost 15 years of skateboarding, it kept me in good shape and stuff like that. But my Mum didn’t really understand that even just a little meat in something is not the way I wanted to be. She’d say ‘well it’s not much in that egg roll’. I’d be like ‘No, what are you doing to me? There’s supposed to be none!’ So, I just wound up cooking all my own stuff.
CR: Did you get into animal rights or anything like that at the same time?
MD: I’m not the type of guy that would protest and not the type of guy that would yell in someone’s face if they’re eating something, it’s more of an inner thing to me. I care about animals but I’m not sure how much further that goes.
CR: You've posted recipes online. Which is your favourite meal?
MD: I did an interview with PETA and they asked me what my favourite food was to make because I love cooking, it’s one of my favourite things to do. Being a vegetarian you can get kind of boring, eating the same things over and over again. Like I said when I first started it was hard, really hard to eat, so we just had to come up with ingenious ways of making tofu-pup dishes, you know stuff like throwing in macaroni and cheese. But the recipe I gave to PETA was a chilli recipe that I adapted from a restaurant called Friendlies in the States. They did it with regular meat products and I made it my own with the different soya products that they had. But, yeah, cooking is my favourite, it’s weird to say it but I made my first vegetarian meatballs from scratch not too long ago, and they came out fantastic I must say, and there was lots of leftovers for meat-ball subs later and all sorts of stuff like that. It’s just fun, it’s like a science project, a little bit of this, little bit of that, taste it, ‘OK that’s terrible, how do I fix it’? I do this, I throw that in, it’s fun. It’s creative. It’s really hard when you’re on the road, I wish buses had a stove. It would be a lot easier to eat for sure.
CR: How does the rest of the band respond to your being a vegetarian?
MD: They support me, they’re cool with it. They like going to their steak restaurants and I usually stay behind. Josh, our roadie, who’s been with us for probably six or seven years now, is my vegetarian buddy. We hang out together and do stuff like that. Shaun our new drum-tech who’s been with us for about two years is also a vegetarian. Josh actually just started being vegan, I think about two years ago. We have an iPhone with a vegetarian application so you can find any vegetarian restaurant wherever you’re at. It’s always fun to go on a little mission to get actual food, eat in different place where you’ve never eaten before. It’s fun, a bit like people who listen to stuff on the radio for music as opposed to people who seek out other bands and listen to things that they want to listen to rather than just the normal every day stuff.
CR: Thanksgiving has just passed, what is your favourite Vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner?
MD: The past few years my wife and I have been buying this stuffable tofu or seitan bird. They sell it at the local oriental restaurant that we go to in Worcester, MA. It’s meals for weeks though, it’s so huge. Sometimes we would just get a Tofurky, those are easy to find in the States, it’s like a ball and there’s stuffing in the middle. They’re very, very good and you baste them and all that stuff. We used to, a long time ago, make our own seitan turkey with a pie-crust on top. It was very hard to do, took a long time, cooking for hours and hours. We would a lot of times invite all of the relatives over to our place and cook a strictly vegetarian meal and they would be psyched about it. Not people who would normally eat vegetarian but it came out so good that they would really like it and enjoy it.
CR: How do you feel about the Presidential Pardon given to one Turkey at Thanksgiving?
MD: It’s silly, hundreds of thousands die and one lives. Oh great. It’s stupid. Then the turkey probably gets killed a couple of months later anyway...
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