Sometimes bands experience ups and downs. And sometimes the downs weigh in so much it results in separation and bitter breakups. It’s not good for anyone, the band or the fans that have come to love their music and even label them as a favorite. But sometimes through the ashes of a relationship that went up in flames, births a new hope, a new relationship and a new band. Sometimes what needs to happen is a complete overhaul in order to make a once great band feel like they are great again. I recently had the honor and the privilege of sitting down with Brian Vodinh of 10 Years and asking him some very personal questions about music, camaraderie and life.
From Birth To Burial. Now I read somewhere that was “supposed” to be your final album. Is this true?
Brian: It was called “From Birth To Burial” because we thought it would probably be our last album, just because the band dynamic toxic and unhealthy, no one was having fun anymore. So at that time I decided to leave. I had written and produced the album with Jesse but I didn’t stick around and tour. So I was gone from 2013 through 2016, I wasn’t happy, I was done. And Jesse at the end of that album cycle came to a crossroad where the was a certain dynamic in the band that had to change. So basically had to make a very tough decision and let a member go. So he had to fire a long time member and once that dynamic changed Matt and I (another original member) felt comfortable enough coming back and we were totally refreshed and now we’re healthy. We function like a normal band, it’s just a much easier dynamic this time. We actually just wrote this album all in a room together and it was easy and fun and it hasn’t been that way almost ever.
So then how do you pick who is going to go on tour with you? Is it a hired gun thing or do you approach it as “We’re looking for a new member?”
Brian: Well I was the drummer for a long time, for something like 15 yrs, but when Matt Wantland, another one of the original members left in 2009 after “Feeding The Wolves” album I had made the decision after that to switch from drums to guitar. So we didn’t have a drummer yet, we were living in L.A. at the time and everyone we were auditioning wasn’t working out. We were actually out drinking and someone at the bar said “Hey the bartender (Kyle Mayer) plays drums”. “He’s a good drummer you should try him”. And at that point we were like “Yeah everybody says that”. Everyone has a friend that should be our drummer (laughing). Ya know everyone’s 3rd cousin is the next drummer for 10 Years. We kinda dismissed it almost until everyone in the band was like hell let’s give him a shot. So we talked to him a little bit, and from talking to him he seemed like he new something about music. So what we did (laughing) is we said if you want to try here are some songs (we sent via email) and stop by TOMORROW. So he had like ten hours to learn like four songs and he came by and it was fucking perfect! He killed it. He actually is a drummer. And at that point we had been going to the same bar for months and we knew him just as our bartender. He was our boy but we didn’t know he could do that. And then there’s Chad Huff who started off on guitar has now switched to bass. Both of those guys have been in the fold for awhile now, about 5 years so now they’re like fam.
So what made you decide to write another album?
Brian: A big part of it was Mascot Records, which is our new label (based in Europe) expressed interest in the band and we thought it would have been silly to walk away from something we had invested our entire lives into. Jesse knew (before I came back) that there was no way to continue on and make another record in the state that the band was in. So he talked to me about it, he talked to Matt about it and making the lineup change and having Matt and I back in the lineup was the only way for this opportunity to work and we just went forth in writing the record.
It was such an easy process. Matt and I have been playing guitar together and writing songs since we were both fourteen. And I’ve mentioned this before in interviews, but he and I we almost communicate better through our instruments then we do with our voices. It’s a weird thing, we’re close friends as we always have been but he and I have the strange ability to sit in a room together and not a word for hours. It’s just like there’s an understanding but we always know what the other is thinking. When it comes to picking up guitars we have such different styles but that is the way the 10 Years style and sound is created, it just happens. It’s not anything we have ever discussed or tried to obtain. That’s just what happens when Matt and I play together. Making the record we were excited and literally we didn’t discuss it a lot, it just happened.
Now enter Nick Raskulinecz the producer into the fold. I produced the last two albums and I wrote them so for me it was very internal and dude you lose perspective so easily when you’re basically drowning in a project so Nick was so good at coming in and basically saying “Hey the ten idea… They suuuuck!!!” “Start with these ten over here they’re great so let’s elaborate on those.” We have the tendency to overthink A LOT! So he didn’t allow that, at all.
So with that being said, how do you decide who is going to produce your next album? Is there a style that he has or something else that stands out from all the others?
Brain: The big thing with Nick was that he’s produced multiple records for Foo Fighters, Deftones, Alice In Chains, these are bands that are icons, bands that we look up to. Ya know being in the game as long as we have, we know that there’s people that can make a name for themselves and then you go and do a record with them and you think “Ya know this doesn’t live up to the hype”, and so when you see bands that you look up to that come back to him multiple times then you start to think, well these bands can go anywhere they want to but they have chosen Nick on multiple occasions. So it comes down to if our icons trusted him then maybe we should to. Nick definitely had the vision for this record before we even laid down a single note. We went and met with him, it was like the obligatory “meet and hang out for a couple hours to see if you vibe thing” before you make your final decision. It was crazy, when we walked in the room he basically came at us with a fuckin right hook (laughing), right away saying you guys over think, we’re gonna make something more deliberate, more abbreviated and lean, more vulnerable sounding. So this record is about less production and more based around the core foundation of the band ya know just drums, bass, guitar and vocals and make it feel like a “REAL” live band. This was a different approach from the last two albums I produced which was more textured and had a lot more layers. I guess I would say I had a more cinematic approach to them. I really used a lot of soundscape and a lot of layers. See Jesse and I like a lot of vocal effects but Nick wanted to peel all those layers away and present something more honest, something more straightforward.
It’s probably easier to play it live as well and not have to worry about triggers and such.
Brian: It does translate easier, yeah.
So in ears are a kinda trendy thing now. Do you guys use them for click tracks and lining up samples etc.?
Brian: We do use a click but we don’t run a bunch of tracks. Some bands will do backing vocals but we don’t. What you here is us. Haha, there’s some good reviews of our shows online and there’s some really band ones. Because it’s real and honest and ya know Jesse is a human being and there might be times he’s up there (on stage) and he’s sick and realistically he just can’t hit the same notes he could if he was well. And we’re older, were not still twenty-three and you lineup ten shows back to back you might not get a great show towards the end of that list but we’re fucking human. So back to the question, for us it’s real experience. We have have some piano bits or something like that on a track but the meat and potatoes that’s us. With that being said this album definitely lends itself more towards the live experience.
You mentioned that age plays a role in moving forward with your music and Jesse can’t sing as efficiently as he did when he was younger . With that being said do you guys take into consideration changing your style or the way that you write to accommodate that issue?
Brian: Jesse has a beautiful voice in his upper register where he can hit notes way high and they sound great in the studio but we didn’t take that into consideration when we were in our early twenties. Now you put that note on tape and that’s what the fans get used to and that’s what they want to hear live. So now when we write we consider the live environment and the fact he’s singing for 250 shows straight and we don’t write melodies that are actually gonna kill him.
Even on the new album we had songs where the melodies felt really good and then Jesse went to sing it and he would say “It’s just too high”. So we literally took the same riffs and transposed them down a step or two to where he felt like he could do it every night. Yeah, so we definitely consider that now to where as before we didn’t.
The title to the new album “How To Live As Ghosts”, is there a meaning behind it?
Brian: “From Birth To Burial”, was the last chapter of the band died with that record. So we’re the ghosts after the death rising above the next record, moving forward to the next chapter.
You mentioned you didn’t tour when you released “From Birth To Burial”. After spending time writing, did it bother you to just leave your work behind like that?
Brian: The problem that I had is that with the old lineup I felt that the songs were never presented accurately live so it made me unhappy on stage playing those songs. They were weak links in the chain and ya know there were parts that had to be modified so that they could be played by everyone. Little things like that and when you spend time creating something and it’s not presented in the way that it should be, it was disheartening. Now that’s not the case.
When I was on my break it was not because of the issues I had with the band, it was for personal reasons as well. One of my daughters was having a very tough time with me being gone. And my youngest was born extremely premature so she was in the hospital on and off for the first year of her life. She spent five and a half months in the NICU right after she was born, came home and then had to have some surgeries and then was back in the hospital. So at that time there was no way I could have toured anyway. That time was right for me to be home and this time is right for me to be back.
I remember turning in the mixes for the “From Birth To Burial” album when I was going to the hospital with my wife so I was already totally preoccupied and in a different world. So when I was home I started a real estate business that my wife and I still have, so different things like that so I stayed pretty busy. My wife encouraged me to get back out. She said “You know you’ve been home for awhile now and you’re not Brian Vodinh”. Ya know my entire existence is music so ya know it was definitely weird not doing it, it was just with everything else going on there was a purpose for my break. Now everyone is great and healthy and it presented an opportunity to get back out to doing what I love doing.
It’s great to have a wife that supports that particular lifestyle.
Brian: Yeah, I’m lucky. But musicians have to remember too that we can be a little self serving. We want a support system in doing what we do but our counterparts need one as well. But the wife that’s at home making shit happen, we have to support them too. Trust me I know I’m not the best husband in the world and I recognize my flaws but I do understand that as long as the support is 360 things will be just fine. She’s amazing, she can do things as a parent that I just don’t have the patients for, again I’m just lucky haha.
What made “Novocaine” the horse out of the gate for the new album?
Brian: It’s a straightforward short rock track, we wanted something that just kicked the door down. That one in particular, everyone from band to management just had excitement around that song.
Ok this is the last question I promise haha. What is your favorite album to sing to?
Brian: Any of the early Deftones records for sure, Adrenaline, Around The Fur, White Pony, any of those. I really love the very first 30 Seconds to Mars album. My favorite band growing up was Metallica, so for me back then that was it they were what I listened to, so any of those records haha.
For more on 10 Years check out:
Check out the New album from 10 Years “(how to live) As Ghosts”
Photo Credit: Harry Reese Photography