Interview

Sean Darlington
I recently had an opportunity to speak with Tim Skipper, lead singer and guitarist for House of Heroes, about their upcoming album, their time in the studio and their year full of touring.

AO: So, you guys just got back from Tennessee where you were at dark horse studio recording your new album.

TS: Correct. Yeah, yeah. We recorded 14 songs. We might record some more, I’m not sure yet. It depends on how the others turned out.

AO: Tell me a little bit about your experience so far.

TS: Well, so far this go ‘round has been a little more stressful but it’s also been more relaxed. We kind of set a deadline to start recording by Feb. 1st and we realized that, ‘wow’, we were going to have to write a lot of songs here in a short amount of time so we just kind of did it and got down there not really knowing what all we had. We got down there, threw everything out and we were like, ‘wow, we’ve got some really cool songs here’. So when we started recording we just kind of took the mentality of, ‘Ok, well, lets not second guess ourselves, lets do one or two takes at the most of each part and we want to leave the raw energy of the first few takes in there’ so we did just that: we concentrated really hard and didn’t second guess ourselves. I was listening back to everything the other day and it sounds awesome. Its not done yet but it sounds amazing so far.

AO: Have you picked out a title yet?

TS: We haven’t. The themes throughout the record are growing up in America, growing up in the Midwest, deciding who you want to be, and young innocence. We also touch on the naivety of being young and growing into young adulthood and kind of realizing or choosing whether to become a cynic or an optimist. One of the things we thought about was calling the record Suburba because there’s a building over on 33 that is the suburban building but the N fell off so it just says Suburba. We were going past it one day and we were just kind of like, ‘that kind of, in a way, encapsulates a lot of the themes on the record just about growing up in suburban Midwest America’, so, I don’t know. We’ll see.

AO: On your last album you achieved a great sound by everyone gathering around one microphone to record your harmonies. It that something we will see again on this next album?

TS: Yeah. Its definitely something… we haven’t done it yet because, you know, everybody’s growing up and getting married and has family obligations and so we couldn’t all be down there for the entire process of the recording so I’ve been down there by myself recording for the past about three weeks finishing up guitars and lead vocals, but when we go back down to do the background vocals that is definitely something we are going to continue to do. I feel like in a way, even though its nothing close to an original idea, its sort of become a signature sound for us, just the way our voices go together when we record that way.

AO: Yeah, it definitely works to bring out a Queen or a Beatles style of sound.

TS: Exactly! Yeah, Queen is my favorite band so if there’s anybody to emulate in my mind, that’s the band!

AO: Were there any new styles or sounds that you decided to try on this album?

TS: Well, let me think about that. We recorded the drums in a different spot this time. We are recording at this studio called Dark Horse, which is an amazing… amazing, like, ranch… basically like a mansion out in the middle of nowhere with horses and all this stuff, but then they have this massive room with a vaulted ceiling for the drums and the drums sounded absolutely incredible. So, aside from just going through and just going with our first instincts on everything we just minimalized on everything. On the last record I think we set up like 8 different guitar amps and we probably used like 25 different guitars, but on this one we said, ‘lets keep it simple’. We used 5 guitar amps and basically 4 guitars with a 12 string every once in awhile. The song writing was a little bit simpler and a little bit more straightforward and just rock and roll, so we kind of said, ‘lets make it sound that way’.

AO: I had heard that you wrote a piano song. Is that something we may see on the new album?

TS: We did record it, yeah. I’m not sure if it will make the final cut. I think it turned out really stinking cool. You know what? I took piano when I was really young for about 6 years and I hated every second of it because I had to practice every day and there was just nothing that I liked about it. I remember when I quit, I said to my mom, ‘I will never play piano again, this is so boring’ (laughs), but then in 6th grade a kid in my class made me listen to a tape of ACDC live and I kind of changed my mind about music. It was the first time I had really heard rock music. In hindsight, I regret quitting playing piano and I’ve been trying to get back into it a little bit but this was the first and only song I’ve written for piano. If it doesn’t make the record I’m sure it will come out on a b-side at some point.

AO: Rumor is that Eric Newcomer, your touring bassist, contributed a guitar solo to the album. Is there any truth to that?

TS: He did, yeah. That guy is a really good jazz and blues guitar player and he plays ridiculously fast. Like, he could shred in a metal band if he wanted to. He came and was hanging out in the studio for about 5 or 6 of the days that we were recording guitars because he lives down there so finally I just said, ‘man, you’re putting the solo on this song because I can’t’ (laughs) It’s a song that requires a little bit of a quicker, you know, like a garage band kind of solo and he just let it rip and it sounds awesome.

AO: What was your favorite toy to play with in the studio?

TS: Oh, that’s a good one. I would definitely have to say the fuzz pedals. Before we went in the studio I had been listening to a lot of bands that use a lot of fuzz pedals. Smashing Pumpkins has always been one of my favorite bands and I love Muse and the Silversun Pickups and the supersaturated fuzz sounds that they all get. And so I went in with the idea that we were gonna use a lot of fuzz on this record. Before we went in I had bought three different fuzz pedals and our producer, Mark Townsend, had probably 8 or 9 from the 60’s and 70’s and we just went through and dialed in some of our favorite fuzz sounds and pretty much used a fuzz pedal through a Silvertone amp and it just sounds like… dirt nasty… like old, sixties, Jimi Hendrix fuzz but like… even more saturated, so like some where between Jimi Hendrix and Smashing Pumpkins and we probably ended up using it on every song. It sounds amazing.

AO: From what you were saying earlier, it sounds like this album will be centered on one central theme in much the same way that The End is Not the End was.

TS: Yeah, exactly. When we first started out, the new album was supposed to be a concept record. The End is Not the End was definitely a thematic record but not necessarily a concept record. This one was supposed to be a concept record. It was going to be a linear story from beginning to end but we couldn’t find a way to end it. It was just getting a little too artsy and we were just like, ‘we’ve got some good songs here. Lets take enough of these songs that we really like and lets just write a bunch of rock songs to go along with them’. So, yeah. There are definitely themes going on throughout the record. We wanted to go for that kind of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, even The Who… just that loud guitar, really good song writing type of vibe, but then bring our own twist to it. A lot of it is just about circumstances. Bruce Springsteen writes about that stuff all the time… like escaping from the circumstances you are born into and breaking away from the small town mentality. It’s kind of got that vibe to it. The first song on the album is a song called “Relentless” and its just about feeling like the world is your oyster and you can get whatever you want and the sky’s the limit and realizing that you were a little bit naïve when you were younger, so its just about dealing with that.

AO: And the album is scheduled for release in June?

TS: Yeah, as of right now June 29th is the date. We might have to end up moving it back just a little bit, maybe just into July to make sure we set it up correctly.

AO: Now you guys are leaving the studio and pretty much going straight out on the Awake Tonight Tour with Skillet and tobyMac. You’ve gotta be pretty excited about that.

TS: Oh for sure! Yeah Toby is the co-owner of our label, Gotee records, and he has always been really cool and really nice to us. Its weird because he has always said he would like to take us on tour, but stylistically it’s gotta be able to fit. And for a while there we were like, ‘I don’t know if we would want to tour with tobyMac. We’re not sure if that’s necessarily the demographic that would really get or appreciate our music’ but as time has progressed and we’ve hung out with him and his band a little more, it became more apparent that it could work. We just needed to find the right band to bridge the gap between us stylistically. When he said, ‘I’m doing this tour with Skillet and would love for you guys to be a part of it’ its like, how do you say no to that? Skillet’s selling 9,000 records a week! We will be playing small arenas and be touring on a bus! When we first started the band I said, ‘I have three goals for the band. I wanna play with MXPX, I wanna play overseas and I wanna tour on a bus. If we can do that then we’ve made it’. So, this is the last of the three… so were excited!

AO: Do you have any plans for a second tour this year?

TS: We do, but we’re gonna have to figure some stuff out. We’re having some personnel changes right now. Our drummer, Colin Rigsby, he’s having his second kid in May so he’s not doing this tour with us. We’ve got a buddy here in town named Josh Dunn, who’s gonna help us out for this tour. And then after that we’re going to have to figure everything out. It looks like we might go to Europe in July and then after that we will probably do a CD release tour of sorts and then try to get on something good in late summer, early fall.

AO: Well I’m really looking forward to hearing this new album.

TS: Yeah, I’m really, really excited about it. Every album you do feels more and more like your sound, but this one especially does.

AO: Well Tim, thanks for taking the time to speak with your fans and we look forward to seeing you on tour this year.

TS: My pleasure. Appreciate it Sean. Take care.