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Mike Conte (of Early Man) Interview

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Early Man just released the grinding four-song Beware the Circling Fin EP, and have a full length album still in the works with their new label The End. Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine got in touch with lead singer/guitarist Mike Conte to ask him about the transition away from the indie rock-centric Matador Records, finding new ways to connect with metal fans online and the band’s time-tested approach to song development.

Was there any sort of shift in focus between recording Matador’s Closing In and the new “Beware The Circling Fin” EP?

Mike Conte: Somewhat. Closing In has it’s own special thing going on but I think the band is a little more focused now and somewhat better at what we do overall than we used to be. It’s a natural progression. You keep pushing yourself to newer levels. You feel that a little with the new EP but even more so with some of the newer stuff we’re putting together for the full length.

What were the driving factors that lead the band to leaving Matador records?

Mike Conte: Let me just say that we’re happy to be with The End. I like the way they operate. We like where they’re taking things. We want our music to be heard by people like us who love heavy metal. Matador is not a metal label, they were having a hard time figuring it all out. So the change was good on both sides I think. There’s no hard feelings on our end. We had some good times and some bad times in those years. Moving forward, we’re in a very good spot right now. There’s a lot cooking.

Do you feel that you’ll be better positioned to expand your audience through The End Records?

Mike Conte: Absolutely. It’s like starting all over again and we’re very excited. They are fully equipped to take us to the fans we should’ve been brought to years ago. We’ve already noticed a difference and, like I said, we’re just getting started.

As bands continue to expand their presence by using the internet, the idea of having a blog and reaching out to fans in new ways makes perfect sense. You guys make the most of your MySpace page and have a blog which includes a lot of unique content, how much benefit have you gained from the additional outlets?

Mike Conte: I used to be somewhat creeped out by the whole internet scene. I think much differently about it now. I’ve been able to have amazing connections with Early Man fans with the internet being the conduit. I like the idea of being accessible. Being in a band that people care about is a very fragile thing and I’m fully aware of that. I try to make it a point to respond to people through MySpace or website emails, whatever it may be. And keeping people posted through those same channels about what is going on with us is important to me as well. The benefit is that you connect with your fans outside of the music in a way that wasn’t really possible 15 years ago.

What sort of impact does it have on the band when a song like “Death is the Answer” is streamed 70,000 times?

Mike Conte: I had no idea it was streamed that many times. That’s cool. I don’t really think we think about that kind of stuff too much. The important thing to me is: what’s next? More riffs riffs riffs keep the train rollin’…

Compared to that song – the new EP seems far truer to the basics of thrash and speed. Was there any sort of conscious decision to speed things up with the new material?

Mike Conte: Not really. “Death’” was written in one day about four years ago, very organically. It just happened. The simplicity of the song made it undeniable. It kind of just presented itself to us at a practice late summer of 2004. It was like something moved through us and the music for the entire song was written in about two hours with myself and our drummer, Adam. I wrote the lyrics in about the same amount of time a few days later. It had a feel to it, like an instant classic. And really, its actually quite a bit different than anything else we’ve ever written. We’ve always had a dominant thrash element but it does seem we’re leaning even more so in that direction. But we don’t meet up and say “hey, lets make a decision to speed it up and make it even thrashier” or anything like that. We do however frequently meet up and say “let’s drink three cases of beer and put together the best possible songs we can”. That’s about the extent of the planning. Seems to work nicely.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]