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Art of Dying

An interview with Singer Jonny Hetherington and drummer Jeff Brown

Art Of Dying - photo by Michael Hurcomb CD: Vices and Virtues
Record Label: Intoxication/Warner Bros.
by Kimberly E. McDaniel
April 2010

Art of Dying began in Canada, building an international following since releasing their breakout hit, Get Through This, in November of 2006.  The band, Jonny Hetherington on vocals, Jeff Brown on drums, Cale Gontier on bass and guitarists Greg Bradley and Tavis Stanley, found themselves beginning their whirlwind ride when Get Through This was selected for the World Wrestling Entertainment’s Pay Per View Survivor Series and used in a trailer to promote a podcast of “Port City P.D.”  The song is one of the official theme songs of the WWE NXT.  The band released their self-titled debut in February of 2007, and although the band has claimed that they will not release any more copies of the debut, the album is available as an import at Amazon.com.

In December of 2009, Art of Dying signed with Intoxication Records, the fledgling label of Disturbed’s David Draiman and Dan Donegan.  This major label release, Vices and Virtues, was released in March and the band has toured nonstop in support of the album and the first single, Die Trying.  Currently, Art of Dying is part of the Avalanche Tour, alongside Stone Sour, Skillet, Halestorm and Theory of a Deadman.  In June, the band will open for Poison and Motley Crue at Rocklahoma, which Hetherington admits is an amazing prospect. 

Hetherington and Brown sat down with Maximum Ink to discuss the fate of rock-n-roll music, the possibility of a never-ending tour and, well, the art of dying.

Maximum Ink:  How did you come up with the name “Art of Dying?”

Jonny Hetherington:  I got really drunk one night with a good friend of mine, and we talked a lot about life.  We really came across the name through that conversation.  It came from a longer sentence, ‘The art of dying is your life to live.’  So that’s where it came from, it was just like a conversation that turned into a kind of philosophy on how you want to live and the art of dying is your life to live, my life to live.  It just came out of realizing that one day you’re going to die for sure and you only have so many days left and it might be one.  It might be a thousand.  So, just enjoy your life.

MI:  How would you describe your music?
JH:  I think it’s honest.
Jeff Brown:  That’s a good answer!  I like that!

MI:  Who are your influences?
JH:  I think we all have lots of different influences.  Mine, personally, they go deep from stuff I grew up listening to as a kid.  Honestly, as deep as like, Kenny Rogers to the music which changed my life, like Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains and Nirvana.  When I heard that music, I felt like I’d never really heard music before in that intensity.  It changed my whole way of thinking.  I always wanted to sing and always wanted to play, always wanted to perform and when I heard those bands, I just did a 180.  My life was changed forever.
JB:  Pearl Jam, 10.  Same thing.  When I heard that record, it was pretty awesome.  Although I have to say my first music experience was ABBA when I was a wee little lad.  I would spin around in this chair and my mom couldn’t get me out of the trance.

MI:  What was the last album you bought?
JH:  I don’t buy records, I steal them!  (laughter)  Actually the last album I bought was the new Three Days Grace album.
JB:  That’s the one I bought.
JH:  I support bands that I really love and I’ll buy their album ten times just to let them know, and help them along.  Three Days Grace has been an influence on us and our bass player, Cale’s, cousin is in that band.  Adam and Cale are cousins, so we have a special kind of bond.  That aside, Life Starts Now is such a fantastic record that I’d buy it again right now.

MI:  What other bands are you listening to?
JH:  I’ve been listening to a lot of Aerosmith.  We play a lot of poker together and put on a lot of old records.  Aerosmith just seems to go with every moment of our lives.  I think those guys have been through a lot and you can hear it on their records.  You can hear when they’re in a rut.  They have so many records that are like, they’re on a high or Joe Perry’s not there all of a sudden and they’re on a low.  I put the Aerosmith catalog on all the time and hit random and it’s a great day.
JB:  We’ve been listening to a lot of great bands who have been around for a while for the last two years.  Literally, we hit random, like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles.  We do a lot of three part harmony so the Eagles are a big one for us.

MI:  So what do you think of Steven Tyler as a judge on American Idol?
JH:  I think it’s good.  It’s a great move for them.  They seem to be that band that they’re up here and a couple of years later, they’re down there but they always come back and reign supreme in the rock world.  I think him being on American Idol is perfect because a whole generation is being exposed to them that didn’t know who they were and they’re going to put out another amazing record and be the most amazing band in the world again.  Everyone’s going to be like, ‘They did it THREE times??”  It’s perfect.

MI:  So, do you watch it?
JH:  No.  It’s probably hard to be a judge on those shows because you want to be positive and not be an asshole.  I don’t even have a TV, so I’m anti-TV in every way.  I never want to see another TV program again.
JB:  It’s true.  I can vouch.
JH:  Unless it’s Seinfeld reruns.  Then I’m in!

MI:  What song is on your IPOD that might shock your fans?
JH:  I got a little Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson on there.  I love country songs and ballads.  Damien Rice is one of my really really cool influences.  Do you know Damien Rice?

MI:  No.
JH:  He’s from Ireland and he’s an acoustic player and he’s kind of like an acoustic Kurt Cobain.  He’s so incredible.  I absolutely love everything he’s ever done.  I hope everyone in the world will discover Damien Rice because he’s phenomenal.
JB:  There’s a local boy, Ryan Townsend, who owns a restaurant and bar in Vancouver that I love.  I’m a big U2 fan.  I’m really getting into Mumford and Sons as well.

MI:  What band or musician would be your dream to collaborate with?
JH:  Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder.  I’ve heard so many cool things.  I’ve never met Eddie Vedder and that band has just blown my mind since day one.  I’ve heard he’s such a cool guy to hang with and just a real person.  It’d be cool to get on an acoustic guitar and just collaborate.
JB:  I can’t pick just one, but top ten?  Metallica comes to mind.

MI:  Are you looking forward to coming back to play at Rocklahoma?
JH:  No.  (laughter)
JB:  No, not really.
JH:  No, it’s going to be a highlight of what we’re doing out here.  It’s like, opening for Motley Crue?  I don’t even know!  Dr. Feelgood?  That record was just…we pretty much crank Kick Start My Heart every time we go into a new city.  We have this habit of just cranking it and it just feels like the best moment of your life.  I love Motley Crue!
JB:  As a drummer, Tommy Lee on Dr. Feelgood?  It was ridiculous!  It’s awesome!

MI:  What three things can you not live without?
JH:  Beer, women and music, in that order.
JB:  Actually, I thinking it’s the same exact thing.

MI:  What’s your best tour story?
JH:  I’ve actually told this story before and it always pops into my head when someone asks me that.  It was in Wichita, Kansas, I believe.  We were signing autographs in our line, and this kid walked up with nothing and he said, ‘I want to shake your hand.’
JB:  He didn’t have any emotion on his face.  He was just like a blank slate.
JH:  He just said ‘Your song, Get Through This, stopped me from committing suicide.  Your song got me through it and I didn’t kill myself.’  I just grabbed him and took him over to a dark corner and we had a chat for about 10 minutes.  To me, there’s nothing in this world that could be better than our music affecting someone in such a positive way that they made the choice to live rather than die.  That’s my best tour story forever.
JB:  Again, I’d have to say, I was there for that.  It was pretty intense.

MI:  How long will you be out on tour?
JH:  Pretty sure, forever!  Our manager said to be prepared for the next two to three years.  Our album is on the first single and the first single is six months in so I mean, if we’re fortunate enough to have five singles, and that’s what we’re discussing all the time.  So it’s going to be a long haul, but we’re up for it.

MI:  What’s the next single going to be?
JH:  We don’t know.  We’re not talking about it yet.  We’re throwing around ideas.  We have a couple of songs we really want to get to and we want to do it at the right time.  We played it tonight, Best I Can, a slower, ballad song that really lyrically connects and we want to get there but we don’t want to release it too early and become a ballad band.  We’re a rock band.  The next single will hit pretty hard, it’ll be a hard song.
JB:  There are a few songs that are definitely floating to the surface every time we talk about it but as far as making a call, we’re not there yet.

MI:  Are you thinking at all about the next album or is that just so far in the future that you’re not considering it yet?
JH:  It’s already written.  We write so much together!  We almost have the third record written and we’re talking about which songs should be on the third or fourth because we just write all the time.
JB:  Yeah, we go away on writing trips.  We came to the table with 50 songs for this album.
JH:  We had to cut a bunch of songs from this record that we all really wanted to be on it.  Those will go on the next one for sure.

MI:  So, how long do you think it will be before you get back in the studio and start on it?  A couple of years, at least?
JH:  We’ll just listen to the world and whenever we’re coming down, we’ll just go back in.

MI:  What’s your favorite track to play live, and why?
JH:  Get Through This has always been one of my favorites to play live.  I wrote it about my dad who went through a battle with cancer and survived.  So every night I get to sing this song that could’ve been my nightmare but it turned into my family’s triumph.  It’s about survival, so I never forget that onstage.  So we just sing it and I feel that energy of my family and survival while performing so it’s great.

MI:  I’m glad to hear your father survived.  My mother wasn’t so lucky.
JH:  I’m sorry to hear that.  I’m super lucky that my father didn’t die but at the same time, Get Through This is about people who do die, too.  And we have to say goodbye and we have to get through that too.  We’re all just getting through different things.
JB:  Best I Can is pretty special live.  It starts out all dark and everything.  That song is very special to me and the dynamics of it live are amazing.  When I play it, it’s not complicated, it is what it is.

MI:  How do you feel about the state of rock music today?
JH:  Love it!

MI:  Do you think it’s as good as it was say, back in the heyday?
JH:  Yeah, I think rock music is just a cycle.  We’re all just carrying the torch.  50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, now, whatever is going to happen in the next ten years, we’re just all…it’s a lifestyle, like punk is a lifestyle.  We’re all just carrying the torch and there are so many great bands.  Just this tour alone, is just incredible.
JB:  It’s funny, I talk to a lot of people who are kind of negative about it, but I’m with Jonny.  It’s what you make it.  There’s great music out there and this tour is one of those tours, like Halestorm and Stone Sour.  We try to watch all the other bands as much as we can.  It’s nice to be on a tour with bands that can really shatter it out and really play and make it real.  It’s alive and well, and like Jonny said, we’re part of the flame and we try to keep it lit.

MI:  What do you think about the future of rock music?  With the internet being what it is and so many people downloading music, do you think it will go totally digital eventually?
b>JH:  I think so.  I mean, I don’t think vinyl will ever go away.  I think vinyl has a voice and I think maybe CDs will have a voice eventually and people will start to think they are cool again like we think vinyl is cool again.  Who knows?  The point is that it’s so easy now and whatever’s easy works, in my opinion.  I’d rather buy a record on my IPhone than buy a record in a store.  Actually, it happened to me the other day.  A bunch of people were going to buy our record and spent the entire day going from Best Buy to FYE and I don’t even know the names of all the places and they couldn’t find the record.  Apparently we’re doing really well in that town because it was sold out!  But it was like, if you have the right computer connection or ITunes, you could just buy it and you own it and you have the artwork.  I’m a little bit of a technology guy.  I love things that are fluid and the day I got my iPhone was like, wow!
JB:  I thought that was going to be one of the things you couldn’t live without actually.
JH:  Yes!  Internet connection!  It’s like number four on things I can’t do without.  I need that relationship with fans, with people.  Every day of my life I want to be able to connect with my fans.  I can post a song lyric and get instant feedback and what could be better for an artist?  To get instant feedback from people who care?
JB:  There was somebody who came up to the merch booth and they said, ‘Oh my god, thank you for responding on Facebook!’  We take it seriously, when we get messages we make it a point to get back to people.  We think it’s very important and we don’t take it lightly.

MI:  Does it bother you when people download your songs without paying for them?
JH:  Oh no.  But it’s almost easier to go to ITunes now and buy it for 99 cents.
JB:  I think Corey sums it up best when he asks how many people bought the record, how many people downloaded it illegally or whatever.  He says, ‘Whatever, you guys, as long as you got the record.”  I think we all feel the same way.

MI:  Well, it’s the same thing we did when we were kids.  You bought a record and made cassette copies for your friends.  It’s just a much bigger scale now.
JH:  Music’s a lot bigger than business.  Warner Brothers probably wouldn’t want us to say that because we’re signed to them and they want you to buy our record.  At the same time, fuck that.  You know, get the music however you get it, it’s up to you, your morals, your standards, it’s up to you, and come to the show.  Create a relationship with us and let’s do this a long time together.  That’s what is important to me.

MI:  Where do you guys see yourselves in five years?
JH:  Probably still touring on the fucking album!  No, five years from now, we’ll probably be releasing our next record and out on the road again in this RV!

Purchase Vices and Virtues on Amazon.com
Download Vices and Virtues on Amazon.com

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