July 15, 2007
by Chris French
Before the term “progressive” became the go-to adjective for any band sounding remotely experimental, two New York bands began toying with a genre that Queen defined in the ’70s: Shabutie and 3. The former, of course, became Coheed And Cambria, who essentially epitomize the progressive-rock genre. 3, on the other hand, stayed underground, and would effectively remain there until 2005 when Metal Blade re-released their fourth studio album, Wake Pig. Now, as C&C are going through tumultuous lineup changes and preparing for the end to their Amory Wars tetralogy, 3 are just finally picking up speed. In an AP Web exclusive, we spoke with 3 founding member JOEY EPPARD about the new album, The End Is Begun, a potential run with Dream Theater, and his thoughts of his brother’s departure from Coheed.
Interview: Chris French
First off, congratulations on the release of The End Is Begun. What sort of response have you been getting for it so far?
It’s been very positive; very, very positive. A lot of the response–because it came out a little earlier in Europe, so I’ve been talking to all sorts of people from different countries–it’s just been overwhelmingly positive. It makes you feel good, you know?
Are you personally happy with how it turned out?
Yeah, you know, I just recently finally got that perspective. You know, when you work really hard on something and you get so close to it, you actually need to get away from it for a minute before you can just see it in the same way that other people are going to see it, because I’ve known these songs, you know, since they were just little ideas and what they’ve grown into now. Yeah, I popped the record on a couple of days ago, actually, and just listened to the whole thing and I was like, “Okay, now I get it.” Because this was a different experience having someone else engineer and mix the record, whereas the last one [Wake Pig], I did everything.
I actually meant to ask if anyone helped produce The End Is Begun.
Whereas with Wake Pig I did the whole thing; I produced that record. But this time around we wanted to do it a little more as a collective band effort, so pretty much we each stepped up and really handled the production of our own aspect of the band. In the early stages of the writing process, we set up a situation that was basically like the studio: We all had headphones and we recorded everything we did and we would listen back, and that was a way of really honing the composition and honing the parts and expanding the ideas. And it worked really well! So, it was cool having it be a collective effort, and [was] definitely easier for me not having to be responsible for the entire thing, you know what I mean? To lean on the rest of the guys a little bit more.
Was there any outside help that gave you guys a hand?
Well, we had a great engineer, Roman Klun, who was just really great to work with. And as far as the mixing of the record, [that] was done by Toby Wright. That was a new experience for me, taking a project that you’ve been working on for and then going to other side of the country and then mixing it there with somebody that hasn’t heard a note of what you’ve done for this record yet. So it’s an interesting process, trying to initiate someone into the concept of your record, just cold like that. You know, I think there’s advantages of doing that, as well.
Did you enjoy that experience?
I think not having to wear so many different hats myself, I can focus more on just being an artist. Whereas I think I almost drove myself crazy last time around because I had to be the artist but I also had to be the producer and I had to be an engineer, so it’s like three different areas of the brain you’re using, you know? You end up getting in arguments with yourself. [Laughs.] It’s definitely easier when you have more people to share the workload and focus on specific responsibilities. We were able to record and complete this record in less than half the time it took to make Wake Pig.
How long did it take you?
Well, we got home from our first European tour in October, and we took, like, a couple weeks off there, and then the kind of latter half of October we starting the writing process. I brought some acoustic demos to the table and, you know, we just started rehearsing and writing and demoing the songs. Then we recorded in the big studio in February, you know, and then basically took a month to record.
When I listen to The End Is Begun, I hear a lot of Wake Pig. Was that something 3 was consciously shooting for?
Most people have been saying to me that it seems like a very logical step. So, there are a lot of elements from Wake Pig in this record, but it’s also sort of the next step. I think it’s a more well-rounded body of work. A little bit more progressive, and a little bit more representative of the different personalities in the band.
So I have to ask you the obligatory question: What sort of influences did you draw from for this record, and were any of those the same that inspired you on Wake Pig?
You know, we all have our foundations; our rock foundations that we draw from, I think. But this time around, one record I kept going back to was King Crimson’s Lizard. The way that record, it’s just so dynamic, and yet melodic and epic, and they mix the acoustic guitar really loud. I like that. [Laughs.]
3 are doing a small mini-tour in support of The End Is Begun. Any plans for a larger U.S. or even European tour later this fall?
Absolutely! We’re just waiting for the official word on that stuff right now, but there’s a good chance that we’ll be doing more dates with Porcupine Tree and/or Dream Theater. We had Mike Portnoy come out to our Philly show to see the band live for the first time because he’s been a big fan of Wake Pig. He loved the live show and basically told our manager, “Whatever shows these guys want in the next year, they can have them.”
Wow! What was your reaction to that?
We were just like, “Oh, my God! That’s so awesome!” You know, things have been coming together. This last tour with Porcupine Tree really opened up a lot of doors for us, and I think the best combination of bands that we’ve had on a tour. We’ve always been the odd band out; not always fitting in with the bill. [Laughs.] But we would still win the audience at the end of the night. This tour, you know, was a lot better than that; this was really playing in front of people we could really relate to.
Speaking of your live shows, one of the best performances I’ve ever seen was when you came to Cleveland and played at the Grog Shop. I think there were a total of 12 people in the entire venue, but what I distinctly remember about this show is that you broke every string on your guitar, fell into the drum kit and still continued to play. And I remember just being absolutely amazed at what just happened onstage. What sort of things drive you when you’re performing? What’s going through your head?
Well, hopefully not too much, because if you start thinking too much when you’re up there I think that can obscure the purity of what you’re doing. I’m a pretty mellow person, and I think that might be because I get a lot of my issues out of my system onstage, I guess you might say. So, you know, I just try to stay in the moment, and when the music moves me it moves me. Occasionally, I will fall into the drum set accidentally. [Laughs.] I never really know exactly what’s going to happen. Last time we played in Boston, we got really into it and I fell into the drum set, and then stood up and my guitar had gotten tangled in my hair. You wouldn’t believe it; like, it wasn’t coming out! They actually had to get scissors and cut my guitar out of my hair! I don’t know how it happened, but my hair was just completely entangled into the strings and the gears.
This is your first record with Metal Blade even though they re-released Wake Pig in 2005. How has the label been treating you since you struck a deal with them that year?
They’ve been really great. It’s a good group of people; they’re real people and down-to-earth. You know, we’re friends, we have a good rapport, and they’ve been supportive. We had a bad experience early on being on a major label [Universal] and it’s not something I really want to go back to, at least until we have really established our thing and we have that power. So, I think it’s a good step and good place for us to be, and they’ve helped make this a worldwide project. So things have changed a lot in the last couple of years, and we just want to keep moving in that direction.
Can you tell me about the title of the record, The End Is Begun? Where did that name come from?
You know, it came from one of the first songs that we had written for this record. It’s one of those things where it seems kind of dark at first, but for me, it’s not necessarily a dark thing. It really depends on how you frame it as the viewer, because it’s kind of hard to ignore all the doomsday prophecies, you know, all the shit that going on with the environment. There really is no way around it that we are sort of on the verge of an ending of sorts. I feel like we have some control over it’s a positive thing or a negative thing, but we’ve got to be aware of it. There’s this sort of archetypal feeling of this ultimate battle, but really it’s a battle that’s taking place within us, and I think a lot of the record sort of feels like that.
Like your website says, it’s dark yet it’s spiritual at the same time.
Yeah, well I think that’s life. We live in a sort of duality of good and evil, dark and light. So to ignore one is to not live in reality.
Obviously, 3 draw a lot of comparisons to Coheed And Cambria. But during the 10-plus years that both bands have been together, Coheed have really become this mega-band while 3 have remained relatively underground. Do you have any speculation as to why it happened that way?
Sure. I’ve been there for the whole thing. Just for the record, 3 has been around for quite a bit longer, but those guys used to be a band called Shabutie and we were all really good friends and kind of grew up in similar areas, like those guys, Claudio [Sanchez] and Travis [Stever] are from Nyack, [New York], which is, like, an hour south of us. They were playing with Mike Todd and Nate Kelley and some other guys from up here [Woodstock, New York]. So, you know, we were two bands that were doing some similar things: We both had progressive elements and vocals, singers who could sing and had kind of a higher vocal range. We definitely related and we were friends and we were kind of the only two bands in our own little scene. What ended up happening was, we got a deal with Universal Records–it didn’t work out; there was a giant corporate merger–and that sort of screwed us up, that was in ’98, and we were really young. You know, my brother [Josh Eppard] was 17 at the time. We had been doing it so long, since we were so young, we felt like this deal was late, you know? It was almost like going through a mid-life crisis at age 17! But when that didn’t work out, my brother quit playing drums for 3. He quit playing drums altogether! I decided to move forward with the project and kind of put together a new band, and about two years after my brother quit playing drums, Shabutie kind of fell apart–I was at the show where their drummer just basically threw his sticks and said, “I quit!” and walked offstage, which is probably the dumbest thing he’s ever done in his life. [Laughs.] They asked my brother to join, and he decided he wanted to play drums again and he started playing with those guys. They needed a place to rehearse, so we hooked them up with a spot in our living room, so they played in my living room every Saturday for a year. So before they even put their first record [The Second Stage Turbine Blade] out I knew that record inside and out because I heard it every Saturday. The difference in the path that they took in terms of what we did was, they signed a deal we probably wouldn’t have signed with Equal Vision. It was, like, ridiculous! But obviously it worked. You know, the deal was something crazy like, “You guys have to play 26 nights out of every single month and if you do that we’ll give you $1,000 for tour support.” I don’t know if you know anything about touring, but it’s going to cost you so much more money than that, it’s just insane. You know, I think they got a budget of $3,000 to make their first record. If we had looked at that deal, we probably would’ve just laughed at it and done nothing. But those guys, they did it, and my brother pulled enough strings–he knew studio owners–and he set up a situation where they were able to take this very lo-fi sounding recording and use sound replacer and a top-notch studio that my father had built to really give that first Coheed record a great sound. So my brother hooked that stuff up, and EVR put out, I don’t know, like 25,000 samplers, and it really was just the perfect timing. I was there, I saw it all happen, and for us, we never left our hometown; we just never toured. We just sat around and kept writing songs. And then we finally realized, “Oh, yeah. You know what, we really actually have to tour if we really want to do this.” We certainly learned that seeing how things unfolded for those guys.
Does it ever bother you considering the way things worked out?
Not at all! No, there’s nothing weird like that because everything happens for a reason. For what I want to do musically I think we needed time to just be a band and write, and keep writing, and grow and percolate, evolve, before taking it out on the road. I’m glad that we had the time to do that, and I’m glad that we are where we are right now.
Your brother is no longer with Coheed. What are your thoughts on that situation?
Well, you know, I support all of those guys. My brother is a great artist, a great musician, and he can carry his own thing. If that’s what he wants to do I have to respect that. He’s really an amazing writer. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Weerd Science at all, [but] you got to check out Weerd Science. I mean, it’s a hip-hop project. He’s been doing that since before Coheed And Cambria–you know, he plays drums on it–but he writes amazing rhymes and amazing melodies, and he can sing and he can play guitar. He can do it all; he’s just badass! I think that’s, right now, what he wants to focus on doing, so he’s working on that record, and I got to support him if that’s what he wants to do. And as far as the other guys, we were on tour with Coheed right after Josh left; we did a few shows with them. And everyone’s kind of, like, unsure, like, “Is this going to be weird?” And I’m like, “No! It’s not going to be weird!” You know, and I just went straight to Claudio and I was like, “I don’t think anybody else understands your situation better than I do, because I’ve already been through it once. I know what it’s like to lose Josh as a drummer because he was my drummer for the first five years of 3.” So it turned out to be a kind of thing where it brought us closer. So, we’re hoping to do some more touring with those guys. It’ll happen, if not sooner than later.
So what else does the future hold for 3? What sort of goals do you have now that The End Is Begun is out?
You know, we just want to continue to build our audience and, you know, seeing the different kinds of people that come out to our shows, and the kind of reach that our music has is so inspiring. It’s people from all walks of life that find something they like about our music, so where one bands can be sort of one-dimensional, or have a very clicky kind of audience, I think our audience is a very diverse one, and that to me is exciting. It’s about enjoying music and bringing people together, [and] that’s the main goal for me. ALT
Pick up a copy of AP 230 for the official review of The End Is Begun.