Boasting a sound that captures the raw hardcore meets galloping thrash metal of ‘80s NYHC cross-over, Activator is coming! Side-stepping the modern metal-core era, the New York based quartet reference such iconic bands as Leeway, The Crumbsuckers, The Cro-Mags and Absolution in their approach.
While Activator has existed for several years and has played stages across the country with such notables as the Bad Brains, Murphy’s Law and Merauder, their self-titled debut album (sporting cover artwork designed by Version Industries, who have worked with such names as Daft Punk and Louis C.K.) is finally ready to be released on September 17.
Featuring brand new material as well as re-workings of their earlier demo material, the album benefited from the assistance of Jim Williams of Maximum Penalty/Nausea fame on vocal production and mixing by Matt Snedecor (Rush, Dresden Dolls).
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Activator’s Jared Drace to discuss a record that made a significant impact on him. This is what he said about Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction.
What is your favorite album?
Guns N’ Roses, Appetite For Destruction.
Do you remember when you received or purchased the album?
I got the album on cassette probably at a Sam Goody or Musicland around the time it came out in 1987. I’m sure my mom or dad or grandmother bought it for me as I didn’t have my own money at the time (I was 8). I had been mesmerized by the “Welcome to the Jungle” video and was calling in for it on Dial MTV for weeks previously.
What is your favorite song on the album?
It fluctuates, “Welcome to the Jungle” was what hooked me, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” has probably my favorite guitar solo of all-time and “It’s So Easy” is one of the nastiest band mission-statements ever, but I’d say at this very moment in time, I’d have to go with “Rocket Queen.”
What is it about the song that resonates with you?
I’m of the belief that track-list matters and an album needs to have an awesome opener and an epic closer to be considered a classic and “Rocket Queen” is a prime example of an epic closing-track. For one it’s long, which is almost mandatory for an epic finale, and the fact that it’s basically two songs in one: a sleazy rocker complete with moaning women and a huge chorus, and then flawlessly transitions to a near-power-ballad with sincere emotional vocal-lines that juxtapose the raunchiness of the first half of the song. Also, Slash’s solos define tastiness on this one. It’s just a great song that has it all and takes you on a journey which often leads to the jukebox.
Have you ever covered a song from the album?
We played the intro and main riff to “My Michelle” at a few shows in 2008/2009 and then went right into “Hybrid Moments” by The Misfits. We never totally nailed it before we abandoned the concept, but I’m pretty sure it’s on YouTube somewhere.
What is it about the album that makes it stand out against the band’s other output?
Well there’s the old cliche about how a band’s first album is always best because they’ve had basically their whole lives to get the songs ready and craft them to perfection, where-as a second album and so on, they only have a year or so to get it together. I’d say that’s a big chunk of why the rest of GNR’s slim output doesn’t hold a candle to Appetite.
Also, Steven Adler’s groove and swing were a main part of what makes the record so great, but he was kicked out of the band during the recording process of their follow-up and replaced with the painfully-stiff Matt Sorum.
Finally, I think a lot of the impact a record has is subjective and personal; where were you when you heard it, what was going on in your life, etc. I was a young kid in the midst of discovering interests that would shape my adult life. My mind was totally open back then and sad to say, it’s hard to imagine a record, or anything for that matter, having such an impact on my life now in my 30s.
Have you ever given a copy of this record to anyone? What were the circumstances?
I’m pretty sure everyone has this album already in some form or another. But I do remember putting some songs on a mixtape for a girl I went to elementary school with whose parents wouldn’t let her have any rock records because they were very religious. So I would sneak her blank-labeled Maxell tapes with GN’R and Metallica, etc. I think she told me years later that she didn’t listen to the tapes anymore because someone in her church group had convinced her that there were backwards satanic messages in the songs and she had heard them for herself. Oh well.
Which of the records that you’ve performed on is your favorite?
The Activator S/T record is my favorite and it’s not just because it’s the only full-length album I’ve ever played on! I’ve recorded a bunch of different things in different projects over the years and this record is the first thing I’ve ever been truly and unequivocally proud of. I can hand this album to friends and family and fans and have 100 percent confidence in its contents. We worked harder on this record than anything in our lives and I can hear that in every spin. Its one thing to have people tell you they love your music, which is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s another thing entirely to actually love it yourself.
What is your favorite song on the album and why?
This is like trying to pick a favorite child and I don’t even have any kids! But I would say “Left Unsaid” is my favorite because it was one of the later songs written for the album that came together in a very collaborative and organic fashion. The main riff was something our bass player had from many years ago and I took it and ran with it. The thrashy-riff in the middle is one of my favorite things I’ve written ever. Also the solo, which kind of came together in the studio, is probably my favorite of the record. “Left Unsaid” also highlights our drummer and bass player at different sections of the song which makes me happy because I feel like myself and our singer get all the attention sometimes. The slow breakdown at the end was something that came together in rehearsal and really comes out of nowhere and gives the song an unpredictable feel as well as a brutal end, which is why we made it the last song of “Side 1” for all the people, like myself, that notice that kind of stuff. If not for our dirge “Unfortunate Lovely” we probably would’ve made “Left Unsaid” our “Rocket Queen.”
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