I recently spoke with Taki Sassaris: frontman for the hard rock band Eve to Adam, set to release their new album Locked & Loaded May 21st. After having a chance to hear the record I was impressed to say the least. Just as impressive as the musicianship on Locked & Loaded was the charismatic tenacity and artistic sensibility radiating from Sassaris during our talk. You will come to find out from this interview (if you haven’t already) that Taki Sassaris is not your typical hard rock frontman, and Eve to Adam is not your typical hard rock band.
HHM: A lot of hard rock singers (and I mean a lot) try to hit the same sort of raspy alternative range, and some of the time; I notice it comes off as kind of flat—but especially on your new album, you seem to hit it perfectly in tune and with enough edge. What’s your secret? Work ethic?
Man I’ll tell you what, I gotta keep my voice in shape, vocal exercises everyday. With hard rock and metal you have to be able to create that sound of chaos without shredding the actual instrument (your vocal chords). You’re body has to remain calm, and it’s all about breathing and diaphragmatic support. Also staying away from cigarettes—I just quit smoking—I was a heavy smoker but this new album required such a fine tuning of my body so I take care of myself, I workout a lot and I run. It’s all about keeping the air going, shooting it through the chords and creating that throaty sound. You know, I grew up with a lot of singers that had that sound whether it was Chris Cornell or Axl Rose, so I’ve always been drawn to that aesthetic—I’ve always really loved that throat attack, like Dave Grohl, he has a really great growl too.
It’s an anomaly because you have to create that growl without actually shredding your chords so I keep my studying up—anytime I’m in the city I still take lessons because at the end of the day so much goes into this every night: beyond just the band and the crew, you’ve got your audience and your hardcore fans and you don’t know how far they’ve come for the show. A lot of effort goes into not just the band playing the show but the fans coming to the show so as a singer, it’s great to have the limelight but the reality of it is you’re responsible for putting on the best show possible for those people and a lot of that entails you (the singer) not fucking up—not over drinking and not doing drugs. It’s a constant constant battle being a manic personality in rock ‘n’ roll, you wanna push it to the eleven and take it to the extreme so it’s tough—you gotta keep yourself in check and also know that you will pay for your sins the next day—and as a singer you can’t hide it, you know, a guitar player can down a fifth of vodka and they might be hungover the next day but (with a little bit of dexterity issues) they can still pretty much pull it off but with a singer, fans will know—If I ragged it the night before, you’re gonna know.
So I try to pour it into the performance and get off on that. You’ve gotta get off on hitting the notes, sounding good, and doing the best job for your fans because there are so many other bands out there, there’s so much competition—it requires discipline—you know, I worked so hard on this record, I really busted my ass—I was proud of Banquet for a Starving Dog but this record is on a totally different level. A lot of people didn’t even know that I could hit certain notes because I had never really been pushed there, and Elvis Baskette was really instrumental in getting the most out of my vocals. He gave me a real sense of calm and confidence to go and do things vocally that I had never pulled off—things I knew inside I could do, I just needed the help of a good coach.
HHM: For Locked & Loaded you guys had a chance to work with Eric Bass of Shinedown, and Elvis Baskette (as you mentioned): who’s worked with a lot of alternative rock bands but he’s also pretty big in the more post-hardcore/metal scene. How did you guys decide to work with Elvis? And can you tell me about the experience?
We were on tour with Creed last year and we became pretty good friends with Mark Tremonti, and [Elvis] had just done the Tremonti solo album: kind of like a thrash/metal project—I heard that album towards the second leg of the Creed tour and I was blown away by the production, and I was blown away with how he was able to push Mark: getting the most vocally and with songwriting—I was like “wow, I really wanna work with this guy” and at the point we were already thinking about guys on that “list” that you’ve always wanted to work with but once I heard that album, I was like “fuck, this is the guy.” So Mark was very instrumental in getting us in with Elvis because his schedule was packed—he was in between doing some Falling in Reverse stuff but he had about six weeks where he was available and that was our first session in for this record (we ended up doing two sessions with him). It was kind of a life changing experience because not only is he wicked behind the board and responsible for like twenty million in sales but he has a passion for hard rock and metal—it comes out in working with him: he’s a phenomenal guitar player, he’s great melodically, he’s really fun to work with and it’s just like having another guy in the band who comes with an arsenal of talent. And he’s got great energy so it was the most fun I’ve ever had making an album—all the guys were phenomenal: Eric Bass and Dave Bassett out in Malibu (he’s a great songwriter).
HHM: Now, did Luis or Adam record any guitar and bass on this album or was it all you and Gaurav?
Luis [Espaillat] is on the record—we’re all big fans of his playing, he brings a lot to this band and he plays really well with my brother so we were all really adamant about having him on the album—so he did perform all of the bass duties on Locked & Loaded. Adam [Latiff] just joined the touring band, we’ve done maybe five or six shows with him—he brings a lot of energy, great backing vocals to the live show and he’s a lot of fun to hangout with. To the core, he’s a strait rock ‘n’ roll guy. He has so much touring experience playing with Puddle of Mud, he’s been around the world and he’s been to Download so he brings a really experienced mind to the setup. I mean, the album’s called locked and loaded but really, the band is locked and loaded. Eve to Adam’s been around for eleven years and this is by far the best lineup we’ve ever had—as close to an unknown super group as you’ll get.
HHM: Most hard rock bands work on striking that balance between “hard” and melodic—Shinedown actually is one of the bands that I think does it quite well, and I noticed on Locked & Loaded you guys are right in that tempo (so to speak). How do you guys approach maintaining that balance?
At the core, what moves me is more of an aggressive nature. For instance: a song like “Bender” in the demo I sound a lot like Motörhead because I really like Motörhead—some of my vocals had a bit of a “Lemmy” aesthetic to them [laughs]. Going through the production process, things kind of get sculpted and rounded out to a more melodic sound so what I like to do is go a little bit to the right of the needle—as far as I can stretch it because I know going through production it’s going to shoot back a little bit. Obviously you wanna have some of that commercial appeal but Eve to Adam’s signature has always been rough around the edges with a melodic core so it was fun to stretch it out a bit on this album: the riffs, the tempo is a bit more aggressive, the guitar work is more intricate and I had a chance to bring a little more of my screaming to it—something I’ve never really had a chance to do. It’s a fine line, it’s not easy to do and you don’t wanna sound to slick.
HHM: You said once that “it’s the difference between learning material and owning it” which is a great point—so while maintaining that melodic balance, how do you guys make sure that you still own it?
Owning it really comes from performing the material in front of an audience. For this band, if we’re out for like a four week tour, you’re gonna really start seeing Eve to Adam spark up—half way through the second week things will really start to gel. Owning it is when it’s just in your bones, you’re living in the moment, you’re not thinking ahead, you’re not thinking behind… you’re in it. That’s when I believe you own it—being comfortable in what you’re doing—it all comes from confidence, and confidence comes from the more time you’ve had cohesively as a band and the more hours you’ve logged on tour in front of an audience. That’s the cool think about rock bands, touring is what brings out the best in them and that’s what really weeds out warriors from hobbyists—after four or five shows in a row, you know that a band’s either going to crack or you’re going to see some fucking magic. Not all bands do that; sometimes when the pressure is added they implode where other bands excel—that’s the kind of band we’ve always been, we rise to the occasion, we need to have that stimulus, we need some pressure—if you’re not slightly nervous, with adrenaline and butterflies, before you hit the stage then I think maybe your head’s not in it the right way. You need to be on that edge because on the edge is where everything interesting and magical happens.
HHM: You guys do a great job sort of mixing it up with your sound—I’m listening to the new album, and I’ve already heard the lead single, I just heard track 1, and I’m thinking (as an evil critic) “okay, I’ve got this record figured out.” Then I hear track 2 “Immortal” and that dark riff hits me out of know where. Can you tell me a little about how you guys keep it creative with new ideas and unique sounds like that?
We co-wrote “Immortal” with Dave Bassett, and when we went out to his studio we had just finished the Halestorm/In This Moment tour and we were able to get some time with Dave in December, right before the holidays—so we got to the studio at Chateau Relaxo: a really great place, a beautiful property in Malibu on this mountain overlooking the pacific. I mean, it was a trek to get there everyday—you gotta drive up the mountain and there are no lights at night—you really gotta know where you’re driving or you will end up going off the mountain. Dave’s put his studio in a really geographic local that puts you in the right frame of mind—you’re earning it when you’re up there so you’re going to make the most of your time. We had “Lets Burn” done and then we finished “Shut Out The World” with Dave but for the third song we were all wondering what we were gonna do—I had an idea for this concept: a song called “Immortal” I had a melody for the chorus and Dave had some riff ideas—I wanted to write a tune about what it’s like to have invincibility and what it’s like to have legacy.
The song is inspired by people who transcend time with their accomplishments. There are people who are great and then there are people who are legends—Every human being on the planet knows the difference—between an Allen Iverson and a Michael Jordan or Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali. I wanted to write a song about what it’s like to achieve that level of greatness and leave that kind of mark behind. The enthusiasm I had for the content fed into what Dave already had in his bank of riffs and then Gaurav just took the ideas and ran—it culminated really quickly, that song wrote itself in about 45 minutes.
HHM: Have you guys finished shooting the video for “Straitjacket Supermodel”?
We have, we shot it a couple weeks ago, we’re actually just about to get the first cut this weekend. [Shooting it] was awesome, videos can be either the greatest experience of your life or the most taxing one. Everything’s already been done and there are so many opportunities for you to make mistakes as far as doing things that are just cheesy. We have Mistress juliya from Fuse in the video and she has a fantastic following—she’s kind of like the high metal priestess. She did the video kind of playing in character, she had great energy and really came off awesome on the screen. Our idea for the video was kind of taking a little bit of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” and the TV show Dexter: with the kill room and the plastic on the walls—and with Mistress Julia being the straitjacket supermodel in a sense, working out her behavioral and aggression issues. We had a Playboy Playmate in the video—I don’t wanna give too much away but there’s going to be two versions of the video, I can guarantee it—the explicit version and the version out for the release.
It’s very edgy. We wanted to make a video that was empowering to women because we have a lot of female fans obviously, but at the same time we wanted to have a woman that was strong and sexy so guys will be like “this is fucking great, I love this song… this chick is hot.” So I figured if we pick up on the cross section of those two things it would make an entertaining video. And the band looks great, we had some great performance shots—we shot four and a half hours of band performance, we ended up doing 35 takes with the whole band and then everyone did their individual takes. It’s ridiculous, there’s a lot of energy—we wanted to make sure that when you watch this video you get an idea of the intensity ETA would have live.
HHM: I would ask you “what’s your favorite song off the new album” but I’ve pissed off enough singers with that question—putting them in that sort of “choose your favorite child” position. So instead, I’ll ask which song from Locked & Loaded are you most excited for people to hear?
I think the album’s a great trip because there are so many different flavors on it but I really love “Bender.” Trying to write a rock ‘n’ roll party anthem is not easy because there’s already been some legendary ones, and there’s a few now that have just been telling the lines of cliche so it’s very difficult to write something that kind of has a different sentiment but still gets you off like “it’s Friday night, lets tear things up.” I think the lyric in the song “I love this feeling, god damnit” is a little bit of reflection into the vision of the character—he really has a bad habit that he loves so fucking much but he knows that at some point, this can’t go on forever so I’ve really gotta live it up. It’s that kind of live fast and die hard ethos where it’s like “fuck it, you only live once and you either choose to walk on that side of the line or choose to be safe in your time and not live or experience anything.” You can’t insult the crowd, the crowd knows, the kids today know what’s up and they’ve lived a lot more life than I think they’re given credit for so I think a song like “Bender” is one they will totally fucking understand.
The last song “Forgive” kills it live and could end up being the biggest sleeper on the album. I think there’s something on this record for everyone. Like if you’re into the more metalcore stuff a song like “Forgive” is a surprise, you’ll be like “whoa, where did that come from.” We’ve got something for the older crowd too with the ballad and a little more classic rock stuff with an edge—and again there’s some heavier stuff.
HHM: Before we wrap things up, I just wanted to clarify, what is the label situation for the band right now?
The label that actually owns the masters for this release is 3 for 5 Entertainment: they’ve been with us from the very beginning—they’re an indie label out of Manhattan run by the same people who manage us. They are no longer through Universal Music. They are currently in the process of closing a deal and linking up with another label. I can’t tell you what label it is right now but it’s a big label and they’re gonna be doing a joint venture with them—they will be assisting with the marketing on this record and it’s going to be a different level. Our deal with Universal expired and we just weren’t satisfied so we decided to change strategy and change teams. We found a place that really gets the band, understands the album and have come up with some really great ideas.
Interview by Matt Crane – HHM
Check out the first single from Locked & Loaded “Straitjacket Supermodel” below—available for purchase on iTunes today.