“I cannot be saved” roars Kill The Lights’ debut single “The Faceless” off the UK super outfit’s debut record The Sinner. And this is one stacked lineup of talent.
Comprised of current and former members of such names as Bullet For My Valentine, Throw The Fight, Still Remains and Threat Signal, many nostalgic metal legends are behind this promising and fiery band. Thunderous and ripping thrash, hypnotizing grooves and huge choruses are all over The Sinner‘s DNA. “We are all The Sinner” vocalist James Clark told me. As we sat down, I learned more about the frontman’s past few years (and decade), the cool story behind the formation of the band and the production behind The Sinner‘s beating heart.
Read on below and stream The Sinner this Friday.
I just listened to the record again this morning before the interview. Looking at the lineup for Kill The Lights is like scrolling through my middle school CD collection. Throw The Fight, Bullet For My Valentine, Still Remains. It’s nostalgic metal and that’s exactly what the album sounds like as well.
Working with Colin Richardson really gives it that level of sharpness too that records like The Poison and In Waves had. Was it important that the band worked specifically with Colin Richardson to capture that nostalgic mid-2000s metal sound?
James: We wanted to work with Colin because he has worked with bands that we were fans of such as Trivium, Machine Head and Fear Factory. He helped us capture that, as you say it, 2000’s metalcore sound. It had a particular sound to it that we liked and we have all played for bands that had that era’s style. Hard rock, metal. Colin helped us achieve what we were going for.
This is actually the first interview I’ve done with a band that’s worked with Colin. I’ve been a very big fan of bands that he’s worked with and I’ve always wondered, what does he bring to the song writing process? I know Matt Heafy from Trivium has stated in the past that the process of figuring out what guitars to best use with Colin was kind of like “pulling teeth”. Was he THAT particular?
James: No actually, Colin was very hands-off and let us go for what we wanted. He has a particular preference and ear for guitar tones and Jordan worked with him on that for the record. But Colin was easy to work with and let us do what we wanted. The record came out great.
It’s interesting to hear that record too. It’s got so many hooks on it that remind me of Bullet or Still Remains — really just any of the bands that comprise the lineup. It’s interesting to hear VERY aggressive screaming on this record. How much of that was you and how much of that was Jordan? Was it a 50/50 split between singing and screaming between the both of you?
James: Jordan actually didn’t record any vocals on this record. I recorded all vocals you hear. Though Chris Clancy, our producer, recorded the backing vocals and harmonies that you hear. He played for a band called Scars Within. But 95% of the vocals you hear on the record are me.
He didn’t sing on the record at all??
James: Yeah, that was the idea. I know in the past I’ve worked with more hard rock bands like Throw The Fight, but I’m a big fan of metal. Bands like Judas Priest, Metallica, Pantera. So I went for a thrashy metalcore kind of style in the vocals. It’s got that grit to it. The first song I recorded for Kill The Lights was “The Faceless” back in 2017 and you can hear that approach in it. It was our first single released as Kill The Lights as well. “Shed My Skin” has that attack to it. But then you go to a song like “Plagues” and it’s more mellow. It was important that the record was a journey with different sounds. We all like different styles of music, especially heavier material. But didn’t want the record to be nothing but blasting the entire time.
It has great dynamic. And I love that you mentioned “The Faceless” because that’s not only one of your strongest vocal performances on the record, it’s probably the most anthemic song to be found on it. And it’s very early on, I think it’s the second track, so you get that energy right away.
And I like how you say that it doesn’t necessarily just “blast” the entire time. It is a very dynamic record that’s got good variety on it.
James: That was by design. It’s one of my favorites on the album. When I went in to record vocals for that song, it naturally came out that way. The instrumentals were exactly what I was a fan of as well, that melodic thrashy sound.
The placement of the guitar solos, by the way, in each song work were very original and probably some of the most interesting solo placement and timing that I’ve heard in years. I feel like most bands probably go for the “big bridge” with the huge dual lead trade off guitar solo, but you guys kind of just throw it out there. Sometimes even after the first verse or the first line. I thought that was very unexpected and kind of cool. There’s definitely an art to that.
James: Jordan was a big part of that. He would stick the solos in places you might not expect. You’re right, it’s usually verse, chorus, second verse, then you hear the bridge with the big solo and an outro chorus. On this record though you hear a solo after the opening or a solo after the first verse instead of putting them in the same place each time. All of us had a hand in writing this record and you can hear each of our individual styles in it. There’s a way Jordan writes or Moose writes for instance that anyone who is familiar with their music will pick out. We put a lot of emotion in.
There’s also a lot of great emotional moments. “Plagues” for instance, which you wrote about having survived cancer, which is incredible by the way. It’s not very often you get to hear that perspective. That was almost like a “peeking around the corner” kind of moment. Someone going through something very difficult and you’re bearing witness to it.
It’s great to hear so much defiance on the record too. The members of the band all having previously reached such heights individually, can say a lot about success; but they can also say a lot about the fight to reach success. It just sounds like a very passionate record from all spectrums.
James: We’ve all been in bands that enjoyed success or garnered fans. Throw The Fight, for instance, were big but just out of reach from the next level. So we have all tasted that success. I personally have always found myself with that determination and drive to go forward. I always try to be transparent with whoever is listening to the music. There’s a reason this album is called ‘The Sinner’ — Who identifies as ‘the sinner’? We all do. It applies to each and every one of us. We all struggle. I’m the same as anyone else. When we talk to each other, we all like to think that we struggle with different things and no one will understand. But in reality, we are actually much more alike than we think. The album was actually recorded in 2 sessions because I was hit with different situations. Halfway through the first session, I had to fly home as my wife had lost the baby she was carrying. So I struggled with that. And the whole COVID thing hit then while recording as well which changed everything. Back about 10 years ago, I was diagnosed and treated which I wrote about in Plagues. Shed My Skin touches on depression and anxiety, things I’ve dealt with for years and watched others increasingly deal with more and more. It’s definitely become more talked about and taken more seriously as a stigma. I’m not always as honest as I should be with myself. And when talking to someone what I want to say may not come out. But it always translates through music.
Your music is your language. That’s how you speak what you’re going through and the emotions you need to process. That’s why it’s important that records like this DO make it out to the public so that the listener can hear “hey, I’m not alone in processing my emotions and it can be done in a healthy way, such as music”
James: We have had fans connect with what we release, fans that reach out and say they’re not doing so well. And that the music helps them. So this music and our experiences go out to them just as much as to us. My life has taken some twists and turns that I was able to start processing through making music and I’m still processing. But it helps. The fans have been so good to us. We were doing some interviews in Italy and Japan and the reception towards us has been a blessing. Extremely positive so far.
Well I’m really glad that you had this album to process everything you that you’ve been going through. I’m very sorry to hear about your wife miscarrying.
James: It’s all good, man. Thank you. We’ve still got our 3 little girls at home and I’ve been able to spend more time with them because everything has been put on hold due to COVID. I’ve been able to appreciate what I do have. It doesn’t look like things are going back to normal anytime soon. You look across the pond in America and there’s so much going on and it seems like it’s getting worse. And of course all of 2020 has been crazy. I hope things get better soon so we can get back out there.
That makes total sense. It’s very true what you say about COVID. I really do believe that COVID’s honestly been a blessing in disguise. Its reminded all of us of what we actually have instead of what we could potentially have. We’ve been forced pretty much to focus on what we have right now and appreciating that. Appreciating our homes, appreciating our families, and our spaces that we have to process things that are going on in the world as tumultuous of a year as it has been.
What you say about the way that Moose kind of put himself out there looking for a singer really brings a smile to my face. It reminds me of those old classified ads that metal bands use to put out back in the day *laughs*.
James: Yes that’s exactly what it was like! I used to answer classified ads all the time. I actually answered an ad for a rap rock band looking for a vocalist in the early 2000s. If I’d seen this particular ad in a paper, I’d probably have scrolled past it, thinking Moose was looking for a singer for a band that wasn’t his. But Moose is such a big fan of metal. That’s what he is first. A fan. And he had been sitting at home not playing anything. He needs to be out there playing in a band because he is such a fantastic drummer. He is such an energetic player with a unique style and had been playing in projects that didn’t use his full ability. He reached out to Jordan after awhile of having left Bullet and they got to talking about making new music together. When I saw him post online that he was looking for a new vocalist, I responded immediately. They tried out about 4 or 5 different vocalists even. I feel incredibly lucky to be playing with these guys.
I’m getting exciting just hearing you talk about Moose. He’s an incredible talent and he’s definitely a very prominent rhythmic backbone. Once you’ve seen him play, you can tell from a mile away that he’s the one doing the drumming. He has very unique drum fills. And also, just to be in a band with him must be so cool. The reach that a band like Bullet can give you— that’s great on the resume. When you told me you were getting interviews in Italy and Germany, that makes a lot of sense. Once a band like Bullet establishes their fan base, they’re going to follow any member of that band until the end of the Earth.
James: Yeah, you’ve got 4 members of some well-known and popular projects put together. Bullet, Still Remains, Threat Signal, Throw The Fight. The fans helped make those bands what they are and how they’re viewed. Bullet especially, a huge thing. Moose is a great guy to work with. We are all fans of each other’s work and when you hear this record, there was no label telling us what to do. It’s what we wanted to do. You hear “The Faceless” which we put out one year ago. That was self-released with no pressure or motive but to put the music out there.
It’s good that you feel that way. I was very curious to actually figure out from your perspective, what songs on The Sinner are the takeaways? What songs do you think are the ones that are going to stick with fans the most?
James: I would probably say “Shed My Skin”. Depending on who you ask, the answer has been different. You like “Plagues” for instance, right? That’s my least favorite on the record. But you ask someone else and they lean towards a different song. With the interviews, it’s been between about 5 or 6 different songs so far. We feel like from start to finish this record is strong. We have proven we can do like a song for radio, you know,. acoustic, more mellow sounding tracks and then put something super heavy on the same record and it still be from the same band.
That’s how you know it’s a good record too. I think from start to finish, it has nothing but good songs. The sequencing is really good too. It starts out hard and heavy, it bring more dynamic in towards the middle. I really feel like all of the ideas, the crazy drum work, the guitar solos, the great vocals and amount of vocal styles, that all really starts hitting especially hard on the second half, as does the diversity. It makes a lot of sense that the record just completely flows very well from start to finish. Listening to the record, you can hear a lot of different directions the band could expand into. What do YOU think the direction of the band is going to go following this record?
James: I would say it’s going to be a similar mix. We already have about half of the next record written and it’s leaning towards that same spectrum of heavy and melodic. It’ll be similar to ‘The Sinner’.
How well have the singles been doing in comparison to any of the bands that are involved in this lineup?
James: Ah, you see, that’s like comparing apples to oranges to peaches. Bullet, Still Remains and Threat Signal carved their fans out over 10 years ago and their biggest songs released when streaming wasn’t the main driver for the way music was consumed. It’s hard to say how we compare directly as the numbers would be hugely different. However, I know that we have been supported well so far. We do well on streaming. We have about 700,000 streams on Spotify the last time I checked which is not bad at all, especially for a new project. When we dropped the video for The Faceless, it was released with no label backing and we really got out there. It’s over 100,000 views on YouTube. The press picked up on us too and our fans continue to increase and really show up. I’m hopeful that will continue with the release of ‘The Sinner’.