Jake Janitch, Nick Licata, Steve Kruczyk, Matt Albers
The extreme metal subgenre continues to bring us new and unique acts that stand out among trends that may come and go. New Jersey’s Fit For An Autopsy is not your typical “death-core” outfit. The extensive background of each member bleeds into their creative process and out of their recordings and performances, making them difficult to categorize – which is never a bad thing in the often-compartmentalized world of heavy metal music. Continuing to produce quality records and tour in support of them despite many lineup changes, Damnation Magazine associate Jake Janitch, making his debut for our humble corner of the Internet, was able to catch up with two of the members at Fubar in St. Louis, MO back in mid-April 2016, while on “The Coffin Dragger Tour,” supporting Thy Art Is Murder, along with Rings Of Saturn and Dark Sermon.
Fist thing’s first: your latest and third overall album, Absolute Hope Absolute Hell , is your first with Joe Badolato. What was the process like in bringing him into the band officially, from where you were after both Nate Johnson [vocals, 2008-2015] and Greg Wilburn [vocals, 2014-2015] left?
Pat Sheridan, guitar (2008-present): We’ll start with the Greg and Nate thing… When Nate left, it was a pretty heavy blow, we weren’t sure what we were going to do. It’s hard when you have a guy that has notoriety or whatever you want to call it, and you lose that guy. That’s a little difficult because you feel like that has a lot to do with why your band is where it is and why people are paying attention. And then you lose that guy, so you feel it’s a stiff kick in the balls kind of thing. And then, you know, at first it was like, “Fuck it, we’re done.” After that, we made the choice to keep moving forward. Greg came in, and we had some hopes for Greg doing his thing but unfortunately Greg couldn’t work out his personal life and band life and it just wasn’t a good fit, so to speak. So we went to Europe and we brought a guy named Kade, who’s like a fill-in kind of thing. We brought him over; he [toured] Europe and Australia with us.
Me and Tim [Howley; guitar, 2013-present] were sitting on a beach in Prunella, Australia and we were like, “Fuck, we’ve got this record almost done… What are we going to do? We need a guy that can jump right in the game and do it.” So Tim’s like, “Here, I’ve got this song from my friend’s band back in Long Island, check it out.” And I’m like, “Why don’t we have that fucking guy singing for us?? Why didn’t you think of that?!” And he was just like “Uhhh…” I guess it never dawned on him that Joe could be the perfect fit for our band [laughter]. So, I immediately made an $8 phone call back to the States to talk to Will [Putney; guitar/producer/mixer/engineer, 2008-present), and we sent Will the track. Him and Will started talking, and then within a week of us being home he was in the studio working with us on the new record, and it’s been an almost perfect love affair.
Sounds like it was a perfect fit right off the bat!
You know, it’s a little tough because… The only thing that is really hard is that personalities take a little while [to adjust] so anytime you introduce someone new in the band there’s an adjustment period. But, Joe likes to have fun and he’s really good at what he does. He’s real pretty so the ladies like him [laughter]. Some of the dudes like him, too [laughter]. Everybody digs what he does and he’s really fitting into the band well. It’s definitely a positive move. He brought a side out of Fit For An Autopsy that we wouldn’t have had if we had Greg or Nate [still in the band]. He’s very talented… And the new record we’re working on – possibly right now [laughter] – there’s going to be se new music released sooner or later. Joe’s vocals are bringing us to an area where we never would’ve had the opportunity to explore before. It’s a pretty cool thing when one guy call pull the potential out of the band.
Joe Badolato, vocals (2015-present): I was a big fan of the band before I was even in the band. I loved Nate Johnson’s work on Through the Eyes Of The Dead’s Malice . When I heard Nate left, I was like, “Fuck… that band’s gonna suck! [Laughter] No way…” And then I was like, “No, they’re still writing heavy music they just need to find the right guy”. Then they went through a couple guys and I was like, “Fuck… maybe some day I will get a phone call. Maybe, Tim will come through…”
Apparently, he was yelling at Tim pretty consistently about wanting to try out [laughter].
Tim Howley, guitar (2013-present): Joe was pre-occupied!
Yeah. He did come in bro-handy so everything worked out. Everything is working out. We recorded the new record; I had a lot of fun doing it. I found a lot of different voices I never even knew I could do.
Yeah, working with Will, you find out real fast what you’re capable of.
Yeah, it really made me tone in on what my sound is and what I know I can do and what works differently.
Yeah, when you guys hear the new stuff, it’s pretty impressive what this kind’s got inside of him. That’s why I yell at him everyday that he’s never allowed to leave Fit For An Autopsy. Or I’ll go on a murder spree…
[Laughter] There you go. That one kind of segues into this next question. Now that you guys have three albums, your writing style and approach: has it changed at all? Have you incorporated anything new, musically?
Sure. Here’s the problem with being in a band; everybody wants to hear the music from you that they like. We play a show and some of the people in the crowd are like, “Play stuff off of The Process Of Human Extermination ”, “Play stuff off of Hellbound ”, “We wanna hear new shit”, “Play something off of your demo,” and it’s like, we want to play all of that stuff, all of the time. But we also want to write new shit. Nobody wants to go out and spend money on tracks that sound the same with different names. I don’t care; even if they do want that and that’s what they expect, as a musician and an artist, there’s no creative outlet. We want to write similar albums with a new approach every time. Give the people what they like from us, but maybe show them something new. We have Will Putney who is a major contributor in the writing factor in our band. He does not tour with us. He’s a very important engineer-producer-guy… helps bands write records and record all year long so, you know, we’re the road crew and he writes. We all help when we get back home. We’ll come home to a bunch of songs that we’ll do our thing to or he’ll give us the opportunity to work in. We’ll write a solo, lyrics… Josean [Orta; drums, 2012-present] writes most, or all, of the drums. We just have an interesting writing process, but I feel like it’s branching out. We’re all getting a little more input and, with Joe being as talented as he is with the things he is good at, it’s going to be different. There’s a whole new element here, like, “Holy shit, we can do something different!” And that’s good to know.
There are a lot of things I found out while doing this Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell. I honed in on that, and started exploring it more throughout. I’ve been in the band for a little bitover a year now and I’ve toured with the band for a little over a year, so all my muscle memory for everything is kind of there. So, now I can really figure out what I can do and really see how creative I can get with this stuff. Show that there is more than just screaming and a bunch of nonsense that some people think. I don’t just want to have one voice; I want to have a million voices, a million different sounds.
He’s not afraid to try… It’s one of those things, and I say it all the time; you’re only limited to the things you think you can’t do. Joe doesn’t have that in him, he’s not afraid to sound bad in the studio and then say, “You know, this isn’t right for me.” A lot of guys are like, “This is what I’m good at and this is what I’m sticking to,” and there are guys that are very good at one or two things, but you never know unless you try. And I learned a lot by watching Joe in the studio because it made me realize, “Alright, if this dude can go in there and lay it all out on the table and maybe figure out what parts don’t work for him, I can do that too and so could everyone else in the band.” So, he’s been a great addition. I’m proud to have him.
It would be easy to classify you guys as “death-core,” but your sound is much more eclectic and intricate than that. What do you try to bring to your writing process that separates you as a band from the rest of the genre?
I don’t care about that; I know Joe doesn’t care. We’re going to do what we want to do.
People are going to believe whatever they want, and that’s cool. That’s just how you see life, and you see your choices and your decisions, and I see mine. We may not see eye-to-eye, but there are groups of people that do. I might think a death-core band is a death-core band, you might think they’re not a death-core band. Everyone’s got their misconstrues with it but we’re a metal band, man; we just play really heavy, aggressive metal.
We like metal. We started [out] being a death-core band, but by Hellbound, by the time that second album came out we were turning into something different. And now, with Absolute Hope…, I feel, personally, we fit in more with the weird, like, Gojira… I mean, I feel like we could tour with Gojira, I feel like we could tour with Lamb Of God, I feel like we can tour with Thy Art Is Murder, Slayer; you could put us on tour with Tesseract and we would appeal to some of those guys too because we have clean parts. We have songs on our record thatswe could put together a five-song set and it would fit right in with that. And the thing is, is it’s not like we’re trying to be anything; it’s because we feel like that’s what we want to play. Nobody wants to eat fucking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day. You have to, sure, if that’s all you can get. But everybody wants to have a variety. So, like, when we write a record it’s fun.
When I hear a record in my head that I want to write, it’s ten, eleven tracks that are actually one track in my head. When you put together a record, like Jimmy Eat World put out that Bleed American  record, that self-titled thing. If you listen to that record, it’s one of the smartest records ever because it’s put together in a way that puts you on a single song journey in the matter of ten or eleven songs. It goes up, it goes down, it goes through this whole thing and it makes you feel like you’re listening to a song instead of a record. To me, that’s the sickest shit. So when we write a record and we write a song that’s real heavy and hard and then something a little bit milder and then gets really airy and ambient, like that “Out to Sea” intro, and then, “boom!” We come back with something hard, it was done like that on purpose because we feel like we want to keep the record as interesting as a song can be. If you can make 45 minutes of music that’s as interesting as a 4-minute long song, you’ve won the audience.
So when we write, there’s a lot of different aspects that we give thought; what we want to feel, what we want to do, what we think our fans would like – and we want to do that too – but there’s also more to it in writing a record for us. It’s a very weird, thought out process that goes back to Will and all of us being eclectic in our music taste and liking stuff. It’s real hard to pin-point exactly what our writing process is, but I can tell you it’s not typical but it works for us. I feel good about everything that we do. I mean, it’s fair to say everyone’s writing process is different. And even from album to album it’s probably different process, you’re in a different place for each time.
The majority of bands have one guy that do the writing. In my opinion, musically, there’s a guy that’s got a bunch of really good ideas and then you have a couple other guys that are like, “Sick! Let’s try this, let’s do that”. Too many hands in the cookie jar, it doesn’t sound like the same band anymore so you’ve got give up a little pride, and it works for the band. Will’s a great writer, man; I can give that guy a riff or two and come back to five songs. You can’t complain about that. We all have a role in the writing process. We all have a role in the playing process. And, like I said, man, he was the piece we were missing. The next record, it’s going to knock people back another step – we hope.
Sweet! So you guys have three guitarists…
How do you utilize them?
We only tour with two. We write a lot of parts on our records that are three guitar player parts where it’s three or four layers and we would need three guys to do it live, so occasionally we’ll run a track with an ambient guitar track in the background just to complete that three player stuff, but when it comes to the rhythm stuff, me, Shane [Slade; bass, 2013-present] and Tim hold it down. We play all of our own solos live. There are three guys, but really only two of us tour. Occasionally, Tim can’t make it or Shane can’t make it, or if there ever comes a time where I won’t make it, Will fills in. But he’s more of the songwriter than he is the touring guy. The dude… he’s in demand right now. We all want to keep the band together, so we figured out a way to make it work. We were looking for a guy and got Tim. Tim’s a real strong guitar player, he makes me better every night. He’s definitely part of our live show, so it’s cool to have three guys who play guitar in a band who give a shit about playing, and that want to do cool shit. So, that’s kind of how it works.
Now as you guys get bigger and bigger, touring more and more, is it ever a possibility-
-Nah, dude; if you make me tour more than we’re touring right now I might commit suicide. Like, 150-200 dates a year, that’s fucking enough! [Laughter] Yeah, sorry, what were you going to say? Didn’t mean to [cut] you off.
[Laughter] Oh, I was just going to ask if you think you’d ever have a permanent third guitarist?
No. If Will’s not here I don’t want to add another personality, I love my band the way it is. We can hang the way we are, we don’t need another guy unless it’s Will Putney. If Will wants to come on tour with us, that’s my best friend; I’ll fucking hang out with that dude every day. But Tim will always be here. He’s putting in the work so if we go out on tour with three guys it’s going to be me, Tim and Will. Other than that, we got it; we’re locked in.
Sounds good. So, you guys are actually the second band we’ve interviewed from New Jersey this week. We actually interviewed Toothgrinder-
-Oh, those are my homies!
Yeah, we interviewed them over at Pop’s on the Killswitch Engage tour with 36 Crazyfists and Memphis May Fire. There are so many bands coming out of New Jersey right now and everyone has a different sound. What is that scene like, with so many different bands?
You know what it is? New Jersey is like New York; it’s kind of like a hub. You know, Jersey, New York, Philly, and even Boston, if you look at the area and how many people live there, how many different types of cultures there are there, things like that… it’s like California, I feel. California’s the same way, you know, Slayer’s from California, Bleeding Through is from California, and Terror is from California. Three completely different styles of bands… Its just there’s a good musical culture there. You have Asbury Park, which has spawned tons and tons of artists. You have clubs like Virtual Nightclub was there for a real long time. Game-Changer World now, Starland Ballroom, Studio One used to be there, The Pipeline – I said The Pony; the Stone Pony in Asbury Park – and then you have smaller venues like Champs in Trenton, The Lanes – I don’t know if they’re still doing shows – but they were there for years. So you get this cool mix of all these different bands coming through, and I think that a lot of bands want to play that part of the East Coast because there’s so many people there. So you get a lot of different influences.
You’ve got us being from there, Old Wounds is from there, Toothgrinder is from there. You’ve got older bands like Human Remains is from New Jersey… Ripping Corpse, those guys are from Jersey… There are tons and tons of bands from that area that are worth looking into. And then you have a shit-ton of hardcore bands and old hardcore bands – tons and tons of stuff that are all from there. The New Brunswick area has a huge punk and hardcore scene. Its just a really good blend. Don’t get it bent, Joe and Tim are from New York; they also have a great scene in their area. Suffocation is from Long Island, that’s where these guys are from… Pyrexia is from Long Island… There is tons and tons of music culture there.
From New York in general, too, yeah; Madball.
Yeah, Madball. You’ve got Madball, Burn, Crown of Thorns, all those old hardcore bands… Raw Deal… All Out War from upstate New York…. 100 Demons is from Connecticut. I mean I can go on and on for hours of all the bands… You get into Boston and you’ve got Death Before Dishonor that’s from up there, fuck… Slapshot… all those old hardcore bands; there’s tons and tons of punk, metal and hardcore culture that you’re gonna get good bands. Toothgrinder is sick… They’re sick man.
They killed it when they were at Pop’s.
I met their drummer, he works at a music store – Russo Music, I think it is – and those dudes are cool. They’ve got the right mentality and they’re making the right moves. And I’m happy those guys are doing well. Real good guys…
They were good on that tour, really got everyone pumped up. So, Fit For An Autopsy is not the first band for pretty much every member in the band. How do you bring your previous experience to the table?
You don’t… I mean, you’re touring, yes…
It’s a whole different ball game…
…but, every band is its own different animal. And we’re still learning how to co-exist as guys. The business side of it is different because this is a much more serious thing. I think, for everyone, we’ve kind of been lucky enough to get past where our other bands have been. But, you also have to learn from the old shit that you did and change it in order to make the new thing work. So, that’s probably learning lessons more than anything. But, it’s apples to oranges; you can’t take bad shit or good shit from other bands because you have to learn how make each band move in its own way. I come from a hardcore background; he was in a few hardcore bands-
-I was in every – not even just hardcore – I was in every kind of band you can think of. I was singing in bands, I was playing rock shows…
-It’s all different, all the time. I don’t want to say that, “I know how to do everything perfect because of my old band,” because my old band wouldn’t have been bigger than Fit For An Autopsy. It’s all baby steps, and figuring it out as you go… Hoping that the people that you pay are doing things right for your band… the right management and the right team… We’re working with some really great guys in management… We’re very lucky; the luck of the draw.
The modern metal community and culture is ever-changing. Being in the age of instant communication and social media, does that technology benefit or hinder bands?
I think it helps every band by being able to put their music out there so that anybody in other countries can just hear it because everyone know why we use those certain things.
Well, it’s like, do people really watch the news on TV or do they look it up on their computer? They’re always on social media; everyone’s sharing something on Facebook, even if it’s wrong. But yeah, I think it helps every band be able to put their music out there so anybody in other countries can just hear it. Everyone knows why we use those certain things and that’s where I’ve found a ton of bands, even MySpace.
Here’s the problem; he’s absolutely right about that side of things. What does it hurt? It hurts record sales.
But it’s been a thing for a very long time-
-it has been…
But this is the age where it’s inevitable, there’s no shock that kids aren’t going to be like, “We all just want to buy records and we are never going to download another song.”
I’m aware of that. But there’s no such thing as that because when you’re talking a band aspect like us… Here’s what I said to a guy the other night – I was talking to this buddy of mine that owns this custom guitar company – and I was saying how the day and age of the Internet, as great as it is, any guy can start a company and instantly advertise for free. You can advertise your band for free, your porno site for free, your donut shop for free… you can advertise yourself and push yourself for free; but the issue with that is that people’s attention spans are much shorter now. It’s very hard to lock in to what’s going to work and what’s not going to work, and so there is a working side to it and he’s right.
But a big problem is, we’ll just take first-week record sales, okay? It used to be first week record sales, you know, your average metal band doing what we are doing, could sell 15,000-30,000 records your first week. Now labels are unbelievably excited if you sell 5,000 and the reason is because your record leaks and people steal it; there’s nothing you can do. The shittiest part about that is you can send a record to an A&R guy or a dude from a label, you know, someone who wants to review it and they give it to their sister and their sister puts it on the Internet and then you’re fucked.
So, the thing is, there are a lot of really great parts to the Internet; there are a lot of really cool things about it. But there is a downside to it. I think it’s a necessary evil; you have to do it. And Joe’s right, there are other ways to make money and do things but now labels don’t want to give bands money to record these huge, epic records anymore because “Joe Schmo” is recording a record for $5,000 in his basement when it used to cost $70,000 to do a record. And, you know, everyone’s stealing music and downloading it, so it’s a hindrance and a help at the same time.
I don’t hate it; I don’t hate people that download, I say ,“Hey, if you’re going to download a record, give it to 20 of your fucking friends, so more people can hear our shit”. But, it would also be nice to have the label be like, “Hey, we’re going to give you an extra “X” amount of dollars because of your first-week sales. We want your next record to be bigger so we’re going to give you a bigger budget.” That’s a thing of the past. We live out of a van… Get motels once or twice a week. Most of the time we sleep in here, and all of that stuff is roll-off from not being able to sell as many records.
Thanks to Bill Meis of Entertainment One for setting up this interview, and very extra special thanks to Jake Janitch for taking time out for an impromptu interview, while the rest of us were at our day jobs! Fit For An Autopsy’s latest and third full-length studio record, Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell, is available now via Entertainment One Music and Good Fight.