Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Justin Bruce is dropping his project’s Shame The Masses latest single “Kill Zone” on the 11th of November, we were lucky enough to review it and even luckier to site down and have a chat with him, let’s see how it went
- Well, I always find multi-instrumentalists really interesting so I’d like to start from the very beginning, what was your first instrument and what made you pick it? Who are your main influences?
The electric guitar is the very first instrument that I began playing well over 20 years ago. I chose guitar because from a very early age, I was always drawn to rock and metal bands. I grew up in the 1980s listening to bands like Def Leppard and Van Halen, so when I picked up the guitar, I immediately wanted to play like Steve Clark and Eddie Van Halen. Those sounds from the Pyromania and Hysteria albums as well as the early Van Halen albums just blew me away!! That really shaped my guitar playing style early on. Almost everything I played had some kind of tapping licks in it. As I got older, I began really getting into guys like John Petrucci of Dream Theater, Synyster Gates of Avenged Sevenfold, and Andy James. Their really technical style of playing began to heavily influence the further development of my own guitar playing. In the last 3 years or so, I have even really seriously gotten into ethnic folk and folk metal bands and all kinds of interesting instruments. I feature Persian setar, tanbur, tar and shourangiz, Turkish Saz and Lavta, Irish Bouzouki, the medieval Geyerleier, and others on the Galvladi Oglaigh songs. As you can see, my influences and musical output are all over the place!
- How would you describe the sound of Shame The Masses? And how does usually your writing process go to reach that sound?
Since I basically have 3 different “band names” that I play under, I approach each one differently and with a different sound in mind. Shame the Masses is the hard rock/modern metal band and as such, I approach it with a sound in my mind that is something like a blend of artists like Animals as Leaders, Andy James, and Mick Gordon. The sound of Shame the Masses is very heavy and is based on 7, 8, and 9 string guitars or baritone guitars in low tunings and very heavy drums for the rhythmic foundation and then some of the songs also feature “shred-style” guitar solos as well. I like the “wall of sound” approach when layering together guitars to try to get a really massive sound.
- How did your partnership with lyricist Bryant Sutton start?
Bryant and I are very old friends. If you ask him, he doesn’t actually consider himself a musician per se, but he has a knack for putting together very catchy and interesting lyrics. Bryant has a lot of interesting life experiences and has great stories to tell, and that carries over into the lyrics that he writes. Bryant will write out a full set of lyrics for a song and then pass them to me. After reading the lyrics and getting an idea what the topic of the song is, I usually have a basic idea in my head of what the song needs to sound like. I start out putting together guitar riffs and layering guitars together until we have the basic sound formed. Then Bryant and I will listen and each put in our feedback and make decisions on what to change, what to keep, etc. until the music is there. Then I will go in and record the vocal tracks. It’s a very involved process for both of us bouncing ideas back and forth until we reach a point where we feel that the song is complete. We are even beginning to collaborate with another very old friend, Eric Jacklitsch, who has played with several very heavy black metal bands in the past. We have some new material that the 3 of us are working on together. It is a very interesting dynamic when you collaborate with artists who have different backgrounds and all of the varying styles and influences meet at the intersection in the middle and produce some incredibly dynamic musical results.
- I’d like to know more about the writing and recording process of “Kill Zone”? What’s the story that influenced your writing the most?
“Kill Zone” has a really interesting developmental story. Bryant and I did a 3-month-long series of interviews with an injured US military veteran to get his experiences and we then based the song on those real-life experiences. Bryant wrote all of the lyrics and then I began building the music. With a song called “Kill Zone”, you already have in mind that it needs to sound very, very heavy. I mean, if it’s a story about a soldier’s experiences on the battlefield, it needs to have a big kick-ass factor, you know? I used a baritone 6 string tuned down to A and a 9 string tuned to A an octave lower to record the guitars. I really wanted the music to be able to stand on its own with the “sounds of the battlefield” as well as supporting the lyrics. If you listen closely, the music tells the story too. There is a main clean baritone guitar riff throughout most of the song that is meant to depict soldiers sneaking into position on the battlefield. Then, the really heavy baritone and 9 string power chords that just shake everything like bombs hitting the ground while the heavy drums are pounding away. The music really puts you “in the zone” and makes you feel the chaos of war! The last 3 minutes of the song really gets you. That’s the part of the song where our protagonist has totally lost his mind from trauma and he is just making carnage and killing every enemy on the battlefield. It’s pretty intense! In saying that though, we also had to make sure and give the proper respect to the real person behind the story and approach it the right way.
Check out ‘Kill Zone‘ review here.
- Which song would you pick off your catalog to recommend to someone who wants to get into your music?
It really depends on what style of music that person is into because I have so much music in so many different genres. A lot of people really love the rock version that I did of Garth Brook’s The Thunder Rolls. People all over the world know it as a country song, but I did it as a rock song and it turned out really well. For people who are into ethnic folk or folk metal, I would point them to the Galvladi Oglaigh albums that I have done with lots of different ethnic instruments mixed together. I even have a few Christian rock songs for people who want to hear that as well. For most people who want to hear more rock and metal, I would say check out the other Shame the Masses songs like Punk Enough to Die Young and One More Good Time. Those songs turned out really great! We also have quite a few more songs that we are still working on that haven’t been released yet.
- What are your plans for 2023 and the rest of 2022? Shall we expect a full length or touring dates?
For right now, I still have so much material that we are working on trying to finish recording and then release that I will probably be busy in the studio for the rest of 2022 and well into 2023 working on all of these songs to get them out. I can tell you that there are some very, very good songs still coming. There are essentially 7 songs in total that make up this particular project that Bryant and I set out to create together. Of those, “Kill Zone” is only the 3rd song to be released. The others are still in development or haven’t been released yet, and the hope for 2023 is to have all of those out together as a full-length Shame the Masses album. It’s hard to speak on touring dates right now with so much studio work, but the live shows could be on the horizon as well. Stay tuned closely for all of the future releases!!
- Wishing you the best of luck Justin, looking forward to your next release.
Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview Hazem! I really appreciate it and hope that you enjoy the music!