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Starring Janet Leigh with Matt Zadkovich

Can you briefly summarize how the band formed and what you do in Starring Janet Leigh?

I’m Matt Zadkovich and I play guitar in Starring Janet Leigh. SJL formed in 2003 from the remains of various other southern Ontario metal bands.  Over the years there has been a fair amount of lineup changes.  Most of the current members of SJL all met through various local online forums, dudes looking to play brutal music and seriously commit to it.

Your lyrics are infused with heavy detail and raw emotion. What is it that normally gives you inspiration when writing lyrics and is there a concept behind the writing of Spectrum?

Our lyrical inspiration comes from everything from day to day life as a struggling band to the darker ideas that are often embodied (or disembodied HAH) in metal lyrics.  I wouldn’t say they come from one particular area, at all but are more of a collection of our growth as a band over the last few years. We felt Spectrum, both as a title track and album name, was the best description of what this album is in its entirety: a spectrum of sound, and very much a collection of our efforts over the last few years.

You just released Spectrum, how has the reactions been thus far? What can fans expect when they pick up a copy?

The reaction has been quite positive actually.  The fan reaction has been great, and most reviewers have had good things to say.  I mean, with any kind of over the top metal album, there is always going to be those who make mention of that fact, and that it’s an acquired taste, but most reviewers did enjoy it.  I find this kind of music is typically love or hate, and I’m fine with that.

Fans picking up a copy can expect an absolute aural assault, and a serious variance in tone, tempo, and riffage.  I like to say it’s falls somewhere in the fine line between passion and precision, artistry and fury.

When it came to releasing Spectrum how did that whole package come together? What was the recording process like, how long did you have, was their any pressure on you?

We had planned our studio time for this record pretty well in advance and had done our best to be as prepared as possible.  At the time when we were planning on hitting the studio we had not yet solidified our record deal for release. It was just time to get’er done so to speak. In the studio some parts were gravy, and some parts were grueling but all in all I’d say it was one of the most positive experiences we’ve had as a band.  We were really fortunate to work with the producer we did (Greg Dawson – BWC Studios – www.myspace.com/bwcstudios), and his input really enhanced the album and took it in a direction that made it the best it could be.  We recorded for a total of 6 weeks: all of June end the first week of July 2007, and one week in September 2007.  Alan Douches from West West Side Music handled the mastering, and did a superb job. I think we put most of the pressure on ourselves to make this album the best it can be.  For us it’s really a moment in time of where we were as a band when we recorded it, and also set a standard for us to move forward.

How do you think you will effect the Metal scene you are part of? What are your thoughts on the growing popularity in it as well?

I hope that the metal scene can appreciate the album for what it is.  I believe it to be a record that will grow on people more and more over time because with the amount going on in each tune, it can take time to internalize it.  Personally I prefer music where over time I hear something new that maybe I didn’t catch the first time, and it can give you a completely different perspective on the song and the album.  In the past few years technical metal has grown substantially in popularity, and I think it’s great to see.

You guys are from Canada what is the music scene like there, I do know it is getting a lot more exposure the last 2-3 years? Any bands you’d recommend?

The scene here is both diverse and constantly growing and changing.  Certain areas in Canada (Montreal specifically) has grown to have a serious reputation when it comes to metal, and there is somewhat of a Quebec Metal sound.  Toronto doesn’t have a specific sound per se, but produces a wide variety of music, in all genres.  We have a great scene in Toronto, but with that it can also be hard for bands to really stand out from the crowd and get a good audience out to shows.  With shows 7 nights a week in various venues, bands really have to work hard to earn a fanbase. Canada in general has produced some fantastic metal bands in the past few years: The End, Beneath the Massacre, Ion Dissonance, The Last Felony, Martyr, so many.  In Ontario there has been a growing number of bands that I expect will really take off in the next couple of years.  Top up and coming Ontario metal bands I would name are: Titan, Dismata, Bloodshoteye, Terrorhorse, and Baptized in Blood.

Southern Ontario has become a really popular place for bands to tour more and more.  I think this May and June I’ve seen more touring acts come through this area than ever before.

How has Ironclad/Metal Blade been thus far for you guys? Who approached who?

I’d definitely say our experiences with Metal Blade and Ironclad have been very positive.  The guys at Ironclad really care about the bands on their roster, and try to work with us as much as possible to get our name out there, and get us as many opportunities as possible.  Same with Metal Blade, I mean, that’s how we got this interview haha.  A while back we had approached these guys, and they showed a serious interest when we previewed some of the album’s tracks on myspace.  Business end of things aside, we worked out something that I think we are both happy with.

Who did the artwork and title for the album, when you look on the final project, is there anything you wish you could have done differently?

The artwork for the album was done by our Drummer Aaron “Paz” Pozzer. Yes we all have stupid nicknames and we love them haha.  He’s an animator as well as a drummer so it was really cool to have the perspective of someone in the band to bring make the artwork relevant to the music. The title came to be after much squabbling about what we felt would really convey the album in a single word or phrase.  As a title track, it really tells what the listener can expect, and also how we view the album. Looking back at the album, I wouldn’t change a thing.  This is really a moment in time for us.  It is the best that we were at the time we recorded it, and gives us hope for a future with this band.  It’s very much a sign of what we have done and also what is to come.

The name of the band Starring Janet Leigh, is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?

The name is a reference to Janet Leigh’s role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.  Aside from being the most well known of her roles (only second to perhaps gone with the wind but that movie isn’t metal haha) the name refers to how Alfred Hitchcock would use his actors and skills as a director as a conduit for his vision, and so do we try to do the same through our music. This movie was also revolutionary in its industry and its style and ideas influenced horror movies for years to come.  We also aim to bring something original and fresh to the table in the same way. The shower scene in Psycho with Janet Leigh (stab stab stab) is probably one of the most famous in movie history if not even horror movies, and is a pretty clear example of absolute intensity.  That is also something we strive to convey.

Many of your songs are so hard and intense that I am sure they translate well into a live setting taking on a whole new life in front of a live audience. How does it make you feel when the emotion and power that you envisioned in the recording studio, come to life while playing in front of a crowd?

There is no feeling in the world like performing live.  The raw energy and the connection through the song both for the listener and the player is something I always look forward to.  In a live setting, the sound to a listener I’m sure is somewhat of an onslaught, but one thing I feel we truly convey live is both honesty and intensity.  We are who we are and we do what we do.  And we love it.

Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?

Because of the member changes in the early days, originally the writing rested primarily on my shoulders (I’m the last original member of SJL). Over time with the changing of members to the lineup we have now, the songs themselves morphed into what they are on the album.  Writing these days is much more of a collaborative effort.  Quite often one member with come with the core idea for a song, Chris or I, and work with our drummer first, then introduce everyone to it.  The editing process is extensive so that everyone is happy with it; no egos, it’s about making the best songs, so that’s how we prefer it.

What are the upcoming plans for Starring Janet Leigh?

Our album was released in North America on May 12, 2009. Our goal for the time being is to get out and share this record with the world.  Our primary focus right now is going to be touring in North America, throughout Canada and the USA.  There are a lot of people out there who have yet to hear us, especially in the US; we’d like to change that.  More than anything this album is very much our introduction to a large part of the metal community so we’re pushing as hard as we can to tour throughout North America to bring the SJL experience in a live setting.

Going back to the music business, what do you think of everyone downloading music, possibly even your music? Do you think it helps or hurts bands in the long run?

Downloading music is a mixed bag.  I mean, the world is a small place these days, and as amazing as it is that someone in any corner of the world can get our record online, it comes with ups and downs.  Bands starting out can get a lot more international attention without a huge budget thanks to the internet, because the grass roots approach is at the click of a button.  The problem lies now with the fact that everyone has the option of getting it for free.  It certainly helps with popularity, but if no one is buying your album, that’s a problem.  I say it’s best to lead by example: I’m not gonna say I don’t download, but I make a concerted effort to support the bands and the music that I care about to keep it alive.  I hope that our fans feel the same way.

How has MYSPACE and the internet impacted your band and do you think downloading helps or hinders the artists?

Prior to myspace there were a handful of similar music sites people visited to check out bands (mp3.com always comes to mind before it was revamped), but the sites were less interactive for bands to reach out to their audience.  These days between myspace, youtube, and facebook, you can get your fans pretty much anything of yours that you want.  Myspace has been very positive for us in reaching our fanbase and was actually how we began seriously talking with Ironclad.  I have nothing but praise for it.  Whether it will be around forever, who knows.  But it’s very clear that online social networking is engrained in the lifestyle of so many of us, and music is always going to be a big part of that.

What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?

We like to push extremes with our music, but there is a point where you have to say, “ok, if we push it any further it won’t even be listenable.”  Music is a funny creature that way.  You have an idea or a vision in your head of a song, but what comes out is not always what you imagined.  In the studio there were times where we had to make decisions that made the songs more listenable, and better overall. The artist in me squirmed at the idea, but it made the ideas something more listenable/something people could grasp.  On stage it’s the same thing: if you push something technically to the point where no one but the band knows what’s going on, you’ve completely alienated your audience.  We’ve learned through experience that there is a point where you can push your audience away.

What bands would you like to tour with and who has been your favorite to tour with this far? Any particular reason?

I’d definitely like to tour with any of these bands: The Faceless, Lye By Mistake, Beneath the Massacre, Ion Dissonance, Origin, Dillinger Escape Plan, Pig Destroyer, Despised Icon, Psyopus, Cephalic Carnage, Meshuggah, Neuraxis, Obscura, Necrophagist, Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, the list goes on and on. Favourite band we’ve toured with thus far: definitely a hard choice between some of friends in Ontario: Bloodshoteye, Dismata, Glasgow Grin, Closed Casket Funeral (RIP), Drudgery, Titan.  These guys are our best friends, and it’s always been an amazing time any time we play together.

What is currently playing on your iPod or CD Player?

Currently in my CD player: The Faceless – Planetary Duality, Isis – The Red Sea, Maylene & the Sons of Disaster, Brand New, Kurt Elling, Pig Destoyer.

Describe Starring Janet Leigh in three words.

Honest Diverse Metal.

If you had a chance to go back in time, where, what, and why?

Wow haha, that’s a tough one.  I’m debating whether I should answer this musically or historically haha.  I’m gonna take the safe answer and say I don’t want to disrupt the space time continuum.

How do you think the recession is affecting musicians like yourself? Is it at all?

It’s hard to say in general the overall effect on musicians.  Album sales have been effected for a long time because of downloading so it’s difficult to say if that is caused by the economony or by downloading.  One thing that directly affects a lot of bands is this: a lot of musicians have day jobs thay have to quit to go on tour.  With the job market being scarce in many places, someone who makes that choice may not come home to any kind of work.  I know this is affecting some musicians, but you have to make a choice. Crowds still come out to concerts, buy merch, hopefully buy CDs as well.  I’ve seen attendances up and down, but entertainment and music specifically still seem to make out ok.  As long as the fans support the music they love, we’ll make it through this economy.

What’s your reaction when/if a fan told you a very meaningful statement such as “Your music changed my life?” Has this ever happened to you?

We have at times had fans that said our music has profoundly influenced them.  If I could say anything I feel when someone says that, I’m deeply honoured.  It’s an incredible feeling to know your music has had an impact on someone’s life.  It’s one of the reasons I love doing this so much, there magic in playing it, but also in people experiencing it.  I’ve been inspired and moved by so many musicians, and it’s a great feeling to know you’ve moved someone with your music.

Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?

Our influences are right across the board, but I’d say our main influences are: Pantera, Metallica, Origin, Cryptopsy, Cannibal Corpse, Nile, Dillinger Escape Plan, The End, Daughters, Return to Forever, Sleep Terror, Pig Destroyer, Nasum, Mastodon, The Red Chord, and countless others.

All of that passion that you play with must be tough on you physically. How do you prepare for the physical demands of a tour?

Each of our guys prepares for tour differently.  For me I’m vegan, so I try to plan out where I can eat on the road so I don’t end up living on fast food and ultimately end up feeling like garbage.  And I try to buy fresh food and groceries wherever possible. I usually bring some kind of protein supplement just in case.  I also try not to be lethargic wherever I can avoid it.  It’s so easy to just veg out in the van when you have long drives between shows.  It’s nice to get some kind of exercise, or to read whenever possible.  I always try and stretch and get well warmed up before we go on to make sure I’m not gonna do something stupid and be ruined for the next few dates following one night of stupidity haha.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks a lot for the interview guys!

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