Logan Mader has been around the block or two a time in the world of metal. Former guitarist with Machine Head on their first two albums, stints in Soulfly and Medication followed before Logan turned his hand to producing full time for a number of years. Thankfully for many of us, he picked up his guitar again with Once Human, who burst onto the scene a couple of years ago with debut album The Life I Remember. We recently caught up with Logan to discuss all things Once Human, including their brand new album Evolution, as well as various other stops from his fascinating career.
You’ve just released your second album, “Evolution”, 17 months after the success of debut album “The Life I Remember”. “Evolution” adopts a more progressive approach than “The Life I Remember”, with even more twists and turns than before. What new influences have driven the band in this direction?
Well we’ve made a lot of upgrades creatively, one of them is adding our new guitar player Max Karon. He’s an amazing player and a really good riff writer, so he came on board to write with Lauren [Hart] and I about a year ago and eventually he joined the band, so he’s in the band full-time now and he’s one of the collaborators on the album. He’s amazing and he had a big influence on the riff writing and it really pushed Lauren and I to step up our game with our arrangements and the other riffs we were writing, as well as Lauren’s lyrics which got a lot better. She got a hold of some of the instrumental tracks while they were in progress and felt aware that she needed to write lyrics that were really powerful and meaningful, and thought provoking in order to stand up to the quality of the music that was being written, and she did a really good job with that. Her vocal tone also evolved a lot. She’s sounding much lower and her growling voice has gotten deeper. There’s a lot of people that don’t even think it’s a woman vocalist, they think it’s a dude, which is cool I guess. Then there’s the production which was more on fire, more powerful sounding than the first record, and in general the song structures became a bit progressive at times. Overall it’s a major upgrade for us and I feel like we’ve really found our identity as a metal band with our own unique sound.
What has new guitarist Max Karon brought to the band, and how has having three guitarists affected the group’s dynamic?
It sounds really cool live, it sounds powerful. There’s never really any drop out, if there’s two rhythms and a lead playing it sounds really cool live and there’s also moments where we have three different parts going at the same time, and they all work really well together as they did on the album. So we can recreate those organically. Energy wise, it’s just cool, it feels really good. I know it’s a lot, it’s a lot of mouths to feed and it’s a lot of sound on stage but it’s working out pretty cool.
How has it been getting back routine of being a full time band member after over 10 years away from performing music?
It feels natural, it’s been something that I’ve missed and I’m really happy that I’ve started doing it again. It’s tough, because it’s a new band and there’s a lot of struggles we go through to just get from Point A to Point B, but the feedback we’re getting on this album is really good so it’s inspiring and motivating, and we’ve got a really good engagement with our videos that we’ve put up on YouTube, they have a lot of views and a lot of positive feedback. We’re starting to build up some tour dates that I’m not allowed to announce just yet but we will be getting back on the road soon which is exciting, and we’re just doing what a band does at our level. It feels really good to me, I like doing it. It’s a lot of work, I’m still doing a lot of producing and mixing to make a living as the band doesn’t really make any money yet, but it seems to be on a good path.
Logan, between your time in Soulfly and your move to production, you had spells in a couple of other bands – first with Whit Crane in Medication and then singing in Stereo Black. What has changed between now and then, in terms of how life works in a touring band? Has it become easier for bands to make a name for themselves?
Well Medication happened just a little while after Soulfly. That was 2001-2002. That was the beginning of the apocalypse for the music industry, people were still buying albums back then like they used to and there wasn’t really any social media at that point. It was still pretty much the “golden era” of the industry during the Medication times. Stereo Black was just a studio project that a friend of mine and I did with the intention to do some sync licensing with some of the music. Some of the songs turned out kind of cool for the genre they were in and they started doing well with commercial licensing, with movie placements in soundtracks and trailers and video games. So we thought “let’s try to make a band out of it” so we kind of half-way tried to make a band for a minute and then I realised at that point that I really wanted to be a full-time producer, and really develop my producer skills and credentials so I went full-time to do that.
Speaking of Stereo Black, bootlegs of the band’s sole demo exist all across the internet. Have you ever thought about revisiting those recordings and trying to give them an official release?
No (laughs), no I haven’t.
I remember finding them on YouTube once and was blown away by some of the songs, so it’s a shame.
Oh, well thank you. But I think they’ve had their day, I mean a couple of them had some really good licensing in major studio movie trailers and movies as well, I think that’s all they were really intended for and they’ve served their purpose so I think I’ll just let them collect digital dust on a hard drive forever.
Despite progress in society over the past few decades, you still see sections of it – especially in the metal community – viewing the idea of female vocalists in extreme metal as little more than a “novelty” or a “gimmick” (just look at attitudes to groups like Babymetal or even veterans such as Kittie). Has the band ever had to deal with sexism from metal fans, and do you think this problem will still be here in 10 or 15 years’ time?
Sometimes I read the comments and there’s definitely a handful of metal fans, or metal elitists, that don’t see female fronted metal as “real metal”, and that’s just their personal opinion. But I feel that there’s an overwhelming majority of metal fans that appreciate female fronted metal if it’s done well. I mean it’s definitely a thing, but eventually it’ll just be considered as “metal” and it won’t be classified as “female fronted metal” vs “male fronted metal”. If we get discriminated against, it’s just not for everyone. You can’t have any emotional connection to whether people like female fronted metal or not.
Back to the new album, a lot of talk has been about the Japanese bonus track for “Evolution”, a cover of Machine Head’s “Davidian”. The song has been a live staple for Once Human since its inception. How do you look back on your time with Machine Head and has Robb heard your interpretation of the classic?
I don’t know if Robb has heard it yet, it just came out as a Japanese bonus track. I think it’ll be available for streaming soon. Actually I asked Robb before we recorded it if he thought it was cool, I mean you don’t really need permission to record a cover song by law – anyone can record a cover song as long as you pay the publisher or label – but I wanted him to be OK with it. I don’t know if I wanted his blessing or something, but I wanted him to not be annoyed by it, and he said yeah go for it. But I don’t know if he’s heard it yet. It turned out really good though, we didn’t really change it much. I know it’s almost obligatory for a band when covering a song to try to “make it their own”, and I like it when bands re-invent a classic song to make it their own if they do it well, but in this case it was just such a perfect song that had such an original structure and formula, that I just wanted to do it justice and recreate as much of the original vibe as we did. The guitar solo that Skylar [Howren] does is different, but with everything else we just kind of followed the groove of the drum tracks, which were very human. There was no click track and it was recorded on tape originally with Chris Kontos [Machine Head’s original drummer] but I feel we really matched that drum feel. It goes all over the place with the tempos but it’s got a humanisation to it that really works for the song – obviously as the song did well originally, so we kept that vibe and I’m really happy with how it came out. It was great fun to record it, it was sort of like going back in time and reliving the first studio experience for me in my life, which was making that record, so it was good times.
Do you still think Japan exclusive bonus tracks have a place in recorded music anymore, now that anyone who wants it badly enough will likely be able to find it online within days of release?
Yeah (laughs) I don’t know. I never really knew the logic behind that. I heard that Japanese CDs cost more than imported CDs, so they wanted to give fans a reason to buy domestic Japanese products, so they put the bonus track on the Japanese edition. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that it’s been industry standard for Japan to request a bonus track for their release so we did that. I mean, I’m happy that my record even came out in Japan (laughs) but I don’t know. I guess it’s a collector’s item, as it’s rare.
Although we’re now in 2017, we’d like to know what albums stood out for you in 2016 that we may have missed.
Um… I can’t really think of anything that you may have missed but I do really like the new Gojira record [Magma] and the new Meshuggah record [The Violent Sleep of Reason] is amazing. The last Lamb of God album, I don’t know if it came out in 2015 or 2016 but it was called Sturm und Drang, too. Those were all really amazing records.
Lastly what are the plans for Once Human in 2017?
We want to tour as much as possible, we’ve got a good agent here [US] and a good agent over there [UK] but it’s tough to get on good supports these days, but I think we’ve got a good one which we’ll be able to announce soon. Hopefully that gets the ball rolling and we’ll be out for the rest of this year and next year for “Evolution”.
Once Human’s new album Evolution is out now. Pick it up from Napalm Records (CD).