You never really know what to expect when you walk into an interview. Whatever your expectations may be, however, I doubt you would expect to walk in on your interviewee casually reading a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel that would seriously hurt if someone decided to use it as a weapon. Meet Mike Hranica, vocalist of the well-known metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada, and avid consumer of Russian literature.
But intimidating books are not all he talks about. In this interview with Hranica at the Holmdel, NJ date of Mayhem Fest 2015, we discuss the band’s upcoming Space EP and why the Zombie EP remains so important, starting out in skate parks, and, if you’ve ever wondered what TDWP would look like as comic book characters, you may not be wondering for long…
HXC: So how’s Mayhem been so far?
Hranica: Great. This is our second year doing it, we did it in 2012 as well and really, really enjoyed it so we’re happy to be a part of it again.
Who are you touring with this time that you’ve never toured with before?
King [Diamond], Hell Yeah, [and] Thy Art [Is Murder] is really building up some hype. They’re playing some off-shows with us including one yesterday in Syracuse which went really well. That band is really blowing up and from what I can tell, really cool dudes.
Yeah, we were just talking to them ten minutes ago.
They’re really funny too.
Yeah, Andy [Marsh] just came out of his trailer and was just like, “I have a cigarette and a beer and that’s not going away.”
Yeah, sounds about right. So yeah, it’d be cool to tour with them again. And then Slayer was on [Mayhem Fest] back in 2012 when we did it, which definitely rules. I grew up listening to Slayer so it’s cool to tour with them.
It’s weird that you say that because I grew up listening to you guys, so it’s a really surreal dynamic going on. I feel like all the generations are represented.
Yeah, October’s our 10 year. So we’re slowly, slowly grow[ing] older to be around like that. We did Sounds Of The Underground back in 2007 and we were just the little kid band getting picked on. People hating us and throwing shit at us, and now opening Main Stage at Mayhem and it’s going really well trying to win fans over and be an energetic opener to the BIG bands.
Are you going to do one of the 10 year anniversary tours like everybody’s been doing?
We’re putting together a 10 year show in Ohio where we started, where we’re all originally from and started the band together. We’re trying to do a floor show, because we were just kids and our first shows were skate parks and all that; fisherman clubs, VFW halls, American Legions. We’re proud of that and I think it’s good for this sort of band; aggressive bands and OG punk bands and all that. So yeah, we hope to kind of honor and celebrate that, as well as put together a string of shows hopefully playing the Space EP and such.
It’s so much more special when the audience can really connect with the artist that way. I feel like we’re seeing a return to that. What are your thoughts on that?
I think it really is such a celebration for fans and I think that it would be in a lot of bigger bands’ best interests to do that. In the summer of 2010, we did a tour called Back To The Roots which was like eight or nine weeks long and we did most cities two times or sometimes three times, and just stayed at these venues and played all these 300-400 caps. And it was a real positive step for our band, I feel. We were playing “Outnumbered” for the first time and trying to build up our Zombie EP. But the appreciation that we received from fans was astronomical, as far as people really enjoying it and getting that intimate experience. And it’s tough. It’s hard on a band to play those tiny rooms and play 13 to 15 songs in conditions that are unspeakably hot and steamy and impossible to even play guitar or whatever. But yeah, getting back to that I think definitely rules. And I love a drastic variation between shows we get to play, between doing these huge amphitheaters and yesterday…I think the room is called Lost Horizon or something in Syracuse, and it shouldn’t fit over 200 people, but there’s 600 in there. And again, that’s where we come from and definitely don’t regret it. I think that it’s a big part of the culture of playing this sort of music.
What made you want to do another EP after your last full-length?
The Zombie EP went over really well. When we did Mayhem 2012 and [did] meet and greets it was just so many fans being pumped on it; being pumped on the heavy material, the shortness of it, the brevity. I think the strictly thematic concept helps, too. There are certain EPs for bands that I won’t even buy full-lengths [from] afterwards, which I know is stupid on my part (and ignorant), but just having short releases is amazing. It’s another thing I think bands should do more often. It’s cheaper for fans. We live in an extremely A.D.D. time right now. If a band puts something out and someone takes the time to spend three minutes listening to a song, if it’s not good they’re not going to give it another try. And that’s a very bold reality we’re in and putting out a lot full-lengths can be really exhausting for fans and listeners, especially when you’re becoming 10 years old and they already have five full-lengths to listen to from your band. I think an EP is a really good resolution for that. It’s so much fun writing things on such a strict conceptual basis. Lyrically, it’s very entertaining, very encouraging and enjoyable for me. And a big part of the base to it as well was trying to make sure these songs really sonically matched the theme lyrically, and the song title and everything. We wanted to be very intentional with the voicing and the tones of the different songs and trying to make sure that different songs didn’t blend together so much, which I think they definitely did for Zombie EP.
Where did the concept of space come from?
We were joking about it a couple years ago, because we’ve known we wanted to do another themed EP, and we were gonna do one that was like each song was a different theme. So there was an alien song, a pirate song, whatever. But last year we were back on Warped Tour and we had a meeting with management and we were mapping out what we would be doing for the next year or two and when we were talking about how it felt like it was the right time to do another EP. There were so many ideas I had that we didn’t even get to use because it’s an EP, it’s a limited amount of songs. But I don’t know, it’s so endless…Space in and of itself is already a sound. Bands will have their spacey sound, spacey records. And we like to layer things up and create a certain bigness with our dozen guitars and a dozen synths on our songs and whatnot. So sonically, it was really encouraging and conceptually I knew there was a lot to be explored there.
Did you ever read Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man?
That’s what the Space EP reminds me of. Basically, this totally tattooed guy has ink everywhere, and each tattoo tells a story and they’re all connected to this sci-fi, spacey theme. And they explore different aspects of existence, and is there meaning in anything or not, and it ends up being this really religious experience and sometimes an almost hopeful experience. So I feel like you should definitely read that after coming out with the Space EP.
I do like to read. A lot.
I can tell, the big book sitting over there. The Possessed?
NICE. I just graduated with my lit degree.
Oh nice! Yeah, I love Russian literature.
ME TOO! Have you ever read Dead Souls? Read that. It’s really funny.
I started to like Chekhov and I love Nabokov and Tolstoy and everything. Andy (Trick)’s favorite book, our bassist, is The Brothers Karamazov. It’s very good. [The Possessed] is quite heavy. I read The Idiot I think last year or something which was also really good. That and French stuff.
So what’s your favorite book?
I don’t know, I bounce around. A lot of Camus really draws me in. And lately I’ve been reading Simone de Beauvoir, and her stuff is really good. I read The Mandarins earlier this year and it was phenomenal. My next book is also by her, I think it’s called She Came To Stay. Early feminist…
Somewhere in the middle of our descent into existentialist literature, Hranica’s tour manager peeks into the room. We’re supposed to be wrapping up and obeying the 10-minute rule, but that’s not happening. He quietly shuts the door behind himself. You can’t interrupt good books.
…had an affair with Sartre and had an affair also with Nelson Algren, who is a Chicago writer. I’m from Chicago and his stories are amazing. The Man with the Golden Arm and whatnot. [De Beauvoir] is a little bit of a hub between all these fantastic writers. I also really wanna get into Susan Sontag. I also wanna go back and reread Lolita. Lolita is one of my favorites.
I just picked that up.
My girlfriend has Lolita right now and she’s reading it too slowly. She bounces around. I can only read one thing at a time and she reads like four things at a time and I need to get my Lolita back so I can read it. I love Nabokov. Chekhov was a really great start to Russian literature for me though.
The first [piece] of Russian literature for me was War & Peace. That monster.
I haven’t read War & Peace. I read Crime & Punishment. That was hefty. It’s been a while for any Tolstoy. I read Resurrection—I believe that’s what it’s called–my favorite Tolstoy, really good. I read Balzac for the first time recently and that was a bit over my head. I don’t know how to say it, it’s like P-E-R…[Le Père Goriot] which was one of the recommended ones, and yeah it was a little over my head.
Well, you’re a writer outside of lyrics too, right? Could you see turning the Space EP storyline into something?
No. With songs like “Supernova” and even “Moongod,” and little bits of “Asteroid” that conclude the record, I wanted a certain level of romance and something a little more fictional. “Supernova” is actually…I tried to create this affair of just floating away and falling in love with something far away that’s about to explode and be destroyed. Which is, I would say, even more like full-length material as compared to Zombie EP which was very anatomical in some sense. Sort of scientific, very fact-driven. But yeah, I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve been meaning to work with an old friend of the band about starting another comic book and I keep forgetting to call him every day. But he illustrates now as well and writes and he’s, I guess, considered a bit of an independent outlet for a lot of websites and whatnot. Really cool dude. He’s out in Portland, Oregon. But I wanna get him rolling on a new comic book, hopefully of the band being in space fighting off aliens.
That’s awesome! What’s his name?
His name is Caleb Goellner. He’s a great dude. He grew up with our tour manager, playing in bands with our tour manager and our drum tech. He’s originally from Kansas, where a lot of the guys that work for us live. Maybe tomorrow. I have two days off. I don’t have to rest my voice so much so I can give Caleb a call and get a comic book going hopefully around the end of the year. Maybe a Christmas release or something.
His tour manager peeks into the room a second time, our cue to wrap up now unavoidable. Hranica, joking, yells, “Get the hell out!” And we finally do.