Some bands change their sound and image from year to year or release to release. The guys in Red have stuck to their guns through four releases and ten years. Why change the formula now? Don't worry they didn't. Just like every release before it, the latest disc of Beauty And Rage sounds like quintessential Red. As the band prepares for the discs release and the first tour to support the new material, bassit Randy Armstrong took some time out to discuss all of this and more with us.
Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking the time out for us today.
Randy: Absolutely, thanks for having me.
Toddstar: You guys are about three weeks out from putting out a new disc. I can't wait to hear of Beauty and Rage in full blown glory. What can you tell us about the new album coming out?
Randy: I can tell you that it was a year in the making. We feel like it's the best record we've ever made. Honestly, the emotion that we were able to capture was a true testament to what we were going through over the last year and a half and watching each other go through really was captured on the album. The response we've seen so far has been overwhelming good and so we’re excited.
Toddstar: Cool, in listening to Red most people if they listen on the surface they have trouble breaking down that Christian rock radio feel. I think the fact that you guys just write from the heart really is where the focus should be on the music.
Randy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Toddstar: You say because this is a personal album and a long time in the making. How do you guys take your life experiences and decide what should and what shouldn’t go into a Red song?
Randy: On this record we didn’t hold anything back. We put so we wrote about things we were going through and the things we've experienced on the road. Things we've seen done, the usual and we just try to be real on our lyrics and not pull punches and hold back. We really try to inspire people to get out of their comfort zones and talk about their dark issues and skeletons in their closet, things like that, and not be afraid to talk about those things because that the first step to healing.
Toddstar: In keeping with that, going through and looking at the set and the song list itself, where there any songs that just either lyrically or musically you guys just struggled with from beginning to end?
Randy: I wouldn’t say struggled. I'd say some songs took longer to write than others and that just had a lot to do with the time frame that we were under. When we were finishing up the record we only had a few days to get things fixed up so we can have them sent off to our mixer. If I had to choose one I'd say the song, “The Ever” was the last song to be written lyrically. The music was already there, but lyrically that was the last song that we dove into. We felt a little pressure with time and everything, but again we knew that we had to get it right. We were in no hurry to make sure it was.
Toddstar: Sure, there have been references to just this song being taken from the darkest parts of you guys’ soul. What song for you or what couple songs for you are the most personal on this disc?
Randy: The most personal for me would be “Fight to Forget” and I'd say second place would go to “Shadow and Soul.”
Toddstar: Are these just because they were introspective to you personally or just something that just really impacted you?
Randy: Something that happened that really impacted me, something that I was directly involved with. It was a personal thing that my brother was going through at the time and “Shadow and Soul” that would be “Fight to Forget” more than “Shadow and Soul.” “Shadow and Soul” I feel like sometimes I caught between who I really am and this shadow that, everybody has a shadow, but metaphorically that shadow is this dark representation of you. That song talks about being caught between those two places. You’re on this fence and you're like I've either got to make this decision. I've got to make this decision and this decision will have that outcome and this decision will have that outcome.
Toddstar: Okay, you guys, again February 24th, you guys are releasing of Beauty and Rage and you're doing something different this time. You’re releasing a graphic novel. Where did that idea come from?
Randy: We halfway through the recording process we were talking about what we were going to do for music video. We were really nervous about how we were, what we were going to for a cover and all those things. Those are all things we thought about throughout the process. We found this forest in Poland called the Crimson Forest and had a couple fans actually turn us onto it. They sent us some pictures and we’re like wow this is one of the most beautiful things we've ever seen. In the fall trees around here they turn orange and yellow and red an all those colors. This forest the leaves only turn red. They turn red and they fall to ground. The bark on these trees is almost a black, so dark and black and the trees are all just like Lord of the Rings style trees, just real decrepit looking and everything. When you look at them, they're all bunched together and there's this blanket of red leaves on the ground. It's one of the most beautiful things I've seen. We put ourselves in that atmosphere and the idea of being lost in the woods. You can be lost in the woods between your shadow and soul, yet be in this most beautiful place. That beauty brings clarity; it brings a lot of things that pull us out of a dark place. We tried to play off the dichotomy of those two things throughout the entire record. I really feel like we accomplished that.
Toddstar: I’d agree with that. Thanks for that insight. You guys are getting ready, excuse me, in a couple weeks now you’ll be heading out on the road to take this to the fans. What can fans expect from the new material? Are you guys going to blend it in? Are you going to hit hard with the new material?
Randy: I think we‘re going to hit hard with the new material. I just like I said already the response that we’re seeing, we only get to play so long when we play a show. We’re going to play a lot of the new material on the record. In the past, we've done a good mix of all of other records. But we’re five records in now so it's difficult to pick songs that we can't get them all in in an hour and a half, two hours. We’ve got to be selective in what we choose and of course try to cater to what the fans expect us to play. At the same time what's going to lend itself to a great live show and capture the emotions on the album too. We still haven’t figured out the set list to be honest with you. We’re actually at our rehearsal space right now; I just pulled up to get ready for rehearsal. We’re trying to hash it out. We’ve got a few weeks to go and this whole time will be spent rehearsing and getting ready to go.
Toddstar: Cool, that said, if you had to think about Red’s catalogs what one or two songs do you think will always be part of a Red show?
Randy: Absolutely 100% we can't play a show without playing “Breathe into Me.” That’s the song that we were introduced to the world with. It's still, to this day, one of our most popular songs. I would say probably “Feed the Machine.” Can't do shows without those two.
Toddstar: I'd agree with that, especially “Breathe into Me.” Speaking of the tour, you guys are coming to play a place that is near and dear to my heart and you guys, as much as you play there, you're almost the house band. When you guys see the tour itinerary and you see the world famous Machine Shop (http://www.themachineshop.info/) on there, what do you think?
Randy: We think it's going to be a great show. We think it's going to be a sold-out crowd. It's going to be pretty awesome. Kevin, the owner, is a friend of ours and he takes good care of us when we’re there. It’s a good day. We hang back with Kevin, but the shows are always packed out. It’s always a great night, so it's one of our favorite venues to play. There's two small, if we had to choose small venues, the Machine Shop and the Chameleon Club in Lancaster are two of our favorites.
Toddstar: What is it about a Machine Shop crowd that just makes it feel like a second home for you guys?
Randy: It's just a straight rock crowd. The club itself, everybody who’s anybody has played there. I think this’ll be probably the 11th or 12th time we've actually stepped on that stage and from day one it's always been a great crowd. Everybody’s always excited and there's a lot of energy. People are singing and sometimes louder than we are. It’s a lot of fun. I think with the anticipation of a new record and a new show there's going to be packed out crowds throughout the whole tour and hopefully throughout the entire record cycle. We’re looking forward to getting back on the road. It's been since September that we've been on the road steady. We just got back from New Zealand for a week trip to there. That's all we've actually done since September because we've been working on the album, so we’re eager to get started.
Toddstar: Cool, I was with Kevin and Minty last night and they can't wait to see you guys.
Randy: Yeah, good dudes.
Toddstar: Speaking of touring again, what's it like going out on a tour with a twin brother? How do you guys get along on the road?
Randy: We get along great. Sometimes it’s a fun little thing for Michael to watch Anthony and I get into a disagreement. It always comes back around. We always, we all agree to disagree or get it worked out or whatever. I don’t think I could do the band without Anthony. We've been together our whole lives. We were roommates in college. Of course, moved to Nashville together and Mike, we've all been friends since third grade. We've known each other for 27 years and it's a lot of fun. We have our days, but there's for the most part it's I couldn’t imagine doing it with anybody else.
Toddstar: Who made you decide to pick up and play bass?
Randy: Honestly, when we started writing music we didn’t have a bass player. I figured I play piano, but we need a bass player, so I stepped into the role and started learning as quickly as I could. I've been doing it ever since.
Toddstar: I know you're a busy man. I know you're waiting to go into rehearsal, so I've got one more for you if you don’t mind before I let you go.
Randy: No problem, yeah.
Toddstar: You're getting ready to drop your fifth album. You guys have received double awards. We’ve gotten Grammy nominations. You play sold out shows almost everywhere you guys go. Everything is just pointed up for you right now. For you at this point in your life, what is the meaning of life for you?
Randy: I think it's to use our gifts and to use our strengths for the betterment of everybody. If you're going to sit around and not use the gifts that God’s given you to help other people and to maybe push them in a direction where they're going to want to do the same thing. I feel like you're wasting your life. With Red that's always been our goal. It’s not been to get dubs and Grammy nominations and number one singles and all that stuff. We started music because there were bands that we loved growing up that had an impact on us and made us want to do the same thing for others because they did so much for us. I feel like our goal has always been to do that and not worry about all the other things that, the other things come along naturally and those are a blessing. They certainly bring attention to the band in the media and things like that. If we’re playing in a small venue it doesn’t matter whether we’re there or in an arena everybody’s going to get the same show. They're going to get the same energy. They're going to get the same guys it doesn’t matter.
Toddstar: Randy thank you do much for taking time out of your busy schedule.
Randy: No problem.
Toddstar: We wish you well the first month of the tour until you guys make it here to the Flint, Michigan area and you guys once again take to the stage at the Machine Shop.
Randy: Yeah, man, come and say hi. I'd love to meet you.
Toddstar: Will do Randy.
Randy: All right, man, have a good day. See you.