Canadian rock band Finger Eleven released their sixth studio album, Life Turns Electric, on Tuesday, October 5.
The album picks up where their progressive hit single “Paralyzer” left off on their last album, Them vs. You vs. Me, but this time around they bring a harder feel with more guitar-driven rock tracks interspersed with their own brand of heartfelt ballads.
The band played a show in Toronto on Sunday at the Mod Club where they previewed a number of tracks from the new album.
I got a chance to talk to guitarist James Black on Monday after the show and he was happy with the way it had gone.
Black talked about being excited to play the new material and that the audience had responded well to the new songs, “It’s always tough when you have a new record because you think you know it inside out but there’s plenty of room to mess up when you get on stage and you never know how the crowd is going to respond. Last night went as well as could be expected. It was great.”
Life Turns Electric was recorded over last Summer in New York at the Wind-Up Records’ studios.
Black said that the recording process was a unique one because it was the first time that the band really had full control of the entire process, “We went out and got a studio as a kind of trial run. We all stayed near there and the idea was to do it ourselves. We went into it thinking okay we have a studio playground and let’s go for it!”
Black and the other guitarist Rick Jackett ended up being producers of the 10-track album with vocalist Scott Anderson bringing in the lyrics and the entire band helping to form the actual songs.
For Black, the experience was a good one as he found the album focusing more on the band’s guitar work; something he felt was lacking on the last album, “For me the last album moved away from true rock and roll.”
Black also spoke about the fact that although Life Turns Electric features a wide variety of songs, it also has a consistent flow to it, “We definitely tried to make it have a variety and not be monotonous but we also focused it in a way that it feels like a complete album where one song naturally flows into the next one. I don’t think we’ve repeated ourselves but the album has a certain vibe or focus. That’s something I don’t think we’ve achieved in the past. The last album was a little too diverse.”
When asked if there is a particular song that stands out for him Black instantly spoke about the album’s first track “Any Moment Now”, “It’s got a great riff. Last night we played it for the first time and the instant that we began to play it we all just looked and each other and we were just feeling it! We’re playing about five new songs on the tour and gradually we’ll introduce more and hopefully eventually get to the whole album.”
With the new music being introduced, a band always has to walk a fine line with their set list, “As I was saying earlier, it’s hard with new material. You can tell people are intrigued but they can’t rock out and sing the song. It’s funny because you have those people who are singing along but you know they don’t know the lyrics and are trying anyways. It’s awesome!” Black shared.
The album’s first single, “Living In A Dream” was released on July 20 and has been performing well.
Black said that the band chose it as the first single because it just felt like the right one to go with.
The track was the first one that Finger Eleven worked on in the studio and served as the trial run for how and where the album would go and according to Black, “Of all the songs we recorded it had this sound and energy that feels like the same band who did “Paralyzer”. It ties into the last record.”
He went on to talk about the fact that it was a instant unanimous decision on the band’s part, which is a rarity with five strong personalities, “With us agreeing on anything is a big challenge. It works out great because there are five of us and it’s a democratic vote because there’s always a tie-breaker. But when you have a moment where’s there’s not even a discussion and everyone says yes we know we’re on the right path.”
The band was in agreement once again when it came time to pick the album title as well. For them, “life turns electric” was a statement about the sound of the record as a whole and the way that it has moved to a more electric, classic rock sound.
In Black’s own words, the album is “a return to a really bad ass record, a rocking album”.
Although there is no official information out, Black believes that the next single to be released from the album will be the track “Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me”, which is the song that he and the others in the band have found has been going over well with their family and friends, “I remember on the last record “Paralyzer” kind of had that vibe when you’d play it and well there’s certain songs that you play for your buddies and they go that’s cool and then there’s those songs where they go, hey play that again! This is one of those songs.”
When asked how he would describe Finger Eleven’s sound to new listeners Black took a minute to think about his answer, “I guess from record to record I see a difference. I think that now that we’ve made enough records we can step back and get a bigger picture. We’re a guitar rock and roll band when you get down to it. Definitely like a song band, a jam band but ultimately a electric guitar and rock and roll band where anything really goes.”
The success of “Paralyzer” found the band’s music getting played in a wide variety of areas including on television, in the movies and in popular video games.
Black says that he hopes to see more of that in the future as that is one of the ways to best get your music out there. As a fan of the show Entourage, he spoke about how at the end of each episode during the credits there is a new song playing and he finds himself looking up information about it after wards.
I asked him if he thought it was harder these days to get album sales and he shared that he believes that the music world has become a sort of support group and there is a system in place that is hard to break through. However, in general he believes that with all of the different forms of social media available it is easier to get your music out there with one click of a button.
Black continued with, “It’s not really about getting it out but about the challenge of how to get it noticed. I mean you’re a drop in the ocean so how do you make your band stand out? All music is up for grabs. I think it comes down to proving that you’re a good band. Ultimately, good songs will rise to the top.”
When the band first formed back in 1989 they chose the name the Rainbow Butt Monkeys and later decided that wasn’t how they wanted to see themselves portrayed and decided on a name change. However, the band was not completely prepared for the reaction and difficulties they would have after already having established themselves under the first name, “I think we were a bit naive,” explained Black, “We were doing what we wanted to do and we were like you’re not going to tell us what to do! We weren’t discouraged at all but we learned along the way. It takes two years to make a record and then you tour and after two years people can forget about you. Having a name that sticks out is important. You have to be careful.”
Black also spoke a bit about his own personal influences which began with his parent’s love for The Beatles, “The first time I ever acknowledged The Beatles was when I bought the Revolver album on 8-Track. I was always into the classics.”
As a guitarist, one of Black’s inspirations is Slash, who he would love to meet and hopefully tour with one day. Black’s dream tour would be a reunited Guns N’ Roses.
Despite all of the band’s many influences, they are trying to move away from their love of playing a medley of their favorite songs on tour, “You love to play songs that influenced your life and it keeps you on your toes but you gotta come up with new tricks. We don’t want to be a cover band.” said Black.
Although the band tries to get out while they are on tour, there is usually not a lot of time to visit anywhere but they do spend a lot of time catching up on new movies, tv and music; making a lot of late night Walmart stops, “It’s amazing what crap you’ll f*cking buy at 4 in the morning when you’ve been drinking!” shared Black.
When asked to share some road and fan stories, Black spoke about the band’s biggest fan Mike Duyn, who they had seen the night before at their show in Toronto, “He found me on Facebook and has been telling me where he is going to be on our tours. He’s been going to Finger Eleven shows for a decade. We see him everywhere and he has all our music and shirts. I learned about my life from this guy. Even if nobody else ever listens to our music except him it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Black shared that if he hadn’t become involved with the band he probably would have pursued something with video and marketing. In the past, he has directed some television commercials and some short films. He would love to direct a full length movie but doesn’t have the time or attention span to do it. However, one day he hopes to put all of his old footage of the band together to do a documentary.
Finger Eleven will be touring in support of Life Turns Electric from now until the end of the year and then they hope to head over to Europe and Australia.
Their current tour will be making a stop in Flint at the Machine Shop on Saturday, October 16 with Taddy Porter.