A few years back at Rock on the Range, I had a chance to interview Burn Halo’s frontman, James Hart just as the band was getting started with the first bit of success the band was having on the radio. Their debut self-titled album, lead by hit rock singles “Dirty Little Girl” and “Save Me” helped to get the band some recognition and some well due vindication for Hart after his former band, Eighteen Visions, abruptly broke up in 2007.
With a ton of touring in the past few years, Burn Halo went back into the studio recharged and began to write their second album, “Up From The Ashes”, which is due out on June 28th. “Ashes” is the first full collaborative effort for the band as a unit, after the debut was written by Hart and another musician.
”Ashes” comes out of the gates with the first single “Tear It Down”, which is already heading up the rock radio charts. It was before the album’s release that I had another chance to speak with James on how this recording experience was different than the last and how the new guys in the band pushed him to step his musical game up a little.
Here’s my interview with James:
AM: With the album coming soon- what’s your anticipation level for the new album?
JH: Well, I wish I could say it’s zero and be all calm about it, but it’s like a 150 on a scale of 100 for me right now. We’re super excited, even going back to pre-production, we were really excited about it. We knew we had something special with this album and just the way it came together, it was better than even we expected. Our number one priority now is just to get the album in people’s hands and see what they think.
AM: What do you consider to be the big musical and lyrical shifts on this album versus the first album?
JH: I’d say it’s definitely darker than the first album and a lot more emotional in a personal sense. With the first album, it was a bit more lively and a bit more fun- an straight up rock record. I looked to have more of a situation like I did back when I was in Eighteen Visions and got in that mindset of writing. I took the issues I was having at the time, as well as issues people around me were having and gave it this cool, very artistic sort of tone. It felt very comfortable to be writing in that mode once again.
AM: “Dakota” seems to be the one track garnering a lot of attention- how did that song develop?
JH: Back when we were first writing songs in March of 2010, everybody ended up writing a few songs. The initial songs were pretty cool, but we felt that they weren’t just there yet. We sat around thinking about what sort of album we’d really want to write. Aaron (Boeheler- bassist) had this song floating around from a band that he was with for maybe 2 months before they broke up- it was heavy and aggressive. We all loved it and all connected with it. The change in material was inspired by what our friends in Avenged Sevenfold did when recording their last album (“Nightmare”), where they threw the old material out the window and wrote the album that they wanted to write and didn’t worry about what would be on the radio. They made this cool record that didn’t seem commercial and we wanted to do the same thing.
AM: How did the new guys in the band push you to go a better songwriter/musician?
JH: It somewhat went back to what I did in Eighteen Visions, where everybody wrote their parts and put together the music and I was forced to come up with some pretty great lyrics. With the first album, it was me and a friend that wrote the material for the album and building around fundamentals. With this album, we left everything wide open, and left room to add solos and my lyrics to the album as well. The guys are writing great music, and it’s up to me to deliver lyrically. I felt the need to top the guitar part on one song and make sure every song was better than the one before.
AM: If you could go back and change anything about the first album, what would it be?
JH: I do wish the first album would have been more of a proper rock album, perhaps a few other songs like “Save Me” and stayed away from some of the mid-tempo tracks and ballads. It wasn’t a full band effort, I was just more concerned with how it would sound and how it would be marketed than anything. “Up From The Ashes” was one of the songs written for the first album, but I saved it because I knew it would stand up well with the new songs and I think it does.
AM: What are the band’s plans for touring for the next several months?
JH: We’re just starting to announce some dates now, and we’ve got some headlining dates coming up, as well as some rock radio festivals coming up. Our plan is to be on the road for a very long time.
Burn Halo’s “Up From the Ashes” is due out June 28th on Rawkhead Records. Burn Halo also plays Dirt Fest in Birch Run on Saturday, August 13th. Tickets are $20 and are available at www.dirtfest.com. Make sure to check out www.myspace.com/burnhalo for upcoming tour dates and band info.