As you all may know, I’m a bit of a new blood around these parts, but I’ve been actively trying to throw myself into the thick of it, and just get my feet as wet as possible. So when Jimmy [Alkahest] offered me a chance to interview guitarist Cliff Campbell from Fair to Midland, I jumped at the chance.
Fair to Midland are currently undergoing the final leg of their most recent headlining tour in support of their absolutely stellar Arrows and Anchors album. Despite some set backs during soundcheck, I was able to get Cliff all to myself for a nerve wracking 15 minutes. As most people who aren’t socially awkward could have guessed, what followed was a completely comfortable and deeply entertaining experience. Despite the conditions of the venue, and the heat of the night, Cliff was super nice and showed no sign of annoyance as I stumbled my way through my first interview. I hope you all enjoy it. Sorry if it runs a bit long, Cheers!
Okay first thing; you guys have been touring for a pretty long time, non-stop. I mean we saw you back in April at the exact same place. How has it been touring for so long?
It’s been good. I mean it’s a little tedious, you know? You kind of end up hating each other, but you get home and you kind of disperse for a while and you’re good again. This whole lifestyle is kind of addicting, you know? You miss home while you’re gone and you miss touring while you’re home. It’s kind of hard to live through that, but the tours have been good. It’s been good enough to get us like, The Damned Things tour.
And you guys are Touring with Evanescence in Europe, right?
Yeah, yeah. It’s going to be great.
How did that get set-up?
We got really lucky with that, man. We have a really great agent out there in Europe, and she’s done really well for us. We’ve been on Rock AM Ring and Rock IM park, twice. And you know it’s just crazy that it happened, cause who the hell is Fair To Midland, right? (laughs)
What do you guys do to prepare for your shows, and make them unique and fun for the people who attend?
Uh, usually the best thing is to do nothing.
We all grew up in small towns, so all we could do is sit there and think to ourselves and become absolute weirdos. So I guess that kind of worked out to our advantage with this on stage (laughs). The more we think about it the more contrived it’s going to be and we really just try to not think about anything at all, so it’s always just original.
A couple of months ago you guys did live in studio acoustic renditions of three of your songs, which were really great by the way. Do you guys plan to do more of those?
Yeah, yeah. I plan on doing regional shows acoustically, and I plan on releasing a live acoustic album.
Uh, not tonight (laughs). We can’t really mix the two. You know, you can’t really make Darroh do what he does there, and then just kind of make him sit in his seat and do nothing. It’s kind of hard to make him do that. He’s not really in his right mind most of the time up there (laughs).
Last year you guys got into a pretty crazy road accident. Do you want to talk about that?
Yeah, that was just, I don’t know, just weird circumstance. You know, I was asleep when it happened. Yeah that was pretty crazy.
That’s a weird wake up.
We were on 10 coming towards Phoenix to do a show, and it just so happens on the side of the road there was a drop off with a lot of gravel, and this was actually a recall tire on our van—on the driver side back—and it actually blew out on the sides, and it immediately just dropped. Usually it’ll go down and you’ll hear it start rolling and stuff, but this just immediately blew out. So the trailer started swaying, you know? It went off the side, down the gravel and just basically took us. Your trailer weighs more than the van with the people in it. And that’s what basically did it.
What woke me up was when we went off the trailer slammed into the back of the van and smashed it in and blew all the windows out. So the first thing I woke up to was “kuhSHHHHHH”. Just this rush of air. So that was pretty insane man, but we endured it. And it was actually cool, we had a lot of fans help us out with donations to get our gear back. It was just a cool thing to connect with our fans again.
That’s really awesome.
We had a few benefit shows. So many people came out. It actually ended up being an awesome thing.
You guys weren’t hurt too badly?
No, everybody was fine. We were lucky.
Getting back to the Evanescence tour, what are your hopes for that tour? And this isn’t your first European tour, is it?
No, no. Uh, I think we’ve done five tours over there. And it’s just to broaden our fanbase, and open people’s ears to Fair to Midland.
What’s cool over there is like, it’s nothing against America, but everybody is real fickle here and they either like hardcore or they don’t; or they like metal and that’s all they like; or they like pop and that’s all they like… there’s really no in between. There are those people who are, you know… I’m in between. I listen to all kinds of stuff, but for the majority you listen to your one thing and that makes it for you, so screw everything else.
But over there we can literally, well for example, we went out there with Dir En Grey, and it was actually an amazing tour, but you just gotta admit that doesn’t work. You know what I mean?
Yeah, here that would seem weird.
Here it didn’t work; it was weird here. Although, those were some of the coolest dudes we ever met. There was that language barrier, but they were freaking great dudes. We had a wonderful time on that tour, but over there it was like ten fold from the amount of people that would actually come up and appreciate the music and listen afterward. And I believe the same thing can happen with Evanescence. We’re not the same animal, but I think…
But you guys do have similar elements…
Yeah, yeah we do. We really do.
Anyways, your new album is really fucking great, by the way. Over here at Heavy Blog you guys got a great review, and pretty much everyone over here loves it, and from what I can tell a lot of people all over share the same opinion, but how have you guys perceived the reaction to it?
It’s been awesome. It’s gotten great reviews, just like you said. It’s been good kind of across the board. I actually listened to this album for months after we created the album, which I didn’t for Fables. Maybe it was partly so because most of the songs had been written already and all that kind of stuff, but I don’t know… maybe I was excited about the production that came with Joe Barresi. He’s freaking amazing, man.
And he’s worked with a lot of big names.
Yeah, he has. We got a lot of, I don’t know… depth, in this record. It’s just really huge, you know? And it’s so hard to do, to get like an A list producer to be able to put the love into your album, and he really did with this, man. He’s freaking amazing. He can do stuff that other people just really can’t do, and it just sounded amazing. It seemed like that worked and people perceived that as well. Because the music was there, I really believe the songs were great, but it all matters about that production, and just catching their ear. People only give it about a minute—maybe at that—to decide “I like this” or not.
Funny you mention that, because this website, Allmusic, they were doing a review of your album, it was a really short, and they compared you guys to, uh, they mentioned your opening track to the album, which is an instrumental, like 40 seconds long…
Yeah, it’s not even a song. I know exactly what you’re talking about.
(both laugh) They compared you to Breaking Benjamin.
I know! (laughs)
It was just the most hilarious thing.
Ha, I love that with people because they don’t really think ahead of themselves knowing like, “Maybe I should know a little bit about what I’m reviewing. I don’t want to look like a total ass.” But I think they pretty much are a total ass, because they don’t care if they look like a total ass. Who cares? Which is exactly what they’re saying, “Who’s Fair to Midland?” They could care less.
But it’s pretty funny for them to make it that blatantly obvious, and we had so many people on our forum bash that. But what else can you do? It’s just stupid to not give five seconds of your time to your job. That’s their job. You’re suppose to review albums. Please just, listen to a song (laughs).
Or at least pay attention to the song length (laughs).
Yeah, yeah. Exactly! (laughs)
Anyways, going back to the album. What was the writing style like? I know I read somewhere before that you guys weren’t happy with songwriting on the previous album…
Well, nah, not really. The songwriting was fine, we just wanted more of a collaborative for the songs.
So it was a collaborative, and not like, authoritative?
No no no no, not at all. And a lot of best songs end up being that way—collaborative. Someone comes in with a part or two, and then everyone comes together; and you can actually heard that on Arrows, because if you listen to the difference between that and Fables you can hear individual members on this record.
Yeah, they really stand out.
Yeah, and that was one of the best parts about it. We kind of went along that way with the writing process, just made everyone heard and everything, and I think it made a more cohesive record and a cohesive band and just made more of what Fair to Midland is supposed to be.
And that also kind of goes back to Joe’s production.
Oh yeah, completely. He brought that out of the band.
What was the influence for the album as a whole, or just for you personally?
My influences is always nothing.
See, I’m the worst interviewee for this.
Nah, you’re fine!
Because, uh… I don’t listen to music. Literally, these guys hate me because I’ll drive—I’m the night driver—and I’ll drive ten hours all night long with no music, and these guys have to go to bed with music so they will just lay there for ten minutes and realize there’s no music and they’re like, “Dude, what the fuck? Turn something on, I don’t care if it’s country, I don’t give a shit. Classical, do something,” and I just zone out. That’s my time to think, you know? I just take care of business in my head, and take care of it when I wake up. That’s just how I deal with things.
Literally, before Fables I didn’t listen to anything for a solid year.
Before writing all the material for it. I believe it’s the only way to have a fresh start on a song.
I can get that, actually.
There are certain things that I will take aspects from, you know, childhood. Enjoying certain ways that songs did this or that—like Soundgarden for instance; I love time signatures and everything they do in music, but most of that is just kind of imbedded in my brain. It’s not me trying to capture this aesthetic from a specific band. Like I said, I’m horrible with this.
Have you gotten to see Soundgarden on their new Reunion tour?
I haven’t, dude. I wanna see that. It’s coming through in October and I wanna go to that show.
I know you don’t write the lyrics, but they’re kind of esoteric and humorous at times, do you have any idea what inspires those?
A lot of it’s just [Darroh], man. A lot of it seems to just come out of a stream of consciousness and it can’t help but be what we’ve endured over the past few years as a band. A lot of it’s not completely straight forward towards that, but there’s a lot hints in the album, you know? The music industry and the crap we went through—stuff like that. As for what the hell pops that stuff in his brain, I really don’t know (laughs).
May I ask who does the artwork for your band?
It’s been different every time. This album was done by Isaac Flores. Uh, “eye-sac” on our forum and everyone knows him really well. He’s our photographer and videographer. And uh, that’s actually real, I don’t know if you saw the video for that.
Oh yeah, I was gonna talk about that in a little bit, but yeah, you guys did your first like, real music video for “Musical Chairs“. What was that like?
That was amazing. That was awesome. Kevin Custard did it—up in New York—and he just rented some old school 1800’s building, and it was just totally surreal, man. It was awesome. You know, we just get on our flight, get in a taxi and kind of show up at this really weird, mystical place. So it was pretty cool…the whole thing kind of went well, and there was actually a lot more stuff to that video, but it just didn’t work out aesthetically. You know, to make the story come across right, so we ended up just going with live footage.
And you guys went to town on that piano.
(laughs) We did, that’s what nobody knows. That piano was actually destroyed there. It was actually a full piano, we brought it and we had like these dudes dressed up like construction guys with a fucking jackhammer and you know, everything. And they destroyed it right there, the whole thing to, all those bits and pieces and then we put it all over the floor. It was great
It’s a really great video.
We’re going to release a DVD in a couple of months that has all this and like old live footage, and fan live footage, just to bring it all together a little bit — with what’s been going on with us the past few years.
So, with the last album you guys were actually signed to Serj Tankian’s Serjical Strike Records. How has it been transitioning to E1 Music and why the change in the first place?
It’s good. That actually just happened from he not having time. That’s really all it is. Cause you know he’s a great, great man and he’s always available for any like, questions we need and everything. Everbody always asks that, “What the hell happened, man? What did you do?” You know, all that— but it’s not like that at all. It’s just business, man. If you don’t have the time, you don’t have the time. So we ended up going onto another label and it took a long time to actually come to fruition — that’s why it was four years between albums. That’s hard to explain to people too, it’s like we’re just sitting here hanging out and waiting for the record label…
“Why you guys being so lazy”…
Yeah, yeah exactly (laughs). But it actually was good because we got to nurture the songs a lot more and just create good songs. So that worked out well, but the new label is amazing and the first few weeks of the album was actually better than Fables was. So I mean, the record’s already doing great. So I think it was a great step for us.
Speaking of Serj, are you guys still in contact with him?
Yeah, yeah, here and there, but we’re just not under the same umbrella.
Yeah, and he is doing System right now...
Yeah, and they’re doing great, so I’m more than happy for him. I mean, it’s awesome.
Going back to what you said about America and people only really listening to one kind of music…people like to say labels don’t matter, but as soon as you mislabel something, they get really pissed…
Mhm, Oh yeah.
…So I was just curious, how would you label Fair to Midland?
I don’t mind being labelled ‘progressive’. Uh, it’s okay to be called metal too—I mean, we grew up on that. We were right there when Cowboys from Hell came out. I mean, we grew up on this stuff. So, it’s okay, but we call ourselves “the heaviest non-metal band” (laughs).
That’s kind of the tagline that sticks around with you guys.
Yeah, cause we’re not really that; we’re not metal, and we’re not completely progressive. It’s really hard to tag our band as anything, but people have to—especially when they review you. You have to be tagged as something because, like I said about people, if it says this is a hardcore band they’re like “Oh, well I’ll read that”, or this is a progressive band “Well I’ll take the time to read that”. So it has to happen. I don’t really mind progressive, I don’t mind metal, but I don’t really know that that really is Fair to Midland—but I wouldn’t know what to call it myself either.
So what are the band’s plans for the future after this current set of tours?
We’ll do a headline in December, and like I was saying I plan on doing an acoustic live thing; we’ll probably do that at the beginning of the year, do a few more headliners. Do some more support tours. And really it’s just “tour, tour tour”—try and get the album out to more listeners, man.
And then go back to sleeping (laughs).
Yeah, go back to sleeping (laughs).
Okay, well, is there any last words you want to impart to our readers?
Uh, just a big thank to all my fans. That’s really it, man. That’s the only reason we got to release our other record, you know. It was amazing to me that we went out on our tour before our newest record came out and actually brought more people than we had 6 months prior. That doesn’t happen with bands, man. Like, if you don’t release an album everybody just goes away.
They forget about you.
Yeah, yeah. And it had been 4 years, and our fans were still there. I think that says a lot about our fans and Darroh’s always said this…
[Darroh walks out and starts singing really loudly]
…uh, (laughs) that we have friends, not fans. Like, we really don’t have fans. We have friends. So I think that’s why they stick around for us and allow us to keep doing this with ourselves.
[Darroh keeps singing]
We’re blessed (laughs).
Fair To Midland are currently on said break until they hit Europe in November with Evanesence, starting November 4th in London. A full list of confirmed upcoming dates can be found here.