michael keene

Great New Metal’s Brian Shields hit up The Faceless mastermind Michael Keene on behalf of Heavy Blog is Heavy to set the record straight on the rumors claiming that the band were facing a breakup, among things on the horizon for the band, including the long-awaited covers album.

Breaking News Flash!  The Faceless is not breaking up.

“No absolutely not.” Michael Keene tells me after The Faceless’ performance as direct support for Between the Buried and Me in Sacramento.  “I don’t know what part of an international world tour, being on a great tour currently, there’s interviews out there where I’m talking about I’m working on a new record, how any of that adds up to us breaking up.

The silly rumors of a breakup started because Keene and his bandmates Geoff Ficco, Alex Rudinger, and Wes Hauch are without bassmeister Evan Brewer on this tour.

“I’ll clear it up as much as I can at the moment,” Michael explains. “Evan is trying out with a project that is kind of a big deal to him.  It’s one of his all-time favorite bands.  He’s playing some shows with them.  I’m sure everyone’s about to find out what it is any day now.  It’s not really my place to say what it is but he’s not out of the band.  He’s still in the band it’s just felt like he needed to give this a shot.  So, he’s missing the tour.”

Far from seeming like this is the end of anything, Keene is clearly having a blast on the road with BTBAM, The Contortionist, and The Safety Fire.

“It’s truly fantastic,” Keene says with a grin.  “This is definitely one of the better tours we’ve done in quite a while.  This is the third time we’ve toured with BTBAM so at this point we’re pretty chummy and it’s definitely a pleasure touring with them.  It always is. All four of the bands I feel like attract an open minded listener that’s going to be open to any of the four bands on the bill no matter who they’re there for initially.  Which is great.  There’s just kind of a mojo that’s flowing.”

While on tour worldwide for the rest of this year, Michael has a busy 2014 already planned.  He will have a solo record called “Slaves and Masters” in the works, a new album of originals by The Faceless but what really has him energized is the current project, an all-cover album of pop songs arranged to sound like The Faceless.

“It’s largely taking songs that aren’t necessarily death metal songs and giving them Faceless arrangements which is actually quite a job it turns out,” he says.  “I’ve been working on that, got three songs done so far.”

The idea made me think of BTBAM’s The Anatomy Of… cover record.

“I’m taking a slightly different approach than what they did,” he leans forward. “I’m changing the arrangements largely to be Faceless-esque and a little bit further from the originals.  Both obviously are cool and fun but I feel like there’s definitely a certain level of metal that is sort of expected from The Faceless so I can only do these simple arrangements to a certain extent before people start to…”

“Want to hear some Keene shredding,” I say and he smiles.  I find his concern about the expectations for what a Faceless record must be interesting, considering all of the initial outrage from people disappointed that Autotheism wasn’t Planetary Duality Part Two.

“Despite what it might have initially seemed like, Autotheism is actually by far our best received record.  It’s got by far the highest sales, by far the most critical acclaim in terms of media…”

“But that’s because it appeals to more than just tech death nerds,” I counter “and some of my best friends are tech death nerds.”

“I think it does so without compromising any musical integrity,” Keene says, clearly passionate about this subject.  “I think it appeals to a larger audience based on elements that don’t really degrade it in any way.  I feel that for me, as a musician, one of my biggest strengths is my pop sensibility.  I definitely try to apply that to a genre that otherwise has never really seen it to a great extent. There’s definitely a really worthwhile quality to pop music that obviously appeals to people.  The genre is called popular music and I’m applying that to something that is hard for a lot of people to initially digest.”

So forget about The Faceless breaking up.  The whole concept is ridiculous anyway.  As I say to him, no disrespect to any of the amazing musicians he plays with, everyone knows The Faceless is The Michael Keene Project and Michael Keene will never stop making music.  And that’s a very good thing.

– BS

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