The Continuous Collapse

The evolving creativity of Fit for an Autopsy gives the band an unending hope for their latest release, 'The Great Collapse,' the "next step toward wherever we’re going to end up as a band"

Photo by Bobby Bates

“We do have a little bit of clean singing on the record. We do have some more melodic parts. But we also have much more aggressive and driving music on there too. It’s very interesting the way it came together. While I do think that Absolute Hope Absolute Hell is a fantastic record, The Great Collapse is the next step toward wherever we’re going to end up as a band.”

One sure sign of a strong band is constant collaboration, an eagerness to learn and grow, and one group of Jersey City boys thrives off of the ever-churning undertow of musical exploration. Following their last project with The Acacia Strain and Thy Art is Murder (The Depression Sessions), Fit For an Autopsy now presents The Great Collapse, the band’s third album release with eOne Music. Now with a new lineup and a fresh stack of tour dates for the next year, one of the heaviest outfits in music is back to crush the scene.

An hour or so before show time in Minneapolis, founding member and guitarist Pat Sheridan talked with me like he had all the time in the world. If I had to describe our conversation in one word, it would be passion. Sheridan chose his words carefully as he talked through the evolution of the band and the sound, paying close attention to how he wanted to portray the journey. From the very start of our conversation, he metaphorically held The Great Collapse close to his chest and handled it with the utmost care. With confidence, he stood by the belief that FFaA can impress, while humbly offering an essence of gratitude in every answer.

When I first listened to the record, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The compositional elements brilliantly moved in and out of deathcore, post-hardcore, metal, and nearly everything in between. I was blown away by the quality of every track and the songwriting process, skillfully and artfully done, that only comes with the dedication to the craft. Sheridan earnestly explained the importance of not wasting a single note or a single beat. He attributed a great deal of the album’s success to the band’s unorthodox writing process, and, like an eager student, I was soaking it up.

There is no question that FFaA knows how to utilize every ounce of space in their songs, and that space just keeps getting bigger with every record. Just when we thought they hit the summit, they press through to new heights. The Great Collapse is a solid step that no one could have predicted and one that you can’t help but fall in love with. It attests to the band’s endurance and consistent growth in the deathcore genre, and has something to offer everyone in the realm of heavy music.

First of all, tell me about how you got into music — and, particularly, heavy music.
It’s kind of a crazy journey. When I was a kid, my mom was super into disco and Motown — the pop-radio stuff at the time — and my dad was into jazzy rock like Steely Dan. But he was also into stuff like Black Sabbath and the whole metal vibe from the ’70s and ’80s. I also have an older brother and he was for sure into the punk and hardcore scene and the extreme metal scene. So I have a lot of crazy influence in my life when it comes to music.

My introduction to music was super mixed, and I think the first pieces of music that I owned were Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Venom’s Seven Gates of Hell. So it was pretty interesting the way it turned out. I have a really broad taste in music, and that’s kind of what got me started.

“It’s not just an empty message about, say, horror movie lyrics or scary things that you see on TV. The scariest things in the world are the way that people treat each other.”

Your press release says your music is “devoid of preachy politics or grandstanding soapboxing, but its sound and fury is absolutely unflinching in purpose.” Can you tell me more about that purpose?
Being a guy that’s in a band, I have a unique ability, and us — as a band — have a unique ability and responsibility to do some cool things with the music and the message that we send. Our purpose is to show where we’re at as people and show the things that we believe are problems in our society and with people in the world and showcase it in a way that says, “Hey, this is what’s going on. This is what’s wrong with the world. This is why we feel the way we feel about the world.” And we can put it out in a way that gives a story that has meaning to it.

It’s not just an empty message about, say, horror movie lyrics or scary things that you see on TV. The scariest things in the world are the way that people treat each other, you know? The mistreatment of human beings and animals, the mistreatment of our earth, the way that we’re taken advantage of by the government and our neighbor. There are so many things that are way scarier than a lot of the things that we see, and we want to use the platform that we have to convey that message in our own way.

How do you think The Great Collapse compares to your last album, Absolute Hope Absolute Hell?
I really like Absolute Hope Absolute Hell. Those are some of my favorite pieces of music, individually. But I also feel that that album is the direction to The Great Collapse. We needed to make that album to discover what we can and can’t do musically. So when we made Absolute Hope Absolute Hell, we took a lot of risks that we weren’t sure would translate or weren’t sure that people would like them — but we felt like it was necessary to do. Once we did that, we saw that we had this ability to maybe take a step in a direction that we didn’t think we could. So we used that new education we had to take it a step or two further and make The Great Collapse what it is. We do have a little bit of clean singing on the record. We do have some more melodic parts. But we also have much more aggressive and driving music on there too. It’s very interesting the way it came together. While I do think that Absolute Hope Absolute Hell is a fantastic record, The Great Collapse is the next step toward wherever we’re going to end up as a band.

You all did a collaborative project with Thy Art is Murder and The Acacia Strain, The Depression Sessions. Do you think that EP was a step in between those two albums? Or was it something completely different?
For sure. One hundred percent. The cover was very different, vocally. I think we discovered a lot about what Joe was capable of doing that Nine Inch Nails cover. And then when we wrote “Flatlining,” it was like, whoa, this is it. This is where we want to go, you know what I mean? It was really natural-feeling.

What do you want people to take from The Great Collapse?
I really want people to get from it what they get. I think perception is 95 percent of why people like you. If our lyrics mean something to them personally, then that’s important to me. Of course, the music is going to mean something to me, but if somebody reads it and interprets it differently, but still find it as something good that they understand, that’s okay. It doesn’t have to mean exactly what I want it to, as long as it touches them and gives them the message as it was intended and it applies to their life. That’s perfect for me.

You all have a new bassist, correct?
We do. Unfortunately, about a year ago, the band and our bass player Shane (Slade) decided it was time to part ways. Sometimes things just run their course. Shane’s off doing his thing, and we love him, but it was time for some new blood. We brought in Blue (Peter Spinazola). He was in a band called Internal Bleeding. They’re a death metal band from the Long Island area. He also played guitar in a band called Dysentery.

“We do have a little bit of clean singing on the record. We do have some more melodic parts. But we also have much more aggressive and driving music on there too. It’s very interesting the way it came together. While I do think that Absolute Hope Absolute Hell is a fantastic record, The Great Collapse is the next step toward wherever we’re going to end up as a band.”

What role did he play in this album? Was he a part of the writing or recording process?
He came in a little bit after, but he did have some influence coming back into the studio. We all work in a weird, unorthodox way. The songs kind of get written differently than other bands. I’m sure Blue will have a little more influence as we move on in time. But with this record, he came in toward to tail end of the writing process, so it was a little less with this one. He’s a talented guy and we’re looking forward to working and writing with him for sure.

And you’re one of the only original members of the band right?
Yes, Will and I started this band in 2007.

Can you tell me about how the evolution of members has changed the music or the writing process?
I think there are a couple of key things that changed the writing process for FFaA. One, a couple of member changes. We started off as a local band, which is where every band starts off. We kind of grew when Nate Johnson, our old singer, came in. And we got a couple of better players. Brian was our drummer back then, me and Will were on guitar, and we had a guy named Charlie playing bass. At that point, we started really writing.

But then, Will’s engineering and producing career really took off. He was then unable to tour. And it was one of those things — we didn’t want to lose him because he’s such an important part of the sound, but we didn’t want to break up as a band and he didn’t want to lead the writing process. So we hired Tim, and then we got a new drummer who could tour. So, it just kind of naturally grew. But I can tell you that the current lineup that we have right now is the strongest that FFaA has ever been. No bullsh-t — I’m a very honest dude, and our ability to reproduce the music that we recorded live is at its highest point. I’m just lucky to be in a band with a bunch of guys who push the envelope and pick up the slack for me when I’m having a bad day, and vice-versa. You know what I mean? We’re super stoked with where we’re at, on the tour that we’re on, playing in front of these large-scale crowds that we’re playing for. It’s important that we’re doing that, and I couldn’t be prouder of my band right now.

How important is your live show in FFaA?
One hundred percent of the importance. When we record a record, it’s sick. If people love the music, that’s great. But think of it like this: If you see the most perfect plate of food and it looks amazing but when you sit down to eat it, it tastes terrible, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Of course, you need to write good music for people to love it. The studio work and the writing — I’m not taking anything away from that. Will is very important and the songs are amazing. But being able to get out there and perform those songs and make them sound like the record is just as important. So in reality, let’s say it’s 50/50. But you can go see a band play and think, “This band is good on the record, but they’re bad live.” Or you can think, “I didn’t really like the record, but man, this band blows me away live.” And you have to be both of those things.

No one’s going to give you anything for free; you have to work for it. We’re a pretty humble bunch of guys and we work really hard, and I think if you see us live and don’t really “expect” our live show, then I think we can really impress you with what we can do.

Is the live show your favorite part of this album cycle?
I like all of it. I love the record and, I mean, Will did the majority of the writing on this record. He really knocked the songwriting out of the park on this one. And I love the recording process. But, for a guitar player, playing live is the next best thing. It’s better than anything else. So, getting out there and being able to play live and having people respond in a positive way is amazing.

On this record cycle, it’s all pretty cool. People are responding well, the videos are great, making the videos was awesome, and everything about it has been great. I don’t mean to sound cheesy or act like I’m just saying it. I really mean it. It’s been an awesome thing to see more people checking us out and being able to get out there and play the songs. It’s so cool.

What’s your favorite tour memory?
Last year, we played the With Full Force Festival in Germany. It was our very first European festival that we’ve ever done. We played for a crowd between 12,000 and 14,000 people and yeah, I felt like I was going to throw up. It was crazy. But the experience was amazing and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, to have an opportunity like that. We played four bands before Slayer, and it was life changing for me. Almost like, tears in your eyes; you never think you’re going to get to that point, you know? We’re just a band full of guys who drive around in a van all year and pretend to be cool. To be able to get up on stage with guys like Slayer, who have been a band since the ’80s — it’s amazing. They’re like the Aerosmith of heavy metal. It’s pretty impressive to get to that point, and I’m still humbled by it. We’re getting ready to play all these other festivals this year, and it’s going to be that feeling all over again. That stuff’s pretty cool.

Something I really love about this album is all the timing changes early on and also the use of sonic space. It really gives the whole album a ton of texture. Is there any particular musical element in this album that you think makes it stand out from others in the genre?
The ability to use a melodic approach to make your heavy parts heavier. Everything has a purpose. We don’t really do anything just to waste space. If we write something and it feels weird, or like space is wasted, we say OK, this isn’t right for this song. Let’s move on to something else, and we’ll figure it out and use it later. That happened on Absolute Hope, and there are a couple songs on this record that we put on hold. One of those songs is “Iron Moon.” We put that song on hold and then brought back, revisited it and rewrote it, and we realized that we were forcing some things and we made it better. It’s actually one of the singles on this record. So, that is the most important thing — don’t waste a second of the listener’s time. Make sure that you are providing them with ear candy the whole time. If you’re giving them that, they’re going to pay attention. The musical movement is just as important, if not more important, than what’s going on lyrically. You gotta keep everything interesting.

It sounds like it’s such a crucial need. So how do you balance that with a demand from a label for new music? How do you really give it the time it needs?
Well, that’s the interesting part of our writing process. We have Will Putney in the band, like I said, and he is the engineer and producer. He’s had his hands on most of the important, aggressive musical releases of the past couple years. Working with him is great because we’ll leave and have a stockpile of riffs that we’ve all put in a pot. And then we’ll come back from tour and he’ll say, “Hey, I wrote six songs.” Or he’ll start songs and ask us to write some stuff and then sometimes he’ll use our ideas and sometimes he’ll have his own ideas. It’s a really interesting process. We can go on tour all year and keep sending riffs and working on things, and then come home and have 16 songs written to start choosing from. Then we write it, and rewrite it, and put it on the back burner, and revisit it, and then it becomes a song and if we love it, it goes on the record.

So things are just constantly in motion.
Always. And that’s the thing; Will is such a creative force. It would be great to have a little more time to sit down and write music, but we all have our jobs. We go out on tour and bring the package out, and Will does a lot of the management stuff and things in the background. He handles a large majority of the composition of the songs; we all contribute riffs, ideas, lyrics, album concepts, song titles, etc. I handle all the tour managing. Everyone’s got their job and it truly works for us. Nothing is fake; it’s all 100 percent on level. It’s pretty awesome. I have a very strong team to work with.

What does your guitar set up look like? Is there anything that really makes your signature sound?
We all use the same stuff, that’s the truth. From guitar player to guitar player, we all like similar things. But for me, it’s Mesa cabs and Mesa Boogie engineering. I work with them and they’re my favorite amp and cab company. My live rig is a Mesa Boogie 4X12, a Mesa Boogie 2X12, and then I use a Mesa Boogie JP-2C — it’s the Mark IIC John Petrucci head. And I use a Dual-Rectifier Multi-Watt. I also have an assortment of pedals on the floor: I use a Maxon 808X, an MXR Carbon Copy Delay, ISP Decimator, Fishman guitar pickups, and Ibanez guitars. That’s literally my whole entire rig. And recently we hooked up with Nady, and they are sending us new wireless systems that we’re very excited about. Nady’s the most recent thing that we’re working with and we’re excited to get our hands on. They do these analog wireless systems that are really sick.

What’s next for FFaA?
We pick up for a week and a half in Canada with Unearth, then we have a couple of months off while we’re putting together a headliner. After that, we leave for Europe in late July and do a festival run in August. Then we come back from that, and I believe in late September/October we’re going to do another run. And then late November we’re putting together something small. Finally in January we’re going to be going to Australia. So yeah, and then you can expect us to be working on a new record somewhere in between there, I’m sure. We keep it busy.

Last thing, I always like to ask — is there anything about FFaA that you think people need to know?
Yeah: We’re just regular guys. We all have our belief systems, and we all believe things should be a certain way. But we’re all just everyday people who are lucky enough to have a job/career in something that we love. We want to meet everyone and talk to everyone and we think it’s awesome that people will even give our record a listen. Even if they decide they don’t like it, as long as they’re listening, it means something to us. We’re stoked to be out here and playing, stoked that people are listening and giving us a chance, and we just want to do what we do. So we want everyone to come to our merch table and say hello, hit us up on Instagram or Facebook with any questions about guitars or whatever. All of it: Bring it on.

Fit for an Autopsy was posted on May 7, 2017 for HM Magazine and authored by .