Most people spend the holidays lounging around soaking up family, reveling in coach potato laziness. If they are lucky. Then there are people like renowned bassist Mike Lepond who spends his downtime creating new music and helping other bands with his notable talents. Metalholic caught up with the Symphony X anchor on New Years Day to catch up on his 2014 debut for Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins, his thoughts on last year’s fantastic Underworld record, and where he is at with recording the highly-anticipated Silent Assassins sophomore album.
Lepond is one of the busiest men in metal. He has been the bassist for power metal stalwarts, Symphony X since 1999. He has also lent his considerable skills to up-and-coming bands that he believes in as well as projects by good friends. This year he helped out Veronica Freeman (Benedictum) on her debut solo record as well as performing on the stunning debut by Marius Danielsen’s Legend of Valley Doom, and in 2014 he served as a member of MindMaze on their brilliant release, Back from the Edge. In between, he recorded on a plethora of other albums too numerous to list. In the midst of all of that, Lepond found time to release his first solo album, Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins. The record taps into his passion for traditional heavy metal and finds him handling songwriting and rhythm guitar duties as well.
This winter while the rest of us have been writing out our New Years resolutions, Lepond has been busy in Michael Romeo‘s studio, The Dungeon, laying down the foundation for the second Silent Assassins record.
“The last Symphony X tour ended in October and the next one begins in February,” shared Lepond. “So of course, knowing me, as some people do (laughs), I take advantage of that time. I started working on a second Silent Assassins record, and the drums are actually done already. At this point I’m just kind of practicing the rhythm guitar tracks, and my goal is to get the rhythm guitar tracks and the bass done before we leave.”
The week between Christmas and our conversation, the legendary Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead passed away. The impact of his passing hit the rock and roll community hard, and Lepond admitted to being no exception:
“Lemmy had a tremendous impact on me. The first time I saw Motörhead was a life changing experience for me. It was in 1984, and they were playing with Mercyful Fate and Exciter. Motörhead came out and it was just so no nonsense, in-your-face, and they just blew every band off the stage. When I experienced that I was like ‘Wow. This is what metal should really be.’ It should just be raw, in-your-face, and Lemmy–that’s what he was all about. When I write songs, he’s always in my heart. That attitude he had. I’ll never forget him. Just one of the biggest influences that anyone has ever had on me.”
Far too often bassists get buried in the mix on heavy metal records, but not surprisingly, on Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins debut, the bass plays equal measure to the drums and guitars. Mike stated he knew going in he would not allow the bass to be a casualty of the mix on his record.
“I’d say in most heavy metal albums the bass is just buried, because what’s happening is the guitar tone has just too much low end in it. It just buries the bass. The bass has nowhere to breathe. I was like, on this album the bass is gonna be loud, and it’s gonna be heard. So I made the guitar more high-ended and a little thin. More like a classic Marshall sound. It worked out great. Since I’m a bass player, I’m just gonna take as many bass solos as I can (laughs).”
During our interview, Lepond gives some insight into several tracks from the debut record and offers more information on what fans can expect from the second album, as well as when it might be released. He also offers info on two new bands he has recently worked with as well as giving us three of the albums that were pivotal in defining his style and sound. Check out the full interview below.