While on their spring tour with Red, a few of the guys from rock band We As Human stopped to talk to Jesusfreakhideout.com's Cortney Warner about their upcoming self-titled debut album, their weirdest fan experiences, and why they do what they do...
This interview took place on: May 20, 2013.
For sure, yeah, happy to!
Justin: We want to reach a bigger audience and show the world what We As Human (WAH) is all about. You know, this is our first major label musical effort. This is our first full-length album. We've kind of been a band that's been in obscurity; people come to the shows, love the shows, but "where can we get an album?" and that's the question we get all the time is "where can we get an album?" And we're like "we're working on it, we're working on it." So, we're just ready to introduce ourselves to the world and let them see and hear our message, and hopefully hear the message that we're sending out, in kind of just a little different light, in a new way, you know? So, we're just ready; we feel like our music is our baby, and it's time to send it off for everybody.
Justin: Ok, I'm a fan of big words, and I'm going to use a couple right now, just because I feel it presents it real well. I can say, in short, the dichotomy of the human nature. And so that is just the tension between our spiritual self and our non-spiritual self, our natural self. I would say that that is a huge overarching narrative in the album. We talk about how sinful we are and how lost we are, but also at the same time, how loved we are. And I think that our song "We Fall Apart" says it really well, "Isn't it beautiful, the way we fall apart?" We're a big, big, broken, wounded, bleeding mess, and Jesus comes and says, "I love big, broken, wounded, bleeding messes." And so, I think because we live within that duality now, like Paul said in Romans 6, "Put the death and misdeeds of the flesh that war against your soul." You know? So we've got this spiritual nature and he talks about our spiritual nature and our physical, sinful nature. And so, I play on that a lot lyrically in this album. Just kind of the interaction between who we are, and who we want to be.
Justin: Could you? That's awesome. I think "Dead Man" does that a lot: "You pull the dead man out of me," "Sitting here at my graveside;" that idea of being alive and dead at the same time. Well I think Scripture says, "Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it'll never bear any fruit." So we have to die to ourselves to live through Christ.
Justin: It's been totally different! I co-wrote for the first time, ever, on this new album; I've never co-written before. It's always just been the band and I in a rehearsal room writing. And we have some of those songs on this record that we wrote by ourselves, but I really wanted to reach out and stretch myself as a songwriter, and I think that in order for us to be, for anybody to be better at their craft, you've got to get around other people who are better than you, you know? Or whom you consider to be better than you, to learn from them. Just like an artist can be an amazing painter, but if you go and hang out with Monet or Picasso, you know, if you went and hung around them, your art would just be so much better. So that was kind of a challenge for me: to go and co-write. So co-writing was a big thing; I got to write with John Cooper of Skillet, wrote with, man, wrote with a bunch of guys... Eric Bass from Shinedown -
Dave Draggoo: Bobby, and Mark Holman has two or three -
Justin: That's right, Mark and Bobby, they're more just songwriter guys, so just really great songwriters. That was definitely a departure for us. I would go and write the songs or co-write the songs, and then bring them back to my band and then we would all go back to "the woodshed" and rework what I had written or co-written, and make it "We As Human." So that was definitely different than anything we have done. It was cool.
Justin: For anyone who knows our story, John Cooper is like a shoe-in for us; our very first concert we ever played as We As Human, we didn't have enough original material to do an entire show, so we covered two Skillet songs before we ever knew them. So we've been "Panheads" I guess from the get-go. So when John contacted us and we started working with him and touring and everything, it was just a no-brainer. So I went to John and I was like, "man, you know, you've heard the songs, we work with you, we love you guys, I would be honored for you to sing on our record." So I asked him, and he said he would. He let me pick the song, and do the arrangement of the song for him, and he went into the studio and just killed it. I chose "Zombie" just because, I can't hear that song without John Cooper now, it just fit him so well. So that's how that one came about, and Lacey Sturm, when Atlantic told me, our A&R guy, he's like, "is there anybody you'd love to have guest? Because we can do that." Me and the band just started thinking, and we weren't sure who to ask, or if we should even ask anybody, and we went and played a Billy Graham crusade, and we got to meet Lacey, and hang out with her, and so later when they asked me who we'd like to have sing-- I have this song that I wrote called, "Take The Bullets Away." I wrote it about my sister-in-law, whose life was tormented by evil men, just ripped to shreds, and I wrote this song called, "Take the Bullets Away," and I started thinking, "man, it would be really cool, because I wrote it about a woman in her life, to get a chick rock singer on it." And instantly Lacey popped into my head, but I didn't know if we could make it happen. But then it turns out that we have the same producer, Howard Benson, down in L.A., and so when we were down making the record, I asked Howard about it, "what do you think, do you think she'd do it?" and he's like, "let me talk to her." So Howard went and asked Lacey and she asked for the song, so we sent her the song, and she called me and she was like, "I'm totally in, I love the song," so she went down and recorded it and killed it! It's one of if not my favorites on the record.
Justin: Can you believe that?! You know, we share the "Take the bullets away" [line] and I thought my screaming was really good on it, right? And then all of a sudden, it comes back with her, and it's just like, she made me look like an amateur. *laughs* I loved her voice on it, it's so perfect, so perfect, just loved it. So, that's how they came around.
Justin: Really good. Unexpectedly good. Because, when you're a band and you start playing new stuff and nobody knows the words, they just kind of stand and watch, but we have purposely written into our set some anthem moments where it's us and the crowd; it's like a "call and response" kind of thing. To kind of get the lyrics to them so they can experience it with us, it's not just me singing at them all the time, it's us singing together when we can. So songs like "Strike Back" and "I Stand," songs that haven't been released on a record, we have been really blown away by the fan response. They're really engaged with us each night, and we've been really happy with it. I think that RED fans and WAH fans are of the same breed *laughs* so it definitely helps. Yeah, it's been a great tour, and the response has been amazing.
Justin: Tour Europe.
Dave: If it's like a mission statement, something you want to do-
Justin: Just like anything in the whole world?
Dave: I think a We As Human tour in Europe would be fantastic.
Justin: We'd love to tour Europe, with Altar Bridge.
Dave: Oh man, all of us from WAH would love that!
Justin: Tour Europe with Altar Bridge, that's a good one, right? Yeah, tour Europe with Altar Bridge, that's what we want to do. And, because you talked about the moon, we just got to go to NASA in Houston. One of the guys who works at NASA, when we played Houston, tweeted us, like, "would you guys like to come to NASA?" and we're like, "heck yeah! We'd love to go to NASA!" and we never met the guy, his name is Ronnie, and he's a cool dude. So before the show, we took some time, drove up to NASA and met him there, and he's showing us all this stuff he built that are on the space ships and on the international space station and tools and he's showing us the moon rovers, like these cars that they drive around in space. And he's showing us the first generation and second generation, this one called RoboNaut, it looks like a person that's on a car, and he gets to this last one and it's just epic; it's just this killer machine and we're like, "that's incredible!" and he's like, "do you guys want to drive it?" and we're like, "are you kidding me?!" so we got to drive. He took us out to this moon terrain, where they have craters and stuff on the NASA campus property and we got to drive it all over and it was so sick. Dave blew a tire out on it, he was going down this big, steep hill and he blew it.
Dave: He told me to take it down the hill, and I did.
Justin: It didn't go so well.
Dave: I just blew the tire out on it. *laughs* But it's OK, because they have like, pallets of tires and stuff.
Justin: I know, exactly! We asked him, "do you have Triple A?" and he's like, "We are Triple A." *laughs* But you mentioned the moon, and it made me think of that.
Justin: Exactly! We don't wreck hotel rooms, we wreck NASA rovers!
Justin: Yes, we have transcended.
Justin: That's a great question, *to Dave* She asks great questions. What's our biggest fear? I'm gonna have to think about that one for a second. This is a good question, hold on. Jake, come here, (to Jake) she just asked us one of the hardest questions we've ever been asked. What is our biggest fear as a band?
Jake Jones: Our biggest fear, collectively, we've never talked about it. We don't really focus too much on our fears, but yeah, I don't know, collectively as a band.
Justin: I would have to say that our biggest fear, as a band, is that people would look at us, and by "us" I mean our art, our life, our music, and not see Jesus. I think that that's what it is. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." And I think that if we look back, if we look back at our career, and anybody looks at our life and doesn't see Christ, I think that would be a massive failure.
Dave: Yeah, let's go with that one.
Justin: That's a dang good question! You win the "best question ever asked" award!
Justin: Yeah! You get a car, and you get a car!
Justin: Yes, yes there was, absolutely. There was a very definitive moment for me, personally, and I know that we have all had those moments. I think each of us could go through and tell you them, but since I'm speaking for the band, I'll tell you mine. I started playing guitar when I was 8. I come from a very small town in North Idaho, and just loved to play guita. My dad showed me three chords and then I just ran with it. I was like a rabid dog chasing a rabbit, I loved it. And it never entered my mind for 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 years; it just never entered my mind that I was going to do this, like I want to do this for a living or anything. I just love playing music. And when I was 13 years old, I just played guitar and sang obsessively. That's all I did, and I loved it. I was 13 years old, I was in our minivan, with my parents, coming back from central Idaho from this conference that they'd taken us to, and nothing special was going on. I fell asleep on the bench seat in there, for probably 10 minutes, and I had the only dream that I ever had in my entire life that, I'm not a big "dreams" guy or anything like that, but I had one dream in my entire life that I knew was from the Lord, and I fell asleep and all it was, was me, kind of behind myself kind of looking at myself from a backstage view, and there I was standing. I could just see the back of me, playing guitar and standing, and there were thousands, I don't know how many people, just tens of thousands--like I would say, ten, twenty, thirty thousand people in front of me. And I was just thinking, I couldn't hear any sound or anything, but I was just thinking, "that's me." I just heard, or something in my dream I heard someone say, "this is what I have for you." And then I woke up. And why that was so significant for me was because I never thought in a million years that that's what I was going to do. It was really foreign. I remember waking up and thinking, "that's weird, but alright, I should probably start a band then," so I went back and I started playing in church and in youth group, our youth group didn't have a very good band at all. There was like two people and I went back, and in three months there was like 25 people in the band, so I was good at recruiting. They'd be like, "ok, let's have the band come up" and like half of the youth group stood up and there was like ten people left in the audience. *laughs* So, for me, it was when I was thirteen years old, and that dream has stuck with me, and I know, so confidently that it was the Lord. When I've considered quitting or considered doing other things, that comes back so strong. There's no denying that this is what the Lord has for me.
Justin: Yes, yes I do. Man, I am really into the Deftones, I love the Deftones. We, collectively as a band have really been digging--we love Altar Bridge. That's why we'd love to tour with them. I'm gonna say, this is going to be weird, but just because of sentimentality, I have been listening to the Maranatha Singers. Have you heard of them? Old, like, 90s worship music, but it was so nostalgic for me. And it's just like, "I remember listening to this with my dad, listening to this on the way to church, I remember listening to this at youth group, I remember singing this for Sunday school," so I've been listening to a lot of the Maranatha Singers, and Johnny Cash. Been listening to a lot of Johnny Cash. And I'd say one more, I'm just listing off the things I've been listening to that I've really been loving. George Jones, because he passed away, and so, I've been listening to a lot of George Jones.
Justin: I guess it is, yeah. I think we're all really eclectic, I've been into country music for a long time. I love country music, oddly enough. I love metal, I love hardc-not so much hardcore, but you know... I like Adele and all that kind of stuff, but I've always come back to rock and country as my two favorites.
Justin: *to Jake* Are you going to be playing any banjos any time soon?
Jake: I play banjos every night on stage!
Justin: Jake, you have 1 fan! We play PRS banjos, yeah. *laughs* We've toured Paul Reed Smith twice now. It's amazing! And it's not too far from here. We went over and we've been endorsed by PRS for what, like five years now? Six? A long time, and so whenever we get over to Maryland, we pick up a couple guitars and say 'hey' and it's cool. I say that nonchalantly, but in my head, it's like, "that's the coolest thing ever!"
Justin: Oh my gosh, yes! We still can't believe that those guys, and Ibanez as well; we're sponsored by Ibanez, and Jake plays all Paul Reed Smith, and Justin plays Ibanez. They both get guitars, and it's just like, it never gets old. I can't believe we're that fortunate.
Justin: *to Jake* You're probably thinking the same one I am, the bathroom guys.
Jake: There's a few, can't choose just one.
Justin: We had a guy lift his shirt up and got up on a table, and asked us to sign his stomach. That was weird, and then he kissed me afterwards. Yeah, it was bad, like, "no dude, nuh-uh." We had someone ask us to sign their baby. Yeah, we've had some weird stuff. I think the weirdest fan encounter ever, and I'll try to tell the short version-- we were on Winter Jam tour, 2012, I go back to the signing line, 20,000 people leaving this arena, and they're all walking, they're all on the concourse walking past our table, so there's thousands and thousands of people walking past our merch table. I showed up to our merch table to sign autographs. I showed up a little late, and there was a family restroom, just one, literally right next to our signing line. I walk up to the door to this family restroom, there's like thousands of people walking by, and it just swings wide open, and this is what I see: I see my guitar player, Justin, standing there, I see a guy sitting on the toilet, I see an older lady, and I see a younger lady all standing there in this bathroom. And Justin says to me, as he walks out the bathroom, "I can't do it, I'm out" and I'm like, "what is going on, man?" And this mother, this older lady is like, "come in here" and I'm like, "I'm not gonna come in the bathroom!" and I pull the door to where there's a crack and I'm like, "what are you doing?" and she's like, "can you come in here? This is my son, and he won't get off the toilet. We've been in here for two hours" and I'm like, "are you kidding me?" so I don't know why I did, but I went in the bathroom, and the younger lady stepped out, so now here's the scene: There's this guy sitting on the toilet with his pants down, just looking away from me, and the mom and me. She said, "he was in a car accident when he was younger, and he's mentally handicapped." She said they were in there for two hours, and they missed the concert, and he will not move. And I'm like, "oh my gosh, that just changed everything, ok, what do I do?" His whole family was waiting outside the door with his wheelchair and they missed the show. So, she was like, "tell him you're in a band" and I'm like, "dude!" and he's not looking at me or anything. I'm like, "I'm in a band!" and he kind of looks at me, and she's like, "that's good!" and I didn't really know what to do, so I just went, "yeah, I'm in a band I was just on stage rocking out!" and I'm just going for it, trying to get this guy's attention. He starts looking at me, and smiling a little bit, and I started singing a little bit of "Dead Man" and he's starting to look at me and clap, like he's starting to move, and his mom is like, coming to tears like she was so excited. She was like, "it's working!" and he hands me his hat, for me to sign. So I had a Sharpie and I signed his hat and I put it back on his head, the whole time he's still on the toilet, and she's like, "you can get him up!" Alright, so I was like, "dude, can you do me a huge favor?" and now, he's a fan; I've totally converted this guy on the toilet *laughs* and I was like, "would you do me the biggest favor?" and he's like, "yeah!" and he's clapping his hands and I'm like, "would you get off that toilet and go with your family and go home, and get a good night's sleep?" and he's like, "yeah!" so he stands up, pulls up his pants, and his mom is like crying, and he gives me a big hug and we all walk out of the bathroom together. He gets in the wheelchair and they leave. His family gave us all hugs, and his mom was crying, and it was the strangest, weirdest thing ever. But for me, that's like the weirdest thing that's happened.
Justin: He's been pushing on me hard to consider other people more important than myself. That's where He's been nailing me. In Scripture, in Galatians 6 verses 9 and 10, it says, "don't become weary in doing good, in time you'll reap a harvest, if you don't give up. And remember, as you have opportunity to do good, to everyone, especially those that don't belong to the family of believers." And that "remember to do good to everyone" has been hard, because to do good to other people, you have to put yourself second, or third, or last, even, you know? And I just realize how selfish I am, and it's easy to become even more pretentious when you do what we do, where people want your autograph, they want your picture, they think you're the coolest thing since sliced bread, and our battle is to not believe that, because it's easy to start believing that, and when you start to believe that you're as cool as a lot of people say you are, then it's just bad news for everybody. I have seen a lot of selfishness in myself, a lot of pride, so the Lord has just been really working on me. I'd say firstly with my family, and secondly with my band, because we're together so much, then with other people. But just to put other people first, to consider their needs more important then my own, it's very hard for me. But that's what the Lord's been working on me.
Justin: We love Jesusfreakhideout! We do, we really genuinely do. I love that you guys write about us, and you cover our stuff, and so we're really happy that you guys do that. Because we've been learning that without people like you guys and fans, we just, nobody would have any idea who we are. So no, I think that was cool, you had really good questions. That one really got me, I'll be thinking about that for the rest of the week.
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