Interview: Upon A Burning Body

The fierce Texan juggernaut that is Upon A Burning Body has been creating some of the most heavy, severe, and (most importantly) fun metal music the world has seen in recent years. Their 2010 Sumerian Records debut, The World Is Ours, received a considerable amount of attention for its cinematic aesthetic, party-ready lyrics, and raw aggression. The band’s imagery pays homage to not only a few of film’s most brilliant artists, but their heritage as well. Their newest release, simply entitled RED. WHITE. GREEN. is a punishing, Robert Rodriguez-inspired joyride, and its positive reception has afforded the group the opportunity to be a part of some of the world’s most prominent metal tours this year, including a full summer run on the 2012 Mayhem Festival supporting Slipknot, Slayer, Anthrax, and many more of the biggest names in heavy music. We had a conversation with vocalist Danny Leal in order to learn more about the band’s music and aesthetic, as well as where the future may take them.

 

Where did the idea originally come from of dedicating your sophomore album to honoring your Mexican heritage?

It’s a big thing that we’re all Mexican, we’re all from South Texas, and kind of born and raised into that culture. There’s really not very many bands who do that. It was real special for us to be able to include where we come from, and the way we were brought up into what we do, and the people that we’ve become. It’s real special for us to have the colors involved, which – as we know – are the colors of the Mexican flag. [Those are] our roots. You don’t want to forget where you come from, and that’s our way of saying that we haven’t.

 

The song titles on your debut album were named after Al Pacino movies, and similarly, the songs on RED. WHITE. GREEN. are named after Robert Rodriguez films. Do you think you guys will continue with this pattern for your third record? And if so, which actors/directors are you considering?

It’s such a hard thing to decide on how to do that and what works, that we couldn’t even really begin to think of what to do next. We’re just working hard on trying to get this record as big as possible, and hopefully get it to as many people as we think should hear it. It’s hard to already start thinking about something else like that, so I don’t really have any answer as far as any theme for the next record, but we’ve been lucky enough to be able to get a cool one for the second record. Robert Rodriguez is from our hometown, so it worked out real perfect.

 

Is everyone in the band a big movie buff?

Oh yeah, definitely. We always watch movies on the road. We used to have a TV in the van; we would always watch movies on the drives, and just kind of get the vibe of certain movies, and how we can use certain lines and certain things. We’ve always kind of had that in us, so it was real cool to take it as far as we did.

 

Do you think the gangster/mafia imagery the band uses has caused any misconceptions about you guys or your lifestyle?

No, not really. We pretty much like the way we portray that. It’s kind of, party, with the raw, rugged look, as far as the attitude and stuff. But classy, like how the mafia kind of [do it]. We enjoy it, and people seem to think it’s pretty cool, so we haven’t really had too many problems.

 

 

This summer you’re going to embark on the Mayhem Festival alongside some of the biggest names in metal, including Slipknot, Slayer, and Motorhead. How does it feel to be on a bill with these legendary acts, and what are you expecting the expedition to be like?

It’s an honor. In a sense, it’s a dream come true. We haven’t started the tour yet, so we’re hoping that we can just make as many friends as we can, and make connections. Whether or not anything goes from there – as far as tour offers with anybody else – that would be great, but just to be able to be at this point in our career, and to be able to say that we have been offered and are scheduled to be on a tour like that, means a lot to us. It’s definitely where we have always wanted to be, and we’ve worked really hard, so this tour is definitely special to us, and we hope that it goes well, because it means so much to us.

 

You guys are known for your love of alcoholic beverages. Are you planning on challenging any of the other bands on Mayhem Fest to some drinking games?

(Laughs) It’s hard. I know those guys have got to be able to drink a ton; they’ve been doing it for so long. But yeah, we’ll drink with anybody, we don’t care, you know? The party gets started, let’s do it. The drinking games come out, beer pong, some games that we know, we’ll throw it on the table and just bro down with anybody and everybody. So we’re definitely hoping for that, but we’ll see if we get lucky enough.


Do you think it’s still possible for younger bands like your own to achieve career longevity like a band such as Slayer, who continue to thrive after several decades?

It’s hard to say. Music has gone in so many directions in the last ten years or so. And bands like that don’t really have to worry about it, ‘cause they already had everything they needed by the time downloading came in, and Youtube, and all kinds of stuff that all the younger kids are doing and into. Not to say that those things are bad, but obviously musicians don’t make as much money as they used to. And pretty much nobody makes as much money as they used to, but musicians have it pretty bad – and the entertainment business itself, since it’s so easy to just get stuff for free. So it’s hard for me to say, but I hope that we could. I hope that a lot of our brothers – our friends’ bands that are out there grinding [through] their day-to-day lives do it too. And I can only hope the best for any musician who strives to do what we do. It takes a lot of work, and it takes a lot of sacrifice. To put that much work into it, I hope that we could, but you never know.

 

You have had the misfortune of being denied entry into Canada in the past. Has this problem been addressed, and will the band be able to tour Canada in the near future?

Yeah. Well, it’s funny. We got in last time, and it only took about fifteen minutes for them to let us in, but it was real awkward and weird. I don’t know what it is with Canada, sometimes they just give us a real hard time. I guess it’s just the officer that we get, that maybe doesn’t like the way that we look, or I don’t know, something about us, and they won’t let us in. And sometimes maybe we just get one that doesn’t care, or is too tired to care. I don’t know what it is about that border, but last time wasn’t a problem, so we’re hoping that if we can go again soon, that we’ll just have the same luck of getting in there, being able to do what we want to do, and [getting] out.

 

Your past music videos have been very flashy and elaborate. How are you guys going to top yourselves with your upcoming video?

We’ve got a couple tricks up our sleeve. We’re going to call a lot of favors in, and we’re going to try to make this one real over-the-top and pretty flashy. So, we hope to achieve that pretty soon, but it all depends on people [coming] through for you and stuff, so we’re hoping for the best. And we got a lot of ideas right now, that I can’t really state because I wouldn’t want anything to be out there that doesn’t make the video – then it looks weird. But yeah, we’re hoping for a pretty outstanding video on this next one.

For  you personally, is it important to keep the physical medium of CD’s alive? Or do digital music and downloading not bother you so much?

It’s hit and miss with that. There’s always been a thing with me where you have to understand that if people download your record, then that’s more people getting it than there would be if people had to buy it only. But when people had to buy it, I feel that it made the artist a little more special, because you had to really save up that money to have that CD from that artist; to get it and have that booklet, and artwork, and stuff. So with illegal downloading and all that, you kind of lose some of what used to hold strong on records, which was the pride of buying it. So you definitely lose some of that, and it’s bothered me for some time, for the reason that I really enjoy the artwork on an album, and the whole package. And you just can’t get that when you download it. All you’re getting are the songs. And the songs are special on their own, but you’ve got to get the whole package, to me, so you can sit down and read the lyrics and read the thanks, and know what went into everything. And every detail about that band, I think makes it really special. And that’ what makes a record, you know?

It’s like when kids get something for Christmas. It’s special when you open the package, it comes in a box with the instructions, and everything like that. You don’t give somebody an Xbox on its own. It’s still cool, but it’s not the same. So for me it’s kind of a yes and no. But at the same time, the most important thing is for people to have it, and to come to the shows, so as long as that’s always going on, I don’t think I’ll ever really have too much of a problem with it.

 

That’s it for the questions that we have! Are there any words you’d like to leave with fans who are going to be reading this?

If you haven’t got RED. WHITE. GREEN. yet, pick it up in stores wherever you can find it, or online, and order it. And we hope to see everybody on Mayhem, and future tours that we come on. Come say hello, hang out, and let’s party!

 

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