Protest the Hero made a pretty big splash when their Indiegogo campaign to fund a new album more than doubled its $125,000 goal with time to spare, but once the pledges had ended, the Canadian quintet kind of fell silent. It turns out there was a reason for that.
While working hard behind the scenes on the music their fans so passionately and proudly helped pay for, the band was quietly dealing with its first ever line-up change. Moe Carlson, their longtime drummer, had decided to leave to pursue school and a career in tool and die.
“He approached me one day—he approached everyone individually—and said, ‘just to let you know, I’m going back to school,’ and I was like, ‘good for you, that’s awesome,’” said singer Rody Walker to AUX. “And then he said he didn’t have any intentions of touring ever again. That kind of sucked, it was a shock, obviously, but he’s been really good about the whole thing.”
“About a year ago I started thinking about [school], then over the last six months I put things into action,” explains Carlson. “It worked out so well that it was post-touring cycle and it was coming up into January, and if I started in January I could start an accelerated program and be done in 16 months. It fell into place pretty naturally.”
Against the media odds, the band’s managed to sit on this news for months, holding out to work on the album and deal with the usual industry fine print. But while Moe was around for the early stages of the writing process, contributing to about four songs, he won’t be heard anywhere on their new album. Instead, fans will hear Lamb of God’s Chris Adler on the skins.
image via Metal Insider
“He’s a big name, but we have a pretty serious connection to Lamb of God,” said Walker, mentioning that they share a manager. Carlson elaborates, saying he’s known Adler for a long time.
“He’s the one who helped me get my endorsements. I went in when he was tracking drums and hung out for the afternoon and heard some of the stuff. It sounds great,” he said. “He’s definitely been an influence on my playing style, so I think it’ll be a pretty natural fit for the record.”
As for those sounds, Walker explains how Adler’s influence could make this the heaviest Protest the Hero record yet.
“He’s coming from such a different spot than us. We come to heavy metal through punk rock. It must have been strange for him playing some punk beats, and some of the punk beats he plays in a heavy metal way,” says Walker on a quick break from his ten-hour day tracking vocals in the studio. “This may come out being one of our more heavy sounding records, or more metal sounding record.”
Adler wasn’t in Toronto long, getting his stuff done in less than a month. That’s as much because of his own talent and professionalism as it is the band’s preparation.
“Luckily our buddy Cam stepped up, he’s very good at programming drums, so Luke wrote programmed drums and we presented them to Chris, and he was, like, ‘some of this shit a human being isn’t capable of doing,’ so we had to modify it from there and Chris put his own spin on everything,” says Walker.
More than ten years into their career, it’s clear Protest the Hero are about to enter a new era. With a successful crowdfunding campaign under their belts, they’re ready to move onto the next phase, which at this point means having to lock down a new full time drummer. But regardless of what happens, Walker and Carlson each make it a point to emphasize that there’s no bad blood with the split.
“Recently, I guess on our last tour cycle, we were getting tons of praise for always being the same five guys,” says Walker. “Every interview we did was like, ‘how do you guys stick together?’ Well, we can’t.”
“Nobody should view this as a negative thing,” says Carlson. “It’s just one of those things where I could have kept writing, and recorded the record, but I don’t want to split my time. I’d rather do one of them 100% rather than half ass both of them.”
Protest the Hero’s original line-up has known each other for twice as long as they’ve played together. Carlson says he met most of the guys in kindergarten and came to know the rest a few short years later. For him, the change is about leaving the touring grind behind to chase a different interest, not to get away from his band of brothers.
“I just wanted to fucking build things, man,” he says when asked why he chose tool and die. “I’ve always been into gadgets, taking things apart and putting them back together. I’m really into cycling, and I think it’d be awesome to build parts for bicycles and prototype designs.”
Carlson has just under a year left until he graduates and seems to have adjusted well to academic life, no small feat since the band spent much of its senior high school years slugging through southern Ontario venues in the back of the grungy grey van they referred to as “Uncle Phil.”
“I got a 3D printer a couple months ago, and it’s unbelievable how easy it is to design something and print it, to make changes to the design and print it again, and then have a finished prototype.”
He seems excited when he talks about his future, much like Walker seems to be for Protest the Hero’s new era.
“The biggest thing is that everyone’s still friends,” says Carlson, who’s already played with the band a few times since they internally decided on the mutual split months ago. “We’ll still see each other all the time.”
Protest the Hero expects their new album to be out sometime in the fall.