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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Flatline

By: Justin Donnelly

Los Angeles based melodic death/thrash outfit Flatline are not the type of band to sit around and wait for attention. In fact they’re quite the opposite, with the five piece act having spent the better part of the last nine years touring behind their three full-length releases, and building their following from the ground up. Their D.I.Y. ethic and slow building success didn’t go unnoticed, with Los Angeles based Stand And Deliver Records in early 2008, with the band’s fourth full-length album ‘Pave The Way’ the first release emerging from the joint partnership. The release of ‘Pave The Way’ has seen Flatline garnishing plenty of high praise for their take on the melodic death/thrash sound, and their live performances have slowly been gathering more and more followers to their cause over the last year.

While out on tour in support of ‘Pave The Way’, I caught up with drummer Tim Hassemer in Virginia en route to another show in Pittsburgh to talk about the band’s growing success with ‘Pave The Way’. “It’s all been good so far. ‘Pave The Way’ has only been out for about three or four months, but we’re pretty pleased with the outcome so far. I think in all honesty, we all hoped that the album would do well. But having said that, I think there was something in the back of our minds that knew that the album was going to do well anyway, especially given how the album compares to our previous releases. And so far, the album has done pretty good I guess, so we’re all pretty happy with the way things are going right now.”

The previous releases Hassemer is talking about of course are the band’s three earlier albums ‘Redefining The End’ (2003), ‘Massive Aggression’ (2005) and ‘The Process Of Healing’ (2007). But even though ‘Pave The Way’ is the band’s fourth full-length release, Flatline consider their new album to be somewhat of a new starting point, and therefore consider it to be their official debut release.

“Despite the fact that most of the songs on ‘Pave The Way’ are the same songs that made up ‘The Process Of Healing’, ‘Pave The Way’ is a true representation of where the band is at these days. In a lot of ways, this really is our debut album. It’s the first album that has been professionally recorded, and the first one to get a proper distribution around the world. Aside from that, this album also has some backing from a proper label, and has proper distribution. Everything we did prior to the release of ‘Pave The Way’ has been strictly D.I.Y. In fact, the only reason why our new album features a lot of the songs on ‘The Process Of Healing’ is because when we were hit up by Stand And Deliver Records for a new album, we didn’t have enough time to write all new songs. So all we did was use the same songs, but we re-recorded and re-mastered them. But as far as the album sounds, it’s about one hundred times better than the last couple of albums, and gives us a whole new starting point.”

Prior to the physical CD release of ‘Pave The Way’, the album was released in digital format. According to Hassemer, it was a way for both Stand And Deliver Records and the band to test the waters while the necessary details between the two parties were given the all clear.

“Initially, the deal Stand And Deliver Records offered to us was a distribution deal. We were in the middle of changing distribution deals at the time, and Stand And Deliver Records came up to us and offered to distribute the album digitally for us. The paper work was still going through the process at the time, so that’s why the physical release of ‘Pave The Way’ was some time after the initial digital release. That’s the only real reason for the delay between releases.”

Apart from album successes, Flatline have also impressed just as many while out on the road, having already toured alongside bands such as God Forbid, In This Moment, Walls Of Jericho, 36 Crazyfists, It Dies Today and Five Finger Death Punch.

“Most of those tours came about from being friends with a lot of bands that are fairly well known everywhere. We’ve been offered the opportunity to tour with them, and they’ve helped us along the way as well. Most of the stuff we did before we got signed was pretty much done by ourselves. We would book our own tours, and take what we could get when it was offered along the way. There’s only one real way to make an impression on anyone, and that’s to get out there and do it. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Helping to continue their ongoing success on the road is their current month long U.S. tour with Threat Signal, The Agonist and Thy Will Be Done.

“So far this tour has been going great. This tour covers the east coast, which is an area that we haven’t really spent a lot of time covering before. It’s a really good line-up, and all the bands are really good. We fit in really well amongst them, sound- and direction-wise and there have been a lot of people coming to the shows. We have a few people here and there who know who we are, and come to see the show just to see us. That’s pretty cool, especially given that we haven’t spent a whole lot of time out here. But most of the people turning up to the shows are there to see Threat Signal and The Agonist. But that’s OK because it’s by playing in front of people that you start to get your name out there in people’s minds, and that’s exactly what we’re doing now. We’re turning people onto our music one show at a time! (Laughs) That’s the whole goal. I mean, that’s all we could really ask and hope for right? (Laughs) But yeah, everyone’s been really cool and really nice. And like I said, they’re awesome bands.”

Aside from the band’s new release ‘Pave The Way’, Flatline have been getting quite a bit of attention of late with another song doing the rounds – namely a cover of Cannibal Corpse’s ‘Hammer Smashed Face’.

“It’s kind of funny how that all came about. At the time, we weren’t really doing anything. We had just finished touring, and we didn’t have anything booked in the immediate future, so we started playing the song as a way to keep the buzz up within the band. Both guitarist Joe (‘Paulo’ Guerra) and I had background experience in doing death metal, and we knew that it was a very popular song. Luckily for us, everybody else wanted to do it as well. We were recording with a friend of ours called Josh Newell at the time, and we thought it would be a cool release to put up on our MySpace page. Newell helped out on bass in the band a long time ago, but now works at NRG Studios in Hollywood (California) as a producer and an engineer. Anyway, we were allowed to record in NRG Studios with Newell whenever the studio was free. But because we could only do it when he was there, it was at all sorts of odd hours. Obviously there were times when he was busy, and then there were times when we were busy, so all up it took us something like six to seven months to finish recording! (Laughs) It took us a really long time to finish it. So that’s how that came about. We think it all came out pretty good. We’ve had a lot of people comment on the track, especially how faithful and convincing we were to be able to pull off the death metal sound. So I guess you could say that the track did exactly what we wanted it to do in that sense.”

But as good as the cover sounds, Hassemer insists that the track was purely recorded for the fun of it, and isn’t likely to appear on a Flatline release anytime soon, if at all.

“It’s not going anywhere. It was only supposed to be something that we did for fun, and for our fans. So it’s not going anywhere soon. It was just something that we wanted to throw up on our MySpace page as new. There’s no intention of putting that on an album or anything like that. At least I doubt we will. But who knows! Anything can happen. (Laughs) The only reason we’re even considering playing it live is because we’ve now covered it. There’s been a lot of pressure to play that song live from fans while we’ve been out on the road, so we might end up playing it live eventually.”

Even though ‘Pave The Way’ has only been out for a few months in CD form, plans are underway in regards to compiling new material for a planned release sometime in the new year.

“That’s definitely the plan. We’ll finish the Threat Signal tour in a couple of weeks, go back home for a short time and then sort out some other things. We have some things lined up for July and August in the tour sense, but as of yet they haven’t been confirmed. So I really can’t talk too much about that. But I can say that we will be touring later this summer for sure. We plan to stay out on the road as much as possible for the remainder of the year. But inevitably, we have plans to get back into the studio by the end of the year, or early next year at the latest. We’ve already started throwing around some ideas for some songs.”

In terms of direction and sound, Hassemer has no doubt that Flatline have a clear idea of where they want to go next.

“As a band, we just want to go heavier. We just want to make every song straight up fast, and as heavy metal sounding as possible! (Laughs) That’s really the only real change of direction that we’re thinking about at the moment. As far as pressure from anybody else, I don’t see any real changes really. Some people will change with a new album by going mainstream or lightening their sound. F**k that! The only thing we plan to do is go heavier on the next album.”

I would like to thank Tim Hassemer for his generous time, and Matt Polena at Stand And Deliver Records for making the interview possible.

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