Interview: Mike Martin reflects on 20 years of All That Remains and staying successful in this age of music
Used with permission from Razor and Tie

Heavy metal rockers All That Remains are coming up on their 20th anniversary this year and even the band can’t believe they’ve made it this far. With an ever-changing musical climate that grows more fickle by the minute, the band stays strong by sticking to their guns and not changing for anyone even if their fans don’t like it. Before closing out the year, guitarist Mike Martin sat down with AXS to discuss All That Remains’ longevity, playing by their own rules and the joy of touring.

AXS: Madness marks All That Remains’ eighth album and the band is almost 20 years old. How has the band evolved over the years?

Mike Martin: The music is gonna evolve no matter what; it’s a natural thing. You get bored of doing the same thing over and over again.

AXS: Are there any mistakes you’ve learned from?

MM: There’s never been a moment where we thought ‘oh we shouldn’t have done that.’ There are some business mistakes you make along the way, but nothing life-changing. We’ve done just like any young guys in a band - we’ve signed stupid publishing deals or stuff like that. There’s been nothing we’ve done that’s screwed us up for a long period of time, you know?

AXS: All That Remains has had a very successful career so far even during this musical climate where it can be hard to get a band going. How have you guys managed to stay on top of the changing musical climate?

MM: That’s a tough one. We’ve never really thought ‘oh this is cool now, so let’s write songs like that.’ We just make sure to write songs that are gonna get jammed in people’s heads, even if they hate it. I think stuff like that makes you successful for a long period. It’s just memorable songs, whether they’re radio friendly, or metal, or acoustic, or whatever it is. If people remember, you’ll be able to stick around for a while.

AXS: There’s also been a lot of talk that rock music isn’t as popular as it was 10 years ago. Do you think this is true?

MM: I think it’s true. I don’t think anything is as big as it was before because everyone has a computer in their hand. It’s like a drug at this point. People get anxiety if they don’t get to look at their phone every 30 seconds. Attention spans are gone, so I don’t know how you go back from that. I don’t know if there can be a major comeback when people are gonna be able to pay attention for more than five seconds. It’d be cool; I just don’t see it happening.

AXS: You guys aren’t shy about doing whatever you want from power ballads to radio-friendly songs, but it’s not always received well by fans who aren’t shy about letting you know about it. How do you deal with that negativity and shake it off to continue doing what you guys want?

MM: When we get up on stage all the songs they’re complaining about are the ones everyone goes nuts for and knows all the words to. Whenever we play the heavy songs everyone stands there and stares. When we play the radio songs, everyone sings, everyone’s filming and having a good time. It’s pretty easy to shake off some bad internet comments when you have a song on the charts and you’re playing these shows and everyone’s singing along.

AXS: Speaking of filming at shows, where do you guys stand on the phones at concerts debate?

MM: We’ve never been a band that cares about that. I don’t think you really have a choice. It’s a bummer sometimes. You can see them scrolling through Instagram at times when you’re playing and it’d be cool if they didn’t do that. I don’t care if they’re filming or taking pictures. At least they’re still paying attention. I keep reading about A Perfect Circle where you can’t even bring a phone into the show, which is kind of hilarious. I think that’s a good idea for them because they’re gigantic. They make ridiculous rules like that and people will still show up. We’re not that successful we can’t say you’re not allowed to bring a cellphone. People would say screw you I’m not coming.

AXS: You guys recently kicked off your winter tour with Alter Bridge. How’s that going so far?

MM: It’s really great. The fans are great, the crew is great, and the guys are so nice. Speaking of the cellphone thing, you don’t really see too much of that. You can tell they’re real music fans. A lot of them don’t know us, but they’ve been really receptive even if they just nod their heads. But it’s been really cool. I wish the tour was longer. I don’t think it’s enough shows.

AXS: We have an idea of what fans get out of shows: seeing a kickass band play their favorite songs and connecting with everyone. But what do you get out of touring?

MM: Well besides the obvious, it’s really fun. When we sit at home for a while it starts to feel like all you’re hearing is bad stuff because you’re sitting there [online] and people are just talking crap. When you get out there and start playing, it’s nice to feel that overall positivity instead of worrying about what someone’s gonna say on Youtube. You’re just playing and everyone’s having a good time. You do the meet and greets and stuff like that. People have different stories about what the band means to them and how they get us tattooed on their arm, which is a ridiculous compliment. Touring, in general, has been a breath of fresh air as opposed to sitting at home. I’d rather be on the road with everyone having a good time, you know?

AXS: On your latest album, you guys covered Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls.” Are you a fan of country music?

MM: I like it a lot. I’m not a huge Garth Brooks fan so I wasn’t familiar with a ton of his stuff. That was Phil's [Labonte] idea and I give him all the credit for that one. I was thinking we’re gonna do a country song and we’re gonna get laughed at. With all these rock and metal kids who the hell wants to hear a country song? Holy crap I was completely wrong. The first night we played it everyone was singing it. I was like wow.

AXS: It’s pretty awesome. Maybe you guys should cover a rap song next.

MM: That would be the funniest thing in the world to hear Phil rapping. But I would love to try it. The subject of cover songs comes up on every album. It’s usually a matter of whether we have time to do it, so I’m sure that’s always going to be a possibility. It’s probably always gonna be something out of the box. What are we going to do a Metallica song? Everyone’s covered Metallica a million times. So when we do it’s gonna be something people don’t expect. Maybe we’ll a Snoop Dogg song next album.

All That Remains’ latest album, Madness, is out now.