Interview with Flotsam and Jetsam’s frontman Eric AK Knutson and guitarist Michael Gilbert

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It’s taken over thirty years and twelve studio albums for Flotsam and Jetsam to release a self-titled album, Flotsam and Jetsam, in May of 2016. It was my first introduction to this Thrash Metal band out of Phoenix Arizona. On November 5th, I had the honor of meeting and pulling off dual coverage, an interview with frontman Eric “AK” Knutson and guitarist Michael Gilbert, following with a show review and photos at the iconic Whisky a Go Go West Hollywood, California. Being the first interview, I spent it laying the ground work, learning about the band and their release.

Eight months later, I have the honor again pulling off dual coverage, interview with frontman Eric “AK” and guitarist Michael Gilbert at Malones in Santa Ana, California. Catching up on the latest, a drummer search, European tour and beginning work on a new release set for Spring 2018.

Without further ado, my interview with Eric “AK” and Michael Gilbert of Flotsam and Jetsam……

We first met eight months ago, November 5th at the Iconic Whisky a Go Go. The second night of the Forbidden Territories North America tour. This tour wasn’t originally your tour, with Death Angel having to drop out. I’m going to ask the cliché question, how did the tour go, anything stand out this time around?

Michael Gilbert: Do you want to answer?

Eric AK: You go ahead.

Gilbert:  [laughs] The thing that kind of stood out was we thought there was going to be some attendance issues because you know being a support for Death Angel, it was a Death Angel tour. Last minute they pulled out, so… what are you — how do you say it? We, uh.

You went out on your own.

Gilbert: We went out on our own, yes. And the attendance was still pretty good, you know. So that stood out to me. We still got our fans, our base fans. They still come to see us, so yes, that really stands out for me.

AK: Yes, and it told us that the new record was doing its job because people are still coming out and the crowd was getting bigger each time, so it started out nice.

There was a split between the fans one’s who loved to see you at their venue due to it being three years and others are, “You’re not coming to my town.” 

 Gilbert: Oh, yes. Yes, we had a lot of complaints about that.

[laughs]

Gilbert: “Oh, they’re not coming here.” Yes, totally.

Eric, before hitting the stage at the Whisky a Go Go you had injured your ribs. What preparations did you go through before you hit the stage the following shows if any?

AK: You know, I really don’t do any preparation. It’s always been, jump in and hang on kind of a career basically for me so far. And that’s true in business, or writing songs, and everything we do, we always jump in and hang on. We like the natural effect of what happens when we write when we tour, so we just kind of – I mean, we try to plan stuff the best we can, but we know nothing’s ever going to go the way you plan it, ever. So, we pride ourselves and being able to jump in and hang on and make it happen. So, the same way when singing a lot of times. I’ve spent all day not being able to talk, but you know.

Gilbert: God, I wish that would happen. But how did you hurt your ribs?

[Laughter]

Tonight, we’re here at Malone’s in Santa Ana, California, wrapping up a handful of dates before heading out on a European tour. Did you prepare for these shows differently, or are you in the touring mind set?

AK: I think we’re always in the touring mindset. Right now, we’re breaking in another new member, so that’s kind of what we’re focusing on is getting him comfortable with the way we play and the way that we do the songs live, stuff like that. So other than that, we’re kind of always in tour mode, ready to go.

Gilbert: Yes, Ken Mary came in and he offered to cover the European shows, so we thought it would be a good idea to do some California, some West Coast stuff, you know. And he’s above and beyond, and he really clicks with the band very, very well. So, something may come with it a little bit later. [laughs]

That leads into my next question. Jason Bittner’s departure to join Overkill left the drumming duties open, a friend of the band Ken Mary is stepping in behind the kit for these shows. How was the transition, and how much of the catalog did he have to learn?

 AK: Basically, he’s learned just the set that we’re doing, maybe a couple of extra songs, but you know if he continues with us past this European trip, we’re ready to go do, he’s going to have to learn a lot more songs. But, you know, we’re still in the transition period right now, so we really don’t know what’s going to go on, we don’t know if he’s going to be able to handle us. So, it’s all up in the air at this point, but it would be nice if he’s just becomes the guy.

Gilbert: And he’s very professional. He came in – it’s really nice when a professional guy comes in like Ken, and you don’t have to tell him anything. When you run through the song and you get from the beginning of the song to the end, you make it all the way through the song. And you’re not like, “Let’s go back and go over this part and this part,” you know. He’s a very professional guy and he really hit the books, he does his homework on it. He knew exactly what’s going on.

AK: Right. Any parts that he didn’t play exactly like the way we’re used to before we say it, he’s saying something. He would be like, “What do I do in this part? Cause I know it’s not quite right, you know, it’s not quite right,” and before we have a chance to go, “Hey, you’re not playing this part right,” he’s saying that to us, “Hey, I’m not playing this part right. What is it?” you know. The professionalism is there.

Gilbert: But at the same time, we don’t want to take his style away either. I mean, he’s a great drummer. He is very, very, very well-known and we don’t want them to come in and be like, you know, a robot. We still want him to be Ken Mary because I mean, he’s great and he’s awesome. I want him to shine and he will. You’ll see it tonight, he definitely will.

AK: Yes, and even on these songs that he hasn’t been playing very long and he’s not comfortable with, he just seems when he’s up and playing it, it just seems very comfortable looking. He knows what he’s doing. There is no stutter stepping about him. He’s just… he’s on it. He’s a professional drummer.

In May, Flotsam posted on their Facebook page an email address for drummers to request audition songs. Is this still open?

AK: Well, we’ve received some good ones and some not so good ones, but you know, we haven’t gotten to that point yet, where we’re going to start looking at the audition tapes and thinking about who the next permanent guy is. You know, we’re just dealing with Ken now, and when we’re done with this trip, and what we’ve got booked right now, if Ken says, “Hey, I’d like to stay on as the drummer.” He is going to be on the top of our list of when we go to pick a drummer, so…

Gilbert: It’s if he can handle us.

[Laughter]

AK: Yes, if he can handle this.

Gilbert: We’re kind of dicks.

[Laughter]

AK: We are kind of dicks. And it’s on purpose, just to entertain ourselves, but we’ll see if he can handle it. He can certainly handle the drumming job, so it’s just the living with us part he’s got to worry about.

[laughs] The human element?

AK: Yes.

As I stated earlier, Flotsam is heading out on a European tour through the month of August. After this tour is complete you will begin working on pre-production tracking for a new album, set to be released in Spring 2018. What hints can you tell the fans? The Anticipation factor!!!

AK: I’ll tell you this much. My guitar players have already given me about eighteen songs to write to and we’re going to have a nice plethora of tunes to choose from for the record. And it’s going to be as good, if not better than the last one!

I can’t wait!!

Michael, you were involved with the engineering part on Verge of Tragedy off this recent release, will you have the same role, maybe expand your expertise a little more?

Gilbert: Are you talking about like mixing and stuff like that?

Yes.

Gilbert: No, I’m not a mix guy. I would love to be able to do it, but I mean, it’s an art form, those guys are just great at their craft and that it’s a different talent. That’s their talent, they got a different ear. I wish I could. I’m an okay engineer, but mixing is a different ball game.

[laughs]

AK: Yes, it’s a whole different animal.

Flotsam and Jetsam’s Forbidden Territories is the first album under the AFM label, is this a multi album deal? Will we be seeing the same partnership?

AK: They seem to be doing pretty good for us, so far. I mean, they’re not dumping tons of money into us or anything, but they’re paying us some attention and they’re doing their job. So, I think as long as we’re still happy with them, we’ll do as many records as they want with us.

Gilbert: They definitely understand metal and what we’re doing. You wouldn’t get that with some other labels, so we’re lucky to have that, and they’re personal about it. And there are some friendships going on which is very cool, so very, very cool.

Well, why fix something that’s not broken… whatever that saying is, I forgot. [Laughs]

Gilbert: Right.

What I find interesting, I have read over and over that Flotsam and Jetsam hasn’t received the credit that they so deserved. What do you say to that?

AK: Oh, um… shit happens, I guess. You know, we’ve been working really hard in this band for thirty-two years now or whatever it is, so we kind of feel like we deserve some credit and some respect, but at the same time, it’s been so much fun that it’s kind of like going, “Well, somebody should pay me for going to Disneyland,” you know what I mean? So, on one hand, you’re going, “Yeah, I’d like to have the respect of people,” but on the other hand, I’m going, “This is a blast,” you know.

Right.

AK: You know, somebody’s not going to pay you to go have fun somewhere, and so far, they’re paying us to have fun, so we can’t really complain too much, you know.

Gilbert: I guess the degree of measurement is all in your head like some people would measure success monetarily, you know I understand that. I guess the way that we would measure it is where we get to do it, you know. We’ve been relevant for thirty years so that in itself, if you don’t set your expectations reasonable, you’re going to get let down and you’re going to be pissed off because “Oh! I didn’t make it to in the music business,” or “I’m not this.” You know, you just got to set your plateaus very reasonable and I think that we’ve done that throughout the years.

AK: We don’t get a lot of monetary payback for our craft, but we get a lot of payback in other ways, like every band coming up now, I run into all these opening bands all the time, and they’re like, “Hey, you guys are the reason why I’m in the band, why I’m doing this.” And that kind of payback is what you can’t really get money for it. Now, that’s really a cool thing.

Self-satisfaction

AK: Yes…Yes!

I still haven’t figured out how to end an interview, except that’s it!!!

[Laughter]

Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your fans?

Gilbert: Yes. There’s something I do want to add about this.

Okay.

Gilbert: And I’ve been thinking about it, because I always want to say this.

Good thing I asked.  [laughs]

Gilbert: On the freeway, there are three lanes most of the time, right?

Yes.

Gilbert: If you’re not fucking getting off or on the freeway, stay out of the fucking right-hand lane. That’s all I got to say.

[Laughter]

That’s a perfect way to end it. Well, thank you both. It’s great to see you again. I look forward to seeing you up on stage.

AK: Awesome. Thank you.

Gilbert: Tammy, Thank you.

You’re welcome!!

 

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