Ignite – ‘This feels like the first album from the new band’

Words: Miljan Milekić

Growing up, Ignite was a massive band for me. I can’t remember how many times I’ve listened to their records, especially ‘Our Darkest Days.’ However, in recent years, they fell out of my focus a little bit. Long breaks between records surely didn’t help, so when I heard that singer Zoli Téglás left the band, I was unsure what to expect. The answer came in last year when the band announced a new singer and released a new EP ‘Anti-Complicity Anthem.’ All my worries disappeared in less than three minutes, and I was instantly hooked, waiting for the album. The album is finally here, and I was lucky enough to catch up with bassist Brett Rasmussen and talk about the recording process, working with new singer Eli Santana, skateboarding, and much more. 

Ignite / Photo: Nicholas Piscitello

So, how does it feel to finally release the new record after so much work? I know it’s been a long time in the works.
Brett: It feels great, man. We started announcing everything in May or June of last year, so it’s been almost ten months. It was just a lot of fun – announcing the new singer, announcing that the band is continuing, and then the whole process of writing and recording the music. It was cool because, for us, at that time, the pandemic was just starting. So, there was nothing really else to do except work on music. It was the perfect opportunity to write a new album, find a singer, and we were lucky that we had the chance to do it at that time.

Tell me more about the record. To me, it sounds like a new chapter, but also as going back to your roots, all at the same time.
Brett: Yeah, and we really wanted to do that. We really like the first few chapters of Ignite, the early years, and it seems like sometimes we’ve lost a little bit of connection to that. So, it was fun for us to go back and write some more old-school hardcore songs on this album, but obviously, not every song is like that. It was a mix, like always – some melodic songs, some heavy songs, some fast songs. But it was really important for us to put some aggressive energy into this record and put some old-school-sounding songs like ‘This Day’ or ‘On The Ropes.’ Classic-sounding Ignite songs.

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I feel like you incorporated all of the things Ignite is known for, but we can also hear some new influences.
Well, to be honest, it’s the same guys writing the songs, working on the albums, and touring for the last 20 years, basically. So, the music was going to sound pretty much the same, we wanted to make sure we sounded like Ignite. We didn’t really know what the vocals were gonna sound like until we found Eli, and then we realized that it is gonna be able to sound different, but still in with the same kind of energy and vocal range as some of our previous songs. So, it felt pretty natural to us. It did not feel like a big departure from what we’ve been doing the last 20 years.

This is your first record with Eli, after 25 years with Zoli. How different was it to be in the studio with a new singer, and what do you think Eli brought to the table?
It is definitely different energy because it’s a new person. He’s really excited about being there. It’s his first album, and he wanted it to be really special. So, there was a really cool energy that he had when we were in the recording studio that was infectious for all of us. It made us feel like it was like our first album, too. So, that energy that he brought in was something different because the albums before, well, at least the last record, it just kind of felt like – “Okay, here we are, doing the same thing again.” And then now with Eli, it was really cool. He was very excited, and it just became easy for us to be excited as well.

And then, he just worked really hard. We were very prepared when we went into the recording studio for this album. We had demoed each song twice and worked on the songs with our producer Cameron Web, before we entered the studio, so when we went to record the album, we didn’t make any changes. The songs were completely finished – lyrics, everything. I mean, of course, you’re changing little things, you know, like producers asking you to try this drum roll a little bit different here… But the song structure didn’t change at all. All we focused on were the sounds – how the drums were gonna sound because Craig basically knew everything he was playing. What guitar sound do you want? There are ten amplifiers here, so which one do you want to use? The Marshall? The Mesa Boogie? So, we were just focusing on the sound quality and the tones because the songs were all written. And it was really nice to not focus on any songwriting.

And you’ve actually made a great introduction to the record with all the Instagram posts, little teasers and cryptic messages, and a couple of singles.
Brett: We wanted to have the album recorded before we started putting the cryptic messages out because we didn’t want there to be any distractions in the studio. So, we finished the whole album first, and then we started introducing the singer, the band, and all the little stuff. To build the excitement.

And like I said, you released a few singles and gave the fans a taste of the record. With such a big change in the lineup, how happy are you with the feedback so far?
It’s been amazing. I was surprised, to be honest because I know people can be so negative, and people online can say such terrible things sometimes. There was a little bit of that, but almost all of the messages we’ve got were positive. I think you’re always are gonna have the people that are like – “Oh, this band should quit,” but I think they’ve said that our entire career. (laughs) But, yeah, almost all of the messages have been very positive, and I think it’s really cool that people are so optimistic and helpful, giving us encouraging words. It’s very cool. 

Yeah, I think all of the bands on the scene for 20 or 30 years experience that negativity sometimes, especially after some big changes. But I think it’s great seeing you working and pushing your limits, and not just recording music for the sake of making it.
Brett: Yes. And why not? We did this so long, and we didn’t want to stop. Me and Nick and Craig and Kevin, we didn’t wanna stop. Even if it was with a new singer, it was like – “Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s have fun. Let’s go tour. Let’s go see the world and go back to Berlin and go back to Rome and go back to Tokyo. Go play music live for people.” ‘Cuz it’s really important. The songs really connect with people. And that’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, that the songs are the most important thing. Even in 2012, we did the tour without Zoli, we had John Bunch on tour, and I was very skeptical that the tour wasn’t going to go well. And people loved it. They just wanted to come out, hear their favorite songs, dance, and have a good time, you know? So, the opportunity to continue this band was very special for all of us.

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I have to ask you about the artwork. From the moment I saw it, it reminded me of the 80s or 90s hardcore scene, and DIY culture. Was it done on purpose as part of the bigger picture?
Brett: When we were talking about designing the album, our graphic designer said – “Hey, come over to my house.” And then he said – “Let’s go to a record store and look at every album.” And I was like – “Okay, cool, that’s a good idea.” (laughs) So we were looking at, you know, Nirvana‘s ‘Nevermind’ and Metallica, and stuff. But then, we started finding these records from the sixties and seventies, like The Beach Boys albums, and these classic fifties, sixties albums. And it’s got like “Stereo,” the song titles, and all the information on the cover. And then you flip it over, and there’s more crazy information on the back. That felt really cool because, being a self-titled album, there were no words on the front, just ‘Ignite.’ And it felt like it needed more words. And then we saw these Beach Boys records, and we saw stuff like these Beatles records, and I thought the visual was really cool on those. So we kind of took a little bit of inspiration from those. 

As you mentioned, the record is self-titled, which I usually see happening for one of the two reasons – the band being too lazy to come up with the album title or wanting to prove a point. In a way, it’s a statement or reinvention or a fresh start. 
Brett: We had three or four titles that we thought were cool and could work, but we also had the idea to do the self-titled. We talked to the record label, and they loved the idea of the self-titled because of the new chapter and the new band. It’s like the first album from the new band. And if you think about bands like Foo Fighters, Ramones, or The Clash, a lot of those bands made their first album the self-titled one. So it kind of feels like this is a new band. 

One of the latest singles before the record was ‘This Day,’ for which you released a video, including some of the hottest skaters out there. How did that one come together?
Well, we wanted, not only to have skateboarding in the video, but we also did a skateboard collaboration with a local skate shop, Program Skate, and really tied it all together. Then, we worked with a company from Germany called Reell. I called them and said – “Hey, we love working with you guys. Is there any chance you can send us some footage of some of your skaters – we want to show them in the video?” And they loved it. They loved the idea of the skateboard and everything. So, yeah, it was just an idea to make something interesting. We wanted each song we had released before the album to be something interesting. And this one, for me, was the coolest one because we had the skate deck, we had the footage from the skaters, and it all just tied together and made a really cool package. 

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I know that your band was always popular in the skateboarding scene, but I guess the love was always mutual, which you showed a couple of times? Do any of you guys still skate?
Brett: Our guitar player, Kevin, used to skate a lot. He’s a really good skateboarder. And our guitar player, Nick, is a good skateboarder, too. But they aren’t skating so much anymore because of getting older, and yeah, falling down hurts more. (laughs)

So, what can we expect from the band in the future, now when the world is finally opening up again?
Yeah, We wanna go tour. We have some tours already set up for Europe. We are coming over in May to do the Punk In Drublic with NOFX and Pennywise, so that’s like twelve really cool shows. And then after that, we’re doing probably another twelve shows on our own, headlining. It’s just gonna be cool to get out there and play the new songs, play old songs, and just have a good time and enjoy playing music. I mean, we’re so lucky that we get to play music to people, and that people care about our songs, and they care about coming and seeing us play live. It’s really special. And that’s the best way to connect with our fans – to get inside a room with 300 kids and have them go nuts, and enjoy that connection with the songs.

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