Mike LePond is as deadly as he is effective, this Silent Assassin having released one of the best metal albums of 2014. The accolades have been loud and proud for this bassist of the highest order, his first solo album picking up admirers wherever its lethal sound lands. However the news of a comeback from Symphony X with their upcoming Underworld album has ensured that he and his mother band will also be thrust deep into the limelight for 2015. Covering Lepond's solo album first, before tackling the issue of Symphony's return and a little Heathen's Rage, Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid enters the league of assassins with Mike LePond…
Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to speak to SoT… How long have you had the idea of doing a full on solo project and how long had you been working on the songs before releasing the excellent debut Silent Assassins album?
I have wanted to do a solo album for quite a few years now. During my time with Symphony X I have been writing ideas. Some were riffs the band never used and some didn't fit their style.
I absolutely love the name Silent Assassins. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
Well I didn't want to call the band "Mike LePond", or "Mike LePond and Friends". I needed something cooler. The name Silent Assassins just came to me out of nowhere and it fit perfect!
Musically the album, while full of little "virtuoso" spots, goes straight down a classic metal path. Was this something you've always been keen to explore?
My first love has always been classic heavy metal, pure and true, and I have always dreamed of doing an album in this genre. This project pays homage to all my influences growing up.
Lyrically the album explores historical and mythical themes, as well as some scenes and characters from literature. Can you share some of the lyrical inspiration behind the album please?
I love history and mythology and I think these epic tales fit perfect with heavy metal. I had been compiling these lyrics over the years. Some just didn't make it onto Symphony X albums.
The album heavily features guitarist 'Metal' Mike Chlasciak. He's played with the likes of Halford and Testament. How did the two of you come to work together?
Metal Mike Chlasciak and I have been friends for about 10 years. He lives only about 30 minutes from my house. I actually played on his solo album so he was only too happy to play on mine.
Vocalist Alan Tecchio puts in a superb performance on the album. He's a singer that people might not know too well, but he has a wealth of experience prior to Silent Assassins. What were the qualities Alan possesses that made you know he was perfect for the album?
Alan Tecchio is another good friend who lives in my home state of New Jersey, USA. I needed a singer with a tough, gritty voice who could sing with power and melody. Alan came into the studio and just kicked ass!! His voice and style was exactly what I wanted.
And it must have been great to have the support and input of your Symphony X bandmates Michael Romeo and Michael Pinella on the album?
Michael Romeo helped me so much. He played some lead guitar, programmed the drums, played keyboards and engineered the record. Michael Pinella is actually a great singer and did some awesome backing vocals. Their support was amazing.
The programmed drums on the album are possibly the best I've heard. However, I have to ask, why didn't you seek out a drummer who was capable of handling the demands of the album, instead of programming them?
Many drummers were fooled by the programming talents of Romeo. The only reason I didn't go for a real drummer was budget and time constraints. A human drummer would have been killer and I would consider that in the future.
You chose to produce the album yourself. Was that purely down to you knowing exactly how you wanted the album to sound?
This was my first attempt at producing and it was really hard, but I knew exactly what I wanted to hear. Michael Romeo was able to help me so it was do-able for me. I couldn't have done it alone.
Did you enjoy handling the production process?
For my music, I enjoyed the production process but I don't think I would ever produce another band.
Silent Assassins, as every good solo project/band should, is pretty far removed from your main band, Symphony X. What have the reactions from fans of that band been towards your new album?
At first, I was very afraid of what the Symphony X fans would think about the style, but after the release I was very happy to see the overwhelming acceptance of the record. The reviews from the press were great overall as well.
You've gone with the UDR record label in Europe, however you've kept things pretty much independent for the rest of the world. Why have you gone with "split strategies" in different territories?
At first I was intending to just put it out myself. I started a crowdfunding campaign and was ready to do it, but when UDR showed interest, I knew they could promote in Europe way better than I could, so they have Europe and I have everywhere else.
How have you found the independent side of things? Has it been a lot of work to get the album "out there" in terms of promo, or distribution?
Self promoting this album is a 24/7 process. I'm on the internet every day pushing and pushing, yet I still know the CD is underexposed. It's a slow burn that will take time. Word of mouth is the key.
Do you have any plans to take Silent Assassins out on the road, after the extremely positive feedback it has been receiving?
Yes, I really want to play live with the Silent Assassins. I'm just looking for the right offers to come in and I have to coordinate it so it doesn't interfere with the Symphony X touring schedules.
However I believe that you've played some Heathen's Rage shows with Alan Tecchio on vocals. How has that come about?
Heathen's Rage was asked to play a few European shows after being broken up for 25 years. The original singer couldn't do it so obviously I asked Alan. We played the Keep it True festival in Germany.
And I can't let you go without asking about Symphony X…We're not far away from a new album from you guys. Tell us as much as you can about it please!
New Symphony X CD is called Underworld. It will be out in July. Eleven songs in the vein of The Odyssey meets Paradise Lost. We usually take about 4 years between CDs. The reason is because we need that much time to make every song as great as it can possibly be. We hate filler songs. We start touring the USA later this year with Overkill. Next year we play the rest of the world!
So, you have a new Symphony X album this year, some Heathen's Rage shows coming up, it looks like you're in for a busy time. Going forward how will Silent Assassins fit in with your ever busy schedule?
I always want to keep the Silent Assassins alive. I already have a new CD written. Just need to find the time to record.
That's all my questions Mike, thanks so much for taking the time to answer them. It is hugely appreciated.
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