Interview – Mike Thompson of Withered

 

Hey Mike how have you been doing? Let the people know your role in Withered as well.


MT – I’m doing well, thanks. I’m guitarist and vocalist in Withered.

Your last album “Grief Relic” came out last year. How has the reception been so far for it and hows it coming across live? I know the album had a several year build up to it so you must feel relieved to get it out. What all happened that caused such the hold up with it?


MT – Reception has been great. Yeah, it was nice to finally have it released last year but we were patient because the ‘how’ was much more important than the ‘when’ this time around. After our touring cycle for Dualitas ended, Prosthetic records dropped us and Dylan had left the band because he has a family at home and needed to redirect his attention there. About 6 months after that, our bassist, Mike (Longoria), also left the band and moved back home to TX. Beau and I understood the reasons and there is no love lost but it was a hefty blow. It was difficult to get motivated for a while but we already had a few songs roughed in for the new album. We really liked the direction it was going in so Beau and I just continued writing. Since we were free of any obligations (real or perceived), the energy and motivation was renewed for us. So, we decided to handle all production efforts on our own. We wanted to get our hands dirty and back in touch with the process. We wanted to finish the album before deciding how to release it. Once Beau and I had the songs roughed in, we had to learn how to work with 2 members being out of state. It took a lot of time getting everyone’s schedules to align so we could complete Colin’s bass tracks, Ethan’s guitar tracks and all vocals. This took the better part of a year. But, I’m glad we were patient. We couldn’t be more pleased with the end result. Then came time to decide how to release. We picked 2-3 labels that we were interested in working with. Otherwise, we planned to self-release. Luckily, Season Of Mist was interested. It has been a fantastic relationship so far. They really do understand extreme music.

Now that your lineup has had some time to settle how is everyone is doing together? How did all members come to meet and make Withered what it is today?


MT – It’s still a little chaotic due to distance and everyone’s schedules. But, it’s good. We’re already writing some new material to use on splits, etc. We met Ethan way back in 2008 on our first west coast tour. He had setup a DIY warehouse show for us in Denver and was a fantastic host/friend from the beginning. At the end, he handed me a CD-R of his grind band, Clinging To The Trees Of A Forrest Fire. We get a lot of things like this on tour, but this stuff is amazing. Dirty, ugly, death grind. Everything that I love. They also signed to Prosthetic later on and we did some shows together. When he heard that Dylan had quit, he reached out wanting to play with us. In 2013, he did a tour with us opening for Goatwhore and that pretty much locked things in. Once the songs for Grief Relic were mostly written, I attempted to write bass lines but soon realized I couldn’t do the songs justice. Mike was a very unique and dynamic bassist and we didn’t want to lose that unique layer within the music. So, when I tried to think of a progressive unique bass player that was a friend, Colin was the first person that came to mind. We had done shows and a tour with Krallice so we had known each other for some years already. I reached out to him and, after hearing our demos, wanted to take part in the project.

You just wrapped up a US tour with likes of Immortal Bird, how was that tour and what was it like touring with them (they’re a great band I believe). It was also such a tragedy to hear about what they had to endure towards the end of the tour.


MT – Yeah, they were great. We had an awesome time. The theft was a huge blow but the community stepped up really fast. We offered them to use our gear for the rest of the tour because they didn’t want to drop off. They only missed 1 show and continued. All the shows were great and overall, I think it significantly reduced the impact of the theft. We were all able to overshadow it with excellent music and good crowds each night.

With a good deal to choose from how do you plan a setlist for a tour?


MT – Good question. It’s usually a whimsical thing. We give it a lot of thought but it’s very ‘in the moment’. We really look at the context of how we feel and what we want to portray for any particular tour. This headlining run was nice because it afforded us more time to play almost everything we wanted. Having a fairly dynamic catalog to choose from, we can really take it in any direction but we try to keep it “withered” as we say. We like to choose mostly what we consider signature songs.

Any tour plans or shows you can speak of for 2017 other than playing a date on the “The Decibel Magazine Tour”?


MT – We are playing at the Decibel beer and metal festival at the end of April. That will include a few mid-Atlantic support dates as well. Then in May, we tour the US with Morbid Angel.

Growing up who did you look up to in music that molded you into the musician you’ve become today?


MT – Metallica was the first metal band I discovered (AJFA era). I was really into Kirk Hammett when learning to play guitar but later found that I’m more interested in riffs than playing leads. I learned a lot about riff and song writing from James Hetfield so I’d say that my music is mostly his fault. But, I pull from a lot of places when writing so that’s just the foundation. Mostly from particular albums rather than musicians as a whole. Certain eras of bands are what stick out to me. Like Arise era Sepultura, ‘you’ll never see’ (Grave), Clandestine (Entombed), and ‘Times Of Grace’ (Neurosis) is a big influence as well though Neurosis’ entire catalog is pretty much fantastic.

What are the daily struggles a band such as yourself has to deal with on the road? Let those who have never been in those shoes or are unaware know what a band has to deal with.


MT – The biggest struggles have always been sleep deprivation and financial deprivation. It gets difficult to stay healthy on the road. The more exhausted you get, the poorer your decisions become. It’s easy to spiral. So, it takes a lot of foresight to deal with being effectively homeless for many weeks at a time. It is a very unique lifestyle and struggle that keeps many musicians on the edge of self destruction for a long time. But, the experience of expressing our music in a live setting and properly projecting that energy to people is a very powerful & spiritual thing.

Anything you’d like to say or make news before I let you go?


MT – Well, we are releasing a live DVD/Bluray that was filmed back in 2011. We almost didn’t release it but after going back to watch it, it’s a good example of what we were doing at the time. It’s called ‘Live In Torment’ and has some cool bonus features and stuff like that. It’s the first release on my new label Atlanta Grind Productions.

Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to chat and I wish you the best in this year.

MT – Thanks so much, the same to you.

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