FLOTSAM AND JETSAM's vocalist Eric 'AK' Knutson has high hopes for their new album, Ugly Noise, which was released by the band earlier this year, but recently picked up by Metal Blade for official release on April 16th. The follow-up to 2010's The Cold marks the return of Flotsmen Kelly David Smith and Michael Gilbert, original bandmates who haven't recorded with the group since 1997. So Knutson has a lot to be fist-pumping happy about these days with the somewhat resurgence of thrash, something the band has mastered since releasing their debut, Doomsday For The Deceiver, in 1986. BraveWords correspondent Matthew O'Shaughnessy got the latest and more from frontman Eric 'AK' Knutson. Now Flotztildeath!
Matt O'Shaughnessy: If you go back to the early days of Flotsam And Jetsam in the 1980's, it's apparent the group was at the forefront of what became thrash metal's genesis. Now with Flotsam And Jetsam's eleventh album set to be released on the mighty Metal Blade label, what was your approach going into Ugly Noise?
Eric Knutson: "We've got pretty much all the original members except Jason Newsted who wrote a couple songs on this new record. Michael and Kelly are back in the band. It's like they never left; It's like I saw them yesterday at a gig or something. Kelly didn't drum for ten years and he stepped right back in and it was like he never left. We went into this new record wondering if we could still write together; if we still had that drive we always had to get out of a song. It popped up even better than we had hoped for. Michael wrote pretty much all the music for the new album. Newsted wrote a couple of lyrics and I wrote all the rest of the lyrics. Everything just kind of seemed to fall in place. Michael would give me a song with a title and I would just go off of that. Everything flowed really nicely. This was one of those albums that just wrote itself."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: Flotsam And Jetsam has a rich back catalogue of legendary albums; Doomsday For The Deceiver, Cuatro, No Place For Disgrace, When The Storm Comes Down among others. Ugly Noise seems to reflect serious growth in the band.
Eric Knutson: "As a band and writing music you should grow with every album at least; we struggled with that for a little while because we had different members and different styles of writing. But now that we have all the original members back together our old writing habits just fell right back into place. It's really nice."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: Obviously, as the years go by writing styles change in a band; how is Ugly Noise similar or different than some of Flotsam And Jetsam's previous works?
Eric Knutson: "The new record I think should have been the next one after Drift which was our fifth record; it seems like a natural progression from Drift to this one. And all the stuff in between, you know, there was some good songs on them but they just didn't seem like they were in sequential order. This one seems like it should have been the next one after Drift."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: How vital and key is Ugly Noise at this point in Flotsam And Jetsam's already iconic career? Is this a pivotal album?
Eric Knutson: "This was definitely make it or break it; it was put out the best thing we've ever put out and go conquer the world with it or give it up. Our careers I don't think would handle a mediocre record or something that was half-hazard."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: Flotsam And Jetsam recently came off a high-profile tour with TESTAMENT, OVERKILL and 4ARM. What are your thoughts as you look back?
Eric Knutson: "That tour was not only a lot of fun; we've been good friends with Testament for a long time. 4Arm was amazing - those guys are troopers. They're a really good band. Overkill is always fun to play with. The venues we hit, the markets we played were just perfect for us; we got to go in there and kind of tease people and let them know we're back on the scene and have a new album coming out. The whole tour just worked out perfect for us!"
Matt O'Shaughnessy: What's Flotsam And Jetsam's live itinerary look like now?
Eric Knutson:"We have a couple of festivals that we are booked to do; one in Phoenix and one in Ohio in the US."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: What do your attribute Flotsam And Jetsam's span and depth in the metal community to; now for over thirty years?
Eric Knutson: "That's a good one. The only constant that has been in the band except for a couple months has been me. I've played with partial original members and no original members. Really the main reason why we are still out there doing it is because I was too stubborn to give it up for a while. We are really looking at this whole thing in a different light now. Everything is more comfortable. We know what we are doing a little better. We're much more professional. We're much more seasoned. We know what we are doing. Not to mention, Ugly Noise, is one of our best pieces of work yet in my opinion. We should be able to step back in pretty close to where we stepped back out and keep on going from there."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: What's Flotsam And Jetsam's legacy?
Eric Knutson: "I just want to be known as the band who tried to put out the best music they could and never gave up."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: Ugly Noise rips it up on April 16th; your fans are loyal and hardcore.
Eric Knutson: "We've got some of the best fans in the world; the hardcore Flotsam fans are really hardcore. They would leave their wives to go see a Flotsam show. That's one of the main reasons why we are still out there also because our fans really won't let us give it up. They give us a lot of feedback and opinion on Facebook and online. Most of the time we listen to them and we end up better off. So, the fans are really the people who make Flotsam And Jetsam. Especially with this new record, the fans bought it even before we recorded it and that's the money we used to record it with. Pick up Ugly Noise and play it a lot. And look in the ads for the band playing near you because we're going to hit the entire world; we're not going to stop 'til we're dead!"