New Jersey native, best known as bassist for progressive metal giants Symphony X, Mike LePond, now presents his first solo project ever: Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins, an onslaught of raw and true Heavy Metal in its purest form. His debut self-titled release is a full hour of head-banging riffs, kick ass vocals and epic tales. It is an album that draws influences from the classic heavy bands of the 1980s, all the way to the Viking/Folk metal of today. It was made for metalheads, by metalheads – a celebration of the power and glory of that which we call…Heavy Metal!
How did you come up with the concept and the songs for your debut project; was it all written over a long time, or did you decide upon an idea and then write the music as you went along?
Mike LePond: Throughout my career I had compiled a bunch of random music and lyrics. Over the next 2 years, I matched the lyrics to the music like a jigsaw puzzle. Once all the songs were written, then I began to think about the concept, artwork, etc.
As one of the best rock bass players in the world, do you find that song writing comes naturally to you, or do you consider yourself a musician first, and the writing came about later?
Mike LePond: I always considered myself a songwriter as well as a musician. Since I’ve been a member of Symphony X I haven’t written that much but when it came time to do the solo album, my songwriting skills came right back.
You’ve got some very close friends involved in your recent projects – do you find it’s much easier to perform and to put tracks together with musicians you already have personal relationship with; or do you sometimes seek out that air of freshness that can come from jamming with new musicians?
Mike LePond: I think working with familiar faces and outsiders both have their advantages. Working with Symphony X for 15 years is a comfort zone. I know all the styles my guitarist likes to use and it’s easy to work with. On the other hand, working with other musicians keeps my mind and chops very fresh.
Do you plan to still perform with and be a part of Symphony X even if your solo projects become consolidated adventures?
Mike LePond: No matter how big my solo project gets, I will always be a member of Symphony X.
You’ve played on a lot of different projects during your career – is there anyone you’d love to work with at some point?
Mike LePond: I have done many projects when Symphony X is off the road. There are so many amazing musicians out there these days. I think my dream would be to work with Ritchie Blackmore on some medieval music. He is my favorite guitar player.
Is there any other genre you haven’t yet experimented with that you’d like to explore at some point down the line?
Mike LePond: I have always loved Renaissance/Celtic music. I have incorporated this style into parts of my solo album. It might be nice at some point to collaborate with someone on a whole album in this style. Perhaps with Ritchie Blackmore, hahaha.
“Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins” was released through a crowdfunding Project, where the fans contributed for a physical version of album. How was that experience? Due to the low sales of discs that the music business lives would that be an option for the future?
Mike LePond: Crowdfuding was a really great experience for me. These days when record labels are going out of business, I think this a great way for a band to achieve its goals. So it’s the fans now who can in essence become the new record company.
In “Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins” beyond the bass guitar you also recorded the guitars, with Symphony X teammate Michael Romeo, and Metal Mike (Halford, former Sebastian Bach, ex-Testament). How did the idea to invite these axe men for the record come about?
Mike LePond: When it came to the lead guitar playing, I wanted to have the best players I could get in the area where I live. Metal Mike is a close friend and I actually played on his solo CD so he was happy to help. Romeo’s style complimented his style rather nicely.
Also how did the choice of vocalist Alan Tecchio (Hades , former Seven Witches, Watchtower former) come about, and why use programmed drums on the album, could you not find a suitable drummer?
Mike LePond: Alan had the power and melodic ability that I needed. He is a dear close friend. He loved what I was doing and he did an incredible job. I asked Romeo to program drums because of the project’s budget and time issues.
The sound of Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins is so different from your band, Symphony X. it’s more classic metal. How did come the ideas for it?
Mike LePond: Most of the music I write is in the traditional and classic metal styles so the CD was very easy to put together. I wanted to make an 80s style metal album but with orchestration that is used in the modern day. This would create a new and fresh sound.
Who or what was it that originally inspired you to play a musical instrument and what’s your favorite track to perform live?
Mike LePond: At age 13 my dad took me to see KISS. I was so captivated by Gene Simmons that from that day on I wanted to be a rock star. The song that I love to perform live is always changing. As of now my favorite is a track is called “In my Darkest Hour”.
Can you offer any words of wisdom or advice to upcoming musicians and bands who are just starting out, and struggling to reach the wider audiences they dream of?
Mike LePond: The best advice I can give any new band is to keep writing, keep performing and perfecting your craft. Record companies are going out of business left and right so you have to carve your own path. Use social media and crowdfunding sites as much as possible.
You’re recording a brand new album in the very near future – what can we expect from this, and how will it differ from the debut release?
Mike LePond: I am in the process of recording my solo album called second “Pawn and Prophecy”. This album will be in the exact same style as the first one. The title track will be a 21 minute epic. The lead singer will be Alan Tecchio once more.