All That Remains Singer Phil Labonte Talks Military, Religion + ‘A War You Cannot Win’
All That Remains singer Phil Labonte appeared on Loudwire Radio recently to discuss the military, religion and the band's new album 'A War You Cannot Win' with the show's host, Sandman. In case you missed it, check out a transcript of the interview below.
Sandman: Your band, All That Remains, on the verge of putting out your sixth album and coincidentally it’s on Election Day. Is that coincidence or not?
Phil Labonte: You know, I’m very political and I think that most of the people that are … there’s people that are into a band that pay absolutely no attention to the members, and there are people that are into a band that want to know what the band think and what they had for dinner and blah, blah, blah. Anyone that’s into the band members and wants to follow us on the Internet, whether it be Twitter or Facebook, whatever, those people know that I’m very political. And … it wasn’t my idea! I swear to god, it wasn’t my idea to spit it out on Election Day!
I swear to god! I’m not the guy that’s going to go ahead and try to keep people with my crap, I’m not afraid to tell people the truth so it’s like, people may think “Oh, Phil wanted to go ahead and do this because he’s all into politics and that.” It wasn’t my idea at all. When they brought it to me, the label said “Hey, how about we do this on Election Day?” And I like “That’d be way cool! Yes! Let’s do this!” It wasn’t my idea; I didn’t come up with it.
S: You were only compliant. That’s it.
P: Exactly, exactly. I was, I was, definitely. I was the label’s bitch at that point.
S: The album 'A War You Cannot Win' is the latest release that will be out on Election Day and the single 'Stand Up' is in the Loudwire Top 20. You guys have really, I think, over time -- and I’m pretty familiar with the band from its early days -- have really honed your craft and, man, very impressive progression through the years.
P: Thank you. Thank you.
S: I’m curious as to your military background. Does that weigh into your politics in any way?
P: Mmm … I don’t know that my military background really weighs in that. Can I be honest with you? I was in the Marine Corps for, like, less than a year when I joined and I’m old now … I’m almost 40 … and I joined the Marine Corps, I went into basic in ‘93. I got a medical under honorable conditions, it’s not like I was screwing off or whatever; I got an actual injury in training, and I got sent home in ‘93 -- I’m sorry, ‘94. I’ll talk like, ‘Yes, I was in the military,’ ‘Yes, it’s for the military’; my wife was deployed to Afghanistan once, Iraq twice. My old roommates, one of them got blown up by a rocket. He was a contractor and he was in the National Guard, the other one was in the military. I come from a military background; my dad was in the military, my grandfather’s, both of them were in World War II, my uncle was in the Air Force … So, I mean, I come from a military background, I’ve been in the military. My actual contribution … it’s irrelevant, I didn’t do anything. All I did was, like ‘yeah, I want to go!’ and then they were like ‘oh, you got hurt, go home because we’re cutting the military.’ I mean, when Bill Clinton got into office he really made a lot of cuts in the military and that was right when I joined. So anyone that was less than perfect … they were doing a lot of ‘forced retirement’ in ’93 and ’94. So, I can’t say that … I did join, but I can’t say that I’ve done anything worth noting, you know? I mean, it’s like I showed up to class and they were like, “Go home,” and I was like “Uh…okay.”
So, I definitely support the military and I’m a big fan of people that support our country and support our military and stuff but I can’t take credit for anything other than being like, ‘Hey, can I go?’ and then were like, ‘No.’ And now we’re going to get a little deep into my politics … You can be pro-military and not be pro-imperialism.
You can be pro-military and pro-national events and still think that we have too many bases in foreign countries that we just don’t need. And you can’t think that the military would be better served if we weren’t trying to have military bases -- I mean, we have military bases in literally over 100 countries. I believe over 150 countries. I think it’s 190. I’m saying “ I think” because I don’t have the numbers in front of me and I don’t like to say I’m sure of anything unless I can actually verify it. But, it’s definitely over 100, probably over 150, and I think it’s somewhere around 190 countries in the world with military bases. Do we need that? I mean, does that make America safer? Or does that make America an imperial power?
You know? I tell you what, I think we should go ahead -- and I’ve said this before -- my personal opinion is that we should cut the Army by probably 75 percent. Take 25 percent of the money we used to put into the Army and put that into the Navy and the Air Force because that way we’re not actually occupying other countries; we still have the ability to project influence. Because I tell you what, you park an aircraft carrier off the coast of a country and their opinion changes instantaneously.
S: Yeah, that’s a big statement. When you roll up on somebody’s coast with your aircraft carrier that makes a statement for sure.
P: Yes, because the aircraft carrier, they can see it. There’s a support group that goes, there’s a submarines that go, there’s a whole air wing and, you know, there’s probably 3,000 marines, a marine experteer unit that’s on every aircraft carrier. I mean, it’d be the U.S.’s ability to project power just by showing up and saying ‘hey, we’re paying attention to you right now. Knock it off.’
I mean, we don’t need an army that can physically occupy territory because we don’t need to be in other people’s territory. If we want to influence their politics … ?? ... between sanctions … ?? ... an aircraft carrier, basically a combat unit, which is an aircraft carrier that supports the Marine Corps and then the threat of nuclear missiles. You don’t need a big army that’s going to go in and hold land. That’s unnecessary.
S: Right, occupy a country.
P: Yeah, it’s unnecessary. We don’t need to. We should go ahead and start making decisions that are based on “would military action promote our national security, our general welfare?” If it doesn’t then stay the hell out of it.
I think the U.S. needs to do more ‘staying the hell out of it’ and also, on the same token, you need to go ahead and decide okay, it will support us, so then we should just say “we’re going to kick the s--- out of you” more. I mean, that’s your option. It shouldn’t be ‘let’s get in there with troops and influence and nation build and try and work with the people.’ No. Okay, are you cool with us? Cool. We’re cool with you. Let’s trade. Are you cool with us? No. You want to f---ing shoot bombs at us and blow up our buildings. Okay, we’re going to smoke you. Like, it should be a little more black and white.
S: I could not agree more. I mean, maybe that’s just the Republican in me coming out but, um…
P: I don’t think it’s very Republican. I think it’s more…
P: Yeah. I mean, because, the thing is, I think there is a lot more countries that would say if we didn’t have faces all over the world I think there would be a lot more countries that would be like, “Alright, cool. So, you’re sailing the seven seas and you’ve got a lot of military power in the Navy but you aren’t putting bases into foreign countries.” A lot of geopolitical perspective in the Middle East, which is where most of the tension is, a lot of it is based on their religion, which, I don’t believe in any ‘steady guy in the sky’… I don’t care whether it’s Phoebus or Muhammad or whatever, I don’t care. I think when you’re dead you’re done, and that’s cool. Period. The period ends it. So, I don’t worry about offending your silly god, I don’t worry about, like, if Jesus is going to come back because your not and if he does it’s only going to be a really charismatic guy who’s going to be able to fool the Christians into thinking “See? It don’t end. I’m Jesus again!” and doing a sweet dance, or whatever.
But, religion goes into politics so much and the reason that the Muslims that hate America -- and not all of them do -- the Muslims that really hate America, they hate us because we have bases in a whole bunch of Muslim countries. So we should pull all of our bases out of Muslim countries and then if they blow up American stuff then we should “give” them nuclear weapons, but not give them to them.
S: I think that’s a pretty great philosophy. I would agree with all that. I think you’re right in the fact that countries react to you being up their ass and being in their country and occupying their country and that’s what Osama Bin Laden took offense to in the first place and how a lot of this got started.
P: I don’t care what any Republican tells you, Osama Bin Laden does not hate Coca-Cola.
S: Ha-ha. I’m sure he did not! He watched TV! He was watching TV when they, you know, raided his compound.
P: He loved VCR’s because he’d watch himself. Narcissist prick. So, my political perspective boils down to bringing American troops out of other countries. There is enough water on Earth where the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and the Air Force … well, there’s enough air ... even though the Air Force doesn’t actually on Navy ships, but, anyway, that’s besides the point … There’s enough water where the U.S. can influence the rest of the world. “Influence” not “control” but “influence” the rest of the world. Then, if a country attacks us, then turn them into glass. I mean, just don’t attack us. We should stop being an imperial power and trying to force our way onto other people, we can influence them, but don’t force them, don’t occupy their country. And when you stop occupying their country and they attack us, well then, kill them all, violently.
S: And that’s that. Ha-ha.
P: Yeah, I mean, if we don’t attack you, if we stop instigating violence … which is kind of what we do.
S: We do.
P: A lot of times. If we stop that and then we’re attacked then we have a moral to defend ourselves, right? Or to retaliate. Right? That’s what happens.
S: Right. Talking to Phil Labonte, lead vocalist of All That Remains. Their new album “A War You Cannot Win” is that title … is that a mental war? Or is that a reflection on the world today and the things you and I have been talking about here?
P: This one’s pretty political. I’ve got a sweet girl that I’m with so it’s not all emotional poppycock or whatever. I’m fairly simple as a dude, like, I write lyrics and songs and stuff about things that matter to me. And the first things that matter to me are family and my woman … and after that it becomes politics because writing a song about how the Boston Celtics are doing or writing a song about the Red Sox or the Patriots or whatever, or another handful of things that I’m actually interested in … People don’t care.
S: Nah. That’s your hobby, that’s your own stuff.
P: Yeah, well, I mean, I’ll write songs about politics and freedom and stuff and there are people out there that will interpret it as me saying something about guns, which is another hobby that I have, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about personal freedom and stuff and politics.
S: But the great thing about art is that it’s interpreted by the consumer, you know. It’s left for interpretation. And, really, when you write a song about the Red Sox or the Patriots there’s nothing left to interpret, it’s laid out for you.
P: Yeah, I tell ya, that’s a great segue into being the lyricist. A lot of people, when you do interviews, will be like “Hey, what was this about. What was that about? What were you thinking when you wrote this.” And my first response is—and I got this from Jeff Walker from Carcass, hopefully some of your listeners know who he is—but, he used to say is “I don’t like to explain stuff because I explain it and then it takes away from the listener.” And that’s so accurate because they’re people that have sent me e-mails and they’re like “I heard this song and this happened in my life and this song helped me get through.” And my first thought is “Ha-ha. What? How do you think that that song equates to what you just told me that happened in your life?” Now, I don’t send that e-mail back or anything … That’s just me comprehending what they say. But the important part about writing a song and putting it out and letting people interpret it, letting people hear it, is not me. The important part is the listener. Like, if they are on the same page and hear what I say or hear the lyrics and they understand what I was thinking then cool, man, that makes me feel good. But it doesn’t matter if it makes me feel good, all that matters is: they hear it, they relate to it, they like it and they find something that means something to them.
I mean, it doesn’t matter if it makes me feel good because the vast majority of people that are going to hear All That Remains songs I’ll never hear anything from. I’ll never talk to them. I’ll never hear what it means to them, what they think about it, you know? It doesn’t matter. It’s cool when I get an affirmation, when people understand what I was thinking and are like, “Hey man, I get what you’re saying here and this is what I think you’re saying” and it lines up with what I’m thinking. But it’s just as cool when people say “Hey man, I heard this and this is what was going on in my life and this is what that means to me” and it doesn’t matter that when I read that I say “That is not at all what I was talking about.” I would never tell them that because the important part isn’t me, the important part is them.
S: You’re a very intelligent guy and I don’t know what it is about you New Englander’s but, I’ve interviewed the guys from Godsmack and Staind and other bands and you guys are all pretty smart dudes.
P: Well, I appreciate the kudos. I guess you haven’t talked to our guitar player Mike Martin, he’s an idiot.
S: Ha-ha! Not yet!
P: You should totally put that on the Internet everywhere. That should be the headline. “If You Haven’t Talked To Our Guitar Player Mike Martin, He’s An Idiot.” Because all we do is give each other complete hell.
S: I can tell.
P: That’s a Massachusetts thing, I tell ya. All the bands that … you know … Unearth, Killswitch Engage, The Acacia Strain, All That Remains like, we’re all from Massachusetts and we are all so comfortable just giving each other just boatloads of crap. And I know some wonderful dudes from other places in the country that are sweet, sweet people and I am fortunate to know them but I would never say the terrible things to them that I would say to anyone from Massachusetts just because it seems like if you’re from Mass, if you’re a Masshole, you’ve got so much thicker skin.
I can take almost anything from most of the guys from Unearth and Killswitch and definitely all the guys in my band and they’re just like “You’re an idiot. Shut your face.” And it’s like “okay” we get that as a joke. If I were to say terrible things to some of the dudes from California I feel like it would just be butthurt central.
S: Ha-ha! You’re probably right about that. You guys just have thicker skin, man. That’s how you survive the cold.
P: Yeah, probably, you know.
S: Probably so. Phil Labonte, All That Remains, thank you man, so much for taking time for Loudwire. Good luck on the new album and the tour and it’s been a pleasure.
P: Thank you, sir.