Some bands are followers of trends and others are leaders. Progressive metal titans Symphony X are most definitely in the latter category and have been leading the pack and smashing through barriers since 1994. With nine studio albums and one live release under their belts, their brand of neo-classical metal has seen them play all over the world and playing sold out shows to fans who seek something that stimulates not just their bodies with it’s teeth rattling power but also their minds.
Along with Dream Theater and Rush, few bands have shown the dazzling virtuosity and inventiveness in the hard rock and heavy metal spheres that Symphony X display.
Since joining the band in 1999, bass player Mike Lepond has been a vital part of not just the propulsive rhythm section but as a member of this band of brothers, committed to excellence.
After the life changing experience of seeing KISS when he was just into his teens, he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life and with Gene Simmons and Geddy Lee as role models he picked up his first bass guitar and has never looked back. In 2006 he entered the biggest fight of his life, battling against Crohn’s disease, defeating it with the aid of surgery and an iron-willed determination to get back to music and on the road.
Managing to squeeze in a well-received 2014 solo album, ‘Silent Assassins’, his day job with Symphony X is an all consuming and lifelong passion with barely a pause for breath. He tells us about how he’s been keeping busy.
First off, and most importantly: How are you doing?
I am doing well, thank you. My health is great, and I am doing the best I can through this difficult time. I hope you are doing great as well.
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
Well I am a workaholic when it comes to heavy metal, so I was actually able to write a full fourth solo album. Getting lost in writing songs is the best therapy I can think of to beat back the depression that I watch on the news.
Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones?
I have not participated in any online live shows, but I have seen a bunch of them. Although it’s not for me, I appreciate seeing the bands adapting to the troubled times we are living in. I am cheering all the bands on and I am hopeful for the future.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh-LfXDED7Q?start=3&w=560&h=315]
Have you had to change your way of writing material?
Luckily for me, I have not had to change my way of writing. I usually just record my ideas to my phone and then I record demos at my friend’s studio. It’s always pretty simple and it’s a great way to get the riffs out of my head and recorded.
Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much?
I regularly keep in touch with Michael Romeo (Symphony X guitarist). We are like family and we look out for each other. Besides Romeo, I check in with my other musician friends from time to time. I want everyone to be okay.
What plans have you had to change this year?
I had a European tour scheduled with Ross the Boss for April. I had North and South American tours as well as European festivals scheduled for Spring and Summer with Symphony X. All had to be postponed. It was financially crushing.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsN_rC6Xxck&w=560&h=315]
What do you think of the social distancing gigs (like the one that happened in Kansas recently – 229 people in a 1,100-seat venue) or the thought of drive-in gigs as has just been announced by Live Nation?
Social distancing gigs are not for me. I got into this business to get sweaty and smelly with a packed house of people in your face. I might entertain the idea of drive in gigs, but I just want everything to go back to normal. I am waiting for the first venue to have the courage to just open without masks and distancing. They will be my hero.
How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown?
I think many club owners, booking agents, promoters and bands will go away forever, unfortunately. The music industry was in trouble already with all the illegal downloading and streaming. This will be a fatal blow to many. Very sad.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_h_QaSxXr0&w=560&h=315]
What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again?
I wanna hit the ground running. Get right back on the road and in the studio like nothing happened. When I watch older concert videos, it makes me appreciate what I had, and we can never let this happen again to our industry.
How can people support you during this time?
I don’t need people to support me during this time. I just want everyone to stay healthy, mentally and physically. We will all get past this terrible time and rock n roll once more.
Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM