Recently, I was graced with the opportunity to interview some of the biggest influences in my life….
And I took it.
Justin Forshaw and Jake Jones (As We Ascend, We As Human) were nice enough to let me interview them! Interview them via Skype none the less!
After I forgot about the difference in time zones (they are in Central, I am in Eastern), we did the interview. And here it is:
SOM: Alright, here’s the best one for starting. How did you guys get started in your musical careers?
JF: I got started when I was 12- 11 or 12ish- with my dad and my step-dad. My dad played drums and my step-dad played guitar- I’m not sure how much he plays anymore. But that kinda sparked the itch. I always saw them performing and then my dad’s band started getting into grunge music and sure enough, I wanted to be in the “cool-kid” group. So I started listening to grunge music and picked up guitar and fell in love with it ever since. So I did that for a while and then I got involved with the church. I played in metal bands throughout the years and yeah. It grew. It grew from a bedroom obsession to playing in a band.
SOM: How about you, Jake?
JJ: Oh, gosh! Music was always a part of my life. As far back as I can remember, my step-dad and his brother would set up big amps and PAs in the living room and if I had friends over, we could have big jam sessions. When I was six, he wanted me to learn how to play guitar properly. So I mean, classical guitar lessons, and it was really boring. So until I was 11, I quit and thought “this sucks”. And then [there was] a huge shift in life, I moved in with my dad 1000 miles away in New Mexico and between my parents working all the time and out of the culture shock of a new place, a lot of locking myself in my bedroom all day and playing guitar and I started listening to Creed and decided “screw this classical stuff. I wanna play rock ‘n roll.” So I started from there, got my first electric guitar (I was 12) and started kinda teaching myself how to play, how to play rock and it just became an obsession.
JF: It’s an obsession. It’s non-stop.
SOM: Yeah, I’ve been playing guitar for a year and I LOVE it.
JF: Keep it up!
SOM: Alright, where do you see As We Ascend going in the next year?
JJ: I don’t know. Something really cool about this band is we’re doing it very differently than your typical band structure. What’s nice is our advantage point is we got to do it kinda the normal way with We As Human and kinda see how the industry works and what a typical record deal looks like, what a touring cycle is like, what a radio tour is like. And we both did our homework and took notes and so this time around we decided we’re gonna play the game by our rules and see where it takes us. So it’s really hard to know what it’s going to look like in a year. We could be sitting on top of the world in a year or we could be flipping burgers at McDonald’s in a year. It’s cool. It’s a scary ride but it’s, we know- both of us know without the shadow of a doubt that we were called by God to this line, to reach people, to reach hurting people, Christians and non-Christians alike.
JF: I agree with what he’s saying. I think this day and age in the marketplace, especially with what we are trying to do, and maybe even more so than We As Human with being outspoken and sharing our faith. It is hard when it comes to ministry. This is a different world, you know? There’s not a lot of bands left in the Christian rock market so it’s a tough place to be right now financially. A lot of bands are going broke and so we know that it’s hard, but it’s a passion and it’s a love. Whether we’re doing it full time or something that we’re doing just because we want to, we’re in the studio and we’re going to release something, we always stay true to that. We would love to tour. I mean, I would love to get on the road with our friends. So I’m hoping that in a year’s time we’ll be lining up some pretty big tours and some co-headlining or opening up for different groups but you never know. We’re really just trying to do our parts and make the best album possible. We don’t have the PR people breathing down our necks, we don’t have people telling us what they think we should do or what market a certain song should cater to. We can just be like “Hey, what do you want to write today?” It’s kinda like being a kid again when you’re in a band. Everybody dreams of going somewhere and they don’t know what’s gonna happen, but the music is the primary goal and worrying about being the best band. So, I think that’s where we’re at.
SOM: I’m excited to see where you guys go with it. What are your views on this year’s presidential election?
JJ: Oh man. Really?
JF: I feel, I feel embarrassed that I’m having to even think about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I don’t think those are options, I think those are both different like, do you want to be run over by a truck or would you like to be drowned? I don’t know.
JJ: I can share on that sentiment. Umm… It’s, I think where our media is right now, it’s really difficult to see through the smoke and figure out who these candidates really are and what they truly are about and what they truly believe. Everyday there is some new scandalous article posted about one or the other and it’s a little ridiculous and confusing. Those are my thoughts.
JF: Now everyone’s online making a political post. *Laughs*
SOM: Yeah, one of my friends is like “I’m just going to delete my social media ‘cause I don’t care about this year’s election anymore.” I’m like, “Good idea”.
Okay, if there is one thing that your band has never done before, but you REALLY REALLY want to, what would it be?
JJ: Tour Europe.
JF: Uhhh… man. Go platinum. Have a platinum celebration tour in Europe.
JJ: Win a Grammy.
JF: Yes!! Win a Grammy! What else.. tour with Metallica. In Europe. After we win a Grammy.
JJ: After our platinum record.
SOM: *Laughs* Go big or go home, you know?
JF: I mean, there are some things I would like to have done like small, small little things. Or like, headlining a couple of the big festivals would be pretty cool. I mean, we played a lot of the Creation Fests and Uprise and the different festivals out there, but it would still be a cool experience. Like the main stage at ten o’clock at night, headlining.
SOM: Let’s see… What was the hardest moment in your musical career so far and how did you overcome it?
JJ: Oh gosh.
JF: *Chuckles* They’re all the hardest moments.
JF: Yeah, that was a hard bit.
JJ: And I overcame it with 2016.
Umm.. Truth be told, the hardest moment for me has definitely been the break-up of We As Human. And there are a lot of things that we’re literally not even allowed to talk about. It was a lot of trouble. And so it’s really hard to describe why it’s so hard. A lot of people may not understand a lot of things about it but it feels like a death. It really does. Time heals a lot, but it doesn’t heal everything and so it’s gotten easier as time has gone by but it’s still been a process to get through it. And honestly, I think that the most encouraging thing has been our amazing fans, who have just reached out and said “hey, we still love you and care about you and care what you’re doing.” And that means more than anyone can know because it’s hard not to feel damaged now. It’s kinda, “Well, you know. We’re not in the band anymore and we won’t have the band that we had that everybody loved so no one is going to care about us or what we’re doing with the music that we’re making” and suddenly, we’re back to bedroom hero-garage band and you know, if that’s something that God has called us to do and wants us to do, then by all means we should do it joyfully and courageously. But at the same time, it doesn’t sting any less. So, yeah, that’s the long answer from me.
JF: Yeah, I’ll agree on that. It sucks. Definitely the We As Human break-up. But there’s no plan B and this is all part of God’s plan somehow. So we have to keep that in mind but we’re just looking forward to this. Any point in your life where there’s something important and it gets taken away from you, you’re in a bad spot. But I’m still very excited about our faith and what God wants to do with us and our band, still really excited about all of those things. So that’s how we kinda really made it through. Obviously a lot of our fans helped and prayed for us, but yeah, we’re making it through. It’s probably the worst part of being a musician and now we’re just kinda in awe of all of the support that we’re getting so it’s gonna be perfect. And we’re singing now too.
SOM: I love how both of you are singing. I’m like, “This is amazing!” The first time I listened to “Wash Away” I’m like, “Whoa, there’s two vocalists? And they both sound AMAZING?”
JJ: Thank you.
JF: I was like, “Why not?” You know? It was kinda along the lines of what we talked about and how we have nothing to lose. So all the things that we’ve always thought of doing where people looked at us and said “You probably shouldn’t do that”, now we’re just like “You know what? Let’s do it.”
JJ: I think being in a place where you have nothing to lose is probably the most dangerous place you can be and I think that’s not what we should do with our lives.
SOM: Speaking of the fans, I loved how you guys really involved the fans when you “released” “Wash Away” and when you named the band, I mean, come on, you had a fan name the band. Are you planning on having these really really awesome interactions with the fans?
JJ: Yes!! Yes.
JF: No, we did once and we’re never going to do it again. No, we’re gonna do lots of different stuff. Our next project is different. We’re going to be fan-driven so it’s going to be crazy stuff. People think crazy and they promo online and they see these bands saying “we’re going to do this, we’re gonna do that.” But it’s all the same stuff. You don’t really see anything that’s really that engaged and there are some bands that kinda sprinkle stuff. Like we’re going to do things that others don’t think of. So, bands might get upset with us because if it works really well, they might be upset that we might be unprecedented.
JJ: We’re raising the bar. Honestly, I think back to my adolescence. I lived out in the middle of nowhere, I didn’t have a lot of friends, I went to a very very small school that was driven by sports, and being a musician and not being an athlete as much as I wanted to be and I really tried and failed miserably.,I was kinda marooned a little bit and that’s why I played guitar so much and did a lot with music but I felt so far away from bands, bands that I liked. And at that time, the only way to ever talk to a band is either writing them a letter and hoping that they’d read it and respond or you got a chance to kinda speak to them at a concert for a second.
JF: “Hey, you guys are awesome, bye.”
JJ: Right? Some of my favorite bands, I got the opportunity to speak to them 5 or 6 times and I don’t think they remembered me. But the day and age that we live in now with social media being what it is and everyone has their tablets and smartphones and can be anywhere at any time. We kinda just put our heads together and asked “What would we have wanted from our bands?” I want to spoil the secret just a tiny little bit, just a tiny bit. But we want to be the fan’s band. You’ll find out in the next couple of week exactly what I mean, but going back to what I said about how dangerous it is to live your life with nothing to lose, that kinda puts us in a place where we can kinda do whatever and really take it seriously and not just let it be a marketing tactic to gain interest but for real. I’m really curious to know what you guys can come up with for us in this next venture. But yes, very very very involved and honestly, it’s maybe too involved but we have nothing to lose. And really, there would be no As We Ascend if our fans had just been “Oh, We As Human is gone? Alright, never mind.”
JF: With “Wash Away”, we just released the single and let people share it. If they liked it, cool. If they didn’t, you know, people are pretty cruel online so if they thought that it wasn’t the standards they thought it should be, they would let you know. So we just got a huge response from fans.
JJ: What’s cool is that that song isn’t actually released yet. When it’s released it’ll be on iTunes, Google Play, and we have a lot of backend just paperwork-like stuff we’ve been working on the last few months to get that to happen. But until then, it’s just kinda out there. We’re not making any money on it. It’s on a couple Youtube channels and websites and I found it on a couple lyric sites. It’s cool, the band belongs to our fans, the fans are our boss, that’s true no matter what band we have. You have to figure out what they want.
JF: Yep, we’re doing it!!
SOM: What is the weirdest experience you have had with a fan?
JF: We can’t legally talk about that..
JJ: Uhhhh… Oh my gosh. Which one? I mean, anytime any fan wants to lay across you to take a photograph, that’s pretty weird.
JF: We’ve had awkward run-ins with people who kind of stalk where we are.
JJ: I think my brain has just blocked the memories.
SOM: That could be a good thing at times.
JJ: I mean, the stalking thing. People can just be weird. Just most interactions we have with fans, it’s a little weird anyway. It’s not a normal interaction. Because you’re a band member, people kinda put these false expectations on you and kinda believe that you are somehow better than them. So being a person who is in every way no different than any other person, I just happen to be on stage and playing an instrument. You know the whole saying I put my pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else? It’s so true. I like macaroni and cheese and Reese’s Puffs, I like to sleep in late, you know? I get mad in traffic, I’m just the same as anyone. So anything outside of that interaction is weird, and then it gets a lot more weird.
JF: It’s weird. I mean, you know, I’ve never felt like a celebrity. And honestly, in Nashville, there are some celebrities here but I have never had a fan interaction here. On the road, there are people who come out specifically for us and it was weird to have people excited just to meet me. I’m just like, good for you, I’m something you’re excited to hang out with. You’ll find out really quick I’m not all I’m cracked up to be.
SOM: Any music that’s coming out this year that you are excited for?
JF: I’m excited about Periphery’s new album that came out. That’s really good. Tremonti has released some really good stuff. In the studio and doing music, my tastes are so bizarre. Most of the time I listen to weird stuff. But yeah, there hasn’t been anything too crazy that’s been announced that I’ve waited for. All the bands I enjoy just released a monster record.
JJ: The next Weird Al album.
JF: Oh yeah! Weird Al album! Weird Al’s great. Weird Al.
SOM: That’s my brother’s favorite artist. I have no idea why, but he just LOVES Weird Al.
JJ: I have one Weird Al album.
SOM: He has around 4.
JJ: Oh my gosh. Well, I wouldn’t call myself a big Weird Al fan, but I’d say our musical tastes are so diverse. When you write rock music, and you produce rock music, and sing rock music, and you play rock music, and listen to rock music, and you’re around rock bands all day every day, you need change. A lot of times, especially when we were touring a lot, I would listen to Fall Out Boy…
JJ: I love Fall Out Boy. But honestly, I spent all day helping other people make music as a producer so I don’t even know what’s coming up right now.
JF: Yeah, it’s kinda of a study when you’re in rock music and you listen to it. There’s so many aspects from what is he playing and why did he choose to do that and stuff like that. So I have to talk a break and listen to something else, something outside. *Laughs* But to this day I like the progressive stuff and the heavy stuff.
JJ: I’ve been really liking Bring Me The Horizon lately.
JF: Oh yeah, they’re good.
JJ: Their album has been out for a while, but I just got into them and they’re really good.
SOM: I’ve been listening to their last album. It’s pretty good.
JJ: The one with the umbrella?
SOM: Yep! I don’t remember what it is… Uhhhhhh… That’s The Spirit!
JJ: Yeah, they did that tour with A Day To Remember and I think after that, they just exploded. Like they were kinda on every one’s radar and now they’re on top of the food chain.
SOM: If you were stuck on a desert island and could only listen to one album, what album would it be and why?
JF: Silence, I’d listen to silence. There was a band from Sweden or Germany that literally just played silence, they were just silent. It was a concept.
JJ: One album….
JF: I would want it to be mixed. Like a wild compilation.
JJ: My ADD keeps me from hardly being able to listen to a song all the way. There are lots of good albums that I would choose, but I don’t know. Probably anything from Needtobreathe.
JF: I like Ian Foreman a lot. He’s not really heard of. He’s really eclectic. I’m from the North so I discovered a lot of really weird bands from listening to really weird radio stations.
JJ: John Mayer’s Continuum.
JF: There you go!
JJ: That’s my answer.
SOM: Who would be on your dream tour line-up?
JF: Uhhh.. Rage Against The Machine. I’d like to see Rage Against The Machine with Psychostick, Melissa Etheridge, and Cannibal Corpse. That would be my dream tour.
SOM: That’s…… a lot of different artists.
JJ: My dream tour? I don’t know. I know too much about touring. I have a hard time just enjoying shows. So what bands would I go see and actually just enjoy the show? Probably Muse with 30 Seconds To Mars….
JF: And Psychostick….
SOM: My final question for you guys is what is your advice to any new musicians?
JF: Give up.
SOM: Wow! Thanks a lot! That’ll be good on the blog!
JF: I could give a whole detailed list… Don’t sign a 360 deal.
JJ: Something I notice that a lot of bands do, honestly We As Human did it even though we were in a good situation. I would say be patient and really know your stuff. You need to be really good at your craft, your art, singing, song writing, instrument. Be the best at it. But then when it comes to opportunities, don’t just jump at something because it looks like a good opportunity. Make sure you know what you’re signing before you sign it. And I think the most important piece of advice that I can give is compare yourself to the best at what you do, when it comes to your image or sound, because they [the best] are your competition. A new artist needs sight of that, because the gold seems so unattainable. The truth is, if you want to be as big as Skillet, you have to be as good as Skillet. So you need to compare yourself to Skillet, even if you’re just starting off.
SOM: Cool. Thank you guys so much!
JJ & JF: Thank you!
To stay in touch with Jake and Justin with their venture in As We Ascend:
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I just want to thank Justin and Jake once again for doing the interview! It was blast and a complete honor to work with them!
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