17 OCT 2006 - Chicago, IL - Musicpix.net interviews John LeCompt

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John LeCompt Interview By Gwyn Tyme

MusicPix had the opportunity to talk with John LeCompt, guitarist/backing vocalist of Evanescence prior to their performance at Chicago’s Riviera Theater. John has been with Evanescence from the beginning and is Amy Lee’s close friend & collaborator. With a southern gentleman’s accent, John speaks of his relationship with Amy Lee, why “The Open Door” is different from their highly successful debut album, “Fallen,” melting the audience’s face, and who is actually responsible for leaking Evanescence’s material onto the Internet.

Read on...

MusicPix: I’d like to begin with our congratulations! The Open Door is #1 in the world right out of the gate- giving your band your first No. 1 album on The Billboard 200 album chart! Could you talk about what your world has been like the past few weeks?

John: The past few weeks have been just getting ready for touring and all of that, so we haven’t really had a chance to focus on what the record is doing…we just get little updates from management and of course, we recognize that it’s doing well. So yeah, we get these little tips offs. It’s surreal again, just like the first time, it’s surreal. It’s a big deal we know… but we’re really busy.

MusicPix: So you don’t really have many moments to high five?

John:Very few moments actually. We’re just trying to give good shows and deliver what the fans want. They’re buying the records and they know the lyrics and they’re singing along at concerts. It’s definitely a good feeling considering it’s a brand new album.

MusicPix: A number of bands have highly successful debut albums and then fail in an effort to match its success or simply lack the talent. How did you handle the pressure?

John: We didn’t look at it as pressure. I totally agree with you… a lot of bands try to match what they’ve done and that’s what we didn’t do. It’s not about trying to match an anomaly… something that was so big…you could have never called it. We didn’t know the record (Fallen) was going to sell 14 million records. You never know what’s going to happen. The freedom that the first record afforded us was to write a record that we enjoy and the time to do it instead of trying to regurgitate the same thing or strike while the iron is hot…or hurry up to just to get it out. We have more faith in our fans than that.

MusicPix: Evanescence has gone through a lot as individuals and as a band in the past couple of years… a new manager, lineup changes, and Terry Balsamo’s stroke. You’ve been with the band since 2002 and your work traces back to “Origin” before the success of “Fallen.” Where did you find yourself during all the drama ...smack dab in the middle or on the sidelines?

John: I’m kind of on the sidelines of stuff. Amy’s management-that’s between her and her management. Of course, we’re always by her side to support her. We agree that management is management and not a part of the band. Whatever she’s got to do to get through all of that legal stuff… As far as Terry, we’re all right there with him. We want to help him out and try to take up the slack in such a way so that Terry doesn’t feel like he’s getting his toes stepped on in any way because he’s made a miraculous recovery. He’s still not fully up to par with some paralysis in his hand. But we’re doing everything we can to make him feel just as much a part of this band…he wrote a lot of this record and I’d never want to take that away from him. It’s a beautiful thing. There are definitely things we are a team on- otherwise it would fall to pieces.

MusicPix: Evanescence exploded onto the charts with a masterfully created piece of work. The creative process was nurtured and not rushed which also gave time for some of the drama to flush out. Why do you think it’s important to allow things to settle before taking the next step on a musical adventure?

John: I don’t know that we purposefully said ‘let’s let the dust settle’ or anything like that. Things have to take their natural course. The funny thing is, Amy is the type of person that drama fuels her lyrical content…

MusicPix: So don’t turn that off right?

John: Yeah, it’s good that things happen…she writes songs about it. To be able to write the way she feels about something or metaphorically… you’ve just got to go with the flow. We needed to get a record out but we didn’t rush it, like a lot of people wanted us to do. I think the proof is in the pudding so to speak.

MusicPix: Evanescence has done large venues in the past and I understand larger scale shows are planned for later in the tour. Why was it important to start out the tour in more intimate clubs first?

John: It just gives the fans a thank you for holding out and waiting for us. The people who get the tickets are going to be the die-hards. And again, you never know what’s going to happen so you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew right at first. This is only our second record. But I can see the way it’s going right now and we’re going to be doing all the big stuff again…which is great!

MusicPix: You’re credited on “Fallen” for “Taking Over Me” and contributed “All That I’m Living For” on “The Open Door.” How does it work? Do you simply bring in lyrics and some tracks for ideas or are the songs fully baked?

John: I had a lot of material that went into a big pot with a lot of material. Every band had the entire life to write their first record but you’ve only got a couple years to write the next one. So there was a lot of material that went into “Fallen” and I contributed a lot to it even though I didn’t get credit on it, but I pitched in. When Ben was in the band, people would bring in the music or full songs and we’d dissect it….a kind of a lonely way of doing it…with people doing individual things and then we’d throw it together in the computer and see what happens. With this one, (The Open Door) we collaborated at Amy’s house for a bit and wrote a lot of things there. ‘All That I’m Living For,’ I wrote that at my house. I didn’t write it for Evanescence. I just wrote it for me. But she called me up and asked if I had any more stuff and I said I’ve got a piece of music that I really like. I don’t know if you’re going to like it but we’ll see… So I over-nighted it to her and within a couple of hours, she had already written the chorus. It didn’t have a bridge at that point and then I went out to LA to the studio. I had actually written the bridge before I went out there, so everything was pretty much done before I got to the studio.

MusicPix: Isn’t that great to be able to work that quickly? It’s like a domino effect when you work that close with a person that you’re comfortable with. Bingo- you’ve got a great song.

John: Yeah, yeah, with Amy, it’s a situation where I can bring ideas to her and she can take it and go off –we’re not actually writing with each other. She can actually take it and run with it. She and Terry can sit in the same room and do the same thing. There's vulnerability in what we do. She’s a girl… and us guys can sit in a room and punch each other with ideas but it’s totally different with her. Amy and Terry are totally honest with each other about music…

MusicPix: Just a different dynamic…

John: Yeah, I’m just used to working with her that way because that’s the way we’ve always worked together. I wouldn’t mind if one day that changes, and that would be cool…but I think we’ve grown as a family unit and get stuff done however we want to.

MusicPix: Since you’ve ‘opened the door’ so to speak, I’ll go out on a limb with a question. As I watched the video interview on “The Open Door,” I got a sense that you have a ‘brother’/sister’ relationship with Amy. Is that true?

John: Yeah, it’s kind of like that. It’s more like that now, but the whole first tour, it was like a ‘father/daughter’ relationship. She was so young and native to the industry and I’d never been in the ‘big’ part of the industry, but I definitely understood it a little bit more because I’m quite a bit older that she is… I’ve been in bands for a long time and had the feeling of not knowing where you’re going to get your next meal. I had a lot more road experience too and I felt very protective of her and wouldn’t want anything to happen to her. But she wants to stand on her own two feet and get out there and take everybody on.

MusicPix: Personal chemistry is so important in a band on and off stage. So what do you guys do in-between shows on the road? Do you hang out together or go your own way?

John: We do hang out a lot. We floated canoes on the Delaware the other day…we’re always doing little touristy stuff together. Everybody has their own time, and their own interests, but we always make time to be a band and have dinner together.

MusicPix: And you’ve got that chemistry with everybody in Evanescence and you’ve got experience with a handful of bands since 1998…Mindrage, Soul Embraced, Mourningside, and most recently you formed Machina with Rocky Gray (Drums/Evanescence). It appears you’re going to be pretty busy with Evanesence for a while. Do you just put stuff on hold or are you still able to work Machina on the side?

John: Stuff gets put on the back burner sometimes. Rocky and me, we’re just songwriters. We’re musicians but ultimately we’re songwriters. We always want to do something different…we always want to do something new. He’s got a project right now called “Fatal Thirteen,” a rap/rock/horror movie kind of thing. We’re always creating. We need that. We’ve got a lot of music in us. It also comes off as a chemistry kind of thing too because we meet different people through different courses in our lives and we want to work with those people. My friend Jack with Mourningside, opened up for Evanescence, a local band in St. Louis, hence Mourningside happened. I met the lead singer from Machina from The Leaders of the World after the demise of the band, so I said we got to do something. So who knows? We might have thousands of other side projects going on.

MusicPix: With one listen of “The Open Door,” it’s evident that there was freedom to create… “The Open Door” is a perfect title for a fantastic musical voyage through a new threshold. Could you talk about how different it was making this record?

John: It was definitely different. The controlling factors were gone. And there were a lot of controlling factors to make a commercial record and to make every song a single. There were a lot of really big bands that we were sort of being pushed to follow in their foot steps a little bit. Being brand new to it, Amy and Ben, dealing with the record company and all, they wanted to be creative and do want they wanted to do. But there was this pressure to create what is on the radio. Now, Ben Moody is out of the picture…and I’m not saying anything negative about him at all because his vision for Evanescence was a beautiful one and it succeeded. But he was also a controlling factor of the band at that time. So now, he’s out of the picture and the label was basically commanded to stay out of the picture and didn’t hear demos.

MusicPix: So, ‘hey back off, we’ll give to you when we’re done’…

John: Pretty much…and they didn’t like it but tough, this is what happens. We’ve had a successful project and it’s our project. You guys stick to the business side and we’ll stick to the writing. So that made it a lot more free. So, every song isn’t this commercially viable product…there’s a lot of different stuff on there.

MusicPix: Evanescence is a band that can duplicate a LIVE performance from what's captured in the studio, which is representative of talented musicianship as well as instinctively knowing your band mates. Could you talk about your musical instincts?

John: In general, you pretty much know who you can work with and who you can’t right off the bat. Ben Moody and I had a good chemistry with the same perspective, coming from the same town. He’s out of the picture and Terry comes in and covers our asses…he was a temporary member because we needed to find a guitar player. But once he was around, we said this dude is perfect for us. It’s a chemistry kind of thing. Is this someone who can get down and dirty with us and do what we want to do? Is there something common enough and something different enough so that it throws a new element into it? I think if you can’t get along, you can’t work together. It’s like soul mates. Some people can work together and some people can’t work together. Terry is definitely one of those guys who is on the same page with us.

MusicPix: There seems like there might be (2) distinct phases of your band- one with Ben Moody and one without. It’s been three years since he left the band. Beyond the obvious, talk about how Evanescence emerged almost like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon…

John: On “Fallen” what you hearing was Amy Lee in her ultimate vulnerable state…as a child… very innocent and also naive to things around her… She had all of these great emotions and all the other things that she’s gone through around her, but not be able to grab it all and put into a thought. But now, without Ben in the picture, controlling the thing and driving the boat so to speak, and her growing up and going through more things, she’s able to grab a hold of that stuff and say what she thinks about it. It transfers to the music as well as through the lyrics. Her imagination and the way she embraces her emotions.

MusicPix: You and Amy previewed “The Open Door” in Europe prior to its release. I understand that it was set up as a ‘listening party’ environment and you also did a few acoustic songs as well. It takes a lot of confidence to preview tracks from a rock record acoustically. Talk about why you chose to go this route and the crowd reaction.

John: We didn’t intend for that stuff to be heard until November! We did those things for Yahoo and stuff like that and it wasn’t supposed to be out until November. But as with everything with this record, it leaked out.

MusicPix: Thanks to the Internet, there are no secrets…

John: Yeah, exactly. The people that are paying for all of this and don’t want it to be leaked are the people who are leaking it. I don’t understand that. But the kids, they really seem to like that stuff. Also, the acoustic thing that Amy and I did, we got a cellist, Dave Eggers, a guy that’s got a doctorate…we thought we were going to do this little thing and just knock it out. Come to find out, they had all of these beautiful sets and added a cellist to it, it’s a whole different animal…same songs but a totally different feeling-a different vibe. I’m glad we got to do it- it turned out really beautiful. Our fans know what we do- yeah, there’s going to be a piano track but we’re going to melt their faces off live.

MusicPix: Dave Fortman, the producer of “The Open Door” offered a fine compliment about Evanescence: “There’s very little difference between the band as people and the band as musicians; their music is the same thing as their personalities.” So how would you describe the personality of this band as a whole?

John: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I guess it’s the backbone of old school metal guys playing music with this very beautiful female thing going on in front of it. It’s something that you just can’t jam together. I’m not saying there aren’t bands with female vocalists but I don’t like many of those because they take it to the extremes…operatic or screaming. Screaming is just plain dumb. In turn, it makes a lot of female vocalists sound exactly the same. Whereas you have a lot of female fronted bands throughout history that stick out like ‘Heart’…

MusicPix: Is Amy a Paula Cole fan?

John: I couldn’t tell you…

MusicPix: I hear a harder-edged Paul Cole…

John: You may have a point…she likes a lot of those kind of female artists…

MusicPix: What was the first musical instrument you played and at what age?

John: I wouldn’t say I played it but I was watching Night Tracks or some video with my Dad one night and I said, hey I want to do that. I pointed out a guitar but he bought me a bass because he played a bass. So he bought me this bass when I was eight years old and I didn’t know what to do with it. I tuned all the strings until they broke. I ended up saying, ‘here dude I don’t want this’ and he sold it to a friend or something. Finally, I got a guitar.

MusicPix: If you weren’t in your current band, what band would you like to play in?

John: If I weren’t in Evanescence, I would definitely be fulfilling a project with Phil Tayler and Machina. When I was talking about writing soul mates earlier? That dude is my writing soul mate. The funny thing about that is, and it tends to be true in most instances when you find a writing soul mate, you just want to kill them. I want to kill this dude everyday. He drives me freakin’ crazy but we fulfill each other’s thoughts and soul. I’ve never had anybody I could write so well with.

MusicPix: So it’s a Ying/Yang thing for you?

John: [Laughing] It totally is! I want to kill him right now and I haven’t even seen him.

MusicPix: That’s funny…marriages work like that too…

John: I know. I want to kill my wife and I haven’t seen her in weeks. [Laughing hard now!] {Please note: This was a joke!}

MusicPix: I’ll leave that one alone…

MusicPix: What artist/performer influenced you the most?

John: That’s a tough one too…Judas Priest is probably the biggest influences for me because Judas Priest got me into Rock and Metal. Once I found that, nothing else mattered. Pretty much because of those guys…

MusicPix: What are your 3 ‘desert island’ albums?

John: “Sad Wings of Destiny” by Judas Priest, “Vulgar Display of Power” by Pantera, and “Straight to Hell” by Hank III… (Hank Williams III)

MusicPix: Well it wouldn’t be a quiet island that’s for sure…

MusicPix: Who do you think is the most over-rated in the music industry?

John: Oh man, you’re going to get me in trouble… Nickelback is totally over-rated.

MusicPix: What’s your ‘perfect world?’

John: Being in my house with my family watching horror movies and eating popcorn.

MusicPix: Where do you live?

John: Benton, Arkansas. I actually moved out of the big city (Little Rock) and moved into the country. I’ve got a nice little plot of land and a house and five dogs. I’ve got a 12-year-old daughter and a son on the way. He’ll be here the end of November.

MusicPix: Wow...congratulations!

John: Thanks…I’m stoked!