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Eve To Adam’s Taki Sassaris on ‘Locked & Loaded’: Magic bullet

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Should anyone ever be trapped in an elevator with “that guy” – the one that knows everything about everything and feels compelled to prove it – and find themselves scrambling for a way to reduce “emissions,” there’s an easy fix: just ask them to describe “rock and roll.”

It is after all the single most vexing quandary this side of describing the taste of salt, which of course tastes, well, salty. And just to make sure that the momentary gag order doesn’t become too momentary – rub a little, ahem, salt in the wound so to speak – a copy of Eve To Adam’s latest indescribable album “Locked & Loaded” would be in order.

ETA has upped the ante on their game-changing fourth release by bringing in the best of the best to co-write, produce and collaborate on this sonic journey. Rock goliath Dave Bassett (Halestorm, Shinedown) co-wrote and produced the band’s newest smash “Immortal” with additional production by Michael “Elvis” Baskette.

The rock and roll titans – Taki Sassaris (frontman/vocalist), Gaurav Bali (lead guitar), Alex Sassaris (drums), Luis Espaillat (bassist) and Adam Latiff (rhythm guitar) – have long been known as one of the hardest working, dedicated bands in modern rock.

And with a strong, cohesive fourth effort, ETA remains consistent in their vision, consistent in their intention, and consistent in their determination to play it forward, regardless of the current trend in fashion, style or fad of the day.

“Locked & Loaded” stretches limitations and stands the test of time. The songwriting and production represents the band's strongest and most versatile effort to date, pushing into new territory with influences ranging from heavy metal to electronica, industrial rock and pop.

ETA’s animated frontman Sassaris chatted with me recently about the band’s industrious brilliance and their outstanding new record. The bandleader was just as excited about album number four as he was with their musical debut.

“I don’t think that ever goes away. If you’re really invested in it and you’ve really done your job and put yourself out there, I just think that’s part of being an artist, writer, performer. There’s always the anxiety of the initial release and obviously, how it will be received.”

“I'm so thankful that this album has been received well. We worked really hard on it, we had a lot of fun making it – a do or die kind of record for us, you know? The pressure was there - but it wasn’t.”

“We still had a lot of fun, a testament to working with really great people. We were able to rise up and have a lot of fun doing it. So it didn’t feel like work at all, which is part of why it comes across the way it does.”

The fun for the rockers no doubt began with musically mixing it up a little – or then again a lot – on the new album. “We wanted to stretch it out. Part of being in this band and why we’ve been doing it for as long as we have is keeping it interesting for ourselves.”

“For the audience to go along on the ride, it starts first and foremost with you as an artist. If you’re reaching new horizons and pushing the envelope, the audience will go along on the ride with you. It was really important for us to do some of the things that we did on this record.”

“Sonically we had wanted to do it for quite some time. But due to opportunity and timing, it never really quite presented itself in the studio the way that we wanted it to go down. Working with Elvis and Eric and Dave gave us an opportunity to have a clean slate and a new canvass to paint on, a fresh canvass. So we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and push some boundaries sonically and do some different things.”

“What I'm really proud of is that you can hear some influences throughout the album that you can’t quite pinpoint. We didn’t blatantly rip anybody off, we really just wanted to take that inspiration and put it across the way that we did.”

“The album is great in the sense that it’s a lot of fun to play live and it registers with the audience. We’ve been doing some shows and to see people really know the material, that’s the greatest compliment you can have.”

That people know the new material isn’t surprising. Sassaris was quick to point out the biggest difference in the exceptional new record. “It’s an escalation in the songwriting. I'm really proud of (2011’s) ‘Banquet For A Starving Dog’ but that was more personal record for me.”

“What we were able to do on this album is take the same inspirations but to take the material to a place where it allowed the listener to participate and to know and understand more of the experiences.”

“It allows them to put themselves in it much more than in ‘Banquet.’ The lyrics are still extremely personal but it’s a lot more universal and more approachable than ‘Banquet For A Starving Dog.’”

As Sassaris also pointed out, ETA worked with several outstanding – but different – producers on “Locked & Loaded.” Working with several producers on a single album might have presented challenges for a lesser band. But the experienced rockers looked at it a little differently.

“It actually was a real blessing because in the past we’ve always just worked with Paul Lani who is an awesome producer and really great talent in his own right. But I think having the influence of different personalities throughout the making of an album made the entire process go a lot faster.”

“And it was a lot more fun because when you have the interjection of someone else’s energy and personality in the music, you find yourself going to places you didn’t think were possible. It became very natural in that sense. The only challenge was bringing the energy to the sessions and making sure you showed up for work – making sure you brought your best ideas forward and fought for the best material.”

“I really welcomed it. I was solely responsible for motivating our management into bringing as many people as possible to work with. Change is always great and you find yourself growing through the process.”

“It’s really been a great experience one way or the other just to grow as writers and to challenge ourselves. Any time there’s growth, there’s always a positive outcome. The record is completely the byproduct of the entire experience and working with supreme talent, but also being in different atmospheres.”

“We cut the record in three different places – Charleston, South Carolina, Orlando, Florida and Malibu, California. Just being geographically in different places puts you in a different mindset and allows you the opportunity to walk a different road.”

Sassaris and his bandmates may have chosen to walk down a few different roads while recording the new record. But every one of those roads leads to their never changing ultimate goal, namely to “reignite rock.”

“Well you know, there’s a lot of road left to travel and it’s a constant battle. It’s show in and show out. What that really stems from is the era that we grew up on, the late ‘80s and early ‘90s of hard rock and metal. It was in the mainstream consciousness and it was pretty much the biggest medium in pop music at the time.”

“What I want to do is bring back the same kind of feeling I had growing up watching Guns N’ Roses or AC/DC or Alice in Chains or insert any one of these great bands into the equation – that kind of inspiration that I felt listening to these bands for the first time and seeing them live.”

“This larger than life persona and presence that these bands had in that era is something that we try to embody every night. It starts with the material and then it’s bringing the materials to life in a live setting.”

“What I wanted to do was to write and record an album that some 15-year-old kid out there would get his hands on and feel the same way I felt the first time I heard ‘Welcome To The Jungle.’ What we’re really trying to do is bring back that spirit of rock, a bit of the danger, a bit of that larger than life showmanship and performance value that is backed up by really great material.”

“It all comes back to the songs. There’s a lot of cool bands right now doing things and pushing their own respective boundaries. You can have the coolest image and the public’s ear for a moment. But what really stands the test of time is the songwriting. That’s the vehicle that gets you over the hump and gets you to the next level. So that was the focus for us.”

“We know that we love to tour. We love being out there with our fans. We like meeting new people and getting new people introduced the sound of Eve To Adam. But if this thing was really gonna hold water, the vehicle is the songs. We wanted to make sure that we put as many great songs on this album as possible in order for us to go out and tour this for the next year and a half or two.”

One more thing that’ll guarantee that an album holds water? If a long, cool drink of the record tastes an awful lot like the monsters of rock. For some, the mention of the influential musical ghosts might be insulting. But the appreciative Sassaris had a separate take.

“It’s a compliment. I'm a huge fan of classic rock going back to performance value and songwriting. There wouldn’t be a Guns N’ Roses without Queen or Aerosmith or The Who or (Led) Zeppelin. I'm glad that you picked up on that because one of the appeals of the group is that we’re a fresh face on an older sound.”

“We have a lot of classic rock influences and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I'm really happy to see that our fan base is 15 to 60. I love being able to see dads bringing their sons to the shows. And maybe their first concert was Aerosmith back in the early ‘70s or seeing Pink Floyd for the first time.”

“I take that as a total compliment because the bands that you’re mentioning from that era were consummate musicians and some of the greatest performers to ever play an electric guitar. It’s something that you don’t set out to do. It just kind of happens and I'm very thankful for that.”

Sassaris is also no doubt thankful for his remarkable talent for crafting a hard rock song that can grab the listener by the throat, but in a melodically controlled way – the ultimate testament to his songwriting genius.

“Yeah, it’s an interesting intersection you find yourself at as a writer because you want to make sure that you embody that passion and spirit that we were talking about like the first time I heard AC/DC – that same type of grit and hardnosed rock.”

“But at the same time, you want to make sure that the songs have an intelligent quality to them. They’re accessible and there’s content there that people can find themselves putting their own lives and experience into.”

“What we have right now is this group with a sense of maturity and a sense of experience. We’re a band that has been around the block a few times – the ‘school of hard knocks’ so-to-speak. Something comes out in writing when you have these experiences. It’s one thing to read about someone else, it’s another thing to do it yourself.”

“You take those experiences with you and the natural thing is to pour that into the songwriting. It’s about enduring and perseverance and the stories that you live. This record has a lot of resonance for people because these are my stories lyrically, my experiences.”

“But the way that I’ve lived my life is the way that a lot of people live their lives. These stories are other people’s stories also. They can relate to them because at the end of the day, all we’ve tried to do is persevere and succeed just like other people do in any walk of life.”

“We go through this emotional roller coaster of life and we have our ups and downs and music is supposed to be a soundtrack for that experience – overcoming obstacles in your life and relishing the successes and learning from the failures.”

“’Locked & Loaded’ is an album that encapsulates the feeling of what it’s like to be human, to go for the kill, what it’s like to be defeated, what it’s like to find love. I'm not reinventing anything, I'm just bringing these concepts back to the forefront – with some loud guitars and some dynamic moments.”

“And that’s a central quality that rock has always embodied. If you go back to the bands we mentioned before, whether it was Zeppelin or Queen or AC/DC, these bands have endured for 40 plus years now because of what they captured on those records – it was really the zest of being alive, the human experience, what it means to be a person on earth.”

With four full-length albums and years of constant touring under his belt, chances are good that Sassaris knows a thing or two about the human experience. But somehow through it all, the talented musician has been able to keep his eyes on the real prize.

“It’s important as a performer to keep yourself growing and to keep yourself growing you have to be humble. You have to acknowledge what your strengths are and know what your weaknesses are and work constantly on trying to improve yourself.”

“You could learn something from a band that’s opening for you that you’ve never even heard of. They could be 22-years-old and they bring something to the stage that elicits a fire inside of you. You just never really know where you’re gonna get info or get that next bit of inspiration.”

“So it’s really important to constantly to be open and willing to accept things that you come across. And if you stay open, you’re constantly gonna be willing to grow and that’s important to be relevant as a songwriter, as a performer and as an artist.”

“If you want to continue to inspire, you have to remain inspired. To remain inspired, you need to be active in your life and that requires humility and it requires knowing that you don’t know everything.”

“This was a great day, but tomorrow’s a new day and you’ve got to push it again. There will be a new experience that could open up an entirely new horizon for you. As long as you’re into the journey and it still gets you off, boundaries don’t exist. It’s limitless what you can accomplish.”

“The quest is to be legendary, to be great. It’s not enough to be good. There’s plenty of people that are talented and good out there. But it’s really about what you do with it and how hard you push yourself to accomplish the top of the mountain. That’s really what it’s about. It’s always been like that for me.”

“This album is a culmination of that quest. We’ve closed one chapter and opened a new one. This album is a new era for this group. And now that we’ve had a bit of a taste of it, there’s no stopping.”

Fasten your seatbelts music fans…

You can catch Eve To Adam on a few select February dates with Escape The Fate and New Year’s Day beginning Feb. 15:

Feb. 15 Strummers Fresno, Calif.
Feb. 16 Ace of Spades Sacramento, Calif.
Feb. 17 Knitting Factory Reno, Nev.
Feb. 18 WOW Hall Eugene, Ore.
Feb. 20 Knitting Factory Boise, Idaho
Feb. 21 Knitting Factory Spokane, Wash.
Feb. 23 The Black Sheep Colorado Springs, Colo.
Feb. 25 The Rock Tucson, Ariz.

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