Interview by Nick Perkel
Tom Morrissey is a founding member and lead singer of the New York hard rock band Killcode that was formed in late 2008. They recently appeared alongside former Queensryche singer Geoff Tate at the College Music Journal convention showcase for Skateboard Marketing and appeared in clubs such as Webster Hall, The Bowery Ballroom, Highline Ballroom, Irving Plaza and more.
Tom talks about Guns n Roses’s drummer Frank Ferrar filling in for their drummer at a club called the Trash Bar in 2009 and reveals how Killcode made Frank’s acquaintance. The story of Killcode’s first music video- an acoustic version of their song "Breaking Away" which will be included on the DVD release of David Swajeski’s documentary Dressed. In the conversation below we discussed song writing in ways such as seeing a tell tale sign when you have composed a notable lyric or riff and how you are able to distinguish when something has mass appeal for an audience. A few words of appreciation were mentioned for the New York Rock Scene and what some of the difficulties in being a member of it are.
You appeared at the CMJ event a couple months ago with Geoff Tate, what other types of high profile gig have you performed at in the last few months?
High profile gigs? Well that depends on what you consider high profile gigs. We've done an east coast tour with Brett Scallions of "Fuel" and his Re-Fueled tour and we also played a headlining show at John Varvatos's new store where CBGB'S formerly was, which was cool. Not too long ago we headlined our first show at Irving Plaza which is a sweet venue in the city (New York City). We were really proud to do that. Not a lot of unsigned bands get that opportunity; it’s the same with a few different clubs in the city. On that end we've headlined some of NYC's best venues like the Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Grammercy Theater, Highline Ballroom and like I mentioned Irving Plaza .Some of these gigs were sold out as well! So high profile gigs like sharing the stage with Geoff Tate? Not too many of those yet, but we hope there will be some more in the future.
When it comes to songwriting, is there ever a tell tale sign that your lyrics or melody that you composed were done well; either through something you notice yourself or communicating with other band members?
Both, I write most of the lyrics and melody in the music, the guys in the band sometimes contribute some melodies or lyrics as well, but it’s something you feel in your gut, I usually know in the first 5 minutes of a guitar melody if it’s going to be great. For songs that I feel will have a mass appeal.. I can just feel it right away, it’s like boom! This is something anybody could get into.
When an idea comes to you what is your favorite way to preserve it so it is not lost by the time you get around to using it?
While running around trying to get things done it can be tough .It’s a lot easier now with cell phones but it can be anything from writing it down on a napkin to calling myself on the phone and putting it on my voice mail; you just want to get the idea down right away. It is tough, since sometimes you have a great idea and if you don’t have some way to get it down really quickly it can escape you, and those are the moments that you want to kick yourself in the head.
Being a New York Metal Band, what would you say are the greatest things available to you vs what are the biggest difficulties for you as a band?
I love metal, and metal is definitely a big part of our sound but I would consider us more of a rock band . We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but just keep things interesting. We all come from different influences musically. We try to inject a little bit of what each of us do into the songs, and I think that comes across, and I think that makes us separate from everybody else or makes us a little different I think. The things we all bring to the table are similar but they are all different at the same time.
The biggest difficulties are the same for any band or artist if you are doing it yourself, which we are at the moment. Keeping your head up, making sure you are doing it for the right reasons, for the music, not getting caught up too much in who is going to back you, and how much money you are going to make and what not. At the same time you need that money to keep on going. To do what we do, you need to have some cash, so having the finances there can always be a problem. Nothing really different than any other artist of musician I think.
Do you think that the New York rock scene and the New York metal scene are two different entities and how do these bands reconcile with one another.
There are definitely different little pockets, some people like to refer to it as a scene, I am not too crazy about that word. A lot of bands share musicians where some play in a rock band and others play in a metal band. I think there is a lot of camaraderie. I can't say the same about NYC prior to this band BUT in the last 4 or 5 years I can say I have seen everybody getting along pretty well and supporting each other’s shows/music . It seems to be getting better too.
What types of life experiences have you found most profitable for composing new lyrics and music?
I write two ways, sometimes I write pure fiction or a story that has nothing to do with me. Other times it is personal, and when it comes down to what kind of stories or what are those stories… I like to let the song tell that. I don't think I write any differently than most. It's mostly, the ups, the downs, the hang and the hangover *laughs* Any small thing in your life can be a big story and vice versa.
Back in 2009 you had Guns N Roses Drummer Frank Ferrar fill in for your drummer at the Trash Bar. How did your band make the acquaintance of Frank and are you still in contact with him?
That was a fun gig, that happened because our drummer actually hurt his arm, and couldn’t do the show, and we were booked already, we hate to cancel gigs. Frank happened to be a friend of our guitar player Pat Harrington and Frank has been part of the New York rock scene forever, a great guy, a great drummer. Pat was in a band called Slunt prior to Killcode and he knew Frank personally and gave him a call. Frank came down to a couple of rehearsals and did the show, it was a great time.
A couple months back you released a music video for your song Breaking Away, how much creative control do you have with your music videos?
That was actually our first experience with a proper music video. That was done through a song that appeared in a documentary that was out last year called Dressed. They used one of our songs for the soundtrack, and asked us if we wanted to do a video to go along with that. The video is an acoustic version of that song Breaking Away. We played live while filming the video, the audio to the video is the live take (which isn't done often) and it will be included on the DVD release of the movie. The director David Swajeski was a great guy and pretty much said plug and play and came up with the concept as we filmed it. It was a cool experience; I can’t say I have much experience other than that.
Finishing things off, if insert musician or band never existed I would have a completely different view of music. Help me finish that sentence?
If I had to pick one off the top of my head I would have to say Elvis. It’s not necessarily his music, his songs, or the story of Elvis. I just think he knocked the doors open and got people moving and grooving aside from being an actual star. In my opinion he helped start and helped create that Rock N Roll vibe that has just snowballed into Rock N Roll as we know it now, to metal to whatever.