I first got to know bass player extraordinaire Mike LePond when I stumbled upon his eponymous debut album MIKE LEPOND’S SILENT ASSASSINS on a friend’s timeline in 2014. I immediately purchased it, contacted Mike, and voila! We wound up having an interview a few days later. Since then he has put out a monster of a record with SYMPHONY X in Underworld, rocked my face off live on two separate occasions, and played on too many other band’s albums to list here.
Oh, and by the way, MIKE LEPOND’S SILENT ASSASSINS just released album number two last month with Pawn and Prophecy. Spoiler alert: it kicks ass!! So when I had the chance to sit down with Mike a second time of course I jumped at it. Have a look:
Amps: First thing I have to ask about is the 22-minute epic “Pawn and Prophecy.” How did you find a way to make a song riveting for that length of time?
Mike: You know, when I was writing it that was always n the back of mind. How do you keep a listener’s attention for 20 minutes. So when I went to write the song I tried to make it go in all different directions, with different feels and styles. The song is so serious that I decided to put a blues part in there to lighten everything up. And then I wanted a big ending, you know?
Amps: Yeah, that blues section had me going, “What the Hell??” but in a good way!
Mike: (Laughs) I know. When I was recording it, Michael (Romeo, his bandmate in SYMPHONY X) was recording me. When he heard this he goes, “What is this?!? This isn’t metal, bro!”
Amps: You never stop working, it seems. You went on a massive SYMPHONY X tour that I caught twice, and every time I turn around there’s Mike LePond playing on someone’s album. Then you drop this one on our heads! Does your phone EVER stop ringing?
Mike: You know, it really doesn’t. I might have played on more metal records than any other bass player (laughing)!
But I’m always busy, and I love every minute of it. Every project is a challenge and it makes me a better player, so it’s great to be able to do all this stuff. And I try to do as much as I can.
Amps: What are some of your favorites on this new disc?
Mike: I guess “Black Legend” really defines my style of music the most. just a straight ahead, JUDAS PRIEST style of Heavy Metal. I love that one. The opener “Masters of the Hall” is another one. That was fun to do. I wrote that one in my mind when I was on a plane. That happens to me a lot, these ideas hit me when I’m on a plane. Alan Tecchio (vocals) did a fantastic job on that one.
Luckily for me he lives maybe 30 minutes away, so I can get him on these records quickly. He can do so many things with his voice. He’s got great grit, and at the same time he can do a great ballad. I didn’t know how he was gonna feel about the folk song “The Mulberry Tree” but he was into it and it turned out cool.
Amps: Because you are so busy, when did you find yourself writing the record? On buses, airplanes and the like?
Mike: Usually how I do all this. I’m not your typical musician who wakes up in the afternoon, you know? I wake up super-early in the morning like everyone going to work, and that’s when I am the most creative. That’s when I’ll either write music or learn all these songs for whatever recording I have to do. I might wake up at 6 a.m. then practice till 9 or 10. Then I’ve gotten so much done for the day already that I get it all organized; I love it.
This album took about two years, and I was writing the long song for all of it, while also putting the rest of the tracks together.
It went a lot easier this time because the first album I was doing everything. I made a lot of mistakes as far as ways to do things. This one ran a lot more smoothly, and I just wrote it when I had some free time and felt inspired.
Amps: Away from music, what do you use to relax and unwind?
Mike: Simple things, really. I’m not a party guy or anything like that so I like to maybe go to the movies and out to dinner with some friends. There’s always a friend of mine whose band is playing nearby. That’s probably what I’m gonna do tonight, go see my friend’s band play.
Amps: What was the last movie you saw?
Mike: The new Star Wars. Did you see that one yet?
Amps: I did…your thoughts? You go first.
Mike: You know, I liked it for what it is. But I remember thinking that this is probably the last one I’m gonna see. All the iconic characters that we grew up with are gone. it was still a great movie. For our age group, that was our whole life, right?
Amps: I gave it a B, maybe a B+. Kylo Ren’s temper tantrums are really starting to get old. And there were a couple of moments that very much had a “been there, done that” feel from Empire and Jedi. I think they did good, but it could have been better.
Mike: Yeah, I can agree with that assessment.
Amps: What are you playing in the car or at home?
Mike: Usually when I’m home, I have so many friends and fans that send me songs of bands that they’re listening to or playing in, and I listen to it all. There’s so much great stuff out there it’s overwhelming.
Amps: Will we get any live shows from SILENT ASSASSINS in 2018?
Mike: One of my biggest regrets from the first album is that we didn’t play live. After I finished it I had to get right to work on the SYMPHONY X record. Then we went on tour and before I knew it, it was 2016. This time around I’m definitely looking to do some shows. Maybe a small tour, or some festivals. SYMPHONY X’s manager is looking into some opportunities for us.
Amps: What would you hope that the listener takes away from Pawn and Prophecy when the last note has rung out?
Mike: Just that they listen to the album as a whole. Maybe if you’re not a fan of folk songs or long songs, just listen as a whole and take it as a complete work.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the fans of Mike LePond and the 3,000 things you’re involved in?
Mike: To everyone who’s followed my career all these years, you guys are the reason I’ve gotten to do all these things. All these dreams of mine have come true. I get to play with Class-A bands and tour the world many times over.
And I have to thank all you guys, all of you for that. I will probably see a lot of you on the road this year, so if you see me walking around please come up and say, “Hello.” I’d love to meet you and thank you in person.
Man, Mike LePond is like the Energizer Bunny of metal. He just keeps going, and going, and…you get the idea. The thing is though, that time and again he puts out quality music that keeps me rooted to the spot and coming back for more. Pawn and Prophecy, the new album from MIKE LEPOND’S SILENT ASSASSINS is available everywhere now through Frontiers Music, so do yourselves a favor and get a copy today. And let’s hope a tour happens soon, hey?