Countdown to Warped Tour: Q&A with Shawn Milke from Alesana
In case you're wondering, Warped Tour is hitting the hot streets of West Palm Beach in three weeks and one day. We're a bit excited. Our latest installment in our Countdown to Warped Tour compilation features Alesana's lead vocalist/guitarist Shawn Milke.
The 30-year-old prefers literature and history over trademark relationship cliches in his music, and you'll find some sort of creative concept behind each album they've put out. Their latest effort, The Emptiness, infuses Edgar Allen Poe with 20th century scary movies and horror -- and it includes a short story written by the band, to boot.
New Times recently chatted with Milke about minoring in creative writing, involving their fans, and a love of scary movies.
New Times: You guys have really interesting album concepts. I noticed your first full-length had a Greek mythology theme... your second was related to your favorite stories compiled from the Brothers Grimm and the Princess Bride... I see sort of a bloody weapons and suits vibe going on on your MySpace and like a 20th century scary movie vibe with your new album the Emptiness. What makes you come up with such elaborate plots and story lines?
Shawn Milke: It's just more fun that way. I was a creative writing minor in college, and I've always done writing my whole life and so has Dennis. It's just more fun than just writing like cliche songs about girls and things like that. So we tell twisted stories that we enjoy writing. We love creating characters. Even the songs in the older records are based off of other literature and we kind of put our own little spin on all those stories too. That's why we decided to do the Emptiness, where we just sort of write our own story, that way it's created by us and nobody else.
Yeah, and I noticed that each song sort of connects to the next, like one song's character sort of intermingles with another song's character.
Yeah, and the record also comes with the short story that we wrote.
Oh, it's your short story? I thought it came with an Edgar Allen Poe story. Or does it come with that also?
No. We loosely based one of our characters on an Edgar Allen Poe... like he was the inspiration for the story, but the story's entirely written by us.
Oh wow. That's crazy. I think it's cool that you guys use literature and history as inspirations for your music. Are you trying to educate your fans and maybe younger audiences?
It's not necessarily to educate them, but it's to show them that music can be more than just what boy or girl you like that week or things like that. It can be fun, it can be stories, it can be like a letting your imagination run wild kind of thing. We want the record to be a full-on experience with the artwork interacting with the story interacting with the music.
Why'd you guys pick a horror/scary theme for the concept of the Emptiness?
I've just always been obsessed with horror stories and horror films. It's like my favorite genre, and I also love like twisted, sordid love stories and the idea that even the craziest person can still have the ability to love somebody, and that's kind of what we went for.
Does any of it have any correlation with anything that's happened to some of you recently? Or is it all just pure fiction and you writing creatively?
Just pure fiction. Just the author writing a story. Just characters we created and the story and a world we created.
I saw that you guys did a cover of Justin Timberlake's "What goes around," but it sounds nothing like the original, in a good way. What made you pick that song for a cover?
Well we wanted to go on the punk goes pop record, and Justin Timberlake is like one of my idols. I think he's one of the greatest entertainers in the world. And to me, a cover song is supposed to be your interpretation of someone else's song, not just a carbon copy of the song.
Are any of your fans responding to that song particularly? I wouldn't picture Alesana fans being huge Timberlake fans, too.
Oh they love it. We get asked to play it almost every show.
Speaking of asking, you guys had to ask someone to give you your twitter handle? Was it a fan that originally had it?
Yeah, it was a fan. We went for a long time just using the Alesana Music handle, but after a while it's like, we are Alesana, and it's not fair that we don't have our actual name as our handle. But she was super cool about it. We sent her a bunch of free stuff.
Yeah, I was gonna say. She didn't try to bargain something out of it?
Yeah, she got like autographed CDs, posters, all kinds of stuff. Guess it worked out for her in the end.
I was sort of poking around your site and saw that you guys offer member subscriptions for sale to pretty much see anything on the site? I don't see that too often... what brought that on?
Yeah, that's our fan club site. It's a membership only site, and by becoming a member you get access to a bunch of free stuff, live chat rooms that we go into all the time for fans to ask questions, and we post blogs and fans interact with each other. It's a really interactive community.
I saw that a lot of fans are blogging on it and you guys do most of the updating, right?
Yeah, it's the place to be. Yeah, we try to get on there as often as we can. I try to get on the chat at least once a week.
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