Mike LePond Interview
Written by Kevin Tanza on December 17, 2018
When it comes to bass players in Metal music, Mike LePond is one of those names that may not ring many bells in the mainstream audience, but to those specialized in the scene, he’s up there as one of the most talented bassists of the last two decades. He is obviously known for his work with Progressive Metal band Symphony X, but he also has a very interesting solo project called Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins and a new album that was released this year, Pawn and Prophecy.
I sat down with Mike and we discussed many different topics, such as his influences, how he writes music and the nature of his multiple projects.
It’s great to talk to you, Mike. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
ML – My pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.
2018 is almost over. What did this year meant for you on a professional level?
ML – From a productive standpoint, 2018 was the best year of my entire career. So many albums were released this year that I played on. Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins, Tomorrow’s Eve, Eynomia, Diamorte, Eternity’s End, Season of the Crow, Them, and there are more. Besides that, I have toured all year with Ross the Boss and played on his new release as well.
You’re obviously better known for your work in Symphony X and we’ll get on that in a moment, but your solo project, Silent Assassins, turned a few heads with its second album, Pawn and Prophecy. What can you tell us about that project? Why go solo?
ML – Although I am best known for my playing in Symphony X, my first love has always been classic heavy metal. I went solo because I wanted to give my fans a sense of where my roots came from. I had written many songs over the years that were not progressive enough for Symphony X, and Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins was the perfect way to put them out there.
There are people that say that while Symphony X has a much more Progressive and technical approach, Silent Assassins is more reminiscent of what bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or Diamond Head did in the 80s. Would you agree with that notion?
ML – Yes, I would definitely agree. The bands you mentioned were all favorites of mine growing up, and my bass playing was tailored more to that style. With my solo work, I wanted the younger generation of metal fans to feel like I felt when I first listened to Metallica’s Kill em All, or Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules. An excitement that you have uncovered something truly groundbreaking and fresh.
I would like to step back to the beginning now. What inspired you to play bass and become a professional musician?
ML – When I was 13 years old, my dad took me to see KISS in New York City. Gene Simmons was breathing fire, spitting blood and flying through the air. He was like a real life superhero to me. From that day on, I wanted to be a rock star just like him. My dad bought me my first bass guitar shortly after and the rest is history.
Can you name a few albums and bands that were pivotal in your life?
ML – I think the first hard rock/metal album I bought was KISS Alive II. I love that album till this day. After my KISS obsession, I started listening to heavier bands like Sabbath, Ozzy, Priest, and Maiden. These bands changed my life and I don’t think any newer bands will ever be as good as they were. My favorite bass players were Joey DeMaio, Geezer Butler, Steve Harris, Geddy Lee and Gene Simmons.
There’s this perception that bass players tend to have secondary roles in bands and within the songs. What is being a bass player, according to you?
ML – Sadly, this perception exists. Especially in heavy metal music. I think the bass player and the drummer have the most important roles in a band. The reason you can dance, or headbang to a song is because the bass and drums have established a solid timing and meter. We are the glue that holds the band together. Without us, the guitar players and singers could not execute their riffs and melodies correctly.
Moving now towards Symphony X, I would like to ask you what are the band’s plans in the near future?
ML – Symphony X are in the process of confirming plans for a 25th Anniversary European tour next year. We haven’t played a gig since October of 2016, so we are looking forward to going back out on the road. We have not decided on anything besides that for now. Michael Romeo and I have released our solo albums during our time away from the band.
Something that many fans have realized is that you guys have been getting heavier since 2005’s The Odyssey. Each album has been a bit heavier than the previous one. Was that by design or it has been an unconscious effort?
ML – Symphony X started out as a Neo-classical prog metal band. As the years went on, we felt that we did all we could with this style and we wanted to keep growing. Our last few albums were in a much heavier direction, although I would say that our latest album (Underworld) was an attempt to make our newer and older fans happy. I personally like the heavier songs.
You naturally have a much more prominent role in Silent Assassins because that is your own project and you started it from the ground up, but what are the main differences between Symphony X and your solo project when it comes to the writing process?
ML – In Symphony X, Michael Romeo basically writes 90% of everything and the rest of us add our personalities to it. With the Silent Assassins, I write 100% of the music and lyrics. I also have to be the producer. This is an incredible amount of work, but when I hear the final product it all becomes worth it. Thank God that I have such great musicians to help me.
You have worked with two fantastic vocalists in Russell Allen and Alan Tecchio. What can vocalists of those statures bring to the table when it comes to writing and performance? Are there similarities between those two that are worth mentioning?
ML – I am very blessed to work with such great singers. The best part about these guys is that they know exactly what you want to hear in a song, and they deliver it. Their professionalism saves hours in the studio. Both of these guys have something that is lacking in many modern metal vocalists. They have a toughness in their voice, as opposed to a lot of guys that just maintain a clear and clean tone.
Something that I found interesting about Pawn and Prophecy is the fact that the songs’ lyrics are inspired by History, Literature and fantasy. Are you a big reader? Does that have a big impact in your music?
ML – I love history, mythology and literature. I think these epic stories go perfectly with heavy metal music. Strangely enough, I am not a big reader. I learn about most of these topics from watching documentaries on TV. I just can’t seem to write lyrics about my life, my feelings, love etc. I am a storyteller. I love writing lyrics and then mapping out the music to them like a movie score.
Of all the albums that you have done, of which one you’re the most proud of and why? (No, you can’t say Pawn and Prophecy hahahaha)
ML – I think the album that will always have the most special place in my heart is The New Mythology Suite from Symphony X. It was my first album since joining the band and it changed my life forever. It took me from playing local bars in my town, to playing all over the world and achieving my dream of becoming a rock star. Who knew that 20 years after that KISS concert I would be on the stage like Gene.
Thank you for taking the time to do this, Mike. Would you like to leave a final message to our readers? Where can we follow you on social media?
ML – For all of your readers who have followed me over my 20 year career, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the reason I get to live my dreams and I will never forget you. I am not really good with social media, but if you search Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, you can find us. Thank you!