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An Interview with Black Fast’s Aaron Akin

The IMS crew has been lucky enough to see St. Louis’s Black Fast a few times over the course of the last year, and they are easily one of our favorite live bands. Their shreddy take on classic thrash brings to mind Rust in Peace-era Megadeth, and that’s never a bad thing. They’ll be coming through Indy again on Nov. 4, when they’ll be playing the 5th Quarter Lounge with fellow prog-thrashers Vektor. Vocalist/guitarist Aaron Akin was cool enough to answer a few questions for us via email ahead of the gig.

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Indy Metal Shows: Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. You guys have been touring hard behind Terms of Surender– this upcoming Indy show will be the fourth time I’ve caught you guys live this year, and it’s been with a different tour package each time. How do you stay sane being on the road that much? Have you gotten to spend much time at home since the record came out?

Aaron Akin: Thank you.  I didn’t realize we have been there so many times in the last year, haha.  That’s awesome. We love the 5th Quarter and are looking forward to being back.  ‘Sane’ is a relative term when it comes to touring.  Life on the road is not comparable to home life.  But we have had some amazing experiences, on and off stage.  It hasn’t been too tiresome either, really.  I’d say it’s been about 50/50 in the last year, home and away.

IMS: Speaking of how much you’ve been on the road, what’s your favorite tour that you’ve been on thus far? Any city that you particularly like playing? 

AA: You’re asking me to pick my favorite kid, or the favorite record I’ve done, haha!   It’s always this one, or the next one! The Goatwhore tour was only about 10 days but hurt the most after it was done.  We had broken bones and a broken van and a lot of fun.  The Voivod tour, with our friends in Vektor, was surreal.  It was a life’s dream come true to be supporting a favorite band.  As far as cities go, I haven’t been out of North America, but we’ve been almost everywhere in the states and had great experiences. Going to Canada for the first time last year was amazing too. The Voivod show in Toronto was one of my favorites so far.

IMS: Since your music tends to fall on the more progressive side of the thrash spectrum, I’m curious as to what your songwriting process is like. Does someone generally bring in songs fully formed, or do you bounce riffs off of each other and jam things out in the rehearsal room? 

AA: We’re all guitar players so when we come in to practice we all have riffs and the songs don’t come about until we can jam on stuff and feel it and flesh it out. We get the song skeletons about 90% done and then we’ll record them live in a studio so that I can listen back to everything, and then I’ll write the lyrics.

IMS: I also want to ask about your influences. I hear a fair amount of Voivod and Rust-era Megadeth in your sound, but what are some of your influence that might not be so obvious? In particular, what guitar players are you into that might be surprising? 

AA: I consider myself a music fan first and foremost, then a hack musician and a guitar player. I have a really ordinary heavy metal story.  Van Halen, Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Kreator, Pantera, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest. Thin Lizzy is my favorite of all the things.  And Frank Zappa.  And Devin Townsend.  I love a lot of bluegrass pickers like Doc Watson and Tony Rice.  Trevor loves the jazz greats like Johnny Smith and George Van Eps and Wes Montgomery.  I can’t play anything like any of those guys but it’s what I’m usually listening to.

IMS: I’m also curious about your live rigs, mostly because I think you and Trevor combined use fewer pedals than the average single guitarist in a metal band. Also, what kind of guitar does Trevor play? Every time I see you guys I try to make out what it says on the headstock, and I haven’t been able to. 

AA: Haha, yeah we tend to follow the ‘keep it simple stupid’ credo, even if it’s unconscious.  Trevor takes the bulk of the solos, so he has a few more pedals than I do. Plus I don’t want to tapdance while I sing.  I just play a TC poly tuner and TC flashback mini straight into the amp.  He has a TC transition delay, Fulltone OCD, TC hof mini reverb, TC corona chorus and Boss TU2.  Sometimes those simplistic setups give us shit while we’re line checking because of a bad patch cable or power issue, and so one of us often times will STILL have to rip all that away and plug straight into the amp for the gig. I’m getting frustrated just thinking about it.

Trevor plays a Suhr guitar that he custom ordered about 5 years back. John Suhr is a builder out of the LA area and makes amazing guitars.  You may have seen other guys like Reb Beach and Guthrie Govan playing them.

clrderuwoaeyu44IMS: So what’s next for Black Fast? Any new music on the horizon? With as much as you’ve been on the road, I imagine you’re getting kind of tired of playing your current set. Also, any chance of seeing Terms of Surrender on vinyl at any point? 

AA: Yes!  We are hoping to be ready to record new music at some point in 2017.  I would love to have vinyl for ‘Terms’; the artwork by Brandon Holt (instagram @heathenlegs) was done with that fold out idea in mind. So look for that as well as new tunes next year!

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