Hranica talks Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2012
By Jessi Virtusio Gig of the Weekemail@example.com July 18, 2012 3:52PM
The Devil Wears Prada is one of several bands on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2012 bill.
ROCKSTAR ENERGY DRINK MAYHEM
◆ 1:30 p.m. July 21
◆ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park
◆ Tickets, $31.50 for lawn, $31.50-$69.50 for first or second pavilion and $69.50 for general-admission standing room only
◆ (800) 745-3000; livenation.com and rockstarmayhemfest.com
◆ Bands include Slipknot; Slayer; Motorhead; Anthrax; As I Lay Dying; the Devil Wears Prada; Asking Alexandria; Whitechapel; Upon a Burning Body; I, the Breather; Betraying the Martyrs and Dirtfedd.
Updated: August 23, 2012 9:56AM
When it comes to live concerts, Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival blew me away in 2011.
And several metal fans have been touting the dream team that is part of Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2012, which makes a July 21 stop at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park.
The main stage includes headliners Slipknot, Slayer and Motorhead, while the Devil Wears Prada has played both the main stage and the Jagermeister stage on a rotating basis.
“It’s been awesome,” said the Devil Wears Prada vocalist Mike Hranica, who lives in Chicago’s Logan Square community.
“I’ve been following Mayhem since it was introduced, and we have wanted to go out for the past couple of years but it just didn’t make much sense.
“This year it did make a lot of sense. We were very enthused to be a part of it with Slipknot and Slayer headlining. It’s a pretty unbeatable bill when it comes to mean and heavy.
“It’s just your powerhouses. There’s really nothing that can compete with that within the metal scene. These are the biggest bands in the world — Slipknot and Slayer.
“There’s Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival with more rock and radio metal bands. But as far as the United States and festival touring for metal, this is the one when it comes to the big amphitheater-type scene.”
Slipknot is on the road without the bassist and co-founding member Paul Gray, who died in 2010.
“A big part of why they wanted to do this (tour) is to commemorate Paul and reinforce Slipknot, to continue touring and just maintain their band,” Hranica said.
“Getting to experience something like that is pretty monumental. If you like that, there’s really no reason that you should miss the tour.”
Hranica said it was a honor to start the tour rotating on the main stage, but he’s just as glad to be finishing up the package on the Jagermeister stage.
“Both have been awesome,” he said. “I think the Jager stage feels a little bit more natural to us. It’s more comparable to what we’re used to.
“The main stage is incredible, just being on that 20 minutes before Motorhead and all that.
“It really has a very positive role in expanding our band and us trying to acquire new fans and listeners. It’s fun for us to blend the younger generation with the older generation.
“The people who put on the tour are really awesome. We’ve known (Mayhem co-founder) Kevin Lyman. He’s very intelligent, same with (Mayhem co-founder) John Reese.
“It’s awesome and a great opportunity for us.”
‘Dead & Alive’
When it comes to the Devil Wears Prada, the stage is where it’s at, so Mayhem came at the perfect time since the band released its first live CD/DVD, “Dead & Alive,” on June 26.
“We’ve called ourselves a live band for a long time now, really since the beginning,” Hranica said.
“We always felt seeing us live has a bigger impact than listening to our CDs. I think it’s changed a little bit since we worked with (producer) Adam Dutkiewicz on ‘Dead Throne.’
“It really translated the sound you get, the emotion we try to purvey in the live show on the CD. At the same time, I think we’re a live band, and that’s where a lot of effort is concentrated.
“Being a band that is focused on the live show so much, it only makes sense to do a live DVD. We are focusing on the live show.
“We’d put most of our time into that first, touring for people who know that and for people who are interested in that. It makes them check out ‘Dead & Alive.’ ”
Leaving labels behind
Some have categorized the Devil Wears Prada as a Christian metalcore band, which might seem a direct opposite from some of the lyrical content of a classic metal band like Slayer.
But Hranica said Slayer is the top band he was excited to tour with this summer. “I’ve been listening since I was a kid,” he said.
“The first day of rehearsal, I was sitting out in front of the amphitheater when they were running soundcheck. That was pretty spectacular for me. They’re one of my favorite bands.”
He said he used to really hate the labels people put on the Devil Wears Prada’s music.
“After we did ‘Plagues,’ we were full-on branded as a screamo band. I saw the correlation and why people would say that, but I never wanted to be a screamo band,” Hranica said.
“When we put out our third full-length, ‘With Roots Above and Branches Below,’ I was very intentional in press and obviously with the sound itself that it was meant to be a metalcore band and not a screamo band.
“Since that, we kind of evolved and I’ve been more laid-back on what we’re branded.
“Yes, we are a Christian band. That’s what we talk about in songs, and we feel that’s our purpose. But I don’t care if I’m called Christian metalcore or whatever.”
Hranica said a difference in religion shouldn’t stop people from checking out music.
“I grew up Christian. As I got older and matured, my faith became a little different,” he said.
“I’ve always loved things like metal. The heavier the music, the better. A lot of times that mean it wasn’t Christian.
“Even back then, there was a lot of Christian music I listened to. I know people that think it’s weird. I just see it as I would hope people who don’t believe in God still listen to the Devil Wears Prada, so why would I not be able to listen to Slayer?”
The Chicago connection
Once Mayhem wraps, the Devil Wears Prada will have a couple of months off before heading to Europe with August Burns Red and Whitechapel.
“We’ve been trying to spend more and more time internationally and establish our name there and be ambitious about that,” Hranica said of the European market.
“I just look forward to being in Chicago and being able to enjoy that lovely fall weather and focus on writing.”
Calling the Windy City the Devil Wears Prada’s transplanted home, Hranica noted that it’s the main place the band practices and keeps its gear.
Guitarist and clean vocalist Jeremy DePoyster and bassist Andy Trick also live in Chicago.
“Really, I’ve always just seen it as the cultural compass of the Midwest,” Hranica said.
“We formed in Ohio where we all grew up, but a lot of people who are liberal-minded artists ended up in Chicago and we spend our time there.”
Hranica, who said he has a lot of lyrics built up and ready to go for a new album, said his songwriting inspiration comes from everywhere.
“The last place I lived in Chicago, I had a rooftop deck that looked over the city. It was really nice. I used to stand up there and write lyrics,” he said.
“Now I love to sit on park benches and write. It just always comes, and 99.9 percent of the time it’s when I’m feeling depressed or miserable.”
But channeling that negative energy just makes Hranica more of a lover of life.
“I like to do a lot of things. I try to keep busy. If I sit around too much, I feel like I’m going too insane,” he said.
“I really like to cook. I live in Logan Square. Around this time of year, I go to the farmers market and get ingredients and cook. That’s something I’ve been working on a lot.”
Making an impact
Something that may surprise people is Hranica, who’s been with the Devil Wears Prada since its inception in 2005, didn’t start out looking to make it big.
“I never really had much ambition in music. I’ve been playing guitar longer than I’ve been in Prada,” he said.
“You hear from a lot of bands and kids who say, ‘I want to tour for a living. I want to be in a band. I want to tour with you.’ I was never that way. I never thought I would be involved with music.
“When I ended up doing vocals for this band, I wasn’t trying to make a living or tour with the bands on Mayhem. It was always modest ambitions for me.
“I just take it as it comes and always try to outdo myself and always perform better and write better records as we move on.”
Jessi Virtusio blogs about music, movies and much more on Elaborating on Entertainment at blogs.southtownstar.com/entertainment.