Mike "Union" Jeffers: "Stories that all can relate to"
It was 17 years ago when the mastermind of Blood & Fire Productions invited the drummer Mike Jeffers (nicknamed “Union”) to a brief interview. His band Herod was about to release then “For Whom the Gods Would Destroy”, the second full-length in the discography and the first in collaboration with Lifeforce Records, the German source for so many brilliant albums in the global hardcore and metalcore scene. Down below you find a nostalgic take, so enjoy revisiting the early days of American band Herod with short tales on common sense and the urge to create powerful music. As the title says, these are stories all can relate to, although are told by a history teacher, whose mind-set might be somehow more down-to-earth-like than others’.
V: Hello Mike! How are you?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: Hello Florian! I am quite well, thank you!
V: Why Herod, this king of Judaea?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: I chose the name Herod for the band because it is somewhat of a dichotomy. Herod, according to the bible, was a heinous human being. A murderer! Herod wanted to kill Christ, but on the night of Christ's birth, the messiah was not born in Jerusalem as Herod had foreseen, but rather Christ was born in Bethlehem. Herod killed all the first born males in Jerusalem that night in an attempt at killing Christ. Now on the other hand, if you read a history textbook, Herod is viewed as a great leader who did a great deal as far as modernizing the Middle East. Now, which view of Herod is right? Who knows... History is written by man. Specifically, history is written by men based on a first hand eyewitness account. But people can often have a different view of the same event. This is why I chose the name Herod. People's view of our band is often quite different depending on who you ask. To some I may be a nice guy, to others a tyrant. I am a history teacher by profession, so I am fascinated with the people of the past. I find Herod intriguing.
V: Please tell us a little bit about each of your band’s releases and their availability.
Mike "Union" Jeffers: Herod has put out several releases. In 2001, the band released an EP on Sounds Of Revolution Records entitled "Sinners In The Eyes Of An Angry God". In 2002, we released our first full length entitled "Execution Protocol" on Too Damn Hype Records. In 2003, Herod contributed a track to the East Coast Assault 3 Compilation on Too Damn Hype Records, and we contributed a demo track to the Lifeforce/Goodlife sampler. As far as I know, all releases are available through Lumberjack as well as Very Distro. The first two Herod records are more metalcore-oriented. When Jesse and I started the band, the only other members we could find were more into metalcore than straight metal. So the music reflects that while our new record is more along the lines of what we originally set out to do. Play melodic metal. The first two records also feature the band's original singer (he left the band in the mid 2003).
V: As an American band, why did you choose a European label, namely Lifeforce Records?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: To be honest, I have been buying Lifeforce releases for years because they are readily available in the States. I always thought it was a great label. Stefan at Lifeforce made us a generous offer and we felt that he could help us out more than other labels. Also, metal is more widely accepted in Europe, and being on a European label means that Europeans will have better access to our records. Being on Lifeforce feels like being part of a family. All the bands are amazing and Stefan treats the bands very, very well.
V: What should fans expect from your newest album, "For Whom The Gods Would Destroy"? How can you describe it the best?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: The title of the record refers to the band having to overcome many obstacles in order to persevere. It is often difficult to be a member of a full-time band. You have to put a lot of your life on hold in order to fully commit (marriage, kids, work). Fans can expect full out melodic metal. Music and vocals are melodic. This record is for fans of Metallica, Megadeth, Maiden, Priest, as well as Slayer, Biohazard, Zeppelin, Pantera. The record has something to offer anyone who is into metal, past or present.
V: Which of your albums you find the greatest?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: Honestly, the new record is my favourite. We really stepped it up as far as song-writing is concerned. And with the addition of Judah on vocals, the band now has more depth.
V: Which is the scene you think you belong in?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: That is a great question. I am a metalhead, but I am also hardcore. Herod isn't playing what is in style in the States, so kids are going to have to make up their minds on their own, whether or not they like Herod.
V: What kind of message do you want to spread out there through the lyrics?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: Judah handles all the lyrics. As far as I can tell, he often writes about relationships with people he has met and been involved with throughout the course of his life. He also writes about life changing moments and situations. He is a straight shooter, and tells stories that all can relate to.
V: What can we expect from Herod in the near future, beside the new album?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: In the near future you can expect Herod to do some heavy touring. We will play anytime, anywhere for anyone who wants to hear us. We will tour with any band, regardless of the style they play, as long as they are good people.
V: Do you see yourselves signing with a bigger label and doing a video for MTV or something like this?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: Who knows where the band will wind up? I know that we are committed to working with Lifeforce. We (Lifeforce and Herod) feel we can help each other out a great deal. As far as videos, my friend Aaron MacPherson just shot two videos for us. They could very well wind up on MTV. That depends on Lifeforce though. I would expect that the videos will wind up on TV in Europe.
V: Do you have in mind touring Europe?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: Yes, Herod will do our first tour of Europe this spring (April 8-20). I think we may be touring with Fear My Thoughts. Silver Star booking is handling the tour.
V: What’s the best show you ever had so far? What other bands were there?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: The best show we ever played was our first show with new singer Judah. Coincidentally, that show was with one of my favourite bands ever, Anthrax. I have been a fan of theirs since "Fistful Of Metal". They signed autographs for me after the shows, took pictures with us, and said that they enjoyed our music. A dream came true!
V: If not a musician, what else were you?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: Well, I am already a teacher, so if I didn't play music, I would have concentrated solely on teaching.
V: Is there any famous historical character you can identify with?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: I can't specifically identify with anyone in particular. I would like to think I identify with the common man... Hard working and honest.
V: What was the first piece of music you remember hearing?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: I don't remember the first piece of music I heard, but I do remember that “Breaking The Law” was the first song I learned to play on the drums. That was 1980. My older brother is 10 years older than me and he was the reason I discovered metal and the reason I wanted to be a musician. I wanted him to think I was cool.
V: What are your favourite books, movies, or bands?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: My favourite book is “The History Of Heavy Metal”. It was about a learning experience! I thought I knew it all. Hehehe! I honestly prefer the history channel to movies. I don't have one favourite band, but some of the classics to me are Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Kiss, Metallica, Megadeath, Slayer, and Anthrax.
V: What famous song you would like to have written?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: “Hallowed Be Thy Name” by Iron Maiden.
V: What song you would prefer for the people to listen at your funerals?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: “Ave Maria”, the saddest song ever written. It was played at my father's funeral and my brothers' weddings.
V: Do you know something about my place of origin, Romania? What do you think about it if yes?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: I know that Romania is somewhere I would love to visit. There is so much history in your country to be seen first-hand. America is such a young nation compared to yours. I bet Romania is beautiful. Also I know about Nadia Comăneci, the gymnast who defeated to the United States. Does that count?
V: Hehe! Thank you so much for your time. Do you have anything to add?
Mike "Union" Jeffers: Thank you so much for the support and the interview, I appreciate it! Hope to see you all on tour in the immediate future. Please pick up our new record on Lifeforce, due out in the US January 27th and in Europe April 12th. Thanks again!