Flotsam and Jetsam guitarist Michael Gilbert was the final guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio program. The band has just released their 14th album, Blood in the water, which Gilbert sees as the latest in what is now a three-album streak for the veteran speed metal band.
Humility is in large part to be thanked for the renewed strength within the group as Gilbert has stated that although having been a professional musician for nearly four decades now, he is still a student of the instrument, constantly seeking to improve and learn more.
The chemistry with hacheman Steve Conley, who contributed to the more recent record trio of Flotsam and Jetsam, is also to be thanked as Gilbert believes that the two have different but complementary styles of guitar playing.
Read the full interview below.
How are the musical priorities of seasoned musicians unique from a band that has just released their debut album?
Seasoned players are always learning. I think we are still music students even though we have 14 records released. I am still constantly learning every day.
Loss is a dominant theme throughout the new album. What makes music creation such an effective coping mechanism for loss, especially in the past year or so?
Everything in my life is related to music in one way or another, be it happiness or sadness. I can’t even imagine how people who aren’t music fans can relate to this in their life.
Whenever something bad happens or something good happens and, especially a loss, there is something in the music that arouses an emotion. I once had a music teacher say to me, “It’s as close to God as you will ever be – when you listen to music. I always carried this with me and that’s how I get away with it. Many others are doing it too. I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s just my coping mechanism.
Flotsam and Jetsam, “Brace for Impact” music video
You and guitarist Steve Conley are both prolific songwriters. What is the advantage, or perhaps the disadvantage, of having so many ideas at once?
Steve and I have a great chemistry together when it comes to songwriting and acting. I’m a music student and so do he and we’re still learning. What’s cool about Steve is that he’s an inspiration to me and I’m learning from him.
We have such different styles – it’s more of a local legato type picker and I hit every note, so it’s really both ends of the spectrum when it comes to our writing styles. You can’t have too many tools in the tool shed when it comes to writing music and this guy has been super inspiring to me throughout his time in the band.
Mike, you walked away from the group after the High album. What new perspective on Flotsam and Jetsam have you had over a decade of the band?
I had a completely new vision.
We had management problems and a lot of [other] problems back then and it was just time for me to walk away. [I spent] a few years of mentally putting everything together, rewriting and reorganizing what I do musically.
AK, our singer, called and said, “Hey, we’d love to see you again. Are you interested?” I was like, “Oh yeah, I really wanna do this over again.” And when I came back it was like a clean slate for everyone which was great. We ended up starting to have this amazing chemistry together. There have been a few line-up changes since then and the chemistry just keeps getting better with the people playing with us.
Albums are milestones throughout a band’s career. In the end, what is Blood in the water reveal about the state of Flotsam and Jetsam and where it might go in the future?
This record is definitely, for me and the rest of the guys in the band, a highlight of my career.
We released a new record, of course I’m going to say, “Yeah, buy our new record, it’s our best record”, but I really believe it.
I never go back and listen to any of our albums when we’re done – maybe once – but, this one, I went back and listened to 25 or 30 times. I’m just extremely proud of everyone in the band, the work they’ve done and our accomplishments on it.
We released the eponymous record then the last record, The end of chaos and now Blood in the water and it looks like this trio has restarted the group. So if we look at the road signs, this is the one that will say: “At full speed”.
Thanks to Michael Gilbert for the interview. Get your copy of “Blood in the Water” from Flotsam and Jetsam here and follow the group on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can listen to Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show here.