Michael Gilbert Says Flotsam and Jetsam’s Last Three Albums Have ‘Restarted’ the Band
Flotsam and Jetsam guitarist Michael Gilbert was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The band just released their 14th album, Blood in the Water, which, in Gilbert's eyes, is the latest in what is now a three-album hot streak for the veteran speed metal group.
Humility is largely to thank for the renewed strength within the band as Gilbert stated that, despite being a professional musician for nearly four decades now, he is still a student of the instrument, constantly looking to improve and learn more.
The chemistry with axeman Steve Conley, who has contributed to Flotsam and Jetsam's more recent trio of records, is also to thank as Gilbert feels the two have differing but complementary styles of guitar playing.
Read the full interview below.
What's unique about the musical priorities of seasoned players compared to a band just releasing their first album?
Seasoned players are always learning. I think we're still students of music even though we have 14 records out. I'm still constantly learning every day.
Loss is a prevalent theme throughout the new album. What makes creating music such an effective coping mechanism for loss, especially over the course of the past year?
Everything in my life is linked to music somehow, whether it's happiness or sadness. I can't even imagine how people who aren't fans of music can relate to that in their life.
Whenever something bad happens or something good happens and, especially loss, there's something about music that sparks an emotion. I had a music teacher one time who said, "That's as close to God as you'll ever be — when you listen to music." I've always carried that with me and that's how I cope with it. A lot of other people do too. I can't speak for everybody, but that's just my mechanism for coping.
Flotsam and Jetsam, "Brace for Impact" Music Video
You and guitarist Steve Conley are both prolific songwriters. What's the benefit, or maybe downside of having so many ideas all at once?
Steve and I have great chemistry together as far as songwriting and playing. I'm a student of music and he is too and we're always learning. The cool thing about Steve is he's an inspiration to me and I learn from him.
We have such different styles — he'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 styles of writing. You can't have too many tools in the tool shed when it comes down to writing music and this guy has been super inspirational to me throughout his time in the band.
Mike, you stepped away from the band after the High album. What new perspective about Flotsam and Jetsam did you get with a decade-plus away from the band?
I got a completely fresh outlook.
We had management issues and a lot of [other] issues back then and it was just time for me to step away. [I spent] a few years of getting everything together mentally, writing again and just revamping what I do musically.
A.K., our singer, called up and said, "Hey, we'd like to have you back. Are you interested?" I was like, "Oh yeah, I definitely want to start this again." And when I came back, it was like a clean slate for everybody, which was great. We ended up starting to have this amazing chemistry together. There's been a couple of lineup changes since and chemistry just keeps getting better and better with the people that are playing with us.
Albums are signposts along the journey of a band's career. Ultimately, what does 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 career highlight.
We have a new record out, of course I'm going to say, "Yes, buy our new record, it's our best record," but I really believe that.
I don't ever go back and listen to any of our albums when we're done — maybe once — but, this one, I've gone back and listened to 25 or 30 times. I'm just extremely proud of everybody in the band the job that they did and our accomplishments on this.
We released the self-titled record and then the last record, The End of Chaos and now Blood In the Water and it seems like that trifecta has restarted the band. So if we're looking at the street signs, this is one that's going to say, "Full speed ahead."
Thanks to Michael Gilbert for the interview. Get your copy of Flotsam and Jetsam's 'Blood in the Water' here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.