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A Conversation With Todd Burns
by Samuel Barker
June 8, 2002


Kerry King
Home Town Hero

Samuel: So, how is everything with you?

Todd Burns: Yeah, we’re just hanging out in a hotel in Davenport, Iowa. We’re getting ready to go over to sound check in a few hours, rock a show with Tenacious D tonight, then board a plane to Norfolk, Virginia where we’ll hook up with Stone Temple Pilots.

Samuel: So you guys are making the rounds.

Todd: Yeah, we’re just out and about. The record comes out May 21, so we’re just trying to make the rounds and let everyone know what we’re all about.

Samuel: We know you’re Todd, who plays bass, who are the other members of the band?

Todd: Aaron Bruno is the singer/guitarist, Drew Stewart is the guitarist and Ray Blanco is the drummer.

Samuel: Where are you all from, originally?

Todd: Originally, Drew and I are from Phoenix, Arizona and then, Aaron and Ray are from the Thousand Oaks area in California, north of Los Angeles. The band spawned out of Thousand Oaks. We met through various other bands and got things rolling.

Samuel: I know you have your new album coming out on May 21, do you have any prior releases?

Todd: We had an EP that we put out two years ago, we had just started Hometown Hero six months prior and we went into the studio and recorded essentially the first five songs we wrote as Hometown Hero. We pressed like a thousand copies of it. Through touring and playing, we sold them all, so they’re not available anymore.

Samuel: So that was a self release?

Todd: Yeah, it was a self-release. This one will be our first major label release, or any label release for that matter, as Hometown Hero.

Samuel: Well, being a new band, who has undoubtedly seen a few episodes of Behind The Music, and heard the horror stories of jumping to a major label. What made you decide this was the right path for the band to take?

Todd: I think a lot of it was that…Aaron, Drew and myself have been in bands together for the past five years, and Aaron and Drew have been together for the past seven. Ray joined up with us three years ago now. Aaron, Drew and myself were in a metal/hardcore group for a while and we put out a record and toured on an indie label. It was fun, but that band broke up. Ray’s band was on that same label and was in the process of breaking up, so we all said, ‘Look, let’s play some songs and see what we can come up with.’ That was probably November of 1999. We just decided to see what would happen. We started playing and we enjoyed what was coming out, it was a lot more rock and song oriented than what we had done prior. So we basically said, ‘Alright, let’s do a tour, put out our own record and do it ourselves to see how far it goes.’ We went on a couple tours on our own, we ended up doing the Warped Tour a couple years ago, we did the East Coast and Canada dates without management and money. We just shelled out of our pockets and made it happen.

Samuel: So, I guess it’s nice to have the support from a major label to take some of the burden off on the road.

Todd: Yeah, we learned a lot by doing things on our own, it was stressful and tough, and sucked from time to time, but it taught us so much more about what can and can’t be done on your own. It taught us how much to rely on a label. I think a lot of bands, they come out and they go for the major label, they don’t really do much, they write stuff, get signed, play some show, but they don’t really get into it. I’m not saying they all do it, there is a really large group of bands that really goes out and works and they know that you can do it on your own and you can make it happen. There is a point where you just want the help and that’s where we were at. We wanted the help of a major label. We were going to keep the same mentality as to what we were doing, but if you want to help out, that would be awesome, if not, we’re going to continue to keep going. What we do, we do on our terms.

Samuel: So you have worked to keep as much of the band in your hands, while some people just want to hand the whole operation over?

Todd: Yeah. Everything about Hometown Hero starts with the four of us. The songs, the way things go down, the way we’re represented, the way that we come across to people is our doing. I don’t want to say that it’s calculated, but there is a level of integrity and a level of confidence in ourselves which leads us to continue to say, ‘This is what we do and either you like it or you don’t like it.’ We stick very hard to that.

Samuel: How does the band handle the songwriting? Does Aaron come up with more of the song ideas or do all of you bring songs to the table?

Todd: The songwriting process is down. There is a formula. We all write, but essentially, Aaron will come in with a song idea, a melody or a basic guitar line. Then he’ll take it to Drew and he’ll come up with some sort of riff to go with it, then Ray and I get involved and work on the rhythm end of it. Sometimes we’ll rewrite parts a thousand times. We’re never totally content with the way certain parts of songs come across. Even live, we play songs a bit different than we recorded them. So the live show, it’s definitely close to the record, you can easily sing along with it based on the live song, but if you break it down, there are definitely changes.

Samuel: Speaking of singing along, are you getting anxious to get the album out so people will know your songs?

Todd: It’s been really awesome. We’ve been handing out CD samplers for the album, we’re a little over a month away, we went to radio like three weeks ago and we’re starting to see results from that, so things are just building. There is definitely an anxious feeling as to what is going to happen.

Samuel: You guys played here with Remy Zero, you’re playing tonight with Tenacious D and you’re then heading on tour with Stone Temple Pilots, those are all bands with different sounds, are you at all focusing on getting exposed to a lot of different audiences?

Todd: Well, no. I think the idea behind it is that we can go out and play with anyone. We can play with all these bands. I think the songs that we’ve written and the songs on our record are accessible to many different fans. I think that’s one of the cool things about music now. Recently music was very segregated. You had your rap-rock bands, you had rock bands, you had metal band and various different types of music, and you only listen to one style of music. It’s sad because most of the bands we grew up listening to played together all the time, despite sounding different. People listened to everything because they liked it. Now it’s like if someone wears and certain thing or says a certain thing, they’re cool now. That’s not the point of people going out and listening to music. I’d love to see music take a turn for the better where kids are going out and pushing themselves as musicians and not just mimicking what’s going on right now. There is so much music out there and so many people to take influences from that it’s a shame that kids are taking influences strictly from what’s popular now and not digging deeper to find where that particular music came from, before hand.

Samuel: Well, the new album is out on May 21, anything special in the works for its release?

Todd: No, not really. We’re just going to continue to tour. Just stay out on the road. Our whole basis is playing live. There is nothing we like more than getting out, whether it’s playing with each other to nobody or playing to a crowd, we just love playing live. ‘A Single Question’ is on the radio right now and we’re getting a good response from it, but most importantly we’ll be out touring and bringing the music to everyone. Our job is playing and hitting every town in the US. If they like it or not, that’s up to them. We just want everyone out there to hear it.

Samuel: Anything you’d like to add?

Todd: Just to tell everyone to push themselves as hard as they can. I know there are a lot of bands out there who envy the position we have, and it’s not a matter of envy, it’s a matter of determination. Every band has the potential, it’s just blood, sweat and tears. If you put it all in, it does come back out.

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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