Interview: Emmure Take the Shit Talk in Stride


If you spend enough time on Google entering keywords that relate to Emmure (like ‘controversy,’ ‘drugs,’ or ‘Columbine’), you’ll find a Emmure_DrewReynolds_smallsizeable amount of hatred being slung in the direction of the band. Most of that travels toward frontman Frankie Palmeri, whose been described and depicted (sometimes as a result of his own actions or quotes) as a misogynist, sexist, racist, drug addict, who advocates violence. A lot of the world’s biggest hip-hop stars could be viewed/described the same way, but are still worshipped enough to afford a yacht or a mansion. This is a conversation that should be continued, but let’s hold onto it for another day.

The thing about Emmure is that despite all of this, they have still managed to become one of the biggest, relatively younger metal bands on the scene. Their brand of metalcore has a bit of a hip-hop swagger to it, and even if you’re not down with all that Palmeri is communicating, the music is capable of digging its hooks into you.

Earlier this year, the band – Palmeri, Jesse Ketive (guitar), Mike Mulholland (guitar), Mark Davis (bass), and Mark Castillo (drums) – unleashed their sixth release, Eternal Enemies, through Victory Records. Considering the trying circumstances that occurred during the making of the band’s previous effort, Slave to the Game, it’s impressive that the album found its way out the door.

“There was a weird vibe in the band when we did that album,” admits Ketive while en route to yet another date on the Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival (which hits Toronto today). “Me and Frank weren’t connecting…we wrote a lot of music apart. We realized that something needed to change, so [with Eternal Enemies] we all snapped in line and everybody is really happy. We all contributed a good amount and agreed on different things, which I think has led to a better product overall.”

Continues Ketive when asks for more specifics: “I don’t know if Frank was doing drugs too much, or if he just wasn’t in the mood to relate with us. Whatever the case was, something wasn’t there. But it all came together when we got offered another recording contract from Victory. We thought, ‘let’s not blow this and let’s really give them a great record.’ Everybody’s attitude was good, and Frank’s was positive…everything’s been great since.”

Unfortunately for us, this tale of issues happening between Frank and the band during the Slave to the Game sessions isn’t a revelation, as further recollections of that era can be found online rather easily…along with a ton of other Emmure-related controversy.

One of the most recent conflicts that Emmure had with society was when it became known that the first track on Eternal Enemies was titled “Bring a Gun to School.” Package this with the controversial Columbine High School massacre-themed t-shirt that was featured in Palmeri’s Cold Soul clothing line, and Emmure found themselves under fire…again.

“A lot of artists are talking about guns and shooting – it’s a hot ticket as far as it [being considered] controversial,” offers Ketive. “[The idea of] bringing a gun to school is a very touchy situation, so I think certain outlets and certain sponsors said, ‘hey, we can’t really back that because of the repercussions.’ Before a big fucking tidal wave happened, we decided to name it “Untitled” and let it roll. It’s not because we aren’t hard or are pussies, it’s because people wouldn’t sell the record, and the band can’t continue if a record can’t be sold. We had to walk the edge of being fucking ruthless and trying to be a credible band.”

When asked if there’s a fine balance between glorifying a serious issue such as school violence and simply bringing attention to it as a serious issue, Ketive opts to explain where Palmeri was coming from with the track:

“If you feel that it’s pro [school shootings], then that’s how you feel,” he begins. “But, I know the story. It’s like a story you’d [find] in any Emmure-2014album, song, or movie. It’s Frank telling a story about being bullied when he was younger and the hypothetical situation of ‘I’m going to come and shoot you all up, now what? Now what’s so funny?’ He’s speaking as the person being bullied. Of course it can be taken a million different ways, but that’s the way he did it.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Ketive’s point of view or not, you need to obviously understand that Emmure isn’t the only metal band out there to have ever touched on outlandish subject matter – pick up an album from Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, or Marilyn Manson for proof.

But alas, controversy – for better, or for worse – is like an enormous back tattoo for the fellas in Emmure. It’s a part of them now, and while some might think that it hurts, it’s something that they don’t mind wearing.

“Look, if people were talking shit about us and I was at home on my computer and I had the time to sit and reply to all of them, then they win and they are right,” notes Ketive. “But, I’m here on the Mayhem tour with all of these amazing bands actually doing it.

“Controversy is good. I always give the examples of Michael Jackson, or Madonna, or Britney Spears…anybody that’s received so much hate also gets so much love and sells a lot of records, remain popular, and continue their careers no matter what they do. I could take that in a small way within the metal community. We might not go down as the world’s most credible band, but we’ll definitely go down for something,” he adds with a laugh. “I think we’re doing alright with the amount of hate we have.”

-Adam Grant

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