As the frontman of New York-based metalcore outfit Emmure, Frankie Palmeri has survived his fair share of controversy. Founding guitarist Ben Lionetti labelled him a ‘disgusting human being’ and a ‘demonic genius’. He was also heavily condemned for opening a short-lived merchandise store that sold T-shirts depicting various nefarious images, including the Columbine massacre and suicide. Critics maintain his lyrics glorify violence.
I caught up with Frankie to talk about the crushing new album Look At Yourself and found a candid yet amiable bloke ready to discuss all things Emmure.
“I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but okay,” Frankie retorts when I compare him to the enigmatic Dave Mustaine and the patron saint of death metal, Chuck Schuldiner. This comparison is intended to allude to the fact that Frankie has been the sole remaining member of Emmure since its inception in 2003, all the while producing high-quality metalcore.
So is Emmure a solo project given the constant lineup changes?
“I’m the only sole survivor of the original lineup. In the original lineup, and it isn’t even the lineup that quit the band, the original lineup, no one even knows who the fuck those guys are, so it’s always just been my kind of and always like making my vision come to life in some way, or at least trying to pursue this mission in some degree,” he said.
“I have gone through a lot of changes and had to work with all kinds of people, and this latest incarnation of Emmure to me is the only way it should be, and I would probably allow it to be from this point on. There won’t be a lineup after this, which is what I’m saying. I think the primary purpose of the band is to be a vehicle for me creatively. So it’s always going to be like that.”
I observe that former guitarist Jesse Ketive and bassist Mark Davis were in the band for well over ten years.
“I think that relationship ran its course in every way possible, personally and professionally. To me, they lost their passion for playing in Emmure long ago,” he said.
So with all his challenges, what has driven Frankie to succeed?
“I love what I do, and I feel like I am reacting with people and knowing that what I am doing resonates with somebody and gives me a sense of purpose. Without music, I don’t have that, so that’s pretty much what drives me; that’s the way I wake up every day; it’s with the intention that I will continue to make art in music in some capacity, regardless of whether it be metal or whatever the fuck, whatever the medium is,” he said.
“I love playing, touring, the music, and what we’ve accomplished, and sadly, it happens that the people I was with didn’t feel the same way. So, there we are. So here I am with a whole new lineup, and as far as I’m concerned, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
With a reputation for polarising fans and critics, I noted that there was barely a troll or negative comment posted to the version of the brutal track “Russian Hotel Aftermath” on YouTube. Is this a surprise to Frankie?
“I think that the whole, people just going out of their way to shit on Emmure has got played out, and I think that people have been doing it for so long that now whenever anyone does it, It’s like dude really – you’re going to fucking throw this card again and honestly – 97% of the comments that are negative on the internet, are surely things based in ignorance. They don’t come from any factuality, and there’s nothing to base it off; they’re like, “I don’t like this band blah, blah, blah, and they suck at guitar”. It’s like ‘who the fuck is…’, what are you talking about?” he said.
“But I don’t allow that to affect how I view the band; I know my music comes from a real place, and I don’t need that negativity. So if people are really into it, that’s great, but you can’t please everybody, and there is always someone who goes I don’t like it, ‘whatever’ and ‘fuck this’, and that’s fine too.”
Public opinion is swaying in Emmure’s favour, so could the album be described as a rebirth?
“Yes, sure, I could say that might be to some people. I could consider this a rebirth of the band, and teaming up with Josh Travis (djent master guitarist, also in Glass Cloud) is probably the best thing that ever happened to me and my career. Me and him have been friends for so long, and we always wanted to work together in that capacity; the pieces just finally came together in the right way, and this door opened for both of us to team up and make this album, and we are just really upbeat people and proud of it.”
The new lineup provides a fresh start, and fans appear to be giving the tracks already released from Look At Yourself the thumbs up, which bodes well for the new album. Frankie agrees that, without knocking past releases and the contribution of previous band members, Look At Yourself is Emmure’s best album.
It was surprising to learn that Australia is yet to endear itself to Frankie. When asked if he likes touring down under, he offers a direct yet measured response.
“Not really, but I don’t think that’s fair to say because I’m sure I could have an amazing experience there; it’s just that we were kind of unlucky with our touring, ” he said.
“I don’t know what it is, man. I don’t think every show is bad; that’s not true. We had our moments where it was cool, but I think – I feel like Australia never really – we never really got a shot there. I think that never playing Soundwave, we were getting shafted and not supported; we were being taken advantage of in Australia as a market. I wanted to go there because I know so many other bands love going there, but for me, it was like, I don’t know.”
“So the best part of being in Australia was seeing the animals; that was cool. And it sucks. I don’t want to give up on Australia, and I want to go back there. I love it, but it seems that we never really got there. I mean, we are a band that put out like six records; we were six records deep and playing in like bumblefuck, and no one showing up; it fucking hurts. That’s one of the only markets like that for Emmure.”
Fear, not metalcore disciples, Frankie went to say that Australia will be on the radar for a tour when the band looks to plot a route through Asia.
So there you have it. If you are after an exercise in sonic brutality, Look At Yourself will be released via Nuclear Blast on March 3. 2017