Red\’s Michael Barnes talks Of Beauty and Rage

Just two years after they released the panic with their album of the same name, Red are finally back with Of Beauty and Rage, which marks one of their most musically intricate and darkest records to-date. It\’s usually a two year wait in between albums and each one seems to get darker or more musically diverse and Of Beauty and Rage falls right into the class. Being accompanied by a graphic novel, this is one of Red\’s most complex projects yet and singer Michael Barnes took some time recently to talk about the new album and the graphic novel. FRR: Of Beauty and Rage takes a different approach from previous records. Was there a darker thought process behind it? Michael Barnes: Of Beauty and Rage is just kind of an idea that we had with some of the struggles that we faced as human beings growing up and in the past couple of years as well. Beauty and Rage basically means, when you think of rage you think of things that you deal with and you’re angry. The whole thing with rage and beauty is kind of a dichotomy of good and evil and that kind of thing. Rage to me talks a lot about suffering and things people go through. Ultimately we have to go through hard times in our lives to ultimately come out of the other end and find beauty in that suffering. It’s hard at the time and I think a lot of songs kind of stay down there in the rage portion, especially the first half really just diving in to those emotions and what it would feel like if this happened to you, like what kind of emotions would you be going through? It kind of drags you down in the depths of the pit in your emotions at the lowest point that you’re at and then in the end it kind of has this more of this redemption at the end of it all. The first track is called “Descent” and the last track is called “Ascent” FRR: One thing I\’ve always loved about Red is that the music is always awesome but the message of the lyrics is always really strong. What is the importance of having a message for Red? Michael Barnes: The music definitely is an important part of it but if you don’t have lyrics to back it up people lose interest very quickly. Music can only go so far and definitely reaches across boundaries, it’s kind of the universal language, but when you have lyrics that are strong and full of depth, it really impacts people a lot more. You have the music behind it helping it but then if you have the lyrics to back it up that are driving the emotion further, I think it really takes people to deep places and ultimately lasts a lot longer. FRR: You guys have always found a way to get the fans involved. Whether it be asking them for their stories and letting that inspire a title or concept, the fans are always a big part. What led to keeping fans involved by doing PledgeMusic? Michael Barnes: We heard of Indiegogo and Kickstarter and saw a lot of similar bands that started to do this PledgeMusic thing and so we were interested in it. We’ve grown accustomed to doing this acoustic experience, kind of a VIP treatment that we do on the road where people can come on the bus, we play them a song, we give them a t-shirt and poster, they can ask us any questions, so it’s kind of this exclusive thing. When we heard about PledgeMusic we were super excited to tap in to that a little bit more, a little bit further, layout kind of a blanket of several things that would be kind of cool to do with the fans and just kind of open up the door to what would be cool and interesting. I know when people bought on to Pledge Music there was kind of an all access thing where a lot of people got privileged information, privileged videos and contests that other people didn’t get as well. So it’s kind of a cool VIP internet-based idea and I think it continues on as it goes too.   The only thing I was disappointed in, cause I wrote a couple of packages that I wrote for me, like a 5k, a 10k, I was even willing to do a marathon if they wanted to and then there was like a gamers package to hang out with me, because I’m a huge gamer, I loved playing video games. I grew up on Nintendo. So I was like, “Nobody bought in to that, I don’t know why!” I thought our fan base was huge gamers, but I guess not. FRR: Nice! What are some of your favorite games? Michael Barnes: I’m kind of a cheapskate when it comes to consoles and stuff because I don’t buy the latest and greatest. I kind of wait a year until it’s kind of cheapened a little bit. It’s always brand new to me, but it costs $20 now. I have several games that were all like $20 and I was like “oh that one’s cool, that one’s cool.” I have a couple of games that I’ve really enjoyed this past year, one was called Tomb Raider, I know it’s a couple of years old but they re-envisioned the Tomb Raider series. They kind of did a prequel like how she became Laura Croft. Seriously, the behind the scenes of how they did it all, and the music, the music is fantastic. The storyline was unbelievable. I was super impressed. It’s a very emotional game as well. There’s one scene where this guy tries to rape her and she had to fight him off, so it’s really intense, they have some really intense scenes. There’s another game too that was really good this past year, that I played…might’ve been up for a couple of years! The last Batman Arkham City, that was great. I loved the first one. I just loved how there’s endless possibilities of knocking down bad guys. FRR: I know what you mean- I\’m still rocking the PS2. I keep telling my friends I\’ll get a PS3 when the PS5 comes out or something. Michael Barnes: There’s good games on that console too! Take your time man. There’s no need to rush through all these games. I like to enjoy the experience. Obviously I don’t have a ton of time, so that’s one of the other reasons. I have 2 kids and 1 on the way, so I spend a lot of daddy time with them. My wife always says “you can’t play a lot of video games when you’re off the road, when you’re on the road it’s fine!” Kind of a strict rule. FRR: I know Joe left the band shortly after Release the Panic and Release the Panic: Re-calibrated. Who played drums on this record? Michael Barnes: You’ll see in the credits, Dan Johnson- he played on this record and he did really, really well and we’re very pleased with what he did. He’s a human rhythm machine as well. He’s a great rock drummer, very pleased with how it turned out. FRR: You\’re also releasing a graphic novel with the album. Can you tell me about that project and what it was about Of Beauty and Rage that seemed like the right album to do it for? Michael Barnes: Well, Of Beauty and Rage, if you look at the cover, it’s one of my favorites that we’ve done so far, and it really kind of tells the aspect of Beauty and Rage, you see this ominous creature that’s scary looking and that’s the rage portion of it but then you see this kind of blurred beautiful landscape behind him of trees, red leaves- really beautiful. A lot of our fans are gamers and if you’re a gamer usually you’re a comic book kind of guy. I loved graphic novels growing up. I used to read an old-school graphic novel, I don’t know if anyone’s ever heard of it, called Elfquest it’s not around now and they do some off ones now but they used to have these huge graphic novels that were over 100 pages each that were beautiful in color. With how the record is kind of portrayed with the rage and beauty is kind of the landscape of the red in the forest. We thought it’d be cool to expand upon the story that we’ve been building. We’re building a storyline that’s in the woods so the graphic novel will expand on that. Ultimately the storyline with end up being a music video. So we have some performance shots we’ve done and then there’s a shoot, it won’t be a lot of performance, it’ll be mostly story. It’s really cool and I’m excited for people to see it. I think it comes out when the record drops- either that or the day before. The storyline is awesome, there’s a big cliffhanger at the end…so get ready!