The prospect of working with producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Mötley Crüe) was rather intimidating at first for Lostprophets. But frontman Ian Watkins said the Welsh rockers needed to get past the fear factor because they needed someone like Rock. The no-nonsense workhorse has had a hand in some of metal's most influential records over the past 20 years, and the bandmembers wanted him to challenge them, push them and whip them into shape.
So Rock performed his professional duties — and at times, it did sting.
"It's been a hell of an experience," Watkins explained. "He's really cool, but at times he's been really tough on us. I can imagine, like, if you were in the Marines — he'd be like a really hard-ass drill sergeant who you think is a complete pr---. But then, because he's pushed you so hard, when you're in combat, all this training ends up saving your life. He doesn't bullsh--. He doesn't sugarcoat anything. If [a song's] sh--, he'll tell you. There were moments where it was so surreal for us, because we all grew up watching [the 1992 documentary] 'A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica' and then we saw [2004's] 'Some Kind of Monster.' To be there, sitting with [Rock], and working with him and arguing with him, it's been wild."
The Lostprophets have spent the last three months living with Rock at his home in Maui, where they've been recording the follow-up to 2004's Start Something. The writing process, according to Watkins, began almost a year ago in London. Since then they've churned out 50 tracks and recorded 13 at Rock's studio — all of which will comprise the band's third studio offering, slated for release in July.
"It's hard to know what to say without following every cliché in the book," the singer said. "You know, like, 'It's the best album we've ever done' and all that. But I don't know — it's the truth. We've just been refining the sound more and focusing on the songs. We're trying to write the best songs we can, put 'em on a record and then go out and dance around to them."
At this point, neither the album nor its 13 cuts even have working titles. "We're just focusing on the music for now, and we'll address all the aesthetics later on," Watkins reasoned. But he did comment on what fans can expect of the material — and not surprisingly, things will be sounding just a tad different than the band's previous work. Chalk it up to the inevitable maturation process the Prophets have undergone.
"We're just a band, and we play whatever we feel like playing at that moment," he said. "There was a more conscious effort to kind of use some of our heritage with this album, because we are a British band. We grew up listening to a lot of American rock, but we also grew up listening to stuff like the Police and the Clash and Duran Duran — the classic pop bands of the era. So there are definitely elements of that stuff in the songs. It's not so much 'chugga-chugga' metal anymore, because we've grown — as cliché as that sounds.
"When we started out, playing metal was so much fun," Watkins continued. "So that's what you'd do. But as you grow, you think, 'Ah, let's try doing something that's a bit more cool, a bit more together, a bit more classic. It's still got the rock and it's still aggressive, but in an angular, pop way. The best way I can describe it is, it's like the Clash playing Bon Jovi songs. We've got that aggression and we love big songs and big choruses. But I feel like this is the record we'll be most proud of. On the last two records, we were still trying to find ourselves."