Emmure singer Frankie Palmeri has always been (to put it nicely) criticized by many in the metal community. Recently, Palmeri found himself once again in the line of fire thanks to numerous t-shirts he produced via his clothing line Cold Soul that many felt glorified racism and violence. The outcry lead to Cold Soul’s closing (and reopening) shortly after the Aurora, CO movie theater shootings.
While Palmeri released his own statement clarify his stance on the matter, we thought we’d take the opportunity to sit down with the singer in person during the Trespass America Festival’s stop in Newark, NJ last weekend. In addition to further discussing his take on the controversy surrounding Cold Soul, Palmeri talked with us about his decision to reopen Cold Soul online, why he feels it’s important for Emmure to record new music, and how he could care less about those who dislike him with a passion.
I wanted to start off by talking about your clothing line, Cold Soul. It’s been under attack lately for t-shirt designs that many claimed glorified racism and violence. What was your first reaction to this criticism?
I was actually appalled about people unwilling to think outside the box. And the fact that they were so quick to subjectify what I was doing as racist or as any kind of bigotry is absolutely absurd, especially since as far as I’m concerned, if I see anyone of any color or race, it does not matter to me what they’re doing to each other. If I see a black person hitting a white person, or a white person hitting a black person, that’s just two people fighting. I don’t see any kind of racial difference between the actions. I think that people were looking for something to be upset about and I possibly chose an easy target to be upset about. And it’s just really sad that people still have that mind frame of things.
I understand that people were able to quickly see the pop culture reference I made. Obviously they got the photo, or photos from online from things that were popular, whether it be film, news, or media, but to look at them and say it has any kind of racial ties to it is insane to me. I think that it’s people being selective about what they want to feel passionate about or be upset about. And that’s cool, I don’t really mind. If people want to act mad about something, go ahead. I’m not going to lose sleep over it, obviously they are. It’s just strange. That’s the best way I can put it. It’s absurd that people at this day and age can see something like that and instantly think of racism. It’s just beyond me, I can’t believe it.
In regards to the violence aspect, though, could you see why some are a little more sensitive about that, especially considering the recent gun related events?
But to base things on current events to me is so absurd. People have been suffering and getting killed, violence has been a part of human history forever. It’s just part of our nature. To go and be like “Oh, but look at what just happened,” it just like “Dude, are you serious? Are you really going to base everything that happens from here on out on one incident? Look past that!” How about what happens next? What if something worse or even more terrible happens? Is that going to be the next thing you use as an example? It’s just absurd, like I said. I could see why people reacted the way they did, but to me it’s just disgusting that that’s the first thing that would happen, that they would instantly take their small, tiny little brain and instead of just seeing two human beings on a t-shirt, they see two racially diverted people. It’s insane to me, I don’t get it. I don’t listen to music, look at art or anything in that way. I don’t look at it as a black thing or white thing. I just can’t believe people still look at things like that. It’s disgusting, and I think that’s really the biggest shame.
And as far as it promoting violence or anything like that, I mean honestly, I think that violence is never the answer, but it’s also not something that doesn’t exist. It still continues, it happens. I’ve been a victim of it, I know other people who have been a victim of it as well. So it’s not like I’m any stranger to it or think that it’s a good thing, but I’m also not going to… I mean, that’s kind of the reason why I made the shirt, because it’s like “Yo, this shit is real. Violence is a way of life.” The back of that t-shirt specifically was actually a reference to, I can’t remember what the name of it is, but it’s kind of like when movies come out they put out “hot words” or sentences or phrases to go with it.
Like catch phrases.
Yeah, things that maybe at the bottom of a VHS tape or on the poster. And “Violence is a way of life” was something I got off online that was about the movie [American History X], and I was like “Oh, that actually takes the image I’m using and ties it all together with the movie,” which is what influenced the t-shirt. So it’s just people don’t want to have any kind of interest in looking past things at face value. They just want to see the book, judge the book by its cover, and keep moving. And that’s just society in general. It’s just pathetic.
You say how it’s a shame that people automatically think of that. Aren’t you afraid, though, that the shirt is promoting violence to someone looking at one of your t-shirts who automatically thinks of violence?
That has a lot to do with the person, though. That has nothing to do with the t-shirt. I can see anything, I can watch a movie about people getting shot up, but I’m not going to be like “Ok, that’s an alright thing, I should go do that,” or “Oh my God, look at what’s happening on TV. I better complain about it.” It’s a t-shirt. A t-shirt!
Like I said, I think people were looking for something to be upset about, and that was an easy target. And I’m pretty sure anything I do, no matter what it is, whether it be good or bad, especially if it’s got any opening to be criticized or ridiculed, people are going to take that advantage. I don’t shun from that, I don’t hide from that. I just think that really at the end of the day, if people are going to be that sad, that weak minded to me, I’m not going to deal or put up with it. I really think it’s below me, and that’s really it. I hope that as society continues to hopefully grow and become a little more intelligent realize that it’s way bigger than that. The world is way bigger than a t-shirt. Get over it, seriously.
You originally shut down the store, but now plan to re-launch it. What lead to that decision?
Actually, it was just a bunch of people who were really supportive of me and were like minded, and said “This is ridiculous. People are hating you for your art and work, things that you put your time into? And it doesn’t have to be for everybody. Who’s to say that making everybody happy is the best thing to do with your art or your message?” That really made me feel empowered and really good about what I was doing. And really it’s that the brand Cold Soul was never meant to inflict bigotry, hate, racism or make anyone’s life any worse. It was supposed to be a catalyst for people, or at least a catharsis for people who do feel trapped in a world where those are realities. I live in that same world with you. I’m not saying that those things are to be celebrated, I’m not saying celebrate anyone’s loss, death or pain, but to hide from it and act like that’s not a apart of real life is absurd and strange.
Obviously I got people’s attention. That was the whole goal altogether, was to get people’s attention and make them see what I was doing. And it worked. Everyone kind of played into my hands, which I think is really funny. I think that’s really the funniest part about it, is that I’m sure that the intentions of people is to bring me down a notch or to make it seem like I have some kind of grounds to make up for, but it’s completely backfired on everybody [laughs]. And all that’s happened is more people want the product and are more interested in what I’m doing.
And here we are talking about it!
Yeah, I mean I have no prejudice against any kind of website or media, or what they say about. I really don’t care. I really don’t mind, and I have no problem talking to the press about whatever they want to seek.
What’s really funny also, now that we’re talking about the line, was that the shirts that really made people made I don’t even think were my most offensive t-shirts. I had a shirt that, I’m surprised no one noticed… RoboCop was really a favorite movie of mine growing up, and I wanted to make a RoboCop shirt. So I made a shirt of the ED-209 machine that RoboCop fights, that big clanky machine that falls on the stairs and dies. I had that on the shirt with the maker of it, and it said “Cop Killa” across the shirt on top. But that never made headlines! Everyone seemed to be completely ok with me making a “cop killer” shirt, that was cool, but all of the other shirts were “Aw, I can’t believe you would do that!”
Like I said, people are being selective about what they want to be upset about because literally they’re pathetic, bored and have nothing going on in their lives. And that’s all I can say about that. There’s other people besides me who have taken pop culture references or things that have happened that have been significant in our time and era and, I don’t want to say capitalized on it, but have taken it and made art out of it or used it to express themselves in a certain way. There are so many examples. It’s just I happen to play in a band and make music, and I made some t-shirts, and someone decided they were going to get really butt-hurt about it. And that’s really the end of it, honestly.
When do you expect Cold Soul to come back? Will it also still be through All In Merch?
I don’t know. I’m still in the works of finding out if that’s going to be the future of the brand. It might not be. It might be something that becomes completely exclusive to boutiques, or maybe some kind of special online community I can create. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.
Speaking of expressing yourself, you recently revealed that Emmure is already at work on new music [five months after the release of Slave To The Game]. You also explained that you’re recording new music because you weren’t “able to say what needed to be said on STTG.” What needed to be said that you couldn’t say before?
I mean, it was really hard for me to put myself into the music on our last record. There was a lot going on in my life was kind of stopping me from really taking advantage of my position in the band creatively. So it really set us back because I think one of the stronger points in the band is the fact that I have been so honest with myself in the music. And this time I really held back, and I really did not talk much about my personal life, or things that are going on that I truly feel are important to me or that I want to get off my chest. I kind of played it safe and decided that I wanted to make an album that maybe more people could just digest easier. You wouldn’t have to figure out if you could relate to the music, it would just be kind of a story telling kind of thing. I tried that out, and I regretfully now wish I hadn’t. I wish I had maybe taken more interest in the music to put myself into it. But I think that all together, the last record is not going to be the one that defines us, and that what we’re about to make is going to be a real button pusher, and is going to be something that really is going to catch people’s attention and should really help define our sound, pave the way for us.
I think that we’ve come a long way, and we’ve had certain successes with things and certain things that have fallen by the waste side as with most bands. What has stuck, we’re going to try and stick to that formula, and that’s really it. I mean, it’s funny how people have such an interest in what I say because if that’s really what you’re concerned about, then just stay tuned. If you’re that curious in what I have to say next, then keep it plugged in because I’m not going anywhere, obviously.
What’s the status of the new music? When do you think we will get to hear it?
I’d love to have demos out in 2013, like right away, but we’re a band that really isn’t in the mood to rush things. We like to go into a situation, get some work done, write some songs we feel comfortable about, and then let it all out. I want to say next summer we will probably have another album out, but I don’t know.
That’s still pretty fast though, considering Slave To The Game came out not too long ago.
You know, people have this thing where like “Oh, you put records out so fast!” What do you want a band to do?! What is the standard? What do you mean too fast? It’s really horrible how people’s trains of thoughts are, it really is. I can’t even begin to keep up or understand why people would wonder or even care that that even happens. Maybe it’s really just the metal world because I know that I for one am a fan of hip hop and other kinds of music, and they put out music regularly. It’s like every other week there might be a new mixtape, a new single, or a single for a video. Who knows?! It’s just content and entertainment for people to enjoy the artist and what they’re doing.
It’s just whatever, it’s ridiculous that people even think “Oh, it’s so soon!” What do you want, for us to wait ten years to put an album out?! Is that what makes a great band? Is that what makes a band greater than anyone else? One album and then four years until the next album, are you fucking kidding me? When I was a little kid, if there was a band that put out an awesome album and I had to wait another four years for the next one to come out, in that four years you better have made an album that made me forget about all music all together. The game’s changed, and I know for one [that] my childish thought of wanting a band to make an album right away is not that crazy only because if a band did make an album every year, I’d be stoked, especially if I liked the band! It’s like “Cool, more content!”
Do you think that it’s become more costly to record more often?
No, it’s all about what you want to spend your money on. If you’re a band that gets paid by the label properly and they give you the money to go record, you go make an album. That’s not crazy. I mean, we’ve been on Victory Records for five albums now, and every single time we put out a release, they put the money up for us to go make an album. It’s not like they’re giving us money to go live in a mansion. They’re like “Go make a record so we can go promote your band and see where it takes us, and keep building the empire.”
I wanted to go back to how you were discussing earlier about how people love to single you out. The metal community and blogosphere has definitely been very critical of Emmure. But you’ve also been very vocal about not really caring about that. Does ever bother you at all though? How do you not let it get the best of you?
I think it’s awesome, actually.
You like being the “villain” in a sense?
I think that’s been my calling for a while, and the fact that they play towards it is so interesting to me, it’s so funny. It’s really become almost bigger than me at this point because it’s like… I feel so important! [laughs] I really do. It’s like “Wow, you guys really care what I’m about to say and what I’m going to do! That’s so nice of you!” And you don’t have to like it, that’s completely fine. I just think it’s great that they’re paying attention, really.
You’re also one of the more active singers on Twitter. What would you say is the biggest upside and downside to social media?
There is no downside. The only downside is people in general. People ruin everything. When people want to take things so literally and be so critical of everything is when they ruin things. It’s like “Let it live!” Stop trying to destroy things with your inability to accept the world around you. It’s absurd, it’s crazy. And I don’t see any negative in it at all. I think we live in an age where people really don’t appreciate things like that overall. I mean, I’m not going to say everyone’s at fault or “Oh, you should be more appreciative,” but if I was a 15 year old kid who had the internet and my favorite band had a Twitter account and saw them click the follow button on my account, I’d lose my mind. Like “Oh my god!” I know I would! I use Twitter and stuff like that as a way to really communicate and to let people know that this shit is real. My fans matter to me, people who support me matter to me, and that’s the only shit I care about. If people in the metal community or whatever want to dislike me and shit, I could care less.