Interview with Implants vocalist Ken Conte | By Nick Harrah
What do you get when you throw current and former members of bands like Strung Out, No Use For A Name, and Face To Face into the studio? Implants. The Los Angeles-based five-piece melodic punk rock outfit started out five years ago with one mission: have fun writing and recording some songs. From there, things kind of took off. Fronted by lead vocalist Ken Conte of The Tank, with guitarists Rob Ramos of Strung Out and Jim Blowers of Pulley, drummer Chris Dalley of Ten Foot Pole and Authority Zero, and recently recruited bassist Matt Riddle of No Use For A Name and Face To Face, Implants have an impressive punk rock pedigree.
Now, throw all that out and start all over.
Conte admits that having fun is what it was all about. Before the release of their 2013 Cyber Tracks debut full-length, From Order to Chaos—or their new five-song EP for the label, The Olden Age, released Sept. 9—Implants were just some dudes getting together to rock out. “We weren’t really trying to create a new band. We were originally just going to record five songs. We weren’t even going to put it out,” Conte says of the band’s genesis. “But then, the chemistry of the members, we all clicked really well, and that’s when it grew into this monster. So, we started recording more songs, and that became a record, then we hooked up with Cyber Tracks.”
Raised on a diet of classic rock like Aerosmith, Queen, and Cheap Trick, as well as punk bands like T.S.O.L., Germs, and Dead Kennedys, Conte says Implants’ music is right up his alley. “Implants is a little different than the punk rock I grew up with, like O.C. punk,” he admits. “I like to be a part of something with more of a melodic side, and with Implants, that allows me to do what I like to do.”
The band close The Olden Age with Cheap Trick’s “Come On, Come On,” proving once again that punk rock is whatever you make it. “Part of the whole reason this band was formed was so that we could do what we want to do. That’s really what Implants is about,” Conte asserts. “We can explore other parts of music in terms of playing outside of what the industry standard is. There’re times when you’re in a band and it feels like a job—and realistically, it is. With this band, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun, and that’s really what it’s all about.”
NOFX guitarist and Cyber Tracks head honcho, Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta, and producer Ryan Greene—who recorded NOFX’s Punk in Drublic and has worked with seemingly countless punk bands over the years—coproduced The Olden Age. “Oh, God, it was a blast!” Conte recalls with no small amount of excitement. “It’s really funny: when you’re in the studio, a lot of times, there’s lots of pressure involved, depending on what part of the cycle you’re in. With this, it was just a great experience. We laugh a lot in the studio, and we like to have fun.”
“We have a great camaraderie when it comes to El Hefe and Ryan, and just being able to record and have their input is an honor,” he adds. “It puts us in a better position, because we’ve got two veterans who have produced or been a part of some really great things. We had a great time. It wasn’t stressful at all. Working with them, it actually makes you work harder to get the best results out of it.”
Working hard to deliver a quality live performance is something Conte says Implants are all about, especially in this day and age. “Really, our goal is that, when we’re playing shows, we want the music to come across as close to the record as possible. We don’t want someone to say, ‘Wow, that record was great, but man, they suck live!’” he laughs. “There’re a lot of bands out there where you’ll go see ‘em and go, ‘God, the record is so good, but live, it just doesn’t come across.’ At the end of the day, we want to make sure that, when we’re playing to our fans, they get the best music possible.”
Conte also confirms that, yes, there will be another full-length. What Implants have going is special, and he doesn’t take it for granted. “My family is obviously the number one priority in everything I do. Music is right after that,” he says with emphasis. “Most of us have day jobs. The way I always look at it is this: my day job pays my bills, lets me live in a house and feed my family. The music keeps me sane. So, I have a balance. It’s really about keeping things in perspective and not jeopardizing your family and your livelihood, but at the same time, giving it your all when you can and making sure that you’re not half-assing what you do.”
“Implants is great for my life. It does keep me sane,” Conte admits. “It keeps me grounded as well, just being humbled every time [we] play in front of a crowd and speak to the fans and hear how our music has impacted them, whether they’re dealing with a tough time or it makes them happy or nostalgic. When we hear that, that’s the motivation to keep us going and do what we do.”