On a scale of one to George Washington, guns and heavy metal rank pretty high on the America chart. The Second Amendment needs no introduction here. Meanwhile, headbanging until your brain hurts dates back to the 1970s, but it really picked up steam here in the United States in the 1980s, when bands like Metallica and Anthrax started shredding. Enter Phil Labonte, lead vocalist of the metal band All That Remains.
Phil Labonte encapsulates that gun-toting American spirit with sniper-like precision. His support for the Second Amendment is well documented. He released a video soon after the Parkland, Fla., shooting detailing his thoughts on gun control and why passing a bunch of laws is more of a kneejerk reaction that simply won’t work.
“The debate’s frustrating, at least on the internet, because you’ve got people that don’t know what they’re talking about saying, ‘Do something,’” Labonte said in his video. “Well, what is that ‘something’?”
Then there’s the metal side of the operation. Based in Springfield, Mass., All That Remains has recorded eight studio albums, sold hundreds of thousands of copies and toured dozens of countries since its founding in 1998.
Shooting, rocking and a steady gym regimen keep Labonte busy most of time, so we sat down with him for a chat about everything that pours into his mold of American freedom.
When did your love for firearms begin, and how did it get started?
Well, for me, firearms are linked with the larger idea of liberty. If we are free and we own our property, we have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our property. Shooting is fun, and I love building ARs and customizing them, but at heart, it’s part of being free.
What do your typical gun outings entail? Do you hunt? Are you strictly a range guy? Do you have any training?
I’m not a hunter, but learning how to field dress a deer is in my future. Mostly, I think of firearms as tools, so I treat them as such. I’ve taken some rifle and pistol classes. I have more planned this summer. It’s important to continue to train, and that goes for at home, too. I do dry-fire exercises, reload drills, draw from concealment, etc. Most of what I focus on is, ‘What if I have to use a firearm in the real world?’ I think that makes the most sense. I don’t do a lot of bench shooting or standard range stuff. Living in the woods, it’s easy for me to do shoot-and-move stuff. I don’t have to go to a range.
What’s your favorite firearm to shoot?
I like ARs and Glocks. I don’t own a lot of guns—at least by gun-guy standards. Overall, I own like 15, and four of them aren’t Glocks or ARs.
Second Amendment rights have come under attack in an almost historic manner recently. Why are those rights more important now than ever?
When something bad happens, people tend to look to the government and say, “Do something.” I don’t think the right to protect yourself is something they have any authority to legislate.
A lot of gun control advocates seem uninformed about actual gun laws. Where do the dangers lie there? What major problems do you see with gun-control arguments?
It seems to me there are two things that would result from additional regulations. One is they pass laws making criminals of law-abiding citizens, and there is no actual change in gun violence. Two is some attempt to enforce a total ban with a European or Australian model. That won’t go over well outside of cities.
You’re also a big supporter of veterans. Tell us a little about how your involvement got started there.
Well, I was in the Marine Corps for a minute in the ’90s. My father and uncles were in the military. I was married to a woman who deployed a few times. Most of the people I spend time with outside of the band are military or former military. I guess it’s just something that was always a part of my life. I get what it’s like to be in, and I get what it’s like to be the spouse at home.
Phil Labonte and Pat McNamara are good friends. How’d you two meet?
I guess it was at SHOT Show the first time we met. Pat’s a metal head and a solid dude. We also have some mutual friends. He’s a buddy with Jose Mangin from SiriusXM. Jose and I go way back. I’ve got a bunch of friends Pat knows in the military currently. So it’s cool to be able to hang out with people whose worlds are so different, but they have such a big impact on each other’s lives. Maybe it’s one of those “warriors keep the artists safe, and the artists connect the warriors to home” kind of deals.
Benghazi warrior Kris “Tanto” Paronto was featured on the cover of the fall 2017 issue of Ballistic Magazine. All That Remains also featured Tanto in the music video for the track “Madness.” How’d that come about?
Kris is a friend, so when we had the idea to do something to draw focus to PTSD and asked Kris if he’d be a part of it, there was no hesitation. He’s just one of those dudes who is always down to help the cause. We figured we could make a music video that was close to our hearts.
You’re one of two founding members still in the band. When that first got started in 1998, was that something you knew you wanted to do full-time?
I always knew I would be in a band. I didn’t think it would become a full-time job or that we’d have songs on the radio or No. 1 singles. I just love playing shows. So when we started getting offers to play shows and get paid for it, I was like, “This is awesome.” But there was never a plan to succeed, because just making a record is success. Just writing a song you feel good about is success. I was always a guy who loved playing and loved music. And we’re super fortunate we can do it for a living.
You’ve been going hard for 20 years. What’s been the best part?
Shows. That’s the whole point of it, in my opinion. Playing the songs for people. There are a lot of shows that are milestones, but just being able to play for so many people is what it’s about for me.
What’s a typical day look like when you’re out on tour? How has that evolved over the last 20 years?
On a typical day I’m up by 7 or 8. I usually get to a gym around 2 p.m. and then get back to the bus and eat. After that, I’ll screw around on the internet for a couple of hours until show time. Once the show is done, it’s eat again and go to bed. If there aren’t friends in town or I don’t have appearance stuff, it’s very chill. I have to limit my conversations, and I can’t talk at the bar because that would blow my voice up. So I mostly take it easy.
Metal and shooting are major components to your lifestyle, but another one is fitness.
I’ve lifted off and on since my time in the military, but in the past year, I really buckled down and got disciplined in my training. Consistency and time is really all it takes. It’s not fast, but it happens. I put stuff up on my Instagram to keep me accountable at first. I asked my followers to start giving me crap if it was too long in between gym pics. That wasn’t necessary once I started to really see changes, though.
Between metal, shooting and working out, what’s the most important to Phil Labonte?
They all play a different roll. I don’t know if one is more important. The gym and metal keep me sane, and the guns keep me free. Not sure I can pick one that is more important.
This article is from the fall 2018 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.