Serpents Andrew Mikhail March 2019 Interview

I asked Serpents about a few things, and their upcoming album “Temet Nosce”.  Listen to the single from their upcoming album “The Sunset And The Silhouette” right here. Check out this detailed interview!
TMR: What factors led to the birth of Serpents? 
 I’d like to start this interview in true “Andrew Mikhail fashion” by quoting Plato’s famous line, “Necessity is the mother of invention”; and at that certain time in my life, I had nothing but necessity. I was harboring many mixed emotions then, and yet, at the same time…hours and hours of music. In my heart and soul, it was all meant to stay within; but after speaking with a close friend back in 2010, I was convinced that this needed to be unleashed unto the world…for my own spiritual well-being as well ha.  The fact that anyone else wanted to play that music with me, or simply listen to it; was unexpected…but an added bonus in the end. For that, I am always grateful.

TMR: Explain your upcoming album. Who did you record with? What’s the theme and lyrical motivation?
In a nutshell, this is the third album I’ve created under the Serpents name; and it’s the final installment of a “trilogy” of sorts, as the previous albums had an overall theme to them lyrically and conceptually that all tied together in a “grand sense”. This one though? There are about 6 parallel story-lines simultaneously intertwining within “Temet Nosce”, that I purposefully leave to the listener to uncover; but like the previous albums, there is a huge part of myself and my story hidden within the lyrics. However, at times, it’s a bit more obvious; I mean hell, the album title is Latin for “Know Thyself” ha. As far as the behind the scenes credits go, the album was written, recorded, and produced by myself pretty much; with the exception of some additional help by credited friends. Later on in the process though, I had sought out the help of Logan Mader (Gojira, Five Finger Death Punch, DevilDriver) for mixing, mastering, and additional production duties. Being a huge Soulfly fan, and a fan of his production work, I can proudly say that it has been a really cool experience working with him on this album; and from the feedback so far…the people really love it too.
TMR: Your sound is so unique. Tell us what bands and artists influenced it? 
There really is no specific band or artist that directly influences my lyrics or music, as my musical tastes span all across the globe. Specifically, there are obvious ones that many can throw on the table for conversation’s sake; like: Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, Opeth, Devin Townsend, etc. but even as I type this, I’m checking out the latest Katy Perry single!  I mean, the list could go on for days ha. However, from growing up in a household that would have traditional Assyrian music to bands like Ministry blaring in the house; we fast forward to today, where I listen to all different kinds of music no matter what. Every day and every night, it doesn’t matter, I try to stumble across a new band, genre, or artist at least twice a week just to keep things fresh for me artistically and even production wise. These things definitely factor into our sound, but I’d also say my curiosity for finding the “perfect” song keeps me yearning for more as a listener and creator. It’s a happy yet never-ending pursuit.
TMR: Any new bands you discovered recently you wanna share?
Again, it really depends on the genre, but there are a few up-and-coming groups that I feel are going to do great things for their respective genres. Some favorites in my regular rotation as of late, include: Warforged, The Zenith Passage, Painless, DRAEMINGS, Thieves, and more more more.
TMR: Andrew- tell us about the split with Oceano. Do you feel that Serpents is like an artistic rebirth of yourself?
It depends on the day you ask ha. However, looking back, my general understanding of the situation is that we were kids at the time. Plain and simple. There’s really no need to go over details anymore, as it’s been quite some time now. Some grudges had died shortly after, and some still live on; that’s life, and that’s alright. All I can say when looking in the mirror, is that I tried my best and I leave it at that. Not to mention, the band that I had left in 2010, has transformed into something completely different; and that’s great. I’m a fan of what they have done since then; which even solidifies the feelings of it being a “past life” of sorts when looking back. Like the world does after one dies, it has moved on with or without me; and that is the reality. In addition to, I’ve personally been through a lot since the departure; and that journey really set the precedent of Serpents, and my ongoing rebirth as an artist and human being. My days in Oceano are from a past version of myself that is thankfully well-documented and often nostalgic to look back on; but I have “died a thousand deaths” since then. As each album passes, Serpents is a personification and/or manifestation of “the eternal return.” A never-ending cyclical process, yet, a glimpse into times as I see fit; over and over and over again. Within each album, that very idea is plastered all over the imagery, the lyrical themes, the merch, everything; you just have to be able to see it.
TMR: What’s your favorite song you’ve written in Serpents?
That’s a tough question, as I try to never write a song that I don’t enjoy! However, to avoid being cliche by saying anything off the new album; I will say “The Shadow of Timelessness” is a favorite lyrically, and “The Virtuous Remliel” would have to be one of the favorites musically. Both are pretty “deep cuts” in contrast to what our listeners usually enjoy ha. Go figure.
TMR: What is your favorite thing about music? What qualities of it attracted you?
Qualities aren’t really important to me, as I approach music like one would approach a painting; I want the whole picture all at once. I want to skim over, investigate, pick apart, interpret, and even be hypnotized by it. That is my attraction to music. If it is forced or has no substance, then I don’t care for it; plain and simple. Any good song of substance and heart has the ability to take you to another world; that is the truth. If you let it…it even can be a lethargic or euphoric “possession” of sorts. THAT is my favorite thing about music. People everywhere, including myself, are yearning for escape, truth, fantasy, and more; daily. Music gives them that power, and when I am dead and rotting…I am more than happy to have been one of the few to hand over the keys.
 
TMR: How did everyone get started as musicians?
The stories vary, but overall, we all started out young. Like many others before us, we were loners filled with a passion for music; and yet, we were fortunate enough to be bonded by our peers through metal music. The way it should always be. Some say that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and that is what metal used to be; a community that raised us all up–together. I’m not sure how things are now, so I can’t speak on that confidently; hence the “used to be”…put your pitchforks down, friends ha.
TMR: Any shows in the near future?
We are setting the release date for “Temet Nosce” as I type this, along with booking select dates to support the album release and bring in the “new” era of Serpents once and for all. So, look out for those if you will.
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Forever In Transit Interview & “Re-Connection” EP Premiere

Forever In Transit released a spectacular album last year “States Of Disconnection”, and Dan is going to release a follow up EP soon titled “Reconnection”.   I wanted to get the world to see how Dan is, his creative mind works, what his influences are, and in general  get his music out there that should be heard by more people.  He’s a really cool dude, hope you dig the interview and maybe gather some quality information and advice.  Oh, and by the way he’s graciously given us the new EP as well! Enjoy everything!

 

 

TMR” Explain your journey as a musician…..when you started, your first instrument….give everyone a glimpse into your artistic journey.

 

I started playing piano when I was 5 or 6, and started drums and guitar when I was in high school.  I didn’t really get into composition until well into high school – maybe junior or senior year? I had a lot of great friends in school who are very talented and pushed me to challenge myself more and more.  I started transcribing video game soundtracks and making piano arrangements for a website and that’s what really got me into composition! I didn’t start playing metal until I was almost through high school – was more of a jazz and film/game score guy – and had been in a couple of bands that became progressively more progressive until I decided to pursue Forever in Transit as my main creative outlet.

TMR: How and when did you become a multi instrumentalist? As long as I’ve known you, that’s what’s wowed me the most outside of your talent.  It’s great to see artists that want to tackle more things, and try their best at many things rather than stick to just one.  

 

I started playing piano at a young age, but I wanted to play in concert band in middle school.  I tried mallet percussion since there was a lot of carryover from piano. When I got into high school, the band director wanted me to take drum lessons to become a more balanced percussionist and I stuck with them through college – my drum teacher, Kevin Soltis, still teaches in Buffalo and has been one of the most positive influences on my playing to date!  Guitar and bass I sort of picked up along the way jamming with my brother and friends in school. I didn’t really start to take guitar seriously until I began playing in rock and metal bands in college. I’m most proficient as a drummer and keyboardist.

 

I view myself more as a composer than as a performer of any one instrument, so I learned how to play each instrument just   because I needed to out of necessity to write! I’m not the sort of person to settle in my comfort zone, and that’s why I love Forever in Transit – it’s a no-holds-barred creative outlet and I can keep pushing and expanding and realizing my sound!

TMR: Do you think you’ll have any shows for Forever In Transit?

 

I would love to put a live show together, especially as I release more material.  The biggest challenge is that there are so many musicians involved, plus I play all of the keyboard and drum parts myself in studio.  I would need to find either a drummer or keyboardist, and make sure that I have all of the vocals covered. Backing tracks for the keyboard parts are an option, but I’d much rather hit the stage with a full lineup!  As I’m finishing the material for the next FiT LP, the line-up is starting to gel. Re:Connection features Eric Richardson on guitar, adding a lot of cool textural and atmospheric tones and effects, as well as Jeremy Schroeder, who contributed most of the guitar on States of Disconnection.

TMR: Explain how you came up with the name for your band and why it seemed to fit.

 

I spend a lot of time working with sound design and recording ambient soundscapes.  I recorded the very first track of States of Disconnection, the ambient opener Forever in Transit, on New Year’s Eve a few years back.  I’m terrible at naming things, but the impression I got hearing the song played back was of something sort of suspended in the air, never quite reaching its intended destination.  To me, “forever in transit” implies a focus on the journey and of growth rather than a fixation on the end goal or destination. I think it is a very appropriate name for this project because I intend for it to represent my growth as a composer and in a broader sense as a person.   I’ve met a lot of talented musicians and artists along the way and I want to feature them in the project as well. It’s a vehicle for the lessons I’ve learned along the way, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had. At its core, FIT is about taking the listener on a sonic journey without regard for established convention.

 

Forever in Transit - States of Disconnection - cover

TMR: You recently started to try to sing.  What motivated you to try? And what vocalists do you love and inspire you vocally and lyrically?

 

I’ve always wanted to try singing – there’s something that is just so intrinsically captivating and expressive about a great vocal performance.  Also, I’ve had a hell of a time trying to find vocalists that are a good fit for Forever in Transit. Initially, I felt that I would benefit from practicing singing, learning the mechanics of the voice and how to write “proper” vocal arrangements, and then to have the parts I write performed by a session vocalist.  I took private vocal lessons for a while and I feel I’ve really improved with practice. Again, I view myself more as a composer than as a performer, so I began singing to write better music! I think I will always have other vocalists fronting the material for FIT, but if nothing else, I can contribute a lot more. The vocal section of “Fractal Shards” is the first I’ve really contributed vocally to any project I’ve been a part of, and I think it turned out well if I may say so!

 

As far as my favorite vocalists, I’ve always loved Chino Moreno from Deftones. He has such an ethereal voice and his sense of melody is very unique.  Daniel Tompkins from Tesseract is fantastic as well – easily among the best live vocalists I’ve ever seen. Other vocalists that come to mind are Devin Townsend, Daniel Gildenlow from Pain of Salvation, Einar Solberg from Leprous, and Greg Puciato from The Black Queen and Dillinger Escape Plan.

 
TMR: Go into further detail about your astonishing debut album “States of Disconnection” and its themes and lyrics.  Describe your album for the people that haven’t heard it yet.

 

States is conceptually rooted in the theme of connectivity – how we engage with the world around us, including our sense of identity and community, and how we frame our reality.  Specifically, each song deals with a lapse in connection in some way. The World That Never Was explores how people tend to project into or escape into narratives – novels, video games, television series – essentially contextualizing their sense of reality with a work of fiction.  Level All Waves deals with the information overload that is so pervasive in modern society, and how it can numb us to extreme events as well as warp our sense of self and how we view those we perceive as “other”.  Glass Bridge was originally intended as a metaphor for one’s life goals and the treacherous, fragile path we have to walk to realize those goals.  One wrong step, the bridge goes down. Trial By Fire deals with humanity’s attempt to understand its own place in the universe, from a more existentialist standpoint, rationalizing our own existence.  It is one individual’s life-changing search within themself for these answers. The title track deals with the pain of separation, as one is separated from their friends and families – disconnect from a more interpersonal standpoint.  It ends with a more positive sentiment that disconnection is not necessarily a permanent or final state.

 

From a musical standpoint, it is an amalgam of the diverse forms of music that I’ve explored growing up, and my attempt to integrate those sounds into a cohesive whole that represents where I’m at as a composer.  With the exception of James Jagow’s guitar solos on Honor and States, I composed all of the music as well as lyrics.  I drew influence from progressive music, especially Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree, New Age and Ambient forms, fusion and world music.  My songwriting has also been heavily influenced by game music, which a whole diverse world itself! The way I approached writing the instrumental side is by viewing each instrument as a cog in a greater machine, rather than allowing any one instrument to take the forefront.  This was my first effort writing entirely on my own, so I felt that approach would be interesting in that I was the only ego in the room! I feel that unless a band has incredible chemistry, that interwoven approach much harder to pull off.

 

 

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TMR: What bands have inspired you the most as an artist?

 

Dream Theater was my gateway into prog, and I have learned an invaluable amount of information from them by listening to/studying their material – everything from arrangement to synth sound design and constructing more long-form, instrumentally heavy songs.  What I love about Dream Theater is that their music always seems to take me on a journey, and that as adventurous as they can be, they maintain cohesion and their own sound. That is exactly what I want to achieve as a composer! Octavarium was I think the first album I heard from them start to finish.  Panic Attack from that record is one of my favorite covers to play on drums!

 

My biggest artistic influence at this point is Cynic.  They have such a unique blend of death metal, jazz fusion, world, prog – you name it – and their ethos and integrity as artists is admirable!  To me, they one of the most ground-breaking bands in the prog scene, not to mention all of the other projects that the members of Cynic have contributed to!  They are my benchmark for artistic freedom and a forward-thinking, convention-eschewing mentality. I had the incredible opportunity a view years back to take a few songwriting lessons from Paul Masvidal, Cynic’s vocalist and guitarist.  Carbon Based Anatomy is I think my all-time favorite song.  

 

TMR: Who are your favorite drummers and keyboardists?

 

Favorite drummers: Sean Reinert, Mike Portnoy, Gavin Harrison, Craig Blundell, David Garibaldi, Matt Garstka, and Baard Kolstad

 

Favorite keyboardists: Diego Tejeida, Jordan Rudess, Hiromi Uehara, Ludovico Einaudi, Nobuo Uematsu, Kevin Moore, and Daniel Pizarro

 

**Favorite at time of this interview and the first that come to mind!  There are so many incredible musicians out there – far too many to list!

 
TMR: Can you go into detail about the track you’re debuting “Fractal Shards”?  And what made you want to dip into the instrumental side of prog this time around?

 

Fractal Shards is a track that I wrote and demoed out around the same time I was finishing States of Disconnection.  It is inspired by the rendering of fractals – an often simple pattern is repeated unto itself, with no apparent structure initially, until after enough iterations a complex shape emerges.  This is a component of chaos theory, where the initial conditions and patterns of repetition have profound implications on the system later on, like the butterfly effect. This idea is represented by a large number of fairly simple, repetitive layers.  The track begins without any apparent structure, then as more and more layers come in, and the different parts are arranged together, the track evolves and develops a cohesive structure. The challenge I made for myself was to create a track that was interesting and engaging to the listener despite the repetitive nature of the song.  

 

Musically, I was heavily inspired by post-rock(bit of a phase!) as well as unconventional long-form prog tunes like Porcupine Tree’s Voyage 34 and Riverside’s Eye of the Soundscape.  I wanted to expand on the sonic pallet I was using so far for FIT, especially by exploring more diverse and effected guitar tones and getting more into synthesis and sound design.  Eric delivered on all fronts in that regards – he has a great collection of guitar pedals and other gear and is fantastic at designing tones. Coupled with Jeremy’s technical savvy and flexibility, all bases were more than covered from the guitar standpoint.  I performed most of the keyboard parts using my Roli Seaboard, which is a keyboard controller with a continuous silicone surface allowing for vastly more expression compared to a standard keyboard. It’s my favorite piece of gear I own! I decided to record Fractal as an interim release along with another unreleased track I had written around that same time, while working on the next full length album.   I’ve compiled these two tracks as a release called Re:Connection because, for me, it was a revisiting of the years I spent working on States of Disconnection.  As far as dipping into the instrumental side, that is honestly vastly more natural for me than writing with vocals in mind!  

 

At the earliest stages structure is unclear

Without warning, sudden changes appear.

A system of spiral complexity

Expanding endlessly

An unstable system of calculated error

All semblance of order derailed – It will eventually fail.

Each step amplified by the last

A thousand fractal shards in a system of disregard”

  • Fractal Shards, Forever in Transit

 

TMR: Who are some of your favorite bands that are newer or underground that you think are going to make a serious impact on the music scene? Namedrop, son!

There are a ton of great prog bands coming out of the Boston area – Native Construct, Thank You Scientist, Bent Knee, Astronoid, and In the Presence of Wolves – and each one is breathing a bit of new life into the scene.  For example, NC has ridiculously tight orchestral arrangements, TYS incorporates horns and violin into their sound, and Astronoid has this totally ethereal yet melodic approach to their sound. Other innovative prog bands that come to mind are Earthside, Agent Fresco, White Moth Black Butterfly, Disperse, Persefone, and Vola.  One trend that I’ve been enjoying the past few years is how much more attention is being paid to arrangement and sound design, which really serves to push the envelop as far as what a “conventional” band can sound like and achieve.

 

TMR: What albums are you looking forward to and what are your favorites so far in 2019?

 

I can’t wait to hear Devin Townsend’s new album, Empath.  I’m sure it will be a trip!  At the time of writing this, I’m currently listening to Dream Theater’s Distance Over Time – I’m about halfway through my first listen and so far it’s been very fun and refreshing!   Apparently Leprous is working on a follow-up to 2017’s Malina – stoked to hear more from them!  Also, Paul Masvidal is releasing a series of mini-albums this year titled Mystical Human Vessel – I’m incredibly excited to hear it.

 

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TMR: Your favorite albums of all time?

 

Pretty much everything Cynic has released, Porcupine Tree’s last few albums, Haken’s Affinity and The Mountain, Deftone’s White Pony, Dream Theater’s Octavarium, Six Degrees, and Dramatic Turn of Events.   Megadeth’s Rust in Peace and Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell were my gateway into metal.  Mastodon’s Crack the Skye.  Isis’ In the Absence of Truth.  Blood by OSI.  Play With Fire by the Reign of Kindo.  The first four Devin Townsend Project albums.  A lot of Coheed and Cambria material would make the cut too.  There are too many to name, and I guarantee I’ll think of dozens more to include by the time this is published!!

TMR: You can only bring ten albums with you on a lengthy road trip…..whaddya got?

 

  1.  Carbon Based Anatomy – Cynic
  2.  Fear of a Blank Planet – Porcupine Tree
  3.  Hand. Cannot. Erase. – Steven Wilson
  4.  Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence – Dream Theater
  5.  White Pony – Deftones
  6.  In the Passing Light of Day – Pain of Salvation
  7.  Affinity – Haken
  8.  The Alchemy Index – Thrice
  9.  Blackwater Park – Opeth
  10. Fractured – Lunatic Soul

 

 

TMR: Your favorite piece of gear you own? Anything on your wishlist currently?

My Seaboard, hands down!!  It’s essentially an ultra-expressive MIDI controller with a continuous silicone playing surface.  Currently looking to upgrade my drum kit, probably a Tama Starclassic in some kinda of green or blue finish.  I’ve been hoping to pick up some sort of analog hardware synth soon as well! Maybe a Korg Monologue or one of Arturia’s synths.  

 

TMR: You collect vinyl & albums like any other artist….go into detail about your collection. Any new purchases?

 

I got into collecting vinyl about two years ago, and I think at this point I have about 100 albums.  I managed to find a copy of every release Cynic has put out to date including their EPs, Retracted and Carbon Based Anatomy which were really limited runs!  I found a copy of Carbon from a seller in Ukraine which thankfully was in great condition!  Last year Thrice put out a 10th anniversary version of The Alchemy Index which is just gorgeous.  The Alchemy Index is a series of 4 EPs each themed to the four classical elements, each of which has its own songwriting and production style.  Fire is raw and aggressive, whereas water is much more mellow and ambient, for example.

TMR: Any advice for aspiring artists and musicians you have learned along the way you’d like to share?
Write as much as possible.  Don’t procrastinate and wait for inspiration to strike.  I approach creativity more as something I open myself up to, and setting aside consistent times, almost like a regular 9-5 job, maximizes the chances that inspiration will manifest.  Obviously most of us cannot commit 40 hours a week to one artistic pursuit, unless it is one’s profession, but setting aside a designated and consistent time with clear cut goals goes very long way towards getting the most out of time spent.  In my opinion, it isn’t so much about the total time spent as it is the consistency and quality of time spent. Also, understand that you cannot realistically do everything yourself. I have been fortunate to have had incredible instructors as well as close friends that share my passion for music.  If you need to reinvent the wheel at every stage, you may end up with a unique end product, however it will take 10x longer to get to that point than it would to have had objective input or instruction in the required skills. On the other hand, I also find “sandbox” practice sessions – no goals, no expectations, just play and create – to be useful for breaking down creative barriers as well. Try setting a timer for an hour and seeing what you can create before the timer stops. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll accomplish as well as how focused you can be despite the lack of goals or parameters!  Last year I released a mini-album of ambient tunes that all started as “one-hour songwriting experiments” I highly recommend checking out The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield!  It’s an exploration of creativity as well as overcoming the resistance we face with any creative/artistic endeavor.

Promoting The Promoters- Harsha Vardhan Interview February/March 2019

One “mini series” we’re going to be doing is a few interviews promoting some similar minded people in the music field.  We have countless numbers of people who slave every day (usually every hour) to promote music whether its a new album or tour….people who are working around the clock, setting up press releases and looking for people to premiere music and setup promotion opportunities.   I think it’s time we pay back these hard working promoters and PR people that get absolutely very little to no recognition of their hard work and talents…..by ironically PROMOTING THEM!

First up is a good guy Harsha Vardhan who runs a wild gig in India I’ve had the pleasure of working with for at least 6 months now.  His machine Proximity Music Management is a reputable company in his country, and recently really rose the bar rebranding his product from “Proximity Music”.  Not only does he do PR and press work for music, but now has dived into not just booking shows but TOURS as well! You think my friend has had enough? NOPE! He also helps run a magazine called MetalJesus Magazine! Oh, and he also has a day job.  I don’t think he ever sleeps.  All in All Harsha has sent some AWESOME bands over since we developed our professional friendship giving me stellar bands such as: Orchid, Dark Helm, Darkest Horizon and Plague Throat.  There have been other great bands we’ve found from India as well such as: Coma Rossi, Prophets of Yahweh, Godless, and one of Vick’s favorites Sahil Makhija: The Demonstealer.  He also managed to snag British Thrash Metal legends ONSLAUGHT! How friggin’ cool is that to manage a band of that status? Anyways, I think India is turning into a metal hotbed……no? I hope you all get to know Harsha a bit better and his businesses! Enjoy!

 

TMR: What prompted you to start Proximity Music Management?

Harsha: Well, it was in 2014 and the idea was to create a consistent touring environment for bands here. It wasn’t easy and I tried as much as I could for the first two years but nothing really panned out successfully. So, I began with band management and PR to keep it going and at this point I just wanted to stop doing this as it was mentally and physically too tiring. Eventually, by 2016 I signed Singapore’s veteran Extreme Metal giants ‘Rudra’ to work with their album- ‘Enemy of Duality’. That was a big break and there was no looking back since then. I eventually went to work with dozens of bands after that. I will always be grateful to Rudra for the kind of support and faith they instilled in me. Proximity Music Management (then Proximity productions) was a sole journey as I was handling pretty much everything on my own, single handed until recently I set up another team in Philippines and rebranded everything. My trusted friend Mary is my partner; she’s handling parts of Asia for Proximity MM. I am very excited about the new things we are planning.

 

TMR: Explain some of your influences in the journalism scene, as well as your favourites in the music scene as well.

Harsha: There are quite a few people here who are keeping it real with respect to the ‘journalism’ as such. At the same time, we need real news and thing that are worth mentioning and talking about. If we continue catering to what the audience love gossiping about; we will lose the very essence of ‘journalism’ as such. Media houses need to change that perspective. We can do it once in a while, make a joke or so, post about what so and so artist thinks about XYZ bands and vice versa but ultimately you are minting money out of butthurt opinions of a third person. Plus, I am too old to be offended by things such as so and so bands and its members having certain political, social, religious inclinations or just about anyone in that case. If certain publications continue to feed the audience what they keep gossiping about then they are just bringing themselves notches lower and quality takes a back stand. We need quality stuff. The only thing that genuinely pisses me off are double standards, lies and hypocrisy be it be anywhere in life.  

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Here’s one of his new clients Ragnhild, a melodic death metal band.  He also represents many more bands as well.

TMR: Who are your favourite bands right now? Drop some links for people to check out!

Harsha: I like Orpheus Omega (I will be getting their new album this month), Godless from India, there’s even Soreption that I am digging a lot! Though, I haven’t had much time to check new music I still try to keep up.

 

TMR: What are the struggles promoting music from your country? North America, South America and Europe have all sorts of heavy metal, and Scandinavian countries as well. Not many people associate India with the genre, but I for one am digging some of the bands in India right now for sure they’re great!

Harsha: Thank you, Dave! I think every region or market have their own challenges. In India, I think it’s slightly different. Most of the Metal supporting cities are far away from each other; so, the base expenses involved are too high let alone break even. Many promoters/ bands here are not in a position to invest in a ‘buy-on’ tour and I don’t think the India sub-continent allows anyone to do that here, unless a band from here has enough money to go tour Europe or NA; I am not a big fan of it but I understand why some touring agencies go for a buy-on option. It does come with its own advantages and disadvantages. In India, if a band makes money after covering all their base expenses like travel, food and accommodation and promoters too after all their production expenses; congrats you are in the elite group now hahaha! It’s a rare scenario. You wouldn’t always get sponsors to back you for this. Everything boils down to the fact that the attendance in a metal gig should allow the band and the promoter to break even.
PT- Asia Tour

The band I just promoted Plague Throat is planning an Asian tour in the fall! 

TMR: Explain your choice to branch out your company. You now book and promote shows in India, not just PR. What motivations led to this decision? I’m very proud of how far you’ve come, by the way. Keep up the great work!

Harsha: Thank you once again for the kind words. You know, like I mentioned earlier, it was started with the idea to make touring more consistent. I have done a handful so far, I am proud of it. I am grateful to all the promoters, venues who have been a part of this long journey. In fact, I did a couple of them outside India to take it outside Asia. Earlier this year, I announced a big project- Plague Throat’s Asia Tour. I hope this paves way for my vision and aim I carry for my bands. The PR was done in an attempt to support young, budding bands and their new records. It comes with a lot of planning but it has its own challenges.

 

TMR: Explain your other adventure MetalJesus Magazine.

Harsha: Metaljesus Magazine was formed with another friend of mine together the same year we formed Proximity. He now lives in another city handling his business there. Right now, I don’t have a big team as such. I am struggling to keep it active with little time that I get. There are 4-5 people in the team right now but yeah, I hope I can change it this year. Our Swedish team is all up and geared too!  I do have some plans for it.

 

TMR: I think we can both sympathize the time and effort it takes to run a few machines of our own. What keeps you going? How hard is it to handle two big jobs at once? you have a lot of traffic for both Proximity and MJ Magazine, tell our followers how you can balance it all it’s so time-consuming doing what we do.

Harsha: Oh yes, it’s hard. I have a regular day job but I try to keep both of my ventures up and running as much as I can. It has its lows and highs but I think staying motivated is hard in a business like this. I have learnt to be patient though. I know I have a long way to go, I still try to learn from other people who have been doing it for decades and are far more experienced than I am.

 

TMR: Explain how you came to the choice to interview Gene Hoglan. That was a cool piece by the way.

Harsha: I am glad you liked it. It was done quite some time ago. I have always wanted to interview Gene since the beginning of Metaljesus. I am sure we all want to talk to our heroes that we have grown up watching haha!

https://metaljesusmagazine.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/gene-hoglan-i-just-wanted-to-be-able-to-play-my-drums-for-a-living/

 

TMR: What new releases are you looking forward to in 2019? And what have you enjoyed so far?

Harsha: I loved the new Rotting Christ album. I love this band! They are criminally underrated. I am also looking forward to some Drudkh, Children of Bodom, Whitechapel, Eluveitie, Exumer, Myrath, Hammerfall to name a few!

 

TMR: Any new things coming up you’d like to share from either project of yours?

Harsha: Sure, we have a bunch of tours coming up! New upcoming releases for Proximity PR include- Ragnhild, R.A.I.D. I think we can reveal the other projects once the time is right or somewhere closer to the announcement haha to build traction towards it! Thank you for thinking of interviewing me, Dave.

With all logos

These are just four of the bands Harsha promotes through Proximity Music Management.  Keep up with his work on both Proximity Music Management and MetalJesus Magazine as well.  

Brave The Waters January/February 2019 Interview

I interviewed Rick from Brave The Waters about the band and a few other things.  Their second effort Chapter II- Days Of Solitude was just released, you people need to check it out if you’re into atmospheric psychedelic instrumental music.  They’re different, and I mean that in a good way.

TMR: Explain how your band started. What motivated you guys?

Tom and I are in two other bands together. Those bands had a monthly rehearsal room for a short time in 2014. I don’t remember how it exactly happened, but I think we were fucking around with our pedals one night after practice and just playing some clean, trippy shit, and it sounded cool. We put together some blueprints for songs and then quickly went into the studio to record them. 

TMR: I understand you guys play in other bands. Explain the sound and history of them.
Grey Skies Fallen has been around since 1997. We started out a year previously, under the name Eve of Mourning and released a demo tape under that name. Once we heard there was another Eve of Mourning, we quickly changed the name to Grey Skies Fallen. Over the years, we’ve released a lot of albums and EP’s, and recently completed recording the new album, “Cold Dead Lands,” which will be out later this year. This will be the first time we have worked with Dan Swano, who will be mixing and mastering the new album. 
In 2012 I joined Buckshot Facelift. Sal, who plays drums in GSF had been in Buckshot since they started in 2005. Tom plays bass in Buckshot, and my tryout was the first time we met. Right before I joined the band, they were releasing their third full length album “Elder’s Rasp.” We played a bunch of shows in support of that album, and quickly put together “Living Ghosts of the North Shore,” which was the 2014 EP, and the first with myself and Terrell Grannum on guitar. Terrell is also in Thaetas, who are awesome. In 2016 we released the “Ulcer Island” full length. This was a 40+ minute slab of grindy death metal which we are very proud of.  
In early-2013, Tom joined Grey Skies on bass and we released “The Many Sides of Truth” in 2014, followed by the “Earthwalker” 7″ inch in 2015.
TMR: What made you guys want to start this type of atmospheric and melodic band?
I think it was purely accidental. We were just screwing around with some effects pedals one night and it evolved from there. We got some weird sounds going and it sounded cool enough to pursue. With the first album, we jammed maybe once with a few ideas we had already in mind, and then we went right into the studio to record. 
TMR: Who are your biggest artistic influences now and who influenced you starting out as an artist?
Well, according to Spotify, my top 5 most-listened-to bands last year were Iron Maiden, Camel, Nightingale, Desultory, and Death. If you look at the new GSF album which we just finished recording, it’s a good mix of all those influences, I think. Growing up back in the 80’s and getting into guitar in 1989, it was Metallica, Maiden, Helloween, Megadeth, Overkill, Zeppelin, Sabbath, etc. 
TMR: Explain your choice to go instrumental. Do you think your music is best portrayed instrumentally? Would it not achieve the same effect if there was a vocalist?

This band wouldn’t be the same with vocals. Once or twice, one of us mentioned “do you think maybe there can be a vocal here…?” but it always gets immediately shot down. This project is all about an escape from reality, and putting the listener at ease and in another place for a half hour or 40 minutes at a time. I think vocals would screw that up in this particular instance. 
TMR: Explain the album theme, artwork and title.
We try to tell a story without words. We want the songs to flow together seamlessly to paint a picture in the listeners mind. It’s up to you to conjure up the emotions that go along with the music. It’s a custom experience. Travis Smith handled the artwork for this, as he did the first album. The work he does for this project is among my favorite stuff he’s done, and I’m a huge fan! The cover depicts a previously-abandoned cabin the the middle of the woods. It is now occupied by someone who wants to be left alone with his thoughts. 
TMR: How did you guys come up with the name Brave the Waters?
I just blurted it out when we were brainstorming for a band name. Always found it to be an interesting phrase. 

TMR: Is it just album based or do you guys want to get a band out to play shows?
Right now we are just recording records. We’d like to get started on the next one very soon. However, if something really interesting came along, I’d be down to trying this in a live setting, for sure. It would have to be an ideal situation, I think. 

Nick Padovani Interview January/February 2019

As well all know, Nick Padovani of Equipoise DOESN’T tour……yet! The TMR crew made him answer some questions, after we found him out back in the dumpster of a Chili’s high on bath salts scavenging for food.  Now if that last sentence were actually true, we wouldn’t let him live that down.  But what we CAN let him live down is this spectacular interview he did with us. He’s recruited Hugo of Beyond Creation//Brought By Pain, Phil of First Fragment and a billion other projects, Steve Boiser of Ashen Horde/Inferi, Sanjay Kumar of the killer tech/brutal death metal band Wormhole, Jimmy Pitts of NYN, Chase Westmoreland……and even more musicians that had guest spots on the upcoming release “Demiurgus”.  Take a gander while you’re here! Stay a while, will ya?

TMR: Your EP was very good. Explain how you and the guys (all 20 of them?) stepped up your collective games with your upcoming opus “Demiurgus”?

First off, I wanted to say thank you for the interview. It’s always an honor and pleasure to have the privilege of discussing subject matter about my band.

The only person who really had to step up their game was me, because everyone else is already incredibly adept at what they do. I just made sure to refine my compositions so that they would be next level. In a sea of homogeneous tech death bands, you have to try and stand out in some way, otherwise you get washed away- my goal was to really do something that could stand out, even if it meant incorporating flamenco or orchestral elements. These are small implementations, but I’m hoping it helps us sound unique in some fashion.


TMR: Explain to us how you recruited some of the genre’s greatest artists….comeon, you know your lineup is obnoxiously talented.  That’s no secret.

Honestly, it was nothing more than a bit of communication and networking. If you want something, you have to be fearless of rejection and go for it. People will tell you that things are unachievable or unrealistic, and you have to be willing to prove them wrong, otherwise, you stand to prove them right. My goal was to create a tech death “super group” if you will, and I believe I’ve successfully done so, give the insanely talented musicians I have the honor of working with.


TMR: Out of all the bands you have been in, who has been your favorite and least favorite?

Equipoise was actually my first proper band, so I don’t really have an answer for this. I played in a local band Vitandus when I was 19/20 years old, but I only played a few shows, wrote no material, and had to play bass (which I do not play at all). That wasn’t a bad experience though, I enjoyed playing with my bandmates, they were nice people.

TMR: Explain the theme and lyrics behind Demiurgus.

The lyrics are directly inspired by the anime “Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood”. The album essentially tells the story that happens within, and the themes that are derived from it are a bit more open to interpretation, so to say. That might be a lazy answer, but it isn’t inaccurate; the themes can be interpreted in many ways, it’s ultimately up to the listener to take what they can from it.

TMR: The artwork is awfully captivating for your upcoming record. Who did it, and what inspired it? What are all the details behind it?

The artwork was done by my incredibly talented friend, Justin Abraham. He has done art for such other bands as Virulent Depravity, A Loathing Requiem, Inanimate Existence, Cryptic Hymn, and Oubliette. I love how easy he is to work with, and I love how much he enjoys doing what he does.

The artwork is actually inspired by the climax of the plot from Full Metal Alchemist. I won’t give too many details because I don’t want to spoil anything for those who may be interested in exploring it further, but it’s a very cool concept.

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TMR: Explain the process of the Virulent Depravity situation being chosen to being in such ANOTHER gnarly band. Where are you guys with that record? All i see is jazz tech…which is awfully interesting to hear, in comparison to the debut album.

Colin and I are really good friends, musical companions if you will. For whatever reason, we have this insane synergy when it comes to writing, where if one of us is ever stumped or lost, the other comes in and immediately resolves it. Very rarely are we displeased with the results. Colin and I are also competitive with each other, always joking about who can write better, and I’ll say that he’s been pushing me greatly since I’ve known him, so it’s always in good fun.

Anyways, the album is going slow at the moment. It is an incredibly ambitious (thanks to Colin and his desire to make a groundbreaking album or whatever, damn him…), but yeah, he’s trying to make this seamless amalgam of jazz and tech death, and successfully so thus far, but he’s also working on getting it perfect. I unfortunately have been busy working on other projects like Kossuth and Ascent of Aphosis, so my time has been spread thin, but soon I will be able to assist him in getting some more material worked up.


 TMR: When do you plan on having a single from Virulent Depravity 2?

There’s no definitive date by any means. It would either be whenever our 3 month album cycle comes around, or there’s always the possibility of a one-off single. That’s tough to say.


TMR:  I know there’s a ton of members from a bunch of different locations around the world….it would be tough to tour…..one off thing? I know it’d be quite a logistical challenge.

It will happen. I have a lot of things in the works that will financially pad me so that I can make this a reality (legal of course lol). I don’t know when it will happen, but I will certainly make it happen. If not for our first album, it will after our second album. I would like to ensure that we even have the fanbase for such a demand, otherwise I feel it would be foolish for us to rush into such a thing.

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TMR: Any cool bands you’ve been listening to you want to share?

Sure! I don’t listen to a lot these days because I usually get super hooked onto albums at a time, but I’ve been loving Alain Caron, Chick Corea, Adam Nitti, Frank Gambale, and various other jazz fusion artists. As far as more modern metal releases, I’ve been loving the most recent Obscura album, Beyond Creation, Gorod, and Inferi, those were my favorites from 2018. Of course, I’m also very fond of all the other bands on The Artisan Era, there isn’t one I don’t like truthfully. I would also like to make a special mention for two bands that were quite influential during the end process of my album refinement; Sutrah and Dark Matter Secret. I implore you and anyone reading to jam both of those bands immediately.

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TMR: How did you get your start in music? Who, what influenced you and why? Did you have a specific moment?

Well, I started screwing around with guitar when I was 11 years old, I was playing mindless pop punk then, but it was a lot of fun. I’ll spare you the long winded story and fast forward to right before I started Equipoise. I discovered Inferi’s The Path of Apotheosis back in 2014 when it came out, and it was very inspiring to me, and it really pushed me to want to get into playing around with tech death again. I’m honored to be a part of a label that is run by the men who are a direct inspiration to my writing in the first place.


TMR: What track is the one you are most proud of from the upcoming record? And the song you are most proud of you wrote or were a part of (doesn’t have to be equipoise or virulent depravity)?

I haven’t honestly written songs outside of Equipoise too much, but I think the song i’m most proud of is the first one I wrote, ironically enough. That song is called Dualis Flamel, which is the 8th track on our album. I think it’s funny that the first stab I took at a song ended up being my favorite, but oh well, what are you gonna do.


TMR:  How did the thought to form Equipoise come about? And why did you specifically choose your band members? What qualities attracted you musically?

Honestly, I just started writing the songs myself, and I was fine with finding a local lineup , but unfortunately tech death musicians aren’t very abundant in Pittsburgh (aside from our original guitarist, Zach Hohn). I wasn’t ready to give up, so I said to myself, “Screw it, I’m going to just find someone from one of my favorite bands and ask them if they wanna play”. So I asked Hugo, and when he agreed, that was the start of it all. After I got Stevie, I had the burning desire to create what I could call a “tech death super group”, as I feel like there aren’t too many around. I’ve always loved the concept of bringing together titans of a genre, and I wanted nothing more than to create a band where I as a listener and fan could be excited. I only did this because I felt confidently enough about my music that it wouldn’t be an insult to do this. As it stands, I still feel okay about my decision!


TMR: How much gel do you use to keep that man bun of yours so slick and shiny?

None at all! That’s nothing more than my natural dego grease.

TMR: You’re in charge of putting together your dream tour featuring your band(s). Who else do you book (5 total including your two!) for a nationwide tour? No financial restrictions, for the sake of fun.

Hmm, I’ll try to keep it practical and realistic- Beyond Creation, First Fragment, Inferi, Equipoise, Virulent Depravity. Since i don’t know the likelihood of Virulent Depravity touring, I would swap it out for Singularity, I think.


TMR: Who are your favorite jazz and fusion guitarists of all time, and of recent memory? I love me some Gilad Hekselman and Al Di Meola.

Holdsworth, Di Meola, Howe, Henderson, and Gambale are all of my favorites, I would say.


TMR: It’s your last supper.  What meal do you choose before your death?

That’s tough. I would probably say some good ass barbeque ribs would make me happy.

Hugo Doyon-Karout 2019 Interview

Beyond Creation and Obscura are my Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden for Technical/Progressive/Experimental music, and can say helped influence the creation (HAR HAR) of my website.  It’s with immeasurable excitement to announce I have successfully interviewed bassist Hugo of Beyond Creation, Brought By Pain and Equipoise.  Enjoy the read people! I hope you’re as excited as I am!

TMR: You’re such a proficient bassist and well trained….what made you want to jump into a death metal subgenre? What influenced it?

First of all, thank you for having me on here! It’s truly a pleasure for me! Thank you for that comment! I always loved the energy and uniqueness that metal has over other music styles and technical death metal is one of the subgenres that shines with those qualities. Also, I’ve always liked the challenging aspect of performing death metal!

TMR: Tell us how the Equipoise recording went. 

Pretty good overall, with quite some challenges too! I recorded the album at home using minimal gear and focusing on getting the cleanest takes possible, which ended up being very time-consuming but worth it in the end! I started recording right after my last studio session recording Beyond Creation’s ‘Algorythm’ so I was pumped and ready to do Equipoise’s ‘Demiurgus’ right away!

TMR: Are there any plans of playing some Equipoise shows?

We have been talking about it, but it’s still at that phase for now. There are 7 people in the band – most being in active and/or touring bands – so it would require proper management and scheduling to make it work for all of us. I think that touring is going to be inevitable at some point, but we’ll see!

TMR: Your main squeeze Beyond Creation released a fantastic album “Algorythm” last year. It seems to have been well received so far! Tell us about how the shows have gone supporting the album, and how making the album was as well. What did you guys specifically set out to do differently?

Thank you so much, I’m super happy you enjoy the record! Indeed, we are very grateful for the great response so far! All the shows we did supporting ‘Algorythm’ turned out amazing actually! We got on the road to perform the album in its entirety only about 2 weeks after it came out and we were surprised on the amount of people knowing the material, lyrics and song titles, it was truly a wonderful tour! The actual recording of the album was a very special experience for me, being my first time recording in a ‘real’ studio, and Christian Donaldson (Cryptopsy) at The Grid made it so much enjoyable! We actually have studio update videos as well as tour recap video on our Youtube Channel for anyone who wants more insights on the studio/live side of things! For ‘Algorythm’ we wanted to do something a bit more dynamic and rich without going off the tracks of Beyond Creation’s signature sound. We’re always trying to reach the next level musically and to make music that we would listen to ourselves. Also, we took the opportunity to reach new kind of fans and welcome them into the tech-death subgenre with this progressive and intricate album.

TMR: What and who made you want to pick up a bass?

I had musicians in my family, but none of them played bass, so I though I’d just fill in on bass! I stuck to it and made it a passion and priority! I also learned guitar and drums not long later, but have not been able to practice as much as bass! As with any skill, you need to focus on one at a time to really shine!

TMR: Describe your emotions and feelings on recording your first album with the band since you joined.

It’s a pretty awesome feeling to finally be playing my own bass lines after so many shows playing Forest’s. Don’t get me wrong here, I absolutely love his work and what he brought to the band’s sound! But for some reason it’s always more exciting to deliver you own material and I have to say that BC’s fans and fellow bassists have been giving me the most amazing feedback, which I want to thank everyone for! This kind of duty obviously comes with its challenges but it turned out immensely positive overall for me!

TMR: Let’s be honest, when you joined Beyond Creation you had huge shoes to fill with Forest Lapointe leaving. And I’m in the crowd who thinks you’re doing a fine job at that, and adding your own style to their music and now helped write your first album with them. Was any of that going through your head at first?

Thank you so much man! Yes of course. Forest is and always be one of my favourite bassists so at first it was quite inconceivable to take his place in the band. I have to admit that circumstances made my life a bit easier, having joined the band only a few months after the release of “Earthborn Evolution”, I had plenty of time to develop my technique and sound as a fretless bassist before actually having to write and perform on a record. Also, as I mentioned above, I’ve been receiving tons of supportive vibes from the fans as well as from my bandmates so it’s been quite smooth.

TMR: Can you give some fellow artists tips to shrug off negativity? Not all of us can always handle it. Some people have ripped Algorythm I think they’re nuts for doing so!

Sure thing! Remind yourself why you’re doing music in the first place! Also, consider yourself lucky enough to have people actually check out your stuff, even if they leave negative feedback, can’t be worse than having zero feedback right ? There are so many bands out there trying to get their name out, there’s no time to get caught up in negativity! Take their advice for what its worth to you and move on. Instead of reading comments, you could be playing music, or just enjoying life, going outside, meditating etc! Even though musicians usually do music quite seriously and tend to blend their personal life with their professional life, I think it’s crucial to be able to disconnect from what you’re doing in life and tune in to who you really are deep inside. If you think what you’re doing is important, you need to take a vacation!

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TMR: What tour plans do you have with Beyond Creation this year and next year in 2020? And please don’t take another handful of years between albums again

So far we have a Latin America Tour planned in April 2019 as well as an Autralian/New Zealand tour in May. Everything else is still in the works/not ready to announce yet! Oh don’t you worry we will absolutely take another handful of years until we release another record brother! We have ZERO interest in rushing into new music! I don’t think it’s fair from fans to take a band for granted and act as if they owed them any new music. As a matter of fact, that is the kind of pressure that would likely discourage an artist from creating and releasing an honest piece of music. This is serious business guys, some people actually end up taking their own life because of that kind of pressure/attitude from fans towards them. Part of the problem is that we are getting used to consumerism and instant gratification in modern society, so we are constantly in need of new things to keep our brains filled with more and more dopamine. That’s why people like singles and EPs! They get their fix, stream the song a few times online for free and move on : their brain chemistry is unbalanced! Again, it’s not fair to expect anything from an artist based on our own perception of time. With that being said, I will be working on new music all year with my other bands Conflux and Brought by Pain (on top of Equipoise’s album release March 8th and tons of session work). Back to Beyond Creation, one thing that we enjoy a whole lot is touring, especially in places we’ve never been before. So we’re really looking forward to take the time that we need to visit as many countries and continents as we can on the ‘Algorythm’ album cycle. And that alone can take a handful of years 🙂 

TMR: You guys seem to have a solid chemistry artistically and really “click”. Explain the band dynamics and how important being fluid and understanding each other musically and as people as well.

I think that the easiest thing about being in a band is playing your instrument! What’s not so easy to everybody and also not that obvious is the requirement in social and communication skills to thrive as a bandmate. Most of the things that happen in a band do not require to play your instrument, especially in self-managed band like Beyond Creation. Think about what’s essential to develop to be able to go out on the road with 4 to 20 other people for 25+ consecutive shows without losing your mind, but actually enjoying it from all faces and being excited to go back multiple times a year, for many years to come. To me, it has always been important that everyone feel part of the same “family” and have the best time possible doing music altogether, and luckily it’s been a priority for Simon, Kevin and Philippe as well. Everything else seems to come naturally when you already have sense of fulfillment from being with each other and living our craziest dream!

TMR: What’s your favorite song from “Algorythm”?

I always tend to consider the title track as my favourite, but I think that each song has a very unique vibe that deserve my own recognition. 

TMR: Describe your favorite tour you have been a part of, and what made it great or special.

Great question! When I look in the past, I try to learn from it and move on. So I would say each and every tour was my favourite since they each provided me with so much personal growth and insight about what makes me happy and give me a sense of fulfillment. Each tour has been super special and made it possible for us to meet new friends, fans and develop better practices as a business, so I highly value each one of them equally!

TMR: Any new Brought By Pain music?

Yes, as stated earlier! We’re working on a full-length, which I’m pretty stoked about!!

TMR: Tour plans for Brought By Pain?

Yep, nothing concrete as of right now, but we definitely plan on getting this band on the road again and again! 

TMR: What was it like getting that band off the ground and on some tours? Do you expect it to be a constant or just occasionally tour?

It’s been great! We consider ourselves lucky to have so many dedicated followers and fans that are constantly spreading the word about us! It’s always more demanding to get things rolling properly and get out of the ‘friendzone’ (if I can allow myself such metaphor) but always worth it in the end! I think in the long run it’s going to be both constant and occasional, taking the opportunity whenever we can, without forcing things!

Don’t forget to check out the latest Equipoise single from their upcoming album!

Here’s my favorite song from the latest Beyond Creation opus.  Yeah, maybe Hugo’s tasteful bass lead at the end has something to do with it. It RIPS. Don’t fool yourself.

A Novelist- Folie

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Progressive Death Metal duo A Novelist is dropping their second album on February 8th and we have our opinion on the upcoming album, as well as an interview!

The guys have put out a unique and unusual album….much more weirder than what can be expected out of progressive bands.  It’s very inconsistent and moody, which I loved from the get go.  It’s emotional, without a doubt.  It’s very melodic and jazzy at times, as well.  I think it’s a very unique mix of music only artistic and musical people will enjoy more, as it’s not suited for commercial airwaves or your average person to be honest.  Their vast sound goes back to classic prog rock artists of the 60’s and 70’s (with some keys/organs and some synth along the way), some gutturals and beautiful singing to compliment their ambience and heaviness.  That isn’t the only influx of inspiration! Marc Linam was a guest musician on the album adding more weirdness that was a warm welcome….he did Tenor, Alto, Baritone and C melody saxophone! He also contributed Clarinet, oboe and flute to the album as well.  Now you can see how wide, interesting and  unusual the sound of A Novelist is! It’s so cool, and so breathtaking.

Folie
1. Folie Noire
2. Exteriors
3. Tombeau
4. Apparitions
5. His Kingdom is Vast
6. Strangers in the House of Auto-da-Fe
7. Acacia Crown
8. Caveat Lector
9. Stockholm Blues
10. Crestfallen
11. Learning Paralysis
12. Interiors

A Novelist:
Ben Nugent – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keys, Effects
Alex Babineaux – Drums 

 

This is definitely going to go down as one of the most unique, original and cooler releases of 2019.  It’s going on the second (almost third) week of the year, so I might as well begin my best of 2019 list with releases like this and Marc Durkee’s!  To further elaborate on their sound, there’s a lot of modern progressive influences like The Contortionist and Protest The Hero as well.  A Novelist is one of the better best kept secrets, well that shouldn’t be a secret anymore to be honest.  They’re so original not many bands I could rattle off for the heck of it are so original.  Maybe the Dillinger Escape Plan because they were pretty tough to describe as well.  They’re THAT unique. Ben’s guitar playing is so wild, yet can be very tame and melodic at points.  He’s a pretty diverse guitar player Check out their upcoming release “Folie” and pre order it right here.

 

One of the less laid back songs, and more in your face technical wild offerings.  There’s also some longer, wild epic adventures of insanity.  This one is a straight tech shredder. 

 

The interview was conducted with both members, Ben and Alex. Enjoy!

TMR: Can you explain to everyone else how “Folie” is different than your debut album “Portraits”?

Ben Nugent:  

A lot of time passed between the time Portraits was written versus the material for Folie. By the time Portraits was released, we had already written material for three additional albums and matured on our instruments quite a bit. With Folie, we took our time and focused a lot more on consistency, songwriting, and dynamics.

Alex Babineaux:

I think the biggest difference on this new album was our approach to songwriting. Portraits had a free flowing style where very few parts repeat, if ever. We made a serious attempt to improve our song structuring, and I think we really succeeded. Folie has a variety of different song structures ranging from traditional pop format to the free form style of Portraits.  

TMR: I really love the wild sound you guys have created.  What factors influenced you creating such artistic and unusual music? Was it because you wanted to stand out? Or is it just because your musical tastes are diverse and all over the place? It’s a truly wonderful album, by the way.

Ben Nugent: 

 First off, thank you. We like to get weird. It’s always surprising to hear that someone else likes our music. By the time the album comes out, we have already played and recorded the material so many times and written so many variations of it that sometimes we can really lose our objectivity, though I can say that without a doubt that what other people like has zero influence on our writing. This album is just what we were hearing in our heads and what we were wanting to hear and play when we wrote the music. This album was actually written some time ago and an earlier version of one of the songs was written as far back as thirteen years ago. As far as influences are concerned, experience can obviously not be overlooked. To tell you the truth, I cannot offhand point to particular songs or albums that directly influenced anything that we have written. Feeling is a big part of what we do. I think that we are categorized sometimes as genre bending or tech death or whatever but none of those things occur to us at all when writing the material. We hear it, feel it, play it, and if it feels right, then we know it’s right. As far as bands or composers that definitely changed how I thought about music when I was younger I can give you these in no specific order, The Mars Volta, Necrophagist, The Black Dahlia Murder, Gorgoroth, Emperor, Behemoth, The Red Chord, At the Drive-in, Poison the Well, Hate Eternal, Pink Floyd, Obscura, Led Zeppelin, At the Gates, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Penderecki, Chopin, Beethoven, Hendrix, Radiohead, Miles Davis, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Opeth, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Allen Holdsworth, Immortal, Ray Charles, Dr. John, and James Brown.

Alex Babineaux:

The sound that we’ve arrived at on this album I think is part of a long progression for both of us that began before we ever met. I was never interested in making music in order to be popular or anything like that. I’ve only ever wanted to make music that I wanted to listen to. We’re both into a wide variety of music, and I think that really shows this time around. We made something that we can both enjoy as a fan as well as be proud of creatively. I really love this record, and it makes me happy that you feel the same way. I really appreciate that. 

 

TMR: What motivated you guys to start the band? Was it a spur of the moment decision?

Ben Nugent:  

 We just wanted to play extreme music. We were both looking for what the other person had for quite some time and when we found it, we jumped at the opportunity to play with each other.

Alex Babineaux:

 As I said before, I’ve been wanting to make music for my own enjoyment since I was able to play. I had jammed with other people before, but I never made a commitment to any projects because they just weren’t doing it for me. When I met Ben in my first semester of college he showed me a few early A Novelist songs he had been working on. I was immediately blown away and wanted to play it. One of those songs was actually an old version of Strangers in the House of Auto-da-Fe which was then called Idee Fixe. I wouldn’t call it a spur of the moment decision, but as far as my involvement in the project was concerned, I knew this was the music for me in an instant. 

 

TMR: Explain the theme of “Folie” and it’s artwork.  How does it all connect? Is it a concept album?

Ben Nugent:  

If you are lucky, you will meet people in your life that make an immensely positive impact on who you become as a person. The album is a fictionalized account of the last five years of one of these people’s lives. It is also an attempt at some level to contribute to some commentary on the social climate currently in the US. In some ways what happened to this person is what Henry Rollins refers to as “The America”. This person gladly gave their whole life to other people and serving their community and in the end was absolutely devoured by it but never once complained. To me, the artwork symbolizes that we live in a world where everyone is a wolf, some just make an effort to appear otherwise. Folie is French for madness. We live in Louisiana where you have a lot of French heritage and interchanging of English and French words.

Alex Baubineaux: 

For this question I will defer to Ben’s answer. One cool thing to note though is that the artwork for the album is actually a painting that hung in our old practice space for several years. Beyond its symbolic meaning in relation to the content of the album, there’s also a personal and sentimental value to it for me, and I think for Ben too. We made a lot of memories in that place, and it makes me extremely happy to see that image on Bandcamp and all the various streaming platforms. 

A Novelist band photo 1

Looks like the guys are being held hostage….?

 

TMR: Are there any plans to play shows promoting your music or is it strictly studio based?

Ben Nugent:  

You know, we had tried for years to get a working live lineup together. It is really difficult to find people that are dedicated enough to play this sort of material let alone learn it. We are also really busy in our personal lives. The times that we have found musicians that could play the material, they had other stuff going on. In the future, it would be great to play some shows, but currently we are a studio project.

 

Alex Baubineaux:

For the time being, we are strictly studio based. We played one show back in 2011 when we had somewhat of a working lineup going, but it wasn’t great and we weren’t really ready for that. Since then it’s just been Ben and I, and finding musicians to play this stuff isn’t easy in Louisiana. It could possibly happen one day, but we both work a lot and live in separate cities so its not the easiest thing for us to put together. As it stands right now, our efforts are focused on recording the 3rd album.

 

TMR: How did you guys meet up to form A Novelist? Explain your band’s history.

Ben Nugent:  

I had been writing by myself for a while and at some point met another local guy and we scratched around for a bit, but that was ultimately not fruitful. We even hired Darren Cesca for some session drums, but honestly, at the time we were not serious enough to work with him. I’m sure this is common in most places, but in Louisiana, you have these pockets around the state where you have groups of really great players, but they are tiny and super difficult to find. Typically, they are in the larger cities like Lafayette, New Orleans, Shreveport, etc. These groups of players in each area will also make up several different acts. This is because where we live, there are very few people that listen to metal and even fewer playing it. If they do listen to metal, it is stuff like Pantera, Crowbar, Down, etc. which is great, but those people usually hate death metal or anything else fast. Oddly enough, those same people usually dig Goatwhore. In any event, fast playing is typically looked down on here even by people who claim to “play metal”. There really is a limited pool of players to draw from that like and/or can actually play death metal or black metal. So, you learn to play other instruments to pick up the slack. When you find someone who does play on the level, you are basically dying to jam with them to see if they can fit that piece of your puzzle. Before Alex and I played together we both had several instances of driving all over Louisiana to play with people who were “into metal”. Anyways, I moved to Lafayette for school and saw this guy in philosophy class with an Immortal shirt. He looked like a drummer, and I motioned so as to imitate someone playing a blast beat. He instantly knew what I was doing and the rest is history.

 

Alex Baubineaux:

Ben and I met in Philosophy 101 at UL Lafayette back in I believe 2007. One day in particular I went to class in my Sons of Northern Darkness Immortal shirt. When I was walking to my desk Ben called my name a made this gesture at me with his hands like he was playing a blast beat while mouthing the words “do you?” or something along those lines if my memory serves me correct. I remember laughing because I have no idea how he made that call, but I shook my head yes and we got to talking after class. We ended up realizing some time later that we had met once before at a Derek Roddy drum clinic when I was in high school, but that was a pretty brief encounter. It didn’t take long after our first conversation for Ben to start emailing me song demos and new riffs and stuff. The first time we played together it was just for fun and I don’t think we had established I would be the actual drummer for this project since he had already been paying Darren Cesca for session work. It must have gone pretty well because I started driving up to Ben’s place weekly not long after that. 

TMR: What is your favorite song off of “Folie” you enjoy the most or are the most proud of?

Ben Nugent:  

Well, I am proud of all the songs on the album, but I can give you my top five.

Strangers in the House of Auto da Fe is a song that I originally wrote thirteen years ago. I knew it had a lot of potential but it wasn’t right at the time, so I held on to it, and we worked it over. It’s like The Little Engine That Could.

Caveat Lector is the fourth part of a suite of six songs that are supposed to be played from beginning to end. Often times when you record stuff, the final result after production may not be what you had in mind. With this song, it is exactly what I heard in my head. I think it’s a very dynamic song and sort of showcases our writing and playing abilities.

Interiors is the last song on the album and is another song that was originally written aeons ago that was re-worked into something really impressive considering its origins.

Tombeau is the third song on the album. The title of the song is taken from a type of French funerary song written for lute and guitar. This song had some of my craziest guitar work on it at the time this album was written and I am still very proud of it. Musically, it serves as an homage to the guitarists that really influenced my playing.

Apparitions is the fourth song on the album. This is another song that I think showcases our writing and playing ability really well. This song is also sort of an homage to all those bands that let me know it’s okay to get weird.

Alex Baubineaux:

My favorite song to listen to is “Interiors”. It’s the first “new” song that we demoed after completing work on Portraits, and I’ve been really attached to it ever since. It’s been reworked a lot since its original inception, but it’s only gotten better I think. I personally am a big fan of music on the more somber side, and I think this one has some pretty soul crushing moments. 

TMR: Time to choose between your two children.  What album do you guys like more? If it’s the new album, we understand, it’s your newest addition to the family. 

Ben Nugent:  

Folie.

Alex Baubineaux:

Easily Folie. I have a weird relationship with Portraits because I think I’m a different musician now than I was then. When I listen to it I think of all the things I would have done differently. I still think it’s good, but Folie is a much more focused effort. 

TMR: How do you think you have grown as artists between “Portraits” and the upcoming release “Folie”? What did you set out to do differently or did the music and writing just flow?

Ben Nugent:  

Hopefully, as you get older your playing branches out and becomes better and more diverse. Those two things are not mutually exclusive, but it seems evident to me in our playing and writing. After a while of playing together, you sort of slowly start getting the bullshit out. It’s all an exercise with the goal of getting to that sort of unadulterated mainline. I don’t know that we ever set out to do anything other than make the album we wanted to hear. There are a lot of things that you notice later that are just a byproduct of your writing. I think that we have both learned each other’s writing styles, but still know how to make each other uncomfortable. I think that is how you grow. We can push each other to the point of insanity at times, but there is always resolution because we get each other and that’s a special thing.

Alex Baubineaux:

Playing with Ben in general has been pushing me to grow as a musician since day 1. He has that sort of quality about him that makes you want to try and keep up. I’d say the area in which I’ve grown the most between these two releases is in my writing. I’ve learned to incorporate some styles and elements that come from outside of metal and worked them into these fast and heavy songs. I learned to have more fun when making these songs instead of pushing myself to only play faster, or only write heavier. The drums are still pretty intense though given this change in approach, but I find they just make more sense now. One new thing you may notice is some of these songs incorporate different variations of what are referred to as “Dirk blasts” named after Dirk Verbeuren. If you’re not familiar with what this is, I highly recommend checking the technique out on youtube. It’s some really fun stuff to play, and it opens some options up to the drummer to maintain high speeds without killing yourself. 

TMR: Who are some of your favorite underground bands of any genre you’re into right now? Provide links too, so our followers can check ’em out! That’s what we are here for, to promote and share great music!

Ben Nugent:  

Forming the Void – https://www.facebook.com/formingthevoid/

Arbre Mort – https://www.facebook.com/arbremortmetal/

Aequus Nox – https://aequusnox.bandcamp.com/

Feral Errol – https://www.facebook.com/feralerrolband/

Golgothan – https://www.facebook.com/Golgothanla/

Trance Farmers – https://www.facebook.com/TranceFarmers/

Alex Baubineaux:

I don’t typically gravitate to much techy music these days, or a whole lot of death metal in general. I still really like that stuff, but my attention has just gone elsewhere in recent years. I’ve been really into a lot of Blackgaze bands for a while now (.neon by Lantlos is one of my favorite albums ever), and even am working on a project in that style called Good Hunter. I’m also pretty into Atmospheric Black metal, and I guess what would be considered “post-black” and things of that sort. Possibly my favorite album of 2018, Ember, was written by a Blackgaze band called Trautonist who I think deserves a lot more attention. I’ve also been digging White Ward’s debut from 2017. They have similar ideas to us when it comes to incorporating Noir elements and saxophone in metal music, but with an approach all their own. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Mare Cognitum, Mol, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, An Autumn for Crippled Children, Heretoir, Drab Majesty, Grave Pleasures, A Forest of Stars, and Unreqvited lately. 

https://trautonist.bandcamp.com/

https://whiteward.bandcamp.com/

https://marecognitum.bandcamp.com/

https://moeldk.bandcamp.com/album/jord-2

https://derwegeinerfreiheit.bandcamp.com/album/finisterre

https://anautumnforcrippledchildren.bandcamp.com/

https://heretoir.bandcamp.com/album/the-circle

https://drabmajesty.bandcamp.com/

https://gravepleasures.bandcamp.com/releases

https://a-forest-of-stars.bandcamp.com/album/grave-mounds-and-grave-mistakes

https://unreqvited.bandcamp.com/

TMR: What do you do for fun? Tell us a bit about yourselves outside of the wide world of music.

Ben Nugent:

Music is what I do for fun. Alex and I also both play and write in a black metal band called Nethermost Majesty with our good friend Eric Clark. We are working on putting out an album soon. Alex also has a project he’s working on with our good friend Ty Hebert. I am currently working on a piano/vocal album that is in the vein of some more traditional Louisiana music. The third album for A Novelist is already. We are taking our time to get it just right, but it will definitely be our most intense album to date.

Alex Baubineaux:

Apart from music I’m really into fighting games. Stuff like Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, Guilty Gear, etc. There’s a pretty thriving competitive scene for these games, and I like to follow it the same as I do something like football (go Saints). Typically I like to use my free time doing important things that matter, like taking funny pictures of my cats wearing costumes or spending way too much energy making bad memes.

TMR: Now, list your biggest underdog or up and coming band you think is gonna be a huge hitter or influence in the metal or prog or tech scenes. Choose one band only!

Ben Nugent:

This will probably seem lame, but I don’t find many new bands that I really like a lot. As far as underground bands that could really blow up, there is a band from Lafayette, La called Forming the Void. They are a really solid proggy doom band, and I could imagine them gaining critical acclaim for sure.

Alex Baubineaux:

This one is tough because I don’t listen to many bands of the tech or prog varieties that aren’t already pretty established. I will say though that I think 10 or so years from now, Inferi will be regarded as one of the biggest bands in the scene. 

Interview: Cory Coleman, Chernobyl Agency 2019

Just when he thought he’d be done with promoting, Cory Coleman (Chernobyl Agency, ex-FTMP) got sucked back in. And naturally, I was curious about some things, and he was sweet to let me share them with you. Have a look!

Vick Sacha: How long have you been promoting? What made you want to start booking shows?
Cory Coleman: The start was in summer of 2013, but I didn’t really grasp what I was
doing until December of that year. The first few shows I did were
absolutely terrible, admittedly; disorganized, maybe a dozen people
there, etc. As a lot of people my age, we’ve all been involved in this
scene/community in some way for a while. I remember I was 18, street
teaming and what not, then I went to performing, then I felt like I
could make some good shows happen. I got asked to help with some shows
over that summer, as I stated, but I made a giant 3-stage/32 band
festival in December that started off my Live Alive series. Of all of
them, I think you’ve been at one; I had Rings Of Saturn for one of
them in 2014.

VS: And alas, I ceased giving shits about them that night. Anyway, Who’s been your favourite band to bring into town?
CC: Its a few; Lakota De Kai, Kaonashi, Second Death, Motives. I don’t
really book bands that I’m not a fan of, or that I’m not close with,
so its really hard to narrow it down to favourites.

VS: Who are your favourite locals to work with?
CC: Favourite locals? Inertia is at the top of the list, even though I
probably annoy their drummer hard by always mentioning that they
should do a Calamity From The Skies reunion. Grizzly Run is filled
with people I’ve known for half of my life, and they are doing a great
job of blending their old school influences into a sound that isn’t
catering to popular metalcore, but isn’t exactly a throwback either.

VS: Who’s been awful to work with?
CC: Awful to work with; one was a pop-punk touring band that was just
basically pissed the whole time because they knew I had tried to drop
their tour, since the headliner (who was the only reason I took the
tour) dropped. They actually told me (not realizing I was the
promoter,) that they just wanted to “play their set and get out of
there,” The other was this rather….interesting kid, who booked his
“band” on a show of mine. For weeks, he told me he never received
tickets, so I told him to just bring whoever he could. Show time
happens, and not only is his “band” not there, but tickets are being
handed in that, because of the tracking on my ticketing site, were
his. Turns out, his “band” didn’t exist. Good news; he realistically
only scammed me out of like $16, so in the grand scheme, not that
crazy of a screwjob or anything. There was also a band from Watertown
I think, that hopped on a show that just had like a $6 ticket attached
to it, sold nothing, but told the venue that they were “promised” $60,
so the venue paid them and then made us pay them back. I have a good
solid 3-5 bands on my “blacklist” locally. And probably a dozen or so
on the larger scales.

VS: What’s your favourite currently open venue?
CC: My heart tells me I’m supposed to say Casa Di Francesca’s because
that’s where we do things, but honestly, I’m giving it to the Rec Room.
Chris Ring/After Dark did a fantastic job of creating a comfortable
venue that fits quite a crowd, but also gives people room to escape
with the upstairs areas. We actually had an event there in the first
few weeks, when we hosted Storming The Heavens. Might not be the last
one we do there either….so stay tuned.

VS: How about one that’s closed?
CC: Closed venue; SO MANY. I’ll say The Icon, loved the area there, I
wanted to look into reopening that myself, but it doesn’t appear to be
for sale. A runner-up mention is warranted for Palmeri’s in Niagara
Falls, and Evolution in Depew. I got to see ETID/Poison The
Well/others at Evolution, and up until last year, that was my favorite
ETID holiday show.

VS: If you could bring anyone to town that you haven’t already, who?
CC: Honestly, its dream-booking for me; I’d want to bring Poison The Well
or Drowningman back. I’ve got a lot of bands on my radar that I want
to bring here; The Drowned God, Lionheart, if the Jonbenet would stop
fucking teasing and give us a reunion, I’ll book that in a second.

VS: I don’t think that many people actually know you founded/ helped found
FTMP. Have you really been in the shadows more compared to your fellow
FTMP cohorts?
CC: I will correct that assumption; FTMP was created probably a full year
and a half before I joined on. As far as the shadows are concerned, it
wasn’t intentional, but it wasn’t displeasing to be considered in the
shadows compared to them. I was, and still am, very picky when it
comes to who/what I will book. So when I’m booking 1 show a month,
compared to the 12-15 my cohorts were doing, the shadows is where I
would be. Most knew I was part of the organization, they just rarely
saw me. One of the main differences I noticed between myself and the
remainder was that I would schedule shows around my job, where they
would schedule their job accordingly to ensure they could do all those
shows. Kudos to them for the time-management, but I just didn’t feel
the  need to book more than a couple times a month, so it was what it
was.

VS: You obviously had a falling out with Greg, can you briefly (and
vaguely, if you see fit) go through the sequence of events that led to
your decision to quitting?

CC: I have avoided this question for almost a full year. Not for lack of
things to say, not for any reason other than I didn’t think it would
benefit anyone.
To describe everything and do it justice, i’d have to write you a
thesis paper. To summarize, a lot of business decisions were made that
I didn’t agree with over a couple years before the falling out in
question. I’ve called it a “divorce,” and I remember being told that
the other side had proclaimed that “I didn’t share their vision”, and
that is probably the best way either of us would be able to put it. So
as much as mud-slinging could happen, I’d honestly rather leave it in
2018.

VS: If events panned out differently, would you still have stepped out of
the promoting game, even for a brief hiatus?
CC: What happened was less than desirable. In early December, I was
silently suffering from post-concussion syndrome, I was having trouble
sleeping to the point of hallucinating. It was physically making me
unable to function other than going to work, and even then I was
basically on autopilot. I couldn’t quit my job, so booking had to be
the one thing to go. So I made my sad announcement, and it was going
to be done. I had 5 shows left. The first one got cancelled due to
illness in the band, the second was due to all but one band dropping,
and the third was rerouted and I couldn’t secure the new date due to a
show that I found out did about 6 people. So out of that, I had 2
shows that went on as scheduled. I didn’t even attend what was my
“final” show; I hired someone to work that.
When I retired, I realistically wanted to possibly come back after
summer was over, do a couple shows to make amends for the cancelled
ones, and walk away with no regrets. Of course, when you go 2 for 5 in
the end of your run, you can’t be content with that. So, I discussed
rescheduling a couple things for a proper sendoff, ending my career
before the summer ended. That was the plan, however….

VS: You’ve been suckered back into promoting by a pretty solid group of
individuals. Who are they?  And how’d they convince you to come back,
especially so soon?
CC: The idea was to do a few shows with bands we wanted to bring here,
which has been my idea the whole time, just bringing bands we wanted
here. The grand scheme was to find/remodel and reopen a venue of our
choosing. This is still the plan, we’re just taking our time in doing
so, but we’re having fun booking the things we’ve done.
The agency itself is 5 people; myself, Felix Cruz & Ed Slowinski are
the “main” agents, so to speak. We’ve also contracted Rachel Surdi for
our design and marketing help because she’s amazing at what she does,
and Kahlil Sarikey from Inertia fame has stepped up to help us at
shows whenever his schedule aligns with ours, and I’m happy to have him
in any capacity, as he’s just an all-around great dude to be around.
I didn’t take much convincing after the initial comeback. It somehow
worked where the transition from my “tying up loose ends” May comeback
to a full-scale thing was seamless. I filed for our LLC, starting
purchasing new sound equipment to bolster the sound at our spots, and
we’ve generally been doing what we can to improve ourselves every
show.

VS: Why’d you choose the name, “The Chernobyl Agency”?
CC: When I first came back on the scene in 2013, I was the frontman for
critically-acclaimed (by maybe 3 people) metalcore band My Girl,
Chernobyl. The credit for the name goes to my dear friend Sarah, the
explanation behind it is very 2013 of me, as I’d proclaim “what girl
isn’t a meltdown?” Fast forward 6 years later, and I’m the meltdown at
this point.

VS: How did you convince a relatively fancy Italian restaurant to start
hosting metal/ hardcore shows?
CC: That happened by chance, I think we were going to just stick to
quieter/indie alternative shows there, but we took a chance and put a
heavier show there due to time frame, and it worked well. Ever since
then, we’ve had great success there, and honestly, the relationships
we have with our showgoers is essential to that. All I ever ask
patrons to do is make sure the respect the venue that is allowing us
to do this.

VS: CA hasn’t been around a whole year yet, but has already garnered
national attention.  Did you use this boost to your advantage?
CC: I saw us doing good things, but I did not see it happening this
quickly. I remember the national attention happened within a 4 day
time span; I got a call at work from an agent who wanted to ensure that
his act could find a last-minute show due make up for a cancellation.
This act ended up being Sworn In, and due to the unorthodox nature of
it being in an Italian restaurant, the internet was eating it up (pun
not intended, but not being taken out either). This has resulted in a
couple more bands coming under our radar, a few more things being
offered to us. Every show we do, we still have people telling us that
its wild that the restaurant is allowing us to do such a thing. I
think its great, I wish more venues would be open to the idea of
hosting things once in a while.

VS: What can we expect from CA in the future? Do you already have plans
for, er, expansion?
CC: Expansion has been talked about, mostly to further the reach of not
only our local bands, but the neighboring cities locals as well. I’ve
discussed adding a couple more people to the roster, but that will
probably come at a time when we book a non-metal show, as I’ve lost
touch with  a lot of the bands in the other genres. Mostly, we’re just
going to spend 2019 trying to put on crazy shows and even weirder
merch.

Interview: Contrarian, 2019

International prog/death Contrarian are about to release one of this year’s most outstanding albums. Project masterminds Brian Mason and Jim Tasikas were kind enough to allow me to pick their brains a bit about Their Worm Never Dies, the future of Contrarian, and, well, you’ll just have to take a look for yourself!

 

What’s the story and inspiration behind this concept album? How’d you come up with it?

Jim: I always begin the creative process with a story in my head. The story is then translated into the artwork. And then finally, I begin the song writing process. In this album, we really wanted to dive in head first into an old school approach on the concept. Much of the music today is very opinionated and thus casting judgements. This time around we really wanted just a fantasy concept with cool story and characters, much in the vein of King Diamond or Iron Maiden.

 

What relation does this have to do with the bible verse, Mark 9:48?

Brian: The bible verse, I believe, is Jesus talking about a dump that represents hell and it’s a quite literal thing. You’ll be eternally eaten by maggots in an endless fire. Jim chose a whole different approach to that for this story and combined it with a few different lores.

Jim: Yes, this concept fantasy borrows from three classic stories. The idea of the Evil Eye in Mediterranean cultures, the story of the Anglo-Dragon Whiteworm, and obviously some twists of the aforementioned quote in the bible.

 

You’ve said Their Worm is better than To Perceive is to Suffer, what specifically about this album makes you think that?

Brian: I think the songs have a few years of song-writing practice behind them. They feel more complete and thought out to me. This record has a definite feel to it that I enjoy. I also think the mix and production of the album is far superior. Lastly, the concept aspect of it helps really make it a complete unit.

Jim: The songs are streamlined in a way that I believe catch the listener in the proper way without sacrificing the refined detail that we are trying to achieve.

 

What’s your favourite track off this record?

Brian: I’m torn between “Whomesoever…” and “Among the Misled”. The former is just a great, epic tune and that entire middle section gives me chills still. The latter is just such an odd song, but it grooves hard when it grooves. I just love the drums on “Among the Misled” as well.

Jim: Since the last album, I have been getting messages and reviews saying something like “great songwriting, but you guys need to let loose on a few tracks!” Well, the final track on the new album, we do just that!

 

Do you think this is going to be your Magnum Opus? Or is that farther off in the future?

Brian: So far, this is beyond my favorite. We are also always changing and switching things up, so who knows.

Jim: We definitely have a few more in us and some great ideas!

 

In a previous interview, Brian said that the band, musically, is “where we should be”. Can you elaborate more on that?

Brian: I just feel the first two had some growing pains attached to them, both in writing and performance. I feel with this record, we have found our pocket. I feel we have the right formula right now. We have the right balance of tightness and looseness. We gave our engineer, George Bokos, a massive headache with mixing and mastering to make sure it was where we wanted it to be. That stuff feels locked in now. We both like things to have a live feel them. For instance, I don’t ever write solos for Contrarian. When the record button gets pushed, that’s when I’m writing the solo. I like the looseness it creates. Odd bends and weird runs sometimes make it in and I love that. A minor squeak in the rhythm track is always welcome. I feel we have the right amount of that stuff in this production. Old school.

 

With Their Worm nearing its release date, you’ll have released three LPs in less than three and a half years. Will frequent releases be a continuing trend with Contrarian?

Jim: Yes, of course! I believe for us, the creative process is the main focus and enjoyment always!

 

You never seem to never stop writing, so how far is album #4 on the horizon? Or perhaps I should be asking how close is it?

Brian: Correct… Jim never stops writing. A concept is already figured out for another new album and artwork is being created.

Jim: We are trying to follow the Iron Maiden model of a new album, every two years!

 

Aside from Contrarian, George [Kollias], (Nile) has only done vocals for his own solo project (and an old band in the 1990s). And truthfully, I wasn’t even aware that he could do vocals until Perceive. When did you decide that he would do vocals for the latest two releases?

Jim: Being in Contrarian, you have to be a certain type of metalhead. It is very cerebral. We all have to be in sync with the concept and vision at hand. Without sounding too precious, you have the be a veteran/educated metalhead as well. The fact that everyone in the band is a Generation X-er I believe is an advantage for us. It is an advantage because we are old enough to have a natural memory of metal since its conception, and young enough to be up to date on modern trends within the genre. Hence, it just naturally happened George ending up doing the vocals.

 

The two of you are interested in a vast array of music, and I think it’s safe to assume the same for the other guys in the band. So simply, why progressive death metal? As opposed to, well, anything else?

Brian: Because I have done everything else. Ha. Seriously, it comes from the time Jim and I grew up in the 80’s. Death, Atheist and Cynic were, and still are, huge on my influence list and I was happy to finally get the opportunity to do something along those lines.

Jim: Nostalgia, simply put. As Brian said, we are of that generation. I think that is why people are surprised to find out that our music is not a generic parody, and they really appreciate that.

 

It’s been a minute or two since you’ve played a live show. Now that you’re about to release another solid record, what’s the likelihood for a tour?

Brian: I have a few commitments with other bands to handle, but that usually winds down come summer time. I’m completely open as long as we have the right people with us.

Jim: We are getting together with a booking agent. I really think some shows and festivals will happen soon.

 

Would you consider a full tour, about a couple weeks’ worth of dates? Or some “weekend warrior” shenanigans?

Brian: Barring any conflicts, I open to anything really. I have a lot of time available to take off work.

 

You’re essentially an international band, and you have a rather prolific drummer, who’ll likely be releasing two albums in 2019. Hypothetically, would you be touring with the guys on the album, or would you seek out live musicians?  Do you have any lead candidates for fill-ins?

Brian: We’re trying to figure all that out now, but it’s very preliminary. We have ideas and a couple committed people as I understand it.

 

Jim, what’s the scoop with Delirium Endeavor?

Jim: Delirium Endeavor was real nerdy instrumental metal fusion thing that Ed Paulsen and I did. You can find some posts on YouTube.

 

Brian, can you talk about your other projects? I thought there were only two, but then another one crept up into my awareness.

Brian: I’m a bit of a band whore. I’m always juggling a few projects around. My main project right now is Sulaco. Kind of a Grindy/Death/Proggy kind of thing. I don’t know. I’m really bad at the metal genre’s.  I’m also in a band with Chris from Sulaco called CHRMR (pronounced Charmer). That project is more melodic, slower and has a 90’s Rock feel to it. It gives me and Chris a chance to slow down and chill for a bit. It’s a really fun project with some really great song writing and excellent dudes. I just finished a 16 year stint with my old band, BML. We were an instrumental prog, fun, happy time band. That was my main project for many years, but we all felt it was time to move onto other things. I have been known to join indie projects and even somewhat country/rock type things. I like to keep myself on my toes and stay out of my comfort zone. I’m also currently writing some 70’s style instrumental prog-rock/jazz stuff, ala Gordian Knot, Brand X stuff to do with the former drummer from Psyopus. I just haven’t gotten a chance to complete anything yet, so it may or may not come to fruition.

 

Contrarian has an obviously stellar future ahead, have you considered where you might be vs where you’d like to be in a few years? How about further into the future?

Brian: I just let things fall where they may. We’ll see what happens. I feel, as a project, we are getting better and better at this thing.

Jim: We always aim high. We always give it our best. We are in contact with booking agencies so that we may be able to do some live shows for our fans!

 

Anything else? Last thoughts? Questions, comments, concerns?

Brian: Thank you Vick for all your support. You rule.

Jim: Yes, thank you for paying attention to our music. It means a lot to us!

 

And I cannot thank Brian and Jim enough for taking the time to reply to my inquiries.
Their Worm Never Dies drops March 15 via Willowtip Records. For the time being, you can jam their first single off the new record, “Exorcism“. And of course, their previous releases, To Perceive is to Suffer and Polemic.  Preorders for Their Worm are live! And you can find them on both Contrarian’s bandcamp and Willowtip’s online store.

Darkest Horizon December 2018 Interview

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Darkest Horizon is fresh off a European tour with the legendary WINTERSUN, a killer new album and also just partnered up with my promo friends in India Proximity Productions! This band is off to a great start, and will do you well if you’re into that epic melodic death metal sound.  Check out my interview with the lads right below!

TMR: Tell me how Darkest Horizon was formed and what influenced the band name.

Darkest Horizon was “founded” in 2008 with one old friend Till (He’s now playing in Precipitation) and me (Olli). We had an idea for making old school Melodic Death Metal combined with catchy melodies and epic backround layers, so we got Chris as an talendet Main Songwriter. We worked together in a cool and relaxed way. We had like different drummers, bassplayers and a rhythm guitarist till 2010. So during that time we had to pick up musicians who fitted perfectly in our band. I think it was back in 2009, when I called Jonas for joining us as a bass player, the funfact was,that he wasn’t a bass player, he was an talented guitar techaer at this time, but he took it good like always, “Okay… then I think I have to buy me a bass”. So during 2010 we had a stable band (yes… we thought that at that point), 5 songs and were ready for some recordings. So we hit the Empire Studios under the direction from Rolf Munkes ( he’s working with bands and artists like Michael Schenker, Crematory, Bülent Ceylan and Labels like Nuclear Blast, EMI, Sony etc. ) During this process our old drummer Massimo Sardo left the band, because he had other plans in live, so I had to sample and play some drum passages for the record… me… as a guitarist. And after the recordings our session guitarist Kevin wanted to focus more on his projects and left the band. The funny thing was, on the same day, Daniel called me and told me that he has listened to our unpublished material and was blown away and if we need a fill in guitarist we should call him first. So I said to him that  we won’t call him for this, because we want him as a proper member and he should come to the next rehearsal. I´ve known him for years, I´ve played with him in some bands before and he fits like the fist on the eye to Darkest Horizon. He was laughing and said of course he will join us and now we’re here. So during 2011 we prepared our live set up and the first shows and festivals came up and we decided to get Darkest Horizon to a professional band. The influence is quite intereseting because everybody is listening to different styles of music. Chris is making our main inlfuence beside our personal ones.  Jonas is more the new metal guy, Daniel is more on Oldschool Melodic/Death, Pagan and Black Metal, Enis has the melodic death taste, same like me and Chris got the Epic stuff.

TMR: You guys recently opened up for the legendary Wintersun! How did that go? 

That was funny as well. I recived a “What’s up” from Teemu if I´ve checked my e-mails and if we want to do this. I had no idea what it was. When I´ve checked my e-mails, I saw the invite for all the request shows and I thought we will definitly do this. So I got the green light from the other band members at the same day that we’ll supporting these guys. 

I know Teemu in person since the Paganfest Tour in 2015 and met him for some guitar lessons in Helsinki as well. He´s a cool guy and during the Shows we all figgured out that we fit perfectly togehter, in person and from the music. These shows been the easiest and best we ever had, because everybody knows how to do it the professional way. Especally the hangovers with Asim.. 

TMR:” Your album “Aenigmata” was recently released.  Go into detail about the theme, lyrics and what influenced it.

AENIGMATA is a collection of thematic songs, each containing conundrums or puzzling questions of our world and universe. “Can man become machine?”, “What is enlightenment?” and more. It also features the problems of enigmatic paradoxes like the “Omnipotence Paradox” and inexplicable phenomena known to mankind. AENIGMATA explores thought experiments on a philosophical as well as a scientific level. The songs often contain mysterious sounding notes, ranging from somber melodies to melodies with a more fantastic touch.

 

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TMR: What was the best moment in Darkest Horizon’s history as a band?

We had a lot of great moments in our history, I think you can say every milestone we had were the best moment so far. For example, the first recorded album, the first big festivals, the festivals abroad from Europe, the first tour, the shows with Wintersun etc. But I can say from my point of fiew, that every concert or business we did with Darkest Horizon was filling the experience scale, if it was good or bad. Because you gain a lot of impressions on the road and this is what’s important for a band. You learn how to deal with anything and that’s a lesson in life you can’t probably gain beside having a band. 

TMR: What was the writing process for “Aenigmata” like? Any struggles or was it easy? What did you do differently this time around?

That was a new experience as well. Because we thought we would release it in 2016. We  had troubles with the recordings or some issues like some other bands had. We just wanted to have a 100% finis product. It was easy to record and nice to work in the process, but finding the right sound… dude… one year mixing and painting the details… that was pain in the ass.

And of course we did something different in the process. Everybody recorded their parts on their own. I mean of course we stayed in touch during the time, but everybody could bring his own influence down. So it was amazing. But next time we´ll check out a new kind of path during the process as well. Doing it all the same would be boring. 

TMR: Does Darkest Horizon have any shows coming up?

Yes! But I am only allowed to say that we´re playing on the 22nd of December near our home area in Darmstadt at the Goldene Krone with Sapiency, Corbian and another band. We’re doing there a Christmas special, so get your tickets and get suprised! We are really looking forward to this event! There are a lot of other requests through Europe but I can’t say something more because we’re actually planning this beside the recordings. 

TMR: Talk about your newfound partnership with Proximity Productions.  Your band has had some good things going on lately, and this is just another one of them.

Yes! First I want to thank you guys that work togehter. Honestly I am more on the booking and songwriting level but we all experienced a great time when we have been to Sri Lanka where we met Harsha of Proximity Productions. So Jonas contacted him this year and we started working together. We hope that we will reach a higher level by his (Harsha’s) international contacts and especially in Asia for we would love to come back and visit more countries and cities (and of course play gigs there too!). This cooperation started very good and we hope that it will grow and grow and well… let’s see, where it leads us!

TMR: What are your goals for 2019? Anything cool planned?

Yes! We played a lot of shows this year in Germany and at the neighboring countries so after the awesome experience in Bucharest we are working to get our asses more abroad from Germany, for some club and festival shows. Beside this we’re working on new material. After releasing “Aenigmata” in October we have like 10 new songs and are working on them. We haven’t decided yet how and when we’re releasing these songs. But there is something cooking for 2019 and it smells definitely good.

TMR: How did everyone become a musician? What albums and artists helped you make that decision?

We all grow on each other. So everybody in the band did his part on the other one I think. Of course I wont be able to be that muscian I am right now without the guys and I think I can say this for the other members as well. 

For my personal development beside Darkest Horizon was Wintersun. In the first point they blew me away with their first Album. So I started a year before their debut release the guitar playing business. But after listening to that high skilled guitar music, I saw the long path I had to go. Beside that Teemu Mäntysaari is my guitar instructor.

TMR: What is everyone interested in outside of music and Darkest Horizon?

Time besides music and the band is a very thin line. We’re all working beside our band and the rest of the time is focused and saved for the band. For sure we’re having a life beside the band but that’s more like calming down from the daily routine and enjoying good company with some friends or doing sports and other simple activite like anyone else does.

 

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