Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Interview: Sean Maier


Blessed By A Broken Heart are one of those bands I can’t stop listening too. I was introduced to "She Wolf" by my friend about six years ago and I was heavily hooked onto Pedal to the Metal. A musical journey that has seen them change genres from a deathcore sound to a glam rock approach, their whole discography has been great to listen to and to witness the change of sound. Sean Maier appeared on their last two albums and has since then got some solo stuff to check out, so I thought I’d speak to him about his upcoming solo stuff and also the adversity and heartbreak behind the fall of Blessed By A Broken Heart.
~Matthew Clewley


Music Review Database: First of all, what happened to Blessed By A Broken Heart?

Sean Maier: I actually posted on my Facebook account about this recently.  Here's what it said:

Hey everyone, I just felt compelled to let anyone interested in seeing Blessed hit the road again, it's not going to be happening and I'm very sorry about that. There was much leading up the eventual stop to this train. I'll just be blunt, honest, and cut to the chase as best I can here yet tell the story of what happened and why for those who care to know.

For "Pedal To The Metal" we were with Century Media Records. Our management/attorney & label at that time got in quite the quarrel about owning band rights. Unfortunately CM at that time used fear tactics to try to get the job done. The kind where the president calls you guys on tour and tells you to fire your whole management and attorney team and sign here or else you'll be a "C" priority--basically shelved. Needless to say we had trust issues on seeing eye to eye with the label after that and the relationship tarnished.

In hindsight CM put the best deal of backing and money into the band and knowing what I know now about how little musicians & bands make on there recorded music… I think it may have been wiser to sign the publishing deal with CM but one can never be sure… Oh the tyranny of what if! Having said that I still think quite fondly of the past & present A&R branch over at CM in USA & Europe. Those very good and honest hard working people you know who you are thank you for all your efforts.

Blessed was to date some of the most amazing and fun times of my life. I'll never forget from joining in 2005, eating banana egg rolls at Frank's house with Tyler to eventually rocking 15,000 people at Loud Park in Japan and everything in between… Far too many stories to tell but let me just say it's really been something.

This leaves us at the second chapter, leaving CM and signing with Tooth & Nail. After what I believe was like a year of back and forth lawyer bicker & banter we did get 'er done. We signed a not so good but better than some deal with T&N and were set to enter the studio for "Feel The Power". We spent the better part of 2 years writing on and off and we recorded a killer record that surpassed Pedal (in my opinion) and without a doubt factual if you're talking about the music and lead guitar playing.

We were all set to go full force on the FTP record I was very excited to perform the new songs live. We shot 2 new music videos and then our frontman Tony leaves a week before the record drops. To be totally honest this is where it ends but none of us 100% knew it yet. We figured we still had Sam "Ryder" Robinson who to be honest (Tony would have no gripes to admit this) is a better singer technically and sang almost all the harmonies and some of the leads for the FTP record. At this point our new booking agent in Europe Xray drops us and Japan becomes disinterested.

Unfortunately our label had pretty much washed their hands of us as well as all legit booking agents the band had. I couldn't exactly blame them, the label spent good money on the record and music videos with Tony's face and vocals and now we're gonna tell them the guy up and left a week before the release. We did do 1 tour (if it can even be considered that) last summer for the only booking agency who would touch us. We along with the entire tour package, "Write This Down" and "Children 18:3" could not continue the tour due to the fact that through some sort of contract screw up we were taking in less money at the shows than it cost on transport to get to them.

By the end of 2 Weeks we had gone though our entire publishing advance, losing thousands. It was at that point that I told the other guys that I no longer could continue. We had exhausted all our contacts, support system and money so there was really nothing left so to speak. I'm sorry it took so long for an update, I know there have been some people wondering what is going on with the band. I guess some of us were still waiting to see if by some miracle the album would start selling a ton or some overseas offer would come in and we would have the money from show guarantees to tour but none of that came true.

I just wanna end with thanking anyone who ever came out to a show, bought a record or T-shirt, fed us, or put us up for a night or more all those years Blessed was out on the road. Without you, this crazy ride would have never been possible and I'm grateful for that. Please be sure to support the members in our new musical projects and bands. Sam is now the singer for "Close Your Eyes" so be sure to check them out to hear the amazing talent that Sam is. I am currently doing a shred guitar project called Shred Starz. Be sure to check that out and add us if you dig my playing. I'm also taking on new projects so if anyone feels there's something that would fit my style I'm now available and can be reached here.


How influential was your time with BBABH on your playing style, as they have previously experimented with different sub genres of rock and metal? 

Blessed has had so much influence on my life.  The guys, the times we shared, the whole experience.  As far as the band influencing my playing-- not very much.  I mean, my playing has always been very much influenced by iconic guitar heroes more so than the guys.  Although a song that say Frank wrote on "Pedal" or that Ian “Slater” wrote on "Feel The Power" would influence different ideas that I may not have arrived at without their musical contribution. Thank you for that guys.     


How did you meet James J LaRue and come up with the idea of Shred Starz? 

I  came to know of James through his former band Holy Grail.  When James left Grail I was asked to fill in for a tour.  I ended up passing the offer along to a dear friend who was in need of a gig, Ian Scott.  After listening to Grail with Ian and coming to admire LaRue’s playing style.

I added him on Facebook and we began talking here and there.  Our first face to face was at NAMM 2011 by chance.  The idea of Shred Starz came from the mutual adoration of the classic “golden era” of shred we love so much.  The style, the attitude, the guitars, the tones, the colors, THE ERA.  We had tossed names back and forth, then Shred Starz came to my mind. I remember telling James.   He loved it, I loved it, and that was that.         


How far are you willing to go with Shred Starz, have you performed live with James J Larue? 

I'd be willing to take Shred Starz to da moon and back if I could. I love It!  The reality of that happening is highly unlikely.  First off James is not a fan of the touring life and its reality, meaning the hardships and struggle of being a starter group on the road.  Most people who don’t tour don’t understand how hard or expensive it is.  It is not simply just hit the road and play the music.  It's a lot of money and sacrifice. 

I love and miss performing live.  I don’t like 12 hour drives or sleeping in a van but I love performing my music for people who enjoy listening to it.  Nothing compares other than maybe the joy of creating it and the excitement of the musical idea coming to life.  The only way I see Shred Starz becoming more is maybe a Kickstarter campaign.   Even with that, I’m not sure if we're large enough at this point to get proper funding for any sort of tour.  However, we are interested in trying to fund our next video with Kickstarter and coming up with cool perks for contributions.


Do Shred Starz plan on releasing an EP or an album?

We plan on releasing singles with rad/creative music videos.  We have about 5 or 6 tunes that we started almost 2 years ago.  It's really tough to release a video the way we try to do things.   We're trying to be more than just the average self-made guitar video.  Our thing is shred guitar music with a real cool music video.  Almost all guitar music is pretty exclusive in videos as either instructional or “play-thru videos” where it's not much more than dude+guitar+different angle.  We try to be more than just the guitar in videos by incorporating a creative fun music video theme.         


How was the music video for Midnight Ladies Sonata created, and who wrote the idea? 

The idea for Lady was born of the mutual adoration for 80’s era film and style.  Patrick McDevitt produced it & Anthony Carella assisted.  The video features my girlfriend, Lindsay Marie Deluca and her friend Maytal Angel as the “babes”.  My friend Derek is the bad guy and George Papadimatos is the other shady character who deals drugs and babes for a price…  The video was shot at SVA Studios on the lower east side of Manhattan.  It was super cool to have access to all that equipment.       


You seem to be influenced by 80s glam metal, if so, who is the guitarist you favorite the most from that era?

There's so many rad players from that era it's tough to narrow it to just one guy.  How about a list of dudes who are rad from that era whose playing I really dig?    

1) Paul Gilbert — Anything by Racer X and ‘Mr. Big’
2) Nuno Bettencourt — w/ Extreme: ‘Extreme’ and ‘Pornograffiti’
3) Greg Howe — ‘Introspection’
4) Richie Kotzen — ‘Electric Joy’
5) Guthrie Govan — ‘Erotic Cakes’
6) Steve Vai — solo: ‘Passion and Warfare’ and w/ DLR: ‘Eat ‘Em and Smile’
7) Michael Lee Firkins — ‘Michael Lee Firkins’
8) Yngwie Malmsteen — ‘Rising Force’
9) Chris Impellitteri — ‘Screaming Symphony’
10) Jason Becker — ‘Perpetual Burn’
11) Marty Freidman — w/ Megadeth: ‘Rust in Peace’ and solo: ‘Dragon Kiss’
12) Reb Beach — w/ Winger: ‘Winger’
13) John Sykes — w/ Blue Murder: ‘Blue Murder’
14) Akira Takasaki — w/ Loudness: ‘Dissilution’
15) John Petrucci — w/ Dream Theater: ‘Awake’ and ‘Scenes From A Memory’
16) George Lynch — w/ Dokken: ‘Under Lock & Key’ and ‘Back For The Attack’ and w/ Lynch Mob: ‘Wicked Sensation’
17) Michael Romeo — w/ Symphony X: ‘Odyssey’
18) Vinnie Moore — ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Defying Gravity’
19) Tony MacAlpine — ‘Chromacity’ and ‘Evolution’
20) Randy Rhoads — w/ Ozzy Osbourne: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ and ‘Diary Of A Madman’
21) Blues Saraceno — ‘Hairpick’
22) Shawn Lane — ‘Powers Of 10′
23) Frank Gambale — ‘Passages’
24) Alex Skolnick — w/ Testament: ‘The New Order’ and ‘Practice What You Preach’
25) Jeff Loomis — w/ Nevermore: ‘This Godless Endeavor’ and solo: ‘Zero Phase Order’
26) Dimebag Darrell — w/ Pantera: ‘Cowboys From Hell’
27) Ron Thal, a.k.a. Bumblefoot — ’911′
28) Allan Holdsworth — ‘Against The Clock’
29) Kiko Loureiro – w/ Angra: ‘Temple Of Shadows’
30) Vito Bratta — w/ White Lion: ‘Pride’


How was the writing experience working with James J LaRue?

Working with James has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.  He has taught me so much in the ways of recording and work ethic.  He puts 100% into everything he does and follows through even if it takes a long time and he always does killer work.  Shred Starz would not sound the way it does if not for his creativity, hard work,  and know how of sound and recording.  When I flew him out to NY to write with me for the first time I really wasn’t very good at tracking my own guitars.  He researched a good interface that we both ended up getting and got me familiar with the recording program Reaper and some plugins to get my guitar tone good enough using software.  If it wasn’t for James helping me along with recording and my rig I don’t know where I'd be now.  In a way, he made all the “Shred Sean” videos and content I put out over this past year or so possible.  He showed me how to be more precise about my playing.  Thanks James.


How many bands and musicians have you collaborated with since you started being a guitarist, besides from BBABH and Shred Starz, what other bands helped you with your playing style?

I really haven’t played with that many bands.  The first song I performed was “Crazy Train” with a group of high school buddies I believe we called ourselves “Minds Of Malice”.  Other than that really just high school buddies and even performing with my middle school teacher on drums for “Mr Crowley” and my guitar teacher Jaf on bass.


Do you think the music industry could be saved from piracy in terms of profit for musicians?

I don't think piracy and be prevented.  This train is going one way and it ain't coming back.  That being said, I do think there are some new cool ways that bands/artists are funding the creation of their work.  The whole crowd funding thing is great!  Ask fans and people who care to help and provide perks for that, the more personal the better.  


And finally, have you got enough material for a full solo album? Would you want to release something like that?

I have a good stockpile of ideas for songs.  I find I work best and am most inspired bouncing ideas off other musicians in a shared writing situation.  I'm not sure how interested I am in writing a full-length currently.  My interest now is more collaborating with different guitar players and musicians and releasing singles or a few tracks at a time maybe a video. If it's an established act that has a working tour engine (booking agent/agents, fans in every city attending shows, tour transport, bus or fly in dates etc) happens to loose a guitar player and are in need of say me…  Fuck yea let's quit the current day job and put everything into writing/touring.  If those cards get dealt to me fantastic!  I might not wanna hold my breath though…

Psychostick - IV: Revenge of the Vengeance


Recently, I have been enjoying listening to new releases in the past few weeks at my time on work placement. I've heard AC/DC's new album, and for a band undergoing a couple of bad situations they are pulling together quite well for this release. So to more of my excitement, the beastly beauties from Psychostick have dropped their new album off. Thanks to the interview I did with them a while back; I have been keeping an eye out for this release.

Revenge of the Vengeance offer that slight humour into the title, but yet something different from their previous material. It's ready to prepare your anuses as the intro to Revenge of the Vengeance brings us to the rapturous brilliance of “Obey the Beard”. If you own a beard one way or another, by either watering it or giving it sunlight or you have bought one from your local joke shop, this is your anthem. The riff is deliciously heavy and the bass twangs along throughout the song. It's just so... beard. And after that there’s “President Rhino”, the comical moshing tune that would make you laugh even if you have a tooth spin kicked out.

“H-flat” gives us a nice tuning joke, whilst “So. Heavy” continues taking the piss out of bands with down tuning, which anyone with a guitar can do. Psychostick continue their escapade of heavy stupidity with “Dogs Like Socks”. This is an anthem to Psychostick, even though I do love the song, it feels so much better, and if “Super Legit OFFICIAL Teaser #2 Explode” doesn't make you shit your pants due to the enriching cumbersome songs yet, then it just gets better. The trailer however does give me great memories of listening to Crotchduster. Ducks are little pieces of shit, and “Quack Kills” proves that especially.  That twanging bassline still makes Psychostick songs addictive along with everything else.

I'm sure most of us have been through the heart wrenching pain of having “Blue Screen”, but this soft riffy ballad touches you in all sorts of places... Rawrb's vocals are so beautiful it will make angels rip their wings off and start bitch slapping each other with them. The word “fuck” is exhilarating in “NSFW”, with that classical musical element, pure filth is joining it to make is a foul mouthed masterpiece. A strange one to see on this album, but it's a cover we have all wanted to do at some point in our lives. “Danger Zone” is next (I was expecting something like Danger Bone), for what I think is a pretty decent cover. It reeks of Kenny Loggins, and that stench is great if you grew up with films like Top Gun and Footloose.

Psychostick manage to put their own spin on this, and rotate it to an absolutely solid victory, the last minute made me cry with bliss. “New To The Neighbourhood” is a classic Psychostick montage, something that will disturb those who love dogs that hate socks. “Loathe Thy Neighbour” comes after, the line: “She has more cats than children, by an order of magnitude,” got me giggling. The riffs continue to be excessively beautiful as well as the choruses. “AWESOME” is beautifully accurate to those who love monsters trucks that mow lawns, a list made by fine human beings for fine human beings. “Choking Hazard” returns to their songs that are in the same category as “Scrotal Torment”. A hilarious take on a serious matter shows how capable Psychostick are to make something hilarious. The trashy riff is insanely addictive and keeps this album rapturous and vicious. Scrotal torment isn't fun for any guy, especially in the summer. “Food” is a returning theme to Psychostick!

“Fight to the Death” over a slice of pizza is brilliant, we all have those moments when there is that last slice of Dominos and everyone eyes it up as if Dita Von Teese popped out of the pizza box naked. I always get the last slice; I am warrior when it comes to food. Speaking of warriors, “Bruce Campbell” is possibly the best tribute song I have ever heard - one of my favourite actors, and now, one of my favourite songs. It's wrote and played as if it's a national anthem, which is the main appeal to this. The neighbour joke is back with “Trick or Treat”, which is the funniest interlude on the album. “Dimension Time Portal” is in the same league as Girl directions.  Spontaneous pops out and interrupts, it's a great sketch, not really a song as such, if this was the plot to 2012 then I would of loved that film. The trashiest ending to an album by Psychostick and its fucking incredible. “The Power of Metal Compels You” is a spoof yet a tribute paid to heavy metal, and a fine one at that. How fuck the Psychostick haven't played in the UK recently I don't know, I know so many people who love these here. The album is fierce and hilarious,, it remains a thrashy, compact masterpiece with chunky breakdowns and enriched madness. 
~Matthew Clewley

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Listen: Mont Oliver - 19


The Danish haven't given us much music of late, personally I've covered Vinyl Floor's folk, Iceage's punk, and now we have Mont Oliver and their blend of trip-hop / eletronica, but what Denmark lacks in exports, they make up for in quality. Iceage have quickly become the most exciting punk band on the circuit, and Mont Oliver's early offering "19" only enhances their quick rise from nothingness to the top of the ladder, and there seems to be nothing keeping Mont Oliver away from achieving this almost expected dominance. They have 4,000 likes on their Facebook page without even releasing anything but "19" (which by the way will be free,) it seems almost unbelievable unless it's a side-project of an already established artist - but this isn't. Mont Oliver are relatively new, but have the production quality of an artist that's been in the game for years. Take a listen and you'll agree that 4,000 + likes on their Facebook page seems somewhat - realistic - and could very well double within weeks with this level of debut quality.
~Eddie Gibson

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Listen: Muted - Lava


Bjarni Rafn Kjartansson, better known as Muted by fans and compatriots, will be releasing an EP titled Special Place on November 7 - and the preview is a pretty good indicator as to what direction it takes. Below is a track taken from Muted's Special Place called "Lava" - highlighting the more aesthetic ambiance and 90s-esque electonics deservedly filled next to Autechre. Special Place features guest vocalist Jófríður Ákadóttir of Pascal Pinon and Samaris, the latter being a band we have great interest in. Listen below, and look out for the full EP come release.
~Eddie Gibson


Listen: Páll Ivan frá Eiðum - Expanding


This is Paul Ivan's "Expanding", one of his many experimental tracks which crosses the borders of the electronic genre. In the past it may have been chiptune or electronic pop - Well Ivan has done it in some form to very little exposure outside of his borough. Already a familiar name within the Icelandic music community, (check out this composition for the Symphony Orchestra) Ivan has built up a respectable list of collaborators including Borko, múm, and Slowblow. You can check out his eclectic Soundcloud for more details, but more importantly listen to the track below to kick-start your acknowledgment of Ivan, as his name will deservedly start to grow out of the depths of Iceland with his well-composed electronic beats, vocal austerity and industralised ambience - The Icelandic Eno.
~Eddie Gibson

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Listen: Subburbia - MaLife (Slow Version)


You may remember Subburbia's psychedelic high "MaLife" from earlier in the year with Labanna Babalon, well now you can listen to a slowed down, eccentric version with even more ambience - and that doesn't include the revamped video with dolphins, aliens, and dope shoes...
~Eddie Gibson


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Discovery: Meanwhile - Icarus


No more hiding in anonymity for Tom Andrews' Meanwhile - but it's been a while since the face behind Meanwhile wasn't revealed to be Tunde Adebimpe, or Merrill Garbus' long lost British cousin. In truth, the excitement and mysticism behind Meanwhile's music impressed music lovers for the core values of finding a track they like, and sharing said track, because Meanwhile's first release "Luvletta" only came with the description of 'solo artist living just off the M3'. It hasn't exactly catapulted Andrews to infamy (yet), but as any past or present Fiction Records artist will tell you, you're not there to sit around for a few years releasing newly mixed versions of early demos. Andrews has now put out three tracks, the aforementioned "Luvletta", "Bigger City", and "All for the Taking", the latter showing signs of Meanwhile previously unheard, but not explored below (that's just a nod to check out "All for the Taking".)


"Icarus" is the latest release from Meanwhile, I have to say that after questioning Andrews' creativity and originality in my "Bigger City" review back in June, "Icarus" is just simply brilliant. It opens with a chopped up guitar arpeggio in the form of Battles' "Ice Cream" and the beyond from Ty Braxton's genius Mirrored. It slowly develops in to a highly intellectual piece of electronic pop which wouldn't sound out of place on a Grand Theft Auto soundtrack.

Lyrically, "Icarus" comes across deeply personal and his revised use of the words I, my, and specifically you, leads me to believe Icarus is Andrews himself, or as seen from his persona outside of his life as Tom Andrews from the M3: "Icarus, I know there’s more fight in you." Take into account this was the first song written by Andrews after his previous music-related project dissolved. Perhaps my interpretation is wrong, it just seems Andrews uses the common saying associated with Icarus - flying too close to the sun - as the answer to his previous projects demise, and in retrospect uses it as a personal warning not to allow the same fate to repeat itself with Meanwhile.

That being said, "Icarus" to me isn't devoted to its lyrical content, and I’m sure those that have listened will agree the true essence of this track comes from the instrumental. As previously mentioned, the opening guitar is the main ingredient carrying "Icarus" through stages of instrumental ingenuity. The vocal transition ('Just a brief refine about the sampler,') splits "Icarus" up from its initial simplicity and perkiness to the musical additions which follow. Note the pitch change at 1.06, a very smart move lowering the tone in a preliminary build-up to the percussion / chorus / then synthesized piece of 80s ambiance. But before you come to know "Icarus" the songs over and you're wondering where it all went. No trickery, no extended silence, it's all about Andrews' ability to spot the necessary adjustments in sound which in turn keeps "Icarus" fresh, and above all a great piece of work all round. Then there's Andrews' vocal which puts ITV's latest talent show to shame. Signing to Fiction Records with very little prior? A fantastic bit of business for both parties and one which will all but confirm Meanwhile's imminent impact on the future of British music. But first things first, Meanwhile has to reach a national level before expanding like my spider plant(s) - cue La Roux's upcoming tour where Meanwhile acts as primary support. Best of luck, but Meanwhile won't need it.
~Eddie Gibson

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Live Show - Wheatus

Wheatus: Pic by The Sugarmill
Venue: The Sugarmill
Where: Stoke-on-Trent

It's my first gig to The Sugarmill in quite a while and to be honest I do miss the place. I've been going since I was 14, and the past six years have been a blast there hosting some brilliant bands. After I interviewed Brendan of Wheatus, it was a nice feeling to be back interviewing bands - however, I was hoping this gig wouldn't be the kind of gig that the audience would only buy tickets just for one song. I saw SoiL at The Underground and everyone kept shouting "Halo!" to be playing after every song they did. The bands I went to see are a touring family from Brooklyn in America, so I was expecting a pretty laid back show. Having a full American line up was quite exciting to me, as you mainly get line ups like that at bigger gigs playing at places like the Civic Hall or some shit.

The first band to make an appearance are called Late Cambrian. They are an alternative band who have clear influences from the likes of UK indie bands like Arctic Monkeys. They gave a great performance, which wasn't too interactive with the crowd, but everyone still enjoyed their music. It was happy and bouncing, even if the backing vocal mics were slightly quiet on a few occasions. The song "Ryan Gosling" got a few wolf whistles from the ladies in the crowd, and when played it got a few nodding heads as well. These are a band who will go quite far depending on the exposure they get. They also sold out all their shirts at the end and were barely holding onto CDs.

Next on the stage is Gabrielle Sherbenz. She's a member of the backing vocal section of Wheatus, so watching her doing a solo act was very interesting. It wasn't the pop punk we know and love of Wheatus, instead it was quite soft with kind of cheesy ballads. Her voice was great and sounds pure when she starts singing in French. Gabrielle uses the French accent perfectly and makes the soft ballad music fall in to a nice state of relaxation. However, the crowd seemed to be distant from her music, as there were conversations everywhere on the floor during her performance. As much as I did enjoy her music, her interaction with the crowd made her seem quite shy. She spoke to the audience, but it didn't feel like she was speaking to us as an audience, but then again, half of the people there were waiting for "Teenage Dirtbag" to be played later on in the night.

MC Frontalot was on stage next and he gave the audience a much needed energy boost. He was joined by Miss Eaves who added some sass to the live set. The music and songs were spot on, the music was coming from a backing track whilst rapping begun. The crowd engagement wasn't exactly the best, but everyone still enjoyed MC Frontalot's music. "First World Problem" sounds even better with Miss Eaves on the vox, with "Spoiler Alert" also coming onto the setlist. Miss Eaves got to play one of her songs and sounded great, though her microphone wasn't helping with trying to listen to what she was singing.

And finally, Wheatus take to the stage to give the crowd what they were waiting for... "Teenage Dirtbag". Of course they can't just play for one song though, we have classics like "Leroy", "Hey", "Mrs Brown" and their infamous cover of Erasure's "A Little Respect" to get through first. Wheatus sounded excellent besides one technical fuck up with Brendan's guitar amp, which was played through music software on what I assumed was his laptop. Vocally they were spot on aswell, the high pitched, puberty destroying voice that everyone knows and loves lights the crowd up to make them feel young again. The backing vocals were barely heard through half of their set, the backing vocals were bang on key when you could hear them, but to be honest the microphones haven't been spot on with sound all night. One highlight of my evening was the cover of "The Trees" by Rush. That was the best Rush cover I have ever heard, excellent and completely out of the blue.Whilst the songs were bashing out, "Lemonade" made an appearance and it was a joy to hear, and then the night ended with "Teenage Dirtbag", with guest MC'ing from MC Frontalot and Miss Eaves to make it drag on for a bit before the last part of the song.

There was plenty of excitement in the audience, even if it was for one song, everybody still enjoyed their time with Wheatus, and "Only You", their new song, even got a few nods of appreciation from the crowd. All four acts were superb, but Wheatus did stand out, as everyone would expect.
~Matthew Clewley

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Interview: Scar Symmetry


Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to a band of one of my favorite metal bands to appear in recent times. Scar Symmetry have always been a busy unit straying from the usual and making their own recipe with music and lyrics. With The Singularity albums coming up and getting fans all giddy, I spoke to Per Nilsson, the guitarist and head man for Scar Symmetry as he gives us some insight on what the band have been up to.
~Matthew Clewley


MRD: How has everything at Scar Symmetry been going so far? It seems like everything has fallen into your own hands now?

Per: Yeah that's right, when Jonas left the band last year I had to take on all of the music composing and production responsibilites myself. It was as much a daunting task as it was very liberating to seize control of the creative process! 


How have you coped being the only songwriter for Scar Symmetry whilst being in other musical projects?

I'm not involved as much in my other projects, for example I don't write anything at all in Kaipa. But having to compose, record, produce, mix and master the entire Scar Symmetry album was a LOT of work, so during the almost full-year of working on the album I had to take time off from my other projects. The Absence went on tour without me, and Kaipa had to wait to finish up their new album until I had finished mastering the Scar Sym album.


How have the other members of Scar Symmetry felt about you writing the songs? Have they had any input of their own into the songwriting or have they been easygoing?

They haven't been involved much at all on the previous albums so it wasn't really a big difference for them. Henrik wrote the lyrics as he's done for all our albums, but music-wise I have written each and every note that's being sung or played on this album. Everyone seems content with his place in the band, it's just a super-chill easy-going bunch of dudes!


How long did it take you to learn and play everything like you do now?

I started playing the guitar when I was ten, and somewhere in my early twenties I had reached the technical level where I'm at today, though I've continued to learn, evolve and deepen my knowledge up to this day. So it has been an ongoing journey from I was ten up until now, really. I'm hoping to keep on maturing and evolving as a musician, composer and producer, I'm not one to rest on my laurels.


What was the first ever song you played on guitar?

I have no idea, it's a loooooong time ago, haha! But some of the early stuff that I jammed to was Iron Maiden, Metallica, Dio, Accept... This was in the mid-80s so basically it was right around these bands' glory days - 'Powerslave', 'Ride the Lightning', 'The Last in Line', 'Metal Heart', all good stuff!


Did your taste of music alter whilst you learned how to play?

It didn't change as much as it did expand. I was ten when I started listening to metal, but during the years that followed I was exposed to a lot of different sorts of music, from friends, guitar teachers, my parents and my older brother, so even though I was mostly drawn to metal music I listened a lot to stuff like The Beatles, The Doors, U2, and Pink Floyd, and by my late teens I had started to listen to both jazz/fusion and classical music. I'm just a huge fan of music, and I have always strived to understand what I'm listening to, both the music theory of it and also how to actually play the stuff.


The Singularity signature guitar is a beautiful thing. was the guitar exactly to your perfection? And how many of them have been sold?

We actually haven't launched the guitar yet! We're working on a second prototype right now in order to finalize the exact specifications of the production model. The first prototype is pretty much one of the most amazing instruments I've ever played, but there are a few minor adjustments that I'm looking forward to try before we settle on the exact specs. 


I can guess being a guitarist is your favorite part of being in a band, but what is your favorite band related activity to do behind the scenes of music production?

I really, really love the whole production and recording process, as well as the songwriting process. It's like you are in a music laboratory where you make the music of your fantasies manifest into reality! The business sides of being in a band isn't nearly as much fun, it can be quite energy-consuming to be honest. 


Could you explain what each of the 3 stages of The Singularity trilogy are about? 

The first part deals with the emergence of the new technologies like cloning, cryonics, robotics, androids, bioenhancements, artificial intelligence and so on, and how these technologies are being used by a malevolent elite to impose their idea of a new world order. Basically, they develop a new race of super-humans called the 'Neohumans', which is humans who modify their bodies with various strange components and use brain-computer interfaces to access higher levels of intelligence. This creates great unrest in the world because there will be a lot of people who for different reasons oppose these new technologies - and eventually this will lead to all-out war in between these fractions.


Are Henrik's views on Transhumanism and other types of manipulation and alteration to the human body wrote as lyrics for this album?

The lyrics are very much based on the works of Ray Kurzweil, like his book 'The Singularity Is Near', but whereas Kurzweil is an optimist, Henrik has painted a much more bleak and dystopic picture of our future.


The futuristic element of Scar Symmetry has always been a main appeal to me as well as your other fans, but what was a main critisism that you received, if any?

Haha I wouldn't know where to start, especially in regards to all the criticism I read on Facebook, YouTube and similar places. Everyone has their own opinion on what it is that sucks the most about the band, haha! Some people hate growl vocals, some hate clean vocals, some hate synthesizers, some think the songwriting is lame. Some people wants us to bring back Christian or Jonas, others are happy about the lineup changes. While most of these criticisms are valid to the one person posting his comment, it's not something that I really can take into account when writing and producing music for the band - my main objective will always be to first and foremost satisfy my own musical tastes, and no matter what we do there will never be a way in which we can really please everyone, so that's not really something to strive for. If you dig our music, that makes me super happy and humbled, and if you don't like it, well, you should check out some other bands instead, no hard feelings, hehe!


Are Scar Symmetry a band you can't compare other bands to when it comes to lyrical content and songwriting?

I think we have carved ourselves a little niche of our own with a sound and a style that is unmistakingly ours, and I'm very proud of that. I'm not saying that we are super unique or anything - there certainly is parts of our music that are obviously influenced by other bands and artists, but I think that the way we mix things up is a bit unusual.


Cryonic Harvest has gotten the attention that in my eyes it deserves, how does this make you feel as a person, and also, as a band completely?

The fact that the singles and the album have mostly been extremely well-received is really blowing my mind, and it is a HUGE relief! I've been working on this album for over a year and really given it my everything, I've put in countless hours - much more than any previous album - and to see it really hitting home with our fans is just the best feeling in the world. I don't really mind there being a few people being disappointed with the album as long as there are all these people who really 'get' what we wanted to say with 'Neohumanity'.


What fresh faced guitarists are out there that have caught your eye at the moment? Any you would love to collaborate with?

A up-and-coming player that I like a lot is Benjamin Ellis from UK melodeathsters Bloodshot Dawn, that guy is super talented. He actually filled in for me when I had to sit out a few dates earlier this year due to a family situation. Amazing player and his band is really cool too.


Do you still keep in contact with Christian Alvestram? Would you ever wish to reunite him with Scar Symmetry in the future?

I haven't really had any contact with him since we fired him, and since we live several hours from each other we don't randomly bump in to each other either. He did some pretty uncool things when he was in the band, and I don't ever want to deal with that kind of stuff again, so it's not likely that we would work together again. He seems to be doing alright anyways with his multitude of projects - most of which I think are really great.


Have you ever had a bad run in with a band you admire? Were they not as nice as you expected them to be?

I'm happy to say that most of the people I've met have been really cool. The exception has most often been the lead vocalists, haha! Great vocal skill seems to be proportionally related to inflated ego... though there certainly are a lot of exceptions!


Do you think the line up you have now is a settled one and will stick together?

I really hope so! I think we are an incredibly strong unit right now and I would hate to see anyone go. We're using session players for the second guitar player spot but at some point we might add an official, permanent guitar player.


Piracy has taken it's toll on the financial side of the music industry. As a musician, what are your views on this matter?

We haven't made the leap into doing the band full-time, which makes us sort of immune towards some of that - everyone keeps a day job which means that any money we make from the band is sort of a bonus, and not something we depend on to sustain ourselves and our families. One of the upsides of having our career setup like this is that we never have to make business decisions that would compromise our art, and we don't have to tour more than we find enjoyable.


Do you plan on touring the wonderful little island called the UK when everything is complete, or do you have other musical commitments?

I'm pretty sure we'll come back to the UK in 2015, we've done a couple of UK tours the past couple of years and it's always such a good time! We were actually planning to go on an Euro tour - UK included - early next year but we had to scrap the plans when we learned that Roberth is becoming a first-time father around that time. Family will always be more important than music so we're postponing all of our touring plans until at the very earliest Summer 2015.


When it comes to live performance, having two singers is becoming more common with metal bands, especially with harsh and clean vocals. What is it like performing with two singers? 

Well we did tour a bit with our previous singer, who really struggled keeping his voice together. It's not easy doing all the growling every night and then try pulling off the clean vocals, especially the stuff that is using the higher register. He did have decent nights on occasions, but most of the time, he couldn't reach the highest notes and he sang out-of-pitch a lot, to the point where people from other bands and the crew told us we should hire someone else to do the clean vocals.

When we decided to fire Christian, going for a two-vocalist approach was a given. A funny fact that not everyone know is that Roberth and Lars are friends since a long, long time - they've been in bands together in the past, though Lars played drums back then. They never compete for the spotlight on stage - instead, they feed off of each other's energy, performing as a tight duo and you can just tell they are having a lot of fun with it. Off stage, they are two of the coolest, sweetest dudes you'll ever meet - there's just zero diva bullshit about them!


Last question, in a sentence, how would you describe what a live Scar Symmetry performance would be like?

If you attend a Scar Symmetry show, you will experience a best-of-Scar-Symmetry setlist - we pretty much always play songs from all of our albums - performed by a bunch of smiling Swedish goofballs, and you will be encouraged to sing along to the songs!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

JC & The Nobodies - Ish


James Murphy said he's obsessed with where songs are coming from, 'a place', 'a moment' - and it's that self-investment which allows ones expression to bring songwriters to their knees in emotional anguish. Songwriters can bring their listeners to tears through the beauty of music, or a heart-throbbing story of pain which has an iconic reflection of the listener. Murphy did this well with his songs, but not to the extent of scathing lyricists such as Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Arthur Russell, and to some extent, Morrissey. They gut you; they tear that beating organ inside you apart with their own daggers of wisdom. Stories of loss, depression, greed, and anonymity within a society which moves so fast even David Byrne is unable attract people’s attention. The truth is, things do fall apart - and the beauty of that moment is the deliverance of a body of work - a Pink Moon, an Either/Or, an Ish.

James Clayton's repertoire consists of blatant sad songs. You may not be susceptible to feel the feels, but with Clayton and his pseudonym Crywank it's pretty hard not to. He speaks the songs you're too macho to write, the songs of his predecessors Drake and Smith, with personalised stories from a place, a moment - "Baby Self Absorbed". Clayton starts this release with a simple, almost sweet song sounding like Justin Vernon on the layered vocals, and a voice in the dark with the lyrics: "It's a guilt trip, to know me." And that's it, two minutes gone - a reasonably long time for a Clayton song if I may add. But that's doubled with "Dan Have You Watched Blue Streak Yet?" a gritty, powerful track musically with distorted guitars driven primarily down the left channel.

Clayton's song titles have often left listeners baffled while searching Google - from the American Beauty ridden "The Only Way I Could Save Myself Now Is If I Started Firebombing" / "It's Ok, I Wouldn't Remember me Either", to The Simpsons' "Deep Down I'm Really Kirk Van Houten". Clayton likes to use fictional characters to represent his feelings in a more visual sense - the apathetic Lester Burham, and the feeling borrower Kirk Van Houten. This is how Clayton wants us as listeners to react. He uses others to signify his feelings through song - which is then passed on to audiences to reflect our feelings through Clayton. 

Musically, Ish is more experimental. It's been slapped under the title JC & The Nobodies as a solo body of work to distinguish it from his work with Crywank which now boasts two other members. This allows Clayton space to go back to his roots and start fresh with his guitar and self-producing skills without help - straight from the man himself. "Lucky and Wasteful" opens with the initial Crywank sound - a pounding guitar playing three chords over and over. The vocals here are edited to sound jagged and rough over quite a relaxing instrumental.  This is backed by the layered backing vocals where oooo's can be heard to the surprise of the lyrical content: "Sing about bad decisions, ignore good advice." /I know I don't deserve this." Again, an Arthur Russell comparison comes up with "Treehorn" with the reverberated guitar and estranged instrumental which follows - again reflected on the final track "Comfort" with a more sinister dependent on chord progression. 

There's no escaping a Clayton release having heard the previous three Crywank albums. Ish however is differently in style. "Baby Self Absorbed" is actually melancholic and wouldn't sound out of place on an Elliot Smith album - while "Dan Have You Watched Blue Streak Yet?" gives Clayton a whole new dimension with distortion. But it's really the closer "Comfort" attracting me to Ish. There’s a feeling of sorrow even before Clayton has said a word, and that's very important on these 'sad' style releases. When the vocals kick in, the audience is left with a summary of Ish  - "Is it the pain that keeps me going, is it the love that makes me stop," leaving  you wondering where the song has come from, which place, which moment.
~Eddie Gibson

8.0

Friday, 19 September 2014

Interview: Area 11



Music Review Database: Is it true that Code Geass was not only the reason behind your band name, but also the reason you guys started a band in the first place?

Area 11: That series certainly influenced our band name, although it didn't contribute to the band's creation as we were already (half) formed by that point. The desire to play rock music, of course, was the main factor, closely followed by the fact that a packet of guitar strings once opened only stays good for so long, so time was of the essence and we worked with who we had. The name 'Area 11' was place-holder until we could find something better. We're still looking.


Will you ever make songs about anime you don't like?

I shouldn't think so.


For those who don't know, could you tell us what "Gaijin Rock" is?

Gaijin Rock is one way of describing our brand of in-yo-foice rock music, although really it's a joke that went too far. It pays tribute to how we have take influence from Japanese culture, but realistically it's such a small part of what the band is about, it's not a very good description.

It pays tribute to how, as outsiders, we draw influence from a wide range of art forms and media. Particularly so in our first album that drew from Japanese culture and music.


How long have you guys been a part of Yogscast? Have you enjoyed your time with Yogscast?

Sparkles* and Parv worked for the Yogscast for a couple of years, although Sparkles* has not worked there for a few months now. But Parv is still technically a Yogscast member. It was often enjoyable, yeah, and also very stressful.


Was Area 11 the main reason why Yogscast Studios was created?

One of the reasons, but not the main one. The Yogscast already released their own songs by this point. It was a long time coming.


Three of your songs have charted, did you expect to get charting positions?

The first time we got in the charts was a total shock (especially how due to an administrative error we got to the top spot of the American comedy charts). However chart numbers don't really mean that much to us, but conversely it shows how many fans took the time to support us by buying one of our songs, and that means a great deal to all of us. To them we are incredibly thankful.


How do you come up with a song about an anime? Do you watch specific scenes and content to sing about?

Essentially the same way in which you come up with songs about anything. You expose yourself to something and it either inspires you or it doesn't.  Some concepts or narratives really stick out in your mind, and those are the ones you want to write about.


How did you get Beckii Cruel to sing on Shi No Barado? Did you know her previously?

We put out a Craigslist advert, and she was the nicest person who replied.


Do you plan on collaborating with anyone else in the future?

At the moment we're focussing on writing as a tight-knit four piece, although we are always open to working with other musicians. So Burt Bacharach, if you're reading this (and I know you are), get in touch.  


You're recording your second EP, which is exciting news for me and other fans! How many songs have you got planned for it?

Three songs on the new EP, and then it's on to the next full-length album after that. 


Has their been any difficulties recording the EP?

The hardest thing over the summer has been getting all of us in the same place for prolonged periods of time, which is kind of ridiculous as we all live within two minutes walk of each other. But now with our various summer adventures behind us, the pace has really picked up.


Have you guys got enough material to write another album maybe?

Yes sir.


With live performance you seem quiet compared most bands, do you ever plan on touring the UK or Japan? 

We've got quite a long UK tour coming up in November which we're all very excited for. We'd love to tour in Japan, it's been on the cards for the while, we're just thinking about the most effective way to make it happen.


Would you guys ever play somewhere like The Sugarmill in Stoke-on-Trent (nudge nudge,  winkwink)?

Absolutely. bookings@area11.email


You shared a "plugDJ" link on your page, what is Radio 11? Will it be music and anime related, or is there more?

It's a place to connect with fans, where we can share music with each other. It builds upon our ethos of immersing yourself in music of all types of genres.  We've heard a lot things that we wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to in there. We generally don't encourage people to play anime music as we want to hear new and exciting music, not intros to TV shows that we've all heard 1,000 times.


Did you know Area 11 is also a youth organisation for pony riders? If you had any four items from an anime to equip the pony to make it the ultimate war machine, what would they be? And would you be able to draw it?

We'd actually rather not discuss the Area 11 youth organisation for pony riders, as we are currently in a fierce legal battle with them for rights to the name. The feud has gotten progressively worse over the last few months, and just the other morning Parv woke up with a severed pony head in his bed with a note attached saying "All opposed to Area 11 ....say neigh". It was a very distressing time for all of us.


Wonder Momo is being rebooted, how did Namco Bandai approach you guys to play the theme tune for it?

We'd worked with Namco Bandai before on their Bravoman cartoon series, and we were so polite they invited us back for seconds.


What are your favorite anime theme tunes?

There's been some strong tunes on Naruto, probably Haruka Kanata by Asian Kung-Fu Generation. We've covered it live a couple of times, and coincidentally it's the song we all lost our virginity's to (for the most part) on different occasions.


How far are you guys willing to push your fanbase? You seem to have enough fans

If by "push" you mean "grow", then as far as possible. Whereas if by "push" you mean "wind-up", then as far as possible 


And the last question, in a brief sentence, how would you describe Area 11?

I would describe it as taking some honey, and plenty of money, and wrapping it up in a five pound note. And then trying to spend that five pound note, but nobody will accept it due its being covered in honey.

~Matthew Clewley