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


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)?


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

Track Review: In This Moment - Sick Like Me

There's always that time of day where I finish going to work and then listen to music until I pass out. It's unhealthy, but finding new songs and new bands brings bliss yet ignorance to my spare time. This time my attention has been taken by In This Moment's new song, "Sick Like Me". The intro is wonderfully eerie as the guitar plays through it. This song hits hard and bruises my mind, leaving an aftermath of destruction and shock. The riff rebuilds everything in it's own way, it's such a good riff that has the vocals over it. The vocals effects are great and the singing from the beautiful Maria Brink is addicting to listen to. 

The lyrics aren't to everyone's taste, don't expect the happiest of lyrics from this, it'll be like going to a funeral dressed as Mr Blobby if you're expecting love and joy. From what sounds like a war air-raid alarm during the breakdown after the chorus goes well with the sound of this track. "Sick Like Me" is a fantastic song, and with this tune being on the new album, Black Widow, In This Moment wont fail to impress. 
~Matthew Clewley

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Rustie - Green Language

You could always tell the follow-up to 2011’s Glass Swords was never going to appear ambiguous or even find itself idly archived amid the growing to-cover list of many interested parties. Scottish producer Rustie - from nowhere - became an overnight sensation with his debut’s ecstatic, ear-crunching digitization. Neither indulgent nor impervious to its own sense of crazed energy, Glass Swords quickly became almost an unwanted mantra; a pedestal for critics to refer towards; hailing it as some guiding light in the more extroverted scene of electronics - a time when the likes of EDM, glitch and trap (especially) were quickly picking up pace and making listeners second-guess the conventions of modern-day's attraction to such sound. With that said, Rustie was always going to dive head-first into the conversation - deciding not just to go in big, but bigger than what momentous intention his debut now stands for. And while the double A-sided Triaddz/Slasherr last year may have suggested Rustie moving towards more front-ended, trap-like leanings, it’s no surprise to find Green Language move in a persistently ambient-esque forte - completely taking the low-road on what was his debut’s at-the-heart high-road chase. Thus 2014’s sophomore showcases a slightly more debated, atmospheric tinge to the Scot’s palette - an eagerness to remove one's self from the clutter of data, information and noise, and find perhaps an ease in the surrounding scope.

Initially though, we are to look at the album on its numeric values in preparation: thirteen tracks, one of which only just passes the four minute mark; length clocking in at just under forty minutes - and think nothing more. Business as usual right? Only this time, Rustie’s business is not aimed squarely on the digitizing effect of sound, as is seen clearly - but somewhat confusingly - on the album’s first two tracks, which in effect, feel more like a split prologue to the some more underlining (and already-promoted) offering in Raptor. Workship does indeed strike home Rustie’s desire to return to a more isolative, natured approach with its sun-kissed bathing of synthesisers and sizzling layers of sound that build and build towards the end's inevitable pulse of activity - a solitary fuzz of bass and cymbal hits, inspiring but somewhat precariously, drawing us to immerse in the closing swash of deep water and eventually find ourselves dragged back out into A Glimpse’s arpeggiated synths. Yet it’s the growing presence of a more driving beat carefully, and calculably, placed at mid-drift amid the track’s hazed clarity and the guiding melody that takes hold. Overall though the track is far from leading or suggesting otherwise where it’s taking us or even what emotive or colloquial context this record is reaching towards. Raptor, which falls back on Rustie’s affection for punchier beats and invasive synths, certainly feels like the record’s true ‘next chapter' has been reached with its sturdier presence. But this turning of the page ends up feeling relatively accidental; a result of pure coincidence (or even impatience), as opposed to planned persistence on the producer's end.

So moving onto Paradise Stone, you get the impression - and in effect hold onto the desire - that what we’ll unravel is something all the more absolute and objective in its desire. Yet the track follows pretty much the same rhetoric as the ‘introduction’ pieces - capturing, and attempting to drive home an allure of this engrossing, atmospheric surrounding of such, though even with the textural benefits to its glockenspiel inclusion and providing the lead melody, nothing is built upon or progressed beyond this. It feels more like bewildered meandering, rather than discovery. Up Down (which finds grime rapper D Double E tongue-tying throughout) is more centrifuged and less discreet with its intent - both synthesiser pads and melodies creating an enticing groove, but unfortunately falling back on themselves by the half-way mark. D Double E himself tries his best to distract the listener from the track’s underwhelming lack of expanse, but overall listeners will find it too easy to look past Rustie’s veil - the repeating birdsong sample and stand-alone hurrying beats potentially getting a little too repetitive for some.

And this is one of the major drawbacks to Green Language as an assemble, as it is a record relying on its guests contributions. Danny Brown's feature on Attak in all actuality isn't necessarily a bad choice - at times Brown's flow gels nicely with the track's trap-focused upscale of intent. But Rustie's contribution falls way behind on the initial promise; the inevitable build-and-drop little more than drag-and-drop hi-hats and a synth line I'd find better incorporated on a TNGHT track than I would on something which, unfortunately, finds me imagining it as its most basic of envisioning on a D.A.W. than I would a piece of music. Tempest however is a welcome break from this, ironically easing the listener with its rampant, intenser pulsing of drumbeats and guitar feedback that only adds to the weight so clearly and excessively illustrated about the album's supposedly abstract-yet-floral coaxing of atmosphere. So to find ourselves transition back to He Hate Me, another vocal-fronted (and vocal-deterring) track, the problems only rise ever further - Rustie's imagination and consistency on his more club-heavy, building-congested showcases little more than shallow strips and bars that not only disinterest me in their bareness, but just come across so awkwardly disconnected from the former lush - and more appeasing - ventures into untrodden, sonic territory.

Velcro is perhaps the most Glass Swords-esque track here, one of but only a few signs the producer is willing to be patient and steadily build cohesiveness. And while it showcases a little more efficiency and prowess with some trap-influenced jitters of percussion alongside his glossy, energized-to-the-point-of-being-hyperactive synthesizer leads, it's in no way a hallmark on the record - rather it feels more a fond reminder than necessarily a push forward. So it's with some degree of surprise and swift realization that we reach the final two tracks - again, adorned and unfortunately plastered as but a pairing of epilogue's both attempting the same principle idea to round-off the album - and the overarching feelings and output of the record beforehand begin to appear all the more ill-structured and inconsistent. Let's Spiral shines some light on the notion of openness, yet with a tinge of nature's presence with repeated use of bird tweets that follow from the track's climatic loosening of cymbal crashes and muddling drips of synthesizer sound. And Green Language, closing proceedings, offers but a somber, eye-squinting lead of piano (also with the included bird sampling) seems to suggest the end of a trip, but far from finalizes just what the result or conclusion to this entire tale, actually is.

Unfortunately, it's a tale which is left muddled and particularly less-convincing than the album preceding it. There's no doubting Rustie's ability to soak his listener in with what is a relatively new area for the producer, and it is impressive how quickly the album's non-vocal pieces grab the listener and how Rustie balances both calming and his more volatile concoctions of electronics to keep the record revitalizing and fresh. But Green Language is unfortunate in that it's best efforts are themselves at fault too with their unwillingness to move beyond simply setting the scene, and instead instill reason and purpose into such sounds. What's more, Rustie's move towards encompassing such areas as trap and grime (both musically as well as vocally) is for definite, a questionable investment - especially when its focus and priority begins to break up the flow and transitioning of the album. Not that Glass Swords was necessarily a record built on flow, but with the focus being these multilayer, built-up compositions, the desire here is that Rustie will keep refining and identifying what it is he's attempting to unveil. He's checking all the right boxes and recognizing the impact the scenery can merit, but for the moment lacks a solid primary direction. He's still just fumbling, dumbstruck on which direction he's actually facing.
~Jordan Helm


Monday, 18 August 2014

Track Review: Delamere - Headstrong

Delamere return with a lovely little single titled "Headstrong". It's been a while since the Staffordshire based alternative rock / indie rock quartet released music, and "Headstrong" is a good indication of whats to come after a very interesting past repertoire of singles. They recently signed with Manchester label Scruff of the Neck Records, showing promise both as a live act, and as an act fulfilling goals by signing a record contract. Previously Delamere impressed me with with their sound quality from home recordings, and this studio recorded track only adds to that initial positive impression. 

Like with many of Delamere's songs, "Headstrong" induces a calming presence, with soft vocals and fluctuating instrumentation. They're mastering the atmosphere sound needed to make artists like Delamere standout on a stage full of similar recording artists. This song is something you can nod your head to, stomp your foot etc - it's a relaxing tune with very-impressive percussion, and reverb effects on the lead guitar. It's not unusual to replay Delamere songs after they're over, because there's always that feeling of sudden loss when they end without a fade out. Delamere are constantly improving, song after song, release after release - their record label knows it as well as I do that Delamere have a mass of potential ready to be tapped in to by an indie rock / alternative rock loving British audience.
~Eddie Gibson

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Interview: Pegboard Nerds

Electronic music has always been an exciting genre that always has something new floating around it. Monstercat is one of the main places I go to for new electronic music, and I have always been curious about them. Therefore, I asked to interview the Pegboard Nerds, one of MonsterCat's most successful acts. I ask questions that cover main points of their history together as a band and discover things that are pretty awesome about them. With Uncaged and also Global Gathering to be on their busy schedule, they managed to find time to answer my long list of questions.
~Matthew Clewley

MRD: How did the Pegboard Nerds form?

Well we have made music together for 10+ years. But specifically, we started Pegboard Nerds towards the end of 2011, with the intention of making our own music under our own name, shifting the focus away from doing what was basically remixes only. We’d talked about it for a long time, but there was always that “one more remix…” which made it take forever. We had to make the move however, because making music started to feel like boring routine, and a drag, and that is not really conducive to making big and exciting dance music! We really just wanted to try, and still try, to be the best we can be, on our own four feet. We never looked back! It’s a brave new world :)

The Uncaged Tour is just over the horizon, have you ever done a tour this big?

We’re super stoked!! The Bassline Kickin’ tour was pretty big for us, but this is the first time we are doing our own full headliner tour, which is both a little bit intimidating and very very exciting!

What has the music life for you guys been like since you've signed to Monstercat?

Busy :) We are not technically signed to Monstercat, it’s more on a track by track basis, but as you can see we have a really close and strong relationship. We feel like we’ve grown with Monstercat, which was already pretty big back then, but now has gotten so much bigger and is still growing. We’re always working on new tracks and look forward to each new song we can put out.

On Monstercat Wikia you've been known as the most popular artist on Monstercat, how do you feel when you hear things like that?

Actually we didn’t hear that until we read it here.. Wow, that is humbling and nice :) It also feels.. weird, in a positive way, if that makes sense. I mean we had no idea what would happen when we formed PBN.. And now.. This! Amazing. Monstercat is such a great community, very supportive and interactive and vocal about how they feel.

How much has video games or/and video game music had an effect on your music.

It’s probably ingrained in us from our childhoods, so it’s more of a subconscious thing a opposed to actually referencing games and music from them when we work. The thing about old school video game music is that they had a very limited toolset to work with, and practically no effects or fancy production tools, so the melodies HAD to be catchy and great. So some of the vibe and feel probably/hopefully finds its way into our melodies as well :)

What do you guys see as the perfect live set up when it comes to songs setlist and live equipment?

We think a set should be kind of like a journey, with highs and lows, contrasts, fast and slow. We usually cover a pretty wide range of genres and tempos in our sets. As for live equipment we are just doing straight up DJ-set as of now, but of course we dream of maybe doing something more live based and hopefully we will do in the future. It’s just that it’s so easy to travel with a couple of memory sticks and a headset!

What is your favorite song you have remixed so far?

Hmm good question. J. Viewz - Far too close was fun, but I guess the Alive remix was our favourite so far, as everything kinda came so nicely and instinctively together. But we try and make every remix our “favorite” at the time of producing it, because you gotta have that feeling when you make it. I translates into the production, gives it soul.

Do you plan on remixing anymore songs? If so, would you remix songs from genres that seem out of place to your genre?

It’ll probably happen, but it would have to be a really interesting song for us. Sure, that’s the most exciting! Which is why we are trying to avoid remixing a straight up electro track, or a dubstep tune, etc..

Have you guys ever been to the United Kingdom? Or if not, do you ever plan to?

We have played several shows there: Last year we played in Exeter, and we did Global Gathering, Reading & Leeds (missed Leeds due to really bad traffic unfortunately! :( ), Creamfields and Manchester (Haunted House with Knife Party). Also, this is written as we’re going back to play Global again this weekend so that should be fun, can’t wait for the artist lounge burgers!

What is the ultimate venue you would want to play?

We played some pretty sick venues/places already (EDC bass pod, Reading festival and Red Rocks) :) For maximum grandeur and flair probably something like mainstage EDC Vegas or Tomorrowland? For gritty, up close, intimate and downright sweaty raging, any small club with a crazy crowd!

What do you think about sampling in songs nowadays? Do you think artists like David Guetta do it too much?

It doesn’t matter.. We have a saying: “Whatever works”. If an artist samples and uses it in an interesting way, or uses little bits and bobs to create one shots (we do that a lot). Of course there are more exciting and less exciting ways of utilizing a sample, but at the end of the day it’s the end result that counts.

You said on Facebook your genre of music is "crazy shit". As much as I agree, would you be able to describe what crazy shit consists of?

Haha! It consists of whatever we feel like making on any given day, because it can be most anything, a lot of it never being released. Actually it’s amazing that anything makes it to release because (and this has been said by many before us, but it is so true) a track is never finished, it is abandoned because you have to (deadline/release). It’s kind of taken from you, and you have to let it go, haha. It’s also referring to how we almost cannot believe how insane the process of writing a track is.. It goes through so many stages. The pre deadline paranoia one is the worst. The best one is when a bunch of sounds suddenly goes from being a incohesive mess into actually being a concept, a TRACK. It’s such an elusive point during the production process, but it’s clearly felt every time. Fascinating!

You have stated you have too many influences to name, but what is your main influence?

Too many to name ? lol! But really, there is no main influence, it’s way more faceted than that..

You've had a few comments on one of your Facebook posts, but one caught my eye saying "Come on PBN. You guys have changed and it's terrible. Go back to your old roots when you made the most amazing music...." How do musicians like yourselves respond to this kind of comment?

Well first of all, things move incredibly fast in today’s world, but we can’t help but smile when people are referring to music we made 1-2 years ago as our “roots”.. We’ve barely begun defining our own roots!  Technically, and as far as Pegboard Nerds’ timeline as a whole is concerned, that is indeed our roots if you want to use that word… We’d rather say that our roots are the music that defined us 10 years ago, 15 years ago and made us want to make music ourselves. Stuff like The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Orbital, etc.  Anyway. We usually never actually respond to comments like that, but we read them (sometimes) and discuss them. We don’t want to water down our own music by doing a “Disconnected 2” or “Self Destruct 2” or a “Fire in the hole 2”. That’s why they are strong tracks and have their place in our history, because we made them and then moved on.. We don’t want to “rip off ourselves”, you know?

What songs and collaborations have you got coming up for the near future you would like to tease?

We have a raunchy trap-influenced track coming up, as well as collabs with Cash Cash and Destroid.

You have a great following and you have had things like necklaces being made based on Pegboard Nerds, how great does that make you feel?

We love it!! It’s unbelievable to see people go and do their own things with something we cooked up together in a basement outside of Copenhagen one rainy night. We have a big bag of necklaces, pearler beads, combos of both, and a kickass hero flag at home as tour souvenirs :)

What is the signature song of the Pegboard Nerds in your eyes?

Self Destruct (At the time of writing, lol)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Interview: The Lounge Kittens

A month ago I went to Knebsworth Park for Sonisphere Festival to watch bands and get drunk. Whilst I was there a certain act caught my attention. I was ready to watch Limp Bizkit, until three ladies came on the stage with stunning dresses and great voices. Turns out they were called The Lounge Kittens, a great name for a great trio, so I thought I should interview them not only for my own curiosity, but just to give you, the reader, a taste of what they're like.
~Matthew Clewley

MRD: You cover famous rock songs in a girl group style, who is influential to this style of singing?

TIMIA: While a lot of our set is Rock and Metal, there is also some Pop, Dancehall, Hip hop and Dance in there too. We like to mix it up! I suppose some of the better known originators of the '3 girl close harmony' vocal style would be The Andrews Sisters, however, I guarantee that we swear infinitely more than they did.    

Where did the wonderful idea of your trio come from?

TIMIA: Jen had suggested to me that we start a duo together for fun, to do a few low key gigs. I suggested that the songs should be our favourite rude and explicit songs or tunes that people don't usually cover- particularly not in a loungey, swing style with vocals and piano. It all fell into place when we met Zan. 

How did you all meet and form The Lounge Kittens? 

Zan: Well Timia and Jen met at university and came up with the concept of TLK, then we all met through Jen’s work as a Rock Choir leader. Both Timia and I are part of the choir and we all became friends through that. One night on a drunken evening out the girls suggested I should become a Lounge Kitten too (although it was still just an idea at this point!). Of course I said yes…….and then we didn't do anything for about six months….until Jen booked us a couple of shows and we hastily put some arrangements together!

Who are your favourite cover bands, and did those too inspire you?

TIMIA: I've always loved covers that are done a completely different style. Me first and the Gimmie Gimmies got me into punk covers, and then of course there is the "Punk Goes..." series of compilations which always provides gems. It's always been about Richard Cheese though, he's something of an idol to me and I know the other girls are big fans too.  

You are a unique cover band may I add, have you heard other artists like Richard Cheese or Selo I Ludy who add a spin on a metal cover?

TIMIA: Without Richard Cheese there would be no Lounge Kittens. We make a point of never covering any song he has done. I mean, how many Lounge Covers of 'Killing In the Name of' does the world need? One will probably do it... 

Can it be challenging writing a metal cover song in your own style?

JEN: Surprisingly, I feel the metal songs are much easier to 'Kittenize' than the more poppy sounding songs, because we could never achieve the same musical result as the original, due to us harmonising 3 female voices with just a piano for backing. It's always going to sound different. But it's always so much fun to cover metal songs, because we can completely camp them up or make them really cheeky, a complete flip!!

I saw you sing an introduction for Limp Bizkit at Sonisphere, how did those guys come to contact you? Did they see or hear your cover?

Zan: Well, we tweeted Fred Durst with our video for our cover of ‘Rollin’ back in February and he picked it up, loved it and shared it through Limp Bizkit’s Facebook page, which is obviously the main reason it's had so many hits. He came to see our show at Sonisphere and afterwards asked us if we would come out and sing Rollin on stage with them during their set – so of course we said ‘yes’ and before we knew it we were on the main stage at Sonisphere in front of 40,000 people.

JEN: We had absolutely NO idea that it was going to happen. We found out literally 3 hours before the performance that we were going to be singing on the main stage, it totally reflects how much faith Fred Durst and Limp Bizkit had in us to do the job well and get the reaction intended. We were really touched! 

How did Glastonbury and Sonisphere contact you?

Zan: We contacted them. We emailed the people that book the bands and were lucky enough to have them reply that they wanted us to play. It’s as simple as that. We are absolutely over the moon to have been booked for some of the biggest festivals in the UK this year and we've had an absolute blast playing at them.

What kind of venues will you be playing around the UK?

Zan: We’re playing all kinds of venues when we head out on tour in September and October. Cabaret venues, rock venues and loads of bars and pubs. We love to play anywhere as long as people are having a great time and singing along.

How was your time in the beautiful land of France?

TIMIA: Idyllic. Working at this pace and intensity with your best friends is incredibly fun, but also exhausting. We gave ourselves some quality time off together, just the three of us to spend time being friends and finding ourselves again as Timia, Jen and Zan because that's who we are and who we were before we were The Lounge Kittens

Do you plan on releasing more videos of covers on your YouTube channel?

JEN: Oh absolutely we do! I don't think we realised how much fun making music videos could be. It gives us an opportunity to be really creative, fun and most importantly, SILLY! We all love being silly together, making faces, making fools of ourselves and the video allows us to show our fans who we really are and what we're about. We don't take ourselves seriously, and in turn, neither do our videos. 

Do you plan on giving us original material in the near future? 

Zan: People keep asking us this! At the moment, we really love what we do and don’t see it as a stepping stone to releasing our own original music in the future. But never say never. I’m fortunate enough to work with two very talented ladies so who’s to say we won’t start writing at some point. But for now, putting our own spin on our favourite songs is definitely enough – there are still SO many songs we want to cover!