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Interviews

So, last week I had the fortune of talking to one of my absolute favourite musicians, Paul Masvidal of Cynic. Cynic is a band that needs no introduction among the metal and progressive rock communities, having released two highly influential and respected albums that amalgamated both genres into a unique sound that has aged like wine through the years. The nature and origin of their third full-length album, Kindly Bent to Free Us, reveals a new side of the band and portrays a sound that is uncharacteristically calmer, and more slow-burning than anything we’ve heard from them in the past. Luckily, I got a chance to speak with the legendary frontman himself, and had him dissect the album in his own words, as well as discuss what he foresees to be the next big journey for the band.

Anyway, without further ado, here is my interview (hey, that rhymed!):

Ever since Traced In Air came out, you guys have kind of been steadily peeling away the death metal sounds that were present in Focus, and evolved into a band with a far more abstract sound. Every thing you guys have been doing since the release of Focus, has become more experimental, more melodic, and you guys have even been emulating the cosmic sounds of the ’60s and ’70s a lot more as well. What inspires you guys to direct the music of the band into new

Jonas Thire (drums), Torgeir Kjeldaas (bass), Espen Helvig (guitar), Larsh Kristensen (vocals, guitar)

Following a record that set out an impressive stall isn’t easy. Late Love was an invigorating debut that saw Oslo-based Wolves Like Us delving into dark post-hardcore with massive riffs, angular melodies and commendable tightness. It effectively revived the spirit of such acclaimed 1990s collectives as Quicksand and Drive Like Jehu, ditching the trends that have subverted the genre in the last 15 years. Black Soul Choir manages to sidestep the dreaded second album slump by expanding the quartet’s winning formula. The skeleton of the tracks still revolves around traditional post-hardcore attributes like throbbing bass lines and frenetic drum-beats, yet the focus is shifted towards atmospheric soundscapes that make the group’s brand of post-hardcore even more brooding. This shift also informs a more expansive approach to songwriting. The tracks usually take more time to unravel, which makes for a significantly more nuanced and moodier effort. Here’s my interview with the act’s charismatic frontman, Larsh Kristensen.

You’d played in lots of groups before forming Wolves Like Us. What compelled you to play together and form the band?

I think we all still had the desire to play. We all love playing music, and to a certain extent is is the only factor that has remained constant in my life. I’ve always played, and this band is just an extension of that. I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing music. So…

Chris Brooks (keys, vocals), Nate Bergman (vocals, guitar), Henry Upton (bass)

Here’s my interview with Henry Upton, the bassist for Maryland-based Lionize whose phenomenal new album Jetpack Soundtrack dropped on February 18th.

I’m of the opinion that people from many musical backgrounds can embrace your music as you combine so many styles. How would you describe your sound? Who do you think your target audience is?

I would probably call it groove rock. Or just rock music at this point. Our target audience is really anybody who is an avid music listener. I think we are accessible to the casual music fan as well, but we really covet the die-hard music enthusiast. Whatever genre that might be.

In the course of your decade-long career you’ve released five stylistically diverse albums. I guess the main shift was from the reggae-inspired Space Pope and the Glass Machine to Destruction Manual. What exactly dictated the change towards the heavy rock aesthetic?

Looking back it’s kind of hard to say. We were touring with reggae bands as well as rock acts. I think we just started to listen to different types of music and wanted to expand the sound of the band. We’ve always been big on Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc. and grew into reflecting those influences. There was no conscious decision to change anything. It just happened.

You tour a lot, and have shared the stage with a multitude of different artists. What

As a listener, there’s no greater feeling than when an album unexpectedly clicks on all levels. This happened to me about a month ago, when Hanging Garden’s third LP, titled At Every Door, suddenly felt like the greatest thing ever in the early, desolate morning hours. Granted, the album was a success with both me and the public when it came out in the January of last year, but it was only about a month ago that I grew to fully appreciate it and its transcendental qualities. In order to celebrate this personal revelation, I contacted the Finnish melodic doom metallers to learn a little more about all things Hanging Garden. They happily responded to my inquiries and thus this e-mail interview was born. The questions were answered by the band’s vocalist, Toni Toivonen, to whom At Every Door was the first record with Hanging Garden.

Hi! How have things been rolling in the Hanging Garden camp lately?

Hi! Quite well. We are actively composing new material for future releases, and have been doing a handful of gigs to promote our latest 7“ EP. Furthermore we just recently released a new music video for the track “Will You Share this Ending With me?”.

It’s been almost exactly a year since you released your third studio album, titled At Every Door. How has the past year been for Hanging Garden and how happy have you been with the reception of said album?

The reception has been…

Quebec City-based Sandveiss burst onto the stoner rock scene by dropping their excellent debut, Scream Queen, in December. Effectively blending strong booming riffs with a hefty dose of blues-echoing grooves, enticing melodies and rock’n’roll swagger, this young group have already made a name for themselves in the saturated scene. In between the rehearsals for their shows in and around Quebec, Canada, the band have found some time to answer a string of questions for SputnikMusic.

Sandveiss are:
Luc Bourgeois – guitar, vocals
Daniel Girard – bass
Shawn Rice – guitar
Dzemal Trtak – drums

Since you guys are an emerging band, tell everyone how did the whole project start?

(Luc) The idea of the project was born in my head 6 or 7 years ago. As the years past, I found myself to jam my ideas with different musicians. After building a couple of song structures with another drummer, I met Dan Girard (bass) who rapidly joined the band. For the next couple of months we worked on arranging the songs as a trio. At a certain point we had no drummer and Dzemal Trtak joined in. A couple of weeks passed as a trio, we decided to recruit a lead singer, that person was François Couture. With this lineup, we recorded a 4 track EP (Dead Man Stare, Do You Really Know, Untie Me and Green For Gold). The name of the band was chosen right before the release of the EP in March…

Sam Levin (synth bass), Timo Ellis (guitar, vocals), Dave Burnett (drums)

Describing the music of Brooklyn-based Netherlands is hardly an easy task. Erik Wunder (of Cobalt and Man’s Gin), who gets the credit for introducing me to these guys, defines their style as “hyper-noise-punk-electro-psychedelic-metal.” This seemingly convoluted tag oddly fits the outfit that doesn’t shy away from embracing divergent styles in a high-octane manner. The trio’s second full-length Silicon Vapor is one of the most invigorating rock records of the year, juxtaposing eccentric musical ideas with enticing melodies deeply ingrained in the rock tradition. These qualities are combined with extremely fuzzed-out tunings of instruments that certainly distinguish Netherlands from the pack. Here’s my interview with Timo Ellis, the trio’s frontman whose impressive resume includes collaborations with Yoko Ono, Melvins and John Zorn over his extensive 20-year career as a session musician.

What motivated you to form Netherlands?

I’d had a band called Bird Of Doom in the early 2000s. After its natural dissolution, I really wanted to maintain an outlet for my weirder rock inclinations!

Your music is rather difficult to pin down as you combine many different subgenres of rock, punk and even metal. How would you define your style?

I’ve made loads of dramatically different types of records besides the rock stuff. I think I’m up to 33 albums at this point: 17 LPs and 16 EPs. So, I think other styles of music end up naturally coming out a…

Kim Pack (violin, vox), Christian Creek (bass), Rebecca Vernon (guitar, vox), Andy Patterson (drums), Sarah Pendleton (violin, vox)

There are enough qualities that distinguish Salt Lake City’s SubRosa from their doom metal brethren. Aside from ingeniously incorporating violins into their ultra-heavy sound, the quintet excels in songwriting that’s singular in its brutally honest depiction of tenebrous themes. Their new staggering full-length More Constant Than The Gods (Profound Lore) centers around the topic of Death and its numerous implications. Instead of alienating the listener with such a serious subject matter, the album manages to sound visceral throughout, delivering a series of expansive tunes that ebb and flow with admirable precision. Here’s my interview with the band’s charismatic mastermind, Rebecca Vernon.

What inspired you to be a musician? Were there any particular moments in your life when you thought that you couldn’t live without creating music or was the whole process of becoming a guitarist, singer and songwriter more fluid?

Music is my number one passion and has always been in my blood. There are times when I’ve been distracted by other things, but those periods never last long.

I started taking music lessons on violin at the age of 9, then learned piano and drums around age 12. I played these instruments in school orchestras and marching bands, and later, in college, real bands.

Becoming a guitarist, singer and songwriter, though, was very abrupt. I had wanted to start a band for about…

Wo Fat are one of the most acclaimed stoner rock acts today. The Texas-based trio have rapidly risen to the forefront of the genre, blending fat, fuzzed-out riffs with hints of psychedelia and Southern rock flavors. The success of their latest effort, The Black Code, allowed the band to reach a wider audience, touring Europe for the first time. Amid a busy schedule, guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump found time to answer a couple of questions for SputnikMusic.

For those unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe it in a few words?

Basically speaking, our music is heavy, riff based, and blues influenced, but one thing that is a very important part of our music is the balance that we have between structured riffing and song writing on the one hand and improvisation and jamming on the other. Both things are important to us and we try to strike a balance between them. We also really believe in the importance of the groove, and, above all, we try to make music that grooves and feels organic and earthy.  I think that some heavy music has lost that important primal element of funkiness and groove that  originally came from the blues, and, which was really also a key part of the early days of heavy rock and metal. Listen to early Sabbath and it’s inescapable. That’s the roots of it all, and we try to keep that tradition going in our music.

I’m always curious to hear how others describe our…

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how
The forums used to make me smile
And I knew if he had a chance
Ramsey could showcase his talents
And maybe we’d be jammin’ for a while…

I’m not really sure what bastardizing Don McLean lyrics has to do with anything, but as a friendly reminder, links to Mars Module’s music are located at the very bottom of the post or embedded throughout the feature for your convenience.

————-

When thinking back to when the forums were far more lively than they are today, we’re rewinding by a good 6-7 years.

Knowing what I know now, and given the ability to travel back in time, I’d punch 7-years-ago me so hard in the face to ensure that my life would be more Groundhog Day than Hot Tub Time Machine (although, even if I had to relive the same day over and over again, I’d still somehow manage to screw things up).

Talk to anyone who joined Musician Forums before Sputnikmusic launched in 2005 (anyone with a later join date and tries to tell you what’s up is just a poser who cannot be trusted), and you’ll probably get some decent information along with a lot of hilariously-distorted revisionist history.

However, this entry isn’t entirely dedicated to site history. As wonderful as nostalgia can be in moderation, the thought of reminiscing about a site I’ve frequented for 11+ years makes me want to barf.…

Anger and frustration can be really great vehicles to propel momentum and energy in music,” confesses Erik Wunder. He’s done precisely that with his two seemingly dissimilar projects. The sprawling progressive black metal of Cobalt and the potent dark Americana of Man’s Gin may occupy two different sonic spheres, yet they share the same sense of authentic, if bleak intensity. Erik’s latest accomplishment as Man’s Gin is aptly titled Rebellion Hymns. Adroitly elaborating on the outfit’s previous output, the album represents another resounding triumph for the Colorado native, ranking among the most powerful artistic statements in music this year. Here’s an in-depth interview that not only sheds light on the oeuvre of this immensely talented artist, but also depicts him as a fulfilled musician who’s genuinely committed to every endeavor he’s involved in.

I’ve always admired musicians who are able to divide their time between different projects. What was the reason behind forming Cobalt, and what motivated you to form Man’s Gin?

Well, Cobalt started out when Phil and I got back together and started working on new music after our previous band had broken up. We are both pretty intense, angry people. Especially in those days.

We had already been playing in bands together since we were young teenagers, playing punk/crust and metal music, so we already had a working relationship and obviously a friendship. Our prior projects had dissolved, with

After hearing about the possibility of a new No-Man record coming up soon, I contacted Tim Bowness (singer, songwriter) to ask him about his latest projects, personal favorites and the new album in the works. For those unaccustomed to Bowness’ discography, he has released (besides No-Man of course, which started as a main project all the way back in 1987, with Steven Wilson) a myriad of collaborative records such as Flame (with Richard Barbieri), California, Norfolk (with Peter Chilvers), Warm Winter (with Giancarlo Erra of Nosound, under the moniker Memories Of Machines) or his latest, the second Henry Fool record, Men Singing, among many others. He has also released a solo album, entitled My Hotel Year, in 2004 and is in charge of Burning Shed, an independent record label.

- You have been active for over three decades in the music industry now. How much has the music world changed in your opinion? What do you like and dislike about these changes?

In some respects, it’s changed massively. The business of music and the technology involved in making it are almost unrecognizable from the early 1980s when I started.

In terms of recording, it’s been a change for the better. Studios can do more yet are far simpler to operate. The technology allows a much more direct way of capturing ideas.

The shifts on the business side have meant that it’s become harder to make a living from music for many people and that music itself has…

Sithu Aye has always been a shining star in the instrumental progressive scene, standing out from the crowd for his unique flair. Oh, and that’s right– he just received his master’s in physics too. So on top of all the music the man’s released (and in only the last few years,) he’s been busy climbing the rungs of academics. The alleged romanticism of musicians devoting all their time to their craft has always rung a little hollow to me, anyways, which is why I think there’s something to be said for artists that pursue their work while tackling life’s challenges. The end product feels more urgent, since the artist went utterly out of his way to create it. So maybe that’s why Sithu Aye’s music has always struck a chord with me, because I know it doesn’t come easily. He must’ve spent days upon days fine-tuning his production methods, saving up for the perfect guitar and drum program, and writing such intricate music. That’s right– he does all this by himself, if you weren’t aware. And while he was getting all of this done, he didn’t need to put his other priorities on hold– he plowed straight ahead with them, and still came up pretty damned far in the Bandcamp metal scene. Color me impressed.

So when Aye posted about a new release on his Facebook page, I was pretty surprised. I mean, this specific brand of progressive seems like it would take awhile to brew, right? And…

Steve Roberts (drums, keys) / Darran Charles (vocals, guitars, keys) / Dan Nelson (bass)

Wales-based Godsticks is one of the best new progressive rock groups. The trio’s unique symbiosis of jazz fusion, rock and pop is in a class by itself. Their second full length The Envisage Conundrum continues to expand on the outfit’s style, embracing a heavier sonic approach while retaining the distinctly melodic qualities of their excellent debut. I’ve approached Darran Charles (vocals, guitars, keys) and the new member of the band, Dan Nelson (bass) to discuss the process of putting the new album together, their inspirations, future plans, and more.

- As  most SputnikMusic users may not be familiar with Godsticks, could you tell us how your musical path started? What inspired you to play progressive rock in the first place?

Darran: I don’t think we ever had a plan to play a specific kind of music, and even today we never attempt to write in any particular style. I think categories are forced upon bands for marketing purposes which, to be honest, can be quite helpful to the potential listener.

We formed around 2006 after I placed in an advert around the local music shops, advertising for musicians who were interested in playing some 70s-inspired fusion music. As you can imagine, the response was a little underwhelming but eventually a local bass player by the name of Jason Marsh (the…

I’ve recently interviewed Steve Colca, the frontman for up-and-coming doom metallers, Destroyer Of Light. Hailing from Austin, TX, the outfit released their well-received debut EP last year, and now they’re just about to hit the road for their most extensive tour to date.

Could you tell me how your musical path started? What inspired you to play music in the first place?

When I was younger, my sister’s ex boyfriend left his CDs, and I took them because he never came back. In that pile was Alice in Chains – Dirt. At this time, I hadn’t heard anything so melodic, dark, and heavy; it blew my mind. Jerry Cantrell’s guitar work inspired me to head into a heavy music direction. So, my sister’s now husband gave me his first ever guitar, and I started to write my own songs until I finally found my voice.

I know that you’d played in the stoner metal project before you formed Destroyer Of Light which is a traditional doom metal affair. What inspired you to change your style?

Poor Bastards Revolt! was old high school friends that had great chemistry and enjoyed playing with each other. We wrote some cool songs and we had a lot of fun. In fact, PBR was the first band that I started doing vocals in, before that I was just a rhythm guitar player.…

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