Interview with Hayato Imanishi of Cyclamen

Fan of Sikth? Thought so. That means you’ve probably already heard of Cyclamen, the dazzling  (currently) one man project from the mind of Hayato Imanishi’s, with past members ranging from Olly Steele of Monuments to Duncan Lee of Ever and guest performances from the likes of Mikee Smith, Travis Orbin and many more astoundingly brilliant artists. If you haven’t heard of Cyclamen, I suggest you go to Bandcamp, buy the latest EP ‘Memories Voices’, get yourself a bottle of Asahi and read this interview! Enjoy!

Q 1 :  Hey Hayato, thanks for finding the time to take this interview! Can you provide us with some background information? How did you start off as a musician?

Ans : Cyclamen first started off as a bedroom recording project back in 2008 in Reading, UK. It basically was due to my frustration from the fact that I wasn’t able to write certain things, because playing that wasn’t possible by the band which I was in back then. Since it was a solo recording project I didn’t have to worry about what’s been played so I could write music much more freely. In June I had pleasure of working with Mikee (ex-SikTh) on “Sleep Street”, which brought a lot of attention to Cyclamen. And since then, it’s become a steady process of gaining reputation slowly really.

Q 2 : When you say that you weren’t able to write certain things, was it because the genre of the band restricted it or was it because your members simply didn’t like your riffs? What was the name of the band?

Ans : Haha, the band was called Pink Widow; it was a bit of everything really it was 4 piece band, so we had to mainly write music in a ‘one guitar’ format. Then there were issues of what each member was capable of playing and on top of that we had a quite varied idea of what we should sound like. So you can probably imagine how frustrating it would as the main writer of the band. Most of the songs ended up as product of compromising and I don’t think they ever grew to its full potential really. Most of them anyways.

Q 3 : Since your writing is very similar to bands like that of SikTh, I guess it’s safe to say your band members weren’t exactly Sikth fans right?

Ans : They were, actually apart from one maybe. The drummer discovered SikTh at a very early stage, and he got me into them. I first didn’t really like SikTh to be fair, I loved The Dillinger Escape Plan but I found Sikth a little too quirky at first. But then after about 5 years I started to love them.

Q 4 : Okay so more about Cyclamen right now. Apart from SikTh, who do you think mainly influences the sound of Cyclamen?

Ans : Envy, is probably a lot stronger influence than SikTh to be fair. People just don’t know them. And a lot of Studio Ghibli music influence.  I think a lot of people hear a Japanese melodic element in my music but then again, a lot of people don’t know their music very well. A lot of people who listen to Cyclamen usually listen to ‘djent’ so I can understand why they don’t know these artists, but Cyclamen has many obvious references that you can spot really, if you have an open minded attitude and listen to a broader kind of music. But technical metal and post-rock are by far two of the strongest influences I’d say.

Q 5 : Yeah that’s true. There’s rarely any ‘djent’ in Cyclamen’s music despite the oversaturation of the metal scene with it. What has kept you away from using djent on a wider basis in your songs?

Ans : Haha, I once made very bad mistake of calling a song “Djent! Djent!” when Djent was just starting to get popular. I never thought it would be a big thing at that time so I guess that made me consciously avoid that sound more. Although since Cyclamen’s first release “Dreamers”, it never sounded like Djent anyways. Also, the characteristic of Djent sound lies in amp modelers like Line6 POD or AxeFx and I really don’t like them so it makes Cyclamen sound a lot different from a typical Djent metal band. For me, a good guitar sound has to come from a valve amp, and played with a 6 string guitar (my hands are too small for any bigger guitar, plus 6 strings provide more than enough a creative palette for me) and that goes against Djent trend.

Q 6 : Nowadays, to most guitarists, owning a POD or an AxeFx is probably similar to winning a million dollars in a lottery. What’s the cause for your difference in opinions?

Ans : I just don’t like how they respond, and how it takes away any characteristic of the guitars. Guitars are like humans, every single one of them are different and they have characters. If you plug them into an AxeFx or POD it takes all that away and they all come out with the same sound and to me it’s really sad. Also they both have extremely strong compression so it hides all the subtle dynamics in your playing. It helps guitarists to sound good when you don’t play notes properly but since my music has Post-rock elements, dynamics and subtle nuances is very important and you can’t express any of that with an AxeFx  or POD.

Q 7 : As you have stated earlier, to play post rock, dynamics and subtle nuances are very important. To pull them off, one needs to be an accomplished guitarist. Did you ever receive any formal guitar training?

Ans : I had a year of a guitar lessons when I was at high school, but nothing to do with metal or any technical aspects. The teacher hated many notes. But then he taught me how to hold a pick and to think about weight of every single note, which I think, was important thing to learn. It’s easy to play many notes, but hard to make sure every note is meaningful when it comes to composition. Apart from that I’m self taught. Oh and I had one “lesson” with Pin from SikTh, but that was basically 4 hours of talk haha.

Q 8 : Is there any specific method you use for writing Cyclamen songs? Did you ever learn music theory?

Ans : No music theory for sure because for me, it’s all about writing whatever sounds right. As for the method of writing, for something very technical, I normally use Guitar Pro to write. If you pick up a guitar and try to write you naturally stick to what you know best, ending up using same notes, same technique etc. By not having the guitar in hand it allows you to write something that may not be easy to play without putting some effort and it really makes you focus on what sounds good, rather than what’s easy to play. You can always compromise later if they are impossible to play. For more atmospheric post rock stuff it’s all about getting one riff that sounds good, and I just put lots of layers. Mainly concentrating on how you build up dynamic throughout the song. You can’t do that well with GuitarPro as all dynamics are lost in that program.

Q 9 : Now, going back to your latest release, Memories,Voices, was there any concept behind this album?

Ans : Not really. Apart from that, I wanted to make a release that required possibly less patience than Senjyu. I am proud of what I did with Senjyu, but I appreciate that for people who aren’t familiar with slow build ups it’s hard to listen to. Because some of the songs in the album are dedicated to be a part of one big build up. So if you take just one song and listen to it, it doesn’t make much sense. You have to listen to the songs before and after the current one to make sense of it for first time. So I wanted to make a release that’s somewhat easier to listen, but still captures the essence of Cyclamen. And also since last year I’ve working a lot on my singing, since I felt that it was the weakest part of my music skills. So I wanted to challenge myself with something more melodic, which required me to push myself harder. I now feel comfortable with my singing – It’s nothing spectacular, but good enough not to let songs down I think.

Q 10 : So Senjyu more or less has a concept behind it right? What about the split EP with Haunted Shores?

Ans : Yeah Senjyu is based on one big story I came up with. So it has a story line. The songs are intended to be the “soundtracks” of the important scenes. As for Haunted Shores split, no theme really. That was time when Olly and Duncan joined the band and I wanted to see how recording would turn out as a band, so I just chose 2 songs that was most suitable for the line up at the time.

Q 11 : So you didn’t really have to make any new songs for the Haunted Shores split?

Ans : Nah, ‘It’s There’ was originally called ‘Happy Sunday Drive’, which I released as demo and I also had ‘Let Go’ out as demo as well. But I thought these two had some room for improvement and both were fairly accessible to metalheads so I thought it would work out ok.

Q 12 : So, now that you have worked with members from Monuments, Sikth, Travis Orbin, Daniel Tompkins and many other amazing musicians, how does all this feel at the end of the day?

Ans : I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to work with so many talented artists and I’m truly honoured to have worked with them. I almost feel undeserving of it too haha. But I think it’s been mostly mutually beneficial for all cases. They got some few fans through me, I had some new fans through them. At least I’d like to think so! I hope to get to collaborate with many other musicians – Even though I do a lot of things alone it doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like collaborating. But to be truthful it’s very rare that you meet someone with amazing skill and professional attitude. It’s often not worth it trying to work with them because it’s too much of hard work haha.

Q 13 : You had said earlier that Senjyu was based on a story you made. What was the story?

Ans : It’s about a guy who “lives” forever, but by that it means that he just exists permanently throughout everything so he has managed to see many rounds of the universe forming and collapsing, and that enabled him to learn pretty much about all parallel scenarios of the universe. It starts with song “Mother”, when he first remembers having a mother taking care of him but since he exists permanently he outlives parents and never finds someone who he feels he can truly related to, and he becomes “The Seeker”, to find this person he can truly relate to. However he has no luck finding one and this desire becomes his “Thirst” and he becomes super violent but then he meets Senjyu, a girl, and finds “hope” in his life. Senjyu comes from the name of a Buddha who, with a thousand arms and a thousand eyes, saves every living creature on the earth. So Senjyu is like a saviour of the main guy. Senjyu then becomes his “Comfort”. That’s the first half of the album. Then from “With Our Hands”, it’s about this revolutionist who comes to the conclusion that the world has to be totally destroyed in order to become his Utopia and he goes for “Grand Annihilation”. In the process Senjyu dies and the protagonist becomes “Devoid” of any feeling. The revolutionist is a sort of a villain, although he is convinced that he is doing this for the world’s good. The protagonist finally unleashes his wrath, full of anger; on the revolutionist (“Hellrise”) and gets his revenge “Revenge (of the Geeks)”(This song was written way before this story concept came out, so the title was a bit random). However, he then realises that Revenge has done nothing to fulfill his need for Senjyu and think backs to her and comes to term with the fact she’s gone and his feeling is reflected in “Full Moon Night”.

Q 14 :  Can you tell us about the equipment you used for recording the Cyclamen tracks? What software did you use?

Ans : For Senjyu, I used Blackstar HT-5 and Joe-X guitarworks guitar. Joe-X has super unique sound, but I think it suits Cyclamen, and it’s pretty versatile. For Memories, Voices, I used a HT-20 and my custom made ESP. No pedals since I think shortest signal path is the best tone. But for the reverb I used Eventide Space on Fx loop. That’s one pedal I really like using with an amp. If you use reverb after recording, it just doesn’t quite do the same thing. I don’t think I used any other effects in Memories, Voices – I don’t remember much about Senjyu, apart from using Ring Modulator in “Hope”. Software is Logic Pro for Senjyu, but Logic Express for Memories, Voices.

Q 15 : So the new EP consists of 5 tracks two of which are named Memories and Voices. Is there any reason you decided to name the album after these two tracks?

Ans : They were the two songs that came to mind first, but lyrically, also the most important of the 5. Memories is about my passion towards music, and what I leave behind as musician, and Voices is having courage to express what you feel – in my case using music as a medium. So these two songs together kind of summarises my decision to live my life as musician one focused on my initiative, other focused on what I’d achieve. Memories, Voices is a lot more abstract piece than Senjyu for sure. So it’s left quite open. I mean it’s an EP for a reason.

Q 16 : Was it difficult releasing the album without any label or PR? Is getting signed one of your objectives now?

Ans : When I released Senjyu, I had help from Hold Tight! PR, who are basically Basick Records and I managed to keep some contacts. So it was a bit easier this time. And no, getting signed has never been my objective. Mainly because I want income from selling music online and don’t really want to be touring. I am married, and also by my nature like to be at home (I am a bit of typical Japanese nerd who likes to stay in my own room haha) so getting signed just doesn’t make sense if I wanted to making a living out as musician. It’s not really difficult releasing an album thanks to the power of the internet. Moreover, I had studied Computer Science at University so I am pretty used to technology so it has been quite an easy process to do all this.

Q 17 : How many copies has Memories, Voices sold so far? What about Senjyu? What’s the highest amount anybody has paid for them on Bandcamp?

Ans : For Memories, Voices about 100 something downloads on Bandcamp so far I think – I won’t know about iTunes sales for few months. Someone paid me $12! And many of them over $5, so it’s actually turning out to be at least double the amount of money really, since the album is listed for 2 dollars on Bandcamp. I am so grateful for Cyclamen listeners for their generous support. For Senjyu, not entirely sure but I had to reprint the album, so probably with physical copies and downloads together the number ranges from somewhere between 500 and 1000 I think. It’s still selling a couple or so downloads per week so it’s hard to tell really.

Q 18 : Why did you have to reprint the album?

Ans : I gave about 150 for PR, then other 350 were sold pretty much so I ran out. It’s hard to sell experimental music like Cyclamen to people, especially because of extreme diversity of the style. So if I can sell somewhere between 500 and 1000 copies/downloads that’s a great success to me. I’d love to be able to say I sell thousands of records but that requires much bigger money to invest into PR and I need to have connections in the industry, which I don’t have: So I stick to running everything myself, on my own so that I can realistically live my life as a full time musician.

Q 19 : So you are a full time musician?

Ans : Yeah I am, with some occasional freelance web work by the side. It’s hard to pay all the bills on music alone, but the combination of the web work and music together, along with living my life extremely cheap (In Thailand everything is much cheaper), I can just about manage it haha. Plus I used to work as full time web developer, I still have some savings from that, although there really isn’t much left now. At least I’ve come to a sort of break even before it totally ran out!

Q 20 : At times do you feel that you need to go back to getting a full time job?

Ans : Nah. I’d much rather live poor than being miserable working for something I don’t love. Occasional web work is enough to get me the money I need when I really need it. I am fortunate enough to have quite a steady flow of jobs through that.

Q 21 : What is your advice out to the artists out there struggling to make a living off music?

Ans : Work hard. Seriously, dedicate every waking moment of free time to it. That’s the only way. If you have time to waste on Facebook (apart from promotion purposes) or watching TV or games there is no chance you’d manage to make living out of being musician. Unless you are lucky to be picked up by an amazing management/label. But that will mean you don’t live your life in freedom any more. If you work hard, and put work to where it counts, someone will notice you eventually. So be intelligent, and think every day about what can take you to the next step. Don’t be poor; always have enough money to invest into your music if an amazing opportunity comes. If you smoke, give up, don’t drink unnecessarily or spend money on something you know it’s a waste. Pretty boring really. No sex, drugs or rock’n’roll, but that’s the only way I can see this life working.

Fan Questions :

Q 22 : From Jace Dominguez : How was your experience helping out with the Thai flood relief effort? How did the entire experience influence you to write the Withyouathome track You Are Never Alone Here?

Ans : Ah nice, Withyouathome is something I haven’t mentioned much – it’s a whole new experience really. As much as I love metal, it gives you a lot less opportunity to be creative about how you conduct yourself as an artist. Having started Withyouathome, I feel there is more opportunity for me to translate what I do in my life into my music. I mean you can ask people to donate money for metal tracks, but you know it’s not as effective as if you were releasing something which is easier listening. And a metal musician still tends to stick to a “tough guy” image and volunteer work just doesn’t make you look tough does it? In a way a “don’t give a shit” image is more important. So It was nice to be able to express my feeling towards Thai flood experience through music that way. It was unique experience to help Thailand really – it’s not even my home country, even though it’s becoming my second home pretty much. While I felt there was great satisfaction in helping people, it wasn’t quite the same as when I tried to help Japan, where my root is. Still, I gained lots of experience, and it was very rewarding.

Q 23 : From Ritush Saraf: Cyclamen at a point in time consisted of a full live band with members like Ed Newman, Duncan Lee, Nano Sigo and Olly Steele. What happened now?

Ans : Olly plays in Monuments, which I think is much more fitting band for him to be in, so check them out! They’ve just got a new vocalist and we should be hearing the new recording pretty soon! As for Nano, he’s got a number of things going on. He released his solo EP a while ago, and plays sax in a band, then playing metal every now and then. Ed, he’s a long friend of mine, he was in Pink Widow too. I don’t think he’s doing much with music at the moment, which is shame. I am sure if there is opportunity he’ll pick up the bass or drums again. As for Duncan, he has his own drum school, which was the reason why he left the band in the first place. So he’s been pretty busy with that I think. As far as I know he had injured his back recently and he’s been off playing the drum. I hope he’s recovered, if not he will very soon!

Q 24 : From Aravind Goenka : I’ve been trying to figure out what’s in the background of the cover art of Memories, Voices for a while now(without any luck). Can you please explain?

Ans : Haha, they’re samples (you know these animals dipped under an alcohol kinda thing) of centipedes I saw at Harvard Museum. I thought they were fitting objects since they’ve been kept in their physical form from the time when they were alive. And that fits into the concept of “Memories” to some extent.

Q 25 : Okay so thats all the questions I have for you Hayato! Thanks for taking off your valuable time to do this interview! Is there anything you would like to add?

Ans : Thank you so much to everyone who has taken time to listen to any of my music – and I can never thank you enough for the generous support you have given me over the years. I hope you keep enjoying my music and keep enjoying what I write!

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Interview with Pete Graves of Red Seas Fire

Pete Graves - Red Seas Fire

Photo by – Nicole Lloyd

For those into the heavier side of the prog metal scene, I am quite sure Red Seas Fire is not a name uncommon to them. Hailing from Southern England, this surreal five member group now comprises of bassist Leo, guitarists PeteyG and Nolly, drummer Sam and vocalist Robin. In this interview, guitarist Pete Graves was kind enough to lend us a moment of his time to talk to us on behalf of the band about the progressive metal sensation which was just recently added to the Euroblast 2012 line-up.

Q 1: First of all I want to thank you for agreeing to this interview Pete! For people who haven’t heard your music and aren’t familiar with the band, could you give us some background information about yourself and perhaps how Red Seas Fire came about?

Ans: Well the band began with me, bored one summer waiting to move to university, writing and recording riffs. One day I happened to jam out the vast majority of what is now the closing track on our record, “Skye”, and decided to keep going in that direction with a band. I brought two of my closest friends, Leo Dorsz (bass) and Sam Gates (drums) into the group and put out an advert on my youtube page requesting for people to get in touch if they were interested in joining. This was how Adam “Nolly” Getgood (guitar) found us and auditioned, and then we spent a long few years developing a sound, trying different song arrangements and working on what are now fundamental Red Seas Fire traits in a closed and controlled production environment. Eventually we found a vocalist who was both close enough to us geographically and also the right sounding vocalist for us, and that guy is named Robin Adams. It’s a long story and definitely not the traditional way for bands to form, but that’s how we did it.

Q 2: Cutting right to the chase, your debut, self-titled EP was released late last year, free to download. Was there any kind of concept or theme, or did any of the tracks have a story behind them?

Ans: Both lyrically and compositionally I can say that no, there’s no one story or message in anything. As I said before the record was, for us at least, about forging a core sound and a method to the band, and as such it has been difficult to have a focused concept, everything had to be malleable and able to change and with a conceptual basis things would run the risk of being too rigid to work.

Q 3: What was the reason you chose to make the EP free to download? I’m sure I’m not the only one who was surprised to hear you weren’t going to charge anything at all for it, especially after the amount of hard work you’ve all put into it.

Ans: There are probably differing points of view throughout the band about this, so what is said here may be a different answer than if you asked anyone else. Keep that in mind.

Now understand that before we released the record, and before the month long hype build that started in August last year, we had perhaps 3k likes on facebook and had never played a single live show, we were absolutely nothing. For a band of that level to think they can get away with making people pay, even a small amount, for their music, is nothing other than misguided and a little idiotic. The overall aim of Red Seas Fire is to get new people to hear us, whether or not they become a fan afterwards, and the best way to do that is to reduce the amount of legitimate reasons a person has not to listen to our music. So once a person has been directed to our website they have to only click once for the download to begin, they don’t have to give us any information, and above all, you don’t have to pay us any money. If people like what we do after hearing us and want to support us then they can buy merchandise, and soon they will hopefully be able to pay for physical copies of our record too if they want it.

Q 4: How would you say the fans have received the EP so far? Have you had any overly negative comments about it?

Ans: If there has been a lot of negative feedback, we haven’t been hearing about it, or at least we’ve been able to avoid the vast majority of it. Most people we hear from praise the record pretty highly on all levels.

Q 5: How do you usually go about writing music? What bands heavily influence your writing style and the music that you create?

Ans: There is no one way to be honest, Red Seas Fire riffs have been composed in just about every fashion that there is to write, through bedroom jamming, rehearsal room jamming, transcription, guitar part first, bass part first, drum part first, you name a method, we’ve used it. I think the main thing for me is that I have to be in a state where I’m not over thinking everything, where the creative flow is allowed to just run without analysis, that’s what hindsight is for!

I guess for me a band that definitely influence my writing style is the band Botch, not so much in their musical style, more in the attitude they have, they remind me not to over analyse or worry about what others think about the music I’m creating. If I do start to care then I’ll find reasons to dislike every single riff I write and won’t get anything done.

Q 6: Is there a member of the band that writes the majority of Red Seas Fire’s music, or is it spread evenly between you all?

Ans: I think it’s fair to say that the instrumental side of things is pretty evenly split 50/50 between Nolly and I, then I take care of most of the electronic layering, and the vocals are almost all Nolly and Robin. As for lyrics, Nolly and Robin mostly write those and I contribute bits here and there.

Q 7: There is a lot of electronic influence in your music, with glitch drums and synth pads spread throughout the self-titled EP. How do you go about replicating those parts on stage?

Ans: Those parts are handled by a laptop live.

Q 8: How did you react when Nolly was asked to co-produce Periphery’s new album?
Was the decision to take a hiatus one that you all agreed on straight away? Was there ever a possibility of finding someone to fill in for Nolly, much like he did for Periphery, while he was away?

Ans: We were all ecstatic for him, I don’t think there is any other appropriate response to have when a friend is offered such an insane opportunity, especially one which has a spill over of good press for your band, hahaha.

As for the hiatus, yeah we all agreed on it, we didn’t have any plans for the period of time anyway, and so we just decided that I could spend time writing riffs, and as we didn’t have plans to play shows during this time anyway, we just decided upon down time as opposed to playing shows with a replacement, or without Nolly altogether.

Q 9: You’re on the UK Tech-Fest line up alongside bands like Uneven Structure, Tesseract and Chimpspanner. How are you going about rehearsing for such a big show? Do you have set times when you practice together?

Ans: Ah, yes, rehearsing. As a band, we don’t really rehearse much at all to be honest, we have a couple of rehearsals lined up before we play Ghostfest at the end of this month (June 30th) in Leeds since we will be playing a brand new song, and that will generally cover us for the summer. This may seem super unprofessional of us but we have practised as a band maybe seven times in total since starting the band five years ago.

Q 10: Are there any other upcoming tours/shows that fans can look forward to?

Ans: We actually don’t have too much on the cards right now, but here is what we have confirmed.

  • Ghostfest 2012 – Saturday June 30th @ Leeds University
  • Headline show – Saturday July 7th @ The Garage in London
  • UK Tech Metal Fest – Sunday July 15th @ Alton Lounge Bar
  • Euroblast – Friday October 19th to Sunday October 21st @ Cologne, Germany

Q 11: What does your current live rig consist of?

Ans: I’m running an Axe FX Ultra (switched by MIDI signal from a laptop) into a VHT (now known as Fryette) 2-50-2 stereo power amp, which then runs into two 2×12 Zilla Cabs, one a Fatboy model, and the other a Super Fatboy model. Nolly is running essentially the exact same thing, but he has upgraded to the Axe FX II, which I am yet to do. Leo runs a Peavey Pro 500 bass amp through a Zilla 4×10 bass cab, but his B7K bass overdrive from Darkglass Electronics is actually creating the majority of his tone. Sam generally plays Mapex drums and hardware, Sabian cymbals and Vater sticks.

Q 12: Guitarists who use the Axe FX are more and more frequently selling their cabinets and going direct to house while also using smaller active monitors. What is it about Zilla cabinets (or cabinets in general) that has kept you from making the switch?

Ans: A very large part of it for us is quite simply that we’re not playing huge venues, we are playing venues where the onstage sound is actually the majority of sound and also the monitoring systems aren’t always, shall we say, state of the art, and in those situations having the clearest onstage sound is the best option, Zilla cabs give us that.

On a personal note, there is an image factor to consider here. I think if a metal band is onstage in a smaller venue playing through active monitors, there’s a risk of looking a little like a wedding band, there is an appropriate image of a metal band being stood in front of some killer speaker cabs that are just blasting the sound in peoples faces.

Q 13: You posted a photo to your Facebook page of yourself standing next to the shell of a Zilla 6×12 cabinet. Did you end up getting one?

Ans: I haven’t purchased one yet no, I haven’t even tried one, however that latter fact will change this coming Thursday when I head over to the Zilla HQ to demo and produce a video presenting the completed product. If I like what I experience (I can’t imagine any other outcome) then yes I will eventually purchase one when I have worked down the list of gear that I need.

Q 14: There are a lot of people that consider ‘djent’ to be more than an onomatopoeia, and consider it to be a genre. What is your opinion on the term ‘djent’?

Ans: At this point I think it’s pointless arguing about it or even really caring about it, it’s not something we concern ourselves with and only deal with it when asked about it like this.

Q 15: How do you feel about your music being referred to as ‘djent’ rather than progressive metal? 

Ans: Again it doesn’t matter too much to us, people are free to label us what they want.

Q 16: The first fan question is from Joe Hamilton. He asks – “Have you found any new inspiration since writing the EP? Have you found it has altered the sound of Red Seas Fire for the new album?”

Ans: We’re always working on new riffs and ideas, what we have written definitely sounds different but we think it’s still indicative of the Red Seas Fire sound. Keep in mind that the debut record was a 4 year development, I was 20 when the band started and I’m 25 now, so yeah things have changed a bit.

Q 17: Danny asks – “Do you know any jazz or jazz theory? If so, what are some of your favourite jazz musicians?”

Ans: Yeah I grew up playing trumpet in Jazz groups and listened to quite a bit of the standard Jazz growing up, Miles Davis, John Coltrane. In my later years of that I got pretty heavily into The Brecker Brothers, those guys blow my mind every time I listen to their records.

Q 18: Rhys Channing asks – “If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?”

Ans: I’ve been playing instruments since I was 5, and have actively been a musician since I was about 13, so I have literally never done anything else. I guess if I wasn’t doing music I’d be in a dead end job, and since I haven’t exactly found success yet I guess the possibility is still there, hahaha.

That’s all the questions I have for you Pete. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Love music, and support the music that you love.

You can find Red Seas Fire on Facebook and download their début album for free from their official website.

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Photo by – Nicole Lloyd

Interview with Dan Wieten of ‘The Omega Experiment’

Photo Credits : Jeff Brinn

If you’re a fan of the progressive metal scene, then I’m confident that you have already heard of the metal tyrants, ‘The Omega Experiment’ consisting of members Dan Wieten and Ryan Aldridge. Their theatrical and larger than life sound (reminiscent of Dream Theater and The Devin Townsend Project) brings a long an awaited breath of fresh air in the congested and saturated ‘Progressive Metal’ scene. With their self titled debut album released in February and a new digipak coming out on June 26th, there’s really nowhere to go but up for ‘The Omega Experiment’. In this interview with lead singer, guitarist and producer Dan Wieten we cover everything from their new live band and touring, to album inspiration and meaning to what the band does in their free time. Hope you enjoy the interview!

Q 1 : Hi Dan! Thanks for finding the time to take this interview! Could you give us a little bit of background information on the band? Where are you guys from?

Ans : We are from Muskegon, MI USA. The band started off as a rough concept I had laid out in 2007 that I resurrected after Ryan and I started jamming together and writing in the winter of 2009. Originally we just set out to create a progressive metal/rock journey that musically followed this concept and had no bounds, production wise or writing wise. There was never a goal to play live because we didn’t think it would be possible. Therefore, we made it as big and epic as possible.

Q 2 : How strong is the metal scene there in Muskegon?

Ans : The metal scene is pretty healthy here. There is a strong unity between all the bands, and although we haven’t been active live as of yet, we keep a good rapport with the bands and people in the scene. Most of the bands are straight up in your face metal, which is awesome, but I wish there was a bit more diversity. Hopefully we can spark something and get people to think a bit outside the box.

Q 3 : How did you and Ryan meet and come to play music together?

Ans : Ryan and I are cousins by marriage, so we’ve known each other since he was 4 and I was 12. When he was about 15 I turned him on to Devin Townsend and of course his life changed forever haha. We hung out a lot over the years after that and became best friends. I invited him into this autobiographical concept I had because he was there through all of it with me, so it applies to him as well. We both struggled with addiction and overcame it to lead a much healthier life. This album is the story of our struggle.

Q 4 : Going back to your earliest release – ‘Karma’. It says on your Facebook page that it came about through inspiration from battling through drug addiction and certain dark stages in your life. Could you elaborate on this? Is it still a source of inspiration for your music?

Ans : A point needs to be clarified here. I’ve seen reviews that have criticized the album for taking the flow of the Karma EP out of context, but the Karma EP was just three songs chosen from the album, which was already laid out with those songs in place. They are not separate entities.

As far as the addiction content, it will always be there I think, in some form. I am active in recovery, and have to battle this disease every day. I see people come in and out of the program, dying, relapsing and hitting deeper and deeper bottoms. Seeing that devastation will always remind me of where I came from. It’s always with me. I’m writing some new stuff right now, and I think a lot of it will be geared toward just learning how to live life on life’s terms. Everyday struggles that everyone can relate to.

Q 4 : Your new self-titled album ‘The Omega Experiment’ was recently released. How has the reception been so far?

Ans : The reception has been amazing. It has very much exceeded our expectations. I am really grateful that in this day and age people are still willing to buy music. I understand that some people either don’t have cash, or don’t care and they will torrent the album or whatever. As long as people listen, I am ok with it. Musically it has served its purpose. People are reacting with genuine love and appreciation for the scope and work put in, and that’s all we ever wanted.

Q 5 : Was there any underlying concept behind ‘The Omega Experiment’?

Ans : Yeah, as I have said before, it’s an autobiography about addiction struggles, feeling inferior, moments of elation, love, death, every emotion you can feel wrapped up in a melodic and crystalline package.

Q 6 : Over what time frame was the album written and how did you and Ryan go about it?

Ans : It was written and recorded from February 2009 to roughly May 2011. All the basic songs were finished and tracked by Winter 2011, and the rest was just filling in the details and getting it ready for mastering. All of it was recorded in my bedroom. I wrote most of the skeleton of the songs and we just got together whenever we could to work out samples and keys. I did all the guitars, drum programming, bass, and vocals in my own time.

Q 7 : How did you guys find releasing the album without any label or PR?

Ans : Eh, you know, it would have been easier with help, but I am sort of grateful that we did it ourselves. It proved something to us, that we can achieve whatever we want, and not to let rejection bring us down. We will keep going no matter what anyone says or does, and there will be no compromise musically or otherwise. Luckily we are very friendly with a lot of people in the industry that are willing to help, and who believe in us.

Q 8 : Do you have a specific writing process each time you sit down and write? Or is it more of a natural process?

Ans : Nothing is specific. That takes the fun and spontaneity out of it. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t pick up the guitar. It’s that simple. Good music cannot be forced, no matter if it is the musician sitting down and trying to force ideas out, or if it is a label saying they need an album turned in by a certain time. At least that’s the way it works best for me.

Q 9 : Your album has a very large sound, similar to that of Dream Theater and Devin Townsend. Who were your biggest musical influences for the album?

Ans : Well it starts with the two you just named. DT and DT are absolutely huge for us. But others include Pain of Salvation, Frost*, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Death, Rush, Fear Factory, Dillinger Escape Plan, Faith No More, Queensryche, John Williams, KISS, Van Halen, pop music, techno, new age…

Q 10 : So far, all your releases have been self-produced. Do you think this helps you craft the ‘The Omega Experiment’ sound? Or is that purely in the writing?

Ans : I think the sound comes from the amalgamation of influences, the experience, and the musical relationship. We know each other musically so well, it just sort of happens. I can sit and write by myself all day, but as far as The Omega Experiment is concerned, it never feels complete until Ryan comes over and we jam and add his parts. That being said, having the leisure of self-producing means we can take all the time we need, which greatly affects the quality in a good way. Technology doesn’t hurt either.

Q 11 : How did you go about learning the techniques you use to engineer and produce your music?

Ans : Trial and error. That’s how it always goes. I’ve been in and out of pro studios since I was 16 though, so that is a plus. I paid attention to what the engineers were doing, but I still didn’t really learn shit until I started trying to do it myself. I started with crappy 4 and 8 track tape recorders and then moved to the digital realm in about 2002. I never understood anything about EQ and compression and all that because I always chose getting high and partying over improving. I recorded bands here and there over the years, with some ok results. When we started writing this album in February 2009 is when I really started to get serious about learning proper techniques. Thank God for Google, and also thank God for my friend and producer Nick Scott. He really helped me out a lot in this process.

Q 12 : What equipment and software did you use to produce the album?

Ans : There is an equipment list on our Formspring, but the short version is Sonar producer, tons of Waves and PSP plugins, TSE amp sims, and a few outboard gear items, all through a shitty M Audio delta 1010 soundcard through KLH home stereo speakers and a Sony receiver. It wasn’t exactly the Ritz-Carlton of studios but I made it work.

Q 13 : On your Facebook page it says that you now have a full live band. Does this mean that you have some upcoming tours?

Ans : There is something in the works, but until dates are finalized I am not at liberty to speak of it.

Q 14 : Your songs have a lot of layers, how do you plan on performing these live?

Ans : Any vocals I am not singing and samples/keys Ryan is not playing are all loaded onto his Macbook.

Q 15 : Have you already organized your live rig? Could you give us some details on the gear you will be using?

Ans : Not much to organize really. We have the Macbook like I said, guitars, amps, drums, keyboard. We don’t have the cash to be big and elaborate with custom wired racks or stuff yet.

Q 16 : Your release of ‘The Omega Experiment’ has caused quite a stir within the progressive music scene. Have you been approached by any labels? Is getting signed on the ‘to-do-list’ for The Omega Experiment?

Ans : It started out as a goal. I sent the album around to some people and labels. It made its rounds. I don’t know what to say, maybe people just weren’t ready for it, or it was too personal a story, or the music sucked, I could speculate all day. After tons of frustration we had to forge on and just do this ourselves. At this point, if we are approached and the deal feels right, we’ll talk. Other than that, it’s not a priority at the moment.

Q 17 : Now that you guys have recently released an album, are you going to take a break from writing for a while?

Ans : Not a chance! I have been writing non-stop, whenever I get the free time. There are two songs with basic music completed, and a few others that have been started. It’s all in the demo process right now. The priority at the moment is getting as tight as possible for live, and when I have extra time, I pick away at new material. I’m having a lot of fun with it. No pressure.

Q 18 : What does music mean to you? Despite the low rates of success for most metal bands, what made you guys go on and ignore all the risks?

Ans : I don’t know how to answer that. Music is my life force. That’s about all I can sum it up as. Success is a very subjective word when it comes to music. Most would think it means that you make a lot of money, or can make a living off playing music. Honestly, I felt successful the day I sent our album to Acle Kahney (TesseracT) to master, before we ever made a dime. It should be an inside job, not based on dollar sign, but that’s the reality.

Q 19 : What does The Omega Experiment like to do when they’re not writing and performing their music?

Ans : I enjoy just chilling at home. I’ve mellowed since getting clean, and I am grateful for it. I spent all of my twenties torturing my body, being the last one standing at every party, consuming every last drop or line or pill until it was all dried up. It tires you out. I used to feel like I was going to miss something if I wasn’t surrounded by a ton of shallow people that didn’t give two shits about me, as long as I was part of the chaos. Life is simpler now. I go to school, work, hang out with the few true friends that were left over when I cleared away all the riff raff, go to meetings, exercise, enjoy nature. I get out and drive long distances to shows quite a bit too. I love being able to do that again, and have the money in my pocket to do it. As for Ryan, he is a family man. He spends most of his time at home with his daughter and his wife when they aren’t working.

Q 20 : Well, that’s all we have for you now Dan. Once again, thanks very much for finding the time for the interview. Do you have anything you’d like to add?

Ans : Thank you for the opportunity! Look out for our album release on digipak on June 26, and also for upcoming tour dates.

Photo Credits : Jeff Brinn

Interview with Daniel Tompkins

Photo Credits : Bobin James

I presume many of us are already familiar with the bands Tesseract and Skyharbor. Some may have even heard of Piano, Haji’s Kitchen or Absent Hearts. If you have ever listened to these bands before, it is quite obvious that you have been almost instantaneously taken aback by the sheer vocal brilliance and astounding performance of their frontman, Daniel Tompkins. In OpenMic’s first ever interview, we take a look at how Daniel started off as a musician, his musical inspirations, his opinions on various matters ranging from music piracy to Skyharbor’s new album and much more. Enjoy folks!

Q 1 : Could you provide us with a little background information? When did you first start singing and become interested in music?

Ans : I started taking my voice seriously when I was certain I wanted to have a future in music. 12 years later I am still developing and striving for perfection. Music has always been at the centre of my spiritual self.

Q 2 : How did you first discover metal?

Ans : At the age of 16 I was heavily into the Nu-Metal scene with the likes of Limp Bizkit, Korn, System of a Down, Linkin Park etc.

Q 3 : What bands/artists would you say heavily influence your music and your singing style?

Ans : My biggest influences have to be Maynard Keenan, Chino Moreno, and Michael Jackson (for real).

Q 4 : How would you describe Skyharbor’s music and what makes it different from other bands in the genre?

Ans : It has a life and soul. The music breathes and evolves that’s what makes it different.

Q 5 : Did you feel that you had initially needed to change a bit of your singing style during the switch over to Skyharbor?

Ans : I never try and be anything other than myself. My vocals are an instinctive response to the music they’re written for. It has to be a fluid and natural process.

Q 6 : What sort of approach do you take when singing to the Skyharbor tracks?

Ans : The same approach I always take. I respond to the music with a very spiritual connection.

Q 7 : How do you think Skyharbor’s music is different from your other projects? Was there anything in particular in the music that caught your attention at first?

Ans : 1. The Atmosphere 2. Quality songwriting

Q 8 : With the current state of the music industry and decline of CD sales, it’s become increasingly difficult for bands to make a living from their music. What is your opinion on music piracy?

Ans : People seem to think I make money from my music, truth be told I’ve never made a profit, I do this for the love. It’s a hard game. I don’t mind people ripping songs as long as they buy it later.

Q 9 : Are there any other upcoming shows/tours for fans to look forward to?

Ans : There will be lots going on in the future. The only thing to do is keep an eye out on my artist page for upcoming news http://www.facebook.com/danieltompkinsvocalist

Q 10 : What does music mean to you? Do you think of it as a profession or as a hobby?

Ans : Get it right and it can be both. Music is a way of life and part of what I am, it’s always been this way.

Q 11 : What is your advice to all the struggling band and artists out there?

Ans : Perfect your art, strive to be different, keep the faith and develop a hard skin, you’ll need it.

Q 12 : You had previously toured India with Tesseract and now recently with Skyharbor. What changes have you noticed in the metal scene there?

Ans : The scene is strong and seems to be growing at a fast rate. I hope to continue to be a part of it for years to come.

Q 13 : How much potential do you think the metal scene has in India right now?

Ans : It has the potential to draw worldwide artists and become a hotspot for touring musicians on a much larger scale.

Q 14 : So what are your current plans for now? Any other bands you plan on collaborating with?

Ans : I have a few albums in the pipeline to be released this year. Absent Hearts – August Earth, Haji’s Kitchen – 2012 and also my second release with Piano, yet to be named.

Q 15 : What is your most memorable experience as a musician?

Ans : Well there are too many to mention. I’ve been very lucky over the years to tour worldwide through music. I’ve met some incredible people and seen places some people only dream of, the whole journey has been unforgettable.

Fan Questions:

Q 16 : Okay so here is our first fan question for you from Chris Balay. Where and how do you find inspiration for your lyrics to go with the sound of your music?

Ans : Hi Chris. I’m a dreamer, you know that place of complete relaxation when you’re just about to fall asleep inbetween the consious and subconsious, well that’s where I find all my inspiration. I listen to ideas and sleep on them… I often wake up in the middle of the night, reach for my iphone and record whispered ideas. Nearly the whole of ‘One’ was inspired by subconsious dreams.

Q 17 : Second fan question from Saurav Lakhmani. What do you do to keep your voice in such a great condition and how much do you practice?

Ans : Hi Saurav, I’ve practiced and trained my voice for over 12 years now and I’m still searching for stronger tone and control. I practice daily whether that’s just humming or going through my tailored excercises. The key is to take delicate care of your voice. It’s the only one you’ll ever have.

Q 18 : Well, that’s all of the questions we have for you, Dan. Thanks a lot for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Ans : Lots in the pipeline. Stay in touch and maybe i’ll see you sooner than you think.

Photo Credits : Sukrit Nagaraj

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