The Deadstation. interview (02/2013)
|With:||Shjon Thomas, Ryan Mattheu|
|Conducted by:||Milena (e-mail)|
The Deadstation are an amazing upcoming progressive metal band reviewed by Ag Fox in the Vol.2 #7 issue of Clandestine Cuts. I've had the pleasure of talking to (well... emailing) Shjon and Ryan about their influences, writing process, plans, Facebook activity and the future of planet Earth. Enjoy!
Milena: Could you tell us a bit more about when and how the band formed?
RYAN: I'm not exactly sure when The Deadstation officially formed but if I had to guess I'd say late 2011. The reason why its hard to pin-point is because Shjon and I have been playing "in the same band" all along. The Deadstation is just the latest incarnation in the evolution of the band we started practically 10 years ago when we decided to pick up instruments. The ups and downs we've experienced over the years have shaped how we approach the band today and when we decided to move on from the previous incarnation we knew we needed to take a step back and revamp how we approach everything we do, not just as a band but as people. After a lot of introspection, planning, writing and recording The Deadstation had come to fruition.
Milena: Describe The Deadstation's writing process - is it a collaborative effort or does everyone have a certain designated role in songwriting?
SHJON: Nothing is really set it stone as far as songwriting methods go, but what tends to work best for us is having one person create a fairly detailed demo before presenting a song idea. We've always felt like this helps the writer get their full vision of the song across before anybody starts giving feedback. If everybody seems to like the demo and we want to try and use it for The Deadstation, then we might do a second demo with more "bells and whistles" and other people's ideas thrown in. If we finish that demo and we're still liking it, then we usually put it into the "next time we record" pile.
Most of the time though, we don't know for sure if we're going to use a song until 5 minutes before we finish an album! We've been known to cut songs at the very last minute... even if we've worked on them for years or something. Sometimes you might have a great song, but the performance didn't come out right, or maybe the production didn't quite come up to par, etc... I guess we're more in favor of quality over quantity when it comes to releasing material. We have a habit of constantly re-writing everything too, which helps the quality, but can really drag out the whole process. One of our goals for the next release is cut down on the writing/recording time, if we can.
Milena: You have presented your first EP, "Episode 01: Like Peering Into The Deepest Ocean Abyss", as an actual episode of a show from a fictional dystopian TV station. As far as concepts go, that's pretty original! Who came up with that and was it difficult to fit the pre-existing music into that concept?
SHJON: Thanks! I think Ryan coined "The Deadstation" name idea first, and then we all put our heads together to develop the dystopian TV station idea. We've always been fans of bands that have some type of overarching theme to their releases… bands like The Dear Hunter, Coheed & Cambria, and even Fear Factory. They're not really a concept band per se, but their releases tend to focus on the whole "man vs. machine" dynamic. The dystopian TV station concept for The Deadstation seemed like a cool way to connect all of our releases, but without restricting ourselves to a specific plotline. We tend to like trying new things on each release, so we're trying not to box ourselves in too much with overly specific concept guidelines. Right now, we're planning on each episode having a new story, with new themes, new instrumentation, etc… so it shouldn't get boring! They'll just be an overarching aesthetic and vibe to everything that makes it The Deadstation.
As far as fitting pre-existing music into the concept, it was still a bit difficult. All the material on Episode 01 had already been written, and was halfway recorded, by the time we decided on the concept. We actually had another 30 minutes of material we were planning on using, but ended up cutting because it didn't fit the vibe of this episode's plot. The single "Limitless, Or So It Seems" that we released before Episode 01 was one of the songs that was cut from the track listing. We still really like that song, but it doesn't really fit with material we used on the EP. For future releases, we're going to be writing music with the plot of each episode in mind, so hopefully things will be a bit easier creatively. We'll sort of know what emotions and things we need to focus on before we even pick up our instruments.
Milena: Did you expect such an overwhelmingly positive response and good press?
RYAN: No. We were really confident that we had something good on our hands but after spending so much time developing the different aspects of the band it became challenging to look at it objectively. We relied on close friends for honest opinions and even though some of them had mixed feelings we decided that we put in way too much work to just throw everything away and start over. Looking back I think we made the right decision and we can't thank everyone enough for not only taking the time to check us out but for stopping by our Facebook page and joining the conversation!
Milena: For the equipment junkies - what did you use to record Episode 01 with? Also, since talking to bands has taught me all musicians are up to a point equipment junkies - have you since acquired anything new to be used on your future releases?
RYAN: We used various audio workstations including ProTools, Cubase, Cakewalk, and Logic Pro in order to record the various instruments. Everything except for the drums were recorded at our home studio. The majority of the guitars were tracked with a Charvel Model 6 made in the late 1980s. We recorded the DI signal of the guitars and then re-amped the signal later on using a Peavy 5150 through a Marshall 4x12 cab with V30s and Greenbacks for the rhythm guitars and a Mesa/Boogie Single Rectifier through a standard Recto 4x12 for the lead guitars. The bass was done direct on a Spector Rebop 5. The drums were recorded on a Tama Rockstar and we went through A LOT of Zildjian cymbals. The keyboard/ambient portions were done using various synth and orchestral plug-ins. Lastly, the main vocals were recorded with a Rode NTK and the "deadspeak" vocal sections were recorded with an AKG Perception 100. We've since acquired some new guitars and as well as pre-amps which will certainly be used in the future. The goal next time around is to refine not just the music itself but also the overall production.
Milena: Are there any interesting anecdotes from the recording sessions you're willing to share?
SHJON: Hmmm… one interesting thing is that we actually recorded the vocal tracks in "Frankenbooth", which is a closet we converted into a vocal booth! We lined it with all kinds of studio foam and whatnot, and put a mattress over the door. As crazy as that sounds, I think the tracks came out great anyways. Nobody really noticed anything sounding off, so I guess we got away with it! Since we were tracking during the spring/summer, it got extremely hot inside the booth, but we couldn't run any fans because we didn't want the microphone to pick up any extra noise. Greg was almost butt naked in there with lots of water so he wouldn't pass out from the heat! That's Greg for you though, you give him a roadblock and he'll plow right through it. He had to deal was some seriously annoying conditions, but that didn't stop him from getting some awesome takes.
Milena: What is your musical background - did you ever go to music school or are you self-taught? When did you first start writing and playing music?
RYAN: None of us went to school for music although we've all taken music theory courses at one point or another. So, overall, we're self-taught. Shjon and I began playing music in 2000 when we got our first guitar to mess around with. At that point, Greg had already been playing drums for a few years. The writing began shortly there after because our intention all along was to start a band.
Milena: For most young bands, music is just a hobby - is it the same for you? And do you plan on your band becoming your day-job someday?
RYAN: Music has always been more than a hobby for all of us... some might even say an obsession. We take what we do very seriously and we certainly wouldn't object to having it become our day job!
SHJON: That's definitely something we're shooting for. I think that's the dream of most aspiring musician's really... to get to write music, travel the world, meet lots of different people, etc... It's actually something that influences our lyrics a lot, even though we obscure it with metaphors and whatnot. A huge challenge is keeping yourself motivated when you're forced to spend time doing things that aren't related to your true passion. You can start to lose that sense of being a musician/artist, and start to feel like you're just that guy that sits at a computer all day and takes a paycheck. You almost feel like "this is it", and the upward trajectory of your life has ended. Now that we've released Episode 01 though, and seen how much it means to some people, motivation has been a lot higher to keep pursuing careers in music. I guess now we're feeling a bit like "OK, we're not crazy... this music actually was pretty cool", you know what I mean? We really can't thank the listeners enough, because if anything is going to keep this thing going, it's them! Knowing that your music adds something to people's lives is the biggest motivation there is.
Milena: Do any of the band members have creative hobbies other than making music?
RYAN: Yes. Greg is quite the artist and has done album artwork for a few bands over the last few years. I'm into photography and film-making. Shjon is into graphic design and has done most of The Deadstation's artwork.
SHJON: Yea, I'm really into doing graphic design in addition to music. I actually considered studying it in college but changed my mind at the last minute and switched to a different a major. I do most of the graphics that we use for The Deadstation… things like the band logo, website design, social media stuff, etc… For the Episode 01 cover art though, we worked with an awesome photographer from Romania named Felicia Simion. She took the original photograph, and I just made some minor edits to fit the concept a little better. I've also done a few pieces of art for an awesome post-rock band named Pray For Sound, which I'm pretty proud of. Our vocalist Greg is the real artist out of all of us though. He's done some pretty awesome illustration-type stuff for bands.
Milena: Have you ever performed Episode 01 material on stage? And if not, are you planning to?
SHJON: We haven't really focused on playing live yet, but the three of us have done a bit of it in the past with a different band. We definitely hope to do it with The Deadstation in the future, but right now our biggest focus is on getting the free download of Episode 01 out there. Since we don't have a label or outside management, we're doing all the promotion and whatnot ourselves, so it takes up a really large chunk of our time. Playing live is always in the back of our minds, but the next step for us is probably going to be releasing more music.
Milena: Would you call yourself a morbid fan (in a positive context of course!) of any band, book, movie or TV show?
RYAN: Not so much these days, but when we were younger we were all obsessed with Metallica. At one point I think I had something like ten of their t-shirts! They were the reason why each of us picked up an instrument.
SHJON: Hmmm… I'm really into 80s/90s sci-fi movies myself, especially ones with aliens fucking shit up. My favorite is probably the 1982 version of The Thing… it's actually my favorite movie of all time. A bunch of guys are trapped in a weather research station in Antarctica during a storm, with an alien running around that can imitate any organism. It's just totally awesome. Even the soundtrack has had a huge influence on me. I also love the first two Predator movies, the first two Alien movies, The Terminator, Total Recall, Sphere, etc… As far as newer stuff goes, I enjoy the Resident Evil movies, Inception, the newer Batman movies… even stuff like Black Swan and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo are awesome. Honestly though, I'm not into watching movies as much as it might sound! I just end up watching the same ones over and over.
Milena: What are your favorite up-and-coming bands in metal or progressive music?
SHJON: I agree... definitely Revocation. They work with the same producer that mixed Episode 01 for us, and they share a lot of the same influences that we grew up on, like Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, etc… I guess we feel a bit of a bond with them because of that. There's also a kickass band called The Omega Experiment that is sort of in the vein of Devin Townsend. We've been lucky enough to get to talk with their vocalist/guitarist Dan a bit, and he's super cool guy. They just signed with Listenable Records, so I'm really pumped to watch how things unfold for them in the future. Another one I like is a band called Mandroid Echostar from Canada. They sound a bit like Coheed & Cambria mixed with Protest The Hero. They write great modern prog-metal stuff with clean vocals, which I especially support. Any metal band today that is going against the grain and incorporating great clean vocals has my support. They have a free EP up on Bandcamp.com that is definitely worth a listen. Other than those guys, I can really get behind bands like Leprous and Jolly, who are both working with InsideOut Music. That label is always putting out great new progressive stuff [note: I totally agree!].
Milena: You do a lot (and I do mean a lot!) of communication with the fans via the band's official Facebook page. Which person in the band is responsible for that and how much time does that person spend on Facebook? Your fans (and I count myself among them) seem to appreciate it quite a bit.
SHJON: Most of the time, it's me answering Facebook comments and stuff, but Ryan is on there a lot too. We definitely spend a decent amount of time each day on there… we can't help it! It's really fun to be interacting with metal and prog fans from all over the world. It's like throwing a party every day with all your music friends. You can give each other recommendations of stuff to listen to, discuss guitar playing… anything really. I think a lot of prog fans feel isolated in their local area because the audience for this genre is so spread out, so this is great way for us all to hang out and talk about whatever we're listening to. We're glad you stop by too Milena, it's been fun!
Milena: When is Episode 02 coming our way?
SHJON: Since we're still focusing on promoting Episode 01, the next episode is only in the early planning stages, so we don't really have time frame in place yet for Episode 02. We're just throwing around ideas about potential concepts and music directions at this point. The next thing people hear from us could be another EP, a single song, or a full-length… we really have no idea at this point! Once we get some solid demoing going, we might have a better idea of what's to come. Either way though, we're definitely going to challenge ourselves to speed up the production process this time. Our number one priority will always be quality though, so sometimes we have to let it come together naturally, and not force anything. We'll see what happens I guess.
Milena: Metal has always went hand in hand with dark lyrical themes, but there is a certain trend of bands writing specifically about a dark future we're supposedly heading towards, with technology taking over our lives, shortage of natural resources, bad governing, general apathy… Do you think that, with a bit of a stretch of imagination of course, if nothing changes, a dystopian TV channel not unlike The Deadstation will begin broadcasting somewhere in the 2100's?
SHJON: I think it's definitely in the realm of possibility. If you look at the history of television, people have always been trying to push the boundaries of what they can show to viewers. The more extreme or shocking something appears to be, the higher the viewership will be. Over time, the rules get less and less strict, as people become desensitized to things that were once deemed "inappropriate". We all know that there are things they show on TV today, that would've caused major controversy in the past. I'm sure this trend will only continue into the future, even if the current idea of TV is replaced by some other medium. As long there are media corporations creating mass entertainment as a means to run advertising and sell us products/ideas, I think there's a reasonable chance that something like The Deadstation could exist. It will probably be packaged as something less menacing sounding then "The Deadstation" though. It will probably be something that looks and feels fine on the surface, so it can slip under people's radars, you know?
It's really all about desensitization though. If people see something enough times, they'll start to get used to it, and their emotional reaction becomes dulled. TV programming has to become more and more extreme as time goes on to keep viewers interested. If things continue in the fashion that they have been over the last few decades, there will probably be a point where it really starts to get out of control. Hopefully, we'll have the good sense to recognize it, and then correct ourselves. Who really knows though, none of us are experts. So your guess is as good as mine!
Milena: Can music change the world?
RYAN: Yes. Music can change people, and people can change the world.
SHJON: For sure, let's just hope we change it for the better!
Listen to Episode 1 here.
||Posted on 20.02.2013 by A part of the team since December 2011, writes about the progressive, the sad and the melodic. She's nice until she's not.|
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