Instrumental music is often a tedious affair at best. Many bands over indulge themselves in overly complex music and instrumental masturbation. Prog/fusion outfit Scale The Summit are a rare breed, because they actually care about writing memorable compositions. Their considerable technical prowess serves to cement their music, instead of taking centre stage. Guitarist and main composer Chris Letchford is more than happy to provide some insights on everything Scale The Summit…
Hi there and thank you for doing this interview. What’s the latest in the Scale The Summit world?
We just hit the road for our first tour in support of our new album The Migration. First show is actually tonight in Colorado Springs. Excited, we haven’t played a show since our last headlining tour in Sept of last year.
What I really like about Migration is the rich/lush textures in the song material, but at the same the compositions are very concise and structured. What’s your take on this?
Thanks, appreciate that. I’m always striving to get better with song writing, when we first started I really did grasp the importance of song structure, dynamics, etc… I have really been working hard on those aspects way back since we finished our first of 4 albums. I agree with you and I’m glad to hear you received all of that from this record. We definitely spent a lot of time organizing the song structure and really incorporating a lot more texture and dynamics.
The artwork for Migration is rather elaborate. What does it represent?
With our title The Migration we wanted something that still fit the organic/nature theme that we are costumed to using, while going the direction of a more green themed cover. Duncan Storr’s style was perfect for this, plus I have always wanted artwork in the style of the prog legends YES. Artwork has always been important to us, without having lyrics we like to make sure we have great imagery to help with the adventurous vibes that come out in the music. I couldn’t be happier with this artwork, will be hard to top on the next record!
How would you like to describe the recording sessions for The Migration compared to previous experiences? What were you guys striving for?
This time it was purely that organic and natural sound I have always envisioned for the band. Jamie King was the first to understand so far what we meant when we said “Organic” or “Natural” and nailed it with this album. We actually go into the studio with our albums fully written and learned, so we can get right to work recording. We always make changes on the go while in the studio, but it usually remains about 90% where it was before we entered the studio. Sometimes you can’t really grasp until they are recorded where you can sit back and listen instead of trying to listen while playing. We started this time recording all of the guitars first to a click track. Then we tracked all drums to those guitars and then added the bass last. It worked out great, leaving us time to go back and re-do a couple parts and spend more time getting all the sounds exactly how we wanted them. As for mixing, we all went home and mixed via email with Jamie, which went really smooth. He would send us one large mix of the entire record and we would send him back a timed list of notes. I think there were only 5 cycles of that process and we were done! Definitely recording with Jamie again for future records, he just “got it”, which made things so easy to get the final copy exactly how we pictured it.
Migration forms the recording debut for Mark Michell. How is he fitting into the band and what did he bring to the table as far ideas and energy goes?
Mark is a lifesaver. He has already brought so much into the band from improved bass tone and playing in a live setting, and now that we were able to finally record with him we got to see that side. He knows a ton of theory and has perfect pitch so communicating on how parts in the songs go went smoother than ever. Recording went great as well, really fast tracker and a perfectionist so wouldn’t just move on for the sake of moving on. Played all parts until they were perfect. His energy live and just helping the business side of the band has been the biggest thing and a huge relief and help for me. I handle most all duties for the band, so it’s nice to have someone excited to help out with the more “work” related tasks. He also wrote the ending of “Oracle” and the all one track bass song “Evergreen”, which most people think is bass and guitar, its actually all performed at one time on bass, the bass line played while also playing the harmonics on the bass. Awesome stuff, excited for all the stuff we’ll write together in the future!
How do you manage to keep your music interesting, without resorting to vocals or overly complicated guitar wankery?
It honestly just happens. It’s not something I really think about when writing the music. The climax’s and breaks in the songs kind of just come naturally, so I guess you can say it’s more based around luck. I do hold back on the “wankery” as I do like focusing on song form more, since this is an instrumental band and not a solo project for a guitar player. All the instruments play an equal role, so they all have their moments to shine throughout each record.
Scale The Summit is going to tour with Intronaut this summer. What are your expectations?
I think it will be great. We had been planning to tour with Intronaut for 3 years now, but timing as always been off. The first time they landed a Mastodon tour, which of course led to them cancelling the tour with us, who could blame them, anyone would do the same. I’m of course nervous for them at the same time since it’s their first headlining tour. We did our first headlining tours ever last year and we were nervous as hell to see if anyone cared to come see us play an 80 minute set. I was mistaken, a lot of people cared, which lead to a second and third headliner last year. It was awesome being able to do a full sound check and play songs from all albums. What really helps with this tour is all 3 bands have a new album out and we haven’t toured in 8 months since we took a break to write and record The Migration. Hopefully people are going through Scale The Summit withdrawal.
The band has earned a lot of praise from bands like Between The Buried And Me, Dream Theater and Cynic. How does that make you feel?
Incredible. I still remember the day I received the phone call asking if we wanted to tour with Dream Theater. If we wanted to? Are you kidding me! This was something I thought we would have had to work up to over the course of something like 8 years of solid smaller scale touring. It came as our first real, full length tour. It was an experience I will never forget. BTBAM have been friends of ours for a while so it was an honour to tour with them and then of course Cynic. Each of those three bands really shows how important it is to stick around, super professional on tour, and really take it seriously. It really helped keep our minds on track of what it takes to make music a career. We’ll be thankful to all 3 for the rest of our careers for giving us the chance to tour with them. Will never be able to tell them thank you enough!
What will the rest of this year be like as far as touring and other possible projects go?
We have a festival on the east coast that I’m beyond excited about. Plus we’ll likely be doing another larger support tour as well, before we start headlining in 2014. As for projects I’m trying to get my all clean more contemporary jazz album finished, at least with writing it. So hopefully it all works outs