Progressive music supergroup The Aristocrats have announced their new album, their fourth, You Know What…?, due out on June 28th. The band features guitarist Guthrie Govan, bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Marco Minnemann and like their previous albums, we expect You Know What…? to be full of surprises. Each band member wrote three songs each and produced the album themselves at Brotheryn Studios, Ojai, California. Continue reading
“Tool and Meshuggah on the Lateralus tour. For me, this was a perfect lineup. No filler; just two bands that I love.”
“Meshuggah and Strapping Young Lad. Strapping Young Lad was opening for Meshuggah and touring for the SYL album. A great crowd crush with lots of booze.”
“Steven Wilson on the Raven that Refused to Sing tour. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more dynamic band. Marco Minnemann expanded and contracted the entire band at will. Guthrie Govan is probably the best modern electric guitarist. It ruled.”
Black Crown Initiate just wrapped up touring with Deicide and is still supporting their release from earlier in 2015, Wreckage of the Stars (eOne).
Marco Minnemann is a talented man comfortable wearing many hats. renowned for his drumming in many high-profile projects such as The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani, Levin/Minneman/Rudess (LMR), and countless others, Marco is one of the most respected musician in the world. His solo career has been equally fulfilling and affords him opportunities to be in total control of the creative process, playing all the instruments as well as handling production duties. His new album Celebration (Lazy Bones Recordings) has just been released, and we conducted a Q & A interview over email, to learn more about his creative process, how he deals with challenges in the studio, and the sound of the next album from The Aristocrats.
Celebration is a great title that conjures a lot to mind. What does the title mean to you and what creative frame of mind were you in when you began to write the album?
It started off as a writing process for an album with a fairly dark vibe around it, which I wanted to name ‘Above the Roses’. After re-listening I just didn’t feel that the album was complete the way it sounded like. So I kept writing songs and then basically made a selection of songs I thought would make a statement. And all of a sudden, voila. I had one album that I called ‘Celebration’, leading through aggressive, sparkling and into film music like vibes and missions. And then there’s the more vocal laden, dark song focused ‘Above The Roses’ I just finished now, it will come out as a special vinyl and download edition, but more of that later. ‘Celebration’ just got released and needs the attention now.
Since the topic is partially about Roses, in songs symbolically and in artwork, I thought that Celebration might be a good title.
The album is definitely diverse, but has some of your heaviest songs of your solo albums. Is that a by- product of some of your other bands you are in, rubbing off on your solo work?
That clearly would be a no, as I think that some of the material on Celebration is actually heavier than what we do with the bands I currently play in.
I mean, if we’re playing the category game, maybe then Joe Satriani could be Rock, Aristocrats instrumental Rock/Jazz, And Steven Wilson more well, prog and ambient pop/rock.
On my albums I just really compose for what is needed for ‘the mission’.
You have definitely “arrived” on Celebration as a vocalist and lyricist. Do you think this was an important step for you artistically?
Thank you. But if you look into my solo back catalogue that so far holds 14 albums, I wrote, played and sang as well. But thanks again for appreciating.
As you have become more hands on (creating, playing/tracking, producing/mixing/mastering) with each new project is it more troublesome to wear so many hats, or a relief to be able to oversee it all with confidence?
It’s great I think, because when you know exactly what you want and are able to translate it, instrumentally and production wise, then it’s a fairly seamless and rewarding process. See, my studio is pretty much dialed in to my needs. So once I have a sound in mind I really just record, then add tracks, basically mixing while doing this, and soon the ‘house’ comes together :-).And honestly, it’s so cool that meanwhile you can carry amazing production softwares in your note book. Then along with a few good audio interfaces and outboard recording gear, you can do deliver a great production, that would’ve costed a fortune about 20 years ago.
Is there a style of music you have yet to incorporate into your solo work, that you haven’t yet, but would like to try?
Hmm, I don’t really think that way. I really just do and play what I feel fits the vibe of the composition.
On Celebration, is there a single performance you can name as most gratifying to you?
Hahaha, well, I was doubling my vocals to that guitar solo I recorded on ‘How Can I Help You?’ And I’m not really a trained singer, so fuck, I was punching in numerous times in order to nail that thing. And then later I listened back and couldn’t help laughing, because it came out quite cool, and I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off at first :-). Also, I’m quite happy on how the vibe in ‘4000’ succeeded. I used the chains at the port in Marseille, sampled them and then put them in to additional reverb, undermining the vibe of these fairly ‘evil’ and dark vibes and chords in that song. I wanted to create a haunted environment. And that one came out quite intense I think, as I wanted to achieve it..
You have an intense touring schedule this year with all of your many projects. How do you keep your sanity on the road?
Girls :-). hahaha. What can I say…. well, seriously, with a good and professional organization you learn to feel at home on the road. Good and comfortable travels and schedules are important.
What can you tell us about the upcoming new album from The Aristocrats?
It’s pretty much contains compositions more focused on song structures, rather than soloing, well, hat happens of course too in places, hahaha. But Tres Caballeros is a tad different once again from the last album. Actually, the difference is that this time we have a Spanish album title and wore hats in the desert :-)).
Necrophagist is like the Loch Ness Monster of metal! Do you ever have contact with Muhammed (Suiçmez)? Do you think we will ever hear from that band again, or any other project from Muhammed and yourself?
Well, can’t say too much there. Necrophagist is Muhammed’s project/band, he’s a fiend of mine. But the rest about any release can only be assumed. And I have a lot of things going on myself here, that occupy all of this and next year as well, which is a good problem to have I think 🙂
Ghost Cult is proud to bring you a stream of the a new song from Marco Minnemann, ‘Miami’. The track comes off of the just released solo album Celebration (Lazy Bones Recordings). Hear the song below:
Celebration is the follow up to 2014’s EEPS album (also from Lazybones), the first 1000 fans to buy a copy get an autographed CD, and other signed items are available as well.
World renowned drummer/multi-instrumentalist Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, The Aristocrats, Joe Satriani, Levin/Minnemann/Rudess, The Necrophagist) has released a new solo album entitled Celebration from Lazy Bones Recordings. The album includes 18 tracks seeing Marco play all the instruments and vocals. He also co-produced the album with Scott Schorr and mixed and mastered some of the album as well. The album is an eclectic group of songs ranging from progressive rock, metal, pop songs and more Jazz influenced tracks as well. The first 1000 people to buy the album will get a copy personally autographed from Marco as well. You can purchase the album here:
Celebration Album Trailer:
Marco has a busy remainder of 2015 planned. He has a world tour booked with Joe Satriani as well as a lengthy tour booked and new album due from The Aristocrats.
To say that Marco Minnemann is one of the greatest drummers in the world would be an understatement. Putting together an impressive body of work in progressive rock, and metal with a who’s who of bands a bands and projects such as The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani, Adrian Belew, Levin Minnemann Rudess, Necrophagist and many more, Marco ought to be even more of a household name. Perhaps owing to his humility and his German roots, Marco is a rarity in this business: proud but well grounded, appreciative for everything his talent has brought him in life. Promoting his new solo album, EEPS (Lazybones Records) Omar Cordy traded some thoughts with Marco for Ghost Cult via email.
How long was this project in the works?
I’m always writing music. It just belongs to my universe it seems, hahaha. So once there is enough material for an album ready I choose the songs for the right vibe and mission and then the thing will be completed. Eeps in particular was written and recorded mostly during the road in 2013 and at home January-February 2014.
As the sole creative force, what was the writing process like?
I usually write from a theme that sort of either way falls from the sky, in the form of a guitar riff, melody or groove, … Or from a vibe a purposely want to create. These things I never force, I just grab the best ideas when they show up and then build on it.
The songs I’ve heard have a very loose feel to them. Was a click track used or did you just “go for it”?
Half and half I’d say. I mainly use a click track, to keep a possible sequencer option open.
But I do like a feel that sounds ‘lively’, not to be confused with un-tightness , hahaha ;-)). I in fact like precision in playing and recording, but I leave a loose feel or also bleeding into microphones on certain tracks, as long as a groove feels right.
Did you use Roland V drums and or DW drums for the recording?
I used 2 different set ups: A DW cherry wood kit and a DW Jazz custom kit, both recorded in different rooms. On the track Eeps, the intro is in fact a Roland TD 20.
I dig the up-beatness of ‘OC/DC’, it feels like a playful 60’s era song. It just seems happy. Was that what you had in mind when you choose to make it the 1st video?
The first video was done by Scott Schorr and a friend of his. He also runs the label Lazybones Recordings and helped greatly with this album here.
And thanks for your nice words on OC/DC. That song was really just a fun experiment, playing everything in one take pretty much without giving a shit and detuning all instruments. I just wanted to see if that approach works and how it would sound like. So it’s just basically ‘controlled chaos’. But I’m happy that some people got it.
You’re mainly known as a drummer, will we be seeing more guitar session work from you in the future?
I’ve been playing guitar on my albums for almost 20 years now. So, ‘yes’, you’ll hear more guitar from me. For example on the LMR project (Levin Minnemann Rudess).
Do you find playing guitar makes it easier to write for yourself or with others?
Absolutely. When I write music on the guitar I really just focus on the drums later to compliment the song. Also when writing for the Aristocrats as an example I basically write for a ‘stringed’ trio.. And writing on a guitar on bass then, definitely helps to translate into the music that the trio is going for.
At this point in your career do you still find time to practice or are you too busy working with others?
Well, I think that composing, recording and performing really is an ongoing process, isn’t it? But I do practice things that I’m interested in and want to be able to explore of course. Also, I really play everyday, music just belongs there in everyday life it seems. And I feel like I’m missing something if I haven’t had a certain dose of it. Like food.
What other projects have you worked on recently that we should be on the look out for?
Hmmm, I’m touring with Joe Satriani right now. Then also with the Aristocrats. Recording wise there’s a new Steven Wilson album in the making. A new Aristocrats album and also Joe’s new recordings. So…, life won’t be boring it seems for a while ;-)).
What was your first concert you ever played?
My first concert I ever played was when I was 12 years old, my drum teacher at that time wanted me to go onstage and play a few songs. Man, and I was soooooo scared. I just sat there thinking ‘don’t fuck up… Just make it though the song… C’mon you can do it’. And then after I played a little solo spot within the song arrangement, people started to applaud. That’s when I basically ‘woke up’, and I saw all these smiling faces looking at me. And then all of sudden I didn’t want to leave the stage anymore, hahaha. It felt so rewarding that people brought the energy back in return to what I’ve worked for. So that moment pretty much defined that music is passion and a dedication for me.
Davide Tiso makes for one of the most fascinating characters to study in the entire realm of heavy music. Through the entity that is Ephel Duath, Tiso has been blending the very best of experimental music, harsh contrasting styles, and deft philosophical lyrics for over a decade now. He has always had a singular purpose, but now he is fully in control of his destiny via a fruitful partnership with Agonia Records. Plus, he has cohorts who can match his talent and vision, such as Karyn Crisis, Marco Minnemann, and Bryan Beller, and he can fulfill his artistic vision. Chief Editor Raymond Westland interviewed Tiso about a range of topics, yielding some surprising answers.
Congrats on releasing such a strong and convincing album as Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness. Are you happy the way it turned out?
I’m very, very proud of Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness. I did my best to put together some meaningful pieces of music, I got an exceptional line up performing the songs and one of the best extreme metal producers out there working at my side. The album’s artwork is absolutely gorgeous and so are the formats and packaging available: yes, I’m happy for the way everything turned out.
The album has a rather enigmatic title. What’s the meaning behind it?
Ephel Duath has always been a band that feeds itself with opposites: lightness and heaviness, empty and full spaces, colors and darkness. The new album pushes this dichotomy even more, and I felt like marking the title itself with it.
There’s a constant search for dark sounds in my songs but there’s no real darkness without light. My music often diverge towards softer melodic parts just to create more tension, this way the release gain a much more dramatic effect. Lightness plays an important role in Ephel Duath just because it is in direct function and symbiotic correlation with heaviness. My lyrics and Karyn’s raw, lacerating way of singing my words, mark even more clearly how important are contrasts for this band: the harsh juxtaposition between this abstract and surreal music with these visceral, painful words create an odd balance that perfectly represent myself and Ephel Duath in 2013.
Can you take us through the motions of writing and recording the album?
I started working on these new songs right after we recorded 2012 EP On Death and Cosmos. From the second half of 2011 and the whole 2012 I did nothing but writing new music for Ephel Duath.
Drums for Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness were recorded by Marco Minnemann in the 2012 summer. Bass was recorded by Bryan Beller in September/October 2012. In February 2013 Karyn Crisis and I flew to Mana Recording Studios in St. Petersburg, FL, to record guitars and vocals with Erik Rutan. We finally mixed and mastered the album this past July and August.
Working on the album spanned in almost a two years period. Composing the music was overall a pretty smooth process, I experienced a burst of creativity and inspiration that let me nail one song after the other in a relative short amount of time. It took me more time to write the lyrics, I wanted to heavily dig inward in my head this time around and I took all the time I needed to make any words count. Recording, mixing and mastering the album has been a long and fragmented process. I’m glad we opted to book some extra weeks to mix and master because we badly needed more time. Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness reaches over 50 minutes and being the music so layered and structurally complex we didn’t feel like rushing anything just because we were passing the deadline. Both the studio and the label have been accommodating and understanding through all this process and now the album sounds like it should.
As writer and composer what are things you’re aiming for when working on Ephel Duath material?
When I work on new material for Ephel Duath I aim to use music notes to walk myself and the occasional listener to the place I hide in my head. This band might be the most truthful tool I found to open up and reveal my inner self. Being this course of action so intimate, I often feel I should not even share Ephel Duath’s music with people. Not every listener out there feels like entering in someone else troubled mindset just for the purpose of listening a piece of music. Some people just want to listen music to be entertained, not to be challenged and how can I really blame them? I am so protective of Ephel Duath because I frankly don’t see its music like a way of communicate with people but my own personal vehicle to come to terms with myself.
Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness is the album where I most successfully shut down that wall that protects me from the external. This is the album where I blindly immersed myself in my head the most, without even try to filter my words and my music for fear of revealing too much. This music will now be dissected by reviews and people’s comments: I’m not looking forward for that. With each new album, I’m not trying to gain a wider public, I’m trying to express myself more and more but to do so truly, I cannot afford to worry about what people’s reaction to my music might be.
Ephel Duath is signed with Agonia Records nowadays. How is it like to work with them compared to Earache records?
The main difference to underline is straight and simple: Ephel Duath is one of Agonia’s priorities; we never had the same status at Earache. I can’t stretch enough the importance to be in this position: after so many years playing this music, I’m very glad to have found a label that blindly supports the band. Agonia is doing an excellent job promoting Ephel Duath. They believe in my music, they are betting on my music and they are going way overboard to offer me the very best they can. Our new album is coming out in a limited double gold vinyl edition, how awesome is that? I’m very grateful for having such dedicated people working for my Ephel Duath. Another difference between the two labels to underline is that I’m in a position of total control with Agonia. Everything concerning Ephel Duath is discussed together, every decision we make needs my final approval.
Two years ago you decided to turn Ephel Duath basically into a one man project with a revolving cast of musicians in order to execute your musical ideas. What prompted this decision and how do you see things in regards of this nowadays?
This band is my own personal trip since many years, not just two. I composed every song and lyrics for Ephel Duath since 2001. Recently I just opted to work with exceptional session musicians as rhythmic section to make the whole process smoother and faster. Since I live in the US I never found a full line up for Ephel Duath, plus now I have a regular full time job: I can’t keep dedicating much time looking for musicians to jam, I prefer to spend my energy composing the best songs I can and hire professionals to record for me. This specific choice is making each release more economically demanding but in terms of musicianship, well, these new songs are reaching so much dynamic, expression and character. This is so rewarding for me, I’m investing all I have in this band and I want the best for this band. I aim to keep putting out albums that are strong statements and will stand the test of time. I feel very grateful for the opportunity I have to share and perform my music with such talented musicians.
With Bryan Beller and Marco Minnemann in the band you have one of the most talented and coveted rhythmic section within (experimental) rock and metal. How is it like to work with them for you as bandleader and composer?
As a songwriter, it is extremely refreshing and liberating to have such strong collaborators at my side. When I send the pre-production of my songs to Marco Minnemann, I know that he will promptly send me back the files with his parts to listen to. It is incredible how professional, fast and efficient Marco is. I feel that he’s able to adapt his drumming to my guitar style in such an elegant and eclectic way. Every guitar’s accent is interpreted and enchanted by the drums and there is definitely a good, magic at times, alchemy between us two.
Working with Bryan Beller for the bass parts has been absolutely great too. His parts are literally locking guitars and drums to each other and they add power, attack and heaviness to each and every riff. Bryan’s bass lines are very rock music oriented and his tone is so warm, rounded and well balanced: it perfectly complements my guitar ones.
Hemmed By Light is recorded with Erik Rutan. What did he bring to the table as far as ideas go?
Structuring, recording and mixing this album was pretty challenging. There’s really a lot going on in each song, Erik and I tried our very best to make any instrument, any part, any detail shine on its own and cohesively work together. Dealing with my guitars’ panning was particularly difficult. My parts resemble the shape of a spider web more than a typical metal rhythmic + solo guitar structure: every riff has different layers and harmonization’s that come in and, sometime, abruptly go out. Mixing wise, my guitars cannot be easily separated in left and right: Erik was extremely helpful adapting his way of working to this album’s special needs and he worked so very hard to make these songs dynamic and crushing. After few days of working together in studio we realized that nailing the right guitar panning was crucial for this specific album, especially for what concerned the heaviness of the music itself. We opted recording every guitar part twice and panning everything in stereo with different spectrums’ opening percentages; the result is a pretty odd and unique listening experience that grows and slowly reveal itself at every spin.
Since I live in the US I keep choosing Erik Rutan for my productions because of his talent, dedication and military work ethic. Erik expects nothing but the best in terms of performances by the musicians he chooses to work with and he’s not that shy to let you know when you are playing sloppy. His perfect pitch hears and his attention for details is absolutely out of the ordinary and the results of such hard work pay back profusely. My music needs a producer that is ready to commit 100% to the songs and it’s ready to take the music to the next level: Rutan is giving me that, plus the drive of an extra band member and the support of a great friend.
What touring plans do you have in support of Hemmed By Light?
We just started booking an April 2014 European tour with Nero di Marte as main support. For updates and more info about ED please check facebook.com/ephelduathofficial. Thank you for the interview and support!
Tony Levin is the dean of progressive rock bassists. In his storied career he has been most closely associated with Peter Gabriel, and his smash success of the mid-1980s. As one of the most innovative players ever, Tony has also been aligned King Crimson, as well as other musical luminaries. Tony just added one more feather to his musical cap with his stunning collaboration with Marco Minnemann and Jordan Rudess in their eponymous band. With their debut album they are rewriting progressive music history, and once again Tony is front, center and way down low. Ghost Cult caught up with the venerable Mr. Levin via email, while he is on tour in Europe.
Please tell us how Levin Minnemann Rudess came together to make this album?
The idea started with producer Scott Schorr coming to me to do another ‘project’ recording, with some of my favorite musicians. I’d done one a year ago with Alan White and David Torn, that got some nice attention from the progressive rock fans. So, I chose Marco (whom I’d toured with a bit, in Eddie Jobson’s UKZ band) and Jordan Rudess (from Dream Theater, and we’d done two Liquid Tension Experiment albums together) as a couple of wild players… and I was ready to be surprised by the outcome.
What was the writing process like? Was it more improvisational, or did you all come in with some pieces to work on?
Usually, in this situation, you start out doing some jams, and then use them, or write around them. This time though we started with composing sections, first I did, then Marco — and before long, we had more material than could fit on the CD, and it was GOOD stuff. So though Jordan and I did some jamming, intending to add Marco later, that couldn’t make it onto the record (we did include the video of it in the Deluxe Edition with DVD.)
The important thing to me isn’t how the pieces are formed, it’s the quality of what you end with — I’ve been in other situations where jams led to great tracks — so I’m really happy with this release that I still enjoy listening to all the tracks, and will for some time.
Like much of your work, the bass is equally a lead and supporting instrument on this album. Do you work out some of you more solo-y parts ahead of time or did you record them live on the spot?
Different on different pieces. Some of the stuff I wrote had bass or Stick (or cello) featured in some of the sections — never all of them, because it’s important to me to leave room for the other guys to add their own flavor to the piece.) On other pieces, instigated by Marco, there were bass ideas of his, that I just copied, or a little space for me to come up with something.
I’m okay with the bass being both supporting and lead on the album, but it’s not important to me that it take the lead – just that the level of the music is high, and that my bass playing supports what the band and the compositions are about.
I love the classic sound of the LMR band as a power trio. Marco played guitar on the album, so any thought to adding someone for future live dates or for a next album?
Good point — the guitar added a lot. We have no plans for a tour right now (because we’re all very booked up with other tours!) But we’re hoping there will be a follow up album before long, and that we’ll tour when that comes out. Whether we’ll add another player for that tour will be decided when the time comes.
When LMR eventually plays live, do you envision the songs being performed more freely for experimentation?
Wow, you’re good at thinking off into the future — we haven’t discussed that at all. I know I love improv – whether it’s completely free form, or based on themes – so my vote will be to do some.
I didn’t know you played the cello! What other instruments are lurking around your home studio that may show up on an album someday that would surprise your fans?
I have lots of basses, and a couple of Chapman Sticks, all in my studio, but aside from the electric cello, that’s about it — those are more than enough to keep this bass player challenged!
You have played on countless, classic albums. Do you have an album, or a particular era of a band you consider among your finest work?
No, I don’t. I don’t spend much time thinking back on what albums I’ve done (usually only when doing interviews, in fact!) And I’m also not big on picking favorites… of albums or bands or players. I have a lot of respect for all the players, and artists, and albums that have moved me with their music — whatever the style of it. That’s where a lot of the inspiration comes to me to try to make my own playing and writing as creative and progressive as I can.
Since you are already working with Jordan again, is there any chance you will do another Liquid Tension Experiment album someday, or is that off the table since Mike split with John and Dream Theater?
We’ve got no plans for that – haven’t discussed it even — but using your metaphor of the table, I wouldn’t take any creative music ideas off the table… let’s keep them all there, and hope they come alive.
You were really on the forefront of blogging and social media from the music world. What about that medium is the thing that is most valuable to you as an artist?
I discovered back in the 90’s that on my website I could let music fans see what it’s like behind the scenes on a Peter Gabriel or King Crimson tour — even showing them my photos of themselves — the audience — which I try to shoot at each show.
Since then, progress in digital cameras in web speed has allowed much bigger photos than I started with, but what’s remained the same is the great opportunity to take down some of that wall that exists between performers and their audience.
Nowadays social media have blasted the wall down – so it’s not a radical idea for bands to communicate with their fans.
I know you are hitting the road now with Peter Gabriel soon. When can we expect some LMR dates to pop up?
This tour with Peter will only be for a month – but next year is looking pretty busy for me — pretty soon we’ll put our heads together and choose a schedule for the next recording period. Right now, we’re just basking in the new record, how much we like it, and how great the reception has been so far, from the people who are hearing it.
What advice can you give to a young musician starting out on bass or the stick?
I’m not a great advice guy… more of a student than a teacher. I guess I’d just speak from my own experience, and say that having the chance to play music, with cool players, and sometimes whatever music you want to play – it’s a really special thing. I’ve appreciated it more and more as the years have gone by. You get focused on how many people came to the show, or how many cd’s you sold – but it’s worth keeping in mind how lucky you are to just be doing it, if even for yourself.
Super-groups are everywhere in 2013, but nowhere more-so than in progressive music. It seems the milk of creativity is bringing some of the best names in the world together, is producing killer new albums. One such group is Levin Minnemann Rudess, and their stellar, new album LMR (Lazy Bones Recordings). Continue reading
Guitarist extraordinaire Guthrie Govan may not be the most prolific musician around, but he’s one of the most respected and in demand players around. He recently toured with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) in support of The Raven Who Refused To Sing album and he is also about to release a new album with The Aristocrats, his other musical project with fellow musical mavericks Bryan Beller (Dethklok, James LaBrie) and Marco Minnemann (Adrian Belew Power Trio, Kreator). Ghost Cult caught up with Guthrie as he returns from a clinic tour in Brazil.. Continue reading