Monday, July 27, 2015

The Noob Exchange: Interview with Jonathan Hammer and Drew Pinto of Apoapsis

Firstly, i would like to thank the you and the band for taking the time to answer some questions. I found this record very enjoyable and a fine piece of work. Its very cool of you guys to take the time out of your schedule to do this. Much appreciated!

Jon Hammer (Screams): Thanks for the kind words and doing the interview! We’re glad you enjoy it – we love playing it live.

Drew Pinto (Cleans, Guitar): No problem!

1) How about we start with how you guys formed and came to be the nucleus of what Apoapsis is today?

JH: Apoapsis has always been a sort of “Frankenstein,” for lack of better terms. Drew Pinto (Guitar, Vocals), Martin Jose (Guitar) and I have all been friends since high school, but the band formed in 2011 when Drew Pinto and Martin Jose wrote Standing Tide on Christmas Eve. They cycled through a few drummers, and at the time I hadn’t even learned how to scream yet, and I was a guitarist for a few metalcore and death metal bands. In July of 2012 I helped to co-write lyrics to what would become Forward Motion, and I was originally going to be doing guest vocals on the track, but they eventually asked me to be a full time vocalist. From 2011 to 2014, since we were all in college, the Balance EP was written and recorded at SUNY Purchase; we eventually found our drummer, Brendan Mangiafico, through Craigslist in early 2014, and the match was perfect. After finishing the Balance EP recording, we found our bassist, Peter Parkes, when he filled as a temporary bass player for our first show in November of 2014 – so, overall we’ve had a bit of an odd beginning, but we learned a lot from it. None of us could see the band with anyone else in it now, and we’re happy with the way our live performances and new material is coming along.

2) What is the inspiration for your lyrical content?

JH: For the Balance EP, Drew Pinto and I co-wrote the lyrics; I think the main difference between our writing styles is that my lyrics more often than not have the “I” speaker from my perspective, whereas Drew’s lyrics tell a story, and the “I” is a narrator rather than personalized. My inspiration for the lyrics on Balance came from my own struggles, or the struggles of people I see around me; as I transitioned from high school to college, I started seeing people change based on social situations and the influence of others, which was disheartening. Songs like Forward Motion and Balance are about moving past people who drag you down, for example; whereas, the parts of Don’t Hold Back that I worked on are a bit more uplifting, hahaha – it depends on the context of each song.

DP: It’s funny how it all came together from different angles. Jon writes very meaningful concepts centered on personal matters - and then I chime in with lyrics about living in the ocean. My viewpoint has always been that if you can write lyrics about something, you should explore all avenues.

3) I saw that you guys are influenced by bands like BTBAM. What other bands past or present has been influential to your musical approach? Any particular songs that changed the way you think about music?

JH: Obviously, our band has a progressive background, and there are a lot of technical parts; I think that’s really where the BTBAM/Periphery/etc. influence comes through. From my perspective – someone who listens to Marilyn Manson, This Good Robot, Lamb of God, Carnifex, Underoath and Motionless in White daily – I always believe that simplicity is best, so I always try to provide a “simplistic” view to the technical side of our music. In regards to vocals, I take a lot of influence from Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), and although it doesn’t shine through much on the Balance EP, a lot of the techniques and pronunciations I use come from him, or Marilyn Manson. Some songs that changed my music world and let me pick up on some of the styles I use, or even the style of lyrics I write, are Tourniquet (Marilyn Manson), Forty Six & Two (Tool), Shitstorm (Strapping Young Lad), and Call the Police (This Good Robot).

DP: I would say that most of our influences have related directly to hard rock or metal of varying genres, but not all. We definitely draw influence from heavier bands like Opeth, Misery Signals, Devin Townsend, Animals as Leaders, etc. but different genres have always captured our attention. I personally like to emulate techniques and motifs found in Jazz, Blues, Classical and Folk when writing for the band. Songs that have changed my perception of music and writing in general: “China White” by He Is Legend, “Fuel For the Feeding End” by Coheed and Cambria, “Rainmaker” by Hiromi Uehara, “Serpentine Fire” by Earth Wind and Fire and “Story Within The Story” by Pat Metheny.

4) To be honest, most of the bands ive heard that use the combination of rough vs clean vocals generally dont do it for me. However, you guys utilize the use of that style perfectly without over doing it, making it sound manufactured, or playing it safe. How did you approach your music when applying the vocals? Was there a particular concept in mind when deciding to use both styles?

JH: Not becoming a clichĂ©, especially through vocals, is something that we try to aim for, so thank you – when the band started, I had no idea how to sing, and Drew didn’t know how to scream, though we’re both getting pretty good at what we couldn’t do. Because of that initial lack of ability, I would write lyrics that were meant to be sung that Drew would take and make his own, whereas Drew would write screamed sections that I would take and mess with to make my own; in a way, it worked as a compromise between creative abilities to make something that we both liked and felt fit the song. If I had my say on all screamed sections, they would probably be the most basic 4/4 patterns since that’s mostly what I listen to, so Drew really helps me to mix up rhythms, whereas I’ll typically select the style of scream, annunciation, and any other stylistic choices.

DP: We have always wanted to blend singing and screaming together in our writing. We decided early on that we didn’t want cut-and-paste scream sections and singing sections. In our lyric writing, we will often go through and decide what needs to be screamed and what needs to be sung, based on either rhythmic motif or meaning. I’ve always thought of it as filling in the words with different moods - sort of like coloring in a coloring book.

5) Have you been on any tours recently that you were excited about? Which one stands out the most for you thus far in your career? Any dream tour you would like to be a part of? Being a huge Devin Townsend fan i would personally love to see you guys tour with him at some point.

JH: Despite the fact that we’ve been a band since 2011, we’ve only played a handful of shows due to our situation; I’d absolutely love to go on tour and find Progressive outlets. Devin Townsend would be a dream to tour with – I’d also love to be tour with Veil of Maya one day. In regards to shows, we played one show on April 11, 2015, and even though we were 3rd to last performing, we were asked to do an encore; that really stood out to me, and was definitely one of the moments in my life that reaffirmed that despite any negative critiques we’ve received, people do enjoy our music. In general, performing live is a completely different experience than our studio performance, and I know the whole band is in agreeance that the Balance EP is already outdated in regards to how we’ve progressed as musicians now – our more recent live performances have been so much fun, and I hope when we hit a tour the crowds are as receptive as they’ve been so far.

6) Because bands in the last 15 or so years have been able to promote and release music themselves it seems the metal scene has somewhat become saturated. What Steps do you try to take to separate yourself from the pack when performing, writing, or promoting your image?

JH: I think the music industry as a whole has become saturated, which is both good and bad – it allows for anyone to express themselves creatively, but it’s absolutely destroyed any hopes of financially supporting yourself full time as a musician, which is truly unfortunate, because I do believe artists should be paid for their work. However, something we always strive for is professionalism and performance; the main thing that we attempt to do as a band is work to promote ourselves in ways that builds a brand and makes the audience member not only feel like they’re a part of a show, but to be totally embraced by the music while they’re at one of our shows, whether they’ve heard us before or not. In terms of self-promoting, we write up marketing and promotional plans; I personally send emails and make phone calls for PR, and we try to keep everything as professionally in-house and free until we need to pay for quality. Live, I can’t speak for the rest of the band, as I’m sure they have many influences, but Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan from The Dillinger Escape Plan is someone that I look up to as a frontman for his stage presence, so I’m always hopping in the crowd and starting/joining pits, or trying to crowd surf during intense parts of our songs. Anything to get the crowd feeling what we’re feeling is the way we try to stand out, whether it’s over the internet or in person.

7) I love "Balance" but hate that its too short of a record. By the time im done listening to it im dying for more. Is there more material in the works and if so what can fans expect pushing forward?

JH: Hahaha, funny you mention that; one of the main issues we dealt with is that by the time we played our third show, we were getting asked to perform 1 hour sets when we only have about 35 minutes of music recorded. We’ve worked on a few covers – notably The Fight Song by Marilyn Manson and My Own Summer by The Deftones – but we’re also taking a break from most shows right now in order to continue writing new material. We have two more songs fully completed for our next release, and we’re in the process of writing a few more. I can easily say that, as much as I love the material on Balance, this new stuff makes me more excited to hit the studio and play live than any other band I’ve been with in my life. I don’t know when it will all be done, but it will be a much darker and aggressive record by all means.

8) I have to say i love the melody that Andrew and Martin incorporate in their riffs and song arrangements. It meshes so perfectly with songs like "Dont Hold Back". Overall the mix and production of the record is top notch. What kind of gear does the band use to achieve their particular sound?

JH: I know that both Drew and Martin use passive pickups; Martin rocks a Peavey 6505 and a Schechter guitar. We used several basses on the recording, and the drums are midi on the record through Kontakt 5, though we’re using better programs for the future. I use an SM7b microphone in studio, because I’ve yet to find anything that can handle screaming better; SM58s are great, but I find that they can still clip, though they’re fantastic for live performances.

DP: Thank you! For the recordings Martin and I actually shared his tube amp, a Peavey 6505+. For guitars, Martin used his Schecter C1 Standard, and I used my PRS Singlecut. Our live setup is a little different now, as I’ve tacked on a Mesa Triple Rec and am now using a Dean EVO Special. As far as tone, my EQ setup is slated in favor of mids with high gain and presence, using a Jet City boost pedal, an Electro-Harmonix compression and a Boss noise gate. Martin’s EQ is slated towards lower gain with rolled back lows and high mids, using a Route 66 overdrive, Exotic FX comp and ISP Decimator noise gate. We found our respective tones through our writing sessions - basically through trial and error to solidify tones that could stand alone but also compliment each other.

9) Try to explain the writing process you guys use when coming up with your music. Any particular place or vibe mentally you need to be in, in order to write? Are than any other inspirations or influences the band uses outside of musical ones? Art, books, philosophy, etc?

JH: From a lyrical perspective, I’ve been reading a lot of Carl Jung and other psychoanalytic works, as well as Kurt Vonnegut novels, Nietzschean philosophy, and some historical accounts of Modernism, as well as Modernist poets. I’ve also been reading Tarot Cards for about 2 years now, and I think Occult concepts, especially in relation to Analytical Psychology (Jung’s works) fit well, so there’s a lot I work with there. I’ve taken a huge Modernist influence lately because their wordplay, especially with phonetics, is fantastic – a great example of this in modern music is Marilyn Manson’s The Golden Age of Grotesque, with lines like “My (s)top hat’s/top hat(ed)” from Ka-Boom Ka-Boom among numerous examples of ideas I’ve been influenced from. The next record’s lyrical concepts are much more based on self-exploration, development, and overcoming; some songs lean more heavily on one of the influences I’ve listed above than others, but they all tie together through the theme of “finding one’s self.”

DP: Certain vibes are generally present at our writing sessions. As I mentioned before, sometimes writing will bring us up, and other times it will exhaust us. In this way it’s more of an undeniable force in our lives, rather than an option; it’s something that WILL happen no matter what, and our resulting moods and compositions come after. A lot of our songs can actually be reminiscent of what was going on in our lives, both lyrically and melodically. As far as inspiration, we’ve drawn from books, movies, other songs, people that we know, pretty much anything. 

10) What is the band's opinion or stance on file sharing? This is always a hop topic depending on the artist. Some bands think its fine while others oppose it pretty heavily. Where do you guys stand on this controversial issue? Do you think it helps or hinders artists or do you think it depends on the circumstances and intent? 

JH: I cannot speak on behalf of the entire band, but I will say that regardless of one’s opinion on filesharing, it’s here to stay and it won’t ever disappear; I don’t see a point in trying to fight it. We offered the Balance EP for free on our bandcamp as a way to get our name out there and also to spread our music, though I do feel that for bands at our level, before they get known and people illegally upload your material, this is the only time they can make money, since people actually have to pay for their material. As I said earlier, I do feel that artists deserve to be paid for their material – I think there are multiple ways this can happen, specifically through live support, merch purchases, and crowdfunding, but I definitely feel that if you support a band, you should buy their CD releases the first week they come out. It’s a draconian system, but record companies still base band success off fo first week record sales; I remember when Scar The Martyr released their first album, they sold 3000 copies in the first week and ended up on the Billboard Charts in the mid-100s, which goes to show how few CDs are purchased, since 3000 is not a big amount, even though they had a pretty big success before they lost their vocalist.

11)  Well, that is going to about do it for me. I again want to thank the band for taking the time out to do this. Is there any last words for the reading faithful?

JH: Thanks for the interview, man! We really appreciate your support, and this was a fun one; I’d like to say thank you to anyone who has read this interview or checked out our band, as well as your blog and podcast. I think there’s a big issue in metal with fragmentation – subgenres are what make metal amazing, but sometimes that subgenre fragmentation can lead to elitism or fan fighting, and because one band “sounds too ____” they get hate; that’s one of the main reasons why I’m so thankful you’ve taken time out to do this interview, as well as to give us a Feature on your podcast. In parting, I’d like to say that keeping an open mind is key to enjoying and finding new and good music, and I hope that anyone who listens to your podcast finds something new they enjoy!

1) Ballistic
2) Standing Tide
3) Forward Motion
4) Dont Hold Back
5) From Within
6) Balance

Genre: Progressive/Extreme Metal
Rating: 9/10

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