I have never been the biggest fan of London, but, since this was where Visionary Promotions
were hosting their first major show, so I felt that it was essential to go down as a delegate of Ultimate-Guitar
and Visionary Promotions
itself. The show itself would be at the Purple Turtle in Camden, somewhere that I had never been, and I was planning to interview three people.
They were UG members:
DeliriumBassist, who was performing with his band Sworrm
Aidy Damage, who was performing with his band Chasing Melfina
Steve The Plank, who was performing with his band The Fury
It was certainly an interesting trip. As soon as I arrived at Euston station, I found myself being talked to by a young woman raising awareness of a children's charity and then by an extremely racist older woman. It was all quite comical and, as I journeyed around London, my little group of people grew. First, I met up with Aidy, who was my little guide around the underground, then we met with his band, and finally Jon from the Edinburgh branch and his partner, Susan. The entourage eventually peaked as we arrived at the venue itself. After that, it shot down again as everybody disappeared and I started to feel quite lost.
Thankfully, the arrivals of first Ben and Sworrm and then Steve and The Fury (though he didn't introduce himself at first) made it easier. Other than the UG members in question, the only person from those bands who introduced himself by name was Steve's front man, Andy. Later, we had the arrival of Helena, rigiddigits on the forums. She was my female entertainment for the evening in case things weren't so impressive.
All in all, the music was more impressive that any live show that I have ever been to in my life. There was a lot of dashing around, talking to people I'd never met, and, at some point, I realised that there was absolutely nobody there whom I had met as much as twelve hours previous. It was oddly terrifying, yet quite thrilling at the same time to be without an anchor or a safety zone. Eventually, I got my interviews for the people here at UG as well.
The first interview will be with DeliriumBassist, real name Ben Hagens. Ben plays bass guitar for progressive band Sworrm. We had exchanged the usual pleasantries ahead of time, so we ended up just leaping straight into it.
UG: What was it that first got you interested in the music business and becoming a performer?
DeliriumBassist: Performing music is something I had done on and off for about 11-12 years, since I was 7 years old to varying degrees of success. Playing music is an art, and art should be put on show, either in the gallery or on the stage in the case of music. So there I was, playing whatever instrument I was playing at the time, thinking "well, what would the point be in playing if no-one gets to hear me? What's the point in expression if there's no-one to make an impression on?" So the need to perform was always a natural thing for me, even when I was 7 years old.
Becoming interested in the business is a different matter. It wasn't a case of one day thinking "oh, I'll pursue music." I went to university to do a degree in Biomedical Sciences, where during my third year I got taking to an old friend, who offered the opportunity to try out for his band, which was generating some label interest. At that point in time, it was a no-brainer. I had to refuse - it would've been silly to throw away all my hard work in academics at that point. Luckily, I was offered the opportunity to try out again when I finished university,which was successful. We signed a record deal with Kampas Records and became part of the music business. It wasn't something I actively seeked out, but it wasn't something that fell on my lap either- every gig you play and every hour you practice is a stepping stone towards that contract. For many it doesn't happen, and I honestly feel so unbelievably lucky, but the luck doesn't come until you've put the hard work in.
Are you still planning to pursue the academic career or has music become such a large part of your life that you find it hard to imagine giving it up?
I have my degree now, so that stays with me for life. The way things can be taught these days with the internet has become so advanced that if things really take off in the business I can pursue education on the side- Duff McKagan did it, so I see no reason why I can't. If things don't work out- and often, they don't- then I have something to fall back on. I definitely feel waiting until I got my degree was the best decision.
You mentioned that you're signed under a label, but you've also said that the label never actually saw your band in performance before signing you. What were their reasons for signing you without a physical performance?
To be perfectly honest, the wheels were in motion before I joined the band, so I'm not too hot on the details. I do know Steve (singer/guitarist) sent demos out to everywhere, and Kampas Records in Finland picked it up. I had never seen the band perform before joining either, so I think both the label and I joined up on the merit of the music presented.
Well you certainly seemed to be at home up on the stage when I first saw you. What made you so enthusiastic to be involved when it came to Ultimate-Guitar sponsoring a festival. You were one of the first people to put your name down.
I distinctly remember when the idea was first brought up, and like a lot of people I had reservations - a lot of work is involved, as well as a lot of money and luck. But it's something new, and it's something exciting. How often do you get to be part of the birth of a new festival? The organisation team has a good head on it's shoulders and are a good bunch of people to boot. It's an honour to be a small part of that. This entire process is also on a personal level- getting to travel around a bit, meet new people and listen to some great bands I wouldn't have otherwise.
Well you're being fairly flattering to us there. If I may, what did you enjoy and dislike about the London show which you both attended and performed for?
Free alcohol would've been great, but you can't win them all, eh?
It was a really good night in all honesty. The Fury were a definite highlight- very impressive for a band so young. Again, meeting new people and seeing things starting to pull together are huge highlights. It's exciting times indeed.
As an audience member, it was a good show. Great bands, great sound. As a performer, it was a joy to perform at a good venue. We've played some dark and dank places in the past and while you always try and give the best performance possible, you always step up your game at places with good monitoring and a good vibe. It really shows on the recording of our set.
I believe you were playing songs from your album? I know The Fury were selling CDs, but I don't believe that you guys were else I would have bought one. Care to give us a little information about the album itself?
We're looking at recording a full length album in the first quarter of 2010 backed by the label. There's still a lot of ideas up in the air about where we want to go with it. The band has tried to cut a tracklist twice, and both times it's come out completely different. The next couple of months will basically be looking around studios, sorting out artwork and packaging, business decisions and the like. We've got a few EPs and demos floating around, as well as the single "All I See."
We expect the album to be out in the Summer, and then the idea is to tour it's ass off.
Were all of the songs written before you joined or have you managed to sneak in some creative input here and there?
I've been lucky enough to be allowed to bring in new basslines for existing songs, which I'm very thankful for. With some of the new things we've been writing, I've been given space for some nice melodic basswork up the fretboard, which is something you don't often see in the kind of music we play. It's all well and good being a solid foundation, but I want to show off sometimes too.
I spotted you doing that a couple of times actually. You are very talented. Do you follow a particularly rigorous training regime or are you a more relaxed player?
Truth be told, I played more bass at uni than I did studying. I tend to go through phases of intense practice, but I'll have my bass or my guitar in hand every day. I'll experiment with new techniques, genres... it keeps everything fresh. If you limit yourself, then what's the point? At the moment I'm experimenting with using a mix of flatwound strings (E-G) with a roundwound low B, which is getting me some very interesting tone variations which will find it's way into some solo bass work when I manage to find the time.
Is the band lifestyle being particularly hectic since being signed? What other differences do you find when being signed?
We're early days with the label, so to be honest, there hasn't been much change on that front just yet, although I fully expect, and will welcome, very busy periods.
People seem to expect more from you when they find out you have a record deal. Some bands will try their hardest to show you up, and so they should. A show is about the music and the fans, and if there's anything that's going to help you step up that game, you should focus on that.
Have you ever found it difficult to motivate yourself to make music? I know a lot of people on UG have suffered from that.
In the beginning, yes. I used to get so frustrated. As I grew older and more mature, I opened up my music tastes to pop, hip hop, older prog... a multitude of things. By enriching my music taste I've been bombarded with ideas. Many of which won't come out through Sworrm, but I want to present these at some point in the future when the time is right. I'm still exploring ideas I came up with over 5 years ago.
And how would you say that UG has helped you in your time here?
It's made me realise that you can learn something from anyone, from the most world weary, experienced musician, to the guy who's just picked up the instrument for the first time. It's all about context, perspective and application, which is precisely what I've been taught in my time on UG. I thank everyone for that.
Well, it was a pleasure meeting you and I hope that I'll be seeing more of Sworrm in the near future. Best of luck with the signing.
We hope to see a lot more of you guys in the future as well. Take care and thank you for the opportunity.
This second interview came quite soon after. I interviewed UG user Aidy Damage, who has been doing work with Visionary Promotions and had booked this gig in that name. His real name is Aidan James Stevens, and he is the guitarist/singer for Chasing Melfina.
"Playing music is an art, and art should be put on show, either in the gallery or on the stage in the case of music."
UG: What was it that first got you interested in the music business and becoming a performer?
Aidy Damage: I was just walking out of school after the last day of year 8 and this kid from my year just came up to me and said 'you seem cool- wanna make a band?' Of course, I obliged and we spent the rest of the day holding guitars upside-down. Sure, it was terrible- but I felt something very special.
It sounds almost as though you were just trying to follow a trend. Where did the source of your dedication come from?
It wasn't quite following a trend- no-one else at our school did it. It just seemed like a bit of fun, really. I got a lot more dedicated when I found bands like Radiohead and Muse who were doing interesting things with the instrument, and I was heavily into Nirvana at that point, too. After a while, I figured out by myself that this is what I love and this is what I want to do.
You make note of bands that did interesting things. It's these things that make them stand out, so what interesting things do you do that makes your band stand out from the crowd?
I guess that, unintentionally, I have an odd voice. It's a bit of a love/hate thing, there. Sometimes I really hate it, but at other times I realise it's what makes me unique. Musically, I try to use chords that are more associated with Late Romantic-era piano composers to give things more of a dramatic feel- if you play loud, grungy music you have to figure out some way of sticking out!
How do you feel that your performance went down in London? It must have been difficult, having seen the calibre of the other performers and knowing that you have to go up there and really work your arse off to match.
It could have went a Hell of a lot better, in my opinion. We had just come out of the studio and had no chance to rehearse, so it was pretty much an 'off the bat' sort of thing. It certainly wasn't the best performance that CM have ever put on, and I really felt it afterwards.
How was the studio work? For your first time, did it match up to expectations?
The studio was great and Mark Elmore (producer and engineer) is an absolute genius. It wasn't my first time in a studio, but it was for the other guys and it was a first for the band, and we all had a really great time making the record. Mark's still putting the finishing touches on it but we're really happy with what we've heard so far.
How long until we have the full product available for listening to and how will it be made available?
It's taking a little longer than expected, but We Are The Fiends will be released digitally worldwide in January on iTunes, Amazon mp3... the usual suspects! I assure you, though- it's worth the extra wait.
What would you say are the major influences behind not just your music, but your own particular style?
Is that musically or visually?
By all means both. You do maintain a certain visual standard after all.
Musically, I'd say Placebo, Nirvana, Suede, Killing Joke, Muse and My Vitriol are my main influences, but there's a lot of Nobuo Uematsu influence in my writing, especially the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack. Whilst I go for as much intensity as possible I try to maintain a sense of drama and urgency, and Nobuo seems to put moods across very nicely. I love his use of chromatics, too- I tried to imitate that in 'Fiends'.
Visually, the influences are very similar. I go for the androgynous Brian Molko thing, and I try to pull off the 'floppy fringe' thing without looking like an emo! It's black skinnies and thick eyeliner all the way. I try to carry it off in a different way to the whole emo thing, though- I feel that there's more to that look than MTV-friendly pop bands- I'm a bit rougher around the edges.
Do the rest of the band share these influences? They don't seem all that easy to identify.
That's what I like so much about this band- we all come from different musical backgrounds. Ross (drums) listens to Mastodon, Strapping Young Lad, anything Maynard James Keenan has ever breathed on and loads of really heavy stuff, and Oli has a problematic addiction to funk, jazz and fusion... put all of that into a mixing pot with my alt. rock influences and you've got a pretty nice recipe for something new and interesting. I actually picked Oli in the first place because he hadn't listened to much rock at all before joining the band- his style wouldn't be affected by any preconceptions of what he'd think I'd want.
Unfortunately, at this point our interview was cut short. Aidy, after all, proved to be an intensely busy man.
The last interview was with Steve, the lead guitarist of Guildford band "The Fury".
"I go for the androgynous Brian Molko thing, and I try to pull off the 'floppy fringe' thing without looking like an emo!"
UG: What was it that first got you interested in the music business and becoming a performer?
Steve The Plank: When I was 11 years old, my dad bought me a keyboard. It was a special keyboard, as it had red flashing lights on the keys to help you play songs, and you could load any MIDI files you wanted into it via the high-tech floppy disk drive. I remember fondly how godly I felt playing along to such classics as 'My Heart Will Go On,' and 'Dancing Queen'. The sounds always fascinated me, along with actually reading music and the theory behind it.
I think I was 12 years old when my family moved us all in to a house we had just inherited. I remember us then getting Sky television for the first time ever, and that's when I discovered the music channels.
At that age, 'Kerrang' was just the coolest thing ever to me (next to Diablo II and my Dreamcast). I discovered guitar-based music and was simply gob-smacked. It took a whole summer of persuading my parents, but they eventually caved in and bought me my first guitar. It was an Encore Stratocaster copy that set my parents back 5 (which included an amp and strap). To this day, I still believe that most of that 5 price tag was for the strap.
Upon taking guitar lessons, I noticed that I picked things up faster than friends that had started playing before me, and my lessons would be the highlights of my weeks. I actually think that one of the main things that spurred me on in the first few weeks was the idea of me actually being able to play the brutal riffs I'd seen on Kerrang such as Bowling for Soup's 'Girl All the Bad Guys Want' or the Offspring's 'Original Prankster'.
After completely learning my first ever song ('Tribute' by Tenacious D), I knew that I'd have to pursue playing guitar, as it's the greatest thing ever.
Do you ever feel the old instrument drawing you back to it?
To be honest, I found it a chore to practice keyboard/piano. After a couple of years, I lost interest in it and only ever practiced for like 30 minutes right before my lesson.
I did feel a little bit guilty when I first picked up guitar though, as it kinda felt like I was ditching a Plain Jane wife to spend time with the new, cooler, younger woman. Actually, I probably wasn't thinking that at all at 12 years old.
I did keep up piano for a few years though, I got to Grade 5/6 before kinda just stopping, and it actually really helped me with theory knowledge and notation reading (treble + bass clef), so I'd definitely recommend that others at least own a little keyboard or something to develop those skills.
There's a lot worth mentioning when it comes to theory; would you say that theoretical aspects of musicianship are more or less important than the practical aspects?
Honestly, I could write a 5000 word essay to you about that right now, but I don't want to bore anyone, so I'll just sum up my opinion.
I personally believe that anyone that wants to seriously call themselves a musician should have some basic theory knowledge, but it really depends on what you want to get out of playing music.
Some people just want to shred with the best of them, whilst some people just want to come home from work and strum a few chords along with their favourite pop songs. The latter aren't gonna need theory if they just want to blow off some steam or chill out or something. As long as they're getting what THEY want out of it, and they're happy, that's cool.
I like to jam with people, as I believe that jamming with someone is how you get to know them (as a person).
It's usually the people that refuse to learn theory (because they're 'above' all that) that are douchebags, and that shows in their playing(but I won't go into that).
These are the people who ignorantly cite players like Hendrix in their reasons for not bothering to learn, or (my favourite of all) claiming that it 'makes them less creative'. Sigh.
But yeah, the practical aspect is in most cases, more-often-than-not, the most important part of musicianship, because making beautiful music is the best thing about music - I don't ever think too much when jamming about the specifics of the various modes I may be travelling through, but at the same time, if I didn't know what the hell these notes are about, and what works well with them, I would kinda feel very lost, confused, and cheating the system a little bit.
Are the jam sessions a part of the songwriting process or is there a different sort of writing process?
Jamming is totally a big part of the songwriting process. In almost every band I've been in, it has usually started off with someone bringing a riff to the table, and then we jam it out and see what follows naturally to us.
When we wrote 'Long Way Down,' our singer, Andy, basically said 'I came up with this cool riff' (which is the intro riff to the song), and once we had that and the main chorus riff, we had the most epic jam (me and Andy traded guitar solos over that chorus riff for literally 3 hours). It was one of those moments where you get a groove going and you just get lost in it. I love jamming.
Upon starting 'The 10k Project' though, I do try and do some sort of composing every day (whether it's writing new licks, parts or even songs) for an hour, although to be honest, out of all the modules in that project, that's the one that gets shunted most often (as I find that the magic usually happens when you're really inspired, or having a good jam with your band, and you can't always just force that to happen).
I was hoping your 10k project would come up. For people who aren't familiar with it, would you give us a quick overview of the project itself?
Basically, I found myself getting more and more into guitar playing over the last year, so much so that I noticed that I was playing up to around 6-7 hours a day(including long band rehearsals etc), but I wasn't really doing much that was useful for my development as a player.
I'm currently studying at a music college in the UK, and I knew from the beginning of my course there that by the end of it, I want to be a professional musician, and I want to make money out of solely playing the guitar. One of my tutors mentioned in conversation a theory about "10,000" being a typical average amount of hours of playing time required to become a virtuoso. There have even been books written about this (for example, you might be interested in checking out 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell).
I thought to myself 'OK... Well, how about I take the 6+ hours a day I'm already playing, make sure each hour played is focused (which requires a lot of discipline), bump it up to 10 hours a day, and keep a diary of every day, and every hour played, and all goals I set for myself. Oh and wouldn't it be fun if I made videos of my progress and uploaded them all to Youtube for people to watch in real time how I improve? I'll do it for three years, to track my 10,000 hours and test out this theory. I'm sure people will get a kick out of that, and hey, people might even be able to learn from me.'
So, I started the Youtube channel back in March, and the idea seemed pretty popular. I found out over a few months though that editing/uploading the videos on my old, rubbish connection was quite the chore, and so I'm quite behind on the videos front! I've recently got a new, more stable connection with better editing software, so am now starting to crack into my external harddrive full of practice footage from the last few months, so I'm looking forward to updating everyone fully.
Looking over the old footage, it's really interesting seeing how I've developed as a player. I think I've got Joe Bonamassa to thank for that though, haha
Is it something that you would recommend to musicians, both amateur and professional?
I'd recommend it to anyone who has the time/patience/motivation, and who wants to be the best they can be. I like the idea of having a routine, but a lot of people I know just think that takes the fun out of it. That's not the case with me, I think I'm quite lucky that I'm a patient person. Each to his own, I guess.
Also, to be fair, a lot of people would probably get the same out of it from doing half the practice I do (like, doing 5 hours instead of the 10 I aim for), everyone's different. I do think though that being able to be strict with yourself is something that people should try and develop, and it'll make you a better musician overall. I could play rubbish all day, but I wouldn't be satisfied with the time spent at the end of it.
A little off-topic, but while I remember, an interesting fact is: I had a masterclass with Steve Vai earlier this year, and he said that when he was younger, he wouldn't be happy unless he played guitar for 9 hours or more each day for a few years. According to him, becoming a guitar virtuoso is the easy part, it's just becoming the 'musician' which is hard.
If I can change the focus a little - I bought the EP you guys were selling, though since I've heard most of the songs live now I am worried as to how the experience will compare. How do you think the world of live music compares to the world of modern recorded distribution?
I hope you enjoy the CD dude.
The type of rock music we play is heavily influenced by bands from the 60s, 70s and 80s, and one of the things I love about that style of music is the jam aspect when it comes to live performance.
I find live music generally a lot more interesting than studio stuff, because then you get to really see how good the act itself is (after-all, almost anyone can be made to sound good in the studio), and you get to see the individual personalities of the members come to life. You get the whole atmosphere thing going on too, and it's more of an event...
I pretty much never play the solos on the record the same way live, because that way the performance is more organic, and more personal for that particular audience. There's more things that can go wrong too, which is more exciting for me, haha. Almost all of the solos on the CD were improvised entirely too, and I'm really happy with how they came out.
All that said though, I'm not really a massive fan of listening to live albums. I love just kicking back with a decent quality recording and hearing all the parts to songs clearly, with all the parts mixed etc properly.
Are you planning to feature any live recordings on your own musical works?
We don't have any plans to at the moment, but I'm sure that it will happen.
If I can turn the talk to something more UG relative; how do you feel that UG has helped you?
UG is awesome, and it has helped me in a lot of ways.
I played one of the coolest gigs of my life so far recently at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire (absolutely awesome venue) thanks to UG. It was a competition with around 100 bands or whatever competing, and the winner was chosen by the amount of votes they had. We won the competition, and a good majority of the votes were from UG users, so for that I am very grateful.
Of course, there's also all these UG gigs that are starting up now, some of which involving The Fury, and it's great to have the site supporting us by letting us play at them!
Also, if ever I have any guitar problems, gear related or music theory questions, there's almost always someone on UG who can help. The website and forums in general have proven to be an essential educational resource for me.
It's a massive and wonderful community of likeminded guitarists, and I dunno where I'd be without it.
Okay, well that about wraps us up. I look forward to seeing you guys in action again.
Nice one, thanks man. Remember to visit thisisthefury.com and subscribe to youtube.com/the10kproject.
All in all, the trip, the show and the company were unforgettable and irreplaceable, leaving a lasting impression that I will be reliving for years to come. If you ever get the chance to witness a Visionary Promotions gig, or any performance sponsored by Ultimate-Guitar, get on down and have some fun. I honestly do not think it possible to regret it.
Interview conducted and revised by Tom Colohue on behalf of Visionary Promotions and Ultimate-Guitar.com. All rights reserved.
"The sounds always fascinated me, along with actually reading music and the theory behind it."