Interview with New York Death Metal lunatics Artificial Brain

Today I spoke with Sam the bass player from one of the better Death metal bands coming out of the NY Scene – Artificial Brain – in case you have not seen these guys before their live show needs to be seen to be believed – always a great night out with these guys – read on and learn

* Most of you guys come from a pretty amazing pedigree of extreme bands – How did the Artificial Brain come together?
Dan (guitars) and I have known each other for our entire lives, basically, and all of the original instrumentalists grew up in the same town on Long Island. I went away to college in Boston after high school, and by the time I returned to New York, all of Dan’s musical projects had dissolved. The two of us quickly started working together on some kind of mellow Virus-inspired instrumental music, and also on some acoustic material with Jonathan (guitars), who was close with Keith (drums). The band formed almost immediately after Dan first heard Keith play, and being that Keith’s strengths are firmly in extreme metal, that’s what we ended up doing. We didn’t become involved with most of our associated acts until after the band had already formed, Buckshot Facelift (Will’s long-running grind/death project) excluded. Since Artificial Brain started, Dan has joined Revocation, I’ve become involved with Gath Smane and Luminous Vault, Will has started singing for Afterbirth, Keith has filled in for Pyrrhon and is playing with a new band called Shredded, and we’ve also started to play with Oleg Zalman, who did some touring with Severed Savior.

He was the only person we tried out, and we offered him the gig at the first rehearsal.

* Will is a pretty unique front man – did you try out other guys before him or was it always a case that Will HAD TO be the singer?
For the first year or so of the band’s life, Dan and I handled the vocal and lyrical duties. This phase of the band never left Long Island, and we realized pretty quickly that we’d be better served with a dedicated vocalist/lyricist – someone with a more commanding/less anxious stage presence. We had a friend sing for us at a couple of local shows, as more of a stop-gap measure than anything else, and we began to post some ads online. Eventually, after sifting through dozens of responses from lunatics on craigslist, our friend Paulo Paguntalan (who fills in for us live on occasion, and has played in Copremesis and Gath Smane) suggested Will. We had been fans of Will’s old band, Biolich, and Dan had a band called Cyanide Breed that performed alongside those guys a couple of times, so we asked him to come out to a practice. He was the only person we tried out, and we offered him the gig at the first rehearsal.

* For some one who has never seen your live show before – how would you try to describe it?
We’re going to play the songs faster than they are on the record, whether or not we intend to. Will is going to be wearing some strange strobe-light eyewear, and he’s going to crack some jokes in between songs. At some point, there will likely be a verbal or visual reference made to fishing. Will is going to conduct the band for a little while, and the rest of us will be engaged in sporadic headbanging. Our show is often described as “high-energy.”

* There is definitely some degree of “theater” to an AB show – was that something you guys planned from the start or did that just come naturally?
I think it’s something that’s developed really naturally. We, the instrumentalists, are just trying to play the songs aggressively and with relative accuracy – the theatrical element is Will’s personality coming out on stage. He moves the way he does because he’s feeling the music, and even the “space goggles” just started out as a practical thing. His vision is really poor, and so he got some big old-man sunglasses to wear on stage, which very quickly became popular with the fans. Before long, he started adding lights and wires and electrical tape, and now he’s even got flashing LEDs in those things.

* How did you guys get a deal with Profound Lore and how it been so far to work with Chris?
We paid for the recording of “Labyrinth Constellation” out of pocket, because we really wanted a polished product to hand to a record label. Profound Lore was our first choice, and actually the only label we sent the record to, because we’ve loved so many of the records Chris has put out. In addition to feeling a connection with that roster, we have some friends who had worked with the label and had positive things to say, so it seemed like a natural fit. Thankfully, Chris was really into the record. Our working relationship has been great – he’s extremely supportive and communicative, and the amount he gets done as an essentially one-man operation is pretty staggering.

* I try to catch you guys most times you play in NYC – what’s the furthest you have played away from NY to date? Europe? The West Coast ?
We’ve played all over the United States, and we’ve played in a few cities in Canada so far. I think the farthest we’ve been has been Vancouver, BC, which is about 3,000 miles from where we live. We would love to play in Europe (or on any other continent that would have us) but we haven’t yet had the opportunity.

* How much touring has the band done so far and do you guys have aspirations of living on the road (going full time so to speak) with the band?
We’ve done two major North American tours to date. One of them was with Pyrrhon and Gigan, and the other was with The Black Dahlia Murder, Goatwhore, Iron Reagan, and Entheos. Aside from those, we’ve done some short regional tours with Cognitive, Pyrrhon, and Die Choking. We love touring, but realistically we’re only able to do about one serious tour a year – we don’t have aspirations of going full time, because some of us have careers outside of this band, or are on career paths, at least. Making a living off of music is extraordinarily difficult, particularly when you’re based in a part of the country as expensive as Long Island, and we recognize that we’re probably also limited, to a degree, by the weirdness of our music. Even a lot of the more accessible bands who are regularly a part of huge package tours really struggle to make ends meet, and while we think that’s amazing, it doesn’t seem feasible for us at this stage in our lives. That said, we’re incredibly thankful to be able to do the amount of touring that we do.

I think the hardest part of playing extreme music in 2017 is really just trying to find something new to say

* What would you say is the toughest adversary facing extreme bands in 2017?
The lack of money can be tough, especially with record sales continuing to sink and underground concert ticket sales having stagnated so long ago…but as long as you don’t go into extreme metal performance expecting to do much more than break even, and you’re willing to accept the very low standard of living that comes along with touring for any extended period of time, this stuff should be fine. I think the hardest part of playing extreme music in 2017 is really just trying to find something new to say, and trying to get noticed in an internet over saturated with music.

This idea of trans-humanism is actually something that frightens me for a number of reasons

* The bands name is Artificial Brain – what are your thoughts on the “Transhuman” movement the belief that Humans can evolve beyond their bodies limitations with science and technology?
To an extent, this is all very exciting. I keep up on the news about CRISPR, and on a personal level, it would be amazing to live in a world that’s unconcerned with alzheimers, cancer, infection, etc. This idea of transhumanism is actually something that frightens me for a number of reasons, though. I don’t see as likely the cheery Ray Kurzweil view of the future, in which nano-machines wipe out all human disease in the blink of an eye, and make sure that we consistently perform at peak levels. Even if I were able to take this view, though, the idea that the human life-span would then dramatically increase doesn’t necessarily seem like a positive. Over-population isn’t just an issue because of the tremendous amount of waste that humans create, or because of crumbling food supplies – problems which Kurzweil sees being solved through nano-machines and radical farming techniques; it’s an issue because we don’t have the global infrastructure to support twenty billion people, nor would economies be able to handle this kind of burden. On top of those concerns, a world where people can address their perceived flaws by strengthening their memory or improving their jumping ability, surgically, would be spooky. Like a woman with an aquiline nose getting rhinoplasty in order to closer resemble a stereotypical Hollywood actress, the removal of traits that we’ve been convinced by society to see as imperfect would destroy individuality, rather than affirm it (as the transhumanist ideal is complete individual customization). We would all love to be geniuses, or to have extraordinary skills, but these things are made monumental by their rarity, to a degree.

* Do you think Hollywood has an agenda in pushing Transhuman topics as some people believe – A.I. features prominently in movies like Prometheus,Terminator, Alien Covenant, Blade Runner etc
I don’t. We chose to tackle these kinds of ideas on “Infrared Horizon” because investigation into the existential implications of A.I seems to be fertile (if already tilled) ground, and because it also has the benefit of being exciting/attractive in an immediate way. It’s my assumption that these films are produced and have success for much the same reasons. I’d also argue that all of the films you’ve listed function more as cautionary tales than as romanticizations of transhumanism (or related topics), for one thing. The Ridley Scott films, specifically, seem to be stories in the Frankenstein mold, about the hubris and potentially the immorality of this kind of creation. Transhumanism seems to come from a similar kind of hubris – and actually, the movie I can think of that most nearly tackles that issue is probably Gattaca, the 1997 film about eugenics and genetic discrimination – again, a dystopian slippery-slope kind of story.

A robot apocalypse sounds far more appealing to me than whatever potential doomsday scenarios we’re looking at right now

* Even scientists like Steven Hawking are concerned about artificial intelligence soon becoming self aware, are you concerned at all for the future ??

Not particularly. We’ve got enough to worry about in the present, and I’m being absolutely honest when I say that a robot apocalypse sounds far more appealing to me than whatever potential doomsday scenarios we’re looking at right now. There’s also the chance that living with machines exponentially more intelligent than we are might not be all bad, which is to say that I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

* What more can we expect from Artificial Brain in 2017?
We’re taking it easy for most of the summer, mostly writing – although we’re going to be back up in Montreal with our label-mates in Chthe’ilist on August 12th. We’ll also be performing at Louisville Deathfest in September. Aside from that, we’ve got some big tour plans that we can’t discuss just yet!

Any final words?
Thanks so much for the thoughtful questions! And thanks to everyone who’s been so supportive of our new record, “Infrared Horizon,” which is out now on Profound Lore Records. Stay tuned for announcements about our touring plans, coming soon!

Interview with Pyrrhon – New York Hate Shred

Pyrrhon (pronounced Peer-on) are one of the best bands coming out of the New York metal scene these days – this week I spoke with vocalist Doug on tour life, keeping your vocal chords in peak condition and much more – read on!

* So did Mike and Dylan really meet on a subway platform or is that just folklore?
Yes, our guitarist Dylan met our original bassist Mike while waiting for the train after a show.

* How did you join the band?
Dylan is from the next town over from where I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, and I eventually met him while still in high school because his sister had become a friend of mine. We got to talking about music at some party or something and found that we had a lot in common, so we stayed in touch during college. A couple of years later he was putting a lineup together for the band that would become Pyrrhon and hit me up about auditioning on vocals, since he knew I had a background as a vocalist in some other bands. This all transpired between 2006 and 2008, I think.

* You have a pretty powerful voice – when did you find it? In Pyrrhon or one of your earlier bands? How does it hold out on long tours? I remember back in the early 90s Kevin Sharp telling me the key to “finding his voice” was the sound coming from his chest and not his throat
Thank you. I first started trying to do vocals in Seputus, a studio project I started with Pyrrhon’s current drummer Steve Schwegler way back in 2005, but I don’t think I really achieved anything approaching mastery until 2012 or 2013, when Pyrrhon had been going for a few years. There was a lot of trial and error in the years between.

I tend to push my voice pretty hard, and since I don’t naturally have a very loud or resilient voice, it’s taken some learning to figure out how to sustain it on the road. I’ve found that the most important factors for keeping my voice healthy while touring are: practicing good form while performing, reserving my voice when I’m not onstage, going easy on the partying, and getting as much sleep every night as possible. I’m an insomniac, so the last part can be difficult for me under tour conditions.

* If I am not mistaken the Greek philosopher Pyrrho was one of the first skeptics – do you consider the band skeptics? or?
Not in the strict philosophical sense, if that’s what you mean. The band name came out of a very long selection-by-committee process in the project’s early days, long before even Erik had joined. We didn’t really know what the band was going to be “about” thematically, so we weren’t really thinking too much about that side of the name — it was more about finding something distinctive and cool-sounding. None of us were even all that familiar with Pyrrho’s ideas at the time, though I started reading up on him when the name was floated. So Pyrrho’s specific teachings really never had much to do with the band per se, but the name fits well enough with our current iteration’s reflective and (colloquially) skeptical worldview.

* How did the band name come about?
See above.

We have lots of in-band jokes about this subject based on stuff people have called us at shows, such as “rollercoaster-core” and “hate shred.”

* For those of our readers who have not heard your sound before how do you guys describe it to people “technical death metal”, “progressive death metal” or “mathcore” or? What’s your preferred way to tell the uninitiated?
Hah, I generally try to avoid this conversation because our music is so hard to conveniently summarize this way. We have lots of in-band jokes about this subject based on stuff people have called us at shows, such as “rollercoaster-core” and “hate shred.” But when push comes to shove, I usually say “experimental death metal” if I have to do the genre tag thing.

* Have you guys done much touring to date? Who’s been your favorite band to tour with?
We haven’t toured a ton for a band that’s been around for close to a decade, but we became much more active that way in 2013 and have done something like 6 extended tours since then.

The longest of those tours was in 2014, when we did a 6-week North American run with Artificial Brain. As you can probably imagine, sharing a van with another band for that long will result in either loving each other or hating each other, and fortunately it was the former. We’re still good pals with them and are very proud of the success they’ve had with their new album so far.

* What would you say is the best city that you guys have played so far and why?
Broadly speaking, the most rewarding tour experience we’ve had was our European tour in 2015. We only hit a handful of countries, but since we never really expected to even get outside of the New York area with the band, playing our music on a different continent was an emotional experience for us.

The first “real” death metal band I ever heard was Morbid Angel. I was 14

* What was the first band that got you into Death Metal – your gateway band so to speak and do you still listen to them?
The first “real” death metal band I ever heard was Morbid Angel. I was 14. They’re still one of my favorites.

* What you would say is the biggest downfall in the underground metal scene today? What if any changes would you make to better the scene?
There’s quite a lot of dumdum behavior in metal, obviously, so it’s a bit hard to choose what to change. If I had to, though, I’d probably increase the ratio of distinctive bands to generic ones. A lot of really gifted musicians in metal end up slaving away in bands that really don’t have much personality, and I think everyone would benefit if talented players were more inclined to develop their own voices, instead of imitating someone else’s.

* What bands metal or otherwise are you currently listening to that blow you away?
Off the top of my head, a few recent albums that have hooked me include Forced Subservience by No Faith, Succumb’s self-titled album, Post Apocalyptic Human Annihilation by Diphenylchloroarsine, Came Down A Storm by Claire Cronin, and Synchromysticism by Yowie.

New York tends to exert an especially intense power over creative types for some reason

* New York is unlike any other city – would you say you guys have a “NYC” type sound or that NYC plays some part in inspiring your music?
Definitely. I wouldn’t say that the city is the band’s “theme” or anything like that. But everyone’s influenced by their surroundings to some extent, and New York tends to exert an especially intense power over creative types for some reason. Urban life was an explicit lyrical subject for us early on, especially on the first album. A lot of the sounds and bands that have influenced us deeply have strong traditions in New York too — free improvisation, noise rock, and obviously death metal. New York also has one of the most vibrant music communities in the world, in part because it’s so tough to establish a sustainable life as a creative person making totally non-commercial music here. Being around the sort of people who are both talented and driven enough to put up with such conditions certainly lights a fire under your ass and encourages you to push yourself too.

* What goals does the band have that you would like to see realized one day?
I’d say that our foremost goals as a band are to stay true to our instincts and to never make the same album twice. We’d also like to tour outside of the United States more – it would be nuts to play at least one show on every (habitable) continent eventually. But frankly, if we just manage to keep releasing albums that we’re proud of for a while longer, I’ll consider the affair a success.

* Does everyone in the band still live in the city? If so what side gigs does everybody do to make ends meet? (NYC ain’t cheap!)
Three of us live in New York – me, Erik, and Dylan. Dylan’s a server, Erik works for a boutique bass amp manufacturer, and I make a living doing research and writing for a small nonprofit. Steve lives in the Philly suburbs, where he’s currently a student.

* Have the band ever considered relocating to another city so that you guys can spend more time on your music? I have always believed that great scenes come out of towns like Richmond VA where the cost of living is relatively cheap – you don’t have to work 60 hrs a week just to make rent (let alone paying for a rehearsal space) I know a ton of bands from the Bay Area that are moving to LA just because it is so much cheaper.
Yes, we’ve talked about that kind of thing. Everyone but Erik has roots in Philly, which isn’t that cheap but would be an improvement. We’ve occasionally toyed with the idea of relocating there, but it’s difficult to coordinate multiple people relocating their lives to a new city at the same time. It’s tough enough for us to balance all of our various creative projects with our day-to-day labors as it is.

* What more can we expect from Pyrrhon in 2017?
We have a new album called What Passes For Survival coming out on August 11th. You can preorder the CD / digital via Willowtip Records here and the vinyl via Throatruiner Records here. We’ll be playing out regionally as much as possible in the fall in support of the record, with more extended tour plans to follow.