All posts by Luke Morrison

[AltWire Interview] Lewis Capaldi – “I Think Everyone Needs to Have a Cry Sometimes…”

Since the release of his brilliant breakthrough single “Someone You Loved”, Lewis Capaldi has been an absolute tour de force in the UK, spending seven weeks atop the UK Singles Chart, and scoring a number one record with his debut album Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent. Now with a second North American Tour set to begin in September, and a recent platinum certification of “Someone You Loved” in the US, Lewis seems poised to take over the world.

But if worldwide fame is on the horizon for Lewis, it certainly hasn’t gone to his head. Humble and at times self effacing, Mr. Capaldi spoke at length with AltWire about his reactions to his sudden stardom, his songwriting process, and what lies ahead for the 22 year old musician. Read on for more…

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Tell us about how you got your start in music. What inspired you to take up singing and songwriting and ultimately make music your career?

Lewis Capaldi: What inspired me to do it was my older brother was always in bands growing up – and he would play around where I’m from in Scotland (Edinburgh and all of that).  My first proper gig was when I was 11 and I would just gig around Glasgow and Edinburgh. And that was what I did for such a long time. Like, from the age of 11 through to 18 I was just basically solely doing that.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: We’d love to learn more about your songwriting process and how you normally approach writing songs. Could you tell us more about that?

Lewis Capaldi: So the process definitely just kind of differs from time to time. But, most of the time they’re all personal experiences that the songs come from. Just because I find that, that’s the only way that I can write stuff that’s any good because I need to have experienced something to be able to write something decent about it – you know what I mean? It’s either melody or lyrics first, but it kind of differs and if I’m writing about something, I need to write about it usually, like… four months after it happened. For example, on this album, I broke up with someone and then I wasn’t able to write songs about it until about six months after. Because I feel like that space and time gives you the ability to look back at things and analyze it properly before you write about it.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: You mentioned that writing your first album was a bit of a grind. Tell us about some of the challenges you faced when writing Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent.

Lewis Capaldi: It wasn’t so much the writing that was difficult – the writing I really enjoyed and actually arranging the songs was really enjoyable, too. But, for me, what I found difficult about it was – the actual process of recording, for me, it is quite an uninspiring thing. I think, once you’ve written the song and then arranged it – actually recording the parts – is quite, as I say, ‘a grind’. ‘Cause I got into music to write songs and play live, not to sit in a recording studio for months at a time. And it’s always the same way, where you’ll be doing the vocal, and you’ll sing the same line… 40 times, and then the producer will just say to you, ‘Oh we actually really enjoyed the first take. Let’s just go with the first take.’ So, it was mainly that, but yeah, for me when I’m writing songs, I immediately want to just get out and play them live, like it is. I had never recorded properly before this process and I guess I just found it to be a bit of a slog. Once we got to the end of it, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m glad we did that’ – but the actual recording, mixing and stuff like that is all, it’s all very important and I think it’s an art-form in itself doing that but, for me I didn’t like being cooped up.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]:  Tell us about what kind of music inspires you to create your own. Do you have a go-to artist or album that really speaks to you?

Lewis Capaldi: Recently, I’ve been really getting back into The Beatles. I kind of fell back in love with their music and, it’s inspiring to have those [and] be able to listen back and, like, you think, ‘It’s crazy that they were able to create such amazing music and such a high standard for such a long time.’ But, I think anytime I hear a song that I love, irrespective about genre – that is inspiring. For example, Kendrick Lamar’s a big one for me. Listening to his music… I don’t ever listen to ‘HUMBLE.’ and think, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go make a song that sounds like that.’ But I listen to it, and it’s so amazing to listen to someone who’s at the top of the game and smashing it and making music that’s this good. And it makes you want to go off and kind of try to strive to be anywhere near as good as that. But, I think I’m still a bit out from [doing tours with] Kendrick Lamar. By a mile.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]:  Do you have a preference for the way that you consume music?

Lewis Capaldi: Naw, not really! I think for me that just depends on where I am, what I’m doing. If I’m on the move, Spotify or Apple Music is much easier [for me]. If I’m at home, I buy vinyls and stuff like that. So it’s different – I do it every single way. I’ll often just buy albums on iTunes and if I really love them, I’ll just go out buy it as well. I just kind of do it ‘as and where’, I don’t really have a preferred medium.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: What was it like in the moments when you found out that your song ‘Someone You Loved’ hit number one on the UK Singles Chart and when your album hit number one in the UK?

Lewis Capaldi: The single was weird because that was just never something that I’d expected. To have a number one album in general as well has been mental – but a number one single – especially for the type of music that I’m making, just seemed very strange. I never expected it to get to that stage, especially because it was a piano ballad… and it was coming up to summer, and it was just a bit of a sad song. But the fact that it went there [to number one] was just, genuinely, so weird.

When it happened I was in my hotel room by myself, so I’d just ordered some beers up to my room. But I think I went bowling afterwards… so it wasn’t a very [celebration]-filled day. But it was mad. Because the thing is, as well, you find out in the morning – so I found out at, like, 10am that it went to number one, but it doesn’t get announced publicly until somewhere around 4pm in the UK. And it wasn’t until I listened to it then that it actually felt real. When I was told about it, I’d be like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t really feel like a big thing’, and then you heard it on the radio: “This week, number one: Lewis Capaldi – ‘Someone You Loved’”, and it was just mind-blowing. And the album especially… meant a lot to me because it showed that people who were listening to ‘Someone You Loved’ went out and wanted to hear more of my music, do you know what I mean? I think that was kind of the thing I was scared about with when ‘Someone You Love’ did what it did. I was worried that people would maybe just listen to this song and not go beyond and try and find some more [of my] music. But the album was cool because it just shows that people liked what they heard with ‘Someone You Loved’ and then ‘Grace’ and decided that they wanted to go and hear more stuff from me. So yeah, it was very cool.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Did you go and do anything in particular to celebrate once it all set in?

Lewis Capaldi: Erm, no! I mean I got drunk… and it was number one for seven weeks in the UK so I got drunk one night out for every week. But the thing as well is, when a song does that – when it does that well – you have less time… it means you’re a lot more busy. So it’s probably a blessing in disguise. Because otherwise I would have been fuckin’ out for ages! But erm (laughs)…no I haven’t. I think getting to play the shows we’re doing is fuckin’ celebration enough!

“I think everyone needs to have a cry sometimes. And you know what you can do with my music? You can have a big cry.”

 

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Did reaching number one change your perspective or goals for your career?

Lewis Capaldi: My goal – back when I started this – was to play King Tuts** in Glasgow – it’s like a 350-capacity room. And we did that and, for me, ever since then everything’s just been kind of like a bonus. So yeah, I didn’t ever think, ‘Right, okay. This is it. I’m gonna aim for the number one’. I’ve never been this overly mad ambitious person. I just… I just do this because I enjoy [it]. So I’m kind of lucky that I had the people around me – management and label and agents – who really believed in what I was doing, enough work on it. But, yeah, no – it’s weird. It hasn’t really changed it. Because now, for example, I don’t think just because I’ve had a number one that I’m ever going to get one again. For me, I feel like that was a one-time deal. I just think you can’t be getting greedy! So instead I just kind of say, ‘that’s cool and it’s nice that it happened but you’re only as good as your next song’’ You’ve just got to keep writing.

For album two, I’m not really expecting this response again. Not because I don’t think it’ll be good, but because I think if you just ‘play things by ear’ a bit and just go, ‘OK, I’m gonna make music that I like and release it and see what happens’, you’re going to enjoy it a lot more.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: You’ve worked with a lot of globally recognised artists like, Malay and TMS. Is there anyone in particular you’d really love to work with?

Lewis Capaldi: Paul McCartney would be cool, because it’s Paul McCartney. But I think he’s got bigger fish to fry, but erm (laughs)…it’d be cool to try and do something with people like Calvin Harris, or maybe Zedd – just because I think it’d be something completely different. I like the idea of, if I ever do work with someone else, being able to work with someone who doesn’t really do collaboration stuff often. Because I think it’d be cool to have that thing where it’s like, ‘Oh, this person? How the fuck did Lewis manage to get this person to do this song?’ I think it’d be quite cool to be able to work with someone who doesn’t really do many collaborations at all. So, I dunno – maybe someone like Adele, as she doesn’t really do collaborations, but she doesn’t have much to gain from doing a song with me. But, er (laughs), I’ll try my best.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: From your social media and public appearances you look like you’re having fun doing what you do. Are there times when you’re on the road and it becomes difficult to remain positive?

Lewis Capaldi: Hmm, I don’t know! Because, I don’t think about it. I don’t think about it in those terms. I like to have a laugh most of the time and I think, when I’m away on tour and I ever feel down, I never try and rally myself to be positive when I don’t want to be positive. Because I feel like, it’s good that you have balance. If I feel sad one day I will allow myself to feel sad, because that’s fine. But for the most part, no, I’m still pretty much [having] a good laugh. You know, cause there’s times where I think this is all so fucking weird – like, it’s crazy, what’s happened. So, like, I think that you can’t take it too seriously. Otherwise you can lose your mind a bit.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: So you recently performed in front of a US audience on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and you performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden, and you’re scheduled to tour this fall. So how does an American audience compare to back home in the UK?

Lewis Capaldi: I don’t think there are many differences. When we went over the first time … I can’t remember where I read it, but someone in some article had said that they don’t think American audiences would be that into me. And I can’t remember where it was I read it, but I remember thinking, ‘(nonchalantly) well… alright? Cool.’ Like, at the time I was just a bit, like, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ I don’t feel like people are different. I don’t think the audiences are too vastly different. I think you’ve got to give people a lot more credit than that. I think, for me with the American audiences, it’s still quite early but we’ve been able to do some cool stuff. But, I don’t try and change anything, or tailor anything for audiences personally. I just try and be myself and make the music I make and see what happens – and hopefully people will like that. I think everyone needs to have a cry sometimes. And you know what you can do with my music? You can have a big cry.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: And, you’ve sort of just answered this, but what can fans who have never seen you expect at one of your live shows?

Lewis Capaldi: (Capaldi jokes) at one of my live shows, they should expect it’s gonna be sad. It’ll be a sad hour. And then I’ll make some fart jokes in between songs and it’ll be just fine. But you know, I do like a good laugh. I just like to have everyone come along and just have a good time. Maybe… I’ll do, like, a strip show… ‘cause I hear that sex sells. So I’ll maybe do some strip tease or something like that. But, erm, yeah, it’s a guy… a little chubby boy on stage, singing about his feelings. And that’s what you’re gonna get.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Any interesting tour stories that you’d like to share with us?

Lewis Capaldi: There was the time a member of my band, who will remain nameless, and I won’t say their instrument either, farted and thought he’d shit his pants [Ed. Note – for Americans, pants in the UK = underwear]. That was pretty funny. Well [actually] he did shit his pants. He’s in the car with me right now and he’s furious that I’m divulging this. (laughs)

But I was in the dressing room and he ran in and he was like, ‘(annoyed tone) Aww…’ and he grabbed a pair of underwear from his suitcase. And he tried to run out, and I said, ‘Wow wow wow, what’s going on here?!’ And he said, ‘What? Nothing…’ And I said, ‘Where are you going with those pants?’ And he said, ‘I think I trusted a fart a bit too much.’ And we were going on stage in, like, 20 minutes. That time (laughs) one of the band members almost shit himself was a pretty interesting one.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Alright Lewis, the last question is, with a number one album and number one single and international recognition already under your belt, what’s the next stage for you as an artist?

Lewis Capaldi: I just want to see how far we can take [the live show] situation at the moment. In the UK and Ireland, we’ve got to a point now where we can do arenas, which is crazy. But I just want to play as many shows as possible and take that and kind of grow that – see how close we can get, like, everywhere else to that level. I think, I really want to spend as much time as possible over in America as well over the next few months, just trying to see what I can [do now that I’m coming to play shows there]. So yeah, I don’t know, I think I’m just going to try and keep making music, and keep writing. I want to maybe put out something new – not, like, an album or something, but it’d be nice to maybe put out something relatively new, maybe towards the end of the year. I don’t know if I’ll get to do that, though. But we’ll see what happens! I’m going to keep writing, and try and keep gigging and just try and get the music out there to as many people as possible. Maybe release a fitness DVD. And we’ll see what happens.

** King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow. Legendary Scottish music venue. Famously hosted Radiohead, The Verve and Oasis (just before the latter’s signing) over a two-week period in the early 90s, as well as many other now-legendary bands since then.

[AltWire Top 10] Top 10 Alternative/Metal Albums of 2018

I know I’m not alone in saying that this year has flown by. As I sit at my desk, still digesting the Christmas festivities of the past few days, I find myself pondering about the state of Alternative music (as well as my waist line…). See, I sort of feel like 2018 was a bit of a bust in terms of the type of music I love. The focal point of this years’ music wasn’t necessarily the music itself but rather the chit chat surrounding it. Is Rock dead? Are Guns ‘n’ Roses just a nostalgia act now? Will Gibson guitars still exist soon? When the fuck is the new Tool album coming? (although the latter has been applicable the past decade). 2018 has been a year of victory for music labels churning out their radio-friendly unit shifting bullshit. Very little of this year’s offerings in the alternative scene have challenged the status quo.

That said there is light at the end of this dark tunnel of cheap hooks and pomposity and whatever the hell Cardi B is. At this years’ Grammy Awards (yes let’s pretend for just a second that anyone worth their salt gives a flying fuck about the Grammy’s anymore) exciting young artists Greta Van Fleet were nominated for FOUR, count ‘em, FOUR Grammy Awards including best new artist – the first Rock band to do so in god knows how long. There has also been the evolution of Ghost witnessed in real time, with Tobias Forge’s creation now selling out arenas worldwide and also boasting numerous Grammy nominations.

Of course these aren’t the *only* bright sparks of 2018 (I am a pessimistic nihilistic asshole). The following albums, for me at least, held the torch for alternative music this year and set the standard going forward in to 2019. Collectively and individually, each of the following albums have kept things fresh in an otherwise stale landscape of offerings of the alternative persuasion. If you have not checked any of these out, I highly recommend you do so.

 

 

10. Nine Inch NailsBad Witch

Yes it’s an EP. Yes two tracks are instrumentals. Do I care? Nope. The last of a trilogy of EPs, and the first set of songs with Atticus Ross as a full time member of the group, Trent Reznor proves with this recent effort that he is still an innovative force in music. Experimenting with different vocal techniques, as well as some expert level programming making nob turning look like an art form, Bad Witch closes an interesting chapter in the history of the band and leaves all NIN fans wondering what’s next in store.

 

 

9. HalestormVicious

Halestorm are a band on the cusp of greatness and made another impressive step forward towards realizing their potential with Vicious. The only criticism of the album is that there aren’t many risks being taken to propel them forward. Rather, Halestorm continues to stick to what they know through a formula which in fairness continues to serve them well. One only hopes that they can build on their momentum as Lzzy Hale is as good of a vocalist as anyone in rock.

 

 

8. WolftoothSelf titled

As far as debuts in metal go, this is pretty much right up there with any new band I’ve heard. Their stoner metal grooves cascade with pure ferocious riffs sweetened by some excellent melodic vocal work. A very accessible introduction to the genre for anyone interested in finding out more.

 

 

7. Stone Temple PilotsSelf Titled

A relaunch of a career plagued by tragedy, STP prove they still have a knack for crafting some stellar bluesy rock tunes. The brothers DeLeo and Eric Kretz provide the canvas for the exceptional Jeff Gutt to step in to the shoes of his predecessors and provide a truly remarkable vocal performance.

 

 

6. Ben HowardNoonday Dream

Definitely the easiest listen in our list, English folk musician Ben Howard’s latest effort marks a step in to a diversified range for the talented songwriter. Somewhere between Sigur Ros and Pink Floyd, with Howard’s own seemingly endless catalogue of inspiration, Noonday Dream has some deeply touching moments that provoke an array of different emotions. Sometimes melancholy, but reaching a new plateau of creativity when compared to Howard’s previous releases.

 

 

5. Alice In ChainsRainier Fog

Returning to Seattle to record for the first time since 1995’s self-titled album, the band’s 6th record and third featuring vocalist/guitarist William DuVall has a little bit of everything that makes this band one of the most influential rock acts of the past 30 years. Guitarist and founder Jerry Cantrell proves once again why he is one of the most under-rated guitarists of our time with some excellent soloing that ranks amongst his best work.

 

 

4. Mike Shinoda – Post Traumatic

Less of an album in the conventional sense and more of a journey through the process of dealing with loss. Shinoda’s first album under his own name steadily rises out of the bleakness of losing band-mate and friend Chester Bennington and emerges as a lesson in channeling emotion in to artistry which in turn has aided the healing process. If Linkin Park were never to record again, Post Traumatic has sewn the seeds for a great career as a solo artist for Shinoda.

 

 

3. Greta Van FleetAnthem of The Peaceful Army

A band as talented as they are polarizing. Young upstarts Greta Van Fleet’s debut album isn’t exactly the pure rock fury that many were expecting, and touches on the formulaic side in places. But let’s take a step back and take in that as of this writing, two of the members of this band are still teenagers. There is plenty of time for them to live up to the moniker of saviors of Rock and Roll and this record proves they have a very bright future indeed.

 

 

2. Arctic MonkeysTranquillity Base Hotel & Casino

Another record which has divided opinion. It’s easy to hear why given this is without doubt the most artistic effort by the Yorkshire lads. Immersive and provocative whilst maintaining depth and precision. While it can take a few listens to actually understand this album, it’s by far their most creative and ambitious effort and one that could prove a turning point for the next stages of their already decorated careers.

 

 

1. GhostPrequelle

Watching Tobias Forge’s monolith go from strength to strength has been a joy to witness. From starting out as a band with a reputation for a goofy satanic gimmick, Ghost have gone on to achieve rock greatness with their fourth album. While it’s easily their poppiest and most accessible effort, it’s filled with arena rock style singalong anthems and could be said to be the first great rock record released in recent years. The story arc that follows the band makes the mystique surrounding Ghost all the more entertaining and adds to the overall dynamic this album generates.

[AltWire Interview] Wolftooth

In a genre spilling over with incredible talent, Altwire interviews a band going from strength to strength since the release of their debut album earlier this year...

First of all I feel pretty obligated to mention that Wolftooth’s debut self-titled album released earlier this year ranks pretty damn high on my favorite albums of this year so far. Each track on the album perfectly captures the essence of the Stoner Metal genre, while being more accessible than most by keeping the vocals clean and hooks continuous. The quartet hail from Richmond, IN and each member is a twenty year veteran of the genre. In that time they’ve seen it all and clearly learned from their peers. The result of this experience is frankly one of the best debuts the scene has produced.

Stoner/Doom Metal is a genre which seems to have a presence all across North America. It is a scene containing so much raw talent it is perplexing as to why it does not have a larger spotlight. I’ve personally been of the belief for a while that bands like Mastodon, The Sword and High On Fire deserve higher billing and more focus, but really at this stage the genre is still categorized as niche. Bands like Wolftooth have potential to change that though. Through speaking with them it is clear that they have a vested interest in helping the genre grow.

Check out our interview with Wolftooth below:


AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Tell us a little bit about the background of how you guys know each other and what brought you together to form a band.

Wolftooth: The four of us have been friends for over 20 years and have played in bands together before Wolftooth.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Tell us about the music scene where you guys are based.

Wolftooth: Richmond, Indiana is less than three hours from a few major cities in the Midwest. Indianapolis, Dayton, Cincinnati, Chicago, Fort Wayne, Louisville etc. So we are in kind of a sweet spot as far as branching out goes.  Our hometown of Richmond, IN is a city of about 35k and there has always been a decent steady flow of bands in the immediate area to gig with.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Where’d the name Wolftooth come from?

Wolftooth: We are a pack of friends that have each other’s back always, like wolves.  The tooth part was just a little shiny tail to complete the name.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Name an album that you couldn’t live without.

Wolftooth: Anything from the Led Zeppelin archive is okay with me!

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: What was your biggest challenge when you were recording your debut record?

Wolftooth: We did things a little different from most bands. We wrote the music first. Once the songs were done as we saw fit, then the guitar solos and vocals were added. The guitar solos and vocals were written organically during the recording process. The challenge was learning our songs all over after the recording was done.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: What are you most proud of about the album?

Wolftooth: We are just floored by the reception the album has gotten.  We had no idea what we were doing would become this special to so many.  The positive and uplifting comments from everyone have been very satisfying.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: I noticed the album artwork very much resembles Rick Baker’s Academy Award winning Werewolf creation from An American Werewolf in London. Was this an intentional nod to the iconic movie monster?

Wolftooth: We found this illustration by Okan Bulbul from Turkey online just in a general search for some ad content and we fell in love with it. We contacted him and got permission to use the image as our album cover. No conscious nod to the movie but we see the resemblance.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Do you think your more melodic approach to the genre makes you a bit more accessible to the casual listener?

Wolftooth: Wolftooth throws all influences from all four band members into what music we write.  Sometimes it clashes, and sometimes it just gels and feels good.  The melodic approach to vocals is not only easier on the ears, but easier on the old vocal chords as well. We aren’t trying to fit in anywhere or sound a certain way. Our chemistry shines in our music.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Stoner/Doom Metal is a very niche genre but in the states in particular it seems to be one where every band seems to know or at least know about one and other, and in some ways feels like it’s own community. Despite its massive popularity it still feels like a very underground genre. Parallels with the punk movement have even been made by some. What are your thoughts on this?

Wolftooth: The Stoner/Doom metal community has welcomed Wolftooth with open arms.  Every band we have jammed with so far has been top notch professional and just all around good people.  Online we all promote each other, have civil discussions, and together we all help GROW THE SCENE. Whenever a band is coming through a city on tour or whatever, there is a show to jump on with someone, a place to crash, and just good vibes all around.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: If someone was interested in learning more about the genre, which artists would you recommend?

Wolftooth: There are so many…… Void King, Monte Luna, Mothership, Forming the Void are just some of our favorites. There are literally hundreds of great bands in this genre.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: What’s your touring schedule looking like at the moment?

Wolftooth: We have several dates in September through November to finish the year out strong.  Some standout shows are with Eyehategod and Goatwhore, both in September, Descendants of Crom festival in Pittsburgh, and a mini tour with our buddies in Wasted Theory.

Check out Wolftooth’s debut album here.

[AltWire Interview] Gabriel Franco of Idle Hands

Altwire interviews an emerging new metal band that’s been gaining momentum for their distinct vintage sound which has garnered comparisons with the likes of Ghost...

I stumbled across Idle Hands purely by accident really. I often find myself spending hours just trawling through the internet looking for good music – something I highly recommend. Granted there are times when you find some of the worst shit imaginable, but for the most part it’s a really effective way of finding some seriously good emerging talent who are using the likes of YouTube to get their music heard.

Idle Hands’ debut EP Don’t Waste Your Time was something that just leapt out to me. It was a fresh take on a familiar style conceived by many bands who made their names in the 80s, sometimes sounding like if Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode had fronted Blaze Bayley-era Iron Maiden (conceptualize that!…yeah go on!). Their brand of high energy melodic metal with a distinctive dark atmosphere is something that has recently earned them comparisons with Ghost – impressive when you consider Ghost are cementing themselves as the biggest metal band to emerge in recent years.

Formed by Gabriel Franco following the split of his first band Spellcaster, the Oregon quartet are making steady waves on the metal scene and look destined for big things as they work on their debut full length album. I was thrilled that Gabriel accepted our invitation for an interview where he came across as a really grounded and intelligent guy. We also share some common ground in the form of Cradle of Filth being an introductory band in to metal for the two of us.

Check out our interview below:

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Your influence by the likes of Iron Maiden, Sisters of Mercy and Depeche Mode are evident for all to hear, but which band really stuck out for you and made you say “That’s what I want to do”?

Gabriel Franco: The band that made me want to play music was 100% Cradle Of Filth. I didn’t even know Heavy Music existed until I was 15. My friend was downloading music on Limewire and showed me the CoF cover of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” by Iron Maiden. I listened to that song maybe 1000 times. Borrowed my friends bass and learned it. The next year they came to Portland and that was the first real concert I ever paid money to go to. From there I got into bands like Children of Bodom, Arch Enemy, At The Gates & Dimmu Borgir. All my friends at the time were into Priest and Maiden and I got made fun of a lot but didn’t really care. Despite their teasing me, they played a key role in exposing me to the older music, and I worked my way backwards from Extreme metal to eventually enjoying bands like La Bouche and Men At Work [laughs]. But Metal is always where my heart is. I would never want to be in anything but a metal band, at least seriously.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Do you have a particular go-to album that you would say is your favorite and gives you the most inspiration?

Gabriel Franco: An album that always ends up back on my rotation is Slaughter of The Soul by At The Gates. Untouchable. Particularly the track “Unto Others” – Equally played is Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and First And Last And Always by Sisters Of Mercy. But I really don’t have a go-to album for inspiration, mainly because Ive found the easiest way to find inspiration is to not look for it. When it hits it hits, and it could be anything.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: You previously played with Spellcaster. Can you give us an idea as to why that band dissolved last year? And how does your music with Idle Hands differ from that of Spellcaster?

Gabriel Franco: That was everyone’s first band pretty much, we didn’t know what we were doing, everyone had different ideas of what kind of band we were supposed to be, we liked to drink too much, we pretty much did everything wrong. Without going too deep into it, it was bound to fail, and when it did I wasn’t surprised. The first emotion I felt was relief and that’s the truth.

People who liked SPELLCASTER will hear a bit of it in my music. I had a heavy hand in writing the 2nd and 3rd SPELLCASTER records. (The 1st being written almost completely by Cory Boyd). The difference in this music is I focus on song flow, at the base level these are very simple tracks. Play them on a bass guitar and you’ll see what I mean. The simplicity leaves open a world of room for layering, I love layering, its how you create things you didn’t know you could. So that, I guess, and the lyrical content/vocals. I am always working on creative ways to use my voice, so expect something weird I guess.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Digital downloads of your debut EP Don’t Waste Your Time have been made available to purchase now, but I noticed that pre-orders for physical copies of the EP to be shipped in October include the option to not only buy in CD and Vinyl format but also tape. Whilst finding new music on tape is, for the most part a rarity, it is something that a fair few bands are now electing to do. If someone would have told me five years ago that tape would make a comeback I would have said they’re nuts! Do you think that this is a good indication of a growing preference for a more organic way of consuming music in a pushback against streaming?

Gabriel Franco: Perhaps, I was actually thinking about the same thing today. I think in this modern age people are being fed so much crap digitally it’s hard to keep track of it. When you turn on your phone or computer screen there is a war for your attention. I think most people would agree that they’ve gotten on their computer at one point or another to look up directions or a song or some item they want to buy and somehow ended up scrolling through their Facebook feed for 10 minutes not knowing how they got there. People don’t like that. It makes you feel like you don’t have control over your own life, Just another cog in the machine so to say. People value their individuality. So yeah I think die-hard music fans especially prefer some kind of item they can store and show off and share and listen to without having to enter a password. Whether it’s a tape or vinyl or a CD. It becomes a part of them and an indicator of a small side of their character. Furthermore, I don’t think there is anything wrong with streaming at all, and I don’t believe there is a war between physical and digital formats anymore. They seem to be co-existing pretty well and I think its only going to get better.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: With the obvious influence of bands that made their name in the 80s, do you feel like listening to the EP on tape also comes as part of the experience of listening to your music in a nod to those bands?

Gabriel Franco: Interesting question but I wouldn’t know, I haven’t listened to it on tape! I don’t have any desire to try and re-create the 80’s – I happen to love a lot of music from that era, and it influences my songwriting, but going around and pretending its 1986 is just fucking crazy in my opinion. The only person I want to be is myself, right here and now in the present day. I listen to most music on my phone. Someday I’d love to have the money to properly collect vinyl, but right now everything I got goes towards the band.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Idle Hands have recently garnered comparisons with the likes of Ghost who are one of the big successes in rock/metal this year. How do you feel about such comparisons being made?

Gabriel Franco: Complete honor, I’ve followed Ghost since their first US tour and absolutely love the band. However I have no desire to be “Ghost II” or labelled as such. I want to be IDLE HANDS through and through.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: What are the types of messages you want to convey through your music?

Gabriel Franco: I just sing about the way I feel about things… and I like telling stories, fact or fiction. hopefully the listener can identify with something. Here’s a message: don’t be a dick.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Tell us about your touring plans for the near future. There’s a lot of people who will be eager to hear your music live!

Gabriel Franco: Expect the debut full-length in 2019 – and if you live in Europe, USA, Canada or Mexico we will see you soon.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: So we get that you’re heavily influenced by some pretty massive bands, but what newer bands if any get you excited for the genres future?

Gabriel Franco: Tribulation. Hands down sickest band out there right now. I wish In Solitude was still around. I’m holding out hope for a reunion someday. I really enjoy Baroness and I think the next Visigoth album is going to be a magnum opus.

Idle Hands’ debut EP is available to download now. Check it out here.

[Album Review] Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog

Seattle icons return to roots with their first album in five years and through channelling the past have created one of this year’s best rock records...

Alice In Chains’ sixth album is a purposeful nod to their North West roots. Not only is it the first time that the band have created a full length record in their home town of Seattle since 1995’s self-titled release, it was recorded in the same studio – Formerly Bad Animals Studio, now Studio X.  The title of the album was taken from Mt Rainier, a volcano located South East of Seattle which casts a shadow over the city where the bulk of the grunge movement took place. Whether geographical location has any bearing whatsoever on the style of music an artist feels inspired to create is open to interpretation – but going home has switched Alice In Chains in to gears that have them creating music that sends the listener down memory lane.

There’s a very familiar feel to Rainier Fog. Like a friend you haven’t seen in long time that looks a bit different, but in general is just how you remember them the last time you saw them. The entire vibe of the album is similar to that of Facelift and Dirt with many of the songs sounding like refined works from the sessions that became those albums. The only exceptions perhaps being the opening tracks “The One You Know” and the album title track that seem to carry over from where The Devil Put Dinosaurs left off. But that said these are still strong tracks. The nostalgia effect is most evident with tracks like “Red Giant”, “Drone” and the DuVall-composed “So Far Under” – the latter containing a very nice solo indeed proving his abilities not only as an accomplished singer but also a very talented guitarist. “Fly” captures the essence of 90s radio grunge with two verses of psychedelic chorus-driven guitar separated by one of the sweetest solos Jerry Cantrell has performed. The excellent down-tempo “Maybe” has a touch of Jar of Flies about it, beginning with some wonderful harmonies sung in acapella. The anthemic standout “Never Fade” plays as a tribute to the late Layne Staley and fellow Seattle native and long-time friend of the band Chris Cornell, who I’m sure would appreciate this album greatly.

Rainier Fog is a fantastic collection of songs – arguably the best album in the modern era of the band – but one thing this album doesn’t have is a marquee song. This and only this is what stops this album from being heralded amongst the bands best releases. This album doesn’t have a “Man in the Box”, or a “Rooster” or a “Nutshell”. Nothing particularly leaps out to the listener but rather there is a consistent level of craftmanship in each song with not one particular element prioritised over another. It is a matured incarnation of a sound created when these guys were basically kids. A controlled approach to a chaotic creation.

The musicianship on this album is something to behold though. Jerry Cantrell’s work stands out as some of his best song-writing and guitar work in over two decades, with a meticulous approach to each component evident. His vocals are also worth mentioning as he has clearly been honing his abilities as what is essentially the lead singer of the band. Accompanied by the incredibly impressive William DuVall, the vocal harmonies on this album are the finest levels since the days of Layne Staley, conveying pure emotion in every inch perfect tone. The structure of each track changes from song to song with the excellent Sean Kinney and Mike Inez performing a rhythm section that keeps the listener hooked and anxious to hear what’s next. Every one on this album brought their A-game and it shows throughout the 53 minute duration.

Being back in the location where it all began has ignited creativity in the band that hasn’t been heard in a while. Where Black Gives Way To Blue was a great reinvention, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here contained far too many misfires and neither album really encapsulated the signature Alice in Chains sound. Ranier Fog however will impress even those still skeptical of the post Layne Staley era. The fact remains though that the band have now recorded as many full-length records with William DuVall as they have with Layne Staley. While the spirit of Layne Staley lives on in the band’s music, they have very much stepped out of that shadow now and DuVall can no longer be considered the “new guy” but rather an integral part of the continuation of this band. The quartet are on great form with Rainier Fog and appear to be showing no signs of returning to anonymity that threatened to dissolve them in the aftermath of recording the last album they made in Seattle twenty-three years ago. If anything the album is a strong indication that this band is finding new wind in its sails and makes for a mouth-watering prospect as to what might be next on the horizon. One can only hope fans won’t have to wait long to hear the follow up to what is a contender for the best rock record in 2018.

[AltWire Interview] Andy Gbormittah of Silence & Air

Introducing: Silence & Air – A innovative new duo whose music is scientifically proven to help reduce insomnia and stress...

London-based duo Silence & Air, comprised of Andy Gbormittah & Jake Warren, have some impressive stats. Since their start in 2016, the duo have had over 10 million streams on Spotify and boast over 650,000 monthly listeners. They have worked with a Grammy-nominated artist in the form of Zoe Johnston. They have been featured in London’s biggest newspaper the Evening Standard. An impressive resumé? That’s only the start of it.

Their music is hard to define and categorize into one genre, but the intent is very clear. The duo’s niche is that they design purpose-made music designed to combat insomnia, stress and anxiety. They do this through combining their talent with research in to the science behind what causes these issues. This incredibly innovative way of producing music has tapped in to a real issue that affects us as a society in the 21st century. We prioritize productivity over our own sleeping patterns and mental health all too much. A 2016 article from Consumer Reports indicated that out of a survey of over 4,000 American adults, 27% suffered from difficulties falling asleep on many nights in one week. A Staggering 68% found trouble falling asleep at least one night a week. 68% of the population of America would amount to 168 million people suffering from lack of sleep at least once a week.

Enter Silence & Air. It’s important to note that the duo may not be a one glove fits all solution to the problem, and everyone is different and reactions will differ from person to person, but the sheer volume of interest in their music speaks for itself. Through the use of delicate piano and dreamy soundscapes, among other tools that the highly-talented duo possess as producers, Silence & Air’s music is a proven and effective means for inducing sleep, more specifically their track ‘Zero Point’ which at over 9 minutes long will drift you away in to the land of nod in no time.

I got a chance to chat Andy Gbormittah and pick his brains about what the thought process was behind the formation of the group, what inspired their direction and his thoughts on the duo’s success thus far.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: In your
own words how would you describe your music?

Andy Gbormittah: Our music is quite hard to place. Our philosophy at Silence & Air has always been to champion the independent artist model, so we end up making what we feel is right at the time.

Some of our projects have strong links to the neo-classical world (such as ‘Solo’ and our newest album ‘Colours’ – which are solo piano works) and others are influenced heavily by the way we grew up. The gritty, London, urban sound…

We also have projects like Zero Point, which is quite left field – although some may class it as electronic/ambient music. We’re always open to interesting and innovative projects – which is the reason why our music is quite eclectic .

AltWire: How did the formation of this duo come about?

Andy Gbormittah: We met in a spot called Shoreditch Grind, right on Silicon Roundabout in East London. It’s a cafe, restaurant and cocktail bar, with a tucked away recording studio upstairs.

I was running the studio at the time and Jake initially came in as a client. We hit it off pretty much straight away. We shared a lot of the same taste in music and the way we worked and conceptualised ideas felt very organic. We started working together on more and more projects until we formalised the duo.

The name actually came about on a drive home after a long session. We’d been working solidly in the studio for about 12 or 13 hours, and when we jumped in Jake’s car, we didn’t say a word. He looked over and said ‘it’s nice to get some silence’, I nodded, rolled down the window and said ‘and air’. We bought the domain names immediately whilst sitting there in traffic, and we’ve been known as Silence & Air ever since.

AltWire: Your song Zero Point is the world’s first scientifically-proven music track for improving sleep and reducing insomnia, can you tell us a little about the science behind this?

Andy Gbormittah:Just to clear up the question, Zero Point isn’t the first scientifically-proven piece of music for improving sleep, but it’s the first one that has been designed from the ground up with the latest cognitive neuroscience and music psychology in mind.

When we sleep, we bounce between several of the 4 sleep cycles during the night – from being fully awake into what’s called REM sleep. Zero Point works by guiding the listener through these stages, by focusing the brain away from usual sleep disruptors: wandering thoughts, anxious feelings, negative emotions, and into a place of calm, relaxation and finally, sleep.

When composing music with sleep in mind there are a few important factors to consider. We effectively have 4 main ways that sound affects us: physiologically (our chemical responses), psychologically (our emotional responses), cognitively (how our brain processes auditory information) and behaviourally (our instinctive reaction to certain sounds).

Zero Point leverages these systems to prime listeners for sleep. For example, tempo is incredibly effective when set within the range of a typical resting heart rate. This very subtly decreases throughout the track – which has the powerful effect of lowering the listeners’ heart rate too.

Another example is the use of special sub frequencies, to not only create a point of focus, but to promote the release of theta brain waves (which is associated with REM sleep – the final stage of the sleep cycle).

We also use a selection of natural sounds, which are designed to lower our cortisol levels (our fight-or-flight chemical) and reduce stress/anxiety. These factors all contribute to improving our quality of sleep.

AltWire: Your music was featured in an article by London’s Evening Standard which focused on the importance of sleep and listed a number of gadgets and methods designed to help fight insomnia. The track Zero Point was mentioned as a proven remedy. In this article your duo was referred to as a “tech start-up” rather than a music duo. What are your thoughts on this?

Andy Gbormittah: I think the crossover between music, science and technology puts this project in an interesting space. Our long-term vision for Zero Point – and sleep music in general – is to partner with tech companies and leverage their infrastructure to help people suffering with poor sleep.

We’re working towards deep integration with voice controlled devices, partnerships with noise cancelling headphone manufacturers and licensing more sleep music into popular relaxation and meditation apps.

To an outsider, these all sound like things that a tech company would do, so we understand the reference. From the inside though, we’re only really interested in making great music and pushing the science – so listeners can feel the benefit. We wouldn’t call ourselves anything other than musicians.

AltWire: You’ve both definitely found a niche in the sense that millions suffer with sleeping issues. Do you think by marketing to that demographic you could potentially be opening the door to other sensory-based music?

Andy Gbormittah: We hope so! There’s a lot of fantastic technology out there, with the potential to help those millions of people. It’s a case of pushing that forward and making sure the accessibility is there. In our eyes there’s no point creating music if you end up limiting how people listen to it.

That’s why we’re firm advocates of releasing our music on streaming platforms. They’re universal, and no one has to change the way the consume music because of that. It would be great to push the boundaries in the future and make music that integrates with all of the cool technology coming out.

AltWire: Your first single Blueprint features Grammy-nominated artist Zoe Johnston. Tell us about the experience of working with her.

Andy Gbormittah: Zoe’s great! We had a blast working with her on ‘Blueprint’. Jake was initially in contact with her because a friend of his was a big fan of Above and Beyond. We fell in love with her voice when we heard it and Jake reached out to her with a piano idea we’d been sitting on for a while.

She sent us back a demo and we were blown away by her voice and style of writing. Zoe’s incredibly talented and she’s lovely to work with too. She’s a breath of fresh air!

AltWire: You have already amassed a huge following on Spotify. What are your thoughts about this?

Andy Gbormittah: It’s crazy to think that all of these pieces of music were just an idea at one stage.

We’re in a golden era for creators, where we can make our music and have millions of people access it at the push of a couple of buttons. We appreciate everyone for taking the time to listen to what we create, because that’s the most important thing for artists.

AltWire: Is performing your music live something you aspire to do more?

Andy Gbormittah: We’ve talked about performing our music live for quite a while and it’s certainly on our radar. There are so many things going on behind the scenes that we haven’t had time to put it together. Our first performance was a Sofar sounds gig, and it was a fun one to do. I’m sure there’ll be many more in the future.

AltWire: What are the next steps for you moving forward?

Andy Gbormittah: We have some time off at the moment, so there’s generally a lot of thinking and brainstorming involved in planning our next moves. We’re both involved with projects outside of Silence & Air, but we’re excited to keep on making music and see where it takes us!

 

Artist To Watch: PVMNTS 

So who are PVMNTS? The three-piece pop-punk outfit hail from Los Angeles and are made up of Tyler Posey, Freddy Ramirez and Nick Guzman. Posey and Ramirez previously played with Lost in Kostko, a now defunct punk band which made waves on the Southern California music scene amassing a reasonably large following. With Posey’s acting commitments having elevated to new levels, the band was eventually put on the back burner and fizzled out ultimately disbanding in 2013. It seems there was an air of unfinished business however as five years later PVMNTS look ready to take the pop-punk scene by storm.

The band are putting the finishing touches on their debut EP, working with acclaimed producer Kyle Black. With a UK tour already announced, featuring stops at festivals such as Slam Dunk and Great Escape, the band look to have a bright future and are certainly worth looking out for.

Luke Morrison of Altwire caught up with the guys to get an insight in to the early stages of the band and how it all came about.

AW: Stylistically, what would you say your biggest influences are?

Freddy: Stylistically, I would have to say new Pop Punk meets old. One day, you’ll get a song that has a Blink 182/Neck Deep vibe, the next, you’ll get something a little more like Citizen.

Nick: I’d like to think that our style and sound is shaped just as much by our differences. When it all comes down to it though, I think we’re just 3 dudes who wanna make music that we ourselves wanna listen to. And it’s cool if that resonates with others.

AW: Two of the three members of PVMNTS were previously in the band Lost in Kostko which had immersed a decent-sized fan base. Tell us about how that band dissolved and how this band was formed.

Tyler: The peak of Lost in Kostko was also the height of my acting schedule. As sad as it was, it was decided that I spend the time to finish out the project I was doing, putting Lost in Kostko on an indefinite hiatus. All the while Freddy and I kept in touch and wrote music together. As soon as I was freed up, the two of us began taking the writing process seriously again, bringing on our friend and like minded musician, Nick to the band.

AW: You’re currently in the process of writing your first EP Tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced so far. When can we expect to hear it?

Tyler: In the process of writing our first debut EP! Fuck yeah! Challenges we have hit so far have been few but there are some. We have a shit load of songs we want to show everyone but since this is our debut and only have 6 songs to show everyone what we’re about, we want to make sure they’re the best ones. We’re finishing up recording early April, gonna try to get it out as soon as possible after that so hopefully you can expect it sometime in the spring.

Nick: Challenges? Let’s start with the fact these are the worst dudes ever. Just terrible, awful people…nah, I love ‘em!

AW: You’re going to be working with Kyle Black (previous credits include working with Paramore, New Found Glory and Comeback Kid). Tell us your thoughts about working with him.

Tyler: The cool thing about Kyle Black is that Tyler and Freddy recorded a couple songs with him almost 10 years ago in the first band that the two met in, and that he’s Kyle Black, one of the raddest producers in this scene right now. His ear for this scene and style of music is fucking perfect.

Nick: I can’t wait to get my proverbial ass kicked by that guy. That’s gonna be a gruelling/fun time. He may even literally kick me in the ass, I’m kind of annoying. But we’ll see! To me, every piece of music he has been involved with is great because he was a part of it.

AW: Your first headline tour is occurring outside of the US in the UK this May, what was the reaction to finding out you’d be beginning your journey in this band abroad?

Tyler: Our reaction was fucking disbelief. And extremely stoked and thankful. Especially when the tickets started to sell so well. Eternally thankful. The crowd response in the UK is absolutely fucking nuts in the best way so we’re looking real forward to that. But we also felt a little strange because we hadn’t released any music yet and people started to ask. So we recorded tirelessly in Freddy’s bedroom to lay down the “best” version we could record on our own with the “non-Kyle-black-equipment” we were working with. But we made do. And having our good buddy master the song for us helped make the tracks we recorded clearer and louder for everyone to mosh to.

AW: With this band in its infancy, what are your goals for 2018?

Nick: Play music everywhere with my friends. Work hard. Travel. Have unforgettable experiences. Be a part of something that somebody can connect with. Music saved me, and it still does now. So if there’s even a possibility that I can pay that forward, I’m doing it. I think that pretty much goes for 2018 and beyond.

Tyler: Goals for 2018 have already been exceeded with everything that’s gone down so far. We still plan to play shows here in the US before we take off to the UK. We want to put out our debut EP. A music video for “Jumping Stairsets” is on the horizon. We want to merge our experience with film making and music in a unique way that were excited to explore. MORE SHOWS. MORE TOURS.

AW: Up until this point, what has been the highlight of your music career?

Freddy: Honestly, the highlight of our career would be meeting and playing music with these dudes. Without them, we wouldn’t be doing crazy things like going to the UK to play music!

Tyler: As the band PVMNTS, I think the highlight for us so far is being able to play Slam Dunk with so many of our favorite bands. And also hearing the rad response and excitement from our friends and fans about the song we released. More to come!


Check out PVMNTS on Spotify here. UK Fans can check out PVMNTS on their first tour this May:

[Album Review] Stone Temple Pilots – Self Titled (2018)

Stone Temple Pilots commence a new era with a familiar feel as Jeff Gutt takes center stage on his debut. The band’s seventh album, which has been self-titled, is out this Friday (03/16/18) and we’re pleased to say it’s rather good.

The first item to address when we talk about Stone Temple Pilots is Jeff Gutt. The third permanent front man for STP already has a long standing link to the band having had former vocalist Chester Bennington present during the recording of the only album from Gutt’s first band of note, Dry Cell. Suitably titled Disconnected, the album was blighted with management and distribution issues, resulting in its release being shelved until 2009, seven years after the completion of recording. His talent was the obvious focal point for the nu-metal outfit, whose only significant career highlight was a spot on the soundtrack to 2002’s Queen of the Damned. Gutt would go on feature as a prominent contestant on X-Factor, receiving plaudits for his covers of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Creep’ by Radiohead among others. It would appear that he has a functional band to call his own now, giving him a solid foundation where he can really exercise his abilities as a vocalist consistently. With a rejuvenated STP eager to move on from the loss of two virtuoso rock singers, it’s pleasing to say that the two parties have found each other both in great form.

The album begins with ‘Middle of Nowhere’, an up-tempo number that rolls back the years inspiring sympathy for the three ever-present band members who after many pitfalls over the years, definitely deserve a lengthy unimpeded spell of just being in a rock n roll band together. Immediately, the listener can identify that Gutt has chosen emulation rather than innovation, as his raspy vocals on this track sound very similar to Scott Weiland’s. It’s a good re-introduction to a band that now seemingly has the freedom to finally move forward. ‘Guilty’ follows a short but sweet continuation of the strong start to the album with the typical hooks we’ve been accustomed to hearing from one of the most influential rock bands of the past 25 years.

‘Meadow’ and ‘Just a Little Lie’ takes the band down new territory, incorporating a more indie-rock feel than the bluesy grunge-esque style synonymous with STP. It’s a refreshing change and adds a different dynamic to the record. ‘Six Eight’ follows, with Gutt on great form, absolutely belting the chorus. His lead vocals and harmonies sound eerily like his two predecessors singing a duet, paying homage to the icons that held this position before him and proving he’s the right man to replace them. The rhythm section of this track is spot on, with Eric Kretz and Robert DeLeo throwing the listener in all manner of different directions at once.

‘Thought She’d be Mine’ slows the pace down for the first time on the record. This is a track that sounds like it was dug out of the archives of the Vol. 4 recording sessions. It’s a very easy listen, showing that this band is capable of showing many different sides to themselves. There’s a very sweet and delicate solo toward the end by Dean DeLeo, giving the track the additional seasoning required to take it from being a decent song to one of the highlights on the album.

The trip down memory lane continues with ‘Roll Me Under’, a track which would have felt right at home on Core or Purple. It is heavy, groovy and everything good that encapsulates the STP signature sound, and it’s an excellent way of bringing that into 2018. ‘Never Enough‘ is a straightforward modern blues rock track with chugging verses and a nice solo in the bridge. It’s decent, but nothing special. The creativity is cranked back up with ‘The Art of Letting Go’, a beautiful four and a half-minute ballad serenading the listener about letting go of someone special. It is perhaps a delicate dedication to Scott Weiland and Chester Bennington, who would certainly appreciate the band being in such fantastic shape. Melancholy themes of departure are expertly captured by the four-piece, ensuring that the track is not just a highlight on this album but up there with the very best in STP’s repertoire. The slower tempo continues on ‘Finest Hour’, with the band once again showing how their softer music holds its own against their older more traditional hard rock style.

There’s a return to the initial rock ‘n’ roll vibe set by the first couple of tracks with ‘Good Shoes’. The guitar work is worth noting in this track, with Dean DeLeo not letting up for one second and showing why he’s one of the most underrated guitarists in the world. The album closes with the slower ‘Reds and Blues’ providing another easy listen and capping off what is a very good album. It’s a great end to this reintroduction to an immensely talented band, leaving the listener hoping that this newly formed marriage continues for years to come.

In conclusion, this album sounds like a band who has found a new life and energy. This is thanks in part to appointing a phenomenal vocalist in Jeff Gutt, who has made the position of front man of Stone Temple Pilots his own. Considering the magnitude of the talent and enigma of his predecessors, only the best available option was going to do for the the DeLeo brothers and Eric Kretz. One feels that the decision to self-title this album is a nod to new beginnings; something attempted eight years ago with the bands previous album (also self-titled) but instead ended in disappointment and tragedy. There’s a variation of different styles on the record, and this versatility has served the band well as they showcase each dynamic of who they are as exceptionally talented musicians. There are some moments on the album which are moving and others that offer the STP brand of pure rock ferociousness. There is quality on each end of the scale, with a keen attention to detail paying off in a big way. Each band member is given their opportunity to shine and together they’ve been able to reignite some of the magic that in recent years has evaded STP.

That said, the album does feel slightly long. There were a few tracks that, while being decent, could have been left as B-Sides. However, it is nice to get a full twelve tracks in an era of music where it’s not uncommon for albums to have single-digit track listings. If this band can continue forward producing albums of this caliber, Stone Temple Pilots will recapture the momentum they once had as a driving force in alternative music.

[Album Review] Mike Shinoda – Post Traumatic [EP]

We here at Altwire don’t really talk about ourselves much when we post articles on this site. It’s an interesting thought because when we write anything which we deem worthy of posting, really we’re just giving an insight into how we perceive other artist’s work. In a way this gives a sort of inadvertent perspective as to who we are as writers. We critique this work based on how it makes us feel, the tone in which it speaks to us and its message is all according to our interpretation. A vital component to any credible writer is the ability to separate your work from your biases and any pre-conceived notions. It’s a difficult skill particularly when what you’re writing about has indirectly been a part of your life for over half of your existence.

So where am I going with this? First off, Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park was the first ever album I ever owned. I was eleven years old and really had no palette for musical taste yet. My brother had turned me on to Hip-Hop artists like Jay-Z, Eminem, Tupac and Wu-Tang Clan which he would let me listen to. Yet I had no frame of reference for what sort of music was for me. So when a school friend showed me bands like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach and other bands who incorporated both Hip-Hop and Rock elements, the bridge between my tastes in genres had been built. I soon found myself hanging out with kids at my school who listened to Rock, Punk and Metal. Kids who emulated their favorite artists in style and look. One friend dressed exactly like Travis Barker and had a mohawk as such and played the drums. Another had hair exactly like Jack White and spent their days covering White Stripes songs on their guitar. Me? I wanted to be Mike Shinoda. Yes, I had Spikey blue hair and black fingernails. Yes, I routinely ‘rapped’ verses of In The End.

When I found out yesterday that Mike Shinoda was releasing music under his own name, it occurred to me that as the individual responsible for the review I would have to put aside my personal feelings and be ready to deliver criticism. This is despite the fact that there was obviously going to be a ton of emotions attached to these songs that some way or another I was going to have to separate myself from. This is after all an EP titled Post Traumatic written in the months following the tragic suicide of Shinoda’s band mate Chester Bennington – the event which is the primary focus and inspiration for this release.  I am pleased and slightly relieved to say that Post Traumatic provides a great example of how to channel human experience into a creative force.

The first of the three tracks is Place To Start. The shortest of the three songs, this track captures the barrage of uncertainty Shinoda has faced over the past six months. It is when you listen to the questions asked in this track you begin to understand the depth of his loss. Chester was not just his friend but his colleague whose talent and charisma were vital to the success of Linkin Park and acted as a focal point for the bands endeavors. When such an enigmatic force is taken away, you find yourself in total limbo with seemingly no idea how to begin to move forward. You can hear the draining nature of these questions in Shinoda’s vocals which are sung over a sombre minimalistic production. As the track progresses his vocals increase in tempo to a rap before slowing back down again almost to convey a conflict of mind sets. The track concludes with the repeated sentence “I don’t want to know the end, all I want is a place to start” suggesting the refusal to concede that this is the end of the journey but frustration at not knowing how to continue. This is followed by audio recordings of messages of condolences and well wishes left on Shinoda’s phone, a very tasteful tribute to the outpouring of support during such a horrendous time.

Over Again touches upon the wearisome nature of having to say goodbye to someone whilst living in the public eye. One gets a taste of the burden Shinoda felt trying to keep a sound mind whilst shouldering a weight of responsibility to the fan base he had helped build up over twenty years. The principle subject in this track is the Linkin Park and Friends Show which took place this past October at the Hollywood Bowl. It is a clear reflection of having to suppress so many feelings for the sake of the show and being professional. Musically the song is very much in the alternative hip-hop style akin to Twenty One Pilots. The verses bring a welcome return to the rapping which for the most part was absent from Linkin Park’s most recent effort One More Light. The second verse in particular is worth mentioning for the level of aggression that Shinoda, until now has seldom shown. He goes all out with his disdain for the environment he finds himself and embraces that anger as the track builds in intensity: “And everybody that I talk to is like, wow must be really hard to figure out what to do now. Well thank you genius you think it’ll be a challenge, only my life’s work hanging in the fucking balance!”

The EP concludes with Watching As I Fall, a track which really leaves the listener wanting more than just three tracks as Shinoda broadcasts his immense talent through wonderful production work and superb tongue-in-cheek lyricism. It’s a bass heavy track with a great beat to accompany, and the use of a whammy pedal in the bridge is well-placed and gives the track an extra dimension. Lyrically it is a middle finger in the face of anyone who dare write off an artist with such a catalogue of tools ready to use as ammunition. This is a pissed-off and cynical Mike Shinoda with a chip on his shoulder. His flow in this song is unlike anything else he’s done previously and shows that after all these years and after all the adversity he has faced, criticism fair or not, he’s still got a desire to prove doubters wrong. It’s an exciting look in to a potential direction Linkin Park could go.

In many ways I’m still coming to terms with the fact that the lead singer of the band who essentially introduced me to alternative music took his own life six months ago. I can’t begin to imagine what his family, friends and band mates went through and continue to go through. So I don’t. I don’t assume anything because everyone grieves in different ways. I do believe Post Traumatic was a part of Mike Shinoda’s grieving process. I also believe that’s ultimately why he chose to release it under his own name and not under the Linkin Park or Fort Minor banner. This was his journey. An outlet for that pent up raw emotion that you feel when dealing with a loss of such magnitude. The sadness, the anger, the confusion…it’s all there on these tracks. It’s his way of coping with the trauma of losing a loved one. He’s truly wearing his heart on his sleeve which in turn has produced some of the best tracks in his career. The production is magnificent throughout. Each hook feels fresh and natural and nothing feels labored other than where that is the intention. The one and only drawback for this EP is its incredibly short length. I would have liked to have heard at least a few more tracks, but really I don’t feel much disappointment from that at all. The release of the EP was almost a total surprise, so really just hearing new music from an incredibly talented artist is good enough for me. It’s a good example of how adversity can ultimately be a valuable source of inspiration. When you combine that with the tools at his disposal, the sky really is the limit for Mike Shinoda. While there are indications that Linkin Park will continue, you can be sure that whatever happens he will be creating art of a very high quality.