Prog-Metal Force Gracepoint Interview is up..
1.You are one of the few true Prog Metal I've hear in while not trying to be power metal or thrash with Prog elements. How did your sound come to be?
Well thank you very much for saying so! It really is hard to tell sometimes. Some people seem to think one thing is progressive and others disagree. We have often run into people who don’t think we should be called progressive metal because we do not have the “right” type of singer or because we do not have a member dedicated to keyboards. We gave up trying to figure these things out and just kept calling ourselves progressive metal because we couldn’t think of anything better that would describe what we are trying to do. Our interest in playing with time signatures and syncopation plus the shape and style of our riffs seem to straddle some people’s categorical distinctions.
As far as the way our sound came about it was really pretty organic. We really just got lucky that we had a group of guys in the same place, at the same time that got along well and seemed to be interested in writing the same kind of music. It was like let’s jam some tunes off Rust in Peace, a little Fates Warning, Dream Theater, or Rush just to get to know each other and then let’s just start writing and see what happens.
2.I hear strong elements of Armored Saint, Iced Earth and Pain of Salvation. Do these bands at all inspire the style or sound Gracepoint create?
Those are all solid bands without a doubt! As far as being direct, first tier influences on us probably not but there is no telling the stuff those bands listened to coming up might be similar to what we were all into. The members of GP are all influenced by slightly different things but there is enough overlap that it all seems makes sense together. We are a mix of the really busy technical riffing stuff tempered by heavy, groovy bands and bands with great vocals and moods and songs. It would be like Cynic meets Diary of a Madman or Rush meets Metallica or some kind of hybrid vibe.
Musical influences for us really inform our sensibility and how and when we determine a phrase is ready to be brought to life in a song. We try pretty hard not to repeat what others have done as best as we can. We have had riffs where someone says, ‘Hey that sounds like so-and-so’….if that happens the riff either needs to be reworked or maybe even just scrapped.
3. How does Gracepoint create an album will the music come 1st or do you write the lyrical story and then have a sound in mind for the story?
We really do not give too much thought to larger concepts when writing. Most often the music comes first and a loose arrangement is worked out. After that Matt will work up some vocal ideas and the combination of the scratch vocals and the music dictate the direction of the lyrics. Very often lyrical ideas just seem to emerge from the mist and we build on that framework.
4. What are live shows for Gracepoint like and how does it differ from the albums?
Live shows are much more by the seat of the pants! We always try to write things that are challenging in terms of performance and so making arrangements work smoothly live can be a really tricky sometimes. There is no going back to give some tricky sections another pass when you are playing live so it can be a real musical triathlon. It is also important to try to make sure everyone can hear each other in order to keep things tight and playing in different venues always present a variety of monitoring experiences. Sometimes we joke about why the hell we wrote some of this stuff!
Albums really give you a chance to pull out all the stops in terms of making a piece of music sound like you imagine it in its very best form. I always describe the difference between recordings and live performances as being like the difference between theater and film. In the film you can take advantage of takes, lighting, script people, special effect, and editing in order to make the movie as amazing as possible and that is expected from the audience. Theater is live and all the set stuff and lines are on the fly and so it changes the way you tell a story.
5. Your last proper album was a decade ago why so long between albums?
That is a short question with a long answer but I will give the condensed version. Our original drummer Lance Reed, who has just recently rejoined the band, decided to go in a different direction in part because of frustration with the music scene which was still very anti-metal or rap-metal oriented at that time. We spent many years looking for a suitable replacement and we tried dozens of drummers. Each failed drummer experiment chewed up 6-12 months as we tried to get guys up to speed. We worked with plenty of really good drummers but the constant time signature shifting is like a different language and if a drummer does not know how to adjust to having the beats flip around it can be hard to learn. When your physical patterns are reversed every other measure it can be daunting.
We even had Lance come back and track the drums for Echoes as a favor to us but eventually hooked up with Justin Koch. Since Justin joined up we took the plunge and re-tracked all the drums which added more time to the production but he did a fantastic job and it all turned out great. Add in a lot of other life complications and the difficulty of getting our schedules to match Neil Kernon’s and you can blow a decade in no time at all!
We are already pushing on with our next album because we will not let that long hiatus happen a second time.
6. Your doing your new album "Echoes" totally DIY in 2016 does a band need a label or does a good PR team and strong social media and digital distro all a band needs to get the message out to the world?
That is a great question and we do not yet have the answer! We are just pushing ahead to see what will happen. Fingers crossed. We will take the DYI as far as we can but we are open to other angles that may present themselves. As you noted, it has been quite a while since our last album so we need to do a little grassroots, underground work to get our name out there again.
7. With seeing the artwork and hearing the lyrics on " Echoes" There must be a story or theme behind the album?
There does seem to be some thread running between the songs but it was not really thought out or intentional. They deal with topics that are common to most people: loss, addiction, betrayal, the difficulty of breakout of the walls that we build around ourselves, the way your perspective on the world changes as you get older, and the frustrations of your own human limitations vis a vis your hopes and aspirations. Overall it is a fairly introspective album and the artwork reflects that theme.
8. What bands in 2016 are impressing the members of Gracepoint?
Redemption: The Art of Loss, Voivod: Post Society, Our Oceans: S/T, Borknagar: Winter Thrice, Megadeth: Dystopia, Periphery, Jakub Zytecki: Wishful Lotus Proof, Ghost Ship Octavius, Queensryche: Condition Human, Black Crown Initiate: The Wreckage of Stars….just to name a few.
Plus still loving lots of classic metal which never gets old!
9. If you could sign with a major label or prog label like Century Media, Inside out or even Lasers Edge/ Sensory would the band be interested in that or does the DIY way really work out best now?
Well again, the DYI is a bit of an experiment born out of the reality of our situation. The music industry is a tough neighborhood to play in and there are so many things that make it hard for bands. There are so many bands that lose money or just break even after tours that is can really be complicated. Even established labels have tight budgets and the competition for their resources is fierce.
We have not been around for a while so it would probably help any prospective label that maybe interested in what we do if we could do a little work to establish ourselves and give them some more incentive to help. We will just take the turns as the come down the road and we are open to any new options that might present themselves. If you know any millionaires that want to finance a progressive metal band we would be happy to take the call, day or night!
10. If you could make a proper video for any track on " Echoes" which track would it be any why?
That is an interesting question! We have not really discussed that topic. Videos are a tricky beast because there aren’t really any new ideas out there anymore since 1 billion of them have been made in the last 35 years so it would really take some thought. Maybe now that you have introduced the subject we will have to kick it around a bit to see if we come up with anything.
11. Where do you need 2016 and beyond heading for Gracepoint will you be touring or just creating new compositions?
One of the things that happened while we were trying to find drummers and get this album done is that we just kept writing stuff and coming up with riff and ideas. Now we have stockpile of stuff that we are really impatient to get working on. Own main focus now is to get moving on the next album and to work with Neil again. This next one should go much more smoothly and so we are excited to get back to work.
12. Do the members of Gracepoint create music outside of the band if so tell us a bit about that?
There is a bit of personal dabbling in other things but (besides Lance’s other band “Goodnight Ritual”) most everything we work on is with GP in mind. We are of a one track mind in many ways when it comes to the time we spend writing. Since GP is very open to various styles and feels there is really no reason that lots of different kinds of ideas could not find a home in our music.
13. Your from The Twin Cities in MN how is the indie metal scene there are there still many venues , radio and places that support the music still in 2016?
The Twin Cities is probably like a lot of places these days. It is kind of a rough scene for original music at least from the standpoint of heavy music. It is very hard to keep live music clubs open since it is a tough business and original music is a really risk for club owners so cover bands really rule the day because they get more consistent draw. There are plenty of cool bands passing through so the best opportunities are usually to get work as local support to incoming tours. The rest is self-organized and self-promoted shows which are put together through collaboration with other original metal bands but again, club owners are wary of original music and that is the big challenge.
14. In just 4 words how would you explain the bands sound to someone that never heard Grace Point?
Aggressive, Progressive, Moody, and Groovy.
15. If you could collaborate with any band or artist to make original music who would it be and why?
That is another very interesting question which I do not think we have ever asked ourselves. Working with Neil Kernon was obviously awesome and his added musical colors and instrumentation was really cool and very tasteful so we would love to continue working with him. I think working with Devin Townsend would be fun because he is super creative and seems to be able to work with almost anyone and come out with something cool and unique. Plus to have him scream his heart out on one of our tunes would be sweet!
16. Thank you for the time any closing thoughts here..
We would really like to thank you for your time and interest and for giving us a chance to talk about the album a little bit. We know that in music there are a lot of different fan bases and that sometimes they seem to be in opposing factions but we really don’t try to fit into one particular sub-genre. We just do what we do and we hope people will like it.
Although we call ourselves progressive metal we really don’t have an attitude about it. We may not have all of the criteria that some progressive fans demand of a band to include us and that is ok with us but we are glad that you see things the way we do! After all, we have a tune with 128 different time signature changes but very often they are hidden in a groove so they may go unnoticed. In the end however that is not what it is really all about, we really just want to write good solid metal tunes that can be enjoyed by anyone and we will continue to try to get better at crafting interesting tunes that are both thoughtful and entertaining.
Thanks again for your questions!