Written by Joshua Vise Sunday, 04 November 2012 17:41
How you interact defines your integrity over time.
[Full disclosure: The interviewer appears as a vocal actor on Noah Sias’s current release We Say Goodnight to the Restless Mind.]
Since the days of Napster, the internet has been touted as a tool that has forever changed music. Divergent arguments have taken center stage, with popular artists of all stripes both bemoaning its facilitation of music piracy while simultaneously praising its ability to allow greater and more personal interaction with fans. Forward thinkers such as Trent Reznor and Björk have even encouraged their audiences to remix their songs by offering master tracks available for download. This level of interpersonal connection between musicians and artists who may have never met each other offers promising new means of collaboration, and hopefully a wave of powerful, genre-bending music.
One such artist, Noah Sias, has embraced the new possibilities technology has offered. A multi-instrumentalist from Muskegon, Michigan, he has reached as far as Australia and South Korea for talent featured on his newest release, We Say Goodnight to the Restless Mind. An angry, dissonant album that is interspersed with narration and vocal acting, it is sure to leave an impression on fans of extremely loud and aggressive heavy metal music. Through Facebook, we chatted about his new album, the inspiration behind it, collaboration with other artists, and future plans.
Tell me a bit about your new album and the concept behind it. What was the writing process like? Did you have the instrumentation prepared before the lyrics, or the other way around?
The album originally started as an EP that was only suppose to have like four or five songs on it. That then transferred into an EP where there would be no lyrics but the song titles themselves, when read together, would tell a story. I ended up getting sidetracked with a few other projects, so the album was pushed aside for about a month. Once things slowed down, I reapproached the album, but this time with the intent of having it be a full-length concept album. Unlike my last release, The Layman’s Guide to Anti-intellectual Terrorism, I wrote the lyrics alongside the instrumental. Normally, the music comes first.
You’ve said that this is a very personal album for you. What do you think others can take away from this album? What viewpoint would you like to share?
I wrote this album to get a lot of frustration, anxiety, depression, and other such emotions out. 2012 has been an extremely interesting year for me. I’ve been through a lot of different situations, with great accomplishments and a lot of hardships. Even in really bad situations, I try to stay positive or motivated to endure, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t struggled. Same can be said of anyone. We all struggle or lose focus at times. Sometimes we take it out on others or we find ourselves on the receiving end. How you interact to those situations defines your integrity over time.
As far as a viewpoint goes, I found that the recurring theme to the story is a question: When is enough enough? It can be a very difficult question to answer that especially if there is a lot emotionally invested to start with. Sometimes the answer you want isn’t what is right in the long run. Its important to not lose your joy. This album definitely deals with situations where its hard to decide when enough is enough. It definitely calls out to people in a lot of situations.
What made you want to invite other singers and use vocal acting in this album? What was it like working with people you’ve never met over vast distances? Tell us a little bit about the album’s artwork. Was it a collaboration, or did the artists take your initial ideas and run with them?
Every song on the album, with the exception of “Death Flinched” and “We Say Goodnight to the Restless Mind,” has guest vocalists. I don’t consider myself a strong vocalist ,so I approach people who have vocal styles to complement my own. This album, I had the opportunity to work with Mitchell Clarke of A Dead Silence (Adelaide, Australia), Jacob Lee of Skull Incision (California), and two Muskegon-area vocalists, Justin Sparrow, who has been on two of my other releases, and John Rogers. Working with people outside of your area has its pros and cons. Thankfully, pretty much everything worked out perfectly with the guest spots.
As far as the vocal acting and narration goes, this was a completely different approach for me. I’d always wanted do an album that was presented almost like a musical or opera, but never really had subject matter that worked. I felt the storyline of this album worked out well for it. I had an area rapper by the name of Rob Da Verb do the narration. Some people may find it strange that I used a rapper, but he’s done spoken-word projects before and he definitely has the voice for narration. As far as the vocal acting goes, I worked with you and Meagen Clarke Couch with the script I wrote. I also did a couple lines. Again, very different approach for me, but I’m happy for how that all worked out.
The artwork took quite some time to finish as the process was complex. I worked with Rob Holt out of Sedley, Virginia; I approached him after seeing a few of his pieces online. I had him do a few quick designs for something separate to see how he worked. It pretty much clicked from there. While I tried to keep what I visualized in my head the criteria, I also allowed for some creative freedom. Rob did the backgrounds, and I ended up having three freehand artists, Sarah Moats, Katie Chester, and David Chester. Sarah did the face for the album cover, while Katie and David did the booklet. Same situation as before: I set guidelines but it was also open to suggestions.
What gear do you use? What is your tuning? Do you process a lot of effects through the computer or play them live? What’s your recording process like?
My setup is fairly simple. I use a 2010 Agile Intrepid Pro 828 with three different tunings: EBEADGBE, BBEADGBE, and EBEFGEFE. My amp rig is all digital. For this album, I used LePou plugins LeGion amp sim with a few different speaker impulses. I’m known for having two distinct effects: The Yuck (which was coined by Josh Travis as he pioneered it) and the Hitchcock. Both are pitch effects that are set to a 50/50 wet/dry mix. I run those with Guitar Rig 4. As far as the ambient parts are concerned, those are mostly run through some presets inside of Logic Pro 9. No real amps were used. I prefer working with amp sims because nothing has to be permanent as far as tone as concerned. It also makes reamping very easy since you have a dry signal to work with.
The recording process for the album happened three times. I ran into some computer issues while tracking, but each time it got progressively faster, which I’ll mark as a small accomplishment as a player. The first time, it took about a week to track everything. By the last time, I think it took approximately three days. I wrote out all the drum parts first and ran them through Superior Drummer Metal Foundry, tracked my guitars and ambient sections, wrote the bass parts accordingly, and then added in vocals.
The particular style of music you play on the album, from its abrasive sounds to its complex composition, is a very far cry from what most people think of if you say rock or heavy metal. Where does this style of music fit in? What makes it appealing to you and others? Where do you see it going in the future? Will it grow harsher, explore more mellow sides, become increasingly complex, or be formulaic?
It’s hard to really classify my music. I get compared a lot to Josh Travis of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza and Glass Cloud; Even he has mentioned how we both have very similar approaches to playing and writing. I think I fall into the “djent” scene a bit. I also have heard people call me “deathcore” and other such genres. People have even compared some of my songs to dubstep, which is beyond strange to me, since I’m not into dubstep. With all those different classifications, though, it definitely tells me that my music is accessible on a few different levels. I’d rather be labeled as “other” and stand out than to be generalized and blend in.
I’m always trying to find new sounds and new techniques while trying to refine my conventional side, as well. As far as where things are going, I can only hope that its continues to move forward.
Talk about some of your musical influences, both in and out of the genres in which you play. How have these influences shaped your sound?
Again, since it’s hard to classify my sound, I can only really tell you what I take influence from. I guess my “heavy” influence would be from The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, The Acacia Strain, Volumes, Vildhjarta, and The Faceless. I’ve also been on a pretty big Deftones kick for a little while. Outside influences include John Zorn, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Claude Debussy, Aphex Twin, Sigur Rós, Lichens, and a lot of jazz. Obviously, with the heavier influences, I get a lot of ideas for straight-ahead riffs and some experimental stuff. I attribute a lot of my noise appreciation to John Zorn. He definitely likes to push boundaries with instrumentation and composition. His album Spillane was a pretty big influence on me to want to do an album with vocal acting.
How does this album compare to your last one?
In a way, it’s similar, as it talks about dealing with less than desirable people, but I feel like, as a whole, this album is far more focused. While the Layman’s Guide had a general theme that was followed loosely for people to come to their own conclusions, We Say Goodnight definitely defines the issues and topics and calls upon the listener to identify or relate to the story.
The state of music today, particularly the business aspect, is constantly shifting. Is it daunting to not only write and play music, but have to sell and promote your music in so many different ways? How have you embraced it? What would you change?
Being independent has a ton of pros and a ton of cons; I guess its all really a matter of what you are after. I like retaining control of my music and calling my own shots. Also being able to record, mix, and master puts me at an advantage with production costs. However, self-financing the finished product can be difficult. I’ve considered trying out fundraising sites and whatnot, but I also like the concept of doing everything myself. I’m not really after a label, but some sort of support would be cool, I suppose.
Do you have any plans for touring, or live shows? Are you involved with any other acts?
There’s definitely a lot of exciting things coming up in the next couple of months and into next year. I’m really only known for my heavier stuff online as opposed to some of the other projects I’m involved with. I play and write for an indie jazz fusion group called The Tiger Eye Ensemble. I also play in a band called Allis, which is based out of Lansing, Michigan. Both of those groups play live, but bringing the heavier stuff live will be interesting. I don’t really fit in with too many local groups, but we all have a mutual understanding and respect for our differences.
What plans do you have for the future? Are you already working on new music?
I’m doing a split with an Australian band called Thoughtless in little bit. It’ll feature some unused tracks from this current album. I anticipate doing a few other splits with artists, too. As far as working on new music, nothing truly cohesive will be going down for a little bit. I like to give my albums a good enough release timeframe before venturing to new endeavors.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to add about this release, you and your music, or music in general?
I’d definitely like to thank my fans both new and old for being extremely supportive of me. I’m really excited to share this release with everyone. It’s definitely something I’m proud of and I hope it’s something that can be enjoyed. | Joshua Vise
Noah Sias’s new album We Say Goodnight to the Restless Mind is available as a physical copy and digital download at Bandcamp.
Joshua Vise is a writer based in Daegu, South Korea.
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