How’s it going?
I’m very good! I actually went to the University of Birmingham so it’s somewhat of a homecoming to come back. A couple of things have changed but the German market’s there, town’s looking pretty, it’s cool.
How’s the tour been so far?
It’s actually been really exceptional! Tours in the UK are always awesome for me, the rest of the guys are from the states, so it’s always nice to tour on home soil, but the shows have been particularly awesome on this run. I guess it’s been a long time since we did a headliner, and we have really good friends out on the road with us, being Good Tiger, who are really good friends of mine in particular, as well as Veil of Maya, who are again really good friends, we’ve toured with them since day 1. So it’s a great package, there’s been some really good vibes, so far it’s been amazing.
Good Tiger are relatively new on the scene, right?
Yeah, they’ve kind of sprung from the ashes of The Safety Fire, plus the new guys they’ve drafted in are all from the same circle of friends. I actually played a part in producing and mixing their album, and I’m really familiar with the band and the music, so it’s super cool to have them on their first proper tour.
How would you say UK crowds compare with US fans then?
I think what’s really nice is because the band is US-based, I’d say maybe the US fans are more accustomed to seeing us, so we get a lot of people coming to see us who have already seen us before, but what’s really cool about touring in the UK is because we’re here less often, we get way more unique fans in the mix. I feel the crowds here really go the extra mile to make it a special evening. They’re going to be hearing a whole swathe of new material that we’ve never played before, so there’s a lot of excitement in the crowd. That always rubs off on us too, and gets us to perform to our best as well. And unlike our supporting tour with Devin Townsend, this time around we have a longer set, full production, lighting, all the stuff that we usually get in the states, so it feels like we’re running a proper show this time round, now that we’re the headliners.
With all this gigging you’re doing, it’s pretty hard to believe that your latest release, double album Juggernaut: Alpha and Omega, came out only at the start of this year.
Yeah! It’s difficult for us to think that it’s only been 18 months since we finished recording it, and that’s pretty mindblowing, it kind of feels like ancient history now. We’re already looking to what we’re going to do next, we have all sorts of plans in the pipeline for future recording. So yeah, we’re still on the Juggernaut tour, we’re actually playing a couple of newer songs that we certainly haven’t played in Europe before, “Stranger Things” being one of them.
I didn’t expect “Stranger Things” to become as much of a fan favourite as it did!
Me neither! It actually existed as a much shorter demo for a long time, and finishing it was somewhat of a trial. We experimented with a lot of different structures and longer versions and also much shorter versions. I’m really glad we spent the time on that because what eventually came out on the album was really the best possible arrangement of the song. So yeah, it’s a really cool one to play live for sure.
The album as a whole was very different to Periphery’s earlier stuff, I guess you could call it more coherent in a lot of respects.
Yeah, it is obviously a concept album so there’s loads of different themes going on both lyrically and musically. It’s interesting though, when you’re on the inside of these things, it felt like we had a lot of songs in a lot of different styles. We had demos of “Heavy Heart”, “Four Lights”, “A Black Minute”, songs which on their own don’t feel at all like previous Periphery material. It was very interesting, once we actually started compiling it into an album and refining the arrangements it really started coming together and eventually sounded like a Periphery album, but for the longest time it sounded more like a collection of quite disparate ideas. There was a whole load of material that didn’t actually make it on! But it’s cool to hear from first-time listeners that it still holds that core Periphery sound.
Would you say it’s separate from the Periphery I, Periphery II timeline? Is this different style of writing the sort of thing you’d use in further releases?
I think what we’ll definitely continue is a more collaborative approach to songwriting – Juggernaut definitely marked a new point of that for us. Periphery I is very much songs written by Misha [Mansoor – guitar] prior to Periphery even being a band. Periphery II was still mainly Misha but we had input from Mark [Holcomb – guitar] on, most notably, “Scarlet” and “Mile Zero”, as well as Jake [Bowen – guitar] on “The Gods Must Be Crazy!” But Juggernaut was really the first record where everyone came together and analysed and wrote and restructured and arranged all of the material, and that will certainly continue. But I don’t think we’re going to make the same album another time.
In some ways, Juggernaut was a reaction to what we’d done prior. So Periphery II was, not entirely but for the most part, a playful, up-tempo album, and with Juggernaut we kind of went in a slower, heavier direction, as well as lighter in some parts. I kind of see a continuation of an outward trend where it’ll be more aggressive, but also lighter and more accessible, not from any kind of perspective of trying to sell out or be more commercial. We all have a huge amount of influence from outside the typical spheres of influence within metal, so it’s bound to come out in the songwriting.
Would you say there was a very particular song, artist, album etc. outside the spheres of metal which influenced Juggernaut directly?
I think something that’s always been a continuous underlying theme of Periphery has been the Final Fantasy themes! General video game music too. I think it’s Misha and Mark especially who are hugely influenced by that stuff. There’s a lot of unconventional chord structures, chord arrangements, odd time signatures and very strong melodic themes which you can hear in our music for sure. It’s a very cool part of what makes up the Periphery sound. There’s all sorts of stuff though.
More recently, I think pretty much everyone in the band has been more or less obsessed with an Armenian jazz pianist called Tigran Hamasyan. There’s certain chord tonalities in there, and it’s very rhythmically complex and also very different melodically speaking, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little bit of that coming out in the next release.
Final question: who would be in your dream band, dead or alive, and what genre would it be?
Wow, that’s really tough! I have no idea what the genre would be, but I would definitely have Stan Getz playing saxophone, because I love his melodic sense, and I love the sound of his playing, plus he’s dead! (laughs) That would be a pretty unique selling point to be honest. If we’re going along that theme I might bring back Tupac, from a commercial perpective, we gotta fund this thing somehow. Maybe Dimebag Darrell on guitar would be sick. Who else would I have? I’m really just going for “the dead band” right now. I would have John Bonham on drums for sure. I think on vocals I’d have Layne Staley. There you go, there’s my band. It’d be pretty weird.
I’d dig it! Awesome speaking to you.
It’s been a pleasure man, thanks very much!