2007 – November/December
by Dixon Christie
PunkTV.ca: Hi Joey. What’s going on?
How you doing man?
PunkTV.ca: I am doing awesome, how are you?
PunkTV.ca: What has been going on with you guys?
We did a lot of touring this summer. A lot of great runs, most notably a couple of tours with Porcupine Tree, and even a run with The Scorpions, which was pretty wild. We have just been chilling out for the last couple of week, having a holiday at home kind of recuperating and getting ready for some serious touring starting this spring.
PunkTV.ca: I got to talk to Matthias from The Scorpions just before you guys went out with them. How was that?
It was great man. It was really a great experience. Those guys are the real deal so it was just really an honor to be out with them. It’s the kind of thing where they roll up in like a van or a limo right before their set then gets out and do their thing then leave. So there was about five or six shows before we really got to meet each other and they checked the band out and they really dug it. We became pretty good friends and by the end we were partying together and having a good time.
PunkTV.ca: That’s the part I would have asked you about, specifically did Matthias come out to check you guys out and what was that peer acceptance like for you?
You know, it was really nice. They said we were the best act that they have preformed with since Joe Cocker so I think that is a big compliment, and it seemed like they really genuinely enjoyed what we were doing… it was something that was refreshing. By the end of the tour Matthias himself came up and was like, “wow, man… you guys really came a long way.” I think every tour you do you pick up a little something for sure, and being out with those guys, I think one of the things we learned is how you can enhance the music with your performance and how you create this connection through your movement and the visual things that you do can also enhance the musical experience. So that was one of the things that we took away, and by the end of the tour we had elevated what we do to the next level.
PunkTV.ca: Did you get off on Matthias’s guitar collection? Did he bring a lot of them out with him?
Oh yeah.. it’s a massive guitar collection and is pretty awesome.
PunkTV.ca: And you are rolling in ESP now I guess eh?
Yeah, I’m really thrilled with the instruments that they make and especially the X-Tone. That is the one I used in our video for “All That Remains”. I am really happy with the tone and they do a great job setting the instruments up for me and they have been really supportive.
PunkTV.ca: ESP was recently featuring you guys on the front of their website. How does the deal with ESP work for you?
It’s just about making personal connections. We did this show last spring, the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, and ESP happened to be one of the sponsors. That was an interesting gig for us because we are not really a metal band.
PunkTV.ca: You don’t play generic four-chord metal but you play guitar oriented rock that could be considered progressive metal.
Yeah, sure. We were just sort of a stand out band that day. We weren’t sure how we were going to go over but the tides have kind of turned and people were really open to what we were doing, especially when we walked out there only with an acoustic guitar that day. I think ESP caught our set and they were really blown away so as soon as we got off stage they were coming up to me and being like, “Can we send you some guitars?” and I was like, “Yeah, sure”. I was actually really impressed with their guitars and they have been really supportive so it’s a great thing like that. You never know who is out in the audience watching you perform.
PunkTV.ca: Isn’t it true that now genre lines are really blurring and a lot of bands that would be into your music are listening to you guys because you really know your craft and you are speaking in the guitar language that you love?
I think that’s inevitably in any kind of situation musically; if you kind of confine yourself to one thing you are going to start to itch for something new and that is just the human experience. I think that happens in the microcosm, but also in the macrocosm, and I think that is why you see people’s minds kind of starting to open up a little bit to a blend of some different influences. It is really musical evolution, and it is about something that kind of catches you off guard… that is not what I was expecting, and that is what I enjoy about music. I think that is a universal quality.
PunkTV.ca: Obviously you have been touring The End Has Begun for some time now. How do you guys challenge yourselves to keep it real for the writing process, and how does that work for you while you are on the road?
It is definitely no secret that it is difficult to write when you are on the road, and especially that Scorpions tour… we spent so much time in the van it was pretty amazing. A lot of the gigs were like 1000 miles apart so it would literally get off stage, get in the van, and drive straight to the next gig and never really stop in between. So it’s just when you are so focused on that small increment of time that you are on stage, and that is what everything is for you… so you kind of focus on that and don’t necessarily get a chance to do a lot of writing. I do write with my guitar a lot of times and just kind of jam out though. If I come up with something, I come up with something, but generally it is tough. It would be nice to have a tour bus one day and have like a digital drum set and little stations where we could sit down and work the stuff. That would be ideal.
PunkTV.ca: Do you tab out all of your stuff? Do you manage to keep it all in your head? Or do you record it to a little recording device of some kind?
I never write anything down, and that is just the way I am. It’s all in my head and I have never been in the habit of writing things down. I get emails all the time from people looking for tabs and I just never seem to have the time to sit down and do that.
PunkTV.ca: You should invite the kids to do them for you then check the tabs to make sure they are accurate. Are you good at math?
Early on I was in advanced match classes, but then I sort of lost my appreciation for it. I would say now I appreciate math more than I did back than when I was in school.
PunkTV.ca: When you think about the amount of notes that you have to remember, I imagine it gets pretty intense. I can’t imagine being able to do that.
Yeah, it takes time and you’ve got to rehearse. It’s also like a combination of things like just one note leads to the next kind of thing. So if you asked me what was the fifth note or the fourth phrase I could never tell you, but just playing the song the way the songs unfolds… it’s almost like a mediation. It’s not like I have it memorized inside out, I just experience the song the same way and each step leads to the next.
PunkTV.ca: Obviously the Scorpions is one of the highs of 2007 for you. What are some of the other highs and lows of yours from this year?
I would have to put Porcupine Tree’s Blank Planet on there because I think that is a phenomenal record. They did a great job of it, and it’s one of their best, and I really got into it with that record. Also, a band called Kiss Kiss, who they are from Purchase, New York, which is not too far from here, are totally innovative and their record called Reality vs. The Optimist. So those are two of my favorite records this year and I was definitely into Humanity.
PunkTV.ca: Some of the low points for you?
You know, if I don’t really dig something I don’t pay much attention to it. So I don’t know… nothing really specific comes to mind. I’m sure there were many low points but I don’t really waste my time on those.
PunkTV.ca: Progressive bands are always awesome to talk to because I am always trying to get into the mind space of the guys that are creating these huge aural soundscapes and trying to figure out what they are about and what motivates them and what their spiritual design is.
I am into a guy called Rudolph Steiner. His whole approach is like a spiritual science. Like how he looks at it is this reverence for the absolute truth of things. He was able to train his mind to super high levels of cognition and he is definitely a hero of mine. You got to just check out his books to really get a sense of what he is about but it is very positive kind of esoteric literature.
PunkTV.ca: I wonder if there are any absolute truths in this world with everything being subjective and objective.
I’m sure they can be distilled most likely into one truth. It’s not easy to describe it and it’s not like I’m just sort of walking a path. I’m not deciding ahead of time what it is going to be. I am just sort of following a path and letting it unfold. So I am just in a sense playing my role.
PunkTV.ca: If you were following in that path motivated by a single muse what would that muse be?
Oh, it is definitely different at different times, but for me I look at reality almost like layers of illusion. If you work at shedding the illusory aspects of reality and keep peeling them back you see more and more of what is really real. The search for that is definitely what has been my muse, certainly on the last record, and my way of expressing the beauty of what I think is real is music.
PunkTV.ca: You were saying earlier how you were impacted by how The Scorpions felt that your live performance could affect the overall impact on your audience.
Absolutely, man. Those guys are so good at that and we have been so focused on the music, doing other things visually and physically to enhance the music, so it was certainly not the first thing on our minds but I think we began to pick that up a little bit and realize that there are things that we can do to give the music more of an impact and communicate with the audience.
PunkTV.ca: Maybe like a video screen or a giant pig that floats through the audience?
Not really, we don’t really have the capabilities of pulling stuff like that off at the moment. It has to be natural and it has to come naturally and I think there is osmosis when you are around something and on tour with an artist like The Scorpions; you absorb these things, and it is not even conscious, but it starts to surface in your own playing and your own experience on stage. So I think we noticed that our showmanship started to develop and get a bit stronger.
PunkTV.ca: The pig thing was a reference to how you guys are re-releasing The End Has Begun with a rendition of Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play”. So can you tell us how that came about and what your take on that song is?
Well, it started with the idea had been floated with getting us involved in a potential compilation album. We listened to a bunch of different tracks and our guitar player, Billy, that was like his first pick and one of his favorite songs. It was a song that I was fond of and after listening to it a couple times I thought we could do something really cool with it and I just ran with it. I started working on a version at home and it just came together. It became its own thing, and I think it does the song justice, but it is its own thing and is definitely our twist on that. Once we kind of finished it up and everybody heard it, like our label and our manager, everyone just loved the track and got really excited and was like, “too bad this isn’t on the record”. We are going to radio in February so basically that was what prompted the idea of doing a re-release and adding this track to the record. Since we were going ahead and doing a re-release anyway, they were like why not add a couple of songs from our set we did at the New England Hardcore and Metal Festival; that was kind of a breakthrough performance for us. So there is going to be several tracks from that performance on a DVD as well.
PunkTV.ca: So you kind of worked your way up and the label said you guys are ready, and they are going to take this to radio now. Have you guys decided what tracks you are going to send to radio?
The track we were kind of pushing was “All That Remains” but now they just kind of want to vibe out the reaction from radio for the Pink Floyd tune just to see because my attitude is whatever works. I stand behind all the music and I feel like every song is worthy. All That Remains, for me, really accurately describes the record for people and what we are about, but the “See Emily Play” cover is also a very unique piece. Really you just kind of got to go with the flow with these types of things.
PunkTV.ca: Are you happy to have a team behind you to make those kind of decisions so you can be the creative guy and Metalblade can do their work for you?
Yeah that is what I am focused on is being the creative end of things and no one is overbearing. They may have an opinion but ultimately we are in control here. We respect the people that we work with and you got to let them do their jobs. If they feel strongly about something I got to respect that. Initially, with the idea of doing a re-release, I thought it was a little bit unfair to the people who went out and supported us and got the record right off the bat, but sometimes you just can’t foresee the way things are going to happen and you got to just go with the flow here.
PunkTV.ca: So you guys will be back out in spring?
Yeah, the Progressive Nation Tour. It is going to be a big tour with us, a band called Between the Buried and Me, as well as another band called Opeth, will be touring, and headlining the show will be Dream Theatre.
PunkTV.ca: Oh dude, you must be stoked.
Yeah man, I am really psyched. It’s the perfect tour for us and it’s kind of like Mike Portnoy’s brain child. He has put this whole thing together and we were right on the top of the list of bands he wanted on the tour. He really fought to get us on this thing so we are really excited. It’s going to be big shows and an extensive tour. We should be out to your area. We don’t have the dates yet though.
PunkTV.ca: Ok well last time we asked you the two questions we normally ask everybody, so this time around I am going to ask you the question we ask everybody in their second interview which is: evolution or intelligent design and why?
Evolution is an intelligent design. I mean, obviously evolution is the purpose of life but I think where people go wrong sometimes is they get so focused on the idea of physical evolution. If God has a purpose for us it is spiritual evolution and that may be reflected on a physical level as well. But, to me, the point of why we live our lives and why we make mistakes and why we learn from them and hopefully we grow and get closer and closer to what we are meant to be. So evolution is intelligent design to me.
PunkTV.ca: Perfect, that is a rare response. We don’t commonly get a combination of both.
Cool, that’s what it all about: rather than dividing, bringing people back together.