My father introduced me to Shant’s album last summer, and it was within the first five minutes of listening to “Solipsistic,” his latest album, that I knew that this guy had something special. On election day, I was lucky to get a hold of him, as he happened to be standing behind me in line; generously, he agreed to an interview
“He’s obsessed with Pink Floyd,” told me Shant Hagopian’s wife as I noticed a painting made out of guitar picks of the legendary guitarist David Gilmour of the band “Pink Floyd.” My walk here from home was under 1 minute, I live across the street. As I sat on the couch and asked his wife, Nanor, a few questions, she served me a glass of water. After a few minutes of finding out about how they met and what their first date paintballing was like, Shant came upstairs from his hard work looking exactly like what you would think a metal guitarist would look like. From the long hair and scruffy beard to the casual t-shirt and jeans, this guy says rock’n’roll from head to toe. We had a small chat about his life and career as a musician.
It all started because of bands like Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd that Shant got into the rock world and began playing guitar at the age of 15 later going to music school.
“Nobody told me I was going to freeze my ass up here,” Shant explains. Born in Syria, he first created the band named “Nu.Clear.Dawn” in his youth while studying music. The band became popular in Syria after doing many cover shows, and a few years later for being the first metal band in Syria to release an album, but it did not come easy. “It’s a lot easier to build a house in Canada than it is to play a rock concert back in Syria, it’s almost impossible to release a rock album”
But they did it, and the band grew and gained more and more recognition. Unfortunately Shant felt conflicted with the fact that there was no way the band could really take off from Syria. So he moved to Canada, one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world. Honestly, who could blame him after all the conflicts, wars and explosions in the Middle East. “I consider myself very lucky for moving out of Syria before the revolution started which eventually led to the current horrible situation.”
But while Shant moved to Montreal, his other band mates fled Syria to move to different parts of the world. Shant used the incredible technology of today’s world to create his album through the Internet. He would write the songs, write down how he wanted them to be and then he would send them to different musicians around the world to add their touch and combine their talent creating an incredible piece of art. In 2013 the band he named “Semantic Saturation,” released the album “Solipsistic.”
“Semantic Saturation” and “Solipsistic”, two names I found extremely fascinating after he explained to me what they meant. “Semantic Saturation”, was the term used to describe the moment when you say a word over and over until it begins to lose meaning and starts being funny. The choice of the album name was a reflection of how the media causes us to become desensitized to the events revolving around us. Considering all the shocking things happening in Syria it’s easy to see why he would pick the name. “Solipsistic” on the other hand is the theory in which only you exist and everything and everybody around you is an illusion created simply for you. He chose the name, because it reflected the way he worked, he was reaching out to all these people through the Internet and it felt as though he was the only real person in his music-making world.
Look at the album artwork and you’ll see a girl representing “the listener” facing a metropolis of fake buildings, facades are what you see and with incredible detail you’ll notice some construction workers building everything for no one but her . Open up the CD pack and you get a 360 view of this “false reality” the girl is seeing.
After reading the reviews of the album it seems as though the album was quite a success especially since I did not notice a single trace of negative criticism. Getting to know Shant was great and I could truly say that this guy is the definition of cool.His laidback attitude and the detailed description of his life allowed for the opportunity to see how much he must have worked hard for what he’s accomplished.
If you want to get to know Shant Hagopian a little better you can either follow him on bandcamp, or you could check out his latest video on YouTube, believe me you won’t regret it. (Links Down Below)
I did an interview recently on the Swedish metal blog of Robex Lundgren.
Here’s the full interview:
What´s the name of your band? Semantic Saturation
What made you call the band “Semantic Saturation”? Semantic Saturation also known as ‘Semantic Satiation’ is a psychological phenomenon where repetition causes a word or phrase to lose its meaning temporarily; words are then processed in the mind as meaningless sounds. The idea is much deeper than that, and it doesn’t just stop there. Even though unapparent, but our brains are being saturated on a daily basis, and fed by multiple sources, they may look slow but the effects are the same on the long run.
How was the band formed? Derek is an inspiration, being a Dream Theater fan since 1995 “A Change of Seasons” was the first album I had, and up till now it’s still my favorite track (let’s call it a long track). Andy Kuntz is the most amazing, down to earth, very supportive and friendly musician I have ever met, add to that his amazing voice and the writing and producing talents he has. As for Virgil and Ric, it was natural to have them on the album. Derek Virgil and Ric worked together before with Planet X, they are simply virtuosos, they are all top of the line musicians, they are world class progressive rock gurus, and how can you go wrong? Virgil was even one of the seven drummers who were auditioned to be the next Dream Theater drummer after Mike Portnoy left the band. DT picked Mangini, their loss is my gain.
Where are all band members from?/Who does what in the band? Keyboardist Derek Sherinian, drummer Virgil Donati and bassist Ric Fierabracci are long time pals since they all played together with Planet X. Andy Kuntz is the vocalist and front-man of the German prog metal band Vanden Plas. And I’m the founder of Semantic Saturation, former guitarist of prog/power metal band Nu.Clear.Dawn from Syria.
Could you explain your music to someone that haven’t heard you? I think editors and writers have framed this aspect at best, so I’m just going to quote some of them:
“A work of mind-blowing complexity and technical proficiency, a dizzying lap of musical labyrinth, pleasingly nerdy, dazzlingly proficient record.” -Grant Moon, Prog Magazine (May 29, 2013)
“Solipsistic is an amazing piece of art. It’s a journey of musical emotions that reaches amazing heights.” -Joel Rittberg, Danger Dog Music Reviews (July 29, 2013)
“I can verify right now that ‘Solipsistic’ is the epitome of progressive rock/metal. The album is boundless, and will forever stand the test time. Absolutely brilliant and well worth the wait. Do not let this one slip by.”- Ken, Inhale The Heavy (Jan 30, 2013)
“The music will come to you and slap you hard in the face, a sweet punishment, painfully delicious. Music that goes beyond magic and reality, a prog-fairy-tale. Passion, wisdom, crazy theory… Solipsism.” -Rocio Flores Bedoya, Lady Obscure (Jan 29, 2013)
“This is intelligent music, cleverly put together to make melodies that glue to your brain and makes you air-guitar like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” – Jonathan Payeur, Prog Archives (March 21, 2013)
Where was your first gig?/Where was the latest gig? Semantic Saturation remains as a studio project for the moment. The anatomy and nature of this project doesn’t allow me to organize and perform live shows since all the members involved in this project are extremely busy with their own bands, touring or writing and recording new music.
Who writes your songs?/ who writes the music who writes lyrics? As you may know, the debut album Solipsistic is mostly instrumental, except for the last piece “What if We All Stop” which has Andy Kuntz on vocals. The music is mainly written, arranged and produced by myself, except a couple of tracks were produced by Derek and Andy. The lyrics for “What if We All Stop” were written by me and Andy. Andy also helped me arrange the music for the same track to accommodate the vocal lines.
What’s good/bad with the band?/What genre do you feel you are? I don’t think there’s anything bad with the band, and lots of good things, starting with the musicianship and ending with the music. Semantic Saturation is a progressive rock/metal.
Have you made any albums?/If yes what are they? The debut album is Solipsistic, consisting of eight instrumental pieces and one song with vocals. Total length of 51 minutes.
Do you have any clips on YouTube? No official music videos yet, but there’s one promotional video for Stardust, the fourth track from the album.
How old are you?/What got you started in music? I’m 34. I’d say Pink Floyd and Dream Theater are the main bands that got me into playing music and becoming a musician. Ironically, as a child I wasn’t interested in music that much until my teenage years, when I started listening to rock and metal, I discovered Pink Floyd through my friends and then a couple of years later when I started listening to heavier music I discovered Dream Theater.
At what age did you start playing? I was about 15 years old when I picked up a classical nylon string guitar, later on I joined a music school for jazz guitar studies, and graduated in 2003.
What year was the band started? Work on the debut album Solipsistic started late 2010, and took almost 2 years to complete.
Witch band is the best you´ve seen? If you’re referring to the best band I’ve seen live on stage, I’ll answer as what was the best show or performance instead of band. I think one of the best and unforgettable experiences I’ve had was one of the Porcupine Tree shows I’ve seen, the place was small and intimate, the sound was amazing, the track-list was amazing and the band’s performance was best. Another experience would be Roger Waters’ latest The Wall tour. That is historical.
What are the plans for the rest of the year? I’m currently planning to put together a music video with some friends. Whether this will be 100% possible or not I am not sure as of yet. Later in 2014 there are plans to start work on the next masterpiece.
Is it easier to get your inspiration from older bands or from bands more modern? Probably a mix of both, older bands are the schools, but modern bands give you the energy and latest hype.
What are your sources of inspiration? Like I mentioned, Pink Floyd and Dream Theater are a big influence and inspiration but sometimes it could be a book I’m reading, a movie, or even an article on the web.
What’s the first step when making a new song? Writing a catchy theme. That’s the basis of my music writing process, if the theme is not memorable; as complicated as it may be, it will not stick in the listener’s head. In fact the simpler the theme, the more catchy and memorable it will be. I have said this many times before and I will keep saying it: Music is art, not a competition.
How do you feel about the downloading of music instead of buying albums? Downloading is fine as long as the artist is profiting from it. I think the real music fan will go ahead and purchase the album even if they have downloaded it for free. In this age of the internet it’s almost impossible to stop what’s happening, but it’s possible to adapt.
Besides your own music, what genres and bands do you listen to? I listen mainly to prog bands, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Rush, Dream Theater, Ayreon, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Pain of Salvation the list is pretty much endless. But also who doesn’t enjoy some blues or jazz by the fire with some alcohol?
When you are on stage, what do you fear most then? I haven’t played on stage for a while, but when I did the most I feared was having technical problems, and not giving what the audience is there for.
Have you been in any other bands? I’m the former guitarist of Nu.Clear.Dawn, the prog metal band from Syria. The band toured and played a lot of shows in the region including one giant metal festival in Istanbul, Turkey back in 2004 among big names like Pain of Salvation, Epica, Vanden Plas, UDO, Amon Amarth, right after releasing the full length studio album “Poem of a Knight” which was officially the first metal album released in Syria.
What would you do if there was no music? That would’ve been very depressing. Why would we live then?
How important are your fans? Absolutely the most important. In the end, they are the engine; they are who I make music for.
How often do you rehearse? Where do you rehearse? Not much lately, since I’m pretty busy promoting the album, as you know I pretty much try to do everything myself. I usually play/record in my humble home studio, which I am planning to expand and convert to a cozier and an even more professional guitarist corner.
Name 2 of your own songs you like at the moment? Stardust and… Believe me the second one is harder to choose, but I think Ambivalence, the opening track is the one. It portrays my personality very well.
What drives a band that isn’t all that famous and renowned to try to make a living on their music and to keep playing? The devoted fans and my love for the genre.
How do you view the music industry today? With the internet, smaller and new starting bands have a lot more chances to get heard today versus how things worked back before the internet existed. It’s not the guys in suits who pick the bands we want to listen to anymore, it’s the fans who choose. Artists and musicians today can also make more money instead of having a small percentage of the profit share, providing they do things the right away, and that starts with their music.
Do you have anything to add? I’d like to thank you for your interest in Semantic Saturation and thank you for the interview and opportunity to have more people listen to the music we have made. Rock on!
I’ve been dealing with lots of problems on the website lately, couldn’t upload any images, the website was not functioning 100%, my blog was down yesterday, and the whole website was actually down this morning.
Fortunately though everything is back to normal today, after hours of work yesterday night, and some this morning.
I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.