Here’s the English version of my interview with Soundlyfe, the French music magazine.
1. Where does this project come from?
Semantic Saturation is progressive metal project founded by me, featuring world class musicians and progressive masters, such as Virgil Donati on drums, Ric Fierabracci on Bass, and special guests, ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian, and Vanden Plas vocalist Andy Kuntz. So there is no particular base for the project as everyone comes from different part of the earth, I’m from Canada, Andy is from Germany, and the rest; Derek Virgil and Ric are from LA, thanks to the powers of the Internet and all the technology available to us today, otherwise it would’ve been impossible for this project to be born.
2. You are surrounded with big world references of the rock or metal scene : Does it mean that Semantic Saturation requires to evolve in a band? Or certain opportunities just appeared?
It’s really a great honor to work with these guys, they are all virtuosos and amazing people. Semantic Saturation is currently only a project, my project to be precise, it would be awesome to become a band but that depends on a lot of criteria, and since the project is relatively new with the debut album Solipsistic that just launched two weeks ago on January 21, I believe it’s too early to say at this point, but you never know. And again I don’t know if I’d want it to be a permanent band, as I’m planning to work with different musicians in future albums, but that doesn’t mean that I also don’t work with any of the current musicians. A lot of people are asking if there would be any live performances too, again at this point there are no plans for any performances, but I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to play live shows if I have the chance, the biggest challenge then would be adapting and meeting everyone’s busy schedules, as you may know Derek, Virgil and everyone else have their personal projects and bands, they’re always busy touring or recording in the studio.
3. What are the events in the coming months of Semantic Saturation?
As an independent project, I’m currently focusing on promoting the album “Solipsistic”, I’ve been working on it since December 2010 and I’ve put a lot of effort in making it as perfect as possible, so I definitely want to promote it as much as I can, otherwise all the effort and hard work we put in this record will go unnoticed. I had planned a music video for one of the songs from the album, and we are still trying to make that happen. Also I have plans to make a single dedicated to the Syrian people and all the crimes against humanity that are happening there right now, but it’s too early to talk about it.
4. Does Solipsistic have a main thread? What do you speak about musically?
Solipsistic comes from solipsism which is a state of mind, a philosophical idea that can only proves ones own mind or self to exist. The idea came to me as a kid and I kept thinking about it, until I started working on the album and thought it’s the perfect chance to use it. Musically I’m trying to deliver strong expressive melodies and stimulating music that speaks to you and keeps you wanting for more, there are a lot of bands nowadays who tend to forget that music is actually an art and not some kind of competition, a lot of them have overlooked and forgot what music actually is, they’re constantly trying to concentrate on the technical side only. For me that is not music, and playing thousands of notes a minute will not make them any better.
5. Besides Dream Theater or Vanden Plas, represented in your project by current or old former members, what are your musical influences in any kind of genre?
I grew up listening to Pink Floyd, so they have been a major influence, besides Dream Theater with all their side projects and Vanden Plas, bands that have influenced and inspired me are Rush, Porcupine Tree, Pain of Salvation, Muse, The Gathering, Steve Vai, Ayreon, Joe Satriani, Transatlantic, Opeth … I can keep on going but I think I’ll just stop by saying thank you very much for the interview! And I’d like to thank you (the reader) for your interest. If you’d like to support the project get your copy today at www.semanticsaturation.com (CDs include free guitar picks and posters signed personally by me).
MusikReviews.de is a German metal ‘zine. Andreas Schiffmann has already reviewed the CD last month, and today my interview with them got published, they have translated it to German, but I have the original in English.
Tell me a bit about yourself: How were you socialized with music, and what do you want to achieve as a solo artist – or are you looking for a stable band?
I started playing guitar when I was 15, my interest in music started when I heard Pink Floyd for the first time, as a teenager the many great bands I have discovered along the way made me fall in love with the guitar and the sounds and music you can create with the instrument, thanks to all the technology we have today, from effects processors to amps and software. In 1996 I started jazz guitar studies and graduated in 2003, Frank Gambale was another inspiring jazz musician, not that I wanted to specify in jazz, but there were no rock guitar courses in the school I attended, so jazz for me was definitely an amazing style to complement my music as a progressive rock guitarist. At this point I can’t say if I’m looking for a stable band, but I wouldn’t mind being in one either, I’m pretty happy working as a solo artist, and my plans for the future is to play with different musicians on every album, but that does not mean that I don’t want to play with the same musicians, again at this stage it’s too early to tell.
How come high profile players like Ric or Virgil got interested in a quasi-unknown artist like you?
Ric, Virgil, Andy and Derek are all amazing musicians, I admire everything they do. When I asked Derek if he wants to play or be a guest on my album I sent him some demo tracks and after he gave them a quick listen, he gave me a call and he was more than happy to help. The same thing happened with Virgil, Ric and Andy, they were all excited. It’s really a great honor to have them all on the album.
How did the collaboration with your guests happen logistically, also since Andy, for example, wrote his own lyrics?
Coordination was one of the biggest challenges for me throughout the process. These musicians are all on busy schedules, they have tours, clinics and work in the studio. But thanks to the powers of the Internet, connecting with them was very easy, we had many sessions on Skype and then I’d send them my tracks with the demo drums or bass and every one of them adds their part in, and then sends me back their files and so on. For the lyrics on “What if We All Stop” I have sent Andy the idea and story of the song as well as some verses , then he added his parts based on the music making sure he has enough words to fill the lines and we shaped it down together to the final version that is on the CD. Andy also helped me in the song structure musically, and as a vocalist and a great producer.
What does your project’s name Semantic Saturation mean to you?
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 do you come up with names for your instrumental tracks, and is writing instrumental music a necessity because you do not have a band of your own?
Track names are inspired by the music I write, and the music I write is inspired by many different sources, it can be a musician, and artist, an article … anything really. The idea is the same when you are writing a song with lyrics, how do you choose the track name of a song? Based on the lyrics and story of course. Writing instrumental music is not a necessity but more a desire, as a guitarist I felt more fulfilled having a (mostly) instrumental album, but that does not mean that future albums will all be instrumental. I love songs as much as I love instrumental music; they are all music in the end.
What do you try to achieve with this project, and where do you see yourself as an artist in the long run?
Semantic Saturation is my baby, and It means a lot to me of course. It’s the result of more than 2 years of hard work. What am I trying to achieve… I’m trying to deliver great music to the music lovers, combining the most appealing elements in rock, prog and metal and mixing them with new styles like jazz and electronica. It’s a very early stage to tell where I do see myself, but for now having a descent fan base, and fans who appreciate the music and the effort I put in creating it is just what I need. And I hope more people will discover this project and enjoy listening to the album.
A few tracks from Solipsistic will be played on the FM radio station CKRL 89.1 tonight (Saturday 26) at 8:30pm EST. Jacques Dulac will be hosting his show Illusions Auditive.
During the show, also on the menu for tonight’s show is: Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Alex Boman
If you are in Quebec, Canada you can tune in at 89.1 on the radio, or you can tune in from anywhere in the world through CKRL Website.
Prog Palace Radio – Album Release / Listening Party at 9:00pm EST
I will be “co-hosting” (kind of) I’m not much of a radio host myself, but I’ll try to help Greg Stafford tonight on his show at Prog Palace Radio, I will also try to answer any questions you guys have.
The show starts at 7:00pm EST, and the entire Solipsistic album will be played tonight starting at 9:00pm (EST) / 2:00am (GMT). So make sure you tune in before that, I’ll try to hang around until 11:00pm (EST).
LebMetal.com is a rock and metal related news website from Lebanon.
The interview was conducted by the editor Rami Rouhana, published on January 16, 2013
What challenges did you face to get this project done? The biggest challenge was writing music that keeps spinning in your mind after you hit the stop button. Nowadays it’s very hard to find music that is catchy, music that satisfies your appetite but leaves you wanting for more, a lot of musicians forget that part and concentrate on the technical aspect, or how fast they can play. Music is not a race, it’s art.
Of course there were other challenges too; as a guitarist, getting the right guitar tone and recording it. All of us guitarists know that it takes months, even years to bring a tone to perfection, and by the time you shape it down there’s probably some new ideas in your head that keep you wanting to tweak the sound even more and try different versions.
Another challenge was completing the project in time, which was a tough one actually. I’m pretty organized when it comes to any project, and I made a lot of planning during the writing process, I even made Gantt charts (if you don’t know what a Gantt chart is: it’s a bar chart to illustrate the project timeline and schedule,) but a lot of times I had to modify it to meet the new deadline, it’s very hard working with musicians who are constantly touring and have their own projects, it needs a lot of planning and coordination. But needless to say they were all excited to be part of the project, and they all tried their best to meet the deadlines. For example Virgil Donati only had a couple of days in September to record one of the tracks, he was back from tour and preparing to leave for another with Allan Holdsworth, but he managed to record and finalize the drum line.
Why did you choose Derek Sherinian, Virgil Donati, Ric Fierabracci and Andy Kuntz to contribute to the album? 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), one of my favorite parts was Derek’s jazzy chords, but let’s not get this to sound like a review from the past. Derek also played on another DT album “Falling Into Infinity”, that was an album I disliked in the beginning, the songs were all radio friendly and less technical, but then eventually it grew on me and I began to notice the hidden layer of creativity and musicianship, Petrucci’s and Derek’s solos are captivating on that record.
Why Andy? Andy is the most amazing, down to earth, very supportive and friendly musician I have ever met. Does that answer the question or not yet? Probably not, because those add as a super bonus to the amazing voice and the writing and producing talents he has.
I’ve met Andy when we performed in Istanbul-Turkey at the “Rock the Nations” metal festival with Nu.Clear.Dawn in 2004. We were all sitting in the hotel restaurant having breakfast when he walked in, we introduced ourselves and told him how we admired their (Vanden Plas) music, so we sat down and had our meal together, he was also very interested in our music, we had a copy of the album with us and we gave it to him. Later on, the next day it was the day we both had to play on stage, so we hit the stage first and at some point, in the middle of the crowd, I noticed a metal horn held high up and rocking and I released it was him! Can you imagine the amount of excitement when you see your idol watching, listening and cheering for you? As if that was not enough, when Vanden Plas were about to wrap up their show, Andy grabbed the microphone and said a thank you to Nu.Clear.Dawn, we were all left speechless. It’s all on tape by the way.
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.
Virgil was a late addition to the line-up, initially I had asked drummer Aram Kalousdian my friend and band mate from Nu.Clear.Dawn if he wanted to be part of the project, of course he was more than happy to help, but unfortunately for him the problems started in Syria back then and it was very hard for him to keep up, he even recorded one of the tracks “Blessing in Disguise”.
Is a live performance possible? Are there barriers to such project? As much as I’d love to play on stage with these amazing people, I think a live performance is highly unlikely, given the fact that they are all busy on different schedules and projects, not to mention the distance between all of us.
Describe to me the album “Solipsistic”. Who do you dedicate it to? The music says it all, I can’t describe it per se but I can definitely give you an idea what it is about. Solipsism is a state of mind, it’s a philosophical idea, a theory that proves that only one’s own mind or self to exist, and everyone or everything else is just a manifestation, do not confuse solipsism with selfishness, they are completely two different things. The idea came to me when I was a teenager and I started to think about it every now and then, so now that I was about to release a SOLo project, it all came back to me and hit me in the face, this was the perfect opportunity to let it all out. Who do I dedicate it to? It doesn’t matter because you don’t exist anyway, haha.
Is Semantic Saturation a temporary project or a solid band with more projects to come, more releases in plan? Is there Labels interested? It’s definitely NOT a temporary project, I’m planning to do more releases in the near future, as a band I can’t say for sure, my plan is to work with different musicians on every album, but that doesn’t also mean that I can’t work with the same musician(s) again. As for labels, there may be a couple of labels interested but the thing is I’m not J, unless they’re really big labels with a good reputation. At this electronic age, it’s no secret that labels and record companies are suffering, some of them went bankrupt already, the digital world of downloads and file sharing has killed the music industry; but only partially, as on the other hand it opened the doors wide welcoming newly starting artists, now is the time for the listeners to choose their favorite artists, not the record companies. It’s not easy, it’s a big world out there, and technically you are competing against every single musician on earth.
Tell me about your experience in Nu.Clear.Dawn. Is the band still active? Is there an album on the way? We had a great time in Nu.Clear.Dawn, we played a lot of cover shows when we started, but then we realized it was time to put out an album, which was a whole new experience for all of us, so we created “Poem of a Knight” in 2003, the album received positive reviews from acclaimed webzines like Metal Storm and The Metal Observer, we played more shows in the region promoting the album, and we’ve been asked to perform at the “Rock the Nation” metal festival in Istanbul Turkey, to share the stage with many other big names and bands, some who were and still are our idols, Pain of Salvation, Vanden Plas, Circle II Circle, Epica, Amon Amarth and many others. Of course we couldn’t decline such an amazing opportunity, and we had an amazing time and experience.
The band is not really doing anything, since everyone is away from Syria, that’s not an excuse to stop, but you never know, maybe one day we’ll get back together and create new music again. I’m currently the one maintaining the website and the fan page, to keep the memories alive.
Why do you think there are few Progressive metal bands in the Middle East and many death metal bands? Very good question… is it the extreme roars and growls that fans crave? Is it the feeling of being extremely angry, frustrated or upset and letting it all out? Or is it because it doesn’t matter what chord you play anyway? I think it’s the latter, I’m just kidding. (no I’m not)
To be honest I’m not sure, I mean if you’re talented enough why waste your powers when you can be more creative? I honestly don’t see any talent in death metal bands, I’ve listened to a lot of extreme bands, some have amazing musicians and stunning melodies, but when they start to sing I literally cringe. Not my cup of tea.
Are there artists you are aiming to cooperate with in the future? Ah! Glad you brought this up. I’d love to have Anneke Van Giersbergen (vocalist previously with “The Gathering”) on my next album, I was a big fan for them, and now I’m in love with Anneke’s solo projects and albums. I don’t have any other names in mind for the moment, but I’m sure I’ll find more amazing musicians along the way.
The following questions are random fun questions (part of “Jerking an Interview” article series…coming soon):
Most Useless Instrument? Is there really a useless instrument? I’m sure I can hit anything and make music.
Annoying band member? Or Musician? Just… no.
Music you never liked? Justin Bieber? – somebody kill the kid already
Your Muse and Inspiration when composing? Musically… Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, Porcupine Tree. Anything can inspire me really, George Carlin, some of my favorite movies, could be a website or an article I’m reading, or just a full stomach.
How would you kill a singer (using musical instruments and gear)? You can state your reasons too. I wouldn’t hit them with a guitar (too expensive). Perhaps by playing the ugliest guitar chords in a room full of 100,000 watts speakers, that would kill them.
Favorite move on stage Once I was trying to move from one side to the extreme other, that was my favorite move until the guitar cord that was connected to the effect processor got unplugged and started following me.
A memory from your childhood years There was this cartoon that I always wanted to remember what it was called, I searched for years and couldn’t find a lead. It was pretty funny, there was very little dialog, if any at all. Some old man who lived in the desert with an annoying blue furry creature. If anyone knows the name of the cartoon or the creator, I’ll send them a free CD.
Name a band that should reunite or an album that should be recorded again. No album should be recorded again. But as for reunions, all hope is gone now… Pink Floyd