Interview by Morgan Y. Evans.
‘Motion’ talks about the end of the world and the vocals impressed me. Your screams have gotten more bold and border on Lamb Of God territory. Also really loved the propulsive tempo and push pull of the playing. Very good choice for a lead off track. How are you feeling about this release almost being ready for public consumption? Anxious (lol). All kidding aside, I’m feeling really good about ‘FearFaith Machines’. It’s definitely the type of album I’ve been slowly working towards over the years. ‘FearFaith Machines’ is also the first release I’ve done where I’ve consciously thought about where (and how) I want the release to propel Martyr Art forward.
Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) has been more on my radar over the past couple of years. I never really followed Lamb of God though he’s appeared on The Jasta Show Podcast series a few times and seems like a really cool down-to-earth no-bullshit kind of dude. I’ve been working on my more aggressive vocals for the past couple of years, trying to better myself along with wanting to progress. I came across a live video of Randy with Suicide Silence (on Facebook) and watched how he was articulating and projecting his voice. Observing the vocal techniques of Randy, Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) and Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed) has helped me tremendously with controlling and dialing in my new vocal style.
What differentiates ‘FearFaith Machines’ from other stuff you’ve done? Seems like a great starting place for new fans. Self releasing or what’s the deal? ’FearFaith Machines’ is so different from everything else I’ve done, I don’t even really know where to start, haha. I think the most massive difference that comes to mind is tracking with live drums.
Back in 2004 when forming the concept of Martyr Art, I had become a massive fan of Depeche Mode. The way they utilized technology back in the 80’s both in the studio and live was, in retrospect, phenomenal and ahead of their time. To learn that they were performing and singing on top and along side of backing tracks blew my mind. I had no idea that was even a thing. I had listened to Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails plenty of times, but I had no idea that was how those sounds were achieved and being reproduced live.
After discovering that, I went and bought myself the Alesis SR-16 drum machine and fell in love with those legendary electronic drum sounds. Since then, I’ve slowly evolved the drum sound on each release to sound more and more acoustic while still being synthetic in nature.
With ‘Distorted Interpretations’, it got to the point where I was performing on an electronic kit triggering sampled acoustic drum sounds. It was great that I had evolved musically along with the technology available to me, but after the album was out for awhile, the drums started to sound stale. I decided that I would go fully acoustic for the next album, though I didn’t know when that would be.
After recording and simultaneously building a studio over the course of a year and finally owning a real acoustic kit after 17 years was incredibly refreshing both creatively and expressively. The acoustic drums allowed me to breathe in new life to older songs as well as define the sound of the new album and next phase of Martyr Art.
‘FearFaith Machines’ is being released and distributed through ZineScene Records, a Newburgh-based d.i.y. label that my wife Holly Berchielli (Outsider Magazine) and I founded in 2017. In addition to the label, we also developed our own music publishing company, Bleeding Hands Sound Recordings (A.S.C.A.P.).
If you want to take the bridge, you gotta get past Joe Gagliardi and his axe.
How long have you been playing guitar? You are such a riff prodigy and remind me of some of my favorite versatile players like Marty Friedman or Devin Townsend who can switch modes easily. “The Pleasure Of Pain” even has a kind of industrial metal Static-X kind of vibe that fit the album perfectly. Wow dude! Thank you for those compliments. I’ve been playing guitar for about 29 years (began when I was 7). I’ve always looked up to and idolized Marty Friedman, especially the ‘Rust in Peace’ to ‘Youthanasia’ era. His guitar solos are amazing. Entangled in metal and melodic beauty – it floors me every time I heard one of those solos. Not talking shit about anyone else, but Marty Friedman was by far the best lead guitarist for Megadeth. I really wished the Megadeth reunion worked out.
“The Pleasure of Pain” definitely has that industrial metal feel to it. As an 11 year old, I was a hardcore White Zombie fan with ‘La Sexorcisto’, but when ‘Astro Creep 2000’ dropped, it melted my mind with more metal, insane samples and soundscapes – that was definitely some next level shit I was unknowingly ready for and immediately absorbed. I also fell in love with “The Crow” Soundtrack, the dark atmospheres of sorrow with brief glimmers of hope and reconciliation. That soundtrack has been and will always be in my rotation.
Did you record most of this album yourself? How long did it take? It seems like you really went all out and even vocally worked it hard. Some stuff has a smoother feel or Manson-esque sort of character voices and elsewhere you are going full melodic and it sounds Faith No More influenced. Quite a variety. Definitely put in some extra hours in tracking vocals (lol). Faith No More has always been a massive influence on me and I’ve always enjoyed Marilyn Manson’s music (especially ‘Antichrist Superstar’ and ‘The Pale Emperor’). Mike Patton (Faith No More) specifically has been an unknown mentor of mine. Through Faith No More, Fantomas, Mr. Bungle, starting his own label, composing for soundtracks and everything else he’s done. He proved to me time and time again that musical limitations don’t exist.
As far as recording ‘FearFaith Machines’, I kept in-line with how I’ve been recording and producing the last few singles (re-released as the ‘Introspection: The Singles 2015-2016 compilation). I produced, engineered, wrote, preformed, mixed and mastered almost everything myself. I did bring in a few collaborators to assist me in achieving my vision for each song on the album.
My wife Holly assisted with co-producing and co-writing/rewording lyrics with me. I’ve come to terms that when creating for Martyr Art, I become overly focused and have a difficult time standing back and being objective to the work I’ve done. I unequivocally trust her honesty – she’ll tell me if something works or needs more. In addition to having Holly track vocals on “The Pleasure of Pain” and “Binary Slavery”, I had Mike Ganly (of Necroptic Engorgement) track backing vocals on “Binary Slavery” along with Doug Bangaz and Brad Lane (formerly of Human Extinction) track backing vocals on “Motion”.
I co-wrote “Thundering” lyrics with my father. When I was younger, I never really asked him about his time in the Vietnam war. I was in-tune with the internal struggles regarding that aspect of his life and I never wanted to pry. Over the years he has taken to writing poetry and when it came around to sending him a demo for “Thundering”, I told him my overall concept of the song and asked him if he would consider writing a few lines. Two weeks later, he mailed me two binders full of poetry – a copy of all of his works for the past 17 years. I read every poem and grabbed a few lines here and there and merged them with a few lines I wrote for the song.
In addition to the mixing and mastering, 95% of ‘FearFaith Machines’ was tracked at my home studio, Grand Nicoll Studios (Newburgh, NY), I also went up north to my hometown (Saugerties, NY) for a day and tracked auxiliary percussion along with re-amping classical guitar tracks with my childhood friend Jay Andersen (Operation:Audio / Surmiser). The album took a little bit over a year to complete.
You have played O+ Poughkeepsie before, correct? Is it frustrating not having a full band to perform your stuff? It must be nice when recording to have full control though and less egos to deal with, though you are a bit of a perfectionist on yourself, huh? haha. “Constrict” would be very cool live. You really reached a new level with this record and people will be stoked, I believe. I’m definitely a perfectionist, but I believe that extends to anyone who is insanely passionate and driven to create and communicate ideas and concepts from deep within.
I cannot wait to perform “Constrict” live. It’s got some crushing riffs – maybe I’ll finally see a mosh pit during a Martyr Art set – bring back some of that old-school Dislocate vibe. Funny thing is that I began writing “Constrict” in Dislocate (back in 2001) but never completed it. I had to get kicked in the face during a All Out War show (at The Loft in 2016) to finally visualize how the rest of the song needed to come together.
Martyr Art, for the majority of it’s existence has been a solo act. When I was originally performing live, the main issue was that no one understood what the hell I was doing or trying to do (lol). This was 2004/2005 about 6-7 years before the DJ/Dubstep movement really exploded. After that happened and I began to perform again, I was no longer getting the “what the fuck is this bullshit?”. At that point, the general public had an understanding of how electronic-based music/productions worked, I just so happened to me a metal version of that style of live performance.
For a brief period of time during the recording and live shows for ‘Distorted Interpretations’, I had turned Martyr Art into a band, but that eventually dissolved. It was really great when it worked and I was happy to have that band unit/family again, but sometimes things are only meant to last for a few moments in time. Performing at O+ Poughkeepise was underwhelming, though I did have a lot of fun running in the streets while playing guitar in front of My Place Pizza.
With composing and recording, I believe I have a very unusual way of working. I’ll write on guitar or program the skeleton of the song, then I’ll track bits and pieces of parts (like I’m sampling myself). Listen to that demo version for a few weeks, flesh out new elements for that riff or musical passage and then re-record again (in long-form). I repeat this process over and over until I’m finally happy with that instrument track. Then I’ll repeat that process for every other instrument for that song, although I’m usually working on all the songs simultaneously at once to sustain continuity.
What are you enjoying the most about the local music scene currently? Any past bands from around here who inspired you growing up or are your influences more from more famous national acts? The thing I enjoy the most about our current music scene is that one actually exists, in reality, not only virtually.
As far as my musical influences, it’s definitely a mixed bag of local and national. Throughout the years, it’s been Metallica, Nirvana, Guns ’N’ Roses, Pantera, Sepultura, Jimi Hendrix, Korn, Faith No More, Depeche Mode, Madonna, Slipfist, Machine Head, Nine Inch Nails, Type O Negative, Cell 63, White Zombie, Animals As Leaders, Dead Empires, Hatebreed, Front 242, Genesis, Slipknot, Moon Tooth, Buddy Holly, Cocteau Twins, Def Leppard, Jackie Gleason, Fear Factory, VeinFeed and The Doors.
The funny thing about influences is that sometimes it’s not even the artists entire catalog. Sometimes it’s that one perfect album that imprints and expands your mind. Other times it’s not even what they’ve released or recorded, but 100% based on the experience and energy of their live show(s).