Metallized Interview

17 September 2014. Filed under category Music - Heavy Metal.

1. Hello guys, welcome to Metallized!! We are proud to have you on our webzine. Monsterworks is one of the most interesting bands I’ve recently listened to! First of all, would you like to introduce the band to our readers?

Thanks.  Glad to be here!  Monsterworks started off as a death metal band in New Zealand, mainly based out of the capital city of Wellington.  That was at the end of the nineties; then it relocated to London, UK in 2002 with two of the original members.  Now I (Jon: Guitar/Vocals) am the only original kiwi member; all the other guys are from England.  The band is completed by Hugo on bass, James on drums and Marcus on lead guitar.  The most recent addition was Marcus, but we have recorded six albums together so far!  So it has always been a fairly stable band membership-wise.

The style has definitely evolved since the early days; now we are more prog-oriented, but still keeping the death metal roots.  A lot of so-called “stoner” type or even post-Metal influences have come through in recent years although I still listen to the classic metal bands like Priest and Maiden just as much as I ever did.

2. Defining your music and its boundaries are, I have to admit, quite difficult tasks. You really can’t fall into any neat category. Are you proud of it?

Yes.  I like that we challenge people with our music, although it is not planned that way (i.e. we make music for ourselves that we like, not just to intentionally confuse the audience).  I think, perhaps, one of my earliest influences was Queen and that band was not afraid to try anything musically.  I always liked that diversity; however, for us the core is definitely metal and that is unlikely to change.  There have been bands that I really like who have changed drastically from one album to the next (Paradise Lost, Anathema, Ulver, Opeth even) but we evolve more slowly than that.

3. Musically speaking, what are your main influences as a band?

I have dropped a few names already.  Mostly the classics (Priest, Maiden, AC/DC) to start with which then moved into death metal (Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Death etc), latterly Neurosis.  Marcus is a big Pantera/Dimebag fan and that was also a big thing for me at the time they were putting out records.  Hugo and James seem to have more diverse tastes and happily go outside the realm of metal for their music, whereas I don’t really; just because there are so many choices within the umbrella of “metal” that I don’t feel the need to explore anything else.

4. Monsterworks gave birth to many records, starting from “The God Album” in 2011. Why did you feel such an urgency to create five albums in three years?

We had a bunch of albums before The God Album, although that one did kind of usher in a new era for the band because it was when Marcus joined.  Mind you, I am proud of everything we ever done, dating right back to the debut, ‘Dormant’ in 1998.   The metal space adventure suite of ‘Spacial Operations’ (2007) and ‘Singularity’ (2009) is a highlight for me just because it was so over the top.

As to: “why the urgency?” it isn’t planned, it just happens that new music is bursting to get out all the time.  It could slow down a lot if we had a big label, maybe with a producer, trying to perfect a bunch of songs.  However, I think that would take the fun out of it for me.  I approach every song like it’s my first and make it the best it can be but generally without interference from the outside.

5. Let’s start talking about your new album “Overhaul”. In the liner notes, I read that the concept of the album starts from a little novel by Isaac Asimov, “The Last Question”. Would you like to explain us the concept of the album?

The album picks up the concept from Asimov’s “The Last Question” in its later tracks, which I first discovered when writing for the previous album ‘Universe’ the year before.  It is a story of the future development of humanity; essentially that technology and enlightenment continues to improve until the end of time when mankind has merged into some kind of omnipotent force which is able to reverse entropy and create a new Universe.  My take on it is that this omnipotence or “God” is the likely conclusion of the first intelligent species that manages  to keep evolving and not destroy itself (or be destroyed by accident).  In short: God evolves from man.  Applying logic, it seems entirely plausible.

I then started thinking about what we would have to do as a civilisation to get onto the right path where that kind of scenario was even possible to play out.  Essentially the world is fairly fucked at the moment on a number of levels and it seems we need a fundamental rethink (an “Overhaul”) in order to get to the next level, or we’ll just wipe ourselves out.  The songs on the album follow a series of theoretical steps for implementing change.

6. Do you think that humanity can be saved by a new way of attitude towards nature?

That is the hope.  I think it is certainly possible, but whether it will happen is another thing.  We know what we have to do, however, it is not easy to break out of the current economic framework or power structure.  There is already an awareness of these issues and environmental concerns are quite mainstream really, at least on a token level (I am thinking of local recycling efforts and things like that).  Of course, real permanent change that will achieve sustainability is going to take a bit more than remembering to recycle your soda bottle – how did we develop a disposable culture in the first place?

7. All your previous albums were created as concept albums. Why did you choose this kind of approach?

Not all the albums, but from 2007 yes.  I just find it easier to have a theme in mind when I write lyrics.  We wrote a set of pure concept albums (i.e. with a narrative) for ‘Spacial Operations’ and ‘Singularity’ but then for ‘The God Album’ I decided writing to a general theme/common thread was more fun.  ‘Overhaul’ is not a concept album per se but, yes, it has a definite connection between the songs.  It does not have a central character so it is more abstract than a strict concept album like ‘The Wall’ or ‘Quadrophenia’ or anything by King Diamond for example.

8. How did you compose your songs? Do you usually start from the lyrics or from the music?

The music definitely.  I don’t normally start on lyrics until all the music on an album is complete.   Sometimes a concept will be in place as I write music, but not necessarily because I might change my mind.

9. Do you usually jam together during the composition process?

We don’t jam as a means of writing new music, no.  I would like to do that but it is just more efficient to bring the ideas to the band in completed demo form and work on those.   Mostly I record demos and ideas on a BOSS BR-80 and then send MP3s to the guys in the band once a few are done.

We start jamming on the tunes a bit later, usually when studio time is booked.  That is when the rest of the band really make their mark and it comes alive, compared to the rough demos.

10. I really loved the song “Resolution” that closes the album. Can it be considered the sum of everything that “Overhaul” represents?

I am really pleased to hear that because ‘Resolution’, since it is so long (over 12 minutes), could be a little hard to digest for some people.   It has elements that are reminiscent of the rest of the album, all in one place, and was certainly supposed to tie it all together.

11. In my review of the album, I wrote that “Overhaul” seems to be a place where Soundgarden, Mastodon and Tool join together to play some prog death music in the way of Edge of Sanity, Green Carnation and Opeth. Am I totally wrong or do you agree with me?

We certainly know and respect those bands (except Edge of Sanity I had not heard until last night!) so it is great to be compared to them.  I guess we are a product of our surroundings and the music is filtered through those influences, without meaning to rip them off.   It comes back to what I said earlier about being influenced by Queen and not really caring whether someone else might think it will work – so long as we like it and can listen to it as a general purpose metal fan.

12. Why did you choose to press “Overhaul” only in the vinyl format?

Economics really.  I finance this myself and could not justify doing both CD and vinyl, especially when I personally do not buy CDs anymore.  I am back into vinyl because I just like the whole larger than life package – and the sound.  In any event, the album is available as a download in better than CD quality so it can still be put onto your MP3 player which is how most people probably listen to music.

13. What do you think about the actual music business? Do you consider yourself as a part of it?

Not in any practical way.  If by “business” you mean making money, then definitely not!  I have burned through tens of thousands of pounds on recording albums with no return whatsoever.  I do it because I love metal and making new music.   Most of the band hold down real jobs, although James does pretty well as a session drummer and through various other music related things.

The traditional music industry is ruined.  It is a great shame that people can’t make a living wage from it and a lot of great metal bands are struggling, although I don’t think music and most importantly metal is in danger of dying as such.  People, like me for example, make music because we love it, not because we expect to be a big rock star and make a lot of money.  That ship has sailed.

14. The band was formed in the 90’s in New Zealand. Why did you choose to restart Monsterworks in London after four albums?

At the time I just wanted to have my “big OE” (Overseas Experience) which is pretty common for kiwi kids in their 20s.  I quit my job and pondered the next move which turned out, unsurprisingly, to be going to London.  The original lead guitar player in the band had already done the same thing six months earlier so we just had a drunken night out and decided to restart.  I had joined a London band in the meantime which is where I met Hugo (who was playing drums).  He has been the bass player of Monsterworks ever since.

15. Do you already know what will the next Monsterworks album be? Will it be a concept album as well? What will it concern?

Yes, because it is already recorded.  ‘Overhaul’ was completed mid-2013 so we have now completed our 2014 contribution.  It is a double album and conceptually seems to tie together themes from all of the most recent albums.  It gets fairly abstract and is perhaps the most diverse yet from a musical perspective.

I am just starting to put together demo songs for the 2015 sessions.

16. Are you going to play any gigs to promote “Overhaul”? Are you going to plan a tour?

No plans. I am well aware that we should play live more often and the band generally does enjoy it, but logistically it is hard to coordinate among us.  I have just spent a week away from home in the USA on business [and meeting my bandmates in The Living Fields in Chicago for the first time!] and it seems like an eternity away from home.  My daughter starts school in a few weeks and those kinds of things take priority for me.

17. The interview is over, thank you for your time. Would you like to add something or salute our readers?

I would definitely like to salute your readers!  Quite a few of our CD sales recently have been to Italy – far more than anywhere else in Europe – so you guys have excellent taste in metal!  Metallized have been very supportive so we sincerely appreciate it.  Your enthusiasm does feedback a lot of encouragement because sometimes there are those out there with a less worldly metal palette who just don’t seem to get what we are trying to do.  I am glad you can join us in our delusion.

Thanks and hails!

 

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