EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: MILE MARKER ZERO CHATS WITH VINCE
This past June I had the opportunity to sit down with bassist Tim Rykoski and guitarist / lead vocalist Dave Alley of New Haven, Connecticut progressive hard rock band Mile Marker Zero. If you haven’t heard of Mile Marker Zero yet it’s because they haven’t yet had the opportunity to travel far outside of the Northeast; but this is definitely a band with the musical talent, originality and ambition to make it. Their self-titled album is out now, and you can listen to a few tracks on their MySpace page. Check out our quick chat after the jump.
So you guys are from Connecticut, and probably outside the immediate area, this will probably be your first look for a lot of people. Can you talk a little about how the band formed and your history? You guys have actually been together for a few years, right?
Tim Rykoski: Yeah that’s right. I’ve actually known all these guys for quite a few years. We played in some sort of form, but in this form, this five piece has been together for 2 or 3 years. We all went to school together. We all started music in different forms or another. We’ve just been writing tunes and getting our different vibes and influences together and having a good time writing some music.
You guys all went to music school together?
TR: Yeah we did.
But you all didn’t play the instruments that you ended up playing in the band.
TR: Right, exactly.
Dave Alley: I actually went to school for drumming. I used to play drums with Tim back when I was younger. I have a degree in classical music, but I’ve always been a singer. So I figured you kind of need a front man in rock music. My brother went to school for drumming, so it would be only fitting to have the next closest person to myself play drums.
Do you feel like being in a band with your brother creates any rift with the rest of the band? Does it affect the band dynamic in any way at all?
DA: The only rift that it’s created is one with me and my brother.
DA: I have no problems with Doug playing drums. He’s a great drummer. We have the brotherly fight. The grind kind of carries over to rehearsals and things sometimes. Otherwise we’re pretty tight.
TR: We can always can quell the storm with the two of them and their brotherly shit. I’ve known Dave for so long that he’s practically a brother to me too, so we do the same crap.
So you guys have a new album that just came out or is about to come out?
TR: It’s about to. June 30th. [It’s out now. -Ed.]
Can you talk a little bit about the recording process and how that album came together and how it was written?
TR: We went to Applehead Studios in Woodstock, NY. We worked with some awesome guys and great engineers. We went up there for a few days and laid down some tracks.
DA: The writing process has always kind of been simple – somebody has something they want to show to the guys, they show it and we just kind of start vibing on things. Normally whatever somebody writes doesn’t end up being anywhere near what they had envisioned by the end, but it’s still good. There’s a democracy in our band. Normally the saying is too many cooks for one pot, which is why it takes us awhile to write stuff because we like to keep everyone’s point of views in mind.
Make sure everybody is completely satisfied.
DA: Yeah. As far as the progressive genre, we’re not trying to be a progressive rock band. We take the songs very seriously. It’s the song first, and if we happen to be a little more aggressive with the performance, then we’ll go for it. Otherwise, the songs are always kind of first. I think that’s my backbone a little bit. I like pop music and play in pop bands. It’s great to have guys with so much versatility at their fingertips to play with.
TR: That’s kind of how we write stuff – just bring stuff in and start tossing it around. It’s pretty simple.
Is it a pretty arduous process to write in that way? Your arrangements are pretty big and clearly well thought out. There’s a lot going on.
DA: It gets a little hairy especially when the songs get into the upper lengths. Like when you’re looking at a 7 minute song and doing one section one time through more. It’s that much different to the whole feel that you have to run the whole thing over again to see how it feels playing it. After awhile, that gets really tedious. That’s why it’s taken us so long. Actually this record went a lot faster, I would say. The last few tunes we wrote for this record, we just started to get into the zone and things just started to pop together. I think we’re just getting used to each other a little bit.
Is there a specific sort of scene or genre that you guys see yourself fitting into? You said that you’re not a progressive rock band.
DA: It’s hard. It’s really hard.
TR: Every person listens to us. It’s kind of cool. I kind of like it. We all listen to a bunch of different stuff and put it in the pot and make our music. For somebody to say, “man, you guys sound like Tool” and we’re like, “okay, we’re going for this vibe”. It’s funny – dudes that are into progressive music don’t think that we’re progressive because we don’t think we are either. Then metal dudes are like “it’s not metal, it’s more progressive”.
DA: And the pop people are like, “well it’s a little too ambitious for pop music”. So it’s kind of hard to find a niche. It’s like, do you write a little more on the progressive side of popular music or rock music or do you take it to a safer side of prog music? We just play what we play and whoever is there either likes it or doesn’t, especially if you heard the acoustic set tonight you realize that the rest of the album has a lot of guitar. Some of it is pretty aggressive.
It’s definitely a guitar heavy sound.
Do you think it makes it hard for you guys to catch on with people and bands?
TR: Yes and no. I guess we’ll see. We’ve gotten this far and had some interest. It’s definitely hard to be like, “hey, let’s go for modern rock radio” or whatever. We’re a metal band so we’re going to play this all the time and hang out with these metal bands and play shows. At the same time it keeps us open to everything. We can play with a bunch of different kind of bands.
And adjust your set a little bit depending on who you’re playing with.
DA: We always factor that into who we’re playing with, what that crowd might be looking for, and then we do our thing depending on that. We still do our thing whether we’re playing a ballad or playing the heaviest thing we have. So it doesn’t matter to us. It’s not like we’re really compromising, it’s just what we happen to do that night. When we do our live shows in Connecticut, people just come because they know it’s going to be a good show. The bands that we normally have play with us are normally the best band that we can find of their genre – like if they’re the best metal band, the best progressive band, the best pop band – we just want to put on good shows all the time.
If there were a dream tour for Mile Marker Zero, you’re the first band on a bill of 4 bands, who would the other 3 bands be?
DA: I would like to tour with Opeth. I think that would be great.
TR: That would be bad ass.
DA: Even though they would probably slaughter us.
TR: Yeah probably. They would sacrifice us.
DA: That would be fun for me at least. Tool would be fun also.
TR: Tool without a doubt. I think Porcupine Tree would be a good one because I think our grogginess would go very well with their people. One more?
That was 3.
TR: That was 3.
DA: Can I throw Faith No More in there?
DA: I would love to play with them. Mike Patton is my hero.
TR: And Insane Clown Posse for obvious reasons.
So you have this album coming out, what’s the plan for you guys? Are you going to try and hit the road or go for radio or just let it percolate and see what happens? What’s next?
TR: Kind of a little bit of everything. Tour the world first.
DA: We weren’t really going to go for the radio thing because our songs are long and kind of involved. However, as of late we had to do some edited versions of songs for media things, we found that the songs are still pretty solid on their own.
DA: So it might be something that we’ll consider. Some of us are really against radio editing music, but some of us realize that you kind of need to get your name out there. College stations are a little bit different, but some stations only play what they have time for. It’s hard these days for a band to write a 7 minute song and be on the radio, unless you’re like Queen or something.
Is there anything else you guys want to talk about or say?
DA: We got a new website. It’s being finished now. It’s milemarkerzero.com. The album is for sale on there. There are link to all our other subsidiary sites and networking sites. It’s a fresh site. It’s got some cool stuff. It looks good, and it looks clean. It’s freshy.
TR: Of course we always have a couple of tunes in the back, in the inside pocket and some other parts. One of the tunes we just played is part of conceptual piece, so we still have some other parts to that that haven’t been released, and some parts that haven’t even been written yet.
[Check out Mile Marker Zero on MySpace]