EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PERIPHERY GUITARISTS MISHA MANSOOR AND ALEX BOIS
Another day at Harpo’s Theatre in Detroit: white metal bands, black neighborhood, beefed-up security, and glaring eyes – nothing says “Welcome to Michigan” like playing here. Although forward-thinking on the racial front is lackluster at best, we still have a very prominent and devoted metal crowd ready to use the few dollars they have left to buy a ticket and get shit-faced.
It is here, during the MetalSucks co-sponsored Thrash & Burn tour, that I recently had the opportunity to interview a band that seemingly everyone at MS has been jizzing their pants over: Periphery.These guys just got signed with Sumerian, and THANK GOD. They can absolutely shred, and even if you’re not too keen on clean vocals, I think you need to get the stick out of your ass and check these guys out ASAP.
Their soon-to-be “mass appeal” is more then I would normally advocate. Nonetheless, just because they will most likely be your younger sister or brother’s favorite new band (if your sister of brother is totally bad-ass), they may also be yours as well. There is no way you can deny their talent. Everything about this band is correct. Everything is in motion. They are insoluble. They are the lime in your tequila. They just… work.
The band’s founder, Misha Mansoor, is not only super-talented, but also gives his music away. For free, as Kip Wingerschmidt recently informed us. And not just one or two songs, either – over one-hundred tracks, in studio-quality audio. If that doesn’t convince you to check them out, then you need to check yourself off. Get it?
Either way, Misha and go-guitarist Alex Bois were so very gracious to sit down with me in their conversion van and tell me all about how they got to where they are now, and where they are going to go. I would assume they might dominate most of the Sound Scan posts here at MS in 2010. But hey, to be fair, so will Miley Cyrus. So don’t listen to me, I just have a vagina and I am really, really cool and super smart.
First of all, congradulations on getting signed to Sumerian records!
Alex: Yes! Thanks!
Misha: Thank you, yeah.
What was the process as far as getting signed with them goes?
Alex: We’ve been talking to them for years. Probably about two years we’ve been friends with the guys there, and being friends of ours, they sent us a contract a while back, and it took us a long time to get things done to make everyone happy, but now both sides are very happy and we have a good partnership.
Yeah, they had to be cool with the whole creative process, you didn’t want too much taken away.
Misha: Well actually, from the beginning they were pretty down with what we did, and that’s why we were very interested in them in the first place, because they really only seem to pick bands that they think are gonna do well in their style. I don’t think they’re trying to sign bands and mold them into anything else. Which is really cool and very, very different from a lot of labels. It was more just about ironing out the other details, you know? And we finally got what we think is a mutually beneficial agreement. Hopefully, it’s gonna be just as good for them as it is for us.
Absolutely. It kinda has to work on both sides, you know what I mean?
How have you guys been received on the road, this being that this is your first major tour and all?
Alex: Hmmm! That’s a good question.
Misha: Well, its a little bit of both, ya know? We definitely see a lot of people watching us. I don’t know if that’s because they like us or because they’re bored out of their minds. Hopefully it’s the former.
Misha: But it’s just cool to be getting out there, because we are playing to a lot of places that have never seen us and we definitely have a handful of pretty hardcore fans at every venue who are very stoked to see us. They’re like, “I’m glad you finally made it out!” So it’s cool to see that we’re not completely unknown. Some places are better then others. Man, New York City was fucking amazing! Am I allowed to swear on here?
Yeah! Its MetalSucks dude. C’mon.
Misha: Well FUCKIN’ New York City fuckin’ rocked! Canada was the shit too. Montreal!
Alex: And Toronto! Insane.
Misha: Oh my God, dude. I just want to play those three dates forever. There were a bunch of other really good shows in venues where the crowds were… well, we’re kind of the odd one out on this bill, too. We’re the only band with [clean] singing, and some kids, you know, aren’t so into that. A lot of these kids are out to just mosh and hardcore dance. And that’s cool, but those kids are not going to find as much stuff to like about us.
Yeah, but the thing is, there is a really interesting melding of bands on this tour. How do you feel about that? It seems like there’s a lot more tours coming around that are taking metal bands from different subgenres and putting them all together. Do you that find that to be beneficial, for you and the “scene” as a whole?
Misha: That’s a really good thing. And that’s probably why we’ve been received a lot better then we maybe would’ve been [on a different tour]. And a lot of these kids, I think, maybe aren’t even used to, or are ready for, that. I get the impression that these kids really want ten bands that all sound the same. But we really have a very, very diverse line-up. It’s very refreshing. [All the bands are] really, really good at what they do. Like, within each sub-genre, [each band is] definitely one of the best, if not THE best, at that sub genre. And for us, it means that even though we’ve been on the road for a month already, we’re not tired of watching their sets yet. It’s really cool. So I’m definitely a fan of having a diverse line-up. Definitely.
Alex: Diversity is an old wooden ship from the civil war era.
Good call, good call. You have taken the win for this interview, sir. Okay, so I have to talk to Misha specifically about this, because you post a lot of stuff on soundclick.com. And it seems like you put out a ton of stuff, and are consistent with it, too. You have something like 136 tracks on there?
Misha: Something like that, yeah, yeah.
Regardless if it’s a small track or full-length, the sound quality you achieve is phenomenal. When did you start with all of this?
Misha: Thank you. I started maybe five or six years ago. It was kind of by accident. It’s just because I have a really bad memory. I don’t know music theory or anything, so really the only way I can remember stuff is by recording it. And it just went from there. First it was just recording and putting drums to it, and then I was like, “Oh, maybe I can get this sound decent.” And then it was like, “Oh, maybe I can get it to sound like studio quality.” Just a shit ton of hard work. I haven’t had a life for a very long time! I haven’t had a lot of friends for a very long time, either! [laughs]
You invest a lot of time into this. Do you have a JOB outside of just sitting around and recording?
Misha: I used to. I basically quit school ’cause I realized it wasn’t for me. And this was probably my true calling, or, at least, the closest thing to a true calling. So I had to work a full-time job when I went home to do that. But my parents could see that I was very serious about it and they were very supportive of my cause, even though telling your parents “I’m dropping out of university,” is probably not the best of ways to win their hearts over. But these days I can do alright by recording bands, which is really cool. I definitely had to work just to get this far. It was a lot of time invested. NO friends. Like, when everyone was out partying and drinking, I was sitting at home tweeking my snare drum, trying to make it sound a little better or something.
And obviously you do a hell of a lot better then, I would assume, many people that have gone to college and studied and got so obsessed with it. Just because you study something and buy the books doesn’t mean that you’re good at it.
Misha: Well, very interestingly, that’s kind of what made me realize I shouldn’t be in school. ‘Cause I was up against people who really loved what they were doing, study-wise, and it’s so competitive as is. It’s not much different from me trying to make it in the music industry. And at least I love the music industry. I didn’t love what I was doing with school. It was just philosophy or sociology or some bullshit, which I have a mild interest in on a casual level, but I wouldn’t want to do as a job. It literally is just as competitive [as the music industry], and that’s what I learned in university. The market is so saturated with everything. Even doctors and lawyers, you gotta work your ass off just as hard. And there’s just as many lawyers and doctors as there are aspiring musicians. So, I see this really as a means to an end, as far as making a decent career. I have no delusions about it. I don’t really think that I am going to be rich someday, but I would like this to be my job. That would be awesome. Where I can just pay the bills and be comfortable. That would be sweet.
Exactly. You’re finally getting the recognition that you deserve. So, we were talking about your album earlier. Have you guys recorded anything yet? Are there any release plans yet?
Alex: Its midway. The instrumentation is done, for the most part. It’s about ninety percent done. The vocals are what we have to finish. Tha’s going to take a little bit of time. We are going to have our old singer, ironically, do the vocal recording for us, and the production for it, because he is very good at that, and its FREE.
Misha: To clear that up, he’s recording our new singer [Chris Barretto], he’s not singing. He’s producing it. He’s an absolutely amazing producer, which is why he quit our band, and which is why we couldn’t really be sore at him for quitting. He hated being on the road, and just loved composing, and he is so damn good at it. You can’t ask someone like that to be on the road with you. That was his true calling. It’s come full circle, he’s helping us produce the vocals.
Alex: Casey Sabol is his name. He’s the man.
Misha: Every band in the world that is good that I love needs to produce vocals with him, just because it will be better if you do. His mind is just not human. It’s awesome.
I think some people have whispered the same thing about Misha, though.
Alex: On the instrumentation side, yeah. On the vocal side, you know… Misha can produce vocals pretty well, but Casey is excellent at it.
Misha: We’d rather go to someone who can do a great job then an adequate job.
Alex: But the instrumentation is pretty much all done. So we have to come off this tour, finish all that up, and then give the record to Sumerian to release in the United States. And we’re excited! Hopefully, it’ll come out early 2010. Exact month, day, who knows.
Obviously. Well, I’m sorry, but I have yet another question for Misha, since it seems you are the mastermind behind this whole operation.
Alex: He’s the founder of this band. Without him, I wouldn’t be here.
You have other projects, correct Misha? Are you putting those on hiatus now that Periphery has taken off?
Misha: I have a very specific way of doing projects. I know I get involved with a lot of them. I’m very excitable in that regard. When I meet a new musician that I think is awesome, I just want to do anything with them. I’m always very clear about that fact that it is a side project. Periphery is, has been, and will always be my first focus and first love. And it’s always set up like that, so my side projects will never be a hindrance. They will just be something that I do for fun. With that being said, when I am focusing on those projects, I do take them very seriously. Now that Periphery just got signed and we’re touring and all that, obviously that stuff is put on the back burner for the time being. I have my own side project, Bulb, which would be my main side project, which I don’t even know what the hell I’m doing with that right now. I’m definitely keeping these things in the back of my mind. I’ve got another one, Om Nom, who I would like to play shows with in my off-time. That would be a lot of fun. I want to put a CD out with them.
Maybe once this takes off and everything gets well on its way, you can take the time.
Misha: The fact that I record bands at home means that I have a lot of free time. Its not nine to five, you know? So with my free time I can work on that stuff. It will never come in the way of Periphery though. You can’t have two full-time serious projects.
Yeah, otherwise one is going to suffer over the other, and in the end you might just end up with two mediocre products.
Alex: Also, if he tried doing anything more serious with another band, I’d murder him. So…
Misha: Have you seen his arms? HAVE YOU SEEN HIS ARMS!? You don’t understand why I’m terrified. I can’t sleep at night sometimes.
Alex: He will be murdered. I’m serious.
Misha: He has muscles. Big boys. See?
Alex: Flex-core, actually.
Well for the remainder of this interview I’m referring to you as Athleticore. You brought it upon yourself.
So you guys have had a lot of line-up changes. Do you think that that has hindered your ability to land a record deal? I mean, your Sumerian thing just happened, so do you think that your line-up situation kind of set you guys back a bit?
Misha: Oh, absolutely. It’s the reason that we had to cancel a lot of plans. I’ve always said that this band has been two steps forward and one step back in that regard. It’s very true. You know, as soon as things started moving and really picking up speed because we had a singer or full line-up finally, something would always set us back and basically incapacitate us. Losing a singer, losing a drummer. We’ve seen our fair share of set-backs, definitely. But I really feel that we’ve learned the lessons we needed to, and we know what to look for in members now, so we can just finally move forward.
Alex: It’s good that [the line-up changes] happened before we signed. It would be bad to put out a record and then having to quit.
Misha: Exactly. Its kind of a good thing, because it would have happened anyway. It’s not like being signed would have changed that, I don’t think. It would have just complicated things ten times more. So we consciously didn’t want to sign anything until we had a line-up that we felt very comfortable with. It just took more time then expected.
Do you think that labels had trust issues with you guys?
Alex: Yeah, of course. Any label that’s interested in your “product” and hears about you losing members… that isn’t really an investment that they want to make.
Misha: Well, with a grain of salt, of course. What band doesn’t go through line-up changes, you know? You can count [those bands] on one hand. What they really wanted to make sure of was that the core of the group was intact, and that after signing us we wouldn’t break-up. They don’t really care if members leave, as long as the core members are there. And after a while I think they saw that even though we’ve been through some pretty hard line-up changes, we still kept on trucking. I think that said a lot about us, to the point where even if we did have more changes in the future, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
As long as you’re comfortable with it, as well as the label, in the end it’s all going to work out. And obviously it has!
Misha: And I wouldn’t want to sign to a label that would sign us if we’re incomplete, because then what does that say about them?
Agreed. Anyway, this is the one question I have been wanting to ask you guys because it has such a huge “fan following.” Can you explain what the hell “Djent” is for us?
Alex: DJENT!! Yes. Ahh ahh! Its pronounced “gent,” like in the word “gentleman.” Silent “D.” I’ll make the sound and Misha can explain what it actually is. Djent djent djent djent!
Misha: It’s basically just a guitar sound. It’s not even a word I invented, but it has become synonymous with the band. It’s something we appropriated because of the way we play our power chords. If you play guitar and you play a power chord and you use four notes… you use a big power chord and you palm mute really hard, it makes it really metallic sounding. There are some guitars and amps and pick-ups that are really conducive to that sound, which I’m a very big fan of. So I started describing things that I liked as “djenty,” because they had that characteristic. Just like you would say ‘bright,’ ‘dark,’ or whatever. It just seemed to have caught on for some reason. I actually heard the term from Meshuggah. They’re the ones who coined the term as far as I know. But for whatever reason people have been associating it with us, so we’re like, “Oh, we’ll milk it and put it on a shirt!” [laughter] People are buying it because we’ve got to eat food at the end of the day. So that’s the deal with that. I get that question at the merch table a few times on every date.
Alex: Can you explain what it actually is to MAKE the noise, Misha?
Misha: Yeah, four note power chord.
Alex: Octave of the fifth.
Misha: So if you’re in standard tuning, for all you guitar nerds out there, it would be 0-2-2-4. Or if you’re in drop tuning like we are, it would be 0-0-0-2.
Alright, now that we got that out of the way…
Misha: You understand EXACTLY what I’m talking about! You’re like, “I’m just gonna go home and try this right now. Fuck DevilDriver! Djent all the way.”
You read my fucking mind. What are your plans after Thrash & Burn comes to an end?
Misha: Get naked.
Alex: We all have our women back home, so we are going to be getting naked. But besides that, we are going to finish the album. That’s the big thing. This tour is awesome, we actually are kinda pissed off that it’s over. It’s all gone by pretty fast.
Misha: Yea, I’M ANGRY! I’m beating people up left and right. I’m punching every band tonight, because I am so pissed off the tour is over. I’m probably just going to cry.
Alex: We have to drive home seventeen and a half hours.
Misha: We will have lots of time to reflect on how much we miss touring.
Alex: Then we have a couple days to rehearse before we play a homecoming headliner. We have to play for fifty minutes then, so we are gonna have to whip out the six string guitars again.
Misha: A nice, long set. And try not to slop it up, because we haven’t played those songs in months.
Alex: Casey is recording vocals out at his place in L.A., so Chris is going to fly out there and some of us will tag along periodically. Coincidentally, Casey lives right down the street from the Sumerian Records office, so that’s kind of cool.
You going to have one hell of a Fall, eh?
Alex: Yeah, finish all that up, do the holiday thing, then back on the road in 2010.
Misha: Hope to be touring a lot. Like, as soon as this album is done, I hope to be touring a lot. I think that, going back to one of your earlier question about how the crowds have been receiving us, they’re crazy about us, but at the same time, we are, or WERE, an unsigned band with no album. You know, there is only so much you can ask from fans. Even if they might know a band’s name, they would be watching rather then signing along. So I feel like having this album out and then going on tour will really be a different experience.
Alex: And tour with bands that may be, not necessarily in our vein, but more similar to our sound.
Misha: Or where the fans would appreciate a few more of the aspects of the music. Just the fact that we sing, there have been a lot of… I would say it comes down really to markets, you know? ‘Cause in New York City and in Canada, they seemed really open to that. But there are definitely some markets where the fans are like, “Well, what the fuck is this band doing on the bill?” And that’s fair enough. If I came to a show and there was an odd band out, I might not dig them. So maybe do some tours that cater more to our sound.
Exactly. You’ll find your niche.
Misha: Don’t get me wrong, I really, really enjoyed touring with all these bands. I love it, so I’d want to have my cake and eat it too. I want both. Tour with all the kinds of metal bands and rock bands. Cater our set to whatever style we’re playing with.
Alex: I wanna tour with Seal. I just want to hear him singing every night.
Misha: I would tour with Seal in a heart beat. I wanna tour with Thrice. Oh god, I could die happy if I toured with Thrice.
Alex: Thrice and Seal? And Periphery?
As long as he bring Heidi Klum with him on tour… right?
Alex: Eh, not really.
WHAT?! What the fuck is wrong with you?
Misha: We all have girly-whirly’s for the most part. So we can’t be messing around with that anyways.
Alex: Rock n’ rollies. Yeah!
Is there anything else you’d like to say to all the MetalSucks readers out there, to people that will be reading this who have never heard of you before?
Misha: Hm. YEAH! Little Ceasar’s pizzas are a great way to save money on tour. They’ve got five dollar pizzas!
Alex: But is it true that they use silicone in their cheese? To make it taste better?
Misha: They use silicone in their cheese, and I have concluded silicone cheese tastes amazing, so don’t even worry about it.
Alex: Two thumbs-up.
Although you missed out on the spice pack. Next time, you have GOT to grab a few spice packs with your ‘za. You’ll be thanking me later, I promise. Say something about MetalSucks. Say “Metalsucks fucking rules!”
Misha: Metal rules fucking sucks… wait, what? [laughs] Okay, let me say it like I mean it this time. METALSUCKS. FUCKING. RULES!
True dat. Thanks, guys. Keep it metal.