THE FACELESS’ MICHAEL KEENE ON SUMERIANCORE: IT “CAME ABOUT WELL AFTER WE’D SIGNED TO SUMERIAN”
No Clean Singing are totally killing it lately with interviews lately. Last month’s interview with Nachtmystium was a quality piece of journalism in which Blake Judd candidly shared his feelings about drug use, his record label, haters and more. The latest is a one-on-one with The Faceless mainman Michael Keene (recipient of a #12 ranking in our Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists list!), in which the talented guitarist/singer/producer gives some juicy quotes, including what the new album will sound like and how it feels to be the odd band out on Sumerian Records.
First thing’s first, new album tawk:
Talking of the new album, is there anything you’d like to share about it? You’ve previewed one song (“The Eidolon Reality”) already, so do you know what sort of direction, musically or lyrically, the rest of it is going to go in?
MK: Musically I think the new song that we posted, the pre-production track, is probably a pretty good indication of the musical directions, stylistically. Although I definitely think the album’s going to be a bit more… a bit broader… than anything we’ve done before.
It did seem a lot more “open”, like you could listen to it in more than just the one “standard” way. I felt the clean vocals came from a kind of different place as well. Was that still you?
MK: Yeah, there was a definitely different approach there. And I think there’s going to be more of that, from one song to the next it will still be undeniably “Faceless”, but it will have a broader range of styles and the spectrum will be… wider.
Is it just me, or is it true that every time a band says they’re “broadening” their sound or making it “wider,” what that really means is it’ll be less brutal and more mainstream? To be explicit, I’m not bothered by such things: I’m just making a point based on common parlance. In fact I’d be thrilled to see The Faceless branch out a bit; if any band can do it, it’s them, and I think any kind of change is always better than repeating the same thing over and over again. No risk, no reward, otherwise you end up being boring like modern-day Slayer. Seems like The Faceless will be one of those bands that are always morphing and changing… and those kinds of bands are the ones that become the greats.
Keene has some interesting thoughts on Sumerian Records too. He doesn’t ever say anything bad about the label, but does admit to feeling a bit alienated by the direction the label has gone since they signed The Faceless:
You’re on Sumerian, and there’s currently a very “Sumerian sound”, like every time you see a band has signed to Sumerian you kinda know what it’s going to sound like, i.e. very derivative of Meshuggah and pretending to be progressive just because of that. Yet you guys stick out like a sore thumb, if you don’t mind me saying?
MK: Yeah we do, I agree, we completely do. We don’t write our songs in the same way for one thing. That whole kind of Sumerian sound came about well after we’d signed to Sumerian. We’ve been with them literally from the ground up. If you look at Akeldama, you’ll see it says “Sumerian 001” on the side. It was their first proper release. And ours too. So I guess that’s why, that whole phenomenon came completely after we were already in place. It was kind of half accident, half kind of guided by the musical tastes of the people who run the company that that “Sumerian sound” developed after we’d already signed.
They don’t ever discriminate against you guys because you don’t really fit with the rest of the roster then?
MK: Errr… I wouldn’t say they discriminate. I mean they treat us really well because we were their first band and I think they have a soft-spot in their hearts for us because in the beginning Sumerian really didn’t have a leg to stand on and, although we’d had some really good offers from some big labels, we chose to sign with them just kind of, on good faith really. And I think in that beginning phase they kind of owed us as much as we owed them, so that led to a really good bond, and the relationship has always been really good because of that.
I’m probably not the only person who has been a little worried or confused about your place, what with how the roster has changed and developed, moving one way and you guys moving off on a very different tangent.
MK: Well we really didn’t know what to expect with what their roster would become after signing with them, being the first band to sign, so we just saw it all unfold. And especially in the beginning, we kind of felt alienated a little bit, initially anyway, especially being the ONLY death metal band on the label. And we saw them further and further away from us all the time, and we were just thinking “are we going to end up just totally out of place on this label or what?” But I think that they’re a diverse enough label now, and that they have enough bands that are so dramatically different, that it’s all working out fine. Although there are some pretty pop-punk bands who are on the label now!
Read the rest of the interview over at No Clean Singing. You’ll be glad you listened to yer’ Uncle Vince.