We chat with Periphery
As our Earth hurtles through space and time, rotating and orbiting around the sun, Periphery have just completed a tour with childhood heroes Dream Theater and are set to unleash their sophomore album this month. With the Maryland group headed to the UK for the Download Festival and then back to the U.S for Summer Slaughter 2012 alongside Between the Buried and Me, Cannibal Corpse and The Faceless, it is an epic year for an epic band that doesn’t necessarily fit into the traditional metal mould.
Founding member Misha ‘Bulb’ Mansoor chatted to Tone Deaf about the internet’s effect on the future of music, how an Australian friend changed his life forever, and of course the new album, Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal.
“I think with the saturation of music that there’s just going to be more of everything,” says Mansoor “there will be more for you to choose from and it’ll be easier to find more bands that you’re interested in. I don’t think it’s going to go in any one direction, there’ll just be more styles of music. I think it already is easier to find what you’re looking for, I mean if you know what you’re looking for then there’s probably a band that does it really well.”
Mansoor also believes that “it will be easier to record and make music,” with vary few, if any musical boundaries, “and maybe it will be a less lucrative job financially but at the same time it does open the potential for much more talent that once upon a time wouldn’t have had the chance to break out at all.”
“Music will always be there and however money relates to music you will always go through a shock when things change,” he says. “For example when people stop buying CDs it becomes a big shock to the system but that’s like a small bump in the road in the grand scheme of things, it will just redefine how people monetise music, and what it means to be a musician.”
As a child growing up in Maryland, Mansoor was exposed to his parent’s classical music collection and after noticing he had a natural ear for music they enrolled him in piano lessons. “My mom forced me to take piano lessons when I was four,” he says through the crackling of the long distance phoneline, “because when I was a bit younger I was at a friend’s house and I figured out how to play ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ on the piano.”
“I hated piano lessons though,” he tells me disdainfully, “and to this day I’m not a huge fan of any formalised lessons just because I found it very difficult to learn from it. I mean I learned how to read music and all that additional stuff and forgot it all… I don’t remember any of it. Probably because I never paid attention, I hated it. It’s funny because my parents always said I’d learn to appreciate the piano when I was older. It’s definitely true, I just didn’t retain anything useful from all those years learning it.”
It wasn’t long before he discovered the wider music world and all its possibilities, beginning an amazing journey that has seen him become a major player in the djent metal movement. Interestingly, it was an Australian friend who opened up his musical tastes, “[he] was visiting and I was totally ignorant of music. I’m the eldest child in my family so I didn’t have an older sibling to show me cool stuff. All I knew was what my parents listened to and one day he showed me Nirvana.”
“I thought it was awesome,” he continues, “he showed me Offspring and Green Day and bands like that and I remember thinking ‘this is great, I want to do that’. I thought Dave Grohl was the coolest person ever because he didn’t just play the drums really well, he could sing and play guitar, he could do everything. So I decided that day that I was going to learn guitar and drums.”
Although he is now known for intricate licks, and innovative guitar layering, Mansoor’s first love was the drums, “I probably enjoy playing the drums more than playing guitar, I’m just not very good,” he spouts, followed by his trademark infectious laugh. “When I went to Toronto for school I had to stop, which is when I started taking guitar seriously.”
Things didn’t work out in Toronto, and after switching majors from Sociology to Philosophy, Mansoor soon dropped out of school to follow his passion for music. “I realised that what I really wanted to do was music, and I said to myself ‘if I don’t give this a shot then I really don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.’”
“I was just working with what I had,” declares the singer/guitarist, “I had a cheapo little Behringer amp and it was right when drum software was coming out and it was blowing my mind that I could do everything on a computer. I wanted to just record my ideas down because I’m so forgetful and eventually I realised you could make things sound pretty evil too.”
After many a line-up change over the years and with their new album set for release in Australia at the end of June, Mansoor sounds happier than ever about where Periphery are right now. “Our line-up right now contributes so much more than any other line-up that we’ve ever had. Everybody was writing, and this is from a project where I used to do everything, so that’s really cool.”
Mansoor is quick to sing the praises of his fellow bandmates too, “this time around everybody had riffs, and even Mark (Holcomb) our new guitarist had a tonne of riffs, in fact the song “Scarlet” is mostly his riffs. When Spencer (Sotelo) joined he was singing someone else’s lyrics and I think ‘Jetpack Was Yes!’ was the only song that he wrote everything on. This time around he wrote everything, and he even did all the vocal production himself because he’s pretty adept at that stuff. It’s such a huge improvement vocally over the first album as he did it all himself. It’s the same thing with the drums as well, Matt (Halpern) really took it to a whole new level on this album.”
With more than one concept album also on the way it’s just business as usual for the man also known as ‘Bulb’, “it will involve some themes we’ve used in the past in some songs.” When pressed about what else Periphery fans can expect of his future material, Mansoor says secretively, “It deals with an immortal being, I’ll just say that alright!”
Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal is out June 29 through Roadrunner Records.