One of the best things about hosting a radio show on a community radio station is that you’re considered press. This allows you almost unfettered access to the artists who play at a festival foolish enough to give you a press pass! At UKTechFest this year, we interviewed Aaron Marshall, aka Intervals about his new album, the tour and how he makes music.
ProgMetalMadness: When did you get here?
Aaron Marshall (Intervals): I’ve been here since Monday, we’ve been in London, had a little spot in Camden and we’ve just been rehearsing at John Henry which is the spot where everybody does there thing, I saw Sam Smith, Fergie, Alabama Shakes and Stevie Wonder on the rehearsal schedule. We’re in their for a couple of days. The story with this whole thing is that I am playing second guitar for Plini and he’s continuing to play for me as well, so when you have a touring party from Canada and Australia converge, you gotta jam. So we’ve been here for a few days.
PMM: And you’re doing a tour straight after?
AM: Day one of a six week adventure with Animals As Leaders in the UK and Europe starts today.
PMM: So, you’re going to be living from a tour bus?
AM: Yeah, we’ve got a big old bus behind the stage, we’re all on the bus, a big happy family.
PMM: And you enjoy touring?
AM: Yeah, it’s good, I’ve been making hay while the sun shines as they say. I’ve been going hard since 2013 and I’d have a hard time imagining my life without it at this point. It’s like the rise and fall. Come off the road, do the artistic thing, be a hermit, haul up for the cold Canadian winter, emerge with a colourful record and then jump into a tour bus with your friends.
PMM: Do you prefer life on the road?
AM: I don’t know about prefer, I miss my girlfriend and my cat named Pepper, she’s cute. I like Toronto. The more I tour, the more I appreciate where I’m from.
PMM: Is there much of a scene back there?
AM: Yeah, it’s funny. I’d say there used to be more of a thriving local scene back in the early days, say 2008 through 2012. Obviously before that as well. There was a significant venue that closed downtown and people were hoping that it wasn’t, but I called it at the time, it signalled the death of that era. What I mean about local scene is shows that existed where the headlining band wasn’t a touring artist. Where like, five local bands would play a show. Doesn’t really exist anymore. Is there a scene? Yeah. People come out in droves for music. It’s Toronto, it’s like the LA or New York of Canada. Technical music, yeah, I just had a nice 600 person sellout for the Shape of Color tour in April and a band like AAL will come through and play to 1400 people.
PMM: Does it surprise you, the rise of more instrumental, technical music?
AM: Not surprised, I mean it’s been here and it’s never really gone away. The 80s saw Shrapnel Records like Shred, big hair, Hollywood LA shred days. It’s always been there. Maybe there was a period of time where it was a bit uncool, but I think more people pay a little bit more attention to an act with a focal point, like a singer, or a gimmick and a marketing thing and maybe in the 90s it didn’t exist so much. However, Steve Vai hasn’t gone anywhere, Joe Satriani hasn’t gone anywhere. I’m not putting myself in a category with virtuoso’s as that actually makes me feel a little strange, and it’s not really like the thing that I’m trying to do, I’m just trying to make cool music with my guitar. I’m not aspiring to be one of those guys and it’s funny, if you talk to most of us, it’s kind of the mindset. Not really trying to be the best, or the magazine guy with the guitar, it’s a lot of maintenance that whole thing. I just want to make cool music.
PMM: So you’ve got no fixed direction that you particularly push yourself in?
AM: I’ve got goals and I know who I want to be, but it doesn’t involve a metronome for 12 hours a day. But to continue answering your questions, it’s not really a surprise to see it happen. It’s like when a trend or wave like this emerges, you’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg, but it’s been happening underwater the whole freakin’ time, and a long time at that. Animals have been going hard for a long time, I use them as an example as in my opinion they’re like mommy and daddy in the genre (you can figure out between Tosin an Javier who’s mommy and who’s daddy – and they’re right behind me right now!). The point is, a lot of us have been going hard a long time. I started in 2011, they’ve been going hard since before that. We’re just doing the thing together and consistency is what continues to allow us to grow. It’s not really a surprise because anyone with a work ethic and this type of trajectory, you don’t stifle that easily. We just want to make cool music and a lot of people care. A lot of people fucking with instrumental music and not just kids, people, fans of music and it’s a little nerdy or uncool – which is a bit of a running joke between us all at times – but it’s the best and coolest it’s every been.
PMM: You did make a conscious decision at one point to attempt with a vocalist?
AM: Yes, I did. Very proud of that time period. Due to the progressive nature of this whole thing, and if you have an open mind and if you make progressive music, I think that, you know, my opinion at that time was that if I don’t give this a shot, how open minded or progressive am I truly? So, I gave it a shot and unfortunately, it didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, but it doesn’t need to be the end either and it absolutely is not, because this is the best it’s ever been.
PMM: The latest album, the Shape Of Colour, is fantastic. You’ve got a lot more space as a guitarist as you’re not trying to fit it around the vocals.
AM: Yes, but the album was written to give him space too, as you have to respect everyone’s role. I just feel comfortable in this role, and it’s what I started out doing and it’s me finding out a little bit more what aligns with my intent with this whole thing. I’m going to flip the script again, because that’s what art is about, it’s supposed to be cathartic, you’re supposed to do those things where the album is about how I’m feeling. It’s a snapshot into my head-space in a given five months when I write a record. This one is upbeat and bubbly and it makes me feel nice and now that everything’s hunky dory, I might just write a dark, twisted, creepy, ridiculously aggressive album cause I felt like it. At the end of the day, my shit is not that calculated, in the sense it’s not made for the listener. Hopefully that doesn’t sound selfish, but art is for the individual making it because it’s therapy. You can just find that therapy on Apple Music! You just bottle up up, the bonus is that anyone gives a shit at any given point.
PMM: How do your ideas come about and how do you turn them into songs?
AM: I’d love to ask them! It’s a good question, I don’t really know. I just sit with an instrument and it just happens (listeners may think this is a cop-out response!). At the end of the day, I can’t tell you how, there’s no formula. I play guitar, I like cool music and hopefully I’m able to channel that when I put nose to the grindstone. So that’s kind of what it’s about for me.
To be more specific, it could be like, here’s a riff, it could be strong motif, let’s build an arrangement around it or, here’s a cool chord progression, let’s bank that for later. Oh, here’s a dope melody that works on that or, here’s a really sick single note melody, wouldn’t that be a really fire chorus, maybe I’ll stash that for later, add a chord progression to it. Oh nice it’s not really the chorus I thought it was, it’s more of an intro. That’s my syntax, it’s a hodgepodge.
PMM: Do you find it’s a lot easier as a solo artists as you’re not held up by anyone else, or waiting on other people or playing off their ideas?
AM: Yay and nay. I mean, I’ve always essentially composed this music by myself, there was a time going into the making of A Voice Within and even a little bit of the In Time era where I was able to bounce ideas off other individuals and where things felt a little collaborative, at the end of the day though, the sonic aesthetic of this whole thing has just been me and a guitar and this previous record has probably been a little more challenging in the sense that I came to terms with the fact that I’m alone in this, not in a bad way, in a good way, this like “bro, grow up, this is what you’re doing” and it’s like no excuses, you can’t ask somebody else there opinion or have them tell you how to fix a problem. You have to do it yourself and I came out of it on the other side with what I believe to be a strong release that I’m super proud of and I actually think that’s corrected a lot of the questionable moments where you don’t really know how to make a choice with something. A lot of option paralysis was alleviated by having to tear the band aid off and do it myself. I’m excited as anything to write a new record as I feel I have expelled a lot of that and I’m at terms with a lot of it, make decisions, commit to things and move on. So, I’m excited to do more of that soon.
PMM: You’ve got more in progress?
AM: I’ve got a little big on deck, but when I write, I sit down and let it all happen. I try not to bank things. I always think as an independent musician and artist in general, you need to be ahead of the curve, you need to have shit on deck and ready to go and move forward. But when it comes to writing I think that over preparing [doesn’t work]. I want to get a headstart, but the headstart I’m got in January isn’t the head-space I’m in in June. That’s where you go back and are like, “That’s trash!”
PMM: When it comes to touring, what made you decide to do it now? Did you get the offer of Tech Fest and decide to do a tour?
AM: Other way round, we were coming to Europe with AAL regardless and TechFest happened to be day one.
PMM: They approached you?
AM: Yeah, Simon’s been hitting me up since the very beginning. Since before I played show number one in North America. So, it just kind of made sense. I’m pragmatic about this stuff. It’s not cheap to get here. So, you do it when you’ve got a tour lined up and look at us now, we did it.
PMM: Did you find it difficult to get a backing band for that?
AM: No, not at all. It’s not the usual suspects. This year, for my headline tour, Plini was direct support and him and Simon Grove played for Intervals, so we’re half Australian and half Canadian and I think that vibe caught on so well, that Plintervals thing, if you will. I think Tosin and Javier liked that and we all talked about it at Nam, got home on a Sunday and had an official offer by Wednesday. So, we put that together and it was super easy. Nathan and I fly from Toronto, you guys fly from Sydney, we’ll meet up in London, get a couple of days of jamming in and, Nathan is only playing the Intervals set and Troy is only playing the Plini set, but I play second guitar for Plini, him and I switch, and Simon stays where he is.
PMM: So, it’s a long night for you?
AM: Yeah, 40 minutes, back to back, times two. It’s sick, really sick – a lot of notes!
PMM: Do you get nervous before a gig?
AM: Don’t ask me that question! I’m zen now, that’s my new thing. I’m trying it out, it’s my new character.
PMM: How’s that working for you?
AM: I don’t know! But, am I letting on I’m nervous? I try not to overthink things, I spend a lot of time in my head. What’s going to happen is going to happen and if you go up there loose, it’s probably better than over thinking shit. You know what, at the end of the day, it’s freakin’ music. I’ve got to shout out to Plini because he’s changed my perspective on that, nothing phases that guy. He’s chill as hell and it’s rubbing off on me. We both in the background manage the shit out of our details and we’re both very adamant about certain things, but I’m a little bit more adamant about stuff something and so I try and stay on top my shit, but his whole thing is like “fuck it dude” and that’s sick, so I’m trying that out for a while. It fits pretty good too.
PMM: Is this your first tech fest?
AM: Yeah, first Tech Fest. I love the UK, I love Europe. It’s so dope to come here and do this and under these circumstances too! To have Plini, Intervals and Animals as Leaders close the night, it’s going to be fire!
PMM: You around for the whole weekend?
AM: We’re out of here at 6am tomorrow, but we’re going to jam at that little thing they’ve got tonight going on. It’s probably going to be more fun than playing my own freakin’ music!
PMM: What other artists or acts would you recommend for the listeners?
AM: That’s a curveball! Right now I’m just on some like R’n’B and hip hop shit. I don’t know what your listeners are into, but you should check out the new BadBadNotGood, their new record came out today, shout out to Leland (Whittaker) who played sax on The Shape of Colour, he’s on fable, they’re a jazzy hip hop instrumental. They go hard as fuck, they’ve got an EP out with Ghostface Killa from WuTang, they do instrumental stuff, jazzy hip hop to J Dilla Beats type stuff, to Mowtown shit. It’s really dope, it’s fire. River Tiber is another Toronto artists, it’s like Neo Soul, Hip Hop, R’n’B stuff, it’s really good, that just came out. I’m spinning that pretty heavy. Everyone should go check out Save Us From The Archon, it’s like instrumental counterparts meets Dillinger, it’s fire, it’s mathy hard to listen to but really dope. If you like techy, crazy riff driven shit, if you like melodic harcore, it’s crazy, nobody is doing it better than them. I heard the new AAL last night, it’s fire, heard the new Disperse, it’s fire. It’s all flames. Everything. Shit is next level. Lot of cool stuff. Usual suspects, everyone check out C2I, . and his musical endeavours, everyone go check out Jakub and Disperse. If you don’t know Plini go check him out, he’s got a record on deck. The internet is a big place!
PMM: That’s great, thanks so much. Thanks for your time.
AM: No worries, man, any time, appreciate your time, thank you. <Fistbump>