Periphery: Extraordinary Djentlemen
When it comes to insane complexity, out there rhythms and brain frying technicality, Periphery are gurus. No strangers to these parts – they had the honour of warming up Dillinger Escape Plan’s audience on their 2010 Oz tour – Periphery will be packing up their gear and Tesseract and bringing their metal mind fuck to stoked ears around the nation on the League of Extraordinary Djentlemen tour. Emily Swanson got on the blower with axe acrobatic Misha Mansoor to get the lowdown on all things Periphery, their new albums and the djent movement.
You were the founder of Periphery back in 2005. What were you hoping to get out of music at that stage?
Kind of the same thing that I am now, which is just whatever I’m in the mood for without any limitations and whatever sounds good to me, but maybe now in the context of what sounds good to everyone in the band. The lucky thing is that like over the years every person who’s joined has joined as a fan of the band, so there isn’t really much arguing on where our sound could go or should go, because we’ve kind of like left everything… I mean, the first album probably covers quite a bit of ground, with the idea that allowing it to expand more and more in the future, so I find that to be as true today as it was back then. The goal is just the right music that sounds good to us regardless of what it sounds like.
It was actually a while before you released your first album, though. What was the reason behind that?
Yeah, getting the line-up together. That band that broke up, Bulb, was the only other band that I’ve ever been in, and that was me with a friend. Its like that classic story of you start writing together and then he wants to go in one direction and you want to go in another, and it all just imploded, right? It left me thinking, well if I wanna do what I wanna do, I have to do it all myself. If you do it yourself, you can do it right, and that was the approach, but then the tough thing was that this music ended up being very different from what a lot of people were playing, and a lot of people didn’t understand what I was going for, a lot of people had trouble wrapping their head around the sound I was trying to do, and it was very, very hard to find musicians who were on the same wavelength, so that took a lot of time. And then sort of learning through making my own mistakes, what sort of members would work and what wouldn’t work, so we’ve been through a lot of members and a lot of line-up changes over the years, but I wanted to ensure that when we put our album out that it would be with our line-up and so far that’s been successful.
So it really was difficult having extensive line-up changes…
The good thing I think, is because they all happened before our album came out, no one really thinking about them because it’s a lot more difficult when say, there’s bands that have different singers or different musicians on every album and you can hear it, then it’s right in your face, whereas for a lot of people, they aren’t even aware of this because the first album is all they really know of us. They see those names on there and they’re the same names that are there right now. So therefore it’s not really a big deal for most of our fans.
Having six in your group, do you ever have problems with disputes breaking out between all of you?
We’re all very opinionated and we do get into arguments, but nothing serious. It’s a democracy in the band. But sometimes you need a tiebreaker if we have three and three votes, but most of the times it actually works out really well, like our system has worked really well for us. We all generally get along really well. Touring is very hard, and if you don’t have a group of people who you get along with very well, you’ll kind of fall apart and in fact, that’s why we kicked out our last singer. It was day three of tour, and nobody wanted him in the band anymore. We just sort of found out that this guy could not handle touring, and he was a big diva, and it was like, “Oh man, we can’t live with this guy.” Touring is definitely the ultimate litmus test right there.
You’re heading back to Australia in July to play some shows for the League of Extraordinary Djentlement Tour. Now, can you tell us what exactly “djent” is?
Everybody’s been asking that and I’ve been trying to answer it to the best of my abilities. The real answer is that no one knows what djent is. It started out as this term that Meshuggah started using to describe their guitar tone, which is a special guitar technique. It’s onomatopoeia alright? It’s where you use four strings on your power chords and you palm it really hard and it sounds like djent djent djent, you know? And I like that sound a lot, so I used to talk about it on boards and forums and be like “This guitar is djenty, this song is djenty,” it was just very tongue in cheek kind of thing. It was just to have a laugh, right? But then I think a lot of people misconstrued what it was and they started to think that our style of music, which is low-tuned and syncopated, was djent and then they started saying that that was what djent was. Even though I’ve explained that that’s what it is a million times, it seems to have taken on a life of its own.
What have you guys been up to since you were here last year?
To be honest, we’ve just been touring most of the time, supporting our album. And we wanted to put something else out. We put out the Icarus Lives! EP, which is kind of a supplemental to the first album, it’s definitely not like a release that holds its own in any way, it’s really just for fans of the first album to give them something extra, a bunch of remixes and things like that, but it was something that we could basically get together in the week off that we would have between tours since we didn’t have a lot of studio time, we just didn’t have a lot of time at home to do that, and it was really just to tide fans over because we want to put out two albums next year, and it’ll take a while to do that.
So you’ve actually slated in two new releases for next year, isn’t that kind of ambitious?
It is ambitious, and it’s scary, but that’s what keeps it fun, because we’re not interested in doing safe things, we’re interested in doing things that will be a challenge, and that’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s not arbitrary by any means either, I mean we’ve been toying around with this concept album idea for the longest time and at the same time, we had so many songs that didn’t fit the mold of the concept album and it was like, “Well, which one should we do?” and then we started to realise that we have so much material, that we can narrow it down to two albums and do both realistically if we really put our heads together and make this work. It’ll be a staggered release, probably three to six months apart, but I would like both of them to come out next year if it’s at all possible. We’re really excited about getting all that together, he writing side’s well underway.
You’re very free with music, letting your fans download a majority of your catalog; I’m guessing you’re a fan of the internet’s role in music?
We wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the internet. Within reason, I think that fans need to support bands because bands would not be able to exist and tour and afford to be in a band and continue to make music and continue to play shows if fans don’t support them, and I think that that’s a very important thing. I think using the internet as a preview tool to get into a band is great, but once you’re into them you should support them, especially the smaller ones because I think people have misconceptions about how much money bands make. Like, a lot of people think that because we’re in guitar magazines and what not that we make money, but the truth is we’re so broke. We are so broke and a lot of people are surprised to hear that, and we have a long way to go before we’re gonna be even remotely sustainable which is our goal. That we can just worry about making music and not have to work when we go home. Most bands do have to do that and if you support them, then they can continue to afford to make music for you. It’s important to buy merch and to buy CDs if you like them, but using the internet a preview tool is good, and if you are gonna be the guy who doesn’t buy CDs, then be sure to go to the shows and be sure to buy shirts and be sure to spread the music around so that other people can get into them.
You’ve stated that you want to redefine the way music is experienced. In what way do you want to achieve this?
Personally, I just wanna make the kind of music that sounds good to me and that sounds good to the band. We wanna make music that makes us happy and if other people like it, then that’s awesome, and if they don’t, it’s just music. It’s subjective and not everyone will like it. That’s been my personal goal with music. It’s just to be very selfish about it and write for myself and see how far I can get off of that, because at least if you’re doing that, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says, at least you know you can be proud of what you’ve done. Even if everybody hates it, you can still be proud of what you’ve done. Maybe the only way I’d say I want to change the way music is experienced is the way that we arranged our first album and the way that we approach our arrangements, like tracks and interludes. It’s tricking people who are from the MP3 generation into listening to an album the whole way through. What we did, we strategically made it so that there’s not a gap, and our album is 73 minutes long, which is pretty damn long, and we made it so that there’s no gap in the sound so that people who are kind of used to shuffling around or just when they hear the silence they move to the next song or they skip around, they wouldn’t be tempted to do that because there wouldn’t be any break in the sound, so they’d think the song wasn’t done yet and before you know it, you’re listening to the next song. It’s just to sort of promote listening to albums the way they used to be heard, and I think our album was and our albums will be in the future, the kind that you can hopefully listen to from beginning to end, ‘cos those are the most rewarding in my experience.