Interview: Frontierer

Just do it. Don’t wait around for people to come on board, as people are generally not worth waiting around for. If you have an idea, get on with it. If draws the right people in and is interesting enough, you’ll find people wanting to play with you and you’ll develop it the way you want to.

We sent a new team to ArcTangent this year, to get a fresh take on proceedings. One of that team was Bob Cook and he spoke to Ped (Pedram), the main creative architect behind Frontierer and Sectioned, just after Frontierer’s extremely well-received set at ArcTanGent festival.

(((o))): Hi man, how’s tricks – how did ArcTangent go?

Hi man! We all agreed it was insane, we had an amazing time, and are all really looking forward to playing Euroblast next and the next run of shows coming up.

(((o))): What got you involved in this style in the first place?

Honestly, I dunno – just a desire to write really heavy music, basically. It’s changed a lot in the last 3 to 4 years as opposed to every other year; I started off wanting to imitate what I was hearing without really adding anything, not consciously thinking of adding my own stamp. Now though, I just write what I enjoy and it comes out as being “mine”, either live or just having a recording of it.

(((o))): Who are your main musical icons and influences?

The obvious ones that come through I guess are Kurt Ballou (from Converge), Dillinger Escape Plan, Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza. Joshua Travis from that band – for me, for heavy music, he is The Guy. I dunno if you’d call him an icon, or whatever, but he’s definitely the standard I have set myself. For Frontierer at least, and this kind of music.

But aside from that, I love a lot of electronic music as well – Alec Empire and Atari Teenage Riot, Flying Lotus – and a lot of Chicago footworks stuff, believe it or not! And then even the stuff that a lot of people would dismiss as nostalgia these days, things like Funeral For A Friend, System Of A Down. SOAD are a bit of an all-time favourite and the reason I love Ibanez Iceman guitars. I own a 7-string model, currently being repainted the way I want it.

(((o))): How do you write your music? It’s very different to most bands in that the structure of the drums and the vocals seem to govern the shape of the song, with the guitars and bass seemingly providing more texture to the overall sonic approach. Is this deliberate, or do you start off with a guitar riff?

The way I write music is I start with either drums or guitar, and then work based around that. It’s either an idea just off the top of my head, even air drumming or drumming on a table or just idly playing random things on the guitar.

It’s different to most bands I think, most of all, in that we never write in a practice room. I find writing in a practice room to be the worst possible conditions for writing songs. Everyone’s playing really loud, no-one’s listening to each other, they’re all just noodling about on their guitars. I like to have everything either pre-written to a skeleton structure – or in most cases, completely written – and even bring some videos along.

I show the guys in the band what to learn, and then we play it together; if there are bits that we can change to sound better live, we do that then. So, sometimes the music on the records is not 100% the same as you see live, because we try to adapt it a bit to fill the room out more. Honestly, bass and vocals come last, which I think is probably the order most people write in.

(((o))): How different are Sectioned and Frontierer in terms of approach? Could a Sectioned song be a Frontierer song, and vice versa, or are they written with certain performers and vocalists in mind?

They’re totally different in terms of the sound. Approach is sort of similar, but different vocalists and techniques make the two projects come out very differently in terms of the finished product. Chad (Frontierer vocalist) does very different things to Jamie (Sectioned vocalist), for instance, and they’re definitely written with those guys in mind. Well, once those guys came on board anyway – I was writing to the voice in my head before, and luckily both of the guys have filled it out perfectly!

The Sectioned record is now done and early feedback I’m getting is that there’s a lot of noticeable differences in terms of feel and flavour, and it’s being received very positively. Basically, it sounds like two different bands produced by the same guy, which is what I’d hope for and expect.

(((o))): What do you think about the state of the hyper aggressive mathy music that you play now, with Dillinger Escape Plan gone and djent (for better or worse) seemingly being the dominant form of metal these days?

Part of me thinks it’s good to have a cleanse. A lot of bands are packing up shop and it’s nice to have the slate wiped clean, in some ways. I know Dillinger were doing it for years and years and what they did was back-breaking, physically, so to go kind of makes sense. I wasn’t a huge fan of the last release, and with the greatest of respect to them, it must get tiring after a while. They defined their sound really early, and refined it, refined it, became a bit more marketable, and then decided now was time to call it a day. That’s just one band specifically, though.

I don’t really have a lot of opinions on other bands in general, though. I’m very insular and focus a lot on my thing and don’t really pay attention to what other people are doing, if I’m perfectly honest.

(((o))): Any particular part of your live rig you’d like to highlight for the gear nerds? There is a lot of pitchshifting and tremolo!

Haha, no, not really! Anyone that follows us know we use a lot of whammy and stuff like that. It’s nice to keep a bit of a mystery, but I’m not super, super protective about what we do, but it’s all factory gear at the end of the day and people can copy us if they like. I’d be interested in seeing what they did with it.

I previously never really understood people who had sentimental attachment to guitars and gear. Equally I never could stand it when people buy hordes and hordes of equipment and only use a small amount of it, it seems very wasteful to me. I do have my orange Ibanez that I’ve been using for about five years, though, and I love that guitar to bits, so I have a bit more sympathy for that gear-hording point of view now. Who knows what will happen with the two guitars I’m having made for me, though.

(((o))): You’ve been very successful as a recording-only project before making the leap into live shows. Has this all been due to the internet, or has more traditional music promotion (i.e. PR firms etc.) had a big impact too? More generally, how do you feel about the internet in the music business?

No PR firms or paid promo, at all. Zero. All independent, all organic. A couple of years ago I might have said that I would think about doing a PR campaign and paying for one, but now, not so much. We don’t need to.

Everything you do has an impact in some shape or form, of course. I’d like to play a lot more shows, and while that internet aspect has done well for us, I just want to get out there more – from the aspect of us previously being a semi-mysterious internet only entity, you might not get the full picture of the band. The live experience is important to me.

That said, the internet model has been crucial for us. There are downsides too, but it’s really the only reason we’re getting to do more stuff.

(((o))): Is touring with Frontierer going to be a regular thing, or mostly booked ad-hoc when Chad can get over from the States?

It just depends. To be honest, especially with two bands, I don’t really want to be touring more than 3 to 6 months in a year. Keeping it close knit and picking and choosing the best opportunities both from a financial standpoint and anticipation from a fan level are what I’d prefer. We’ve done 3 different things this year where he’s flown over compared to last year where it only happened once, which is great – but it depends on what Chad can manage with time off work.

We’re going to do it as much as possible, but things on the scale of ArcTangent are going to be the only one-off shows. It makes more sense for us to do runs of a couple of weeks here and there, and next year we’re talking about doing a fair bit more; the most we’ve ever done before, if we can all manage it.

We’d also love to get over to the States itself at some point, but Europe is more likely immediately as it’s free to get in, you don’t have these stupid visa meetings and all that crap. Running a transatlantic band is difficult!

(((o))): What advice do you have for people who want to form their own recording projects?

Just do it. Don’t wait around for people to come on board, as people are generally not worth waiting around for. If you have an idea, get on with it. If draws the right people in and is interesting enough, you’ll find people wanting to play with you and you’ll develop it the way you want to.

I think there’s no need these days to wait for 5 people or a full band to get stuff going. Don’t wait around – create your thing, and then when everyone else has their input, it’ll be their thing too.

(((o))): Which other bands would you recommend people check out?

Oh god, I don’t know, to be honest! I listen to a lot of the same stuff I mentioned before and don’t really go out searching for new things often.

In terms of local bands, we played with Gendo Ikari, Dark Habits, and Godeater recently, and that was a really good show. Check all those guys out. The Armed are a really good band from the States.

Also check out Flying Lotus, I plug his albums all the time, they’re the best electronica out there. Sorry, I’d just mostly be throwing mates bands out there in terms of heavy music, so I can’t really be objective! Other guys in the band would have other things to say, especially Dan who manages a lot of other bands like Toy Mountains, A Sudden Burst Of Colour, Halo Tora – all Scottish bands, so check them out if you’re interested.

(((o))): What’s next for both Frontierer and Sectioned?

A lot. I’ve written, recorded, mixed and mastered 3 albums over the past year. 50 odd songs, all carefully and meticulously assessed, considered, planned, laid out properly. I’ve got a big mountain of music to sit on and release when it’s right for us.

The ideal situation is that I’m going to be recording bands more regularly in the downtime between both bands. Sectioned I want to tour with more, because everyone is local; Frontierer depends on what Chad can do, and I want to do at least a month of touring with both bands in a year. I’m currently working full time as well, throw in a girlfriend too and I’m just busy all the time. I wouldn’t have it any other way though.

I hope the Sectioned album will be out before the end of this year, so keep your eyes peeled! The next Frontierer will follow that. I actually have an 8 year timeline in terms of the amount of music we have.

(((o))): Anything else?

If you like us but haven’t seen us, please come along to a show. It’s the best to see people loving the stuff we do.

Also, if you work for a festival, please get in contact about adding us to the line-up, for either band. We’ll get the big man over from the States and break your face.

(((o))): Thanks Ped!

Thanks very much!


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