One of South Africa’s biggest anticipated annual metal festivals, Krank`d Up is just around the corner – this coming Saturday at Sundowners in Alberton, in fact. Do yourself a massive favour and get your ticket right now for this amazing one-day metal show. Progressive metal band, Periphery is one of the international acts who will be taking the stage, all they way from Washington, D.C. We asked Watkykjy’s in-house metal doctor and all-round wiseguy, Chris Van Der Walt to have a few words with guitarist and founder, Misha Mansoor…
Have any of you guys ever been to South Africa or what do you expect from South Africa for this Krank’d Up fest?
So… this is kind of interesting. I didn’t live in South Africa vut I did live in Zimbabwe for a few years. I was in Harare and we drove down to Joburg a few times. So I’ve definitely been in Southern Africa before.
Awesome. Your feet have touched the soil so that’s pretty cool.
Yeah well actually my parents are also both from Mauritius so I’ve been in that part of the world many times.
The album, Periphery 3: Select Difficulty – it is an amazing album. Its been melting my brain ever since I’ve listened to it. The title, Select Difficulty – I mean that’s kinda hinting at like games and stuff like that. Where does the title come from?
Honestly, we were throwing around sub-titles and this one stuck and we liked it. We’re all gamers and we do this sub-title thing as like a tongue in cheek thing. We definitely wouldn’t want to have like a serious or an entirely serious sub-title because it then just kind of misses the point.
I mean if you check the video, Marigold as well, even the way that it is animated – it does have friendly or fun side of feel to it as well.
So that director who did that, Wes Richardson who directed the last three videos that we’ve done – he at this point kind of understands us so he’ll periodically just send us treatments for videos and I think… if you haven’t seen it, he did the Scarlet video and that one was sort of the one that galvanized this sense of what we’re after and I think in his mind when he was was proposing videos to us he had a bunch of really cool video ideas and they all sounded great and then he saved for The End of The Call and this one is a little bit left field and he said “just let me explain and hear me out and tell me it is crazy and we’ll just do one of the other ones” . But that was the idea for Scarlet – it was an epic battle between mustard and ketchup and it was gonna be filmed on Red cameras and a green screen. We were gonna make it look as epic as possible and it could be completely absurd and everyone in the band was like “Yup, that’s it!” and I think as of then he started to understand our sensibilities a little bit especially the kind of stuff that we like. So when he showed us the treatment for Marigold, again it was like this video-gamey thing. We were like “Alright, well this exactly the kind of stuff we like” and it is also very different from any music videos our peers are putting out so I think it was kind of a win-win in our book.
It is great that you guys have a fun side too. You can’t be serious all the time.
Well, you know, the thing is I think we take our music very seriously which is why with everything else we can have fun with it because the music is the one thing that is sort of sacred, but then everything around it is like “well, now we don’t have to be serious anymore”.
Tell me a little bit about the writing process.
Sure! Periphery is a band of producers and we’re always writing and we always have ideas but we’ve found a system that kind of works well for us to sort of give as as much of a head start at any point without over defining any part of the process before we actually start. I usually tend to oversee the pre-production session and the writing session. Jake will also come over here as well because we’re sort of the core writing team for the guitars. We’ll just get those riffs downs on programs and I’ll produce it as best as I can and have a few cohesive ideas. They’re not arrangements but they are ideas that work well together. Then we’ll get Matt and Spencer to come in and they’ll be there for the actual arrangement because something that we maybe thought would be the verse, Spenser would listen and go “No-no-no, this is the verse. This is the chorus”. He’ll be thinking of ideas of what each part is and that will affect how we arrange the song. Matt and I are pretty much on the same level of the kind of drums that we like so we’ll usually be on the same wavelength but you always have some changes that generally improve things. Everyone just kind of chips away at their parts and its a very valuable process. Although it starts with sort of one or two people it eventually becomes a process where everyone has input and anyone can have input on anything. We’ve been careful in not identifying problems, but identifying solutions. I think Periphery 3 was a very fun and easy album for the first time. Every other album has been very stressful at times. Because we’ve really figured out this dynamic. Instrumentally I think we got everything written and committed in about two weeks and it felt good.
Are there any concepts maybe you as a guitarist tried to approach?
No, we have a very basic concept in Periphery which is “does it sound good?” That’s the only rule. We can do whatever we want. It just has to sound good to us. And by us, it means the band, haha! Label, management, everyone on our team – they hear the album when it is finished and mastered.
The album is a really nice balance between heaviness and melody. It kind of gets away from the monotony, I guess?
We like all aspects. There is no one way to skin this cat. We like to have a lot of fun and we really don’t ever want to find ourselves in a position where we’re saying something like “Yeah, its cool but I think its too metal or its too rock or the fans won’t like this”. We don’t care about that at all. We are extremely grateful to the fans who support us and listen to us because we know we write our music extremely selfishly. It is always a pleasant surprise to have people like it because it was not written with anyone in mind. They only people we are aiming to please are ourselves as a band.
Because you guys are going to play these songs night after night and if you’re not enjoying what you’re playing its gonna really suck.
Honestly that’s the kind of thinking that will eventually make me go “You know, that’s not worth it. I don’t wanna be in a band anymore”. We have this as our vehicle of self expression. We have to be excited about these songs. It has to be stuff we believe in. None of us really care about being successful or commercially successful, I mean we play progressive metal for God’s sake! Its not money making music and we’re not trying to make money with it. We’re just trying to have some fun.
Misha, you do some MIDI triggering live. On this album, do you use that kind of stuff as well?
Triggering maybe a bit of a misnomer making people believe we’re doing things that we’re not. We have our laptops doing all of our patch switching. We use this thing called the Fractal Axe effects which is basically an amp effects simulator, so rather than having a huge guitar rig with a rack full of effects we’ve just got this tiny little black box which for example, we can very easily pack into a suitcase and travel to South Africa, haha! It is very convenient and one thing that we discovered we could do pretty early on, rather than switching with a foot switch or a controller, we could actually have the laptop send those signals to the Axe Effects instead. So we could just concentrate on playing. Our drummer plays to a click. We all in fact play to a click with in-ears and we all have the click track going and our own personal mix is going. So as long as we all stay on the click track (which is generally not a problem) all of our changes lock in. And we’re wireless – wire guitars, wireless in-ears so we can literally be standing anywhere on the stage and our patch changes will happen so it gives us a bit more freedom to worry about the show rather than being locked into some position.
Nolly is not touring with you guys anymore. He’s still helping out with the tracks. What is his role? How is that dynamic?
That’s a fair question. Nolly recently got married and with all the visa trouble its become extremely complicate for him to tour at all. This visa stuff has always been a nightmare with him but with him getting married it just became near impossible and we could also tell that he wasn’t enjoying touring as much. You know, he doesn’t complain so we talked to him about it and… touring is hard. It is not for everyone. He would do a good job, but we could see that he just wasn’t happy. He us such an essential member of the band in every other aspect that we all were hoping that he wasn’t quitting. We got all our dynamics figured out and he is such a huge part of the production and the engineering and the mixing process that it is something that we just didn’t want to lose and it would really shake the band if he left and he is completely willing to be as dedicated in every aspect there. He just doesn’t want to tour anymore. He has a very unique bass tone which he developed for Periphery. Him and I have worked on it for years. He plays the bass unlike anyone else and it is not very traditional and we figured the best way to have our live sound not to be affected negatively is for him to prepare tracks and we’ll put him on the backing track. So he’ll be there in spirit and we experimented with it and it sounded great in the in-ears and the most important thing is that we sound correct. For the time being this is the way we’re gonna move forward to ensure that our live shows sound as good as it can be.
I see your Periphery Summer Camp is coming up. What is that all about?
We’ve been doing meet and greets and VIP things with the fans for years and we always try and make them more of a hangout session and a bit more personal. Just as much as our fans want to get to know us, we want to get to know them as well and we ended up finding that we have a lot in common. They’re actually really fun. Matt has done a few of these drum camp things and they were thinking “Periphery should come and do one” and we talked about it in the band and it just made a lot of sense. If I’m honest, I was a bit apprehensive that anyone would show up bit it probably sold double of what I was hoping for to the point now where I think we’re gonna have to like, cap it off soon because you almost don’t want to have too many people there because it is a personal experience, but its been a very big success sales wise. We have a whole bunch of stuff planned from anything from the musician nerd stuff, the recording stuff, the writing stuff to just hanging out and having a good time. So it should be equal parts educational and fun. We have a lot stuff planned for this camp spanning 4 or 5 days in up-state New York. It is a little bit geared to the musicians but even if you’re not a musician we’re gonna make sure you have a good time. Its gonna be a good summer getaway and we all hang out and meet similar minded people. Hopefully it forges some new relationships there as well.
Thanks for talking to us. We’re looking forward to see you guys at Krank’d up in South Africa.
Thank you so much for the interview. Just real quick – I used to know all the Zimbabwean slang. How different is the Zimbabwean slang from South Africa? We used to call everyone “my china”
My china, my bra, howzit, lekker… So if you know some of those you’ll fit it
I used to know all that stuff. I never learned Afrikaans, but I had a lot of friends who spoke Afrikaans…