Sensory, a division of The Lasers Edge, is famous for introducing the world to breathtaking new progressive metal bands, and the debut from Degree Absolute is no exception. Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Murat Batmaz recently caught up with guitarist, keyboard player, and vocalist Aaron Bell, who shared insight on the history of Degree Absolute and the brand new self titled album.
Read on for the complete interview!
Sea of Tranquility: Hi Aaron, how are you? Congratulations on your new album. Why did it take so long to get released though? Didn't you basically record this way back in 2002?
Aaron Bell: Hello, I am doing well. Thank you. Actually, the dates are a bit muddled now, but I believe recording was completed in the summer of 2003. I relocated to Portland, Oregon in the fall of 2002, which somehow resulted in the corruption of several tracks. It was necessary to re-record quite a bit of material. Mixing occurred in July of 2004.
SoT: I know it's kind of early to say yet, but how have reactions been so far?
Aaron: Yes, it's a bit early, but a few reviews have been provided to me. The positive comments are very nice to hear, but I generally find myself agreeing with those on the other side. It's necessary to place everything into perspective when you expose yourself for public consumption, I guess.
SoT: Could you talk a little about Degree Absolute for those who are unfamiliar with your band?
Aaron: Well, let's see ... it all started in 1999. I recorded a four-song demo which eventually led to the decision to recruit Doug Beary on drums and Dave Lindeman on bass. They both played on the second batch of demos as well as the final album. Doug appears on all songs except one, and Dave contributes to Laughing Alone, Questions, Confession, and Ask Nothing of Me. Another friend of mine, Marcus Peterson, trades guitar leads with me on "Laughing Alone".
SoT: You handle both vocals and guitars on the album. Was that a pre-planned thing or did you simply never find the right people?
Aaron: During the writing process, I decided that if I wanted the lyrics to convey what was felt when they were written, I would need to perform the vocals myself. Although they're far from perfect, hopefully they avoid the pitfall of histrionics and can be viewed as honest.
SoT: Your vocals are quite different from most other singers in the genre. I'd describe your style as a cross between Layne Staley and Ray Alder. What do you think and who are some of your favourite singers?
Aaron: Those are very generous comparisons. Currently, my favorite vocalists are Patton, Björk, Townsend, Bowie, and Robert Smith. I find myself gravitating to female vocalists as time goes by, so along with Björk, I greatly enjoy Anja Garbarek, Emiliana Torrini, and Miki Berenyi of Lush. Of course, Alder and Dickinson are still great. They were big favorites during earlier years.
SoT: Are you guys a fan of Zero Hour or Control Denied perhaps? The riffs on some of your songs reminded me of Zero Hour and Meshuggah too.
Aaron: All great bands and again, overly generous comparisons. I have been a fan of Chuck Schuldiner for years. Actually, the last section of Exist was written with him in mind. It was intended as a bit of a "thank you" to him for all the music. Meshuggah is brilliant. I saw them with Strapping Young Lad a year or two ago. Phenomenal show.
SoT: There are some subtle jazz and fusion touches in your playing but they seem hidden under the harmonies. You also have a lot ambient sections in your songs that evoke Ulver to me. How exactly do you go about putting your songs together?
Aaron: Actually, I'm listening to Ulver's Blood Inside at the moment. I'm not sure I know how to answer your question; the songs just fall together for the most part, I guess. That is, except for "Pi", which was completely charted out before any notes were played. I have started to do this a bit more frequently.
SoT: Is Degree Absolute going to tour? What bands would you like to play gigs with the most?
Aaron: There are no plans to tour, but if there were, I would hope I could share the bill with friends ... people with whom I am comfortable. It would be fun to hit the road with someone like Twelfth Gate, I think.
SoT: Since the songs on your debut were written quite a while ago, have you started work on your sophomore effort yet? What can we expect on the new disc?
Aaron: Yes, quite a bit of material has been written for a second album. It is in the pre-pre-production stage at this point. As you mentioned, the first album was written a long time ago, so the new material is quite different. Stylistically, my tastes have changed. There should be a greater variety of instrumentation, styles, and textures on future material. I'm also excited about a few other projects outside of Degree Absolute that are in various stages.
SoT: Oh really? Care to elaborate on these projects a bit?
Aaron: I am currently writing and recording some material with Marcus that is
on the alternative side of things, for lack of a better word. I really, really like what we're creating, so I hope we can find the time to get it recorded and released. Also, I have made (or will make) a few guest appearances on other bands' upcoming releases and have recently performed a remix or two for different artists, which are quite a bit of
SoT: Anything else you'd like to add?
Aaron: Thank you for the interview and kind words. They are greatly appreciated!
(Click here to read our review of Degree Absolute)