Not many rock guitarists have careers in merchant banking, run an online drum magazine, or own a business selling acoustic guitars. However Psychoteria lynchpin Errol Antzis is no ordinary rock guitarist. Having recorded two solo albums under the name Psychoteria, the first of which was an all instrumental affair; Errol took a left turn, setting up online drum magazine Drumhead with drummer extraordinaire Jonathan Mover and a guitar firm, designing and selling bespoke acoustic guitars. Now after that long break Antzis and Psychoteria are back with a new album I Think I'll Just Stay At Home and Sea of Tranquility staff writer Steven Reid caught up with Errol to ask why he has started to add vocals to his songs, how Jan Akkerman of Focus fame got involved and exactly where the rather unusual title for his album came from.
SoT: Hi Errol and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. I've got to start by finding out more about the name and lyrical idea for the title track to your third album I Think I'll Just Stay Home, can you explain the motivation behind that lyric?
Errol Antzis: I used to travel a great deal and be out many evenings due to work, and over time have come to realize that being home is often very comforting. Sometimes now I find it difficult to find motivation to leave home, hence the genesis of the lyrics – I'm getting ready to go out, really think that's what I'm going to do...and then don't.
SoT: Your first album Psychoteria was a completely instrumental affair, before album number two The Hard And The Soft introduced some vocals. With I Think I'll Just Stay Home, the vocal tracks outweigh the instrumentals, why have you made this shift in approach?
Errol: I spent a great deal of time taking singing lessons and learning to express myself vocally. Initially, I felt much more comfortable expressing my thoughts and emotions via guitar, but now am equally at ease with either form of expression. I like to think that I can now better get my ideas across using both vocals and guitar than with either one alone.
SoT: Do you think that adding vocals to your songs might also have the effect of broadening the appeal of your music?
Errol: In all truthfulness, I always knew that was the case, but it was not the driving force or purpose of including lyrics.
SoT: As someone who has come from that instrumental background, how easy do you find it to come up with lyrical ideas and to put those into the words that work so well in your songs?
Errol: I always felt I was able to write lyrics that were expressive and meaningful, but never wanted someone else to sing them. So I have had many, many books of lyrics waiting to be put to music, and now am thrilled to be able to be comfortable enough with my own singing to do so.
SoT: Some of the lyrics on the album come across as very personal, is the lyric writing something you have come to really enjoy doing?
Errol: I find writing songs, and songs with lyrics in particular, to be very cathartic, especially when I'm emotionally troubled, as I was during the time I wrote the songs for I Think I'll Just Stay Home. Pouring out emotions into both lyric and song can assist in overcoming the issues that you're facing, by both making you bring them to light, and exposing them for what they are. Usually nothing is truly as bad as it may seem, and looking at problems in the daylight often helps to put things in perspective. I believe that's why some of the best music ever written concerns problems: relationship issues, money issues, loneliness and the like.
SoT: Moving onto the music on the album, I found the overall vibe to be reminiscent of a wide variety of 70's rock, was this intentional?
Errol: Without trying to sound selfish, I write what I enjoy listening to, and having been brought up with some of the greatest popular music written - in my humble opinion - like the Beatles, Stones, Zep, and so on, I naturally gravitate toward that type of sound.
SoT: Style wise however the music on I Think I'll Just Stay Home is extremely eclectic, with rock, pop, prog, country and funk, amongst other styles being brought to mind. I'm very intrigued to find out your own musical influences.
Errol: This in a way goes back to your earlier question regarding vocals broadening the appeal of the music. I really didn't write the album with the thought of trying to be commercial per se, although I certainly hope people find it very enjoyable. I wrote what I felt at the time, and it literally encompassed many different genres. My influences are in fact fairly broad, and include metal, pop, prog, classical, and a smattering of country. I enjoy listening to almost any form of music that's played well.
SoT: I really enjoyed your "Acting Class" series of instrumentals on the album, coming in the shape of "R&B", "Pop" and "Rock", what was the inspiration behind these?
Errol: I was hired a number of years ago to score a pilot for a series called "Acting Class", about a group of actors/actresses learning their craft and attempting to gain employment in the field. The series took place in NYC, and the songs on the CD are expanded versions of the original music written for the show.
SoT: I know that you have an impressive collection of guitars. Am I correct in saying that you used nearly 50 different guitars on this album?
Errol: I do have a rather large collection, and while I didn't keep count of the number used for the CD, it's certainly possible, and likely, that I used 50 or so. On certain songs I know that I used seven to ten, layered to obtain a particular sound I wanted.
SoT: The next obvious question has to be, why so many!?
Errol: I literally love guitars. They make me happy. I enjoy them as musical instruments, and as you can see on the back of the CD cover, I equally enjoy them as art objects. I will say that I really don't own any guitars that I don't play, though. They're meant to be played, and I try to give each it's due.
SoT: You handle nearly all of the instrumentation on your albums from guitar and bass to keyboards and percussion, however you also had Focus guitarist Jan Akkerman guest on the album. How did you get Jan involved and how much of the album does he play on?
Errol: I enjoy being a multi-instrumentalist, simply because I love the process of performance, and each instrument is both fun and a challenge to play. I also find that by understanding what each instrument is capable of – which I believe is much easier to do when you have become facile with a given instrument – you are better able to both compose that particular part and emote on the instrument, especially given that I wrote all of the songs but one. All of that being said, Jan was one of my major influences in learning the guitar, and after having been introduced to him by a mutual acquaintance, I simply couldn't resist asking him to perform on the CD. In fact, the CD was essentially complete when I met Jan, and I removed some of my guitar parts – both rhythm and lead – to accommodate his contributions to the CD. I believe his guitar playing appears on about half the CD, and I was very careful in the liner notes to not only delineate which songs he plays on, but which solos, and on which channels, since we sometimes trade leads.
SoT: Jan isn't the only guest to feature though, with the immense drumming talent of Jonathan Mover also gracing the album. It must be hugely pleasing to have such a renowned percussionist involved with your music?
Errol: I met Jonathan through his brother, Mark, who was the floor manager of a restaurant I am involved with. Jonathan is the Editor-in-Chief of a magazine I own, Drumhead, and is also one of my best friends in the world. His performances are simply wonderful, and besides his talent and creativity, he's one of the nicest and most genuine people I've ever met.
SoT: As you mentioned, you also work with Jonathan on the Drumhead magazine and website. Some people may not know that are involved with the site, as a would-be drummer, I'm really interested as to how that came about and how interesting it is to be involved with?
Errol: I was involved with the restaurant I mentioned prior to my starting Drumhead, and it was totally coincidental that I met Jonathan. In a nutshell, I was discussing starting the magazine with his brother, Mark, who said, "I have a brother who is a famous drummer, and he might have some good ideas for your magazine..." Mark introduced us, and Jonathan had so many wonderful ideas for the magazine that I offered him the position of Editor – and he accepted!
SoT: Not content with that, you are also involved with Baden guitars who produce high end acoustic guitars. How did that come about?
Errol: Baden Guitars was a labor of love that unfortunately didn't pan out for a number of reasons. However, I've resurrected the guitar line – with the same guitar designer, Andreas Pichler of Shark Guitar fame – under the moniker Nova Guitars. They will be shipping after the January NAMM show, and are now made in Europe. It is a natural extension for me of my love of music and guitars.
SoT: With the busy schedule that you have, do you ever find the time to get out and play some shows?
Errol: You are correct that I have a lot of related interests, and a lot going on. I absolutely love to perform, but based upon my schedule, I typically "guest" with other bands. Given the release of my new CD, though, that will likely change. It would be great to perform live with Jan and Jonathan!
SoT: You had quite a break between your second album The Hard And The Soft and I Think I'll Just Stay Home, will you be dedicating more of your time to your music now?
Errol: Music is extremely important to me, and I devote as much time as I possibly can to it. I also now have a fifteen month old daughter, Thea, who is already strumming some of my guitars – which I tune to open-D or open-G so that when she "plays" them she's actually strumming chords! Jonathan has promised to begin giving her drum lessons, as well, as soon as her feet can reach the kick drum pedal.
SoT: Thanks for answering all the questions Errol, is there anything else you'd like to add?
Errol: I sincerely hope people will give my new CD a listen and really enjoy it. Every song comes from the heart, and I did my best to write and record music that is full of feeling.
(Click here to read our reviews of I Think I'll Just Stay Home)