Sea of Tranquility's Murat Batmaz recently caught up with Linear Sphere guitarist Martin Goulding to talk about the band and their hot new release Reality Dysfunction, which is sure to be one of 2005's best progressive metal offerings.
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: First of all, congratulations on your amazing disc Reality Dysfunction. It's so far one of my Best of 2005 contenders. Can you tell us a bit about Linear Sphere and the type of music you play?
Martin Goulding: Thanks very much, we're all blown away with the positive feedback that we have received since releasing our debut earlier this year and have been lucky to get some great reviews so its all been very encouraging. The music that we play is a kind of hybridisation of many elements. We are all music fans that collectively listen and are interested in a broad range of styles, so I guess that it is essentially at this stage a combination of the heavy progressive rock and death metal influence mixed with the jazz-fusion leanings and a natural instinct for a more intricate compositional approach. It's dark and atmospheric and also quite demanding as we have gone for a different approach with the rhythmic and harmonic aspects constantly evolving which can unsettle the listener, but to my mind its got powerful hooks and is challenging and will take you on a journey that is different each time.
SoT: There is a heavy jazz/fusion influence in your playing as well as some really subtle death metal riffing. Who are your main influences?
Martin: It's a hard question! Charlie, Nick and I have grown up playing together, over the years we have gone through many stages, introducing each other to many players and different bands and styles. In the early days we were listening to Heavy Metal with an interest in the technical side. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth, King Diamond, Ozzy, Annihilator, Priest... We would get together in the music room at school and jam out the new riffs! More relevant to Linear Sphere as far as the guitars go would be the impact that Death and Cynic had on us as we progressed into more demanding territory. Years later that is an influence that can be heard in our work as people have commented on. As we sought more sophisticated music, we were drawn to Progressive rock with bands like Yes, Rush and Genesis and then into Jazz-rock with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, Chick Corea, Zappa, U.K etc..Its weird to think that as we matured and became accustomed to more "out there" styles of music that we had to actually go back in time instead of following forward! But that is probably the way to uncover how music has developed from the source. Some people have commented on the 70's Prog and Jazz-Fusion feel, and I guess that we have tried subconsciously to integrate the vibe of that period, using B4 organ and some psycadelic layers mixed with the modern rock guitar approach. Nowadays we're all keen to hear something new and interesting, something different. Personally I think that the Metal scene in particular has evolved beyond belief, and that in turn has opened up some more recent inspirations and influences.
SoT: The first couple of spins suggested Watchtower and Spiral Architect comparisons to me-are you fans of either band?
Martin: Many people have compared us to those two bands, but in truth not a single member of our band had actually heard Watchtower! When the reviews of our album started to come in, everyone was mentioning them so out of interest I ordered Control and Resistance and considering that album was released in 89, it must have been way ahead of its time! Spiral Architect I heard fairly recently too and thought they were excellent. I think maybe between us and them a mutual link back to Cynic?
SoT: The only mixed comments about your album seem to focus on vocalist Jos Geron, whose distorted vocals apparently have some listeners confused. What was your intent to you use all those sound effects and do they serve a specific purpose?
Martin: From a production point of view, I used distortion on the first track "Reversal" as a contrast to the cleanly sung chorus. The intention simply being to bring out the aggressiveness of the lyrical content. The second track, and one which is a free download on our site, is the most aggressive track on the album and we were going for an insane thing all round which I think works well as a contrast into the jazz-fusion approach for the stabs and guitar solos. Other than the odd bit of delay and effectual usage of the voice, there isn't that many effects, certainly no more than a lot of metal bands use these days. I think that it is the vocal approach in itself that has people confused! Most people that have given the album a good few listens have started to appreciate the vocals much more than say on first listen, as I think that most people have become conditioned to expect neo-classical operatic vocals in this type of setting and that is what we wanted to avoid. Those with open minds to new approaches have seen the artistic and creative point to what we have tried to do. Also the lyrics are an important part of why the vocals are done in this manner. It would be inappropriate in my view to convey the message that we are conveying, in the style of voice that so many singers are using. For this album we wanted an unconventional approach for unconventional music, simply the concept demanded it. If you look at the way people talk when they're happy or upset, angry, sarcastic then obviously you'll see a lot of variation, and so Jos will be essentially characterising what it is that he is singing, sometimes sarcasm or anger, humour, madness at the situation.
SoT: Would you agree with the assessment that Geron's singing style may be the defining factor of gaining or losing more fans? Are there plans to have him do more clean operatic singing in the future?
Martin: I think people will love it, warm to the approach in time as many do or hate it!! But it's like that with so many bands. We don't compose our art with that in mind really, or all would be lost. At the end of the day, in my view, an artist will prepare something that he or she is happy with and then there will be like-minded people that enjoy it and can understand why it is and there will be people that can't or simply prefer other approaches. I accept that as human nature so when it comes to writing, that's never part of what we bear in mind. We would probably think that way if we were thinking commercially like in the pop scene, but luckily we don't have to tolerate the violation of our thought processes!
We are engaged already at the moment in the preproduction of a second album which will be a step up in many ways from our debut, and will be featuring a fair amount of what I have found to be very emotive clean singing as well as a contrasting alter-ego! The quality in Jos's voice has improved in leaps and bounds since our first album considering that he hadn't sung for six years when we recorded "Reality Dysfunction" and so far a few private plays to my close circle has instantly won a few people that weren't keen on the last approach, so as we develop together you will probably hear a great deal of difference on the next release, although different people will love or hate it! So you can only win in the end if you stick to you own creative process. That way, and is the case with us, even if others dismiss it, we are still happy with the result, we completed our goal.
Drummer Nick Lowczowski
SoT: Throughout your album, there are plenty of spoken passages taken from radio and television news excerpts I assume. How do they function in the concept of the album?
Martin: Firstly and least importantly they function sonically as areas of interest to add an human ambience to the instrumentation, but if only for that they would not have been used, as their real significance is to support the lyrical message. You could say that they are specifically coded into the music and I panned them hard left and right so that they will appear as ambience to the casual listener, but can be understood if people are interested and willing to home in on them. To my mind they suggest what is in between the lines of the lyric, and are a signal to those that know!!As well as opening the door of awareness to those that don't!!
SoT: Who wrote the lyrics and can you tell what they deal with in general?
Martin: Jos writes all the lyrics for Linear Sphere.Really the album on a deeper level is encouraging society/mankind to question everything including what we take for granted as facts, these facts really just unquestioned agreements conditioned into us to prevent us from seeing the real picture. The sub-theme is the abuse of power and the secret society infiltration of the power centres in this world, politically and religiously.
SoT: Are you guys all musically schooled? Talk a little about your background please.
Bassist Dave Marks
Martin: Both Charlie and I studied with an excellent private teacher when we were mid-teens that set us up to go to study diplomas at in my case the Guitar Institute of Technology when there was a school in East London, and in Charlies case The Guitar Institute in West London. From there both of us then went on to study for six years or more with top UK teacher Shaun Baxter. We've been lucky over the years to have had tuition with some of the best musicians in this country and we now both, along with Dave Marks teach at the Guitar Institute, specialising in modern rock techniques. Nick has been well trained with a variety of great teachers, for the last few years studying with Pete Zeldman and again is a teacher himself. We all place value on passing and sharing skills and enjoy giving something back in respect to the teachers that have guided and helped in our own development.
SoT: You released Reality Dysfunction independently, but your album is also available at Laser's Edge. Are you going to stay an indie band or are there plans to sign with a label?
Martin: We are already set up as a label, Linearsphere Records Ltd. Ken at Lasers Edge has been very supportive of our music and we appreciate that. Currently we are talking to a European company that is hoping to set up worldwide distribution so hopefully we should soon be able to get our music across to a bigger audience, and more releases will follow.
SoT: I heard that you [Martin] teach guitar. Can you make a living off it or do you do it just as a sideline?
Martin: I have run a private teaching practice since I was eighteen and in that time have also done session work and kept busy with recording and playing. Along with Charlie and Dave as I mentioned earlier I teach at the London Guitar Institute and have been able to live as a professional teacher. It's something that builds over time and can be up and down, but it's a great experience being able to see development in others, I'm always pleased to play a part in that process, as others have done for me and I find teaching very good for developing your own clarity of mind. I love to teach and it provides me with a stable income that doesn't put the pressure on the writing in order to live which at this stage would be difficult. I think in order to survive as a professional musician you have to do as much in that field as you can, some teaching, sessions, bands, recording etc..
SoT: How long did it take to complete your debut album and have you started working for your next release? If so, what should Linear Sphere fans expect?
Martin in the studio
Martin: Charlie, Jos and I formed Linear Sphere in 2002 and spent around one year sketching the pre-production which at that stage included all the bass and drum programming, along with first draft vocals. During that time I was getting more familiar with computer recording and setting up the digital home studio. In 2003, we invited Dave and Nick to join us in recording and that year we re-recorded the whole thing from scratch. In total from preproduction to final mix the album took just over two years mainly due to the fact that everyone was quite busy and we could only dedicate a day or two a week, otherwise it would have taken half the time. Up to this year we were also concentrating on art concepts for the CD and website layout as well as setting up our label and doing an initial marketing campaign. Its been a labour of love to get everything up and running and now we are happily into pre-production on the next album which will be a mind-boggling concept album which is starting to take form!!Listeners can expect some insane compositions that will feature some of the most ambitious playing yet, and some really nice contrasts, a development from the debut and hopefully the next of many.
SoT: Any plans for a tour this summer?
Martin: We are in rehearsal at the moment which is going well and hope to be able to start doing some showcases probably more towards the end of the year.