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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Interview: Aztec

For this week’s interview I’m thrilled to be able to introduce an incredible indie-rock band from Canada; let’s get to know Aztec. This marks the first ensemble interview for this blog – which is awesome! We can start by hearing their most recent track “East” available from their BandCamp website. This song is the first release from their forthcoming album “Stitches” due out on July 11th 2014.

MW: I’ve noticed there is precious little on your website about you as individuals, it would be nice to get briefly acquainted with each of you. Let’s do this – why don’t we go around and have each person state their name, instrument, and how they got started playing. (Here is where each band member could write no more than a few sentences just to get things started)

KS: Well I’m Kyle Schepens, I’m the singer/song-writer and I play guitar in the band too. My first instrument was drums when I was 5 or 6, I didn’t get into playing guitar or writing until I was about 12.

SS: I'm Saul Sitar, I play lead guitar and sing harmonies. I didn't start playing till I was about 15, but had my fair share of sleepless practice nights throughout high school to make up for it. Haha.

PG: My name is Patrick Gleeson, I play bass for Aztec. I come from a musically inclined family, my dad and uncle got me my first drum kit at 3 years old and I have been playing since. I got my first guitar, a Fender J-Bass V, at 13 and have since tried my hand at guitar, piano and singing. I recently picked up a Tele bass, and I am stoked on it!

AB: I`m Amber Banman, drummer for almost 10 years now, started out with an all girl punk band waaay up north and moved to where Aztec is located about a year ago. I knew Kyle through mutual friends and joined the group early this year.

MW: Great, thanks for that! Can you tell us how you came together as a band?

KS: I was at a point where I really wanted to make something that had a chance at gaining traction. So after my folk project disbanded I met all the guys now involved in Aztec and we started taking things a bit more serious.

SS: I spent a few years drifting through various metal, rock and ska projects, none of which had much longevity. Since the beginning I was looking for a group of people willing to work hard toward success. I feel this is it.

PG: I had been playing a lot of solo acoustic music in the past few years, and was really wanting to branch out and become a part of something more focused. I fell in perfectly with Kyle and Saul pretty much from the first time we jammed; it just felt natural.

MW: Now, I was curious about the creative process in coming up with material. For instance, are the songs written as a group? As individuals? A mix?

KS: For the majority I would come with a song I had already written, or even just a riff I thought sounded cool then we would build upon that. Saul also brings great progressions to the table too, it all starts with a rough idea then we apply it to a structure we like and go from there. Though I do all the lyrical writing for the band.

AB: I would say Kyle and Saul are the brains for the material, they will usually introduce a song to me once it`s roughly done, and then I put my spin on it and add something powerful to the mix by hitting things hard haha with a purpose of course.

MW: Do creative differences ever come about? If so, how do you handle them?

KS: Yes, sometimes. Everyone in the band has some different playing styles for sure. We just talk it out and stay focused on what we’re making.

SS: Certainly, which I think is pretty important to the collaborative flavour of it. The creative brainpower of four people is better than one. Personally, I went to school for classical guitar and had a knack for progressive rock/metal. I think the diversity among backgrounds is what brings about cool offbeat ideas instead of recycled influences.

PG: Usually with a fight to the death. We lose a lot of good drummers that way…

AB: I think we all have our own idea of ``the ideal sound``, but for this project we`ve all had like minds and worked very well together, by keeping the EP`s overall sound and story in mind

MW: I would like to discuss “East” – that is a great track - almost reminiscent (I hope you won’t take this the wrong way) of indie songs from the 1990’s… to me anyway. Can you talk a little bit about how that song came about?

KS: It’s a song I wrote a while back, and used to perform when I was playing a lot more acoustic shows. Pretty much we dissected it, changed some things around, re-wrote a good portion of the lyrics and then put it back together again.

SS: As with each track on the EP, it went through a lot of changes to get where it is now. With any well written song it's important to trim the fat and keep it strong. I think we managed to do that well with East and make a concise poppy track that packs a punch while still shy of three minutes in length.

PG: East has been slowly transforming since the original inception of Aztec. It would blow you away to hear it in its original form, but on the whole it has really evolved into a strong example of what we can do; I love how it runs the gambit from poppy to heavy and I think we have emphasized that well. I imagine our songs will remind a lot of people of a lot of different things, as our musical influences and individual backgrounds vary quite a bit.

MW: The mixing and mastering on the song is rather impressive – did you record it yourself or do you work with producers?

PG: The album was produced by Nathan Hussey, frontman for South Carolinas All Get Out at Archer Avenue Studios. He was great, really took us under his wing for the whole process. The recording itself was done at multiple locations.  

MW: Many readers who stop by this blog are interested in gear – and since you are all instrumentalists I was hoping you might mention your favorite pieces of kit.

KS: I play a tele thinline or standard and a hot rod deluxe amp. I love telecasters.

SS: Right now I run a Gibson SG through a Line 6 Spidervalve 212. That company gets a bad rap for amps, but with its Bogner designed tube section this one's got some great tones.

PG: Sure, as I mentioned before I am currently playing a Fender Tele bass, it’s a four string reissue of what is essentially the original P-Bass. I also play a Fender V J-Bass, which I love but find a bit heavy for performing live. I only use a little distortion and a tuner pedal, so my gear is fairly sparse in that department, and I play through an old blue carpet covered Yorkville amp, sometimes with an extension cab if need be.

AB: I play a Taye Studio Maple 5 piece. I love a beefy kick drum and snare.

MW: How often do you perform live? Are you on the road a lot?

KS: Quite a bit, though during the recording process of the EP we stayed pretty close to home.

SS: I love live shows, and we book them as much as our schedules allow. We've done a bunch of western Canadian dates, but we're aiming to extend our reach further in the near future.

PG: We have played all over the island and mainland, had some interesting shows along the way. Our whole mantra, if we have one, is to be that band that is even better live, to really leave everything on the stage. I don’t think we could ever be playing enough live shows, I’d live up there if I could!

AB: While we`ve been recording and finishing the EP we`ve been sticking close to home playing local shows, but with that close to being released the planning for bigger and better shows off the island will be our next priority.

MW: Are there any shows that are particularly memorable?

KS: I don’t think there is any one that really stands out. hmmmm, well I bailed on stage once not too long ago, tripped on a patch cord but I think I pulled it off, just kept playing on my knees.

SS: There haven't been enough wild things happen at shows yet, but I'd say each one gets better and great performances are memorable ones for me.

PG: New Year’s Eve in Tofino, we had a bit of a crazy lineup change that night due to unforeseen circumstances. I ended up behind the kit, sometimes playing bass as well, while the other two boys held it down with one acoustic and one electric guitar. It was a completely different set, really stripped down and we weren’t sure how people would react, but by the second set we realized everyone was dancing, rocking out and completely oblivious to how stressed we were; they were having a great time!

AB: It was actually the same show that Kyle tripped that I had a cymbal come off and flip towards my head haha, I managed to lean back and catch it in my lap but it was difficult to finish that song doing a balancing act!

MW: I want to go around in a circle one more time – could everyone name their top three creative influences?

KS: brand new, Manchester orchestra, all get out

SS: It changes quite a bit for me. I'd say while we were writing the EP I was listening to a lot of The Strokes, All Get Out, and The Front Bottoms.

PG: This is one of those difficult questions to answer, but as a bassist I have been influenced by the more unique and outstanding musicians that have taken the instrument out of the background; Geddy Lee, Les Claypool and Victor Wooten are the three that really stand out in my mind. As far as other groups, during this process All Get Out was a constant, Rise Against for the heavier side and Bright Eyes for getting in touch with the emo kid in me…

AB: Favourite drummer – Aaron Gillespie from Underoath, Bands would be Brand New, Motion City Soundtrack, Underoath(rip)

MW: Awesome! I know you have an album coming out July 11th of this year (2014) titled “Stitches” – what else is happening for Aztec?

KS: shows, shows, shows. Planning on a bigger tour of the states later this year. Writing for the next record.

SS: Lots of shows and writing for the LP. And definitely a tour south of the border.

PG: We will be diving right back into the writing process for our full length LP, and touring to support the

 EP. Hopefully a western Canada tour then off to the southern states for some good times.

AB: On the up and up, you`ll have to wait and find out!

MW: I’ll definitely be on the lookout for all of that, thank you again for giving us your time!

KS: thanks



To learn more about Aztec, please visit their BandCamp page:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Interview: BP Major

Hello Readers, for this week’s interview we have dance-music artist BP Major here to share with us his music and fascinating career story.  On a personal note, I’m thrilled to have our first electronic artist on this blog!

MW: You experienced a lot of success very early on in your life, how old were you at the time of your first “big break?” What was it?
BP: I started working on Australian TV at the age of 9. My family was not in the business at all and had no idea what to do with me or how entertainment worked at all. I found myself an agent, then I booked 2 national commercials after my first ever audition.  Things have changed a lot in our business since then, but honestly I feel like I'm still waiting for that big break.
MW: We’ve all heard that sometimes it’s a difficult transition for young stars to assume their adult identities, was that the case for you?
BP: I have always understood the importance of evolution as an artist so growing up for me is an ongoing process. The hardest transition for me has been moving from country to country. As you really do have to start at the bottom and do all that hard work all over again. There's many times I can't believe I'm doing the same thing I had to do in my teens just to get someone to 'like' me. But that's the nature of the business and I have some incredible role models to keep me on track.
MW: I now need to switch to a few obligatory questions regarding technical stuff, do you mind?
BP: Go for it.
MW: Great, let’s start with the instrumental tracks… Can you describe your creative process?
BP: Yes, I usually start each track with a short story. I'm very visual and descriptive in my approach. I then work out a basic tempo, melody and feeling. At that point I usually sit down with a producer to help fine tune my idea. 
MW: It seems like there is some very heavy emphasis on 303 sounds in your songs, such as “Calling All Recruits” – do you care to speak to that at all?
BP: I love to use sounds, beats & instruments that not only fit with the particular song I’m working on but also love electronic music that can be mashed together and morphed to create something hybrid, or futuristic. It's pretty awesome to alter something organic to create a new sound. 
 MW: Do you have any favorite pieces of equipment?
BP: I know it's a little old school but my favorite piece of equipment is a pen and paper. I love to write.
MW: I noticed you lived in Sweden for some time… As a musician there did you feel obligated to use Reason software?
BP: I loved living in Sweden, but being an Aussie I never feel obligated to do anything - except say please and thank you.
MW: Ha, that's awesome - you know I just had to ask because I'm a huge Reason fan - I have to say that in listening to your songs, especially “Indigo,” you obviously have stellar control over your upper register – has it always been that way or did you receive any training?
BP: Thank you. You know is funny, I've never really though of myself as a 'trained' singer or even a very strong singer compared to the big belters out there, I just sing where it feels right for me and in my upper register I tend to be able to belt with ease. It's cool cause it's effective and super easy for me.
 MW: Let’s get back to “Calling All Recruits,” how did that song come about?
BP: Calling All Recruits is a song that I wanted to keep very simple and direct, because sometimes all we wanna do is go out and have a dance. Calling All Recruits is the song that gives me that reason and that permission to let loose on the dance floor without a care. I love it as it's an invitation to be yourself and bust out.
MW: It’s a great track and very easy to see why it’s been so successful in the club-circuit.
BP: Thanks, yeah it's one of those songs that you can't help but bust out too. Even my nieces and nephews blast it and burn up the living room floor. So if they like it, I know it's good.
MW: I’d like to ask you about comparisons.  I think it’s easy for people to liken you to David Bowie, he was a very theatrical performer in the sense that he adopted specific stage personas, this seems to be a part of your performing identity – does this comparison ever bother you or do you embrace it?
BP: I think it's an incredible honor to be compared to Bowie. Though he is a legend and I'm still finding my way. But yes I see the theatrical comparison and I think it's awesome. I love to perform, I love the theatrics of live performance. I also think it's so cool to be able to use something so modern as EDM and work it with some old school theatrics. It's like living a dream for me.
MW: Are there any current artists you’ve been enjoying?
BP: I have to say there's more artists more famous than myself bringing out the theatrics these days and It's so cool to see. It's like we were all trapped for a while since the glam rock era sort of faded away. I think Gaga had a lot to do with bringing back the glam to music and I'm grateful to her for that. It makes the rest of us look less crazy now. As far as enjoying artists, I love a lot of very different artists for very different reasons. If I'm in a singing mood I'll have the rat pack on, or if I wanna jam at home it'll be disco, If I have to do the vacuuming it's the Pussy Cat Dolls lol - true Hollywood Story!
MW: So, What’s next for BP Major – is there anything we should be looking out for?
BP: The launch of my new video for Calling All Recruits is very exciting and nerve racking. So fingers crossed it's my 'Big Break' - again. I really hope it put's me on the map on a strong international level. I love the video, it's been a real process from conception to completion but after seeing the final copy (last night) for the first time, I am super excited and hopeful. 
MW: Sounds awesome. Thanks so much for giving us your time today!

Find more about BP Major at: 

Official Website: