Maelstrom had to fulfill a dream

interview done by Chris, november 2009

I read in an interview of yours that the main reason for your disbanding back in the early 90’s was that “if it wasn’t Suffocation heavy, you weren’t going to get noticed.”. How  much of a notice would be necessary for Maelstrom today in order to not disband for this particular reason? What are your expectations and hopes from this upcoming album?
Maelstrom was brought back together by myself - Gary Vosganian (vocals) and Joey Lodes (guitars) to fulfill a dream we had many years ago and that was to finish off the album we had always wanted to do. When Maelstrom had disbanded back then there were many resons, one of which was the timing of the scene and the shift to extreme death metal or Seatle grunge. The other was that my bandmates were very interested in changeing the direction of Maelstrom’s material, and were writng songs that were much more odd time signature peices, eventually they went on to form a new band spOOge which was like a Mr. Bungle type of project.
Maelstrom this time around is really mainly about Joey and I finishing this albums material, we have other songs and riffs we have worked on together but the main focus is the completion of this album.
So as long as Joey and I still have the drive to do it Maelstrom will coninue. Getting noticed by a label is not the
ultimate goal this time around, although it would be something we would consider.
My hopes for this coming album are very high, it is a dream more then 20 years in the making, it was always a part of me that I felt was unfinished in my life and I think it will be the ultimate album for Epic Cinamtic Hybrid Metal. I of course hope others will feel the same way, but mainly we are expecting to create the album that we have always wanted to hear. To that end It will be the most sincere form of who we are musically that we can capture at this moment. And that to me is very much what music should be about.

How much does your outside music life collide with your musical career effort? Stuff like marriage, kids, jobs etc…
For Joey and I it seems to collide quite a lot, I am Married, have a full time job in advertising and have 2 young children. Joey is a Chiropractor and going for his full MD which keeps him very busy, He also is engaged to be married. We went into this with the idea of creating the best album we could and that is still the goal. It takes us more time because of our lives and schedules, as well as monetary commitments. I would HATE to put out something inferirior for any reason, so our recording waits till it is right for us on all levels.
That is our ssituation now, if we were a label act, it would be a different story and we would have to work to their schedule.

Which label are you going to release the upcoming album from?
We are communicating with labels now so everything is up in the air. We are leaning toward one from Europe at this moment but there is nothing definate, so I would rather not name any names untill a deal is done.

There is an epical feeling in your music and yet the style you are closer to is perhaps the melodic thrash metal. How did this weird combination come up?
That is a great question and one I can say I don’t know, we just write as we feel in our hearts and our heads. We have a story in the lyrics so there are parts that I specifically ask to be written a certain way, for example, if there is an army preparing for war I mght ask for a march to be written. If the Evil presence of our sory - Deamous - is being sung about then expect the music to be in minor and probably have a lot of eerie harmonics. If there is a glorius victory on the side of “good” then expect it to sound truimphant.  In this sense it is like a soundtrack. Really what we are going for is a cinamatic eperience through sound. We want the listener emmersed in our world. The biggest challenge is not letting it slip away from us and loosing site of the fact that it is songs we are writing for people who want to hear songs . We don’t want to lose that fundamental concept and that is the balance, to create Epic music but still have a songs feel and structure.
Additionally it is good to know how we started out as a concept. We were all influenced by Thrash metal from the time we were growing up in the early 80s, but we all loved Death Metal, and Speed metal as well as bands like Manowar. Originally Maelstrom wanted to have music and talent like Testament (legacy album years) and  vocals like Kreator. we all thought that would be great to have this great intricate music with fantastic solos, but the growl grit and aggression of someone like mille behind the mic. As time went on we fell into our own style and my vocals began to evolve from a strictly mille style to a blend of voicings.

You got fantasy oriented lyrics. Are you guys are into literature? If yes, what kind of books you read and would suggest? Any particular work of art or filosophy influenced you towards the theme of the concept?
I have been into fantsy for a long time, I played dungeons and dragons as a kid and always liked that sort of theme in literature and film. I would say my mother was the biggest influence on me for that, she reads constantly ans really enjoys fantasy. I do love the tolkien stories, but also like the first 6 dragonlance novels, I would also recommend a writer Peirs Anthony who wrote a series called Xanth, which was great stuff and very fun. Now I tend to read science books mostly non fiction some quantum mechanic stuff and metaphysics, as well as speculation. I would eventually like to do an album with physics and theoretical physics including the power of human thought as the basis of my lyrics. But first things first - have to finish this album,

What are your thoughts on the good/evil  as a foundation of a religion? Any spiritual beliefs?
I think Good and Evil are as strong a foundation as one could get for organized religion, because it drastically infulences your thought pattern when you might be eternally damned for something. - that is a powerful lever.
Do I buy into it, I would say only to a certain extent, I do feel there is a spirit or an energy force, I also feel that concious thought is huge factor in shaping of our universe. I feel we are all part of a greater whole so maby in the final analysis there is no absolute good or evil but reather just perspecive and the moment it is observed.
I feel we are here to experience many sides and to go though multiple cycles till we someday return to a whole.

You just  won’t go anyplace to record and produce. Which are your favorite persons to have worked with and why. Who  else would you like to try and work with and upon what kinds of projects?
We chose to record with Greg Marchak when we first began recording this project. Greg had recorded Maelstrom’s second demo “This Battle to Make History, Yet History Never Comes” back in 1991 and it was an amazing experience. He had also done many of our live gigs back in the day, so we wanted to re-capture his fell and those experiences of our youth. So we found him and decided to record with him again at the studio he was at in Tampa Florida. We recorded all our drums with him and then flew back to new york. He was also going to mix the record so As we were demoing guitar tracks up here and sending them back to him to evaluate, he unexpectedly passed away. We lost a great friend and music lost a true talent. I can say that I was very glad to have worked with him and consider it an honor to have his recorded drums on our material, It was one of his last recodings. His passing led us to working with some other extrodinary talents among which was Scott and Rich VUDU studios Freeprort NY, and Steve Booke of Porcelin God Studios NY, and as for the mix we worked with the Uncomprable Tue Madsen of Antfarm studios Denmark.  Each of these talents I would work with again for various resons, Rich was amazing at getting the best performance out of my voclas and I know Joe was very happy with Steves Idea contributions durings Joeys solo sessions. Tue Is an amazing professional and we consider ourselves very lucky to work with him. absolute gets this type of material and is  a great proffesional as well.
As far as others I would like to work with, I can say if we never work with anyone else I would be fine with that, but back in the day we really fantasized about working with terry date, his sound on Overkills “The Years  of Decay” is still one of my all time favorites, I do like a lot of what Andy Sneap does, and Josh Silver would be pretty cool too.

Today’s standards of professional production have changed. What trends of older decades of metal music production, and  of modern ones  do you like or dislike?
I was always a sucker for good production. I know some people really love raw sounding stuff and that is fine - but I often felt that was an excuse for not spending time and money and polishing your material and sound.
Look I love the first 2 voivod albums and I think for the time it came out and the material the sound was perfect. But unpolished production just was never for me and our music.
Conversely I do think things can be overproduced, there are some albums I have heard recently where I think way too much time was spent on the production aspect and way to little on writing solid songs.  I think that modern equipment has brought recording to many home musicians and put in their reach the ability to make a good sounding album, but it has also hurt the studios quite a lot. At some point you need to decide if you are going to spend the time on learning how to record or on mastering your instrument / songwriting. I feel few can do both increadible well, there are always exceptions, but especially for people just starting out with an instrument, it is easy to get caught up in the recording apect and lose sight of practicing and writing.
I think for Maelstrom we will use home recording as a tool to demo ideas, do preproduction and work out our structures harmonies progressions and the like, but we will continue to use the professionals to record and mix the finals.
And there is a lot of recording out there now on myspace and other sites that just plain sucks, You should never put out something that just sounds aweful. Always ask yourself if you were reviewing this or listening to it as a label A/R rep, would you sign your band, If you don’t care enough about your music to produce it, polish it, and package it professionally then why should someone else.
There is also a trend toward mastering everything as loud as possible, this tends to limit your dynamic range and you lose subleties in the music, but the more people do it the more others have to do it to make sure that the sheer volume can compete.
Also it is interesting to see that there is a throwback trend towards vinyl, I think that is great!

Do you feel like your album is mostly old schoolish, or modern?
I hope Maelstrom’s album is considered a “20 year old breath of fresh air”.
We wrote it back then but I believe the material holds up in any time, so there is of course oldschool elements but I believe it is timeless music.

You had a 20 year long desire to release the album. What would it feel like if was to never happen? How easy it is for you guys to live with the idea of unfinished musical business?
I know with all my heart that we will finish this, It is not easy for me to know that it is still taking this long, but our lives are very different now. So right nw I am just being patient. To answer your queesion It would feel horrible for me if this would not get done. It is something I have wanted more then half my life, so in that sense it is not easy for me to live with this unfinished musical business.

Would you prefer to be viewed as a new coming band that has some personal touch , or as a once ground breaking, now long forgotten underground act, since the stuff you play today will not steer as much surprise as 20 years ago when they were actually written?
I guess I will acept whatever people want to believe. I view us as a band that wrote some groundbreaking material back 20 years ago when we were all teenagers and the timing and situations just did not go our way to land us a deal. We know when this material was written and I know some people that hear it now for the first time and think it is still pretty forward thinking, but then they find out it was doen 20 years ago and they are amazed. There is nothing I can do about the past, so we just want to move foward and make the album we want to hear using as much f the material as we can from 20 years ago.

I read that you didn’t alter your old material that much. How much was your music change of tastes through all these years suppressed for the shake of this? What kind of changes concerning  structure, harmony, lyrics, vocals etc have you done to your old songs and what were your particular reasons for that?
The material is at its core very close to what we did back then, Joey has matured tremendously as a writer, player and someone who understands theory so to that end there are changes in the “correctness” of the music, I have also matured a lot and I have definately pitched down as I got older.
I have not changed my tasted that much since we wrote this, though I enjoy soe heavier stuff even more now and Have gotten more into death metal. So there is some more of that incorporated, especially in parts that are being re-written.
Structrally there are not all that many changes, and when there are the purpose is always to make the song more cohesive, Arise was restructured a bit at the end, we cut out a verse, to make it a better flow. Predestined had a different middle section then what you hear now, the old breakdown did not make much sense as we introduced a whole new riff into the song, now we cycle back to the oopening riff and it just kills. Each song has some things we have changed and tweeked but ultimately these decisions are always made for the benifit of the song.

How much of the press you get is to your opinion consistent with your own opinion about your music and musicianship? What do you think are the most untrue or exargerated things they say about Maelstrom.
Most of the press we get is pretty positive, and I am of course appreciative of that. I think that some of the younger reviewers that were not around in the scene back in the 80s do not always get where we are coming from. But that is OK everone has there opinion and One thing I really like is that we do seen to galvanize people, it seems to be one way or the other. Most really like us and can’t praise the work enough and some really hate it. and as an artist I think that works. It is at least evoking an emotion.
Being the vocalist I probably get the hardest hit, I am very passionate with my voice and some people just dont get the feeling I try to put into my performance. But believe me I really try to give it my all. I want people to feel that passion and conviction, so some of the press think I am over the top, but that is just what I do and it also happens to be what I would want to hear out of someone elses performance, Why hold back.
As far as something untrue - I guess it would be that many people in the press call us power metal or think I am trying to be a power metal singer. That was never the case, we use some “power metal” influenced riffing if it fits the part of a story we are trying to tell, but we were never power metal. We use that sort of imagery in our artwork because our story lines have to do with fantasy, so I think people automatically assume power metal.

Lastly I would like to say thank you so much for the interview and for the opportunity to appear in your great webzine, and to talk about our band to the people of your country, we truly appreciate it.
Keep it heavy my friends.
Interviewer: twansibon
Nov 21, 2009

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