In the wake of my review of THE DEADSTATION’s debut EP, Episode 01: Like Peering into the Deepest Ocean Abyss, I was given a chance to ask some questions of the gentlemen behind this incredible work of music. Here are the results….
lonestar-So, first off, let’s get a little biographical and historical info, who all is involved in the band, and how did you guys meet up?
Shjon Thomas: At the moment, The Deadstation consists of myself (Guitar & Bass), Ryan Mattheu (Guitar), and Greg Murphy (Lead Vocals & Drums). On our EP “Episode 01”, we also had Nathaniel Rendon play keyboards as a guest performer. Ryan and I have been playing together for 10+ years in various bands, and we lived in the same town as Greg, so we’ve known him since grammar school. We always wanted to have him play drums for us, but the planets didn’t align until late 2005. He originally wanted to audition for the vocalist spot, but we convinced him to just play drums at first. When we had vocalist issues a few years later, he gave it another try and we all agreed that he was the right guy for the job. As far as Nathaniel playing keyboards on the EP, we met him through some friends that were attending Berklee College of Music.
lonestar- So what bands do you guys draw your inspiration from?
Shjon Thomas: We are definitely influenced by a lot of bands/artists, but we usually like to narrow it down to a few of the major ones that really shaped the way we approach music. The first big influence that we all share is Metallica. Those guys are 100% responsible for us picking up instruments to begin with, and their first five albums are really the roots of our metal influence. The second big influence (mostly for Ryan and I) was Alice In Chains, which got us interested in more melodic vocals, as well as alternative music in general. Their albums “Dirt” and “Facelift” got a lot of playtime in our CD players, for sure. The third major influence was Dream Theater’s work in the 1990’s, which introduced us to progressive music, as well as the more technical side of music. Albums like “Awake”, “Images and Words”, and the EP “A Change of Seasons” blew us away. Although you might not hear them in us, The Deadstation’s core approach to music comes from the influence of those three bands. Some other bands/artists that we love are Devin Townsend, Megadeth, Radiohead, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Nine Inch Nails, Opeth, Coldplay, Rush, Meshuggah, Pink Floyd, Dimmu Borgir, Porcupine Tree, etc…
lonestar-The concept of your band is unique in its own right, the idea of being a dystopian TV station that presents its albums as episodes, how did this idea come about, and how does it influence/affect the writing process?
Shjon Thomas: As I mentioned earlier, Ryan and I have been playing with Greg since 2005. It wasn’t until 2011 though, that we became The Deadstation. “Episode 01”, which is a 27 minute EP, was originally a 60+ minute album that we were working on for a previous project. When we decided to change the name of that project, we started coming up with ideas for a band/tv station hybrid that presented each release as a new episode. We were sort of being influenced by bands like Coheed and Cambria, and The Dear Hunter, who have a concept that connects their releases. We took that idea, and mixed it with how TV stations like HBO, TBS, etc… present their shows to people. We wanted The Deadstation to be a twisted version of those stations… presenting things that you wouldn’t or shouldn’t see on real TV, but in musical form. The actual visuals are left to the listener’s imagination. I guess you could view it as a satire or parody of modern entertainment, and how it keeps getting more violent and disturbing as times goes on. As far as how this concept influences our writing, we cut over 30 minutes of music from the original album we wrote, just so “Episode 01” would be more cohesive with the concept. The concept almost dictates, rather than influences, the writing process, which is definitely an interesting challenge.
lonestar-Getting Jens Bogren involved was quite a coup, how did that happen, and what influence did that have on the final product?
Shjon Thomas: Jens is one of the best metal producer/engineers on the planet right now, so we were really dead-set on working with him at some point, regardless. Opeth’s “Ghost Reveries” is the album that really blew us away, but his work with Devin Townsend, James Labrie, Symphony X, and Katatonia also sounds absolutely amazing. For the mixing, we had already worked with Peter Rutcho in the past, so we felt it would be best to have him handle that on “Episode 01”. His recent work on Revocation’s “Chaos of Forms” really solidified that decision for us. When it came to the mastering though, we thought it might be something Jens would be interested in. We contacted him with some of the material, and to our extreme surprise, he was interested! He took the already amazing mix that Peter Rutcho did for us, and added his own mastering stamp on it. We thought it sounded killer! We owe a HUGE thanks to both of them for helping us so much with this release.
lonestar-OK, now to the meat and potatoes, Episode 1, as you could tell from my review(http://www.ladyobscure.com/albums/the-deadstation-episode-01-peering-into-the-deepest-ocean-abyss/), this piece owned me for quite a bit, how did the initial musical and thematic elements evolve?
Shjon Thomas: The initial instrumental demos for “Episode 01” were actually finished in late 2007, so these songs are quite dated by now. Looking back, I think the general vibe of the music was influenced by our lineup at the time. In the earlier days, when it was just Ryan and I, our music was a bit simpler and more melodic. Since our vocalist/drummer Greg is very into death and extreme metal, we started incorporating more technical elements when he joined the band. From there, the music gradually grew into a darker, more metal type of sound. As The Deadstation concept came together, that vibe was reinforced even further. The concept really helped us solidify a musical direction for the band, which then allowed us to be more focused when writing/recording.
lonestar-And as to the very dark theme, was that intentional? I mean, did you want to bring that much fear and anxiety into the piece?
Shjon Thomas: When it came to creating the plot for “Episode 01”, we wanted something that was very dark, epic, and REAL. We wanted to avoid cheesiness at all costs because the emotions that inspire the music are very real and honest. Although the lyrics ARE embellished and somewhat fictionalized, the story of “Episode 01” is really a metaphor for our struggles as a band. During the insanely long writing/recording sessions, we ran into every problem you could think of… critical members leaving, health problems, difficult family events, equipment malfunctions, etc… All of these things really made us question our future as a band, and as musicians in general. The title “Like Peering into the Deepest Ocean Abyss” is a metaphor for picturing your future without the presence of something you love. It makes you ask yourself “Is a life without this critical element, even worth living?” At some points, I think we were convinced that the whole project was doomed, and that this EP would be the last thing we ever do as musicians. That definitely had a strong impact on the writing/recording because we started thinking of it as something that needed to be “perfect”… as if we’d never get another chance to try again. As you may know, the EP artwork features a woman wearing a faceless mask. This represents the loss of identity that occurs with questioning yourself and your future. In our case, the question was “If I am not a musician, then who am I?” We had completely dedicated our lives to music up until that point, so the answer to that question was “nothing”. If we were not musicians, then we were nothing. Any rational person can see our faulty logic there, but we couldn’t exactly see it at the time. We were too caught up in the whole process to see that we were taking ourselves WAY too seriously… that is something that is very clear to me now. We were just thinking too much in black-or-white terms. Once we realized that, things became much more enjoyable again. Going back to your question though… the fear element was a natural one that came from these situations we were experiencing. I don’t think we realized how fearful it sounded when we were creating it, but when I listen back now, that is the best way to describe it.
lonestar-Are you happy with this first product? I mean, what aspect of it do you think you guys nailed, and what parts do you think you could improve upon?
Shjon Thomas: Personally, I’m still pretty happy with it musically. This is also the first time in my life where I’ve been able to look back on old music and still like it! So, that alone is enough for me to be ecstatic! The production was one of the things that we struggled with the most. None of us are trained audio engineers, so self-producing the majority of this EP was a lot of hard work. We knew what we wanted it to sound like, but instead of being able to describe it to a producer/engineer who’s sitting in the same room, we had to figure it out mostly by ourselves. It was really a trial-and-error process. We were lucky enough to have Peter Rutcho as a guide for some elements of the recording, so that helped immensely. He recorded the drums, re-amped the guitar/bass tracks for us, and also gave us advice on recording the vocals. Outside of the drum recordings, we produced the EP ourselves though, which definitely played into the lengthy process. When I was recording my guitar/bass tracks, for example, I had nobody to give me immediate feedback, so there was a lot of self-doubt and an unnecessary amount of redo’s to get it “perfect”. I put that in quotations because anybody who listens to the EP will hear that the guitars didn’t come out perfect anyways! A lot of extra work was put it to make it sound 2% better, which I think was a rookie recording mistake. I’m glad that it went down that way though, because we all learned a valuable lesson. As far as what we can improve upon next time around, I’m really hoping to speed up the whole process and also try to weed out the perfectionist mentality. I just want to be creative and go with my gut feeling on things, rather than overanalyzing.
lonestar-The spoken word part was extremely effective as an emotive tool, how did that work its way into the piece?
Shjon Thomas: When we were recording the vocals, it took us a while to nail down Greg’s main vocal style. We had recorded with him a lot in the past, but this time we had a slightly different vibe in the music, so we were trying to make sure the vocals would mesh well. We tried a lot of different things, and in the process we were given a huge reminder that Greg is amazing at doing voice impressions. Singers, movie characters… you name it, and he can do it! Until that point, he had always used this talent for laughs while we were recording and hanging out. When we realized that we had a lot of narrative-style lyrics written for the EP, we thought it could be cool to have him create some character voices, but with a more dark and serious tone. After a while of messing around and doing some demos, we started to get really excited. Everybody we showed it to thought it was really great, so we decided to give it the go-ahead. We were being influenced by post-rock bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who add film samples to their instrumental music. We took that idea, but decided to create our own “samples” instead, with Greg doing the acting. We were also influenced by some of our favorite movie characters. Greg is very much into that stuff, so he already had an amazing repertoire of voices to use as a base. To be completely honest though, I wasn’t sure how listeners would react to the spoken vocals because we included a great deal of them on the EP. A more cautious band might have included a little bit on their first release, and then based on fan reactions, added or subtracted on the next release. We went full speed ahead, right out of the gate. It turned out that most people really liked them, so I guess we really lucked out! Looking back, the spoken vocals feel like a vital part of The Deadstation sound and concept, so we’re looking forward to developing them on future releases.
lonestar-How has the overall reception to Episode 01 been?
Shjon Thomas: The reception to “Episode 01” has been amazing so far! We’ve been giving the EP out as a free digital download, so I’m sure that helped bring a lot of people in. We’ve received a bunch of amazing reviews, so we’ve been very lucky. It feels really great to share this music with the world after working on it for so long, and it feels even better to see that people really enjoy it! Seriously, nothing is cooler than that! All the great fan interaction and comments have got us really motivated to continue this project, and to develop it as much as we can.
lonestar-Is the band going to get more involved in performing live at some point?
Shjon Thomas: We are not performing live at the moment, but we definitely have aspirations to do it at some point. As a band, The Deadstation only existed publically for a few months before “Episode 01” was released, so our main goal right now is just to get some buzz going about the band and the EP. We feel like the whole concept would translate amazingly into a live show though. A lot of people have been asking about it, so it is always in the back of our minds. This first go-around with the EP… you can look at it as a beta version of The Deadstation. We’re sort of testing everything out, seeing how it works together, and seeing how people react to it. As time goes on, we’ll hopefully be able to roll out more elements of the concept, as well as a live performance aspect.
lonestar-And the big question, for me at least, Episode 02, is it in the works, and what can you tell me about that?
Shjon Thomas: Right now, we’re just throwing around musical and conceptual ideas, so there’s nothing major going on yet. I will say though, since we probably won’t be playing live soon… the next thing people get from us will most likely be a new release. Possibly even a single song to start it off. Nothing has been written or decided on though, so plans could change depending on how it all plays out. We definitely want to speed up the writing/recording process so that we can put out material more consistently, but we also want to release music that NEEDS to exist… not just music that exists because we want it to. Today’s world is clogged with songs that want to be heard, not songs that need to be heard. Sometimes you just have to keep at it until something special comes out. We’re not expert songwriters by any means though, so that process can take quite a while.
lonestar-What else do you see for The Deadstation’s future?
Shjon Thomas: Other than releasing another episode, and creating a live version of the band, we’re hoping to roll out more of The Deadstation concept, especially in a visual sense. Just some things that help people understand what it’s all really about… being a band/tv station hybrid leaves a lot of room for creativity and unique ideas, so we’ll definitely be spending a lot of time brainstorming on that! We’re also hoping to get physical CD copies of “Episode 01” printed at some point down the road, for all that are interested. Since we’re already giving out the EP for free as a digital download, it would really only be for people who are looking for something tangible to take home with them. We still buy CD’s all the time, so we totally understand that kind of mindset.
I would like to thank Shjon Thomas and THE DEADSTATION for taking the time to give us an inside look into their creative process, and I wish them all the best in their future endeavors. Keep on rocking guys!!!![author_infos title=][like][tweets][googleplus size=]