Norwich-based Progressive Metal quintet SynaptiK is about to launch their sophomore studio album entitled ‘Justify & Reason,’ a fine piece of music that blends together old school and modern worlds of the mentioned genre. Drummer Pete Loades and singer John Knight spoke for Prog Sphere, and in the interview below you can read about what was it like working on the new record, the story, technology, and more.
Define the mission of SynaptiK.
Pete: To continue to write music that we love playing, listening to, creating and to push ourselves as individual musicians and as a band. We hope other people will get a chance to hear our music and enjoy it, on the album or at one of our live shows. Always nice to hear good feedback from people, getting credit for something that you put your heart in to is always a good feeling and knowing that you are passing it on to others makes it even better. We hope to see our music and fanbase grow globally. Spread the word and get those brains sparking everywhere.
Tell me about the creative process that informed your new, upcoming album Justify & Reason and the themes it captures.
Pete: Musically it’s a blend of all our influences, those musicians that we inspire to be as separate musicians all comes together to create this album, it worked so well, I like to think it wrote itself, it just flowed out. But looking back, still a lot of hard work was put in to it. John worked really hard on the vocals, always changing them, getting the right melody and timing so that they do blend the way the song transforms. Each song has a different theme, musically and vocally than the next. Very in depth…
John: Yes, I feel the new album shows a greater maturity in writing, the songs just work so much better and have stronger melodies. Everything was allowed time to change naturally. We jammed through the ideas and let the songs evolve. I really wanted to take a different approach to the vocals on this album than I did on the last, I wrote most alone at home rather than at rehearsal, having the home studio really helped me write, and it shows, as I use lower parts of my vocal range on this album far more than before, a good mix, of course there are still some of my high scream vocals that I am kinda known for, but they seem more controlled and effective when used sparingly.
What is the message you are trying to give with Justify & Reason? What does the album title hide?
John: I write all the lyrics for the albums. The subject matter lyrically on Justify & Reason ventures into the dark, labyrinthine corridors of the human psyche to examine the relationship between inner emotions and society at large―universal themes that transcend cultural and national boundaries. Each song has a different feel, they are their own monster, the lyrics reflect these different moods, the effects of anti-psychotic medication, regret, emotional abuse / control & the human brain and the mysteries it holds (which one line of lyric from “The Incredible Machine” from the album title is taken from and what influenced my artwork for the cover).
How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
Pete: One of us brings a idea forward, like a riff, patterns or a beat, we play a lot around that, jamming getting ideas where we are going to go with it, we recorded every section we do on a recording desk and all instruments are tracked separately, to get the best sound quality and really helps that we can drop guitars, drums, bass out so we can listen to what each other is playing and lock on to the musical flow and sections of the song. Sometimes some stuff gets binned or sections moved in to other songs. We are always working on 3 or 4 songs at a time. Once we are happy with the arrangement, we listen to it over and over again, just have it on in the car, at home in the background so see where the vocal melody line flows naturally then the lyric element can be applied.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?
Pete: Oh God yeah, lots of time goes in to making everything blend, Jack is always messing around with so many guitar harmonies with Kev and Ian, drums tend to lock in on the main rhythm of what’s going on, with lots of accents to make it more musical. Of course having the progressive elements in Synaptik, it does get very intricate in some sections, but does not go against then grain of the song.
John: Yes, the musical sections, middle parts are where we have most fun, but we are conscious not to go too far, we have reeled ourselves back quite a bit at times for the sake of the ‘song’, for us it is about the ‘song’ first and foremost and not being afraid of melody, creating cool dynamics and moods. There are some technical parts, but they are controlled and there to benefit the song not just for self indulgent widdling. [laughs]
Describe the approach to recording the album.
Pete: A lot of it is done at the pre recording stage before we step in to the studio, stuff like drum click maps, guitar solo’s written and practiced to death and generally getting everything to it is played tight. So that when we do go in the studio we know exactly what we are doing, time is money in that situation. Always a learning curve for us, as the first album took months to record, going back and forth. But on justify and reason we new exactly what we wanted. It was just a matter of getting the right over all sound together, input from Meyrick (the sound engineer), was brilliant he was opening up some ideas that we had never thought of, always good to have a outside opinion. We recorded at Floodgate studio last year, basically lived in the studio for a week and got the whole album done. Then just worked on the mastering, we left that with Meyrick to do, a fresh perspective on the final master. You know you have done it right when you listen to it and sends shivers done your spine.
John: Yes I was so pleased with the final product, it was head and shoulders above our previous album (the since remixed debut) – Meyrick did a cracking job. Having the ability to record at home and the studio has really helped us being far more prepared for the studio.
How long Justify & Reason was in the making?
Writing the music, was probably just over 9 months (although we had lots of gigs and time off for holidays during that time so sounds longer than was). Recording it was just over a week and mastering it was about 3 week’s as we needed to tweak another version especially for the vinyl.
Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?
John: Each band member has their own tastes and in that respect influences, we never set out to sound like anybody, the mix of styles and melodic vocals over some death metal style riffs really mixes it all up, some influences aren’t conscious, we really just let the songs evolve from various riffs. We do get compared a lot to bands such as Nevermore, Watchtower, Queensryche and we enjoy their music so I guess in some way its these bands, but as I said its difficult to put us in one particular area of metal. We enjoy Kate Bush, Celtic Frost, Porcupine Tree, Maiden, Judas Priest, Opeth, Death, as well as Rock, Jazz… It all goes into the melting pot.
What is your view on technology in music?
Pete: Oh it’s great. It’s made it so much easier than the old days, the quality of demos, writing recording, sending stuff via the web. The musical equipment and the sound you can get out of it these days is staggering, but it’s no substitute for practice, technique, to be inspired by your heroes and a good ear.
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
Pete: To bring world peace over the globe, now that would be awesome, but far too many idiots on this earth for that to happen. Maybe to those who hear listen our music, I would like to think they have taken on board the message that is in each song, appreciate it, and hope it makes them feel good. That’s the reason we listen to music right, and then in turn, maybe other people will hear it and feel the same. It’s all about getting you music heard these days, with out the gimmicks and image that people are targeted and conform to just to make a money… Just the way it is. If people like our music then that’s just fine with me.
John: A message beyond the music? Well, my lyrics can be deeply personal and writing them cathartic, so if someone reads them and are moved, or influenced to make a change for the positive then that’s cool, but its not essential, as long as they enjoy what they are hearing that’s enough for me. I’m not aiming to change the world with my music, but I do want to get people thinking, yes. I like reading bands lyrics, stories, outlooks on life, I find it interesting, but I understand that not everyone does and they just like the melodies and how the music makes them feel. Music can have a massive effect on the listeners mood, music is very powerful, I can’t live without it.
What are your plans for the future?
John: To push this album hard, to get the name Synaptik on everybody’s lips, the music in their ears burning its melodies and hooks into their incredible brains, to get the brains sparking around the world. This album has more hooks than Hellraiser. [laughs]
Pete: Got a tour coming up in May this year, going up and down the UK, also got some shows later in the year in Europe to promote the new album. Gently just keep doing what love doing, playing our music. We need festivals and promoters in Europe to contact and get us on their bill. We always bring it big time live.