Thursday 29 August 2013

***ARBOGAST exclusive interview***

I recently had the pleasure of asking the trio that is ARBOGAST some questions. I had the idea after their album 'I', reviewed here, floored me back in 2012. Listen to the 2 embedded tracks from said album while reading the interview.

Describe yourself/your band.
Mike R: It's a combination of shared musical style, interests, plus high intensity playing. We try to keep it interesting for ourselves and hopefully the listeners.

Please describe what led to the use of the name ‘ARBOGAST’.

Aaron: We took it from a Hitchcock movie. It sounded original and kind of dark. Actually it’s just a last name and since the inception we have come to meet many who share the surname. 

Can you reveal anything interesting about the band members?

Mike R: Aaron & Mike (Rataj) are avid home-brewers, but we're all pro beer drinkers. Mike Scheid is a father of 3.
How did you you guys meet? How did you get involved in the band together?
Mike R: We met in the finance industry and had similar musical tastes. Mike Scheid was trying to get the 3 of us to jam but I was studying to get a license for get a new job. Once we started jamming it clicked. I'm glad he kept pushing it.

Mike S: Aaron and I went to college together and bonded on similar musical tastes but for some reason didn’t even jam or write together for the first 10 years of being friends… weird. I did work with his former band as a recording engineer and we put out a few records.  He wound up moving to Chicago and working with me where Mike R was already working, also.  One day we just realized that within our office we had a 3 piece with similar energy and flavor so we decided to hang, drink and jam.  We don’t know any covers so we just played disjointed nonsense then started writing songs immediately so we’d know where we were going.  For better or worse we don’t cover anything (not that I’m anti – I love classic rock and all music, really) so it forces us to write and create something comparably fun to the songs we like outside of the band.  Those influences bleed in without being played directly. 
Aaron: Sounds about right. An after work beer and noise session. The band lasted longer than the job.

Can you describe any of your personal (or band) conflicts?
Mike S: Having time to do it all would be mine.  I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished with the time we’ve been able to work together on it.  We tend to work well outside of the space and communicate online when we can’t meet so there’s always something cooking.

What have you given up to play in ARBOGAST, especially while touring?
Mike R: Vacation time from our jobs.

Mike S: We haven’t toured a tremendous amount but we have taken some jaunts out to play out of town… all I can say is it’s cheaper than a vacation but still kinda costly to do it at this point. 

Aaron: Money.

What was ARBOGAST’s best show/tour? Why?
Mike S: Our last tour of the middle to eastern United States would be my best experience.  Personally, I had bronchitis so screaming my guts out without fainting was a little challenging but we met some really awesome folks and played with many many talented individuals along the way.  The Philadelphia, PA show was my favorite!  Thanks to all who came and got down with us.

Aaron: We’ve had some great Chicago shows, as it’s always nice to see familiar faces. Our tour out East in April was pretty rad all-around. I agree with Schied, Philly was very cool. We played the upstairs of Kung Fu Necktie with this amazing band called Carved Up.  It was a really nice vibe, a very small room and probably only 30 people there but everyone went batshit when we played. New York at Lit Lounge is definitely worth mentioning as well. We had a lot of friends and family out at that show and got to play with some really talented people, Bangladeafy and In Musth.

Which band has been nicest/coolest/grooviest/craziest/best/adjective that you have had the pleasure of meeting?
Mike S: I really liked Bison BC.  I’m a big fan of their music and they were really nice dudes who complimented us on our stuff as well.  It felt good to have the approval of a pretty established metal band of their caliber.

Mike R: I hate to be that guy but really most bands have been great. We've made a lot of friends around Chicago & continue to play shows with them. I suppose Shifting Totem, East of the Wall & Heaving Mass stand out.
Aaron: So many cool bands we’ve played with. Goes Cube, East of the Wall, Bison BC, Behold…the Arctopus, Chapstik. Plus about 100 local/regional bands.

What is your favourite song to play live?

Mike R: “Will & D”. Haha.
Mike S: If we ever played that one live – ya me too.. Seriously I have a blast playing “Blasfamous” (no pun intended). I’m a big fan of dynamics so that more contrast between quiet, minimal and serene and a brutal spastic fury of intensity, the better for me.  That’s kind of what I was going for with that intro with that one and I love playing it live.  (track 4 on the ‘I’ record)

Aaron: It changes. Probably “Soulsfate” right now. 

Can you describe what it was like to leave band practice after writing the song 'Final Throes'? Modesty aside (if possible), did you know you'd written a phenomenal song? (embedded below)
Mike R: Haha, thanks. The recorded version was probably the best we played it until that point. We did 1 or 2 takes & then Aaron suggested we do it 1 more time but just a little faster. That was a great call.

Mike S: That’s a great question and I’ll go more into the introduction as being the last part to be finalized.  We actually left the studio knowing it was done once recorded since as Mike said it was finalized nearly the day of recording.  The very first riff of that one was the introduction melody which was mutated a few different ways.  We initially expressed it as bass and guitar noise with volume swells just to get it down.  It made the song drag and started on the wrong foot so we decided to kick up the rocking part and take the intro half-time which I worked out on piano.  That solved it and carried the energy and again I LOVE contrasting dynamics like that.  In the studio I stumbled across an old analog Hammond organ which didn’t work at first but our engineer Andy picked it up and dropped it on it’s base and then it played. I hammered out that piano melody with some eerie low key volume swells in the bass register and it was almost surreal how it clicked and was just done in one take.  The vibe in the studio was pin drop quiet and it was the last thing we added to the record and probably my favorite moment. 
Aaron: Thanks for the kind words. Those riffs had been floating around for quite a while. I think we cut a few minutes off it at one point because it seemed to drag. For me I really started to dig it once the vocals were finalized, which was probably a week before we got in the studio.  I always feel a sense of accomplishment after finalizing a song.

Can you talk about your new material?

Mike R: We're working on it ...

Who will release your next record?
Mike R: Probably Nefarious but we're open to other possibilities...

Aaron: I would work with Nefarious Industries again. Love those guys. We’ll probably worry about that after we write some new material.

Who/What has given you the most support as a band?

Mike R: My mom. People that come to the shows to see another band but end up talking to us because they enjoyed it is awesome. Always feels great to make another convert.
Mike S: Local friends, family, wives,  girlfriends...everyone around us has chipped in and we’ve had a lot of support. It’s been pretty awesome to see people genuinely excited about it.

Who were your primary influences when you started playing music and who are they now?
Mike R: Punk bands, went through a huge punk influence when i started playing, I'd practice to a lot of these bands then found my way to metal & jazz.

Mike S: I started playing young on keyboards, piano, trumpet, and a little guitar just farting around with whatever cheesy 80’s song or classic rock I could hear on the radio or TV.  I really picked up the guitar put 6 strings on it and tuned it and started playing when I got into the thrash/metal wave of the late 80’s early 90’s (just like most).  I had Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera song books and didn’t come out of my room for a few years.  I’m influenced in my heart of hearts by any and all music that makes my head bob.
Aaron: I grew up playing metal. The big 4: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax.  Moved into grunge then punk and gridcore. I try and keep an open mind about most music. As far as current writing influences I’m into doom, thrash, sludge, noise, heavy psych and stoner rock.

Have your style changes ever been intentional, or have they been organic?

Mike R: I'd say organic, maybe one part is played long enough & we'll try to find a complimenting section to jump to.
Mike S: Organic…we’ve never planned or conversed about a certain style to play.  This is just the middle of our ven diagram between us three.

Aaron: We intentionally try to keep it heavy.  Sometimes we have said, “Hey let’s write a fast one” and then we write a fast one. But it’s fairly organic, I guess.

If you had to slap a genre label on ARBOGAST so potential new listeners could get a good idea of your sound without hearing you, what  would you label yourselves as?
Mike R: Progressive metal punk?

Mike S: I say metal usually to sum it up. We get a lot of different descriptions from others and I like to leave it up to the listener.
Aaron: I wouldn’t.

What are your favourite releases of all-time?
Mike R: Battles Mirrored, Refused - Shape of Punk to Come, Salt Peanuts.

Mike S: I’d have a really hard time narrowing it down. I’m too fair and love all my records/children equally.

Besides music, what do you spend your time doing? What are your hobbies?
Mike R: Brewing.

Mike S: Music would be my hobby so if I ever do it for a living I’ll need a new hobby I guess.
Aaron: I spend the majority of my time working so I can pay the rent. Drinking is fun, too.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Mike R: Support local music & buy their stuff! I'm a huge fan of streaming sites to get the music out there, but go to shows &the buy their merch. Please.
And smile.

Mike S: We joke, kid and have fun a lot and keep things light generally but on a more serious note I want to say that music and metal have gotten me through some REALLY rough, dark times and I’m grateful for all the musicians who had the balls to take a shot and put themselves out there honestly and purely for the love it and for the love of others.  I keep the same things in mind when writing and putting out music.  If this reaches one troubled individual and gives them the energy jolt to get up, clench their fists and break out of a funk, then I’ve succeeded.  I owe a lot to the bands who’ve inspired me because more than urging me to pick up an instrument they’ve urged me to fight my way out of worse circumstances to better ones.  I love this music and these guys who’ve put up with me to make it and I hope it can change someone - anyone’s, life out there.
Aaron: Thanks for talking to us.  Now go fuck yourself. (*he's talking to me, not the readers!)

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