“…we’ve always had a superb comradery as far as touring and hanging out, we’ve never been a band to go at each other’s throats just from being around each other, but being creative especially as every single band member is a song writer which we are and we all contribute greatly, being creative in a group environment can be pretty challenging…”
From release: Progressive metal juggernaut, Periphery will be returning to Australia in February in support of their new album Periphery III: Select Difficulty which is out now!
Representing the vanguard of addictive, chaotic, challenging and cathartically inviting heavy music for the modern era, Periphery’s triple-guitar attack and rhythmic dexterity has won them a dedicated fanbase that encompasses subcultures ranging from the Vans Warped kid and the metalhead to the most dedicated Rush purist.
While at home in Austin, Texas we chatted to Mark from Periphery ahead of their Australian tour about their new record Periphery 3, its creation, why my name for it was not accepted, the Australian tour, the future and what he wants two of…
To start off, congratulations on the Grammy nomination…
Oh thank you, it’s pretty weird, didn’t expect it, probably the most unexpected thing a band like us could have happen.
Now we last spoke in 2013 back when I sat down with you and Spencer here in Sydney for Soundwave, so let’s catch up, how have the last almost four years been for you and Periphery?
Oh man, I can’t really remember to be honest, just kidding. The past four years since then have been really good, a band like us can’t expect to become the biggest band on Earth or anything like that but in four years all we could’ve hoped for is to keep chugging along and keep doing what we’re doing and that’s just kind of our plan, just to keep Periphery alive and to do what comes naturally to us, so it’s been good. It’s been very kind to us, everything has.
I remember we were talking about Periphery III and I suggested Periphe3 as the name of it, obviously wasn’t good enough *laughs* but we have ‘Select Difficulty’ out now, tell me about why Select Difficulty was better than Periphe3?
It’s not that I didn’t like it, I think it’s good I like a good bit of wordplay, but I’m only one of six people and I actually had a couple of names for the album but they were shot down. I guess the band wanted to walk the line between something kinda funny and whimsical and a serious title, but all of my suggested titles were silly so I can appreciate yours for sure.
Coming off the back of Alpha and Omega, what brought things back around to what we have with Select Difficulty?
Well I mean Periphery III sounds very different from Juggernaut, the whole attitude and intent and just the vibe of the whole record, there’s a whole lot less serious I want to say, it takes itself a little less seriously. I always say every album we do is a direct reaction to the one before it, Periphery II being a very sort of fun, light playful album followed up by Juggernaut which is this seventy or eighty minute double concept album *laughs* which takes itself about as seriously as any record we’ve ever heard or been involved with. Periphery III was written and recorded with so much ease in comparison to Juggernaut because we were just feeling very excited and I think you can hear that positive energy in Periphery III and Juggernaut in relationship to that was quite laborious and trying for Periphery. So yeah the two records Juggernaut and Periphery III could not be more different *laughs* in approach and sound in my opinion.
Did you go into making this album differently to any of your previous releases?
Not specifically, I would say the headspace, the headspace was different just because of how we reacted and looked at Juggernaut in retrospect, and that was also the reason we went about doing it so quickly, when we first announced that Periphery III was being released people were excited, our fans were excited but there were some others that said ‘why so quick? Why are you putting out an album so quick?’ because it’s only been a year I think since Juggernaut *laughs* and already we’re releasing a new record, so that was the big concern but for us it was really about writing and the enthusiasm we had just not squandering that enthusiasm because once you have that and you let it go who knows when it can come back again?
In terms of your playing, were there any new techniques or ideas you took into this record?
Yeah I mean little things here and there, little nerdy things about my technique and playing, mainly just trying to make myself a more diverse player, trying to expand my comfort zone as a guitar player and it’s very easy to get down on yourself and get demoralised as a guitarist when you’re forced to put yourself in comfortable writing situations or playing situations but the beauty of being in a band with two other guitar players, I mean our bass player is an incredible guitarist as well so that’s three other guitarists, is that they’re always around for me to learn something from or to be passively influenced by and it’s just nonstop, as long as you’re surrounded by creative people or people that inspire you I feel like that’s sort of the ultimate goal of being I a band is being surrounded by people who constantly motivate you and that in turn gives you something to learn at all times which doesn’t get boring.
Of course you’re also heading back to see us in February, as the catalogue continues to grow does it get harder to put a set together for tours?
*laughs* Definitely, that’s the name of the game, I know it sounds nit-picky because spoiled band guy is having a hard time picking what songs to play and it is, people get so bent out of shape about it people are like “oh god, you didn’t play this song off of Periphery 1, I hate you!” *laughs* but we realise that we can’t make everybody happy but we just try and play in our opinion either what has worked in the past with certain crowds or what we think will work best with certain crowds if we want to debut a song that we haven’t played in a while or debut a new song. So yeah, it’s definitely long well thought after thing for us planning a set list.
You guys have always had such a great reception down here, what do you think it is about Periphery that audiences down here just get?
I have no idea, man, I have no clue *laughs*, back in 2011 I mean we had never played a show bigger than maybe five hundred people, four hundred or something and we come to Melbourne and I think it was the Hi-Fi we played there and we sold the place out and that was like eleven hundred people, and this was back in 2011, nobody cared who we were , we weren’t on anybody’s radar on the planet it felt like, and for some reason you guys took to it and it showed us wow, we do something that more than a couple of people are in to and I can’t really explain it, man. The enthusiasm there that we see from you guys, meeting everybody, the press, the shows are incredible I really can’t put my finger on it, something in the water maybe? I have no idea. I’ve thought about this many times what makes our music so appealing in different territories and why we tend to do so well in England, why we tend to do so well in Australia, why we tend to do so well in Japan but not a neighbouring country so it’s funny how that works.
With Nolly stepping aside from touring, is it hard to bring someone into the fold after running a well-oiled machine for a number of years now?
Yeah for sure, and that’s the reason we’ve gone precisely the opposite, we have not got anybody in to fill his place in the band, instead we’ve got Nolly’s playing, his actual bass guitar on backing tracks so it’s still a crowded stage as there’s five of us up there but we don’t have any plans currently to enlist a new bass player, a live bass player because like you said, it’s a well-oiled machine and Periphery has been through more than a couple line-up changes over the years and I can’t even count how many different crew members we’ve had swapped in and out over the years because the industry is sacred and I’ve learned that over the years, one bad apple, not even a bad apple just one apple who’s not as ripe as the others can ruin everything *laughs* and can ruin the chemistry inside and out and I’ve seen it rot entire bands and management teams, everything, I’ve seen it run the most successful organisations. So for us we’re just handling with the most care as possible and if there’s an option that we can pursue that doesn’t require us to hire somebody completely new then we’re gonna take that option, but this is just something we’re doing in the interim we’ll see how this materializes going forward.
In your five years with the band, what for you would you say is the biggest and most notable change that’s taken place within the band?
Probably the way that we work with each other creatively, we’ve always had a superb comradery as far as touring and hanging out, we’ve never been a band to go at each other’s throats just from being around each other, but being creative especially as every single band member is a song writer which we are and we all contribute greatly, being creative in a group environment can be pretty challenging, I used to react really badly to having my ideas not used for a Periphery song or for an album and I know some of the other guys got this way, in fact all of us used to be this way and that really put a strain on our relationship back five years or so ago and it’s gotten progressively better over time and that has sort of taught us how to get along better in other respects. So touring is easier now that we have complete transparency with each other, we all know we’re not trying to hurt each other’s feelings if we don’t like somebody else’s idea, or riff, or part, or lyric or whatever, we’ve learned how to take that type of critique from one another and use it towards strengthening our friendship and our bond sort of that intention to one another and that’s what it is, it’s a family and that’s how family should be, right, because we fight with our family but we love our family at the same time. It can slip out of control if you’re not careful.
What is it that you enjoy about being a part of Periphery?
Oh man, it’s just the music comes so naturally to me, if I had heard what the guys were doing… ok, I heard what they were doing probably 2009 or so, 2008 even, that’s when I met Misha for the first time and I met Jake and I heard some of the stuff they were doing, it sounds very different to the stuff we’re doing now but I heard it and I said to myself this is my favourite music *laughs* this is my favourite style of music, this is what I wanna do and then fast forward to several years later we’re writing together and moulding that sound into something completely different. I would say that’s my favourite thing, to be in control of a product that I believe in 110% because you can’t buy that, you can go and make half a million dollars a year at some company but it just doesn’t mean you believe 110% in what you do and you can’t put a price tag on that, so I go to bed easy and I wake up in the morning easy even knowing that I made terrible money and I did *laughs* there’s not really still a lot of money in Periphery at all, but you can’t put a price tag on that being able to believe whole heartedly in something that you do for a living, that’s my favourite part.
Lastly let’s look ahead to the future, finish this sentence for me, in 2017 Periphery want to…
*laughs* want two free cars…
*laughs*No, not the number two, want to as in what do you want to do?
Oh I thought you meant 1, 2 things *laughs*, OK sorry, I misunderstood… want to tour our asses off because that’s what 2017 is going to be all about, we’re about to announce two tours on top of the Australia / Asia dates we’re doing then there’s a lot more coming up so remember how we were just saying that we released a tonne of material in the span of a year and half well now it’s time to do the exact opposite, just to get out there in front of people’s faces.
I’ll also accept win a Grammy in 2017…
I was almost gonna say that but I don’t know, something about winning free cars.
Now before I go, I’ve got an idea for the next album…
So you didn’t want Periphe3 but can we have 4iphery?
*laughs* Man you’re full of them, this is good stuff, at the very least it’s at least good T-shirt fodder as long as it doesn’t get shot down by the other guys… 4iphery, I think yeah, I’ll keep the idea and I’ll fight you as the creator of it if it flies.
Thursday, February 2: Max Watts, Brisbane
Friday, February 3: Metro Theatre, Sydney
Sunday, February 5: 170 Russell, Melbourne
Tuesday, February 7: Fowlers Live, Adelaide
Thursday, February 9: Capitol, Perth
Presented by Destroy All Lines & Chugg Entertainment
From: Washington, USA
Band Members: Spencer Sotelo – Vocals, Misha Mansoor – Guitars, Matt Halpern – Drums, Jake Bowen – Guitars, Mark Holcomb – Guitars
Latest Release: Periphery III: Select Difficulty (Out Now)