Author Archives: Jon Hammer

10 Questions with Robert Ragosta (This Good Robot)

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(Robert Ragosta flips off the camera happily, right, with his bandmate Andrew Sclafani, left)

Theatrics, energy, progressive sound, and passion are the rules of the music game for This Good Robot, the band that guitarist/backup vocalist Robert Ragosta is a member of. Ragosta is only 26, but he’s spent a whopping 18 years playing instruments — needless to say, he knows his stuff. Quinnipiac has had This Good Robot perform before, and whenever they come around Connecticut, I’m sure to be at their shows because of how fucking good their music and stage performances are; I was lucky enough to be able to reach out to one of my favorite musicians from one of my favorite bands and ask him a few questions.

 


 

1. You play with both Patent Pending and This Good Robot, two bands that have a long history together. How did you end up with both bands, and how do you handle being in more than one project at a time?

Michael, the lead singer of This Good Robot, and Joe, the lead singer of Patent Pending, are both my older brothers so obviously there’s quite a bit of history between the three of us. When I was 8 I would learn little things on guitar and then show them how to play em too so we’ve been playing music together and helping each other write in some way or another for at least 18 years now. We all grew up on a mix of oldies, show tunes and punk rock thanks to our parents and older sisters but it was Joe who really got into pop punk when he got Patent Pending going. I was so young at the time that I couldn’t really join the band but I was always around to work on ideas and help load in and out of shows so over the years it’s evolved into me being a part of the crew. I’ve found myself selling merch, guitar teching, filling in on drums, bass, guitar and even one show as lead singer. I am not, and never have been an official member of Patent Pending but I take pride in all the work I’ve been able to do with them over the years. Michael was the original singer in Patent Pending but eventually left to start This Good Robot which is much more in tune with his musical tastes. At that time I was still playing with my old band and Patent Pending was booking a big show on Long Island. Both This Good Robot and my band at the time, Mania In Urbania were up for an opening slot on the bill so instead of one band getting the boot off the show, us and This Good Robot joined up and played a tag team set with 8 of us on stage. After that night we never played a show apart again. This Good Robot absorbed Mania In Urbania and we became an 8 piece shit storm that no local venue wanted to deal with. This Good Robot is my full time band but I stay involved as much as I can with Patent Pending. Recently I helped them write the script for a mockumentary they released called “Mario and The Brick Breakers” which is a behind the music for a fictional Mario and Luigi rock band. Definitely worth looking up on youtube.

2. Anyone who’s been to a This Good Robot show knows that you (as well as other members of the band) go absolutely crazy on stage. What artists/acts influence your stage performance, and if you can remember the first time you decided to move on stage, what was that like?

I’ve never really intentionally attempted to imitate anyone in particular on stage but if I had to pick an influence it’d be easy to say the first time I saw a live video of At The Drive-In I was absolutely blown away by their stage presence. Between Omar salsa dancing while whipping his guitar around his head and Cedric ripping stage lights off the ceiling and throwing them into the crowd while quite literally chewing on his microphone, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. That’s when I started viewing live musicians in a whole new light. Nothing bothers me more than a band that stands still while playing live. What’s the point?! Why not just tell people to listen to your record at home while looking up pictures of you standing still on the internet?!

3. I remember hearing in an interview that you’ve been playing instruments for most of your life (and those who are fans of Patent Pending/This Good Robot are well aware that you come from a musically inclined family). What instrument did you start with, and how do you feel you’ve evolved as a musician since then?

The first instrument I ever came in contact with was our family’s piano. I would sit at it and just make noise for extended periods of time. I can’t imagine that having been enjoyable for anyone else in the family but for me it was a blast. I never learned to properly play a piano though which I do regret.
I got a guitar for my 8th birthday and started taking basic lessons just to learn how to play some songs. After a few months I quit lessons and continued my learning by listening and fumbling around the fret board alone. Retrospectively I’m glad I didn’t let anyone tell me the rules of how to properly go about playing and writing on guitar. I always played sports so I had teams and coaches that I had to work with to accomplish a goal but with guitar I was in charge which was a nice change of pace. No one was there to tell me what to do which is a good feeling.

4. Have you ever played a prank on another band you’ve been on tour with? If so, what was the best prank you’ve done?

I was working for a band called Every Avenue around the time when “icing” people was popular. That’s when you hide smirnoff ices for friends to find and when they do they have to chug the whole thing. We were out with a band called Sing It Loud in Texas and I hid smirnoffs all over the stage so before they started playing each one had to chug one. That wasn’t the prank though. The real prank was during load out that night I hid an extra large smirnoff in their guitar tech’s equipment. It spent the night slowly warming in their trailer. The next day was around 100 degrees in Texas. By the time their guitar tech was setting up his station it was late in the afternoon and that smirnoff must have been as close to burning hot as it could be without evaporating. Needless to say, it wasn’t a great night for him.

5. Alright, now some specific This Good Robot questions. When the band formed, you guys were an 8 piece – now you have 6 members. How has the band’s sound changed since its start (or has it not)?

All of the predominant writers are still in the band so stylistically we haven’t really changed all that much. If anything we’ve only become better at playing these songs because of how much we’ve matured and practiced as players over the years. Specifically live we just have a little less in the way of auxiliary percussion and maybe a synth line is missing here or there but altogether not much has changed.

6. As a Long Island native, has the music scene been supportive of your projects, or did you find it hard to find an audience?

The Long Island music scene has been extremely supportive of my band and family over the years and we’ve made some of the best friends we’ll ever have here. That being said, some nights we feel excluded. Some nights shows can be extremely clique-y but that’s just the reality of being a musician. People show up to support their friend’s bands but stand outside smoking cigarettes instead of watching anyone else. How do you know you don’t like a band if you’ve never seen or heard them? It’s more about the people around you than it is about the scene as a whole. We’ve played shows with bands when we know we just don’t belong. It’s a shame but it’s the reality of social dynamics whether you’re in a band or not. Sometimes you just won’t belong but that shouldn’t be enough to make you stop because the next night you’ll be with the people you love playing the music you love so the Long Island scene will always be home to me because of the relationships we’ve built here and all that we’ve accomplished through it.

7. Can you explain This Good Robot’s creative process for writing new material, and what you contribute to it?

Sometimes it starts with a concept like “what if we did a story about a dude time traveling back in time to meet himself for a brief moment before disappearing?” so we’ll write bullet points for a story and then go back to try and build a melody and chord progression. Other times it starts with a melody in the shower being hummed into a cell phone and sent over to the rest of the band. There’s no real equation that we use time and time again. It’s more organic than that. We all come from different musical backgrounds so sometimes I’ll bring an idea to the table that I just can’t finish and one of the other dudes will point out that I’ve been thinking about the song all wrong and that we should try it a different way. We’re all around for each other to depend on when we need a little straightening out because finishing songs alone can be difficult if you are too close to the project. You become biased towards your own ideas even if they’re bad because you’ve only thought about the song in that one specific way. The rest of the band is there to kick your ass back to reality where shitty ideas are still just shitty.

8. The first time I saw This Good Robot perform, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was covered, and I was blown away. Does the band have any interest in covering more songs live/doing a cover album at any point?

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! We are constantly talking about ideas for cover songs. We’ve filmed some acoustic covers and posted em on youtube and we’ve done a few others for our podcast (This Good Podcast on iTunes and sound cloud) but I don’t think we’ll ever do a proper cover album. There’s also a few videos of us covering The Faint’s “Agenda Suicide” live so I can’t say we won’t be doing more covers in the future but I’d be shocked if we decided to do a proper cover release.

9. The entire band wears formal clothing while performing on stage. How did this choice come about, and how much does changing out of it after the show suck?

Changing out of it is the worst! It just sticks to me and makes me cold after twenty minutes. The choice to dress up for shows came about from the dramatic aspect of what we’re trying to do. All of our songs are stories or parts of stories that we’ve written and we try to convey that theatricality live which would be tougher to do if we all wore flannels and beanies like every other band in the scene. We needed to do something subtle that would draw a distinction between us and the sometimes 7 other bands on a bill. We wanted people at shows to remember us as the band that stood out instead of the band with the beards and cargo shorts.

10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?

Play music that you want to listen to!! Don’t join some pop rock band that uses backing tracks for bass and guitars when they play live just because you think they’re going to make some money. If you ever join a touring band you are going to miss birthdays, holidays, weekends, weddings, funerals, births, friends, and family. There’s no easy way around that fact, but it is much easier to deal with when you are working towards something that you truly believe in. I have met too many musicians who play in bands that they would never listen to and, surprise surprise, those bands never end up lasting very long so do something you’re going to take pride in. Write songs that you are going to obsess over because you love them because otherwise you’re basically just playing karaoke. That, and buy a tuner! There’s nothing worse than watching an out of tune band stumble through their set.


This Good Robot has their first full length set to release in early 2015. You can find a teaser for the album’s first single, “Super Spy”, here:

The band’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMUisMj9mToTVKhSvKomQTw

And their official website here: http://www.thisgoodrobot.com/

 

10 Questions With John Michael Cordes (QUOR)

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(John Michael Cordes, QUOR’s Drummer — Left)

Pounding rhythms; precise blastbeats; ecstatic double bass; jumping grooves; graceful style; passion. These are all terms that work together to define a hard rock/metal drummer’s playing — they also all exemplify John Michael Cordes, a 23 year old drummer for the band QUOR, located in San Diego, California. Not only did I have the chance to perform in a band with Cordes for several years, but I also reached out to him for an interview about drumming and the band’s recent success.


1. Let’s get this out of the way, because I’m sure everyone reading is wondering: why the name QUOR? How did it come about?

There are two sides to this story *laughs*. One day Brian was driving down the coast highway 101 from a comedy show when he  drove by a “Liquor Store” sign, and the “L” along with the “I” didn’t work. It was kind of ominous, looking [at the sign] with the fog behind it and everything, so it was just that one thing he saw and it looked radical. The other side to it is the fact that we think the whole image thing in metal is just annoying and we are kind of over the superficial crap that goes with it; we love that stuff and think its cool but we want to display to listeners and artists that as long as you just make art and are passionate about making great songs for people…why the heck should anything else matter? After all, we are musicians; isn’t this suppose to be about the music? *Laughs*

2. You guys recently had your material featured in the movie Pizza and Bullets. How did that opportunity come about, and how did the crowd react to the show after the movie ended?

That actually was a very cool opportunity. Brian, who goes to Comic-Con every year, stumbled upon a film class there that was being featured and taught by the director Nick Murphy; Nick is on the film panel every year at San Diego Comic-Con. Brian took the class and loved it! After we came out with the video for “Let’s Rise” [the band's first single], he e-mailed it to Nick mentioning he had taken his film editing course while at Comic-Con and thought it was very fun and informative and wanted to show him the work…needless to say, Nick thought it was great and thanked Brian for the kind words and then asked to him make a song for his next movie Pizza and Bullets. When he got the final copy he thought the song was great and said he would use it as well as invite us up to the premier in Hollywood and play the after  path on the sunset strip. It was packed wall to wall; we played a great set as well as make a lot of new friends and have a great time..and it was on my birthday! What a way to have fun huh? hahaha!

3. Can you explain what the song writing process is like for QUOR and how you add to it?I wish I really could describe it to something comparable that makes sense… The closest way I could describe it is: It’s strange and beautiful as well as instinct. We go into the rehearsal room with no prerequisite to what we think a song “should sound like”. Someone will have an idea for a riff or vocal melody, or ill have a beat and Doug [who plays bass for the band] will have a bass line and we ride with it.  I do what I can to add to it in a way where I want to participate with the musical experience with the song, I really don’t want to be the guy that just “plays beats” — I do what I can to always try and come up with something that makes the drums a cool instrument to listen to.

4. You guys have been on tour a few times. What is your favorite tour experience, and why?

I would definitely have to say the tour we did last year and we played the Google/Netflix party. It was truly a humbling and honoring experience to be asked by two of the most powerful companies in the world to have us be their live entertainment for the evening in gorgeous San Francisco. It was my favorite experience not because of the “social status” or “bravado” — it was because when we were offered the opportunity and played it I was just thinking, “Wow, what we are doing is working and we are reaching people”.  So to me that was what was a very enriching experience.

5. The single, “Human Paradigm”, was just released. How do you feel this song represents future material, and what can we expect from the next release?

The song I believe very much reflects on the bands mentality of always trying different things, while also  just not being afraid to steer forward and race for the finish line for meeting our goals. The next release is going to be much different from the current one; it still is “QUOR” for the sound but that is all I will say. After all, all I can share is only what I think of the song; I don’t enjoy sharing my thoughts on our music much because I think one of the most beautiful things about art and music is how anyone can listen to it and have it become an enriching and beneficial experience in their own way, through their own personal interpretation.

6. How has the music scene in San Diego treated QUOR? When you started playing live shows, did you find it welcoming, or was finding the right audience difficult?

When we started to play shows it was hard in the beginning; however I think it is for any band anywhere. Over time though a lot of our friends starting bringing people who we may not have yet known. I think building any kind of a reputation in general though does take time anywhere.

7. How did the band form?

The band was sort of already together. the project I was previously in, “Fates Demise”, came to a wrap; the other members of QUOR actually found me because I put up an add up on Craigslist stating my resume which they were impressed with. We jammed together in an hour to hour rental practice, and the rest is history!

8. Do you have any pre-show rituals? If so, what are they?

Warming up usually about 15 minutes before our set, then I like to stretch out for about 5 minutes after that while listening to song Lamb of God usually, maybe do a shot if I get nervous! haha!
9. What drummer influenced you to play drums?I would have to say that the first drummer I ever really saw playing drums was Lars Ulrich playing Metallica’s “Battery”; hearing the double kick drum just blew my mind as a young teen. Then when I entered high school I began taking drumming much more seriously when I discovered Mike Portnoy, Danny Carey and Neil Peart.

10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?

My one big tip: don’t ever give up and don’t ever stop. Love what you do and that alone has to be the most important part. That is not meant as a sweet line — it is meant in the most literal way I can think of. Don’t ever let anybody in your life, whether they be family, friends, your local music scene or people in the music business, tell you what you can or can not do. Take your idea and pursue it with almost monastic obsession; your time is limited and your life is in your hands and you can mold into whatever you want. As one of my very close friends put it to me a long time ago, “Make it happen every day, your dream should have happened yesterday a year ago,” which is something I live by regularly and I think anybody pursuing a dream in music should take that same mentality.

You can find more information about QUOR, as well as listen to their music, on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/QUORMUSIC
QUOR is signed to Diesel Records.

Reincarnate – Motionless In White album review

 

 

motionless_in_white_april-2014

Let me start off this review by saying that I love Marilyn Manson, but hate nu-metal. Confused? Read on – you’ll figure it out soon enough.

Motionless In White is a band that has gone through several sound evolutions throughout their time as a band, starting with a very scene sound during their early EPs and releases, then pushing their metalcore aspects on Creatures, to a hardcore/Marilyn Manson combination on Infamous. Does their new album, Reincarnate, size up/surpass their old works?

I’ll start by saying that I loved Infamous – from the opening track, the band’s second album was not only darker, but it was extremely aggressive compared to their previous release. Infamous, in my opinion, was also a step in the right direction for the band’s image: they showed their fans that they were headed in a darker, heavier, industrialized/hardcore direction.

When I first heard the title track single Motionless In White released for their album Reincarnate, I was blown away – there was an increased electronic presence on the song, and the band seemed to have not only settled comfortably into their Infamous sound, but actually expanded on it by developing the song’s choruses into a multi-layered hook that had me listening on repeat. The production quality was also significantly better than previous works. When the second single was released, “Puppets 3 (The Grand Finale) feat. Dani Filth”, an aggressive powerhouse of black/thrash metal influenced metal, I knew I’d be heading into the band’s heaviest, most aggressive album yet. With high hopes, I pre-ordered the special edition of the album (Bible box and all) and awaited for September 16, 2014.

And yet, 14 seconds into “Death March”, the opening track of the new album, I felt as though I was listening to a nu-metal band. A once guitar-driven band seems to have changed – rhythms are focused on low-end only, whereas keyboards and vocals create a layering effect that adds melody to each song; while this works for certain sections, the aggressive, dark riffs seem to be missing from this album, and it’s upsetting to me; I was disappointed to find that the guitars on the album follow a trend of nu-metal styled riffage.

Certain songs avoid the pure-rhythmic style riffage, but they fall short in other ways – “Unstoppable” has a simple song construction that sounds like my high school band’s first effort at writing music, and the chorus seems like a knock off of the band’s song “Cobwebs” off of Creatures. “Break The Cycle” (which, by the way, has almost the exact same opening melody as “Dark Passenger” on the album), follows suite and almost seems like a regression for the band – the riffs that are melodic are typical metalcore riffs, and it’s the kind of material I would’ve expected to hear during the Creatures era. The final track, “Carry The Torch”, redeems the band’s guitar-driven style, but unfortunately, the verse riffs are reminiscent of a 2006 metalcore band – it’s something you’ve heard before, because it sounds exactly like it’s off of Creatures.

When the vocals kick in on “Death March”, their style immediately reminded me of Manson’s The Golden Age of Grotesque, and I thought there was more hope for the album – unfortunately, I feel that a lot of the album has it’s Manson moments that end up turning into nu-metal songs. “Generation Lost”, which is one of the album’s heaviest songs, is straight from the 90s with lyrics like “Throw your hands in the air and let’s start this shit” – the song quickly turns into a knock off of “Vodevil” by Manson, down to literal melodies being the same, but then returns to a nu-metal song. The song eventually explodes into a hard-rock styled bridge, which is redeeming and almost makes me forget that the song is nu-metal…until the lyrics, “Coast to coast, I hear the masses calling/Turn up now this is your final warning” are rapped. “Dark Passenger”, on the other hand, mimics the album’s title track and seems helpful from a musical/vocal standpoint, but is too generic of a metalcore song to stand out on the album in comparison to the band’s other material.

Despite all of my negativity towards this album, I find myself listening to it over and over again. Why? Because Motionless In White has also expanded their industrial side, and my god, it’s GREAT. The songs that excel on this album are the ones that either use guitar as a melody-driving device, or electronics to further each part. “Contempress feat. Maria Brink” is more ballad-like, but has a heavy edge, and the hook is damn catchy – not quite a “City Lights” or “Sinematic”, as it’s not dark enough to match either song, but it follows those songs’ style in its own way. “Wasp”, coming in at 7 minutes and 2 seconds, actually stood out to me as one of the best on the album – the layering is fantastic, the piano on the track is absolutely chilling, and at times it even reminds me of “Death of Music”, the 12 minute epic, by Devin Townsend.

The darkest, heaviest song on the album, is “Final Dictvm feat. Tim Skold” – and let me tell you, Skold’s influence is clear. Though the song starts off with an EDM style, which was initially a turn off to me, it builds into a chilling electronic industrial song, which would be perfect for anyone’s next Halloween Soundtrack; in fact, the sound of the song reminds me so much of SPF1000 that any underground goth fan is sure to love it, regardless of Motionless In White’s overall sound. The song is a black sheep on the album, but it shows what the band could eventually become; though I hope they don’t continue in this direction, as it would mean that their music would lose it’s hard aggressive edge, I wouldn’t mind hearing more songs like this on the next album they put out.

My favorite track, however, is “Everyone Sells Cocaine” – though the guitar is very nu-metal during verses/post-choruses, pre-choruses use dynamics well, and when the chorus hits, it’s huge: the sound balances out the 90s influence by bringing forth the band’s other influences.

I would be very, very surprised if fans of Motionless In White who have not expanded their listening tastes to the band’s influences like this album – it combines various styles from the past 30 or so years into 13 songs, but they aren’t always executed well. Fans of Infamous will find a few songs they enjoy listening to, whereas fans of Creatures may like the album better. Fans like me, however, who knew about Manson, Skold, and nu-metal far before they ever heard about Motionless In White, may have mixed feelings – if you’re looking for a hard hitting metal album, look elsewhere. However, if you want to hear heavy, enjoyable dark music, look no further; there’s plenty for you here.

I give Reincarnate a 4/5 – and I realize most fans probably won’t feel this way. Though it has a few songs that are generic or I probably won’t ever listen to again, there are enough songs that should/probably will become live set staples, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing how they translate from recording to the stage.

10 Questions With Etienne Sin

Etienne Sin is a name that most metal fans know; not only is the 23 year old New Yorker an extremely talented singer and screamer with a large range, but he also runs his own record label, The Sin Circle Records. Sin has not only released multiple music videos and albums/EPs, but he also supports other artists and sets up tours with them; as if that wasn’t enough, he sells his own how to scream/how to write metal songs DVDs for beginners. I had the opportunity to interview Sin and ask him a few questions:


 

1. Your voice is ridiculously good. How did you learn to sing? Are you self taught, or did you take any formal vocal lessons?

I’ve been a tailored musician since I was a child; on all of the instruments. I started with piano and eventually learned the rest. I took vocal training for 3 years from multiple teachers. Before that, I was a horrible singer. I came out of the box listening to a lot of Metal and Death Metal. I was rather good at harsh screaming vocals when I started, but I was a terrible clean vocalist. I was naturally good at screams, for whatever reason, probably all of the Metal I listened to. I started that when I was 15 and I started singing at 16.

2. Why did you learn how to scream, and what was the learning process like?

As a 15 year old, I just did stuff. When you’re a teenager, sometimes, you don’t really think about things. You just do them. Once I started going to vocal lessons, things became much clearer. With my music background, such as music theory, knowing the basics of melody and rhythm, vocals came very easy afterwards. It was a natural progression for me.

I started to take my music career seriously around 18, when I realized I wanted more out of life than just growing up and making money.

3. For those who don’t know, you run your own record label, The Sin Circle Records. What was it like to start that, and how has managing it been?

It’s been a tough journey. The business part of the music industry is definitely not for everyone. Everything for me is a natural progression, from learning my instruments, to starting my businesses. I feel like I’m built for being a business oriented artist. I wouldn’t be able to keep my music career afloat without the business end of it. We live in a capitalistic environment and if you don’t adapt, you’ll fade away quickly. A lot of rockers and aspiring rockstars don’t really grasp this concept, especially when they are younger.

The hardest part of starting it up is learning the business. It’s all crunching numbers, talking to industry people, and setting yourself up as a powerhouse of new talent. It’s all strategy; a great man once said “If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend 6 hours sharpening my axe.” The most exciting part would be the pride you get from getting good feedback from that talent.

Managing it is just as difficult as getting it off the ground. Once you have some buzz going for your musicians and artists, the idea now is to keep that going, all the while taking care of each one of their needs such as product releases and touring. The industries job list is getting shorter, so I believe the labels have to do more for their artists instead of throwing money at them so they can hire other people can do it. However, there are always levels to this business.

By the end of the year (2014,) we plan on having a full 8 artist roster. “Full” meaning the limit that we can properly maintain without sinking because of our own weight.

4. You work with a few people in your covers, specifically Desdemona and Danny Disastr. How did you meet them, and what’s your chemistry like with both of them (musically)?

Danny reached out to me when I was still forming The Sin Circle Records. Shortly after it’s formation, I would say about 6 months after I made the label official, he expressed his interest in becoming a bigger artist and working with me. He sent me some Live Like Glass demos and I really loved the lyrical and melodic content. Soon after, they came to New York and the rest is history. I can honestly say that Live Like Glass is a perfect example of our successes, as of right now. They were an unknown act and now due to both of our efforts, they are skyrocketing. Musically, I really love working with those guys. Danny’s writing skill is something I’m a fan of and they are a group of fun dudes, so it’s a pleasure.

As for Desdemona, I met her through my girlfriend. She’s an old friend of her’s, so that one was easy. I had expressed my interest in raising an artist from the ground up, working with someone with a very specific skill set. Desdemona and I talked for a long while before realizing her potential and we just put in the work! As far as musically and in the studio, we have a producer/artist workflow. I create all of the instrumentals and melodies and she works on the lyrics and her voice.

5. You’re probably one of the best known screamers on Youtube. What drew you to start putting up covers on Youtube, and when you started, did you find support from the community, or pushback?

On youtube, I’d definitely have to agree. I worked hard at that shit! Haha. But as far as the whole scene, there are still so many people I look up to, so I’d have to humble myself there. Vocalists like Phil Bozeman from WhiteChapel still make me look like shit, haha!

You always feel a pushback at first. People don’t like change. When I came onto the scene, I was different and strange. No one wanted to listen. I kept it up the pressure and people started paying attention to my workflow and confidence. I started because I studied marketing and I still do study marketing. I realized the potential of taking your career into your own hands and YouTube is the perfect medium for that.

6. You’ve been on tour before, and you’re currently booking future tours. What’s the experience like for you and those you tour with?

I hate booking tours, the worst of the industry shows when you’re doing that. But it’s all about building relationships with people and weaving around the jokers and egoists. If I’m on a tour however, you’d bet your ass that I have a hand in it in a major way. I’m all about getting things done, with speed and determination.

Otherwise, the actual tour is real fun. It’s tiring, especially if you have a long set every night. You have to pace yourself, which I have a hard time doing. Sometimes I also have a bit too much to drink and I blow my voice. So I’m still working on becoming a better live performer. The best thing for me is actually meeting the people and supporters of the music.

7. You can play every instrument in a standard rock/metal band; what other music groups influenced you to learn the instruments?

Screams, it was Carcass and Arch Enemy. Also bands like Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth. I loved the insanity that both of those bands inspired back when I was a teenager. I also really like clean vocals; it was A Skylit Drive pretty much hands down. I listened to power metal, but no one’s vocals quite hit me like 2007-2008 A Skylit Drive. I’m a huge fan of both of their lead vocalists, I never got into that “battle” on which one was better or anything. I have a ton of respect for both, so much to the point where I’ve worked with them on many occasions. I still listen to those records for inspiration today.

 

For guitar and bass, I’m heavily influenced by Carcass and their earlier works. Oh and a band from Poland called Decapitated. Those guys are absolutely insane.

 

As for Drums, I almost exclusively listened to technical death metal bands. Fast double bass, blast-beats and interdependence is my shit! Of course, I’m not nearly as fast as those guys are, but I still am very inspired by them.

8. Some of your most viewed covers are non-metal songs made heavy. Other than metal bands, what do you like to listen to in your spare time?

I actually don’t listen to metal for fun, or hardcore. I’m surrounded by it every day. There won’t be anything new or groundbreaking made from listening to everything within the genre. New things are brought about by listening elsewhere. If I’m listening to Metal or Hardcore I’m working on it. Of course, I keep my ear to the ground when new stuff comes out. I’m very tactical when it comes to Metal and Hardcore.

 

I listen to a lot of hip-hop, rap, and dance music right now. I also live in New York, you don’t live here and not listen to Hip-Hop. And if you do your best to avoid it, it’s not like your not hearing it somewhere. It engulfs the culture here and I really enjoy it.

9. How do you feel about TV shows like “American Idol”, “X Factor”, and “The Voice” as a way for musicians to get known? Have you ever considered auditioning for a show like that?

No, I don’t participate in that sort of thing. If I’m involved in something like that, I’m running it. That is putting your music career in someone elses hands, particularly 3 judges. I don’t like authority or judges. I’m all about taking shit into your own hands.

10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?

Take stuff into your own hands. Don’t rely on anyone you don’t trust 100% with your future. If you have a team, make sure they are all on board with your dream and vision. Remember that the chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.


You can find Etienne Sin’s YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/etiennesin

All of Etienne Sin’s upcoming projects can be found here: www.etiennesin.com

10 Questions With Ryan Strain

Ryan Strain is a vocalist who specializes in distorted, screaming vocals — though he has a killer singing voice, too. Raised in Garner, North Carolina bustraint currently residing in Portland, Oregon, Strain’s 8+ years of vocal experience is clear: his YouTube covers range from the guttural screams of Job For A Cowboy to the southern swoon of Elvis Presley. Not only does his YouTube channel have over 19,500 subscribers and 1.7 million views, but multiple bands have shared his covers via social media due to their professionalism and accuracy. I follow Ryan’s work and wanted to reach out to him to ask about vocals, music, and the YouTube community as a whole.

1. What band, or vocalist, influenced you to start practicing vocals?
Honestly, from the time I was a child singing gospel music in my bedroom, I knew I wanted to be a singer. When I got older, Linkin Park and AFI were the first bands I ever heard that used screaming vocals. I had never heard them before, and it interested me. Then someone showed me The Devil Wears Prada. I instantly fell in love with the power and the intensity screaming could expel. It was at that moment that I knew what I wanted to do. So, I’d have to thank Mike Hranica, really, for initially inspiring me to learn screaming. Obviously though, my musical tastes and my vocal styles have changed, so I’d have to really credit the vocalists who shaped me to be who I am now – Amazing frontmen like Anders Friden, Bjorn Strid, Christian Alvestam, and Roy Khan.
2. As a vocalist who also sings and screams in multiple styles, I’m always interested to know the answer to these two questions: Why did you learn how to scream, and what was the learning process like?
Well, like I said, I fell in love with the passion of it. I loved the raw emotion that could be channeled through it, not to mention I just loved the way it sounded. I’ve always been the guy who mimicked other people and did voices, so learning to scream was a lot like just doing impressions of other vocalists I heard. That’s really how I learned over the years. I would listen to a new band, and if I liked the vocals, I would practice until I could do what they did. Eventually, I had enough sounds and voices under my belt to truly develop my own style.
3. With the digital age allowing for anyone to release any content they want, there are numerous options for DIY musicians. What equipment (physical and digital) do you use to record and process your material?
Well, my setup isn’t anything special. I didn’t pick this equipment. They’re items that were given to me. So obviously, if I had the money, I would invest in a better setup. But for those interested, I use a Shure SM58 microphone plugged into a Europower PMP2000 mixer, which hooks directly into my computer and records into Reaper.
4. Obviously, you’re a vocalist who puts up both covers and originals on Youtube. What drew you to start putting up covers on Youtube, and when you started, did you find support from the community, or pushback?
It’s funny actually. My first cover that made it to Youtube wasn’t really meant to be a showcase of my vocals. I made the video as kind of a demonstration of what I thought people on Youtube SHOULD do when they do vocal covers. I used to watch a lot of covers, and I saw a lot of kids just sitting there looking bored, not taking any pride in what they were doing, and I thought “Who would want this kid as their frontman?”. So I made a video for my original cover of Born of Osiris’ “Brace Legs”. I did everything I wanted to see. I used the best recording quality I could use at the time, and actually acted like a front-man on camera. I jumped around, headbanged, and did exactly what I would do on stage. I kept doing it because it was a huge learning experience for me. Initially, the support from the community was great. It pushed me to keep doing more and more. I can say, I’ve never felt any pushback from the community and the love and support from my ever-growing fanbase has been increasingly incredible. There’s always the occasional jerk, but their comments aren’t based off of true hate or dislike; just misunderstanding. I appreciate every listener!
5. How do you see Youtube influencing the music community, specifically the metal scene as a whole?
Youtube has definitely become a great place to seek out aspiring musicians. In the old days, bands had to put up ads and posters and hold auditions to find other musicians. Nowadays, you can just make a quick search on Youtube and find tons of talented people just waiting for their opportunity to break through.
6. As someone who is interested in vocal science, nothing bothers me more than seeing “How To Scream” videos on Youtube that are entirely wrong (ironically, your tutorial is one of the few good ones I’ve seen, which is how I found out about your channel); what is your biggest music pet peeve?
I think just what you said. Most of the “how to scream” videos out there are videos that were made by a kid who just learned how to scream yesterday. That’s not really my biggest pet peeve though. My biggest pet peeve is people who can’t differentiate between “talent” and “genre that I like”. Fans of mine will listen to a Whitechapel cover of mine and say “YEAH THIS IS SO GOOD YOU’RE AMAZING”, then I do a song in which I do the best singing I’ve ever done and use my real talents, and the same guy will say “This sucks. This style is shit”. It’s like, are you a fan of me or just some of the songs I cover? True music lovers can recognize all musical talent regardless of the genre.
7. Is music something you want to do for a living, or is it just a hobby?
Well, obviously I would WANT to do it as a living, but just like any other art, it’s hard to translate it into real money. It’s going to have to remain a hobby for a long time until it can somehow pay my bills.
8. You have an interesting variety of covers on your Youtube channel, ranging from Job For A Cowboy’s “Constitutional Masturbation” to Aladdin’s “A Whole New World.” When you’re not listening to metal, what’s on your playlist?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Tech N9ne lately and 50’s music like Elvis, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. I’ve also been listening to the classical station a lot lately.
9. What is one song you wish you could’ve written, and why?
Oh man, that’s an interesting question. I would have to say Devin Townsend’s “Kingdom” because I think that’s one of the greatest songs of all time.
10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?
Don’t make what others want, because you’ll never please everyone. Don’t do what others are doing just to steal their fanbase. Do what you want to do and don’t be afraid of what others will say or how popular it will be. It’s not about the fame and glory, but about your own satisfaction as a musician. The day you start making music you don’t like just to be popular is the day you cease to be a real musician at all.

 


 

Ryan Strain’s YouTube channel can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/YamiRyan4509 and is currently involved with the following projects:

Sea of Trees: http://www.facebook.com/SeaOfTreesMusic

Digilis: https://www.facebook.com/DiligisBand