Devin Walsh (The Metal Minute): Thus far, Suspyre has recorded and released three albums (The Silvery Image, A Great Divide, When Time Fades) with a fourth one currently in the works. What do you feel are major differences between each of your albums – whether it’s the recording and writing process, lyrical themes, musicianship, etcetera?
Gregg Rossetti (Suspyre – guitars): With each album, we try to do something different from the last while maintaining a similar thread, be it with how we approach composition, recording, etcetera. I think each album touches on a completely different side of what I love about music.
The Silvery Image was a collection of music written between 1999 and 2005. It's a long timespan that consisted mostly of my early stages of learning how to write. Specifically, the music is written with common-practice tonality; most of the songs follow recognizable song structures and have chord progressions that rarely challenge the ear, but rather, provide foundation for melodies. There are some progressive elements throughout, namely some mixed meter sections, industrial synths and some jazzy and dissonant chords. Lyrically, we had some fantasy-themed songs, but there are also some more esoteric ideas. Some of the lyrics were written based on ones that already existed, some were new. Overall, it our most straight-forward, simple, and catchy album.
A Great Divide, composed from 2005 to 2006, is two concept pieces broken down into twelve tracks. The subject matter for the first half was based on a real life experience Clay Barton had. The second half is an emotional ride through the life of a fictional pianist named April--having a keyboardist named April
join the band a few years later is pure coincidence. The music covers much more ground than The Silvery Image. It's heavier overall, but at the same time there are a lot more odd time signatures, dissonant chords, and 70s jazz-fusion influences to help balance the thrash. The album flows so well because most of the songs were written at the same time, and it being a concept album, calls for some melodies and riffs to be reused and variated. Obviously, the production and musicianship is much better than the previous album, as The Silvery Image provided us lots of practice not only on our instruments, but how to produce a good-sounding album. Overall, it is the most cohesive and emotional work, but still melodic and catchy.
When Time Fades... again spans a significant amount of time. Some of the tracks are leftover ones from 2003 that didn't make the cut for The Silvery Image (usually because they were too difficult), and the rest of the tracks were new. This is our experimental album. There are lots of different tempi, time
signatures, keys/modes and tunings than the previous albums. A lot of the eccentric compositional antics were influenced by the composition lessons I was getting in graduate school. Starting in 2006, I got involved in microtonality and further delved into avant-garde music. The idea was that more complicated music yielded more interesting music. One drawback to this style was it limits what can be played live. Having some songs in different tunings and having nearly impossible-to-memorize parts really creates a problem when putting on an enjoyable performance. Overall, it is our most progressive and experimental album.
The next album (title to be released soon) pushes our musical boundaries in another direction without alienating the past. The overall sound is more groove-oriented, bright and dare I say, "happy." It's not as gloomy, gothic or grotesque. That being said, some of the riffs are the heaviest we've ever done. It's still in its beginning stages, but hopefully as my work load lightens up, I can speed up the process on it.
DW: You guys have used an array of different musical instruments throughout your albums such as mandolin, Chapman Stick, saxophone and others. Are there any plans for some odd instruments on the new album?
GR: I don't like to be limited in the amount of colors I can have in my music, so I'm always open to writing for non-traditional "rock band" instruments. My fiancée got me an Oud (an Egyptian lute) for Christmas, so I can't wait to use it on this album! I've also been experimenting with using the saxophone as an integral part of the piece, rather than just a solo instrument.
DW: I know Suspyre has been through some lineup changes in the past. Do you feel the band is at its strongest now? How is the overall cohesion and compatibility of the band now?
GR: Lineup changes are frustrating, especially for a composer, because I'm used to writing for that one person's style. Rich Skibinsky and I founded the band, so it's strange not having him playing the guitar parts. He left on sudden, but good terms, as he wanted to pursue other opportunities. Andrew had no trouble learning his parts, though. Finding a drummer was a tedious process, as we needed someone who had the tightness of a metal drummer but the creativity of a jazz drummer. Enter funk drummer Gabe Marshall. The fact that the band is more spread out location-wise now makes things difficult when it comes to practicing. When the drummer, bassist, and both guitarists lived within 15 minutes of each other, we were able to be more productive. Hopefully we'll fix this problem soon! That said, the band all works hard and learns the music, and all that matters is when we're together for a show we put our best into it.
DW: When you first started Suspyre in 2001, what were your goals at the time? Are you happy where the band is at now or are there still mountains you want to climb?
GR: Suspyre at first was just for fun, as I was leaving for college and didn't know what I wanted to do. I considered economics, business, or computer science but took some music classes to meet some general requirements. When I was approached about being a music major, it gave me the confidence I needed to take on a musical career. There was a time when I thought we could do Suspyre full time, but it'll be very discouraging when I have bills to pay and no money coming in. I'd like Suspyre to be respected as an artistic group, rather than just a "metal band." I'm still struggling on how to best communicate this with the listeners. Hopefully releasing this next album will show what we can really do musically. I would like to do more in a live situation, but again, it's frustrating when there are life obligations; shows take a lot of practice and preparation and there are only so many hours in a day!
DW: If you could put together a single show with Suspyre and any other bands/artists, alive or dead, who would you choose to play with?
GR: Igor Stravinsky and his orchestral works, definitely. He was one of the founders of progressive music. Le Sacre Du Printempts (The Rite of Spring) set the foundation for progressive music with its heavy driving rhythms, fluctuating odd-time signatures and dreamy, surreal sense of harmony. I think fans of him will see his influence in our music. Other dead artists that I would like to perform with would be Edgard Varèse and Harry Partch.
As for living bands, Dream Theater would be at the top of my list. I know they are the quintessential progressive rock/metal band, but it's not for that reason. It's the fact that they know what they are doing and do everything with confidence. When they release a song that I'm not as fond of, I know it's not because they made a mistake, but rather they tried something different. Being an artist is about trying new things and not worrying about failure. There are too many bands that recreate the same album over and over again because it's safe and commercially viable. That's not Suspyre, and I'd like to be associated with other artists like Dream Theater. There are many artists I believe deserve an honorable mention--as I listen to many different genres--but wouldn't do well in a live situation with us.
(c) Copyright 2011 Devin Walsh