Recently we had the chance to sit down with the heart and soul of the band Animals as Leaders, guitarist Tosin Abasi. Animals as Leaders is a progressive instrumental metal band Tosin created after the breakup of his previous band Reflux. Tosin uses plenty of heavy and melodic influences for his personal style of shredding. Moreover, him and his rhythm guitarist use 8 string guitars to further their unique sounds. In this interview we chat about everything from what the future has in store, to what music he has on his iPod.
So how’s the tour going for you so far?
Tosin: The tour is wonderful, all the shows are packed and it’s been a good time.
Have the crowds been real receptive to you on the tour?
Tosin: More or less. There have been a few nights, a few cities where they might have not liked us as much as the night before but it’s pretty obvious because we are so distinctly different from all the other bands on the tour, but in a weird sense it’s kind of beneficial for us to understand that some kids don’t care about musicianship or how many strings are on our guitar. It’s nice to see people react to just songs that they like, just wanting to sing the words. This certain tour is very much like that, it’s a nice little window into a different musical world.
Since you are a very unique band, especially on this tour. Do you think it’s harder or easier to connect to kids considering you don’t have a vocalist?
Tosin: It really depends on the kid or the person. Anyone who likes to be challenged by music or have thoughts provoked, I think might find interest in us. Of course there are people who want their music to sink in right away and be very intuitive, or maybe they just related to lyrics. So that’s kind of like the other end of the spectrum. I actually forgot the specific question you asked me. [laughs]
That’s totally fine I think I got it. So with all that in mind, do you ever think Animals as Leaders will ever have a vocalist or is that just not in the cards.
Tosin: Not anytime soon, maybe if we get bored like 3 or 4 albums in we will do something like that. I plan on working with a vocalist maybe on something else, but Animals as Leaders is decidedly an instrumental band.
So when did guitar playing become more then just a hobby for you and turn into a passion?
Tosin: Probably in a year or 2 of starting and I started when I was 12. I was really lucky because I started playing when alternative was really big, so all the bands I loved like Green Day, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins I could play by knowing a power chord and moving it around and I had this early degree of “I CAN DO THIS” and all I had to know was know a power chord and move it around. So basically what I’m getting at is it was really easy for me to feel like I was making progress, if I tried to do like Master of Puppets kind of stuff early on I might have been more discouraged so by playing simple music and being able to do so it made me feel like this is something I want to continue doing because it was positive reinforcement.
So starting out has you did, becoming self taught. You decided to go to the Atlantis School of Music. How was that experience for you?
Tosin: Well I had been touring in my old band Reflux which is a progressive metalcore band, I was self-taught and been playing for over 10 years. I could you know, play but I didn’t know any of the theory behind it so it was kind of like becoming a beginner again. You had to learn all these new concepts and get them into your head but to actually incorporate these new things into your playing would take a few weeks or even a few months so there was definitely a degree of unlearning or relearning that took place. It was a good reality check for me.
Do you recommend going to school for anyone who wants to make music a profession?
Tosin: I recommend going to school if you want to play music for the rest of your life. If you don’t want to hit a ceiling with how much you understand with music or your ability to play it. As far as the profession, there are plenty of touring artists who can basically only play the songs their band plays. If you want this to be your life’s work, there isn’t an overall need to be educated, but it will open doors and allow you to progress your inner passion.
How would you describe your style of playing?
Tosin: Hmmm. I guess I would say, melodic shred? I’m not too sure on that.
Now with that in mind, how would you describe the sound of your band in a phrase to someone who has never heard you before?
Tosin: Alien Space Metal!
If i was to look in your iPod right now, what artists would I find?
Tosin: You would find Kurt Rosenwinkle, Noija, Meshuggah, Periphery, Jimmy Herring, Allen Holdsworth… you would find a lot.
If you were to go to jail for something, what do you think it would be?
Tosin: Something stupid like tax evasion.
A lot of people have been classifying you as one of the new wave of Guitar Gods, how do you feel about that?
Tosin: I think it’s really flattering actually, I mean it’s awesome. I don’t necessarily consider myself as one, but it’s real awesome that people want to use such grand terms to describe my playing.
Seeing that people look up to you right now, who do you look up to past and present artists?
Tosin: Guthrie Govan might be the perfect guitar player. I really like Jimmy Herring who plays for a band called Wide Spread Panic, he has his own guitar album as well. Adam Rogers is a B-bop guitarist who just blows my mind as far as improvisation goes. Then we have John Kreisberg, Kurt Rosenwinkle. On the other side, there are song writers that I marvel at like Radiohead, they are one of my favorite bands of all time. If I could just write a song that gives me the feelings that their songs do I would feel so happy.
Top three Radiohead songs?
Tosin: “The Pyramid Song”, “Like Spinning Plates” and “Everything In It’s Right Place”.
What bands or artists would you like to collaborate with or tour with in the future?
Tosin: Meshuggah, definitely would be amazing to do anything with. We love Periphery and will most likely go out on tour with them. The Faceless are one of my favorite bands in metal today but beyond the scope of people I know, there’s this guy named Skrillix that makes really hard hitting House and Dubstep. I don’t know if there would be any collaboration, but it would be sick to just jam with him. I really like multiple genre intersections with music, electronic music is the most appealing to me at the moment.
What does Animals as Leaders have in store for the future?
Tosin: Well we want to write the next album and hopefully work on the live show a bit more because we are very into the visual and audio experience. I would like to get to the point where fans want to see us live because of the show, not having a lead singer really gives us that open space. I just want people to feel like they are somewhere else, escape the mundane.