Welcome to Pyjama Planet, where it’s always the right time to be rocking out in your favourite pair of PJs. Your master of ceremonies for the occasion is Mark Pyjama, a gloriously talented heavy rocker who has just unleashed his brand new single, “The Prelude.” The progressive, symphonic metal masterpiece sets the tone for what’s to come on his upcoming album, Madjenta.
While this version of “The Prelude” is the radio edit, you can expect the album version to clock in at an epic 6 minutes and 40 seconds. It’s certainly one of the standout tracks on the new album, thanks in part to the virtuoso guitar work of Kris Xenopoulos, known for his outstanding work as guitarist for Vulvodynia, Technopath, and Xavleg. Thematically, the song tells the story of Madjenta, one of the earliest warriors to inhabit Pyjama Planet. It’s one of Mark’s most involved compositions ever, with “The Prelude” developing over the course of three whole years until finally, he got the song to sound the way he envisioned it to.
The South African-based Pyjama is the driving force behind the Pyjama Planet Empire, with Pyjama Planet serving as his moniker for the release of his solo music. As part of the Pyjama Planet Empire, Mark not only composes his own music, but also writes and producers for other artists and branded clients. Interested in music since the age of 5, he learned how to play orchestral and jazz instruments in high school which thirsted his desire to become not just a musician, but a highly accomplished one, capable of playing many different instruments and composing in several different styles. By his 20s, he was a full-fledged metalhead that guided his career towards writing and recording harder, more intense forms of music. As a writer, producer, mixer, and engineer, Mark has worked for film and television productions, video games, and various forms of animation. There’s really no musical limit when it comes to Mark and his creative capabilities.
With such a dynamic artist as Mark Pyjama, we had to catch up with him to ask a few questions about “The Prelude,” working with Kris Xenopolous, and Madjenta.
You stated that “The Prelude” is a song that was three years in the making. How many different incarnations of this song did you go through and what made you realize that it finally sounded the way you wanted it to?
Mark Pyjama: “‘The Prelude’ took three years to make for one main reason: confidence. That crippling self-doubt known by creators is something that can destroy you internally if you’re not quick to recognize it. I started writing this album in 2017, and built five demos in the space of two months. To this day they still sound like a lesser version of what they could be. I’m not quite sure exactly why this was, but I suspect it’s having literally used up all my riffs in my debut album, Max Chops. But I was hit with self-doubt immediately upon listening back to those demos. I knew I had to regroup and rethink the strategy.
Furthermore, a lack of confidence in my own production techniques. Max Chops, although startlingly fresh for a South African metal album back in 2016, lacked a bit of balance in the frequency department. Releasing that album and listening to its counterparts that year set me on an indefinite journey to not release anything majorly personal (i.e. not for work purposes) until I was satisfied that I deserved to mix my own music again.
After three years of working on commercial music and other bands, I thought I’d give the album mix another crack. I pulled out the first demo, spent two weeks reworking it, and had suddenly found a flow again. This was due to both my rest (very important) and time away from my own creations, and now being able to utilize more professional mixing techniques, which immediately made my demos sound better.
That first song that was reworked turned out to be ‘The Prelude,’ and when I heard it back for the first time in its entirety, with a new mix, new riffs, new orchestration, and now a specific melodic theme, my brain exploded. Hearing this new version, with a new mix was exactly the moment I realized it was ‘done.’ All that was needed was finesse, and some mixing magic.”
Musically, this is a very intense song, full of different instruments and sounds all combining to form one cohesive whole. As compared to some of your other songs, how challenging was “The Prelude” for you to compose and finish?
“Having the luxury of time meant I used this song as a testing ground for my metal production over the years. It almost seemed effortless when I look back, because one month I’d add a new synth line, the next I would redo the bass, or rewrite the ending etc., etc. The hardest part of this song was trying to outdo myself from previous releases. The imposter syndrome is real, but this song is by far the most musically unique and dense I’ve ever done. It is hands down my favourite composition to date. The melodies speak to me as they were developed as I myself developed as a person through various hardships and life lessons. Leaving a city I called home, losing loved ones, and losing friends.”
Have you ever spent anywhere near as long on a song than you did with “The Prelude?” Or is this your most involved creation?
“Yes, this is the longest I have ever worked on a single song, especially one intended for release. This song has so much to it that it’s hard not to get lost in your own imagination when listening to it. It was the same experience when writing and mixing the song. Perhaps it took so long purely because I enjoyed working with it so much, that I didn’t want it to end.”
“The Prelude” features Kris Xenopolous from Vulvodynia as a collaborator of yours. How did Kris become involved in this song and what would you consider to be his greatest contribution to the finished product?
“I’m lucky enough to have a personal relationship with Kris that goes back a good few years. We worked together on his vlogs and video channel when he was starting out on YouTube (me being the cameraman and editor), and from there it developed into him working with me on some audio plugins that I have developed and released (under Pyjama Planet samples), and now him also guesting on my own personal music.
I had asked Kris early on in the process to guest on the song, and knowing this was vital as I was able to write a section of music that I thought would fit his style well. And it did! His contribution was the final piece that I needed. A musician that had just the right amount of feeling to add to his solo. A combination of sultry lines and speedy runs, he whacked the solo out so damn fast it was almost as if we had been playing together for years. His work is ingrained into the song so hard that I cannot listen to it without getting past his part first.”
The release of “The Prelude” is all a ‘prelude’ to your upcoming album Madjenta. What can you tell us about Madjenta and what can we expect from this record?
“Madjenta is a character that lives on Pyjama Planet, and as such now has an album named after her. She is a fierce warrior, and hunts and slays those who mean harm to living creatures on Pyjama Planet. The album, much like ‘The Prelude,’ is a combination of groove and power; just like Madjenta herself. She is adept with her weapon, skilled with her movements like a dancer, and is one powerful force to be reckoned with. This plays into the sound I created for her. A sound that doesn’t lean to far into the thrash metal or djent genres, but tows the line neatly between, with all the added orchestra you didn’t know you needed.
The rest of the album is similar, but of course unique with every song. With the full album, you can expect a collection of songs that tell a story of incredible battles, dangerous escapes, and fire side bed time stories with Madjenta’s loyal sentient beast, Khenji. ‘The Prelude’ is exactly this: Madjenta laying by the fire, with Khenji by her side, telling her the origin story of the planet they call home. It’s a wondrous adventure, and I cannot wait to tell it to you all!”