Connect with us

Interviews

Japanese Speed Metal Crew Significant Point Keep it Classy and Thrashy

Published

on

As guitarist Gou Takeuchi points out in the interview below, the old-school melodic speed metal scene in Japan may be small, but its patrons are dedicated and its bands are fantastic. With the likes of Hell Freezes Over, Military Shadow, Evil, Hellhound, Metalucifer, and Crowley throwing patched up battle jackets over Canadian Tuxedos and penning modernized pieces of fiery speed metal that ooze as much classy sophistication as gutter slut looseness, the Japanese scene is making upwards leaps from strength to strength.

Leading the pack are Tokyo’s Significant Point as they summon the power of Screaming for Vengeance, Kill ‘Em All, Show No Mercy, and Fistful of Metal and cram those seminal works into a confined space with classic albums by home nation heroes like Loudness and X Japan. What gets created is a quick and wicked brand of melodic thrash/speed metal that keeps one eye looking forward while the other meticulously scans the rearview. After forming a decade ago, the band is finally releasing their debut full-length, Into the Storm, a highly anticipated headfirst two-and-a-half somersault with a two-and-a-half twist dive into how precise, refined, and classy metal can sound while still retaining the heart and soul that has driven this music since 1970.

We sent Takeuchi a handful of questions via email and with the help of time, patience and Google Translate, we present the result: an introduction to one of the most exciting heavy metal bands presently making the rounds.

Let’s start off with the question that everyone hates asking, answering and reading, but still needs to be asked when introducing a new band like yours: can you give a brief history of the band?

Gou Takeuchi: “Thank you for giving me this opportunity for an interview! The band was formed in March, 2011, and all the members at the beginning were high school classmates. After several member changes, the current lineup formed in 2018 is as follows: (myself) and Kazuki Kuwagaki (guitars), Kazuhiro Watanabe (bass), and Itormentor (drums). The two guitarists are the original members. We had self-released demo CDs in 2012 and 2014 and a live album in 2017. Then, we released the 7’ EP Attacker on Inferno Records in France in 2018 and now we will release our first full-length album, Into the Storm on Dying Victims Productions. Since we don’t have the regular vocalist, George Itoh (Risingfall/Military Shadow) supported us as the guest vocalist for the album recording.”

Is George a confirmed member of the band or is he at the “helping out” stage?

“George Itoh is a guest vocalist for this album only. In tandem with his main bands, he did an awesome job for our album recording. We really thank George and also his bandmates who willingly accepted our asking. We wish him the best of luck in the future. And please check out his bands!”

Over the years and through the member changes, how would you say Significant Point is different today than the past, both in how you sound and how you go about business as a band?

“As for the sound, I think the current lineup is the best. The previous members were great, of course, but there were times when the direction and feeling didn’t match. The current members have no such problems at all. The big difference between now and the past is that now we can go ahead heading in the same direction. Actually, I haven’t given much thought to the business side, but I would like to talk about what I think about the music aspect.

In the world of music, each person has a different feeling. There is no one who has the exact same feeling as someone. This is the one of the great things of music, but it also means that the standard of what is considered good is different for each person. This is what I’ve come to realize. This is a big difference from the past. Therefore, I think it is important for a band to keep mind clear standards for itself. It allows the band not to waver from their assertions.”

Artwork for ‘Into The Storm’ by Significant Point

With almost a decade between forming and releasing your debut studio album, you must have tons and tons of ideas you wanted to include on Into the Storm. Was it difficult to not load the album down with stuff from the past?

“That’s true. I’ve written many songs in my life. All of them are very important to me. I had decided to have ten songs on the album. So, the number of songs that can be packed is very limited. This is a very important decision that determines the direction of the album. I thought very carefully about the overall composition of the album, the balance between speed and melodic songs, and the feeling.”

There’s material on the album that goes back to your first release and references all of your releases, but how much of the album actually consists of new material? And how recent is the newest material on the album?

“Eighty percent are new songs. The remaining 20 percent are ‘Attacker’ and ‘Danger Zone.’ These are the two songs that we have been playing since the beginning of the band and I’m really attached to them personally. I wrote these songs when I was 18 or 19 years old. Most of the other songs are new, written between 2017 and 2019. The most recent song is ‘Deathrider.’ It came to me when I was thinking about adding another catchy, straightforward speed metal song on the album. It was completed in no time at all. ‘Run for Your Life’ and ‘Night of the Axe’ are also relatively recently completed songs. So, the album is a mix of old and new songs. I think you can feel the ten-year history of the band.”

How was Into the Storm impacted by COVID-19?

“The impact of the COVID pandemic was very big. The recording took place from March 2019 to September 2020, but during that time, there was a period of time when a state of emergency was declared in Japan and we needed to stop recording. This caused a delay in the completion of the album. We are really grateful to Dying Victims Productions, they waited for us. And we are very happy that we were able to complete it.”

Was there anything that was done differently about how the album was written or recorded when compared to what you had done in the past?

“I used to write songs with my initial impulses. The initial impulse was very important and I still have it in my heart. However, now I am able to look at music from a higher perspective. This helped me grow a lot since the past. To make music is to face ourselves, the rival is not someone or other bands. The most important thing is whether or not the quality of our music achieves the level we want. In the past, I hadn’t realized this yet. Since I realized this, the range of my composition has expanded considerably. If we can make such a sense of the level, and create songs that achieve the level, the music will have a kind of consistency. In the process of making Into the Storm, I was able to work with this mind. I feel my growth from the past is expressed in the sound of this album.”

What is the significance or story behind the album’s title? And what can you tell us about what’s going on on the cover?

“As for the concept of the cover art, the monster on the cover is the same character that has appeared on our 7’ EP’s cover. On the previous EP, people are attacked by the monster. So, this time I wanted to make a cover where people are fighting against the monster. There is the sound of thunder at the beginning of “Into the Storm’ and I had decided that I wanted to show thunder on the cover as well. The album title was naturally decided as Into the Storm. We asked Mario López (Crystal Viper, Evil Invaders, Sabbat) to create the cover art. We gave him a simple sketch and image and he created that wonderful cover art. Mario’s cover art fits perfectly with our musical style and we think it’s a really great piece. We feel very happy to have worked with him.”

At what point did Dying Victims come into the picture and what about working with them was attractive to you?

“We were thinking of starting making an album in 2019. At that time, Dying Victims Productions offered us the opportunity to release our album. We were very happy when we received the offer. We are honoured to be able to release our album from Dying Victims Productions. They are always supportive of us and it’s been a real pleasure working with them. We can’t wait for the release.”

Significant Point band logo

I’m presuming that with Into the Storm coming at this point in the band’s existence this must mean there’s probably a wealth of material ready for a second album that’s coming sooner rather than later?

“I have a few good ideas for new songs, but they are still incomplete. But there are a lot of interesting phrases. I will need some time to prepare the songs for the second full album. I’m going to take my time in making the songs.”

What can you tell us about how the Japanese metal scene is today in comparison to when you were growing up and how does Significant Point fit into your nation’s scene?

“When I was a kid, I think the popularity of old school heavy metal was lower than it is now. I have been listening to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden since then, but there were not many in my generation who had the same taste. I remember that around 2008, Enforcer and other bands became a hot topic in Japan, and it led to a reevaluation of old school metal. However, there are still few old school heavy metal bands in Japan. We are the minority. So, we sometimes play with thrash metal and hardcore bands, but it’s very stimulating for us.”

What are some of the challenges facing a speed/heavy metal from Japan these days? Is it pretty easy to get attention in Tokyo and throughout Japan? Or do you find more people from other countries paying more attention to you?

“Here in Japan, there are very few young old school or speed metal bands. The old school metal scene in Japan is small. So, bands like us are very rare and in the minority. Recently, some good young old school bands like Risingfall and Hell Freezes Over have appeared on the scene. These young bands, including us, have interaction with each other. We are working hard and encouraging each other. So, I would like to see more young bands and more excitement in the old school metal scene in Japan. I am proud of old school heavy metal. I hope that young people who listen to this album will start a band and jump into this scene.”

What do you feel Significant Point provides for you that other bands you’ve been a member of didn’t? And what do you feel is different about Significant Point in comparison to the large number of old school speed/heavy metal bands that exist these days?

“My experience of working in other bands has been great. It helped me to grow a lot. But Significant Point gives me the opportunity to express 120 percent of what I want in my music, because I am the main composer. This is very significant for me. Of course, when I get ideas from other members, I positively adopt it. I think there are two things that make Significant Point unique. The first is that speed metal songs and melodic songs coexist. I wanted to create an album with a lot of variety, like a storybook. I think the fact that I was able to mix them well leads the band’s individuality.

The second point is that the guitars have a big presence. I always consider a guitar solo is another song in a song. This also contributes to the band’s uniqueness.”

How is the COVID-19 situation in Japan? Any signs of when shows and live music might be making a return in your part of the world?

“The number of infected people in Japan continues to increase. I think we are in the worst situation now. Japan is unable to legally impose a lockdown, and the government is just asking the public to refrain from activities causing infection. Recently, the government declared a state of emergency. It contains a stronger message, but as mentioned above, this is not a lockdown, but a request for self-restraint. We are not sure how effective it will be. The medical system is in a severe state, so we hope that after few weeks it will get better. I believe that the live scene will come back. In order to do so, each of us needs to take the right actions to end this pandemic as soon as possible. I think it is important to do what we can do now, little by little.”

Alternative/Rock

The Stone Eye Singer and Guitarist Stephen Burdick Discusses His Band

The Stone Eye singer and guitarist Stephen Burdick discusses the band and their new album ‘Nothing Shall & By Any Means.’

Published

on

The Stone Eye, photo courtesy of The Stone Eye
The Stone Eye, photo courtesy of The Stone Eye

With a commendable work ethic and a certain lightheartedness, The Stone Eye has found its way to some impressive success. This year marks the tenth anniversary since the talented duo of drummer Jeremiah Bertin and singer-songwriter Stephen Burdick joined forces in their hometown of Philadelphia. Their approach to alternative rock is original and innovative. But there is also a satirical side to the band where they make sure not to take things too seriously. It’s reminiscent of the sound and general approach of Queens of the Stone Age, a band that can rock out but intermixes it with a certain level of weirdness.

The Stone Eye released their latest EP, Nothing Shall & By Any Means, last month via Electric Talon Records. In only four songs, they can deliver a compelling and diverse musical experience. The hooks are infectious, and the riffs of the powerhouse variety. It combines stoner and progressive rock with a certain vintage sludge, fuzzed-out sound reminiscent of the early ’90s. Bertin and Burdick approach their songwriting with a broad-minded approach. They are out to push musical boundaries and carry the torch of alternative rock forward, presenting classic influences to a new generation.

Today, we are joined by Stephen Burdick to discuss The Stone Eye, songwriting, being an independent artist, and more.

How would you describe your music?

Stephen Burdick: “I would describe The Stone Eye’s music as something that slides somewhere in the alternative rock realm of music. I grew up a massive grunge fan. When I first got into composing music, Alice in Chains were my demigods of how to do things. So naturally, we will always have that influence lingering. As we’ve all grown as musicians and individuals, our tastes have evolved and we are always trying to fit new influences in. So, anything from jazz fusion to electronic elements tend to find their way into our music. But at the heart of it, I would describe the music as alternative rock.”

What do you like most about playing music?

“What I like most about playing music is the emotional return, elated or depressive, that it provides when you stumble across something that makes your ears perk up, whether it be a song you listen to that blows you away, a riff you write, a great gig that you’re playing and you’re like ‘damn we are on fire,’ etc. Art in general, whether it be film, music, photography, etc, has a way of moving me, be it in a positive or negative way, that quite literally nothing else has and for that, I am very grateful.”

What’s the most dangerous thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?

“The most dangerous thing that has ever happened to me at one of our gigs was totally my fault for being an egg-head. Essentially, we were having issues with one of our amps. The standby switch was faulty, and the amp was stuck in standby. I was trying to find a way to override the standby. And in all of my infinite wisdom, I kept the amp plugged in and powered on whilst I was poking around in the thing. Sure enough… zap. Receiving 250 volts or whatever is not fun, but thankfully, I was ok and the show went on without a hitch. I did, however, give up on the amp for the night and brought it to a repairman in Vegas a few days after the show. Trained professionals exist for a reason!”

Politics and Music. Yay, nay or what the hay?

“My answer is what the hay. I mean, I personally try to keep any political affiliation at bay when composing music. But music is all about what inspires you, right? So if you’re politically charged and are inspired by the current events of whatever’s going on… have at it! Sure, you may alienate a few people, but art has always been at the forefront of social discourse.

“My personal stance on composing my own politically charged pieces is… I’m not an expert on anything political, and there are a lot more informed people than myself out there. Hell, you are probably more informed than I am. So I tend to have the philosophy of letting the more-informed have the brighter spotlight.”

The Stone Eye “Nothing Shall’ & “By Any Means” single artwork

The Stone Eye “Nothing Shall’ & “By Any Means” single artwork

When you write, do you do so with the live setting in mind? Or do you write a song just for the song’s sake?

“So this is a tricky one as I tend to do both, or at least try to before my ambitions give in. I always have this, ‘ok we’re good, this is the song’ mentality going into the studio. Meaning, that what we play and sing in the rehearsal room is what I want the song to sound like on the final recordings… Meaning it is entirely composed for a seamless transition between a studio and a live setting. Then, however, I sit down in the studio, and the ideas start flowing out of me and I can’t help myself but add more to the existing formula. I mean, the DNA of the song stays the same, but I always find myself being like ‘Man… this sounds bare right here… maybe add a little harmonized riff? Or a little lick to round it out? Or this, or that?’ Everything fucking time.”

What is your writing process like?

“The writing process for us varies. Generally, it follows a proven formula that has been established over the past couple of years. Most tunes start as an idea that I formulate. This could be nothing more than a little riff to a completely structured tune that is 90 percent done. Then I pass the idea along to the fellas, get their feedback, and continue to shape the idea. Finally, after a bit of back and forth and refinement, we bring the tune into the rehearsal space and jam on it. Over these few hours of jamming, we may find that nothing changes, or that everything changes. Generally, though, by the end of this few hour-long rehearsal, the song is pretty much finished from an instrumentation standpoint.

“For the vocal side of things, that is a total crapshoot. Sometimes I am not done with the melody until I’m singing the tune in the studio. But sometimes the melody comes to me in the initial demo. It all depends, and there is no rhyme or reason to the vocals. One thing is for certain though, lyrics are always the absolute last piece of the pie. I never write lyrics before having everything in place.”

Tell us about your experience going it alone as an artist. How hard is it to get your music distributed, promoted, shared, etc?

“Throughout most of our career, we have been releasing music independently. We actually have had only one release that was not done internally (2021’s South of the Sun). Like anything else, releasing music independently is an evolutionary process that gets easier the more you do it as you gain more knowledge on the subject.

“When we released our first album in 2015, I can confidently say I had no idea what I was doing. I was doing what most artists do when starting out. Just throwing the tracks up online, making a few posts, sending a few terribly formatted emails to random bigshot publications, and hoping for the best. Naturally, though, you start picking up on the dos and don’ts of the industry, and start meeting individuals whose services coincide with your needs thus beginning working relationships. Nowadays, we have a little team assembled that makes everything happen. So it’s cool to see the evolution of the business side of things. It certainly makes things run smoother despite the operation being infinitely larger.”

Do you have anything you’d like to tell any fans reading right now?

“I’d like to tell our fans one thing: thank you! Without the support, we wouldn’t be able to do the things that we want to do and continuously find inspiration to work on our craft, tour, and release new music. Would we still be creatives without fans? Duh. But without your support, we would not be doing what we are doing right now. And for that, I owe all the gratitude in the world to each and every individual who supports us and our vision. Mwah!”

Continue Reading

Interviews

Dave Annable Discusses His Role as Zoe Saldaña’s Husband on ‘Special Ops: Lioness’

Published

on

Dave Annable
Dave Annable

From Academy Award nominee Taylor Sheridan, the espionage thriller features a star-studded cast, including series lead and executive producer Zoe Saldaña, Laysla De Oliveira, Emmy Award nominee Michael Kelly (whom we interview here), with Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, and Academy Award winner and executive producer Nicole Kidman. Special Ops: Lioness, a series produced by MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios, debuted on Paramount+ last summer as the streamer’s #1 most-watched global series premiere on launch day. Special Ops: Lioness is now available on Blu-ray™ and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment as a 3-disc set that includes all eight episodes and over 90 minutes of bonus content, including two new featurettes and behind-the-scenes of every episode!

Lioness is a show based on a real-life CIA program. It follows Cruz Manuelos (De Oliveira), a rough-around-the-edges but passionate young Marine recruited to join the CIA’s Lioness Engagement Team to help bring down a terrorist organization from within. Zoe Saldaña plays Joe, the station chief of the Lioness program tasked with training, managing, and leading her female undercover operatives. The series is astounding and ranks amongst the best of the year. Lioness also features series regulars Dave Annable, Jill Wagner, LaMonica Garrett, James Jordan, Austin Hébert, Jonah Wharton, Stephanie Nur, and Hannah Love Lanier.

Top surgeon Neal McNamara has little information about his wife Joe’s government job. Suffice it to say she shows up at home exhibiting various states of PTSD and visits her family for small increments of time before deployment to parts unknown. Joe is a team lead for the Lioness special operatives program, managing deep undercover female operatives attempting to get close to high-level foreign government targets. The series starts with a bang and never lets up. Special Ops: Lioness is the newest addition to Taylor Sheridan’s growing oeuvre of captivating television. Sheridan’s work includes Yellowstone, 1923, 1883, Mayor Of Kingstown, Tulsa King, and the upcoming series Lawman: Bass Reeves and Land Man.

Special Ops: Season 1 Special Features:

Go undercover with the stars of Special Ops: Lioness with a behind-the-scenes look into the heart of The Lioness program, inspired by an actual U.S. Military program. Special Ops: Lioness includes behind-the-scenes episodes and two brand-new featurettes. Dive into interviews with the star-studded cast, get an immersive glimpse into the intricate world of the Lioness program, and explore the rigorous training required to make the series as authentic as possible.

  • Embedded With Special Ops: Lioness
  • Battle Forged Calm: Tactics & Training

We thank Dave Annable for taking the time last week to field a few questions for V13 Media. The audio (on SoundCloud) and video are available here if you’d prefer to hear Dave’s answers in real-time.

Can you talk a little bit about what working on a Taylor Sheridan project is like?

Dave Annable: “Working on a Taylor show is incredible. My bread and butter has been doing television my whole career. And this is just a whole other level. The budgets, cast, and writing are top-notch in their particular fields. And coming together, it feels like this incredible circus to be a part of.

“And this show specifically, you know, when you got Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman, Zoe Saldaña and Michael Kelly, the stars kept coming, and you just felt the gravity of the show – the immenseness of the show. It was just incredible to be a part of; I love it. And it was cool because I only saw the family stuff. But then, when I was watching the show as a viewer, I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome – they’re crushing it.’ Everybody just was really involved in the story and the spy aspect of it. And then, of course, the spy’s got to come home! It was just incredible to be a part of it.”

Neal was my favourite character on the show. You brought a brevity to the show that was very different from what it was about. You grounded everything, and I applaud you for that.

“Oh, thank you. I read the pilot many years ago, and Taylor came to me with it and it was an obvious yes, no matter what. But, you know, Neal was only in three scenes in the pilot (3-4 scenes), and, you know, that character and other shows can be very one-dimensional. He could be, you know, the sounding board when she comes home from work, and he offers advice, and then that’s it, you know? I was blown away when I opened the script for the second episode, where we see Neal at work in the hospital, what he has to do, and what he is like.

“Taylor is just so good; He’s carving out this character. He’s showing that he’s a human being, and he’s going to have his issues that he’s got to deal with. And then, having a wife who’s a spy, they can’t talk at night about their jobs. And then having to deal with kids, the everyday stuff that a normal father would have to deal with. I was very blown away by Taylor’s writing; he crushed it.”

“Special Ops: Lioness” still

“Special Ops: Lioness” still

Neal’s scenes with his daughter, especially, hit home with me. Some of those speeches were just on point – so well done.

“Well, what’s funny is that we had a rehearsal before we started shooting, right? We were at Taylor’s ranch and had the cast around with Taylor. And he was sort of hand-picking scenes for the characters to read. And he chose that scene, Neal talking to his daughter after the car accident. You know, I was reading it out loud, and I came in sort of hot, you know, and I was like kind of pissed. And at the end, he goes, ‘No, no, no, Dave. Neal’s already lost. You’ve lost, right? No yelling is going to help her.’ And he’s like, ‘This is the softest you can be.’ And, you know, he was right. He was right.

“And I think, you know, I was taking notes. It was like, shit if my daughter’s in there? I want to talk like Neal. I don’t want to talk like Dave because I would get that wrong, you know? So he just nailed it. I’ve gotten a lot of love (specifically from a lot of men) that needs to be directed towards Taylor for that scene because that’s a very challenging thing, I’d imagine, to talk to your daughter like that. And my instincts were dead wrong, so don’t thank me!”

Were you cast early on in Lioness? Did you watch the crew kind of build up?

“It’s an interesting story because I was doing a flashback season four Yellowstone episode. At the time he called me to come back to that, he’s like, ‘There’s also this other show I want to talk to you about, playing Neal, the husband of Zoe Saldaña in a show called Lioness.’ and I said ‘I’m in.’ Then I read it, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh I’m even MORE in!’ Then, it went away for almost three years with COVID, scheduling, etc. Then somebody else took over Lioness, I believe. It wasn’t Taylor, and you know, a friend of mine was like, ‘Oh, my friend just went in to audition for Neal for Lioness.’ And I was like, ‘Wait, what?!’ I was like, wait a second?

“So Taylor had just taken it back over, and we reconnected, and he’s like, ‘you’ve always been the guy for me – you’re the guy. Would you come do it?’ ‘In a heartbeat!’ It was a wild ride. But here we are, and I’m just so grateful to be a part of a show I genuinely loved. You know, that doesn’t always happen, so this is really very cool for me.”

“Special Ops: Lioness” poster artwork

“Special Ops: Lioness” poster artwork

Can you talk about what it’s like working on a show with so much talent in it? Is there added pressure? Or is it easier because everybody’s just so good?

“I think both. Both things can exist. You feel it for sure. You know, it’s Taylor. When Yellowstone came out, Taylor was big, but he wasn’t, you know, Taylor-Sheridan-eight-shows-on-Paramount-Plus Taylor Sheridan. Right? So then this comes, and it’s Zoe and Nicole. And so, yeah, you feel it. But then when I specifically got on set, and you act across from these folks, you realize, ‘Oh, this is easy because they’re so good,’ right? Like a good actor is a given.

“And to be able to sort of play tennis back and forth with these superstars, it makes you better. And, you know, I was fortunate enough to be on Brothers and Sisters. It was my first real big job, and acting across from, you know, Sally Field and Calista Flockhart and Matthew Reese made me much better. You learn a lot from those actors. So, you know, I feel the same now.”

What memories come to mind when you walk on set for your first day? What sticks out for you?

“Well, it’s a funny story, Mike. Because our first day of shooting was actually the bedroom scenes with Zoe and I. We had met once, briefly, before that. So it was really, it was terrible, you know? Thankfully, we were able to sort of make jokes about it because it’s so weird and awkward. We’ve got a weird job. But it was like, ‘Hey, I’m Dave,’ you know? ‘Let’s hop in bed with a bunch of people watching!’ But I think it really did bring us together. And it got a lot of the awkwardness out, and we were just able to really sort of dive in and get gritty and play this real couple.”

“Special Ops: Lioness” still

“Special Ops: Lioness” still

Do you have a process that you like to adhere to when you’re prepping for a role, and do you find it changes from part to part?

“Yeah, my imagination can only get me so far, right? So it was very cool, specifically on this show. I got to sit and study with Dr. Russell Ward, who’s a surgical oncologist here in Texas. And he was inviting me into a surgery he was doing on a 12-year-old who fell out of a tree and broke his knee. So I was able to be in the room, experience it, talk to him about having to deliver bad news to parents and find out what that’s like.

“And more importantly, what is that like when you go home? Is that something that you bring to your conversations with your wife or your kids? All that stuff. So that was very eye-opening for me. Already having so much respect for medical professionals, it’s exponentially more when you see the day-to-day and you get to grind with them. Because we’re in and out usually, we see the doctor, and they fix us. But spending a day with them and seeing the patients and learning what their day really is and how hard it is – is my favourite part of my job, for sure. Learning about whatever job or relationship that the character is in.”

Continue Reading

Alternative/Rock

The Narcissist Cookbook Interview: Matt Johnston Takes Listeners Behind The Music

Matt Johnston, creative behind The Narcissist Cookbook, shares insight into their music, creative process, memorable moments, and more.

Published

on

The Narcissist Cookbook, photo by Regenweibchen Photography
The Narcissist Cookbook, photo by Regenweibchen Photography

Born and raised on the picturesque island of Arran off the west coast of Scotland, The Narcissist Cookbook, led by the enigmatic Matt Johnston, has carved a distinctive path in the music scene. Fully self-taught and driven by the rebellious spirit of punk, Johnston’s musical journey unfolded through busking, playing in bars, and navigating the complexities of life. However, a dark period, including the loss of their voice for nine months and a deep dive into substance abuse, spurred a transformation. Experimenting with spoken monologues inspired by diverse influences, The Narcissist Cookbook emerged, using the guitar to amplify the power of their words.

Their recent album, This Is How We Get Better, marked a turning point in The Narcissist Cookbook’s career. It helped propel them into the spotlight. With a devoted global fanbase and a sold-out UK tour, Johnston witnessed unforgettable moments. Venues were filled to capacity, and meet-and-greet lines stretched for hours. Their unapologetic approach to songwriting lends itself to listeners seeking honest, introspective, and fearless musical narratives. The core message revolves around self-acceptance and acknowledging the parts of oneself that may be deemed too scary or vulnerable. The Narcissist Cookbook encourages fans to embrace their fears through music and storytelling, believing that true healing comes from openness rather than hiding.

Looking ahead to 2024, The Narcissist Cookbook aims for international tours and the release of a 40-minute compilation album. It will feature the highly-requested “Courtney (Director’s Cut).” Johnston is also crafting a new album, MYTH. That album will explore codependency, fairytales, and a haunted children’s book-on-tape. V13 sat down with Johnston to dive deeper into who they are as an artist and what has shaped their career thus far.

For those not familiar with your band, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Matt Johnston: “My name is Matt Johnston (they/them); I’m a Scottish writer who fuses monologues and storytelling with songwriting. I’ve just finished a sold-out tour of the UK playing to ~1000 people across seven shows.”

What is the story behind your band/stage name?

“I lost my singing voice badly in 2015 for around nine months and started writing monologues and spoken pieces so I would have something to perform even when I couldn’t sing. But I had a bunch of voices – internal and external, telling me that it was preposterously self-involved to think anyone would be interested to hear me just talking. The name the Narcissist Cookbook was like a shield to protect myself from that criticism. I’m levelling the criticism I’m most afraid of at myself before anyone else can, you know?”

How would you describe your creative process?

“A lot of the time, my creative process is sitting down to write or record something and realizing I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing and treading water with the hope of something decent coming along to fish me out. A lot of the time my tracks are coming from pinpointing something I’m too scared to talk about. Then, I use the writing process to kick-start the emotional process of figuring out why I’m so scared to say the thing. Other times, I’m more like a frustrated painter. I see visuals, landscapes, characters in my head, but because I can’t draw to save my life, I’m left using the mediums I’m somewhat proficient at: songwriting and monologues to try and get those images out of my head.”

The Narcissist Cookbook ‘This Is How We Get Better’ album artwork

The Narcissist Cookbook ‘This Is How We Get Better’ album artwork

Who are your biggest influences?

“I love Sidney Gish’s songs. I actually managed to catch her live in the UK supporting some band or other last year after assuming she’d never make it over here. I think I was one of maybe ten people who were there exclusively to see her. The theatricality of Say Anything has been a huge influence; the way Max Bemis can squeeze meaning out of words through his performance always felt like it went beyond simply singing.

“I’m also a huge fan of both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, and in particular, the triple live album they put out was a massive influence on how I approach writing and recording and the bleeding line between storytelling and songwriting, behind the scenes and front of house.”

What’s the best criticism you’ve ever received about your music or performance?

“Oh wow. I did have someone tell me, and not early on into the Narcissist Cookbook project either, that they could tell that, on some level, I didn’t believe I should be on the stage performing this stuff. That got under my skin because, in a way, they were right. Maybe it’s strange, but the bigger the audiences have gotten, the harder I’ve needed to work before the shows to tell myself that people are here to see me, that they’re here to sing along and have a good time. It’s not quite stage fright; it’s something else.

“For someone who has spent a long time honing what they do to get people to pay attention when people did start paying attention, I found it hard to cope with. Most nights, I get past it easily. But there was one night in London in 2022 where I had a full-on panic attack on stage and barely held it together.”

What was the highlight of the last tour you went on?

“I can’t lie, going on stage every night and hearing the room sing my songs back to me, and recite my monologues along with me, I hadn’t gotten used to it by the end of the tour, and I doubt I’ll be used to it by the start of the next one. But beyond that, the meet and greet lines after the show often went on for an hour or more. I got to meet all these amazing people who had tattoos of my work or had made fan art or fan clothing, whole jackets with hand-stitched lyrics covering every inch of the fabric, too much to recount here. And all just the most wonderful, kind people. I’m wildly excited to get out there and see and meet more of them.”

What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows or on tour?

“My show in Berlin landed on Halloween, and so I brought along this insane costume I put together a few years earlier. A character called Beanman made up of a baked bean mask, a baked bean vest and baked bean sweatpants. It’s honestly horrifying to look at. It seems to set off the fight or flight response in about 20 percent of people who encounter it.

“Anyway, I dressed up as Beanman for the Berlin show, and when I went on stage, I got to hear the cheers slowly change to groans of discomfort as I walked into view. Excellent. Ten out of ten experience. Very funny for me, potentially traumatizing for everyone else. After that, I received a whole bunch of Beanman fanart, which now lives on my wall in my rehearsal space.”

What are you still trying to figure out?

“I’m always trying to figure out what the scariest thing I could do for my next project is. With my album MOTH (2017), I wanted to see if I could get away with an album where the second half is almost all spoken. For HYMN (2019), I had the terrifying idea to base an album around one song being rewritten and rewritten over and over again. On This Is How We Get Better (2021) I’d gotten worried that my albums would fall apart without a solid concept to tie them together, so I put out something much more freeform.

“On MYTH (coming 2024), I’m playing with an idea I’ve had for a few years. It’s doing things with album structure and storytelling that I’m not sure I can get away with, and that’s always the most exciting place for me to be.”

The Narcissist Cookbook by Regenweibchen Photography

The Narcissist Cookbook by Regenweibchen Photography

Politics and music. Yay, nay or what the hay?

“My music has been overtly political from the start. I can’t avoid it because that’s who I am. Is it cliche yet to say all art is political? I feel like that’s the stock answer. Anyway, it is. Unfortunately, for some artists, refusing to take a political stance is a political stance. I make music for me, music that makes me happy and which represents me, and so my audience unsurprisingly consists of people like me. Neurodiverse people, queer people, people who value compassion and are tired of society hurting their loved ones. I want those people to know I see them, that I respect them and want them to be happy. And the easiest way to do that, the way that is least ambiguous, is just to fucking say it and not hide behind fake nothing statements like Love Is Love.

“Conversely, I want people who don’t want what’s best for my people to know I don’t like them and don’t want them at my shows or in my community. Because them being there makes my people less safe in a very real way. So yeah, I don’t hide my politics. I feel like doing that is a disservice to people who are sometimes committing a courageous act just stepping out their front door, let alone into a music venue full of strangers.”

Share one thing about the band that has never before been revealed.

“I used a sample from an… adult film in one of my tracks. Not for any particularly perverse reasons, but because it fits surprisingly well in the original recording session. When I tried taking it out it made the track feel diminished. You almost certainly wouldn’t know it to hear it. To anyone reading this, no I will not clarify which track unless someone manages to pinpoint the exact clip from the exact video.”

Tell us about your experience going it alone as an artist. How hard is it to get your music distributed, promoted, shared, etc?

“In 2024, it’s easier than ever to put your music out there without a queue of middlemen making things unnecessarily convoluted and insisting on their cut. It used to be that you couldn’t get played on the radio or even get your music in physical stores without a distribution deal or a label behind you. Now, my music is in the same place as Bad Bunny and Taylor Swift, and the same place as the person who recorded an album on their iPhone and uploaded it through Routenote or wherever.

“We all share the same storefront now, and that is devastating to the traditional music business, which has historically relied on gatekeeping and other underhanded tactics to ringfence and protect their investments. I love being independent because I am in total control of the decisions I make, the music I write and record, how I promote it, how I portray myself on social media and live, what shows I take on, etc. I don’t have a team of people all looking to get paid. The only person I need to worry about pleasing is me. That’s a very comfortable place to be as a creator.”

What’s next for you?

“More touring, bigger shows, more people to meet and hug/shake hands with. I’ve got a new album coming out this year and a compilation vinyl that’s going to put one of my most requested songs, the full eight-minute version of my 2018 song ‘Courtney’ that I’ve been performing live for the past couple of years, on streaming services for the first time. And second season of the songwriting podcast Jam Mechanics, which I host with Bug Hunter.”

Continue Reading

Trending