Pharaoh - Shining Power Beacon Part I
By: Matt Coe
Blistering.com: One of my favorite tracks on the album is the epic ďThe Year of the Blizzard.Ē I can sense a little bit of Alex Lifeson in certain parts Ė was Rush an influence on that song?
Johnsen: That entire song was written by Chris Black our drummer; itís hard to say specifically, but I know heís a Rush fan. He likes that sort of 70ís proto-metal sound- that one riff that kicks in comes straight out of 2112 so when I heard it I thought it sounded like Rush so when we tracked that I borrowed an old SG just to do that one section, because I was hearing that classic 70ís Rush sound. I couldnít get a double-neck guitar but I did what I could. The thing that makes that song so different for Pharaoh is itís going so far back in history - most of the foundation for our sound comes from the 80ís and that song has a little Jethro Tull, Rush, Led Zeppelin all over it. Itís a cool tune to break up the album in a nice way; it breaks up the Pharaoh template.
Blistering.com: A couple of segments of the album also have phrasing and playing that are more in line with Andy Summers of The Police and Ron Strykert of Men At Work with that 80ís new wave guitar technique- how are you able to introduce this seamlessly into the Pharaoh style?
Johnsen: I can play a lot of things that donít sound like Pharaoh at all and make it work. I have a lot of stuff in reserve in the riff grab bag that I havenít found a way to make it work for the band yet. As for The Police influence, thatís been there from the beginning. There are some distinctive chord changes that Andy Sumners uses that Iíve incorporated into every song Iíve written for the band. It may be a clean part that has a lot of chorus on it or delay, and thatís all Andy influenced. Heís my number one guitarist for my whole entire life.
The one riff I know you are thinking of from ďGraveyard of EmpiresĒ is just a straight U2/ The Edge rip-off. You set your delay to a dotted eighth note and you get instant The Edge. Itís not like that happened by accident - I started working on that part and I thought it would be a great place to put something on that. When [producer/engineer] Matt Crooks was mixing that I kept shouting, ďMore effects, more effects, more effects!Ē[laughs], in that sopping wet 80ís sound. I love that kind of music - I am really big Men At Work fan, I even have that horrible third album that nobody likes. They are a band that I love - I wouldnít say that Ron is an influence per se, but the band wrote a lot of really cool songs. Iíve had this sort of funny fantasy to do an EP called Overkill, doing the Motorhead song, all four parts of the Overkill series by Overkill, and then the Men At Work song, but I doubt I could get the whole band to sign on for that. Maybe Iíll save that for the solo project [laughs].
Blistering.com: Was there a particular reason the Ten Years EP got delayed?
Johnsen: Oh yes. There are many specific reasons. Some of them are defensible, others are completely inexcusable. The first thing that happened is it took a little while to finish it. We recorded most of Be Gone and Ten Years all at once - the drums, rhythm guitars, and bass were all recorded at the same time. When we did the original vocal sessions for the album we hoped to get the EP tracks done, and I think we were only able to get to two of them. Then with Timís [Aymar, vocals] schedule, it was a long time to get him back up to do more vocals. So the original plan was to have the EP recorded and mixed all at the same time, we had to get Be Gone mixed so that left this other stuff sitting around. Then it took another 6-7 months to get all the vocals done. Which didnít seem like that big of a deal - we wanted to put the EP out originally about a year after the album. I had to do other guitars to- we mixed the album, got it all readyÖ then had a window for the EP release.
That got bumped for some sort of administrative reason - Enricoís [Leccesse, Cruz del Sur owner] schedule was full or something with the distribution. So we put off mastering, and when the original mastering came back it was awful so we had to re-master it with another engineer. We had slipped another release date, and we missed deadlines. At a certain point I got burned out doing all this Pharaoh crap. I am the administrative person, and if no one is pushing me to get it out, sometimes I just kind of forget about it. We did have it mixed and mastered a little while before it came out- it now looks like a preview to the new record instead of what it really was which was an extension of Be Gone, because some of those songs were slated to go on the album originally. Most people thought of it as a stop gap thing...it is what it is.
The second part of Coe's chat with Matt Johnsen will be posted Tuesday, March 27.