Periphery – Progress As A Constant
By: Matthew Bowling
A person would be hard-pressed to find a modern band making more waves than Periphery. The band’s sophomore release, Periphery II, continues a path set by the debut but while taking on a few dozen new directions. Guitarist Misha Mansoor took some time to answer a variety of questions regarding the past, vocalists, distractions, and what lies ahead for the band. This and waxing poetic on the nature of djent, the joy of Final Fantasy, and what it means to be a band brought up in the internet age. Good times!
Blistering.com: Periphery II is out and the response to it is almost universally positive. How does it feel to have avoided the ‘sophomore slump’ that so often accompanies well-received debuts?
Misha Mansoor: It's really cool to see that people are digging the new album. We weren't really concerned with impressing anyone; we just wanted to make an album we could be proud of. That way it wouldn't matter if people cared for it or not.
Blistering.com: Periphery came together over several years and I imagine a lot of blood, sweat, and man tears so how did it feel to put Periphery II together and see it realized in less than two?
Mansoor: It came together quite quickly and easily. We are always writing, so we had quite a lot of material to choose from, and we all worked together to pick the songs we felt were the strongest and best fit the vibe of the album. We also worked a lot more collaboratively on this one, and we have good chemistry so the ideas just seemed to come very naturally. The blood, sweat and tears were really shed in the actual recording process of this album as opposed to the writing/preproduction.
Blistering.com: Originally it seemed as though Periphery II was intended to be a double album. Is that still the case and the second half will be forthcoming in the months ahead or was the idea let go?
Mansoor: The original plan was to take a ton of time off of touring to get that done. However right after we had set aside that time, we got a Dream Theater tour offer right in the middle of that, and we rearranged our plans to make it happen. The second album that we wanted to release was going to be our concept album that we have been toying around with for a while, but with the changed plans, we can take more time with it, and it is looking like we can make it even more of an epic undertaking than we had originally intended for it. With that said, it will be the next album we put out!
Blistering.com: The band had already been through several vocalists before Spencer [Sotelo] came into the fold for the debut. As such there’s a very tangible difference between his presence on the debut and on Periphery II. How much of a core component was he to the songwriting process this time around?
Mansoor: On the first album he entered so late into the recording process that he had very little time to rewrite the vocals, and ended up singing a lot of existing lines. This time Spencer was in full control of everything vocal, from melody lines and lyrics to the actual production. Apart from having worked his ass off over the last few years to become a better singer, he has also been working as a vocal producer and has really come into his own in that field as well. He was able to really do the vocals justice, and he was adamant on not using pitch or time correction on the main vocal lines at all, which created quite a bit of work for him, but I think it really gives the vocals an awesome and natural sound.
Blistering.com: In looking into some of the (excuse the pun) peripheral interests of the band, several varieties of meme-focused internet culture and video games seem to be big loves. There seemed to be some reference to it with the trilogy of “Muramasa” “Ragnarok” and “Masamune” so is there any chance of seeing a future cover of the background music from Fisherman’s Horizon on the next album? (Please say yes)
Mansoor: Ha-ha good catch on the Final Fantasy reference. Funny enough, “Fisherman's Horizon” is definitely the next FF song I want to cover. I love that song so much. I guess just being a band that was born and bred on the internet results in or music having those kinds of references or something.
Blistering.com: While still undoubtedly core to the Periphery sound, the songs on Periphery II are decidedly more diverse. Is this a reflection of a natural progression toward stream-lining of the song writing or a greater sharing of song writing duties across the band? (or both!)
Mansoor: I like to use this answer because it is incredibly accurate: The first album was Periphery the project. This album is Periphery the band. Everyone contributed, everyone had a part, and it just felt like so much more than my bedroom project. I could never have made this album alone, and I love that things are moving in that direction. The best part is that our approach to this album was pretty much exactly the same as the last one: Just do whatever sounds good to us!
Blistering.com: The guest spots on Periphery II are heavy hitters within the metal scene but fairly diverse stylistically. Were they chance happenings or conscious choices? Did someone just up and say “Hey bro, I’ll call up John”
Mansoor: Well the Petrucci solo happened on the Dream Theater tour which was awesome. Guthrie [Govan, The Aristocrats] came about because Jan Hoeglund at our management is the best dude ever, and knowing how much I love Guthrie and wanted a guest solo from him, he went and contacted Guthrie and made that happen. And Wes [Hauch, The Faceless] is one of our best friends, and one of the most incredible guitarists out there, we knew he would absolutely slay a guest solo spot, and he did.
Blistering.com: Summer Slaughter is underway and in full force. Beyond that monster what lies ahead on the touring front for you for the rest of this year?
Mansoor: After Slaughter we are going to UK/Europe for a tour with Between the Buried and Me and The Safety Fire, which should be nice and epic. After that, we don't have anything set in stone other than the Mayhem Cruise which sounds pretty much like a vacation for us. I kinda don't think that counts as tour as much as it does a big party on a big boat.
Blistering.com: Since the release of Periphery the ‘djent’ scene has kind of exploded. It’s well documented you don’t particularly care for the term but things being as they are, we’re stuck with it. Are you happy to see the growth? Do you keep in touch with any of the other groups?
Mansoor: There are a lot of bands that get labeled "djent" who we love and respect to death, and perhaps because it tends to be this umbrella term for anything relatively new and progressive, it has brought a lot of very cool and talented bands into the limelight, and we definitely keep in touch with and try to tour with those bands. I think there are a lot of bands that also focus on the one-sided nature of "Djent" and those tend to be the ones that are forgettable and a dime a dozen these days. But I guess that is the nature of any fad.
Blistering.com: 2012 has been an absurdly varied year for releases (be they metal or otherwise). Any particular in studio or on-the-road favorites?
Mansoor: Right now I am really digging on Intrinsic by The Contortionist. I loved their first album Exoplanet, and we took them out on our headliner tour because they kill it live. It took me a few spins to get the vibe of this new album, but it is a complete prog masterpiece in my opinion. I also have heard a few tracks off of the new Faceless album and that sounds incredible so far!