Michael is a close friend of mine. He's a really talented vocalist, guitarist, and overall musician. He recently released an album through his Exy alias and I figured that it would be interesting to interview him.
Cyrus: Let's start nice and basic - Tell me about yourself.
Michael: Well, I'm quite a reserved person. Though I live in a pretty big city, I don't get many chances to hit people up so music's pretty much what I use as my form of communication. Something to let out the thoughts and all that. Been playing guitar since I was about 12 years old and loved it ever since. My first songs were probably Iron Man by Black Sabbath and One by Metallica.
Cyrus: What were your earliest influences? Is there much of a local scene in the city you live in?
Michael: The local scene around the St. Louis area is a bit odd, it has a punk edge but the Midwest Emo scene was certainly a big influence to the sound. Older Post-Hardcore and Pop Punk bands like Bad Religion, Face to Face, Fugazi, Thursday and At the Drive-In are probably the oldest influences I can cite. Though as time went on, I found out about the fusion between Hardcore and Metal, and I've been an avid lover of early 2000s Metalcore since I was a teenager. As my father was in a Punk band and taught me some of his band's riffs when I was younger, that's always been a subtle baseline to my writing style
Cyrus: If you could see any 3 bands live who would you want to see?
Michael: I'd greatly enjoy seeing The Contortionist, Tesseract and Meshuggah live. All bands that meant a lot to me when I was just starting to write my own music
Cyrus: How did you get into making your own music?
Michael: When I was about 14 I had tried out Garageband to write some simple compositions with the virtual instruments. I was gifted my own guitar around the same year, a cheap Ibanez Gio
What I would do is write drum tabs in Garageband, export them as audio files into Audacity and play guitar over it. Over time, that evolved to recording into actual DAWs like Mixcraft, and eventually a bit of Reaper
Cyrus: What's your process now?
Michael: While I've been trying to get into Reaper, I really can't shake the nostalgia of recording with the new Mixcraft versions. I'll usually jam for a while, find a riff I like, then build on top of that central theme with Guitar Pro. After I've got a good track down, worked through it, I generally play the riffs into Mixcraft and see what my mind comes up with in terms of drum programming. While there is too much to cover in the way of actual mixing and mastering, the short of it is that EZmix and Superior Drummer have been long uses for me, and my mixwork is very much inspired by that of Meshuggah
Cyrus: Do you have any tips or tricks for anyone starting out? Anything you wish you knew sooner?
Michael: Well, for me it definitely came with time, getting comfortable with certain frequencies and keys enough to know how they react to each other. If there were a few things I wish I'd known sooner, one is that you are going to sound terrible before you sound good, another is to never be afraid to cut parts and rework your style. Make sure you have a good idea of what you're going for before you start going for it, because that can lead to a bit of a musical identity issue
If there were a few things I wish I'd known sooner, one is that you are going to sound terrible before you sound good, another is to never be afraid to cut parts and rework your style.
Cyrus: That's solid advice. What music projects do you have?
Michael: Too many to count honestly. Absence of Truth is my main project that I've been working on officially since early 2016, a Progressive Metalcore project. Although, there's also Indus (Industrial Metal), Crucifixion (Technical Death Metal), Desinsertion (Deathgrind), Maldrom (Swedish Death Metal), The Budd Dwyer Effect (Mathcore), and an upcoming Deathcore project called Bless the Heretic. Certainly if there's anybody who can't decide what scene they belong to, it's me.
Almost forgot, there's Exy, an Industrial Trap project that I started with my friend Gabriel Micu from California.
Cyrus: Anything interesting you can say about your projects? What sort of sound are you going for with Bless the Heretic and is there any release dates for an album or something?
Michael: Bless the Heretic doesn't have any planned dates, although the sound is theoretically going to be a callback to the older Deathcore scene, with bands like Despised Icon, Molotov Solution, The Red Chord and Through the Eyes of the Dead, and among others. Although, I have a new Absence of Truth album in the works for late this July.
Cyrus: What has the writing process for that been like?
Michael: Very turbulent. The sound of Absence of Truth has evolved immensely, as have I as a person and musician. I had retired the band until around April when I started work on new material, and an entire album of songs was scrapped because it just didn't fit the sound I was going for. That is one reason why I make it clear that musical identity is very important to have.
Cyrus: What's your hopes for the album?
Michael: My main hope is that those close to me can find enjoyment in content that's very dear to my heart. Even if it doesn't make crazy traction, just writing songs for a band that I've been working endlessly on is certainly a very cathartic experience
Cyrus: You referred to it being a band, but is it a proper band or is it a one man project? What's your feelings on bands with multiple people in it?
Michael: Absence of Truth, and the majority of my projects for that matter, is a one man project. I would certainly like to share the writing experience with other people, though I find it difficult as the metal scene locally is not very strong. Bands with multiple people, I find are usually the best bands, with everybody's influences combining together to form one unique sound. As a one man project, sure you don't have the clash of ideas or fight for power over an entire piece, but there isn't a lot to go off of besides one person's sole influences
Cyrus: Going back to your projects - Exy recently released an album. Would you like to share the writing process? Any major inspirations or struggles? What were your expectations for the album and are you happy with what you made?
Michael: As I was writing for Exy, I was going through a bit of an existential crisis. I had recently taken a trip throughout the south, Memphis being one of the places I went to. The local rap scene in Memphis (and the South as a whole for that matter) called to me, it was dark and gritty.
The writing process was fairly straightforward, although the mixing was the most difficult part. I had never made straight Hip-Hop or anything of the sort prior to Exy. Some influences were Tommy Wright III, $uicideboy$, Ghostemane, Lil Ugly Mane, Spaceghostpurrp and even late Godflesh. As a whole, I'm quite satisfied with the project, and it serves as a creative reminder to a rough spot in my life that I got through.
Cyrus: Any personal advice you might want to give someone who is struggling right now?
Michael: Find some way to release that emotion, or to at least occupy yourself until you can solve whatever issues you're going through. Depression is tough, and there are countless artists who have gone through the same. Creative minds gotta find meaning in a world that seems devoid of it. If you can't reach out to anybody closest to you, at least don't give up, as cheesy as that sounds. We're all gonna end up in the same place at the end of the road, so might as well make it fun.
Creative minds gotta find meaning in a world that seems devoid of it... We're all gonna end up in the same place at the end of the road, so might as well make it fun.
Cyrus: On your Exy record you have a song titled "Fuck Twelve" - What inspired that? What's your opinion on the recent protests and discussion revolving around reforming the police force?
Michael: Police brutality and corruption of the state has been a big issue to me since forever, ever since the Ferguson riots that happened in my home city. People can say what they want and think what they want, but to me, if you're not gonna fight for something you believe in, then you probably don't believe in it that much. All social and political commentary aside, the US has its issues, and to me those issues are important and worth getting angry over
Cyrus: How much influence did your personal beliefs have on the record lyrically? Does it affect any of your other projects? Any tracks you can pick out?
Michael: I tend to keep my personal beliefs and politics out of my lyrical themes, although there is a very strong theme of rising above a higher power, whatever power that may be. The Absence of Truth album Passageways has a few tracks that are sort of a reflection of my feelings on societal apathy, notable tracks include False Words, Dead Eyes, Necroisthmus and Deception
Mainly my lyrical themes revolve around personal struggles and trying to make something of one's self
Cyrus: Do you have any ideas of what you'd like to do on future records? Any ideas of things you want to experiment with?
Michael: The main thing I'm focusing on is maturing as a musician, clean vocals certainly make a large appearance in my newer work as a reflection of less anger and more sober emotions
Instrumentally, I want to sort of transfer into a more symphonic, cacophonous sound, possibly experiment with real drums at some point if I can get access to them
Cyrus: On the topic of maturing as a musician, do you feel like you're significantly better now than you were when you first started? What changed? Is there anything you want to get better at or focus on?
Michael: Maybe not necessarily better, just more focused and planned. My songwriting has improved over the years and I can play faster, though I don't think that necessarily makes me any better. I do want to get better at leads and chord progressions. When I was first starting out on guitar, I wasn't the level I am, so if we're talking way back then, sure I'm miles better than I used to be. But over the last couple years, not entirely.
Cyrus: Where would you like to see yourself in 5 or so years?
Michael: Possibly playing live with other musicians, sharing music that's dear to me. All I want really is to be able to express those abstract emotions to other people, let some know that they're not alone by connecting with a very emotional artform.
Cyrus: I don't think there's anything else I want to talk about in this interview. Is there anything you'd like to mention? Anything you want to soapbox about or plug or put a spotlight on?
Michael: Other than the Absence of Truth album that's coming late July, the only other thing I can add is to keep on creating. If you're not satisfied with the level you're at, just keep going and I'm sure you'll get there. It was a pleasure to answer these questions and be a part of this interview.