SUSPYRE is yet another sensational new American melodic Progressive Metal/Neo-Classical band in the style of STRIDE, SYMPHONY X, SHADOW GALLERY, ARTENSION, etc. The band has released a very impressive independent CD and to get to learn the band a bit better in the hope a label deal will happen, let us introduce them to you through this interview…
KIRK: Kirk Schwenkler - Bass / Flute
GREGG: Gregg Rossetti - Guitars / Tenor Saxophone / Viola da Gamba / Chapman Stick
CLAY: Clay Barton - Lead singer
RICH: Rich Skibinsky - Guitars / Keyboards
SAM: Sam Paulicelli - Drums
First off, congratulations for releasing an amazing album!
KIRK: Thanks! We've been through a lot of line-up changes and re-recordings since all that material was written, but I think the end result was better than anyone expected, so it was all worth it.
GREGG: Thanks a lot. We worked really hard on it and we're glad you like it!
CLAY: Thank you very much for the kind words. It’s great to hear people talking about music that I’m making in a positive way. To hear someone say, “amazing” makes me feel very honoured.
RICH: Thank you very much, its been alot of work,
but we think the end result
was entirely worth it!
Then let's go back in time, what were the first music experiences of the members of SUSPYRE?
KIRK: I've been involved in music in some way or another since I was about 6, when I started learning basic music fundamentals on a glockenspiel. I took flute lessons from age 8 until around 17, piano from 13 onward, and didn't pick up the bass until I was 16. My first experience with Suspyre was 2 days before our first ever show, when Rich approached me during a jazz band rehearsal and asked to play with them.
GREGG: For me, it was taking saxophone lessons when I was 10 years old the summer before 5th grade. I didn't really get into music heavily until later that year, then something just clicked and I was involved in many groups from then (1993) until now (2006).
CLAY: I grew up playing guitar and screaming in various garages throughout the middle New Jersey area. However, I had several choir teachers that really helped me distinguish myself musically from everyone else. I give them a lot of credit for making me the singer I am today.
RICH: When I was very young I took piano lessons because my parents wouldn't let me get the keyboard I wanted unless I did. I took lessons for quite awhile, which really gave me a good start into the world of music. I started playing guitar when I was in 7th or 8th grade and really have never looked back since then. When I was younger my musical tastes really jumped around quite a bit. I listened to oldies, dance music, rap, punk, hardcore, rock, classical...I guess I was really looking for my niche. By the time I was approaching my teens I had discovered metal and all the different subgenres, so that period really got my guitar playing going, as I wanted to play all these more complicated metal compositions.
'The silvery image', your debut CD came as a surprise to me as it sounds so impressive, while it has only been released independently? Any label talking yet?
KIRK: Rich and Gregg are fantastic engineers, and they took the time needed to get a truly professional sound out of a home recording. We've had a few approaches from labels, we haven't moved on anything yet.
GREGG: Actually, we were surprised too when we heard it! We haven't really had much talks with labels. I guess it's just a matter of time. I, for one, have been tired of having all these songs that I wrote just sitting around and just needed to do something with them. It wasn't that hard to build a small, workable studio and just spend lots of time making it sound the best it could. We were all very patient and meticulous when it came to playing our parts, and Rich spent a lot of time at his computer making sure the mix and effects were perfect. My father was generous enough to lend us some money for artwork, duplication, and mastering.
CLAY: You know, it came as a surprise to me too because it turned out better than I could have ever dreamed. We’ve been steadily climbing the ranks and getting our name out there. If labels want to talk to us they know where to find us. I just want to keep playing music.
Please tell us all about the included songs, stories behind it?
KIRK: I had little involvement with the songs on this album, as all but Gloria were written before I joined.
GREGG: Each song has a personal story. "I See" is very old; it was a song (minues the lyrics) by my old band, Entity that I had when I was 16/17. "Waterburns" is also from that time period, but spiced up and rearranged a little bit around 2003-2004. The others have interesting musical ideas behind them; the opening riff to "The City Under Sands" was written to practice string skipping on the guitar, while the intro to "Last of the Survivors" was a composition based on using the Neopolitan 6th chord that I learned in my theory class the day I wrote it. If anyone has heard our demos, "Serpent I Am" is a souped up version of the song we had called "Perfect."
CLAY: I kind of came into the band with an album that needed new lyrics. I had a blast setting lyrics I wrote to a power metal style. I think my lyrics are a little more progressive than they are power metal, but I guess that’s the Dream Theater in me coming out. Apex is probably one of my favourites when I talk about lyrics, because it really brings the whole album together for me. Not only is the album title is found in the first verse, the song is really about setting goals and achieving them. Suspyre has become a very sincere passion in my life and that song means a lot to me.
RICH: I was the main writer behind "Distant Skies", musically, so I'll talk a little about that. As you can hear, this is really one of the least progressive songs on the album, and definitely sits more in the realm of powermetal. This was intentional on my part, as I was really trying to write a piece which would be very straightfoward and driving. The opening keyboard hook was actually something I came up with one day while I was playing around on my keyboard. It was just one of those things that I played and ended up using right away. The chorus of the song came from another piece I had laying around from awhile ago, and it really fit better in what I had of "Distant Skies". One of the most surprising aspects of the piece, in my opinion, is the keyboard solo. Harmonically, the solo is really a step in a completely different direction than the song itself. While the piece is very straight-ahead powermetal, the solo incorporates alot of ideas from the jazz/fusion world, and, hopefully, perks up the listeners ear to sounds not often heard in metal.
Your music may be classified as neo-classical melodic progressive metal, which bands influenced you?
KIRK: Dream Theater, Metallica, and Rhapsody heavily influenced me to pick up the skills and techniques I needed to play music like Suspyre's. When I write music, it is influenced both by metal bands and other wonderful artists like Victor Wooten, Al Dimeola, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Skinny Puppy, and Miles Davis.
GREGG; I don't really like classifying music. Like Duke Ellington said, "There are two kinds of music. Good music and the other kind." It's funny how the word "neo-classical" in the metal scene means something completely different in the contempory classical scene (a neo-classical classical composer is one that composes for the puropse of organizing sound rather than expressing emotion, that's not what we do). Our music is actually classical music in every way; the word "classical," when not referring to the time period, has nothing to do with sound but rather how it's composed. For Suspyre, every part is written out verbatim, with maybe a few embellishments, which are mostly just in the drums. I work in Suspyre the same way I write my classical music; choose the instruments and write notes for them, exactly how all classical composers from Bach and Mozart to Penderecki and Crumb compose. While composing most of "The Silvery Image," the main influences were more straightforward "power metal" and some progressive, like Angra, Blind Guardian, Dream Theater, Rhapsody, and Iron Maiden, along with more conservative traditional classical composers like Mozart, Bach, and Paganini.
CLAY: Well then, I was the last addition to Suspyre and I definitely come from a much harder background than some of these guys. I know Gregg and Rich have strong classical and jazz backgrounds, but I tend to lie somewhere closer to the metal side. I draw on a lot of stuff such as In Flames, Soilwork, Pantera and such when I look at my background. I grew up a very heavy metal fan and bands like these were very important to me. Symphony X and Blind Guardian were the bands that made me interested in playing power metal. However, after playing in Suspyre for awhile I have started using other influences such as Opeth, Angra, and Sonata Arctica to mold into something that is hopefully exciting and fun.
RICH: I think as far as the standard "metal classifications/genres" go, that label is pretty accurate. Of course, it is really impossible to pin down any music into near little categories. We don't like to think about genre; we'd much rather concentrate on making the music we want. As far as my influences, I'm sure I'm still influenced by the bands that I started off listening to in addition to the music/bands I listen to now. From my past, I would say that I'm influenced by Rhapsody, Blind Guardian, Sonata Arctica, Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, and many more. Now, my influences are more along the lines of Angra, Symphony X, Chick Corea, The Dave Weckl Band, Return to Forever, and a wide range of other music.
What more can we expect from SUSPYRE in the future, touring plans and continue writing songs I suppose?
KIRK: We've been on a writing binge lately. The material for the second release is written and currently being recorded, and Clay has written many other librettos that have yet to be set to music. Once the second CD is released, I hope to do a lot of shows in Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
GREGG: Our next album is all composed and recording
has already started. It's more mature musically; my main inspirations were
Stravinsky, Mahler, Bartok, Debussy, Opeth, Andromeda, Symphony X...more
progressive sounding artists. As for touring plans we really don't have the
opportunity since there are limited
resources because we're not on a label and don't have management.
CLAY: I think right now we’re doing everything we can. New music is on the way and I can’t wait for people to hear it. We will play as many shows as our schedule allows, however, until those labels come knocking on our door we have to make a living somehow. That makes things tough, but it also makes things more special when we do play. I can’t wait for all the amazing things that are going to happen in the future with Suspyre.
Thanks for answering the questions and success with your band!
KIRK: And thank you for the interview!
GREGG: Thank you! Hope to hear from you soon.
CLAY: Thank you so much for the support that you guys are giving. There’s a whole lot of metal that the everyday people don’t know about, so we thank you for being the ones to expose it to them. Please continue to rock on.
RICH: No problem, thank you!
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