I first became aware of Mountains Became Machines when their guitarist Adam joined our forum, after a quick introduction to their music on their MySpazz page, I fired off my £4 for their debut release ‘Paths’ and was immediately impressed, as for such a young band they’d managed to stamp their own feel & identity on the now saturated ‘Post Metal’ sound, intrigued to know more, Adam kindly agreed to answer a few questions for The Sleeping Shaman.
Hi Adam, hope the arm is on the mend after you sprained it the other week and as a result had to pull out of supporting The Ocean, anyway, small talk out of the way, lets get this interview off the ground with a brief run down of your history, current members & what their roles are in Mountains Became Machines?
Hi Lee, yes the arm’s back in full swing, thanks! Currently the band consists of Rob (drums) Cris (guitar/vocals) Shane (bass) and myself (Guitar/vocals). We came about with us all having a strong and collective desire to be in band. In 2004 I went off to Staffs Uni in Stoke to study film and by the time I got into my second year I was fully committed to starting a band. Around that time, and with the surroundings of university and the local music scene, I was really opening my ears to the diversity of good local music.
After about a year pulling my hair out, and not finding anyone, I managed to get the band together in one day, which was like a strange twist of fate. We luckily all met on one forum and took it from there.
How would you describe your music and who would you say are your biggest influences?
Hopefully cinematic and conceptual. I think our sound evolved very naturally. When we all met up for the first time, we truly understood how diverse we were with our music tastes. One day we would be listening to Dylan, then Kings Of Leon, then Napalm Death. I really couldn’t pinpoint any influences as a band. Personally, Floyd would be a major one for myself.
How did you get your band name and does it have any underlying meaning or message?
Arrr the odd band name! I think the idea to always be a conceptual band was there. We didn’t want to talk about beasts and monsters; we’re not good at it! Mountains Became Machines is just a name that arose to best summarise evolution in our own personal way. Our landscape had changed, and everything we have constructed has come from this earth. I find the progression of it all constantly interesting and overwhelming.
Although you fall into the Neurosis/Isis/Cult Of Luna ‘post-metal’ genre, I would say your far from a clone of the aforementioned bands, but when writing your first songs and developing your sound, was it a conscious decision that you had to offer the listener something a little bit different in order to survive in such an over saturated genre?
I think it was a group decision when we started the band that we weren’t going to try and sound like the “post-metal” genre. On our first initial jam we had a fairly “safe” writing session, not really trying to be too unique, but once we found our feet it was a case of adapting more an expansive range of sounds onto what we had done. Also once we had the concept pinpointed the music changed again. Our sound reflects what we’re trying to say, the heavier parts mostly explain the turmoil in the concept and the more ambience parts the opposite. Our next release has defined this technique of working around an idea musically to a fuller extent.
On the subject of your sound, can you gives us a run down of the equipment you use?
Our lifeline with this has really been Ebay! I used a Mesa-Boogie Dc-5 head with a Custom Ibanez 4×12. Cris uses a Peavey Valveking and Marshall 4×12. Cris and myself use lots of delays and reverbs. Shane uses a Schecter bass and a customhead and cab (I asked once but nearly fell into a coma) and Rob uses a Pearl Export, when he can find it that is!
Although your songs feature vocals, they’re used sparingly so why did you choose your songs (for the most part) to be driven by the music, rather than the vocals/lyrics?
I think the main reason was that we felt the music explains itself. On the two occasions the vocals are used we felt it was necessary. We felt it emphasised the meaning of the songs to a clearer extent, with the clean vocals expressing a calm and peaceful beginning and the harsher vocals expressing turmoil and confusion. I think we all agreed that over use of lyrics and vocals would dilute the point of what we wanted musically from the record.
And what about the lyrics, who writes them and what are the thought processes behind them?
I wrote the lyrics based around the theme of the record. With The Construct I really wanted to express how delicate and confusing life is as an infant. The start of the song begins erratically, representing the formation and birth, slowly calming down into the lyrics. With “The drift into a dream, the swill of hands” I wanted to express what a baby sees, just a constant blur of attention and handling with nothing making much sense. By the time the truth kicks in I wanted to express the turmoil of growing up into adulthood. “Ambitions are in my hands, but my hands are heavy,” conveys how complicated and cynical we become, pin-pointing an ambitious-less society. I suppose these lyrics were more personal to me at my time at Uni. So many people confessed that they were there for the half-price drink rather than education.
Your demo ‘Paths’ is credited as 3 separate songs although they play as 1 long piece of music, was this the idea behind them when they were written or would you prefer people to look at them as 3 individual tracks?
Yeah, we wanted them to work both individually and as a whole. The main idea with the tracks was for them to be seen as chapters. We didn’t write it from The Construct to The Search, it was actually the other way around, and the concept evolved around the songs and moulded it into the final piece.
And for a demo, I really must complement you on the sound you’ve achieved with the help of Alex & Lizard Lounge Studio, but with hindsight are you entirely satisfied with the result and is there anything you would do differently next time around?
Very happy, considering it was our first record. We really didn’t know what we were going into to be honest. We were thinking it would be too difficult and problematic, especially if our amps weren’t going to sound right and the drums were wrong etc, but everything went to plan. There are errors, and I think in retrospect it is a bit rough around the edges, but who wants a completely perfect recording experience with nothing to improve on next time around!
The packaging is also excellent as it comes in a swanky handmade foldout cardboard sleeve, firstly, can you tell us why you went down this route rather than the usual photocopied cover in a plastic sleeve and what was the idea behind the artwork?
It was apparent that we didn’t want the album to go out unnoticed. I was explaining to the guys that I had come up with a sleeve design that would be cheap, but effective. We couldn’t really afford CD cases and plastic sleeves would have been a cop-out in our eyes. As for the design, I really wanted to drive away from the dark, gritty and morbid elements of metal album covers and wanted to do something completely the opposite, explaining the name of the band. When I was drawing up designs the idea of mountains that look like they had been drawn on an old computer program seem to work in the minimal way I wanted. The final design is basically a big unknown futuristic machine that looks like a mountain.
You’ve also managed to scoop some excellent reviews from the likes of Rock Sound and Ninehertz, for such a young band, this must be encouraging that people are not only listening to your music, but giving you positive comments as well?
Yeah, I can’t get over how well its been received, and its definitely encouraging for the band. I think Paths and our intentions with the record have been understood very well with no regrets. At the same time it’s very daunting as we’re going to have to make our next release live up to it, which is sounding very different to Paths. I just hope people understand our intension’s and thoughts in the same way as they did with Paths.
Being based in Stoke, which is also home to some awesome bands like Charger, Rise To Thunder, Space Witch & Krupskaya, do you find it easy or quite difficult to get local gigs? I guess the sad news of the closure of The Bandstand hasn’t helped with this?
The main reason I wanted to get a band at Uni was because Stoke seemed to have a tight and connected scene, and it didn’t feel like I was dropping into the ocean, but its great because we always bump into each other at practice rooms and gigs. It couldn’t be easier getting gigs in Stoke, as there’s always nights available, but the bandstand has shown everyone the general pattern on venues in stoke. One closes, one opens. The Bandstand was great though, it had an extraordinary, intimate atmosphere about it and we’re all gutted its shutting.
And what about ‘out of town’ gigs, have you had many opportunities to play away from home yet?
We’ve only done Manchester and Leeds, but we’ve got a date with Manatees in Sheffield and the day after in Manchester at the start of August, so hopefully that will set the trend. We are dying to get out of stoke, and we’re not having that much luck, but we’re only a young band and hopefully that’ll change soon!
And we’ll wrap up this interview by asking what your future plans are? Are there any gigs or releases on the horizon you can tell us about?
We’re sorting out a few future dates at the moment and we’re really looking for out-of-town gigs, but our main objective is getting our new material down. All we can say at the moment is that it’s called “The Observationists” and is based around the concept of communication and its progression over time. There’s hopefully going to be a DVD with the next release because we really want to push and focus on the concept.
Thanks for answering my questions Adam and please use this space for any final words…
Thanks for reading my ramble!
More info on Mountains Became Machines at: www.myspace.com/mountainsbecamemachines
Interviewed by: Lee Edwards