Friday, November 5, 2010

Interview with Engineer (Ryan)

Hailing from Syracuse, NY; Engineer (Blackmarket Activities) are preparing their latest onslaught of sludgy, noisy hardcore. Despite the band residing around the bend from Ithaca, the band has never performed in our fair city. We figured it's long over due. These CNY titans will be headling The Haunt on Sunday, November 14th with recent Relapse Records signee, Hero Destroyed, Iron Thrones from MN plus Thirteen South. Engineer guitarist, Ryan chats with Ithaca Undergound's Bubba Crumrine about their in-process LP, "Crooked Voices" and doing it their damn selves.

IU: How is the new album coming together?

Ryan: It's recorded and mastered, but it's been the slowest artwork process for us EVER. We usually have a hand in either the artwork itself, or at least the design and layout. This time we opted to let someone else do all the work. We thought we were taking the easy road because it can be stressful doing the layout yourself (I've done a couple of our layouts in the past: "Suffocation of the Artisan", "The Dregs" CD and rework of the vinyl release), but it turned out to be more stressful having to wait so long. Matt Loomis did the cover and Mike Wholberg is finishing up the layout for the rest right now. We're all really happy with the recording and the layout so far, we're just dying to get it released!

IU: Where and with whom did you record?

Ryan: We recorded "Crooked Voices" at More Sound Studios here in Syracuse, NY with Jocko (Jason Randall). Our split with Achilles and "The Dregs" were also recorded at More Sound, but each record, including "Crooked Voices", is much different than the rest.

IU: Any timeframe we might see it released in?

Ryan: We're hoping to have it out before the end of the year, but we need to set a release date still.

IU: Did I see pictures involving guest pedal steel and violin?

Ryan: Yes! We had our good friend and musician Keith O'hara (of Sparhawk) come to the studio and lay down some pedal steel. Jocko played violin on a track called 'Prepared for the Worst' as well. We also added slide guitar, tambourine, piano, and harmonized vocals throughout the record. Each time we write and record a new record we try and branch out and push some boundaries we previously haven't. Although at the time it seems like the current record is totally different than the last one, I always think we should have pushed a little harder with experimentation. Though we're all really happy with the way it came out.

IU: How does the album differ tonally from your previous releases?

Ryan:It's definitely not as 'smashed' as The Dregs. It actually doesn't sound similar to any of our other recordings. The instruments are more separated leaving room for things to breathe, the vocals sound more raw, and the overall production is cleaner, but parts of the record are actually more noisy than some of our other records. I wouldn't call it more polished, but we're always trying to find a balance between our live show and our recordings. At first, we strictly only wanted our records to represent what we could actually perform live. Although it would be awesome to be able to have pedal steel, tambourine, slide guitar and harmonized vocals at every show... Now we're more lenient and open to experimentation. We always get more out of our studio sessions if we set time aside to experiment and try things we're willing to lay down but have the option to throw out.

IU: I heard you make speaker cabs. How did you get into that and how is it going?

Ryan: I started to make my own speaker cabinets. I've been playing with, and recorded "Crooked Voices" with a 4x12 that I built. I haven't started a company yet, but it's something I would like to pursue. It came about because I was looking to sell an old Marshall cab that sounded like crap and buy something new (to me). I was looking at Mesa cabs since they're solid as a rock and sound great. The only probably is, they cost a lot even when they're used. I was willing to dish out $500 for a used one, but as I started to research other options I started looking into smaller companies and came across more handmade cabinets of really high quality. It got me thinking how much it would cost to build my own out of the same materials that Mesa and other quality companies use. So I found the materials locally, bought some new tools, and watched a ton of videos to get started. Hahaha. I pretty much just gave it my best shot and said, If it turns out the same or worse than the Marshall (which I sold already to fund this project...), than there's really no loss. But it turned out about 10 times better than the Marshall (not to say it's better than ANY Marshall cab, i'm just sayin'...). So I have plans to replace some of the other cabs I currently use with one's built by yours truly. I'd like to custom build cabs for other people as well. It's all about high quality for an affordable price. It's possible!

IU: Any other interesting hobbies or activities from other members?

Ryan:I guess, if you consider rippin' beers, slayin dragons, and drivin' busses as A HOBBY!

Actually though, Brad, our bassist went back to school for music (go figure...) and started doing live sound in Syracuse and recording local bands. He recorded our preproduction for "Crooked Voices" up at SUNY Oswego. He's looking for more projects so get in touch!

IU: How was the tour with KenMode over the summer?

Ryan:It was too short. Ken Mode rules. I wish we could have spent more time on the road with them. We did another weekend together at the end of August in Canada which was awesome. Canada has been pretty awesome every time we go up there, and now with the new visa exemption legislation it's pretty easy for us to cross the boarder.

IU: It seems Engineer tours just a few times a year. Is this self imposed or are other forces at work?

Ryan: We book all of our own tours. There's been tours in the past that we were asked to join that had been mostly booked by someone else, but it's always with friends or bands we respect, and then we usually book our own routing home. Any band pretty much has the option to work with a booking agent or company, but after doing it this long, we're skeptical that someone we don't know personally could a.) route a tour that I couldn't that doesn't have 12 hour drives, and b.) contract shows that make sense to us. An upside to working with an agency is that you can contract your shows so you know you're getting paid a certain amount, but it doesn't guarantee that kids will be there. Yeah, it's the promoters job to try and get the kids there, but really, the kids are going to come if they want to see your band. We'd rather play a show through someone we know / have worked with before and get paid a fair amount. If the promoter did everything they could to get the kids there, and no one showed up, it's not fair to demand X amount of money because in the end, maybe no one wanted to see your band...

On the other hand, if the promoter just did a shitty job and you don't have a contract, you're screwed, unless you shake em' down for it... Hahaha.

IU: What's your favorite aspect of Engineer and being a part of it?

Ryan: The fame. We're famous. I can't believe it Mom, we made it. Sold out arenas, huge bowls of pink M&M's, and clean socks everynight.

Aside from that, touring and recording are my favorite aspects of this band. I'd like to do more of both, but oh yeah, you have to do the rest to get there. Meeting and touring with new bands you respect is awesome. We've made a ton of great friends on the road over the years.

IU: Are any members involved in other musical endeavors?

Ryan: Brad and Bobby play in a band called Whiskey, with Jon from Another Breath. It's like folk storytelling singer songwriter kind stuff. They have their first show coming up in December in Oswego, NY. You can check them out here:

IU: In addition to the new album, anything else in the works for 2011 we can look forward to?

Ryan:We hope to release "Crooked Voices" on vinyl. Probably some more touring as well.

IU: Any parting remarks for those coming out for your show on Sunday, November 14th with Hero Destroyed and Iron Thrones?

Ryan: To those who wear a full business professional suit to the show, Bubba will let you in for free...