ThisIsNotAScene‘s Gilbert really dug the latest from Trillion Red, “Metaphere“, so much so he got the chance to talk with Patrick, the brainchild behind Trillion Red.
Do you write and record for yourself or the listener?
I do it all in a vacuum. When I create, it is a selfish act, but I always hope that the end result will satisfy and inspire others. I like to try and contribute. And by contribute, I mean bringing something new to the table. I get immense joy out of other peoples music, so this is one of the ways I try and give back.
Is being a solo multi-instrumentalist and writer the only way to get your vision played and recorded in a way that you are satisfied with?
I went solo instrumentally largely because I tried very hard to find certain musicians, and in the end, have found that trying too hard is the first misstep. The best collaborations are done so organically, i.e. through long friendships and/or well-established acquaintances. I have that of course, but everyone is spread out across the world, and long distance creation doesn’t work for me to-date.
On the production side, I invested a great deal in mixing and recording gear so that I may have complete control without a clock and/or label-budget inhibiting my creative process. This is complete freedom for me, and hence extremely important. It also allows me to produce EXACTLY the way I want, without anyone in the middle guessing what I mean by various abstract ideas. Doing it myself is much more efficient and enables me to truly capture my vision.
I often like to think that if Beethoven were alive today he would be making progressive metal because it’s music that makes you think and experience new sensations and takes you through a string of emotions. Sadly, in a world that gravitates to repetition and sameness, instead of progressive music we are generally served up the McDonalds version. Is the earworm the bondage that stops our mind from being set free by music?
‘Progressive’ is a really loaded word, both bad and good. Bad, because the word associates itself with certain well known bands that I think are terrible. Additionally, it associates itself exclusively with fantastic musicianship and/or skill, which have nothing to do with being ‘Progressive’. Good, because it also relates to King Crimson, Brand X, Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson and the like. However, putting bands aside, to me the word ‘Progressive’ means to develop above and beyond what currently exists in our current lexicon of genres, or really to bring something new to the table.
I believe that a large degree of the listening audience have a low ‘AQ’ or aesthetic quotient (as I like to call it). I think people like the comfort of instant gratification and the familiarity of sounds. Most people don’t like to be challenged by music. It isn’t that important to them, and that is fine. It is what it is. What troubles me are the very same people feigning to be music lovers and rejecting anything that doesn’t meet their simplistic constructs.
I’m not entirely sure of what you are singing in your songs, other than it’s dark and often despairing. Why don’t you write happy songs?
Haha. Writing a happy song is so not in me, that when I first read your question, I laughed and thought you were joking. But I don’t think you were. Case in point, I tried writing a happy song from my 3-year-old daughter once, and it just wasn’t happening. It always ended up in dissonant chord structures that she wasn’t digging. It just isn’t in me to express myself that way, not because I am an unhappy guy, quite the contrary. Through darkness comes much joy and inspiration and happiness—one of the great dichotomies of life, or at least for myself!
Taking this further, ‘Trichroic’ is a piece in four parts with a prelude that introduces the subject. As we look at this from three different views one of those views gives us a fleeting glimpse of hope and light while the others are differing intensities of dark. Why not just just make the whole song dark? Why is light and shade so important?
Because light and dark are imbedded in the lyrics and the flow of the song. I could write the whole song dark, but I am a big believer of contrast. That is one of the most important values I hold when developing Trillion Red music. I don’t conceive of a song having multiple emotions. It is never contrived like that. The development of this particular song came naturally over several years. I suppose sections of this song were written under different mind frames and moods over time.
The mystery in your lyrics extends to the name of the project, “Trillion Red”, as well as the record- “Metaphere” is not a word but it conjures up a feeling of something above the day-to-day. What do you think mystery adds to the musical experience?
The mysticism and mystery of a band/music allows one to imagine so much more as a listener. If you allow all the details in, e.g. learning to play the music, everything about the lyrics, and the musicians, it takes the imagination and hence fun out of it. I tend to avoid knowing too much about any of the bands I like (except maybe Tom G Warrior, fascinating guy), and certainly don’t want to learn to play their music.
The same applies to movies that I like. If I see the ‘making of’ a certain movie, it takes all the magic out of it. That is not an apples-to-apples comparison, but a similar notion. I do choose language and particularly word combinations that sound like the mist of an idea that trails off to not be grasped fully.
I will include a lyrical sheet when “Metaphere” is released on Vinyl.
Your record regularly reprises themes or phrases to give the listener cohesion, familiarity and safety, but in between you drag us into dangerous waters. Did you write the record as a whole piece of music to provide that ebb and flow or do the songs just happen to fit together so well?
If I remember correctly, these songs were written over a 5-year period. As I got closer to pulling this album together I decided what I wanted in way of flow and feel. All of the songs didn’t fit this construct, so I had to basically leave some songs off the record, and reformat others so that they all worked together. I wanted to make sure this album flowed and the style was cohesive, because that is where the” Two Tongues” EP fell short, but that was only because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with Trillion Red when I first made the “Two Tongues” EP. That was a discovery session for me.
“Metaphere” borrows from a number of styles or sub-genres, but it doesn’t sound like you do this for the sake of it. Similarly your vocal styles are diverse. Can you tell us more about this?
I never try to capture or sound like any genre or subgenre. On this record I did decide to lean very strongly towards a Metal sound, and much less Rock (i.e. the Two Tongues ep). I grew up as a kid and teenager listening to 1st wave and 2nd wave Black Metal, along with Death Metal etc…I moved onto other genres of music later in my life. I have a broad range of tastes. Whether it is Indie, Electronic, Classical, Opera, Blues, Jazz, I always seem to gravitate towards the fringe of moody and dark types within those styles of music.
There are just certain things that have intrinsically influenced me, and I suspect they come out in me when I create music. Trillion Red is an attempt to create something new and outside of any current subgenre. That is a true challenge, and one I am trying to live up to. I mean, I couldn’t tell you what part of which song sounds like a particular artist. In fact, out of all the reviews and media coverage I have received, there is not one band mentioned that I either like or have listened to (maybe except Killing Joke and Joy Division, whom are not huge influences).
As far as vocals, I stylistically do what I feel is best for that part at hand. If melodic singing doesn’t fit the bill on a certain part, I adapt to do something I feel fits well. I am also trying to unify my vocal style, but have found that sometimes that unity doesn’t work on all my music, so I have to be creative and make sure things just ‘fit’.
I recently interviewed a multi-instrumentalist and asked him what gear he used. He explained that he thinks of a sound then experiments until he can recreate the sound with whatever it takes. Do you start with what gear you have, an imagined sound, or a mixture of both?
Definitely a mixture of both. Certainly on the source material like guitars, bass, and drums I work with what I have. However, when doing the keyboards, mixing/production, I sometimes spend hours just going through settings, sounds etc…until I find what I like, and then further tinker until it blows my mind.
There are times on your record that everything gets pared right back to seemingly simple sounds, or indeed silence, but they are far from simplistic with rich texture and emotion. ‘For Pain’ is a great example – its intensity makes its quietness far from ambient. How important is restraint as a device in your music?
It is often what it s not said (or heard in this case) that becomes the most powerful statement of them all. Reading between the lines is apart of the imaginative process. So restraint is extremely important and also a very very hard discipline to follow. I often find myself taking things too far and have to push it aside for another time to see if I need to pull back and ‘do less’. I usually give new sounds or ideas an incubation period before I call it done just for that reason. I remove and delete as much as I create and add.
What’s next for Trillion Red?
I have a new 4 song EP already done. It is called ‘Echo Road, 4 Dark Asymmetries’. It just needs to be mixed a little and then mastered. These are songs that didn’t fit the flow or sound on Metaphere so I left them off the record. It is consistently much darker and with a deep pitted evil seed in the midst of it all. This isn’t necessarily what TR will sound like in the future, I just wanted to released these so that I could totally start fresh and new for a 2nd record, without any old baggage lying around.
What’s something about Trillion Red that I won’t find out through Google?
Other than my private life, I think just the 4 song EP that I will be releasing very soon, most likely in January or February.
Thanks again for your time today and for making great music.
Thank you as well for the thoughtful questions.