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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Greg Massi (Baliset, motW, Kayo Dot) - March 2009
    Posted: March 22 2009 at 18:16
Greg Massi (Baliset, maudlin of the Well, Kayo Dot)



Greg Massi has been known in progressive/avant-garde circles for his work as a guitarist in maudlin of the Well and Kayo Dot for many years, but in recent days his musical pursuits have focused on his solo project, Baliset. Baliset brings forth a diverse musical palette distinct from his previous projects, boasting such influences as Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Genesis, and video game music, while still retaining some of the atmospheric influence of Kayo Dot and maudlin of the Well. The result is a truly unique sonic experience in the realm of progressive metal.

Greg discussed with me his experiences with his previous bands as well as the new maudlin of the Well record, which is scheduled to be released for free online sometime in the next two weeks. He also discusses the music on his new album, A Time for Rust, and creates an interesting narrative detailing the ten-year on-and-off process that went into the songwriting and production for this album.



Interview:

In Prog circles, you are most known for your work as a guitarist in maudlin of the Well and Kayo Dot. Were you in any bands prior to this? Tell us about your musical background, beyond the stuff we know about already!


I first picked up the guitar back in 1992 and started with a local teacher in Southington, CT. While in high school I became friends with Toby and Byron. Toby and I briefly had a band in high school with a couple of friends of ours called Celestial Providence, but we maybe had a handful of jam sessions but nothing really came of it. At the same time, Toby, Byron, and I were each recording solo projects in our spare time (Spoonion, Buttkey, and Baliset respectively) and making tapes to play for each other, and it just got to the point where Toby recorded a song and decided to have Byron write the words. Then he asked me to contribute a solo, and there you have the genesis of the maudlin of the Well.

Around that same time I went off to school to study music at a very conservatory-minded music program where I continued to study privately as well as unsuccessfully exploring classical and jazz guitar. However, during this period is when I really started to develop my love of harmony, not just limited to the harmony guitar parts of my favorite bands, but also the idea of chord theory and learning different jazz voicings. This really helped inspire me to use different colors within the music I was writing, which was pretty bland at that point. 

Then after graduation I moved to to Boston with the rest of the motW guys and I believe you know the rest.


As I understand it, whereas Kayo Dot could almost be regarded as a Toby Driver solo project creatively, maudlin of the Well featured a more democratic creative process, with most of the lyrics being written by Jason Byron and the songwriting process being a bit more shared. Could you elaborate on your contributions to the band beyond your role as a guitarist?

Each project had the same creative process from my perspective. Toby would come in with a mostly completed song idea. He would have the basic skeleton and structure of the song ready and a good number of the parts written, and then we would listen to it as a group and decide what parts we felt needed to be added. Then we would map out the songs and assign parts to certain people. For example, in "Birth Pains of Astral Projection," there was this idea that we should do some sort of keyboard/guitar solo thing in the middle before Byron's first vocals, and so Terran wrote a pipe organ part. After he played it for me, I wrote the guitar solo around it, and that was the way we tended to work.

In Kayo Dot the core process was the same. Toby had the songs written, we sat around and mapped out our ideas, and Byron wrote the lyrics for the first two albums.

With the Dowsing lineup, it was a bit more collaborative as we had a full band who could rehearse the songs ahead of time all together, and when we got to the studio, we were able to record a lot of the basic tracks (guitar, bass, drums) live. Since I pretty much had exclusively contributed only solos or other such guitar textures on the previous albums, I felt very accomplished about that album. It was like Kirk Hammett finally getting play rhythm guitar on a Metallica CD when "Load" came out.


With Kayo Dot, you ultimately made the decision to leave after the release of 2006's Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue. Could you tell us a bit about your experience with the band and your decision to part ways?

Kayo Dot represented a huge shift in our lives and how we approached our music careers and also provided us with so many opportunities in terms of musicians and friends we met along the way, and it helped us connect to a larger network of people around the country and the world. With motW we were an "outsider" metal band, and as such there were roadblocks at every turn because we felt very pigeonholed being on a goth/metal label, and with such a narrow audience to market to, it felt difficult. However, with Kayo Dot we really were able to deconstruct ourselves and distance ourselves from our past, and this led to us having the freedom to play more shows with much more diverse bands. It gave us more avenues to pursue in terms of building an audience and marketing, and as a result we were able to move forward musically and professionally.

This helped us achieve the thing I had always dreamed about: touring. It gave me a whole new set of experiences to draw on, along with the chance to meet all kinds of people, and it allowed me to see the US in a way that many people don't normally get to see.

As for leaving the band, that was a hard decision to come to. To be honest, I had been thinking about leaving since before Dowsing was recorded. Ultimately, it was the 2006 tour that cemented my decision to leave. Although I felt good about the Dowsing album as a performer, I felt very creatively stifled because when it came time to write parts. I didn't feel super psyched on a lot of the parts I had come up with, and I think the band felt the same. I started to get the feeling that maybe my style and voice weren't adding to the group anymore. Then while we were on tour, I felt that disconnect again -- that loss of excitement about what I was playing. I just wasn't fitting in enough -- to the point where I decided if I am not adding anything to Kayo Dot, then I probably should leave and not hinder them.

It's not really my place to discuss what happened with the other guys and why they chose to leave, but I had made the commitment to finish out the tour and I wanted to honor that. So right before we did the Full Force festival in New York in December 2006, I told Toby that it was time for me to leave, and after the gig I was musically out on my own for the first time in ten years.

I guess you could say it was "creative differences," which I always thought was a joke excuse to cover up for bands getting in fist fights or something. But the music wasn't drawing me in anymore, and when you are in a project that is so focused on the direction of the main composer, you really need to respect that composer's need to push forward, and if it isn't your thing, it's best to get out of the way and let them do what they need to do and I didn't want to negatively affect what I believed was important music being made. It was then that I felt the time had come to opt out and let them flourish without the danger of me holding them back at all.

In Kayo Dot's case, I think it was for the best. I think for creativity's sake it really gave Toby the opportunity to take a lot more control over his own music. The end result is Blue Lambency Downward, which I really loved. After hearing it, I definitely felt that based on where I was creatively, I doubt I could have added anything to that record, and as such it reinforced my decision and gave me a bit of closure on the whole KD experience.


Did you ever indulge in astral projection/lucid dreaming as a songwriting aid, or was that just Toby?


Actually, no I haven't. I think that was definitely more of Toby's thing. I have had lucid dreams before and I feel like I used my experiences to inform some of my songwriting, but I didn't purposefully engage in that type of stuff as a means to an end for songs.




Let's talk about the new maudlin of the Well record. It's a miracle this thing was able to be completely fan-funded. Do you guys ever plan to release this material as a CD?

It was definitely a shock and pleasant surprise that people believed enough in what motW stood for to support this idea. As far as I know there are no plans to release it as a CD. It was fan-funded and as such we are letting them have it for free, and printing up CDs would just throw unnecessary financial issues into the mix.

However, I am not sure what plans are being made for artwork, so I think it would be cool if fans made their own album covers for it for when they burn the tracks onto a CD. I think it would really be cool to involve the fans in that aspect even more. Plus, when I am listening to it on my iPod, I would really like it to have some artwork as well so they should make covers and send the artwork to me. =)


I haven't heard anything from the new album yet, but as I understand it, it's primarily comprised of re-arrangements of released material and older, unreleased material. Did the band produce any new material for this record?


Its a little bit of everything I guess. There are some old ideas and there are some new ideas too. I think in re-visiting some of his old ideas, Toby just got in the mindset of writing that way and as a result was able to create some new music that had the old motW vibe. I am really excited for you all to hear it. I think it is some of Toby's best songwriting yet.


How was reuniting with your old band mates? Did it require much rehearsal, or did you guys remember most of the old material?

Well it required no rehearsal for me since all I did was come in for two days to lay down some solos. But true to the Bath/Leaving Your Body Map sessions, I came in with probably 50% of my solos written out and 50% more loose so I could improv and see what came out. The days I was there it was with Toby, Josh and Sam, and those guys are always fun for me to hang around with. It felt like a relaxed atmosphere for the most part since we weren't as "on the clock" as we had been during the Bath/LYBM sessions. Much joking and laughing ensued. Unfortunately Terran was away on another gig, so I didn't get to hang out with him. Despite everything we went through in the ten years I was involved with the two bands or even the 17 years I have known Toby, those guys are still like family to me and the years just melted away hanging out and making music with them. 

I was a little bummed that Nick Kyte and Byron weren't able to be involved in recording the album because I miss those guys terribly and would have loved to hang out with them too.


Mia Matsumiya (Kayo Dot's violinist) contributed to the recording of this album. Can we expect to hear more interlude-type songs, or is violin being incorporated into heavier material as well?

Well again its a mixture of both. I felt that some of the violin parts will remind people of the interludes, but the strings are also brought into the main context of some of the songs. I think they sound awesome! People shouldn't expect heaviness on the scale of "They Aren't All Beautiful" or "A Conception Pathetic," but it will be a cool mix of all the different aspects with kind of a modern twist...if that makes any sense whatsoever!


Are we ever going to find out about the crazy connection that apparently exists between the two final maudlin of the Well albums?

If I can ever get Byron's permission I'll publish his e-mail address and you can ask him yourself. That was really his baby.




You released your debut album, A Time for Rust, on March 17, 2009. Admittedly, I was expecting my face to immediately be melted by the heaviness, but the songwriting present here is varied and diverse. What influences did you have going into the record?

Most people thought it was going to be a power metal record or some variation thereof, and I don't think that expectation was undeserved. I admittedly was in a metal bubble in terms of my listening material for many years, and I really love all the power and majesty stuff as much as the technical or more compositionally interesting stuff going on. It is a deep emotional connection I have to the music that hasn't really faded over the years, and when I started planting the seeds of this album back in 2000-2001, I think there was definitely an expectation of myself to make a more metal record since that was what was on my brain creatively. After hearing albums like "The Chemical Wedding" by Bruce Dickinson or "Dreaming Neon Black" by Nevermore, I really had it in my head that I wanted to make something heavy and powerful but with an air of sophistication to it. As the years went along, the metal ideas kept getting phased out in favor of what I felt were the stronger song ideas, which were getting less and less heavy.

Part of it was that the basic songs were worked on in my bedroom with an acoustic guitar or an unamplified electric guitar, and I think that really makes a difference because it takes away all the effects and the "clever bits" as Freddie Mercury called them, and it confronts you with the basic idea of "is this a good song or just a pile of riffs thrown together?"

In terms of influence, this album shows my roots a lot. Iron Maiden is my favorite band ever so there is their influence all over the record. The 3 guitar solos in "These Moments Are..." are actually constructed to be me conjuring Adrian Smith in the first solo, Dave Murray in the second solo, and a combination of the two (which amounts to my personal style anyway) in the third. I always loved the harmony part in "Flash of the Blade" where they have like 4 parts going at once in different directions, and since I always wanted to try that out, that came out in the form of the harmonies at the beginning and end of "A Time For Rust." Also, I wrote "Dreamflesh" around the idea of combining two ideas I always loved: having a song that has heavy verses and quiet choruses a la Metallica's "The Unforgiven" and having each verse be a different musical idea a la Dream Theater's "Pull Me Under."

Aside from musical influences, I am a nerd and a HUGE Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman fan boy, and so the influence of different stories and episodes made their way into the lyrics of the album. Specifically, "Sandman: The Dream Hunters," the episode "Objects In Space" from Firefly and the episode "Lonely Hearts" from the first season of Angel.

My friend Amanda is a painter in NYC and the influence of her painting "Machinery Listens To Love" mixed with the short story "Ernest And The Machine God" by Harlan Ellison gave me the ideas for the song of the same name.

I couldn't have been in a band with Toby and Byron for so long and not had some of their musical and lyrical stuff have an influence on me. I don't think I could write like them even if I tried, but watching their creative processes really helped me in figuring out my own path.

I don't want to give away all the individual influences on the songs because I am betting that anyone listening with a discerning ear will be able to pick them out.

The bottom line is that I went into the album without trying to have an ego of "I want to create some important piece of music that will challenge songwriting conventions and change the world!" Instead, I just went in and had fun with it. I got goofy and maybe overdid some stuff, but at 30 years old I finally feel like I have developed a songwriting voice and this album represents and documents the process of that discovery because at each step of the way in discovering myself I had these songs unfinished and staring at me begging to be completed, so they became my guinea pigs. Haha.


A Time for Rust is a record that was long in the making. Could you describe the hurdles you went through to complete the album? How long did it take you to write and produce the songs, etc.?

The two biggest hurdles were money and myself. Besides the fact that I couldn't afford to go in and record as often as I would like, I found myself getting complacent and going months at a time without working on it. The basic songs were written in full but all the textures, overdubs, lyrics, etc. were developed over time, and when personal stuff and motW/KD came up, the album got put on the back burner. Once I was able to focus my finances and my creative energy during this past year, I made a promise to myself to finish the album and here we are. I can finally put the experience behind me.

I think a big factor in pushing me to finish was that I lost my mother to cancer last year, and she always supported my music so much and was so excited to know I was recording my own songs for once. She was so proud when I gave her a copy of the "Black Light Moon" demo back in 2006. I felt sad that she would never get to see the finished product of my labors, and that really lit the fire under my behind to get cracking.


Everyone has their own songwriting process. Could you describe yours? What do you start with, and where do you go from there?

It has changed a lot, but basically I come up with a song idea, usually on an acoustic guitar, and I tend to play the ideas obsessively for a few days and then demo them. Sometimes I am able to write a full basic song structure, and sometimes I just have a small bit of it but I keep the ideas handy on my computer. When I feel that certain pieces go together I experiment and see if it is cohesive and "meant to be." Once the basic structure is in place, then the fun begins with solos, harmonies, keyboards, etc.


I haven't seen a credits list for this record yet. Who else plays on this record, and who's the female vocalist?

The drums were done by Adam Letourneau, who has been devoted to this project since we started rehearsing stuff in 1999. Even though it has been intermittent, he has always been there when I needed him, and his loyalty and enthusiasm to almost every weird and varied idea I have musically is what kind of kept me pushing the album forward and really making this work.

My friend T.L. Conrad is a bassist from the Philly area who I taught with at a guitar workshop, and I felt he would fit in perfectly. He played on most of the tracks.

I wanted to work more with John Battema, who was the keyboardist in the D.C./Virginia bands Ephemeral Sun and Rain Fell Within, but both of our schedules were busy. I at least got him to record the keys for "Black Light Moon," which are so good! 

Jim Fogarty was the engineer on the record -- he played some keyboard and piano parts.

Forbes Graham, who was in KD with me, contributed some eerie trumpet effects which I used in "The Echo Box."

Last but not least, the female vocals were done by my friend Lauren Flaherty, who is a solo artist here in Boston.

A Time in Rust album art


Machinery Listens to Love is a bizarre ambient/synth-based track which stands out from the rest of the album as the only song without guitars. It reminds me a bit of late-era Swans. Do you plan to do more stuff like this?

I do plan to do more stuff like that once I learn my synths better! Machinery really was one of those happy accidents where I found the right settings and the ideas just came naturally, and since the melodic elements are based on some of the melodic themes from the song "A Time For Rust," it made sense to have it as a segue directly following that song and going into "Black Light Moon." 

I actually recorded two demos of electronic ideas, using the G-Force M-Tron and Imposcar soft synths, and used samples from a public domain radio show called "The Price of Fear," which was a series of horror and suspense mini-plays hosted by Vincent Price on the BBC in the 70's. They contained some amazing dialogue. If I can finish them in time, I hope to have them available on the website or as bonus tracks for people who pre-order the CDs when they are ready.


Any idea when we can expect a release of A Time for Rust in CD form?

All I can say is soon. Its purely financial. The artwork is done, I got the quote from the manufacturer and all that jazz, but now I just need the funds to get it started.

And I want to stress to anyone reading this that if you are interested in the album but want a physical CD, please purchase the digital download. Since everyone buying the digital album is doing me a tremendous favor by contributing to the funds to press the CD, I want to reward that by promising that I will work out a way to get you the CD at a drastically reduced rate.

I am not yet sure how it will happen but seeing as how I have a record of everyone who buys the album digitally, I will most likely be setting it up so that I will e-mail them personally and sell them the CD minus the cost of the download. So if the CD goes for $12, then anyone who buys the download will get it for $4 plus shipping, etc.

This is a learning experience for me at every step of the way and I want to do right by the people who have offered suggestions, support, and enthusiasm as the project has progressed.


Self-funded music projects on this scale are typically not significant money-making enterprises. What do you do as a day job?

I work in an office doing very mundane and boring things so I can have health insurance and afford to record and print CDs. =)


I know you just released your debut album, but have you decided what's next? Touring? More Baliset material? Other collaborations?


Right now, we are working on getting a live line-up together. We have Dana Chisholm from the band Dreaded Silence on bass, and we are looking for another guitarist and a keyboardist, so if anyone is in the MA area and interested they should give us a shout.
 
We have a co-release party scheduled for May 7 at the night club Felt in Boston. Lauren, who sang on my record, also has a record of her own she just released called "You Don't Know Me," so we are going to celebrate together and get her up on stage to sing her parts for my songs live.

I can't imagine us touring for right now because we need to get some momentum going, and I would rather stay local and wait for the right opportunity to do more traveling.

I don't think you can spend seven years writing and recording an album without writing other stuff, and I am anxious to not repeat the 5 year long recording process. The next Baliset album is already 70% written and some of it has already been demoed by Adam and I, so I will hopefully have that out next year. Also, I have a much sparser acoustic EP in the works once I can find time to record it at home, and I hope to have that out in the next year.

I can't forget vinyl. I really believe that vinyl is the way to go with future releases, so I am hoping to have a vinyl version of "A Time For Rust" in the near future and for all my future releases. The Digipak artwork we have for the CD is AMAZING and worth printing, but I am seeing a trend where CDs, as a physical manifestation of music, are becoming more and more obsolete. I am thinking a nice half digital/half vinyl package will be the way to go so that people who want the artwork will get it in big huge packaging, and those who want just the music will be able to get that as well. I would hope it is a win-win situation for all involved.


Finally, what music have you been listening to recently? Any recommendations for our readers?

Well my taste in music usually gets made fun of, so I tend to not make recommendations for people to avoid humiliation, but lately I have found myself listening to: The Black Keys, Ehnahre, Jethro Tull "Thick As A Brick", W.A.S.P. "The Crimson Idol", 70's Genesis, the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night soundtrack, ABBA, Aphex Twin, Nation of Ulysses, Slayer, Exodus, Afroman, Wilson Pickett, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Ozzy, Metallica, Chroma Key, and my usual suspects who go by the name of Iron Maiden.


Do you have any final words?


Yes -- if you like what you have heard of Baliset please consider purchasing the digital download for $8 because it will go towards supporting independent music and help us out in spreading the word.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you, and thank you to everyone who supported my other projects over the years.



Related stuff:

Baliset home page (including album purchase link): http://www.baliset.net/
Baliset MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/baliset
Baliset - A Time For Rust promo video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j37ppCpE8cI&e
T. L. Conrad's MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/theunionrocks
John Battema's home page: http://www.battema.net/
Forbes Graham's home page: http://www.polyrhythmatics.net/
Jim Forgarty's home page: www.zingstudio.com
Lauren Flaherty's home page: http://www.laurenflaherty.com/
Dreaded Silence home page: http://www.dreadedsilence.com/


Interview by Jimmy Matthews for ProgArchives.com

Edited by auralsun - March 22 2009 at 21:30
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 22 2009 at 21:45
Awesome interview, great to read about his thoughts and activities.
Well done Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 22 2009 at 22:07
thanks!

other people, discuss! this forum is depressingly discussionless right now :(
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 23 2009 at 07:50
Fantastic interview.  I'll have to check out the new motW when it comes out.

Also, "Black Light Moon" is addicting.  Some fantastic songwriting and guitar work on that track.
Dreaded Silence - Boston Progressive / Melodic Metal
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 23 2009 at 14:30
Excellent interview, will have to get A Time for Rust now.
Spending more than I should on Prog since 2005

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 24 2009 at 12:26
Really cool interview.  Checked out the samples of "A Time for Rust" yesterday and knew right away there was something there worth having.  Bought it and and have to say I was blown away.  Usually, when the lead guitarist of a great band steps away to to do his own thing, it only makes a nice keepsake for the uber-fan of the group.  ...Not the case here.  This album is a great work by a true artist.  Great songwriting and huge artistic vision.  Heavy and dark at times, but always beautiful.    It's got that universal thing about it that defies genre and makes it a great experience for anyone who just loves great music.  Yeah, it still has those balls to the wall solos Greg is known for and guitar fans will not be disappointed, but everything he does here coexists tastefully and cooperatively in the space of  a cohesive and grand artistic vision.  I also notice that Greg didn't name the lead singer in this interview and since I don't have the liner notes yet (I will as I'm definately planning on purchasing the physical cd), I'm going to assume it's Greg himself.  All I can say, what a voice!  Kind of reminds me of David Gilmour in places because of its warmth and the way it breaks in all the sweet spots.  
 
...great album that I'll definately be listening to a lot.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 24 2009 at 13:25
hi unmerry,

yeah, this is definitely a very good record in its own right, and the music here is totally distinct from Toby Driver's current projects (for those of you who can't seem to dig Kayo Dot). it has that rare combination of accessibility and depth. it's grown on me a lot since the first listen!

about the singer: i assumed for this interview that the male vocalist is greg (i'm 95% sure this is correct). he did some vocals for maudlin of the well and kayo dot as well, so it makes sense that he would contribute them for his solo project.

glad you enjoy it!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 24 2009 at 16:04
hi
 
thank you all so much for the kind words.
 
yes i am the male lead vocalist. i am glad some people are digging the vocals because i know that was the scariest part of this whole process especially coming from a band who has a really powerful and unique singer.
 
i also agree with unmerry about the situation when lead guitarists leave bands and do solo projects. does anyone remember Glenn Tipton's solo album from 1996? i know i bought it being a Judas Priest fan and very quickly never listened to it again.
 
so i guess you can say that in the back of my head I always remind myself  "Don't pull a Glenn Tipton."
 
Big smile
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 25 2009 at 14:00
Well put auralsun.  A "rare combination of accessibility and depth" describes it perfectly.  and thanks for making the album Greg!  You have a great voice literally and as a songwriter.  Looking forward to hearing more.  But in the meantime, this album will definately keep me busy.

Edited by theunmerrygoround77 - March 25 2009 at 14:03
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 30 2009 at 11:18
Well here's a thought.
 
Believe it or not I am very out of touch with alot of the internet promotional stuff that goes on. I guess I never really had to worry much about in KD or motW.
 
So for those of you who read this forum and I am guessing have more experience, what would you recommend as far as sites out there to promote my stuff?
 
or
 
in your experience, what have other bands done promotionally that have really grabbed you or succeeded in making you interested in checking them out?
 
 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 30 2009 at 13:24
Originally posted by gregbaliset gregbaliset wrote:

hi
 
thank you all so much for the kind words.
 
yes i am the male lead vocalist. i am glad some people are digging the vocals because i know that was the scariest part of this whole process especially coming from a band who has a really powerful and unique singer.
 
i also agree with unmerry about the situation when lead guitarists leave bands and do solo projects. does anyone remember Glenn Tipton's solo album from 1996? i know i bought it being a Judas Priest fan and very quickly never listened to it again.
 
so i guess you can say that in the back of my head I always remind myself  "Don't pull a Glenn Tipton."
 
Big smile


I know what you mean there.
Sometimes people who work very effectively in bands don't make the cut playing solo stuff.
It isn't always the case though, a case in point being the Jeff Loomis solo album (okay, he didn't leave Nevermore, but it was a project outside a band context) and that had guys all over heavy metal forums wetting themselves in excitement, myself including.
Probably has a lot to do with the fact he is a gifted songwriter anyway and understands that no matter how great of a guitar virtuoso he is, you gotta play for the song and not write songs as cold devices purely for showcasing technique, so no matter what he touches, it's pure gold anyway.
On the other side of the equation, there is guys like Joe Satriani, where people think he has beaten the instrumental album thing to piss and feel he would kick ass if he were in a band (which he is now) than being solo because he'd run out of inspiration for writing good instrumental stuff like used to do.
Fortunately in his favor, even some of his most terrible compositions are at least slightly redeemed by his solos.
His solos, at least for me, always enhance his songs.

You're no slouch in the chops department either.
I think you held back on the motW stuff to much, you're the kind of player who could add extra spice without turning it into a w**kfest.

One thing though (please take into account I've never heard your Baliset stuff yet, only Kayo Dot and motW), is that I would love to see solos which have more detailed phrasing and nuance in them.
Alternate picked madness is fine and all, but I often find those kinda of licks lack a sort of uniqueness to them, because they are done so often by other shredder dudes.
I tend to find, guys like Satriani or Vai who have truly got that ability to play something that lets you know who's playing it within 2 phrases without even being told who's playing, you just know it's them because they spent ages not just on crazy legato runs or tapping or whatever, but digging into their personality and it shows in their phrasing. It's why when other 80s hair metal shred hacks died off, Vai and Satch remained to this day, because of their unique elements to their phrasing, approach to soloing and nuance.
Fair enough, you write solos that fit into the context of the music in the band, and they are great solos, don't get me wrong, the ones in Birth Astral Projection are fantastic, but I think you need to draw a bit more from slower, more controlled expressive phrasing that lets out your personality more, rather than licks that make me think "that lick reminds of this player, or that player".
Even if a solo fits a song, even better than a solo fitting a song is a solo which truly kicks a song up a notch.
I think Jeff Loomis is a guy that can do that, write a solo that is a song within a song that gives a song much more kick. When I hear his playing, his one of the few shredders in today's world of a sea of personalityless, souless and copy cat shredders that truly combines a unique style, sheer emoticon and incredibly clincal virtuosity yet never sounds cold or uninspired when he plays. And of course, given your Nevermore shirt, you'd be familar with his sheer talent on the instrument.
The best soloists, for me, are the guys that combine that level of technique and yet know how to back off, apply unique, slow phrases and when the solo climaxes, bam, your head is ripped in half.

I'm 20 years old myself, and still trying to find my own voice on the instrument.
One thing I did to get closer to that, is buying a 7 string recently to get me to change my approach a bit and since 7 strings are in a niche market, I'm in a smaller and less common field of guitar players already by doing that, and as you did too judging by the pic of your and your ESP 7 string.
I gave up on my dreams of wanting to be a solo virtuoso instrumentalist, knowing I'd never be as good or as innovative as Satriani, Vai or Malmsteen (although I don't particularly enjoy much of Malmsteen's work, I understand his legacy).
Maybe you were one of this kids too, I don't know, that wanted to do be that and kinda gave up. Maybe you weren't.I went through stages where I wanted to quit entirely, but now that I know local kids want lessons off me, that gave me more fire to practice more again, knowing at least some of the hours I've put in is gonna be worth it when I finally get to inspire other players by helping them learn and achieve their goals, all the while bettering my own playing, becoming a better teacher over time and of course being able to earn dough while having a blast and knowing you're having a positive influence on people.

As a musician myself, I understand you never stop learning and getting better as long as the passion and fire burns within you. I understood what it's been like to have given up a lot for my art and passion, while kids were getting f**ked off their heads on drugs on weekends and getting drunk (I did the drunk part too, but I'm 20 and growing out of it now, hehe) on weekends, I spent hours laboring away, mastering licks in my suburban bedroom. I didn't get laid until I was 18 because of this, haha and truthfully haven't had a girlfriend for 2 years partly because none of them understood how much time I had to devote to guitar, and they always made me give up time for them even though they never had passions or an instrument to practice daily, and it was biting into my practice time, so I just had to sacrifice the girls entirely.
Yeah, I'm kinda lonely at times, that's true, but as before, finally getting students for guitar, and finally having people say "I love it when you that lick man" and knowing when people hear me play and them hearing ME in my playing and no longer people just hearing other people's licks and phrasing in my playing, was so worth it.
You still work a day job, because playing isn't paying your bills and I respect that so much that even though maybe you could have chosen to have taken a different route musically, had no artistic integrity and chosen to play sold your soul to masses pop or something, you stuck to your guns, even if it meant sacrifice and the fact that you work your ass off to be able to write music, rehearse with bands, practice playing even if you still have a day job that must take up a fair bit of time out of your life.
sh*t ain't easy, and a lot of non musicians who are used to seeing their favorite rich pop star idol on TV getting paid bucketloads to lipsync don't understand that unfortunately.

You're still fairly young bro, at 30, you'll only get better and I hope to one day hear on a motW album or Kayo Dot album, some solo that tears my head off like no other solo you've done before and one that makes me think "That's Greg Massi playing that!".
I'm a big fan, but I have my honest criticisms to of course, which hopefully you prefer to hear a fan tell what he truly thinks than just kissing your ass with "YOU'RE PERFECT".
Maybe some guys do think your perfect thoughLOL

I need to check out your Baliset stuff of course soon too hopefully, I should enjoy that.
And it's excellent to have you hear at the forum man. A lot of bands and artists forget that having contact with the fans is so important and keeps them down to earth and human and of course, keeps you in touch with what's going on in the fanbase,
And, of course, good luck with your future ventures, whatever they may be.
Hopefully you found this rather long postLOL from not just a fan, but a fellow musician and guitarist interesting too. Maybe you learnt something from my post hopefully:P, I dunno, cos I can at least say I learnt some things reading the interview.



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 30 2009 at 13:47
Originally posted by gregbaliset gregbaliset wrote:

Well here's a thought.
 
Believe it or not I am very out of touch with alot of the internet promotional stuff that goes on. I guess I never really had to worry much about in KD or motW.
 
So for those of you who read this forum and I am guessing have more experience, what would you recommend as far as sites out there to promote my stuff?
 
or
 
in your experience, what have other bands done promotionally that have really grabbed you or succeeded in making you interested in checking them out?
 


Well, I noticed on the SMNnews forum board, neither Kayo Dot nor maudlin of the Well have their own band forums there.
You're missing a chunk of what is a potential fanbase from this, because that place is home to a lot of forum board goers who are into the modern metal scene.
I realize you guys are already listed on the Ultimatemetal.com forum board with Kayo Dot, but try to break into SMNnews too, with both maudlin and Kayo Dot.
Of course, from time to time, band members have gotta post to make sure fans are being heard and listened to, the band forums are not just for fans to discuss the band.
You'll notice a lot of sh*t talking at that forum, as well as some rather obscene avatars and signatures because the moderators there basically let you say anything to anyone (there is a limit, but you need to be particularly nasty to someone there to get banned....or just outright flame a modLOL), but if you can overlook that aspect, you'll also notice how on the ball SMNnews is with delivering the latest modern metal news to the fans.

If you're interested too, I can possibly set you up for an interview at sevenstring.org, which is great since you play 7 strings anyway. It's probably one of my favorite guitar and metal forums. Well it's technically not a metal forum per se, but because 7 string guitarists by and large play metal, it basically doubles as a metal forum tooLOL
The reviews are featured on the front page, which will help with getting you and your bands more exposure.
Another thing some guys do, such as Bulb from the band Periphery, is he always posts up sound clips of guitar tone tests and various snippets of his songs through these clips on Sevenstring.org and the SMNnews Periphery forum.
Doing this actually helped get exposure for his playing and his band (as well as his guitar toneLOL) believe it or not, but it worked. His band's fanbase has increased because he's a great guy who is really in touch with not only the metal scene, but also proved to be in touch with fellow guitarists and musicians too, by showing he was just another guy searching for that illusive guitar tone in his head.
Post clips of your guitar and song snippets, ask for opinions on the mix/mastering etc and tell people what band you're from and some of these guys are inevitably going to start checking out the myspace pages for your bands and if they like it, of course, purchase the albums, purchase merch, and go to your gigs.
If you ever find the time, go for this, because you have nothing to lose, and can only gain from doing so.

Let me know (hopefully you'll be back to the forum again soon) if you want that interview or not, because I can ask permission from a moderator at SS.org if it's okay for me to do an interview.
A bit of work on my part to organize the questions and all that, but I'd be willing to do it for ya if I can.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 30 2009 at 14:55
There really is alot to respond to there so I will do my best.
 
I think the main thing on ym mind when I started this project was that it would be a "solo project" only in the sense of it being me going solo from the band I was in at the time. I never wanted to make an album for the sole purpose of showcasing my guitar solos.
 
So in that sense, this album is purely about the songs. Now I did have fun putting the solos together but I am not trying to be a guitar god here.
 
Also, I never was a fan of the shredders myself. I did like Satriani alot and he had a tremendous influence on me but Vai never really got my attention.
 
And Jeff Loomis is definitely one of my favorite guitar players.
 
My very first guitar teacher always instilled in me the basics of technique because I wanted to shred but he taught me vibrato and bending and things like that and as I grew as a player these became the cornerstone of my playing style.
 
Thanks for saying I am not a slouch in the chops department but I tend to not really look at my technique all that much anymore. I still practice but shredding is not one of my strong suits, a least not in the insanely perfect sense.
 
So I agree with the idea of "playing for the song." Honestly, most of the creative energies I have are focused on the songwriting and music underneath the solos.
 
That being said, I think in checking out the Baliset album you will find plenty nuanced solos tha hopefully appeal to your aesthetic. Case in point, I am very proud of the solo in Black Light Moon as it really came out beyond my expectations.
 
Also, given the frenzy I worked into it, the solo in A Time For Rust was also a big triumph for me just because it was the hardest riff to write a convincing solo over but I feel very good about what I came up with. =)
 
So thank you for honest critique and commentary because I do appreciate the feedback.
 
I hope you get a chance to check out the Baliset stuff and let me know what you think!
 
Originally posted by HughesJB4 HughesJB4 wrote:



I know what you mean there.
Sometimes people who work very effectively in bands don't make the cut playing solo stuff.
It isn't always the case though, a case in point being the Jeff Loomis solo album (okay, he didn't leave Nevermore, but it was a project outside a band context) and that had guys all over heavy metal forums wetting themselves in excitement, myself including.
Probably has a lot to do with the fact he is a gifted songwriter anyway and understands that no matter how great of a guitar virtuoso he is, you gotta play for the song and not write songs as cold devices purely for showcasing technique, so no matter what he touches, it's pure gold anyway.
On the other side of the equation, there is guys like Joe Satriani, where people think he has beaten the instrumental album thing to piss and feel he would kick ass if he were in a band (which he is now) than being solo because he'd run out of inspiration for writing good instrumental stuff like used to do.
Fortunately in his favor, even some of his most terrible compositions are at least slightly redeemed by his solos.
His solos, at least for me, always enhance his songs.

You're no slouch in the chops department either.
I think you held back on the motW stuff to much, you're the kind of player who could add extra spice without turning it into a w**kfest.

One thing though (please take into account I've never heard your Baliset stuff yet, only Kayo Dot and motW), is that I would love to see solos which have more detailed phrasing and nuance in them.
Alternate picked madness is fine and all, but I often find those kinda of licks lack a sort of uniqueness to them, because they are done so often by other shredder dudes.
I tend to find, guys like Satriani or Vai who have truly got that ability to play something that lets you know who's playing it within 2 phrases without even being told who's playing, you just know it's them because they spent ages not just on crazy legato runs or tapping or whatever, but digging into their personality and it shows in their phrasing. It's why when other 80s hair metal shred hacks died off, Vai and Satch remained to this day, because of their unique elements to their phrasing, approach to soloing and nuance.
Fair enough, you write solos that fit into the context of the music in the band, and they are great solos, don't get me wrong, the ones in Birth Astral Projection are fantastic, but I think you need to draw a bit more from slower, more controlled expressive phrasing that lets out your personality more, rather than licks that make me think "that lick reminds of this player, or that player".
Even if a solo fits a song, even better than a solo fitting a song is a solo which truly kicks a song up a notch.
I think Jeff Loomis is a guy that can do that, write a solo that is a song within a song that gives a song much more kick. When I hear his playing, his one of the few shredders in today's world of a sea of personalityless, souless and copy cat shredders that truly combines a unique style, sheer emoticon and incredibly clincal virtuosity yet never sounds cold or uninspired when he plays. And of course, given your Nevermore shirt, you'd be familar with his sheer talent on the instrument.
The best soloists, for me, are the guys that combine that level of technique and yet know how to back off, apply unique, slow phrases and when the solo climaxes, bam, your head is ripped in half.

I'm 20 years old myself, and still trying to find my own voice on the instrument.
One thing I did to get closer to that, is buying a 7 string recently to get me to change my approach a bit and since 7 strings are in a niche market, I'm in a smaller and less common field of guitar players already by doing that, and as you did too judging by the pic of your and your ESP 7 string.
I gave up on my dreams of wanting to be a solo virtuoso instrumentalist, knowing I'd never be as good or as innovative as Satriani, Vai or Malmsteen (although I don't particularly enjoy much of Malmsteen's work, I understand his legacy).
Maybe you were one of this kids too, I don't know, that wanted to do be that and kinda gave up. Maybe you weren't.I went through stages where I wanted to quit entirely, but now that I know local kids want lessons off me, that gave me more fire to practice more again, knowing at least some of the hours I've put in is gonna be worth it when I finally get to inspire other players by helping them learn and achieve their goals, all the while bettering my own playing, becoming a better teacher over time and of course being able to earn dough while having a blast and knowing you're having a positive influence on people.

As a musician myself, I understand you never stop learning and getting better as long as the passion and fire burns within you. I understood what it's been like to have given up a lot for my art and passion, while kids were getting f**ked off their heads on drugs on weekends and getting drunk (I did the drunk part too, but I'm 20 and growing out of it now, hehe) on weekends, I spent hours laboring away, mastering licks in my suburban bedroom. I didn't get laid until I was 18 because of this, haha and truthfully haven't had a girlfriend for 2 years partly because none of them understood how much time I had to devote to guitar, and they always made me give up time for them even though they never had passions or an instrument to practice daily, and it was biting into my practice time, so I just had to sacrifice the girls entirely.
Yeah, I'm kinda lonely at times, that's true, but as before, finally getting students for guitar, and finally having people say "I love it when you that lick man" and knowing when people hear me play and them hearing ME in my playing and no longer people just hearing other people's licks and phrasing in my playing, was so worth it.
You still work a day job, because playing isn't paying your bills and I respect that so much that even though maybe you could have chosen to have taken a different route musically, had no artistic integrity and chosen to play sold your soul to masses pop or something, you stuck to your guns, even if it meant sacrifice and the fact that you work your ass off to be able to write music, rehearse with bands, practice playing even if you still have a day job that must take up a fair bit of time out of your life.
sh*t ain't easy, and a lot of non musicians who are used to seeing their favorite rich pop star idol on TV getting paid bucketloads to lipsync don't understand that unfortunately.

You're still fairly young bro, at 30, you'll only get better and I hope to one day hear on a motW album or Kayo Dot album, some solo that tears my head off like no other solo you've done before and one that makes me think "That's Greg Massi playing that!".
I'm a big fan, but I have my honest criticisms to of course, which hopefully you prefer to hear a fan tell what he truly thinks than just kissing your ass with "YOU'RE PERFECT".
Maybe some guys do think your perfect thoughLOL

I need to check out your Baliset stuff of course soon too hopefully, I should enjoy that.
And it's excellent to have you hear at the forum man. A lot of bands and artists forget that having contact with the fans is so important and keeps them down to earth and human and of course, keeps you in touch with what's going on in the fanbase,
And, of course, good luck with your future ventures, whatever they may be.
Hopefully you found this rather long postLOL from not just a fan, but a fellow musician and guitarist interesting too. Maybe you learnt something from my post hopefully:P, I dunno, cos I can at least say I learnt some things reading the interview.



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 30 2009 at 15:02
I appreciate the info here too!
 
I will definitely check out SMNews when I get a chance.
 
I appreciate the offer to do the interview over at sevenstring.org but I should probably tell you that I don't play 7 string anymore and to be honest I never really played one very much.
 
I had it basically so I could have a string tuned to B or C that was tighter and therefore held its tune a bit more than my normal 6th string so I would use it to double whatever the lowest note of a tuning of a certain song was. For example, in Kayo Dot's "The Antique" the guitars are tuned BACGCEb and so my 7 string was just tuned to BBACGCEb and I didn't use the 7th string alot except for accenting the open B or for single note clean lines.
 
also the 7 string you saw in the picture there lost the 7th string and peg on the 2005 KD tour and then the guitar itself got lost on the 2006 tour so it unfortunately is no longer part of my arsenal.
 
Originally posted by HughesJB4 HughesJB4 wrote:

Originally posted by gregbaliset gregbaliset wrote:

Well here's a thought.
 
Believe it or not I am very out of touch with alot of the internet promotional stuff that goes on. I guess I never really had to worry much about in KD or motW.
 
So for those of you who read this forum and I am guessing have more experience, what would you recommend as far as sites out there to promote my stuff?
 
or
 
in your experience, what have other bands done promotionally that have really grabbed you or succeeded in making you interested in checking them out?
 


Well, I noticed on the SMNnews forum board, neither Kayo Dot nor maudlin of the Well have their own band forums there.
You're missing a chunk of what is a potential fanbase from this, because that place is home to a lot of forum board goers who are into the modern metal scene.
I realize you guys are already listed on the Ultimatemetal.com forum board with Kayo Dot, but try to break into SMNnews too, with both maudlin and Kayo Dot.
Of course, from time to time, band members have gotta post to make sure fans are being heard and listened to, the band forums are not just for fans to discuss the band.
You'll notice a lot of sh*t talking at that forum, as well as some rather obscene avatars and signatures because the moderators there basically let you say anything to anyone (there is a limit, but you need to be particularly nasty to someone there to get banned....or just outright flame a modLOL), but if you can overlook that aspect, you'll also notice how on the ball SMNnews is with delivering the latest modern metal news to the fans.

If you're interested too, I can possibly set you up for an interview at sevenstring.org, which is great since you play 7 strings anyway. It's probably one of my favorite guitar and metal forums. Well it's technically not a metal forum per se, but because 7 string guitarists by and large play metal, it basically doubles as a metal forum tooLOL
The reviews are featured on the front page, which will help with getting you and your bands more exposure.
Another thing some guys do, such as Bulb from the band Periphery, is he always posts up sound clips of guitar tone tests and various snippets of his songs through these clips on Sevenstring.org and the SMNnews Periphery forum.
Doing this actually helped get exposure for his playing and his band (as well as his guitar toneLOL) believe it or not, but it worked. His band's fanbase has increased because he's a great guy who is really in touch with not only the metal scene, but also proved to be in touch with fellow guitarists and musicians too, by showing he was just another guy searching for that illusive guitar tone in his head.
Post clips of your guitar and song snippets, ask for opinions on the mix/mastering etc and tell people what band you're from and some of these guys are inevitably going to start checking out the myspace pages for your bands and if they like it, of course, purchase the albums, purchase merch, and go to your gigs.
If you ever find the time, go for this, because you have nothing to lose, and can only gain from doing so.

Let me know (hopefully you'll be back to the forum again soon) if you want that interview or not, because I can ask permission from a moderator at SS.org if it's okay for me to do an interview.
A bit of work on my part to organize the questions and all that, but I'd be willing to do it for ya if I can.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 30 2009 at 23:17
greg,

i know this is pretty obvious, but try to get the word out to as many outlets as possible -- preferably not exclusively through self-promotion. for example, when i posted this article, i linked to it from last.fm, the kayo dot forums, and other outlets. you might consider uploading sound samples to various places -- like last.fm.

also, you have the benefit of coming from two bands that, while not famous per se, have devoted followings. go to forum posts devoted to those two bands -- i know the mars volta forum (umbilical blisters?) has a few hundred page long thread devoted to kayo dot/motw. post links to your new album, get the word out.

just don't be one of those people who goes on random last.fm artist pages and links to your music, hahah. i hate that ;x

i'm sure there are metal forums out there that would be interested in your music as well. i almost never listen to metal anymore, so unfortunately i can't provide much advice there.

most bands gain the majority of their following through performing live, as i'm sure you know. once you get that off the ground, i'm sure you'll be in pretty good shape regardless of prior self-promoition. good luck!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 27 2009 at 05:04

确实很牛啊,赞一个!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 27 2009 at 18:09
Greg, you are now one of my favorite musicians. Good fortune to you and your endeavors.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 30 2009 at 01:35
Cool interview, thanks for the post...
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 17 2009 at 13:06
Just bumping to get some more attention. =)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 18 2009 at 18:57
Don't hold back to only things that connect to Kayo Dot or motW either. Advertise on different places around the internet such as the Opeth forum and such, as long as it remains in good taste. Also, like I believe someone stated earlier, free music. I'm not suggesting that you release the entire thing for free but if you put maybe 5 songs or so to stream on Last.FM it will gain you much more exposure. You may even want to consider to put out a free EP for download. If you look at motW's Last.FM page for example, the listener number nearly doubled when the new (free) album was released. I normally just find new artists through word of mouth, and your solo album was no exception... Another thing you could do is to purhaps ask some of your more "famous" freinds such as Toby to promote the album for you. Perhaps he could hand out fliers at Kayo Dot concerts or such? Also I don't know if you have access to the Kayo Dot or motW myspaces but if you could post something in the blogs of those pages, It would achieve some promotion.

Concerts are brilliant for promotion. If you can somehow get aquianted with some guys from a bigger band and then tour with them, for example, then many people would buy your album just on the premise that you're playing with a band they like. I've discovered loads of new bands just because they've played with other bands that I like. Also if you can afford to play any free concerts, it's a good way to get promotion.

Of course, getting places to sell your album would help. Try smaller "self-run" stores such as Aquarius Records. Most stores such as those have a strong following that will greatly listen to the employees' recomendations.

Keep trying to send out your album to various labels in an attempt to be signed...

Good luck!
Jake
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