By Britt Hysen
I video chatted with Martyrd’s lead guitarist/manager, Mike Andreas, 25, and lead singer/guitarist, Aaron Pollard, 26, last week to get the scoop on their newly released sophomore album, The Mortal Coil. These guys are incredible musicians, and our conversation was nothing short of fun.
Britt: Welcome to Gen Y Hub, Mike and Aaron. Let’s start with your background. When did you get involved in Metal and what is the scene like right now?
Mike: I started listening to Metal in high school, maybe a little younger, with the classic bands like Metallica and Megadeth and we started playing around that time, and when Aaron came into the band he wasn’t quite exposed to Metal as we were, but we brought him up to speed.
Aaron: I started to get into Metal in college. I was into a lot of alternative rock before then and when I met Mike and Dan I got into Metal - from there I got into bands like Angra and Nevermore and it’s kind of been what I do ever since.
Mike: [regarding the scene] There are the big bands that are out there who are touring and racking up tons of money, hopefully, and they’re bringing out 5 or 6 different openers because it’s a lot harder to bring people out than it use to be.
Britt: Are you noticing an expansion within the Metal scene or is it maintaining it’s size?
Mike: There is always new blood coming in…
Aaron: There are so many incredible bands but few of them are signed. As far as New York goes, we know of at least 20 amazing bands that are just out there and not signed. I feel the Metal scene has sustained the size that it does by playing venues that have a couple thousand seats, but the bands that we like aside from Metallica and Iron Maiden, are not selling out Madison Square Garden. The size has maintained but the talent is still growing.
Mike: Everyone and their mother is on Facebook and there are tons of things you can do on that, but it all comes down to your creativity. The more creative you can be in reaching your family and friends, the more people are going to be drawn to you on that – that’s why there can be this huge, vibrant underground. You don’t need $100,000 of support from Sony records to go out and find a fan base.
Britt: How do you monetize on social media promotion?
Mike: The internet is such a huge equalizer because if you can do what people want to hear then they’re going to come to you and you don’t need a middleman to come between you anymore. But that’s a blessing and a curse because all the work is on your shoulders. Then again all the rewards are there too.
Aaron: The Internet is really a fantastic tool as far as marketing goes. Ya know I would assume back in the day, you’d throw a big ad campaign with flyers and magazine write ups, this and that – but I’ve gotten into bands just by being on YouTube, clicking on a link that said “Awesome Hybrid Picking Solo” – ok whatever, so I click on it because it interests me and I’ll see some guy who’s just like [whaling on the guitar] and I’ll be like HOLY CRAP and then I’ll just find this person’s band and become a fan that way – I didn’t need an advertisement or anything.
Britt: How do you see yourself monetizing on music sharing?
Mike: Well, historically bands never really made their money from the sale of their music. They made a ton of money from merchandise sales and touring. That’s where the big source of income was historically. You can look right there on sites like Bandcamp where you can do that yourself. Donations can be set to a minimum amount or you can set the minimum to zero. You can sell the same track for absolutely free and then the next guy could pay $100 for it. That’s what’s great about donations if they feel like supporting you, they can.
Before I go any further, let me set a disclaimers, I’m very business oriented generally. If you look at a band like a company, the company needs two things. They need growth and they need profitability. And in our case, I want growth; I want everyone in the world to hear our album man. [Holds out The Mortal Coil] This is something I get to hold in my hands, this is something I’m so proud of, and if that means that everyone in the world gets it for free then great! I hope they come support us live and bang their heads a little bit, have a drink, and have some fun.
Britt: Mike, tell me what it's like to manage your own band? What pressures or responsibilities come with that job?
Mike: Well I wouldn’t say that I’m the only manager…
[Aaron nods his head yes. Laughs.]
Mike: It’s something that I kinda enjoy doing too. Cause I’ll go online and see there was a show last night, and I’ll think ‘why weren’t we there, why weren’t we playing, why weren’t we involved in some way’, and I’ll like kick myself for it. But I won’t miss out on it the next time. And yeah there are pressures and stuff, but you want to make sure you’re heading in the right direction because without a label there is no money behind us. Anything we do comes out of our own pocket so you don’t want to waste your money and you don’t want to waste your time. In the end we play music because of our passion, because it’s the most fun thing in the world. It’s the best way to spend our time that I can think of. And honestly, if we were just doing this as a job, we might as well go be a lawyer, it’s a lot easier that way.
Mike tracking lead guitar on 'Pain of Reason' in the studio.
Britt: You guys are incredible musicians. Did any of the band members go to school for music or were you all self taught?
Aaron: Well I took Band in high school…I played trombone.
Mike: I’ve been playing guitar for…I don’t want to say it, like 10 years, makes me feel old, but yeah we were mainly self taught. The best way to learn and the way we grew up was by playing the songs we loved. When we were into Metallica, we learned Metallica, and when we were into Megadeth, we learned Megadeth. We did take some lessons from an amazing guitarist by the name of Rob Balducci. And Dan took lessons from a couple of other people. I can’t remember their names off the top of my head…
Britt: I ask this question because I hear a lot of jazz influence in your music- and solid use of scales. To be a great musician you need to have those fundamentals.
Mike: We have tons of influences. I know Dan is big on Jeff Beck. Adam will never shut up about Frank Zappa. And I love Al Di Meola…a lot of our influences are outside of the Metal genre.
Britt: So lets talk about your new album, The Mortal Coil. How did you come up with the concept?
[Group reviews the cover]
Aaron: That’s our tree man guy.
Mike: Our tree man guy? Okay…I guess that’s his name.
Britt: That’s a sick cover. Tell me about the album, in particular the single, Pain of Reason.
Mike: That was the last song we wrote going into the studio. And Dan says “by the way, I have this riff”. And we’re like “Dan. What’s wrong with you? You couldn’t have showed us this six months ago?” So we wrote that song in like two days.
Aaron: Yeah. Two days.
Mike: It came together real fast. He showed me one riff and I said “okay, that’s it…it’s almost done.” But there are definitely songs on there that took a lot longer. Three tracks took over a year to put together.
Aaron: I was going through some email recently and apparently we wrote The Keeper back in 2007.
Mike: Oh wow.
Aaron: We just happened to have it sitting around for five years or so. [laughs] But we have truck loads of riffs and parts and pieces of things that we keep going back to when we get mentally blocked. It’s nice to have.
Britt: How often do you improvise when you play live?
Aaron: I do all the time because I forget the words...[laughs]
Mike: It all depends on what’s happening. We might improvise in the solo sections or with the intros sometimes. And we jam in the studio all the time.
Britt: So when I see you live will it sound just like the album?
Mike: [Smiles] There might be a couple of surprises here and there.
Aaron: Yeah. We might slip your name into a few of the songs if we know you’re coming.
Britt: [laughs] Oooh...That makes it fun for the audience!
Mike/Aaron: [laughing] Oh yeah.
Britt: Well congratulations again guys on your new album, The Mortal Coil. Martryd is awesome and I really hope I get to see you perform live next time I’m in NYC. Aaron, Mike... It was a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you for a great interview.
Aaron: Sure. Thanks. Same here.
Mike: Good talk’n to you, Britt.
Britt: And for all you Metal fans reading this Q & A, be sure to check out The Mortal Coil on Martryd’s website at Martyrd.com, and follow them on Twitter.