Interviews: Phaeton

In this new occasion, we have had the opportunity to interview the Progressive Metal band Phaeton from Canada. Check out the interview and follow the band on their FACEBOOK PAGE.

1. Where did you get the idea for the band name, you planned it or came out just like that?

We were all fascinated with the scientific hypothesis that during Earth's primordial epoch, our world was smashed into by another proto-planet, The proto-planet completely shattered on impact, the debris formed a huge ring around the Earth, and it all gradually formed into our modern Moon. This dramatic event supposedly triggered off white-hot amino-acid reactions that began the formation of life on our world. So to consider the possibility that all life as we know it got its original jump-start from an interplanetary collision? That's about as metal as it gets. The proto-planet in question is either named Theia by some cosmologists and Phaeton by others. There was already a band named Theia, so Phaeton we became, and Phaeton we are.

2. Why did you want to play this genre?

All four of us are fairly technically-advanced players, so we were all musically prepared. Kevin (Thiessen, guitarist) and Daniel )Airth, guitarist) were already composing lengthy, intricate pieces in their previous bands for many years, so it was the fastest, most naturally-fitting start to a new band that I've ever experienced. We're all fans of various heavy metal and progressive-rock genres, so we didn't spend a lot of time pondering the "whys" of what we were becoming as a band. The songs we began writing all made complete sense to us, so we dove right in and we're still diving - no bottom in sight! The decision for us to be an instrumental band wasn't made because nobody could sing or nobody could write interesting lyrics. We're too busy writing killer riffs and piecing them together as whacky, compelling wholes. The moods we create using dissonance, polyrhythms, odd time signatures, rise-and-fall dynamics, and exotic Eastern riffs have that otherworldly somberness and menace that all good metal should strive to possess, so in essence we're creating soundscapes and soundtracks to wild sci-fi movies we hope are popping into the listener's heads as they're enjoying our music, either live or on record. As instrumentalists, we wanted the music to do all the talking, so during passages that might normally be labeled as verses or choruses or bridges, we'll add guitar and/or bass melodies that we hope will catch the listener's ear as much as it catches ours. And of course, everyone's welcome to sing along. 

3. Did you know each other before the band was formed? 

Yes, we did. Colin (Righton, drummer) was the glue that brought us all together. Colin and Daniel had played together previously in Chaos Logic, who was an impressive death-metal band in their own right. Kevin attended the same music school I did, albeit later, and was already making a respectable name for himself as a one-man prog-rock composer - the Kootenay version of Mike Oldfield, if you will - and also as one of the best recording engineers in the BC Interior. Colin and I had been playing together for over three years with the Bison Brothers, and when that band suddenly ended, and I was moping inconsolably, Colin rang me up and told me he had an idea how we could cheer ourselves up, and the process would involve Daniel and Kevin. And boy, was he right. It's always great to connect musically with your bandmates, of course, but the fact that we're all good friends means as much to us as to whether we can pull off a harmonic-minor riff in 13/8 time.

4. Each band member favorite band?

A difficult question to answer. When I was 16, I would have answered "Pink Floyd." That's where my love for progressive rock began. When I was 18, I would have answered "Metallica" - and I will sidebar and say that "...And Justice for All" was the album that inspired me to become a musician - THAT was the music I wanted to create! Loud, angry, intricate, and stunning. But now, with almost 7,000 albums in my record collection, I could list off a hundred bands that are my "favorite bands." All four of us listen to wide ranges of music. Kevin's huge into stuff like Peter Gabriel's Genesis and Dream Theater. Colin's a big tech-death freak, but then again it's his camouflage shorts that give THAT away. Daniel's into the same stuff, as well as more eclectic artists like Guthrie Govan and such. When it comes to our collective tastes of prog-metal, it's always the universal language of Rush that we can all agree upon. Rush - Canada's Band. If there ever was a primordial Phaeton Collision in rock history which burst forth the beginnings of prog-metal, Rush probably wins the award. If everyone these days gets their nuts in a knot over non-PC lyrics in "O Canada," we can always swap it out for "Closer to the Heart." Now THERE'S a National Anthem for you.

5. Who or what inspires you to write songs?

Kevin and Daniel are always slaving over a hot Digital Audio Workstation, bustling through ten killer riffs at any given time, it seems. Colin plays a big role in the arrangement process, helping clip everything together into memorable songs. And so I make as much effort as possible to keep the dust off of my Gibson SG and write my own stuff to bring in to the others. It's easier for me to compose prog-metal on electric guitar, rather than bass - I prefer to write basslines around finished guitar pieces, in order to properly place countermelodies and all that. But speaking for the others, Daniel and Kevin always have a pilot-light simmering away in the back of their big brains, and their muse always seems to never be inactive. I've never been in a band before - and I've been in at least 20 of them - where the creative process is an ongoing daily machine. So I suppose anything and everything inspires us to write songs. We don't seem to be slowing down, creatively or otherwise.

6. Where was your last gig?

We played at Vern's Bar in Calgary on May 11th. Vern's is a comfortably kicked-to-shit basement bar in the downtown core that's been a metal mainstay in that city - and there are no less than four metal bars in Cowtown. It was our first show in Calgary, and we were excited and thrilled to do it. Alberta hosts Canada's most thriving metal communities, and with us being just across the mountain border, we certainly want to be active and visible members. The show went well, even if audience attendance was a bit thin - there was a metalfest happening the same night which drew a lot of metalheads there, but those who showed up were suitably impressed by our songs and our live delivery. We shared the stage with like-minded local Calgary bands who liked us, and we liked them, so it was a good start. Always looking forward to playing live more and more.

7. Where would you like to act?

Apart from playing more in the established metal venues of Edmonton and Calgary, it's the big Alberta metal festivals we want to hit - Loud As Hell, the 420 Festival, the Armstrong Metalfest in central BC. And we want to play Vancouver badly - the Rickshaw Theatre, Pat's that our album is out and our awareness is growing, we want to stretch ourselves out across British Columbia and Alberta. And break into the Pacific Northwest states, once we figure out the Musician's Union and P2 visas and such. We're also wishing to branch out into movie/TV/videogame soundtracks, as our music is tailor-made for those avenues. But really, we are wide open to any opportunities which arise. The UK? The EU? Japan? It's all on our target list. Full-On Phaeton!

8. Whom would you like to feature with?

Anyone who'll allow us onto the bill! Canada is soaking wet nowadays with dozens of amazing bands, metal or prog or wherever point in between, and we're eager to make friends and build an audience. Adventure Ahoy!

9. Whom not?

We're not picky bitches when it comes to that, but ultimately we'd prefer to play with like-minded bands who sound like close cousins. I don't think we'd be doing anyone any favors if we were tacked onto some Frankenstein bill, as some so-called 'promoters' are wont to do, with an EDM DJ and a folk singer and some Celtic fiddle act. As long as there are loud guitars and thundering drums, we'll find our place.

10. Any of you has ever suffered from stage fright? Any tip for beginners on how to beat that?

Stage fright is natural if you're a living human being with a functional nervous system, but performance anxiety is easy to beat. I say that without arrogance - it just comes from my personal experience of having over 1,000 live performances under my belt over the long years. Everyone who shows up to see a show is there to have a good time, so they're already on the performer's side, whether they say so or not. The more you perform, the better you'll be as a performer, just as the more you practice your instrument, the better you'll be as a player. I am a performing musician as much as I am a composing musician, or a recording musician...performing live is another important facet to the overall musical experience and true musical identity. I love playing live. I love seeing people's faces light up when I play, and the visceral joy and ethereal magic that's created at the moment is a very precious and priceless thing to me, as it is for the others in Phaeton. The only advice I can offer for any performing musicians out there who might suffer from stage fright - there's nothing wrong with you. You're nervous because you want to do well, so your heart's in the right place even if your hands are shaking. Keep it up and don't give up. It gets easier and easier with more experience. The confidence is already within you. It'll come with time. Believe me.

11. What bands have inspired you the most?

Too many bands to mention for one Internet to contain. I still get thrills whenever I listen to the early prog bands who originally inspired me...Pink Floyd not so much anymore, although "Animals" is still my favorite album of theirs. Yes is awesome, especially their 1971-1974 works. King Crimson's "Red" and "Starless and Bible Black" albums. Peter Gabriel's Genesis. Modern bands like Mastodon, Opeth, Gojira, High On Fire...and underground Canadian bands like Scimitar, Astrakhan, Anciients, Black Wizard...I threw on Be-Bop Deluxe's "Axe Victim" yesterday and I got on a huge Bill Nelson kick for the day. That's the thing about the overall prog-metal mindset - virtually anything can become an inspiration, either as a listener or as a composer.

12. What's the weirdest thing a fan has ever asked you for?

At our last Kimberley show, halfway through our set, we were just killing it and the front row was packed with guys with bulging eyes and sagging jaws, trying to follow our riffs...and suddenly a distraught young woman somewhere in the back of the Elks Hall yelled out from the darkness: "Play something for the LADIES!" And so we kicked into "Monolith," which is about the most radio-friendly song we have. Nobody's asked us yet to sign their microscopes or anything, but as we play out more and more,. I'm looking forward to having more weird fan-interaction stories to tell.

13. What do you think of your fans?

Our fans are awesome. All the fans are awesome. We love making friends, and we love it when people get us musically. We're not deliberately writing bizarre, unclickable stuff, and those who enjoy Phaeton are clearly wide thinkers who enjoy wide varieties of music. And they're usually interesting people to talk to. Your average metalhead gets off on Colin's amazing drumming and the slashing riffs. Your more introspective prog head will focus on the directions our songs take, section after section, and follow the dynamic rise and fall. And the foreign exchange students will simply guzzle PBR draft and get hammered since they don't have to struggle to translate nonexistent English lyrics sung in a Cookie Monster muppet-growl. The more we play, the more fans we gather. And with every intelligent post-gig conversation I have with excitable people, the more I believe I've truly made it.

14. What do you think of our site?

What can I say? Awesome, of course. Keep up the good work!

15. Something add?

Have I mentioned how cool Rush is?

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