We have the pleasure of interviewing exclusively on Progressive Rock Journal Rick Massie, an eclectic Progressive Metal multi-instrumentalist,who has recentrly released his latest album “Eclipse,” enjoyed and reviewed on our Webzine. We also have the honor of offering an exclusive preview of the lyric video of “Storm,” a single extracted from the album.
– Hi Rick welcome, how are you?
I’m doing great, thanks! I’ve been wishing for some warm weather – but this summer has been a lot like my album, with lots of talk about “rain”. But the bad weather keeps me inside more, so I have been doing quite a bit of writing and recording, which is great.
– Your project proposes a Prog Metal musical style, with personal characters, where does the passion for this kind of music come from?
I think it comes from my father playing me some pretty non-mainstream music when I was a kid. I grew up hearing things like Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, and Yes. Even the more mainstream music I was exposed to was pretty epic/progressive – Meatloaf, Queen, and so on. When I finally started listening to music on my own, I ended getting into metal, and eventually found my true musical love with acts like Opeth, Vintersorg, and Devin Townsend.
In my earlier bands (from years ago), my writing was similar to Opeth. But nowadays I really take huge inspiration from Devin Townsend. I like how he creates atmosphere and emotions, without needing to rely on technicality or flashy playing to get his point across.
So far, every song I’ve written has been inspired by a feeling, or a moment in time, or inspired by a particularly great (or bad!) day. I write music that attempts to capture that feeling. And since there are often many emotions and feelings associated with memories, or even a particular day, the songs often end up having several different themes and emotions throughout.
– Yours is a solo project, in which you take care of everything, from composition to execution and mixing, how do you deal with the various stages of album making?
I simply take my time. When inspiration hits, I make sure to write music and record it right away. I usually record many riffs, melodies, and orchestral sections that suit the feeling of the song, or the moment I’m trying to represent. Since I usually work one one song at a time, I’ll then do a rough arrangment of the musical pieces, and then put it on my phone so I can listen to it in my vehicle as I drive to and from work. After several days of hearing the rough song, I start to visualize where new sections are needed, get new ideas that can be added to the song, get ideas to shift parts around, and start thinking of other melodies or instruments that should be added to give the song the sound I want to achieve.
Once I’ve gotten enough songs together, I then go through the painful process of trying to figure out which ones will go on an album, and in which order.
With that figured out, I can then move on to mixing, which is a fun, but difficult process. Sometimes new ideas get added during the mixing process, but the main goal is to try and achieve a sound that is consistent across all songs, and to get each instrument to stand out when it needs to. I also use the mixing stage as a chance to make the songs more interesting, by changing sections, removing instruments for some small sections, or by switching melodies to a different instrument for small sections. Just to give the music a bit more variety, and to keep things interesting.
– “Eclipse,” your new album, which has been appreciated and reviewed from our webzine, has very marked distinctive characters, what are the themes dealt with in the disc?
The main themes of “Eclipse” are Darkness / Light, Fear / Hope. And love.
I’ve listened to so much metal, and it almost always focuses on the darkness and anger. And in my younger years, I could only write “dark” music. I remember writing a few riffs that sounded more positive, and just couldn’t figure out how to make them work in a song.
But over the years I got more into prog, like Yes, Anekdoten, Anglagard, Genesis, and prog/metal like Vintersorg, Devin Townsend, and Freak Kitchen. Eventually, I think I learned to “hear” music differently, and appreciate the more diverse range of emotions that you get when you don’t limit the type of chords or progressions you use.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love metal that focuses on the darker side of music, but for me, I’m finding far more freedom to capture any type of feeling, emotion, or idea that hits me, since I’ve started allowing myself to write any style of music I feel like, without feeling the need to fit into the conventions of the genre.
– An album that contains your Progressive vein ranging between Metal and Rock, in which of these two styles do you identify yourself more?
I think it’s right in the middle of both. Without a doubt, the sound is similar to what you’d expect from metal, with the intense drums, distorted guitars, and varying time signatures and tempos. But on the other hand, the riffs are often simpler, perhaps more rock-like than you’d expect from progressive metal – it’s more focused on creating a backdrop for the melodies and the vocal lines. And vocally, I don’t use many harsh metal vocals, most of the vocals are sung clean, or slightly rock-ish, which also points it a bit towards the rock genre. But again, the main goal is to create a feeling, so I use whatever vocal style (or musical style) is needed to get the feeling I want to create.
But to truly answer your question – I don’t know which I identify with more! Personally, metal has been the biggest influence to date. However, with that said, I listen to more Marianas Trench, Andrew WK, Freak Kitchen and Devin Townsend than I listen to Emperor, Opeth, Vintersorg, or Enslaved.
– Unfortunately, like so many other artists, you published your work in a pandemic period, how much did it affect the sponsorship of the album and how?
I’ve been wondering about that myself. I haven’t really figured out if it had a positive or negative impact yet. I initially thought that it might be a good thing, since more people would be at home and on social media. However, that also meant that more people are posting more things, so it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of the massive amounts of things being posted every day.
But I’m not in this for the money, so I’m not too worried about sales. I jokingly call my music “unmarketable” since the songs are so long, and hard to classify into a particular genre. The reward comes from listeners telling me the music has impacted them, or has helped them in some way. And the “hope” themes of Eclipse certainly seem to have arrived at the right time. I feel like we all need some hope in these uncertain times!
– Being a project in which you play all the instruments in a sort of one-man band, how do you face and will face live performances, if you intend to propose them?
I currently have no plans for live performances. It’s quite difficult to find the time to write and record, and I can’t imagine trying to schedule other musicians in as well. I don’t think I’d ever find the time. I also come from a fairly small town, with only a handful of other metal musicians that I’m aware of.
Perhaps someday in the future, I might consider the idea of a performance with backing tracks and plenty of accompanying visuals. But for now, no live shows are planned.
– How do you see the Progressive scene in your country and in the world in 2020 and in future?
I feel like progressive music is becoming far more accepted, and there are far more people interested in it than ever before. So many great new metal bands have so many interesting progressive pieces within their music, and even in the mainstream – bands like Marianas Trench are pushing out prog-like pop-rock masterpieces that is influencing a whoe new generation of people who are into pop-rock.
The scene is still far smaller in Canada (and more spread out across long distances) than in many other countries, but there are more and more progressive bands making huge progress here, and it’s so great to see. I think it’s just going to keep growing, which will mean more progressive acts coming out of Canada, and more progressive acts coming in and touring. And that makes me happy!
– Our readers and your fans will ask themselves if you have any projects both live and in the studio in the pipeline for the future and if so which ones?
Definitely. The base elements of the second album is recorded, and I’ll be moving on to recording vocals next. The third album is also recorded (guitars, ,drums, programming), but I’ll be waiting until the second album is released before moving on to the third.
The second album will be a bit more extreme than Eclipse. The dark parts are darker, the heavy parts ar emore intense, and the joyous sections sound more positive and uplifting. Eclipse sort of tread a fine line between dark and light, but the second album will highlight each of those aspects in a far more extreme way.
And of course, there’ll be some singles released in between albums, and my annual Christmas cover song. And hopefully some kind of music release for Halloween, my favourite holiday!
– The last question is free, in the sense that if you want you can tell us about some particular topic or anecdote that was not proposed in the previous questions.
Thanks! Nothing else to add. Thank you for the great questions, I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview!
The Progressive Rock Journal editors would like to thank Rick Massie for his availability, and for choosing our Webzine for the preview of his new single “Storm.” We also wish you the best for your musical and personal career, we salute you. You can also find both the album review and the exclusive preview of the single “Storm” in the links below.