Periphery's Jake Bowen & Mark Holcomb; Keeping Secrets...

Teasing us with US Summer surprises...

Periphery guitarists Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb are currently in two minds; they’re pleased to have got the crowd going at their Brisbane Soundwave slot yet are also slightly miffed with the overall quality of the sound. I caught the start of their set and must admit the set-up was a bit baggy in places. Well boys, what’s your verdict? Jake responds with “Since this is day one we had to get all our stuff together within minutes - and we have a very sophisticated set up - it wasn’t vibing right in the ear so we were having a little bit of trouble. Hopefully they forgave us and we started getting our shit together later in the set.”

Given the textures and complexity of Periphery’s music, surely there are bound to be difficulties reproducing the band’s distinctive sound in a live environment? “Not usually but when we’re overseas we don’t always have our typical rig to play with or practice with, so that’s really the biggest obstacle; getting that right. If we can all hear each other then we play great together.”

Mark agrees, adding “It’s part of the reason why having three guitar players is essential, because it’s the only way we can recreate the music. You can only put so many guitars on backing tracks.”

And luckily for the fans, that’s something that Periphery try and keep to a minimum. But surely with three guitarists, there must be moments when there’s confusion over who’s playing what part? Not so, says Jake “Not usually. Our parts make sense based on where we’re standing on stage so typically I’ll play the leads and Mark and Misha (Mansoor) will play the rhythm stuff. It’s pretty clear to all of us what parts we’re playing.”

They both agree that there’s not much room for groovy jazz based improvisation although Mark observes that “Our drummer Matt (Halpern) does do a lot [of improvising]…”

How was it for you guys to actually get John Petrucci (Dream Theater) Guthrie Govan (Erotic Cakes – he’s also been in Asia too but I had to chuck in Erotic Cakes, you can never see that in print enough times) Wes Hauch (The Faceless) on Periphery II? Jake is still in awe. “Jeez! All three of those guys, they’re monster guitar players and it’s an honour that they would all consider doing something like that and actually putting the best solos on our record. It’s a big deal to have that on our catalogue…”

Mark describes it as a “bucket-list” of who they’d like guesting on the album, and was quite amazed when all three agreed to it. Were you like a giggling school-boy, Mark? “A little bit, yeah…it came from that place in our hearts: ‘who are our hero guitar players? Let’s ask them – why not?’ and luckily they said yes. The problem is recreating those solos live. We played Have a Blast (which Guthrie guests on) and I have to play that solo and it’s just a pain in the ass! I hope Guthrie hasn’t heard it!”

Regarding their wish-list for future collaborations the names Devin Townsend, Trent Reznor and Mike Patton get chucked about. The possibilities are endless, and the bigger Periphery get, the more likely it is to happen.

Jake agrees “I hope so! I hope they catch wind of the band. It’s kind of like a theme we’ve established; on the first record we had Jeff Loomis, and our current bass player (Adam Getgood) he was in another band [as a guitarist at the time] he contributed another guitar solo and so we have these guests. And with the second record we decided to keep going and with the third record we’re going to do it again – but who knows who we’re gonna get for it?”

Sing the praises of relatively new members Matt and bassist Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood. Go. Mark goes first. “Matt’s indispensable. He is Periphery basically.” I suspect that Misha might not agree. “His style embodies what Periphery is; it’s all groove and he’s like a machine and that’s the sort of vibe that we want in our music.  And Nolly is just multi-talented. He’s also one of those indispensable type of guys; he’s an incredible guitar player, a great bass player, he’s just multi-faceted…”

Jake adds “And that’s kind of what the band requires in terms of membership. Everyone in this band, they don’t just bring the instrument that they play, they also bring a bunch of other skills and abilities that the band can make use of, so that’s kind of why those guys are in the band because they can do more than just play their respective instruments…”

Periphery II has shown us that with each album Periphery is getting more deeper and more sophisticated. What the hell will you do next? “We’re writing now and I think we’re starting to understand, after releasing Periphery II, what it takes to make good songs, where it’s not just some guitar showcase or vocal showcase, or any specific thing. The whole package has to be perfectly well rounded and digestible. But also since we appeal to so many musicians, because they’re a very particular audience, they want things to hold a certain level of integrity and technicality, so now that we’ve released Periphery II and we kind of see what it takes to write these types of songs. So going forward, it’s just that little bit more clear to us how we have to go about it.”

The band were going to put out two albums in 2012 but one was delayed due to an opportunity to tour with Dream Theater I ask Jake if it was worth it. “Absolutely. The thing about Periphery II is when we put it out we were like “Wow, we’re really proud of this. We should let this cook for a while’ and not just put out another record so quickly after it, because we didn’t want one release to overshadow the other, and we also really wanted to take our time with it. Because, believe it or not, even though Periphery II is to us a complete album, it was a very stressful experience getting everything to come together in the right amount of time, in between touring, and getting everybody into the studio because everybody has stuff that they do outside of the band to keep going (Shelf-stacking, supermarket trolley boy?) financially, so we want the next one to really come together naturally, without any stress behind it and really make another solid album.” Mark adds “It wouldn’t have been right to do two albums at the same time. It wouldn’t have given the other one justice…”

So Juggernaut (the un-released 2012 album) is the concept album that Periphery are working on now. I heard it’s going to be made up of multiple parts. “We don’t really know yet, to be honest we’re just writing songs. That’s all we’re doing. We’re not arranging any of them, we’re just writing lots of content and then we’ll organise it at the end. Right now, it’s all about creation and then we’ll organise it.” says Mark.

Jake throws in this juicy tit-bit: “I think that one of the things that will be prevalent in the next record is that you’ll hear a lot of thematic writing. We kind of touched on it with Periphery II with the first track, the middle track and the last track; they all share a similar vocal or guitar theme; that’ll come back a lot on the next record.”

After Soundwave, there’s a US tour then over to the UK, where I note you’ll be playing the legendary Brixton Academy. I ask what it’s like to play such hallowed ground. For Jake it’s a resounding “Absolutely!” but Mark says “I’m not!” but he’s laughing so I don’t believe him. He adds “For me, it’s about the artists; I mean; Messhugah, Devin; two of our favourite artists of all time and that’s what it’s all about for us.” Mark recounts playing at Wembley Arena and how it initially blew his mind “But once the show starts, it feels like every other venue; it feel like a stage.”

They allude to something saucy plans they have for the US summer but apparently “We can’t talk about yet but we’ll be very busy touring, I can say that.”

What plans can’t you talk about? Mark laughs and says “I see what you’re doin’ here…” while Jake finishes our conversation with the alluring “We will be touring in the summer with some really, really great bands…”

What a pair of teasers.
Lovely fellows though.