Musicians Up Close

Tosin Abasi - Animals As Leaders

Animals as Leaders Up Close

As we all know, there are countless skilled musicians out there. Be it speed, sweeping, tapping - we've seen it all and it's really impressive.

But then there are musicians that really distinguish themselves from others. Tosin Abasi is definitely one of those.

His technical skills, combined with his brilliant songwriting abilities make him one of a kind in today's music scene. But that's not all - his retro-influenced style and his reserved behaviour make him an interesting character as well. The press quickly seemed to realize this. And so did a lot of music fans.

When Animals As Leaders finally came to Vienna to present their self-titled debut record live, there was a considerable number of people there just to see Tosin. A lot of them from neighboring states of Austria, actually. From what I have witnessed, they even sold more merch than Between the Buried and Me, who were the headliners of the show.

Of course, we were there too and thankfully, we were able to have a chat with Tosin. I was really interested in his musical background. Where he came from - what inspired him and so on.

So how can I describe Tosin? I think he has a clear vision of how he wants to come across. Be it his style, his statements, and, of course, his songs. Furthermore, I think that he isn't yet able to cope with all the attention he gets from the press and the people. When there are too many people around him when he isn't playing a show, he seems a little uncomfortable.

But more can be seen in the interview we did with him anyway (notice the little joke I tried to make, which totally didn't work out)

Part 1

Part 2

So what can be said about the show?

Animals As Leaders live
They played flawlessly - the set was extremely tight. The lack of movement onstage was compensated by the sheer technical madness going on. Navene (drums) sometimes interpreted the songs completely different than on the record - a friend of mine, who is a jazz-taught drummer was blown away by his performance.
Javier, the second guitarist, is probably one of the best rhythm guitarists out there today. Yet, he was contained throughout the whole show, always serving the songs, not his ego.
Tosin seemed to have some monitor-problems, but no one of the visitors could tell a difference. My guess is that there were 75 % musicians in the audience - and they all were in awe.
Unfortunately, the show went by really quickly. I wish they would've played 3 shows that night, so I could have watched every musician throughout one show.

Animals As Leaders - CAFO live @ Chelsea Wien

What really makes the band special is that, although they are an instrumental band, you can tell that there is some sort of communication going on between them and the audience. Unspoken, expressed through their music - check this band out as soon as possible, if you haven't already!

Animals As Leaders - Isolated Incidents live @ Chelsea Wien

Tosin Abasi performing Wave of Babies

Navene Koperweis performing Tempting Time

Bernd "Bernth" Brodträger

Travelling the world playing music? Making a living doing what you love? Sounds like a dream come true right?
Bernth seems to be living the dream - being only 20 years old. He tours world playing the lead guitar for Belphegor, while he works on his own band Bled Dry when he's off duty. But what does one have to sacrifice to reach this level at such a young age?

Bernth doing what he does best - shredding
When did you first consciously get in touch with music? What is your oldest
childhood-memory concerning music?

I think the first musical piece that really caught my attention was 'Out of the Dark' by Falco in '98. My father told me about his accident, when we were playing the track in our car. I felt like I'm listening to a dead man, who wants to come back and reach the light of life again. The song itself was so dark and full of emotion, maybe that defined my taste for music later on.

Although you are always working on music, you seem like you’re not challenged
enough. Do you have any new projects lined up that would reveal your full

In the past years, there has been no day I have not spent in a creative way. I work on my career 24/7 and I gave up everything else, that I ever cared about. It's just me, music and art.
The secret of constantly growing is challenge – and I challenge myself in lots of different ways.
For example, since I started playing guitar I compared myself and my skills with all the big guitarists. It was never like 'Oh well, I do this for fun and I'll never be that good' – I always wanted to be the best at what I'm doing.
The project that challenges me the most right now is the new Bled Dry record. The songwriting started one year ago and I have written over 20 pieces, 9-12 will make it on the record. Recording is scheduled in February/March 2012 and there will be some news concerning the album soon.

Hesu Advertisement featuring Bernth

You have the chance to travel the world through music at a very young age. Did you
set yourself the goal to pursue a career in music? Or did it happen „accidentally“?

As I said previously, I always wanted to be the best at what I'm doing. So when I picked up a guitar for the first time, I felt that this is the thing I wanted and needed to do. If I would be a spiritual guy, I'd talk about destiny and all that stuff but it just felt right. I never forced myself to practice for hours, it just happened. But I wouldn't say that it happened accidentally because without all of the blood, sweat and tears I wouldn't be where I am now. I also didn't feel like I set myself that goal, it just evolved and evolved, from band to band and from status to status, I just never gave up fighting.

You have an insight in today’s music business. If you could change one thing about it
− what would it be?

Well, business is about money. And we all know, that those people behind the scenes in music business want to make money with music. I despise the fact that when a trend comes, artists are forced to follow it or they die.
Those bands who stand out for me defined their style and maybe changed it sometimes - but you never had the feeling that they did it without good reason.
If I had the power to change something, I would try to convince people to buy CDs and stop downloading.

Do you have something like a „Plan B“ if your music career, for whatever reason,
shouldn’t work out?

That could happen extremely fast. Imagine if I loose some fingers or break certain bones in an accident – then it's over. But it's also about that risk that's woven into this kind of career. If you pursue this, you have to be totally determined, there is no 'trying' - there's just 'doing'.
If that would happen, I would focus on my job as a designer I think.

Besides your music, you’re also working as a designer. Creativity seems to be an
important factor in your life. Yet, all your work has a „dark-touch“ to it. What’s the
reason for that?

Creativity is the ONLY factor in my life! Yes, I work for Udio Media and do CD artworks, shirtdesigns, displays, banners, flyers,... pretty much everything a band or company could ask for. I started learning how to do this because I wanted to create the artworks for my bands myself. Those pieces are very important to me since only I exactly know what it should look like. After years I can finally do it on a professional level.
Almost everything I do has a dark feeling/vibe to it. The negative sides of life always inspired me the most and I wrote the best songs when I was going through hell. As much as it hurts, suffering and emotions in general are my fuel to creation. I often write songs and design artworks depending on my mood and how I feel, those are the best to date.

Bled Dry Artwork by Bernth
Do you have any final words for your fans and friends?

I would like to thank my endorsers Ibanez, Laboga, EMG, Intunegp and Hesu for their trust and support and everyone that still stands on my side and is a true friend.

Another german post! This time it's the same reason as before. This interview shouldn't be altered in any way. I'm introducing the new section "Musicians up close" with this interview with:

Jörg Varga - Bassist of Devastating Enemy, Mondstille (ex- Thorns of Ivy)

Jörg Varga

Vergleiche Musik mit einem Gericht.
Im Prinzip ist Musik doch ein Gericht und das ist offensichtlich. Du brauchst für eine bestimmte Speise die richtigen Gewürze wie du die richtigen Elemente für einen Song brauchst. Sogar bei der Zubereitung fängt man zuerst mit dem Groben an und fügt die Details und die genaue Dosierung erst später dazu … also ist Kochen eigentlich fast schon wie Songwriting! Sogar in der Nachhaltigkeit kann ein Song wie gutes Curry sein … es schmeckt auch noch kalt sehr gut.

Du hast einen schweren Unfall. Entweder du verlierst deine Arme und kannst nie wieder Musik machen. Oder du wirst taub und kannst keine Musik mehr hören. Wofür würdest du dich entscheiden?
Angenommen durch dieses hypothetische Beispiel, dass ich auch nicht mit meinen Füßen Musik machen könnte würde ich mich lieber dazu entscheiden nicht mehr hören zu können. Ich würde es nicht aushalten kein Teil der Musik sein zu können und auch Musik nicht mehr formen zu können. Wenn es die Musik für mich nicht mehr gibt, möchte ich sie zumindest noch für andere spielen können.

March of the Clockwork - Acoustic Bass

Was sind einige deiner „guilty pleasures“?

Naja, wenn andere davon nichts wissen sollten, würde ich diese Frage nicht beantworten, oder? Aber ich stehe zu meinen „guilty pleasures“ und muss zugeben, dass ich noch immer gerne Bands wie Paramore oder Fall Out Boy höre, schon allein wegen dem  jugendlichen Punkrock Feeling, das dabei entsteht. Auch Christina Stürmer schaut öfters auf meinem I-Pod vorbei.

Was war das letzte Album, dass dich richtig vom Hocker gehaut hat?

Obwohl es kein Album sondern eine Split EP ist hat mich die Split von HAUNTED SHORES und CYCLAMEN mehr als nur überzeugt, vor allem der Haunted Shores Part der Scheibe. Es ist schnell, das Songwriting ist sehr rund und dynamisch und die Chord-Voiceings zeichnen die LIeder sehr aus. Die Songs wirken druckvoll und vor allem melodisch, ausserdem spürt man ein wenig den Djenteinfluss von Misha Mansoor bei Songwriter Mark Holcomb. Auf jeden Fall sehr empfehlenswert.

Let the Music do the talking – Gibt es einen Song, der einen bestimmten Lebensabschnitt von dir beschreibt? Welcher Song wäre das? Welchen Lebensabschnitt beschreibt er?
Oh ja, den gibt es sogar und zwar „People = Shit“ von Slipknot beschreibt den Sommer als ich 15 Jahre alt war. Zu der Zeit wurde ich von einem Mädchen so richtig abserviert und das war auch die Zeit als ich sehr intensiv Metal gehört und ein Album nach dem anderen verschlungen habe, aber ich bin immer wieder zu „Iowa“ zurückgekommen. Der Sound war so rau und das Songwriting so intensiv und ehrlich. Das ganze Album war wie eine Hypnosetherapie, der ich mich immer wieder hingegeben habe.

Was war die letzte CD die du dir tatsächlich gekauft hast?
Die letzte CD von einer österreichischen Band, die ich mir gekauft habe war ANCHORS AWEIGH von DEATH MENTALITY, einer Deathcore-Kapelle aus Niederösterreich (Produziert von Norbert Leitner). Meiner Meinung nach machen die Herren verdammt guten Deathcore aus dem Lehrbuch und „Kub“, der Frontman klingt wie ein Dinosaurier und so solls auch sein.

Devastating Enemy - As Bloodshed Begins Bass Cover

Welcher Song soll bei deiner Beerdigung gespielt werden?
Meshuggah – In Death is Life

Beschreibe deinen typischen Tagesablauf an Hand von Musikrichtungen
In der Früh: Deathcore (vor allem auf dem Weg in die Arbeit)
Vormittag: Progressive Metal (Opeth, Tool)
Mittag: nichts, stille
Nachmittag: Postrock (this will destroy you)
Abend: Djent
Nacht: Akustikmusik
Meshuggah - In Death is Life