Venezuelan 14- and 16-string guitarist Felix Martin has launched his new album ‘Mechanical Nations.’ In a new interview for Prog Sphere, he discussed about what it took to write this new record, inspiration, his instruments, and more.
Your new album, Mechanical Nations, is out next week. What is the connection between the album title and the cover art, which depicts the South American continent? You’re coming from a South American country, so is this sort of a tribute to Venezuela and other countries?
A bit of the art concept is that Mechanical Nations is an instrumental story that is meant to give a glimpse into life in South America and how we can contribute so much to the United States. This nation was already great because it allowed people like us to reach people through music like never before. As immigrants we feel that we contribute a lot to this great country, and that in our hearts we bring so much of South American culture to the table. We want to be seen as ambassadors to culture rather than outsiders.
How did the creative process for Mechanical Nations go this time around, comparing with your previous two records?
I spent about two years writing this record. Just wanted to take the time to develop new sounds for guitar. I didn’t want to record any leads, power chords or solos, just really wanted to write something different. It was a challenge to write a guitar-based album without these elements. It was a fun creative process, and I hope to keep discovering new sounds for the future records.
The first two albums were released by Prosthetic Records, but for Mechanical Nations you are going fully on your own. Was it a conscious decision, and what were and are the biggest challenges you faced with the new release?
I still deal with Prosthetic on a few things. Nowadays, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference being indie or with a label, since almost all distribution is online. I would say the biggest challenge was to produce the whole record by myself – all the recording and writing took some time. I also wrote a lot of music, about 50 songs, and chose the ones that would make more sense for this album. Another challenge was to write an album without solos or traditional power chords, and still keep the “metal sound.” For instance, in the intro from the song “Flashback”, we tried to make it as heavy as we could but without using distortion, etc.
You’ll be touring the U.S. East Coast in March in support of Mechanical Nations. Are there any plans for Europe for later this year?
Yes, there are plans! We are looking to go there either summer or fall, if all goes well.
Speaking of playing live, what does your live rig include beside what’s obvious – your guitars?
As of right now, just an AXE-FX and then I go to the PA. I’m very low maintenance when it comes to gear. During the last US tour, I played clean 90% of the time, not even using an amp on the AXE-FX. Just some delay and reverb. In the studio, sometimes I use Dunlop and TC Electronic pedals to write music and record. It really depends on what I can bring on tour or to the studio. There’s a Head Rush pedalboard I’ll be trying out in a few months as well, it supposed to be a killer pedalboard!
The first thing that crosses people’s minds when it comes to Felix Martin is probably “oh, that’s the guy with a 14/16-string guitar.” What are you looking for when it comes to the technical side of this instrument? Is there space to make further improvements?
[Laughs] Yes! Yes a lot, my main setup right now is a 16-string (two regular 8-string guitars together), but there are a few details I need to improve on it as well. It’s just a like a regular guitar where you have acoustic, jazz hollowbody, strat, etc. It’s the same with mine. Personally, I just need a guitar just like the headless I have but with a thinner neck and I’ll probably try not having fanned frets on my next guitar. Nothing against fanned frets, just want to try different ideas. Each guitar inspires different music.
Do you think that these instruments have future? Would you invite other guitarists to “give a chance” to these guitars?
Yes. Playing two guitars simultaneously brings a new world of possibilities and sounds for the guitar. There are a few people already playing like this using similar guitars. I think the challenge is to make a guitar a little more affordable for people, as of right now, all of them are hand-made instruments which makes it a little expensive. I always get messages from people wanting to buy, but not all of them can afford a hand-made guitar.
If some kid was to start learning to play a guitar, would you recommend to pick up a 14-string guitar right from the beginning, or should he or she start in the “old-fashioned” way?
I would recommend him to start with a 14 right away. For me, playing fingerstyle/classical guitar was really difficult at the beginning, so much that I started playing tapping on the classical tunes instead. For me tapping was more natural. Then, I started playing two guitars at the same time when I was about 14 years old, to later be the 14-string. In conclusion, I grew up more with the mentality of playing two guitars as if it were one (similar to how a pianist might think).
What is it you are trying to achieve as a musician?
To give something different to the world of music and arts. I don’t care much about being famous or rich, I simply want to do something interesting and unique. The creative process of achieving that is what keeps me going.