Interview with JOHN BROWNE of MONUMENTS and FLUX CONDUCT

John Browne

While waiting the new Monuments album to arrive some time in 2017, guitarist John Browne put out a solo album under the moniker Flux Conduct titled Qatsi in October 2015. John will perform with Flux Conduct at this year’s Euroblast festival in Cologne. In the most recent interview for Prog Sphere, John talked about growing up, choosing guitar as his instrument, influences, his technique, Monuments, gear, and more.

Having grown up in UK, how would you describe your initial exposure to music?

My parents had quite a diverse music taste but didn’t really border on any metal. My father listened to classical music and my mother had a huge range from Pink Floyd to Santana, Stevie Wonder/Herbie Hancock to Sade and Enigma, Michael Jackson to Coolio. It wasn’t until we got Sky TV when I was 7 years old that I became more open to music via the once great MTV music station (and Beavis and Butthead) which intriduced me to ‘basket case’ to my parents disgust (at the time).

Were you in the music programs in school while you were growing up?

Nothing to do with guitar much. At my school I was lucky enough to have a guitar teacher by the name of Owen Vaughan-Edwards (weirdly enough he did something with Andy James for his website) but that was about the extent of it. My music teacher during high school didn’t really like much guitar music, but in the later years she came to respect things that I did.

What made you gravitate to the guitar?

I started on Violin when I was around 6-7 years old, after a year of playing that I thought it was dumb and my Uncle Mark gave me a totally awful classical guitar. For a few years from 7-11 I would dabble on the instrument but never really found any love in it until I went to upper school (Lostock in Stretford, Manchester) and discovered what an electric guitar was. For my 13th birthday I was gifted a Westfield Strat and 10 watt Marshall (G10 I think) and there wasn’t really any stopping me.

Did you start to listen to music differently once you discovered guitar?

Unfortunately, Yes. Between the ages of 13-16 I would try and play as fast as possible and only listen to music with guitar solo’s in it. I feel like I missed out on alot of good music that i’m now catching up to because of that dumb decision, but after a while I came to respect alot more varieties of metal, rather than just mindless shred.

John Browne live

Who were some of your early influences?

John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Andy Timmons, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Satriani (can you believe my mum introduced me to Joe?!) I really liked this english band called Balance of Power at the time too, power metal yeaaaaaaahhhhh.

How would you describe those early days as far as your initial exposure to music, your musical upbringing?

I’m thankful that my mother introduced me to groove. A few years ago I went through her vinyl collection and found albums and songs I LOVED to which she would tell me that she played those albums all the time when I was a kid. It’s weird that you will usually always like the music that you grew up to as a kid right? I feel sorry for this generation of kids that will have the likes of Nicki Minaj as their introduction to music.

How did your career get rolling? What were you doing initially?

I was taking a year out from school, was going to go to university then I was asked to join FELLSILENT in the autumn of 2004. This is where it’s been since, 12 years later, I do still often question what the fuck i’m doing though. At time I feel like getting a job, getting married and having kids seems like the right thing to do because everyone does it right?

Tell me about your guitar technique. How long did it take you to develop your own style and build your own comfort zone?

It took a long time, but I wouldn’t say it’s my own style. I just copied what I liked about other people’s techniques. James Hetfield had all the down pick, Petrucci rests his finger on the body while soloing, Meshuggah plays one note and makes it sound like the end of the world. I just followed in those footsteps.

John Browne with Mayones Duvell QATSI Juice Burst

John Browne with Mayones Duvell QATSI Juice Burst

You’ve been playing the Mayones guitars for a few years now. What is it you are looking for from the technical side of this instrument?

Something that inspires me to play it! The technical aspects of a guitar never really bother me too much, if it sounds good and feels good, everything else is secondary.

Do you have one or two “go-to” guitars, or do you have a big arsenal of instruments?

I’ve been playing my Mayones Duvell Elite 6 String with p90s alot recently, as well as my Baritone Signature 7 string model in Ajna Burst. Both are great guitars, play well, sound good and as a bonus look the bees knees!

Let’s talk a bit about your solo project Flux Conduct. How did you go about starting it?

I was angry and needed an outlet to let it all out. I’m pretty terrible at face-to-face communication about feelings. A musical soundscape can paint a much better picture of how you’re feeling than words ever could.

Lead me through the creative process of Qatsi. How much writing for this album differed from your writing approach with Monuments?

I didn’t give a fuck. I wouldn’t saturate myself in the songs like I have done with monuments where I would fix minute details, I would leave alot of things on Qatsi to chance and try not to mess with it too much, almost like recording spur of the moment ideas. I feel that music in this genre especially forgets about that stuff. You know, mistakes on albums? It’s about learning what mistakes to leave in.

Flux Conduct - Qatsi cover

Flux Conduct – Qatsi cover

What evolution do you feel Qatsi represents for your as a composer and guitarist?

It was my entry to try and add orchestration into this style of music without it sounding overly cheesy. As a composer it opened alot of new doors, new sounds to play with and different approaches, minus a few riffs here and there, I found the riffs on Gnosis and manauensis much hard to play, I guess that’s because I went into further details with those albums.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when making Qatsi?

My parents. They work crazy hours, one works days one works nights and vise versa. At the time I was living in their tiny little box room in the shithole that is Nuneaton. I had to write it all at times where they weren’t sleeping and past 10pm I couldn’t play guitar because the paper thin walls caused the overly old neighbours disturbance. I also had to mix that record on headphones. So yeh quite alot of challenges.

How do you go about channeling inspiration into writing?

Hate. I find myself inspired when I hate something. I can’t seem to write when I’m happy, I guess over the years I’ve mostly written music when I’ve been hateful about things that have affected my life in some way. The music might not come out as hateful, but it allows me to put either a riff or a song down to a moment in time, like a memento or Diary. Kind of like how we associate the colour red with anger or Tchaikovski with Alton Towers.

You recently premiered a new Monuments song “Stygian Blue” in a play-through video. Is the new album already complete? What can you tell me about the approach you take with the new songs?

It’s not even close to being done, this was a demo of a collection of songs that we’ve been writing. To be honest, I’m mostly unhappy with the songs that have come out so far including that one, I don’t feel like we’ve stepped on any new ground yet, I guess I’m waiting for that magical moment to come out so I can copy that idea for 10 further songs.

Your recent US tour with Monuments was cut short. What happened there?

Money happened. Our label filed our visas 2 months late due to something out of our control, causing us to miss the first 6 headline shows of the tour. The tour was never going to break even at that point, so we cut short rather than going further into the blackhole of debt that we seem to have been in since soundwave didn’t pay us.

Back to tech talk, tell me about your guitar rigs you used/use for recording Qatsi and the upcoming Monuments full-length?

Qatsi was done with POD HD/POD XT PRO. Don’t know about the Monuments new album yet.

What are your five favourite pieces of gear in 2016, and why?

I’ve been really excited about buying a vinyl player to put on my antique side table in my lounge.

Now that the new Monuments album is on the way, what other dragons are you looking forward to slaying?

A whole monuments album to go yet mon!

My last question… What would you be if you weren’t a guitarist?

Tornado storm chaser.

Qatsi by John Browne’s Flux Conduct is out now, get it here. Follow the project on Facebook here.

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