OmnisighT are, without the slightest doubt, one of my favourite local bands. Hell, calling them a ‘local band’ doesn’t even seem fitting- their stage presence and technique is out of this world. As someone with a longstanding love/hate relationship with the technical excesses of progressive rock and metal, it takes a certain calibre of band to make weathered-down approaches like guitar shred seem fresh and interesting again. In the case of OmnisighT, we have the case of band where- like Dream Theater or Yes- every member can be said to be at the top of their game with the respective instrument. Having seen them play a few times live now (not least of all opening for prog/fusion metal titans Cynic this past month), I can safely say that the only guitarists I’ve seen live that instilled the same sort of awe in me as lead player/frontman Raj Krishna were Jeff Loomis and John Petrucci himself. Perhaps it’s the total confidence and comfort the band exudes on stage (a quality seemingly rare in progressive music) or the clear chemistry they’ve conjured together as a group. More than anything, I think OmnisighT are most impressive because they’ve built their music around what on a surface impression seems like it might be a paradox; as technically proficient and incendiary as OmnisighT are, they are dedicated to the tried-and-true roots of conventionally good songwriting. They’re in love with a good groove and tight melodic hook as much as any progressive bombast. As much as this was an admitted cause of frustration for me as a listener (who was constantly left wanting to hear the band strut their skills more) this adherence to moderation makes the band a long-lasting favourite in my books. A big thanks to drummer Chris Warunki and the rest of OmnisighT for offering insight into the creative workings of their band.
First off, in other interviews, you’ve referred to your band’s name ‘OmnisighT’ as an expression of open-mindedness and willingness to explore. Was this name created with your musical goals specifically in mind, or is there a broader message at work?
A: We knew early on that we wanted to have a multidimensional sound/appraoch… Raj and I were both into rock, metal, funk and even pop music. I don’t think we’d be satisfied if we just stuck to one particular genre or sub-genre. I mean, we’re certainly not Mr.Bungle or anything but we take a lot of different influences and channel them into something cohesive which, comparisons aside, we can call our own. Raj and I had a pretty strong vision early into the making of this band and grouping together our multitude of infuelces, hence the name OmnisighT. We started spelling the name with a capital “T” after our logo was designed so it coincides even in plain text form. There’s always a silver thread running through our music and our visuals.
There’s been a very longstanding collaboration between yourself and frontman Raj Krishna, going as far back as ’97! What’s the story behind this meeting? Do you think there’s a secret behind forging such a strong artistic bond with another musician?
A: Yeah, I was still in high school when Raj and I joined forces. It’s a funny story because the guitarist of my very first band noticed an article in a local paper that read “guitarist looking for drummer into Dream Theater, Tool, Deftones, Faith No More” and told me about this ad, knowing that I was into all of those aforementioned bands. I called the number, we arranged a jam/audition and totally hit it off by playing some riffs in 5/8 (the song that later became “Path”). Raj and I had musical chemistry from the start with so many of the same influences and tastes in musical aesthetics, but that chemistry – or synergy – has evolved and grown over the years of course. It takes time!
More recently, OmnisighT’s been expanded into a full band, with your former producer Dave Shannon taking up bass duties, and Blake Rurik joining Raj on the guitars. How has the more recent half of OmnisighT changed the band’s dynamic?
A: Dave and Blake are both long-time friends of Raj‘s – they’ve all known each other since their teens… I remember meeting Dave and Blake at OmnisighT gigs long ago when we were just a trio. They’ve been friends and fans of the band from day 1 and were both a natural/logical addition. With them our live show and sound is so much bigger and better. Dave is actually a guitarist too first and foremost so I’m in a band with 3 shredders really… haha. On a side note, before they even joined OmnisighT I was playing in another band with both of them called Moonlight Mile - we did a couple of gigs and demos, then got distracted. Heh. They’re both great players, which is obvious if you’ve seen us live.
OmnisighT’s sound seems to invite plenty of comparisons- you’ve said people compare you to Dream Theater and Soundgarden. Meanwhile, I’m hearing the funk metal masters Extreme, albeit with a proggy twist! Barring comparisons to other bands (which is sure to give people misleading impressions) how would you describe the sound of OmnisighT? On that note, are there any artists you think have shaped your sound the most?
A: Most of our influences are rooted in the 80′s and 90′s – though we keep pretty current with contemporary prog and music in general, especially myself. We have some core influences but they’ve also been changing over the years as we shape our sound. There’s certainly a lot of 80′s shred, 90′s grunge/alt.metal, 90′s/2000′s prog and we add hints of some newer elements to that. Put it in a blender, hit “11″, and you get the OmnisighT sound.
I tend to find genre-tagging to be limiting, both to musicians and listeners- nevertheless, genres play a strong role in the way an artist is perceived. In OmnisighT’s case, the music skirts that tricky mid-ground between ‘rock’ and ‘metal’. The proggy sensibilities are never in question, but has this grey-spectrum ‘heaviness’ OmnisighT operates within affected the way the band is perceived? Has it made it more difficult breaking into ‘scenes’ or getting shows, where promoters are often looking for the most comfortable fit for the bill?
A: That’s a tremendous question. We’ve always considered ourselves “PROGRESSIVE ROCK” – however, I know when you say that, people think Yes, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and all that 70′s stuff… which is NOT us. We’ve never really “belonged” anywhere and agree that genres and sub-genres or “labels” are very limiting. I think “Heavy Prog” suits us and so does “Progressive Melodic Groove Metal – with Shred” (laughs). I mean, there’s really no box for us to fit into. Our sound is also getting heavier and denser as we evolve. We spent a long time in the “rock scene”, if you could even call it that, but were always too extreme (pardon the pun) or heavy for that crowd. Bands didn’t even want to play with us after a while, we were just… TOO MUCH. It took us a long time to discover that our crowd and our “scene” was with the metal heads. We should have known! The fans and promoters have been great, it lead to the Wacken Metal Battle locals finals, then an opening gig with Cynic… this is just the beginning!
A quick question- I’m not sure if the comparison was forged intentionally or not, but I’m noticing a strong similarity between the OmnisighT album covers you’ve designed and the Robert Venosa artwork Cynic has used to adorn their albums. Am I onto something here?
A: SPOT ON! (laughs) Paul Masvidal from Cynic even noticed that when I gifted him an OmnisighT t-shirt at the gig. The thing is, when I heard Focus it changed my life… It was my favourite album, with my favourite drumming, favourite everything right down to the album cover – and it stood the test of time for me. It still is in my top 3 of all time, if not #1! I think that album cover, much like the drumming and the music was imprinted on me… I’ve created many symmetrical artworks ever since and I think that the Wave Particle EP cover is a prime example. Good eye!
I think the debut Path has plenty of strong material (albeit far too long- a criticism I’d give to every Dream Theater record since Images and Words as well!), but the more recent EP Wave Particle sounds like a truer realization of what I think you guys are aiming for. What changed in the creative/recording process between these two albums?
A: Haha, you know, I’d have to agree with you on the (epic) length of our debut. It’s funny because when I met Anders Nystrom of Katatonia (another one of my faves), I handed him a download card which we had to promote Path that read: “80-minute debut album“… and he looked and me with one eyebrow raised and said “80 minutes, eh??” (laughs) But there’s a backstory to this… As you noticed (somehow), Raj and I have been collaborating (somewhat on and off) since 1997. All we ever recorded in the early days was a demo EP around 1999 or 2000. When we did Path, the idea was to document ALL of our material from then to 2011… And although that would amount to around 90-100 minutes of songs, we managed to max out the disc at 80 mins and 14 songs. There was some internal issues in the band and to be honest with you, we were unsure if the band would emerge from them and create new material so we wanted to get as much down as possible, but long story short we prevailed and that spawned the new Wave Paricle EP and new band members (Dave and Blake).
Something that’s been an equal source of both frustration and refreshing satisfaction to me as a listener has been OmnisighT’s stylistic option to filter wizard-tier technical prowess into otherwise straightforward songwriting. I mean, there aren’t many bands out there that could potentially play Dream Theater under the table, but OmnisighT’s certainly up there, and yet the songs are written with melody and hook in mind. I think after seeing you guys play last week with Cynic however, I’m really beginning to understand this choice. Was this choice a conscious effort to supplant some of the excesses in modern prog, perhaps?
A: That’s another good one, and I think something that sets us apart from many other “Prog” bands these days. We are all about the SONG. The melody. The meaning. When you listen to a great timeless song, let’s say from The Beatles for example, it’s most likely – although they’ve done their fair share of innovation and experimentation – verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus or something along those lines. Raj and I both enjoy crazy roller coaster prog arrangements (Heavy Weather, for example, which gets us BTBAM comparisons!) but another thing that we resonate with is a simply structured song with power in it’s simplicity and melody. I kind of like the juxtaposition of extreme musicianship in a pop format!
OmnisighT is a live band if ever there was one; what’s the trick behind giving such lively performances?
A: It’s all attitude and energy. We are an oldschool rock band at heart – much like Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, etc. And what I mean by that is that we know we are there to melt-faces and give it 110%, 100% of the time while spreading the message of musicianship and SONGS. This is what we do. It’s intrinsic to the OmnisighT way of music. So many bands have chops but don’t have “songs” or stage presence even. Many people have told us that the live show takes the music to a whole other level and maybe one day we’ll get to do a live album or DVD/Blu-ray to document that. We win people over live, if they are skeptical for whatever reason. There’s an element of danger and improv as well. Even with all those time and tempo changes going on, we DO NOT play to a click track. I’m changing up fills on the fly, Raj is trying new licks in his solos… there’s no safety net. It’s a very pure and visceral live show that’s best seen and heard.
Each member of OmnisighT has a wealth of musical experience- what advice would you give to other musicians with regards to the creation of their own music, even finding their own voice? Technical tips and broader philosophy are equally welcome.
A: Well, first of all practice as much as you can while you can. And have fun doing it. I used to do the “8 hour a day” cliche but it’s because I loved every minute of it. Also listen to as much music of all genres as you can and play with as many different musicians as you can because this is how you shape your identity as a musician. You learn from everyone and every situation you get yourself into. As for technical tips: learn proper techniques to avoid injury and make playing more effortless. Find a good teacher!
What do you hope lies in the future of OmnisighT? A tour, another full-length perhaps? The final words are yours.
A: The next thing will probably be another EP… Early 2015 I’d estimate. We’ve also been toying with the idea of an exclusive single with some fun covers… So, who knows! The only way we’re hitting the road is if we’re opening for a bigger band. We hope to get picked up by a reputable label like Century Media or Season of Mist and let them handle the financial logistics that we’ll need to keep melting faces… World-wide.
Visit OmnisighT on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/omnisight