An interview with Brendan James Hayter of Truthseeker

Truthseeker hails from Boston, Massachusetts and is all about explorations beyond the instrumental side of progressive music. Their wide spectrum of influences set them aside as one of the promising bands for which the world will already hear about. I hooked up recently for an interview with the songwriter and the man behind the Truthseeker story, Brendan James Hayter.

Nick: Hello Brendan, thanks for having time to answer some questions for Prog Sphere.

Brendan: Of course. My pleasure.

Nick: How did you guys go about forming Truthseeker? Did you have any exact plan for what kind of music you want to play back when you decided to form the band?

Brendan: Yes, there was a specific idea of what kind of music the band would make. The band was formed to play slow, atmospheric hard rock with a psychedelic and progressive edge. The intent was to transcend all subgenres though, which inherently happened without much effort; what I mean is, the psychedelic rock influence was initially much more obvious on the songs, and as we began to record them they took on a life of their own, and the more obvious coats of “prog” or “psych-rock” became less visible.

I suppose the number one intent of Truthseeker was to make the most emotionally and atmospherically profound hard rock possible. I want it to inspire people, to make positive decisions with their life, and seek their own respective truths, leave their fears and complacence behind and fulfill their lives’ potential.

Nick: Two months ago you released the EP called “Weightless at Dawn“ and according to what can be heard out of it, your influential spectrum is pretty wide. Tell us about this.

Brendan: I suppose the spectrum is pretty wide, but it was not premeditated. I tried to be inspired by nothing other than my own musical visions, the vague music that floats through my head at night that sounds like no pre-existing band. With that being said, there are a couple bands that inspired the writing in the sense that their purity and originality inspired me to hold on to my own purity and originality, and be true to the sounds in my mind, if you know what I mean. Those bands are (in no order) Alcest, Katatonia, Agalloch, Earth, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and early Metallica actually. Cliff Burton was the sole inspiration for me to become a musician…and still now, his song “Orion” inspires me in Truthseeker.

Nick: The sound presented on Weightless at Dawn relies heavily on its atmosphere, trying to reach out to extreme depths in a multidimensional soundwave exploration. What makes you take this direction?

Brendan: That’s the way I always thought heavy music should sound. I think the idea with atmospheric music is to let yourself put on the headphones and fall into a miniature world that reflects your own unique impressions of life, dreams, and even spirituality at times. That’s why the song titles and poems are kept simple. For example with Daybreak, the song is simply about watching the sun rise and watching the day form and feeling inspired and happy. The record is called Weightless at Dawn because with that song I imagine floating in the sky while morning rises and the atmosphere fills with sunlight. Also, that’s just how I feel at Dawn anyway, is weightless. Unencumbered by the stressful things in life, just savoring nature’s beauty and nothing more.

Nick: Did it intrigue you to bring a death metal drummer to play slow rock beats? How did Alex fit into the whole story?

Brendan: It was intriguing, yes! It was Dan’s suggestion to bring him in, because he knew Alex was a very professional drummer with one of the strongest drum sounds and techniques in town, and that he was a Berklee School of Music grad that would be interested in session work. Even in his fast music he kept a strong groove, which was one of the things that made his bands some of the better metal around. It was enticing to see how much groove he could provide in slower tempo songs. That’s what he provided, power and groove! He liked the music enough to want to work with the band further, so that is the plan.

Nick: Weightless at Dawn is a fully instrumental record, but you decided to have the lyrical segment covered for each of the songs on the EP (except Submerged) in the form of poems. Why is that? Is it to be expected that at some point in time you will have a singer? Would you still attach poetry if you have a singer?

Brendan: We currently don’t have any plans to recruit a singer. There was an intent to have vocals in the formation of the band, but as the music took on its own life there left little opportunity for vocals. It works in my opinion. As for the poems, it was an idea that was at the very beginning of the band if I remember properly. I’ve always loved writing poems, and I liked the idea of having one for each song that sums up the visual and emotional content of the track. It is also an opportunity to present little concepts on life and further inspire people.

Nick: The mastering duties of the EP were completed by New Alliance East (Isis, Morne, Converge, Cave-In). How did you come to point to work with them? Speaking of the production, I find it pretty impressive for a completely new band to have such a well-produced release. Would you mind telling us something more about this?

Brendan: The production was really important for this kind of music I think. It had to be a wide, 3-dimensional type of sound, in order to bring the listener’s imagination alive in the way I wanted to. I also knew that it had to be a professional-level production, in order to make the impact on the music scene that I imagined it could. Dan Gonzalez was/is a Berklee student majoring in Music Production & Engineering. He really knew what he was doing, and took advantage of all resources available to make this the best sounding EP possible. We had access to a real mixing console and some great microphones, which brought the sound into the realms I had dreamed of!

I knew New Alliance East from my last band, After My Own, we had them master our full-length. They do good work and they happened to have a last-minute opening in their schedule right when I e-mailed them about doing the EP, so we got it done pretty fast.

Nick: What equipment did you use during production of the recording?

Brendan: The bass guitar was recorded directly into the recording program with a tube preamp, using a vintage Big Muff distortion, as well as chorus and delay. Distorted bass will probably remain a staple of the Truthseeker sound. I used a Steinberger 5-string and a Fender Jazz Bass 4-string. The rhythm guitar sound is a Peavey 5150 combo amp, which can be very harmonically rich and textural with chords if you set it the right way. The lead guitar is a Marshall Mode-Four, which may come as a surprise to gear-heads, because this is a solid-state amp that Marshall made in the early 2000′s! No tubes on this one! Nevertheless the “Crunch” channel had a very unique voice and a perfect amount of sustain. We could have used a JCM-800, but there are thousands of records driven by that Marshall sound. I thought it would sound more unearthly with this obscure and frankly unpopular Marshall head. I used Dan’s awesome rare Schecter Stiletto guitar for all the guitar tracks, because it had a locking tremolo that kept the guitar in tune throughout the sessions.

Alex plays Trick drums, which are aluminum-based drums that are very resonant, boomy and loud. They drove the record’s sound perfectly.

Nick: In the biography, you give a clue of how the upcoming album will sound, saying that the emphasis will be placed on much longer and more progressive songs, as well as a much stronger metal presence. Introduce us in the whole story, what can we expect?

Brendan: I’m afraid I may have over-estimated the length of the new songs when I made that statement. I have timed the songs, and they’re actually not that long! There is one song that nears 8 minutes, but the others average around 5 minutes. The songs are much more progressive though, and heavy.

All I can say is that it is the full manifestation of the Truthseeker sound. It is lush, emotional, nostalgic. I can’t wait to record and release it!

Nick: You are also the member of other bands/projects, Obsidian Tongue and Blood of the Gods. What are these all about?

Brendan: Obsidian Tongue is the other hemisphere of my creative world I guess you can say. Truthseeker and Obsidian Tongue are equally important to me and I spend the equal amount of time and energy on them. While Truthseeker is positive and dreamy rock, Obsidian Tongue is cathartic black metal that is pretty atmospheric in its own respect. I have a huge amount of passion for it and a very big vision that we’re just getting started with manifesting. People can listen to that here:

Blood of the Gods was Greg’s other band that he drummed in when he joined Obsidian Tongue. It’s old-school death metal with a crust-punk twist, reminiscent of Entombed and Bolt Thrower and all those guys. Earlier this year they were in need of a new guitar player, and we were all good friends at this point and the band only does shows occasionally, So I joined and it worked out for all of us. I can focus a lot on Truthseeker and OT and then get together with some friends and let loose with some really cool death-metal!

Alex also plays in two death metal bands, Scaphism and Forced Asphyxiation. These bands are very respected in the Boston scene for having nothing trendy or annoyingly technical about them, just a classic 90′s vibe and some great riffs!

Nick: Do you plan to set Truthseeker on a stage at some point in future?

Brendan: Absolutely! We are auditioning guitarists right now to get the live band ready to go. This music is definitely meant to be played live. I will be playing bass, so Alex and myself will be accompanied by 2 guitarists.

Nick: As we are getting closer to the end of 2011, what are some of the albums you enjoyed at the most in the year? The highlights and disappointments?

Brendan: Boston natives Morne put out their second LP “Asylum” this year, and at the moment I’d say that’s my favorite record I’ve picked up this year. Timeless, epic music. Although there are probably a lot of albums that were put out his year that I simply forgot about or haven’t picked up yet, I am happy with the new offerings of Opeth, Mastodon, Burzum and the re-released Dark Side of the Moon with that unbelievable live recording on the second disc. Also, Enslaved released the digital EP “The Sleeping Gods” which I thought was fantastic, they are one of my favorite bands! Steven Wilson’s “Grace for Drowning” sounds beautiful although I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, just a few songs. I also discovered a project called A Midnight Odyssey who put out a double album this year, which is one of my favorite recent black metal releases.

Nick: Is there anything you would love to add at the end of the interview?

Brendan: Thank you for having us on your website! Keep in touch with us online as we get closer to the recording of the full-length.

Nick: Thanks a lot, Brendan!

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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