Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Gary Vosganian of Maelstrom - Interview

You may have already heard of New York group Maelstrom, they won second best unsigned band in Terrorizer's 2008 poll.  I had the pleasure of speaking to front man Gary Vosganian about life in Maelstrom.

Maelstrom - It Was Predestined

Gerry: It sounds like there is a strong influence of Slayer and Megadeth on 'It Was Predestined' how important were these and similar bands to you growing up?

Gary: Well Slayer was a big part of my life as a teen – I actually got to see the Reign in Blood Tour 3 times!

But truthfully perhaps in some of our early material they had some of an influence but we really geared our sound and feel more towards the European styles of Kreator, Destruction, Coroner and Sabbat.

I did enjoy a fair amount of USA Thrash Slayer being at the top of that list, along with Testament, Exodus, Overkill, Anthrax and the like.

Megadeth was really never an influence at all, perhaps a little bit into Joey's soloing in the sense that Dave will venture into some more of classical overtones, but really that would have been it for Megadeth and Maelstrom.

When we started out, like I mean the first few months of being together which was september of 1988.  We covered a lot of bands and we definitely covered Slayer. I would say the original concept was to take a band such as testament which we all thought had a ton of talent for a Thrash band and add in some harsher Mille (Kreator) style voicings and some other European flavors. Maelstrom's sound and influence began to take shape from there.

Gerry: I really like the cover of ‘It Was Predestined’ In your opinion, how important is it to get the artwork right on an album?

Gary: The Artwork for Maelstrom is extremely important to us, so getting it right for the album and any other releases or merch is Quintessential to our vision.

For some bands it is really an afterthought – and that is their right, I tend to find that happens more with bands who did not grow up with the Vinyl ALBUM as the medium in which music was listened to. There was something great about going to the record store and holding that big cover and wondering what it would sound like, examining the cover, reading the lyric sheet the thank you's and liners, all that is sort of missing from the whole experience now.

For Maelstrom We love fantasy and the art takes the themes and breaths visual life into what we are trying to do musically and lyrically.

We really write cinematically and conceptually trying to create a visual headspace for the listener to ride in, that’s been carved thru sound, the Art furthers that experience.

The goal will be to have a piece of art to go along with each song – we will have to see how budgets and time allow, but that is the hope.

Right now all our artwork is done by Jan Yrlund of Dark Grove design. He is a modern master and I love his style – I basically give him my vision in writing and sometimes provide a loose sketch or even photos of myself in the poses I am looking to have illustrated and he begins from there.

In the past I had done all the art for Maelstrom our demo covers, t- shirt design, flyers etc... 
but that is all too much for me now and I like Jan's work much better anyway.

Directing is enough for me and the Logo is still my design, so that is good enough to satisfy my hand in the art.

Gerry: What was the first concert you attended and how did you feel about it?

Gary: The first concert I went to was KISS, back on Sept 1 1979I saw the Dynasty tour and I think Judas Priest Opened.

I went with my dad who still claims the show made him deaf in one ear.

It was incredible I was 8 and I was in awe. Peter Chris rose out of the stage on a huge drum riser, Gene flew and spit blood and blew fire, lasers were everywhere along with flying smoking guitars and They basically blew up the stage– it was the real deal.

I really did not know much of the music because all I had at that point was dynasty and again I was only 8.

But it was a production that stayed in my head forever.
My first club show as a teen was SLAYER on their most epic Reign in Blood tour. I saw them at webster hall.

Agnostic front opening and I was 15. It was a Sunday night in manhattan – Mom was not happy.

I went on to see slayer 2 more times on that tour – which I am very proud of.

I have made quite a few people jealous when I say I saw the RIB tour 3 times.

Both were amazing experiences and left indelible marks on me both as a fan and as a performer.

Tell me about touring with MaelstroM.

As far as touring for Maelstrom I am afraid that is not really in our sights.  We are really looking to record and finish off the album.  We have something else lined up to record as well as a single which will be separate from the album, but it's really all about recording for us.

What is in the pipeline for touring in the future?

We would love to play the material live and hope to do so at a release party, also we would absolutely love to play some specialty show like some of the Euro fest or 70,000 tons of metal. We definitely see ourselves playing the material live, but not in a formal touring sense.

Do you find touring is something that bands are choosing to concentrate less on now because of the internet?

I think that for most bands it is now more important than ever to tour precisely because of the internet.  The web has created a culture where many fans actually feel it is a bizarre concept that anyone would actually pay for music. So I think the tour is the main revenue generator for bands to get out there and sell hard copy cds t – shirts hats and other merch and get in front of people for real.

It is a true challenge to monetise your social presence – it certainly can be done - but you really need to get out there and grind it out if you are going to get ahead as a young musician in the world of metal.

Having been active since 1988, how is touring different today?

Well truthfully we never toured back in the 80s either – I would say it was probably our biggest mistake that we never loaded up a van and hit the road.

We played specific strategic shows that we thought would help us and also ones that could generate some money – usually through prize winning, battle of the bands style.  We could then use it to record and to get our name out thru the underground thru mailings and tape trade.

How did you feel when you heard that MaelstroM had been voted best Unsigned Band in Terrorizer Magazine’s 2008 poll?  Were you aware that you had such a big international following?

Well to be honest when I first heard we had Charted number 2 Best unsigned Band Worldwide on Terrorizers Readers Poll, I did not really believe it, then I thought… Well why not.

I got the news from the guys at our PR company, at the time we were using Clawhammer PR a couple of great guys who picked up the ball for us on the PR end after our original publicist Adrian "the Energizer" Bromley had passed away. It was really horrible and it also left a lot of loose ends after Adrian died suddenly and these guys helped us out a lot.

The Terrorizer Poll would have been a huge feather in Adrian's cap too, as he had brought us up from obscurity to #2 Unsigned band worldwide in 3 months.  So I met this with both reverence and remembrance.

Actually I really wanted it verified, so before I posted anything about it I had the Clawhammer
 guys triple check that it was us.  Unfortunately there is more than just our band with the name MaelstroM, so I really wanted it checked thoroughly.
They contacted the Terrorizer offices on our behalf and they said that It was definitely the MaelstroM from NY that Adrian had presented to them a few months earlier.

So that clinched it for me and I quite frankly was elated. Though I would have really wanted to share this with Adrian I still felt amazing and to a certain degree validated. Not that It should take any poll or anyone else to validate oneself – but it is always nice to get accolades from the community and after the years of not getting any kind of deal back when a deal meant everything, it was great to have these songs looked at as very relevant and somewhat timeless as they were 20 years old when we charted on that poll.

As far as being aware of having such a big international following – no I really did not, I knew there were guys out there that remembered us, as we would have some fun conversations on myspace with some guys from europe – and it was actually one review on line from a friend in Germany that really lit the fire for Joey and I to start up again. But other than that no I did not – here again I really thank Adrian for all the work he did on our behalf. He was amazing and is sorely missed both as a friend and as a partner.  Currently our Facebook page is very strong on the International scene, but It seems to be much bigger in South America and Indonesia right now.

Personally I would love to see a stronger fan base for MaelstroM coming out of Europe, as I believe our sound is definitely of that style.  And a personal Goal of mine is to one day play one of the Fests over there! So help us out Please!

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