DATE OF INTERVIEW:
16th November 2008
CLAY BARTON; GREGG ROSSETTI; APRIL SESE
New Jersey prog-metallers Suspyre came to be in 2001, formed by founding and current members, guitarists Gregg Rossetti and Rich Skibinsky. The band's self-released debut, 'The Silvery Image', was unleashed four years later to widespread glowing reviews, which led to a deal with Nightmare Records and sophomore release 'A Great Divide' in 2007. Skipping labels to Sensory Records, latest album, 'When Time Fades...' was released on 30th September 2008, attaining even more widespread critical praise from the media. With so much positive press, expectations were high for the Americans' European live debut at Holland's ProgPower festival this year, although their set was distinctly below par which engendered much negative feedback from journalists and fans alike. When Suspyre's manager contacted Metal Discovery offering an exclusive interview with the band regarding their problematic ProgPower performance, I took the opportunity to find out just what went wrong in the Netherlands. Guitarist Gregg Rossetti, vocalist Clay Barton, and newly recruited keyboardist April Sese answer my questions...
METAL DISCOVERY: I gather you received some negative reviews for your recent ProgPower show in Holland. I described your set as ‘poor’ in mine, although I understand you were disappointed with aspects of your own performance, and there were a few technical glitches just prior to you going on stage. What happened there as apart from Clay’s energetic presence, the rest of the band seemed fairly subdued on stage. Did you enjoy the performance overall?
GREGG ROSSETTI: No…I did not enjoy the performance, honestly, based on some uncontrollable circumstances. First off, my pre-amp that I purchased exclusively for this gig blew a fuse during sound check; I had to play with a sound that I was not used to. When I learn my part, it’s not just about the notes and timing, it’s about the tone I’m using to make sure the part sounds the best it can be. When I play through another amp I can get confused on what’s happening sometimes. Also, we were playing with a session drummer, which is nerve-wracking in its own right.
(Gregg Rossetti on his interpretation of what constitutes progressive music)
"The word “progressive” to me just means using emotion in your music. A lot of bands just play what they’ve heard classified as “progressive” rather than writing without any pre-conceived notions."
Gregg Rossetti onstage with Suspyre at ProgPower in the Sjiwa, Baarlo, Netherlands, 5th October 2008
Photograph copyright © 2008 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
CLAY BARTON: I was disappointed with our overall performance. I know we’re a better live act than what everyone saw. It felt very awkward on stage and I’ve never had that kind of feeling while playing, so I knew something was wrong. The session guy we had is an awesome drummer, which is why we paid him to be with us. However, with the show in the past, the band has decided that he will not be playing with us anymore.
APRIL SESE: Even though I’m new to the group, I can definitely say that our performance at Baarlo was a very poor representation of Suspyre. We will take what we’ve learned from the experience, though, and make sure the same glitches don’t happen again.
MD: There seemed to be a fairly large crowd watching your set, and quite a lively response from many audience members - were you aware of the positive crowd reactions at the time?
GR: Yes, I was, and was glad they were excited. It was awesome to see the members of the crowd singing along, and I think I even saw some people mouthing out our odd-time sections.
CB: It’s always nice to see people having a good time, and it especially helps when things on stage aren’t as comfortable as usual.
AS: The crowd was amazing and watching their energy throughout the set was encouraging. I’ll never forget how they chanted, “We want more! We want more!” We wish we could have played more, but it was impossible since we did not have a fulltime drummer with more songs under his belt.
MD: Were you surprised by the negative reviews, or did you anticipate some of the criticisms?
GR: I wasn’t surprised by the response, because I know it was a sloppy show. We’ve played much better than we have that day, which is sad because it was Europe’s first time hearing us live.
CB: I had already given myself that review so seeing it from others wasn’t a shock.
AS: Yeah, it was expected. We know how we usually play, so it would have been more shocking not to get any criticism. It’s definitely a new circumstance for us, so we will take the criticisms into consideration for future shows.
MD: Did you receive any feedback from Rene or any of the ProgPower team about your performance?
GR: According to everyone I talked to, they really enjoyed our performance.
AS: Some of the backstage crew paid us compliments as we were taking down our set, and our manager told us that Rene came up to her and told her we did really well.
MD: How was the whole Baarlo experience for you - did you enjoy the festival and time in Holland?
GR: I very much enjoyed Holland and Europe in general. I stayed a few days after the festival and toured around Holland and Germany. Europe’s atmosphere was amazing; I loved seeing the sites and culture and how it was so different from America.
CB: Baarlo was amazing and so was the show. All we hope right now is that we get the chance to come back in the future and redeem ourselves.
AS: The experience was unforgettable. All three days’ worth of performances were enjoyable and the people were fun to be around. Travelling abroad to play for a festival while staying in a castle filled with metalheads was a dream come true. I love that everyone rides bicycles.
MD: Will you be tempted to return to Baarlo next year as spectators of ProgPower?
GR: That would be great to return to Baarlo (it was such a quaint town), but it’s not very realistic to travel to Europe every year.
CB: I wouldn’t rule it out. I will have to see what the situation looks like for next year.
AS: Most definitely.
MD: I noticed Clay wearing an Atrox t-shirt - did you check out many of the other bands at ProgPower, and who did you enjoy?
GR: I tried to see as many as possible (but honestly, I wanted to take in as much of Holland as possible while I was there, so I took day trips to Maastricht, etc). I really enjoyed Cynic (I’m a long-time fan of theirs), and Threshold was so impressive as a tight, solid rock band.
CB: I was in the venue for almost every band. There were a couple of bands where I saw a reduced set due to needing food, but other than that I got to take in them all.
AS: I watched bands from all three days and I especially enjoyed Zero Hour, Cynic, Atrox and Threshold.
MD: Do you have any plans to return to Europe in the future for more shows?
GR: Nothing is currently scheduled, but we look forward to the opportunity when it arises.
MD: How is the local scene where you all live, and do you have much of a following in your hometown?
GR: There isn’t really much in my personal hometown; it’s about an hour away from two large cities (Philadelphia and New York) so our shows are always based around those areas.
CB: Unfortunately, music in the US is very different from Europe. If you don’t get played on the radio no one really cares anymore. We’ve made a small name for ourselves over here, but most local shows don’t tend to draw in that many people.
AS: It’s funny, because just last night I got a call from my friend who said she was at a small venue watching some local acts. She told me that she overheard a band member of Shot Dead Last talking about how Suspyre is signed now and that he enjoys our music.
MD: I gather your keyboardist, April, is a relatively new addition to your lineup (was it August this year she joined?). How has she adapted to the Suspyre vibe both musically and otherwise?
GR: She fits in very well; I was very impressed by her ability to read the music well, and be able to arrange the parts’ sounds correctly.
AS: I joined the band this past August loving their music beforehand, and I really enjoy working with the guys. Once I build up my Suspyre repertoire, you can expect even more of the orchestral arrangements transferred over to our live shows.
MD: You’ve received a plethora of glowing reviews for your latest album, ‘When Time Fades…’. Are you pleased with how the recordings turned out, and how do you rate the album against your other two releases in terms of progression in the songwriting and your abilities as musicians?
GR: Recording is definitely my favourite thing so I always want to be completely happy with the way things sound before we release anything. Production-wise it’s the best job we’ve done. Composition-wise, it’s different; not better or worse than the previous. Actually, a bunch of the songs on the new one were written before our first two albums; we just thought these songs wouldn’t fit well on the previous albums so we thought they were properly mesh with some new material.
CB: I think this album sounds better than the first two and I expect the fourth to be even better.
MD: I understand Charlie Zeleny who played drums on the album and at ProgPower is only a session player. Have you found a permanent drummer yet?
GR: We’re actually working on that issue now; we have something in the works and it will be announced shortly.
CB: We’re happy that we got to work with Charlie, but we’d like to find a non-session band member. We’ve been searching for a drummer for half the time I’ve been in the band and it’s been frustrating, but we’ve got some things in the works and I’m sure everyone will hear about it as soon as possible.
MD: What does the word ‘progressive’ mean to you in terms of Suspyre’s compositional style - do you regard yourselves as generically or genuinely progressive…or a bit of both?!
GR: The word “progressive” to me just means using emotion in your music. A lot of bands just play what they’ve heard classified as “progressive” rather than writing without any pre-conceived notions.
CB: I tend to agree with Gregg on this one (I guess I’m biased…go figure). We try to put together songs that grab our emotions and if we succeed in doing that to others then we usually feel satisfied.
AS: It’s a question we always get, but it’s probably hard to categorize us because we try not to think in categories or push for a certain image. For me, the word “progressive” means “liberating,” so if using out-of-the-norm instruments like the djembe, saxophone or mandolin adds a distinct character to a song, then we’ll use it.
MD: Who do you regard as the most important and innovative musicians in the history of progressive music whether they be influences on your songwriting or not, and who would you put in your ‘dream’ band (living or dead)?
GR: I’m mostly influenced by composers, not performers.
MD: Can you reveal any upcoming plans for Suspyre, and what are your future aspirations and aims for the band?
GR: Again, recording and composing new material is my favorite thing, so I hope to start a new album as soon as possible.
CB: We are in the very early stages of a concept album, but I think to finish the idea like I hope to it won’t see the light of day until our fifth release. Right now I’m starting to put together some lyrics so we can get back to practicing and recording a new album.
MD: Finally, for people reading this who’ve yet to check out Suspyre, why should they do so?!
GR: To sound as unbiased as possible, we’re an eclectic mix of a lot of different genres of music. We’ll have something for people that like baroque to modern classical, jazz fusion, and metal.
CB: I believe that our music reaches far beyond the metal genre and especially to people that aren’t into heavier music. We’re never going to put out the same album twice.
AS: I think our music appeals to people of all walks of life (even my grandmother!). All three albums are of the kind that you can listen to and hear something new each time you give it a spin.
MD: Well, thanks very much for your time in answering my questions, and I shall definitely be checking you guys out again in the future as I hate to form an opinion of a band based on just one live show. I guess every band has a bad day now and again!
GR: Thanks, I’m glad you’re not writing us off as some sloppy band based on one performance, but it was just frustrating to play well that night given the circumstances.
CB: Thank you and we hope to see you soon.
AS: Thanks, you won’t be disappointed.
Official Suspyre Website:
Official Suspyre MySpace:
The Silvery Image (2005)
A Great Divide (2007)
When Time Fades (2008)
Thanks to Jill Hughes, Susypre's manager, for offering and arranging the interview
CB: Since it’s hard to classify what progressive music really is I feel hesitant to mention anyone as being that important. But I love putting together dream lineups. On drums I’d probably want someone like Tomas Haake. For bass I think everyone would be happy with Tony Levin. Jordan Rudess has to be on keys. Guitars I would prefer to have a good mixture between Michael Romeo and Mikael Åkerfeldt. Being a vocalist I can’t give you one person for that position, but I’d be a fan of hearing Russel Allen, Devin Townsend, and Mikael Åkerfeldt.