SL: Hi there Rocco, it’s a pleasure to be hosting you on TSL. Please introduce us your project “Plastic Mind Frequencies”.
RP: Hi! It’s rare to have the opportunity to talk about my project via an Italian blog, the greatest part of the interest has come from abroad by now (mainly USA and northern Europe) where the genre is more popular. So thanks for your interest!
Plastic Mind Frequencies was born in 2011, when I started to get seriously into home recording (mostly for practical matters, I was recording riffs and melodies to avoid forgetting them). In a few months, without even being aware, I found my hard disk full of more or less perfected songs. Hence the decision of releasing an instrumental album, that has come to life as PMF. The album is essentially an instrumental metal one, with an emphasis on lead guitar. The music is quite varied, with melodies opposing aggressive rhythms and “ambient” or electronic breaks.
SL: Thanks to you! After releasing the self-titled album, do you have some future plans already? Or do you think you’ll commit to your new band ShockFront, with whom we know you’re about to release an EP?
Back to PMF, which have been the main influences behind its writing?
RP: Starting from the last question, the biggest influence has been perhaps Misha from Periphery. When their first album came out I realized that it was actually possible to release an “home-made” album, without having to necessarily hit the studio and face prohibitive prices, and obtaining even better results in many cases!
Obviously all of this revealed itself to be nothing simple, there was (and still is) a great work of technical studies and above all hours and hours spent recording and mixing to develop my ear, something that in my opinion would be useful to any musician. Another big influence have been Animals As Leaders and Jeff Loomis, for what concerns instrumental prog metal albums. My basic influences still remain all the guitarists from the rock-heavy 80’s scene such as George Lynch, Paul Gilbert, Van Halen, Malmsteen, Slash…I could go on forever!
Speaking of a follow-up to the album, well I’m not ruling anything out! At the moment, as you just said, I’m concentrating on the production of my band ShockFront’s first EP (we count on releasing it this winter) so time and energies are being put into that by now. Anything’s possible in the future (included an international project that should see the light next year)!
SL: We’ll keep our eyes (and ears) peeled for your future projects!
Do you have some material to suggest our readers, just to keep talking of musical tastes? Maybe some recent work you particularly appreciated?
Stating the fact you recorded, mixed and mastered your album all by yourself at home and then having a listen, we can note the experience you built up in these years, which is anything but scarce. Do you have any advice to give to anybody who would like to set up an home studio?
Would you mind describing your setup, or the resources you used for your technical studies?
RP: There’s Matt Harnett, a guy from Knoxville, TN who released his EP “Enigma” more or less at the same time at which I released mine. He’s really worthy: he’s really young but has a great playing (you can hear him as guest in “Futura”, last track on my album). Other works I’d like to suggest are “Sweet Nothings” by Plini and “Chronicles” by ForTiorI. Regarding the Italian scene, Abiogenesis will soon release their debut album and they have all the requisites to rock, so you have to keep your eyes on them!
For what concerns the home studio thing, it is possible to record on your own without spending much, if you’re not too much demanding.
The must-haves are: an external soundcard, a computer that can handle an effortless use of a DAW (Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools are the standard. Speaking of free stuff I could name Reaper, GarageBand or whatever “lite” version of ant software bundled with a soundcard), and a pair of good near-field monitors.
You’ll record the dry signal of your guitar\bass directly into the soundcard and you’ll use plug-ins in your DAW to generate tones. There’s a broad choice there too, speaking of free metal plugins my favourites are the LePou and TSE ones.
For what matters drum tracks, missing a real drummer, the two best VSTs to me are still the Toontrack ones (Superior Drummer SD2.0, or its cheap little brother EZ Drummer) and SSD4 by Steven Slate.
Then the work to get done, for whoever wants to start recording on its own, is to get informed and study as much as possible, on the web first of all. YouTube is full of interviews and instructional videos featuring monsters of the mixing world explaining their approach and, just like as listening to music, the more points of view we listen to the more we enrich our knowledge. The greatest part of the work is practical stuff, I mean getting into it in front of a screen and two monitors for days and days and days practicing what you just learned, and mostly experimenting!
Speaking of books on mixing, you can find a lot of them. In my opinion, the modern day rock-metal producer’s bible is “The Systematic Mixing Guide” by Ermin Hamidovic: really clear, accurate and detailed but simple for comprehension nonetheless. For the craziest ones I strongly suggest to watch “The Art & Science of Sound Recording” by the legendary Alan Parson, about 10 hours of video footage on everything regarding music production (but please have a break every now and then!)
All guitars and bass for PMF have been recorded with an AxeFx 2 direct via USB in Cubase, for drums I used Superior Drummer. Mixing has been done entirely “in the box” with stock Cubase plugins and I used Izotope Ozone for mastering. Regarding guitars, I used an Ibanez RG1527m (7 strings) and a Chapman ML2 (6 strings) for rhythms, and a Chapman ML1 Bea for solos. Bass has been recorded with an Ibanez SR1005.
SL: You mentioned worthy emerging artists, we hope our readers will find some ideas for a bunch of new listenings.
Thanks for the detailed description about home recording and your setup.
Back to your album, as other BandCamp artists you opted for the “name your price” policy. How would you comment this choice with respect to the trends of nowadays music market, and of the behavior of “consumers”?
RP: In my opinion we’re living in an era that is characterized by two contrasting situations: on one hand the possibility to make music and publish it is accessible to anyone way more than in the past, on the other hand the music industry is in deep crisis (disregarding eventual Miley Ciruses and Biebers). People of my generation has got so used to take music for granted as a “free” thing (see torrenting, etc.) that it is really difficult for an emerging artist\band to earn something just from selling music. Whereas in the past selling CDs could permit touring, nowadays you go on tour to sell your CDs (and merch). It’s the consumer mentality that has changed, and not for the better.
I adopted the “name your price” policy for those reasons essentially, and also because being practically unknown I thought it would have been the best choice to spread my music around as much as possible. That being said I had a great response in terms of sales nonetheless, so the hope for this generation seems not to be completely lost yet!
SL: We agree. For an emerging artist, considered the market situation, the best choice in our opinion is to get one’s own music around as much as possible, and then just “hope” in a monetary reward, better than asking for it immediately and then getting an opposite reaction.
That being said, we advise the “name your price” policy, which doesn’t neglect neither free downloads nor donations.
Generally speaking, what advice would you give to any artist that would like to present himself to the world with his own music (online or not) nowadays?
Another question: in a world that is more and more about “studio projects”, especially speaking of emerging artists, how would you define the experience of having collaborations with other artists, and especially foreign ones?
RP: YouTube is without a doubt still going strong. It is essential to integrate your own music with a visual content, nowadays more than ever. So the first step is caring about the quality of your videos, I mean referring to both the audio and the imagery, and also offering some content that is interesting and entertaining enough to have people subscribing to your channel. That’s the first success.
Then I could surely mention Facebook, even if it is slowly rotting because of ads and page promotion under payment and will end up as MySpace in not a long time in my opinion. You should also target some music\audio production forums, as for example UltimateMetal or SevenString.
If your work has enough quality to it, it will spread around automatically and you won’t have to wait for a long time too have satisfactions coming your way, so I advise against promoting yourself via aggressive spamming (which gets you the opposite effect).
Speaking of “real life”, playing live as much as possible and socializing with local bands in the scene really helps, as creating an active local scene is the key point for the survival of an artist\band (taken that we don’t exactly live in the best country in terms of musical initiatives for young people).
For what matters collaborations, I find them to be one of the most beautiful things the internet permits doing. Having the possibility to get a solo played by a person living on the other side of the world is just “refreshing”. The mix of styles and, why not, the contrast between them can really push a song to the next level! And it’s a great way to help each other too while getting one’s fan base known to the other and viceversa.
SL: Great advice!
We’re getting near the end. Let’s talk a little bit of the flesh-and-bone Rocco instead of the one on disc now: apart from music, what do you do in everyday life? Do you have any other hobbies?
RP: Even if I have to admit that music takes the greatest part of my daytime, I spend a lot of time working out at the gym too. Another passion of mine is in fact body building and fitness in general. It taught me that everything’s possible with discipline and perseverance, a concept that I always applied to guitar playing and I keep applying now to home recording and mixing.
Then for the rest it’s about usual stuff, well I’m not a disco enthusiast so I’d rather hang out with friends, have some beers at the pub altogether, and attend gigs!
SL: The rigorous discipline that is needed to get results in physical training could do nothing but help if applied to any other aspect of life!
Well Rocco, the interview has finished! We thank you for your helpfulness, and we hope to be hosting you again for your future projects and, why not, for upcoming PMF releases!
We salute you, could you remind us where to find PMF material?
RP: I thank you and The Somber Lane Blog for the opportunity you gave me, you’ll have ShockFront news soon!
For anyone who would like to have a listen to my album Plastic Mind Frequencies, here’s the full stream on my Youtube channel , if instead you’d rather download it, at name-your-price again, refer to BandCamp. I conclude with the usual Facebook page. I take the opportunity to also link ShockFront’s page , have a look if you’re fans of hard rock and guitar playing in general. The EP is going to be release this winter!
Thanks again and keep on rockin’ \m/