INTERVIEW: SOUL CYCLE Masterminds - Mark Hawkins & Chris Catharsis
Today on board we have Soul Cycle, a crazy project which was created by underground metal producers Chris Catharsis and Mark Hawkins. The aim of this project was to write melodic music without sacrificing deez nuts. Our writer Naman Lakhani recently interviewed both Mark & Chris and this is what they had to say:
1) Hey guys! Greetings from the Metal Wani team. How have you been?
Mark: Busy as always, but more than happy to chat with you guys! Thanks.
Chris: Always glad to talk to someone other than ourselves. Life becomes very lonely when you're an Internet metal band.
2) How has the response been to the new album “Soul Cycle II” both from fans as well as critics?
Mark: It has been incredibly positive all across the board. The reviews so far have been wonderful and the fans do not seem at all disappointed! I’m really happy with how much it has spread and we have our fans to thank for that!
Chris: It's been really surreal since we released the album. The response has been overwhelming, mostly due to the sheer amount of talent that chose to be a part of this album with us. Each and every one of the 24 guests on "Soul Cycle II" deserves the utmost praise and recognition for their endless creativity, patience, and commitment to what we were trying to do. We're comfortable with the songs themselves, but they're more or less the backing track to a human highlight reel of shred.
3) Tell us about the history of the band and how you guys started out. Where did you guys come up with the name “Soul Cycle” for the band?
Mark: We basically stole the name from this super rad exercise bike…hahaha, no, but really it was a name I pitched to Chris a long time ago along with some other names. This one seemed to stick! I should mention there is another funk/jazz band called Soul Cycle, but they didn’t happen to come up when I did a search on MySpace several years ago. Thought we were in the clear! I suppose it has led to some very confused metal and funk fans when they find the wrong Soul Cycle. Hint: Type in “Metal” along with your search to find us.
Chris: The Soul Cycle funk band is far more talented than us, and the Soul Cycle exercise bike is far more metal than us because IT'S MADE OF METAL. We were doomed from the get-go. But Mark and I have been working together since the mid 2000's on different projects (Kongregation, Rape the Dead), and long story short, Soul Cycle is just the next step in that process. Will there be a fourth step, yet another project in yet another sub-genre of metal? Probably - but so far, we like Soul Cycle the most.
4) Please enlighten us with some of your influences.
Mark: I have lots of insanely talented friends and collaborators who all influence me to try new things or just sit down and practice. As far as guitarists go, I’ve got to give it up for my friends: Luke Jaeger, Vishal J. Singh, Malcolm Pugh, Sam Bell, Sacha Laskow, Paul Wardingham. They are all fantastic players and great people as well. As far as some more well-known guitarists, I love: John Petrucci, Tosin Abasi, Guthrie Govan, Ron Jarzombek, Jeff Loomis, Andy James. I could go on forever, but I’ll stop there. These guitarists provide me with lots of inspiration and creative ideas for pushing the boundaries of modern metal lead guitar playing.
Chris: Most of my inspirations are not directly guitar related. I don't practice guitar as much as I should, otherwise my technique might be sky high by now and we could be making some money! My inspirations mostly come from songwriters. I grew up on Creedence Clearwater Revival. I've always respected John Fogerty as a master of writing simple songs that never fail to be timeless, and for his understated lead guitar technique. I'm a huge fan of other classic rock bands like The Allman Brothers and The Eagles that have an authentic sense of harmony and melody. I also try to find a few hidden gems here and there, like Bloodrock (if you haven't heard the song "D.O.A.", DO IT NOW). Other than that, I love 70's funk, jazz and be-bop, and of course, the all powerful METAL.
5) Most of the fans were sure that the new album would consist of a few guest appearances. But 24 guest appearances on a single album is way too much talent put into 1 album. How did it all go about?
Mark: I wish there could have been more!! HAHA! But, really we have always placed an emphasis on collaboration so this really was a wonderful opportunity for us to talk with all of our friends and ask them to help us make an awesome guitar-driven record. We even took some chances here and there, reaching out to some people who we didn’t think would even respond to the email. But, we were very pleasantly surprised. Not just by how many guests agreed to play on it, but by the quality of their work as well.
Chris: Like Mark said, we really want to foster more of this collaboration in the future. There are only a handful of people that are trying to push the envelope with making music over the Internet. We're certainly part of the litany of stay-at-home metallurgists crafting nerdcore in their basements, but we want to be more than just a one-man band pumping out song after song. I don't think we've taken Soul Cycle as far as we want to yet in terms of involving the fans, making them as much a part of the process as the guest guitarists. We want Soul Cycle to be like a brain trust, a think tank for creating music we all want to hear but can't get any of the major bands to write. They get it right 95% of the time, but I think Soul Cycle needs to live in that remaining 5%. We may never get there, but the ambition is present.
6) Chris, you are in charge of composition, rhythm/bass guitars, drum programming and production and Mark, you are in charge of composition and lead guitars. Tell us about how it all goes around; the song composition, the recording, the entire procedure.
Mark: My contribution to Soul Cycle consists of mostly lead guitar work, but also layers and a lot of the clean guitar parts as well (like the intro to Heartless or the clean section from Unphased). We will email files back and forth until a song doesn’t suck anymore (this takes a while).
Chris: Sometimes it's a nightmare, with me flooding Mark's inbox with revision after revision after revision until he hates my guts and won't talk to me for like a week. But in the end, it all works out. The fact that ANYONE ELSE wanted to be a part of that annoying process is incredible to us. I think we're migrating to Skype to write the next album, but who knows? We've been playing the e-mail game for years and it's never failed us yet.
7) Recently lots of fans have been freely using the term “djent” in context to your music, even when you guys cite yourselves as Melodic Metal. What is your opinion on that and what are your views on the word “djent”?
Mark: I don’t necessarily see the word or the community around it is as such a bad thing. I will say that I am not a huge fan of the style as a whole, save for some standouts. But, overall the community is rather supportive and I appreciate any press we have received through sites like got-djent.com,etc. Things get too complicated with classification of bands into these sub-genres. For me, there are only two kinds of music…Good and Bad. Life is easier that way. Are we djent or not? I’m neither concerned nor qualified to decide that.
Chris: The "djent" community, if there is such a thing, has been very kind to us and we are extremely thankful for that. For the most part, I don't think we fit in with most of those other bands. Our primary concern is to write great songs that we like. Hopefully, everyone else feels the same way about our music that we do.
8) Do you have any other musical projects and endeavors other than Soul Cycle?
Mark: TONS! I love to stay busy. Currently working with the extreme metal band DEVOLVED to track a new album and I’m very excited about the material. Other active bands I am a part of include: Robots Pulling Levers, Assimilated Mind Phase, Cofe Time, and The Global Warming Extravaganza. Also, very much looking forward to an acoustic project with my friends Luke Jaeger and Vishal Singh once the DEVOLVED album is complete. I’ve also recently been featured as a guest on the latest releases from NOVA and Hypnorock as well as an upcoming song from Son of Aurelius.
Chris: I'm FAR less busy in this department than Mark, and rightly so. Mark is extremely talented and he deserves as much exposure as possible. I'm working on a couple things in the future, namely Soul Cycle III, but I have plans for a full length down tempo post-rock album, an experimental prog album with vocalist Martin DeBourge, and a sludge album called "Mouthbreather". We'll see how many decades pass before I get to any of those!
9) Both the albums do not have a physical release. So can we hopefully expect a release of some CDs and merchandise by the band in future?
Chris: Yes, and yes. We're getting there soon but reality sometimes gets in the way of the Internet. Really looking forward to releasing some tasteful merch so I can buy some for myself!
10) Undoubtedly, the songs on both the albums are marvelous! But unfortunately they’re never played live. Are you guys planning to get a complete line-up and play these songs live?
Mark: If it ever becomes financially viable for us to do any kind of touring, I’m all for it!
11) Coming to the last question: What does the future hold for Soul Cycle? What awaits the eager fans?
Mark: Vocals!! j/k, no vocals….ever.
Chris: We still haven't written our best songs yet. That's about it. Until we can say we've written the best we can write, we don't plan on stopping the quest.
12) Thanks a lot guys for being on Metal Wani. It was a pleasure having you guys aboard. Any words to the Indian fans and all fans in general?
Chris: India is awesome, you guys are the best! Thanks for everything.
Read Our Soul Cycle Album Review Here
Official Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/soulcyclemetal
Official Bandcamp Page: http://soulcyclemetal.bandcamp.com/album/soul-cycle-ii