Chatting Up a Cyborg
CoC chats with John K. of Biomechanical
by: Alvin Wee
One listen was all it took to convince me of this band's importance in the power/prog demo scene. Emerging like a steel leviathan from the depths of the quietly simmering UK scene, Biomechanical are one furious squad hell-bent on proving Great Britain's worth to the metal world. Despite putting out one of the more impressive demos in recent years [CoC #56] and gaining positive reviews on the international stage, the band has gone largely unnoticed in the past year's deluge of power metal releases. Comparisons have no doubt been made to their older cousins Nevermore and Iced Earth, but what Biomechanical really offer is a unique view of a cybernetic, yet poignantly human reality. Musically and lyrically distinct from all of the aforementioned bands, Biomechanical's singular cyber-concept is a breath of fresh air in scene where the dragons and sorcerers have grown haggard, providing the perfect backdrop for the band's blend of technical complexity and sheer epic scope. Despite some difficulty due to the fact that Biomechanical are currently working hard on their forthcoming full-length opus, I finally managed to catch hold of an overworked (and probably hung-over) John after the New Year for a bout of intensive interrogation. Seeing as the band has an impressive website (http://www.biomechanical.co.uk) with a wealth of detailed information, we decided to skip the usual introductory questions about the band's history and line-up and proceeded straight into things.

CoC: Greetings John! At the risk of sounding cliche, I'd like to state my amazement at your demo; it's one of the best demos I've ever received and I hope the album will be equally killer.

John K.: Thanks, man! Also thanks for your fantastic review. We have been very surprised by the reaction of some of the websites! As for the album, we are working our butts off to make it as powerful as possible! We hope that this hard work will pay off.

CoC: What can we expect from it, then?

JK: Musically, the CD will develop the material you heard on the demo into many other areas of the metal style. The tracks will take you from one frame of mind to another as aggressive music will be followed by an orchestral/choral track -- the title track -- into more subdued tones and back to aggressiveness. At the moment it feels like a journey, which is pretty cool. We quite like the way it turns out to be as an album. We hope you will too! <smiles>

CoC: Speaking of the new album; let us know something about how you managed to get the deal and stuff like that.

JK: Sorry I gave you the wrong impression, dude, but we are still talking to a few labels. The album is funded by us. So we know it will be ready at the end of February and we hope to get it released early 2002.

CoC: Oh, I must have misunderstood our previous e-mails... so there isn't really any concrete deal yet!

JK: We are still talking to a few labels. We wanna have this album out early 2002, so we are very focused in getting a deal as soon as possible.

CoC: In that case, how did you manage to drum up interest among the interested labels?

JK: The guys we are talking to have come back to us purely because of the material. We are a very new band and we didn't have the chance to do gig after gig. So the only way to go forward for us was to follow the good old way of sending a CD through the post! It takes ages, but I was surprised to find out that some people responded. As I wrote before, we are still talking with them for the possibility of getting signed and releasing the album soon.

CoC: You mentioned an early 2002 release date... February, wasn't it?

JK: Hopefully it will be out in February. If not, then not much later than that.

CoC: I assume the recordings are going OK? After all, this interview caught you in the middle of recording some stuff, didn't it?

JK: The recordings are going OK. I just finished all of the guitar parts and I am going to put down the vocals. The bad news is that the recordings will be postponed for a while due to the fact that our studio will have to move premises. I think we will get back to work mid-January.

CoC: Your arrangements aren't too simple either; any problems with coordinating everything?

JK: As for the arrangements, we didn't have too much of a problem, 'cause all of the music was laid down and all the parts were rehearsed very intensively before the recordings.

CoC: I'm interested in your creative process; tell us something about how you create your music.

JK: As the songwriter of the band, I always think of a song in terms of what I wanna say with it both musically and lyrically even before I lay my hands on a keyboard. This way I have a clear understanding of where the song should go and what kind of structure it should follow. It's not as simple as that, of course. Sometimes you think of a song and things don't work out. Then you just have to put down all the elements of the track and decide what's best for it.

CoC: The music has a very visual... almost filmic feel to it; was it intended as incidental music to some mental motion pictures or something?

JK: The truth is that I love film music and I have done some film-scoring for short films, and the way of writing for movies is not very dissimilar to the way I write songs. Both structure-wise and harmony-wise.

CoC: And film music combines pretty well with metal as you've managed to show us...

JK: I always wanted to integrate film music with metal music, 'cause I think that there is a lot of power coming out of some film-scores. Composers like John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Elliot Goldenthal and many others have written some incredibly powerful music. I have been influenced by them for a long time. So I though it would be a good idea to bring my influences together and create something that has both power and [is] musically interesting.

CoC: So the album was composed in pretty much the same way as you would a soundtrack to an existing movie?

JK: With writing the album I followed the same rules. The album is thought out before it is written. Again, that way I have better direction and this also creates an easier flow for the album as a whole.

CoC: Right then, I'm sure most people who've heard the demo CD will be wondering about the concept of Mekan. What's the basis of this sci-fi concept?

JK: _Eight Moons_ is about destroying your fears and weaknesses. It is about beating destructive situations such as drug addiction, mental and physical abuse by others and in general fighting back to a destiny that others seem to think is an unavoidable path that you have to go through. Damn, I sound like Yoda! <smiles>

CoC: Haha! Go on...

JK: When you fight problems like these you get stronger and stronger and in principle you are fighting and obliterating your fears. What you do is that you create an alter ego, you are wearing a mask that strikes fear into the heart of your enemies. In order to describe this reality, I decided to tell the story through a down and out character who lives on the streets and the only thing left for him is to wait for his dying day. When the night falls his body becomes an empty shell. His soul is embodied into a Spawn-type character called Mekan. This alter ego is fighting his fears, which on the planet of the Eight Moons take flesh and blood forming unspeakable creatures. There he slays them and hopes that one day he will be free of them. The guy on the streets is the fear in all of us and Mekan represents the power to fight them.

CoC: So it isn't just pure sci-fi fantasy stuff, there's an element of reality in there too...

JK: The story revolves around real day to day situations. I chose a sci-fi angle to describe them.

CoC: Still on the same topic, then; do you think this sci-fi angle will be accepted by the listeners who're used to the medieval/fantasy stuff the other bands are putting out these days?

JK: I think that as an artist you have to do what you have to do. If you have a certain vision, then you will follow it and hope that others will wanna share it with you.

CoC: I couldn't agree more, and I think it's a breath of fresh air anyway after all these swords and dragons. What, then, are your influences when it comes to Biomechanical's concept?

JK: Book-wise Lovecraft comes to mind, and film-wise maybe "The Matrix" for the parallel world story. But my main influences come from comics such as "Spawn", "The Darkness", you know this kind of thing. I love the artistic aspect of it all and I wanted to create something along those lines.

CoC: And did you intend to have some specific underlying message in the album?

JK: Will and determination are two of the strongest elements of the human spirit. We have to awaken them and enhance them in order to be victorious against our darkest fears. This is the message of the album.

CoC: Let's move on to the music now. I hear influences from bands as diverse as Fear Factory, Iced Earth and Metallica. There seems to be a very slight hardcore influence in terms of your vocals as well, and one listener -- a friend of mine -- even pointed out how similar one passage sounded to a Faith No More song!

JK: Faith No More!? Wow! I didn't think of that. The truth is that I don't write this way consciously in order to produce a new sound. I just write what comes to mind and feels good to me. Obviously you have to be careful not to copy everybody else, but nowadays many bands have influences from other bands. Don't forget that there is a 20 to 25 years history of solid metal music. It's impossible not to sound slightly like someone else in places.

CoC: So what are your specific influences in terms of metal, then?

JK: My influences from the metal world... Maiden, Priest, Metallica, Pantera, Rage Against the Machine, Slayer, these are the ones that spring to mind.

CoC: It's also strange that you have a more US metal sound than a European one; why do you think that is so? Surely you must be more exposed to Euro-metal, living in the UK?

JK: I haven't had a great deal of experience with Euro-metal. Not because I don't like it or anything like that, but simply because I took a break from metal a few years ago to study orchestration and 21st century harmony. So when I came back to metal my influences were still Metallica, Pantera, Qeensryche, Slayer, etc.. And from the European scene, Maiden, Priest, and those kind of bands. The Euro-scene exploded fairly recently and I am still catching up with it. It's difficult, though, with all this work I am doing with Biomechanical. You bastards!! <smiles>

CoC: There's this strong classical element in your music. Where did that come from?

JK: I grew up with soundtracks from "The Empire Strikes Back", "Indiana Jones", "Dune", you know, lots and lots of symphonic soundtracks mainly written for sci-fi movies. So my writing influences come straight from these sounds. Also, when I was 14 I thought it would be a good idea to listen to some classical composers so that I will get an idea of where all these film music composers gained inspiration and musical direction.

CoC: Any composers in particular?

JK: The first I heard was Tchaikovsky. I was blown away by the power and emotion of his music! Since then I heard quite a few composers, but I can't say I am a very knowledgeable classical music listener. My favourite composers are Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Holst and many others -- mainly Russian composers. So the fusion of influences is unavoidable. I think it works, though.

CoC: I'm sure it would be a dream come true to do like Metallica and hire a full orchestra, wouldn't it?

JK: Symphony orchestra? I would love to. But with our budget all we could do would be to invite them for a cup of tea and send them home even before they would get their instruments out of their cases!

CoC: But will there be any -real- classical instruments on the album?

JK: Samplers and synths will be used for most of the stuff, but I have dubbed a violin player and a cellist to get a more realistic feel of the string section.

CoC: Now let's change topic for a bit. What do you think of the new deluge of melodic metal bands swamping the market? Many have been criticized by the old-timers for aping Helloween over and over again. You know, the HammerFall effect?

JK: You know what? If the kids are having fun and if this leads to a more healthy metal scene, then it's cool by me. You can't criticise the bands for doing what they wanna do. It's the record labels who should be a bit more open-minded when signing bands.

CoC: That's a very positive philosophy.

JK: Any band that is out there, gets on stage and plays its heart out deserves respect.

CoC: So what do you think -you- have to offer over and above what's already out there in the scene?

JK: As far as this band is concerned, we will do what we wanna do and hopefully some people will believe in our music like we do. If people feel that we have something new to offer, then cool.

CoC: OK, back to the album. I know you're very active in terms of mixing and producing your material; why do you insist on doing all this work yourself instead of letting a possibly more experienced producer handle the job?

JK: It can be a very frustrating experience trusting your music to a producer and then having to wait and see whether your stuff is going to be ruined or sound great. I have had some horrific experiences with various producers and my outlook in music production has changed dramatically over the last few years. My motto now is that "if you wanna do something, DO IT YOURSELF!" Unless, of course, a world class metal producer has been brought to you by a multinational company. Then OK, we'll talk about it over a large cappuccino! In all seriousness, I feel lucky that I know how to produce music.

CoC: Isn't it very time- and energy-consuming?

JK: Sure it's hard work, but it pays off when you hear the finished product! Having worked with Steve Brown [producer of The Cult, The Manx and many more] and having finished an album production, I feel experienced enough to take on the task of recording and mixing _Eight Moons_. It's not easy, but I think that the final product is going to be pretty cool.

CoC: Judging from the production on the demo CD, I'd say the same! Now, in terms of promotion, I know you've been playing a number of gigs over in England. How did they go, and what was the audience like?

JK: The gigs were cool. Obviously I am not gonna say to you that we had people moshing, simply because many guys were seeing the band for the first time. But they were pretty good.

CoC: Will you be planning any more shows in the near future, especially outside the UK?

JK: Hopefully yes. We would love to play outside the UK! We have to focus on the album for the time being and secure a deal before thinking of anything else.

CoC: I'd like to break off again: you're from Greece if I'm not wrong, so what do you think of the metal scene in England compared to Greece? It hasn't exactly been a hotbed for metal since the glory days of NWOBHM, has it?

JK: When I came to England in 1995 I realised that metal was pretty much dead. So it was really odd for me to try to get in a band. There weren't too many bands around and if they were I was probably missing them all! A few years later the underground scene became really strong. This is when I thought it would be a good time to put a band together.

CoC: Right then, that's about all we have time for... what can our interested readers do to find out more about Biomechanical?

JK: OK people! Go to our site and check it out! Our album will hopefully be out early 2002. Keep checking the news and join our club for free MP3s and more! _Eight Moons_ will be advertised through great sites such as CoC! So check it out! <laughs>

CoC: I'd second that, it's certainly an amazing site! OK, thanks for your time, John. Keep up the amazing work!

JK: Thank you, Alvin, for hosting Biomechanical on this great metal site!

Contact: http://www.biomechanical.co.uk

(article submitted 12/4/2002)


DEMOS
1/14/2002 A Wee 5 Biomechanical - Distorted
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