As the prog metal giants Periphery unleash their huge new album Periphery IV: HAIL STAN, we had a good old chin-wag with their guitarist and all-round legend Mark Holcomb about the new record, waiting for the new Tool album, his deep love for Australian fans and more! Scroll on down to read the full chat:
Okay, so we need to know the story about how you guys decided on HAIL STAN as the new album's title.
(laughs) Man where do I even start...it's kind of an inside joke we've had in the band for a long time. We printed this shirt back in 2012 with a satanic baphomet-looking creature on it. It looked really satanic and evil, but on the back there was a pentagram with the words "HAIL STAN" under it, and it was the funniest and stupidest shirt I'd ever seen. I think a couple of people bought it but it wasn't really a popular one, but it stuck in the band as this long-running inside joke. Whenever we would see anything satanic it was 'oh, hail Stan". It's kind of a mockery of edgelord metalheads who take it too seriously and all this stuff.
We were thinking about titles for Periphery IV and none of them were sticking, so late one night, I think it was Misha who sent out a group text which just said "Periphery IV: HAIL STAN" and we all laughed. I was like man, that would be the dumbest album title ever but I love it so much because it makes me smile.
More importantly, I think it kind of falls in line with what Periphery is to all of our band members right now, because not only is it a vehicle for creativity but it's also a passion project. We want it to be this thing that pulls us away from the rest of life where we just have fun. So if people don't get the title or are offended by it or whatever, that's fine, because I don't think album titles really matter all that much anyways.
After Periphery III came out, you said that it was the easiest time you'd ever had writing an album. How did this one stack up in that regard?
I feel like P4 is a refinement of how we learned to do things on Periphery III. This time it was an exercise in patience and being more methodical in scheduling to write, because unlike in previous years we all live in different places now. Misha and I are in Texas, Jake lives in New York, Matt lives in Baltimore, Spencer lives in Las Vegas - we're spread out. I can no longer just phone everybody up and meet to write on a day's notice.
So we booked writing sessions for weeks at a time and then we'd take a month off and we'd come back for another month. It was a very slow process, but I think that's why you also hear a much more refined product in the end because none of it was rushed. We knew that there weren't any deadlines around the corner or anything. We didn't play any shows in 2018 and that was by design so that we could focus solely on P4.
You must be pretty keen to hit the road again with a new setlist under your belt then!
Yeah, we head out with Dance Gavin Dance this weekend and then we're going to South America a month later and then we have some other touring plans after that. But we're definitely itching, you know. it's very unusual to not tour for so long, especially for us. I mean we've had these years where we've been on tour for six or seven months, so for us to not tour for what, 16 months? It's pretty unheard of and it's a pretty foreign feeling. And this whole record, I feel like it's just full of moments where we're like "oh man, this song needs to be played live" or "this riff is gonna absolutely crush live". It's been too long.
Can you give us an idea of when we'll get to see Periphery back in Australia?
2020. I was hoping maybe late 2019 but it looks like our year's filling up pretty quickly, but I can promise you, you will see us next year, hopefully early on in the year too.
So now that you've been playing guitar for 25-odd years, how do you find ways to continually improve at your instrument?
You know, that's something I really need to get better at actually, just sitting down and saying I wanna be better at this technique or I wanna be better at sweep picking, or improvisation or any of those things. I guess I just don't do that to be honest. My incentive to improve is always based around the creative process, and over the past ten or twelve years it's always been about the collaboration I have with Misha and Jake in Periphery.
I always like to say that to me, writing is like a muscle that you need to constantly work out, and I'm always trying to be creative, but I feel like my creative voice really comes to life once I start surrounding myself with my band and that's when I feed off of what they're doing. Like, I'll see Jake is working on some amazing idea or Misha's got a cool riff, and that pushes me to explore writing in a different way than I otherwise would. This is just me speaking and I'm not saying this is the best way to do it but for me it's always tied to the creative process.
What's your most prized piece of music gear?
Oh that's tough...wow...I mean it changes and I go through these phases where I cannot stop playing guitar. Right now I'm playing this PRS 7-string prototype that they sent me last week that I think are some of the best 7-strings that I've ever played in my life. I'm also really obsessed with this 6-string custom telecaster that I bought late last year. It's such a different vibe to all of my signature models which are kind of shreddy guitars, and that's why I appreciate it so much.
I mean I can't really live without the Axe-FX, that's something that powers Periphery's live shows and we wouldn't be able to do what we do without it. So it's a really boring answer, but that's gotta be at the top of the list.
Aside from your own, which records coming out this year are you most hyped for?
Ooh well Devin Townsend is one of my musical heroes, my idol...he's putting out a new record which I've heard most of, and I can't wait for that to actually be out and jam the whole thing. I was just thinking about the band Opeth, I'm not sure if they're in the studio or anything but I've been craving a new Opeth album. They're definitely in my top three of all time, same with Devin Townsend.
Will you be checking out the new Tool record if it ever comes out?
I do love Tool, but you know what? At the same time it's been so long that I don't even know if I love Tool anymore (laughs). When 10,000 Days came out I was a different person, we were all different people. I mean what movies did I like back then? What kind of food was I eating? I don't even remember that much about myself, you know.
I say all that but it's probably gonna be genius...we're probably all skeptical and we like to make fun of the fact that they've taken a decade and a half to record their album but it's probably gonna be great.
Would you like to add anything before we let you go?
I just want to give a personalised thank you to our Australian fans and I've said this before, but I've always felt like Periphery had Australia from the very beginning when it came to our fanbase. I felt like back in our earlier years we didn't do so well in a lot of markets. We played some shows that were pretty packed and we played some other ones where the crowds were pretty thin.
But the first time I ever went out to Australia in the summer of 2011 with Tesseract who came out with us for three shows, I was so blown away and people were screaming the words which was insane because we only had one album out. We were babies, you know...we didn't know anything about touring or how it was going to go but you guys made us feel so damn special. It's always such a highlight when we hear about plans to come over and it's probably my favourite place to tour!
Periphery IV: HAIL STAN is out Friday April 5! You can pre-order the CD right here on our webstore.
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