to None – Going Through “Phases”
By Dave Schwartz
Once again the old adage is proven; the apple doesn’t fall far
from the tree. Next to None -, Max Portnoy (drums), Ryland
Holland (guitar), Kris Rank (bass) and Thomas Cuce (vocals and
keyboard) - have been shaking the music scene for a couple years
now and have just released their second album, “Phases.” The
record is more aggressive than their first and thick with all the
twists and turns necessary to capture your attention.
So why did I mention the adage in my intro? Well, for a
couple of obvious reasons. You’ve already recognized the
Portnoy name. In many ways Max is following in his father
Mike Portnoy’s footsteps as a gifted drummer. But you should
know that Max is not spending his time standing in his father’s
immense shadow. Max has stepped up and proven himself a
talented drummer in his own regard. And the other reason for
the adage? “The Apple” is the name of the first single and
video from “Phases.”
Max Portnoy and Kris Rank called into DaBelly to talk about
touring and the new record. This is how it went…
DB: Congratulations on your new record, “Phases.” I’m
really impressed with the record. It shows so much growth
since your first album – which was so complete. I would love
to hear all about the record. Please tell me about
KR: The new album “Phases” is a lot heavier than the
first album but I think it’s even more progressive. It has
everything that we did on the first album and more. We
started writing immediately after “Light in the Dark.” It was
really about us getting more comfortable with everything. So
going into this album we already knew what we wanted to do.
We had more experience with it so the song writing really came out
better and we’re more proud of this one. We started writing
the second we completed the first record. It took us about
six months to record the whole thing. There was a lot of
time and effort put into it so we’re very happy to be able to
share this album.
DB: I can sense the pride in your work. The band
chose to self-produce “Phases,” talk a little bit about that.
MP: I engineered most of the record except the drums
which we recorded in Nashville. We just thought it would be
a good idea. We were able to get the sounds and tones that
we wanted for this album. So we spent so much time writing
that we decided to self-produce so we could get the exact tones
that we wanted. And while we were engineering it, it just
turned out a lot better because we could take as much time as we
wanted. We didn’t have a producer to worry about paying for
months of work. For us, it just worked out a lot better for
DB: So as you mentioned, this is your sophomore album.
How was your approach different from the first record, “Light in
KR: Like I said earlier, I just think we had a lot more
experience with this record. We were a lot younger too with
the first record. It was the first time we were ever in a
studio. After that experience, we had a better idea of what
we wanted to do. Personally for me, I started getting more
into music in general. I started to get into full albums so
I was a lot more inspired going into this record. So that
being said, I just think we had more experience and a better plan
on what we wanted to do with this one.
DB: You mentioned – and rightfully so – that this record
is heavier than your first. Was that a cognizant decision
going into this record?
MP: Well, I was listening to a lot of heavier stuff after
recording “Light in the Dark.” I think all of us were. I
got really into Slipknot, Lamb of God and Korn. So I was
just inspired to play heavier stuff and I think that all of us
enjoy heavy music.
DB: So this is a band question, not really a question
about music. Now that you’ve recorded a couple of album and
have been out on several tours, how do you think you’ve grown as
people inside of a band?
KR: I think that we’ve all gotten more accustom to
working with each other as far as doing the live shows or even in
the studio. There is such a wide variety of ideas that get
thrown into consideration such as what do we want to play, what we
want to write, or even what do you want to do on a day to day
basis. So I think that we’ve all got more comfortable
understanding where everyone sort of lies – as far as their
interests or the sound that everyone wants and we just kind of
work together as a machine better.
DB: There are several tracks on “Phases” that I really
like such as “The Wanderer," it’s an epic piece, can you tell me
a little about the song?
MP: Well basically going into the album, when we started
writing, we knew that we wanted a track at the end that would
incorporate themes from the whole album, from each song. And
we also wanted it to be able to stand alone. So basically
that was the concept going in. So once we completed the
album as a whole we sat down and wrote that last song. We
worked on themes from every single song and that’s basically how
that came together. I think it does a really good job tying
up the album and bringing all the pieces together. It has
some great parts that really do a good job balancing out the
DB: You have a video out for the song “The Apple.”
MP: The “Apple” video? Well we knew this album was
a lot heavier than the first one. Even the first album was
probably too heavy for progressive audiences with the screaming
style of the vocals. And so we wanted to put out one of the
more straight-up metal tracks because that was something that we
didn’t do a ton of on the first album and that is the direction
that we were headed. We’re just kind of laying our cards out
on the table. So for the video, instead of just doing some
sort of dark room shoot we would do the complete opposite – a
bright outdoor thing. So we settled on doing it in an
orchard because the song is called, “The Apple.”
DB: Musically, this album has many diverse styles on it.
You’ve put quite a bit on the table with this record. Where
do you primarily see yourself musically? I mean you’ve
mentioned that your vocals are a bit more aggressive that a
progressive audience might like yet you incorporate progressive
music with moments of dubstep and scratching…
KR: We really don’t want to characterize ourselves as
anything. Generally, if I had to pick something, I would
just call it progressive metal. But basically what we’re
combining is all of our progressive influences with all the metal
stuff. But even that sound isn’t really progressive metal.
We really want to do whatever we want. Like you mentioned,
adding dubstep and everything, that was something that we talked
about for a while. That was something that we talked about
for a while – doing dubstep in a song or using a turntable.
Anything that we think is cool we want to be able to incorporate
into our music. I mean, even if our beat is flowing out of
what most people would consider as progressive metal, we want to
be able to do anything or whatever we want. So as far as
putting a label on ourselves, I guess if I had to pick one it
would be progressive metal but I would really say that we have a
DB: Well you’ve been quite successful in mixing those
sounds together. I am impressed with the diversity of sounds
and styles that you have on this record. For some bands,
that results in a mixed album – a hodge-podge of music. But
irrespective of the diversity of sounds you’ve been able to focus
your music. So in your case, the diversity of sounds comes
to a cohesive whole that is impressive.
KR: Thank you. I think that it really helped that
we had Nolly (Adam “Nolly” Getgood from Periphery) mix the record.
I think his production on all the tracks solidified the sound.
It has that constant drive to each song and that’s based on the
MP: His mix was really solid and I think that’s what Kris
was saying. He really helped keep the album together, even
with the different styles, when you have a solid mix behind it the
DB: So you’re out on tour right now. Tonight you
are in Tucson. What do you have coming up the remainder of
the year and in 2018?
KR: For the remainder of this summer we’ve got this tour.
The beginning of September we’re doing Prog Power USA in Atlanta.
Then we go to Mexico City with Shattered Fortress, New York City a
week or two later with Shattered Fortress and after that we’re
still putting things together.
I want to thank Kris Rank and Max Portnoy for sharing a little
time with us. Buy their latest album, “Phases”. And
certainly go see the band live!