Next To NoneNext 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 “Phases.” 

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 the band.

DB:  So as you mentioned, this is your sophomore album.  How was your approach different from the first record, “Light in the Dark”? 

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 album.

Max Portnoy and Mike PortnoyDB:  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 label.

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 mix. 

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 whole time.

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!

Return to DaBelly

© 2017   DaBelly Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.