Interview: Tosin Abasi of Animals As Leaders
Fri, 01 Feb 2013 09:25:08
When asked if there's a resurgence of "real" guitar players, Animals as Leaders virtuoso Tosin Abasi enthusiastically responds, "Dude, I think it's happening. There are more guitar players concerned with advancing their abilities and grasping a theoretical understanding of the instrument and technique. There's a renaissance of guitar playing."
Make no mistake. Abasi is leading that revolution. Weightless, the latest instrumental masterpiece from Animals As Leaders, illuminates not only how skilled he and his cohorts are, but also how inventive and innovative they are as well. It's like a futuristic metallic orchestra ushering in a new dawn.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Tosin Abasi of Animals As Leaders talks Weightless, the band's upcoming tour with Meshuggah, next album, and more.
What's been your approach for the next Animals As Leaders album?
We've done pre-production on more than half of it. We're still writing the last 30 percent of it actually. There's over half an hour of music. The approach is the same, but some of the creative choices are different. On Weightless, we were experimenting with processing guitar audio and having parts that were almost based around the electronic elements. The song structures were simpler. We were trying to limit the amount of parts per song. On the newer material, I ended up going to work with Misha Mansoor [Periphery] just to return to some of the vibe of the first album he and I did together. At this point, it's less electronic-driven. I don't want to say it sounds like the first album, but there is that degree of Misha's involvement with the arrangements. Then, there's newer material arising from the dynamic between me, Matt, and Javier. There will be some cool surprises that aren't any of the Animals As Leaders' albums.
Where do songs typically start for you?
They all start on the guitar. I'm constantly writing sections at a time, not knowing what will end up in a song. It's more like I keep a mental catalog of all these different riffs. We try to take the best of the best. Everything is born from the guitar.
Is conjuring visuals with the music important for you?
I like that you asked that because I think there's something that needs to take the place of language. We try to be as colorful as possible with melody, tonality, and texture as well as with rhythm. Everyone can have his or her own subjective experience with the music. We actually perform with visuals because we want to complement the music visually. It allows for a lot of cool, conceptual visualizations as well.
You also manage to tap into real emotion within the landscape of instrumental music.
Weightless was cool. I was working with a lot of different modes of scales and harmonies. I'm continuing with that. There are even more adventurous harmonies and more that are localized and comfortable in areas. I like to push the boundaries of what people consider melodic by incorporating exotic scales and tonalities. We try to balance that out with things that resonate with people. I think there's going to be a cool assortment of emotional content.
What influences you outside of music?
I like science fiction literature like Arthur C. Clarke, Orson Scott Card, and stuff like that. Philip K. Dick's stuff is really cool because it translates well into movie plots. He definitely writes about more of the action-oriented elements, but there's some social commentary as well. He stands out. I'm also into fashion. Visual creativity can sometimes give me inspiration for musical creativity. I find concepts about the intersection between technology and humanity very interesting. A lot of the vibes I like to convey through the music deal with some of those concepts even though there aren't any words to let the listener know that other than the song title. It's like the soundtrack to what I imagine the future being in some ways.
What have you read lately?
I read Anvil of Stars by Greg Bear. The Earth was destroyed by self-replicating robots. It's a pretty cool book.
Would you want to get into film scoring eventually?
Yeah! I haven't actually tried scoring a film. It'd be really cool to try, and I'd enjoy it. Hopefully, the opportunity comes up.
How big of a Meshuggah fan are you?
I could exist on a metal diet solely of Meshuggah. We did a short run with them in the UK last year. It was a dream come true, and I can't wait to do it again.
Have you heard Animals As Leaders?