By Sam Lawson
This past week I travelled to Cardiff with some of my band mates and some newly-made friends of mine to see 3 of my favourite artists in the progressive rock/metal field. All performers that I had met and seen before around the summer of last year so I half knew what to expect but of course, all 3 of these artists have released new material since I last saw them perform, which made for a very well put together touring line up as well as a particularly exciting experience for myself and i’m sure many others, given that David Maxim Micic’s 2017 release ‘Who Bit The Moon?’ and Disperse’s release that also dropped this year, ‘Foreword’ are both currently neck and neck at the top of my coveted (obviously) Album Of The Year spot. I told Rafal and Jakub (Disperse) after the show the only thing that is gonna knock ‘Foreword’ off the top of the pile is a new Tool album, they understood.
The venue was a place called The Globe, I had never been there before and didn’t know what to make of it looking from the outside of the building. Once you make your way in and up the stairs, it’s a very classy looking building. The actual room where the music is set to take place has a balcony area as well as a really spacious and comfortable floor space and the acoustics were very good also. Can’t recommend this place enough as of now.
I was running late and had an interview with Mike Malyan (Disperse, formerly of Monuments and The Algorithm) set for 7:30pm and it was about 10 minutes til we were scheduled to sit down and talk, I took the risk of cutting the line and knocking on the venue door much to the dismay of the people stood waiting at the front of the queue. When security let me through after checking the list, I entered the performance area of The Globe to see David Maxim Micic on stage, Jakub and Rafal hanging around by the merch stand which had been put together and looked really great. For a split second everyone in the room was looking at me like “Why are they letting people in? Doors haven’t opened yet have they?!” but I think after a few seconds passed the guys realised what was going on. It was nice to see them all again. Mike was in a rush and I had sort of figured out as to why he was running around frantically more so than usual, but more on that later. We rescheduled the interview for after Plini’s set which was fine by me, gave me more time to just relax and maybe even come up with some more questions.
So to start us off we have David Maxim Micic hitting the stage. The quiet and soft spoken virtuoso wasn’t fucking around with his cast of supporting musicians. To better help explain Mike’s sense of urgency from earlier in the night, it was evident that he was going to be playing two sets each night across this tour and with this being the first date, I understood the rush. He was playing drums for David, Jakub Zytecki of Disperse joined on rhythm guitar and Simon Grove who plays bass for Plini was going to be providing the low end, as it were. A pretty spectacular line up of players about to embark on some very technically challenging and sonically riveting material for this very lucky audience.
The tour posters for the Handmade Cities tour had David listed as “BILO: David Maxim Macic” which I wasn’t aware of being one of his pseudonyms and I thought it implied he would be playing on of his three BILO albums in full but he played entirely new material during this set all taken from the aforementioned ‘Who Bit The Moon?’ and I was very pleased with that though I definitely would have liked to have heard some material from ECO and EGO but when I was in the moment I wasn’t exactly thinking about that in honesty, only in retrospect. I’ve seen David perform with Destiny Potato twice now but never on his own playing his solo material, he strikes me as an incredibly soulful player and he does a lot of improvising during his lead parts and guitar solos and I find that really refreshing when considering that a lot of technical/progressive metal artists are very much regulated and adherent to their backing and click tracks and very seldom do they stray from the recorded parts but the somewhat reckless abandon of this way of thinking is what makes these guys some of my favourite musicians period. Mike and Simon’s chemistry on stage was really surprising given that to my knowledge (correct me if I am wrong) they hadn’t played in a band together before now but they were both just so in the pocket yet really pushing the rhythmical boundaries of the songs. Overall I thought this was a fantastic performance and I was really happy to have witnessed it. David was very conscious of his performance and gave it some real heart and soul, his stage banter with the audience seemed a little lack luster and on a separate note to that, the bass was strikingly quite loud but other than those minor details, I really don’t have any strong negative criticisms of this performance.
Disperse are easily one of my favourite bands right now and I remember last year hearing a lot of (what was at the time) unreleased material at the shows I had seen them perform at and being really into it and trying to locate it online afterwards but to no avail. So when ‘Foreword’ came out I knew that it was something special and that seeing it live would be an experience to remember. When the band were on setting up on stage I noticed that David Maxim Micic was holding a bass, this wasn’t something I was expecting whatsoever. Jakub was genuinely teaching David a bass part just before the set started.. On stage. Something that was refreshing to see was that Jakub was using a Marshall head and cab amplifier combination rather than a modelling amp like a lot of the other guitarists were using in the genre as well as the tour party. There’s a lot to be said for the sound of a real amplifier in comparison to a modelling amp when it comes to a live performance, it’s just something you can truly feel in the pit of your stomach. The bands were all cold-starting their sets by walking out, setting up, talking to the audience for a few seconds and then starting the music. This wasn’t the usual practice for live music performances that I had become accustomed to if i’m being honest. There was something refreshing and sort of humble about it, I suppose. The band started with the song ‘Bubbles’ which is a personal favourite, immediately I noticed that some of the levels were a tad jarring, Rafal’s vocals and keyboard were quite significantly louder than everything else but that sorted itself out throughout the duration of the set. These guys were so excited to be on stage, they are always excited to be on stage and I love seeing that. There was this sort of loose feeling about the performance, I knew they were playing to click tracks and whatnot but something just seemed very free about it all. It didn’t come without it’s problems, there was evidently bass parts that David had forgotten on occasion and from what I could tell, Jakub snapped one of his guitar strings and had to swap out for his 6 string guitar. The setlist was mostly new material with the exception of ‘Dancing With Endless Love’ and ‘Message From Atlantis’. The new material sounded really exceptional in a live setting and the audience seemed to be really feeling it. New tracks such as ‘Gabriel’ and ‘Tether’ paid off well and left a strong impression on the crowd. My only criticisms lie with some of the mixing choices throughout and occasional bass mishaps but I spoke with the band after the show and they said that David was learning the material hours before the show and that their actual bass player Bartosz will be joining them for the remaining tour dates after the 8th show. Credit to David for having the ability to learn all the material that he had in such little time though, really speaks volumes about his musical abilities and diversity.
Now for the grand finale; Plini. The band was made up of usual suspects Simon Grove and Troy Wright but there was a new face on second guitar. All the times I have seen Plini he had Aaron Marshall of Intervals by his side but on this occasion it was Jake Lowe from The Helix Nebula (Simon Groves’ other group), Jake is also credited as having a significant role in the music of Slice The Cake, who were fronted by my good friend and collaborator Gareth Mason. Jake is an excellent guitarist, very technically proficient without question. Occasionally he brought some strange vibes to the show, his windmill headbanging during parts of the set seemed truly baffling but then again i’d be silly to overlook the fact that it was probably just a joke between the members of the band. Regardless there was something missing from this performance and I don’t think it was Aaron’s presence or even anything to do with the musicians on stage if i’m honest. To me it seemed like the audience just didn’t come to this show to dance or have a good time with their friends, they thought this was an actual masterclass. If they could have all been seated I am confident they would have opted for that. I was stood on the balcony watching from above and I genuinely saw about 5 people total bust some moves or at very least sway side to side to the music, this entire crowd was just transfixed by the musical ability of these 4 players. Troy Wright is as Troy Wright does, fucking ridiculousness. There aren’t words in the English language fitting enough to describe this guy’s ability behind the kit so i’ll spare my energy and leave it at that however I would be remissed if I didn’t mention the fact that the guy uses his elbow to put pressure on his snare drum to alter the pitch during some of the cleaner passages in the songs and I think that’s total genius. Mix wise this was arguably the best band of the night, everything was very clear and concise though at times perhaps a bit sterile. I really enjoyed the performance, as I always do when these guys hit the stage. Basically all of my favourite Plini songs were played so I couldn’t possibly complain, it was evident that the lack of sleep was starting to really effect Plini himself towards the end of the set, which the band closed off by playing a medley. It was rumoured that there would be a superjam in the spirit of UK Tech Fest but it didn’t happen due to exhaustion but the rest of the tour by all accounts resulted in jams as well as some saxophone appearances popping up at the London show, perhaps I should have attended a different show!
Overall I think that this show was a great way for these guys to kick of their tour and it further reinforced the idea of community between all these bands and their audience. Seeing all 8 of these guys swap over and play for one another was a really strong sign of camaraderie and solidarity amongst some of my favourite musicians and it made the night extra interesting also. On a personal level it was great catching up with everyone and enjoying a night out with my friends and band mates also.
I caught up with Mike from Disperse at the end of the night after all the gear had been loaded into the trailer to discuss the band as well as some of his personal ventures.
What was the writing process like for the new album ‘Foreword’?
Mike: “The writing process for me was a sick life experience because it was tied in with going to Poland for my girlfriend and then meeting up with Jakub just making music for the shits and giggles. We wrote some shit for like 6 months before I joined Disperse or started working on ‘Foreword’ together. Jakub had written a bunch of it already but he loved having a guy around to help work on stuff and I had never had such a collaboration in writing before so that was fucking sick for all us. Recording the album was great because I got to get into a really nice drum room in Tanów in Poland but then Jakub just did the rest of it in their houses. It was a really sick process of like, not trying to be different and just trying to be honest and open.“
You were injured for a while and were unable to perform, what was the road to recovery like and how does it feel to be back?
Mike: “It was 11 months from gig to gig and it was fucking hard. 3 months were just awful and then 3 months were a bit better. As I started to visit Poland it started getting better and better. I mean Jakub was really there for me and my health. He got in touch with a guy he played for who was one of the Polish mountain people, they drink crazy amounts and party like crazy but they’re all big businessmen. This guy had this top notch physiotherapy hospital and he hooked me up with this procedure where they take your blood cells and they spin it in a centrifuge into a white blood serum and they inject the area. There were loads of people waiting to be seen and they were giving me rockstar treatment, the guy even offered to pay for the procedure for me. That really helped, having the friendship there. Not only does it feel great to be back to good health but this band really brought me to that, they’re really tied into it. Now i’m really thankful and really grateful. Before with Monuments it was always about playing really really heavy stuff, it was more about headbanging. Monuments is this machine of groove that needs to plow through every barrier of indiscretion that the crowd has. To do that on the kit.. I’ve done it too much in my life, i’m over it.”
What other projects are you currently involved with?
Mike: “There’s only one band i’m really sessioning for semi-regularly and that’s Hero And Error, they’re a hardcore band from Ireland with Kaan from No Consequence on vocals. It’s fucking sick, we just recorded an EP in January, i’ve done a couple of gigs with them. Gary and Rob are heroes! Gary is a really awesome coffee roaster, he works for Dark Arts Coffee and they do really great vegan food and also support bands sometimes. It’s like a vegan biker gang. I’m doing some solo stuff and Jakub’s doing some solo stuff, that’s what me and Jakub first started working on together but I put it on the backburner because I had all these crazy plans for it but Jakub said he wanted to work in Disperse and I was like ‘Well, I don’t care what it is we work on as long as we build shit together i’m fucking happy’. I recorded sick drums for it in Thailand. It’s like jazz fusion with a taste of metal. It’s like Tigran Hamasyan meets Snarky Puppy.”
What shows are you most looking forward to across this upcoming tour?
Mike: “There’s London, that’s always the one cause it’s the hometown show. The crew and the venue in Switzerland are sick too. My Euroblast homies are the guys who not only manage Euroblast but also manage Monument and The Algorithm so they’re great friends, lots of friends in the city too so Cologne is going to be super sick. The Patronaat venue in the Netherlands is amazing, i’ve not been there before but I measure venues on a scale from Italy to Holland, Holland being the absolute king. Those are just a few, the whole thing is gonna be amazing just because of the people involved.”
You have recently starting working on drum tab books for the latest Disperse record, what inspired it and was there a lot of people asking for it?
Mike: “Not at all, I just really wanted to get into it because i’ve started getting into tab reading for learning stuff and i’ve realised how important it is. It’s one of the things I realised when I left Monuments and I was trying to show the parts to new drummers and stuff, I was thinking this stuff was kinda simple-ish but the with the intricacies I had thrown in, there’s no document explaining why things were the way they were. I intend to go back and tab-book The Amanuensis and Gnosis at some point, because there’s so much that was in there. I wanted to actually do that incase a drummer wants to study it and if there’s something in there that throws them off a little or they don’t quite know what it is. There’s some tuition based stuff that I want to do as well, generally it’s just an idea of something that i’d love to do. It’s being built up at the moment, it’s in the pre-order stage but it’s gonna be done in the next month.”
Where do you hope to be one year from now?
Mike: “I hope Cardiff! *laughing*. Nothing needs to change, i’m quite happy. If things stay consistent then i’ll be a very happy man but then I might be living somewhere else, I don’t know. Things might change, but things always stay the same.”
This tour has now finished in the UK and has moved over to Europe so if you’re one of our international readers, do NOT miss these bands!
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