Wednesday, January 15, 2020

interview: FROGG

The technical extreme metal of FROGG is pretty new to the world. The high-paced music sounds perfect for hyperactivity and doing everything fast, but what is FROGG? Here are some answers by Sky Moon Clark, the commander-in-chief.
We are currently enjoying your recording A Reptilian Dystopia and trying to keep up with the high speed of the music. So, friends, who are you?
Sky: Glad to hear you’re enjoying the EP! This started essentially as a one-man project, where we’ve had various people contribute to it. The current members of FROGG are myself (lead vocals & guitars) and Emma Rae (background vocals & keyboards), though FROGG’s intention is to be a full band. For recording the EP I reached out to some friends; Anthony Barrone (drums) & Siebe Sol Sijpkens (bass) to lay down their parts for the EP, but I’m seeking permanent bandmates for this project.
Where are you based?
Sky: We’re located in Stamford, CT, which is luckily only 45 minutes outside of New York City. Connecticut has killer bands and venues, too, though, like Shadow of Intent putting on shows at Webster Underground in Hartford.
Was the music all played by Sky? With drum programming or sampled drumming, right?
Sky: I did 90% of the guitar work, with some snippets by Liam Zintz-Kunkel. The drums were done by Anthony Barrone, who wrote and learned the parts in about a month and then slammed them out in the studio in a day and a half. There’s some sampling going on with the snare hits and he recorded using a MIDI kick which was later edited, but the hand and footwork are all there and the guy absolutely killed it in the studio.
I think drums being sampled over and somewhat programmed has become the norm in a lot of metal music because it just pushes the sound to the next level. I’d imagine it only makes the recording engineer’s job easier when the drummer behind the kit can also legitimately play the parts tight like Anthony did.
How long have you been preparing this music before the release?
Sky: FROGG started in high school, that’s when I really started getting into playing this stuff. A lot of this EP stems from my first two years at Berklee College of Music. The initial ideas for “Ancient Rain,” “Ranidaphobia” and “DNA” were morphed over the last couple of years. “Nuclear Storm,” however, was a little more recent. I was tweaking the songs fooling around with arrangements and minor details all the way up until a week before we hit the studio.
Did Sky graduate from Berklee? How was that experience, particularly as a guitarist in technical, fast metal?
Sky: I did graduate from Berklee and learned a lot about music, and it was an incredible experience. What music meant to me evolved. I was forced to learn and play completely different styles, which only made me a stronger musician. I got to make connections with talented and ambitious peers, like Anthony Barrone. We would meet up and jam to some of The Faceless songs like The Ancient Covenant, and things like that would happen all the time at Berklee.
In hindsight though, if your only goal is to play technical death metal, I don’t think Berklee fully encompasses their “you can learn every style” philosophy as much as they should. The school needs to increase their metal staff if they want to attract more serious metal players. Granted, the metal staff they have is amazing, it just lacks variety and resources that other genres are granted at the school. Being a metalhead kind of felt like being a second-class citizen at times. Not to say I regret attending, even with the astronomical tuition cost the learning experience was incredible and I consider myself very lucky.
How many years has it taken to achieve this level of guitar skill? Did you think that technical extreme metal was ridiculous when you first heard it or did you love it immediately?!
Sky: Funnily enough, I didn’t enjoy technical death metal at first. I started playing guitar late in the game as a self-taught freshman in high school. I fell in love with Alexi Laiho’s riffing and soloing and that’s what really got me hooked. Laiho has a great, recognizable style and I would spend endless hours practicing to bring my playing to the next level. Once I developed more theory and experienced Necrophagist in the right mood, my mind shifted. I also drew inspiration from bands like Necrophagist, Obscura, Arsis, The Faceless and some heavier, lesser-known bands such as The Zenith Passage, Soreption, Virvum, Exocrine, they’ve all contributed to developing my ear.
I think people hear the word technical and get the wrong idea or feel overwhelmed. And the sad part is a lot of technical bands don’t pull off a great live show. My biggest fear with writing FROGG songs is falling too heavily into the whole “djent” scene and losing originality with my guitar playing. I don’t want my music’s potential to be entirely dependent on savvy studio engineering. Live raw talent is still my priority.
What type of place is a reptilian dystopia? For instance, what are the inspirations behind the lyrics of “Ancient Rain”?
Sky: A Reptilian Dystopia paints the world in a place where big corporations go haywire and everybody ends up paying the ultimate price. Ancient Rain is about the polar ice caps melting and coastal cities getting ravaged by violent storms carrying prehistoric pathogens killing us off by the masses.
Of course, “Nuclear Storm” as a title does make people imagine a dystopia. “DNA” has some catchy melodies for sure. That is the longest song on the EP. We did not know, so we looked it up and it turns out that “Ranidaphobia” is a fear of frogs. Put it all together: reptiles, dystopia, frogs. Thus, what are we looking at? A world of fantasies and fears? Are all the songs connected as part of a concept, including in future albums?
Sky: I like your line “world of fantasies and fears,” that pretty much sums it up.
The fantasy world of FROGG is one that is dominated by the world ending in post-apocalyptic fashion. It’s kind of tongue and cheek and points to how we, as a collective species have been slowly pushing the earth’s limits and even our own limits as humans, slowly contributing to our own end. I’d love to do a fully-fledged concept album down the road, and that’s a lot what the songs for the album I’m writing are looking to be like.
Some fans are not into technical metal because they say that it is just show-off speed. What would you say to fans that have not given technical metal a real chance?
Sky: It feels like this question is mainly pointing out a “technicality vs. musicality” argument. You know, I’m not too sure. I personally don't write songs for the sake of difficulty or using a specific technique, but rather to just express what I’m feeling. I can sing and play all of the songs on the EP close to what you’re hearing, and I plan on releasing a live playthrough of me doing so down the road.
My dad passed away suddenly three years ago, and that heavily influenced my writing. My own ambition and mentality have been that I’m ready to pull this all off on a live stage and put on a show.
I don’t really have much of an ego and I don’t want to make it sound like this music is a cakewalk for me, because playing this fast with the right feeling takes a crap ton of effort. Hearing that my music is “difficult” just feels a bit tired. I guess I’m sort of a guitar geek and it comes out in my writing. I don’t personally feel that the songs are that fast, and they definitely don’t come from a place where they’re written just to be “technical”. I’ve spent years of endless practice to be able to execute my ideas with flow. I feel that if you’re true to yourself as an artist, then there’s a deeper connection made between you and your craft. Right now, I’m young and I express myself often at a high speed.
What’s funny is that we ended up slowing down “Ancient Rain” and “Ranidaphobia” by about 15-25 BPM, because I wanted to be able to execute the songs close to perfect while screaming and to match the record. It also allowed for a few sections in the songs to shine in a nicer light.
How does the support help you to continue making music? Where can fans keep up with your activities?
Sky: Fans are everything to a musician, and FROGG’s fan base is still in its infancy. I’m hoping to swing that around by filling the final seats in the band and playing live shows. I’d also love to meet up with other bands and well, and just make friends. The album will be on Itunes, Spotify, and is available now for pre-order on our Bandcamp (froggofficial.bandcamp.com/). The best spot to stay up to date is our Instagram (Instagram.com/Froggband) and Facebook (Facebook.com/Froggband). Thanks for taking the time to chat, and thanks everyone for reading!
Keep it metal,
Sky Moon

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