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The Science Of Metal: An Exclusive Interview With RILEY MCSHANE Of ALLEGAEON

By Brian Davis, Contributor
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 8:39 AM

"I feel like people are fallible and because of that there is always the possibility for darker motives in what they do."

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Ever since the advent of seminal “thinking man’s bands” like YES and RUSH, fans have maintained an enduring fascination for the intellectual side of Rock & Metal. They immerse themselves into bands that baffle the ears with instrumental technical wizardry while injecting their cortex with a burning hunger and appreciation for complex lyrical concepts that forego fairy tales & morbid ruminations in favor of introspective, inquisitive knowledge-bound themes that linger in their minds long after the listening. As time has passed the inspirations & accomplishments on to newer generations of knowledge seekers the music has evolved in stunningly impressive ways. ALLEGAEON is a pinnacle example of how incredibly well that approach manifests in the realm of Technical Death Metal. Encapsulated within layer upon layer of highly proficient complex instrumentation are lyrical concepts that weave science and psychology into a tapestry of inquisitive concern. As ALLEGAEON’s not-so-new vocalist Riley McShane demonstrates below, such intellectual curiosity is not a thematic gimmick but rather a near-constant fascination that permeates everyday life.

KNAC.COM: Ok Riley confirm for us – ALLEGAEON is pronounced “Uh-Lee-Jun”, right? It’s not “Al-Leg-A-Yawn” like I’ve mispronounced for years?

MCSHANE: (laughs) Yeah that’s it. I’ve always thought it was like the least-rational way to pronounce it.

KNAC.COM: So you joined about 2 years ago?

MCSHANE: Yeah, I joined about September-ish 2015, I filled in for [vocalist] Ezra [Haynes] on a short tour and then I got the job pretty shortly afterward.

KNAC.COM: So you were on the epic Proponent For Sentience album, I understand you came half way on the writing on that?

MCSHANE: Yeah, it was fun. [Guitarist] Greg [Burgess] had the hooks written out for some of the songs, it was something he did previously on the other albums. He had a strong handle on the lyrics but I kind of took over and did a lot of the songs from scratch – I’d say ¾ of them - and filled in the blanks of the other ones. What Greg would have often times was the first verse or halfway then I would go from there. A lot of the time it was the first line, then a chorus & a bridge. There weren’t any completely finished songs lyrically, so I did a large portion of that.

KNAC.COM: So you got a lot lyrically then, I think that’s important for a new vocalist.

MCSHANE: Yeah, definitely. There was already a concept with the whole artificial intelligence idea before I joined, but I definitely had a lot of freedom to make it my own.

KNAC.COM: And obviously you guys have clicked on that level of interest and angle of lyrics. So speaking of that, have you heard of the artificial intelligence robot Sophia? It was the very first artificial intelligence to get citizenship in Saudi Arabia.

MCSHANE: Yeah, I know that one for sure. The Sophia project has come a long way, I’ve been following that development for years.

KNAC.COM: As the album says, you guys are proponents for this kind of technology. Do you see some sort of dystopian future for us?

MCSHANE: No not really, I feel like that was…I don’t know, like since it’s a Death Metal album it has to incorporate the darker side of things to accommodate the genre. There’s been enough war thought going into that as far science fiction and shit like that goes. Some of the greatest scientists the field [of artificial intelligence] provides like Stephen Hawking and their research…it’s going to advance very rapidly so I think there are a lot of contingency plans that are already in place to kind of to prevent anything too disastrous from happening, like missiles launching themselves or crazy shit like that.

KNAC.COM: They’ve already thought it through at the highest levels. Do you think that science fiction ideas - in the sense of the inventors’ sources of influence – do you think that informs what they create? Like Jules Verne type shit?

MCSHANE: Sometimes. I feel like people are fallible and because of that there is always the possibility for darker motives in what they do. But I also feel that to have the kind of intelligence it takes to be a leader in the field of robotics and present ideas that your peers are going to review and look at and be like “Yeah this is a great idea” - I feel like you kind of have to have a little bit of a…not maniacal head on your shoulders. (laughs) I think that influence on the inventor is definitely present but I think that most of the people that have advanced to a point where they’re making advancements in the field are beyond that.

KNAC.COM: You guys also have a new-ish bass player?

MCSHANE: Yeah, this guy named Brandon Michael who we call boo-boo money because we already have a Brandon and we already have a Michael. (laughs) But yeah he’s great, he’s extremely talented; he played for a band called ALIGHERI in the Bay Area. He’s based out of Tracy, California which is right next to Sacramento. He is super talented and he has a really diverse background not only playing guitar and bass for Metal bands but he does stuff that is based on Funk and Soul kind of stuff so he does a lot of right hand techniques that are super well honed. He is bringing a lot to the table as far as ways that he iterates riffs to increase dynamic impact on some older songs, its super cool. Everything I’ve heard him write for the new album is also super dynamically diverse. He’ll switch it up to be using pic and his fingers to certain slap and pluck methods just real quick, he’ll just throw it in there to add that accent to that part.

KNAC.COM: So speaking of the new album, you released a single called “Animate”. Tell me a little about that. There were people saying with the Proponent For Sentience you guys were showing a progressive lean, this song is definitely a shift.

MCSHANE: “Animate” is another RUSH cover and we recorded it the same time we were recording Proponent For Sentience. Basically we were having a little bit of trouble deciding on what RUSH songs we wanted to cover so we just decided to do both; we did that assuming that this was going to be a bonus track kind of thing but we were never cleared for distribution with that type of thing so we kind of just tacked it on to the end of Proponent with the one we liked the most and kept “Animate” in our back pocket. We just figured with our new album coming out we could release it as a single, but it was more so because of 1.618 - it was January 6th 2018 with our song “1.618” about the golden ratio. So we just thought that would be an interesting event to release a new track.

KNAC.COM: So you just mentioned that on the cover of the “Animate” single there’s the golden ratio. I saw this documentary on YouTube a while back and it was looking at the pyramids - especially the pyramid of Ghiza - and the implementation of the golden ratio into all of that, placing it the design of these ancient architectures and the fact that there are these lines that they can trace across the world that are in direct alignment with like the Nazca lines in Peru, Angkor Watt etc. It was really weird shit. They also speculated that every 1,200 years or so there’s some sort of cataclysmic Earth shattering event that the Sphinx is supposed to be facing towards some astronomical alignment that would identify when that is and they were trying to warn people.

MCSHANE: I think there is definitely a lot of speculation in stuff like that and it’s interesting. I mean half of science is speculation, you have to ask those questions in order to prove or disprove them, but the Fibonacci sequence that’s like age old mathematics that’s been iterated by different cultures and different mathematicians fo a long time so it wouldn’t surprise me if certain ancient structures were built around that sequence or that ratio. As far as pointing towards meridian lines and all that kind of stuff it’s hard to tell whether or not that was purposeful or incidental just because you look at technology available at those times and if doing something like that on purpose was possible given the tools that were available; but then you also look at huge societally catastrophic events like erasing history books and burning whole libraries to the ground it is possible that there were tools that were developed in that time that we just don’t know about. So yea there is a lot of speculation that can be done into that era in our history, it’s all super confusing.

KNAC.COM: So I read that you just joined a new band called PATHOLOGY?

MCSHANE: Yea really recently I went down to San Diego, I lived in Santa Cruz for like 10 years but I grew up in San Diego so I went back down to be closer to family and what not; Dave [Astor] the drummer for PATHOLOGY hit me up on Facebook one day and just said, “Wanna try out for PATHOLOGY and was like, “YEA SURE!”. PATHOLOGY is rad, I’ve been listening to them since like 2011-2012 and they came out in like 2006 or so? And they are like DEVOURMENT in that they did a lot to pioneer the Slam genera back in the early 2000s. Getting asked to be a part of that is like really cool. Planning on doing some touring with them, maybe a new record – we’ll see it hasn’t really been talked about too much I think Dave just really wants to get on the road and play.

KNAC.COM: And that tends to be the favorite, is that what you prefer? Or are you a studio type of guy?

MCSHANE: I mean it just really depends on the type of project, I mean Slam vocals are often recorded at pretty low volumes - and it’s not anything like trick vocals by any means, although it definitely takes a certain amount of practice and talent - but it’s not the same thing as loudly projected Death Metal vocals. So its apples and oranges really but with PATHOLOGY it would be really fun to get out on the road but I definitely would like to play around with some interesting vocal techniques in the studio. That’s kinda the thing with ALLEGAEON now, for Proponent For Sentience I played it pretty close to the chest to just…like not do everything exactly the same way as [former vocalist] Ezra [Haynes] did in the past but to keep the styles similar. And now that people aren’t scared what the new vocalist is going to sound like I think the fanbase has put a little bit more faith in me to do my own thing now.

KNAC.COM: And you bring melody to the table too, the clean vocals give a lot of playground.

MCSHANE: Yeah [ALLEGAEON] has wanted to use them for years – since the first album – so it’s something being pushed on me for sure. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: So we can expect more on the new album.

MCSHANE: Yeah. I don’t know…clean vocals are a little bit of risky business for me, you can risk alienating your old fans at the gamble of appealing to a wider audience. And as artists I don’t think any one of us would sacrifice what we want to do for the sake of keeping the fanbase, you know? You don’t want to just become stale and stifled, just rinsing and repeating everything just to ensure certain people keep listening – you always want to keep growing as a musician. So I think as artists we won’t risk not doing what we want to do, but a lot people want me to do clean vocals but I’m kind of hesitant. I’d really like to have it accommodate the part rather than just force it in there. So we’ll see how much actually ends up on the record, but there are definitely a lot of ideas for them.

KNAC.COM: Alright, and just to wrap it up here do you have an estimate of when you want to release the album?

MCSHANE: Later this year for sure, like the last quarter of 2018. In June & July we’re set to record then we’ll release the album soon after that and back we go on tour.

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