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Intro To Biomechanical. Brian Davis Mind-melds with Singer John K

By Brian Davis, Contributor
Friday, March 3, 2006 @ 11:05 AM

"For me, one of the most celeb

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Allow me to introduce everyone to Mr. John K, otherwise known as the Charles Darwin of Modern Heavy Metal. Masterminding the monolithic metal band Biomechanical, singer/songwriter/composer/producer John K has, through a stroke of brilliance known as “The Empires Of The Worlds”, set in motion the rise of a new musical Empire; an Empire of diversity, uniqueness, depth, intellect, scope and undeniably wicked instrumentation. We are the fortunate ones who are on hand to witness the rise of what is destined to become one of the most influential bands in metal history; a band that will draw focus back to the defining elements of metal’s past, highlighting everything that was ever right about it, while evolving to a higher level of distinct originality than has ever been expressed before.

The following is an in-depth interview with John K about just how intricately vast the span of this new musical Empire is, how it all came together, and the humble approach involved in the realization of such a grandly scoped project. “The Empires Of The Worlds” is now available for your own consumption, and I strongly urge you to explore the Empires for yourselves and experience the infinite sonic universes lurking just beyond the fringes of the conscious mind.

KNAC.COM: Thank you for all this kick ass music! I’m blown away-absolutely.

JOHN K: Well, we’re doing our best; we just work our asses off. (laughs) Just like every other band, I suppose, on this planet.

KNAC.COM: Well, your best seems to be quite a bit better than most of the stuff that’s out there.

JOHN K: Well, you don’t know these things. We’ve been talking to some people who’ve been telling us, “Oh yeah, you’ve been getting good reviews” and stuff like that. I always just say to people: You work as hard as you can, you get the stuff out there, and then it’s like you’ve dropped a bomb. You’re like, “Oh God!” and you’re just waiting, you know? Because you have no idea how people are going to take it.

KNAC.COM: You just have to sit back and wait.

JOHN K: Yeah. I mean, at least I know for certain what we do is not exactly…we haven’t followed one certain style, if you know what I mean. We were uncertain as to how people would react, but it’s been really nice, man!

KNAC.COM: So can you tell me how long you’ve been a musician?

JOHN K: Yeah. I’ve been involved with music all my life basically, but I have to say I didn’t study music with a teacher up until 21, 22-quite late in my life, really. I met up with a guy in Athens, Greece who taught me Jazz piano and orchestration and composition, because I really, really wanted to get involved with film music, you see; and I still do. And that was my formal education basically. But before that I was involved in bands in Greece; I had a band called Deceptor that did quite well down there. We put out an album and it went quite well. And then after that I moved to London and looked out for bands in ’95. Unfortunately, metal was dead in England; it was absolute darkness, man (laughs)-there was nothing around. I joined a band, but then I left singing for quite awhile because I just got a bit disappointed from the point of view that there weren’t any bands…you know, the musicianship had gone down the drain because of the fact that everybody was copying Indie metal, Indie music, which doesn’t really need much skill to play. And I kind of got very involved in film music-I did a couple of short films and stuff like that. In about ’98/’99 metal started sizzling up again, if you know what I mean. Then I was working for Steve Brown-he’s the producer of Manic Street Preachers. I was working for his studio and I just realized, “I’ve gotta do something-I’ve got to write some metal”; and that’s when the Biomechanical thing kind of happened.

KNAC.COM: Excellent. You mentioned Deceptor-can you tell me a little more? For example, is the album available?

JOHN K: Unfortunately Deceptor was a quite-early-in-my-life type of thing, and it was a time when metal was an exclusive commodity of America and the UK; there was a little bit of metal happening from Germany, but at the time I was living in Greece and it was pretty much impossible to get signed, to be perfectly honest with you. So the bands of those days used to just release demos; unfortunately the band never went beyond the demo status, but it has for some insane reason become kind of a cult band in Greece! (laughs) Which is really sweet, I think. So yeah, that was a good beginning.

KNAC.COM: As you said, you’re from Greece-there seems to be a rise in Greek metal: yourself, Gus G, Mario Iliopoulos from Nightrage…

JOHN K: (laughs) You know what the funny thing is? Mario is actually a very good friend of mine!

KNAC.COM: Really?

JOHN K: Yeah, man! He comes from Thessaloniki, which is my hometown. He’s a lovely guy, right? A very, very good musician and I’ve known him since God knows when, man-I really know him that well. Gus G I don’t know; we have spoken very briefly by e-mailing, and I know he’s around and I know he’s doing his Firewind band, and I think it’s really sweet.

KNAC.COM: It’s nice to see a smaller country…like you said, most of the focus is so much on the UK or US or Sweden.

JOHN K: Definitely. I mean, especially when I was trying to get signed back in the days of Deceptor-it was always a disappointment of having the 7 or 8 major bands making it in metal; then metal went down a little bit, and the stakes weren’t that high anymore, so a lot of companies started hiring bands from smaller countries like Greece.

KNAC.COM: Alright-you did a little bit with the Progressive Power Metal band Balance Of Power-you did “Heathen Machine” and also the live material on “Heathenology”.

JOHN K: Yeah, yeah.

KNAC.COM: I gotta say, I got “Heathenology” the other day and I popped in the DVD…that live performance just made me jones that much more to see you on stage.

JOHN K: Oh cool, man-I’m glad you like it; it’s cool. Yeah, with Balance Of Power we got together while I was…basically, I sang with Biomechanical on the Bloodstock live show here-they’ve got a metal fest that’s happening once a year-and I met up with a guy [name is indiscernible], he’s the main organizer, and he decided to manage Biomechanical for quite a while. About halfway through the thing he gave me a call and said, “Balance Of Power needs a singer, how about it?” and I said, “Yeah!” I mean, if I could help the guys in any way-I knew the guys and they were really nice people. We did the album and then we did the live thing, but you know what? About a year, year and a half later I just found myself not giving 100% and I found myself…you know, even 95% just wasn’t enough, man; and unfortunately I had to call it a day with Balance Of Power because I really had to be 100% focused on Biomechanical. I’m not just the singer, you see, for the band-I do the songwriting, I do production, sometimes I do management when necessary-so it’s really a full time job for me.

KNAC.COM: Obviously, like you just said you’re the songwriter-what’s your mindset? What are you looking to do when you sit down to write a song?

JOHN K: Basically what I do is usually…because I really like film scoring I find the basic focus of writing film scores or musical films to be very methodical, so what I tend to do is to outline some kind of a draft for the actual album. So I have an idea how I want the actual song to go-whether it should start explosively, whether it should start a little more subdued, where you should turn down the tempo a little bit, color and texture, etc. So pretty much like supporting music for a film, really. For me it’s a lot easier to sit down and write because I have a general idea of where the album should go, so I don’t struggle to think, “How the hell should the next song sound like?”, you know what I mean? We don’t do the typical, you know, “let’s write 35 songs and we’ll choose 14”. There is a different method for writing music for Biomechanical; there’s an outline of the whole album, which makes it a lot easier. Obviously sometimes things do change, but that’s the same with everything really.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, you can definitely get…it’s almost like an audio movie. Like you said, you just throw in those peaks and it all seems to correlate with the concept and the vocals where there’s a lot more intense, visual action-type scene as opposed to more reflective type stuff.

JOHN K: Yeah, I think that comes from my love for film music; I really love film music. And the fact that if you play a cd, if it’s a good composition, you can almost see the film; you can really feel the emotions of the film. And this is another thing I’m trying to achieve-going back the writing, other than the film scoring situation, one thing that is very important to me, and I think is important to every writer, is a good riff. I always look for a good riff, and then I build around the song. Sometimes I may have a chorus in my head and I’m getting there, if you know what I’m saying, but I think #1 is a good riff and I think the rest will usually follow. But yeah-the orchestral film scoring feel I think gives the album a better kind of visual feel to it sometimes.

KNAC.COM: Definitely; it gives it a lot of depth. And I was going to say-that’s obviously one of the key elements, one of many for the album, but before I heard it I would have told you it was impossible to incorporate that kind of massive orchestration sound without compromising heaviness-and that ruins so many good albums-but in this case it enhances the urgency; it gives it balance.

JOHN K: Yeah, that’s the thing I never understood about orchestrations. To be honest with you, I find that some of the heaviest stuff I’ve ever heard in my life derived from films like “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Interview With The Vampire”-there’s some really heavy moments in those films, you know, and I’ve just always felt if you could incorporate them orchestrationally right and write the orchestra within the actual song so that the two go good together; they exist for the same purpose, you know? As opposed to: write a metal song and then slap an orchestra on it.

KNAC.COM: Right. A lot of times it’s like they’re just throwing it in to be there and it winds up conflicting with everything else they have going on.

JOHN K: Definitely. Many times it doesn’t work. For me, one of the most celebrated works, you know, the connection between orchestra and band was [Queensrÿche’s] “Operation Mind Crime”; and that was collaboration between Michael Kaman and Queensrÿche, if I’m not mistaken. That was a beautiful, beautiful orchestration; that’s a great example of writing orchestral music within a band that actually…you know, the one compliments the other, it’s not like an alien thing.

KNAC.COM: “Empires” is a concept album which is the second of a trilogy, the first being “Eight Moons”, your first cd; can you elaborate a little on the two and how they tie in?

JOHN K: Sure. Basically, the first album goes through some kind of a Sci-Fi story; it’s like a futuristic situation. But what we’re trying to do…we’re trying not to create some kind of a story that runs from A to B like a book, but use concept albums basically as a vehicle for what we’re actually trying to say. The first album, for instance, we’re talking about the darkness of the mind, the darkness of the soul, and how can you arise from it victorious and get out of situations like that? And the second one, basically we’re carrying out the story of the first album to the second one talking about the violent nature of humanity. So basically what we’re trying to do, we are telling a story through the eyes of a single person, but the story actually carries on a message that we’re trying to put through. And we couldn’t find a better solution, to be honest with you. I mean, we always wanted to talk about really sick things, i.e.-this album’s talking about the fact that we’re all driven by our DNA code and we’re slaves to it whether we like it or not. And yet, with all this technology and we’ve gone so far, we can’t see why we’re killing each other. (laughs) It’s something that-I mean, at least me-it’s been troubling me for a while. Our lyric writer kind of came from the same perspective, which was fantastic I thought. But the story-just to sum it up for you, the first album is talking about somebody who is created in some kind of an alternate world where he can be whatever he wants to be; he can fight, destroy, obliterate these fears that look like unspeakable creatures. It’s some kind of an inner torture thing, if you know what I mean. He becomes victorious in the end and becomes stronger and stronger; on the album “The Empires Of The Worlds” he turns himself into something he shouldn’t have been. He actually fights against everything he believed, and halfway through the album he awakens. Just right before “Absolution” he sends some kind of a message to himself saying, “you’ve got to awake; you have to awake. I’m going to have my final fight against everything I hate, but you have to awake.” And what you hear at the beginning of the album is the actual message he sends himself; so these two tie in nicely. Then you have some kind of catharsis, which is the “Absolution” track, and at the end “Disintegration”, which…do you like Manga at all? The animation?

KNAC.COM: I’ve seen some, not a whole lot.

JOHN K: Well, there’s a film they have called “Akira”…

KNAC.COM: Oh yes, I know that one.

JOHN K: Well, you know there’s a scene where Akira becomes pure energy, so I kind of got influence from that. You know, how about if he does become pure energy and he just obliterates his worst fears ever, and he basically sets himself free? And that’s what “Disintegration” is all about. So I’ve said-ok, it is a story kind of thing; it doesn’t necessarily go from A to B but if you read the lyrics, we’re talking about issues of these worlds, of issues that do happen on our planet. And it’s basically an everyday life thing that we just want to talk about, and we’ve found no better way than to put it through some kind of futuristic story.

KNAC.COM: Excellent. And then you’re going to finish it off with “Cannibalized”?

JOHN K: Yeah. “Cannibalized” is gonna be…man, I’m telling you (laughs) I just watched Revenge Of The Sith and I just came out of the cinema really depressed. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) Really?

JOHN K: For the right reasons, though-I loved the film; I just found it really dark, and “Cannibalized” kind of evokes the same kind of feeling for me. Basically it will be the death of the spirit; unfortunately there’s not going to be any hope. (laughs) It’s going to be quite dark.

KNAC.COM: So as for par, the music will reflect the mood…

JOHN K: Yeah.

KNAC.COM: So do you anticipate like heavy, speedy darkness or ambient…

JOHN K: I think this album is going to be a completely different album of journeys, to be honest with you. I like to take the music in different places instead of going like one path. And so, hopefully with this album as well, we’ll go into different emotions-obviously we’ll have to go really dark at some point, because I’ve said it’s the end of: a.) the character, who runs through the stories, but also we wanna pass through that…get the message through of the ending of the spirit, basically. So yeah, I think it’s going to be pretty dark. I did worry our designer at Earache because I told him, “I’ve got this idea for the next cover. Here!” (laughs) Bless him, you know. He may get a bit of a nightmare from our cover, but hey-it happens. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: And already after that you’re looking far ahead, and you have a rough idea for an album you want to call “In Extremis”?

JOHN K: Yeah, it’s an idea I’ve got…it’s swaying a bit, I’m gonna be honest with you. “In Extremis”…I want it to be an album quite deep, quite thoughtful, and my only worry is that I don’t want to create a situation where it could be some kind of a killjoy thing, so I really have to think about this; I’m still not sure about it. At the moment I’m really concentrating on “Cannibalized”; but I really like to look into the future and see what can you do after that, and then after that what could come so that it keeps some kind of a balance of what comes from the band?

KNAC.COM: And so do you plan…I mean, with your fascination with movies and scoring in that field, do you anticipate a steady flow of concept albums? Does that help create the sound that you want by putting a theme to it?

JOHN K: Yeah, that’s a good question, because I was thinking the other day, “how about if we sit down and we write the typical 32 songs?", and I don’t know if I feel comfortable about that. (laughs) I mean, what has happened so far works well, and I don’t know if I can find myself radically getting away from it. I might do it someday and do 12 or 13 totally different tracks talking about different things; but for the time being I think we’ll stick with some kind of a concept idea, because it just evokes that film continuity, if you know what I mean, and it gives you a better idea of the outline of the album.

KNAC.COM: Don’t fix it if it’s not broken, right?

JOHN K: (laughs) Yeah.

KNAC.COM: Alright, I might be hallucinating here, I don’t know…I ordered “Eight Moons” from your website so I’m waiting to hear that, but I’ve heard the samples on the site and it sounds like…at the very end, the guitar and the vocal line at the very end of “Regenerated”, like maybe the last 5 seconds, sounds like it jumps into the first line or so of “The Awakening”…

JOHN K: YOU’VE GOT IT!!! Goddammit, you got it!!

KNAC.COM: Alright!

JOHN K: Good guy! (laughs) Bloody hell, that’s so funny man!

KNAC.COM: That’s one of the cool parts that always stuck out about it-that’s one of my favorite songs anyway, but the way it transitions I was like, “Goddammit…”

JOHN K: (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) I couldn’t quite make it out and I kept listening to “The Awakening” over and over, and I was like-that first fucking part, right there!

JOHN K: (laughing hard) You got it! Goddamn!

KNAC.COM: (laughs)

JOHN K: Dude, honestly-you’re the first guy who’s realized that; it’s so cool!

KNAC.COM: Excellent!

JOHN K: Yeah, “The Empires” to start with has got a lot of references from “Eight Moons”. For instance, there’s a subliminal thing-you can’t really hear it-on the first track Enemy Within right in the end when it goes really heavy, really slow, there are some voices inside and basically when you read the lyrics you’ll see that I’m saying, “Staring back at you from the core of darkness”; So I’m using that, I’m using references like that. And I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great…” right? Because basically what happens with the album is that the guy who the story goes through awakens with “Regenerated”, and that’s what “Regenerated” is all about. And I thought, “Hang on a second-this is his second awakening, if you think about it.” And I thought it would be awesome if I could just shift the track and use the beginning of “The Awakening”-just a couple of lines. (laughs) And you know what, nobody got it ‘til now. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) I’m stoked, man-that’s awesome.

JOHN K: Well done, dude.

KNAC.COM: I guess that’s one of the many things on the album…there are so many small things I could go off on forever, but it’s the matter of 5 seconds like that and you can tie in the entire previous album. It’s extremely effective.

JOHN K: Absolutely, yeah. To give one more thing away-there’s a very small part, but it’s a lot less obvious, on “Relinquished Destiny” just before the end, there’s 5/ 8 into triplets, which is basically the exact same thing that happens on the very last track [“Point Of No Return”]-you will hear it-on “Eight Moons”. But it’s a very, very small part-it’s nearly not there, if you know what I’m saying, but still it’s being done on purpose to kind of tie the two things. I find it imperative, to be honest with you. You’re doing a concept album-it would be nice if you could use some things from previous albums, even if it’s something very, very little.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, just a little bit like that is enough to push it over the top; just give it that extra impact. Alright-you’ve been mentioning…is there gonna be access to the full lyrics of the album?

JOHN K: Absolutely, absolutely. The guys from Earache really helped me out here because I had a complete vision of the album-the way it should look, the cover, everything. And at the beginning I was a real pain for them, man, but in the end it became such a cool collaboration. They got me together with this guy called Matt Jones-he’s basically an illustrator, and he’s worked for the Spawn magazine and stuff like that, and to be honest with you, when I thought of starting the band in 1999 I always wanted to work with somebody who is involved in comics. How weird is that? Like how many years later have I just got somebody who has actually drawn for Spawn magazine. I can’t believe it. And that guy took the thing aboard and he drew the mechanical and the biological fetus on the cover of the album. Unfortunately he couldn’t take on the rest of the inlay, so I have to say there’s a young dude called Anthony and he took it onboard and he’s done a beautiful work. You’ll see-you unfold the whole thing and all the lyrics come out and no worries, man-everything is there.

KNAC.COM: Very cool. You recorded the album in your personal studio. What’s the benefit of that? What’s the preference there for you as opposed to hiring out?

JOHN K: The preference is that I feel more comfortable as producer, to be honest with you. To sit down and not have to look at a clock all the time, and if I need to re-do something then I can bring one of my guys in and say, “Ok, let’s give it another go” because I have to…I’m very meticulous on recording, you know, and my guitarists were in tears! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs)

JOHN K: Yeah, they hate me, they hate me. But it’s nice-I find it more relaxed. At the end of the day the quality is there, and as you said earlier-if it’s not broken, why fix it? But we got all together with Andy Sneap and did the mix there and I thought he did a great job.

KNAC.COM: Do you have a favorite song from “Empires”?

JOHN K: Well, the only one that stands out ever slightly more than the others-because I like them all, you know, there’s been hard work and a deep thinking process for all of them-but the only one that stands out ever so slightly more is “Absolution”, for the only reason that the film-scoring orientated writing jumps out more on that track than others. So…that’s the one that I would draw a preference to, even though I like them all.

KNAC.COM: Alright. The film scoring-you mentioned earlier that you did some for short films and that’s something you’d like to continue on. Is that an active pursuit?

JOHN K: Yeah, I mean…film scoring as a career point of view, as a career move, I think is something that can go on forever; the guys go on working until a very old age, so it’s not something that at the moment I’m going crazy about. I really pursued it very heavily in England,; there is just one problem-in England the film industry is really suffering, there isn’t enough money circulating, and there are very, very few composers from England that actually are actively working. So I kind of stopped looking around, but obviously I’m still pursuing my composition situation, trying to find some people to work with and stuff like that. So yeah, it’s something I’d like to do later on in my career, but for the time being I’m really concentrating on the band.

KNAC.COM: Sure. So-God forbid-if it came down the ultimatum: Biomechanical or film scoring…

JOHN K: Ahhh…man, why do this to me? (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs)

JOHN K: I don’t know. It’s a very hard question-I really can’t tell, to be honest. I’d probably do them both if I had the chance. But honestly…honestly, I don’t think it’s going to come to that. I think now it’s the time for Biomechanical, and I’ve got the feeling that if things all go well in my life then maybe later on it’s gonna be time for me to take onboard film scoring.

KNAC.COM: And on the other end, the pursuit with Biomechanical…I certainly perceive phenomenal amounts of success, but certainly as you progress and the band grows that should in turn maybe assist the possibilities of film scoring.

JOHN K: That’s the thing-you never know. That’s the thing I’ve learned: life is very unexpected and it’s very weird and it’s got all these little twists and turns; you just don’t know, man. I’ve done “Absolution”-maybe somebody’s gonna hear it and say, “Hang on a second-we can contact this guy and he can do the next…” whatever, you know? It’s just weird how it works, you never know; you could be absolutely right.

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