Tosin Abasi is the founder and co-guitarist of the progressive metal band Animals as Leaders. Earlier this month the group released their fourth full length album titled “The Madness of Many”. The album follows in the footsteps of the bands previous releases which pull from a variety of musical influences which are repurposed into the bands own unique style of Djent. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Tosin recently about the albums creation, the group’s current tour and what the band has planned for 2017.
Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info on where the band was at going into the recording of “The Madness of Many”?
Tosin Abasi: We had done a lot of touring off of “The Joy of Motion” record and we decided it was time to start working on new material. We stopped booking shows and were off the road for about a year. That time off allowed us more time to work on new material while also allowing for change. I think that if you stack your releases to close together things can end up sounding like a continuation of the previous record. We wanted to have a fresher approach so we took a good amount of time off. During that time we were able to just be human beings and practice independent of the band with our own ideas. We then came back together as a group and everything was very collaborative. This was probably the most collaborative we have been as a band thus far.
AL: Can you tell us a little bit more about your collaboration as members and how it has progressed over the bands four albums?
TA: The first album was basically Misha Mansoor and I. I had a bunch of ideas and demos but, I wasn’t really happy with them until Misha stepped in. I had actually thought about canning the whole thing. Working with Misha really set the inner core of the Animals as Leaders sound. When it came time to do the second album we approached things a little differently as we brought in drummer Navene Koperweis who much more of a death metal and electronic background. You can definitely hear that type of production on “Weightless”. For “The Joy of Motion” we did a lot of work with Misha again as well as Diego Farias from Volumes and we had Nolly from Periphery producing and engineering so you can hear again the inclusion of Misha’s sensibilities and his influences. With the newest record there was very little to no outside contributors helping. It was basically Matt, Javier and I. We thought we were going to maybe work with a producer after do pre-production on our own however once we had multiple songs demoed we liked what we heard and couldn’t see what a producer would change or bring to the mix so it started to dawn on us that we could probably complete this on our own. It almost started to feel like we should let this album be just the result of the three of us working together and for better or worse that was the end result.
AL: Was it difficult in any way from a production/producers stand point being that you were all so close to the material?
TA: You have to at some point trust your creative decisions and know what you want the end result to be. I think it’s helpful to have outside ears which is why we have always incorporated outside people but there was something that felt very personal about this material and I think as the bands musical identity has existed thus far it hasn’t been as pure because of those outside influences. We really wanted the only people making musical decisions were the people playing on the album. I think that’s what really shaped how the album ended up.
AL: As a band and individually are you and the other guys always writing or do you have to separate your work between writing time and performing time?
TA: I think we all are always writing. It is more of a matter of would it make sense to do a new album or not. The label doesn’t really dictate to us when we have to make a record but there are certain cycles which make sense. Each of us I think is always in a state of creativity and writing so it’s more of just deciding when is a good time to compile all of that stuff and start on an album.
AL: Does the band set specific goals for each record being from a production or stylistic standpoint or does everything happen more organically for you guys?
TA: Things are totally organic. We really feel like we don’t have any rules. If we want to do a seven minute song that’s strictly nylon string guitar or a really heavy song with nine string guitars or even a classical piece we can do that. We don’t limit our musical expressions. I think Animals as Leaders is deliberately a space of where we can include a lot of our musical influences.
AL: Being one of today’s players who is at the fore front of extended range guitars/instruments, how much more has that opened up things for you from a creative stand point?
TA: It opens up a lot more options. Harmonically you can voice chords in different positions and you also have a much wider range. Technique wise you aren’t limited to strictly guitar techniques. You can incorporate bass techniques as you have access to lower registers. I think that tambour sounds really cool on a guitar. I think of it as we play stringed instruments. I love the guitar and its tradition however I am not a traditionalist. I don’t feel any nostalgia for it or have any need to say “If I add strings to this instrument it’s no longer a guitar.” We definitely embrace all that stuff as it does give us more creative options.
AL: Can you tell us about the bands current tour and what you have planned going forward into 2017?
TA: We are on tour through mid December with Intervals and PLINI who are both instrumental bands. Those guys are all super nice and great players. The shows thus far have all been packed out which has been great! After this run wraps up we will be home for the holidays and then we have some international dates booked which will take us to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China and I think Taiwan and Thailand. That will all be starting in February. We are also working on putting things together for the spring/summer concert season as well.