From the unlikely place of the United Arab Emirates has come one of the most impressive and impassioned albums so far this year in the refreshing and stirring might of Fractals from Dubai quartet Absolace. Like a breath of fresh air within rock music the album is full of boisterous riffs, melancholic atmospheres, cultured songwriting, and emotive melodies. With the feeling that things could be on an even greater rise for the band, we had the pleasure of asking drummer Greg Cargopoulos about Absolace, their new album and more.
Hi and welcome to The Ringmaster Review. Big thanks for taking time to talk with us here.
Firstly for those unaware of the Absolace could you introduce its members?
Hey guys. On bass, from Australia, we have Ben Harris. On vocals we have Nadim Jamal, from Lebanon. Jack Skinner, from UK, is our guitarist. And my name is Greg Cargopoulos. I’m the drummer of the band, and come from Greece.
It all started when Jack and I were just jamming out a few tunes that I had written. We were trying to form a full band. We were looking for a drummer first of all to jam with. I was actually supposed to be the bassist originally, but it was so hard to find a drummer, that I ended up playing drums just to jam. I really loved the drums from the very start so I stuck with it. We were also originally supposed to have a female vocalist. But that idea eventually faded away for some reason.
After a while of writing bits and pieces, we realized there was enough material for an album, so jack and I booked a studio to record drums, and put down the tracks. We then started to track guitars and bass at my place. Then approached Nadim to be our singer, and tracked the rest of the album. After the album was complete, we approached Ben to be our bass player. The rest is history :)
Is there a story behind the band name or a relevance to it for you?
Yeh big time. I’ve always been a fan of bands that switch from a heavy sound to a mellower atmospheric sound, so that’s what I really wanted to do. Absolace is a mixture of the words Absolute and Solace. Both words referring to the two sounds we move between. The heavier sound and the ambient sound.
You are the first rock band we have come across from the United Arab Emirates, is there a thriving rock scene there and in the Middle East in general?
No unfortunately there isn’t really. There’s a bit of an underground scene, that’s about it. It is getting better though. More and more bands are pushing further and going overseas. The biggest problem here is the lack of venues to play at.
One imagines it is much harder to be noticed as a band from that region worldwide than if a UK or US based artist. Have you found that to be the case so far?
Yeah definitely much harder. Not so much to get your music out, because we all have the internet, which gives you unlimited access to the outside world for our music. The problem is we can’t tour as easily as bands from Europe, UK, or US, which means we can’t promote our music as well.
You have just released the brilliant album Fractals, a release we love here. How long has it been in the making?
Writing for fractals started about January 2011 I believe. It took, on and off, about 4 months to write. In June we started tracking the album, which finished in September or October, with 1 month off in the middle. Then mixing and mastering at the end of the year. So yeh, about 4 months writing, and then, on-and-off, about 6 or 7 months production.
The songs within Fractals are beautifully crafted and presented but with an edge that stirs up emotions, suggesting a care and attention to every detail of your music is as deep a part of your songwriting as any organic evolution, is that so?
Yeah we definitely paid a lot of attention to detail with this album. We literally completely dissected some songs to get them as good as we possibly could. You have no idea how much time was spent on this.
How does the songwriting process work within the band?
Some songs differ from others. Some songs are written by one person, on pro tools, using programmed drums. Other songs are written as a result of a jam. It all depends. We don’t really have a specific formula.
The new album follows up your acclaimed and again rather special debut Resolve[d].How has the band and music evolved between the two releases to you?
Yeah it has definitely changed in some way, as it is a group effort now, rather than a single person’s writing. But that’s a good thing. A band’s music needs to change, it needs to keep evolving. We’ve all changed as well. Everyone’s keeping healthy and happy. We’re all at a good stage right now.
You have been compared musically to the likes of Porcupine Tree and Tool and we threw in the flavours of Karnivool and Sunna in our review of Fractals, but what are the influences that have firstly made the biggest impact on you as people and secondly on the music of Absolace?
As people, we have so many influences there are just too many to list. Also musically, we are all influenced by so many bands including the ones you mentioned (Karnivool, Tool, Porcupine Tree). These are just the ones people are picking up on the most.
Tell us about the apparent theme within the songs on Fractals, the link between chaos and every day details of life.
It is all about relating the chaos theory to everyday life. Our lives, essentially, are chaotic systems, that are affected largely by initial conditions.
That link can be looked at either positively or negatively, and you combine both in your songs from the calm inspiring sounds that at times challenge and raise the intensity and your lyrics. What is the underlining impression you are hoping comes over in the album?
This album really speaks out the truth. Whether its happy moments of realisation, or harsh reality. It depends how you take things really. A lot of the lyrical content is sad-but-true topics in the world like modern-day slavery, tyrants, etc… It is supposed to have a bit of a shock effect.
There is a depth and expanse to the songs within the album that feels organic, like the songs dictated their own evolution is that so?
Yes that is definitely true. We try and write in a natural way. Not sticking to traditional structures. Also, we look at all of our instruments as a whole when writing, rather than individual parts. It is more of holistic way of writing.
Yeah definitely. Songwriting, musicianship, showmanship. It has all grown in my opinion. It’s a natural course for musicians as long as the passion is still there. Also, more importantly, I think we’ve all become more familiar with each other musically.
Resolve[d] was mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia, Paradise Lost) and I was led to believe Fractals too but since I noticed production on the new album was down to you and U.S. producer Joshua F. Williams (Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Flo-Rida), could you clear that up for us please?
I actually produced both albums, using Jens as the mix and master engineer for Resolve[d], and Josh Williams as recording and mix engineer, and also to co-produce it. Both guys did a fantastic job. The obvious advantage of Josh is that he is in the same country. I think it is good to keep working with different people, keeps albums different from each other in terms of sound.
Has the album turned out as you envisaged going in to the recording or did it bring some surprises to you along the way how it evolved?
Actually we pretty much had most of the songs nailed before going in, so no surprises there. However, Chroma Mera and Wade 2.0, we pretty much made it up as we went along. They turned out awesome considering.
How did the actual recording differ this time around, were there lessons learned the first time to make Fractals an easier experience?
Fractals was definitely put together easier than Resolve[d], but still a few frustration along the way. But it only get easier with every record…..I hope
Is there any part of Fractals that gives you an especially deep satisfaction and glow inside?
Chroma Mera….FUCK YEAH!!! Also, the production turned out awesome. I’m so happy with it.
Going back to your homeland and Dubai where there are known social restrictions does that have an impact on music and what you are allowed to bring into a song lyrically?
Ummm, I dunno really….Our lyrics are never really a problem. They are not too provocative, and we don’t swear in our lyrics. Maybe if Rage against the machine were born today, and happened to live in Dubai, there might be a problem :)
You have played some high profile shows, like supporting Anathema in Beirut and playing in the Formula 1 celebrations in Abu Dhabi as examples as well as playing the Byblos Festival in Lebanon, so I have to ask how has the rest of the world not been fully aware of Absolace before now haha?
Probably cause we have yet to Tour. It is quite hard being from a place so isolated from the rest of the world. We’re working on it though, having PR campaigns to raise our awareness in EU, UK and US. We shall see :)
Do you ever see a time where you may have to relocate to find deserved recognition?
Some people have suggested that, but it is much easier said than done. We all have jobs, girlfriends, and commitments in our lives, and it is not always easy to drop it all to move country for the band.
So you have real lives to live alongside the band and if so do they make a generally seamless fit?
Yes we are all very busy people in our professional lives, and most of us have girlfriends. Ben is even expecting a child soon. It does get difficult sometimes to find the time, but as I see it, if the passion is there, you can always find enough time.
Tell us about your video for the brilliant I Am, So I Will (our fav song on the album).
We are super happy with the video. The shoot was really fun, really cool people to work with. It was a great experience overall. The director, Cyrile, he came up with the concept of visuals and screens. It looks pretty catchy, and I gotten us some good exposure. Youtube is a huge way bands are getting discovered these days, so our video presence is essential.
Once the wave of acclaim and attention we foresee coming over Fractals, have you any plans for the rest of 2012?
To start writing again :) Not many gigging plans this year, but hopefully a new release by early/mid next year, so we’ll be busy writing for the rest of this year.
Thank you for joining us to tell us about Absolace. Good luck with the album.
Would you like to leave us with any last thoughts?
Thanks for giving your time for reading this interview :) Please check out the tunes, and the video, and leave some comments for us, join our mailing list, etc…Hopefully see some of you at a live show one day :)
Lastly tell us the one song or release that you would say truly inspired you to make music.
Hard to nail down to one album, so can I name 3? Pretty please? This will also give you a hint as to which years I started writing our stuff :)
- Opeth – Ghost Reveries
- Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet
- Tool – 10,000 days
Thanks so much for the interview. Take care :)
Read the Fractals review @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/absolace-fractals/
The RingMaster Review 04/05/2012