This band first caught my eye in an article about the "Powermad 1999"-festival in "That's It!"-magazine (no, 16). Back then they just received a grand total of nine words ("you should watch out for them in the future!!!") (OK, in the original it had been seven, but I couldn't get it shorter! - Alex). But that alone was reason enough to take a closer look at this band, especially as some other participating bands also were full of praise for OCTOBER THORNS.
After finding the band's homepage and getting in contact with Paul LaPlaca, it was fairly easy to get the information out of that nice guy, hehe...
Okay Paul, at first could you introduce the band-members?
Joe Chawki - Guitars
Unfortunately I don't really know anything about OCTOBER THORNS, so could you please tell me how and when you all got together, what you've been doing previously and what kind of goals you had when you started out?
Most of the band-members were in other bands that were represented by a local Brooklyn promoter or were part of the scene in some way. It was an effort to bring together the best elements of these groups that led to the formation of this band. I joined through an ad I had placed in the "Village Voice" and was formerly in several of Buffalo's (city in Western New York) most popular bands. Our goals were to present the best possible music we could and get it out to as many people as possible.
Where did your name OCTOBER THORNS came from and what does it mean?
It comes from a FLOTSAM AND JETSAM-song, but it has nothing to do with it. We liked the stark imagery the name evokes, kind of barren autumn, leafless trees and emptiness.
Let us go to the music. Do you agree, when I say that DREAM THEATER is your biggest influence? But I must say that in some parts of your songs you're much heavier than DT and this makes OCTOBER THORNS very unique! Are there any other influences?
DREAM THEATER is a big influence, but we also have DEATH, MESHUGGAH, CRADLE OF FILTH, FAITH NO MORE, DOKKEN, Tony MacAlpine, RUSH, GENESIS and even Michael Jackson. It's pretty varied.
Could you tell me about your working about your songs? Did you compose together?
For the most part, the main body of the song is composed by Chawki and we all add elements and structure to it. There are a few new ones where some of the other band-members are getting to provide the basis of the song.
You're working to record a complete CD, if I am correctly informed. Could you tell me more about the actual album recordings?
The demo has been complete for a few months and we had a lot of fun working down at Matrix Studios in Brooklyn. Rob Carpenter, the owner, has been really good to us and is also a the bass player for FALLEN, one of my favourite Brooklyn-area bands. It took us several months to get the time and money to do this properly and it was very time consuming. We are happy it's done, lol!
Do you plan to release your CD by yourself or are there any labels which are interested?
We have several small labels interested and we are still researching which will be the best choice for us. For now, we are making the demo available to the public and you can order from our web-site or preview MP3s.
Did you get any reactions on your MP3-songs at your homepage from Europe and especially Germany or is this limited only on the USA at the moment?
We've been getting an enormous response from all over the world. The Netherlands, France, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Sweden and Germany have all sent emails asking for press kits for radio and magazine coverage. We were pretty surprised to get this much of a response.
Do you think you will have any chance with your style of music in the States?
As everyone knows, the US don't have a strong market for progressive music, but they do have a loyal and dedicated underground. This is where we prefer to be anyway, because there is more longevity than if you were in the spotlight for a few years and then just as quickly forgotten. We are in this for the long haul!
Paul, beside the vocals you're also responsible for keyboards and even guitars (!!!). How did you manage this in your live shows? Are there any plans to recruit a second full-time guitarist and a keyboarder?
Although I am capable of playing these instruments, I haven't actually recorded them with the band yet. At the time we had a synth-player and second guitarist, but in the future I may do some playing in the studio. I did have to cover the synth-parts last year at Powermad and it was a bit of a chore, but luckily my friend Vinnie from WITHOUT WARNING lent me his portable keyboard and it made things a little easier. We are looking for a new synth-player right now.
Do you have many chances to do live-shows and how does a typical OCTOBER THORNS-gig looks like?
We try to play out as often as possible. Most of the shows are multiple band nights, sometimes as many as ten and that can be frantic, trying to set up in less than 15 minutes and put on a good show. We have a very high energy set, lots of movement and things flying around. Bring a raincoat, if it's summer time, I do share my drinks with the first few rows, lol!
Are there any other Progressive Metal-bands in your neighbourhood and how does the Metal-scene look like in general? Do you have contacts to other Metal-bands from Brooklyn like GOTHIC KNIGHTS or ZANDELLE?
As a matter of fact, ZANDELLE used to share our rehearsal studio and GOTHIC KNIGHTS was just across the street from us. We try to get out to support them as much as we can and the guys from ZANDELLE have always been at our shows. We are very fortunate to consider them friends.
You played at the Powermad-festival in 1999. Could you describe your impressions about this festival?
The Powermad-festival is very unique for the States. It is a huge line-up of extremely progressive bands with a wide variety of styles. Keith Menser has done a fantastic job at bringing a very selective audience a yearly event that always delivers some very impressive acts. We had a great reaction from the crowd and this show in conjunction with the Big Bang and the Metalfests really started the ball rolling for us.
Do you know something about the German Metal-scene and do you know in America that Heavy Metal is very popular here again?
The fact that VANDEN PLAS is near the top of your charts (Really? Didn't realise that yet... - Alex) makes me very jealous, lol. Germany has kept the fire burning for Metal and we are very excited about getting our music out there. German fans are extremely passionate and loyal and we hope to play there as soon as possible.
At long last I would like to give you some keywords and I would like to ask you, if you could answer them with short statements.
An embarrassment as a person.
The best progressive band I've ever heard.
Our ex-synth player (??? - Charly)
One of the most important outlets for new music and the fans that listen to it.
A country that OCTOBER THORNS wants to send demos to (and Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, ... - Alex ;)
A few weeks after the interview I received a mail from Paul, updating me on the current situation of OCTOBER THORNS:
Joe has left the band to pursue more of a Death Metal-direction. We are currently holding auditions for a replacement and for the meantime I am covering most of the guitar parts. We have worked with Marcel Coenen from LEMUR VOICE and are hoping to do some work with Ron Thal of BUMBLEFOOT in the future, but both of them have serious projects of their own so they couldn't become a full-time member of Thorns.
Should this interview have raised your appetite for this really innovative Progressive Metal-band from the States (what I sincerely hope), then please contact the band, which consists of really great and sociable guys. Check out their homepage and get the mp3-tracks or order the demo-CD (see also review) - you won't regret it!
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