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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Interview - Periphery's Misha "BULB" Mansoor

I recently hand to opportunity to interview one of modern metal's most creative minds, Misha Mansoor, the founder of the progressive metal band Periphery. Since the album was released I have become a total fanboy of his work and this was totally a cool experience.

Ian: I guess I'll just start with the obvious question first, how did you get the nickname BULB?

Misha: Bulb was the name of my first band that broke up right as I made a Soundclick account for it. I figured I would just post stuff up on there and people assumed that was my personal name or my band name, it kinda stuck!

Ian: How would you compare the band bulb to what eventually became Periphery?

Misha: Bulb is almost just a depository for all my ideas for me to sort through and work on later. The ideas that the boys and I think are good enough end up as Periphery songs.

Ian: Who would you consider to be your main influences back then and who inspires you now?

Misha: Back then id say Meshuggah, Deftones, Sikth, Dream Theater and Nobuo Uematsu. Nowadays its a bit more varied, artists like Allan Holdsworth and Guthrie Govan, Telefon Tel Aviv and BT, The Dear Hunter and Karnivool and Nobuo Uematsu still.
Ian: Your album was released back in April, what kind of responces have you gotten since then?

Misha: It has generally been good, but of course I seek out the bad reviews as well, but overall we have been really happy with the response we have gotten, especially from our peers and people who we look up to. So I would say that from the people whose opinions actually matter to us, the responses have been excellent!

Ian: You've toured with bands like Fear Factory, Kittie, and Asking Alexandria, how would you say that fans of those groups responded to Periphery?

Misha: Differently to say the least. You know we are kind of always the weird band on the lineup, but we are happy to play with anyone and happy to gain even just a few fans from each shows, so playing outside our comfort zone is something we think is healthy to do to broaden our range, and it helps us grow as musicians as well. But we also obviously love playing to our base, so we try to mix it up!

Ian: You've gotten criticism on Spencer since the album was released, but newer tracks (revamped version of The Walk and the Haunted Shores track Passenger) have showcased an even greater range than the album did. How did Spencer come into Periphery and what made you choose him over others?

Misha: We hired Spencer on his potential. Apart from being very talented he has something that no other singer of ours had: Drive. He was determined to work as hard as he could to get what he needed to get done, and has made such a tremendous improvement in such a short time. He entered our band with a near impossible task, and had to work with very little, im amazed that we even pulled it off honestly, and I am very proud of the album. But I will say that since we recorded the album in January he has evolved in every direction and is so much better. We are working on new material, which he can finally write for entirely and fulfill his true role as our vocalist with, and I'll just say you guys are in for a treat! We are so proud of him and having worked with him in every capacity on and off the road, I can safely say that he is the guy we have always been looking for!

Ian: Even though Periphery's debut album was released in April, you've still been posting demos on your soundclick page and have expressed a want to record a new EP for later this year and another full-length next year. What makes you want to constantly release music on a steady basis?

Misha: I just write, I love writing, I love creating. Even with the bands I produce I let them know that they should only come to me if they want me to create with them, not just record. Its one of a very short list of things that I happen to be decent at and enjoy doing as well, so I just do it and hope that people enjoy! We have a ton of material to choose from already and we want to tweak some old stuff and write some brand new stuff as well, it keeps things fresh and gives me more songs to choose from!

Ian: How much new material are you planning to include on these upcoming releases since you have enough material already for a few albums.

Misha: I don't know, it will really come down to the feel and vibe of the album and what we decide we want to go for at that point in time. Our first album was 73 minutes long, and we ended up releasing over 80 minutes of music with that release if you include the bonus tracks we did, because we wanted to kinda put a ton of stuff out there and say "Here we are guys, sorry for taking so long, so here is a ton of music!"
But in the future i dont know if our albums will necessarily be THAT long...or maybe they will be, who knows!

Ian: Ever since the track Icarus Lives! was released, there's been a buzz around it, what do you think makes this track so special?

Misha: I am not really sure. As a writer I find it very difficult to predict what will go over well and what won't. That was definitely a song that i was proud of but not in any super special sort of way but I guess people found it catchy. Listening to it objectively now, I think its just that, its definitely one of the catchier if not the catchiest song on the album despite the fact that it is not the best. There are other songs on the album that I believe dont shine as bright at first, but with repeated listens would get appreciated more!

Ian: The two tracks that stick out as my favorites on the album are Jetpacks Was Yes! and All New Materials, could you talk about how those tracks originally came together and your own take on them?

Misha: Strangely enough, those are two tracks that although i was very proud of them when i completed them I was unsure how Periphery fans or even Bulb fans would react to them because of how different they were. They still sound like me writing but its just in a very different context. I honestly thought that everyone was going to hate those songs but the band wanted them to be Periphery songs and they have also resonated well with the fans. I think the vocals on those songs take them to a whole new level as well!

Ian: You've stated that you and Jake (Bowen) wrote Racecar together, how did that song become the epic that it eventually became?

Misha: Jake and I have good writing chemistry, that was our riff fest, we just kept on having ideas and ideas that were thematically linked and just kept recording. We wrote the song in 3 days and 3 sessions, the ideas came out fast, it was probably getting the arrangement just right that took the most work.

Ian: Why did you release Captain On as a bonus track and what inspired you to update the track Eureka?

Misha: Captain On was an experiment I wanted to try where I was going to write a very angular song with almost awkward accents and time signatures but with catchy chord progressions, and the real trick was that I told Spencer to write vocals that would make this very progressive song sound catchy and almost fool you into thinking it was very simple. I think he nailed it, it was incredible that he pulled it off, you can sing along to the chorus even though it's in some absurd time signature that I would never even bother to count.
Eureka was a song that we felt would be a nice slow and crushing song, and I just revisited it and found myself toying with a few new ideas, Spencer was able to come up with vocals in no time for that one and we were really happy with how it came out?

Ian: Onto another topic, how did you originally start producing music?

Misha: By accident, I produced and co-wrote the Animals As Leaders album with Tosin as a favor to him and then people started contacting me to produce their albums.

Ian: How have groups like An Obscure Signal, Born of Osiris, and BEING get in contact with you and what do you think you added to those groups?

Misha: I actually bought an 8 string on craigslist from Walter the guitarist from An Obscure Signal, and turned out he was a Periphery fan, I told him that produced bands and thats how that started. I knew both the BOO and Being guys from before, and they contacted me asking if I was interested which I was of course!

Ian: What's your relationship with Tosin Abasi like and how did the two of you start to compose what would become the self-titled Animals As Leaders debut?

Misha: I have known him for like 4 or 5 years now. He used to live 10 minutes away and we used to jam all the time because we loved the same music and just enjoyed talking about gear and guitars and jamming etc. We locked ourselves into my apartment for about a month and wrote and recorded that album. We also had very good writing chemistry because we both have very similar taste in sounds and music, so it was a ton of fun honestly!
Ian: I guess onto your side projects now, how did you and Mark Holcomb originally start working together?

Misha: He originally asked me to record Haunted Shores as a studio project since all the other band members had left for different reasons. When we started recording, we realized that we too had very good writing chemistry and I ended up just becoming a member of the project since I was writing so much for it!

Ian: What is the status of the Haunted Shores debut album and how did you decide on all the singers that are on it?

Misha: Instrumentally we have maybe 3-4 more songs we need to write, and I think 3 or 4 songs have vocals pretty much done or demoed at least. We are still working all the singers out, it really just comes down to what we think of their audition, but we have so many talented singers on board, its actually very exciting.

Ian: What's the status of OMNOM (Of Man Not Of Machine) and are we ever going to see a full-length album from that project?

Misha: That has been on hold for a bit due to both Elliot and I being busy with other projects and work, but I started that project to showcase his voice and because I love writing with Elliot. I think he has one of the most unique and amazing voices out there and it needs to be heard. A full length will come eventually but there is no due date set, we still have a handful of songs to write for that project.

Ian: When can we expect more material from Four Seconds Ago and The Djentlemen?

Misha: The Djentlemen is just a joke. Four Seconds Ago is really just Jake and I working on electronic stuff, but we have a lot of Periphery work we have to focus on.

Ian: What kind of gear are you currently into at the moment?

Misha: Fractal Audio Axefx, any software by Toontrack, Bernie Rico Jr. Guitars, Ernie Ball Guitars, Blackmachine Guitars, Atomic Amps and Wedges, RME interfaces, Spectrasonics, Steinberg and Propellerhead Software.

Ian: What piece of gear would you consider the most useful to you right now?

Misha: Either my Axefx Ultra or Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0

Ian: Besides Periphery, what other bands do you think need more exposure?

Misha: Chimp Spanner, The Dear Hunter, Karnivool

Ian: How have the shows you've done with Devin Townsend and TesseracT been?

Misha: Absolutely amazing. Apart from being phenomenal live bands and the highest caliber of musicians they are also some of the nicest and fun guys out there. Good times, wish we could have done the whole tour, but im grateful for the two dates we were able to share with them!

Ian: What can we expect from you and your projects in the near future?

Misha: More. Just more!

Ian: Thank you so much for the interview, it's been a pleasure to interview you. The last words are yours.

Misha: Thanks for the interview. We will have new music shortly. In the meantime come check us out on our next US/Canada Tour with Revocation, Veil of Maya and Darkest hour from Nov12th to Dec12th. Dates are up on www.myspace.com/periphery
And if you like what you hear please be sure to pick our album up!
If you want more music go to www.soundclick.com/bulb and www.myspace.com/iambulb
Thanks guys!
I'd like to say that interviewing one of my favorite current day musicians has been truely a highlight of my life. Thanks to Misha and check him and all his projects out!



  1. Great interview! But what is this "revamped" version of The Walk you speak of?

  2. Spencer had posted a short minute and a half clip of him doing the vocals of The Walk over again, using lower growls and whatnot about a month or two back.