Ahead of Periphery's biggest headline show to date at the O2 Forum in London, I had the opportunity to sit down with bassist Adam 'Nolly' Getgood for an in-depth discussion about Periphery III: Select Difficulty, music production and his recent descision to take a step back form touring with the band. Read the full interview below:
It’s been a year since Periphery III: Select Difficulty was released. One thing that I noticed was that unlike Juggernaut (2015), which was a high concept, very ambitious double album, this record did not have to follow this concept. Was it nice to not be constrained in this way when making the new album, being able to let individual songs stand on their own a bit more?
I think it’s always sort of a double-edged sword when there’s no defined concept that you’re working towards. If there’s an overarching story, you have something at least to think about when you write the music, and you kind of feel like you’re creating with a purpose. I think it’s difficult for any creator to have just a completely blank page in front of them and just be told like “do something awesome” …you know, it’s kind of good to have a restraint there. I think for sure the band was happy, and I was happy (laughs) not to have to construct something of that length and complexity again, and instead be able to kind of just give each song independent tweaking and really just be able to concentrate on each song individually, and get a load of different feels and sounds in there, and go back in a little bit of a way to some of the older albums which had more of a kind of playful feel to them. I think P3 did that.
How else did the recording process differ from Juggernaut to P3? It seems Misha [Mansoor] was more on point with the production in comparison to Juggernaut which was much more of a group effort in that regard?
I think “producing” or “production” as a term is something that is quite …it’s used as kind of a band-aid, catch-all term for a lot of things. Certainly on the very first albums …I know you didn’t ask about those but …those very first albums were very much Misha-driven as a principal songwriter. Juggernaut became far more of a group effort in terms of songwriting. Often Misha is still the kind of channel that other people’s ideas come through, and essentially, to me he’s still the kind of conduit that forms the sound of Periphery.
P3 …I don’t know, I think what really happened actually, and probably what you have in your mind is that the division of responsibility on that album musically, was more that Misha kind of oversaw the production of the songs; the arrangements, the songwriting …ensuring everything was on point there and letting me do my thing when it came to the technical exercise of recording. Physically and location-wise it was nice because we recorded the majority of the album in Misha’s apartment. I relocated to the States for a few months, and we worked in a kind of homely atmosphere. Then at the end of the process, we did the live drums, which is a strange way round of doing things, but it seems to be happening more and more in this modern day and age and I think it’s quite a good way of doing things because Matt [Halpern] had the maximum amount of time to learn the material …that’s always an issue, if the drummer has to suddenly internalise all of the songs, with all of the last minute changes that occur, and he’s the guy that has to record in the biggest ‘chunks’, you can’t really chop up drums quite so much.
We were working with programmed drums during the pre-production, and tracked the guitars to the programmed drums. We went to some effort to make these pretty close to what Matt was going to play, but being quite a spontaneous musician, Matt added a lot of cool stuff that would have taken hours of second guessing to create in a programmed world.
Are there any songs on Periphery III that stand out as favorites to you?
Yeah for sure. I think a song that I really like from this album is Prayer Position, which …I have to be careful because that was one that I had a bit more of a hand in writing than some of the others, but at the same time I don’t think it’s just my ego that’s dictating that to me. I think that for me, the song just has a really cool, kind of bouncy tempo …again, Misha acted as the conduit for that and made some pretty integral changes to my original ideas that changes them into some really awesome riffs , in my opinion.
I was writing this riff, the first riff of the song, and funnily enough it was happening whilst the guys were jamming out what became Lune in Misha’s living room. I didn’t have a bass rig to jam through for that and I went into the other room with this idea that I had been toying around with in the evenings when we hadn’t been recording, and laid it down …but I recorded it with a straight feel, [rather than the triplet feel that appears in the final song] which I liked, but it was a really awkward tempo and we actually kind of abandoned that idea a couple of times, kept bringing it back and couldn’t really make anything work. Misha then, as a joke as he sometimes does when he’s programming drums …not really a joke but just kind of as a hail mary on the idea, just programmed and changed the feel to a triplet, one of those things where ideas just go the other way and you end up with a completely new sound for the riff because It’s all looping in an odd place and accents are changing. We listened for a second and kind of chuckled, but then we were like “wait a minute …that’s actually really cool!” and that completely change the idea and I was really happy because I thought there was some potential in that riff, and with that change it was given a whole new lease of life and that made it stand out on the record for me, it’s kind of a stomper from beginning to end.
The Price Is Wrong was nominated for Grammy Award last year, which must have been pretty amazing …how did that feel?
A bit surreal, to be honest. I don’t know if I really registered the importance of it. It was really cool, but to be completely honest I think that the fact that they chose that song from the album gave me the sense that it was perhaps not necessarily on that song’s merit. I am really grateful for the nomination, it’s amazing …I’m really proud of the fact that it happened and my parents were over the moon. I think that song for us was kind of a quick punch in the face that we put at the beginning of the album, and there was so much more effort that went into other songs that I think any distinct listener would be able to pick up on. I’m sorry if I come across as unhappy, because I am super grateful, but what I’m saying is, I take that Grammy and apply it to the whole album in my head.
This album [P3] doesn’t have a distinct ‘opening track’ as with albums in the past. Was that a conscious decision or something that came about more naturally?
That was a really conscious decision. From the moment that The Price Is Wrong was completed as a song …because that existed as a demo since prior to Juggernaut which we just never managed to top-and-tail it correctly into the form that it now has …from the moment that was finished, we thought this needs to be the opening song on the album, because exactly that: all of the other albums had started in a more gradual, swelling kind of way, and that’s really cool but we just thought, what better way to change things up than to come out of the gate with a blast beat like that.
Tonight is a big night for you personally, being the first Periphery show you’ve played in a while as well as the only for this tour. How are you feeling about tonight’s show?
I’m feeling really good about it now. It’s sort of a stress actually to jump in for just one show, I have to learn the whole setlist, I have to have my rig set up. There’s a lot of unknowns, there a plenty of songs that I haven’t actually played with the band because they’ve been added to the setlist since I left …there was quite a lot of stress on that front, but now that we’ve done the soundcheck and everything’s sounding cool, and I feel stronger about the songs I feel really good about it, I think it’s going to be an awesome show …the biggest headliner that Periphery has ever played …which is why I kind of cherry picked this one! (laughs). The London shows have always been amazing and it seemed appropriate to come along and do this while [the band] are in my home country and reaching for the stars with a bigger venue that they never normally play, which looks like it’s about to sell out, too.
The dates without you present so far have not had a live bassist, with the band using a backing track. Do you know if this is something that is set to continue?
As far as I know it is. I can be completely candid about it, when I said that I didn’t want to continue touring I left the decision as to what would happen to the band, because ultimately it is their decision. Had they come to me and said “we really want to have somebody else on stage in your place” that would have been have been fine …obviously I would have felt sorry that that wasn’t me one some level, but at the same time I’d completely respect that wish. They wanted to try the backing track thing, especially as it takes time to ‘suss-out’ somebody that you’d want to join your touring crew and there were some dates upcoming straight away …they tried it out, and I think pretty quickly they decided that although it’s not ideal, it’s the best of the solutions that are available to them, which of course I’m happy about because nobody has taken my place on the stage (laughs). In fact, it’s me playing on the stage …I did new [live] versions of the songs and sent them to the band so they didn’t have just album tracks to use. I also think it’s a sound guy’s dream, having less instrumentalists on stage (laughs). Obviously, you hear some fans saying it’s a shave having a track and not a live musician, and I can definitely appreciate that sentiment, but I also appreciate the band’s decision that after touring for so many years, it’s a huge deal to add someone new to the fold – there’s so much mutual experience that we’ve built up as a group through touring together, the band really knows eachother emotionally and personally in incredibly deep ways, and for somebody else to come into that is a really difficult thing, with so much potential for that to go wrong and plus I think the band still values the contributions that I can make to what they do in terms of production and continuing to be involved in songwriting. For them, it’s the right decision to make.
Now that you have more time freed up from not touring, what do you have going on outside of Periphery?
Living life, becoming an adult! I got married during the recording of Periphery III, and that wasn’t the reason but was definitely one of the catalysts to wanting to settle down and actually experience life as a normal person. Especially with the band being based in the US and me being form the UK, a lot of what’s “down time" for the rest of the guys involves me being in the USA. For them, it’s just a quick nip out to do a quick session of something, or some songwriting, whatever …and for me that means taking time out to go to the US and live there. I was away for many months out of the yea, home for very few …it got to the point where I wanted to move on with being a ‘normal’ human being. Also, the production side has gone really well for me, and in many ways I feel like I have more of a passion for that than for other aspects of music performance and especially touring. It’s been really nice to dive into [producing] more head-on, I’ve worked with some really amazing clients which I am very grateful for and continuing to do so, I’m trying to find that work/life balance that I’ve been craving for a while.
I personally really love the Clear EP (2014). None of these songs have ever been played live …is there a reason for this?
I think there’s a few things going on there. One, it was kind of an experiment with every song being spearheaded by a different member of the band …because of that nature, they don’t really fit so much under …it is still a Periphery release, but it doesn’t really fit under the category of something that’s created by the ‘band’, if that makes sense. The other problem is it’s difficult to find time in the setlist to play enough material to do justice to the older things that people want to hear and the new songs. At this point to kind retroactively go back and start shining a light on those songs just means we’re taking away time that we could be playing the newest material that we’re most proud of. Those songs exist, and I’ve actually checked that out quite recently and it’s kind of funny that I’d forgotten how most of them even went, but it’s not that we hate them or anything like that …if we could play for three hours a night or something maybe we would get to playing those songs but in the time that we have it’s just hard to prioritise those ones.
Lots of bands nowadays seem to be doing ‘full album tours’. Especially with Juggernaut being such a solid piece thematically from beginning to end, is this something Periphery have ever been interested in?
When we wrote and put out Juggernaut, there was kind of this idea that perhaps one day that might be doable, although there’s quite a few technical hurdles to get through. Something we try to do with almost every album is to not put all the songs that are in the same key and therefore same guitar tuning next to each other. What you’d end up with would be probably needing to change guitar after every song in order to be able to play the songs in order …it would be such a mess walking off stage after every song, picking up a new guitar and coming back and doing [the next]. This plus the album length; even to just consider playing Omega in its entirety would be pretty huge. Again, we come onto the same thing like, is it worth doing that over playing the new material? Is it worth taking away and opportunity for a fan who might want to come and see Periphery and wants to see what they heard most recently in the new songs that they like – is it worth taking that ‘one visit’ away from them, you know? It’s an interesting thing, I think perhaps maybe it’s something that may be considered further into the band’s career and maybe not with juggernaut. At this point there’s so much new material and we really do believe in the latest thing that we put out.
I always thought it was crazy that Dream Theatre used to put on shows where they would play other people’s albums, like when they played Master of Puppets (Metallica) from beginning to end …that’s pretty crazy isn’t it? (laughs).
What led to the decision to cut Icarus Lives from the set?
The decision to cut Icarus is something that came just as I finished touring with the band. I think somebody found a way of polling fans as to what they would like to see. We kind of half expected Icarus to be pretty high on that list but it actually came out really low.
I think as band’s catalogues grow, they feel the need to play the ‘hits’ or fan favorites, but often times discover that they don’t necessarily need to do this to please fans. Would you agree?
Totally. I think that’s what happens. The funny thing is, really if you think about it …Icarus has got just a great main riff, and people go nuts for that …but then actually the response kind of chills out a lot for most of the rest of [the song] until the very end when that riff comes back. We should just play that riff on its own for like, 3 minutes (laughs).
Finally, is there anything you can tell me about future plans for/with Periphery?
There are some really cool tours coming up. In some ways I’m a little bit of an outsider to the most current plans because it’s not that necessary for me to know but just from knowing the guys and talking about what’s coming up I think there’s some really cool stuff that they’re going to be doing in the coming time. Of course, it has been over a year since we finished recording Periphery III, and while it hasn’t quite started yet, I get the feeling that we’re starting to kind of hit that point where people are interested to start writing new material again, and I think that’s quite an exciting time. Having been out of the fold for a while now I think I maybe feel a bit more inspired than I have in recent times to write some material, so I’m eager to be able to contribute to that. Also, to see what the band’s got going on, because they never fail to surprise me with the quality of their new material.
Periphery III: Select Difficulty is out now on Sumerian Records.
Photo Credit: Nick Budosh Photography.