Hi Martin… I’m glad that I have the chance to talk with you about Soen’s debut album, “Cognitive”. We’ve put it in the “Gems” category on Grande Rock!
M: Hey, we’re glad for the chance given. Great! It's an honor to fit in that category.
I’d like to start with the band’s background. Soen was formed back in 2005, by Martin & Kim but it started giving some signs of life after 5 years. What happened all these years? Did you work over some music or you just waited for the other 2 members to fill in the gaps?
M: The main idea behind Soen dates back to 2003, If I remember correctly. It was in 2004 when Kim joined that we started giving shape to the band as it is now. Back then I was still a member of Opeth and it took most of my time. After I left Opeth both Kim and I moved abroad for a couple of years making it impossible to be active in the same band... even if we tried.
Why did you name the band Soen? What does it represent for you… and whose idea was it?
M: Soen is a name that doesn’t have any other significance than our music in a word. I came up with the four letters but it was a group decision not to have a name that would bring any pictures to the listeners mind besides our music.
What were the criteria that led to choosing Joel for the vocalist’s position? Can you give us some more info about him to get to know him better?
M: We were trying out vocalists for a good while but we realized that this role had to be filled by someone from outside our normal domains. Back in 1999, Joel and Kim ended up playing in the same venues with their bands and a mutual respect of musicianship emerged; so luckily for Soen the connection was there.
The guitarist Kim Platbarzdis (is he Greek?) may be a vital member and a great guitarist but he is also unknown to most of the fans. Did you use to know Kim before they decided to form a new band? If yes, where from?
M: Kim is not Greek; his surname comes from his Latvian heritage. Kim was looking for a replacement drummer to his experimental rhythm metal trio and I was looking for a rhythmically capable guitarist when we got in touch. We met up for a jam and from then on it was settled that we would work together.
Afterwards you invited the extraordinaire bassist Steve DiGiorgio to join you. Whose idea was this? Choosing to co-operate with the best bass player out there must have been really significant for you… right?
M: The role as bass-player in Soen is of course a really important position. I met Steve DiGiorgio on the road many years ago and knew he was an excellent bass-player and a great person so when we started putting pieces together it was the natural decision to ask him if he wanted to join us.
Did you have any musical orientations beforehand, or it started taking shape when the four of you got together?
M: Well the orientation is unavoidable when you have been a musician for so long. You know what you like and what you don’t and what you like to play and what you don’t ‘cause those are two very different things sometimes. Soen really does it for me... I’m very comfortable composing and performing our music and that is truly rewarding.
Is Soen a fulltime band or only a project? Will you go on producing other albums in the future as well?
M: Soen is a full time, full on band and we’re all looking forward to recording our second album.
Is there any freedom when it comes to songwriting? Has every member added their own influences and ideas to the band’s music or it is a one-person procedure?
M: For the most part, I’ve written the core of a song, after which everyone inputs and adds their personality and vibe to it, until we’re all satisfied.
What did you have in mind when you started writing and recording material for the debut album? Is the final result close to what you had in mind in the first place?
M: I don’t think we had a plan of what to sound like, everything fell into place while doing it. The goal was set on making as good music as we possibly could without letting anything from the outside alter our perception of how good music should sound.
How would you characterize the music you play? I’ve given a hint in my review but I believe that’s far too complicated to satisfactorily express it with words…
M: I find it very hard to explain art but we put a lot of effort to making songs that carry an emotional depth accompanied with a suiting musical structure. (i.n.: I like this perspective...)
“Cognitive” has both mental and empirical meanings… as I have written in my review as well. Why do you believe that this was the appropriate title for your debut album? How is it connected with the artwork?
M: Simply put, the main idea behind our music is to trigger every cell on the listeners mind while it hopefully awakes and reaches a sense of musical and lyrical awareness. The cover art is a symbol of the simplicity and complexity of the human nature and intellect. Fragile, perfect and unexplainable. The piece that Tolman composed has been the image we wanted to represent our music since the moment we saw it.
Can you give us a hint about the songs…?
M: Actually, both when it comes to music and words, they all mean different things to the ones experiencing it. One important part of what we do is about expanding your mind and partly that is done by digesting things through your own set of filters that defines who you are. By explaining the songs more than they explain themselves, we take away the natural flow of that process.
Are there any songs that didn’t make it on the album and you intend to release them in the future?
M: No, all our songs were made to make the album. However there’s a bonus track on the Japan release called “Writhen”. (i.n.: OK I know… I just have to look out for the Japanese edition now!)
You’ve co-operated with David Bottrill (Tool, Coheed and Cambria, Silverchair, Smashing Pumpkins, Muse etc.). Did he do the mixing only? Is he also responsible for the final production and the mastering of the album?
M: David Bottrill mixed the album and I wouldn’t say “only”, it is a grand job and his performance was in every way crucial to the outcome. The album was mastered by João Carvalho.
Did David Bottrill help you, to achieve the sound you had in mind for “Cognitive” after all?
M: I would say so, yes.
You have released a video for “Savia”? Why have you chosen this song?
M: We chose the song because both we and Spinefarm considered it as a good choice as a first song to show from the upcoming album.
How did you come up with the idea to make this acoustic moody video for “Ideate”?
M: Spinefarm introduced us to the online independent live music video blog Offtherecord.fi that was interested in recording us. We saw that as a good opportunity to show another dimension of our music. We really appreciate the work they put into it. (i.n.: They did a very good job indeed...)
How did it happen and you signed to Spinefarm records? They obviously made you the best offer… but are you satisfied by the work they’ve done for Soen so far?
M: A record deal is more than just money up front, it’s a relationship. We chose Spinefarm because of who they are and what we think we can achieve together.
Do you plan touring over the next months? Have you made any deals for some Summer Festivals yet?
M: We’re working on it, hoping to have some good answers to that in a very near future.
What are the expectations from “Cognitive”? What do you have in mind for the future?
M: We hope that it will reach a wide audience and broaden the minds of as many people as possible. The future holds live performances and the creation of more music, for sure.
What’s more important to you? Pleasing the fans or the press with your music?
M: That’s a very angled question, most important overall is to write good music, regardless of what anyone thinks of it. A fan wouldn’t be a fan if they were not pleased and press of course is important to reach out as far as possible. Everyone is important, but good music always comes first.
The reaction from the press must have been very positive, right? Had you been expecting it?
M: The fact that we have worked hard for this album of course makes us even more pleased to see the positive reactions. While the album was being made all our focus was on creating, so we didn’t even consider what would happen once we released it.
There’s been much talk on the web about Soen and some fans are arguing that you are heavily influenced by Tool. I believe that there’s been some misunderstanding here… due to the producer and to the album’s overall sound. On the other hand, if Tool were much inspired and skillful… they may have sounded like Soen! What would you say about it?
M: We are inspired by Tool but I consider them not only a band but a genre. Besides that, I really don’t think there’s anything to argue about, we make good music whoever it would remind you of. Some people tend to dislike rather than like and are looking for faults instead of seeing music for what it is, good or bad. (i.n.: I totally agree… but Tool was over-sophisticated and elegant… while their music was dangerously repetitive and not so great as many may think.)
What’s your opinion of people downloading free music from the Internet? What shall an artist do in order to avoid losing money and time?
M: I really hope that people who download music off of the Internet will also buy it if they like it. If someone who downloads it wouldn’t have bought the album anyway, I think it’s better it’s been heard by one more person than not. The world is changing, it started many years ago and in ten years-time music will be distributed in a whole different way. I personally hope vinyl is still around, for the sake of it.
Is Internet after all a good promotion tool for every band out there or it has both helped and harmed bands and the music industry in general?
M: My opinion is that the Internet is all-in-all a good and useful tool when used the right way. It’s there now and there’s no stopping it, so it’s better to focus on the good sides of it than trying to suppress the parts you don’t like. You can never “win” against the Internet, that would be a modern Don Quijote. (i.n.: Let’s hope so… cuz SOPA, PIPA etc are causing so many problems at the moment.)
How good is the fact that a whole generation learned to hear music via MP3’s (that have such a bad quality) and they actually believe that music is only in mp3 format and nothing more? Maybe some of the younger guys won’t even own a single CD! That’s gonna be a boomerang in the end… what do you think?
M: I think that at the end of the day, the real fan of good music is going to want proper quality of sound and also be able to own their music. DRM is really not the way to go, as soon as the novelty of file sharing is wearing off (and a few bands have died of starvation) the mass will understand they need to support what they appreciate.
And some weird Questions now!!! Do you believe in luck and coincidences or you believe that the human mind and will can affect all things in life?
M: I don’t believe in luck, I do believe in coincidences, and I believe the power of the human mind is very high and yet not fully discovered.
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music evolution, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
M: It would be “The Wall” by Pink Floyd probably.... Even if it’s a rather “bitter” view of mankind.
What do you think of the economic crisis that’s threatening people’s lives over the profit of some rich men? Do we need a revolution again?
M: We definitely do... but we also need to change the way the majority of society thinks nowadays. Life has to be more meaningful than chasing money and consuming as much as possible, otherwise any revolution will end in the same kind of demise after a period of time. (i.n.: Yeap… you’re right… let’s begin by changing our way of thinking first…)
What’s your opinion about the activist group of “Anonymous”. Do the big ones need someone to scare them… or the whole thing isn’t so innocent in the end? Do protectors of humanity still exist out there… or some are just playing tricks?
M: There is always need for balance in the world and it’s good to see that the “big guys” actually only are as big as the public will let them be. Regarding “Anonymous” as a current example, I think that SOPA and other acts could very well risk just being means of control for governing bodies with selfish interests, so I think it’s good they are around. (i.n.: If they can actually help… then we are all happy for them…)
Is the European Union condemned to fail in the end? That would probably cause a worldwide domino of destruction at any level…
M: I don’t believe in an apocalypse started by the downfall of the EU. It might prevail, it might not. There’s always a tomorrow and there will be a different structure rising.
Who is your favorite philosopher and why?
M: Jose Mujica. A philosopher who was entrusted the government of his country, an autodidact, a wise old man whose every time he talks goes deep into things and teaches us to think. He’s among the few that looks at politics with a philosophical and ethic approach, dares to say what he really thinks and lives according to what he says.
Who is your favorite fantasy author and why?
M: Sorry, I don’t read fantasy books.
If you could be born as any famous person in history who would it be and why?
M: No world leader or anything like that... I don’t think that would be fair to history. Maybe Messi? I love football and the guy is a magician at it. Still, no pressure just a game.
If you were the opposite sex for one day, what would you look like and what would you do?
M: Look very masculine... sing high pitched stuff.
You have the opportunity to sleep with the movie-celebrity of your choice. Who would it be?
M: I’m a married man and to answer this would be disrespectful.
Do married people live longer than single ones or does it only seem longer?
M: Haha, it depends on who you’re married to.
One night stands or long term relationships? Maybe it is better to have long term relationships with lots of one night stands… right?
M: Definitely long term relationships.
Which of the Seven Wonders of the world would you like to visit and why?
M: Machu Picchu, being Southamerican it feels like a must do but I never had the opportunity to visit it. Such a mystical place and a cornerstone for the human history.
Imagine that your wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
M: Enigmatic… (i.n.: I just hope it stays that way… and never find out eventually!)
Thank you very much for this wonderful interview Martin… Thx for the music... Please leave a note to Grande Rock readers… Take care!
M: Thanks to you Thanos and to everyone supporting Soen! Cheers, Martin Lopez...