EMQ’s with ALTOSTRATUS
Hi everyone! Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with UK Instrumental Progressive Metal band, Altostratus. Huge thanks to Guitarist Alex Hek for taking part.
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
We are called ALTOSTRATUS and we play our own brand of widdly Instrumental Progressive Metal. The band was originally founded by myself (Alex / Guitar) and Jack (Drums). We’ve been musical friends since we were kids and we thought we should start writing in 2014, after being inspired by modern Progressive Metal music from Intervals, Tesseract, and Periphery. Upon the recording of our EP Altitude (2015), we thought we should make this a proper band, and recruited Andrew (Bass) and later found Jordan Harris (Guitar) through his YouTube videos. Since then we’ve been great friends working together and have shared the stage with the likes of Skyharbour, Sarah Longfield, Sithu Aye, and Modern Day Babylon; as well as performing at UK Tech-Fest in 2016 and 2017 (and are returning there again this year!).
How did you come up with your band name?
Jack actually came up with that. The name is inspired by cloud formations and the fact it’s always cloudy where we come from – the North of England! Some of our music reflects this; for example, our song ‘Zephyr’ references the wind through its name and by featuring many ‘airy’ synth layers that serve this imagery.
What country are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
We’re from the UK and the Metal scene seems to be thriving here. There’s loads of bands and a lot of promoters putting on shows right now so it feels like there’s a buzz in the scene. While there might not be many bands of our specific style who play Instrumental Tech-Metal, there’s a lot of acts in the UK Tech scene, and even a festival – UK Tech-Fest, that solely features bands from this scene.
What is your latest release (Album, EP, Single, Video)
We just released our debut album, “Complete The Connection”, which we’re very excited about as it’s been in the works for a while. We spent a large portion of the writing process making sure that the pace of the record as a whole worked from start to finish, and that every song has its own identity. It features our heaviest parts to date, as well as a grander, almost Post-Rock feel throughout. We paid close attention to what every chord says and how every section feels. It’s taken us this long to release as no compromises have been made with regard to composition, and we’ve spent countless hours discussing very minor details. This has accumulated to create a very nuanced, dynamic – and what we believe to be – epic piece of music.
Who have been your greatest influences?
We all listen to a lot of different kinds of music and try to distil all of it into what we do. Our sound is derivative of our individual inspirations but all mixed together. Whilst our album – Complete The Connection – is ,at its heart, a Progressive Metal album, there’s hints of Post Rock in songs like ‘Starlight’ and ‘Complete The Connection’, a full blown Jon Hopkins inspired electronic tune in the middle (Universal Receiver), and in every track there are background layers and production inspired by ambient artists like Nils Frahm and Brian Eno. We couldn’t resist throwing in some Meshuggah inspired, poly-rhythmic breakdowns throughout, but with our own soundscape and unique spin on them.
What first got you into music?
My Dad. He bought me an iPod for my 11th birthday and a whole bunch of CDs to put on it, as well as introducing me to the guitar when I was 12. He started learning guitar, then and inspired me to do the same! I was fascinated by the instrument and this led my interest towards guitar based music. I started out listening to the Arctic Monkeys, The Fratellis, and Green Day, before gradually shifting to heavier and heavier music, until Meshuggah became my favourite band.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
I’d love to collaborate with Robert Glasper, he’s a Jazz pianist and I love what he does. He makes Jazz/Hip-Hop music and his grooves and harmonic choices make you want to melt in your headphones.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Knotfest at Sea. This is just a one-off event right now, but the thought of spending 4 days on a Mediterranean cruise and playing multiple shows onboard is heaven. This was setup by Slipknot and kudos to them as it’s an awesome idea.
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
I don’t think we’ve ever actually received any gifts other than money haha! Ask us that next time and maybe we’ll have a better answer.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Thanks for your support, it’s much appreciated, and we couldn’t be here without you. Also, if you come to one of our upcoming shows please be ready to be in 3 Walls of Death when we play ‘Hidden In A Cloud”!
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
Jeff Buckley. He died far too young and his only album is one of my all-time favourites.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
I really enjoy the process of bringing music and ideas to life, it’s really rewarding. I also love working with others and the people you meet through being a musician. I think connecting and collaborating with others is an essential part of being human.
I hate how hard and cruel the industry can be, the way things are fixed up currently means that you have to pay your way to get somewhere, and the way streaming services are right now mean that it’s hard to make any money from your music. I like streaming I just think the system is very corrupted now, not that it ever wasn’t.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
I’d like it if streaming services paid a fairer per stream rate and if they weren’t so corrupted, with Pay to Play and fake streams that dilute stream revenue. I know this won’t happen though, just gotta play the game.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
One by Tesseract. “The Concealing Fate” tracks are honestly the best Metal I’ve ever heard live.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
Right now, I’d say downloads, they’re much more practical in 2020.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Our album launch party back in February was definitely my favourite. It was our first hometown show in ages and we got to party with a big crowd of our dear fans. Not only that, Andrew managed to co-ordinate 3 Walls of Death in one song – that was epic!
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Probably something business related, if I wasn’t doing what I love (music) I’d want to be making shed loads of money!
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
Jens Kidman, Fredrik Thordendal, Tomas Haake, Mårten Hagström, Dick Lövgren. So just Meshuggah basically, maybe they could do us a private show after dinner!
What’s next for the band?
We are touring the UK in April and playing in Edinburgh, Berwick, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, and London. We’ll be joined by our Tech-Metal brothers, Pravitas, and you can get tickets from http://www.altostratusband.com. We’ll be releasing a very exciting music video soon so keep your eyes peeled for that too!
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all the standards. Here’s the links:
Jaffa Cakes? Are they a cake or a biscuit?
BiscuitThank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
We’d like to say thank you for all the recent and on-going support for our debut album, it means a lot to us, and we really appreciate your feedback. Don’t forget that we’re touring the UK this April so look out for our shows and tickets via our website (www.altostratusband.com). If we’re not playing in your city or country soon, let us know and we’ll make an effort to reach you!
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