An Interview With : Spencer Sotelo (Periphery)
6th January 2016, 15:00
Posted by Tristan
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Bringing 2015 to fittingly dramatic end, Periphery went on a monumental European tour. Supporting their critically acclaimed brand new double album released at the beginning of the year Juggernaut : Alpha and Juggernaut : Omega. In the ready to access day and age of music, a bold move to release something as lengthy as a double album. Prior to Periphery absolutely blinding London with their headline show, we were lucky enough to be able to speak to vocalist Spencer Sotelo. Understanding exactly how the band tackled such a daunting task of a double album, what the album’s cryptic storyline alludes to and how the singer has truly come into a world of his own we find out just what life is like for these Juggernaut’s.

Read the full excerpt below or listen to the full unedited interview in our Soundcloud file below the interview!

Hello Spencer and thank you ever so much for speaking with The Metalist today, how are you? 

Thanks for having me, I’m doing well how about yourself? 

Very well indeed! So how has the tour been going so far, the age old question.

Amazing man, we’ve only been on this tour for a week, I think today actually marks one week and every show has either been sold out or like a couple of people away from selling out. The energy, we have never had shows like this in the UK before. I feel like everything is finally coming to a head for us. 

Because the last time we saw you was when you played Islington,

Yeah, 

How was that show?

That was amazing too! That was to be expected because it was a one off but we hadn’t been in the UK for a while, so that was pretty nuts but every night so far has been like that on this tour so far. 

So let’s talk Juggernaut. Who’s idea was it originally to have this double album? 

It was never meant to be a double record, even when it was done. It just didn’t fit onto one disc so we had to make a decision whether we put two discs in one case or to split it up. Our label thought that it would be a better idea to split it up to give each part of the record it’s own space. It’s a really long record, to kind of split it up instead of listening to all this music at once and get it all in the same time so that’s why we decided to do it that way. 

So it was a conscious decision to have it as two seperate albums which combined make one..

Yeah, exactly and the other thing too was, if we put both of them into one case you’re kind of selling the artwork and the story short a little bit. So splitting it up and having two booklets enabled us to portray the imagery better to people. 

Can you tell us about the imagery, themes? 

Yeah, basically in a nutshell it’s about somebody who is born into a sadistic satanic cult and the battles that they go through trying to get out of it and live in the real world and the struggles they have with being raised like that and trying to incoporate themselves into society. It’s a pretty in depth kind of thing. 

Where did you get inspiration for the cult aspect?

I was watching a lot of movies like that and at the time when I started writing the lyrics I was watching a show called True Detective the season one. That was kind of where my headspace was, Rosemary’s Baby, movies like that. That really dark twisted sadistic shit, it’s like a horror record almost. 

You mentioned the artwork, it was a graphic novel illustrator who designed it. 

I can’t remember his name right now! I feel bad… (Justin Randall) He did an amazing job anyway. He did the cover art for both of the records and the back too,

Are they essentially meant to symbolise a pretty important moment in the album?

Yeah definitely, 

So what is the Omega one? 

It looks almost like a cathedral in the side of a mountain and that’s kind of like their cult sanctuary area. You see the guy going back to it…

To destroy it?

Not at that point! 

Obviously the record was recorded after you did the Clear EP. Would you say that it’s the band working at their most democratic?

Absolutely. At times there was a little bit of trouble because we have never really worked like that as a completely democratic force before. There has always been things like, where I have a final say with vocal partsbut on this record, we said on this one record everybody is going to have a say in everything. I did write all the vocal parts but I had to re write parts that other people didn’t like and there were guitar parts and drum parts that I didn’t like and voiced my opinion on and had come to a good middle ground on it. 

Do you think it was helped by each of you wrote your own song on that (Clear) EP as well?

Yeah, that was kind of like a little test to see if everybody could hold their own. After that we felt really confident that everybody could have a say in the band when it comes to the artisitc style of things. 

You’ve always been quite an innovative band, do these kind of things, do they just come to you? 

Yeah, it’s never like we’re planning things for too long. If something sounds like a good idea we just roll with it you know, if we want to do it we just do it. 

What was the writing process like for the record?

It started honestly before we even put Clear out. We were working on some demo’s that long ago we didn’t know whether they were going to be on Juggernaut or whether they were going to be on the next record. It came to a point where we had all these demo’s from the time that Periphery II came out to when we needed to start writing Juggernaut. We said, we have all these demo’s what do we want to use and what don’t we want to use. What kind of songs do we need to write from here on out. We wrote a bunch of stuff and everything that fit a certain vibe, like what I was going for with the story but we had to put it in place like puzzle pieces to match the vibe of the story. It’s not just like oh, I’m going to write this over this song. It needed to match a specific vibe of what was going on lyrically… 

So is that why songs like “The Scourge” are kind of slower and they build. 

Exactly, it’s exactly what it is. Sonically it tells a story, not just lyrically.

And you’ve got repeating melodies as well. The beginning and the end with Reprise. Very very well thought out! 

It was quite a process, it was tough.

You recorded vocals separately from the band is that right? 

Yeah my good friend Taylor Larsen, I play in a band called From First To Last with, he plays guitar for them he’s got his own studio. I live in the same town that he lives in and he’s got a sick studio and I do a lot of work there too production wise but I had him track all my vocals and we processed it together, bounced it down and sent it out to Nolly when it was all done. 

Do you think it was different having just you and him talk about it?

No, ever since Periphery II I’ve done all my vocals with him. He’s kind of my go to guy for that kind of thing

Ah so a long lasting relationship kind of thing. So what does Zyglrox mean? Hahaha!

I couldn’t tell you man! I think Misha made that word up, I think it’s meant to be some weird alien name. You’ll have to ask him about that! 

It does kind of fit the music! 

Did you want to experiment with different tonalities on the record? 

I think I’m just growing into more, I think I’m getting more character. Every year I’m finding out something new that I can do with my voice and just trying not to get bored and trying out new things, really explore. 

You mentioned that you also do a bit of work as a producer as well, do you think that kind of had a bit of an impact on how you were doing your vocals? 

Absolutely! You know sometimes I will be recording a singer and I will think, wow that’s really intresting I had never thought of doing it in that way. You pick things up that way, I actually recorded Lukas the singer of Veil of Maya earlier this year for their record and hearing his voice. The way he sings and screams is a lot different from the way that I do things and it was really interesting. It’s interesting to see how people differ in their techniques.

So different perspectives and things like that? 

Absolutely.

Who would you say, or maybe what are some of your influences lyrically and musically? 

I would say Mike Patton is probably one of my biggest influences as a singer and a lyricist too. Trent Reznor, Corey Taylor, Brandon Boyd. Yeah. 

Is that for their range? Or their ideas? 

I think it’s more for their attitude, you know? The conviction is there, there’s just something about them, those guys their voices and their characters. A lot of people can’t nail em like that. 

Going back to Juggernaut, was it a conscious idea that you were going to have one CD that was going to have more tracks and shorter and then Omega which was bigger and more experimental…

We tried to split it right down the middle. I don’t remember how long it ended up being what the minute count was on the record but we tried to split it down the middle as best we could. I guess it was forty something minutes for each one. 

It’s interesting because you have two different halves of it. 

Yeah, there are more tracks on Alpha than on Omega so the tracks are longer it kind of evens out there. 

Your label mates, Swallow the Sun released an album last week which was a triple album. 

A triple album! Wow!

Obviously you’ve got a double album out, do you believe that it’s kind of returning back to the bigger material, to concept albums? 

Maybe, I don’t know. I think that with the way that the consumer looks at things now. I feel like the consumer doesn’t have the attention span that they used to twenty years ago. When somebody could by a long record and listen to it start to finish. Nowadays everybody’s buying MP3’s, the single’s their favourite tracks from the record and they don’t care about the rest of the tracks. It’s hard to say, it could go either way. I feel that for our fan base, the progressive crowd, they’re really avid music listeners. We could put out something like that but if a Pop Rock band tried to do something like that I guess it just really depends on where you’re aiming for. The demographic and stuff. 

You wouldn’t get Blink 182 having a concept album! 

Haha absolutely! 

So who wrote “Pale Aura”, it’s something I have been wondering…

Mark wrote that song with Misha, the guitars and drums and everything. 

And you wrote the vocals for it? 

I wrote all the vocals for Clear, 

Oh really! Oh ok, so it was kind of a collaborative effort and then you add your own compositions in afterwards? 

Exactly! 

When the first record was released, it was initially an instrumental record is that correct? 

Yeah, I don’t think it was ever meant to be an instrumental record. Misha and the bass player in the band at the time Tom had written most of the vocals for that and Chris Baretto who was the singer at the time wrote I guess a bunch of lyrics for it. I’m not sure exactly how it worked, then I came in and learnt all the stuff and recorded it in like three weeks, then we put it out and all these songs are already out there as instrumental’s and a lot of people have them. Let’s give them good quality recordings as well so we put out the instrumental record as well. It was never meant to be like maybe people dont like having singing over it. They were already out there like that so let’s give them a high quality version of it. 

And finally what has been an album that you have been listening to over the last six months to a year? 

You know what I have been listening to a lot lately is Ryan Adams! That’s all I have been listening to for the last month or so man. It’s a good change of pace you know, especially when you’re in a band like we are, playing Heavy Metal all the time, you can’t get away from it on tour and it was kind of nice to have a release from that something on the opposute end of the spectrum. 

I can imagine that it might get, not tiring but…

It does man! It wears on your ears! Not to say I don’t like doing it, I enjoy the shit out of playing Metal. 

Of course! Also do you have any plans for 2016? 

As of right now it’s kind of all up in the air but maybe we will be back for some festival next summer. That’s the plan but nothing is set in stone. 

Awesome, well thank you ever so much for speaking with us today. 

Yeah man! No worries!