Interview with The Human Abstract lead guitarist A.J. Minette

- Apr 02, 2007 at 10:44PM
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Having formed in 2003 in the Los Angeles, California area, the metalcore band The Human Abstract is now starting to make a big name for themselves. The band just released its debut full length record Nocturne at the end of last summer and since then, the group has been able to land itself on some major tours with bands such as Protest The Hero, Misery Signals and All That Remains. The Human Abstract are currently about to start a short tour with the band It Dies Today before doing The Van’s Warped Tour throughout the summer. We were recently able to catch up with the band during their most recent tour with All That Remains and Misery Signals. We spoke to the band’s lead guitarist and founding member A.J. Minette about the origins of the band, the new album and when we might expect a new studio record.

How is the current tour with All That Remains and Misery Signals going and how did you come to get added to the bill?
A.J.: Um, I’m not sure exactly what it was that got us added to the bill, it was a combination of our manager and our booking agency and I guess All That Remains kind of saw that it would be a good fit for the tour package. But the tour went really well, it was the biggest crowds we’ve ever played in front of and we had a very encouraging response from most of the people so you couldn’t really ask for more. We went to some really cool venues and just had a blast, we got to spend a few dates in Canada and I don’t know, it was just an all around amazing tour, I wish it could have been longer.

Speaking of the tour, are there any shows in particular that you are looking forward to? You mentioned Canada there in your answer; you guys are of course playing tonight in Toronto before playing Montreal tomorrow and then Hamilton and London Ontario next week. Is this your most extensive tour of Canada so far?
A.J.: Actually we did about eight dates with Protest The Hero before so I guess that would be the most extensive which is still relatively short, but I mean when we went back there with All That Remains and then we had a few days where it was just us and Misery Signals, the shows were just fantastic, it’s such a warm audience whenever we come up there, people are so responsive and are just really into the show and the music. It doesn’t seem like they’re there to be seen, they’re there to really enjoy the music and have an all around good time. Montreal’s always a trip too because you’ll run into people who will speak French and might not know English very well and I know that I personally ran into a couple of people and they really had to express themselves with the few English words that they knew and a certain amount of body language, it was just so sincere to see how they felt about the band, it was very very encouraging.

Let’s talk a bit about the band itself for a moment. The Human Abstract is a relatively young band having formed only about four years ago. How exactly did the members meet and the band come together?
A.J.: Well I guess the summer after I finished high school which was 2004, I contacted Dean who’s the other guitar player and I had known him because my brother had gone to high school with him, Dean graduated a year before me and went to a different high school, but we still knew each other through my brother and mutual friends. And uh, I knew he played guitar and was into heavy music so I gave him a call and we just decided that we wanted to jam and do that sort of thing. We had both been in different bands during high school and kind of came out of those projects and we just started jamming together and saw that things worked out pretty well. We started to move really quickly together and things just went smoothly so we decided to try to give it a shot and make it a full on project so we put out ads for a drummer because we didn’t really know anybody who could play the style of drums we wanted. So we got a response, we got a few responses, but the first person that we actually tried out at a rehearsal space was Brett coincidentally, he just worked right off the bat, we just saw that he had that ear to listen to the music and kind of do what fit. That’s how Brett came to be in this band and we’re actually the only three people left in the band who were originally in it.

I mean, everybody else, things ended up happening and changing, like we found our bass player when I started college the following fall and he was in the band and he did the record with us, but things just ended up not working out so well. Once you’re on the road it’s a whole different story because you gotta live with each other twenty four hours a day cramped into a fifteen passenger van going city to city for four months at a time, you just gotta learn to get along with each other and you learn very quickly that it’s not a good thing to push people’s buttons, I don’t know, we learned to get along, but it just seemed like the bass player was more interested in a domestic life and it didn’t seem like touring was what he wanted to dedicate ten months of the year to. So you know, he went his way and we went ours and he is pursuing other interests right now, he’s doing graphic design and I’m sure he’s doing his own music as well so we wish him the best with that. We ended up finding Nathan through our friends in the band Look What I Did, they suggested Nathan to us when we decided it was time to look for a new singer and we tried Nathan out and it just seemed like a new chapter for the band. His voice and style were completely different from what our previous singer had done and we all wanted to do something a little different from what we had been doing so it was really cool to have him come on board right before we did the record.

The Human Abstract name is of course taken from a poem by the poet William Blake. Who was it that first discovered the poem and why did you think it was a fitting name for your band?
A.J.: Um, Brett was the one who was looking through a William Blake anthology of his work and he stumbled upon that one and you know, it’s a really philosophically rich, deep text and it said something, it was meaningful, it had purpose and we wanted the band to reflect that depth and philosophical undertone so that’s kind of how it came to be.

The Human Abstract’s sound has been described as metal, metalcore, mathcore, technical metal and several other characterizations. How would you personally describe or classify the band’s sound?
A.J.: I wouldn’t want to describe it as a certain genre, that seems to take away from music at times especially when it gets into the realm of sub-genres, you know, genres that exist only within a small group of people. I don’t know, our music is heavy, but at the same time we’re not afraid to make something that’s on the opposite spectrum, we can make music that’s softer and less edgy, less in your face, but a little more layered and orchestrated. That’s kind of what we’re about is you know contrast and not necessarily doing what we feel we have to, we kind of just do whatever we want to, an art shouldn’t have restrictions.

Speaking of the band’s sound, it’s a very original and intricate sound. What bands or artists influenced your sound and style the most while you were growing up listening to rock and metal music?
A.J.: When I was growing up, I guess I was into the stuff my dad was listening to, he was into a lot of progressive rock you know, stuff like that and a lot of jazz fusion also and you know I kind of took the influence of that, Pink Floyd, Rush and Yes and then bands like Dream Theater who have that sort of technical aspect to it. And you know the stuff that I was into when I was growing up in terms of metal like In Flames and then recently bands like Between The Buried And Me, all that sort of stuff was stuff I was listening to but it seems like influences are more of a kind of a thing that is a coagulation of all the things that you kind of come to know and enjoy. Whether it’s music, literature, whatever it is, I think it all affects your artwork because the artist is never separate from what he makes.

Let’s talk a bit about your debut disc Nocturne that came out last August. How do you personally feel about the album and are you pleased with the reaction it has received so far?
A.J.: Well yeah, it’s received a certain type of reaction, one I guess that is a little bit different than what I kind of expect or kind of want. It seems that the technique of the album is what people focus on and that’s not something I’m really concerned about, you know, how complicated something is, I’m more into the songwriting and the meaning and substance behind the song and what it does rather than what the techniques to playing the song are. I’m really looking forward to making our next record also.

What was the writing and recording process like for Nocturne? How many songs did you write for the album and how long did it take to record?
A.J.: Well let’s see, the writing process... the songs were written before we went into record them so those two sort of things are separate. Certain bands, they have the budget to go into the studio and take some time to write, but we had all ours done beforehand. One thing that I would do is that I would write down all the music like the guitar parts and stuff like that and even work out some drum parts and it would be sequenced onto a computer so that it was written out in tabs and you know, instead of Dean and I sitting down and going over a song, I was able to shoot him an email to pick up the parts and do that sort of thing. I guess that’s how the music was written and then Nathan came into the band so late that the music was all written and then he sat there and listened to scrap tracks that we had made in our rehearsal space and worked out vocal melodies and lyrics and things like that. And then when we were in the studio, we recorded by instrument to be able to separate it easily in the mix.

Nocturne has performed quite well for the band and it is definitely an excellent album. Having said that, have you started discussing or writing material for a new album yet?
A.J.: We’ve discussed when we might be able to take some time off from touring to actually be able to do that. You know, it seems that it’s hard to find the time and the right headspace to be able to do it on the road and we’ve been on tour now since before the record came out with very few breaks in between, we have barely enough time to get our bearings and go out again. So, it looks like we’ll be able to write and record late Fall of this coming year. We have Warped Tour that we’re doing this summer and that’s a big focus of ours and then we’re probably going to tour up until that. And then we’ll do some touring after Warped Tour into early Fall, that’s kind of the loose plan right now, nothing is set in stone but I’m just dying to write another album. I see so many artists feel like they have an obligation to make another CD, but there’s something in me that just wants to write that next album.

I read that in the early days of the band, you started out doing covers of mainstream rock bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz and Rage Against the Machine. Do you still include any of covers of these bands or any other artists in your live sets?
A.J.: Really? Where did you hear that from?

I don’t have the source with me, but it was on the internet, I believe it was your Wikipedia clipping.
A.J.: That’s really interesting, because I’ve never heard that one before, that’s something we never did, we never played a cover or practiced a cover. I think that’s a very good example of what Wikipedia is all about, it’s really easy to turn fact to fiction.

Just to finish off, what does The Human Abstract as a band have planned for the next year?
A.J.: Well we’re probably going to be doing a whole bunch of touring, all the way through summer we have Warped Tour and then we have some tours actually before Warped Tour that are still being worked out and I don’t know if anything is confirmed yet so I don’t want to speak of anything that might not happen. Then after Warped Tour we’ll probably try to get booked on more tours and see the world more and more. I would really like to go overseas and play in Europe for many reasons you know, we’ve never been over there and it would be cool to get our music out to those people so I’m really interested to see how that place is different from where we’re from and where we tour. We’ve toured the States so much and seen so much of the U.S., it’s just awesome, I feel like every time I go out on the road I’m learning something and picking up an education I couldn’t get elsewhere and I think touring in Europe would further that education.  [ END ]
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