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ARCAEON's Sam Machin: "A lot of people who listen to the music we make understand that "they" help make the band by supporting it. I've never made any real money from making music, and I don’t care. I just really like doing it, to this day."

Interview with Sam Machin from Arcaeon
by Dave “That Metal Guy” Campbell at 10 February 2021, 12:43 PM

ARCAEON was formed in the UK in 2017. After releasing an EP called “Balance” in 2018, they got a new singer and began working on their debut full-length album, titled “Cascadence.” Metal Temple Editor-In-Chief is always on the hunt for new Progressive music, and he doesn’t remember how he came to discover the band, but submitted a review for “Balance,” and most recently “Cascadence.” Now, he has the honor of interviewing guitarist Sam Machin in this innovative band in the Technical Metal/Progressive Metalcore genre.

Hello, Sam, and thank you kindly for this interview opportunity. Can you tell me about the early days of the band, and how you came to find one another and make music together? What was the vision of the band, and how did that help to guide your early form?

Hi Dave! No problem, Thanks for having me. Rhys and I (and notably at the very last minute Eifion) where in the band "Clockwork" which was coming apart at the seams somewhat at the time, due to personal conflicts and bad, bad living habits. After a bit of a break and some soul searching I realised I wanted to carry on with Rhys, due to him being "Cursed" with the ability to make anything technical come to life in his hands and mind. I met Rhys while he was playing bass (showing off to some girls on his college course no less), nailing Periphery riffs at a music shop I worked in. When I approached him and asked him if he wanted to play bass at the time, he told me he “already played guitar in his own band and wasn’t interested”. I gave him a card and told him to listen to the music and think about it. We still share the same very gated working process even to this day, and he is a dear friend.

Once we hooked up with Joe, a drummer that Rhys had been playing in bands with since he was still collecting toys from cereal boxes, I knew we were onto something great, and wanted to make a band focused on having fun, making technical music that we liked, and sharing our enthusiasm for musicianship through meeting up, making records and continuing to try and best ourselves. The formula hasn't really changed over the years, we just all know that we like what we do, we want to do it, and that we want to keep doing it. Eifion was happy for me to carry on giving him impossible parts on a tuning that isn’t nice for bass, as well as continue being great at drinking beer and designing sick merchandise, so that was nice too.

Losing a singer can be a crushing blow to a young band. But in this case, it was a blessing. How did you come to land Stuart Sarre as the singer of the band? What do you think he brings to the band? Does he handle both the clean and harsh vocals? He really has some serious pipes!

I met Stuart at the legendary Shisha tent at the United Kingdom Tech-Fest 2015 whilst hanging out with The Dali Thundering Concept dudes, after a failed game of French bowls. Stuart was just living the "frontman" thing without even being in a serious band at the time. I remember his presence really well, and saying to him - "Dude, you need to be in a band, like, as a frontman, you are a singer right?" He said he was involved with something and that it wasn’t that serious, I took his name down at the time and it stayed in my phone for a while. I met him again once he joined his previous band "Sentience" after having some conversations with some London concert goers, who had heard him and agreed with my likening to his style of a perfect blend of Spencer Sotelo (Periphery) and Justin Hill (Sikth). At the time of William’s departure, it was tough for us as it wasn’t really on good terms. All I'll say to preserve the friendship is that he needed to do other things, which he has in his band "Defences" who are fantastic.

I made a snap decision to permanently hire Stuart, after phoning him to explain we needed cover for some important shows we had booked. It was one of the best snap decisions I have ever made, as if answered to the latter of "Is this going to be full term, or just a temporary thing" he later revealed to me that he wouldn’t have taken the gig. He had two weeks to prepare for a three date mini tour and absolutely nailed it in terms of fitting in and performing. Stuart sings nearly everything on new the record. There is a section that I sing in "Ezikiels Wheel" (signature for me to sing a main line in only one section of the record) and some choirs and subtle harmonies too but the rest is all Stuart. Balls and all.

Let’s talk about the new album a bit. What was the sound you were aiming for, and how successful do you think you were in reaching that?

I wanted to marry synthwave with tech metal, my original idea was The Helix Nebula (who we all love) meets Blade Runner. To be honest, I think it’s in there, a bit, but you have to dig for it, which in hindsight I’m actually very happy about, as I didn’t want to just be another one of those bands that jumped on the synthwave bandwagon and began making every bit of media they put out themed on a late 80's arcade. The music should speak for itself and I think for every artist that lies to themselves creatively with their "image", there is a fraction of that amount that tell that story through the sound as opposed to their online marketing. I think the cinematic influence sits low in the mix, I think the main instruments speak the loudest which at its heart is honest and sympathetic to the arrangements. In my head at least, I don’t think I'll ever listen to a finished piece of work and think - Yes, that’s exactly it, everything is absolutely perfect in this, as this is most definitely the case with ‘Cascadence’. I think we were faced with a small budget and a bloated production time, and that with a little more organisation and skill that I could have got the cinematic layers to "sing" more, but I’m never going to be happy and that’s just the way it is. Maybe one day.

I found the album to be a real contemporary masterpiece, that is both richer in depth, a bit more aggressive than “Balance,” and with more moments of melody as well. What things did you think you learned from the debut EP to “Cascadence” that helped you achieve this sound?

Firstly, writing for bass specifically as opposed to just adding an extra, lower, bigger guitar for everything. When we recorded "Balance" it was essentially just that. I think this time utilising Eifion as the musician he is, as opposed to just having him attempt to play the same as the guitarists, made such a huge difference to the dynamics and overall sonic layering of the music. I absolutely love bass guitar and having the scope of a full album to write around, and taking away how disappointed I felt that he hadn’t been given chance to have a voice with "Balance", I made it my aim to incorporate his style wherever possible with Cascadence.

I think also being our own producers this time round made for a long wait for listeners but a really deep, introspective process for us. As bloated as the final production was, I still feel that the process captured our humanity as people somewhat, all the changes that life brought to each of us over that time where emotively ushered into the weave of each piece somewhat. I really enjoyed that aspect of the production that differs from "Balance", essentially being leftover Clockwork demos. (You heard it here first folks!)

Did you get a chance to tour at all after releasing “Balance?” If so, what were some highlights for you? What are you hoping for a future tour under “Cascadence” post COVID-19? Do you have any funny or interesting touring stories that you would not mind sharing with me? Anything goes!

We played some great shows here and there, but the record brought with it a lot of disappointment in terms of longer touring cycles. We went for no more than mini weekend tours. One of which I remember two of three days being not even booked by our agent at the time, so we ended up touring Wetherspoons instead, so it was bad in terms of touring, but good in terms of being on a small holiday with friends, so that helps.

It’s one of those things where we have absolutely rehearsed our asses off, have a great backline, have our own sound engineer, and are literally ready to go forth but where only able to pick up the momentum to do small club shows to a row of people. We had one really promising tour in the pipeline, but the band basically split up before we could do it and that hurt a lot. You have to be prepared for a lot of things going wrong, and a lot of things going right if you keep working hard when you do this.

With Cascadence, we would of course love to take it on stages as much as we can but looking at how badly our government’s policies have changed over international touring for musicians, it is unlikely we will be able to play away from the UK unless someone can supply us with either a foolproof loophole, or a mountain of cash. In seriousness though, any live music is like a life ritual for us, so we'll play the nearly empty clubs and continue to keep doing so if it means being able to play some of the incredible ones. Playing alongside Animals as Leaders at Radar Festival 2019 and the occasional incredible response we see in Manchester for example, we love all of it.

What bands played the biggest influence on your sound, but also just for you personally? You get to take three albums with you to a desert island…which three do you pick and why?

Vangelis, bigtime. I saw this old grainy restored video of him layering old school sequencers and synths and thought - that sounds like what Rhys and I could do over and under our metal! It wouldn’t be something I would listen to say, day-to-day, but was moved by the possibilities of the music’s influence on the record. I do remember taking distinct moments to recognise the influence I was drawing from the Sikth EP "Opacities", particularly it’s more story-esque, cinematic moments. I’m always listening to game soundtracks, specifically older ones, one of my guilty pleasures is listening to what games soundtracks would have sounded like on different hardware, that sort of very self-indulgent listening.

My music taste is constantly changing, I go on a "Frank Zappa Live" tangent for sometimes up to half a year. Three albums I would take on a desert island would be followed with Viatrophy "Self-Titled" as it’s flawless to my ears, Final Fantasy 7 OST as its varied enough to sit with any situation and is nostalgic enough to make me happy no matter what, and finally without sounding up myself at all, it would be whatever the latest thing I made with Arcaeon was, so I could die on the island with something I was proud of to be fond of in my last moments.

What are some of the challenges of releasing an independent album?

Time + Money + Reach, divided by Sleep.

What kinds of things inspire you when you are writing and creating music?

Change. Life. Experiences (Good and Bad). Balance. Technical Riffs.

What do you guys do when not writing music. Do you have any fun or interesting hobbies?

Rhys has every hobby under the sun at any given moment. Joe lives solely to play drums for the rest of existence. I like to try and avoid people all the time, be with my family and enjoy gaming as all the others do too. Stuart likes to find new ways to use the word "Cranium" and Eifion likes American sports and pretending he likes hip-hop. It’s been a long year.

What is the magic of the Metal community for you? How have you seen Metal music evolve over the years, and where do you see it going?

It’s all a compulsion for me in all honesty. I can comment only based on people I have met in bands in recent years in that there are some really solid, really lovely hard working passionate people that get no way near the recognition they deserve. On the other side there are people that would actually pay to come and see local bands and buy their merch and love coming to see shows and hang out at local venues at the time, but as I have gotten older (and possibly more jaded) I see less and less of it. The magic for me is seeing the same old friends coming to the same old local venue to watch me play guitar, again, on my birthday, again, that still come and love the shit out of it. You can imagine what it’s like for me if anyone likes us when we have played shows away from home, like for example playing to full rooms in Manchester and Guildford, it’s just mind-blowing when that happens and people like it. You feel grateful for having that place in the world and remembering it’s thanks in part to your dedication to the art, (be it metal, or not) is all part of it, can be truly humbling. The way I see it, in my world, music is music it just so happens I fall into a pre-determined category that I like the sound of when I try to do it on my guitar, it works for me when it wants to, and the more I do it the more I find my place.

Streaming has become the new “buying a CD” in the music industry. How do you feel about the comments of the Spotify spokesperson saying that bands will have to do more than release an album every three years to make any money in their careers?

I’m not even close to being part of the "music industry" by any standards and I don’t use Spotify to listen to music, so I’m glad I at least have some way of hearing these things. I would be really interested if the Spotify spokesperson in question has played in or plays in a band, and wonder if the question would remain the same? Either way, the streams are coming from more than just public interest, that’s for sure, there has to be a push behind it, and usually that’s going to come from somewhere, be it the band’s pockets or a company, in any company’s case they don’t want to contend with risk, so in many ways having such low output in terms of paying artist for streams helps separate high and low risk easily in terms of profit for their service. At least that’s how I see it. It works for them.

I think a lot of people who listen to the music we make understand that "they" help make the band by supporting it. My partner, who is an aspiring singer/songwriter, has a much more difficult time even just appearing to people due to that demographic preferring to listen to music without having to think too much about where its "sourced" so to speak, but more of whose face and voice is on it. It’s a totally different market for sure, but I see a huge difference in how streaming music and comparing the numbers makes to the reality of making any "real" money doing it. It can be done, with the right amount of push, luck and hard work, but I think it’s so important to stay grounded and remember that it’s all supposed to be fun. I've never made any real money from making music, and I don’t care. I just really like doing it, to this day. And anyone that helps us by buying anything isn’t lining my pockets, it’s lining the band’s stability which is important to me, so I really, really appreciate that.

I found that a lot of great music was produced this year, because a lot of bands were confined to their homes due to COVID-19. Do you think this is a coincidence or not?

Truth be told, I have spent the entire time listening to music from 1988, so I haven’t noticed a flux of new music on my end as I tend to just let things fall into place, say if someone shows me it or I come across a CD I like the look of. There is some cool stuff that comes up on YouTube every now and then, and I really enjoy occasionally taking a dive into tech death stuff, some of that new music is insane! But yeah, I tend to float around well away from the genre I play these days as to be able to listen without over analysing or comparing. I’m really digging a lot of big band music and like the music of Louis Cole quite a lot too. I think everyone’s got a different story with Covid and for me it’s been so different based on my situation. I'll always try to make music but do my best not to overwork and I stick with certain music for a looooong time after I have listened to it. It’s almost like there is something inherently wrong with the way I absorb music, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That being said - keep making music and keep staying safe. Thanks!



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