Damon Metzner from Signal Path recently took a time out to chat with MXDWN…
Regardless of the fact that you create these sickly innovative and original soundscapes, it proved very difficult to find basic information about Signal Path. Who are you singed to?
We release everything ourselves through our website at http://albums.signalpathmusic.com/album/imaginary-lines, plus some digital distribution through online music stores. This allows us to release everything for free in exchange for e-mail addresses that we fully protect. We also really try to work with our promoters in each city to help get the word out about the releases through their networks as well.
You relatively recently relocated to Denver. Why?
The band was formed in 2001 in Missoula, Montana and were “officially” based there until the Colorado move. Ryan (guitar/production) had moved to Denver a few years ago with his family, and it made sense for me to come down to join him as we started transitioning into Signal Path full time. Colorado has an amazing electronic music scene that we’re inspired by daily, and as you can probably imagine, touring out of Montana is very difficult doing it full time.
So it was just easier for you to be in that area?
Yes. That, and also being here is a pure pleasure. It’s got a great music scene, mountains, and it makes traveling a lot simpler. Not to take anything away from Montana ~ I absolutely love that state and I still try to get up there a few times a year.
Your studio is in Denver?
Yes. Ryan’s production studio is here as well as some very supportive friends in the scene.
What influenced your decision to make Imaginary Lines a free download?
This was our third free album. You look at where the electronic scene is right now, and even the industry as a whole, and we are of the mindset where we want to put the music before all of the marketing as opposed to coming up with a release and pushing it hard through a big marketing campaign. Since we trade music for emails, we have a pretty big network now where we can see who is downloading albums and commenting and base our tour where people want to see us, you know. We spend thousands of hours working on these records and when they come out we can focus on touring where people are excited to see us. Ticket sales by far are the life blood of the musicians, so we figure putting out the music directly into the hands of the fans and we would have the fans decide where we play. It’s a better business model for us instead of launching this campaign and a national tour.
Do you feel that more people should be giving away their auditory art nowadays?
There is defiantly a balance. I think every artist should be making some of their music available for free. Being able to release some content online for free really helps in terms of tours and generating interest in your music. If you’re on a label who’s investing in studio time, marketing, publicity…etc, then it only makes sense to sell your music since so much is going into it. We would eventually like to get to a point where we are selling music, but for now it’s all about playing shows and focusing on the live element of what we’re doing. I believe that giving away music should be a substantial part of any independent artist’s plan who wants to get their stuff out there.
It’s great that people at your shows are already familiar with your music. They’re just going to pirate it anyway, right?
Exactly, so why not try and control your release, right? These are your fans who are downloading your album, who are interested enough to download it and listen to it, will probably be interested when you’re coming to town and playing shows. So swapping out music for contact info seems like a pretty fair trade. It’s a win/win situation for everybody.
Do you think people are greedy for trying to cash in on this production instead?
No, absolutely not. It’s a horrible economy and the music industry is suffering a major way. Any way an artist can make money off of their art, I’m all for it. For us, this is something that made sense. I’m not saying this is something every band or artist should do, but I do believe that releasing some degree of free music is important and should be a part of what every band does.
What did you do different from Imaginary Lines from Clash?
With this album, the approach from the outset was to make a really unique sounding and listenable album that wasn’t 100% club tracks. We wanted to get more introspective. I’m a drummer and grew up in New Orleans, so incorporating some of those New Orleans rhythmic ideas within the production was something important to me. Ryan, Signal Path’s producer and guitarist, grew up in Colorado listening to more folk inspired music, so being able to incorporate more non traditional (in electronic music anyway) instrumentation such as the banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitar was a major focus for him. combining his background and mine and incorporating those elements into the production came off really unique sounding. A lot of time was spent trying to incorporate our musical history in the new music. That took a lot of care in trying to produce.
Do you plan on making your next album free as well?
Yes, most likely. The next one will probably bridge the gab between Imaginary Lines and Clash. A lot of the music is pretty much done, so hopefully we’ll be releasing it in the spring time. It’ll be a little more focused on capturing the live energy, as I said, kind of a blend what we did with the last two albums together.
It sounds like you have a lot of momentum since your hiatus two years ago.
Yeah, absolutely. Ryan and I are at a point where we are both really invigorated and enthusiastic about where the scene is headed, what other artists were doing, and really inspired by the music we were creating. Back when we were first starting, there were only a handful of bands doing the live electronic stuff. Because the scene has such momentum now, though, Signal Path is in a really great spot to do what we’ve always wanted musically and we’re very excited about the future.
What equipment do you use for your live shows?
We blend live instrumentation into our electronic production for the live shows. For this past tour our bass player, Matt Schumacher joined us. On stage we have a live drum kit, bass player, and guitar plus run two laptops.
Are you using Ableton Live?
For shows we are using Ableton Live but most production Ryan creates is done using Apple’s Logic.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before.
I call it bass driven, almost glitch style rhythm with melodic ideas wrapped around the core of it.
So obviously difficult to describe. People should just listen to it.
Definitely. I think it’s accessible for people to pick out hip-hop or glitch elements, but when it’s presented with Ryan’s hugely melodic ideas and harmony, it’s really its own thing. It draws from a lot of different things. It’s our take on live electronic music.
I’m excited to see where you guys take this in the future. I’m excited for your next album; do you know what you’re going to call it?
No, we don’t have a title for our next full length yet. We’re hoping for a March release of our next studio album. In the immediate future, though, we’re going to be putting together a remix album of our last record Imaginary Lines with some of our friends remixing tracks. We’ll also be incorporating some underground dj’s and have them submit tracks for inclusion. Ryan, Matt, and myself will be handpicking a few independent artists to include on the remix. More details will be coming shortly.
Do you know who is going to be doing your remixes for Imaginary Lines?
We’ve got a lot of interest but it’s a little early to release who all is going to be involved. I can tell you that Blockhead (NinjaTune) has already submitted a track.
Will there be other Ninja Tune artists involved?
Blockhead is definitely involved. We did a west coast tour with Blockhead in September that went really well and we’ve become really tight friends. He’s already submitted the remix he did of the song, “Cree.” Another thing we wanted to do with this remix album is to open it up to more underground producers and have sort of a remix contest, giving them the opportunity to submit tracks that will be on an album with bigger name producers and hopefully spread some exposure to the other guys.
When is that coming out?
We were hoping for a late winter release. Maybe the end of February.
That sounds great. That’s all of the questions I had for you, thank you for speaking with me.
Thank you for letting me be a part of mxdwn.com!