Vanishing Point – Beaming Down UnderTuesday, 25th February 2014
Remote lands gain equal footing thanks to the free-flow technology advances over the past two decades. Australia has been making a large footprint in all aspects of the metal scene – probably best known for their death metal bands such as Psycroptic, Thy Art Is Murder, and Ne Obliviscaris, there has always been a strong melodic power/progressive movement burgeoning beyond their domestic borders.
Hailing from Melbourne, the five-piece Vanishing Point have established a decent buzz in the melodic metal community with their four previous albums – and now unleash their fifth (and arguably best) record to date. Distant is the Sun focuses on alert dynamics and tight nuances – the riffs sharp, the keyboards painting the right sonic landscape and the tempos solid. Never mind the incredible versatility and emotional impact from vocalist Silvio Massaro.
With this in mind, setting up a Skype interview with guitarist/ main songwriter Chris Porcianko was in order. With a great sense of humor and a 17 hour time difference beckoning, let’s lean forward and be sure to seek out their new album… for once the critical praise is well justified.
Dead Rhetoric: How does seven years lapse between albums for Vanishing Point? I would imagine your previous record label Dockyard 1 going bankrupt as well as a couple of member shifts and securing a new deal with AFM put a little crimp in your recording plans…
Chris Porcianko: Absolutely. It was a very long process because The Fourth Season came out in 2007, we did some touring after that including in 2009 throughout Europe supporting Sonata Arctica, supporting Iron Maiden here in Australia, etc. We came back from that and we were writing the follow up album and we saw that things weren’t clicking with some of the previous members. Sometimes musically differences do happen, at the same time I think it was also a case of knowing what was going on with the record label and finding out about a quarter of the way through the writing sessions for this album that Dockyard 1 was going under and we had lost a bit of money along the way.
With that being said, certain guys left the band (and) it put a kink in the way Vanishing Point works. In May or June of 2010 Silvio [Massaro; vocals], Christian [Nativo; drums], and myself sat down and asked ourselves whether we were going to continue or not, and probably for a good two or three months we weren’t going to continue. I just started writing the songs, the guys heard the songs, and we decided to continue to take things further. Before we knew it, we made an announcement that we were going to continue, the album was written. In that time, some people lost their jobs, there were some divorces, I lost my father as well. It was a bit of a hard situation, but we got here and that’s the main thing.
Dead Rhetoric: The new album Distant Is the Sun appears to be the pinnacle effort in your melodic metal discography- with careful attention to detail on both a musical and vocal level through impressive atmosphere, dynamics and harmonies. Tell us more about the writing and recording of this set of songs- any special surprises or difficulties come up?
Porcianko: I think this album to be honest you was the easiest album I’ve ever written. I pretty much wrote the whole album myself in my home studio, I had Christian coming in here and assisting me from time to time. Silvio was coming here from time to time to oversee how things were going, he’s the type of guy that won’t say much, and if he is happy with it he’ll let you go along. I was learning how to record at home, we had no choice but to do it ourselves. Once the songs were completed and we did the pre-production at home, we recorded the guitars with Dean Wells of Teramaze and then did the lead guitar solo production and a lot of the vocal production with his help also. So we used a lot of guys who were quite knowledgeable about what is current and also what we were looking at doing.
We didn’t want anybody to take anything that we created more or less. We already had a game plan and a focus that we wanted to achieve. We were lucky that we had some good people to work with that we liked and respected. It’s everything I wanted to put in this one album, I’m lucky the musicians and people we have involved in Vanishing Point worked as a team. I’m really blown away by the response overseas and everywhere.
Dead Rhetoric: Vocally Silvio appears to reach out even more with all areas of his range- did you guys within the band really spend a lot of time working on the melodies and multi-part harmonies that bring home the choruses to “Let the River Run,” “Story of Misery” and the title cut for instance? They seem very AOR-oriented with a tip of the cap to fellow Australian band Little River Band…
Porcianko: Awesome! I was speaking about this the other day, the Little River Band album that I really enjoy is the Playing to Win album because John Farnham is on it- a lot of the guys in Australia just adore John’s voice. The Little River Band are an amazing band when it comes to vocal harmonies, they may not necessarily have been a huge influence on us but we take it as a feather in our hat because they are brilliant musicians and brilliant songwriters in their own right. In regards to the vocals with the melody lines and Silvio, that’s pretty much Silvio and myself sitting down and doing a rough demo with the studio gear here in my home that I’ve got and writing on the fly. I’d be writing some lyrics and Silvio would be singing some melodies, I’m not a singer by any means but when I hear something that Silvio does that works, even if it seems like a mistake- we tend to run with it.
As long as it melodically sounds good, there’s no rule book as far as we are concerned. I think that in a sense that’s why we had a bit of freedom because we didn’t have a studio stop watch so to speak. On previous albums when we were recording in studios, there was a stop watch because you only have so much studio time paid for, this time we were doing it all ourselves. We had a good amount of time to concentrate on making the songs as catchy as possible. We seem to have this AOR-feel, that’s strange, and people think we are big AOR fans. While I do love AOR, I’m more of a fan of death metal and black metal as well.
Dead Rhetoric: Looking back at your previous four albums, how would you rate them in terms of what you enjoy and maybe what you would do differently for each in retrospect?
Porcianko: I can’t really say much about In Thought because I wasn’t in the band – the only song I was included in many years later when the album was re-released was “Inner Peace.” In regards to Tangled in Dream, this is a strange question because some people tell me that this is such a magical album and I say “Really?” They tend to really enjoy the songs whereas for me the production and the musicianship tended to be a little sloppy, very loose. At the same time people love the songs for what they are, and interestingly enough we still play some songs from this album in our live sets. I am pretty sure we are going to re-release that album in the future, but probably not re-mix or re-master it because it has a special magic of its own. Embrace the Silence was definitely a step up for me, we got a bit faster here or there.
I still enjoy playing those songs, that album could be the pre-text to what Vanishing Point is like now. With The Fourth Season it was a bit more of a darker album, experimentation on that. While it was a good album and received well, it was definitely an album that was showing us where some of the musicians were going direction-wise in the band, and what we were thinking. It was a tough album to write, I think we could have done better for The Fourth Season but that’s just my personal tastes.
Dead Rhetoric: You were almost on the verge of breaking up in 2002 following your first tour of Europe with Sonata Arctica. What pulled Vanishing Point through to continue and still be thriving 12 years later?
Porcianko: In 2002, we ended up coming home from tour and being broke. In 2010 we were very close to breaking up, we had done all that we could as independent musicians and like everybody who has day jobs and families it wasn’t something that we could do full-time, it’s more of a hobby and a creative outlet to have but still costs a lot of money. We had some reflection upon the situation, is it worth doing? Silvio, Christian, and myself – we are quite level-headed and have similar interests and outlooks with what is done with Vanishing Point. We are lucky with James [Maier; guitar] and Simon [Best; bass] we have found some new guys as well that are happy to do this. We are never going to be a multi-million dollar selling band, and no one is thinking that. If we can tour some more of the world and reach out to some new markets, that’s all cool as far as I’m concerned. We have no outlook in the foreseeable future to break up, that’s why we went with AFM as we are both serious about producing some new music.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences in terms of international support for the Australian metal/ music scene compared to your early years?
Poricanko: In this day and age the metal scene is bigger and I’m finding that more of the Australian bands are getting internationally recognized. Because they are recording more albums, they are touring more and these opportunities are a really good thing. We have a lot of death metal bands like Psycroptic and Thy Art Is Murder, then we have bands like Black Majesty, Eyefear, Bane of Winterstorm. Definitely now it’s a bit easier to tour, at the same time with the opportunities to tour overseas you are expected to outlay more money, because to tour it’s not cheap.
Dead Rhetoric: What is your philosophy when it comes to playing guitar within Vanishing Point? And how do you handle the delicate balance between being intricate and impressive while also performing within the needs and constructs of a song?
Poricanko: I suppose I just let the music flow. I know it sounds really crazy, but it’s never really been about how one can show off as a musician in Vanishing Point or here’s a guitar solo so I’m going to completely lose my marbles here. I’m always playing the guitar solo to fit the needs of the song. Vanishing Point has always been about thoughtful lyrics and quite melodic music. I can’t deny that the focal point of the band is Silvio’s voice – he has a really good tone and I never want to overstep what he is doing. At the end of the day whether it’s a progressive or heavy section that’s cool; if it needs something lighter or more ambient or neo-classical, we just go with the flow. I don’t have any map in front of me – I go with what I’m feeling, and that’s the way the songs turn out. My guitar playing in the same way – I don’t want to be the next guitar hero, I leave some of the technical parts to James because I am more just about writing songs and that’s important to me.
Dead Rhetoric: It seems based on some of your recent status updates on your personal Facebook page, you are not a big fan of your country’s prime minister Tony Abbott. How has he lost touch with the common people?
Porcianko: It’s basically like this – I don’t mean to say anything bad about him but I live in a country at the moment which I’m quite emotional about. I see a lot of disharmony in things; we’ve got the Great Barrier Reef which is protected and this beautiful thing that they are thinking of carving a piece out of just so they can make an extra shipping lane for coal mining. Coal mining as we all know is polluting our earth – I’m not a hippie but I am a father of twins that are nearly seven years old and I’m concerned about where my country is going. I’m seeing the level of the poor people really struggling and I don’t think this is Australia – it’s not the Australia my parents came to from Poland after the war that they thought was being the lucky country. I do think that we have to revise things and be fair to everybody. It should be based on how everybody is and not based on which people can afford to educate themselves and educate their family. There are people in other countries who have different opinions. There are so many things I could say about him, I’m being relatively diplomatic because I don’t want to speak bad about anybody but I’m not happy about the situation in my country, that’s for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: You have wide tastes in music, enjoying the likes of Yanni and Tori Amos as well as progressive, death, black metal and AOR bands. Does this open-minded scope aid you in the philosophy and execution of material for Vanishing Point?
Porcianko: That’s an interesting question because I’ve never really thought about it in depth. If I hear a song, irrespective of the genre, a good song is a good song. If I walk away from a song and I’m still hearing it in my head five minutes later, that’s the sign of a good song. I like death metal and black metal as a lot of people know, if it’s well produced, because of the intensity more or less. The musicianship that’s in there I could never do, the level of musicianship is very good and I love it for what it is. I can crank up that music on my car stereo and go bonkers. At the same time I love AOR and I love Tori Amos.
I was talking to a promoter from Romania the other day and we were discussing over Facebook our love for Tori Amos – the Little Earthquakes album and Under the Pink, those are amazing albums. She’s a woman who can convey what she’s thinking and feeling through her voice and piano, I love that stuff. I love Celtic music like Loreena McKennitt and Secret Garden. Whether it really becomes a part of Vanishing Point’s music, I never have really sat down and thought about it. I just generally go with the flow.
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