Hyvmine – Shaking Things UpThursday, 15th February 2018
No doubt some are already familiar with the rising guitar shredder Al Joseph, who has been releasing instrumental records for a few years on his own and building up his name within the community. With two solo records under his belt, he decided to do something different. Enlisting a band around him, Hyvmine was formed, with the intent of creating music that is still musically interesting (particularly for the metal folk) while adding in some vocal hooks to bring in some outside ears.
The recently released debut, Earthquake, proves Hyvmine to be successful in these regards. Featuring a modern prog-friendly approach to instrumentation, complete with some ripping solos and groovy riffs, alongside of vocal hooks a-plenty, it’s a concoction ripe with potential for metal listeners and beyond. We spoke with a cheerful Al Joseph (despite him battling a cold at the time) to get some more details on how Hyvmine came to be, differences between instrumental and band songwriting, and what it takes for a new band to get off the ground.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the band start out?
Al Joseph: When I met George [Vallee], we were going to do my solo project, and we were thinking about ways to push it. He came to me with an idea of getting a singer and putting a band together. I told him I could sing, and showed him some demos that my old band had. Then he had me work on some tunes and send them back to me – I sent him “Shogun,” which is the first song that was finished. He really liked it and we went in that direction, so then we started looking for band members.
Dead Rhetoric: So what did you set out to do with Hyvmine? I know you have done a lot of your own instrumental stuff previously.
Joseph: Being in a band, being a lead singer, that’s something that I’ve always done since I was a kid. So I wanted to get back to that, and hit a wider demographic. I wanted to make a bigger impact and cast a wider net. Being in a band with a singer allows for that more than say, an instrumental group. As long as I can still shred, I’m willing to give it a try. It’s going really well – it just feels right. I feel like I’m back to my old self from years ago. I couldn’t be happier with the inception of starting this band, coming up with the name – the whole journey has been pretty exciting.
Dead Rhetoric: What are the differences in writing styles from instrumental songs to band songs?
Joseph: You are definitely looking for more hooks when you are writing for a band. Having vocals in there, you have to tell a story. For me, I’ve noticed that it’s more effective if you have something that people can latch onto right away, to get the notion of what the song is all about. With instrumental songs, it’s harder to do because there are no words. Even if the song is about something, you have to dig much deeper into your arrangement to bring out the vibe of what the song is about. I would say it’s a bit…I don’t want to say it’s easier, but writing instrumental music is a tougher way to communicate and connect with people than having lyrics. I definitely start right out with the melody, and as far as the words, I start with lyrics first and from there I get the name of the song. It’s different in that way.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you do all of the lyrics after the instrumental stuff then?
Joseph: Yeah. So from here on out, writing for the band – I would definitely make sure that the instruments are playing things that are interesting. I don’t want the band bored. When it comes to the song-form, I’m thinking more about what my favorite bands have done in the past, and letting that influence the word-flow. After that, I tend to try to come up with lyrics and see what I want to write about.
Dead Rhetoric: So is it tough for you personally, having to sing and play guitar at the same time?
Joseph: Yeah, at first it definitely was. It’s just the way it’s going to be for me. I’ve pretty much accepted it. I don’t want to stop playing guitar at all. I don’t want to stop playing interesting stuff, so it’s going to be a challenge from here on out. I accept that. Like playing “Shogun,” for example, that one has a lot of lead lines, especially in the chorus. But it’s pretty cool, I like seeing how it will turn out and how I can pull it off – we’ll see what happens.
Dead Rhetoric: One thing I really like about it, is that it has that band mentality with the hooks that you mentioned, but it still has a solid instrumental core underneath. How would you describe what you are playing, in terms of the band’s technique?
Joseph: I want to make sure that we are keeping things interesting. For the guitars, I just want to make sure that they have something they feel proud of playing. I don’t want it to feel like a backing band with a singer, so you can get a feeling that the whole band is up there, rocking out. The drummer, he’s pretty much the foundation of everything in my mind. I want to hear some double-bass and polyrhythmic and everything, but still palatable for most people. There’s all these different nuances, but most of all I just want the band having fun, yet not playing so much that you can’t hear the vocals.
Dead Rhetoric: With that in mind, could you talk a little about “Earthquake” as it has a bit of a different vibe from the rest of the album?
Joseph: “Earthquake” is one of my favorite tunes. I wrote it to show off more of vocal range as a singer, and how I want to sing. I have a huge background in gospel and R&B from growing up, so I wanted to bring that out. George was like, “We need an acoustic tune.” I started hearing that melody pretty much where it starts with the acoustic part, and we went from there. I wanted it to be less instrumental and more moody and introspective, with more feeling.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s it like playing in a band with your brother?
Joseph: It’s great. We have our family things that we go through, but it’s family. We have been playing since we were little kids. It always feels comfortable, and I never have to worry about Chris [Joseph] on bass, ever. He glues the band together, and it feels like I have a real force behind me. Chris has a really big sound. He’s quite a technical player – I’d like to bring out more of his technical side in later projects that we do together. For now, it’s just great having him behind me, and not having to worry at all. It’s very natural.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned the technical piece. I read that some of the songs started off as instrumentals – was that correct?
Joseph: Yeah, “Shogun” was one of them. That was from my solo record, All of Creation, and “Shift” was an instrumental, as was “Elysium” and “All of Creation.” They were all instrumental at first. They are much better as band songs now.
Dead Rhetoric: What was that transition like to take something that was instrumental and placing vocals on it, without making it sound too much?
Joseph: At first, it was very earth-shaking. I trust George, and when we says to do something, I do it. It was weird, because these were my songs and I knew them as instrumentals, and for a while I was a guitar guy. So I wondered what it would be like for people to hear me singing and listening to the songs in this way. But I said screw it and finished “Shogun” and saw how it sounded with vocals and everything. Man, we all agreed that it was the best possible direction for it to go. It was awesome.
Dead Rhetoric: Alongside the progressive flair, there’s some clear ‘90s/early 2000s influences in the music. What did you like best about that era of music?
Joseph: Oh man, that’s a question I like to hear! KoRn, PoD, Sevendust, Godsmack, Mudvayne…all the MTV2 and Fuse guys. Those bands in that time period, that’s what I was listening to. When it came to writing more of the tunes, as a guitar player, I already write that way anyway. I’m writing to have the hook in there, I’m trying to have a sound metal groove going. The nu metal scene really influenced that for me.
Dead Rhetoric: You had your first show at NAMM last weekend, how did it go?
Joseph: That show went awesome! We had such a good crowd. We were playing with Intervals, and there were a lot of people coming out, and we got a lot of love from the other bands and the people that showed up. It was a pretty full room when we got out on stage, which we did not expect because we played pretty early. People were yelling and cussing, and drinking – that’s what we like. It was so cool!
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have more touring plans coming up at this point?
Joseph: Right now we are trying to set up or get on a tour. We’ve been talking to some people about it, but they were some pretty big acts. We are just trying to work out the logistics. I’m pretty sure we will have something to tell everyone in the next few months or so.
Dead Rhetoric: You also have a beer coming out – how did that come about?
Joseph: George, our publicist…he’s always thinking ahead. Trying to get our name out there to more people – as many as possible. It’s a brewery over here in California [MacLeod’s Brewery], and they have some pretty great operations going on over there. We are going to do a show for them on February 17th and premiere our beer. It’s pretty crazy but it should be fun.
Dead Rhetoric: Given today’s music market, is it necessary to get buzz going about a new band in many directions?
Joseph: Absolutely. I think it is, from a marketing perspective. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from the record label/band dynamic, it’s that bands have to learn to be more savvy with marketing and be more open to trying new things. You need to want to get your name out there as much as possible. The music industry is changing so rapidly at the moment – you have to be willing to share your personality with people. The whole ‘mystique’ thing is pretty much gone.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any advice for aspiring guitarists?
Joseph: Practice a lot, listen to the good players. For me personally, I try to find those influences that I see are doing well in their career and are personable in their career and are good people. Today everybody knows to practice. It’s all accessible on the Internet now, but more than ever, show people what you’ve got – practice and play.
Dead Rhetoric: What other plans are coming up in the next few months for Hyvmine?
Joseph: We are going to be working on a new EP in the next few months. We are playing at MacLeod’s Brewery on the 17th, and yeah – go check us out on Spotify!