Rest Among Ruins – Taking Listeners on a Journey Part IIFriday, 19th June 2015
Read Part I HERE
Dead Rhetoric: Jumping away from RAR a bit – you do a number of covers on your Youtube page. Any rhyme or reason to how you choose the songs you do?
Semesky: I tend to pick covers by artists whose voices don’t sound anything like my own. Hence the reason that why I’ve chosen so many female vocalists. I also love female vocalists in general. My girlfriend is an amazing singer – I’m very lucky there. The reason I chose vocalists who don’t sound like me is because everyone on Youtube just likes to compare covers to the originals. Right off the bat, when a male is singing a female song, it’s in a completely different playing field. You can’t compare the two. That’s one reason I like doing it, because I can add my own spin to it. Generally speaking, I’m just really into pop and indie music. I’m slowly but surely working on a solo album and it’s going to be much more in that vein [pop and indie], with a classical influence – there is going to be a lot of strings and piano. More pop instrumentation in terms of percussion and things like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you ever have any “official” vocal training?
Semesky: Yes, I studied under a classical singer for a few years. When I first started out singing, it was in high school. Funny story, my high school band was awful. I started out playing guitar and we started putting together a band. We were all sixteen and all of us could kind of sing, but we decided that I sucked the least, so I became vocalist by default. But I had picked up on so many awful tendencies that I decided that I must be doing something wrong so I pursued classical training. This gal, Tiffany Renee Bayer, she was incredible. Tiny, like five foot two, really petite but huge pipes. So I trained under her for a while and then pursued rock training in Baltimore from this awesome vocalist. After that I pursued The HAARP Machine and landed that gig. I was able to apply what I had learned from my classical and rock training to my first actual touring experiences back in 2012. It really came in handy, and now I’ve developed my own curriculum and do online lessons myself.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you get a number of people that are coming to you from metal, for the most part, I’m assuming?
Semesky: Yeah, and the occasional student who finds me on Youtube. This English guy, I remember our first lesson together. He was telling me, in his awesome English accent, “I’m a huge fan of ‘80s metal, and I was looking up Scorpions covers and I saw yours on there. It’d be so great to learn how to sing like that, and sure enough, a little ad comes on the bottom of your video and says ‘learn how to sing like Mike Semesky.” I’ve got these little ads running on my Youtube videos now for my voice lessons and he was the first student I’ve had that contacted me based on my covers. The majority of my students are fans of The HAARP Machine and Intervals. More people are starting to learn about Rest Among Ruins, and Raunchy as well. There’s a lot of diversity with the students. People are coming in at different levels – beginnings just learning how to some pretty advanced singers who are just wondering where to take it from here. They realize that they are pretty good, but want to refine their skill and perfect their craft. It’s a lot of fun. I actually offered voice lessons as part of the pre-order bundle for Rest Among Ruins and that’s been super fun.
Dead Rhetoric: When you are doing the lessons, is it harder to teach how to sing melodically or death metal vocals?
Semesky: I think it starts getting difficult when you are getting into screaming and applying certain tonality into your clean singing voice. Like applying grit to your voice, or one thing that I do that is all over the RAR album, is adding a breathy or intimate-sounding tone to your voice. I think that’s where it gets a little more difficult, just because every student is different. I try to use a lot of visuals when I am explaining how to do these things. I would say that 95% of students are able to pick it up in the first couple lessons, in that part of the curriculum. It just takes a little bit of time. I tell every student that it’s not going to come overnight. If everyone could apply that slim approach to their voice and sound like M. Shadows all the time, we would all be American Idol. You need to be patient with yourself, and there’s some trial and error that’s involved. The majority of my students who are at that point in the curriculum are doing really well with it. It’s so cool to be involved with so much of the up and coming talent. I swear some of these kids are going to be the next big things. I’m excited to see where they go with it.
Dead Rhetoric: It looks well upon you that they are coming to you for that as well.
Semesky: I’m honored to be able to help and serve as a guide. They are the ones doing the legwork. I provide a framework for how they need to approach these things and what they need to do to be hygienic with their voice. They are the ones practicing on their own and figuring these things out based on the framework I give them. Every time I have a lesson with them, I want to make sure they feel that sense of self-efficacy there. Just knowing that they are the ones putting in the time and doing it themselves. It’s not my voice, it’s their voice. I think that’s really important when you are teaching.
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