Vanishing Point – Driven with CompassionWednesday, 26th August 2020
Veterans of the melodic/progressive metal scene, Australian act Vanishing Point have proven that quality albums full of stirring songs can win over consumers, no matter what the size of the audience domestically and abroad can be. Their sixth album Dead Elysium is another example of blending together heavy riffs with power, solid tempos/mechanics, and the illustrious AOR-style melodies and harmony capabilities from vocalist Silvio Massaro- taking into account decades of experience and influences. There’s no sacrifice in the quality output, even if the records are taking a little longer to get to the public.
We reached out to guitarist Chris Porcianko via Skype, and we had a fascinating time catching up on the six-year gap between releases. You’ll find out about Silvio’s vocal issues and recovery, a look at Chris’ development as a songwriter including some pinnacle Vanishing Point songs in the back catalog, thoughts on the music industry at 49, and where his hunger and passion lies with the genre and continuing forward with the group.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been six years between studio albums for Vanishing Point. Outside of the new rhythm section change in the group, were there any specific reasons for the longer gap between releases again? At this point in your career, do you prefer looking at the quality of a release versus a consistent and quicker album/tour cycle?
Chris Porcianko: Definitely the quality of the release is first and foremost. I don’t believe in honestly providing to the public contract fodder. We could release an album every two to two and a half years, but would there be quality would be another thing. The reason why this album took so long to get done is Silvio was sick twice, and he lost his singing voice. There was a concern whether he would be able to sing ever again. He had to go to vocal therapy and take singing lessons to retrain and relearn how to sing again in that time, which took about a year. A major contributing factor to the delay, outside of life getting in the way, Silvio lost both of his parents during the recording of the album.
We started recording the album in October of 2016, and of course it took a long time to complete. We had the album finished in October or November of last year, but you have schedules you have to adhere to and the record company has to find time to release the album when the timing is right. And then we end up releasing the album in the middle of a pandemic, so I don’t know if there is really a right time to do it. That’s the thing – we are an independent band to much of a degree with the money that we get, the record advance covers a good portion of the recording costs but the rest ends up coming out of our own pockets. We end up taking out money we make from shows and merchandise we sell to make up the difference. It is one of those things that does take time. We would love to be in a position where we could release an album every two years, we have more than enough material to release another three or four albums as it stands right now. It all comes down to finances as well.
I’m relatively confident that the next album after Dead Elysium it’s not going to be a six year wait. I said the same thing with the Distant Is the Sun album, but we had band member changes and all those other things that occurred. The lineup we have right now is solid and consistent, and we move on to the future.
Dead Rhetoric: Dead Elysium is the sixth Vanishing Point studio record. Where do you see the major differences in this record versus your previous catalog?
Porcianko: I think that basically, in a sense it’s a continuation of who we are and how we’ve grown naturally as musicians. Vanishing Point is not the type of band that is going to sit there and say we have to have a faster album or a slower album before recording an album. There’s no set formula or format, we just create and write the music that comes naturally to us. Thankfully Dead Elysium came out the way that it is, it’s a natural progression from Distant Is the Sun. Vanishing Point has always been a melodic metal band, we care about developing melodic music and we write songs with good memorable choruses whether it be fast or slow.
Dead Elysium some people say is definitely heavier. I never sit there and go we have to make this album heavier. Our aim is never to be cliché, we went with the flow and thankfully everything worked out after all the time that we took off. I’m grateful for the results for, the press has taken to it so far and I’m pretty humble about it.
Dead Rhetoric: The general theme lyrically that runs through this album relates to positive change and looking after each other. Do you find it interesting the parallels that are necessary with regards to handling this COVID-19 pandemic and maybe seeing people really assess what’s valuable and important to their lives?
Porcianko: Absolutely. Now, even more than ever, it’s about bridging that disconnect as compassionate human beings, as we all have that within ourselves. It doesn’t have to be so dog eat dog, and focused on violence or the economy in regards to people. That to me is the brilliance of the human spirit more or less. I think it’s one of those things with Dead Elysium lyrically, there was thoughts going into the lyrical process in regards to how we have technology, and with all this technology somehow we have this lack of ability to communicate. Whereas now with the COVID-19 pandemic we are going through in the world, it’s becoming more and more apparent that we are connecting more now and looking out for each other. That’s fundamental to who we are as human beings. It’s beyond politics and all that other bullshit. It’s about us all surviving at the same time too. Be as truthful to ourselves, and be careful. There’s nothing wrong with caring – I don’t view compassion as a weakness.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us regarding the cover art concept for Dead Elysium? Do you still consider album art as important to giving the listener a window into what to expect for the musical contents, especially in this digitally driven/streaming-oriented landscape where physical sales are dwindling?
Porcianko: I think cover artwork is very important. The Dead Elysium cover artwork was done by Colin Marks from Rain Song Design. He did that in September / October of last year, and we were just blown away. We are always looking for artists and seeing who we would use and what they do. When we viewed his artwork on his Rain Song Design website, we loved the quality of his work and the vibe he goes with. I suppose it’s definitely a darker album in terms of the way the image is. It’s striking, the figure has a dystopian type of atmosphere surrounding him. It represents the album well with lyrically and musically what we are doing.
Dead Rhetoric: What are the integral ingredients that make a great songwriter in your mind? And within the Vanishing Point catalog, are there specific songs that you can look at now with a sense of pride where you took your songwriting to another level?
Porcianko: I think for myself as a musician and a songwriter, the most important thing has always been the emphasis of the song being a good song. It doesn’t have to matter how fast or how slow it is, how technical or how simple it is. I think a good song at the end of the day, and what we pride ourselves in, not boasting, to a degree is we try to create songs that make us feel good and sound good to our ears, and are catchy and memorable. Whether it be an awesome chorus, and of course with Silvio’s voice he has a great voice, I’m not going to write 20,000 notes for him to try to sing over. With this album we left a lot of space for him to fully express himself and it helps create a good song.
It’s a hard question because I never really self-analyze my work. The song pretty much for me many years ago that I still love doing live and listening to on album is “Season of Sundays” from Embracing the Silence. But then again there is “Let the River Run” from the Distant Is the Sun album, “Denied Deliverance” as well. Those songs I enjoy just how they sound. With this album as well, there are songs like “To the Wolves”, “Dead Elysium” and “Salvus” I’m very proud of. I let the creativity fly more or less and let the people be the judge of what they like and what they don’t like. We play music first and foremost that we enjoy, and if people like it that’s a bonus. And if they don’t, that’s okay as well.
Dead Rhetoric: As you just turned 49 recently, how would you assess your outlook in the music industry and your creative efforts through Vanishing Point versus your early years and development in the band? Do you find you concentrate more on specific areas due to experience and maturity versus what you thought may have been important in your twenties and thirties?
Porcianko: At 49 years of age, I still feel in my mind quite young. In terms of the way I compose music, that’s more or less been the same. I still have that drive in me, it’s the one thing that keeps me sane. I love the mystique and the mystery of creating music and going with the flow – sometimes I’ll get in front of my computer and play a guitar riff, and that gradually evolves into a song. If I’m ambitious I might have that song fully written and pre-produced in one night or two days. And then some songs will take two months. I love the mystery and the spontaneity of that, the flow.
In terms of the music industry, it’s definitely a case where it’s harder out there. There seems to be a lot of drive into the online presence, social media and Spotify plays, all that type of stuff. That’s why we have management who focuses on that stuff, because honestly at 49 I don’t understand anything about these social media algorithms whatsoever. To me that’s a different language- I’d rather let the people from management and record labels who are more experienced with this handle that stuff. At the same time we are still in touch with our fans through Facebook and all the platforms like that. The game plan over time has changed. What was going back to one of your previous questions as well is with the internet, a lot of bands are bringing out albums quicker to build a brand and/or music, and I don’t agree with that. It’s like they are in a race to bring out the most material so they can go out and tour. Touring from Australia is an expensive measure anyways, especially outside of the country. Is it something we are doing because we want to make money or are we doing it because we genuinely love creating music? And at 49 I love creating music and love playing live with the guys in the band, and that hasn’t changed for the last 23-24 years I’ve been in Vanishing Point.
Dead Rhetoric: What values do you hope to instill in your children that can make them stronger and better people to handle whatever the world throws at them – and are you jealous sometimes in this technologically advanced information age how much quicker they are able to pick up skills and interests than maybe during your childhood?
Porcianko: Am I jealous – no. I’m fascinated! (laughs) My son and I have conversations sometimes at dinnertime, he’s like ‘you are doing this all wrong, Dad. If you do it this way, you’ll get things happening.’ I am a Mac guy, he’s a PC geek. We have conversations of which is better. The kids these days are more technologically advanced and it’s a good thing. It doesn’t throw things off. My daughter is a little bit of an artist, she draws cartoons and is learning PhotoShop. Thomas is big into gaming and I think in the future he wants to do coding. At the same time, he’s interested in electronic music and he’s been composing stuff during GarageBand on his Mac, which he hates.
Dead Rhetoric: What have you been enjoying for bands, artists, albums as of late – do you find that you stick to specific favorites from your past or do you truly enjoy seeking out fresh styles and artists as you have diverse tastes beyond metal into AOR and singer/songwriters, correct?
Porcianko: I am always going back to the classics, but at the same time I’m loving what I’m hearing lately as well. There is a lot of really cool music. I’ve been revisiting the Redemption back catalog to a degree. Of course I like bands like Evergrey and Borealis who we are labelmates with on AFM Records. AOR bands like H.E.A.T. from Sweden I really dig, man Ihsahn his solo stuff, I’m a big fan of Emperor as well. There are so many artists and guitarists and instrumentalists on YouTube. It’s crazy and hard to pick apart. At the same time too, I’ll listen to Scar Symmetry, I can’t wait until they bring out a new album. And then later on that day I was listening to Tori Amos and Kate Bush. My tastes are quite eclectic, it depends on what music I’m in. Sometimes I’ll go in the car and just enjoy the silence. Anything that sounds good on the day, it doesn’t have to be driven by genre. If it’s a good song, it’s a good song.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns or worries do you have about the world that we live in today? Where do you think more of the focus needs to be placed for the average person to make the world a happier, better place to live in for themselves and others?
Porcianko: I think first of all, greed – we don’t need it. It’s not always about what you want. It’s not always about the latest and greatest- it’s more about being humble to a degree and accepting things for what they are. At the same time too, you have the power as an individual to make some kind of positive change yourself, and that in turn reflects positively on others. I’m a relatively positive guy, I believe things in the future will get better. I think the world is in a bit of a stagnant state, especially with the global pandemic, but I think we have a lot of leaders and politicians as idiots. I’m not going to name names, but the disconnect between reality and what’s on the ground with people, what’s happening- there seems to be quite a bit of disparity going on. In my opinion it’s totally unnecessary.
As human beings, if we can spare a good word and look after each other to be a bit more compassionate, it’s a powerful thing. We all have flaws in our architecture as human beings, but at the same time it’s necessary for us to be out there and look after one another. Share a good word, touch base with your friends who you haven’t been in contact with for a long time. If there’s a homeless person, help them out with some change. Do you need to get out and buy that extra coffee or cigarettes, and can you spare some change for that person? That little bit of change could make their day, and it’s a beautiful thing if you can do it.
I just think there is too much greed in the world. At the same time from a political standpoint a lot of them are thinking purely in terms of economy, economy, economy. Instead of what fundamentally is what is happening in the world and what’s happening in their communities. They are losing contact with what’s happening from their voters. So many people have lost their jobs with the COVID-19 pandemic, they know they need to help these people. Unfortunately the art and entertainment industry here in Australia, the government doesn’t recognize the arts as being a positive, contributing factor to the economy, which is really sad. Media, arts, bands, live performances, theater, artwork- everything contributes to the Australian economy every year. We don’t seem to get recognized. I’m hopeful things will change for the better- I’m cautiously optimistic.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you ever worry about losing that hunger or passion for creating music – and how do you handle those frustrating times or chaotic moments that can happen from time to time within a band?
Porcianko: Nobody has ever asked me that. I still look back to myself and see why I am doing this for in the first place. I enjoy creating music. I enjoy the fact that to the small audience that we have worldwide, they love what we do and the songs seem to resonate with them. That gets me off, and I’m grateful and humble for that. I’m not financially motivated. As much as finances could be better for the band to push our music further, for me the motivating factor has been creating new music. Times have been tough, we’ve had band members leave, and pause things sometimes, I still think to myself what am I doing this for? I’m grateful and humble that I have a good bunch of guys I’m in a band with. I can sometimes come across as quite all over the place with my OCD, but the guys accept me for who I am and what I contribute.
I enjoy playing. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. I love the mystique about it. I enjoy creating, that whole process more or less. If I didn’t enjoy it, or if I was trying to create music as a commercial avenue, I would have given it up a long time ago.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next twelve to eighteen months shaping up for Vanishing Point in terms of promotion, shows, festivals, tours, etc.? Due to the shutdown of live shows currently, does this push the creative muscles more to hopefully have a quicker Vanishing Point release down the line?
Porcianko: If we can’t get out there live, that’s going to be the case for sure. At the time we were recording the album, we’ve written a lot of music. We probably have three albums worth of pre-produced material ready to go, without lyrics and vocals of course. In terms of the music, it’s all there. We are not sure we are going to be able to play live, for a while. We have an Australian tour booked for the East and West Coast for March 2021. We are hoping we can do it.
If we can’t play live, we will go back in the studio. We may have to start some kind of crowdfunding campaign, we’ve all exhausted the band account funds right now. We will think about some cool ideas. We will promote this album as best as possible. If we can tour and play live, we want to do it. We want to get back to Japan, America, Europe as well. We haven’t been to Europe in twelve years.