Xenophile- Accelerate the Initiative Part I

Tuesday, 11th October 2016

Thrash is alive and well in 2016 folks. Veterans like Overkill, Death Angel, Testament, Sodom, and Destruction unleashing strong new studio albums and circling the globe touring circuit, while there are a number of younger artists making a claim for holding the torch strong for their generation when the old guard sets down their instruments forevermore. You don’t hear many bands like Xenophile from New Jersey though – willingly performing in a progressive, melodic thrash mold with technical chops that haven’t been heard since the heydays of Toxik, Watchtower, Hades, Forbidden, and Annihilator among others. Their debut album Systematic Enslavement gives the listener a 10 song, hour long trip into pushing time signatures, tempo manipulation, and blitzkrieg musicianship into a palatable, melodic platform – which in turn should allow the band to develop a wide array of followers from the metal community and beyond.

After witnessing the band at a Providence, Rhode Island thrash show one Monday night, the need to learn more became evident so firing off these questions you’ll get answers from three of the four members of the group: guitarist/vocalist Ron Iglesias, guitarist LeArt Begolli and drummer Matt Pavlik (bassist Anthony Bianco rounds out the quartet). Prepare to delve into the three year plus making of the full-length effort, their views on the NY/NJ metal scene, outside interests when away from music and what the future holds for this fine outfit – and do yourself a favor by purchasing the album or seeing the band when they come to your area for a live show.

Dead Rhetoric: Xenophile started in 2010 – what can you tell us about the early days/lineups, and how quickly did you discover that you wanted to go into a more progressive, melodic thrash direction with your sound?

Ron Iglesias: Leart and I met at New Jersey City University in the fall of 2010. He was already playing with a bassist/vocalist named Dan Rynerson. After Leart and I shared our musical interests with each other, as well as some guitar riffs and licks, we decided to meet up for a jam session at the bassist’s house. We instantly got along in mutual liking for bands as well as ideas we had on guitar. We weren’t yet known as Xenophile at this point and maybe a month or so into jamming together, the three of us agreed on the name Abstraction. Not long after that, the drummer who was in the band at the time, Manohar, left the band as he was very busy with school if I remember correctly. This would be the first time Marc Pappalardo would be playing with us. Leart and I both loved a lot of the melodic and progressive side of metal like Nevermore, Dream Theater or Toxik as well as a lot of thrash like Exodus, Testament, Megadeth or Overkill, death metal like Nile, Morbid Angel or Behemoth and black metal such as Dissection and Emperor. We also dug a lot of the guitar shredders, fusion, classical and various middle-eastern influenced styles of music which I guess all sort of found its way into the music. That being said, we strived to write songs that did not sound like one another. Many of the songs such as “Absolution” and “Hollow Corpse” that made it to Systematic Enslavement got their start during this time albeit under different names and slightly different arrangements.

After a little over a year of Dan, Leart, Marc and myself playing several shows, rehearsing and writing together, we found we were having creative differences and decided to move on without Dan. It was during this time that Leart suggested Xenophile as a new band name and I think it kind of stuck unofficially for a while. Around the spring of 2012 Marc left the band due to illness affecting his father and I didn’t really know who to replace him with but Leart suggested his high school friend Matt Pavlik. We met at Matt’s house as he began learning several songs and went about rearranging some of them and writing new ones with the addition of Dane Wagner on bass. That summer we settled on the name Xenophile officially and played our first show together at Digorgios in Bayonne, NJ that July. We also tried several people as managers including Jesse Kurtz and Macarena Araneda but found it was best to handle the business of the band ourselves. By the fall of 2012 we had brought current bassist Anthony Bianco into the band. I originally took up singing but we rotated through several singers as time went on. We had Derrick Schneider as our first vocalist who was actually very instrumental in helping write some of the choruses to our songs, Roy Torres who contributed lyrics to “Forgotten Holocaust” and wrote all of the lyrics to “In the Ruins” and Frank Vargas for a short time until we settled for me singing again as all of these members left to move on to other projects which leads us to today.

Dead Rhetoric: Systematic Enslavement is the band’s first full-length – can you tell us about the songwriting and recording sessions for this, as it was a fairly lengthy process to get everything down the way you desired? Any surprises, obstacles, or challenges that you had to overcome, and what are some of your favorite moments that you’d like to share?

Iglesias: The process for putting out Systematic… was interesting. By the summer of 2012 we were all really excited for the momentum that we felt we had going and decided to forgo recording demos and EP’s and just cut a full-length. We were making some money from shows which we began to save as well as each of us contributing towards savings. A lot of songs you hear on Systematic Enslavement had been written and arranged for a while before then so we didn’t really feel the pressure of having to write more material so we started to look at the winter of 2013 to start the recording process. Leart suggested a friend of his who was a producer named Mikhail who we went to for the only Abstraction recording in existence which contained early versions of “Hollow Corpse” and “Absolution”. We were set to go until Matt ended up in a car accident in December of 2012. He had broken his arm so we had to push back recording until the summer. This was the first time Marc had come back into the band to fill in for the shows that Matt was going to miss.

By May of that year Matt had recovered. Originally, Derrick Schneider was going to record vocals for Systematic however, Derrick decided to leave the band to perform with another group called Dark Empire. We then asked Roy Torres from the band Divided Skies to perform with us and also to record vocals for the album which we were scheduled to begin recording in June of 2013. Our original goal was to try and track 10 songs within a week and spend no more than $1000. We severely underestimated the time it was going to take. We finished tracking drums within the week and then sporadically had to return to the studio over the next two months to finish tracking guitars, bass and vocals because of scheduling conflicts. To optimize time, we would sometimes stay recording till 4 or 5 in the morning. Around $3000 later, everything was finally done being tracked by September. Then we were waiting on the mixing process to be completed. Not long after, our vocalist, Roy, departed from the band wanting to pursue other musical interests.

Our producer ran into many obstacles while mixing because the studio that he was working in ended up moving out and most of the equipment that he was going to use to mix and master the album was sold off so he had to resort to trying to make time to mix with the help of another producer named Paul. Scheduling time to use the other producer’s equipment proved to be taking far too long, so after getting referred to a producer by the name of Jon Ciorciari of J-Rod Productions, we decided to take the raw tracks to him for mixing and mastering. Upon listening back, we felt that the vocals could have been recorded better as they were done rather quickly in the studio due to time constraints. With Roy not being in the band any longer, I offered to take up singing again and this time I went to re-record the vocals through a friend named Rob Chiarappa. I finished re-recording the vocals by January 2015 and then over the next few months the vocal tracks were sent over to Jonny. The mixing and mastering process continued into fall 2015 and despite some more vocal re-recording that needed to be done everything was finally completed.

With the help of Matt, we were able to enlist a Czech company named All4band to do our album art and Easydisc.net to produce copies of the CD as well as putting together the booklet with lyrics and song titles. Overall, I guess it was very educational in that you learn a lot about the studio, what can or can’t be done, to be as organized as possible before going into record and definitely to make sure you choose the right people. Some of my favorite moments though had to be tracking solos with Leart. I felt like some of our best ideas would come out during that time and it was just funny at first to see who could come closest to getting a solo done on the first take. Just being with bandmates through a process like that really tested us and brought us closer together, so despite all the obstacles, it was well worth it and quite an adventure.

Matt Pavlik: A lot of the music was already written by the time I joined in early 2012. In learning the material that Ron and Leart were presenting to me, we did begin to work together in re-arranging songs or changing things to fit the sound we were beginning to develop. At just the first or second practice, I asked if I could change the structure to a song (that would eventually become “Absolution”), so we really began to click right from the start. In terms of recording and getting the album out, we had quite a few obstacles and setbacks. We were somewhat unfamiliar with the whole process, so we couldn’t tell when it was time to switch the people with whom we were working, and long story short: the album took almost 3 years from tracking to release. It was frustrating, not being able to share the music we created and believe in for so long. We somehow managed to survive all of that, and the response to the album has been amazing, and it’s so validating.

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