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Interview with Fractional Importance

10.24.99

Douglas Gledhill – vocals/guitar
Kevin Fessler – drums
Nate Perry – new bassist
(Jon Holiday – former bassist)

I’ve personally been promoting Fractional Importance for quite some time now. After Jon left the band to go to school, I invited them over for beers and conversation and some insight into what the next plan of action is. Here is what they had to say…

How long has Fractional been an entity?
D: 11 years. John Holiday, (former bass player) and Kevin and another guy started the band, and I joined and kicked out the other guy, and it went from there. And that was like, 7th grade, the Summer of 7th grade. Or maybe 8th grade.

Was it always the same kind of material?
D: No we played like, progressive fusion jazz metal or something. It was all instrumental with all these weird time signatures. Until about 10th grade, and then I started singing. For 3 years we sucked and played all this weird instrumental music. Then I started writing my own songs and stuff, and it started evolving into what it is now.

How long was John with the band?
D: About 10 years.
So you must be like old…!!! what are you? 40?!!
D: No actually I’m only 23 years old.

How would you describe your sound for those who haven’t heard the band yet?
K: Loud.
D: A heavy melodic, extremely melodic…yet heavy.
N: Just the right combination of hard and soft. Just when you’re getting into the hard driving thing, there’s this nice floating thing..
D: I say “melodicore.” That’s what I call it. It’s not alternative or metal. More like hardcore like Snapcase, but no Korn influences…

Who would you say have been your biggest influences over the past 5 years?
D: Failure, would be the biggest, Helmet, Snapcase, Jeff Buckley. Real mellow stuff and real heavy stuff.
K: Failure, Rush, Sarah MacLachlan, Toad the Wet Sprocket.
N: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primus, Rage Against the Machine…

Nate, Douglas was mentioning that there was going to be a serious amount of energy from your end, and I can see why now, if that is the kind of thing that influences how you play..
N: Yeah

Dream tour line up?
D: Oh that’s easy! Deftones. Helmet. Failure, if they’d play again…
N: Rage Against the Machine. Tool.
D: Yeah I should have said Tool. Tool is actually one of my favorite bands in the world. Staind, I like Staind. (to Kevin) Jewel… (laughter)
Kevin would prefer the Lillith tour…
(laughter)

What’s your musical background, Nate? Are you self taught, any formal training?
N: I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music. I went to Berkley College of music, summer programs in Los Angeles when I was 16, and studying Jazz and sight readingAnd all that stuff. Claremont college.. and then I went to Humboldt State, and also University of Memphis, in Tennessee…

How did you come to know of Fractional and what brought you to where you are now?
N: Well, that would be called the L.A. Weekly. (laughter) I came down here because I was tired of No. Cal and I wanted to get into a band, but I didn’t want to get into a lame band, there are tons of lame bands everywhere…
Fractional is not one of them.
N: No, not at all
You put an ad out when John went to school?
D: He was going back and forth as to whether he was going to quit or not for a while, and this was the final time he was going to leave so we put an ad out in the Weekly and we tried out a couple of guys. Nate came down and fit perfectly.
N: They sent me the cd and I liked it a lot but I was a little intimidated because a lot of my background is in Jazz. Like, can I hang with these guys and completely rock out? But I just came in and learned the tunes and from a formal perspective, they have incredible musical instinct. The rehearsals never lag and they get stuff done, and there is a lot of technique there. Not just a lot of riffs.
D: I had a lot of Jazz training when I was taking lessons and Kevin did, too so there’s definitely a jazz influence. And then when Nate came in and rewrote a lot of the bass lines and made them his own, it fit perfectly.. He’s a lot more enthusiastic about it. He plays with a lot more feeling. John was an awesome bass player, the lines he wrote were great but ..
He had other goals in mind…
N: Yeah, it sounds like we did the reverse because he played with you guys forever and then he wanted to go to school, whereas I was in school forever and then I wanted to play in a band.

Individually, what are your favorite songs to play live?
K: Pathetic, All This Fake, and.. Forgiven
D: Pathetic, because the mellow parts are extremely mellow and the loud parts are extremely heavy so it’s a real intense song. So, that one and All This Fake..and Godstopper.
Really?
D: Yeah, that one is fun to play because everybody loves that one. That’s like a total basher song. I don’t know if we’re going to be playing it in the future. I think That whole first cd will probably be scrapped. And we’re writing some new stuff.
N: Yeah I really like the two new ones. They came together really fast.

Nate, Douglas was saying that when you came in you already knew the material really well and you just played it and went off.
N: Well that’s where formal training helps because besides playing a lot of hard music, you have to do these classes like theory classes and ear training and it sort of becomes a drill. Like the test would be hearing an excerpt of a Mozart piano sonata and writing exactly what he just played. So it’s like, if I can write it, I can play it.
D: Yeah but a lot of people who have formal training, they lose the feel of it and they start playing like a machine and have no emotion to it. That I cannot stand. Like MIT graduates come out and have no feel for what they’re playing but they can play anything. He has the perfect combination of knowing what he’s playing but he still plays with feeling and has his own style of playing. So it fits perfectly.

What equipment do you use? (amused looks from the band)
D: I have a rack set up. A Mesa Boogie power amp.
N: What’s it called though?
D: I use a dual rectifier rack mounted head. (laughter) I have a Bob Bradshaw custom built rack, that’s BOB BRADSHAW… (more laughter) and I just use Boss effects pedals but they’re all rack mounted and put into a unit that transfers it over to a midi foot switch so I can combine all the effects and get all the sounds and preset all the sounds. And uh… for guitars it’s Paul Reed Smith. Kevin, tell her about your drums. (lots of laughter)
K: I have an antiquated Tama Rockstar. (laughter)
D: He plays a 1985 Tama Rockstar!
K: It’s 1990!

As involved in computers as Kevin is, are you guys planning to incorporate any programming into your music at all?
D: NO.
N: NO.
K: Not into the music, but I want to do an enhanced cd for the next album.. or something like that.
D: Yeah. Visually for like websites or visual stuff on cds is cool but…
N: Absolutely no, like NO synthesized sounds…
D: Every band now is throwing in like samples and DJs and programming…but I prefer like, when I write songs I write them on acoustic guitar and show them to these guys and we can arrange it and change parts and when it’s played it becomes heavier. But it’s more organic than technical.
Which is a rarity now..
N: To stay pure.
D: There’s only a handful of bands, that are really organic. Most bands are throwing in the programming or a DAT and it sounds cool for certain bands but a lot of bands overuse it and I wouldn’t want to jump on that bandwagon.
N: Eventually if music like ours stays around and stays pure with just the live instruments it will become a commodity. It would become marketable. Because everything is going to get so saturated with computerized stuff that if there is still a band that still sounds good without it, it will become a product in itself.
D: Yeah I don’t like to over do it with overdubs because especially being a three-piece you can’t pull it off live. Less is more is the philosophy. I’d prefer seeing bands that pull it off by playing the instruments themselves than pulling it off of a DAT tape.

How many cds are in circulation now?
D: There’s one full-length cd called “Indecision” that had 10 songs. And that one’s kind of old and we still sell it at shows but we don’t promote it. There are a couple of songs on there that I’d like to still play like “God Stopper” and “Forgiven” which are like trademark songs almost, but other than that, the rest of it’s kinda junked, I guess.
I know there is a lot of new material out…
D: Yeah there is a 3-song sampler EP and we still play those, and we also have the two new ones we just wrote, we have like 5 brand new songs that aren’t recorded.

Are you going to record again soon?
D: It would be nice, but it’s expensive. We’ll definitely record them, it’s just a matter of time before we pull it off. There are 4 songs that we’ve been playing that aren’t recorded 2 new ones that have been written with Nate that we’re still getting down.
N: Yeah those are going well. I like the EP but I prefer to keep going with the new stuff.
D: The first cd is close to 3 years old now, and a lot of the songs have been played out. But I’d like to take Godstopper from that and still play it.

What were the first songs you ever learned how to play?
K: Wild Thing, Tone Loc. (laughter) Yeeahhhh… that and Pour Some Sugar On Me. Those two songs made me want to play drums.
D: Keep in mind this was like when we were 12 years old…mine was Crazy Train. Any Ozzy Osbourne stuff with Randy Rhoades. I loved Randy Rhoades. Metallica.. I learned how to play One.
N: I didn’t start playing bass until I was 15 and I’m 22, so the first riff I learned was Higher Ground, the intro. Which I still think is the coolest bass intro ever. I have all the old Chili Peppers 80’s albums.
Are you going to play naked, Nate?
N: No. I’m not gonna come out in a sock. I don’t think they’ve got a sock that’s big enough.
D: The thing that makes it cool is that all my influences are hardcore and Kevins are the mellower stuff and Nate likes the Chili Peppers and I hate the Chili Peppers (laughter)But the combinations of all of the influences makes a unique sounds. So, it’s not like we’re all into Tool so we sound like Tool, you know?
Yeah, if you stand out at all, you’re lucky.
D: Yeah, down here there are a lot of Korn bands, and a lot of bands come out and try to play as heavy as they can, but the songs aren’t there. We’re more of a songwriting band.
N: If you have good songs, and obviously this sounds cliche, but there is a reason why people still like the Beatles and the Doors. If you write a good song people are going to like it. Playing just hard all the time is something that maybe one 3-year generation of kids is going to like and then it’s just going be old hat and that’s it. But if you’ve got a good song that someone who’s 40 would like, and someone who’s our age would like…

Why do think it is that there are so many heavy bands coming out right now? Do you think it’s because people are just pissed off and want to get it out or is it because everyone wants to be heavier than the last guy?
D: Heavy music is my favorite music, like hardcore stuff like Earth Crisis. I consider us pretty heavy, we’re not a pop band or really mellow, we just don’t like to over do it. I think there has always been a hardcore scene, ..like Sex Pistols..
N: Yeah Sex Pistols, Black Sabbath..
D: Yeah back then that was the hard music. Now bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit are considered the heavy music and I don’t want to identify with that at all or play 7-strings or what not. But I love Korn, I just don’t want to take any influences from that or sound like that.
It seems inevitable that bands will be compared to Korn nowadays.
D: That’s because Korn made heavy music mainstream again. And of course if they’re mainstream, all the start up bands are going to have some kind of Korn-type influence to them.
K: Everyone wants to be the next Korn.
It’s refreshing actually, that none of you mentioned them as an influence. I like them, it’s just nice to hear that something different exists.
N: I never even heard them ’til like, this year.
D: I think they’re a great band and I’ve seen them millions of times and have all the cds. I just don’t take anything from them and put it in. I just consider us just more like a Failure type of band or even a Radiohead type of band. We’re heavier than both of them, but we’re still a songwriting band.
N: Yeah I’ve used that Radiohead comparison when I’ve described this, too. It’s just a perfect mix. In Doug’s songwriting skills, it’s like he has the instinct enough not to milk a riff.

There are a lot of changes in the majority of the songs…
N: Yeah! And it’s not easy stuff to learn.
D: But at the same time it’s catchy and people get it. It’s all about writing good songs. It’s not about writing stuff for the radio, or stuff that the hardcore kids will like. It’s just about writing a good song that will stand the test of time.

Where are your favorite clubs to play out here?
D: Troubadour, my favorite. Mainly because of Paul. Paul is the coolest guy in the world. Hi Paul. (laughter) Paul at the Troubadour, Monster Sound, Monday Nights.(more laughter) But the Whisky has the best sound. I like the Whisky a lot, too. But definitely the Troubadour is the best experience to play. It’s a nice environment; everyone treats you with respect there. The Whisky is a close second. But you can only play at those clubs so many times before you have to get out of town and play other places.
Did you have a good time in Pomona?
D: Yeah. That was the best. All the kids out there are the best. It’s so much better than playing in Hollywood, because they’re just more into it. They appreciate it more than the people out here because everyone here is either in a band or related to the industry somehow.
N: Any area that isn’t as saturated it’s going to be better. We were talking about the college circuit and if you do that you’re going to get captive audiences that just want to party and hear good music.
D: When we play (in Santa Clarita) the crowd response is always better than here. We have a following here, but people tend to be a lot more into it and it’s kind of a better scene in other places. You’re more appreciated.

What’s the biggest audience you’ve ever played to?
K: The speedway, or the Palace.
D: We played at Saugus Speedway in Santa Clarita and there were like 20 bands. There were about 4000 people there the whole day, so we probably played to about 1000 people. And we also did a mountain bike video release thing at the Palace. There were about 800 or 1000 people there.

Any New Year’s resolutions? Any personal goals or something you want to accomplish with the band?
D: I think we’re all gonna die anyway.
N: Yeah I think New Year’s Eve, it’s over.

Lesa Pence

(Lesa Pence spends her free time dreaming horribly gory and twisted nightmares and trying to figure out how to get them up on movie screens for the rest of the world to be horrified by.)

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