Texas prog metal merchants WHITE ARMS OF ATHENA just released their excellent debut album on Prosthetic Records, Astrodrama. Metal Army caught up with bassist Tom Sifuentes to chat about the band, how they make music and what it’s like for a relativity young and humble group of musicians trying to make its way in the game in 2011.
MAA: Astrodrama is out today, so congratulations! Can you take us through the writing and recording process.
TS: Yeah, sure. And thank you by the way. As far as the writing goes, I’d say all three of the guitar players, I play bass guitar and the two other guitar players we are all really about writing our own stuff. Writing full parts and full songs too. I play guitar too, so all three of us have a big input as to how the songs go. As far as that goes it’s pretty hard to get everybody’s input in without taking away from someone else. I think we did an alright job of including everybody’s and all their writing input. As far as recording goes it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. We went out to North Carolina and recorded with Jamie King, who is a pretty famous producer. That was our first real band experience. We haven’t done any big tours yet or recorded in a cool studio like that so to be out of town with the guys was a really great experience.
MAA: I hear a ton of different influences on this album. How do you make it all work together so seamlessly?
TS: I think a lot of has to do with, like I said there being three song writers. All three of us, in order to really make it work we need to incorporate everyone’s ideas. I like a lot of jazz and a lot of the smoother stuff and I bring that to the table. While the the other guys really like the grimier, metal stuff. We just try to bring everybody in and that’s how we make it all fit together.
MAA: Is there a loose concept tying the album together?
TS: A few years ago we stumbled upon this little website called Astrodrama. I don’t know if it still goes under that name. It’s kind of like an improve, role playing game, as nerdy as that sounds. I’ve looked on the Internet recently and it’s pretty elaborate with dressing up in costumes. They like to take certain characters from the horoscopes like Pisces and Taurus characters and and what they represent in their human forms. What we wanted to parallel that to with our music is that all of us have very different backgrounds and styles. The same thing with Astrodrama, everybody has totally different styles and a totally unique perspectives. Bringing all these different people together from these backgrounds, it’s like us. It’s kind of the same thing: a lot of people coming together.
MAA: You have a pretty unique bass style. Who are some of your influences and what gear do you use to get that sound?
TS: I’d say some of my biggest inspiration as of late comes from Joe Lester of INTRONAUT. His bass lines are out of this world. They are smooth when they have to be and really rocking when they really get into it. One of my all time favorites is Sean Malone. He recorded with CYNIC and he did a lot of other stuff as well. Those two guys really influences me and I can’t even count how many guys other I’ve been inspired by. As far as gear goes I’m with Ampeg right now and I just got an Ampeg 7. I’m playing through all Ampeg from top to bottom. And of course I use Ibanez basses. Where I really get my tone from is this little MXR pedal and I keep it on all the time. Even in the recording, Jamie King had another special DI box, but we wound up using my pedal because it sounded so good and Jamie liked so much.
MAA: The cover art of Astrodrama is very distinctive. How did you hook up with the artist?
TS: Around the time we were about to go record the album I came across this artist from Germany, Dennis Constantine. We thought we’d just reach out to him and he corresponded. We started talking and getting along. He was really cool and understood us, where we are coming from. Being that we are such a young band without too much money, it was cool that he still wanted to work with us. He did an original new piece of art for us which was cool. So we gave him the album and he brought it to us and the front cover and back cover run along together like the same piece. It looks crazy, like it’s from another world. We are really happy with it.
MAA: Do you have any touring plans lined up?
TS: We have a few months off until late October and early November where we will be out for two and half, maybe three weeks. We’ll do some local shows here and there. Then we are meeting us with a prog band from New Jersey called EAST OF THE WALL. We’re gonna do a few weeks out with them, getting out to California and New Mexico and then back to Texas. We have some other stuff in the works too that you will hear about soon. We are always looking for good tours and good shows to play.
MAA: What does it mean to you to to have your band on Prosthetic Records?
TS: I don’t know what to say except that we all really so happy and are ecstatic to be on a label with such a great roster. There are so many bands on the roster that are legendary. We are this little nerdy and new prog band on a label with so much history, it is such an honor. Cliche as that may sound, I mean it. Someday we’d like to be in the class of a GOJIRA or even now ANIMALS AS LEADERS, they are getting so big now and bringing out so much of their genre’s music. We’d like to be one of those bands someday.
(Thanks to Tom Sifuentes, Prosthetic Records and Chantelle Renee Photography.)
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes