CHEMTRAIL Interview – September 2013

 FTY : Can you introduce the members of Chemtrail? Also what is the history of the band. 

CHEMTRAIL: I (Michael Burke) play guitar and keyboards, Dan Ridenour plays guitar, Chris Camano plays guitar, Chris Lukens plays drums and  up until this past month J. Maggio was our bass player (for 7 years). Our new bass player is Cory George. As far as the band history goes, Dan and I have known each other since we were around 6 years old and we have jammed together on and off since our teenage years. In 2005 we started playing together again and we got together some demos that we were excited about. We set out to find band members and sometime in 2006, Chemtrail was born. We have now been a band for 7 years and we have put out 4 full-length albums and an EP.

FTY : How did the band get its name?

CHEMTRAIL: The band name came from a conspiracy theory that none of us really believe in I don’t think. Haha. Dan came across the term because he is the one that is very much into the whole conspiracy theory thing (ironically he really isn’t into chemtrail theories believe it or not). The chemtrail conspiracy theory is that the government or other organizations fly planes over us and spray trails of chemicals into the air (chemtrails) to make us sick, control the weather or what have you.  I think what it came down to was that we just thought it was a bad ass name for a band (sorry to disappoint all you conspiracy theorists out there).

FTY : How did the band members meet?

CHEMTRAIL: As I mentioned earlier, Dan and I grew up together and were friends on and off throughout our lives. It wasn’t until we were 25 years old that we really got serious about playing music together which is when we constructed the early Chemtrail demos. Our drummer Chris Lukens I knew through a mutual friend and he is also a local bartender. When I learned that he played drums we asked him to come jam with us and it worked out great. Dan met Chris Camano (our other guitar player) while recording a demo for Chris’s other band at the time. Dan asked him if he was interested in playing with us and the rest is history as the saying goes. A bass player was tough to find so we put an ad out on Craigslist and auditioned a couple of people until we found J. Maggio. He had just moved to the area from Chicago and was looking for a band. He was a perfect fit. J. now has two children and has decided to move back to the Chicago area to raise them closer to family and friends. Our new bass player Cory George we have known for years through him playing with another band that we used to play with quite a bit and also he and dan were coworkers for quite some time. We are very glad to have him aboard.

chemtrail 2007 via satellite

FTY : Can you describe your sound? 

CHEMTRAIL: Essentially we are an instrumental rock band. The going term for our style of music is “Post-Rock” as I am sure many of your listeners are familiar with. We get pretty and quiet sometimes and we get loud and heavy sometimes. Some of our parts are ambient, some are melodic and some can be considered metal. I think we encompass an array of different musical styles in our music. I think most people will find something they like in there.

FTY : So you have just released your fourth full release album, what can you tell me about it? 

CHEMTRAIL: Stylistically, I think this new album (Your Frequencies Have Been Missed) is on the heavier side. I think that is the main difference in sound from our earlier records. I also think our sound has matured. Of course you hope that your sound matures for every new release you put out but I think it comes across on this record. We have been playing together for quite sometime now and I think we are comfortable in our own skin. The song writing comes more organically and naturally now than it ever has before. We can almost read each other’s minds when it comes to songwriting. We know how to play off each other. I think these things make a stronger record. Also, this will be the first record of ours that will be released on vinyl. This is a dream come true for us and we are VERY excited about it!

FTY : What is the process for writing the songs? Do you start at the beginning or in the middle? Is it a band effort or single member etc etc 

CHEMTRAIL: In the beginning, Dan and I used to lay the foundations for the songs with riffs we had that would go together. That has changed a lot over the years. Nowadays, it seems to happen much more spontaneously. As I said before, we know how to play off each other well now after all of these years. An impromptu riff or jam will happen at practice and all of the sudden the foundation of a song is born. It used to be that one of us would come up with some riffs at home and bring them in to practice to work on. It happens much more naturally these days. I think it is wonderful. That to me is a testament that Chemtrail is now it’s own singular being and not just 5 individuals trying to fit together like puzzle pieces. I think that it is where all bands strive to be and I am glad that it is happening that way for us. I would hope that it will only get better with time too.

chemtrail terminals 2008

FTY : How do you name the songs on your albums?

CHEMTRAIL: The song names on our albums are very whimsical in nature. Mostly they are just something somebody in the band says that we find amusing (usually while drinking) or something we see written somewhere or something like that. They can come from anywhere really.

FTY : I am impressed that you have recorded 4 albums and one EP with the same line up. Do you guys have some secret formula for staying together? Can you speak briefly about the three previous releases. Can I say that there was a big shift in sound and production on the 2011 album Youth Obsessed Death Culture, how did that come about. 

CHEMTRAIL: I think the secret is that our personalities just fit well together. Also, an essential part of it is that no one has an ego or has the expectation of being big or famous. We simply just play together and make records because we enjoy doing so. I think everyone else in the band would agree with me that it’s just a necessary part of our lives. We need that creative outlet.

I think our sound has incrementally evolved over each one of our releases. Our first release (Via Satellite) was recorded on a digital 8-track machine and is pretty much demo quality. I think it has a “young and innocent” sort of quality to it though. It is funny that you should mention that you noticed a big shift in sound and production quality between our second (Terminals) and third (Youth Obsessed Death Culture) releases because they were recorded and mastered and the same studios (as was our latest album Your Frequencies Have Been Missed) so there really shouldn’t be any difference in quality. I think that the difference you heard probably was just us being a younger, more nervous and less mature band when we recorded Terminals as opposed to Youth Obsessed Death Culture. Terminals was our first time in a professional recording studio as a band. Also, I think a big part of it is that we were much more aware and nit picky about our sounds when we recorded Youth Obsessed Death Culture. In other words, we went in with more confidence and knowing what we wanted more so than when we did Terminals. Also, I think Youth Obsessed Death Culture is simply just a more epic and sonic album as well which may play a role in the difference you heard between the two.

FTY : When you are creating or recording your music, do you consider how difficult it would be to play live?

CHEMTRAIL: That’s not really a problem for us because we write the songs by playing them together at rehearsal. They are written live so to speak.

chemtrail youth ob 2011

FTY : How often are you playing live and would you think about a tour to promote the new record?

CHEMTRAIL: We play live on average about twice a month. We would love to tour but unfortunately that is one of the hardest things for us to achieve because we all work full time jobs and more or less scrape by to survive. We hope to do some more 3 to 5 day long weekend trips in the future and try to play around more. I won’t say that  a tour is impossible though. We may be able to get some time off to do it one of these days. We will see what happens.

FTY : What bands do you typically play with when you have a live show? Do you like bands in the same genre or a total contrast in sounds. 

CHEMTRAIL: We play with all sorts of bands. I think we like it best to play with similar sounding bands though. We play with friends bands quite a bit and they are all over the map… punk, metal etc…

FTY : What or who influences you to do what you do? 

CHEMTRAIL: As far as music goes, we all seem to like some post-rock obviously but some of us are into it more than others. Our influences range from punk, rock, metal, electronic, hip hop… all sorts of music really. Other than music, just life in general… the emotions we experience on a day to day basis.

chemtrail sounds like ghosts 2012

FTY : Would you say that listening to bands in similar genres can influence how you sound?

CHEMTRAIL: Sure, absolutely. We were obviously moved by the genre to begin with to want to start a post-rock band. We certainly aren’t out to imitate anyone but we definitely find inspiration from similar bands. We aren’t pioneers by any means but hopefully we provide our own flavor and twists to the genre. I definitely think Chemtrail has it’s own “sound” that distinguishes us from other bands.

FTY : How does the band promote itself, are you finding social media is a good avenue for this?

CHEMTRAIL: Social media is essential for every band these days. It is a huge part of promoting our music. That is one of the great things about the music industry today is that your music can reach all corners of the world via the internet. Other than that, we promote through blogs like yours and also local press and things like that.

FTY : If you could collaborate with any artist or band, who would it be and why? 

CHEMTRAIL: Hmmm… can’t really think of anyone specific but I think I would say a film director of movie that we thought was cool. We would love to get the opportunity to write a soundtrack. That would be great.

chemtrail 2013 frequencies

FTY : What advice would you give to any band playing instrumental music starting out today?

CHEMTRAIL: My advice would be to go out and play the music you love without any expectations. Just do it because you love doing it and you love the people you are doing it with. The guys in Chemtrail are like family to me and that is truly what makes it so special and worthwhile.

FTY : Would you say that bands like yourself are turning the music industry on its head. You write, record and release your own music. That was never done without some form of record deal. How difficult is it to do everything yourselves?

CHEMTRAIL: I guess it has been a huge blow to the music industry over the past decade or so. Anyone can put out a record these days it seems. Home recording is extremely affordable and you don’t even have to press a physical copy of anything if you don’t want. Just upload it to iTunes. We go beyond that obviously and use professional recording studios and make professionally pressed CDs and/or records. We take our recordings very seriously. After all, what could possibly be more important to invest in as band than your recordings? It can be hard and costly to achieve on our own but we manage. It just may take us longer thats all. The quality you get from a professional studio is much greater than you are going to get from someone’s living room, no contest. It’s worth every penny. The only thing that I could see being beneficial from being on a record label these days would be them financially backing a tour. That is something we cannot do ourselves so that would be great.

FTY :  Last piece of music you listened to, apart from your own? 

CHEMTRAIL: My friend just gave me the new Queens of the Stone Age record that came out this Summer so that is what is in my player currently. Good stuff.

FTY : What does the future hold for Chemtrail?

CHEMTRAIL: Hopefully more albums, a proper tour and an ever evolving sound. One of our goals is to get to go over to Europe for a couple weeks to play some shows. At the very least, we hope to be playing together for many more years to come.

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