ISTANBUL — The Aristocrats is one of those bands that you really can’t say anything bad about. Formed by three virtuosos who mastered their instruments (and others) seemingly beyond normal human abilities, Guthrie Govan, Marco Minneman and Bryan Beller. Blast Magazine met up with Marco Minnemann during the band’s show in Turkey’s largest city.
BLAST MAGAZINE: How is the tour going so far?
Marco Minnemann: The tour is going so far, very very very well. We started actually right after Joe Satriani finished where Bryan and I are a part and then we took right over. And, you know started to play in many European Countries and the turn out is fairly phenomenal I must say and people are really appreciative so are we. Good energy exchange. There you go.
BLAST MAGAZINE: It has been almost 6 months since you released “Tres Caballeros”. Yeah I cant pronounce that…
BLAST MAGAZINE: Haha thank you. How is the reaction been so far?
Its good. It is a different album. We always try to do new experimental stuff you know. Keeps it refresh and exciting and Tres Caballeros is very song oriented and we also didn’t shy away, doing some flavoring, overdubs so there is some different sounds to hear you know. So it is not the, let’s put it that way, jazz/fusion kind of solo album. It is instrumental compositions you know.
BLAST MAGAZINE: Going back to the recording process, what is the best memory you have?
Oh at the recording process! Well the good thing was we recorded at, aaa let me recall, Sunset studios. Where Led Zeppelin recorded albums and Van Halen and a lot of cool bands. So being there actually was a great joy for us because you know all those equipment, the original consoles and stuff like that. And we also had fantastic things like piano which I could play, overdubs like that. It was all good chemistry, the sound was good. Overall good experience. And since we are now a band who is kind of locked in and we play stuff for a while, it really was fun to kind of get in. We made the basic tracks and worked on them separately.
BLAST MAGAZINE: You do a lot live tracking and improvisation. Was that the case with this album also?
Not so much
BLAST MAGAZINE: What particular things did you do different this time while recording?
What we do usually is each of us writes 3 songs. We do this separately in our homes.
BLAST MAGAZINE: And you write the whole… the guitar, the base
The whole piece. Everything.
BLAST MAGAZINE: Kind of frantic.
Fractic hahaha. No that is what we do. We have a vision you know. But then there is of course room for interpretation where the guitar, you know Guthrie can stretch out in the solo and no body writes for each others solo. That’s the thing. Bryan will have freedom, I have freedom for the drums and for other instruments as well. You the piano parts. So you know that is a really structured way of writing. That is what we usually do, with all the albums, we just decide what direction to go.
BLAST MAGAZINE: Which song off the record do you enjoy playing the most?
Ohh it is difficult to say. We are happy to present all the songs. I would say… Off the new album you mean?
BLAST MAGAZINE: In general is fine too
Ok. I will name 3 songs off each of us which I really enjoy a lot. So let’s start with Guthrie. I really enjoy playing a song called Pig’s Day Off. Then from Bryan, I like playing the song which is called Texas Crazypants and off the new album Pressure Relief is a fun song to play as well.
BLAST MAGAZINE: What about “Fucker Blues”?
Oh Blues Fuckers . Yeah I wrote that one for the first album.
BLAST MAGAZINE: Who are your influences?
I grew up listening to Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Police, Frank Zappa stuff like that. Kate Bush.
BLAST MAGAZINE: But drummer wise you would say..? Like for example Steve Copland.
BLAST MAGAZINE: Oh Steve Copland yeah. John Bonham those guys. Buddy Rich.
BLAST MAGAZINE: When did you start playing? Did you learn on your own? How did you practice. Actually, as a big fan, I know that you took lessons, your first lesson was the swing and first you learned the right hand.
Haha that is true. Thanks man, for being knowledgeable in these things. Yeah first, I started playing organ. After a while I was like where am I going with this. But it is still useful to play the keyboard instrument. Just for the knowledge of it. But drumming wise, I was listening to albums and stuff. I played along Kiss and Queen records using pillows. And made like an artificial foot pedal. It was fun. That is the thing you know. In the end the important thing is music. I listen to very different styles, no matter if it is some jazz or Queen or rock. Well Queen is very eclectic, it has a lot of variety. Ryuichi Sakamoto is fantastic, great Japanese composer. To me the main focus was the music itself. Not just the drumming. Maybe the whole thing about technical aspects. I like to have the knowledge but what you do with it…
BLAST MAGAZINE: What I notice when I look at your kit is that the cymbals are way up there. They are so high. What is the reason behind this. I mean it is so hard to reach those bells etc.
No, they are actually not that high. For me, If I sit there I can still reach them. To me, I really like the separation between the high EQ, mid range and the low end. So we don’t get over speaking in the microphones. That to me is very important. That is what gives a good sound. As long as it is comfortable. To me, it feels just right, natural. That space, sometimes I do a lot of movement, quick movements. And then you want not to get stuck between cymbals and drums. But I think it gives a really consistent sound.
BLAST MAGAZINE: One thing that you do that I love is that you drum ove dialogs like from Monty Python. How did you come up with that and do you sometimes think in time measures when talking to people?
Nooo, no no. Haha. But I knew this dialog so well, watching over and over again. I kind of thought like “you know what I will just put drums to it, rhythm, kind of define that and play guitars”. Yeah just a fun game, let’s do that.
BLAST MAGAZINE: You do it so naturally, unbelievable.
Well, that is the important thing isn’t it. It feels natural. First of all, you have fun with it. No matter what vibe it is, it needs to feel right. It needs to feel good.
BLAST MAGAZINE: How much practice did that take?
That took a while. Like 4 days.
BLAST MAGAZINE: What do you do before the shows?
Nothing. What I do is, like this, kind of have sticks in my hands. Mess around with them but I don’t really warm up. Because we play so much. We have so much gigs and sometimes what you want is to get distance from your instrument. Otherwise you can over do it. You want to have sometime where you don’t think about these things.
Blast correspondent Yagiz Ozdag contributed to this report.