interview with Skyliner

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What´s the name of your band? Hi Robex, its an honor to get the interview with you. My name is Jake and I'm from SKYLINER.

What made you call the band "Skyliner"? The earliest I can remember the name going back is being about 9 years old visiting the Florida Keys and thinking it might be a good name for a band. I wanted to start a band ever since I discovered music, and to me the right band name was the first important issue to solve. I couldn't ever think of anything better, so it just stuck, haha.

How was the band formed? I met Ben, who is the drummer, in our teens, we just kind of started jamming together, and it became a band. 

Where are all band members from?/Who does what in the band? Ben (drums, percussion) and myself (vocals, guitar) are from here in Jacksonville, Florida. Nathaniel, on bass, is originally from Chicago but has been here in Jacksonville for a while now. We're very homegrown.

What was the ambitions of the band when you started? We were still learning our instruments when we started trying to piece this thing together. I think a band happens as a result of a need to play. So in the beginning that's really all the ambition was...let's write songs, let's play out. I think there were some slightly pressing issues otherwise, like "let's get out of our parents' houses".  

Could you explain your music to someone that haven't heard you? We identify with heavy metal, with power metal. I don't like it to be too small of a box, though, I like to tell people we do things in a progressive style..we think with a progressive mind. Sometimes that's the best I can do because some of the bands we get compared to, if you name them you get a blank's a little bit tough.

Where was your first gig? A place here called Jack Rabbits, sometime in 2004. It's kind of the "known" club in the city. I've seen a lot of bands there. My favorite show there was seeing Zao on the "Funeral of God" tour.

Where was the latest gig? We opened up the Turisas/Firewind tour last year here in town. Since then everything has been more focused on getting the record out, promoting it, making the band stronger. Playing to an empty house here in town hasn't been on the priority list, haha. We think in global terms.

Who writes your songs?/ who writes the music who writes lyrics? I generally put together all the main parts of a song, then bring it to the others and they all add or contribute ideas or touches that help make it whole. Lyrics are important in SKYLINER and I handle all those. I actually have the lyrics done before the music. I think I've heard that a lot of bands will have a piece of music done first, so how we do things is probably very unusual.

Who has the best since of humor in the band? We're all mostly lunatics and it starts with me. There have been otherwise normal people who tried to play with us and couldn't deal with it. It would be funnier if it wasn't true!

What's good/bad with the band? The bad: Just when people kind of don't get what you're doing. There's a lot of people that sort of will just not give your music the time of day if they've decided they don't like the genre you're called. Other times, sometimes if your stuff is being reviewed, and the writer DOES like that kind of music, sometimes they just...aren't very good writers and you get something that doesn't really tell the reader anything about the band or about the music that they couldn't look up on the website. Those are the kinds of things we don't link to on our site, by the way. I don't care what you think of the record but put some effort into a review. The good: Everything else. It's hard for me to complain where I am right now.

Why did you pick that particular style?/What are your songs about? I have a passion for this style, but I think it more chose me. I play guitar a certain way, and I sing a certain way, and I just can't change that to be a completely different kind of metal. I put effort all the time into letting that pure expression come through. I believe a lot in every instrument having a place in what we do, so things are always going to be arranged that way. In our songs, what I write about is always very personal although it may use a little metaphor sometimes. I'm a very rebellious person, I'm a spiritual person, I'm an intense person in good and bad ways. There is a lot of anger and a lot of other things which I think come through. I also have a vast amount of interest in cosmic things, esoteric subjects and that will always be coming through in some form.

Do you write your own material or mainly covers? We have never done a cover song either live or in studio. It seems fun, but it also seems very alien to me. I'm great at playing SKYLINER songs... I think it would be a big challenge to adapt another artist's work and I would have to be able to put the right passion into it for it to work. 

Do you have any clips on YouTube? We do! We have two lyric-videos from the album, "The Alchemist" and "The Human Residue", and those can be found on our YouTube channel which is skylinerband. Limb also has a more general album trailer that people can check out and I think a few fans have done some cool stuff.

At what age did you start playing? I started playing guitar at 11. At first, I just wanted to concentrate on rhythm guitar, because I wanted to be all about the riffs, but I realized pretty quickly that there was not really going to be anyone who would or could handle the lead guitar, or the vocals, in something I envisioned, so I just learned those too over time....

How old were you guys when you first stood on stage? Right now we've got 10 years of live experience down. I also think of that as the real age of the band. I think, with a band, you only really date back to when you put out your first demo, Which was 2005 for us. 

What year was the band started?  Well, you know, we say 2000, and people kind of criticize us for that, like "why did it take you guys so long to get an album out?" but you've got to remember we literally learned how to play music by being in this band. We are in our 20s, haha. It's not like some older guys got together and couldn't cut it for 14 years. We've done the same evolution all musicians have done, we just got started REALLY early on in our playing and development. Very few bands get to do so. It's something I'm thankful for.

Best/worst gig you've played? Every show is the best show and the worst show for different reasons! I remember one highlight when we played a tent at the Florida Cornerstone festival, which unfortunately is no longer going on. That was a different part of Florida and we played the same show with the same energy that we always did, but the audience was so different than the hometown audience is, they were so hungry and enthusiastic. It was very encouraging. Back home we are lucky if we can get people moving at all. I have so many horror stories about shows that I don't know where to begin and they are all Jacksonville shows, haha. There are some which were just surreal, like it feels like they didn't even happen. Things where we would show up and not be listed as one of the bands, or where we would go on at 2 in the morning. But we have had a few good ones in town as well, my favorite is a show we did in 2012 with our friends in FALLEN TEMPLARS, it was a small, small venue, a lot of intimacy and energy, just magical. All those people are important to me.

What places will you be playing in in the immediate future? Well we are ready to go just about anywhere just about anytime. The album has only been out a month so it is pretty early to tell right now. I'd love to reach Japan although I don't know that we have distribution there yet. If you're from Japan and reading this, check us out! We want to come see you. I'd love to play in the Netherlands, in Belgium. We've had a lot of support over there. Any audience anywhere who wants to see us, we will go if given the chance.

Which band is the best you´ve seen? I have to say the best live band I've ever seen was Labyrinth, who are one of my very favorite bands. Saw them at ProgPower USA in 2011. Also met them and forced copies of our two-song EP into their hands. Mission accomplished! Thanks guys.

Is it always the same songs live? There is stuff we have to play. We have to play "The Alchemist". We have to play "Undying Wings", "Aria Of The Waters". We try to change it up, too, but with 7 minute songs and only 30 minutes to play on stage, that can be hard, haha.

Have you had any bigger tours from start to now? If you play the music we do, a successful tour in the USA is very difficult, it's a freak thing to pull one off and not lose all your money. I'd love to do it but let's just say the game is very much about pay to play right now and I would rather make records that last forever. There are some very nice festivals I'd like to get on, though..

How big crowds do you usually play for? Not big enough! But every person in the room gets the same show, it could be 10 or 100 people. Everybody is important.

What are the plans for the rest of the year? That's kind of a mystery, beyond finishing writing the next record. I'm excited and impatient about the debut. It's only been out for a month and it feels like a year. I want to make things keep happening. I'm wired 24/7, it's ridiculous.

How do you get psyched up for a gig? I read something Blackie Lawless said once about a live show being like a boxing match. You've gotta come there to hurt 'em. You've gotta come there to knock them out. Take some bruises. And I agree with all of that. I have to make sure everything is where it's supposed to be, I have to check stage stuff for mistakes that may have been overlooked. I have to make sure everything is perfect. And I can be usually found kind of pacing around...just getting in the mindset.

What are your goals with your music?  I just want to get this music to as many people as possible, I just want to keep growing as a musician and making records. We're fortunate to have the chance to do this.

When did you decide to go all in for the music? Well, the business went through a period where a lot of things were changing pretty quickly. We came to the point where we really realized that cutting some demos and promoting them just wasn't going to get the job done. We identified the weaknesses in our previous experience and we completely focused then on creating the best album we could, we spared no work, then when we decided it was perfect we began presenting it to people in the business and the rest is history. 

Is it easier to get your inspiration from older bands or from bands more modern? Honestly, I'm not all about older bands or all about newer bands. I'm pretty much just about music. There's plenty of gold and garbage out there, no matter what year it is. 

What are your sources of inspiration? When we use the word "inspiration", I think I'm more inspired by mindsets, a way of doing things, than I am by hearing a song and trying to write a song just like that song, or anything like that. I'm inspired by approaches to music, how a record sounds, how a vision gets conceptualized. And what I write about is all stuff which is either real-life experience, or mysteries, wonders of existence in general. It's not based off of other stories or on fantasy, so there are things every day, all night, all the time, which are inspiring me and making my mind work and create.

How do you feel about the downloading of music instead of buying albums? Obviously it's awesome that people are interested in the music, but I wish they were respectful enough and aware enough to pay for the work. Music is worth your time, its worth the money you earn. None of us are making tons of money, but there are a whole lot of us who do a whole lot just to get a small CD that looks great into your hands. Money anchors projects and you just can't accomplish something like that without that money. At the very least if people like what they freely download, they should purchase the music. Most people would be genuinely surprised at the work everybody in the industry puts into this. In metal it is really about the love for the music. That effort can't always be going down a bottomless pit, though.

Besides your own music, what genres and bands do you listen to? Well my first passion is metal, which means all metal..classic heavy metal, power metal, speed, thrash, progressive metal, black metal, death metal, doom. After that I go directly into jazz. Post-bop into the fusion era and beyond. That music is a major love for me. I enjoy a lot of electronic music. I enjoy a lot of highly experimental music, anything with an intense spirituality to it. Music which is considered extremely exotic or complex is often the most spiritually and mentally evolved, unlike what the popular American idea is. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Freedom Call, Wadada Leo Smith, Gorguts.

What do you hold most dear? Freedom. 

What would be your greatest fears for the future? Anything that would impede the ability to make music, to create, to be free. I don't believe in existing just to exist..

When you are on stage, what do you fear most then? Fear does not enter my mind at that time, that's a time where everything stands still; there's just music, there's just art.

Have you been part of any other projects? SKYLINER is my first, one, and only project, though I would like to put together a fusion/experimental group of some kind in the future. I have a project name, some compositional ideas, some titles. That's going to be a big challenge.

What would you do if there was no music? Probably live on a mountain somewhere in Iceland or India, with a telescope, CD's, books. I need some way to order more CD's and books though. Maybe I can get an iPad, or at least a monthly helicopter visit with a catalog I can look through. If not that, then probably trying to figure out how to get off the planet entirely, because I don't belong here. I signed up with MarsOne. I haven't sent in a video yet, though.

What's the funniest/most memorable thing a fan has done for you? One of our great friends and fans here in town painted something inspired by "Aria of the Waters" and it was very impressive, very humbling experience. I have another really fond memory of somebody telling me at one show that the reason he picked up a guitar was after seeing us play "Dawn of the Dead" in a previous show. I never know what to say to stuff like that because I never imagine those kinds of things happening. It's wonderful.

How often do you rehearse? Right now we're hitting it as hard as we can, 3 times a week, writing and perfecting a lot of new stuff, and making sure the old stuff is polished up, we need to be show ready all the time. 

Name 2 of your own songs you like at the moment? Actually I'm really, really, really into the new stuff we are rehearsing. I can't say anything about it, I don't want to give names or anything at all. I want it to be almost a total surprise when we get the second album going. But what we are doing right now is making me really excited about guitar again because it's making me grow and focus. I will say that one of the ones I really like is this super intense song which is going to be kind of a signature song for us, and the other one is totally out there, it's kind of a love song. It's not what you think. We are excited.

What drives a band that isn't all that famous and renowned to try to make a living on their music and to keep playing? It's just a need. The songs exist, the music exists, and I have to translate those things and be the medium for those things that exist in me. I can't not play or write. This is here because it has to be here.

Do you have any webpages?

Yes, we are all over the place.

Describe your show, visually and musically Well, like I said in that quote for the question about the show rituals, it's like a boxing match. You can expect it to be intense. It's not standing still and staring. We also like to bring out the flash pots, we come out the same way you see us in the promotional photos. I'm about making a statement and making an impression and making the show worth it for people.

What advice would you like to give other bands?  Stop everything you're doing. Stop thinking about how to sound like other bands, stop thinking about what is allowed in your music, and start sounding how you sound. You might not even know how you sound yet, but it's there to be discovered. 

What are the biggest obstacles for a band? It really depends on the music. There's bands I'll see who play something which is more mainstream and they don't have the same problems we've had - like with members -, they never will, but at the same time we probably won't run into whatever issues they run into. Some things are universal problems but there is a lot of stuff which inherently is connected with what you play. I think the biggest thing in general is just focus and quality. A lot of bands only have one of those.

What is best/worst with playing the clubs? I love the clubs. Love them. Except the smoke. I don't like smelling like it, haha. You know, I have long hair, it has to smell sexy all the time, we might lose money if it just smells like cigs. Or..we might make more money, if we're playing a goth club.

How would you describe your sound in one sentence Heavy power metal with a progressive mind.

What was one of the most quarrelsome times for you in the band? Not quarrelsome, but we had a period of a year or two a while back where we didn't really have any income, not much direction, and everything was kind of miserable. Band fighting hasn't gotten to epic proportions - yet. Haha

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