Interview with MOON MACHINE

Moon Machine is a new progressive metal act from Boston, who are to release their self-titled debut album on August 17th. Primary songwriter and lyricist Eric Hochwald spoke for Rocking Charts about the release, the recently launched single “Reckoning,” his favorite albums, and more.

Hey Eric. How are you doing?

I’m good! 2020 sucks but quarantine is a lot more manageable in the summer. Otherwise this year only has the 2020 election left to make it the worst year in recent American history.

You have recently launched the single “Reckoning,” which is a part of your upcoming self-titled album. How do you feel about the release?

I have been happy with the reception of Reckoning. In 2020 it’s obviously very hard for a new band to get their music heard. This applies to us, however it seems that people who have heard Reckoning like it. Some people who aren’t even really into metal like it! I guess it is a more accessible song than I had initially thought.

Moon Machine - Reckoning

How much of a challenge was to work on the album?

It was a very big challenge. You don’t realize how much work an album takes until you decide to do virtually all of it yourself. The music for the album was collaboratively written but I ended up recording all of the tracks on the album except the keyboards. I also produced, edited and mixed everything. It’s a ton of work to do in a home studio when you have a desk day job. I had to move twice in the last year which also drew things out. I needed to learn a lot and make lots of mistakes since this is the first time I’ve built a home studio and worked on an album at home.

The album is actually still a work in progress. Things slowed down a bit due to COVID, but we have a second single coming out soon and the full album should be finished up by fall.

What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from Boston are you friends with?

I’m personally friends with the heavy psych / alt rock band We Are Space Horses. I started playing drums for them once they moved to Boston. They’re an awesome band who should be coming out with an album soon. There’s this great shoegaze / grunge band called Luxury Deathtrap who have an album out. Not very similar to our genre, but also the band Old Fox which is a fantastic indie rock / Americana band that our keyboardist Jon played with.

What is your opinion about the current metal scene?

Well most metal “scenes” these days occur on the internet I guess. I’m not sure how many regional metal scenes exist any more such as the Bay Area Thrash Metal scene back in the 80s. The most recent trend in metal was the modern prog metal or “Djent” thing that largely happened on the internet. I believe that there are several Boston bands that do that style based out of Berklee College of Music, but I’m not really connected to that scene.

The thing with modern prog / Djent is that Djent music was largely the result of new technologies that allowed people to make rock/metal music in their bedrooms. These technologies would be digital audio workstations, amp sims and digital amp modeling, extended range guitars, drum sample libraries, playing along to in-ear click tracks live, etc. These new technologies allowed bands like Periphery to make cutting edge, robotic, and futuristic sounding metal from their bedrooms. I’m a fan of Periphery and a select other djent bands, but that style is already over 10 years old and is fairly stale in my opinion. I also miss the human element in the music – a lot of modern prog is basically electronic music with guitars. What I do like about the Djent “scene” is the DIY aesthetic, and the fact that you can make fully realized albums from your bedroom.

There’s a few stoner/doom/post-metal Boston-based bands that I enjoy. I’ve been recently getting into this style of music, and I’m a big fan of some of these Boston-based bands. Two that I’ll name are “Elder” and “SEA”. 

Can you tell me something about your influences?

I have a ton of musical influences, but here is a list of artists that influenced the music on the Moon Machine album:

Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Devin Townsend, Alcest, Dream Theater, Muse, Tool, King Crimson, Ghost, the Contortionist, Steven Wilson, Megadeth, Soundgarden, Anathema, Renaissance, Periphery, Deftones, Tigran Hamasyan, Space Ink, classical and jazz music.

Also check out our Spotify Artist page, where each member of the band made a playlist with their musical influences. 

What are you listening to these days?

I haven’t been listening to a ton of music at home in quarantine, but I have been going for long drives and listening to music in the car. In the car my girlfriend and I will often put our iPhones on shuffle. Shuffling your entire music library is hugely underrated in my opinion – it can result in a hilarious mix of styles. I have a lot of old music, jazz fusion, and classical on my phone and my girlfriend has a lot of weird electronic, industrial, and noise rock in addition to the rock and metal that we both listen to. I know that everyone says that they listen to “everything” when asked what kinds of music they listen to, but that’s literally been true for me lately. 

That being said, I do still sometimes listen to CDs and full albums in my car, as well as when I go running. Here’s some albums that have been in rotation:

Run the Jewels 4 – RTJ4

Comus – First Utterance

Elder – Reflections of a Floating World

Tool – all of their albums except Undertow

Deafheaven – Sunbather

The Comet is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery

High on Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

Your 5 favourite records of all the time?

Oh no, only 5?? I was worried about this question. Depending on the day you ask me this question the answer might change.

Here’s what they are today:

I grew up playing cello in orchestras and taking it pretty seriously. I actually almost went to University to study cello performance. When I was playing in an orchestra at a summer camp after my sophomore year of high school, we played Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony. This piece instantly spoke to my angsty teenage soul. I still have lots of love for classical music but I have yet to hear a composer who can write symphonies with the emotional depth of Tchaikovksy without sounding cheesy or dated. Tchaikovsky’s 6th goes perfectly from brooding, to romantic and pretty, to destructive, heavy and full of despair. The emotion is this music was so palpable to me and moved me in a way in which I had never been moved before. The climax of the first movement is so devastating, especially in the specific recording above. I can’t listen to it too often because it will just wreck me. The last movement is also probably the most devastating piece of music ever written. 

AJFA

Metallica’s …And Justice for All. “One” is the song that made me fall in love with metal. Being a cello nerd in middle school I had seen Apocalyptica cover this song on YouTube. This led me to check out the original version of the song which made me fall in love with Metallica, along with “Enter Sandman”.

I remember in middle school many of us had our iPod Nanos, and we had on it whatever B.S. was on pop radio in 2008. I remember when listening to those mainstream pop tunes, I would always get bored of them around the second chorus at like the 1:30 – 2 minute mark of the song. I would listen to a lot of music that way, skipping halfway through the song because I would get bored. This changed when I discovered Metallica, and I was listening to 10 minute songs from front to back, completely intrigued the whole time.

A lot of people complain about the mix of this album – since there is no bass to be found and the drums are absurdly loud. The drums and guitars being so loud on this album forced me to focus on the guitar and drum parts which inspired me to want to learn how to play those instruments as a teenager. 

If I had to pick a favorite band or artist it would be Devin Townsend. He has so many albums, and they are all great and sound so different from each other. Picking a favorite album of his would be impossible, but I have been listening to Terria the most lately. It’s just an incredible, insanely creative, and heart-felt album that transcends genre. It’s one of those albums that takes you on a journey from beginning to end. No one else in the world has the talent to try to copy and sound like Devin.

Devin is also a big influence on me in the sense that he produces and often mixes his own albums. He’ll create these massive, larger-than-life, wall-of-sound productions largely by his one force of will. The guy is an insanely talented madman.

RTJ2

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2. I am probably partly listing this one because their RTJ4 album came out recently, and I’ve been listening to it non-stop lately. I became obsessed with Run the Jewels in college after hearing this album. I had been a peripheral fan of hip hop up until I heard this album in early 2015. I got really into Rage Against the Machine back then I discovered Run the Jewels from the feature Zac de la Rocha did on RTJ’s song “Close Your Eyes”. This sounded more badass and powerful than any hip hop I had previously heard, and I was instantly hooked and listened to Run the Jewels’ first 2 albums non-stop for the rest of the year.

Run the Jewels have some of the most creative and hard-hitting beats in hip hop, but I also love how RTJ takes their rapping so seriously on this album. Killer Mike and El-P possess the technical ability and lyricism of a lot of old-school 90s rappers, but El-P’s beats sound so futuristic and unique. This album led me to become a huge fan of El-P as a producer and artist. He has his own unique, hard-hitting, epic, and sort of industrial style. He says that the movie Blade Runner and Vangelis are a big influence of his, which makes perfect sense to me.

I was wracking my brain to decide which Opeth or Steven Wilson related project to include, since both of those artists are big influences on me musically. I settled on Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet for a few reasons. 

Firstly, their (former) frontman and guitarist Steven Wilson is a big influence on me as a songwriter, producer and mixer much in the same way that Devin Townsend is. Both have an incredibly strong artistic vision, and both do their due diligence to realize it. Devin’s vision is often more wildly imaginative and ambitious which can sometimes allow the technical aspects of his productions and mixes to get away from him. Steven’s is more controlled and refined which allows him to often nail what he’s going for. Steven’s depth of knowledge of music from previous decades is incredible, and you can hear it seep through his songwriting and production sensibilities.

Secondly, I cannot understate how much of an influence Porcupine Tree’s drummer Gavin Harrison was and is on me as a drummer. I started taking drums seriously in college and would be obsessively watching videos of Gavin on YouTube. His grace and creativity around the kit is absolutely infectious, and you apply some of the stuff he does to pretty much any style. Some of his best playing is on this album.

Thirdly, I related a lot to the concept of this album. According to Wikipedia: “The lyrics deal with two typical neurobehavioral developmental disorders affecting teenagers in the 21st century: bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder, and also with other common behaviour tendencies of youth like escapism through prescription drugs, social alienation caused by technology, and a feeling of vacuity.” As a kid who used to be on ADHD medication, my former angsty teen self relates to this a lot. 

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you used to record “Moon Machine”?

The guitars I used on the album were mainly my Fender MiM HSS strat and my Jackson HT6 Pro guitar. My Epiphone ES-339 shows up a couple times as well. I don’t have any really nice guitars, I like to buy low-mid tier guitars and mod them.

For some reason I was determined to not use amp sims and digital modeling when I was recording this album, but at the time that I was recording guitars I didn’t have the money for nice amps or nice recording gear. I ran my pedalboard into a clean Fender Bassbreaker 15 combo amp and used the built in direct out of the amp, which is really janky sounding, into my audio interface. I would then use Two Notes torpedo cab sims for the guitar cab sounds. Throughout the process I gave up on not using amp sims and also ran my pedalboard into Bias Amp 2. A og that and the Fender Bassbreaker are on the album.

Here is more or less my pedalboard that used to write and record the album:

All of the keyboard sounds are built in sounds in Logic Pro X. I recorded the drums using my ex-roommates Roland-e kit as a midi controller and used Superior Drummer samples in Logic. 

For Bass I recorded my Fender Deluxe Active Jazz Bass direct. 

For vocals I used an AKG C535EB directly in my Focusrite Scarlett 8i8 interface. I’d argue that mic is the best condenser mic for the money available. Unfortunately it’s discontinued.

Forest Perspective

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

I have a few different projects that I’m in, We Are Space Horses being one of them. We Are Spaces Horses played some shows around Boston before the COVID thing happened. I hope to release more prog metally stuff under Moon Machine and keep making albums. No plans for live shows at this point due to quarantine. I love music and plan on making it for the rest of my life.

Any words for the potential new fans?

Hi mom! 

Just kidding. I hope that you are physically and mentally healthy during the pandemic and lockdown. Thanks so much for supporting a random Prog Metal band that you read about in a RockingCharts interview!

“Moon Machine” is out on August 17th; pre-order it here. Like Moon Machine on Facebook.