We’re very excited to introduce our good friend Matthias Young, guitarist of The Fury and guitar instructor of Atlanta Guitar Clinic, and his new power metal band The Fury to the podcast. Here we get to know his story and have an exhaustive discussion on heavy metal, subgenres, esoteric influences, and the weirdness of the scene. Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven meet Tolkien, Satan, and Gygax. We cover the Metal scene in the Southeast, the present and future of radio, and gaming Spotify royalties. We brainstorm ways to make live classical music more accessible to introductory audiences and talk about backstage hospitality among rock musicians and film scores as modern-day classical music. Matthias shares with us his insight on the process of creating an album and the realities of consensus-created pop music.
The Fury’s new EP Uncharted Lands is available on iTunes and Spotify. Get guitar lessons at his website atlantaguitarclinic.com.
MAX: Well as an idea let’s put a show together called “The Real Metal Heads of Atlanta.”
QUEEN: That sounds great.
MAX: Just have a bunch of dudes getting drunk and fighting each other all the time.
QUEEN: With swords.
MAX: With swords! Yes! Just like Real Housewives, but more like brutal and guys going, “Yeah!” and smelling worse. Greetings, internet! Viva Comcastro. Viva la Revolution. My name is Max Groves; Matt Queen will be introducing our next one. This is our conversation with Matthias Young. He’s a very good friend in town and he’s doing something very rare. He’s writing new power Metal. I don’t see a lot of that in America. He’s here promoting his brand new EP with his band, The Fury—it’s called Uncharted Lands—as well as his upcoming shows. You’ll notice that this aired a little late after the one in March he’s mentioning. However, the major show he’s promoting is at 37 Main and Johns Creek at April 26. He is opening for Queensryche, and you can find tickets through his website, atlantaguitarclinic.com. Matthias gives a sort of a deconstruction of heavy Metal as we all kind of debate its different influences from Lord Of The Rings, the Christians/Satanic conflict, where it emerges out of classical music and history. Now that I’ve given you NPR-level enthusiasm for our heavy Metal interview, here’s Matthias, you guys.
MAX: One thing I’ve noticed recently is that I’ve accidentally designed the space to have the four corners of taro as like enabled. So here we have a sword. Across from it we have the disc, a pillar of concrete. On this corner, we have a cup. And you could think of a barbell as a magic wand, you know the passion, the fire that comes out of the internals.
MATTHIAS: I like how you think, man.
MAX: Well that’s what I wanted to have a heavy Metal guest, so we could get rough into the fuckin…
MATTHIAS: Well going back to subgenres, it’s power Metal, so is it heavy Metal? Eh…?
MAX: Yeah, yeah, good question. We’re going to somewhat pretend introduce you. So everyone please welcome, Matthias, who has, of The Fury, just published “Uncharted Lands”, a new EP.
MATTHIAS: Very excited about it.
QUEEN: It is the most epic band. It’s like one of those epic songs. That’s only word I have for it. Like everything about it just feels like The Lord Of The Rings, but much larger. Like if we could combine the Lord Of The Rings with Star Trek season finale, then we have an idea of the theme of what you’re setting out with.
MAX: Matt is a little bit of a Metal layman, but I told him that he keeps trying to have a classical music conversation with every musician we have, and I was like, “Actually, Matthias will be there for you if you want to.”
QUEEN: And now all I want to talk about is Star Trek.
MAX: Or strings, he could come do that, right?
MAX: If The Lost Boys are released or something, right? Weren’t you guys playing together for a while? I played with them for several years. Went all over Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, so I got to do a lot of weekend warrior touring. A lot of kilt wearing.
MAX: Yeah. You were saying earlier, that’s kind of what is in store for you now because your audience is all in Europe.
MATTHIAS: Maybe so. I mean I got to get to Europe first. So Kickstarter…Go Fund Me…
QUEEN: So is it a little like David Hasselhoff is huge in Europe, and people in America are like, “Huh? What?”
MATTHIAS: Yeah, somebody already made that joke to me. They’re like, “You’re David Hasselhoff!” I’m like, “I have better hair.”
MAX: Did you ever have lifeguard training growing up?
MATTHIAS: No… You don’t want me to save you. You’ll die.
MAX: You’re only going to be saved spiritually through the sonic energies produced, like through the ears, not so much through the actual physical firemen rescue thing. Although I saw Steve Buscemi was one before as an actor.
MAX: He was a freaking fireman.
QUEEN: Steve Buscemi is still a volunteer firefighter. He did a lot of work during 9/11.
MAX: Oh yeah.
QUEEN: So Matthias, you play you play Metal. That’s your thing. How long have you been doing that?
MATTHIAS: God I mean I started playing guitar when I was a kid and took some lessons and just played throughout high school and everything, and it was when I got into college… well, if you’re going to play guitar, it’s going to be classical guitar because I wasn’t going to school that offered jazz guitar.
MATTHIAS: And I wasn’t going to play jazz. I mean, come on.
QUEEN: Now did you go to Berklee or something like that?
MATTHIAS: No, no. Actually I started out at Berry College and then transferred and finished up at Georgia State.
QUEEN: You were a music major?
MATTHIAS: So like a started doing classical when I was eighteen, and man that was like starting to play the guitar from scratch because I just I played by ear. I mean, doing pick style on electric and acoustic, and then all the sudden, you’re having to play fingerstyle, and it’s like, you know, “What the hell?” It was so awkward, but really, really cool, and I was exposed to a lot of great music. I mean stuff from the Renaissance, baroque. All kinds of really, really cool stuff.
QUEEN: Did you study the history? You have to study a little music history.
MATTHIAS: Oh yeah, you do a ton of music history. You study composition, and it was actually when I started studying composition that I really, really got into classical music because that’s some of the stuff that’s on this album. You can hear hints of maybe Bach or Vivaldi or Scarlatti.
QUEEN: There’s a conversation happening here amongst music nerds or just have fun together.
MATTHIAS: Oh yeah, it’s textbook music theory in some of this stuff. The thing that I love about theory is it’s not like we sit around and talk all day theorizing, you know? Stop theorizing actually do something! No, no, it’s rather than…
MAX: Like those dirty scientists, right?
MAX: Global warming! Show it really happening!
MATTHIAS: I know! Instead of these ice storms.
MAX: Global warming isn’t real because I was cold today.
MAX: Exactly! And on another note I ate dinner today, so world hunger is over.
QUEEN: You know I know I was loved music theory. That to me was like when they were pulling back the veil, so to speak, and as far as I understand, and please correct me if I’m wrong, it was Bach who actually started music very with a book where he said everything in this book can be wrong. And from there, he just starts to explain some of the stuff that he was doing. Like here’s an fifth, here’s a minor chord, here’s your circle of thirds, that kind of thing.
MATTHIAS: Well, Bach? Yes and no. He was doing some stuff that was really derived from Johann Joseph Fux, and there’s actually different…
QUEEN: The alternate pronunciation of that being “fucks.”
MATTHIAS: Exactly, exactly.
QUEEN: Just making sure we’re on the same page here.
MATTHIAS: F U X.
QUEEN: F U triple-X. Yeah.
MAX: Every big theory guy I know is usually a Metal guy, too.
MATTHIAS: They go hand in hand.
MAX: And they also always say that like Bach was a heavy Metal keyboardist before his time. Put him at the organ, and suddenly…
MATTHIAS: I have to wonder if Bach had an electric guitar, what would he have written?
MAX: What would the world have become?
MAX: They would have raised the spirit of Satan out of the ocean.
QUEEN: I don’t think he’s going in that direction. He played for the Church, bro.
MATTHIAS: He got drunk in the organ loft.
MAX: That’s where he money comes from, right? It was the Renaissance right? They get all this like weirdo occult bullshit like into all these like old, giant cathedrals and frescoes, and what not. You saw the Da Vinci Code, bro! That’s right!
As soon as I said that, I realized the star of the Bible was the devil, and like they wrote Paradise Lost and enjoyed it because it featured the devil. Of course! Never mind. Bach would have been all over it. Like we’re praising god by showing you how dark and scary it is.
MAX: Does music have like a spiritual component to it?
MAX: It definitely can. It really depends what you’re writing about. Some of the stuff on this album, Uncharted Lands, sure it’s got the whole sailing seems so you can get that kind of Viking imagery and everything…
MAX: It’s weird to think of organized Vikings as classical musicians. The furthest they can do is “[growls]!” and it comes out with the most technical, precise sound possible.
MATTHIAS: Exactly, but you can have that imagery, but then if you look at the lyrics and think, “Uncharted Lands”…what does it mean to you? What does it mean to somebody else? I can be you know a change in your life, a new job a new relationship, or you know just going out into the world and kicking ass.
MAX: I had a question earlier that I think we should do as a game. How many subgenres of heavy Metal can we think of?
QUEEN: OK, let me go first so I can get my two out.
MATTHIAS: Heavy Metal is a subgenre.
MAX: Heavy is a subgenre of Metal.
QUEEN: There’s power Metal, right? That’s a thing?
MATTHIAS: Of course. You also have maybe different types of power Metal, maybe melodic power Metal, speed Metal…
QUEEN: Speed Metal sounds like a drug.
MAX: Go listen to Sonartica. He will be like being on a coke binge.
MATTHIAS: It’s great. It’s really good stuff. But a lot of power Metal, it’s more the vocals…
QUEEN: So there are lots of names. Who would I have heard that the power Metal band?
MAX: Is Iced Earth power Metal?
MATTHIAS: Yeah, I believe we would consider that power Metal.
MAX: It’s pretty close. They’re form Tampa. There’s very few Americans doing this kind of thing.
QUEEN: This is a very specific conversation. I have no idea…
MATTHIAS: You have to be so careful because if you mislabel something
MAX: It’s bad!
MATTHIAS: It’s a big deal.
QUEEN: So Metallica?
MAX: Well, that’s thrash.
MATTHIAS: That was thrash then, but are they still thrash?
MAX: It’s tough to say.
QUEEN: Is trash a type of Metal?
MAX and MATTHIAS: Yes.
QUEEN: We are in agreement!
MATTHIAS: We got it!
MAX: Yes, well, yes. And yes.
QUEEN: Led Zeppelin. Still in the Metal genre?
MATTHIAS: Not still. Definitely when they were first playing, they might have been called Metal, but it’s really more of a folk kind of Metal.
MAX: That’s a weird criticism because aren’t you writing the same thing, but from a different musical style?
MATTHIAS: Mine’s much heavier.
MAX: Heavier folk Metal, bro.
MATTHIAS: That’s right!
MAX: Our nymphs and fairies will murder your fucking asshole.
QUEEN: That is very strange. I still can’t get over this Dungeons and Dragons fantasy marriage with Metal. I want to know how it goes together!
MATTHIAS: It goes hand-in-hand!
MAX: I play D&D every Sunday, and sometimes two games, different ones. Matt, you played Call of Cthulhu with us once, and the dungeon master of our D&D game is Will Luhan, a big Metal blogger. His band’s called Lost Solstice, and he screams …black-and-death fuse is a thing. D&D and Metal are so weirdly intertwined, constantly. Lord of the Rings probably shows up more as a subject matter.
MATTHIAS: Ronnie James – Dio, the kind of things he was doing. That’s just—you’ve seen that video.
MAX: Yeah, he’s got a sword, and he’s just slashing random shit.
MATTHIAS: It’s the best.
QUEEN: I guess that’s where I really feel like the outsider here. It’s funny, because when I look at an epic…let’s go back to Metallica, when they’re —
MATTHIAS: No swords.
MAX: Not enough swords, I would argue.
QUEEN: They don’t do that, but every one of those songs feels like they were coming up with a mini-symphony. It has a movement. They have a sophisticated structure to their songs.
MATTHIAS: There was a S & M album.
QUEEN: That one was awesome. San Francisco Metallica, that’s once of my favorite albums ever. I love what they did there.
MATTHIAS: Michael Caimon? Great composer.
MAX: I was watching the video today. Right at the opening, it’s set up exactly like a symphony, then right as James Hetfield comes forward as the soloist with his guitar.
QUEEN: Do they wear tuxes?
MAX: They were! Well, he wasn’t in a tux, but he was wearing a black dress shirt kind of shit.
QUEEN: If I were him, I would have worn one of those t-shirts that’s actually a tuxedo with the arms ripped off.
MAX: That could have worked. That was kind of what Lars Ulrich had.
QUEEN: You know they were thinking, “How could we be as blasphemous to the symphony as possible?”
MAX: Blasphemous? The entire intro was a complete homage. Then immediately he starts talking, “Hey you heard about the Metal band playing at the symphony? Haha!” Okay, James, it’s very funny.
QUEEN: Come on, I know it’s not cool to talk about Metallica in certain circles, but there’s no denying it.
MAX: They’re awesome. There’s no denying it. Especially…
QUEEN: The Black album was excellent. Ride the Lightning…
QUEEN: Justice for All.
MAX: …the fourth Black Album, bro.
MATTHIAS: You gotta be careful who you’re talking to, though. Some people love the Black album, and some people hate it. That was kind of a turning point.
QUEEN: I thought it was pretty good.
MAX: Then there’s the halfway people who are like “The B-sides are still prog Metal”. Where as the normal tracks are just pop music just made as music.
QUEEN: I’m not a purist. I’m not even going to touch that.
MAX: Honestly, listening to Mastodon’s most recent kinda feels like a Black album of sorts, trying to make accessible prog Metal to more things. They’re even touring on Jimmy Kimmel. I don’t think they’re on Conan, but pushing the… did you see the music video they did?
MATTHIAS: No, I did not.
MAX: Okay, so they had the Adult Swim guys direct it, and it starts out with this occult ritual that’s suddenly interrupted with nothing but twerking black strippers.
MAX: I’ll put it on after we’re done. It’s amazing.
QUEEN: Oh man, this is a strange genre. So what is Metal?
MATTHIAS: Genre or subgenre? What are we talking about now?
QUEEN: Let’s just get into the big umbrella. Metal turns a lot of people off. I like some Metal. Led Zeppelin, I like. Van Halen who’s arguably Metal at some point in their career. How would you define the greater umbrella of Metal?
MATTHIAS: That is the big question. I’ve seen so many interviews. It might have been on Metal Evolution. So many guys getting that question, from Ozzy to Zach Wilde, just everybody. What is Metal? What really defines it? I’ll go with what Sir Christopher Lee says: it’s the power.
MAX: Christopher Lee who played Count Dooku and Sauron the White. Literally, from Lord of the Rings, is writing heavy Metal, still, for his band, Charlemagne.
QUEEN: It’s a strange sound he’s come out with.
MATTHIAS: He’s what 92, 93?
MAX: Yeah, and on his Christmas album, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing…”
MATTHIAS: There’s nothing more epic than opera and Metal.
QUEEN: I get that. Opera takes itself very seriously. Metal takes itself very seriously. I see how those go together. Now that you mention it, Lord of the Rings and other fantasy things, if you want to get in, the hobbits are a very important creatures. It takes itself so seriously that the only way to mock Metal is to mock how it takes itself so seriously. The entire joke behind Metalocalypse.
MATTHIAS: Sure, that’s kind of it. You become a caricature of yourself.
MAX: Just to reference Mastodon, again, they seem to be living up the absurdity of it. Same as Red Fang, hipster kind of types. Having fun.
MATTHIAS: You could say some subgenres are cliché, but it is the cliché. The whole “we’re so brutal”-thing, that’s what it is! It’s just fun.
MAX: Did you see Opeth when they came?
MATTHIAS: No, I did not.
MAX: That was fun. I got too drunk with my date before, so we missed the openers. We missed Red Fang and In Flames. I’ve wanted to see In Flames for years, and every time I get to a thing where they’re playing, I’m always just late. So there’s that one, there’s a festival in Copenhagen called CopenHell, which was great, always missing In Flames.
QUEEN: Okay, Guns n Roses, when I hear Slash doing something that’s very technical, you know… I never considered them a Metal band, but…
MAX: Yeah, a lot of people would agree with you.
QUEEN: There’s so much in common with that version of rock n roll and everything Metal does.
MATTHIAS: Well, Guns n Roses, Slash’s guitar style is very bluesy. That’s straight-up hard rock, right at the end of the hair Metal phase. They’d probably be insulted if you called them hair Metal because they’re not really hair Metal.
QUEEN: Who is hair Metal? Van Halen…would that qualify?
MATTHIAS: Rat, Cinderella… I would say Van Halen is teeth Metal because they’re always smiling.
MAX: Did you see the movie, The Wrestler?
QUEEN: The one with Mickey Rourke?
MAX: His obsession is hair Metal. That would be a great tribute to all that. The opening song was Rat.
MATTHIAS: If there’s big hair and makeup, it would be classified as hair Metal.
QUEEN: So KISS?
MATTHIAS: In one phase, yeah. When they took the makeup off.
MAX: They did that? I’m not even conscious of that part…
MATTHIAS: Yeah, I’m not sure of the exact period, but they took the makeup off. Paul Stanley’s always had big hair, anyway. Actually, going back to subgenres, KISS would actually be more of your shock rock, even though it’s not shocking now. Alice Cooper…
MAX: I suppose Cradle of Filth?
MATTHIAS: You’re right.
MAX: I don’t think much of that bad because it’s not either death or black, it’s just kind of like a show. Kind of like GWAR.
QUEEN: I’m aware of GWAR. Having a Captain America moment over here because I actually caught that reference.
MAX: GWAR fits very well with KISS if you just listen to the music
QUEEN: GWAR is awful. It’s an entertaining awful…
MAX: We just lost our entire Metal audience.
QUEEN: That’s fine. I mean, what’s their thing? They just spray blood on the crowd…
MAX: Yeah, drenching. They came though Halloween 2 years ago, right before the guy died. That was sad.
QUEEN: Does GWAR appear outside of Halloween? What is the appeal of GWAR in March? St. Patrick’s Day?
MAX: Green blood! That would be great to have a green-blooded GWAR show.
MATTHIAS: Alien blood!
QUEEN: My problem with GWAR is that it’s just such a gimmick. The music isn’t very good, and I appreciate song and dance numbers. You can’t knock the house down like Justin Timberlake because he’s doing a big, big show, something like Lady Gaga or Cher. I don’t like that crap, but whatever, there’s talent there. With GWAR, it’s like they’re just shocking. Makeup for their lack of talent.
MAX: It was Beavis and Butthead’s favorite band, so that’s gotta go for something.
MATTHIAS: Isn’t that the joke?
MAX: When the guitarist died, they gave his costume a Viking funeral. They put it on a barge, lit it on fire, and pushed it off to sea.
QUEEN: You can’t get too epic for these people.
MAX: Oh, that’s going in my will. My estate will be going to my Viking funeral. Children will get nothing.
MATTHIAS: Children will be burned along with your carcass.
MAX: Along with the distraught wives who offer their lives in tribute, very Beowulf-pyre style.
QUEEN: I’m not sure Georgia authorizes that. I’ll have to look back at the codes.
MAX: We’re going to have to check probate to see if you can get your child wife in ancient years to kill herself at your funeral.
QUEEN: You know, it’s totally dependent on your state to do that. You’re gonna stuff this suit of honor full of money, put it out on the sea, and set it ablaze. Meanwhile, your descendants are like, “Eh…”
MAX: Can’t take it with you, man—Set it on fire!
QUEEN: Put it in a garbage bag. Put it under ground.
MAX: Some men just want to watch the world burn.
QUEEN: Yeah, but you have no power to control that. The Viking funeral can happen, but they’re not going to set your money on fire.
MAX: How long have you been working on the album, Matthias?
MATTHIAS: Oh, god. I started the riff for uncharted lands when I was a teenager. That’s been off to the side for many years. I started working on the album as a whole a couple years ago. It’s been a long process getting the right guys to work with me. With all the things going on in life, I’m just happy that I finally got it done. It’s my life’s work, condensed into 20 minutes.
QUEEN: Holy crap, man, congratulations!
MATTHIAS: Thank you.
MAX: Did you write all of it?
MATTHIAS: I wrote everything.
QUEEN: What were you doing before this?
MATTHIAS: I was in a few other bands, but mainly, I’ve been doing the education route. I’ve got a book out, Metal Guitar Method, that was my first one. My second one was Beginning Guitar Method iBook, doing YouTube lessons and Skype guitar lessons. Doing the whole education route, trying to write when I had time, and finally it just got to the point where I said, “I’ve got this material. I’ve got to get it out there. I’m dying to get it out there.” So here it is.
QUEEN: I remember when I took a little bit of theory—I didn’t take as much as far as majors—I was impressed by just how challenging it was. You can’t sleepwalk your way through that. You can sleepwalk your way through band class, there’s no question about that.
MAX: “I was just taking notes!” The old music school trick.
QUEEN: To a certain extent, you can sleepwalk your way through most performance crap if you have any talent, but when it came to theory, I was like, “Holy crap!” Not only is there written parts, but you have to sing. Like, “Here, sing a C.” You have to know that.
MAX: How is this show going to go? You going to sing and play guitar?
MATTHIAS: No, I’ve got a guitarist, his name’s Cody Daniel. He is wicked, absolutely wicked. He can play faster than me. It’s amazing. That’s pretty fast.
MAX: Faster than the Metal teacher!
MATTHIAS: The way I’ve got it structured is that I’m singing, which I love because, going back to Iron Maiden and Dio, when you watch Bruce Dickenson and Ronnie, they’re on stage, and they don’t have an instrument in front of them. They’re on stage, and they’re able to capture the audience. Musically, depending on what project I’m doing, I want to play guitar or I want to sing. In this one, I’m singing. That way I can choke the members of the audience.
QUEEN: How are you setting up your gigs? You have a gig agent?
MATTHIAS: Right now it’s just me.
QUEEN: How’s that’s process work? You just call up a bar owner? “Hey, can I play? Please? Are you going to pay me?
MATTHIAS: It’s kind of cool how it’s all happened. It’s been very organic. I went to the Masquerade a few weeks ago, and there was this Metal exhibit with photography—Emily Harris, if you know her stuff. She’s a photographer, and she did this documentary about the Atlanta Metal scene. I met some really, really cool people there, telling them about The Fury, and they said, “We’ve got shows going on. Can we book you?”
MAX: Let’s get to the real meat of the interview. What’s coming up?
MATTHIAS: We’ve got a show coming up on March 11 at the Basement.
MAX: That the Graveyard?
MATTHIAS: Yep, that’s that the Graveyard in East Atlanta. Then we’ve got a couple of shows in April. It’s going to be pretty crazy because on April 25th, we’re gonna be at the 120 Tavern, and that’s going to be opening for Sithia, which is a Canadian power Metal band, so that’s going to be awesome. The very next night, we’re going to be opening for Queensryche at Main and 37 Johns Creek.
MAX: Oh, hell yeah.
MATTHIAS: That is not to be missed.
MAX: Is this a dream come true happening for you?
MATTHIAS: It’s incredible. Even just last year, if someone told me, “You’re going to be opening for Queensryche!” “No, no way.” “Yes, way.”
QUEEN: Who the hell is Queensryche?
MATTHIAS: And you just lost all your fans. Although, this is not the Jeff Tate Queensryche, this is the other Queensryche. The Jeff Tate Queensryche is just Operation Mind Crime. They are amazing, as well. Both of those bands are incredible.
QUEEN: I just have to ask. Is this a big band? Is this something I should have heard of? An international band?
QUEEN: Okay, well, congratulations, we’re all very happy for you.
MATTHIAS: Thank you.
MAX: Crush it, man. Join the international tour, and BOOM! Never come back.
MATTHIAS: If we could go tour in Germany, you know, Wacken Open Air, something like that. Sweden Rock Festival, dude…
MAX: So Wacken, this is an enormous festival. It sells out in like thirty seconds of when it starts.
QUEEN: What’s it called?
MAX: Wacken Open Air.
QUEEN: Wacken Open Air? This is in Sweden?
MAX: I was going to say I don’t think it’s Berlin. It’s more countryside.
MATTHIAS: I forget the exact city. Again, Metal Evolution, watched the power Metal episode.
QUEEN: Is that the VH1 thing?
MATTHIAS: VH1 Classic.
QUEEN: Oh, okay. What’s the appeal of Metal in Europe? Or what’s the lack of it… I felt like Metal died in the 80s, but apparently, it’s alive and well.
MATTHIAS: What’s funny is when grunge was getting big in the 90s…
MAX: You can’t defeat the Metal. The Metal will live on.
MATTHIAS: No! No, Metal will live. You know, with grunge growing, and I completely missed this, over in Europe, that’s when power Metal was getting big, in the early 90s. Over here, it’s all grunge, we’re losing guitar solos, and the music is sad and depressed. Over there, it’s power Metal! It’s giant choruses. I think it really just goes back to what kind of culture you’re growing up in. Over there, you’re getting a lot of folklore, maybe traditional songs, or maybe more of an influence of classical music, whereas over here, there’s certainly families who are in to classical music, but I think on the whole, kids are not exposed to classical here like they are over in Europe.
QUEEN: I think there’s a lot of good reasons for that.
QUEEN: I mean, not good like good-versus-bad, but some of the reasons are that we’re a country of immigrants. The classical structure is very rigid, and it has to be taught. You’re not just going to stumble into classical music. You have to go through some painstaking education and training to appreciate it. Whereas in America…
MAX: Music education, abroad, is very “Study! Study as hard as you can for this!” for the opportunity like this to have a conversation with a master, versus here, it’s like, “You don’t know shit. Here’s a guitar. Figure it out.”
QUEEN: Go figure it out! That’s a very good way. Look at America’s contributions to music! Jazz, blues, those were just people, sitting around in the backcountry of Louisiana, with nothing better to do except sing.
MAX: Well, that is our folk music.
QUEEN: Yeah, Ragtime before that. All that stuff is distinctly American. And it’s a tough sell. Classical music is so foreign to most Americans, with the exception of like John Williams, stuff that hit, got pounded into you… there’s just not much of a market for it. This is an issue with classical music. You don’t just sit down and listen to it. You have to pay attention.
MATTHIAS: IT’s an experience.
QUEEN: Yeah, and the composers are often times going somewhere, and it takes them like three hours to say something. Whereas in America, we’re the microwave culture. We demand it in three minutes.
MATTHIAS: I think with power Metal or anything neoclassic, stuff with classical music influences, you have to have these musicians who either grew up with classical music or love classical music, but they still want to play rock. You get on stage… “Well, it’s the symphony, but there’s electric guitars.”
MAX: I get the same feeling all the way back to Iron Maiden. Feels exactly like that. In fact, listening to it, if you listen to Queen and Iron Maiden next to each other, it feels like it’s the same band, only one’s going for a Metal thing, and one’s going for a pop thing.
QUEEN: I wouldn’t describe Queen as pop. It certainly had pop appeal, but there was a lot going on there. That was a really good band.
MAX: Michael Jackson’s a really good bad, too, but Queen is—imagine classical pop, right?
MATTHIAS: Every song from Queen is just so different, they could have something that was so hard and heavy, and then—
QUEEN: Speaking of classically trained, wasn’t he an opera singer?
MAX: All of them were like PhDs in music. Or DoA. What is it?
MATTHIAS: Well, Brian May was astrophysics
MATTHIAS: Well, he didn’t get his doctorate until… well, it’s been fairly recent, but they’re all really highly intelligent guys.
QUEEN: That’s amazing. I didn’t realize that. It doesn’t surprise me, though. The best musicians I know, with few exceptions, are generally very bright people. This is what I was getting back earlier. In high school, you can coast through band class, but then you open a book and “Whoa!” You have to study. Did you find yourself working very hard at Berry or Georgia State?
MATTHIAS: Oh yeah. The theory stuff, I really got into it, that’s actually one of the things when I teach lessons, I have so many students who come to me that have been playing 10-15 years, and they’re like, “Man, I’ve got the chops, I’m in bands and stuff…” It gets to the point where they don’t know what they’re doing, maybe grew up getting tabs off the internet, maybe figuring out where the fingers go on the fret board, and stuff…
QUEEN: Well, what is music theory?
MATTHIAS: Music theory is basically explaining why something sounds a certain way. Really, if you write a chord progression, and you figure something out by ear, it sounds good to you because of rules XYZ. It’s a way of understanding something. If you’re really not knowledgeable in theory and you’re writing something, rather than having to poke around and figure out, “Well how should I voice these chords?” Instead of taking a long time to do that, you know based on these guidelines, “I can just put this and this chord here”, you can write much faster and have a better understanding for what it is you’re doing. It’s also really useful when you’re working with other musicians so you can explain exactly what it is you’re doing. It’s the language.
QUEEN: When you say right or wrong, how much of that is cultural? When a European or an American hears a major chord, we love it. We eat that up. But if you were to go somewhere in Africa and give them a major chord…
MATTHIAS: You’re absolutely right. It’s Western music. Not a cowboy western.
MAX: Yeah, in Asia they have a very different chord structure.
MATTHIAS: Yeah, our theory is based on Western Europe and America.
MAX: Have you seen technology change Metal. Clearly, it’s changed classical into Metal.
MATTHIAS: Yeah, especially with power Metal. You have, maybe, a symphony or something playing with you, if you’re doing a live show, unless it’s going to be a guitar, base, and drums, you’re going to have a track. I saw Sonatarica at the Masquerade a few months ago
MAX: Yeah, can’t fit a whole symphony on that stage
MATTHIAS: It was amazing. Exandria and Delay opened up. Phenomenal bands. Really loved Exandria. It’s just hugely symphonic, lots of opera, but there’s no way you can tour with a complete symphony and expect to make any money.
MAX: Yeah, there won’t be anything left. You’ll have to pick up each local symphony to come play one show. Atlanta Orchestra, then Boston gets there’s, all the way through. That could work. There was one band. I only know of it because of Guitar Hero, he worked at the company that made the video game, so they all put their personal bands in the video game. This one was called Bang Camaro.
MATTHIAS: OH, sure!
MAX: And they only write solos and choruses. Solos, choruses, and bridges. There are no verses. Because of this, they have 40 lead singers where they’re all chanting. “Push! Push! Lady Lightning!”
MATTHIAS: Oh, it’s great. It’s awesome.
MAX: When they went on the tour, they couldn’t take 40 guys with them, so they did an online thing where they had people audition online to be in the band, and when they got to your city, you got to sing the chorus with the band as a lead singer.
MATTHIAS: Band Camaro karaoke!
MAX: Exactly. I remember them saying that this one guy only sent them pictures of him drinking 40s—he’s in the band.
MAX: So what do we have to look forward to in America and especially in Georgia? Like, uh, who should we be paying attention to?
MATTHIAS: It’s weird. With a lot of people that I’ve talked to, um, the Southeast in general doesn’t have as strong of a Metal scene as, say, other parts of the country.
MAX: Well does Tampa not have a death Metal thing?
MATTHIAS: Well, Tampa’s big, but do we consider Florida Southeast? It’s the whole
Bible belt thing.
MAX: Florida is its own thing.
MATTHIAS: It’s the 21st Century, but the Bible belt still kinda applies in a weird sort of way.
QUEEN: It’s not weird or theoretical at all. I was driving through Texas one time on a Sunday morning…literally, every radio station, AM or FM, it was somebody’s church. You couldn’t find anything else.
MAX: Is there such a thing as a heavy Metal radio station?
MATTHIAS: Satellite radio.
MAX: Satellite, of course.
MATTHIAS: Podcasts, yeah.
MAX: I’m just trying to imagine a world where you can tune in to the latest—
QUEEN: I don’t think in America there’s a broad enough Metal audience in any particular city. I’m sure you could do that in Europe
MATTHIAS: Imagine in Atlanta where there is a real rock radio station…
MAX: If we actually had one.
QUEEN: I think 105.7 does a pretty good job.
MATTHIAS: Even with what there is right now, and there’s been some changes, of
course with clear channel, but after a while, it’s still the same playlist over, over, and
MAX: How much does the tail wag the dog in that audiences get the radio of Atlanta
and they end up just not challenging their expectations of music? Do you see this as a detriment to the opportunity to the musicians here?
MATTHIAS: I don’t know. So many of the people that I talk to don’t listen to radio. It’s Spotify. They realize it’s just the same stuff over and over again on the radio. You can’t find any new music. Used to be Pandora. Now it’s Spotify, and we’ll be on Spotify in a couple of weeks. We’ll also be on iTunes in a couple of weeks.
MAX: All these things gotta work on a Peer-to-Peer—it’s the same technology as
Napster—for Spotify, but it works, as opposed to the illegal way.
MATTHIAS: IT’s big in Sweden. Go Vikings!
MAX: I was gonna listen to the album. I use the Google service for the music, but I was afraid if I uploaded it, it would interfere with the actual release, to listen on my private account… I don’t know how that technology works.
MATTHIAS: I don’t know. Even though it’s widely used, it’s still in its infancy.
They’re still working out kinks. Can people make any money with Spotify? Yeah, when you look at the royalty rate, unless you’re getting millions and millions of plays, not much.
QUEEN: Isn’t that why Taylor Swift stays off of it?
MAX: She thinks she can get more money without it.
MATTHIAS: Yeah, but you end up selling t-shirts.
MAX: Have you seen the people who are gaming Spotify to get royalty money?
MAX: One guy couldn’t afford to tour, so he built an album of silence. He knew that the shortest a track could be is one minute, so he made an album of 100 tracks of silence, and he told his fans to play this track at night as you sleep so I can get enough Spotify money to actually go on tour.
MATTHIAS: Oh my god that’s ingenious.
MAX: It actually worked, and Spotify figured it out. “Well, you got one over on us. You can have the money this time, but we’re changing the rules now. You can’t put out silence…”
MATTHIAS: What about John Cage?
QUEEN: I was about to talk about that! Freaking wrote the biggest scam of all time.
MAX: What did he do?
QUEEN: Matthias, take it away.
MATTHIAS: He wrote a piece, 4m39s of silence.
MAX: This is a classical music joke!
MATTHIAS: It’s not a joke! It really is a piece, and symphonies have performed this. It’s just silence.
MAX: The Andy Kaufman of classical music.
QUEEN: It was a time in classical music where they were struggling to expand the
concept. The music is more than what we’re playing. It’s what’s all around us. Anything can be music: a jackhammer, a bird tweeting, so you just listen to the world. And people bought this! They ate it up! People study this!
MAX: It sounds very Duchamp.
QUEEN: If you meant “douchey” by that, then we’re on the same page.
MAX: Just to take a step out of classical music and into the fine arts scene…
Duchamp, people loved him. He put a toilet commode on a pedestal and into a gallery. He also has classical work. He painted “Nude Descending a Staircase”, which is very good. Imagine cubism with time, so each discrete thing you could look at would all be at the same time, as opposed to every angle you could look at the same time. What else… he was a Banksy of fine arts of his time. Banksy is doing the same thing right now, accessible art, but very loud and in an accessible manner. Have you guys seen “Exit Though the Gift Shop?” That’s a good documentary on Banksy’s career, which is technically a documentary about a guy named Mr. Brainwash who never actually existed, but seems to have followed Shepard Fairey. Shepard Fairey who did the Obey and the Obama poster. If it’s not you guy’s stuff, that’s cool. It’s a very good movie, at least. It’s on Netflix. Very controversial because a lot of people think it’s a scam because it’s all fictional, but there is something to learn from it, even if it is. It very much is a microcosm of street art as an explosive, very dirty kind of movement.
QUEEN: So Matthias, you studied classical music.
QUEEN: When’s the last time you went to the ASO?
MATTHIAS: Wow, it has been a few years.
MAX: The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra?
QUEEN: Yeah. When’s the last time you purchased a ticket for any classical show.
MATTHIAS: Definitely a few years. It’s expensive. It’s very expensive, especially if you want good seats.
QUEEN: $42.50 for something that’s kinda shitty.
MATTHIAS: There’s been a lot of problems recently.
MAX: Haven’t they been locked out or something?
MATTHIAS: I think they’ve gotten all that stuff fixed. I think they’ve gotten all that worked out. Again, it all comes down to money. On one hand, we need that classical music. Is it affordable for people to go see it? You know, symphonies all over the country are getting shut down because people just aren’t going to see it. Again, it goes back to the culture because kids are not growing up with classical music. You get bored with commercial music, so you look for something else. “Ooh, classical music! How refreshing.”
QUEEN: Well, if you were the director of the ASO, how would you start to fix—
MATTHIAS: Oh, I’d play some Metal!
MAX: You’d just change the playlist or something?
MATTHIAS: I don’t know. Even classical music…
QUEEN: You were laughing at that, but I don’t think that’s crazy.
MAX: Yeah, you could totally reach an audience that’s not conscious of that yet.
MATTHIAS: There’ve been plenty—maybe a handful of symphonies that have incorporated electric guitar into the composition. But again, they have to be modern compositions, they can’t play electric guitar with Mozart, although there are some really cool things. If you’re familiar with Uli Jon Roth, Yngwie Malmsteen, he did a concerto suite with the New Japan Philharmonic. Well, he recorded the album with the Czech Philharmonic and did a live DVD with the Japan Philharmonic.
MAX: I’m sure the Japanese loved that.
MATTHIAS: Oh yeah.
MAX: The Japanese are crazy Metal fans. It doesn’t even make sense.
MATTHIAS: They love virtuosos. Marty Friedman went over there. He’s making a great living over there. Megadeth didn’t work out for him. Well, I guess Megadeth doesn’t work out for most people.
MAX: Yeah, that was the joke at the end of Spinal Tap. They go on tour. It’s a major disaster, but the album blows up in Japan. It’s like that all over again.
QUEEN: I’ve always felt like classical is a little stale. When you look at, the ASO especially, I beat them up behind the scenes all the time. I think the programming is horrid. There’s more out there than Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven, and they seem unwilling… They’ll throw out a pop concert once in a while, like “Here’s some Star Wars”, pat people like me on the head.. They’re not doing a really good job trying to engage. I mean you and me, we’re two gentlemen with classical music in our backgrounds, and I go out of my way to avoid going to the ASO because it’s a boring concert.
MATTHIAS: I think it’s not so much stale, but the atmosphere can be stiff. When you go to a rock show, a Metal show, anything, it’s relaxed.
MAX: Did you just say a heavy Metal show was relaxed?
MATTHIAS: Let me define “relaxed”. You don’t have to sit there being all stiff…
MAX: First you go to the freaking Masquerade thinking you’re going to die from climbing the stairs because it’s an aging, collapsing building with ghosts inside of it.
MATTHIAS: Imagine seeing a classical show at the Masquerade, and you have to stand there and not talk, don’t cough or anything, clear your throat.
MAX: Okay, I get what you’re saying. You got a rod up your ass as an audience member as opposed to having a beer and fighting the next guy for fun.
MATTHIAS: Exactly! That’s a relaxed atmosphere.
MAX: We got a pit out in front! And guy’s like headbutting as hard as he can—I
agree. That’s a very unrestrained, relaxed…
MATTHIAS: That’s a relaxed, Metal atmosphere.
MAX: People are free to be themselves as opposed to put on their own best behavior. There is a behavior to the music scene, though, right?
MATTHIAS: Oh, yeah.
MAX: The rock scene, you know? Reminds me almost of the young hipster “Scott Pilgrim vs The World thing where it’s like, “What’s the password?” And he’s like, “Sigh”. “Alright, you can go.” Nothing can be that cool, you just gotta be like “aauuugh”. So how is the Metal scene? I recently remember hearing that Dave Grohl learned hospitality from Dimebag Darrell; try to just create as much positivity as you can backstage. Do you see that same kind of atmosphere from Metal around anywhere?
MATTHIAS: That’s one of the cool things with Metal, that is, depending on subgenre. It might be really brutal and you just have this image like “You know, we’re going to kill you” or whatever, but the Metal scene, it’s a very it’s a very warm scene. It’s very it’s very friendly. Until you get on stage, and
MAX: “We murder the Viking troll!”
MATTHIAS: Exactly, but that’s where it gets over the top but you know…
MAX: So do you think like psychologically, that this kind of exploration of the
wildness of the self is bringing a balance to men in a structured society.
MATTHIAS: I’ve read some articles that have shown how people who listen to Metal are actually highly intelligent. Contrary to, you know…people who listen to Metal tend to have some similar brain functionality or whatever.
MAX: It got rewired by the Metal.
MATTHIAS: Yes, that classical musicians have. Maybe it’s the prog influence and some of it’s very complex stuff, and it’s not music for the masses.
MAX: That’s true.
MAX: If there’s a Metal layman listening, who would you throw out to start out with, especially from a classical music background, maybe someone in the prog scene. Here’s how to find a love that’s going to reach you.
MATTHIAS: I mean if you’re really into classical music, I would I would say definitely Yngwie Malmsteen, without a doubt. Uli Jon Roth His stuff is incredible. Not crazy about his guitar tone, but he’s an amazing player. Absolutely amazing. Rhapsody. I mean Rhapsody would be probably the quintessential neoclassical power Metal.
MAX: I recently have just been loving, I can’t get away from Opeth. Honestly.
MATTHIAS: Their new proggy stuff?
MAX: Yeah, absolutely. And the old darky stuff, too. That sounded almost racist. I meant spiritually dark.
QUEEN: So what’s proggy? Is that like progressive?
MATTHIAS: Yeah, you know, changing time signatures. You know, things that…math Metal. I mean, basically, if you take Rush fans who want to play Metal.
MAX: There’s a few TOOL songs like that, too.
QUEEN: Yeah wasn’t it Led Zeppelin who has like the record for like the only
Billboard number one song that had an 11/8 time signature?
MATTHIAS: Oh, I don’t know.
QUEEN: I want to say it was “Kashmir” or one of those songs they have an asymmetric beat, and they are laughing about it. They’re like, “Yeah, no one else can do this except for us.”
MATTHIAS: Well even on Uncharted Lands, there’s a couple of things in there where
there’s some changing time signatures, but it’s written in a way that you don’t notice it. It doesn’t feel like throwing you off. That’s one thing with proggy stuff; maybe one of the criticisms is that it’s written for the purpose of being technical. It’s like music for musicians.
QUEEN: That’s classical music to a tee. It’s all music for musicians—at least in the 20th and 21st centuries. I’m not going to shit on the actual classics, but I mean post Shostakovich, who’s been out there who like really like grabbed the mainstream?
MATTHIAS: Film scores.
QUEEN: That’s right.
MATTHIAS: That is modern-day classical music.
QUEEN: And that’s not very deep stuff I mean—
MATTHIAS: I don’t know. It depends on the film scoring style. If you take Hans
Zimmer, Pirates of the Caribbean, Da Vinci Code, Gladiator, all that sort of stuff. He’s really in my opinion writing rock music, but using with classical instruments. And then if you take somebody like Howard Shore, Lord Of The Rings, or John Williams, it’s very, very different because all of these instruments have very distinctive parts and such. In fact one thing that’s really interesting is if you watch Lord of the Rings, and when it says “Music By”, most movies say “Music By: So-and-So”, but on Lord Of The Rings, it will say “Music composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Howard Shore”. Movies don’t say that, but he’s very clear.
MAX: It’s very important to him.
MATTHIAS: Exactly, exactly.
QUEEN: What’s the difference between composing and orchestrating?
MATTHIAS: Composing would be if I just take a chord progression and maybe a melody and jot it down, and then the orchestrator would take that chord progression and then put it to various instruments.
QUEEN: Oh, I just assumed the composer always did that.
MATTHIAS: Well the composer might, but if it’s a production house that may be doing a ton of work, and the composers having to write a ton of stuff.
QUEEN: Like Metallica when they did the S&M CD, they composed the music but was orchestrated by…
MATTHIAS: It was orchestrated by Michael Kamen. As far as I know because Michael Kamen.
QUEEN: Or maybe James Hetfield took some classes in his spare time…
MAX: He definitely took some singing classes…
MATTHIAS: If you remember the movie Highlander. Michael Kamen did the music for that.
MAX: I thought that was Queen?
MATTHIAS: Queen did the songs, but Michael Kamen did the score. He did…
MAX: What a great mash-up.
MATTHIAS: Oh, yeah, he did you know a lot of stuff from the 80s, but yes a lot of
times you’ll have a composer who might just simply have a chord progression or maybe like a melody right here, he wants it to be a trumpet, and then change it to a flute somewhere else.
MAX: As an aside, mentioning Highlander and Queen, my favorite indie band in the
world called is called the Protomen. They adapt the story of Mega Man as a video game into a rock opera. That’s on the veil of Terminator. They have two concert albums out; they’re working on a third. They did a whole cover album including Princes of the Universe. Seeing it happen again is just mind-blowing because it’s one of those complex rock songs you can ever fuckin hear. Not just that, the mic-ed motorcycle helmet, he’s even got his 1/4″ plugged in the back of his head so he looks like a robot at the same time.
QUEEN: Even Daft Punk doesn’t do that.
MAX: Oh, I was going to make a joke. You were saying, I believe, Han Zimmer was
making rock songs.
MATTHIAS: Yeah, Hans Zimmer is making rock songs with an orchestra.
MAX: So what’s Danny Elfman doing?
MATTHIAS: Actually some of Danny Elfman’s stuff I think is little bit more orchestrated…
QUEEN: I don’t get the joke.
MAX: He was in a rock band called Oingo Boingo.
QUEEN: Oh really?
MAX: Then he starts doing movie scores, and he wrote the entire Nightmare Before
Christmas album which was amazing.
MATTHIAS: He works with Tim Burton a lot.
MAX: Almost exclusively, it feels like.
MATTHIAS: He might.
QUEEN: Well, Tim Burton is that way. Once he finds a good relationship, he just keeps going back to same people.
MAX: “Get Johnny Depp and my wife on the phone!” Well, not anymore, but…
QUEEN: Oh, they’re not together anymore?
MAX: I don’t think so.
MATTHIAS: I was reading… I want to say Danny Elfman was doing his own orchestration, but because of his background, it’s possible it was somebody else.
QUEEN: I used to live near the LA museum, and they had an exhibition there for a
while, it was there for months, the Tim Burton exhibition. I couldn’t wait to go. I didn’t what was going to be there, presumably relics from behind the scenes, maybe Beetlejuice or something like that…
MAX: Weirdo sculptures and drawings like that.
QUEEN: Yeah, precisely! I had “open up your dark fantasies!” Then you get there,
and it’s like some shit he drew as a kid. It’s not even any good! And it’s entirely there because it’s Tim Burton. I mean, there was a couple of things. Like they actually had some of the Claymation he used in various movies, whether it be Nightmare Before Christmas or Beetlejuice or something, but then there’s also, literally, something he drew in high school. And, I mean, it looks like he drew it in high school. Like he grew into genius. He wasn’t always great.
MAX: So tell me, Matthias, can you learn it, or are you just born with it?
MAX: Very good music teacher answer.
QUEEN: But I mean, when you were a kid, were you better than everyone else? Or
did you just grow into it.
MATTHIAS: No, I mean, it’s practice. I don’t think I had a natural talent for even
playing the guitar. I struggled at first. I just kept pushing and pushing and I wasn’t going to give up on that. I think that whatever it is you’re doing, yeah, some people might have traits that lend themselves to painting or what not, but ultimately, natural talent can only take you so far. It gets to the point where you really have to work at it. That’s it.
QUEEN: That’s exactly what a teacher would say.
MATTHIAS: Well, that’s what I do.
MAX: How many clients do you have? Are you just full time with education?
MATTHIAS: I’m pretty slammed. My company, the Atlanta Guitar Clinic, we do in-home guitar lessons, so it’s great because students don’t have to sit in traffic going to a lesson. We go to them. We also have Skype students, I was actually teaching a Skype lesson the other day to a guy who was in Boston. He’s snowed in under 8 feet of snow, but we can still do a guitar lesson.
MAX: Does that get frustrating? The technology? Maybe bad audio?
MATTHIAS: It can, but it also opens up new possibilities. A few years ago, you were limited why where you lived. And now, I can have a lesson with someone a few hundred miles away or across the ocean.
MAX: I’m sure there will be a few Germans…”I want to play like THIS GUY.”
MATTHIAS: I certainly hope so! That’s what’s so funny. We’ve have German radio