Justin McKinney (The Zenith Passage) and Nicole Papastavrou (Kallias) share two playthroughs of unreleased music featuring EZbass, the Metal EBX and Superior Drummer 3 – and answer a quick Q&A!
Check out The Zenith Passage here.
Check out Kallias here.
FIVE QUICK QUESTIONS.
The two short snippets you demoed – how did these materialize and how did this collaboration come about? Can we expect more?
Nicole: We went camping one weekend in the summer and brought our guitars with a portable amp and just started jamming in the woods! Wasn’t anything planned but we ended up starting a song there, and then expanded on it back home.
Justin: The creative chemistry was very strong and by the end of the summer we had a handful of songs written together and we decided to turn that into an actual project, which is yet to be named. We’ve also been writing and generating some death metal content when we need a change of pace from our current unnamed project, which is more on the prog side of the metal spectrum.
Your main gigs are obviously your respective bands, Kallias and The Zenith Passage. What’s next on the agenda there?
Nicole: Kallias just released our first EP titled “The Fourth Phase” last month, along with a music video. We plan on releasing a single in the spring which will be part of the full length.
Justin: With the current state of the world, and touring being put to a pause until further advised, it provides ample time for me to write our next releases. I’m currently composing two releases, one of which is a conceptual symphonic EP and the other is an album that is essentially Meshuggah meets Necrophagist. Expect a single out soon.
You are both avid Superior Drummer 3 users. How do you use the program in your work and how does it help your creative process?
Nicole: I love the fact that I can bring a riff to the table and have it brought to life with drums so quickly, while still sounding remarkably human. Being able to program drums adds so much to the creative process and can really help see the bigger picture of where the song may go next.
Justin: I’ve been religiously programming drums to most, if not all, of the music I’ve written for roughly ten years now. I remember getting EZdrummer and Drumkit From Hell and it literally changed how I write music. The first The Zenith Passage EP, “Cosmic Dissonance,” was written entirely using Drumkit From Hell. And when I discovered Superior Drummer 3, I was purely convinced that I want to use these drum tones over most of my productions from here on out. Superior Drummer 3 has such monstrous drum tones for metal, rock, and prog that it’s almost indistinguishable from hearing an actual drummer play it as opposed to programmed drums. The last The Faceless record I co-wrote, Michael Keene and I used Superior Drummer 3 to write everything and then even used the drum tones for that record, “In Becoming a Ghost.” If it weren’t for discovering this drum programming software, I don’t know where I would be.
You both are also early adopters of EZbass. How has it found its way into your writing process and how does it help?
Nicole: I never imagined programming bass, but here we are! It’s been cool diving into this new plugin and really completing all aspects of the songs we’ve been writing. When we started this project we had no idea when we would find members to complete it (and it’s still just us), so having these tools was a tremendous factor in bringing this material full circle.
Justin: I am not a great bass player, and I don’t believe I could ever play or sound like what Toontrack has created with EZbass. Since I have gotten so quick with programming drums with Toontrack products, programming bass is always the next step in the songwriting process for me, so writing some bass lines and getting finely detailed performances with real and lifelike articulation is such an important tool to have to the songwriting process.
You are both awesome players. What do your individual practice routines look like?
Nicole: Besides my usual writing of material that’s challenging for me to play at first, I’ll learn songs or parts of songs that have techniques I may not always use or may be completely new to me so it forces me to practice them over and over. Sometimes I get in weird moods and like to transcribe music written with completely different instruments, but on guitar. I think it’s important to train your ears from time to time and not always depend on tabs.
Justin: Usually consists of running through some left and right hand exercises, followed by running through some of my material and then fine-tuning problem areas within the songs with a metronome. Starting very slowly then naturally increasing speed with the metronome.