ANURYZM’s guitarist John Bakhos talks progressive metal, guitar tutorials and Worm’s Eye View with Mary Boukouvalas.
Who were your main influences growing up?
I was mostly influenced by Guns N Roses, Megadeth, Dream Theater, Sepultura, Pantera, Hendrix, Scorpions, Jethro Tull, Queen, etc. And for guitar players, I have always been intrigued by the playing styles of Slash, Marty Friedman, Dimebag, James Murphy, Hendrix, Jason Becker, etc.
Do you remember your first single or record you bought?
Yes, my first cassette tape was a mix tape that had mostly 80's pop songs, but one of those songs was 'Sweet Child O' Mine' by GNR and I liked it quite a lot. Funny enough, my cousin was very much into GNR, and she had passed me my first full album tape of ‘Appetite Of Destruction’. After listening to it, I got hooked and just bought all their tapes.
What is your favourite band of all time? Who is your hero?
I'd have to say Porcupine Tree because they've been consistent throughout and every record I've heard of theirs just blew me away. They make passionate music that I can relate to. Steven Wilson is someone who always thinks outside the box, and I admire that. A hero? Definitely my dad!
What inspired you to become a musician?
During the early 90s we were all getting our dose of really great music and I think everyone including me was obsessed with learning those songs instead of creating music. From GNR's Use your Illusion albums, to Metallica's Black album, to Pantera’s CFH, to Megadeth's Countdown to Extinction, to Nirvana, REM, and Soundgarden, everyone wanted to play those epic riffs. Then the bitter-sweet latter half of the 90s hit, and music started to sound more and more like garbage. That was when I had already reached a proficient level in my guitar-playing where I could actually write something. I was just sick and tired of what was out there and so I started writing music that I would enjoy.
That’s an eclectic mix. I love the 90s. What is your favourite band now? What type of music do you listen to now?
With the amount of music I expose myself to these days, it's very hard to settle for one favorite band. What I can say is that currently I really enjoy listening to Slash, Jethro Tull, and Morcheeba. I'm also hard at work focusing on writing music for our next record, so I've been mostly listening to the demos of the new songs.
How did you form your band?
Nadeem and I were in a band together back in high-school. So, as soon as I came back here, we met up and it was blatantly obvious that we'd start working together again. I met Rami through a mutual friend at a gig where he was performing. That wasn't the first time I saw him play, but I loved his style and asked him to come join us on the record. We auditioned Imad after seeing him play on a couple of his online vids. He’s a solid drummer with a great passion for all kinds of music. Milton had co-produced the record with me, not to mention mixed and mastered it as well. And since he is a great rhythm guitar player, we were fortunate enough to have him come on board because he knew the music and what were about better than anybody else. And finally, Jay is an old friend from back home when he used to play awesome keys in a popular prog band there. So we got in touch here and it wasn't long before he started joining the jam sessions.
How would you describe your sound now as opposed to your earlier work?
It's evolved quite a bit from the old days and is much more advanced that's for sure. If you listen to my first ever album 'The Circle' with my side-project Ordum and compare that to 'Worm's Eye View' you can hear the progression in the guitar playing and sound. But the fact that Ordum is somewhat extreme makes it kind of difficult to compare exactly to what Anuryzm is. It will make much more sense once people hear the next Anuryzm record which comes out next year. It's more mature, soulful, with a variety of creative and technical approaches to the guitar riffing style and songwriting process.
Tell us a bit about your new album. How it came about? How long it took?
It definitely took a long while. This was the third official attempt at putting together a line-up for the record. And it finally worked. I had just come back from Canada and gotten in touch with Martin Lopez to join us on the record. He really liked the demos I had and wanted to be a part of it. And with Nadeem and Rami already in the loop, we went into Milton's studio. The recording process took a few months, with a few bumps on the road until we got it just right. We finally released 'Worm's Eye View' in late 2011. Every song sounds different than the other, yet they seem to fit comfortably together in one album. A strong debut that we are proud of for sure!
What are your favourite songs on this new album and why?
“Fragmenting the Soul “and “Breaking the Ballot.” I just love playing those songs on guitar. I knew that once I finished writing them I'd get that overwhelming feeling of satisfaction because they took a while to finish, and they self-taught my fingers a few new tricks!
Great – I’ll have to listen out for those tricks. Maybe I’ll even see you playing them –or giving a guitar tutorial. Why did you decide to release a guitar tutorial video for Wide Awake?
We put out a campaign asking fans to pick a song off of 'Worm's Eye View' that they would like to learn on guitar, and the highest votes came to Wide Awake. We had a lot of fun doing the video to the point that Milton and I have decided to make 'T with Mil & John' a regular thing. So expect to see more soon!
Very cool. If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
I'd probably get into football. I'd be a good mid-fielder I think. Haha
Do you tour?
We're not a touring band... yet. I've already done the small bar gigs, the 10 person attendance venues in Dubai, Toronto, and Beirut… It's really not worth our time and effort especially considering that we are all working people with full time jobs. Unfortunately these days, bands have to absorb a lot of costs when it comes to concerts, videos, studios, photo-shoots, etc. And because we are independent and don’t get any monetary support aside from our incomes, we try to pace out the costs in a way that makes sense and doesn’t damage us financially. Essentially, we are all about making great records, and performing when it is worth performing. That being said, we definitely are planning for a few international appearances in key regions. We'll have more details about that a bit later.
I hope to see you guys live when I visit family in Dubai. Will there be any tours later in the year?
We're planning for a few things here at home and abroad. We'll definitely put out the details as soon as things get set in stone!
Have you been to Australia?
No we haven't but I know we are all dying to go! We've heard so many great things about the passionate fans and the amazing sites to visit. I know I'll definitely be going on my own time someday, but it would definitely be great to play in a major festival like Big Day Out.
That would be great – actually you’d really rock SOUNDWAVE festival.
What are your ideas on the politics of today?
That is such a complex topic and I think my answer might take a while! Best discussed on your next trip to Dubai over coffee perhaps? Haha.
In short, I really believe that we are heading on a path of self-destruction. Politicians are just there to prolong the inevitable. It’s going to take one drastic 180 degree turn to get us back into shape as far as the human race is concerned.
I think music in itself is the ideal, as in the ideal mass-connecting catalyst. It is an international language that allows people from opposite corners of the earth to be connected to one another. Music also never lies, so what you hear is what you get.
It’s funny you ask me this question because I sometimes daydream that there are no countries anymore, and continents are divided by musical tastes, and I’m somewhere in Europe. But the funny part is that everything you do is based around music. Groceries and goodies are bartered for CDs, so the “richest” people would be those that had the most music to give away. Imagine mega cities like Metalopolis with smaller communities in it. So instead of little Italy, you’d probably have little Jazz, or little Grindcore. Haha. I can keep rambling on about this! It’s a cool concept if you think about it.
I like it a lot. I think it’s an excellent idea.
Oh no! I just thought of something really bad… Bieberville!
I would die –but then again, we’d know where we wouldn’t be going for a holiday! Do you think music can or should be used as a way to promote ideals/ideas?
If you look at Worm's Eye View, it is a very positive album filled with hope and strength that is meant to empower people. We’re not trying to push people to rise against their oppressors, but we are trying to send a motivational message so they may educate themselves enough about what is happening all around us.
I agree – I think education is the key. If you had to put together a festival of bands together, old or new, who would you choose and why?
That's easy. It would definitely be a festival filled with bands I’d love to watch and I’d split them up into 3 stages.
The A stage would have Rush, Queen, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Jethro Tull, and Camel.
The B stage would have Symphony X, Dream Theater, Opeth, Ihsahn, Pantera, Devin Townsend, Queensryche and Primus.
And finally, the C stage would have Riverside, Textures, Tesseract, Leprous, the up and coming Benevolent, and of course, Anuryzm.
Sounds ideal. Any other comments?
Thank you for the interview. We look forward to coming to Australia one day and performing for all you guys! Feel free to send Nadeem some Darrel Lea Rocky Road candy before it’s too late and the company shuts down!!
Haha will try to arrange that. Thanks so much for your time John.
Worm's Eye View is out now and is available via Melodic Revolution Records or from all good online retailers.
Check out T with Mil and John: http://www.melodicrevolution.com/profiles/blogs/t-with-mil-john