Megalomatic’s lead vocalist/guitarist, Craig McKenzie, talks in-depth to Louderthanwar about his progressive, heavy riff-laden band who have had a hugely successful year, beginning with an independent signing to London-based, Milkybomb Records, as well as the release of their five-track Ep ‘Symbolism’ followed by a booming launch party and mini Uk tour. Within this interview, we are very proud to have Megalomatic’s record label provide us with a gripping EXCLUSIVE! premiere showing of Megalomatic’s official music video ‘Cesspit’; an electrifyingly atmospheric track extracted from the bands current ‘Symbolism’ Ep, along with an exciting chance to win two tickets for Megalomatic’s energetic first live show of the new year! in Glasgow’s King Tuts Wah Wah Huts!
Craig took time out to cast some light on how Megalomatic’s tour went down, and to talk about the creative process of their current ‘Symbolism’ Ep, as well as providing insight into their freshest music video drop ‘Cesspit’. Also, the chief protagonist provides a super insightful view into his own musical depth and explains about the band’s overall progression as a dedicated, alternative heavy rock trio. Megalomatic tailed off last year in the best possible way by making international airwaves as they had their second track ‘Trider’ spun from the current ‘Symbolism’ Ep on the Daniel. P. Carter, BBC Radio 1 Rock Show. A band who are quite positively kicking up a storm wherever they spread their sound!
Miff – L.T.W – It’s evident that Megalomatic has been experiencing an exciting whirlwind venture from the release of your ‘Symbolism’ Ep, on the 15th of September last year. How long was the development of the Ep before it all burst into reality with launch and tour?
Vocalist/ Guitarist -Craig – This Ep is actually something that we worked on for a lot longer than people might think. The first remnants of what would end up being tracks on this Ep were being written at the same time as we were recording our mini album Hunt For The Midnight Sasquatch. We had 24-hour access to the studio so when Butler (our producer for that album) was sleeping or relaxing we’d just jump in and try out some new ideas. The rough basis for about half of A Yellow Car, A Golden Chariot was written over 2 years ago now. The last track we wrote for Symbolism was Silky…we finished that about a week before we ended up taking the tracks to the pre-production phase of things. So in total, that was about 20 months or so, then the Ep was released 5 months after it was recorded. A lot longer a process that we’ve been involved in the past.
Miff – L.T.W – Can you give us some insight into the writing process between the three of you
Craig – With us, probably like with most bands, it depends on the song and the situation around it. Most of the time someone will have an idea, be it a riff, or a chord structure or a drum beat, and they’ll bring it to the band in a practice and we’ll work on that idea. Depending on the idea itself we’ll end up playing simple parts over the idea. If it’s a guitar idea, Jamie will play a simple groove over the idea, and Ben will either play the same as me on the bass or root notes to the chords I’m playing. Over time we’ll start fleshing it out and the drums will become more interesting, and the chords and melodies will become more interesting. We’ll do that with a bunch of different ideas, and we’ll start experimenting throwing a couple of ideas together and messing with keys and timings to see what parts work together. We’ll have an instrumental version of the songs finished long before I’ve thought about vocals, and I’ll work on lyrics and melodies on my own and slowly start to feed them into the songs.We also usually write and rewrite songs over and over again to try and get the best version of the song we possibly can before we record and release it.
Miff – L.T.W- How did the title ‘Symbolism’ come about? and who produced the Ep?
Craig – There’s a lyric in the song ‘A Yellow Car, A Golden Chariot’, “Symbolism takes me home”. It feels like a focal point for the rest of that song and the Ep as a whole. It references how I use my own little rituals and mechanisms to combat negative things in my life, and writing music, being involved in writing these 5 songs, was one of the things I did. So after a little bit of thinking, and scouring my lyrics for something profound to use to encompass the whole Ep, it became obvious for it to be called Symbolism. The Ep was produced by the tone wizard that is, Bruce Rintoul at 45 A-Side recordings in Glasgow. He’s worked with some of our favourite bands and some of the most successful bands coming out of Scotland at the moment (Donnie Willow/Vukovi/Fatherson), so it’s always a great pleasure to get into the studio with him. On this Ep, he really started to understand us as a band and as songwriters, as much as we began to understand him as a producer. So that new mutual understanding really helped us get the best out of the songs we recorded.
Miff – L.T.W – From Megalomatic first started out as a band in 2013, what has the journey of shaping and crafting your sound been like? How best would you describe the band’s evolution?
Craig – It’s really funny for us these days to think back to the first year or so of this band. It seems like a completely different thing, and in so many ways it really was. The original lineup of this band was practising KISS and Foo Fighters covers and writing cheesy hard rock songs and now we’re striving to push ourselves to write the most interesting music we can in a technical sense as well as being easy to listen to. With each lineup change, and each new member entering the band, something new was on offer and clicked with another aspect of someone else’s playing and writing style. It has all felt very natural over time, and the steps we are making with every new song we write also feel very natural. We’ve had this current lineup for over 2 years now, and every progression we aim to make now sits in the arena of musicianship, technicality, and chemistry.
Miff – L.T.W – What themes would you say are the backbone of Megalomatics songs? would you say you cover a realm of human psychology and sociological topics within your songwriting?
Craig – I wouldn’t really say there’s a strong theme that represents all of our songs as a whole, but it would definitely be fair to say the main basis is everything that goes on in my head. I used to write songs that were kind of like stories, that had nothing to do with me, and they were based on different characters or observations…but after a while that became really difficult to do and it made more sense for me to just to completely spill my guts and splatter my brain onto a page and into a song. That approach helps keep the music honest, it really helps in being able to put my all into every performance, and from a personal standpoint, it helps me stay relatively sane.
Miff -L.T.W – Craig, over the last few years I have observed how your vocal dynamics have grown, you most certainly own a great blues voice with your raspy, gravely emotive tones. Can you share some insight into what it has been like exploring and finding your voice?
Craig – Being a vocalist wasn’t really something I chose to do, it was something that just kind of happened over time when the band started. Originally I was a backing vocalist and then sharing lead vocals, but by the time we were gigging I’d become the only vocalist in the band. Because of that I always consider myself a guitarist who sings more than a singer who plays the guitar. It took me a while to find my voice as I didn’t know how to properly utilize it or how to get the best sound out of it, or what sound I was even looking for. I started listening to music in a very different way, and start kind of analyzing my favourite vocalist’s styles, trying to find ways I could incorporate influences into my singing and finding new ways to appreciate those vocal influences I had taken on. Listening to performers like Will Gardner (Black Peaks), Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari), Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour) and Phil Anselmo (Pantera/Down) definitely helped me craft my vocal style over the years, and looking at Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro), Brent Hinds (Mastodon) and Andrew Groves (Arcane Roots) really helped me come to grips with playing intricate guitar parts while singing arrangements that really compliment our songs.
Miff – L.T.W – Lock into Craig’s distinctive vocals now, along with the rest of his band, as with the greatest of pleasures as we are proud to provide an EXCLUSIVE here at Louderthanwar with the premiere showing of Megalomatic’s official music video titled ‘Cesspit’, the third track off Megalomatic’s ‘Symbolism’ EP. The video was filmed, directed and cut by the talented Stuart Breadner. www.shootback.co.uk
Miff – L.T.W – Let’s talk a little about the video, how did the idea for the storyline take shape? and in what ways does the visuals marry into the actual lyrics of the ‘Cesspit’ song?
Craig – So, very early on in the process of making this video, we had asked our friend Josh Haynes to be involved in some capacity as an actor. At that point, we didn’t have any concrete ideas, just little bits and pieces of what we thought we wanted to include in the storyline of the video.
We were really keen to have some sort of audience involved with the performance aspects of the video but knew we wouldn’t be able to bring enough people on the short notice we had. So, Ben and Josh sat down to think up alternatives, and the idea of having one person in a theatre surrounded by balloons with static smiley faces that made up the rest of the audience was the idea that stuck out to us the most.
The protagonist grows more anxious and agitated as the video goes on, fantasising about destroying all the balloons until he’s left in the theatre alone…
I think initially this was just an idea we all thought would be cool to see realised on screen. But as time went on and we put more thought into it and we managed to find ways to connect it with the lyrics and the metaphor of the “Cesspit”. This being the things like depression and anxiety, constructed involuntarily in your own head… your own kind of homemade hell if you will, and how certain things that are built up in that frustration can seem like the only way to handle it.
Miff – L.T.W – Megalomatic is currently signed to London-based, Independent label, Milky Bomb Records, When, and how did that signing come about? What is the labels ethos?
Craig – Well in September 2016, we released a song called Stan Darsh, which played a massive part in us getting the ball rolling a lot faster with the band. Through friends of friends of friends…that song found its way to Simon Fairchild from Milky Bomb Records. He was very very keen to work with us and we got talking with him and formed a very strong relationship between our band and his label. We formally entered the deal with them in March 2017 when Simon came up from London to see us play live at Mesi Studios in Kilmarnock, and rehearse a couple of the newer songs that ended up being on Symbolism.
Miff – L.T.W – How did your headlining UK tour go down? Do you feel you have gathered in a new fanbase from your ventures?
Craig –The headline tour we went on to promote Symbolism was an incredible experience. Each of the shows we played, we were meeting new people from music scenes in different towns and cities and learning how things work in places outside of Scotland. It’s always fantastic to just be able to get the gauge of how everything fits together in that way. The people who saw us all seemed to have an amazing time in doing so, which is amazing to see considering a lot of the places we played, we were playing for the first time on this run.
Miff – L.T.W – What was the absolute highlights of your nine days out on the road? favourite venues, special atmospheres?
Craig – I think Norwich was a definite highlight for me. It wasn’t the busiest of shows by the time our set rolled around but we met some really cool people that night, and the venue was fantastic, with fantastic staff. Jamie and Ben had food poisoning that day, so I think the relief of actually being able to play that night gave us a massive adrenaline boost and we ended up going all out for that show.
Miff – L.T.W – Seeing as this tour has officially gone down as your longest time out on the road together, what valuable experience did each one of you take away in preparation for future ventures?
Craig – That we shouldn’t trust every Gregg’s we come across on the road…just some of them!….
A big one for me though was about looking after my voice. After going all out at the Norwich show I lost my voice and spent the better part of 2 days slowly trying to gain it back. Honey in water, voice rest, and some Vocalzone pastilles got me through those 2 days but we definitely got a bit of a fright with it all, after having to play an instrumental set in Hull.
Miff – L.T.W – What bands would you most aspire to go out on the road with? Or even just share a stage with?
Craig – There are so many bands we’d love to tour with or just play a singular show with. We have friends in Scotland like Donnie Willow, Toy Mountains, and Halo Tora that we’d love to tour the country with. But as far as a dream lineup would go we’ve always wanted to be a part of a show that had Mastodon headlining, with support from Black Peaks, Toska, and Megalomatic. If someone could make that show happen we’d be a very very happy band.
Miff – L.T.W – Craig, you make technical guitar playing seem so incredibly easy. At what age did you first pick up a guitar? and what players in the field have inspired you most?
Craig – I started playing guitar in 2010, so 7 years ago when I was 13. I used to play saxophone in my early high school days because I thought it was a really cool instrument to play, and I had a very strong passion for music and a drive to learn how to play something. Over the 2 years I played the saxophone, a really strict teacher discouraged me, so I put the saxophone down. I really wanted to keep the music up but didn’t have a main instrument so I picked up the guitar because I had a rubbish nylon-string acoustic in my house that I could practice on, and I ended up picking it up fairly quickly.
Craig – I started off playing Green Day songs in my bedroom, learning little bits of music theory and trying to play scales over the same Green Day songs. I started learning guitar just as my music taste was really developing, so I had influences from my very young years, stuff my parents introduced me to like ELO and Queen, and I was just getting into bands like Mastodon and Pantera at the time. So I think all that really shaped me as a younger player. Over time my main influences have been Rabea Massaad (Toska/Dorje), Brent Hinds (Mastodon), Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan). Those sorts of players inspire me to add that technical, off-kilter element to my playing style, along with my favourite guitar teacher I had being a jazz player. So I throw a lot of jazz-inspired chord voicings into our songs.
Miff – L.T.W – Is there a favourite place you like to create and feel inspired? Does the band have their own studio space?
Craig – We don’t have our own studio space, but that is definitely something we want to look into because we’re always writing and rehearsing. For the past 2 years, we’ve been practising and writing at East Kilbride Music Studios, which we run by a really cool guy called Gav. We’re in there pretty much every week, sometimes more! Having the place so close to home for us as well makes it a really comfortable space for us and somewhere that makes writing happen a lot easier.
Craig – The place we’ve felt the most inspired at though is definitely The Cottage, at Loch Fyne. We went there to record Hunt For The Midnight Sasquatch in 2015. We had 5 songs finished, and by the end of it, we had written another 2 tracks that made it onto that mini album and began writing what would end up being, A Yellow Car, A Golden Chariot on this EP. We’re definitely going to take any chance we can get to go and write more music at, The Cottage. The environment lends itself to creativity because you can focus solely on your music.
Miff – L.T.W – Megalomatic is an intriguing name. How did the band name come about?
Craig – A long long long time ago when the band had just started, we had no songs, we didn’t have a full lineup (just me and our original bassist), the band was just a concept or an idea. So we wanted to come up with a name before we started getting everything in place and we were looking at song titles from our favourite bands at the time. We noticed Muse, Black Sabbath, Incubus and a bunch of other bands had a song called Megalomaniac or Megalomania, and we were really drawn to that word and wanted to use it in some capacity. So over time that slowly evolved into Megalomatic and it stuck with us!
Miff – L.T.W – I have been reading in other interview articles that each one of you owns a varied taste in music. How popular to how obscure does each one of your musical pallets extend?
Craig – I think our music tastes very much cover most of the spectrum from popularity to obscurity. We’ll be listening to bands that are the most notable and popular of their genre like Mastodon, Biffy Clyro, Everything Everything, Enter Shikari, Animals As Leaders, The Dillinger Escape Plan…bands with a far reach, that if you listen to their style of music, you will know of those bands. But we really do love discovering obscure bands that not a lot of people have discovered quite yet. Bands like Exotic Animal Petting Zoo, Toska, Wild Throne, Toy Mountains, Donnie Willow, Gold Key and The Physics House Band are on more than regular rotation when we’re on tour.
Miff – L.T.W – Can you reveal any of the band’s future plans? What can we expect in the forthcoming months ahead?
Craig – We definitely don’t have any plans on slowing down anytime soon, and we’re definitely not finished with promoting Symbolism. So expect a couple of show announcements very soon! The response we received after our EP release show in Glasgow was such a mind-blowing thing that we definitely won’t be leaving it another 8 months to play here again. On top of that, there are a few places we didn’t get to on the EP tour that we definitely want to try and get to!
Miff – L.T.W – Is there any advice you would like to give to any bands out there who are focusing on their growth and direction?
Craig – The main advice I’d give to any bands, in general, would be kind of a cliche thing to say, but in all honesty, if you’re in a band for any other reason than having a passion for the music you’re playing, you won’t be cut out for it. It isn’t easy, it isn’t financially rewarding, it’s not necessarily a fast track to popularity or whatever other superficial reasons people might pick up an instrument for when they’re a teenager. I’ve found you need that passion for what you’re doing or the difficult times and financial struggle will tear your band limb from limb. On top of this, if you do have the passion and you’re playing your favourite music, and constantly challenging yourself in all aspects of being a musician, then it is the most rewarding thing you can do, even if it can be a very intense struggle at times.
Megalomatic play their first show of the year at Glasgow’s King Tuts Wah Wah Huts, January 5th
For a chance to win two tickets for the show SHARE Megalomatic’s current ‘Cesspit’ music video along with the hashtag #Megatixtuts
Milkybomb Records shall select and announce the fortunate winner’s midday Tuesday 2nd! over on their social media FB & Twitter networks. So get sharing for your chance to attend one hell of a blazing hot show to blast off your new year in a raucous manner!.