Fireworks Magazine Online 71 - Interview with Next To None

NEXT TO NONE


What's in a name? Next To None are a pretty good match for theirs; a ground-breaking band of teen prodigies who have been writing music together since the ages of 12 and 13 and whose debut album is set to cause a few waves in the testing Progressive waters. Talking of names, a very familiar one comes with drummer Max Portnoy who took time to speak to Mike Ainscoe to fill Fireworks readers in with some info about the band and their new record.


NextToNone


Having had a sneak preview of the album, 'A Light In The Dark', it's a strong bet that when it appears in the middle of the Summer on the Inside Out label it's going to impress in the Prog market. Max himself is similarly pumped up about the release.

"I am extremely excited about everything that's going on with the band. The album came out amazing and I can't wait for everyone to hear it!"

For anyone who hasn't grasped the fact that Next To None have bought fully into the Prog ideal he went on to explain the album title and its significance: "There is a concept running through six of the songs and the title 'A Light In The Dark' goes along with it. It means even though everything the protagonist is doing is bad, he still thinks that he is doing something good, like there's a light at the end of the tunnel."

For a young band, they have proved to be surprisingly ambitious at times in the writing – a couple of songs in 'The Edge Of Sanity' and 'Control' both clock in at over nine minutes. In terms of writing and recording when they went into the studio, Max clarified: "The songs were 95% complete when we went into the studio so they were well rehearsed and thought out. It was maybe a couple of things we were still working on like making the click tracks to the songs, we needed to make some at the studio. Some songs we might plan on having a longer instrumental section but it's never determined. As we write we keep going with what sounds right and it may go for one minute or eleven minutes!"

Not only that, Next To None were real lucky to be able to have the means to call on Prog hero Neal Morse and G'n'R guitarist Bumblefoot to guest on the album. In explaining how the collaboration came about and what they contributed he added, "It was a complete honour to have those two legends on our album! While we were working on 'A Lonely Walk', my dad thought it would be cool to maybe get a guest appearance on the album and Neal and Bumblefoot said yes so it was super exciting for us! We told Bumblefoot to write his solo, which he did and it came out amazing and we told Neal we wanted a mellotron sound and told him where. He did his own thing to it and it sounded perfect. We told them where to do it and they put their own touch to it which made it awesome! The only time they play is on 'A Lonely Walk' - Neal does some string patches and mellotron sounds and Bumblefoot did the solo, everything else is us."

With the album having some songs in the form of a concept, the question arose of who's responsible for the lyrics and what's the inspiration behind them. "Our vocalist and keyboard player Thomas Cucé wrote all the lyrics and melodies for this album. I can't really speak for him but he takes inspiration of real world events and things that he see on the news."

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As well as having Mike Portnoy handy to act as producer, he's such a strong character, we had to ask what sort of input and influence he had, although he's already been online saying he can't stress enough "how much of the album is them".

"My dad was there to show us the ropes of being a new musician in the industry and showing us how to function in a studio. The writing was all us, the song titles, album title, band name, that was all the band. My dad only showed us how to work in the studio and obviously things like making sure there were no clashing notes, and helping orchestrate the song 'A Lonely Walk'".

Inevitably, the question also arises about there being any pressure or expectation from being a young band with the instantly recognisable Portnoy name in the line up, although Max was fairly philosophical and realistic. "I personally don't feel any pressure, just because I know people will compare me to him and us to Dream Theater. Even if we sounded completely different from DT, they would still compare us. I have nothing wrong with it though, because DT is a big influence for me, so it's obviously going to show up in my style, but hopefully soon we will just be looked at as Next To None."

On top of the debut album and a previously released three song EP, Next To None haven't been shying away from performing in the live context. They've been playing with the much admired UK Prog rockers Haken on their US dates – a strong partnership as they are a similarly exciting and ambitious band as well. "Playing with Haken was amazing. They are an awesome, talented band and they were so nice and generous to us. They treated us like professionals and they didn't treat us like kids, which was super cool of them. We got along with them really well as well, so I hope we can do another tour with them sometime!"

They have also had the chance to play alongside some top bands such as Winery Dogs (dad Mike on drums there) and those they met on the Progressive Nation At Sea gigs which in itself must have been quite an experience. "It's an honour to be able to play with these top of the line bands, and it's truly a big learning experience as well. I mean, the band has learnt so much from sharing the stage with these awesome bands, so we are very grateful for it. The Progressive Nation As Sea was one of the most fun experiences I've had in a long time. Being able to hang out with my best friends, play concerts, see all the fans and have conversations with them was such an amazing experience! We really hope we can play on the next Progressive Nation At Sea, if it happens again!"

The immediate future for all the band is high school and college, but Max was quite clear about where his and the band's future direction lies. "Honestly, once I get out of high school I'm gonna be putting all my time and effort into Next To None. I want to write and tour as much as I can when I finish school to make sure that N2N is successful!"

'A Light In The Dark' is available on InsideOut. More details about Next To None can be found at www.nexttonone.net

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