Huge thanks to the guys from Tension Rising for giving us such a great interview to regale you with over the first half of the weekend!
ALEX: We’re all from the United States, specifically NYC.
How did you meet?
NICK: Chris and I met in college back in 2008. We started up a cover band, played a few local gigs for about a year, and we decided to start writing our own material. I knew Alex from high school, and around 2015, we needed a new bass player. He professed strong interest in joining, and I knew he would add a new dimension to what we were trying to accomplish.
ALEX: I met Nick through a mutual friend who was a drummer and practiced in his garage. Nick and I jammed together there several times in our teens, playing Rush and Led Zeppelin songs. Many years later, I heard Tension Rising needed a bassist, and thought I could help. The rest is history :)
How long have you been playing as a band?
ALEX: The band has existed since 2008/2009, but was initially a cover band. They started doing originals, and went through some personnel changes, and ultimately I joined the band in 2015. Shortly after, the band had to go on hiatus due for personal reasons.
At the end of September 2019, Chris called me and wanted to meet up to talk about starting things up again. My better half, Gail, encouraged me to do it, and to offer to be more involved in the songwriting and production process. Until this point, I had always intentionally taken a back seat when it came to these things in Tension Rising, because I was the newest member and didn’t want to disrupt what Nick and Chris already had established before I joined.
My writing tends to be more progressive in the vein of bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X, which is the type of music I write and perform with my other band, Infinite Spectrum. Chris, Gail and I met outside of my house and talked for hours about doing a new album, and what that would look like. We were very excited to get the ball rolling again.
The only unknown factor, was Nick. We knew he was very busy with his job and his studies. The next day we spoke with Nick, and he was really excited to get the group back together again, but said he needed about a month to be done with his upcoming exam before he could jump back in. Chris and I started meeting for writing sessions the next week, and in just the first sitting, we had a full song written, which ultimately became “Knuckle Up”, which is on our upcoming album, Penumbra.
Each time we met thereafter, we wrote at least another full song (instrumentally, not lyrics/vocals). A few weeks later, Nick passed his exam and jumped back in, and the riffage he brought on day one ended up becoming the song, Masquerade, which is also on the upcoming album. We were on fire – writing great songs very quickly.
Then the pandemic arrived in the US. We were all very nervous that we wouldn’t be able to continue with this album, due to not being able to meet in person anymore for an undetermined amount of time. Thankfully, in this age of technology, we were able to continue working remotely by using video chats, and exchanging files on Google Drive. What at first seemed like something that might stop us in our tracks, ultimately turned into a lot of the inspiration for the songs and lyrics on this album.
We don’t know when we’re going to be able to do shows again, but we can’t wait to do it, and will be releasing a lot of video content until then.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
CHRIS: I was working as a home attendant for a physically handicapped teen. Like any other school day, I brought him home, and was getting ready to leave for the day. His little brother, Tyler, who was a big fan of music in general, and a fan of the band, came over to me and stopped me at the door and said “I have an idea for a band name!” I said, “Okay, what do you got?” He said, “What do you think of the name, Tension Rising?” I stood there for a moment, and said “Wow… that’s really good.”
Later on I brought the idea of Tension Rising to the rest of the guys in the band, and they all loved it. Nick had a list of something like 50+ names that he crumpled into a ball and threw away after hearing it. The rest is history! Tyler, if you’re reading this, thank you for the awesome band name idea! You’re awesome!
What are your influences?
NICK: From a guitar player standpoint, I would say Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Nuno Bettencourt, and Steve Lukather
ALEX: Led Zeppelin is the band that made me want to become a musician. Dream Theater is the band that most influenced my musical trajectory. I also love Neal Morse, Symphony X, Haken, and The Beatles.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
ALEX: I would call Tension Rising’s music a mix of classic and modern metal. It’s quite heavy, but also melodic a lot of the time. I would say that what makes us unique is that the three of us really listen to a lot of different music from each other, and bring different styles into our writing. Nick is very much a classic rock, blues kind of guy, and I think you can hear that in some of the riffs, and the guitar solos. Chris is into modern metal, and listens to a lot of bands that utilize both melodic singing as well as screams, which I think is very evident in our songs. I’m personally into progressive rock and metal, so I think some of the more complex arrangements and passages in the songs are part of what I bring to the songwriting. When blended together, you have what I think is a great mix of classic and modern styles of metal, some virtuosic lines, some headbanging memorable riffs, and some cool storytelling lyrically.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
ALEX: This album isn’t exactly a concept album, although a lot of the lyrics are dark. This album was largely written during the COVID19 pandemic, and so while this album isn’t about the pandemic, we do explore a lot of ideas and themes that are very relevant in the world right now. There are some tracks that are more introspective, talking about what it’s like to deal with feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.
Some songs explore ideas of the end of the world (in a more fictitious type of way, where the things happening in the world are characterized as horror movie styled monsters). Some songs also explore the difficulties that people in relationships might be struggling with right now, which I think is very relevant to the world we’re in right now, dealing with things like quarantine (either with or without your partner). We touch on some current events as well. Ultimately, someone listening to this album from start to finish will probably notice that while we aren’t speaking about the pandemic, we’re exploring all kinds of things related to what people (and the world) might be going through right now.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
ALEX: The band has been on hiatus since 2015, and I haven’t played any shows with Tension Rising. I’ve seen some of them though, from before I was in the band, and I can say that there is a great energy coming off of the stage. We’re really excited to start gigging again once things start getting back to “normal” around here.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
ALEX: Watching people leap on or off the stage (into the crowd) always seems super wild to me. It’s scary and exciting at the same time.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
ALEX: I’m currently playing a Kiesel 5 string headless bass. I sometimes use my Beardly Customs bass, as well as my Musicman Bongo bass, but I’m leaning toward the Kiesel most of the time now, as it just sounds and plays beautifully, and is only 7 lbs (which is really light for a 5 string bass).
NICK: I use a Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster. I love the classic guitars.
CHRIS: PRS. Always PRS guitars. I have a tattoo along both of my forearms that looks like the fretboard of my guitar. Absolutely love PRS.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
ALEX: We just put out a new single/lyric video for “Doomsayer” which can be found at the end of this interview. Our upcoming album Penumbra is coming out on September 7, 2020. We’re really excited about it! It’s the first Tension Rising album that I’ve been a part of. Aside from being very involved in the writing, and of course playing bass, I also did a lot of backing vocals on this album, which is something I haven’t done much of in the past for any of my other musical endeavours. I’m also proud to say that I was the recording and mixing engineer for this album as well!
What are your plans for 2020?
ALEX: Well, aside from our new album Penumbra arriving on September 7, 2020, we are happy to say that we will be releasing a lyric video for every single song on the album over the coming months, along with some playthrough videos of the songs. It’s the best we could do right now with shows not being an option yet. We also have plans to release more new music either at the end of this year, or early next year. More details to come in the next few months! Stay up to date with us at www.tensionrisingband.com.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
ALEX: I think for Tension Rising, being able to tour with bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium or Godsmack would be great. Personally, I’d love to tour with Dream Theater, as they’re my musical heroes.
I’m not really sure who a good choice would be for opening for us, but a quick shoutout to Crazy Swedes. They’re an awesome fusion/rock instrumental band with absolutely phenomenal players. The lead guitar player of Crazy Swedes, Will Severin, is a monster guitar player, and he also happens to be the lead singer of the other band I’m in, Infinite Spectrum (progressive metal). Highly recommend!
Header image by Stan Ev.