Interview: Jake Bowen of Periphery

Before the final date of their Hail Stan European tour, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Jake Bowen from Periphery and have a chat about their latest release. Having already completed 10 dates, the American progressive metal outfit were reaching the end of the European leg of their release tour and right before doors, at Kentish Town Forum in London, I had a catch up with one of the band’s guitarists.

Hey Jake, thank you for joining me today, how’s the road treating you?

As good as the road can treat you! The shows have been great and have been all well attended, and we have a regular bus driver out here so things are as smooth as they can be. Everyone has been playing really well so I can’t complain!

We know Mark had to leave the tour part way through due to personal reasons. I wanted to start by asking, how is it playing as a four piece?

It’s super weird. We’re going up there doing our best, but we very much do miss him up there.

I can imagine! For so much of the band’s history you’ve played as a six piece, with Nolly’s departure a five, and now four…

And then there were four! We can cover stuff with tracks, so nothing is missing musically. But we do have some guests at tonight’s show, so we won’t be as lonely! We’ve got the Plini guys exchanging licks over Mark’s solo in Reptile and we even have Mikee Goodman from SikTh doing his spoken word part of that song too. That’s going to be super special!

(C) Dhylon Shah 2019

London has always played been a big part of Periphery’s overseas ventures with numerous sell out shows. How are you finding it being back this side of the Atlantic?

Yeah it has! It’s such a shame though, I always feel like I don’t have enough time to spend in London. I feel like I’m always just at the venue and then at the airport. The thing about London it was the first show to sell out and every time we are here the energy is so great! People tend to say that the sound is good here at the Forum, so I’m really looking forward to tonight’s show.

Over the years, you’ve played some incredible venues in London including Wembley Arena with Dream Theater and headline shows at the Koko and O2 Islington and so on. I can imagine you’d want to spend more time here!

To go back to that Wembley show, that was such a weird tour for us! For any prog band, touring with Dream Theater is a bucket list thing to do. We were so grateful to be given that opportunity, but we weren’t prepared for it. We knew the songs inside out, but equipment wise and stage presence wise we just didn’t know what to do! We often had laptop issues, where we’d have to stop the show halfway through and figure it out in front of a crowd of thousands of people who already didn’t give a damn about us being there! It was a massive learning experience for us. Every tour is, but at that time we knew that we had to really get our shit together if we wanted to grow as a band!

Other than that, London is generally the show we look forward to the most because you guys have the most enthusiastic crowds and we feel super comfortable here!

Really interesting to hear! That show was in fact my first Periphery show, crazy to see how things have changed since then. How have the rest of the tour dates been?

They’ve been great. Interestingly enough, Germany had been a hard place to crack for us. But upon returning, the shows were well attended, and the energy levels were up! So, it’s been a turning point for us there. Amsterdam was sold out which was fantastic! We’ve decided to scale down the scope of our European tours, normally we’d be here for weeks and we’d hit all these markets but shows would just not be well attended or the energy which we rely on from crowds just wouldn’t be there. Concentrating on bigger shows in a fewer number of areas has been the right call for us at the moment.

That’s great to hear! Moving away from touring, you guys released Hail Stan this year – how would you say the reception has been?

Generally positive! I’m really proud of the record, and even if the reception hadn’t been positive I’d still be proud. We’ve figured out how to work together in a way that it comes out effortlessly. It hasn’t always been like that and it’s taken a lot of effort to get to this point. But now that we have that dialled down it’s just so much fun to plan, then write, then record and deliver an album. All the moving parts work so seamlessly plus we’re really good at communicating – so everything is so much easier now!

When listening to this record, certain aspects reminded me of the self-titled record released back in 2011. The electronic parts on “CHVRCH BURNER” and “Crush” especially reminded me of some of the programming work you’d personally done on P1. Was that a conscious decision?

It kinda just happened! The idea on the earlier records was “oh Jake’s been writing some electronic music, let’s figure out a way to work that into the record”. The electronics on Hail Stan, serve a different purpose on the record compared to on P1 and P2 – where there was even just a dedicated electronic track that I wrote. During P1, it’d often be the case that we’d end a song in one key and start the next track in another, and I just had to fill in the gaps. But I’m much happier about the contribution my electronic writing makes in Hail Stan. It serves a creative purpose and my outlets outside of the band explore that more deeply.

Interesting to hear! I’ve got to ask, “Reptile” – 16 minutes long, how on earth did that come about? How do you bring riffs together for a song of that length?

A lot of that was born out of Mark playing in a tuning that we haven’t really used before. We were all riffing in that tuning and after we’d written our own riffs, we still felt there was more to come from this track. We were enjoying the flow and it just kinda happened! We wrote the song over the course of two days and sometimes all the dots just connect so easily. This vividly reminded me of how Misha and I wrote “Racecar” back on P1. I remember that experience being the exact same as this one, but with just Mark added. For some reason we felt the song wasn’t done, so we kept piling on riffs and experimenting with arrangements until we felt it was complete.

How much involvement did Nolly have on bass? We saw him recording the tracks but was he writing too?

About 90% of the bass parts were written by Misha. He has a very good sense of counterpoint and can approach bass lines like a bass player would. I definitely played some scratch bass on my parts, but Misha definitely tightened things up, the same with Mark too. Nolly did change bits when it came to recording, but that was just more to make things fit right from a bassist’s perspective. Nolly wasn’t involved with the demoing process so most of the bass parts came from Misha.

The record certainly gives off a dark satanic vibe, as well as mockery too! The album title, track names, lyrics all give off Viking/Black Metal vibes. Was that all intentional?

Everything was unintentional as far as that goes. Once we knew what the songs were gonna be in demo form, we all felt this darker vibe of the tracks. Only Spencer contributes lyrically, so when he was writing it just hit him that way. It furthered that darker element to the record with tracks like “Blood Eagle” and “CHRVCH BURNER”.

As far as visuals go, I designed the album artwork. I knew that I wanted to do something monochromatic and I wanted to incorporate a triangle, as it’s quite a cultish defined shape! I put the classic three dots in there, but at that point we were struggling to come up with album title names. Finally, Misha just went ‘what if we called it Hail Stan and pretended it was a typo or something’. We all liked that idea as it follows our sense of humour and then I felt there had to be a Baphomet in there! People will see the triangle, see the demon, suggesting that’s what it is and read it as Satan…

(C) @mahkooz 2019

Funny to hear! I’m no stranger to the foolery you guys put out both on stage and online, the memes in Facebook groups and the trolling of fans! But it certainly does define how you’ve been throughout the years – I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Thanks, Dhylon! I mean if you look at our precious album artworks, they have been quite serious but on the lighter side of things. Juggernaut did have very vivid artwork, but this was something else. The imagery we wanted to create was a lot clearer so that the joke would come through better!

One thing that most vigilant fans would notice is that the P was missing from your artwork!

It’s really funny you mention that. The guys in the band were like ‘where’s the P? We’ve gotta have the P on there, it’s our logo!’ when I first showed it to them. Who cares! The P has been on all our previous albums, but so has the 3 dots. When people see the 3 dots they know it’s a Periphery thing. They kept asking me to work in P into the album artwork, but I was adamant it was not happening. It would have ruined the whole theme I was going for; you can’t have this demonic imagery and then have a P stamped on it! They eventually agreed…

Last question from me, what’s next?

I think simply put; we’d like to tour more. But in terms of releasing music I’d like to release singles. Every couple of months drop a new track. Bring Me the Horizon did it and it worked quite well for them. There’s so many demos and things I wish people could here, but when it gets around to album recording, not everything will make the cut. I’m not sure if this will work well, or whether this if the way forward but it would be interesting to try out.

Thank you very much for your time Jake, I hope the show goes well and I eagerly look forward to hearing the new tracks live! 

Not at all, Dhylon, the pleasure was mine.

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