(Photo credits: Rémi Gallego by Edgar Barseghyan, Mike Malyan from his Facebook page)
Armenian metal scene has developed in recent years much thanks to a small but quite efficient promotional company called Zhesht Events. Founded in 2008 by a young enthusiast Arsen Hakobyan, Zhesht Events had organized a variety of annual metal festivals and standalone gigs in Caucasus, bringing Armenian, Georgian and Persian bands onto one stage to please the eyes and ears of metal community in the region. Thanks to Zhesht Events, we’ve lived to see Italian Sadist and Danish Saturnus play in Yerevan, something that wasn’t even remotely a possibility less than a decade ago. Arsen and his team are doing their best to bring over well-known international bands, as well as aspiring experimental projects for shows in Caucasus, and their latest bet was on a French experimental mathcore/progressive/djent artist The Algorithm, that consists of project mastermind Rémi Gallego who’s joined by a British drummer Mike Malyan for live gigs. Malyan is known for his other band, a progressive metal project based in the United Kingdom called Monuments.
The Algorithm’s music is best described on project’s official Facebook page: “Imagine a mash up electronica driven breakdowns, djenty guitars, gut wrenching sub wobs and glitchy melodies all working together to fluidly pummel your head into the future.” The debut LP called Polymorphic Code was released in November of 2012 via Basick Records and features a mathematically thought-through and subtle fusion of different genres mixed in one, with songs that would get your attention for at least enough time to stop and wonder how a single man can bring this all together into a unique and perfectly complete piece of music. And yet no description (or even a thorough listening session of the album and all previous recordings by The Algorithm) could ever prepare the audience for what was awaiting them one windy evening at Yerevan’s Music Factory.
April 13 was the D-day, and nearly a hundred of curious music aficionados had gathered in a small yet cozy club to spend their Saturday night with loud music and get their dose of both heavy sound of metal and dance-y rhythms of electronica. Armenian Infected Cinema had opened the evening with progressive metal songs resembling Opeth and Ihsahn every now and then, with heavily progressing guitar riffs and loud drums following melodic and nearly melancholic pieces of calmness that would soon be fused into the main heavy theme again, joined by impressively rich growling vocals. Coincidentally, the last track by Infected Cinema was a collaboration with another DJ artist called Algorhythm – this one from Armenia, though. Thus the bridge between two seemingly incompatible genres was established, and the audience was more than ready to embrace the music of French The Algorithm this time. After a short break, Rémi and Mike stepped onto the stage and instantly exploded the place with rich sound and rhythms of their perfectly unique combination of multitrack progressions, versatile sound effects and next-to-impossible live drumming. Their set was quite short, which, as guys later explained, is due to the fact that learning to play such subtle music is quite hard as it is, and they only got to prepare so many songs together for a live set yet, considering they live in different countries and don’t really rehearse in a classical sense of the word.
We got a chance to sit down and have a talk with Rémi and Mike right after their gig, and as much as we’d love to keep those amusingly humble and genuinely amazing musicians all to ourselves for a couple of days to fully understand the technicality behind The Algorithm, we had only about half an hour to torture them with questions and collect as much information about the project as possible, since they needed to rest before hitting the road again to play in Tbilisi, Georgia, the next day.
Rekwired: How did you like playing in Armenia? How was the audience?
Rémi: It was crazy, it was unexpected to play in Armenia at first. When we learnt about it, we couldn’t believe it.
Mike: And everyone was so awesome tonight, everyone was beautiful, everyone was really getting involved. To be this far away from home and have that kind of reaction!
Rekwired: What made you decide to come to Armenia? It’s really far away, it’s probably not what you expected.
Mike: It wasn’t really us who instigated. It was Arsen (Arsen Hakobyan, founder of Zhesht Events) and our working agent. He said, “We want to bring you over.” So our working agent did all the details, and then said: “So yeah, do you want to play in Armenia?” And we were like, “Yeah!” He was like, “Ok, cool! Here’s your flight, here’s the time you’ll get there.” It was like a few months ago. It was really unexpected and we didn’t know what would happen.
Rémi: We didn’t know what to expect. But in the end it was really good. It was really fun.
Rekwired: How did you like the opening band, Infected Cinema?
Rémi: That was really cool.
Mike: It was amazing. I’m going to be checking out anything like that. I loved the guy from the other Algorhythm band, we enjoyed it at the end. But they were really great musicians, every single one of them․ And how excited they play together, especially seeing that the drummer had no metronome for a lot of it and they were just really together. They obviously rehearsed a lot. And yeah, I was really impressed, it was awesome.
Rekwired: Your recording is quite different from what you play live. Did you adapt the music somehow to make live experience better?
Rémi: Yes, the idea is not to play the same thing live as it is recorded. That’s why I’m playing with a drummer and that’s why I’m trying to put as many effects on the songs as possible.
Mike: The recordings don’t feature me at all. I just play live. Everything on the album, everything on recordings, it’s all Rémi. And I just sort of work it out, and when he needs it, I play, and that’s it. Everything on recording is just his concept which is, it’s insane, so…
Rémi: It’s incredible how he can learn the songs because it’s really technical, it’s really complex, and I just can’t believe how good he is, because it’s really hard to play.
Rekwired: By the way, Mike, how did the idea come to cover a song by The Algorithm?
Mike: I played a festival in Germany called Euroblast with my other band Monuments. And the organizer had me and Monuments stay over. And he said, “Listen to this!” And I was like WOW, it’s amazing! And then he kept coming back and saying like, “You should learn this, you should learn this!” So I learnt it, put the cover up on YouTube, and then everyone started coming to me and saying, “Rémi wants you to play with him live,” and I haven’t met him, and then he came over and was like: “Hey, you want a gig?” I was like, “Yeah! Let’s do this and see what happens.” And it’s just been beautiful since.
Rémi: And I was all French, I couldn’t speak English!
Mike: Yeah, his English was so bad!
Rémi: I was like “Hello!.. uhm.. Hello?”
Mike: I remember the first time we met, we just couldn’t have a conversation. I ended up just pretty much poking at him. I was like, “Hey, how are you doing?” and he was like “What?”
Rekwired: From what we’ve read, you were preparing to play guitar live, too. How did that work out?
Rémi: Next week, we play two gigs in England with a guitarist, a French guitarist (Max Michel). I always had the idea of adding guitar, but I couldn’t really do it myself, ‘cause I’m a bit bad guitarist.
Mike: He’s not. He’s awesome, but he’s very humble.
Rémi: But Max is great.
Mike: Max is amazing. We’ll be videoing the shows in England, and if you check out a cover video of Tr0jans by Max Michel.. He’s done, like I did, a YouTube cover video, and it was just incredible. He learned all those crazy parts in the first song we played tonight, Tr0jans. The first in set that I joined in with. And you see it and you’re like, “I want to see that live”. And I want to see that live, Rémi wants to see it live, so we’re going to bring him over and see what happens.
Rémi: It’s funny, because it’s the same thing that happened with Mike. Mike did a cover video on Youtube, and he joined the band. Now Max Michel does a cover video, as well, and he joins the band.
Mike: A friend of mine, he’s done some lyrics, he does vocals, and then he’s going to send that through and once we see – hey, does that sound good! – his key kind of tends to be around in the theme anyway, so he may as well jump up and join in for like the one song he’s written for.
Rémi: It’s all about having different setups: I DJ alone, or I DJ with a drummer, or I DJ with a drummer and a guitarist. It’s all about this, it’s very flexible.
Mike: Rémi is like.. he’s behind it all. He’s the master of The Algorithm pretty much, and as far as it goes, it’s all him, but anyone can really jump in, and if it works, it can progress and it can be anything. I really want to see a saxophone player jump in one day [laughs]. The bass player from Monuments, he’s learning some stuff. He doesn’t know whether he might do a gig or not, he just wants the challenge like I did, when I first learned it. Learning to see what happens. And maybe he’ll come join us. Maybe, down the road, who knows. And I remember, it took me like two months to learn one song at first, because I had to break everything down, write each section and get on it so meticulously. And I felt that really helped me as a drummer, it was like that push to really find something that was completely different and that was completely impossible at the moment. I couldn’t play it when I started learning it, and then it improved.
Rekwired: Rémi, what equipment are you using?
Rémi: Anything. Laptop, obviously. APC40 by Akai with the software added live. I’m manipulating effects live, with audio files added live. It’s all about manipulating the song, adding effects as much as I can.
Rekwired: And during the recording process?
Rémi: When I write songs I just use my laptop and a mouse and a guitar, sometimes.
Rekwired: So whatever samples you use you record them yourself.
Rémi: Guitar samples, yes. Sometimes I grab some free samples.
Mike: There are quite a few video game references. Especially in the set. There’s like Metal Gear Solid, Mortal Kombat.
Rekwired: Did we hear a Daft Punk sample somewhere in there as well?
Mike: Daft Punk, yeah that’s a full, uhm, a cover of the song, a remix. I wish that was easier to get hold of online because I still can’t find it anywhere.
Rekwired: How would you describe the music of The Algorithm?
Mike: Pain. [laughs]
Rémi: For Mike it’s pain [laughs]. I need to say it’s obviously metal with electronic sounds. I don’t really know exactly.
Mike: It is a bit genre-bending. It’s like.. it’s not one thing. It’s like – some bits do sound like they’re kind of, as I was saying earlier, the Metal Gear Solid, djent stuff, some sections are quite trance-y and then it goes smashing rhythm. There’s a bit of reggae and there’s a bit of drum-n-bass and stuff. It tends to be mostly metal and then loads of electronic stuff.
Rekwired: How about influences and inspirations?
Rémi: I don’t really have things that are a particular influence that made me write this kind of music. But generally, progressive metal and French electronic music – like Justice, Daft Punk, Kavinsky, that kind of stuff. I don’t really have a specific influence, I just like to listen to every kind of music and try to do it myself, my way.
Rekwired: Any new bands and new discoveries that you would recommend to listen to?
Rémi: The band No Consequence just released an album. It’s a progressive metal band.
Mike: Yeah, I know them, they live quite close to me in England. They are really impressive, they’re an incredible band, they smash really, really heavily. Their technical is superb․ Yeah, No Consequence. There are so many. Uneven Structure, Tesseract, and the list goes on and on and on. Just basically tune in to find Basick Records online and you’ve got all the awesome. There’s this wonderful scene in the UK at the moment, it’s just so positive, everyone really wants to help each other out, and no one’s in this competition anymore. And London was terrible for metal core, death core, it was really bad, but now in this kind of progressive waves everyone is just excited to be doing it, so there’s a lot of love.
Rémi: There’s a French artist called Igorrr. He does kind of the same thing I do, he mixes different genres, it’s mostly breakcore mixed with baroque music, classical music..
Mike: Yeah, like violins, and then crazy voices and stuff. It’s one of the most insane things I’ve ever heard. And unlike The Algorithm it’s actually impossible to even slightly play the drums. I tried learning a track and I got like 20 seconds and I gave up, couldn’t do it.
Rekwired: So how did it happen that you, being a French musician, signed to an English record label?
Rémi: Euroblast again.
Mike: ‘Cause Nathan (Nathan Barley Phillips, Basick Records co-founder) was there at the scene. My band Monuments was kind of working with Nathan so he was really involved a lot. We haven’t got anything internationally. So we were a UK band going over to Germany, and then John (John Giulio Sprich), who runs Euroblast… He was the guy that introduced me to it. John was really close with Nathan, and then Nathan came down because quite a few of his bands would play – Aliases and other bands. Everyone knowing each other and everyone looking for opportunities. And Nathan really wanted to help Rémi out. And he’s done a lot of good stuff for him, given him a platform to actually go from, and the album to go. He knew how to actually release something and how to put out a record and do some press for it. It’s so hard for an artist to manage that stuff.
Rémi: Especially when you’re alone. And I’m alone, I’m not a band. I do have Mike, but it’s not the same.
Mike: [To Rémi] I can only do what I can do but at the end of the day it’s your project. Where you want to take it, it’s so hard knowing exactly what you’re doing at the time. And all you want to do is think about music but all you’re thinking about is – oh well, I wasn’t in the magazine in Prague but I want to put a record out there so I have to go and talk to this guy. You know, it’s so much stuff to do for every country, if you want to make a big impact. Thanks to him, and thanks to things that Allen Wright with the Euroblast, the booking agency do, and Alli Hodge, Nathan and John and everyone, this wouldn’t have happened, we’d never be able to come here without these people’s help.
Rekwired: How do you do rehearsals then, being in different countries?
Mike: We don’t really. At the beginning we met up for rehearsals but we didn’t rehearse, we just played randomly. And then we met up for rehearsals again and we played lots of Black Ops Zombies. [Refers to Rémi] You make it all quite on your own and I learn it all on my own. ‘Cause there’s no way you can jam it or learn it in the session. You have to have everything ready to go, and I had to make all my click tracks out, make all the stuff that I listen to when I play. Then when Remi would show up I’d go, “Ok, here’s my files, load it and sync it up, let’s play this track?” “Yeah, that works, let’s go to gig!” You know, ‘cause all the work has been done by the time we meet up.
Rémi: With the power of the internet we can rehearse like that, with file sharing and all.
Rekwired: Before signing with Basick Records you had an EP and demo recordings that you were giving away for free. Why did you, and what do you think of piracy in general?
Rémi: I kind of like it because without that I wouldn’t be here. Without giving my albums for free, without people downloading my albums I wouldn’t be recognized, people wouldn’t know me.
Mike: [Refers to Rémi] If John didn’t download your music I wouldn’t be here. That’s what it sort of comes down to. Someone else might have found it, I don’t know, but I definitely wouldn’t be sitting at this table with you right now if it weren’t for file sharing.
Rémi: That’s what we recommend to new artists: just start with free albums and if it works, if people like it, they will buy it.
Mike: But even so, you get here and most of the people maybe haven’t ever bought the record, they might have downloaded it.
Rémi: I don’t really care. Basically, I think it helps.
Rémi: And if you don’t, yeah, we don’t mind.
Mike: We can’t be hypocrites, we all do it.
Rekwired: Mike, how about your Armenian heritage?
Mike: There’s something there. I hear that Malyan is a common Armenian surname and I’ve never heard it in England. It’s my dad’s surname. He doesn’t think that there’s any Armenian heritage. When I talked to Arsen, he said, “Just try an Armenian kebab. If it touches you then you know you’re Armenian.” And I ate it and it was incredible! I have a feeling it’s either Iranian or Armenian. It’s from somewhere in the area. My dad said our family comes from a very long time ago, maybe more than 3-4 generations ago they’ve moved [to the UK]. Maybe previously, about half a millenia ago my family – his family – may have lived here, and that’s when the family name may have come from. But it’s just too far away from me, I can’t trace it.
Rekwired: What about future plans? What are the plans for the next record, maybe, touring?
Rémi: I started writing some ideas. I don’t really have a plan right now. I just mess around with newer stuff, new recordings. Apart from the guitarist thing, expanding the live experience and so, we don’t have a plan.
Mike: We see what happens.
Rémi: We like to do this stuff naturally.
Mike: There’s no plan. We don’t know what’s gonna happen.
Rémi: I think that’s for the best. You don’t know what to expect, what the future will look like. You have to adapt.
The Algorithm online