Preston Frazier is joined by Mark Anthony K for a Something Else! Sitdown focusing on his new Projekt Gemineye project, an earlier stint in Exalted Piledriver and how a discarded guitar changed his musical life.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Tell us about your favorite tracks on the new Projekt Gemineye album, An Ordinary Day. I love the title track, “Funny F,” “The Journey.”
MARK ANTHONY K: Wow! You picked the songs that I would have selected. Like most songwriters, I find this question difficult to answer. The songs are like children. I love them all and want them to all do good. But the ones that came out beyond what I had hoped were “Ordinary Day,” “Funny Feeling” and “The Journey.” “An Ordinary Day” was, in fact, the first song I wrote for the album. It represents to me what I love about progressive music: long beginnings with lots of lead guitar playing, melodic verses and chorus, Mini Moog-style keyboard lines and three-part vocal harmonies. The other thing I like about this song is that it doesn’t follow a normal structure. You have an intro, verse, keyboard break, verse, another break, then an outer section which is sort of the chorus. So, the chorus only appears once, and there is no guitar solo section, which is very odd for progressive music. But that’s what I like. The other songs have their own differences, too. That’s what I love. No two songs sound the same. That, to me, is what progressive music is about – change, never staying in the same place musically.
PRESTON FRAZIER: You have been in the music business for a while. Tell us about your background.
MARK ANTHONY K: I’m from Brampton, Ontario, which is just outside of Toronto. I was born in a city called Mississauga, Ontario. My parents immigrated from Czechoslovakia in the late ’60s, so for the first couple of years there was a lot of moving around until roots were placed. My father always had a guitar, as far back as I can remember and on the weekends it was normal to hear him playing Elvis [Presley], Johnny Cash as well as Czechoslovakian songs. I used to love watching him play when I was young, and always hoped to be able to play as good. So, my father was my first inspiration into guitar playing. As for my mom and older sister, they loved music and always listened to albums but they never played. Well, my sister got a guitar when she was around 14, took two lessons and gave up. I found that guitar many years later, and my journey into music began.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Were you professionally trained?
MARK ANTHONY K: I found my sister’s old guitar in the basement, hidden under the staircase – along with an old 15-watt tube amp. I was in love with it the moment I saw it. It was the best-looking Gibson Les Paul copy I’ve ever seen. I started teaching myself, as my sister left her lesson books in the guitar case. It was tough at the beginning, because you want to be able to play songs right away and they have you learning string by string. But it was worth the effort. I later took lessons for a year with a guitar teacher, and learned a lot. By that point I was decent, but my whole world changed when I discovered the Paul Gilbert instructional guitar video Intense Rock Vol 1. I locked myself in my room for six hours a day for eight months. By the time the eight months passed, my guitar playing had taken a quantum leap.
PRESTON FRAZIER: What are your biggest musical influences?
MARK ANTHONY K: When I was young, the first band that influenced me was Rush. They still remain to this day my favorite band, period. Then I stumbled upon Black Sabbath – the Master of Reality album, to be exact – and loved how heavy it was. In two months, I had learned the first three Sabbath albums, note for note. Later, as my playing got better, my influences grew. There are way too many to list, but right now my biggest are Rush, Yes, King Crimson, Pantera, Dream Theater and Kiss.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Tell us about your prior bands.
MARK ANTHONY K: The first band I ever made was with some high school friends, who are still my good friends. That band played mainly Rush covers – and not too well – but right away, we focused on writing our own music. That band was called Nasty Black, a totally ’80s hair metal band. After that, I formed a band called Reckon With One. That band started as an old-school metal/thrash metal band, but morphed into a progressive metal band. We made three albums, one live EP and one studio EP. We toured Canada three times, and played lots of great shows with great bands. That lead to me and the drummer of that band joining the legendary thrash band Exalted Piledriver in 2007. That was amazing. I wrote some music for the comeback album. The last album the band made was 20 years before. We toured Canada, the USA and Europe. Incredible. Then I left for reasons that would require too long to explain, but it was a good reason. That lead to me to attempt a reformation of Reckon With One, but I ditched that after I broke my leg. After i got out of hospital, I formed Projekt Gemineye.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Why did you decide to strike out on your own?
MARK ANTHONY K: To be honest, at this point I know exactly the kind of music I want to write and perform – and while I have no problem working with others, I have since the very beginning really wanted to be in total control of this from start to finish.
PRESTON FRAZIER: How does this new record differ from your previous musical endeavors?
MARK ANTHONY K: I see this as a continuation of my writing, in general. This is where I feel I was heading to all along. I recorded every single instrument myself. The drums were programmed my me. It took a long while, as I wanted to make sure that it would be almost next to impossible to tell. That’s why I don’t like talking about the drumming of this record: How it was done is not important; how it sounds does. As for the singing, I’ve always sang in every band I’ve been in but this is my first band where I’ve done the lead vocals. It just takes a little getting used to. I feel I have an interesting voice, one that I know some will love and some won’t – but every band I love has had that situation from Jon Anderson to Geddy Lee to James LaBrie.
The recording of the album took a little over a year. There is a concept, but this is where it gets tricky. I recorded 12 songsm but felt that it was much too long – almost 80 minutes. So, I decided to divide the songs into two albums – An Ordinary Day and the follow up A Brand New Day, which will come out in the fall. Together, these two albums tell a story. But it’s much too long to discuss in an interview, but I promise to go over the story in one of my YouTube channel updates.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Is this your first self-recorded and -produced project?
MARK ANTHONY K: This is not my first self-produced album, but it is my first self-recorded album. I’ve produced records for other bands as well as past Reckon With One albums. The main tools – oh boy, this might take a while. I did post some pictures on the Projekt Gemineye Facebook page of the guitars, bass and keyboard I used for this album. I recorded on ProTools 11, and used some fantastic tube compressors during the recording of the guitars, bass and vocals. I like to do all my compressing and eq’ing in the mix stage. For the drums, I used Toontrack Superior Drummer, a brilliant program that lets you get right down to the most smallest detail.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Are you planning on touring in North America? Would you create a working band at that point?
MARK ANTHONY K: This is a question I get asked a lot. Touring or playing live shows in general is something that I would love to do, but it is dependent on a few things. No. 1, how well the album does. At this point in my career, I think I would like to avoid playing the toilet bars of North America. Now, I’m not saying that they all are. In fact, there are loads of places I love and would like to return to or play for the first time like The Roxy in L.A., or any of the many fantastic B.B. King bars in America – like in New York City. So, yes, I’m open to it. I would also love to get on some festivals in Europe. I feel my music would go over well in Europe and Japan. In fact, I know it would do well. For that, I’ll need some good distribution, but lots of things are in the works for that. So, it’s just luck and time. As for band members, I don’t have anyone right now but having played for a while, I know lots of people and already have a few people in mind – should the situation arise.
PRESTON FRAZIER: What else is in store?
MARK ANTHONY K: The Digipak CD version of An Ordinary Day is available now. I’m looking to have vinyl pressed by summertime, and a very limited run of cassettes made before the vinyl. Plus, I have a few goodies being worked on, like a limited-edition poster done by the artist who painted the album covers for my albums, a gentleman by the name of James McCarthy. He is my Roger Dean. [Laughs.] So, I will be including those in some of the vinyl, and I might make them available separately. I’ve always believed that people who support you deserve to be shown respect and thanks, and these extras are my way of showing they will get more.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Finally, can you tell us your Top 5 favorite albums?
MARK ANTHONY K: Rush, Fly By Night; Yes, Relayer; King Crimson, Larks Tongues in Aspic; Kiss, Rock and Roll Over; and Rick Wakeman, The Six Wives of King Henry VIII.
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