Interview with Alex Mental (@ Zillo Magazine)
Hi! Many Greetings from Germany to Russia! Could you please give us a short presentation of you? Band history, members, musical conception?
My name is Alex Mental and I represent Russian futurepop band Mental Discipline. It was started about five years ago in 2008 to express my fascination with synthpop and futurepop music. For all this time I’ve been the sole member of the band, responsible for all the duties. My first official release was the single “Fallen Stars” in 2011 featuring Felix Marc and Peter Rainman (People Theatre) as guest vocalists. My debut album “Constellation” came out in the end of 2012. My latest work, a follow up EP to the album titled “Fall 2 Pieces”, was released a few months ago.
“Constellation”: That`s the name of your new album: Would you like to tell us something about the production process? Something special you would like to share with us?
“Constellation” is the logical continuation of the idea presented on my debut single “Fallen Stars”, we just took it a step further and invited guest vocalists for each track on the album. This is why the album got this name – it’s like every single singer is a star and together we form a real futurepop constellation. The production process took a little bit longer than expected, but I’m satisfied with the final result. It should be mentioned that this album would not be possible without the back up and hard work of several other people including my manager Stanislav Burmistrov, my sound producer Alexander Rush (Alpha Point) and Andy Skyqode, my label’s head.
What are the main differences to the releases before?
There’s no real difference except that it’s more professional and more mature compared to my first demo records self-released between 2008 and 2010.
I would characterise Mental Discipline as pure Future Pop with a slight preference to Trance. Would you agree?
Yes, I would agree, because it’s basically what it is. I don’t often listen to trance, but I do use various trance elements in my music. One of the reviewers even said that some of the tracks remind him of DJ Tiesto, which I take as a compliment 🙂
If you had to describe your sound to someone? What words or band comparisons would you choose?
Well, it’s always hard to describe your own music 🙂 You actually nailed it quite nicely in your previous question – futurepop meets trance. As for band comparisons, some people compare my music to Frozen Plasma and Code 64, others find parallels with Assemblage 23 and even VNV Nation. It’s flattering, ‘cos I like these bands, but at the same time I believe that everyone can tell my sound from the sound of other futurepop bands.
Is Mental Discipline just music for clubs?
I wouldn’t say so. I know that DJ’s like to spin my songs in clubs, but it’s not like I intentionally make myself write club-oriented tracks. When making new music I simply try to express myself, to realize my inspiration in the first place. Whether or not the final outcome would be suitable for clubs is secondary to me here.
You work mainly with guest vocalists…For example Felix Marc, Alex Brown or Salva Maine, to name a few. Why don`t you sing yourself? How came these cooperations came up? Did you enjoy the work with them? Which singers did the best job in your eyes?
Actually, I was going to sing on the album myself. The idea to turn it into an international collaboration was brought up by my label after the overwhelming success of my single “Fallen Stars”. Since I liked albums done in a similar fashion by Legacy Of Music and Virtual Server, I said “Yes, let’s do it!” Most of the tracks had been already done by that time, so we just made a list of vocalists and tried to imagine which songs could fit them. Most of those who we contacted about collaborating responded quite positively. Unfortunately, not all of them had enough time to work with us. For example, Tom Shear of Assemblage 23 was busy finishing his album at that time. Anyway, I really enjoyed working with every vocalist on the album. I think it would be unfair to highlight someone in particular, because I’m really grateful to each of them for participating and making this album a success.
What is the lyrical conception of this album? What are the songs dealing about? Please give one or two examples! Thank you?
Most of the lyrical ideas on the album as well as the music were written in the period of 2009-2011. Later everything was brushed and reworked to some extent by Andy, my label’s head. Finally, some of the guests put a few touches to the lyrics as well. The lyrics are mainly a reflection of my personal experiences at that time. For example, tracks like Fall To Pieces and Different Lines are inspired by my relationships gone bad, Over Horizon is about overcoming life’s hardships, and so on.
Is the Russian scene very vivid these days? Are there other interesting bands, newcomers, talents – besides you of course – you would like to share with us?
Well, today the situation is in general much better than at the time when I started. There are regular parties and concerts, the problem is that most of them are concentrated in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, while in other parts of the country, like, for example, in my native city, such activities remain to be rather infrequent. As for other interesting bands from Russia, I would highly recommend checking out my good friends and futurepop “rivals” Unity One. For those who are into more classic synthpop sound, bands like Mechanical Apfelsine and Purple Fog Side could be a nice discovery. If we take into account the ex-soviet territories, then I would name Alpha Point (Moldavia), Ginger Snap5 (Ukraine) and Cold In May (Belarus) – these bands are really great!
Is Mental Discipline a live band? If yes, how do you manage this concerning the vocals?
Yes, I absolutely love playing live. There’s no real problem with the vocals – I’m not a Dave Gahan or a Ronan Harris, of course, but people like it when I perform. Actually, after the release of “Constellation” I got a lot of comments from fans saying that they would love to hear a version of the album with my voice 🙂 This is what I did for my latest EP, “Fall 2 Pieces”, where I sing on the title track myself (on the album it was performed by Felix Marc). Of course, it would be really cool to make a concert with every singer from the album on stage, but it seems more like a pipe dream at the moment. The closest I got was my performance at the Moscow Synthetic Snow festival in December 2012, when Felix Marc and Alexander Rush performed their tracks from the album.
What are musical roots? Which bands do you prefer these days?
My musical roots are quite diverse. I went to a musical school, so I was exposed to a lot of classical music in my childhood. Then there was a period when I was only into metal bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Therion, to name a few. Around the mid-00’s I fell in love with synthpop and futurepop music from bands like Apoptygma Berzerk, Neuroticfish, TOY, Endanger and many others. It was then that I felt I want to make music like this.
What links you to Germany?
I’ve never been to Germany so far, but sure there are things that link me to your country. First of all it’s the music, ‘cos many of my favourite bands are from Germany and what is more important a lot of fans of my project are Germans. Besides, it’s not a secret that I’m a big football fan and I like the Bundesliga a lot 🙂 So, I’m really looking forward to visiting the country in September to perform at the Synthember Festival in Berlin.
What is your opinion concerning the state of the Future Pop scene in general? Stagnation or progress?
If I were asked this question a few years ago, my only answer would be stagnation. But 2013 seems to be a surprisingly prolific year for the genre. Just take a look at the release schedule – lots of bands that are more or less related to futurepop have either released or are going to release albums this year: VNV Nation, Solitary Experiments, Frozen Plasma, Pride And Fall, Syrian, Spektralized, State Of The Union, just to name a few. Not to mention the comeback of Neuroticfish, this one I’m particularly waiting for. And there are also various newcomers playing futurepop as well. Maybe it’s not a progress, but all this activity seems to be a very good sign.
What`s next? Your aims for future?
Right now I’m working on another EP to be released in December and a new album which is due in 2014. Technically it’s not “new”, because it will consist mainly of the tracks from my first demo. Many of my fans love these tracks, so we decided to rework them to match my current professional level. The preliminary title is “Past Forward”. But I promise there will be a couple of absolutely new tracks as well. This time most of the tracks will be with my vocals 🙂 And of course I would really like to play more live shows in Germany, maybe even on one of the big festivals like WGT or Amphi 🙂
Thanks a lot! All the best and until soon!
Thank you for the interview!