I am really happy to do my second phone interview and it couldn’t have been with a more chill person. I had a chat with vocalist Mitch Brackman from Dyssidia who have just released their debut LP on the 17th of March after a decade of EPs and playing live with bands like Opeth and Katatonia. Their new album Costly Signals is an impressive work, I reviewed it recently here and I can’t get enough of it. It’s an essential listen. We talked about a good range of things like the writing process, interpreting art, touring in Australia and of course Covid-19 and the effects that’s been having on the creative process. He is also doing remote vocal coaching during the lockdowns.
Carcassbomb: When and how did Dyssidia form?
Mitch: Dyssidia formed officially in 2010 with a few members that are no longer a part of the band. I think in 2012 or 2013 Neil joined the band and then I joined shortly after him. We’ve had I think one lineup change or two lineup changes since then but it’s more or less us four; Liam, Corey, Neil and myself who are the main driving force of the band. We met each other at uni because we were all studying our respective instruments at the Conservatorium here in Adelaide. So we met at uni and I guess our love for music brought us together and our love for metal brought us together. You know, in a classical university, so it was a bit weird but definitely cool.
I was actually going to ask whether or not you studied singing because there’s a good range of clean and unclean vocals on the album.
Oh cool man, yeah I did opera at university in the Conservatorium and Corey did classical guitar. Neil did jazz bass and Liam did percussion.
So there’s a lot of experience with the instruments behind the sound.
Yeah man, absolutely. I think we probably have almost like 45 years experience between the four of us.
There’s a lot of vocal activity on the album with the clean and unclean vocals often overlapping. Is there multiple vocal sources or this achieved in the mixing process?
Mostly it was a mixing thing. We try to keep ourselves as true to playing live as possible but sometimes a bit of overlapping just makes it a little tastier. I guess it’s just a matter of me knowing what I need to do in order to change from clean to harsh vocals in an instant and then vice versa.
Yeah it was kind of hard to tell if it was multiple vocalists or not because it was done so well.
Nope, it’s all me man! (laughs)
What are the biggest musical influences on Dyssidia?
Well, look, all of us have our own sort of musical influences and I think that’s what makes Dyssidia such an interesting sonic experience but personally for me I think Nevermore is a big one. We kind of attribute a lot of our sound I guess to old school Nevermore. We’re big fans of Opeth, we’re big fans of Dream Theater, Sixth, a lot of different bands. So I guess It’s an amalgamation of lots of different progressive bands from all over the world and with our little sort of spice thrown over the top.
There seems like there’s a bit of outsider music influence to it as well, perhaps from outside of metal. Do you mess around with post hardcore or math at all?
Well a few of the reviews we’ve been getting lately have actually been delving into that saying we’ve got a few mathcore sort of tracks on the album. We don’t think we made a huge effort to go outside of the box in order to choose weird things to put into our reflection of music. I think it just kind of happened over the course of the time we were writing it.
Yeah I know those tracks that people are talking about, I really like those ones. They’re a lot faster and more chaotic.
Great man. We weren’t sure if people would actually enjoy those sorts of songs because we do have quite a few kind of differences in this album than we have had in our past few releases.
What are some of those differences?
I mean, I think, well here’s the thing. I think when bands get older – and we’re getting older now man – I think when they get older they tend to ease up on the heavy vibe whereas realistically I think we’ve just gotten heavier and heavier as we’ve gotten older.
That’s awesome. The thing with progressive metal I find is sometimes being too light excludes you from the metal community sometimes in weird ways.
Absolutely man. It’s funny because we’re either the heaviest band on the bill if we’re playing with other progressive bands or we’re either the pussiest band on the bill if we’re playing with a lot of heavier bands so it’s hard for us to fit perfectly in a bill but oh well, we get there.
Speaking of playing shows and stuff, you’ve played with Opeth?
Yeah, we’ve played with a lot of fantastic international bands. We’ve had the pleasure of doing that. It’s a pretty surreal experience now even thinking back it seems like a dream. Hopefully it’s not the last time we play with Opeth.
So obviously shows at the moment with the Corona virus situation are bad, have you had any shows or many plans affected by that?
Well, we’re actually about to take this album around the country for a national tour and I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say what band we were gonna go around with yet because we might end up releasing the tour poster and say “this is what everyone is missing out on”. So yeah, we had a whole national tour ready to go but luckily we didn’t purchase flights before all of this crap went down. It sucks man, because we put so much work into music we want to share with others and we’ve gotten to the point in which we can enjoy showing it to other people but we can’t recieve any accolades. We can’t go away and drink and experience this sort of thing with our friends and fans in other states and around the world because we’re all stuck at home.
Yes, so you’re stuck to the online promotion without that engagement.
Yeah, we’ll see how that goes. At least we’ll put far more content online, you know, with not having flights and all that we’ll end up releasing a lot more content for this album.
Have you done much touring in the past with previous releases around Aus or elsewhere?
I think we’ve done five or six Aussie tours. We did Progfest a few years ago in 2018. We went around the country with Leprous which was awesome. We’ve been around the country with Caligula’s Horse, we’ve been around the country doing our own headlining tour. So we’ve been around a few times, each time we go around to each different state we tend to pick up a few more friends and fans, which is great.
You’re from Adelaide. Is that a very different scene from the rest of the country?
Where about’s are you then?
I’m in Brisbane.
Ah you’re in Brisbane. We’ve been to Brissie and we love it. All the bands up there and the venues are great. I think in a place like Adelaide because we are a smaller sort of city we tend to look out for each other a little bit more. I think the metal community here is really closely intertwined. We’re all friends, we help each other where help is needed and I think that can create a healthy sort of environment for new bands to want to come and play. It’s about being inviting and about being accepting and I think Adelaide does that quite nicely.
Who are some of your peers in the Adelaide community?
This is an easy one. Freedom Of Fear. That’s like Dyssidia‘s sort of sister band. There’s quite a few members in Freedom Of Fear who date the members in Dyssidia (laughs). It’s a bit of a trip out man but it’s great because we’re basically best friend bands so hopefully one day in the future we’ll get to go have a national tour with each other and just hang out as besties.
That’d be pretty friendly tour I imagine.
Absolutely man, so Freedom Of Fear from Adelaide and they’ve got their album Nocturnal Gates in which I believe they released mid 2019.
Costly Signals, first impression on it is the album art of course, from Adam Burke. This is an awesome piece. How did you end up coming into contact with Burke and what were the sort of ideas behind the cover?
So, funny you say, Freedom Of Fear found Adam Burke as an artist and used him for their album that came out last year. We just fell in love with his art style and we thought, you know what we might do that too. So we contacted Adam and we had a chat and we has some art organised for us. As far as what the kind of symbolism has to do with for the front cover. I guess realistically, I know that this sounds like a really crappy answer but go and listen to the album and read the words then you come up with your own understanding of what the front cover is.
That’s something I always enjoy doing. I’ll put my foot in it half the time and like give this huge in depth analysis of an album cover and then I find out there’s a whole explanation on the bands Facebook somewhere (laughs). It’s fun to try and find meaning in the images then relating them to audio, it’s whole nother level of the experience.
Totally man, and some of those visuals actually truly sometimes have nothing to do with the audio or vise versa.
The album has only just come out, there’s still been a fair few advance reviews. What’s the strangest thing that someone has said about the album?
I think in one review someone said that we were still beholden to our influences… which I guess in a way is very very true. Like we’ve discussed already we’ve got this sound and that sound working for us but, realistically I think… Yeah, we have influences within this album of course, most bands have their influences within their albums but we are trying to build our own sound. I think that we might still be a little fresh, I know eight, nine years is a long time for a band to be going for but really it’s not.
One thing that I did read from one of the reviews was… won’t be verbatim but something like “it’s an album that everyone will want to sing along to but no one will have the chops to do it” and I just thought, my job here is done I can fly away into the sun now and you know, be happy with what that said. I haven’t put a lot of effort into make it impossible to replicate but you know it’s something that I enjoy kind of trying to go for. I don’t want a lot of people to be able to sing it. It’s reserved for me (laughs)
Is there any custom or unique equipment used to get the sound?
Yes, well Liam is sponsored by Gerber sticks. Corey and Neil both have their signatures built by Jordan Reynolds at the Sound Garage in Adelaide here, so really fantastic models. Get online and jump on the Dyssidia Facebook and have a little bit of a look at those beasts because they’re delicious. Corey runs through a Kemper. Neil has Dark Glass built into his bass which is pretty awesome. We have our set up organised pretty well now. It’s taken us quite a long time to get to this point but we’re very very happy with how we create our sound with the instruments we have at the moment.
What are some of the highlights or crazy gig memories from playing shows?
Oh dude, I think something crazy happens to us literally every time we go on tour. It’s really hard to pick something out of so many things we’ve done and experienced. We just love to have a few drinks with a few people after the show and we love to kick on for a little while, it doesn’t matter if we show up to the airport on three hours sleep in the clothes we were wearing the night before. It’s really important for us to socialise with the people that enjoy our music. Putting names to faces and so on is an important aspect of making sure that continuously cultivate fans and keep them around for your music.
The fans are definitely a huge part of the local metal scene, then there is the random off the street element that sometimes come in.
Yeah dude, absolutely we sometimes get that going for us and we think oh ok, if you don’t know anyone who likes our music or if you’ve never listened to our music before but you’ve walked off the street and said “man, that’s rad!” then I guess we’re doing the right thing.
Brisbane is kind of known for ah… (laughs) I think nearly any time you go to a show if you go out the front and have a smoke and talk to people, they don’t know who is playing and there’s always at least a couple of dudes that get thrown out before the headliner starts.
That’s what liquor does, right? (laughs)
How did you end up coming together to write Costly Signals, did it start off in pieces or where you in the room together from the start?
I think we’re pretty traditional in the means of our writing so what we will do is, Corey and Neil will usually notate the music or write it down properly. We’ll give the rhythms to Liam, Liam will fix them to make them more appropriate for a drummer. When the songs… when they’re more finished then I’ll usually listen to them and see what vibe I get from them and slap down some lyrics. So we have it written and we usually practice our own parts away from each other so that when we come together in a rehearsal room we know what we’re doing. We didn’t do a lot of pre-production for the last few EPs but we did do a lot of pre-production for this particular album.
I did a lot of vocal recording at Corey’s house and Corey and Neil did a lot their own takes. So we had a blueprint when we went into the studio to see our regular engineer. I think that made the recording process much more fun because we were more comfortable with the lines. We were able to ad lib a little bit more because we had time to sort of listen and sink into those particular melody lines or rhythms or what not. We’re very clinical in the means of writing. A lot of the time when you hear a real organic groove on this album you’ll know that’s because Corey and Neil and Liam have sat in a jam room on a Sunday afternoon and just beaten the shit out of it. Most of our writing is done very traditionally with notation what not then we all learn in by reading it and only very very rarely do we kind of work together in a rehearsal room to create something.
If it’s not broke… the traditional way works.
If it’s not BAROQUE (laughs).
Obviously the album has just come out so you’re probably not writing yet but is that something you’re interested in doing soon?
That being said we actually are in the process of writing again, I think it’s hard to stop us sometimes man. This album has been completed since mid last year so we’ve been sitting on it for quite a long time now. And I think we’ve been becoming quite restless not being able to play. Waiting for the album to come out and now we’re even more restless, so we are doing writing. Hopefully before another three years passes we’ll have another Dyssidia release.
So you write the lyrics as well doing the vocals. The themes of the lyrics, are they mostly regarding personal and society related issues?
Yeah… I guess. Lyrics are always kind of fickle. I put a lot of effort into them and they are quite abstract and metaphorical. A couple of the guys in Dyssidia were going through a reasonably rough patch here and there over the last three years so a lot the lyrics reflect mourning, sadness and what not, but as I say, with sadness comes joy. I think that the album has that kind of dichotomy within the lyrics being quite mournful and also quite joyous. If you were to sit me down and allow me to talk you through every single lyric, you know, bit by bit, you’d get a really good idea as of what I was trying to get to. But, like I said before, it’s open to interpretation. Whatever your mind conjures up is correct.
The music industry has changed a lot in the face of this crisis. Is there any advice you can give to bands about what they can do to get by?
Keep producing things guys, it doesn’t matter if you bring them out at this point in time or not. Just make music, make content and enjoy the process in doing such because once this is all over, then people hopefully will realise that what they did whilst quarantined was sit and watch TV, look at art and listen to music. Those are the things which we relax to, they’re the catharsis of our usual working day. Never ever take music and art for granted again, hopefully. Continue, continue writing and bringing things out. Content is gold.
I think a lot of bands after this whole thing is over are gonna come out of isolation and their members are going to have these new riffs or these new melodies.
Man, the music scene is going to explode and it’s going to be good for everybody.
Yeah, it’ll be behind us eventually.
We’ll all be back to drinking at the local bloody metal bar in no time.
Oh bro, I am absolutely pining for it, I tell ya what, drinking whiskey on my own is just not the same thing.
Is there a favorite local venue down there in Adelaide that you go to a lot or play at?
We’ve got a couple of venues we kinda like to bounce in between, we like the Cranker down here, Enigma is pretty cool down here, it’s like the answer to your guys’ Crowbar. A dank little shit hole but it’s exactly what everybody wants sort of thing.
The naming conventions of metal venues, I don’t know why but they amuse me, it’s like Crowbar, Anchor…
Enigma… yeah like bullshit stuff (laughs)
I think there’s like so many metal venues called Crowbar around the world at this point that we have to specify it.
Yeah, Crowbar Brisbane and Crowbar Sydney. We need a Crowbar down here in Adelaide man.
Do you have any favorite albums, like current music?
Aw, current music… nothing super duper interesting other than… well Dyssidia is built off of a lot of different sort of musical styles and we all like listening to new and interesting things. I think Die Antwood just brought out a new album that’s a bit of a banger. A bit fun. As far as metal music I haven’t been listening to very much metal at the moment so, I guess in isolation I’ll have a lot more time to listen to that sort of stuff, so time will tell.
Speaking of isolation, what would your favorite activities be in isolation? Do you play video games?
Well I’m teaching from home because I’m singing teacher so I’ve been doing my lessons online at the moment. Other than I take the opportunity to go stand outside in the sun and just soak up the rays as often as I can.
If people want to reach out to you for lessons, how can they do that?
People can reach out to me for lessons or they can go contact the Australian Rock & Metal Institute which is the first kind of heavy metal music training facility in Australia. You can find it online, the ARMI and you know, come see me for a lesson. I’m doing lessons from home at the moment so it doesn’t matter where you are in the country. Come and see me and we’ll have a good time and I’ll teach you how to do a bit of singing.
Anything you’d like to add?
As far Covid goes, people just need to stay strong, happy and remember that we we’re all people and that we all need a little bit of each others time in such a time of suffering. We went through some shit when we were writing this album, so hopefully people can resonate with it as they’re going through shit at the moment.
Thanks for the chat.
No worries man, thank you.