Interview with Kneel

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Interview with Pedro Mau (drums, bass, guitar)

Interview by: Beandog

Kneel: BandcampFacebook

Off the back of KNEEL’s powerful new album – Ailment – Metal Rules tracked down the band’s central figure, Pedro Mau and spoke to him about his inspirations and the creation of the new record…

Hi there, just to start can you give us a quick check in – How are you? Can you give us an update on how things are in the KNEEL camp at the current time?

Pedro: Hey there! I’m good, or at least things could be worse! With all this Covid-shit, as a digital designer I get to work from home, which may seem a good thing at the start, but after almost 9 months it feels a bit less fun. The co-workers’ interactions are based on internet meetings… The lack of social interaction is starting to kick in. About KNEEL, I’m feeling pretty happy with all the feedback I’ve got so far. Great reviews – so that means some people do like the album.

And regarding the new album – Let’s talk about how you initially approached the project. Can you tell us what your vision for this record was before you started to work on it?

Pedro: Is it wrong not to have a vision? (Laughs) I mean… I knew I didn’t want to make an Interstice 2.0 (Kneel’s previous album), so that gave me some direction. But as on Interstice, I don’t think too much when it comes to having a vision or an overall view of what I want to accomplish. I write songs, I change songs, some I like, some I don’t… so that’s how it usually goes, as most bands/artists, I believe.

So, having gone into the project with few expectations, what are your thoughts about the end result?

Pedro: I think it has most of the genres I like to incorporate in my music. Also think the record has a good song flow and I am proud of the end result. The goal was to make music that I like – and I do like it. So, mission accomplished.

Were there any challenges around the process?

Pedro: Being a single person – excluding vocals and lyrics – creating, recording, mixing, mastering, doing the designs… It’s really hard to commit because you’re always arguing with yourself about the best riff, the best beat, the best idea. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of something that is just not working. You spend a lot of time analysing yourself, going back to check if that riff needs an extra 0.5 dB, or if that snare hit is loud enough, if you should change the guitar strings. A bunch of decisions that you have to decide by yourself.

About the vocal recordings – it was a challenge to find time to record because both I and Filipe have full time jobs and it’s really hard to find time to make a vocal session for 2 or 3 hours. So, that took quite some time because of time management.

You’ve worked with Filipe Correi before, in Wells Valley. What makes your partnership a successful one?

Pedro: Filipe is a hell of a singer. Besides screaming as a m.f. he writes great lyrics. On the first record I had some ideas for the lyrics and he helped give life to those ideas. This time, all the lyrical work is his. I just gave him the theme for the record and he did all by himself.

Alongside Filipe’s input, you’ve performed all of the instruments on the record yourself! – What can you tell us about your process? How do you approach the performance of a record like this?

Pedro: This record was composed in a practice space I have in my hometown, where I have a drumkit and a computer to record the ideas. So all the songs were created there. Since I don’t have gear to properly record drums there, I tried to be as close as possible to replicate my drumming to the drum programming. I record myself playing drums to make sure I can play all the stuff, and then I translate, as close as possible, that recording to the drum programming. But, most of the songs start with a guitar riff… then I get that recorded, I move to the drum kit, and I record the ideas like a demo. When I’m good with the song structure, I record everything again and vocals and lyrics come in the last process.

Speaking of lyrics, is there an overriding message or theme on this album?

Pedro: The lyrical content was all created by Filipe, so he would be the right person to ask. I just gave him the theme – Ailment – and explained what I meant by that. I think that lyrics shouldn’t be explained… Each person has a different understanding of a phrase or even a word, so I like to have my thoughts on what I feel the lyrics mean, and leave the door open for others to interpret as they wish.

That’s a fair point, but just to focus on the title, “Ailment.” What’s your interpretation of that?

Pedro: The definition of “Ailment” is like a small illness. So I see it as the accumulation of small problems in our lives can lead us to situations that can get out of our control. These small things that we usually ignore, sometimes accumulate and can lead to serious damages – both to mind and body.

And these small problems are made worse by the current restriction around the world, just as you’ve already mentioned, we have Covid-19 to factor in to absolutely everything now. It turns my thoughts to the way the music industry has been affected. Am I right in understanding KNEEL does not perform live? It’s a difficult thing to predict in this current climate, but do you intend to bring this project to the stage at all? Was it ever intended to be a full, performing band?

Pedro: Yes, KNEEL does not perform live. By the time I started the project, it was supposed to be a band but then we started Wells Valley and the priorities changed. Time is a real issue, and the main focus is Wells Valley, for both me and Filipe. I’d love to have time to make a live KNEEL appearance but that would take too much of our free time. Since we have full day jobs, it’s not easy to find time to apply on side projects. But who knows… maybe someday we can find the time to do that.

Just for fun, who would you like to perform with – If you could pick your perfect line up for the band; and what other acts would you like to play with? One band to open and one band to headline, with KNEEL in the middle – who would you pick?

Pedro: If I could create the perfect line-up for a band, it would be Filipe on vocals, Skot Hamilton (ken Mode) on bass, Wacław Kiełtyka (Decapitated) on guitar and Eloy Casagrande on drums. I’d be watching from the crowd, hahaha!

Then, opening band: A Life Once Lost; Headliner: Meshuggah!

Just to expand on some of the musicians you mention there. KNEEL incorporates many influences – from thrash, technical death, math metal to hardcore – Who are the musicians you admire the most?

Pedro: Some I already mentioned in the dream team for KNEEL, and Filipe is definitely one of those, not only as a vocalist, but mostly as a creative guitar player. Thomas Haake is one of my biggest influences. Then I can add some names such as Andreas Kisser, Greg Pucciato, Gavin Harrison, Shane Embury, Kurt Ballou, Nick Yacyshyn… too many names to add them all here!

Still on the subject of influences, but going back much further – What is your first musical memory?

Pedro: I remember going on vacation with my parents at about the age of 5 singing some random pop song that was on the radio. But I guess that Back in Black from AC-DC was the record that ignited my passion for music.

When did this develop into an appreciation for heavy music?

Pedro: I think (it was) only at the age of 15-ish I started developing a bigger interest in music. I hadn’t much contact with music because I lived in a small city, and there was no internet, you know!

Then a record store opened. I didn’t have money to buy CDs and I didn’t have a CD player either; only a small radio with double K7 deck. So, I asked the owner if he could copy K7s from CDs and that’s how my musical collection began to grow. I’m from the Napster / Audiogalaxy era, that was the boom of music and bands for me. F*ck… I’m getting old!

What else can you tell us about the Portuguese music scene – Are there any bands from your area we should be looking out for or seeking out?

Pedro: Portuguese heavy scene is awesome. We have awesome bands here… and you should definitely should check these: Wells Valley (of course!), Concealment, Equaleft, Process of Guilt, Vaneno, Colosso, Axia, Gaerea, Switchtense, Earth Drive, Redemptus, Juseph, just to name a few…

That’s fantastic!.. Its been an absolute pleasure speaking with you. Just before we sign off, do you have any other message for our readers?

Pedro: Keep supporting the artists you love. Now, more than ever – they need you! Share their music, buy some merch… whatever you can.

Thank you!