Intronaut – Descending into a Valley of Smoke

Intronaut is a progressive metal band from LA. They combine heavy sludge metal and cacophonic vocals with smooth jazz breaks and odd time signatures to create a unique and tasteful sound of their own.

When I first heard them I could hear bits and pieces of bands like Isis, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon and Weather Report all wrapped in one, it was an interesting listen to say the least. All of the musicians have killer chops and I feel they show a lot of promise and potential if they are given the right resources.

I had the opportunity to speak with their lead singer/guitarist Sacha Dunable about their new album Valley of Smoke and other things going on in their realm.

It’s 2010 now and we’re in a whole new decade. However, for the past four or five years, it feels as if metal has already been moving into a new era with different personalities and bands at the core of this movement.

If there truly is a progressive/post metal movement, which groups do you feel are driving it?

This is an interesting question.  I think you’re right in saying that progressive styles of metal are more popular these days than they were five or more years ago.  What is interesting is how people have different definitions for the term “progressive.”  To me, it’s more of a songwriting thing, like as in writing music that is emotionally gratifying, but doing it in a way that is somewhat different than what has been done before.

I know some people who will classify anything with great technical skill as “progressive.”  I mean, no one is wrong, everyone’s opinion is valid.  That being said, I’d be interested in knowing which bands you feel are driving it, because honestly I’m not as in touch as I once was.

For me, it was really one time period and a group of bands  that I saw as a “progressive movement. ” This was like ten years ago and it that inspired me to make the kind of music that eventually became Intronaut.  Coalesce, Dystopia, Cave In, Converge, Isis, Dillinger, Cavity, Botch, that kind of stuff.  The late nineties into early 2000’s were awesome for that kind of material.  I really viewed that music as groundbreaking.  There were all these bands rooted in the punk/hardcore scene that were purposefully being different and showing the people in those scenes something new.

Now, those bands, or at least the ones who are still together, get to reap the benefits by being the forefathers  of these new bands who are emulating them – not necessarily being “progressive.”   The thing is all these new bands are music fans and drawing more attention to the older bands. I think that’s a key element to the cyclical process of music becoming popular and evident as a “movement.”

Do you feel metal is easily defined by one style or can it be several sub-genres?

Well, if you ask me, if a band has a palm mute anywhere on their record, I’ll most likely file it under metal (laughs).  After that,  however you divide it up is fair game.

Are there advantages to splitting up metal into sub-genres or do you think it’s just confusing to your average Joe Schmoe music fan? Does Joe Schmoe’s opinion even matter?

The advantage I suppose is for active listeners to be able to categorize what they hear in conversation or wherever.  I don’t like being labeled, but I understand where Schmoe is coming from.  It’s hard to say it wouldn’t be necessary to call Cannibal Corpse a death metal band and not a rock band for the sole purpose of describing to a potential listener what to listen for and hear.

One thing that really drew me into Intronaut’s sound was the clever use of jazz chords and progressions in many of your breakdowns. It adds a more complex and three-dimensional aspect to your music that I feel other metal bands don’t have.

What are all of your backgrounds as musicians?

Joe (Lester) and I played in a shitty death metal band in high school that would play with Danny (Walker)’s bands.  Joe went off to college and got a BA in Music, so he has a really strong knowledge of theory. He can apply it to jazz, funk, rock, Indian, African, whatever music.

Dave (Timnick) played baseball in college, finished the fire academy in San Diego, then one day decided that all he’s ever cared about is music.  He bought a drum kit and locked himself in a room for a couple years learning probably close to as much as Joe did in college, but more percussion-based stuff.  He always played music, but didn’t get serious until his early twenties.  He is seriously one of the most naturally talented and knowledgeable people I know when it comes to rhythm.

But overall, Danny and I started out playing in punk bands when we were kids and basically developed our chops from there.  Both of us have had some kind of lessons or courses in music theory somewhere along the way, but nothing crazy.  Most of what I know now has come from playing with Joe and Dave for the past six years.

So let’s talk about your last album Prehistoricisms for a bit. That album was pretty heavy- most of the songs are very epic and the titles refer to ancient mankind and our primordial environment.

How long did it take to write and record that album? Explain some of the process.

Let’s see what I can remember…I recall writing right after we came back from Europe in late 2007, then we did a tour with High On Fire in January/February of 2008 after writing only one song.  I think we wrote the rest between March and May, which is when we started recording.  We had everything done and mixed by June something so we could go on tour with The Ocean.

Of course, most of the stuff was semi-written by me at home before all this, but the dirty work of really thinking it all out and molding it into something was done in that short period of time.  At the time I think I was mostly satisfied with it, and at this point that record is what it is…but I knew we could do better on the next one by spending more time writing and putting less pressure on ourselves as far as deadlines go.

Your new album is called Valley Of Smoke. Was the writing and recording process similar to Prehistoricisms?

Yeah, after we got back from the Mastodon tour, I personally wanted to get started on a new record and just take our time with it, no rush.  Everyone else agreed, and we decided not to keep touring and start on what is intended to be the best music we can make. You just can’t do that when you’re continuously rehearsing old songs for a tour or whatever.  We had one distraction and that was going to play in India, but aside from that, we have been writing this album for almost a year straight.  That’s basically ten months more than we spent on the last record (laughs)!  And it seriously has paid off.  We’re just on another level now – I can’t wait to finish recording.

Let’s talk about your trip to India. You went there last year for the Great India Rock festival. India is the last place I would think of having prog-metal fest! What was that experience like?

Incredible! I mean it was a blur for the most part.  The flight there was like twenty hours and it’s literally on the other side of the planet, so you can imagine the gnarly jetlag.  But the people we met were great and the shows were unbelievably huge.  Like, almost too big for us (laughs).  It was amazing to stop and think about how we started this band from nothing and there we were playing for thousands of people in fucking India, pretty wild.

The food was AMAZING.  And the bands weren’t all prog metal, it was more a variety of all kinds of rock groups.  I realized that people here view India as a place that’s backwards and third-world, but honestly they know about all the same stuff as us. The bands are just as easy to bro down with as any American band we’ve toured with.  There weren’t too many cultural barriers on the music side of things.

What can Intronaut fans expect to see from the band this year?

Some exciting stuff surrounding our new release Valley of Smoke. I can’t talk about all of it yet, but we’ll definitely be out and about and I hope people don’t hate the new album.

For more about Intronaut, click here


2 responses to “Intronaut – Descending into a Valley of Smoke

  1. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


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