Interview & Illustrations by Madeleine Bliss, velvety_lungs
Kraig Marshall is the frontman, guitarist, creator, and czar of the rock band State of Revolution. Most of kraigmarshall's journal entries document the struggles and rewards of his musical journey and the wacky world inside his head. I interviewed Kraig about State of Revolution's up coming album Wild Hearts.
What were your goals for this new album?
We've paid a lot of dues and it was time to raise the bar. I wanted to make a real get in and get out, tight, warm, fun, melodic Rock record. No effects. No excessive audio layering. Mature sounding and above all, nothing we couldn't duplicate live. Regarding the length (25 minutes) I wanted to make it so that people, doing virtually anything, could listen to the entire album in one shot without interruption.
We spent six months in pre-production and Sibvon and I engineered the entire album ourselves over the course of a year. We were beyond obsessive compulsive about it and It shows in how consistent the recording is. We tracked drums one song per day to get the best possible performance without fatigue and finished within two weeks so that any possible atmospheric change in the room wouldn't affect the tone. We only kept full takes of each instrument. With the exception of the vocals there were no punch ins. When we tracked Bass and Guitar we tuned between each take and changed strings after recording half of the album. We would sometimes go weeks between vocal performances just to make sure that we were completely on our game. We had at least one hundred different mixes of the album before finally capturing the exact sound we were looking for and went through three different outside engineers before obtaining a cohesive master. In short, it was a nightmare but we had a solid goal in mind and we achieved it.
How is that different from your goals for past music endeavors?
I've never spent this much time on a recording before. It's been dark. I was always touring so any time spent on an album or demo was merely a pit stop long enough to put together a new reason to be out on the road. I've been running from something for half of my life. This was an intervention. It was a voice inside saying, "you've done it all before, now do it the right way". I knew that heading back out again wasn't even an option until this album was complete. It made me an anxious, sleep deprived lunatic but we got the job done and the future looks a lot brighter now.
Many of the feelings and experiences expressed in this album are really easy to relate to. You get down to real, raw life. How much of the stories are your own personal experiences?
Every song I write is derived from my own personal experience in one form or another. If one of my songs resemble a fairy tale rather than a journal entry, more than likely I've created a grander universe based on a single fragment of an event that happened in my life. There is a song on the new album called, "Winter Nights". It's the only song containing this much embellishment. The story is a third person perspective of a girl who has committed suicide in the woods during the transition from Autumn to Winter. The question remains, who in my life is this girl, why Winter, where is the location of the forest and what does her death represent?
What is your biggest non-musical influence?
I'd say any creative ember someone else has sparked is kindling enough for me. Just watching someone work hard at anything they feel passionate about be it art or film or what have you makes me want to book a tour or record a song just to see if I can keep up.
You are involved in a few other bands. How do all of your musical projects influence each other?
Actually I'm quite schizophrenic about my projects because they are derived from different parts of my personality. If they began to bleed into one another I'd feel like I might as well consolidate them into one project. With a new album out, all of my focus is on State of Revolution right now so everything else with the exception of Sibvon Rose (Sibvon's band) gets shelved. Sometimes I just have to set an idea down and walk away for a little while because the timing is off.
What is the easiest part of making music?
I used to be able to just hit record and bust out the first thing that popped into my head on the spot. Given enough effort it would form a song. Over time, however, I've become so critical of myself, that process has become a rare commodity. It still happens from time to time but not without some inner fight to get myself to just let go and create rather than count how many seconds until the chorus kicks in.
The hardest part?
Again, I think it's just the ability to let go and create rather than be so critical. As I've learned more about the industry, writing has become a bit like dealing with a radio director in my head saying, "this isn't marketable enough, cut the length or we'll loose listeners". That kind of thinking stifles creativity but the fact that I'm aware of it is good. I can fight that urge to judge and just let the music come.
I really admire the poetic lyrics of the chorus in One Night Stand ("If this is the surface there's something under / A river is not just leaves on the water.") How do you go about writing meaningful lyrics that fit the melody?
My process for writing lyrics is: record a song, mix it down and listen. I'll let the melody guide my voice and eventually the subject. I'll vocalize idea fragments until they begin to form sentences and eventually pepper in poetry. I rarely begin with a set of finished lyrics then write a song around them. You can try as hard as you like, but truly great tunes just appear on your doorstep one day when you least expect it. Inspiration is unreliable like that.
Are you sweating right now?
No I'm fine, it's quite cool in here actually.
Being that we are friends, I know what a maniac you are. I feel like Somewhere in Between is a really accurate song to describe you. You sing, "I'll give it everything I got until I die." Where does that motivation come from?
That motivation comes from a paranoid feeling that everyday is a ticking time bomb and if I don't make the most of every second, its wasted. Sleep is overrated. As soon as I can regain composure enough to open my eyes I get up and begin work on anything. I've been doing this since I was a child. I'd get up at one in the morning, stay up all night creating little projects and just head to school. It's so unhealthy. I feel a constant desperate need to leave a mark before I die. Tick-Tick-Tick-BOOM!
You've been through a several different line-ups is State. As the creator, songwriter, and front man, how stressful is keeping a band together and enthusiastic?
It is the biggest pain in the ass to keep a consistent line up. I think you either have four guys who know each other from school and forty years later they are still releasing hits or you have the one guy or girl who try's so hard to keep things moving forward and people just shuffle in and out like the band is a saloon. We currently have the most consistent, road-ready line up that we've ever had and despite our time out of the public eye, this iteration of the band has been the longest lasting. Right now we have a core that is like family so no one is going anywhere and we're all really happy.
So who is your favorite member of the band?
Naturally I'd gravitate to Sibvon simply because she's my fiance but I can honestly say with all sincerity that we ALL idolize Matt Sax. There is something about the guy that none of us understand. He's like a totem. At twenty six years old he runs a successful production company, literally has drank Dave and Busters out of all of their alcohol, hangs seventy feet from rafters rigging lighting without a harness and will still take phone calls, asked Elton John to play drums for us, lost two hundred dollars playing Rocks / Paper / Scissors with Billy Idol, gets into any party he wants wearing only dirty shorts and a unicorn sweatshirt, tried to steal a cannon once, owns an inflatable castle and he's been with the band nearly since the beginning. That's just a fraction of a fraction of who Matt is. The guy is fascinating.
Is State the end-all be-all for you?
Out of all of my projects this one has had the most longevity and I believe that it will continue to do so but no I don't believe that it's the end all. I have so many ideas I've yet to execute and such a long life ahead of me. I'm having a great time doing SOR, that's not going to stop any time soon but only a fool would close out their options and cash in their chips. There's still so much to experience.
What is your favorite song on Wild Hearts?
I think, "Fire on the Radio" is my favorite to listen to. It's got such a pure spirit about it. It's so bitter sweet and it makes me appreciate how far I've come. It's very motivational: "Give it all of your heart and soul and never let go of Rock N Roll". That's a personal mantra.
Complete this sentence: "Wild Hearts couldn't have happened without..."
The love, patience, devotion, tantamount inspiration and drive of my fiance and band mate Sibvon. Not to mention a year's worth of cheesecake and Arbor Mist.
Wild Hearts will be released March 17. Check myspace.com/stateofrevolution for more information.