Interview with Fred Marcoty of Metro Expo
SBS: Fred my friend! I’m excited to be able to talk some tunes with ya after so very long – and especially after hearing the extraordinary creativity, art, and music you put together for Metro Expo 2, of course. Before we crack into all that though – let’s assume for a moment that perhaps not everyone out there would be as familiar with your music as I might be – give us a bit of history on how Metro Expo came to be, how it started or what inspired it, you know…how did this whole journey actually begin?
Fred: Hello, Jer! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak about Metro Expo.
Well, this project was born on the ashes of an ancient “band” of mine. I call it “band,” or to give you a better understanding, I was in fact working alone in the studio, and I hired a drummer and a bassist for the concerts. This band had a very complicated setup with sequences playing through a computer. And some days we had to perform a concert in unplugged mode, because our drummer was not available that day. This concert went well beyond expectations. It was a very small band in terms of fame, we had to deal with very small venues most of the time, and our setup was often inappropriate…it worked “fine” until one day, nothing was coming out. That day I decided to call it quits on the use of complicated gear to handle. So, we went on rehearsal trying to translate the repertoire in a semi-acoustic stuff. Unfortunately, that didn’t work for our bassist, and so he left the band. I tried to mount a real band for it, but it wasn’t successful.
I founded at the same time another band, called Fair, Blatt & Hill to have a real rocking band, and I dedicated my more intimate work to Metro Expo. ME was supposed to be a duo with me and a vocalist, I didn’t want to sing this stuff, and I wanted a second pair of ears, a collaborator… plus a “real” singer. I wasted 3 years on the first album trying to find someone who would sing, and I finally decided to, once again, throw my mouth behind the mic, because the comedy did last too long.
SBS: And then I suppose, the obvious question becomes – where did ya go in between Metro Expo 1 and Metro Expo 2? Was there anything specifically intended to put so much distance between records? What about the mindset of the man behind the scenes himself – you. Was the Fred Marcoty that made Metro Expo 1 the same Fred Marcoty you are now? How do you feel that you’ve changed and evolved over time both personally and as a musician during the time spent in between records – or have you?
Fred: When I made Metro Expo 1, I was unemployed for 5 years, then I found a full time job at the Opera House of my city while I was mixing the album. This is not a normal daytime job – our work schedules vary a lot, working during daytime then evenings and week-ends, so I had to adapt to my new way of life, and learned again to work, the in the way we’re all familiar with.
I also had to take a little time to let go the ME1 album. I dedicated 6 years of my life and left many feathers in the battle from 2009 to 2015, I’d been quite busy with it, and needed to relax a bit. I say 6 years, but if we consider the band that launched the project, you’ll add 3 more.
After a break (a few months), I participated in a Youtube contest. The subject made me laugh: “pick a cheesy song, record a metal version of it and make a video.” So, I did… and the video had a great success. So I tried a bit of the Youtube experience, and recorded some “goofy” stuff for it… filming myself being an ass with my cell phone. That was fun, until the moment I realized that almost everyone was only watching my stupid cover video and quite few had an ear (or an eye) on my originals. I never do covers, but it was required by the contest. And FYI, I finished 6th out of more than 200 entries… and the winning prizes started at #5… typical Fred stuff.
Meanwhile, I was thinking of doing a Metro Expo 2, but I took wrong directions. I was stuck with a 8 bar leitmotiv, thought I found something that was cool to build on… but I never succeeded to find an answer to this question: “What would this leitmotiv mean?” I struggled to build a story. So I left this aside, because I felt that it wasn’t the time, I knew that one day, I’d have picked a notebook, would write “Metro Expo 2 ideas” on the cover, grab my acoustic guitar and everything will be okay. And that was the case. I took my breath, blew off the dust that was laying on my old ideas, completed the set-list, wrote some lyrics and the story came along… and eventually left this musical leitmotiv in a drawer. In reality, it took me only 2 weeks for the compilation/writing process.
To be honest, I’m still the same dude I was five years ago. I had to fight against an unknown caffeine “addiction,” well, not addiction, but I didn’t know that my body never processes caffeine. So I completely lost my sleep, my mood was playing yoyo, and thus have been through a deep depression. But technically, I was caffeine free while I was recording ME1. I said recording…not writing.
I kinda said what I had to say in ME1, it had to go out. It’s done. Then it became time to reconnect with a bit of fun. So I knew that ME2 would sound “happier,” because I was happier, and my sense of humor changed from pure cynicism to a more comedic style. But the eyes I’m laying on this world didn’t change too much. I just live in it. I’m pretty sure you’ll understand that I don’t want to go back to my mindset from when I was sick…
As a musician, feeling so much better helped me to perform pretty well. I felt so much more confident.
SBS: When it comes to the material & music listeners will find in these two numerical records of yours…how would you same Metro Expo 1 and Metro Expo 2 are similar? How are they different? Was the direction of each record intentional, or simply the result of the natural creative process? Does Metro Expo 1 still hold up as strong as Metro Expo 2 does now, looking back on it? Or did Metro Expo 2 rise to the previous standards you set beforehand in making Metro Expo 1? You get the idea here I’m sure my friend – give us a bit of the ol’ compare & contrast between records, from your perspective.
Fred: One of the major differences between ME1 and ME2 is that I wanted to build a real performance as a multi-instrumentalist, and try to play the songs with a minimum number of cuts during the recording. For the first album, I wasn’t in that mood, I made small cuts every time. Performance wasn’t that important, I thought at the time…the important were the songs and the concept. It doesn’t mean that I disagree with my 5-years-ago-self. It’s just a change of mind.
Another big change is that on ME2 I’m just telling a simple story, with a start, a middle, and an end. Some may find this story stupid, and I kinda agree with that, I wouldn’t be offended. After all, I’m a music composer, then a multi-instrumentalist, then a producer, then a singer. I’m no writer! Don’t you think that “Tommy” has also a goofy story? And what about some famous operas like “Carmen” for instance? So why should it be a problem for mine to be a bit stupid or silly? ME1 were just small capsules of inner discussions with just one direction for the story: its timeline.
I also think that Metro Expo 1 is an album you can’t cherry pick with. It’s, if not impossible to do, not “recommended.” You plan 1 hour of your time, pour a big glass of wine, lay in your sofa, put the headphones in the dark, then the experience begins. You need some time to find the vocals in the mix, but when you get them and you don’t resist them, you’ll start feeling the music surrounding you from each ear. I know, it’s a bit difficult to do, even me, sometimes I don’t find the sweet-spot, but believe me there’s one. In contrast, Metro Expo 2 can easily be listened to one song at the time, even when you’re cooking. Mixes are a bit more “standard,” it wasn’t necessary to enhance the lead vocals, since the concept or the mood is absolutely not the same.
Also, I dictate rules. For ME1, those rules were more related to the music composition or arrangement themselves, while on ME2 those were performance/technical rules. I created a “bonus system” for myself with rules to motivate me while recording: “You have 3 takes to play this… if you do it in one take, you save 2 points for something else.” I may sound like a lunatic, but, believe me it motivates, and keeps your mind sharp. A lot! Plus, it’s excellent for the self-confidence. Don’t forget that I work absolutely alone in my little home studio. In a real studio performance, you play in front of an engineer, an artistic producer, and maybe your band-mates. They will support or motivate you. Plus, let’s not hide it: we like to roll the mechanics when you played things in one take. Well… I have to do that all by myself.
Another difference is the instrumentation, with the appearance of a horn section (I played trumpet and trombone) and a dear friend of mine (that also was learning to record at home) played the saxophones. Mass choir also appears, I didn’t use this weapon on #1 while it’s one of my favorites and something I know I’m really good at. Accordion, flute, more acoustic guitars (including chapter 1 paragraph 1 line 1 of finger picking… damned, that’s so difficult !), and I also played a bit off pizzicato violin in track 2. “Play” is a strong word, I played the notes very slowly one at the time, then edited… And last but not least: a normal drum-kit played with sticks.
The major similarity is the choice of being as versatile as possible with musical styles, and to make them sound like a whole in the aesthetic approach, but I think that you could guess it by yourself. So, nah…not really similar records beyond that. Same guy, slightly better equipment, much shorter hair, other state of mind. And to answer your question, there is not much room for randomness in Metro Expo, it happens, but I never expect a magic wand that touches me.
The most important thing is the global tone. It doesn’t matter much what I will do. What counts is unity and homogeneity between the 10 songs! Bands like Magma had different periods and styles and you never knew what to expect when you hear one of their albums for the first time. I must admit that I was destabilized by this band the first time I heard it. In fact, I hated it. But you know why? It was because I rented a random album without looking at the date of production. I decided to give them a second chance, but this time I looked at the dates and picked up their first album. Man…I over-liked it. It was like it wasn’t possible it could be the same band that made that piece of crap I heard before. Yet it was. And you know what, as I heard their musical trip and evolution through time, that so called piece of crap became my absolute favorite album of all time. Always give a second chance to music. That taught me a lesson.
Of course, I still love ME1. I did the best I could at the time. Sometimes, I regret some overall mixing decisions, but when I look back and remind that I made this record with a 1Gb PC, not those recording/mixing skills I’ve acquired since + the evolution of plugins, and the fact that I wasn’t supposed to sing on it, I’m still proud. To keep the flame alive, I recorded a live version of it available on my Youtube Channel. I rehearsed 2 days, if I remember well…in July 2017, because I haven’t been playing those tunes for 2 and a half years. I founded a fictional 5 piece band: 2 guitars 1 keyboard 1 bass and drums (not brushes, and standard kit). I played the whole set in one take at each spot, and sang it while playing the left ear guitar, the actual spot I’d occupy if it was a real band. And I did not “mix” it, it has some automations, but they were made by eye with no turning back on the choice, the same reverb and a tempo delay, like a was behind the PA system of a small music club with 16 tracks. A real-fake live audio recording with mistakes in it. 98% truly honest stuff. As honest as it could be…proof: there’s no audience!
SBS: Here’s what I’d love to know. Nearly six years away…ten new songs…lemme just get my calculator here and punch in these numbers…carry the y…divide by the exponential of two…define by x…right! Here it is. Fred, I’m no math genius, but that’s a rate of…hmmm…approximately 1.6 songs per year if my formula is correct here. So! First of all, I don’t believe it, second of all, I don’t trust any numbers, ever – especially if it’s me rocking the calculator. I feel like…mathematically speaking here brother…I feel like you’ve gotta be holding out on us. I feel like there at least has to be a few tracks that must have found their way to the cutting room floor this time around, or perhaps are being stockpiled for the archive releases from the vault in the distant future…but there has to be more that were created during this time away between records, yes? I’m assuming that’s the case – maybe they got recorded, maybe they didn’t – but ultimately, what were the criteria you used in determining which ten songs made the official lineup of Metro Expo 2? What did they have to have in order to make the grade for ya and pass muster?
Fred: Well, some of those tracks were sacrificed to make funny stuff with them instead on my Youtube Channel… If you have some time to check it out, songs like “Summer Breeze,” “Virtual Friendship,” and “Bully in the Brain” – they were all supposed to be Metro Expo songs. I have no regrets putting these on the tube channel, they wouldn’t have worked. While as simple songs, they are pretty cool. “Cyberspy” was the closest to reach ME2, and this title gave me the hint to write a story about a spy.
Beyond that, I had only 1 rejection in my composition process. This song had 2 parts that seemed to go well together, but as soon as I’ve put a click, it was absolutely wrong. The first part was too slow if I chose the speed of the second, and vice versa. I’m talking about a 3 BPM range here. I tried to automate my click with the correct tempo, but it didn’t work either. So I used another song that wasn’t supposed to be there from the beginning: “The Wrong Side Of The Street.” I think I did well, it gave a great opportunity to give a switch to the story.
And no, I never write excessive material. I mean, of course, some ideas go back in a drawer if it doesn’t fit with the existing stuff. But I never go all the way with those. I can write excessively quickly. If I find almost “right now” a B section to the A I’m currently playing, then it’s almost a wrap. We must not confuse composition and arrangement. Composition, to me, is just setting a chord progression or a riff (can be a drum riff like in “Black Hole”), put images in your mind and find quickly what it will talk about, even, always from my point of view, melody can come later. And that’s pretty much everything. I got my skeleton, and I’ll work on my C part, lyrics and rhymes later. Next! Because, you know, it happened before: I skip stages, and try RIGHT NOW to record a drum-kit roughly with 2 mics, then record right after a merely in-tune guitar and bass, and it doesn’t sound at all as you heard in your head (what a surprise!), it goes to the garbage and I don’t ever ever want to hear about you, stupid idea! UNLESS I can extrapolate! That was the case with “The Brewerman.”
Some songs on both albums are small ideas I’ve put in a drawer assembled together. For instance, the song “Ghost in a field” is in fact a rework of my very, very first solo work in 1993 I think. I loved the chord progression, the “never resolved” feeling and the melody, but the rhythm was boring as hell, so I just changed it, fucking riffed it, rewrote the lyrics (because, man… my first text at 19… Uuuurgh! But, let’s be cool with it, no internet at the time, and a very poor level in English), et voilà! As I sing in “Homeland Rock”: “It will do the trick…”
About my criteria, well, I’m not a complicated guy. Example, if I already have a “jazz” chord progression/beat in what I’ve already done, why should I bother about finding another one right now? Is it absolutely necessary? I ask myself what style I haven’t approached yet, and wonder – am I tempted to do something a bit melancholic with it? Or what style do you want to do that’s not already there? For the rest… meh, that’s not that bad for a start, after all. And once again: homogeneity! Do these tunes go well together, does #4 magnify #3, and is it a logical step to #5?
You know when you talked about “Old Men Sleeping” in your review, I totally agreed with you. I found that the chord sequence was just beautiful, and for once, the melody came quickly and there was a lot of space to make it grow, grow, grow, and hit a certain level of intensity.
SBS: You’ve already read my thoughts in review of your latest record, but to say it plainly for those that haven’t read it themselves yet – that was one seriously spectacular comeback to the music-scene my friend – Metro Expo 2 is stocked & loaded with vibrant sound & ideas from start to finish. Speaking of that start however…”The Mountain” certainly caught my attention for multiple reasons, which I’m sure you noticed as well. Fred…Fred…Fred. You know what I’ve gotta ask here right? How much of this first cut is based on your own personal real-life experience, versus the craft & fiction of songwriting – because I ain’t gonna lie to ya my man, this all felt pretty damn real to me, as tripped out as it was. Obviously I wanna know all about those pills being taken way out in the wild – that whole song sounds like my kind of afternoon, and well-spent time. So what’s the real story Fred – are the drugs a fictional muse for this particular tale? Are they essential to the creative process somehow? In general – looking at music from its history to today, do you feel drugs have played a positive role in its overall evolution?
Fred: And I thank you for your thoughts! As I said in private, it was also a pleasure to send you this, because, I know you will write well, and you don’t run away screaming like a pig when you hear the “concept album” spooky word. You know what it is…no need to overreact to this form of album. It’s just a story dudes… Plus I know that you actually know how to listen to music, whatever style it is. Enough with the waxing brush, now.
For the very pragmatic part: like I said before, when I compose I need to have an image. And in “The Mountain,” the first image I had while playing the guitar riff, is a very sketchy kinda early 90’s King’s X videoclip…playing that riff at the top of a mountain, with long hair and a helicopter turning around to shoot the images. See what I see? So I called it “The Mountain,” I just can’t be more pragmatic.
Since I decided that this song would be the first, “The Mountain” symbolizes the end of the mission, so it gave me some liberty for the other songs lyrics, if somehow I’m stuck somewhere, I still could use this mountain figure/reference again. I didn’t need it at the end…
If we hear this song as a simple song, “The Mountain” can be an objective you force yourself to achieve while you know you are where you are unwillingly at the very start. And you start your trip, then someone tells you that it’s dangerous out there, tries to discourage you, and succeeds. You go on with your way perfectly aware that you will never reach the top. You’re resigned to aim low. And, yeah, the pills can be interpreted like drugs, but also a cure for a sickness you’d have that stops you from being the person you want to be.
In context of the whole story, it’s absolutely not figurative at all. It’s a mise en bouche, an appetizer. Everything is very first degree. I mean, of course my words sometimes go beyond my own self and I unconsciously feel that there’s something else, but you can also simply listen as a very first degree song. It also works. And in the context of the story, those pills are supposed to help Ee12563 in case the atmosphere is hostile, but he don’t really need them, and the combination of the ethanol pills (which is equivalent to oxygen on his planet) with the local air makes him drunk. He thinks he’s suffocating, but as he only knew 15° climate all his life, he’s suffocating only because of the heat, not the supposed hostility of the air. So you can also figure the end of “The Mountain” like a drunk dude shouting in the street, “Weeeelll I don’hips gi’a shit, I will die anyway, boohoooohoooo…”
It can give you a little insight help to understand the rest of the album; you can hear it like a drunk guy talking…if you want.
At a personal level, well it’s not over-related now. It would be related a bit to my past, when I was a bit ambitious and young and I was fixing impossible goals to reach (at least goals I had no control on), then dropped out. With time, I’ve learned to have more reasonable objectives, not only for my music, but in my whole life in general. I’m now feeling closer to the pile of bones in the song, rather than the hero. Because, the warning sign he holds in the hand appeared to be very relevant and described the truth.
The global story I wrote for the 2nd album is just a guideline to help people who don’t have much imagination. I don’t say that to be mean, I have the same feeling with reading… I can’t transport myself into a novel. As I said: I’m mainly a music composer. The lyricist comes quite far down in the list of my skills.
But I made really strong efforts on this record on my lyrics, and I admit that sometimes my own words go far beyond me. I feel there is something hidden, but don’t know what it is. I have no problem with that.
And, no, I don’t do drugs. I smoke pot once every 6 months, but now it’s been 1 and a half year I haven’t smoked. I have a little fondness for beer and wine, but not strong alcohol except maybe a good whisky here and then. But I don’t have a real problem with that. Of course, like everyone, sometimes I get drunk. And when I’m not too drunk, I’m funny. I know where I need to stop before becoming a very unpleasant person. Never violent! But some of my old demons from my past depression suddenly come to the surface. I don’t want to go back there – ever!
SBS: The writing & musicianship on this record dude, was extraordinary – even if some of it was beyond me…which I think, maybe some of it was? With perspective being reality & all, I try not to get too hung up on whether or not what I’m personally hearing is what was originally intended by whatever band or artist I’m listening to…that make any sense? Obviously it’s always awesome when it’s easy & things connect perfectly through ideas & themes & whatnot…but I suppose I’ve always felt that, no matter what it is that anyone would end up hearing in any given song, that perspective would still be equally valid. As in, if that’s what the people are hearing, then it’s at the very least, what it ends up meaning to them personally…even if it’s not the original sentiment or meaning intended by the creators of said song. I guess what I’m getting at here Fred is…well…how much of what I had to say in my review about “Merry-go-round” came anywhere close to what you were going for? I felt like this was a seriously unique & strong cut on Metro Expo 2, and yet half the time I was listening, I was sure I wasn’t getting anywhere close to what this track was even about, while the other half of the time I was positive I was right on the money. You can leave me in the purgatory of my own thoughts if you like, or by all means, shed some light on this devilish little ditty will ya? What’s “Merry-go-round” REALLY all about – and what was it about this theme that drew you to it? This IS quite the twisted tale of sorts, is it not?
Fred: Thanks. Again, it’s very first degree. The first verse is just a situation description. Just imagine that you’re coming from another planet and the first people you see is a bearded lady, ol’ hillbillies shooting at cans laughing while showing us their missing teeth, midgets running eveywhere, and plus you’re drunk, but you don’t know it… And as you noticed, the 3 choruses have different lyrics, so the first is also again in the description of the scene and what’s around, the “and the circular floor is spinning more and more” is related to his drunken state that goes harder.
Second verse, it’s quite macabre, but there’s no real hidden message. Except for the “pedophilia” part, Ee12563 isn’t supposed to interact with people, but the kids playing everywhere kinda amuse him. And he really want to invite them to hook ducks, and invite them to “the torpedo” which is a real attraction on this funfair, he is candid. But the kids on this planet are already so perverted, as much as the adults under the tent I’ve talked about a bit earlier in the song and they translate this to rubber ducks (the sex toy) and “torpedo” (this came from Spinal Tap’s Big Bottom “I want to sink her with my pink torpedo,” so I assumed that it was a common phallic allusion). I struggled to write this verse, my first tries were way too direct with real pedophilic references (a white van…lollipops…), and our main character would have lost all credibility about his innocence. So yes, it’s a bit subtle, but it can remain first degree.
Then the second chorus, the kids have warned their parents about the so called intentions of Ee12563. A riot is about to happen. And suddenly, feeling harmed, the floor doesn’t spin. The merry-go-round is off.
The rest of the song is in fact a sad observation off what an angry crowd is about to do, even to an innocent dude. There’s no way to discuss with a crowd, you must run far away. Maybe it’s my hate of social media that subconsciously wrote this part, but again…it’s still first degree.
There’s also a very nice figure de style with the “up and down” that has 3 times 3 different signatures & applications.
I talk again about this song a bit later in another question.
And I listened to “Merry-go-Round” by a kidnapper’s perspective as you told in your review; I must say that it also perfectly fits.
SBS: Not that I wanna make your interview all about me by any stretch of the imagination, but I should mention just how much a comment you made regarding that review meant to me, which referenced HOW I listen to music being what somewhat sets me apart from the rest out there – thank-you my brother, I literally cannot express just how much it truly meant to see that…that’s always been the goal. I’m not hijacking this question for a quick pat on the back from ya though lol…what I’m genuinely curious about, is whether you can help further define what criticism & listening & commenting & reviewing & all that is really all about for those that don’t quite get it. How are you able to discern which comments & critiques are valid, versus the ones that aren’t sincere? What makes criticism relevant to you Fred? Surely there’s always room for every one of us to grow and evolve in whatever it is we do…but when someone’s communicating something like that, something that could be improved, or advice on what could be tweaked for the next time etc. – what makes the opinion matter? Is it a case of coming from a trusted source, or is it the way things are said & expressed to ya…what would make something in a critique that might otherwise be hard to hear, become valuable information to you?
Fred: I was sincere. I’ve been in music for over 35 years, I can see the difference between a guy, even a non-musician, that truly loves music and a fraud that needs to use pretentious musical language just to sound clever. I’ll talk about that a bit later.
Talking about criticism is always difficult. I mean this tends to always turn into cliche… You know what I mean. “If it’s constructive blablabla”… so if you allow me, I will joke a bit about it. The first paragraph is serious… after, I will completely use my sarcasmadar and smash all of it with a ray of cynismolazerjet…
I easily accept any criticism on my voice, or my mixing skills. Truly, I don’t get offended, unless it’s pure wickedness, of course. You know, if a singer out there hears my stuff, knocks at my door, and says he can do better singing than me: come on dude, show me what you got. I leave this place with an undisguised pleasure. What a relief! Same thing for a sound engineer…if you stay in your technical perspective, don’t try to have any influence on MY music. I will hear your thoughts, evaluate and consider your ideas, but I have the final words, now go back to your faders. Come on, I sound pretentious, but I’ve known this kind of so called sound engineer in the past…the one you hire to simply mix a gig, then tries to make you change your whole drum playing the day before the gig. Fuck’em! Aaaaaaaand now, ladies and gentlemen: Wozzy the clown! (2 people clap hands sound to be inserted).
I’m also kinda okay with mean criticism (more a “grunt”) coming from a 16 years old kid (it’s figurative), who can merely tune his guitar (and when he does, it’s half a tone too high…), plugs it in a Line 6 pod turning the overdrive all the way up (‘cauzz it eeeeeevil!) and pretends to anyone who’ll agree with him that EZ drummer sounds actually like a real drummer. If not better… It’s not your fault if the internet gives you the right to think that your opinion matters. It will pass you some day, you’ll change. Take it from what you’d call “a boomer” (which I’m not) or leave it: think about you in 10 years when your tastes will be much assumed and your culture way wider than what it is right now, and read your nowadays commentaries. And if you feel a little pinch, it’s called shame. And it’s a good sign. And if you don’t, bravo, you’re on your way to Douchebag City. And, to be honest, I don’t give a rat’s ass whatever will happen. Everybody has a place on this planet. Don’t blame me for saying that, I’m surely not the only guy who thinks that way. It’s pointless… and tried to make some humor here. By the way, your 4 words commentary has 8 faults in it. And I’m not an English native speaker.
After all, it’s my fault, I should have checked the site before posting my stuff there…
The sacred “SUB-JEC-TI-VI-TY”… aaaaaargh! Same as the “I listen to every kind o’ music.” No, you don’t listen. You barely hear. Maybe. Through your phone speaker. Even in music criticism, objectivity MUST have a good place, at least for people who declare themselves as “music lovers.” Do you want an example? Okay (dude, everybody said “no”), I can’t stand Led Zeppelin, subjectivity. I just can’t, sorry. They had a major influence on music that you can still feel today, those were all great musicians: objectivity. See my point ?
The guy who listens to “Merry-go-round” and finds it too carnival… are you serious? THAT’S THE WHOLE FUCKING POINT! Just go to track 10; THEN tell me if you got the same carnival feeling? Of course you won’t! The people who use words that don’t even exist in music, but use them to sound intelligent and extremely clever… stuff like “organic.” What do you mean by that? There’s too many organ? “Over-produced” Over-produced regarding to what?
The rapper or EDM fan that puts “progressive rock” in his search bar, and down-vote you! Dude! I have nothing against rap or EDM, I don’t like it much, but I’m OK. Do you think that, knowing I don’t really like it all that much, that I WOULD TYPE RAP in my fucking searchbar…and then above all, dislike the content??? You know you won’t like prog, so pass your way!
Okay, the audience has now left…I can go back to Wozzy the musician.
Let me tell you a small anecdote about a critic I received for Metro Expo 1 from a girl I’ve known for many, many years. She told me she felt much better at the end of the record…which wasn’t absolutely…God no, hell, shaïte, not my goal at all! How on Earth can you feel better after this torrent of pure hatred and despair? She wanted to be kind to me, and she was, of course. That’s also a weird feeling you can have when someone hears your music and misunderstands it. I don’t blame her at all, at the time she was going through domestic violence, and everything went wrong in her life. I knew that later than when she complimented me. So, you see, place everything in perspective and context. How could my weird feeling about what she said have the lesser importance above what she’s been through? Even now, while I’m just telling you that makes me want to erase this anecdote from this interview…
So…criticism. Don’t care about it too much. There are more important things than my music in this world. Let’s imagine that, by complete randomness, let’s say Warren Huart (a famous sound engineer) falls on one of my songs, and tells me “Yeah… on your guitars, the range between 2469 and 3452Hz is not good, next time try to cut it a bit.” That’s not criticism…that’s advice. “It sucks!” is also not criticism…it’s cretinism.
What I’m experiencing right now, as I’m trying to promote ME2 a little bit (and I’m a complete dork at this), is receiving globally positive critics, but nobody shares or does shout-outs at all. Can you, Jer, as a blogger, tell me what would push you to say to an artist submitting his music: “I like it a lot, but I think my audience won’t like it” or things like that? What should I think about it? I recently discovered a site of music submission, and I asked myself the holy question: “is it a scam?” After a few days of use, I came to the conclusion that…yes some use it as a scam, but it’s partially your fault. You pay, not much I agree, to submit your music, then you’re told that it’s “original… great vibes… blablabla” but you will not just be aired on a fucking spotify playlist!? Why don’t you let your listeners decide if they like it or not? And if you don’t want to talk about the submissions you receive: why don’t you go fish for music by yourself? How the hell do you want me to choose a song that represents Metro Expo 2? “That’s not serious… too carnival…” Holy fuck THAT’S THE POINT OF THE SONG! You know what…the next album will be blues rock and nothing but blues rock with lyrics focused on naked women and booze. FUCK! Or a cover album…even worse.
Come on, some guys there have 70 000 requests, and have an acceptance rate of 0.01%, and it’s “not a scam”? 1/2 dollars received by a blogger or a Spotify playlister (not a fucking Rolling Stone magazine journalist) for a request… and 0.01% acceptance. Hello moderators? Don’t you see anything wrong here? Maybe it’s just me that can’t understand. I don’t know.
I know what “you” think… no, I’m not frustrated!
“Honk”… sorry, that was Wozzy undressing.
SBS: What made “Anhedonia” a subject that you were willing to dedicate 1/10th of your album to? That whole cut was extremely interesting to me…and as you read in our review, I even learned something! And that made me EXCITED. It made me feel like…well…I suppose almost the opposite effect of what “Anhedonia” is supposed to be all about if I’m understanding this affliction correctly. But that’s me, and I’m a freak, and it’s music that makes me that way…so in that moment, I get it…I’m not gonna feel “Anhedonia” when I’m listening to tunes…at least, hopefully not… The thing is, according to the definition, this is something that just creeps into your life one day…and then it’s there…and where joy once existed, now you’ve got none…life becomes bland oatmeal…cardboard wallpaper…clothes that are all greying of their once radiant colors. I am AFRAID of “Anhedonia” if I’m being truthful Fred (though I definitely love it in song form!) – what made this frightening topic something you wanted to tackle, and what is “Anhedonia” all about from your perspective? Is this drawing from personal experience, good sir? Or perhaps am I reading something into it that shouldn’t be there at all – should we be embracing the feeling of “Anhedonia” – or lack of feelings, as it were – to find a different level of acceptance for it?
Fred: First, believe it or not, it’s the only song that I’ve re-written the lyrics for – 8 TIMES! It’s the shortest text, but this song arrives at a turning point in the album. It was relevant to have something in relation with what happened before, what will happen next, and ultimately, “why.” And, as you said, it’s a very delicate subject to treat. Not mentioning the fact that I had only 8 sentences in the verses to do it – that was a huge challenge!
As I wrote in the story, Ee12563’s whole people suffer from this “illness” (I called it illness for clarity, it’s not really an illness). All he knows about feelings is just that they’re not supposed to exist. From the beginning of the story, he starts to “feel” stuff, but not good stuff. It bothers him a bit. So far, he thinks that his life was so much better before feeling anything. Keep in mind that he’s drunk from his pills!
To a personal level, I had 1 or 2 episodes of “Anhedonia” before my caffeine addiction (again, not addiction in plain words) had been diagnosed. I felt so bad at those times, I was just lost in my life. I made different changes, formations after formations, and I just couldn’t get the point; there was literally no hope. I was miserable. One day, on a work assignment, a 500 kg metal beam fell on my hand by accident from a 50cm height. And I litteraly felt nothing. Everyone around me was screaming, it was total panic. I just looked at my hand and said “I’m okay.” I felt nothing… nothing, no pain… nothing. “Go to the hospital, call an ambulance…”, “No, no, I’m okay, how about we finish our labour?” And weirdly, I was Olympic calm. Like dead inside. It lasted a few days. No music, no movie, nothing; no laugh, but no cry either. You just “function.”
That’s something I wanted to talk about in Metro Expo 1, but I couldn’t find a place for it. So I kept this song for the next one. Everything was already written yet (except the lyrics). I just changed the solo section from an originally Santana style guitar solo to flute, because I had this “bird” image when I re-worked the song, and so I could add the first and only positive feeling Ee12563 will ever experience during his mission. I know…cliche…birds…flute…fuck you. And, I told you about the leitmotiv that used to block me in the early creative process: the horn section plays this leitmotiv, so in the end, I used it. It won’t bother me anymore.
It was, as a wink, one of the most fun tracks to record. I’m playing with a 17 piece Brazilian drum-band in it, and so had to use the most fun music instrument that ever existed: the cuica. Cuica is a Brazilian instrument everyone knows, that’s the one that makes “monkey noises.” And damn, this stuff is so FUN to play! I didn’t have a single clue of what I was doing while recording, but I really enjoyed myself! I’ve had some crazy laughs, alone in my basement! Sometimes it sounded more like a sick sea lion than like a monkey.
So, no, don’t seek too far…”Anhedonia” is just a subject that fits well in the story as a starting condition for our hero. Sorry to disappoint you. Again.
That’s why I told you earlier that this album can easily cherry-picked. Everything song is open to your own interpretation, and fills a whole story by itself.
SBS: Seems like an appropriate time to bust out one of my favorite wide-open questions to ask people Fred. What are three things you know to be absolutely 100% true about music?
Fred: Ouch! Joker.
First: It’s hard. I have the chance to be an “over-gifted” (that’s true, I’m not pretentious here, and to be honest I was an over-gifted for a guy of my generation), but in music, the gift itself is not enough. A good practice ethic is very important. Meeting the right persons at the right time is also completely random. The good teacher for instance. And believe me, if you’re aiming high, I mean a professional level; it counts. You also have to accept critics. See, I’m not frustrated…I’ve been there before and it prepared me for a professional music life that I never really had in the end. That’s part of the curse. Believe me, when you play in professional symphonic orchestras you must be prepared to face the conductor’s sudden rants, and not take offense to their aggressions. It’s a world apart.
Second: Always leave a second chance, and maybe a third to any artist. Music must never be taken for granted. The fact that you do not like an artist or a song doesn’t make that artist bad for the cause. I have nothing against what I call “popcorn” music; I tend to prefer music that requires effort, and so I do my part of the job. I’ve been through this, like I told you before.
Third: Don’t cheat. Or you will quickly be unmasked. Be honest.
And a fun #4 for the road: don’t use Autotune…use Melodyne!
SBS: Now…I’m assuming that the majority of the writing of Metro Expo 2 would have probably taken place over the years…and that in previous questions you’ve already addressed a bit of that most likely. What strikes me in your particular scenario however, is that right when you would have probably been getting ready to really ramp things up towards the recording sessions, could have been right around the very same time that the world was starting to shut itself down due to the global pandemic. Again, this is all theory…I’m guessing here…but at the very least, I’d imagine that the coronavirus must have at least affected the path of Metro Expo 2, or altered it somehow along the way, did it not? Did Covid-19 end up creating new obstacles in the path of getting this album out, or did the extra time spent in isolation end up actually helping in getting the album completed somehow? How did the pandemic affect the making of your latest album – or did it – & post-release, do you feel that it has affected how it might have been received somehow? People are in all kinds of strange circumstances, moods, and scenarios these days; it’d be pretty understandable if they all had other things on their mind lately – have they been listening?
Fred: I will sound like a monster right now, but Covid helped me. I’m sorry to say that this way. As I said before, I work in an Opera House, and so it implies weird schedules. And since the Theatre has been closed, I kinda switched to a part-time day work Monday to Friday. So, again I’m sorry to express this that way, my life changed once again. I could keep working on this little personal project with a kind of certainty I would never have had if my job continued the way it was.
And it impacted the recording a bit. But mainly, I’m truly sorry again, in sorta good way.
As I said before, my friend Bruno Herzet has recorded all the horns section’s saxophone at home. He wasn’t comfortable with it at all, but wanted to start learning DIY methods in his home studio. This was for him a starting point on his new mission. And at the end he’s been more than happy to do it. Same thing for Olivier with his French horn.
My buddy Jean-Claude Petitjean, who is a fantastic guitarist, participated from home too… I mean, think about it a few seconds and picture it for a while: Jean-Claude was at the time 73 years old, and the guy was comfortable with digital recording. He is a guy that knew the studio sessions in the 60’s where you had to use the tonality of a telephone to tune your guitar. That’s not a joke, that’s how it was made then. He played 3 times per week-end in sessions at this period, and on Monday morning, he was back to his postman job. Today, we have tuner application on our cell phones, and some still can’t tune their shaïtocaster… Man, that collaboration was so cool! I immediately thought about him for the guitar solo in “Homeland Rock.” I mean, this guy knew the real deal.
I’d say that the only negative impact of Covid for the production was that originally I was supposed to welcome the solo flutist from the Opera, which is also a former European accordion champion in his youth. But the guy retired during the first Covid crisis, and had no possibility to record from home. So I had to hire other guys: Rowan and Dmitry. In the end those dudes did an absolutely wonderful job, but I lost a bit of local flavour that was important to me. Too bad, but that’s life.
I’m digressing a bit, because it was a “real life” collaboration during first pandemic break, but while I’m here, I also want to thank Georges Hermans for his participation on “Cheesy Tunes.” To keep this tune authentic, I needed help from a truly genuine Jazz pianist. When you come to parody, it’s paradoxical, but if you don’t make it accurate and unquestionable (objectivity… see higher in this interview), you will sound like shaïte and will just be doing mean stuff, and you’ll be complete dork! (Not to mention that you won’t look like a very clever or cultivated person). The big band blowing in that song: it’s a truly accurate big band formation arrangement: 4 trumpets, 5 saxes and 4 trombones (well, 3, sorry, I don’t have a bass trombone), all this done by two guys. Coming back to Georges; he is an amazing pianist, not a keyboardist as he says himself. He also gave me the inspiration for the organ solo in “Homeland Rock,” in which he played some parts.
Anyways, I started really working on compositions 2 weeks before the first lockdown here in Belgium, I didn’t know that was coming, and the work was being done on tracks anyway. I just reached the end of it much faster than expected. 11 months later, counting a 1 month break due to computer breakdown, and 3 weeks when I came back to work in a normal way between the two waves. So in total 9 month of half time job… that’s not that long for a poor old chap alone in his basement.
Again, if one of your readers has lost someone in the pandemic, I’m truly sorry; these little stories will sound quite futile.
SBS: Looking at your catalog as a whole at this point in your career Fred, is there a particular song that you feel like you’ve made that you can single out more than any other as the one track that seemed to really sum up what Metro Expo does and what Metro Expo is really all about at its core? Which one would you choose? And of course, why – what is it about that song that really speaks on your behalf?
Fred: Non, monsieur. Sorry… I have a certain affinity with “Merry-go-Round,” which is to my point of view, maybe the best song (lyrics relative to music, story, multiple-interpretations) I’ve ever made with any project of mine. But come on… if I throw a kinda musette waltz in your face, and, the more seriously in the world, tell you; “This is Metro Expo,” would you believe it ? If you did, I’m about to play all the 14th of July balls in France!
That’s a major problem with Metro Expo…there is NO Metro Expo style, but it exists anyway. I know it’s a total commercial suicide to do this kind of stuff today. But I don’t really care. You know, if nobody listens to this album, it will still exist anyway, and I could enjoy it. Alone. Now, if you want to come aboard, go through your personal tastes and your first impressions. I’m not talking to you in person here, Jer, it’s a figurative “you.” These albums are not just songs put together, you can picture it, if it helps, like a giant song divided in 10 chapters.
What do you want? I’m an old school guy… You know what made me utterly happy when I finished my mixes? It’s the fact that ME2 could stand on a single face of a 90 minutes cassette. I’m from the cassette generation, and, when I was younger, I found it great to have a whole album on a single face, wait 30 seconds then the auto-reverse played the opposite side of the tape. You didn’t need to rewind the stuff.
At a very personal level, l think the song that initiated Metro Expo is the second one of Metro Expo 1 “You’ve Stolen Millions.” First musically, because it was supposed to be the most difficult song to adapt. It was an electro-metal, a bit Rammstein-esque at the beginning. And I don’t know but playing the brushes riff on it gave me goosebumps, I immediately thought: “That’s it! That’s the exact atmosphere I want.” Remember that I wasn’t feeling well these days. And lyrically, I solved old problems with my childhood and my parents in it. Yeah… that’s out, now! We can move on! Open the shit valve and let flow all the things that bothered you for all those years.
So… No, none of these songs have a “single” potential.
SBS: Is there something you can share like, perhaps a favorite memory about the making of Metro Expo 2, or something you learned from the recording process that’s gonna help you going forward from here, or maybe something we should know that listeners might not understand/realize about the new album?
Fred: I told you about the Cuica episode, and the distant collaborations earlier. But since you ask, there’s one thing that surprised myself on this record – it is that for the first time in my life, I enjoyed singing. Not all the time, for sure.
But I also brought a lot of effort to my vocals too. I found information online that revealed my main vocal problems, and found some solutions and exercises to practice & correct them. I also changed my diet a bit during my vocal sessions. There are, truly, on this album first takes…when you hear me laugh at the end of “Cheesy Tunes…” it’s a genuine laugh because I tried, with not much conviction, to hit the high note just before… I was so surprised that I kept this satisfied laugh after it, and it helped me to finish this song like a real drunk dude, my job was done now, let’s goof this shit ’til the end!
All the end of “The Mountain” is also first shoot. Sometimes, I picture myself like a pirate with a knife between his teeth, and scream “A L’ABORDAGE!” when I have to track something that’s way above my competence. Still, have nothing to lose, so “A L’ABORDAGE.”
SBS: Shake that crystal ball Fred, what do you see? Is there a Metro Expo 3 in there? What does the future hold for your music Metro Expo? More specifically, what will define success for you in 2021?
Fred: Yes. Definitely, there will be another Metro Expo. Not right now, for sure. But I know that I don’t have to panic about it. I will grab another notebook one day, write “Metro Expo 3 ideas” on it, grab my acoustic, or my piano, and let’s go writing some shaÏte. Funny stuff, last Christmas, my wife offered me a notebook with music sheet on one page, and empty page on the opposite page. She winked at me, because I know she was proud of my work with ME2. And she did take a part of the job, helping me with the English language, and compiled my storyline ideas in plain text.
What I’m sure about, it won’t take 5 years. I won’t make the same mistakes I did 2 or 3 years ago spinning in round like a dog trying to bite its tail.
And if it takes a bit too much time, maybe I’ll do again a real-fake live with ME2…who knows?
I have enough composition tricks now to get me out of any kind of situation, and since I don’t want to be “original” at any cost I don’t care if my imagination is not what it used to be 10 years ago. I’m more effective, more confident, and above all, at almost 47, I don’t give a ponytail to what others can say. You don’t want to hear it. Ok, I’ll keep it for myself! Aaaaaaaaaaaaand a last fuck you for the road!
SBS: You have officially reached the end of all this rambling my friend! Many thanks once again for your time & wisdom Fred – I always love talking to creative minds like yours. We’ve got this whole tradition of leaving our last space here for you to say anything else you’d like the people to know – we call it the ol’ SBS Open-Floor, and it’s all yours brother. All the best to you & yours Fred – keep in touch!
Fred: Thanks again for the interview!!
I can’t help but to add a bit of self-promotion for my Youtube channel; seriously have a good laugh with what’s there, and for being relative to the main subject, this is the only place where Metro Expo 1 Live is available (it’s a 57 minutes video, so you won’t be annoyed with ads). I literally have nothing to gain, in terms of money, if you go check it out, I’m not monetized. https://www.youtube.com/fredmarcoty
Also, I posted via my distributor some of my very old work, it’s available here (there are some demos, some mixes exercises on my 2004-2007 era):
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFy89TfyyocJREACInlpk_w or https://open.spotify.com/artist/1UGdSx7LHZJzbkFAmazBq7 (songs from my Youtube channel are also available there)
And the last thing about me – again, I have nothing to gain from this, but you can check the (ex) Fair,Blatt & Hill 2010 album “The Mossel eating machine” (Yes, I made deliberately horrible English errors!). Listen to track 6 if you don’t want to listen to the all of it.
I’d also like to give some push to this project I discovered yesterday:
Bad Flamingo: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3Ht7Wd1qVgmFyW63bl5eKE
Please make Black Mountain come to Belgium one day… or Luxemburg… or France!
And if you struggle with your singing, I highly recommend this guy’s test. You take the vocal test, you answer what you actually felt, and this guy defines your problems in 4 categories. And he sends you exercises to do. Believe me, it’s highly effective as a starting point. https://www.powertosing.com
If you ever need a saxophone player, here’s my buddy Bruno’s site. As I said he started to record from home. Tell’em good ol’ Fred sent ya! http://saxofun.e-monsite.com
Find out everything else you need to know about Metro Expo at the official website at: http://www.metroexpo.sitew.be
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