**This interview is an archive from my blog Johnny Ringo Reviews. This one is special to me because it’s the first interview I ever did with any band ever, and also because Michael is a dear friend of mine.**

I’ve been involved with my local music scene for many years now, and in my travels I’ve made plenty of friends, with various bands along the way and i’ve decided to start occasionally posting interviews bands both local and not so local. The band I interviewed today, Aynrei, is a project started by Michael Carpenter and Clay Shroeder in Austin, Tx. I know Michael from his days in the band Dhalsim which was started in Ruston, La. Dhalsim were definitely the most original band to ever come from North Louisiana, they were also featured on Metalsucks as one of the winners in their “Best Local Band” contest a few years ago. Aynrei just released their debut EP and you can listen to it HERE or HERE and i wanted to interview them about this project and find out about their plans for future world domination.

What does Aynrei mean?

Michael: It means infinite nothingness. Just a mashup of an esoteric and a japanese word really. Ayn is the nothing. Rei is the soul. Just something I came up with that I felt was unique to our metaphysical interests.

Who was involved in the recording of your debut EP? Did you only play drums on this record?

Michael: It was just Clay and myself. Yea, I just played drums and percussion. We constructed the whole record together pretty much, so I had input on all the guitar and some of the bass parts as well. I didn’t use the big Yamaha kit either, so I was sad, but it still turned out well with the Roland and there’s a few programmed parts we added in, but most of the playing is me trying do my thing on the e-kit.

Where did you record this album?

Clay: Was recorded and mixed entirely “in-the box”, meaning guitars/bass were recorded and mixed with amp simulation (POD XT, Axe Fx, and Logic amp designer). The drums were performed on a roland electronic kit and then sample replaced with Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 2.0. The EP was recorded between January and May of 2011. We had to delay the release due to tense arrangement battles and rock star indulgences that nearly crushed Aynrei’s existence. Originally, the idea for The Great Circle was to include input from a vocalist and bassist, but after being dissatisfied with local auditions, I was forced to handle the sparse bass parts and we decided Aynrei’s musical vision was beyond words..at least for now.

Michael: Clay covered that one, I think. We are still on the fence with vocals though. I’d like the added element, but it has to be a perfect fit for what we do. There are lots of cliche vox in heavy music right now. If it’s not going “h.a.m.” then we aren’t fooling with it. The rock star indulgences are limited to me sleeping on random couches and eating expensive fresco bean burritos from Taco Bell.

What seperates this project from your previous bands?

Clay: Aynrei grew from pure organic struggle. Mike was previously the drummer for my band Atlas Versus, but after artistic visions split with the addition of more members, we parted ways, luckily on good terms… shortly thereafter, he threw an 8 string guitar in my hand and started hating. 47,568 riffs/noises later, the EP was complete. No blood shed. Just feelings. For the record, Mike loathes the metronome as much as I fear experimentation.

Michael: I think the quality of the recording and the arrangements are a lot different. In my previous bands, I obviously wasn’t the same caliber player that I am now, so there’s more concise and cleaner execution of the parts. Also, most of this stuff was built up on the spot. We didn’t write the songs, then go practice them, and then record full songs. It was basically us sitting in a room with guitar and drums plugged in to a comp. Oh, i think I mentioned that I didn’t play an acoustic kit this time, to so I had to adapt to some rubber pads and latency stuff. The full length will have the Oak customs on it though, promise!!!

What are your plans for the future of Aynrei, and where do you see this band in a year or two?

Clay: We are currently developing ideas for a full album, although nothing will be set in stone until we have the input of a bassist. As we like to develop ideas slowly within this band, I am eager to have fan input on arrangement ideas. I feel like this would be a natural evolution for the “DIY” movement. In my opinion, Progressive Metal got it’s rebirth from the rise of affordable home studios and a direct connection to fans around the world via internet. With such outlets why would we not want to hold our listeners’ attention spans by involving them into our world.

Michael: There’s going to be the full length, some regional touring initially, then some straight up road dogging. I’m trying to play 300 shows in a year once the record is done. Hopefully we will keep receiving positive reviews and make enough noise to get some label support and some legit tours.

When people see Aynrei live, or listen to your debut album, what would you like them to take away from that experience?

Clay: Experience. I want this to be beyond an audio stimuli. The listener should be able to close their eyes and feel the emotion that the sounds produce. As as a songwriter, I have always been drawn to odd meters and odd note movements, basically chasing the dragon of complexity while still attempting to hold the listeners grasp, unfortunately the musician part of me needs to be held at bay with this project. Working with Mike has allowed me to surpass my boundaries as a musician, although one of the most fierce collaborations i’ve had to endure. I think we’ll agree that the results are validated.

Michael: What Clay said. For me, the tunes are like soundtracks to a film. It’s like a trippy mind journey type of vibe where you sort have this abstract type of narrative going on and you can create your own dialogue. I want the audience to interpret the music on their own terms.

What are your thoughts on the term “djent” that is used to describe bands like Periphery, Meshuggah, and Animals as Leaders who have a sound similar to yours?

Clay: Obviously, we’re a huge fan of all these bands, I wouldn’t be recording if it weren’t for Misha. Then again, I wouldn’t enjoy odd time signatures without Tool or Crimson, nor extended range instruments without Korn…(cough) I mean Meshuggah. I think Djent is just a cute word to describe the recent surge of poly-rythymic metal. They can’t very well call it “Shugging” haha, regardless, I can see how Aynrei can be put into that category, but I think you’ll notice our unique Don Caballero (Check Them Out NOW!) approach of syncopated/separated meters..basically we want to develop multi-pocket groove. YA. One gigantic trench coat that makes your ears ejaculate.

Michael: I never got caught up in the whole djent as a genre vs. djent as a tone characteristic stuff. Whatever people need to do to define something they will do that and if that’s something we can use to reach a certain demographic that will support what we do as artists then I’m all for it.

What are your thoughts on the direction the music industry is heading, and are you for or against people downloading music?

Clay: NO! Music should be free. I feel like if an artist doesn’t struggle, they’ll lose their voice. Their material will become as saturated as their facade lifestyle. They become walking advertisements, utterly soulless. I sigh in relief that we have the means of spreading our music to millions within a matter of days. The money train is gone, oh well. At least I can still share my art…which is what music is supposed to be, art. Not products restricted by the laws of cash. It’s meant to move and inspire people.

Michael: I disagree with Clay with the whole free thing. I’m a painter, and I play music. Two different mediums, but the goal is the same, to share your unique vision with the rest of the world and to make a living doing it full time if you’re lucky. The internet has leveled the field as far as reaching an unlimited fan base. If you spend enough time online hustling your work, you can get your band heard and get folks out to shows to see you live once you’re touring. We are giving away this album at no cost because it’s not a physical copy. The quality is great and it makes it easier for people to spread the word about us. Bands that play the music we do aren’t rockstars at all. There’s lots of grinding it out, sleeping in vans, and not getting girls, going on. Every dollar that’s made is more than likely being put back into the band to keep them on the road, or to finance a record or whatever. Merch and money from a guarantee are a big chunk of it, but if you sell 5000 cd’s for 10 bucks, then that’s more money in the furnace to keep things going. It’s not getting stacked up in a savings account for Bentleys, dude! Every little bit helps and is very appreciated. I understand that the record industry’s price gouging in previous years has the price of music in a bad light, but we are artists that still want to make a living doing our thing. You can’t tour or make records with nothing. It’s just impossible.

As a musician living in Austin, is it harder or easier to get your music heard?

Clay: Word to the Bluth family. The live music capital of the world is biased. I’m more worried about our online existence at the moment, we need fans to play live to. When the time comes to bring our sound to audiences, it will have reached a heightened maturity.

Michael: It’s tough because EVERYONE’s a musician here. Everybody has a band that they are in and folks get tired of getting begged to come to their friends shows, i’m sure. On the other side of it is the fact that there aren’t many bands doing what we do, nor is there a lot of local support for it. There’s only a handful of places that really deal with heavy music here, because this is a blues and country town, but when heavy bands come through the people come out in droves. We’re focused on spreading the word through the web because it’s just a more efficient way to hustle art. You can stand on the corner all day with some paintings, or you can stand on top of a mountain with a beacon of light, and illuminate the city with your presence.

If you could have written any song ever, what would it be and why?

Clay: Tough question. Hmmm, definitely “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. That atmosphere is deeeeep.

Michael: I don’t know what’s wrong with Clay, man. Thanks for taking the time out for us Johnny!! We really appreciate it.


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