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Pedram Valiani on the Rise of Frontierer

Frontierer's leader discusses the metal band's live debut as their profile grows

pedram valiani interview

Guitarist and songwriter Pedram Valiani is the mastermind behind the devastating heavy metal assault of both Frontierer and Sectioned. Frontierer’s 2015 release Orange Mathematics is dense with skull-crushing riffs, dizzying bee-swarm guitars, and scorched sonic textures. Listeners tend to have visceral reactions. One YouTube commenter listened to a Frontierer song and gleefully remarked, “I just shat out of all my holes.” Listen to Orange Mathematics standout ‘Bleak’:

Valiani helms both bands from his home of Edinburgh, Scotland. Frontierer began as an online collaboration with vocalist Chad Kapper, a musician and A&R rep located in Missouri. Since the pair founded Frontierer, the audience has swelled, Orange Mathematics has garnered heaps of praise and downloads, and Rolling Stone featured the band as a March 2016 ‘new artist you need to know.’ Valiani has recently expanded the project into a full lineup (Pedram, Chad, Dan, Owen, and Calum) that will make its ‘worldwide exclusive debut’ as a live band at UK Tech-Fest in July. The group has yet to meet in the same room together.

I spoke with Valiani for a discussion about Frontierer’s unconventional origins, his musical background (“no formal training” besides a few childhood violin lessons), and more.


 

Dan Redding: Frontierer have made two records but the band has never been in the same room together. How does the recording process work?

Pedram Valiani: Originally it was just me and Chad, but I’ve brought in a full lineup which consists of five people. For recordings, I write, record, and mix everything. I’ve got my own little home studio space at my rents’ place. I do it all there… I normally send Chad the entire release in one big thing and say, ‘Now do your parts to it.’ So that’s basically how it works. Everybody else has been drafted in recently for the live act. I do it all, Chad sends his vocals back once he’s heard it, and then I mix the vocals, incorporate them into the final tracks, and then it gets sent off for mastering.

You said you have band practice tomorrow – how do you rehearse if members are in different countries?

The way that’s happening is the drummer, Owen – who is a really good friend of mine who’s also in my other band, Sectioned – he’s doing drums for Frontierer. Dan, the other guitar player who’s joined to fill in for TechFest, he’s also joined Sectioned recently, and he’s going to be filling in on guitar for Frontierer as well. Both of those guys live in Scotland and are from here. Dan lives in Glasgow; Owen’s from Edinburgh but lives in Dundee. We all come together in Edinburgh and practice for the purpose of the shows… Our bass player, for rehearsal purposes, he’s from Edinburgh but he lives in Portugal. We’re not going to be able to rehearse with him until the week of the run-up to our first show. That sounds pretty nuts, but everybody has the material in a format that they can learn from what they have on their own without needing to be in the same room as everybody else. It’ll work, but it’s kind of unnerving not knowing whether or not all the finer details will come together – but I think it’ll be alright.

We’re obviously not rehearsing with Chad, he’s getting a whole recording of the practice to listen to and play back as if he was in the room… If we do all that – everybody practicing in one room in the week in the run-up to TechFest in July – everything should be super tight by the time we get there. Fingers crossed.

frontierer chad owen

Owen (left) and Chad of Frontierer (pictured performing with various projects)

Since Frontierer has had success as a band without ever performing live, does that change the meaning of live performance for this band?

Sorry, how do you mean?

It’s so unusual – you guys have sold records and there’s kind of a buzz about Frontierer, but you haven’t needed live performance to get to that stage, which is almost unheard of. I’m just wondering what the relationship is of Frontierer to live performances – but I guess you’re figuring that out and it’s a work in progress.

I think it’s very rare within this style of music we play, but you do get artists who maybe don’t have the goal of touring and playing shows – they just want to write music. There are a few I can think of in the pop world that do that, who don’t tour with their music. I get what you mean – that it’s weird, it’s almost backwards. I think that the way that it’s happened – I never intended for this side project to have a live component in the time frame that it’s come about.

You just mentioned that Frontierer is a side project – is there a point where you think that will change, and you’d prioritize both Frontierer and Sectioned the same way? What if Frontierer continues to grow?

That’s what I’m saying – I viewed it as a side project, but now I view both bands on a completely equal level. It’s actually quite good that when I’m writing for Frontierer, I’m also doing something for Sectioned. I have a Sectioned album I’m currently writing that I’m about halfway through. It’s really good because I can time when each band will release their albums. I can consistently have some buzz between whatever project I’m doing. I’ll put a Frontierer album out and let it circulate for six months or whatever. By that time, I’ve got something done with Sectioned… I’m constantly busy doing stuff with either band. I view them both as main bands, not as side projects anymore. I find the idea of a side project – it devalues what you’re doing in a way. I think I’ve matured a bit personally… I don’t wanna devalue what I’m doing by saying it’s a side project. They’re both main bands.

frontierer calum dan

Calum (left) and Dan of Frontierer (pictured with various projects)

You told Rolling Stone that you try to incorporate an element of randomness into your songwriting. How conscious are you of standard elements like verse and chorus?

Oh – all the time! That is how I write. Maybe people don’t notice because [my work has] so many different parts, but a lot of stuff I write repeats and comes back. I’m very aware of that. When I said randomness, I had a lot more context behind what I said in that Rolling Stone interview. There was a lot of stuff in there, and as interviewers do, they cut and splice the bits that are most important for the article…

One of my all-time favorite bands is System of a Down, and I take a big writing influence from Daron Malakian, as much as he’s a complete knobber now. The way he writes songs – all the stuff with harmonics that I do, that’s all because of System. They wrote hit singles – every song was a hit. That’s a target for me, I don’t like any bullshit in my songs. I want every song to stand on its own and be catchy. Not catchy in the sense that you’d have in a pop song, but you have a hook that grabs you.

When I said ‘random’ – I don’t like to think too much when I’m writing. I don’t like over-thinking about arrangement – it stresses me out, I get properly stressed about it. My writing is very automated and very simple. I have a simple process that I use when I’m writing because I don’t like to be stressed about it. I find that if I don’t stress about it, I can give myself a more open critique.

“I don’t like any bullshit in my songs. I want every song to stand on its own and be catchy.”

Your music seems to reach for new depths of heaviness. Who was the first band that blew your mind with its heaviness?

Probably Dillinger Escape Plan… ‘Heavy’ is a hard word to define in any context. When I first started listening to bands like System and Lamb of God and stuff like that, it wasn’t so much that it was heavy, it’s just that they wrote great songs. With Dillinger, there was a new level of aggro. I air drum all the time, and when I started listening to Dillinger, I started air drumming more… yeah, I’d say Dillinger.

I don’t even think I’m good enough at air drumming to air drum along to Dillinger.

Yeah, I know! Me neither.

I’m interested in how you achieve some of the noise and textures on Orange Mathematics. What kind of digital processing or production do you apply to the recordings?

Honestly, I don’t mess around with a lot… There’s a plugin called Glitch VST by a company called Illformed – I’ve used that a couple of times on intros and stuff. But I’m a fan of keeping things simple… The whole process of getting weird glitchy and whammy-type sounds, that’s all from pedals. It’s all from just a couple of pedals that I have.

Are you conscious of experimentation, pushing genre boundaries, or breaking the rules?

No. In all honesty, I don’t like when bands come out verbally and say that – it’s really cringey… I openly admit that all of my music comes from bands that I listen to. I’ve just taken the best bits I liked about those bands and put it into a band that I’d like to listen to that I’ve done myself… As much as it’s cringey – I sorta hate when people are like, ‘I make music for me and not the fans’ and get really deep about it. Genuinely, the only goal for me is to write heavy records that I will listen to in my car or on my iPod, that I’ve written, that are me, so I will listen as a fan as well as a listener. That comes from the quality of the riffs and the music itself – but also the production quality. I got really hung up on production for ages, mixing and making things sound good. I wanted to have a standard benchmark sound that I know will work for my material…

Basically I just want to be able to listen to my own songs and my band as a fan as well as somebody else that might listen to them. That’s always my goal. And never to be like, ‘This is breaking new ground’ or any of that crap. Because it’s not. It’s not.

Continued on page 2…

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