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Torman Maxt - Interview

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    Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 11:29am
Posted with kind permission by toroddfuglesteg


Torman Maxt has become one of the more vilified bands in our database. A quick look at the reviews part of their PA profile will tell you what I am referring too. Yes, I also gave that album a 1 star review. A review the band has both read and is fully aware of.    

Torman Maxt has just released a new album and that is for me an opportunity to interview the band and get their story. I guess Torman Maxt may cause some high blood pressure with some of the opinions raised in this interview. I always encourage my interview objects to be brutally forthright in voicing their opinions in interviews for ProgArchives. Please keep this in mind when you read on.  

Without further ado, I give you this interview with Tony Massaro in Torman Maxt. 

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Your biography in ProgArchives is very extensive so I refer everyone to the PA profile. But just to start with; please give us your long or brief afterthoughts on......




Just Talking About The Universe... So Far from 1994

We recorded it on traditional 24 track and had limited time to mix it. I still really like the album, but there are a few items I would love to touch up. Lyrically, it is a brief introduction to our Christian faith, but in a very indirect manner. My favorite track is Summer; I am very proud of the guitar and vocal layering on that song.



The Foolishness of God from 2001

After our vocalist for the first album left the band in 1997, I decided to take over singing duties. I had written all of the vocal melodies for Just Talking About the Universe…So Far, so it was a natural evolution. The title “The Foolishness of God” is taken from the New Testament, where the apostle Paul states:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:   "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

I had heard a sermon years ago with the same title and decided to incorporate the actual sermon into the track, using excerpts of the speaker, Dr. Walter Martin’s message. Lyrically, the album is a defense of the Christian faith and echoes the words of the Bible that “the fool in his heart says there is no God.” But if one looks closely at the structure of the songs, they would find that the tracks preceding the songs with the strong outward message are actually “from the inside” and speak of personal inner struggles and vanity. Thus, there is an attempt to lyrically “pull the plank out of my own eye” before worrying about the speck of dust in another person’s.

There was less acoustic guitar work but quite a bit more of guitar layering and textures. City of Man is my favorite track on the album both lyrically and musically.



The Problem Of Pain: Part 1 from 2007

From the first time I heard Rush 2112 I had always dreamed of writing and recording a concept album. I just never felt like I had a story. Then during the recording of The Foolishness of God, the idea of retelling the story of Job from the Old Testament came along. The album had about twenty tracks and was about 84 minutes long, so we decided to split it into two parts; somewhat of a takeoff of the idea of the Lord of the Rings movies, where you knew before the movie started, that there would be a continuation.

Writing music that tells a story can be a challenge insofar that the music must follow the story and the tone and timbre of the music is determined by the nature of the subject. I absolutely love the album and musically, and feel like it faithfully tells the story from the Bible.



Your brand new album The Problem Of Pain: Part 2

Obviously, it is the continuation of Part 1, and the songs were written in the same general time period, so it has the same feel. So the thought for developing the songs and recordings was twofold: first, it had to sound like the previous album for it to be a cohesive package but secondly, as with all of our other albums, there needed to be a step up in production, playing and overall arrangement and composition. I think this album achieves both. There are some darker keyboards on the album as well as some guitar work using the e-bow. Also, this album has the most lead guitar work of any of our albums.

There has been some breaks in your release schedule. What happened between the albums ?

I am an architect by profession, and I own my own business and have a wife and three children. Additionally, I am active in our church life, so there is only a limited amount of time to write, record and produce music. So, of the four most important things in my life, the order of importance is: God, family, work (because it supports my family) and then music. However, I feel with what I lack in time I make up with persistence and diligence. Parts 1 and 2 of The Problem of Pain took thirteen years to write and record.

The first three albums are now free downloads. I guess the web hosting of your website is not free. How is the Torman Maxt business model and how do you earn a living ?

As I mentioned in the previous question, I am an architect by profession. While I had always hoped and dreamed I would make a living as a musician, it just hasn’t worked out that way. What’s interesting is, however, that I am paid to design buildings; thus, I must design buildings that meet the client’s needs, and not my own personal preferences. They are paying the bill, so they get to call the shots. So when it comes to writing music, because money is not a part of the equation, there is total freedom of expression. I quite like it that way.

The joy I receive from people who have downloaded our music and have really been inspired or blessed by the music we make outweighs any amount of money I could ever get. What’s also great to know is that I get emails from people in countries where they can’t access music as easily, or they don’t have the money to pay for it, but are very grateful for someone making their music available at no cost.
With that said, we have agreed with our record company and its distributors, that we will be charging for the new album for a set time period to recoup some of the production and manufacturing costs. However, if someone doesn’t have the cash and sends an email, we will gladly send them a free copy.

Your lyrics has a Christians theme. Are you targeting the Christian market or the secular markets with your music ?

Interesting question. When one approaches writing music as a business endeavor, then it is prudent to determine who the audience is and what to do to successfully market the product in order to sell the music. By definition, that is what makes the music business a ‘business.’ That line of thinking does not enter my mind any more. When you are not worried about money, then you don’t need to worry about how many albums you sell !

My paradigm is this: I have a vision of what the music I write needs to sound like and how to get there. Additionally, I have a vision of what I want to communicate both musically and lyrically. I feel like I am being the artist that God made me to be. I desire to write the best music I can possibly write, using the gifts He has given me to the best of my ability. I want the music to reflect God’s truth, order and beauty.
So I would ultimately say that I am “targeting” pleasing God with my music, first and foremost.

How would you describe your music and who would you compare yourself with ?

One of the technical definitions of ‘progressive’ is: “characterized by striving for change or innovation; moving and advancing.” For me, what makes something ‘progressive’ musically is when an artist, either through composition or production, is trying to move towards new ideas and methods. Any style of music can have a progressive element to it. Torman Maxt takes normal hard rock / metal music and advances it forward with more sophisticated arrangements, layering, counterpoint, and harmonies.

Most importantly, I think ‘progressive’, like the definition I gave above, should be an adjective and not a noun. Progressive as an adjective, describes the music, and makes for artists striving for something new and interesting.
Unfortunately, it has been my experience that many Prog fans use “Progressive” as a noun. Thus, there is now a criteria for what Prog music should be. That criteria usually includes long songs, lots of solos, and lots of time signature changes. It reminds me of the term “Alternative Music.” By the mid 1990’s “Alternative Music” was the main stream and wasn’t an alternative to anything! Unfortunately for me, I hear a great deal of un-progressive “Progressive Music.”

I would describe Torman Maxt as a blend of Black Sabbath, Rush, Iron Maiden and King’s X.

You were the ProgArchives artist of May 2008. Which I guess is not the same as being the Fishing Lure of the Month in the Bass Angler Magazine. How was this experience for you ?

Hmmmmmm….good question. Let me start by saying, in a million years, I never expected Torman Maxt to be such a divisive band !

OK, here are some background facts. Max from ProgArchives approached Torman Maxt with the opportunity to be ProgArchives artist of the month. He explained to me that is was a paid spot and they were trying to feature bands that were both quality and wanted to advertise their music on ProgArchives. It was to be a win for both the band and ProgArchives. The band gets a good advertising spot and ProgArchives raise some cash in the process. 

Interestingly enough, at that time, someone wrote a very strange, very anti-religious review of our album that had little to do with the music and more of a slam of Christianity. I mentioned this to Max and asked him what the policy for ‘nonsensical’ reviews were. He read it and agreed that it was rather offensive as well as not really ProgArchives material. Max immediately pulled the review and then mentioned that that particular reviewer had been problematic for a while. (Incidentally, I ended up making contact with that reviewer and I feel like we worked things out). So that prompted a discussion about that, because we were paying for the advertising, that for the month of May only, that ProgArchives would hold off on posting negative reviews. This was ONLY for the month of May that we were paying for.
Come June 1st, he could post any and all reviews no matter what the content and when it was written. The line of thinking was similar to a movie studio buying an ad in a newspaper and using reviews or quotes that are favorable. This seemed like a reasonable idea to me. Our manager agreed it was a reasonable request and so did ProgArchives. I didn’t give it much thought after that….

Well, the spurned reviewer got on the forum, emailed me and everyone he could think of to start denigrating me and Torman Maxt. This started quite the hullaballo on ProgArchives and thus came a string of unbelievably bad reviews. I think if a score of negative one was possible, we would have got that! I never bothered to respond. Even Max from ProgArchives took a beating.

Here is some food for thought, however. Prior to the ProgArchives debacle, the reviews for Problem of Pain Part 1 were quite stellar:
8/10 from the Dutch Progressive Rock Page.
4/5 from Ytsejam.com
5/5 from the Progfiles.com
5/6 from Progressor.com

8/10 from Classic Rock Magazine...we were the highest rated prog band
for November 2007 and even had our photo printed in one of the UK's
largest publications!
   
Here is a quote from Prognosis:
"The Problem of Pain: Part 1 is a classy and well written album. I recommend you check out some music samples at the band's Myspace.com page. You may be impressed by what you hear."

Here is a quote from Sea of Tranquility Prog review site:
"...here's a certain AOR element that can't be ignored, giving some of these songs a real radio
friendly appeal, especially thanks to the Beatles-influenced vocal harmonies. Otherwise, expect plenty of tasty guitar licks (that include crunchy riffs & melodic leads), sumptuous keyboards, tight
rhythms, and melodic vocals."

So, it is clear, the facts bear it out, that Torman Maxt is not an untalented, amateurish band. I have played guitar for 30 years and have studied music theory and counterpoint. There are many passages in the album that are extremely sophisticated. Some sections have five and six instruments playing separate parts simultaneously. The first six songs barely have a repeated part.

We got two separate 8.7/10 reviews from Ultimate Guitar.com. This is what they think of Torman Maxt:
It's hard to compare something that seems so new, and so fresh, and so different to some other album or some other artist. You can't just compare a brilliantly made album. Job's First Song and Job's Resolve is probably my most favorite songs from the album, and I continue to listen to them. I love the fact these guys wanted to try something different, and they achieved a great sound.

So why the consistent 1 out of 5 reviews on ProgArchives? If these reviewers were Olympic judges for gymnastics or figure skating, they would get flagged and dismissed immediately as judges who have an agenda that goes far beyond what they are supposed to be judging and their scores don’t reflect the reality of the performance. Now, I don't expect everyone to like us; but to present Torman Maxt as a 1 out of 5 just clearly shows that there is far more than musical critique happening here...

I think the reviews come from two directions, both having to do with subjective feelings and not objective ones. The first is a simple reaction to having ProgArchives hold off on negative reviews for the month of May. Many people felt their free speech was being tampered with. The second reason for the bad reviews is the negative reaction to the spirit carried by the music.
I firmly believe that music is a “carrier of spirit” and as the ProgArchives reviewers have tried so hard to discredit Torman Maxt, what they don’t realize they have done actually validates what we have tried to accomplish! It is honoring to me that our music has caused such a strong reaction. That means the spirit I was hoping to convey is very present in the music. It is to be expected that the spirit of Jesus is offensive to many. That comes as no surprise. Torman Maxt is not a group of amateurish musicians and songwriters and many good ears have validated the skill of the band so that is not what is causing the negativity here. Too many qualified and sophisticated listeners have acknowledged the quality of the music.  

But in the end, everyone is entitled to their opinion. A wise man once told me that sometimes ProgArchives gets it right and sometimes they get it wrong.
If I could make a suggestion to anyone at ProgArchives about the review system I would have them look at Progression Magazine. They have four categories: Sound, Composition, Musicianship, and Performance. Each of the categories is rated one to four and the maximum score is 16. I think this is a better way to break an album down numerically.

Just to find out some more about you, please give us your opinions on........

Progressive rock.

As I mentioned above. For me, Progressive should be an adjective and not a noun.

Record labels

Record labels are in business to sell music. By definition they make decisions based upon what is most beneficial to their business. This is not always what is best for the artist or musician. It has been fascinating to see the whole industry turned upside down in the past few years. I like to compare the music industry with the airline industry. The price for a cross country flight from Miami to Los Angeles has been around the low $300 range for twenty five years. How can that be when the average car has gone up by ten times in the same time period? It seems that the market corrected the over pricing of airline tickets. I think our current technology is correcting the overpricing of music.

Music festivals

Lots of energy and synergy. I think they make great events.

Your Christian beliefs
 
These are my Christian beliefs:

The Bible [all the books of the Old and New Testaments] is the true written message of God to us. I believe the authors of the Bible were inspired by God and are therefore completely trustworthy. The Bible is the final authority on all matters to which it speaks.

There is one God, who exists forever in perfect community as three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God. He is the perfect reflection of God’s character and glory. He lived a sinless life and offered himself as the only perfect sacrifice for the sins of all people by dying on the cross. All who believe in Him are declared righteous on the basis of His death. He rose physically from the dead and will return again to earth to reign forever with those who are His.

Humans are created in the image of God, but each one has fallen short of God’s perfect standard and is in need of salvation.

Salvation from our sinful condition is a free gift from God to us. It is not something we earn or deserve. It is offered in grace and received by faith in Jesus Christ alone. those who believe in Jesus Christ and call on His name are made right with God and given eternal life.

The American culture


I love being an American. If you look at the history of this country, and how many people came here for religious freedom and a new start, you can get a general feel for the DNA of a people who love freedom and seeking out opportunity. Americans are fiercely practical and pragmatic, and I like that. However, I believe we are in a moral decline and that is due to our turning away from God.

Barack Obama vs. Sarah Palin

In America we vote for representatives to govern us who “represent” our values and beliefs as voters. In that aspect, Sarah Palin shares more of my values than Barack Obama. I think Obama made a great presentation of himself during his campaign and made some very impressive speeches, but ultimately, I strongly disagree with many of his policies and values. With that said, even though Sarah Palin more closely represents my views, I am not sure she is the best candidate for president that represents my views.

The Vietnam war vs. the Iraq & Afganistan war

Interesting question. Answering this one is like doing a review of an album without really closely listening to it and not downloading the lyrics…it makes for an unimpressive and uninformed presentation. In general, I don’t feel like I have enough good facts to make a qualified answer; however I think they are three separate wars and not easy to compare. The big question is, does one think a pre-emptive war overseas to prevent a disaster at home is a justifiable war?

Florida vs California

Lots of beaches in both states! Actually, they do have something very similar in common. They both are transient states. People tend to move there from somewhere else. People tend to move to Florida for the warm weather, especially senior citizens, to retire and slow down. California is quite different. People tend to move there for opportunity and to make things happen in their life. The music and movie industry epicenters are there. What is interesting is that growing up in Florida, for me, California had quite a mystique. I think California still is representative of the idea of “going West” to seek fortune and opportunity. The Europeans did it 500 years ago and I still think it happens here in America today. I have lived here for 23 years and love it.

After these rather untraditional – and very nerdy- questions; what is your plans for the rest of this year and next year ?

I plan on promoting Problem of Pain Part 2 and to start writing more music. I am also very involved in my church life and my wife and I, with some others, help run an outreach here in Costa Mesa that provides meals and showers for homeless people. I lead a bible study there once a week.

Anything you want to add to this interview ?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions!! Readers can go to our homepage and here four tracks from the new album.


Thank you to Tony for this interview

Their MMA profile is here and their homepage is here


Edited by UMUR - 18 Oct 2010 at 11:34am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote J-Man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 11:46am
I will not get involved in any arguments over here about this band... the one at PA is enough for me! LOL
Check out my YouTube channel! http://www.youtube.com/user/demiseoftime
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote UMUR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 11:52am
I really like the passion that Tony express for his music. And while I´m definitely one of the critics that he is not too pleased withSmile, I like his defense of his art. When it comes to his view on life and especially his relationship with God, Tony and I couldn´t be more different, but again it´s always interesting to read other people´s opinions about life.
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