Bursting with intricate instrumental prowess and diverse soundscapes that lift listeners into a dimension entirely their own, Washington Music Makers, Periphery, have come full circle into their own to become an eclectic powerhouse of Rock. Mesmerizing lyrical spills of emotion, pain, love and idiosyncratic thought over five studio albums inspirit the embrace of raw humanness and ignites passion within diehard fans worldwide. I caught up two guitar wizards from the new generation of shredders, Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb, on their ‘The Convergence’ tour stop in Detroit to chat about bringing ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’ to life, inspiring one another to grow both creatively and personally, the band’s endless gratitude for their fans, tattoos and more.
Congrats on the release of your fifth studio album, ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’. What did you guys experience in the studio that you found to be reflective of your growth as a band and different than your previous experiences recording in the past?
Jake – That’s easy. Every recording before ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’ has had some theme of stress surrounding it that lead to a lot of challenges that we had to figure out as we went along. One of those challenges is one of those really abstract things which is interpersonal relationships and writing together. You know, being in a room and figuring out what our workflow is going to be, how we are going to schedule everything, etc. Fortunately, when it came to this release, we all decided to just do it at Misha’s house, our other guitar player, and we were basically in our pajamas the entire workday, drinking coffee and sitting in front of the computer and just jamming on instruments. It came together so naturally and organically because we had gone through the experience of figuring it all out on previous albums.
Yeah, and learning through the challenges.
Jake – Yeah. I would say that that is one of those things that stands out the most with recording this album. I hope that people can hear that we figured out that flow, you know? I hope people can hear through the music that we were just vibing.
You reach a state of equilibrium in mind by setting yourself up for success by creating comfortable surroundings that are distraction-free and simple.
Jake – Yeah, it was awesome. I mean, you can’t have all six guys crowded around the computer and working on the record at the same time, so we would take turns in front of the computer and in our downtime, I would be playing video games and the rest of the guys that weren’t on the computer would be working on their hobbies; film stuff, practicing riffs, chatting or whatever they wanted to do. We just got it down to a science and it felt really good.
All of your material has always been self-produced, correct? Do you think that has enhanced the process and served to expand your realm of creatively without the “middle-man” pressure?
Jake – That’s true. I mean, that’s not to say that we haven’t tried outside help with producing, because we have; it just didn’t seem to mesh well with what our expectations were. Would you agree with that, Mark?
Mark – Yeah, of course. That is one of the things that makes Periphery exactly who we are. The collective voice of Periphery is completely unfiltered and unbothered by any external figure. I definitely love the dynamic of the band; we self-produce, we keep everything as in-house as we possibly can and people don’t seem to hate it! The results have been good.
Jake – I don’t know if this applies to every member of the band but from my perspective, I am constantly being pushed by these guys to get better. I am constantly being pushed to make sure that I am pushing myself as hard and as far as I can to write the stuff that is going to get a song going, or to complete the next section, or to inspire more writing from the rest of the guys. That is what is always going through my mind, and I think that is the kind of thing that is happening to the other members as well; back and forth of constant influence and motivation which I feel is really how the songs get written and recorded.
There’s a synergy amongst each other, and it seems as though you guys have built trust amongst each other.
Jake – That’s the key word: trust.
Exactly. Let’s talk tattoos. Tell us about some of your favorite pieces and the tattoo artists that you’ve worked with to bring the pieces to life.
Mark – Personally, I have what I would consider three tattoos. I had a good friend of mine in Virginia work on the upper half of my arm sleeve about eight years. He has a shop called Jack Brown’s Tattoo Revival in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The bottom half of my arm sleeve is tattooed by my friend named Tim in Waldorf, Maryland. I have some really silly tour tattoos around my body as well!
Awesome! Jake, who tattooed the piece on your forearm?
Jake – His name is David Cote and he tattoos these really psychedelic pieces. I am really into Science and the Universe and I wanted to tattoo something representative of a black hole, but this piece is also dedicated to my dog. I feel that one of the concepts of the universe is that the universe had spawned from a hypermassive black hole. I love this dog so much, I would literally take a bullet for this dog, so I figured that it was a representation that my dog, Tycho, is my universe. I also added a crescent moon onto the tattoo because Tycho slightly looks like an owl and needs a moon to howl at!
I also have these three dots on my wrist that is my first tattoo which is part of the Periphery logo. I got this tattooed by a good friend, Joaquin Ardiles, who plays guitar in a band called Good Tiger and is also a phenomenal tattoo artist. I got this piece tattooed in Helsinki while we were on tour with Good Tiger and it is representative of how much the band means to me. My bandmates are my best friends. You know, a lot of people might see a band tattoo on a member and have things to say about the “what if” you’re no longer in the band at a point of your life….
It’s still representative of such a huge and monumental chapter and time of your life.
Jake – Yeah, exactly. I would say that the grand majority of my time in Periphery has been so incredibly positive that there is nothing that would make me regret getting this tattooed.
Photo Credit: Randy Edwards Photos
Mark – Unless you found out that I was stealing money from you for the past seven years…
Jake – Yeah, then I’d tell you that it’s been a good run!
Yeah, and then I’ll keep an eye out for both of you in the media! You guys both have a couple custom guitars, correct?
Mark – Yeah! I have a couple guitars with PRS Guitars. It’s incredible.
Jake – Yeah, I have my own line of Ibanez signature guitars! Everybody in the band nurtures really great relationships with their companies and have their own signature products just because our style is really high on instruments and we are really enthusiastic about guitars and the way that we play. It is incredible that these companies get behind our vision, and in order to do this job, you need to have this kind of support. These companies support us with the tools and the gear that we need to put on a good show and write good music; we are so grateful.
Incredible. Jake, I am going to direct this one toward you because you stated your interest in higher consciousness. What is your idea of a life of happiness?
Jake – A life of happiness is a life that is the very essence of what you dictate as happy. A lot of people, particularly in America, think that success is money, fame or becoming powerful. I think that the “American Dream” is a very misleading concept because people get into the cycle of thinking that they never have enough which in turn distracts you from the things that may truly make you happy.
And what you “have” both within and externally in the present.
Jake – Exactly. I am a firm believer that we are only within the moment that we are in. There is no past or future that is worth stressing about. We are here. I think that people figuring out what makes them happy, which is an individual experience, is an endless journey throughout an entire life. You have to maintain and nurture what makes you happy. It’s like tending to a garden. I think that a good example of “being present” is being in a band. I am not in a band because I expect to have a bunch of money, fame, power and all of the material possessions that I want. I am in a band because I like being here, right now, working with my friends. I like traveling. I like performing music for people. I like interacting with people who appreciate what we do, you know? Those are the things that make me happy.
Absolutely. You also create a realm that welcomes all walks of life through your music that listeners can dive into and create their own impressions of what you’re sending out into the world.
Jake – Yeah, exactly.
Speaking of fans, do you have any closing messages for your fans or anything that you would like to touch base on that we haven’t spoken about?
Mark – We just have extreme gratitude. We know that without our fans, we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing today. We do a very specific thing that is so insular that at times, I forget that what we are making is a commercial product because, to me, it’s art. We are artists and what we create exists within its own bubble, but then the minute it is released, it becomes a product. And if people didn’t care about what we make, we wouldn’t be doing this.
Interesting. As though you are so immersed in the creation of your art that you subconsciously forget the bigger picture?
Mark – Yeah. If you go too far down that road, it’s easy to forget that the only reason that you are doing this is because there are people who give a shit that you’re doing this.
Jake – Echoing exactly what Mark said, you have to find the balance between the business aspect and the artistic integrity that comes along with it. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of just giving everybody what they want so your return is tenfold and you get to play bigger venues, etc. But what we are doing is very deliberate and meticulously thought about because we want to maintain our artistic integrity. There are people who are willing to listen to our art; they internalize and consume it. If these people didn’t do that or perceive it to be less than what it is now, it would be incredibly difficult to do this.