An Interview with Spencer Sotelo of Periphery: “It’s easy to fall into the trap of always playing the same set on every tour”

Periphery have always been considered a pioneer of the djent movement within progressive metal. The band are notable for there poly-rhythmic patterns and sensational melodies. Following the release of a double album (Juggernaut: Alpha & Juggernaut: Omega), the band have been touring Europe with Devin Townsend and Shining. Before the last show of the tour, lead singer Spencer Sotelo spoke to me about the tour, the difficulty or trying to replicate Periphery’s sound in a live setting, and Spencer’s dream bands to tour with.

I believe this is the last date of the tour with Devin Townsend and Shining. How has it been for you guys?

Spencer: This for us has probably been the most amazing European tour we’ve done so far! The crowds have been insane and obviously touring with two great bands, Devin and Shining, has been awesome for us.

Has there been any stand-out dates in particular that you have really enjoyed?

Spencer: I think last night in Glasgow was probably the best crowd of the entire tour, it was insane dude!

This tour is very much in support of the double albums, Juggernaut Alpha and Omega. How have fans taken to the new material?

Spencer: Really well actually, we started playing these songs before the albums were out and we didn’t know how the crowds would react to it. But even before they had heard the songs then hearing them live they were already getting into them so it’s really cool to see the positive feedback.

So when you had played these songs before the new records were released, did fans take to them instantly?

Spencer: Not immediately, but the more and more we played them you could see from fans watching videos of us playing them live you could see that people know the songs, you could even see them singing along!

I bet that must have been a pretty amazing thing to see?

Spencer: Oh for sure.

The new records now takes your back catalogue to four studio albums. Is it becoming increasingly difficult when it comes to making the set-list for shows?

Spencer: Yeah just because we have such a wide catalogue of material and it’s easy to fall into the trap of always playing the same set on every tour. We didn’t want to do that this year so we completely wiped our set-list and we pretty much made a new one for this whole year which is mostly new material.

I imagine when it comes to playing live, you obviously play the older stuff to cater to old school fans, but do you want to focus towards the new material?

Spencer: Absolutely. I think that the newer material is better than the old stuff live yknow?

The new records contain a lot more experimental elements rather than focusing on just the heavier side of things. Was that a change you always wanted to bring in when it came to making these records?

Spencer: I think it happened naturally, it wasn’t something we thought too much about, it was just the natural progression of things.

As I said earlier, the new records contain so much excellent composition and varying elements. Was it a challenge when it came to writing?

Spencer: It really wasn’t. This is the first record where we really worked together as a full band. It wasn’t just one person writing here, one person there. All of us were writing together which made it a lot easier, there wasn’t like writers block because everyone was contributing.

Was that what it used to be in the past?

Spencer: When the band first started Misha was pretty much writing all of the material, it was only because he was writing in a vain of what he wanted the band to be and now that everybody in the band gets what direction he wanted, he now likes to take a step back and let’s everybody else get involved. So he doesn’t have to do all the work himself! Haha

I’m a massive gaming fan and I saw online that Misha had produced a couple of songs for The Master Chief Collection on Xbox One. Was that Misha going “I love Halo” or was it to expand Periphery to new fans?

Spencer: I think it was a little bit of both to be honest.

And when it comes to a live setting, you have so many musical characteristics, is it a challenge to replicate this sound?

Spencer: Yeah. It’s definitely a challenge and we have to practise a lot at what we do but hopefully it translates live.

So what steps do you take before going on stage?

Spencer: A lot of warming up and even before a tour starts we obviously have rehearsals and production rehearsals to make sure that we don’t go in dry.

Is that always a worry for the band?

Spencer: Sure and the longer you take a break between tours the more you worry about the next tour. You go “oh I haven’t done this for a while, what the f**k is going to happen?!” But it always works out.

Starting from the end of April you are heading back to the States to do a full headline tour. Do you find that there is much of difference when you play back home compared to playing in Europe?

Spencer: I find that the crowds are better here in Europe just because we don’t get out here as often. So when we do get here, the crowds are just ravenous. They are ready to go!

So is that an aim for Periphery to expand into new territories?

Spencer: Yeah I would say so.

So are you playing any festivals later this year?

Spencer: I don’t think so, I don’t think we are doing any festival runs this year. Maybe next year though, Download or something like that!

So when you play bigger festivals, do you hope you can gain new fans?

Spencer: New fans yeah but it’s not just that, it’s a fun time for us. It’s like a vacation for us!

If there was one dream band you could tour with, who would it be?

Spencer: Slipknot or Nine Inch Nails. I have been a huge fan of both of those bands for as long as I can remember. That for me is the pinnacle of touring in the heavy metal world.

So if that was to happen would you think that you’ve ‘made it’ as a musician?

Spencer: I wouldn’t say so in like ‘making it’. It’s just like a bucket list thing haha!

And really my final question is, you’ve got your tour in the US set to kick off and you’ve mentioned about coming back to Europe. Can fans expect a full headline UK tour?

Spencer: Yes, I would say we will be back in Europe and the UK by the end of this year.

Well I really appreciate your time, thank you for talking to me.

Spencer: Cheers man, thanks.

Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega are available now via Sumerian Records. Periphery can be followed on Twitter at @Peripheryband.

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