Having endured some major line – up changes over the years, Adelaide rock band Mere Theory is finally ready to take what’s theirs.
Guitarist Nigel was kind enough to answer these questions for us.
Interview w/ Nigel Black (Guitar)
from Mere Theory.
By Cameron Chambers.
Hey Nigel, how are you doing
Pretty good thanks mate. How are
For the uninitiated, who are Mere Theory and what are you guys all
Well, we are a four piece rock
act and um, we make music. Yeah, ha ha. We um, well, how do you sell
your band? Ha ha.
We’ve been playing together
since the start of 2001 and we’re passionate music makers basically.
I guess, I’m the guitarist/songwriter guy so I’m the builder. I
bring the music and deliver it to the guys who whack on the panels,
We’re a good, strong unit of
guys and we all work well together. We work very hard. We consider
ourselves to be a really hard working band. We work with integrity and
we try and tread without causing, well, causing as little damage as
We’ve put out a couple of EP’s
and we’ve just released our debut album with the Boomtown lads. Well,
it’s not released but the single is out on vinyl which we were passionate
about doing and the Boomtown guys back us on that. We’ll be launching
the record in September which we’re excited about!
As far as the record goes, we
spent about 4 or 5 weeks at Sing Sing with Richard Stoltz. You know,
Richard has recorded Behind Crimson Eyes, After The Fall and Bodyjar
so it was good that we recorded with someone who’d worked with our
friends and people that we respect.
It was a really great experience,
a very intuitive experience and we all made friends really fast. We
worked as hard as Richard did and he inspired us to work harder. But
then we made him work even harder again, ha ha. He put so much effort
into our record, sometimes we were doing 24 hour days! I ended up with
RSI and our singer was nearly dying but we enjoyed it thoroughly. We’re
proud of what we made and Richard should be applauded for the job that
It’s been a long time coming,
but your debut record “Catalan Atlas” is finally ready to roll!
Can you tell us a bit about the writing and recording process for the
Well, we worked really hard in
pre-production with a number of producers who are friends with the band…
so we were ready to deliver something great to Richard. We set up a
recording room at my mum’s house and we disciplined ourselves, day
in and day out for a few months. We got a bunch of songs down and we
had some charts that we were following, but the early stages of the
process were very intuitive. We put the songs together bit by bit and
I guess with me being the builder or conceptual person I kind of started
it all off.
We worked really hard at trying
different structural remedies, it was like putting a puzzle together
the way we were delivering melody lines. So I’d put something to the
other guys and then we nutted it out which built to the actualization
of the song. I’m sure every band works differently, but we can be
random and structured at the same time so yeah, the recording process…
We wanted to do something like
“The Pixies”. We wanted to crank it out in 8 days so we wanted to
be prepared. We wanted to be “military uniformed” in what we do!
It kind of went that way in some regards but there was definitely something
organic about the process as well.
Richard was very good with us.
Some things that we envision aged weren’t quite happening and he was
really capable when it came to picking up the pieces. He always had
a solution! There were only a couple of times where we went whoa, this
isn’t working, ha ha.
Richard always moved us in the
right direction… he coached us well. It was definitely the best recording
we’ve done in terms of mindset and playing. There was lots of live
recording which was great! There definitely wasn’t any, um, what do
you call it when you tune the vocals?
Ha ha, yeah, auto-tune! My theory
was that we’d worked with producers before who used auto-tune and
it was like, by the time the producer auto-tuned your vocals you could’ve
done 10 more takes! That’s how you get the real voice and feeling!
We based our drum sounds on Led
Zeppelin and it was so cool. When Richard pulled the drum sounds I was
fucking spinning out! It was nuts that in the first five hours he pulled
that drum sound… I was so impressed!
Richard has such a great attitude
too, he’s such a good man. The record was a challenge for everyone
– it couldn’t not be, but everyone was happy. We ended up with a
nice big sound! A lot of that comes from Richard’s experience and
insight but we knew what we wanted. But at the end of the day, we’re
players and artists and Richard is the printer who brought it all together.
What were the biggest differences
between preparing for an EP and piecing together a full length?
Well, with our previous experience,
I knew what I needed to do. I knew that we needed to let go a bit more
and that we needed to let our producer push us a bit harder. The experience
in what we’d done on our two EP’s prepared us. I’m not putting anyone
down, but some of our band members were so good at what they did that
I was actually surprised, ha ha.
There weren’t any crazy egos
floating around. I won’t say any names but members who would usually
antagonize the others were smart enough to leave the room this time
round. I’m the coach who stays in the room and tries to motivate the
others. This time round it was a more mature and less egotistical approach.
I think we were more responsible and it made for a smoother delivery.
It was exciting recording live
and not just playing over the top of stuff. It was just so exciting
to pump it out with the rest of the guys. To get that vibe on that record
you need to play it live!
Chris is Mere Theory’s third
vocalist – how much of an impact did he have on the writing for
He definitely had a large impact.
We always had a good writing chemistry with our past vocalists but Chris
has a different sort of approach. He’s much more vocal when it comes
to “yaying and naying” certain pieces of our songs. We also shared
the lyrical responsibility. I think of myself and Chris as our song
writing team but when we’re on and in the moment, there’s no lead
song writer. We just do it!
When working with our bassist
and drummer, I can be the visionary. Say I have a guitar part and a
melody line, it sounds like a guitarist making a melody, but Chris takes
that and makes it into something I couldn’t possibly conceptualize.
Nothing against the old lads –
our old singers – they didn’t push it and beautify it like Chris
does. It makes it special and takes it further and he does it so effortlessly.
It was so cool that he can do some things so fast. Other times it’s
a bit of a struggle but generally it’s such a fast process with Chris.
No disregard to the other guys, but he’s so fast!
I just think it was a really good,
fast process but it was totally enjoyable all the same. Sometimes Chris
and I would sit down and write for 5 hours at a time. 2 hours of that
would be gas bagging and reading and looking at poetry and getting song
ideas. It was just great!
I did a bit of research on
what “Catalan Atlas” actually means and it’s been described as
“the most complete picture of geographical knowledge as it stood
in the later Middle Ages” –
am I correct in assuming that the record as ongoing theme running throughout
the 11 tracks?
That’s pretty much right man.
We just thought that it was such a cool concept to compare to our debut
album. Just taking all our knowledge as a band and laying it out there.
It has other connotations as well.
What is the world and what have we done to the planet? What we will
do to the planet… war, you know? Other concepts infiltrated into that
too though. We don’t theme our songs too specifically. We leave it
quite poetic and open without sounding wanky.
We’re just saying listen to
this and take what you want from it. We’re not trying to force an
idea down someone’s throat. We just want you to take what you want
from us. We just love making music!
We’re saying listen to this
and take what you want from it. Not trying to force an idea down someone’s
throat, take what you want from us. We just love making music.
Are the lyrics something you
guys approach as a whole band or is that left to Chris?
I’ll write a lot and Chris will
too. We try and mix it up. If I wrote a lot then Chris has to sing it,
you know? We’ll sit for hours and talk about things and try and conceptualize
and visualize what I want, and then I’ll deliver it to Chris. Sometimes
he’ll embrace it, sometimes he’ll reject it or reinvent it, but
I kind of build the foundations and then the guys take it from there.
As a group, we then decide how
it feels and then the re-structuring process begins. Sometimes Chris
pulls out some “ohs and ahs” and then we turn those melodies into
lyrics. We’re always evolving and we’ll continue to evolve. There
was a few songs that I specifically wrote for Chris where he said I
want to hear this. He had a theme in his mind. There’s a song on the
album called “Ghosts” or “Ghost Reflex” which I wrote specifically
for Chris because he heard it in his heard. We put the song together
and just went with the flow.
If the guys request anything then
I’ll go about having a look at it and how it sounds, then we’ll
go through it as a group. There’s no true process for us except that
we’re pedantic and we keep working. In saying that, the opening track
on the record is one of the fastest songs we’ve ever written!
Has the dynamic of your live
show shifted at all with the inclusion of a new vocalist?
Definitely. No disrespect to anyone,
but some of our previous band members were a bit more serious. Not in
a bad way, but they were just more introverted than Chris. Chris is
a bit more engaging and more involved as a band member and as a dude.
We hang out and have dinner and just kick back and talk crap.
He’s just a different personality
and it shows in how he delivers to the audience. He lets go a lot more!
He’s an interesting guy and it’s just a lot more fun sharing the
stage with him. He’s a seriously good bloke and we love sharing time
with him – both on and off the stage.
Was there ever a stage when
you thought “the band might not make it” after you’d already been
through two singers?
In the back of my head, I knew
we’d get a singer but whether or not they fit the mould was a different
At one stage, we were like, let’s
get a new name. I had about 20 songs ready to go so we thought let’s
do that. Kind of like Caustic Soda I guess, ha ha. The guys were like,
we’ve worked hard and earned our name so let’s keep at it.
Out of about 10 guys that we tried
out, Chris was actually the one that I called myself. He actually tried
out for the band a few years ago so he ended up becoming our friend.
It was a cool transition.
I actually auditioned him privately
on my acoustic guitar and he knew more of the songs than I did! Ha ha
Mere Theory is a band who’s
never resorted to any cheesy gimmicks to get attention.
Where do you think you guys fit in to the current musical landscape
considering the “style over substance” attitude most bands possess
It’s hard you know. We don’t
want to be falsified or be fake people and we figure that the band should
also have that approach. The way we deliver the band should be as realistic
as possible. You know, photos and recording aren’t real in some regards
but even in our recording we made it was rock’n’roll as possible.
Where we sit in the scene is hard
to say man. There’s a certain amount of culture in what we do. We
play to the scene, so we’re part of each other, so we don’t reject
anything, but we kind of try and be humble. Our heroes are humble people
so we maintain an approach that seems to be worthwhile. We couldn’t
hold our heads up if other people wrote our music. What would be the
point in being in a band!? That’s not our thing and I guess that’s
cool for some people. Different people, different strokes…
I don’t like to use the term
keep it real, but we want to be true to ourselves. Some punters like
that rock n roll fantasy, there’s a lot of that out there. I understand
that. Sometimes I don’t want to meet my heroes because I don’t want
that fantasy to be wrecked.
There’s plenty of people that
when you meet them – like Rollins or Ian Mackeye – and when you
meet them you hope that the fantasy isn’t better than the reality.
That fantasy is ok you know? It gives people inspiration and spirit.
We just deliver our music and as awkward as it can be, we just play
and put it out there and tour. Under the surface we’re all just people
and we just enjoy playing!
What separates your live show
from the countless other bands out there?
Well, that’s a tough question
man, ha ha.
Someone like “Prom Queen”,
I used to love watching “Prom Queen”. I know heaps of people who
hate them, but I enjoy the enthusiasm and execution. I love the intensity
of the delivery and the look on Jona’s face is scary and dramatic
and it’s about entertainment!
But I also enjoy the plain face
“Blueline Medic – this is who we are” delivery. Some people like
that too. We just give it our all and put it all on the line each night.
We put the most into it every time. To compare us to others bands, well,
we don’t really do that. They do what they do and hopefully we get
along and respect each other.
We just like to give our most
and I hope that our audience knows that we’re giving our most. We
just love playing for them and giving the audience something in return.
We’re not just selling ourselves, we love communicating with the people.
We want the energy to wrap around people’s heads and come back at
us. It’s not just verbal… it’s a feeling!
I’m sure you’ve been to many
shows so you’ll understand man. The communication transcends language.
Music is such a special thing. Performing is just an instant thing.
Whether you fuck up or not, it doesn’t matter. Its right there and
then, it’s happening. It’s like catching a wave or carving a bowl.
It’s just there man, ha ha.
If you could only play one
Mere Theory song to someone who’d never heard your band, which track
would you choose and why?
That’s a hard one man. “Defeating
This Feeling” which is up the other end of the album is cool. Everyone
likes playing it. We all get a bit loose and a bit emotional. We get
a good feeling from that song.
We also tend to spastic out during
“Eye For An Eye”. It’s just a real energy song! It’s weird.
Apart from the shows you’re
doing with “The Hot Lies” in September
– what other touring plans have you guys got for the rest of the year?
We’re planning on doing the
festival circuit. Our new agent “Select Music” are getting our schedule
together at the moment. We also plan on hitting Japan and New Zealand
in the new year!
Your last EP
“Disengage” is out of print at the moment,
any word on whether Boomtown is going to re-release it?
Yeah, they will put it back out
there. There’s talk of doing a split and putting both our EP’s onto
the one disc, so everyone can have those copies! The runs for both the
EP’s were short and hard at the time so it’s cool that Boomtown
was keen to do something like that.
Who are some local bands you’ve
seen in the last 12 months who’ve impressed you?
Um, ‘Newton Heath” are pretty
cool – it’s the guys from “Edison”. “Horsell Common”
are awesome. We played with them recently and it was great. We got to
play with “Blueline” as well which was cool too. I love playing
with those guys! I think I actually enjoy watching them more as a punter
than a player though. Their last show in Adelaide was just amazing.
I haven’t seen anyone that’s
really freaked me out for a while actually.
What are your favourite records
(so far) of 2007?
Geez, what have I been listening
to? I’ve been listening to “Fyfe” who’s a female vocalist which
has been interesting. I listen to a variety of different crap. Something
with a bit of energy. I’m drawing a blank at the moment though. Ha
That wraps it up mate, anything
else you’d like to add?
Nah, thanks for the interview
though and um, we’re playing with “The Hot Lies” in September.
We just chucked those dates
up today actually, ha ha.
Cool, well there you go! Thanks
again for the interview.
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