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Temples on Mars - Agent Excited About New Album!

16 Mar 2016 // An interview by RYAN KERSHAW

Hi guys, your Kiwi fans are excited to hear of a new album in the making. For the Muzic.net.nz readers who may not be familiar with your music though, could you please give a brief bit of a background as to how you all met to form the band, and where your first gigs were.

Sure. The original line up (of which James is the only original) formed back in New Plymouth in New Zealand in 2003. Our first ever gig as Agent was in the Naki at the now closed Salvation opening for some death/thrash metal bands. Shortly after that we played at the first ever Basement Bar gig which eventually became a venue that most of the touring NZ bands made a point of stopping off at and is still hosting the occasional gig. Jimmy’s claim to fame is that he designed the Basement Bar logo when he thought he was awesome at photoshop.

Your influences include Guns N Roses (yeah!!) and A Perfect Circle. What are some of the more unknown artists that have influenced you over the years either individually or as a band?

So sooooooooo many. They may not all be unknown but we can certainly give you a idea of how diverse the spectrum is - Jaco Pistorius, Stanley Clark, Supergrass, Blur, Lamb of God, Mark Knopfler, Joe Cocker, Mastodon, O Brother, Prodigy, Lesser Key, Shapeshifter, Karnivool, Stevie Wonder, Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Nirvana, Radiohead, Marilyn Manson…. the list goes on and on

Your back catalogue has some cool tracks to check out; Lunatic has some interesting lyrics. How did that song come about? There are some cool vocal/mix effects on that track too.

The main riff of Lunatic was a bit of a happy accident during a rehearsal when the drums and guitar went slightly out of synch and we were like “hey that actually works” and we went on and built the song up around that. We tried to make the post chorus vocals contrast with the more staccato delivery of the verses and the effects just all seemed to make sense at the time.

You made the big move from NZ to London in 2008. What prompted the move?

At the time the motivation was more exposure to a far bigger market and the desire to give ourselves the best shot possible. Things have come along way in the last 8 years and it’s easier to get out there a lot more these days for bands. There are a lot of bands from NZ and Oz doing well here now that are still based in the southern hemisphere. At the time we took the decision to be where the action was. You only live once why die wondering?

How have you found the music industry in London compared with NZ? In general are there pros and cons to each?

There are definitely pros and cons to the UK but more pros..… The pros of being here is that European market is on the door step, the UK press is amazing with huge publications and radio being based here (e.g. Metal Hammer, Kerrang, Prog, Classic Rock, Radio 1, xFM), there is a swarm of really cool UK and European bands if you ever need inspiration, plus if you want to see an international band there are shows most nights around London. Cons…. a huge amount of bands trying to make it, its a bit harder to stand out, industry people that are ready to take advantage of bands, to an extent its a bit less personal than NZ.

James, talking to you (albeit very briefly!) for a lead singer you are very grounded! Seriously though having a good nature in the tough music industry works out better for everyone in the long run and in band situations too. How important has it been as a band to keep communication between band members clear and to all get on as you made some pretty big changes.

You just have got to be straight up as you can with each other and set expectations right from the start. Respect each others opinions and decisions but don’t be afraid to say what you think as long as you do it in the right way. As long as you all keep talking and everyone is moving in the same direction its OK. As for being grounded there is no room for egos, it’s just not good for anyone involved and to be honest takes too much energy.

Matt, as well as the obvious bass lines, you have some pretty cool harmonies happening. What’s your approach, do you experiment with intervals or just go with what comes instinctively; or is does it depend on the song?

A bit of both really it does depend on the song largely and what fits the track.

Your last album Kingdom of Fear was mastered by Tom Coyne who has worked with another great band – Karnivool. How did that come about?

Tom Coyne is a bit of legend. Not only has he done Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus, and I Am Giant through whom we met Tom, he has also done some huge pop names as well such as Michael Jackson, Adele and Beyonce. He is the real deal and we were very happy to work with him.

Kiwi bands can be a bit “relaxed” when it comes to mastering but it can be a very important part in the process. What are your thoughts on mastering and how it helped with your recordings?

Its simple - don’t release anything that hasn't been mastered, it sounds quiet and dull next to a mastered track. First impressions do count. You don’t have to spend thousands as there are plenty of places around that do a decent job for not too much. If you are serious about your music you should be willing to spend a few bucks. We went with Tom Coyne on Kingdom of Fear because it was a full album released internationally and it was being listened on radio next to the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Tool, Metallica, Soundgarden etc. the recording needs to stack up.

Although enjoying being in the band is the ultimate, Agent has also done well in terms of radio play and live shows – being played on BBC radio 1 and Kerrang TV.  For the benefit of Kiwi musicians who might not have approached radio because of a lack of confidence, how would you recommend going about it?

Get a PR agent or radio plugger that knows the industry and the people. It costs a few dollars but it’s worth it. The most success we have had is when we have paid someone to work with us. The PR/plugger should be able to recommend the right track and which stations to approach. You have to remember if you send your CD to radio or send an mp3 link via email it may never get listened to. A plugger will make sure the right people hear the song.

Gerald, listening to your guitar tracks you really add a cool ethereal vibe to the songs, (like on Collecting Scars and Dark Dreams) with the things like tremolo picking and that spacey tone. Can you tell us a bit about the sounds/settings you like to use and if there are any standout techniques or ideas that you love to play or hear with guitar tracks

Delay and reverb! I love it! This is where the ambience is at! I also use a Kemper head - a profiling rig with a million amps, cabs, and effects in one unit. Having the contrast between my more atmospheric vibe and James’ chunky warm Mesa Boogie sound really helps to define the Agent sound especially on the new tracks that we have been working on.

As a band you are all skilled players so it would be stink as to not ask about the drumming! A track that stands out to me is Vondelpark from Kingdom Of Fear. Dean, I guess it depends on the song but is there someone in the band you usually lock into first, or can anything spark off an idea for the drum parts to the song (including an idea that started on the drums)?

As a drummer I naturally try to lock into the bass but at the same time if we are jamming on something and the guitar riff is doing something MORE staccato I might lock into that on the snare or kick. It’s all very organic and we all try to do what works best for the song.

The new EP Suicide By Tiger sees you working with Paul Matthews again. How did the recording process go?

Well, well… quite smooth to be honest. We were better prepared than we have ever been before going into the studio so had 90% of everything planned out - you never have it 100% as some of the best ideas may still come to you in the studio but we had a good idea of what was going down. We have been mates for years and we have a good understanding of how we work together. It’s become productive and efficient and we all have a similar vision of how the tracks should sound. The EP has now also sprouted arms and legs and will now be a full blown album so we are heading back into the studio with him from April.

What can we expect from the new tracks and more importantly where can everyone get them?

The news tracks are sounding more like where we want the band to be. Vocally James has taken it up a notch, musically its tighter, hookier, more accessible, yet more diverse at the same time. We are really happy musically and enjoying the new tracks especially playing them live. The first single When Gods Collide will be released along with a new video in the next few months - official date to be confirmed with our PR company.

You guys have all done really well and have a loyal following. Do you take time to chill out and just go “yep cool, it’s been awesome and things are good”? How would you rate the ride so far?

Thanks mate. To be honest we are not very good at sitting back and enjoying it as there is always something to do - rehearsals, writing new music, PR, planning a video, improving the live show, personal practice…. It’s been a long hard road so far and nothing in this industry comes for free so it will continue to be hard especially as the industry has changed so dramatically but there will still be good times, achievements, successes, and moments along the way when everything comes together at the right time and you are like “Fuck yes!”. Primarily you have to do this first and foremost because you LOVE it and want to do it as well as you can. Musicians are like addicts looking for that next high be it a rush of goosebumps listening back to a beautiful vocal harmony or the adrenaline rush of a flawless live set. We cannot stop.

Thanks guys, it’s great to see a Kiwi band doing their thing together on the opposite side of the globe! Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans back home?

Thank you so much to our NZ fans for all your support over the years. We really enjoyed our tour back home in November 2014 and we hope to make it back for some shows again in the future. We hope you like the new tracks and record we have coming out this year. Much love and respect Agent.


About Temples on Mars

Temples on Mars is a London based progressive rock band. Originally formed in New Zealand (NZ) under the name Agent, the band relocated to London in 2008. Featuring James Donaldson on vocals and guitar, Daz Carikas on bass, Gerald Gill on guitars, and Dean Gibb on drums, Temples on Mars produces accessible, progressive tinged, rock music.

To date, Temples on Mars have headlined their own NZ tours and UK shows, featured at UK Rock festivals, released two EP’s, plus two full length albums: Expand/Contract which was given 5/5 stars by NZ’s leading music magazine Rip It Up and NZ Musician magazine, making a name for them in their native NZ, and their second album Kingdom of Fear, which created a buzz in the prog-rock scene in the UK and Europe earning the band a 2014 UK progressive music award nomination.

After relocating to London, Temples on Mars quickly became regulars on the live music scene and have shared the stage with numerous UK bands including Skindred, Devil Sold His Soul, Black Peaks, InMe and I Am Giant to name a few. Temples on Mars subsequently teamed up with long time friend and producer Paul Matthews of I Am Giant fame (whose production credits also include OpShop, Blindspott, Stylus and Six60). With Matthews, Temples on Mars began work on their second full length album Kingdom of Fear which was released world wide in December 2013. Kingdom of Fear was mastered by Tom Coyne (Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus, I Am Giant) of Sterling Sound in New York.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Temples on Mars


Temples On Mars
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Kingdom Of Fear
Year: 2013
Type: Album
Expand / Contract
Year: 2006
Type: Album
The Pheng Nom Shakedown
Year: 2003
Type: EP

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