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Voyagers Of Collaborative Selves: An Interview with McStine & Minnemann

"We always agree on each other’s musical input. That’s the beauty of it; there’s never really an argument about what direction we’re taking."

McStine & Minnemann (Credit: Erik Nielson)

Although they're best known as a vocalist/guitarist and a drummer, respectively, Randy McStine and Marco Minnemann have continuously proven to be among the most versatile and refreshing musicians in modern progressive music. Outside of having their own beloved projects—Lo-Fi Resistance for McStine and The Aristocrats for Minnemann, plus official solo material—they've individually or collectively played alongside plenty of incredible artists, including Steven Wilson, Nick D'Virgilio, Sound of Contact, The Mute Gods, Gavin Harrison, Tony Levin, and Jordan Rudess.

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That said, their self-titled upcoming debut LP (out July 3rd) is easily among the most exciting and adventurous sequences they've undertaken in recent memory. Full of lovely songwriting and impeccably varied and structured arrangements, it's sure to delight devoted fans, as well as bring in a host of new admirers. I recently spoke with the duo about the formation of their partnership; the joys, surprises, and mechanics of collaborating remotely; the reasons for releasing new music at such an uncertain time; and much more!

So how did the collaboration get started, and what was the process like for recording and writing this self-titled debut LP? It seems like it’s evenly split between you two in terms of songwriting and instrumentation?

Marco Minnemann: Well, we met about a year and a half ago, at a thing called ProgStock. It’s a progressive rock festival in New Jersey, and we were playing with Dave Kerzner’s In Continuum band. That was the first time we met and played together, and we locked in pretty well. Later on, we played together on Cruise to the Edge, and we discovered that we have a lot of the same tastes as we compared favorite albums and things like that. Soon after, Randy invited me to play on one of his solo albums, and I invited him to play and sing on my most recent album, My Sister. Then, Randy asked me if I wanted to do an formal collaboration. We started sending songs back and forth and here we are, talking to you [laughs].

That’s great. I think both of you  are among the biggest names in progressive rock when it comes to collaborating with others, playing on different people’s albums, etc. That’s not to take away from your own releases, of course.

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MM: Thank you

Randy McStine: The only thing that I would add to that is that if you’d told me a couple of years ago, prior to us doing the In Continuum gigs, that we’d be doing this, I wouldn’t have believed you. In a way, things moved rather quickly in terms of—I mean, it’s fairly typical, as you said, for us to be hired to play on records, and we’re doing it all remotely anyway. I didn’t really envision that Marco and I would actually meet through that project, and then when Dave booked the live gigs and had us on, I thought, Wow, that’s an exciting new step for me on a personal level. Then, as we got to playing and talking, we felt what the potential could be to collaborate. It’s interesting; I certainly don’t think of myself as a well-known entity in this genre. Sure, over the last couple of years, I’ve been getting out there quite a bit more, but still, this album feels like a different kind of launching point for my career. This record truly pulls together most of the elements that I’ve been building toward throughout my own catalog, but in a very condensed and focused way.

I completely agree, having been a follower and friend of yours since that first Lo-Fi Resistance album [2010’s A Deep Breath]. In terms of the songwriting duties, was it more about you each bringing your own significantly developed tracks, or did you work together more democratically across all of them, if that makes sense?

MM: Actually, we did bring pretty complete songs to the project, but we welcomed each other’s ideas along the way, too. That was the really refreshing part. Some were further along when we started, whereas others—like “The Closer” and “Falling from Grace”—saw us tossing the ball back and forth more.

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Obviously, Marco, you sing lead vocals on the last song, “Voyager,” which is nice since you do a good job and it offers a bit more variety to the record overall. What led to that, and how comfortable were you singing it?

MM: I sing a lot of the time on my solo albums, if you can call it singing. I at least bring my message across, but Randy is obviously a much more trained singer. I guess we felt it out and decided who should have what kind of input vocal-wise. With “Voyager,” we kind of have a duet, which is cool. I take care of the verse and he does the choruses. It came naturally.

It’s a great juxtaposition.

RM: That’s what I envisioned when he sent the track to me. That song, in particular, is the closest thing on the record to being all Marco in terms of the guitar tracks and all the keyboards and stuff. I play bass on it and split the singing duties, and I have some little ambient guitar parts that I added at the end. When I heard his vocal in the verses, I knew that it’d really work to switch between us because he has this sort of playful aggression. It also made me think of some of the influences that we initially discussed, like Gary Newman. I picked up on that tonality. As an album closer, it seemed like an interesting way to change things up. You know, you get used to my voice throughout the whole record and then he comes in and you think, Whoa, who’s that?

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MM: More like: “Who the fuck is this?” [laughs].

It’s a markedly different voice but I really like it. It’s good to be humble, Marco, but it’s by no means a bad addition.

MM: Thanks. Again, it’s refreshing to sometimes bring in something that’s different, especially right at the end.

RM: Did you ever Van Halen III, where Eddie Van Halen sings the last song, “How Many Say I”? It’s like a piano ballad and it comes out of nowhere. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about that one.

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MM: I was just going to say that that one is not one of their most popular albums, right?

RM: It’s a dark horse, for sure.

It’s a good example, though! Speaking of that, and this is going to sound insulting, but it’s like how in Transatlantic, you sometimes hear Mike Portnoy do some vocals. It’s not terrible, but he’s clearly not the singer that Neal Morse and Roine Stolt are. I’m sure he’d agree. It’s a nice change of pace and it gives the music a bit more personality, for sure.

MM: Yeah, yeah. As I said, if you have a mission and a message, it can work. If you have something to say, it’ll show. Another good example—and I don’t want to say anything wrong—is that I prefer listening to Johnny Rotten’s voice over Mariah Carey. You know what I mean? Sure, one is a trained singer and the other isn’t, but there’s more projection in his voice that helps the story he’s telling.

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I get that. I remember being involved in a big argument in one of my college music classes about whether or not
Thom Yorke from Radiohead can sing. Even if his voice breaks or goes sharp of flat, that’s part of his delivery. That’s part of his message, as you put it.

MM: Yeah, absolutely.

So what themes or topics are explored on McStine & Minnemann? Is there any connective tissue?

RM: We don’t have any overarching concept, but the songs certainly fit together well musically and lyrically. My songs tend to veer more toward—I don’t want to say criticism, but I’ve got things on my mind. It’s not overtly political, but I tend to have a lot of social commentary in there. Writing music happens to be the #1 outlet for me to express those things. I’ve been thinking recently that if I started writing words on a page in the morning, with no purpose other than to get it out of my head, there’s a chance that I might free myself up to write about other things when it comes to music. I may experiment with that moving forward. I tend to start with the music first and then write words to it, so these songs have a certain aggression that ended up steering me in a particular direction lyrically. Marco, your stuff is really varied in terms of your lyrics.

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MM: Yeah, I think so. By the way, I also like to write out what I’m feeling in the morning, too, outside of music. It’s a cool way to get things off your chest. Anyway, sometimes I already have something I want to say and then the lyrics come first. It becomes a cinematic experience, as with “Catrina,” which is about the iconic figure of death. It’s a dark song, whereas others begin without me having any idea what I want to express, but I already have a guitar riff and then I blabber out some words and hum a melody. I find which words fit the song. It could be a random sentence that sounds good and then it becomes married to the song, but then I write a story to that sentence and make it more topical. Sometimes it falls from the sky, you could say. I mean, I still don’t know what “Falling from Grace” is about [laughs], whereas a song like “Voyager” is really personal. It’s about something I experienced with someone. Those are my three major variations.

I see what you’re talking about. It can be all about the melodies and the music, and then even if the lyrics aren’t clear, as long as they sound nice, it works. It can just be poetic.

RM: “The Closer” is a rare example—there’s a whole story that goes along with it that we probably don’t have time for. Lyrically, though, that’s one of the few examples here of writing lyrics first and then going over to the piano and trying to match it. That one, in particular, came from a demo that Marco sent me a long time ago; he said that he started working on it with Alex Lifeson, and Marco wrote a chorus for it that always stuck with me. When Neil Peart died, I started going through the entire Rush catalog. I was tracking a lot of stuff for this record at that time, too; all of the songs were more or less written except for “The Closer,” and I was thinking of those guys and then I remembered this song that Alex had a connection to. I began with these somewhat abstract words that were directly influenced by Neil’s lyrics, and then Marco had the chorus and presented this whole new song to him. Luckily, he accepted it. That’s how that one basically became a co-writing by proxy situation, even though Marco isn’t actually on it. Marco, you said that that’s the first time something like that’s ever happened?

MM: Yeah, which is really interesting. When I started writing it, I had those exact words in my head for the opening lines of the chorus. I didn’t know where I wanted to go from there, though. Something post-apocalyptic. Then, Randy put some additional color and made it into a lovely story. At that time, I was in the midst of touring, too, and we wanted another song to tie “Activate” and “Voyager” together. All of a sudden, an email arrives with a lovely piece of music—which I partially recognized—and it didn’t need me on it anymore. It was cool to watch it develop from a distance and interpret it in their own way.

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It's great that you can recognize, at least in your own mind, whether or not you need to be a part of it. You remove any sort of ego from the equation.

MM: Well, music shouldn’t have a lot of ego in it to begin with, right? It’s about art and creating. Also, if you want to call it “ego,” it’s also related to ego if you find an homage or tribute to what you’ve written and hear it a new way by someone else. That’s wonderful.

Obviously, you guys are posting a lot of updates on social media and doing a good job of interacting with your audience. That’s essential, especially these days. What led to the decision to make “Program,” which is the album starter, the first full song you put out ahead of time? You’ve also previewed snippets of other songs, of course.

RM: Do we have a method to the madness? Sometimes I think we do, but other times I think we’re just shooting from the hip.

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MM: Yeah, yeah. What happened is that “Program” is the first song and a really accessible song. It has all the ingredients: it has a catchy chorus, it’s short, and it’s just, like, fast and furious. It’s very defined, so it was an easy choice to make it the first single. The other teasers were about either seeing us make something exciting and intense, or something beautiful.

RM: My thing with social media is strange; it all seems like an experiment in the sense that Marco has a lot of followers on Instagram, Facebook, etc. I can perceive that certain people are there to see certain things that they expect, and social media in general seems to be a place where you’re supposed to put up your highlight reel. It messes with me as a songwriting from time to time because the parts of a song that I connect with most are often unrelated to those elements, even if they’re a part of it. It might not necessarily be the thing to display, but in video form—we’ve had this conversation before—sometimes there are sections of songs that are more listening experiences than visual experiences. You have to match the two and know what the medium is that you’re working with. That also has an influence on the little parts that we choose to highlight at any given moment.

It's about knowing the audience and the format that you’re aiming for. I mean, I knew the record would be good anyway because I know your previous work as individuals anyway; but, the chorus from “Catrina” still blew me away. It’s my favorite part of the album, with Randy’s fantastic voice and the acoustic guitar arpeggios and all. I can’t imagine people not being hooked by that alone.

Going back to what Randy said about the expectations of fans for how their favorite musicians handle social media, it reminds me of an essay I teach called “Beyoncé: Social Media, Authenticity, and the Presentation of Self,” which digs into parasocial relationships, wherein fans will put so much energy and emotion into following and connecting with celebrities, but those celebrities have no knowledge of it, much less an interest in reciprocating the attention. It’s a one-sided relationship and it’s fascinating. It’s like when people online complain about what Steven Wilson or Opeth or Adele is doing, as if those musicians would care even if they knew about it, which they almost certainly never will.

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RM: I feel like I’m in this strange middle ground because a lot of people say that I’m an old soul due to my music collection and my tastes. I was perfectly fine growing up and, like everybody else, just getting the record and reading the liner notes and maybe reading a magazine article about it. I was on the cusp of the internet, but I didn’t need anything more, so the switch to social media wasn’t natural for me. It still isn’t, to be honest, and on my best days, I can sort of grapple with it and hope that I can write something that connects with people or post something that worth looking at. But, overall, it’s one of those things that’s become a part of the business and there are certain artists who are completely insulated from it because they’ve reached a point in their career prior to the necessity of it. They get to retain their mystique and their privacy; sometimes I’m a little envious of that, but I understand that that’s just how things are now. I do my own little dance with it and try not to hate it too much [laughs].

I think you do. You have a great perspective on it, man.

MM: I can only agree; it’s like everyone is losing that mystique, as Randy says, and everyone becomes accessible. Some artists play the game, and some don’t. Take Jimmy Page, for example. In the ’70s and maybe even the ‘80s, you’d almost never be able to even get an interview with him or something like that. He would never talk openly on TV or elsewhere, so there was this whole mystical element to him that’s now gone away. Now, he has an Instagram! He interacts with people more than he ever used to. I guess he figures that if this is what the time period requires, he might as well be a part of it. Also, look at a band like Kraftwerk, who appeared as robots all the time. They’re still inaccessible, to a degree, though. Like Randy, I appreciate just getting the musical statement from the artist, going home, and hitting play. On social media, you basically hang your ass out of the window and everyone gets to point at you and make comments. You really have to be careful; you can’t even openly express yourself without getting into some sort of crossfire.

That’s very true, although it’s like that for everyone on social media. People seem so eager just to be offended or to debate strangers over the most innocuous or insignificant ideas.

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MM: Exactly. Luckily, we can sort of manage ourselves here and reach the right people in our own way. That’s a great aspect of social media.

For sure. There are so many pros and cons and gray areas to it all. You’re definitely doing a great job of building hype and attracting new fans, although you already have an inherent group of admirers who’ve been paying attention to you separately for your past work. Anyway, do you have any favorite songs? I know that’s always a touch question.

MM: It’s like when you’re asked to choose if you like your mom or your dad better, right?

Yeah, but you never know. There could be a clear answer!

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MM: True, true. The thing is that it usually happens in retrospect, once the album is out and a bit older and you listen back to it with more objectivity. You think, Ah, I could’ve done this one better. If I have to pick now, I’d say that “Program” is fantastic, and “Catrina” as well. Those come to mind instantly. They shouldn’t be missing from the album, let’s put it that way.

RM: I definitely agree about those two, especially “Catrina.” It allowed me to try a lot of different things on multiple instruments. Vocals, in particular; there are a lot of textures to play with, and it’s an interesting composition. The first couple of times I listened to Marco’s demo, it was one of those things where I didn’t quite know what to make of it, but there was so much there that was intriguing. Once I peeled away the layers more, it clicked. Also, I spent a lot of time with that one, just trying to get it to an emotionally rich place. I’m proud of that aspect of it. Marco’s definitely right, though, in that, like, we’ve listened to the LP so many times to make sure that the mix is how we wanted it. Years from now, I’ll probably have a list of things to improve. I’ve been away from it now for a while, though, so when I re-listened to a couple of songs last night, they were already feeling fresh again. I’m very excited for people to hear it.

As you should be.

RM: Thanks. I’m also curious to see how people feel about it in terms of expectations. I hope it lives up to what listeners are anticipating. That said, we’re honestly not concerned with what anyone’s expectations are, too, you know? It has the right balance of what I think our respective fans would want from us, but we took it to some places that maybe no one can foresee. That’s what I have to hang onto. Anytime I make something new, it’s in the pursuit of taking myself somewhere unexpected. I need to go out on a ledge with it and go beyond my comfort zone. Maybe it sounds selfish. I always need to feel like I’m progressing.

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MM: From my perspective, and especially when I heard Randy’s songs, it immediately felt like a logical collection of tracks. Perhaps that was also because of our listening history with other bands and the things we discussed beforehand. It felt like home right away and I knew that I could bring something to the music that he’d appreciate. Some of it, like “Program” and “Your Offenses,” even have a sort of Police-esque punk wave vibe. With “Fly,” you have that Gary Newman evocation. There were even times when I’d add a guitar or keyboard layer that Randy already imagined but never specified to me. We just had that kind of chemistry as we made it.

That’s exactly how it should be. What’s interesting to me is that, especially with some of the keyboard stuff, it reminds me of the really colorful side of “traditional” progressive rock. Bands like Moon Safari and Yes. I also hear the punk and new wave elements you mentioned. It’s a strong mixture of elements.

How did Harry Waters come to play piano on “The Closer,” and were there any other guests you wanted on the record but couldn’t get?

RM: I asked Harry, whom I also met during a Dave Kerzner gig on a different Cruise to the Edge session. He has his own duo, McNally Waters, which is about as outside of progressive rock as you can get. It’s good, classic rootsy music. Almost Americana. Of course, he played with his dad, Roger Waters, for many years. We really hit it off and I loved his style as an accompanist. He was the first name to pop into my head for that part, and whenever I ask someone to collaborate, it has to be a meaningful exchange. There needs to be a direct connection to whatever I’m working on; it’s not so much a matter of getting anyone I can to do it. In that regard, I couldn’t think of a reason for us to bring in anyone else. We both play multiple instruments and we enjoy moonlighting a bit outside of what we’re known for. I have a blast playing bass, for instance, and Marco would probably say the same for playing guitar. It felt natural to keep it as a duo, almost in a classic studio sense. Look at Steely Dan; obviously, they hired a ton of other people to help them, but it was always Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. I just knew that we could cover everything we needed without having to use anyone else.

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MM: That’s just it. We’re both, I guess, virtuous enough to express ourselves on different instruments. That shows on our solo albums, too. There wasn’t really even a question of bringing others in. It’s also like XTC, I think. Our vision is already set for the songs, too, so having someone outside of that come in would be like using  too many cooks in the kitchen, as the phrase goes. Maybe we’ll branch out beyond that in a few albums. Who knows?

That would be really exciting, but you’re right about being self-sufficient as a pair. You also have the deluxe edition of McStine & Minnemann coming out, which includes a private stream of one new song per week for people who preorder it, plus track-by-track commentaries and drum playthroughs. How did those incentives come into the picture?

RM: We just kind of figured that since live gigs are off the table for who knows how long—I don’t want to be cold and try to make this sound like it’s all about business, but we thought we could offer a couple of simple variations without getting into this overblown territory that a lot of Kickstarter campaigns end up at. Like, “For $1000, we’ll paint your house and cook your meals!” Let’s just make it easy by having a download option, have one hundred vinyl editions, and then some things that fans would get into for the deluxe version. Marco has a legion of fans who would love to see him play drums to the whole record, and then the commentaries are enjoyable for me because those kinds of conversations allowed us to inform each other more about some of the inspirations as we threw compliments back and forth. It's very organic and it gave us a stronger sense of who we are as collaborators and people. You share life experiences that suddenly click in your mind when a song comes up. That’s really useful, especially for a brand-new project.

MM: To be honest, it’s sometimes difficult to explain your own work. It could be an intimate moment or feeling that you can’t quite verbalize, so the song itself is the channel through which to get it out. It’s therapeutic and very cool to share that with each other and the listeners.

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Absolutely. There’s nothing fans want more than insights into how it all happened and what could have been. It’s probably inevitable to discuss how COVID-19 has affected the project and you both separately, too, in terms of recording, touring, etc.

MM: That’s a topic that has long legs. The touring industry changed, perhaps more than the recording industry, at least for those of us who have home studios. We were lucky in my other band, The Aristocrats, in that we were able to do most of the latest tour before it all really had an impact. The good that can come out of it—and we should focus on that side of it—is that a lot of music is being created. People are forced to stay at home and write more. As for the promotional aspect, we’d being doing the same thing we are doing anyway. I just spoke with Alex Lifeson about that exact topic. I’m doing pretty much the same thing I always do when I’m at home and not on tour. I write and record. Globally, there might be more focus on creativity. I feel for the people, like local musicians, who are more dependent on the paychecks from each gig. That’s a heartbreaking aspect.

RM: Some people have asked us if we were apprehensive about releasing this album during the summer—on July 3rd, officially—in lieu of what’s going on in the world and with so many other artists postponing things. Marco once put it as something like “You might as well serve the dish while it’s hot.” Or maybe I fucked that up. Anyway, we started working on it in October 2019 and had to step away from it for different reasons. He was on tour with The Aristocrats and I was on tour with The Pineapple Thief. When I came home, I took a little break and then focused basically all of January 2020 on this record. Marco’s right in that the lack of live performances just forces me to do what I’d be doing normally anyway. The prospect of not playing live for a while, if it drags on as long as some of the predictions say, is obviously an issue that’s going to affect people in major ways. It depends on what other parts of the business they’re involved in.

Totally.

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RM: In our case, we both have our own studios at home, so if those emails come in for us to play on other people’s tracks, we can without much issue. That’s wonderful and we’re so lucky to have that position. Personally, I don’t find myself getting a lot of those requests, but I’m here if they come. Otherwise, I just do what I can to keep focused amidst all of the chaos. In the last two months, I’ve had some really great breakthroughs, but I’ve also had a week or two where I can’t even find any motivation. That’s natural, though, and it’ll come and go. I’m coming out of a period of non-activity; I mean, it’s only been a week, but that can feel like a lifetime these days.

You have to approach it with a mixture of realism and optimism. Also, with so many artists pushing their new records back, there’s more demand and space for this one to kind of seize the spotlight. There won’t be as much competition for listeners’ attention.

RM: Yeah, we’re in a fortunate situation in that way. We’re not bound to a record company or anyone else telling us what to do, like so many other bands are. They push the new music back because they can’t tour to promote it; you obviously want those two things to coincide. People are thinking that concerts will resume in 2021, so they’re moving their album releases to then, too, and then the market will be cluttered with all of these artists on the road at once, taking up the same space in cities. Fees will go down for bands. It’ll be a bit of a clusterfuck, excuse my language [laughs]. For an act like us, it’s the perfect time to put this out, so why not? The fire is lit, so let’s get it to the people. We’ve seen a lot of excitement and readiness just in the promotional stuff we’ve been doing, so I don’t think we’re doing the wrong thing.

Not at all. I’ve seen a fair amount of press for your going around social media already, so I’m sure it’ll be really successful. Are you listening to any outside contemporary music these days? Are there any modern artists whom you feel should be getting more attention than they are?

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MM: Here’s the thing: I’m one of those guys who has a hard time opening up to other music as I’m working on my own. The last thing you want to do after spending all day writing is to put on more music, you know? Oh, and when people try to introduce me to new music, I get so picky. It’s ridiculous. I can name bands on one hand—and not even the whole hand—who’ve truly blown me away. Two of them are Battles (especially their first album, Mirrored) and Field Music. Plumb is really fantastic. I remember listening to them at a record store in Oslo, Norway, while I was on the road with Steven Wilson. I had a day off and I wandered around to some vinyl stores. I heard this very diverse soundtrack in the store; it was like they were playing a compilation over their speakers. I asked the person at the counter about it and they said, “Oh, it’s Plumb by Field Music.” Then, I had it sitting on my iPhone during the rest of the tour and beyond, so I didn’t really sit down and listen to it until later, when I was on tour with Joe Satriani. I was jet lagged on the bus and put it on. I was the only one awake, as it was around 4:00 AM and the sun was just rising. I was bored and figured it’d be a good time to finally hear it. I remember that when Mike Keneally woke up, I said, “Dude, you have to hear these guys,” and he said, “Oh, I know them. Scott Thunes played me Tones of Town when we were with Frank Zappa.” We started geeking out, and then Bryan Beller—our Aristocrats bassist who was also with Satriani then—joined us and we had a listening party.

That’s awesome!

MM: Yeah, and then we decided to write them and they actually got back to us. They were very excited, and they sent us their latest album before it was released. It was Commontime. We became friends after that, and I introduced Guthrie [Govan, guitarist of The Aristocrats] to them. Anyway, those are the two major bands that I’m really into now. There are many more, of course, but those two stick out. Randy, do you know of them?

RM: I definitely have Plumb. Did you ever hear of a side project of Field Music called The Week that Was?

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MM: Yes, and there’s School of Language, too.

RM: I don’t know of that one. I heard The Week that Was before I heard Field Music, and I loved it. I need to check out more of their stuff. They’re one of those bands that also can toy around with the “progressive” tag yet appeal to pretty much anyone. I hear a lot of Gentle Giant in their music, even if it’s not as technical or “out there,” but there’s a seed of it there. I love that you can have that but also have a sort of XTC side. They totally do their own thing.

MM: It’s two brothers leading it, too, right?

Yup, David and Peter Brewis.

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MM: Ah, so they’re kind of doing what Randy and I are doing with this project. It’s mainly that duo playing the instruments and writing the songs.

I completely agree. That kind of leads to this last question, which I pretty much ask everyone because it’s always really fascinating to me. Since you’re known for playing with so many other great people, I wonder if there is anyone you’ve yet to work with but would like to. Sort of like a bucket list collaboration.

MM: Honestly, there are so many cool musicians out there that I’d love to work with. I’m not craving collaborations just for the sake of doing them, but sometimes I have these moments where I feel like a certain voice or instrumentalist would be perfect for a piece. I’d love to work with Kate Bush, of course. Albums like Hounds of Love and The Dreaming are beautiful. They were very left of filed but also intimate and easy to connect to.

Have you ever listened to Joanna Newsom?

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MM: No, I don’t think so.

I tell people all the time that, like Kate Bush, her voice is a bit quirky and maybe hard to appreciate at first, but once you get used to it, it’s exceptional. As hyperbolic as it sounds, I’d even say that Joanna Newsom created the greatest piece of music I’ve ever heard, “Time, as a Symptom,” on her last album, Divers. You can hear a lot of Kate Bush in that, just as you can with people like Tori Amos and Sufjan Stevens.

RM: I have that record. It’s great.

MM: I’ve heard the name before. I’ll check it out. Thank you.

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RM: As Marco said, I find that whenever I’m in a collaborative situation, it’s because those other people are right for what we’re doing. I’m staring at my music collection now and I can see all of these great artists I’d love to play with, but none of them are like, a dream partnership that I hope to fulfill. I might’ve had a laundry list ten years ago, so the short and easy answer is that I would just welcome the chance to play interesting music with like-minded musicians. My aim has changed over the last few years, and this album is a direct result of that. Now I want to take the conversation beyond just being hired guns or whatever for a record. What is it like to actually immerse yourself with just one other person—in this case, Marco—and really dig deep into what’s possible. Now that this one is done and we have a lot of material going back and forth for what could be the next one, I strongly suspect that the experiences that we’ve taken away from this individually will only serve to reinforce and enhance our relationship. Both on a personal level and a musical level, and I can imagine a scenario where we’ve influenced each other in what we bring to the table next. I’m very excited about that more than I am bucket list players to work with. We have a strong blueprint for something here that deserves to be grown more.

MM: I completely agree. As beautiful as it is to write a song, it’s also good to have someone else there to be objective. When you write a song, you’re so into it that you lose perspective; in this case, it’s fantastic to let go and send it over to Randy and see what he thinks. It’s always something to look forward, and it’s always fulfilling. It’s the pattern I love: creating something, getting into the zone, and then sending it over and seeing what the other person or people think. The new song that Randy sent me, that I’m adding drums to, is very fruitful. We always agree on each other’s musical input. That’s the beauty of it; there’s never really an argument about what direction we’re taking.

That bond comes through in the music, and as you say, it should be about finding people who speak your musical language and push you to be better, rather than just doing it for the name drops and all. Well, that’s a great place to stop, I think. Thanks again, guys. It’s been great, and congrats again.

RM: Thanks, man.

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MM: Yes, thanks, Jordan.

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