Guitar Messenger sat down with The Faceless guitarist and mastermind Michael Keene to talk about gear, the band and the stressful nature of the business. While Keene's answers were perfectly interesting and even dives into some super technical gear-related stuff I don't fully understand, he talks about the band's cover song record they've been talking about doing for a little while now.
"There are a few songs that are mostly done. Like I said, my writing process and recording process are very much one and the same, so one of the biggest challenges with this cover record is that a lot of the arrangements aren’t metal arrangements, and I’m trying to make them Faceless arrangements.
It’s actually pretty challenging for some of these songs; taking a pretty basic-structured song with a simple arrangement and figuring out to make it really complex and crazy, or whatever, is actually harder than you would think. It’s the type of thing where I’m tackling it one song at a time.
One of the first songs I started with was this Nine Inch Nails song, and I got the arrangement pretty much done before I even started tackling another one. So I got that one and I got a Depeche Mode one mostly done. Got a David Bowie one about half-way done… but there’s all kinds of stuff on [the album]. I don’t know exactly everything that’s going to be on it, yet. I have a lot of ideas of what I’d like to be on it, but there’s some that are definitely already set in stone."
The way Keene talks about the songs, it sounds like he's going to make them more in the vein of the band's earlier technical death metal sound rather than the progressive tendencies they picked up between Planetary Duality and Autotheism. Speaking of a four-year gap between records (sorta), what the hell took four years that we had to wait?!
"Yeah. I mean, I did take a little bit of time off… For me as a musician, doing death metal doesn’t always necessarily fulfill my musical aspirations in their entirety. Like I said, I feel like one of my stronger points as a musician is that I have a pretty strong pop sensibility, which I think kind of shines through in The Faceless in terms of being a death metal band. I think there’s definitely a popular music aesthetic that sort of rings through more than a lot of other death metal bands. It’s a little bit more structured and digestible to some degree.
Having said that, doing just death metal can get me down in the dumps a little bit sometimes, and I definitely had a little window of time there where I was pretty bummed out about what I was doing. But then, I got new dudes in the band, and it breathed new life into the whole thing. I started working on Autotheism, and I feel like I expanded quite a bit in the writing and everything on that. It made it really fun for me again. That gave me the second wind I needed. Now I’m feeling pretty good about everything. I don’t think it will take almost 4 years again."
All this talk about abandoning the technical death metal sound in favor of a progressive one seems more like it's a temporary thing rather than how Keene intends the band to sound forever. Could the new Faceless album be back to their roots? Obviously this is pure conjecture based on a few things he's talking about here, but I just get that vibe.