Just last Monday on the Facebook page for Thursday Night Asteroid there an shared article from a science website that Asteroid 2004 BL86 will sweep past the Earth at a distance of 1.2 million kilometers with a clever enough remark – “Another near miss. We’ll get you all one of these days.” If this wasn’t the time for one Thursday Night Asteroid to happen, the other one – a vivacious rock band from Phoenix can fill some serious sound space, particularly in the rock clubs they frequent and their debut album Planetary Tsunami.
Recorded at Phoenix’s Sonic Piranha Studios (Darren Baum), Planetary Tsunami isn’t your typical rock album mixed with different colors and tempos. The band best describes the recording as a straight ahead rocker with a bit of 90’s influence; full of GenX future angst based on Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity concept. If Rush toyed with the artistic manifesto of philosopher Ayn Rand on their iconic 2112 album, than bringing futuristic ideas into the realm of hard rock has proved to never bore or soften.
Composed of Wade Newhouse (vocals), Kevin Young (guitars) Keith Wahl (drums) and Shawn Hutchinson (bass), Phoenix’s Thursday Night Asteroid doesn’t shy away from their 90’s influences –a decade that Young proudly explains as “the last great decade of rock. “ From the onset, there is no disguising Thursday Night Asteroid’s explosive and passionate guitar rock that incorporates why the 90’s was such a stylistic unpretentious era as rock moved from the leather and hairspray of the 80s to the t-shirt and jean intelligent aggressiveness of the 90’s.
Although Thursday Night Asteroid is still slugging it out amongst the desert club confines, the dynamic interplay between the four members atop the explosively thought provoking imagery of their compositions, the band is just a big break away from getting heard beyond the southwest. Until Soundgarden comes calling, for an opener on their next outing, let’s hear it from Thursday Night Asteroid’s lead guitarist, Canadian native and big time hockey fan Kevin Young.
Can you please give us a little background on Thursday Night Asteroid and how the band came to be?
We’ve all played in bands our whole lives where we grew up. None of us are native Arizonans. After moving to Arizona in 2001, I met Wade in a previous band we both were in. After that band ceased to be, Wade and I decided to start a new project around 2005. Shawn is actually my neighbor from across the street – a mutual neighbor introduced us – and after learning he played bass we asked him to come over and jam and it clicked instantly. The last piece of the puzzle was a drummer. We placed an ad up and Keith – who had recently moved to Phoenix from Illinois – answered and immediately fit right in. We’re all close in age and all grew up in the 90’s, in my opinion the last great decade of rock. So we all had the same influences and initially started playing 90’s covers at Sugar Daddy’s, Martini Ranch, and all the usual Phoenix cover band haunts while we came together as a band. During this time we started writing our own songs and in 2010 stopped playing covers, went all original and started working on what would eventually become our debut release Planetary Tsunami.
Thursday Night Asteroid doesn’t beat around the bush with their sound – you guys are very heavy in the most impactful ways possible to the listeners. Where do you guys feel you communicate most strongly musically with your audience? Is it in the vocals, riffs, choruses or the compositions themselves?
Hopefully it is all of the above. We don’t set out with any other intention than to write our own new favorite album. We don’t have a set idea of what kind of music or songs to write – we just try to connect to that infamous mystical place where all music comes from and let it flow through us. I personally have always gravitated to strong hooks and a build to a nice payoff at some point in the song- probably the 90’s influence at work. But the songs on this album turned out to be very diverse – driving rock songs, a few mid-tempo pieces as well as some more ambient mood pieces. I find a lot of newer rock bands tend to have a distinct sound or theme musically throughout their albums, which unfortunately tends to make the songs sound very similar. Not that that is inherently a bad thing, but I miss albums like Superunknown, Ritual De Lo Habitual, Siamese Dream, Dirt, OK Computer, etc. – those bands were more adventurous and took more risks. The songs were all different and expanded your palate as a listener.
Kevin, can you talk about your style as a guitarist? What do you most try and communicate with your guitar voice and is there any direction you want to go?
I think The Edge has the right take on what a guitarist in a rock band should be – it the movie “It Might Get Loud” he said something to the effect of that the guitar is a tool to create melody, that he’s a sideman, not a guitar slinger. He creates for the song, not himself. That’s how I see my place in the band, I definitely consider myself a sideman and I relish that role. I don’t play solos in every song – only if it feels like it will add to the song and take it someplace else. I’m not a shredder by any means, I don’t practice scales. If the song calls for a fast part, I try my best to play something that fits and cross my fingers that I can reproduce it later. The closest comparison I can make is that a song is like a great meal. There are a lot of separate ingredients that go into making it, but if you use too much of one it will overpower the dish and ruin it. But if you craft it carefully, those ingredients balance correctly and the sum becomes greater than the parts – no one flavor steps on another and they all add up to a delicious meal. It’s the same for a good song. As far as my sound is concerned, I’m quite happy with the tone I got out of my Mesa Boogie Mark IV for this album: light, punchy and in your face. I’m also a pedal guy, and I’m always trying to come up with new sounds that make it interesting.
What is the creative process for Thursday Night Asteroid? Are all members involved?
Everyone contributes. Once in a while I’ll come up with a riff beforehand and bring it to practice, but the vast majority of the material comes from jamming. I think that’s really important. Keith and Shawn are an incredibly talented rhythm section. Keith is a very musical drummer, he can sing and play guitar as well. And I’m always amazed at how Shawn can pick up on a riff I come up with on the spot and follow me through a jam, as well as take it somewhere else. We key off of each other a lot. Once the three of us lock in on something, Wade picks up from there and starts to improv vocals overtop. He comes up with some of his best melodies on the first take. I record every practice, take it home, mix it and send out the clips to the guys. Then we take the ones that stand out and start working them, arranging. Everyone puts their two cents in. Once we have a final arrangement Wade works on the vocals and melody, and poof we have a new song.
“Don’t Delay Act Now” really stands out as a “fist pumper”. How did that song come about and was it written with a sense of urgency as the title suggests?
I came into practice with a new delay pedal, was playing around with it while we were jamming and came up with the opening riff. I gave it a tongue in cheek working title of “Don’t Delay Act Now”, however Wade took the title and wrote the lyrics about having a positive attitude and not waiting around for things to come your way – making things happen for yourself. They fit the upbeat sound of the song for sure and the title stuck.
What type of record did you have in mind when setting out to do Planetary Tsunami? Were there any records you were a fan of that you wanted to kind of go in that pattern?
I don’t think we went into it with a set musical direction in mind: we let the songs write themselves. We never want to limit ourselves or the songs by making them fit into a certain sound. It’s good to let the songwriting process play itself out and not be afraid to take chances. As far as records we had in mind, nothing in particular but we were aiming for an overall sound similar to those aforementioned early 90’s records. I just think they just sound better. Music is so over compressed these days, that I find a lot of it hard to listen to. Every band wants to be the loudest when someone stumbles across their song on YouTube. I’d rather let the stereo do the work, turn it up and enjoy the dynamics!
If you guys had to pick two songs to play on a TV appearance what would they be and why?
I would choose “Give It Away” and “Crutch.” I think “Give It Away” really grabs the listener right away and instantly establishes a tense, driving mood, then builds really well. “Crutch” stands out to me because of the harmony Wade and I do in the chorus, I’m partial to that song.
As musicians and music fans yourselves- what are your thoughts on making a cohesive record (ala And Justice For All, etc) something that holds together as a continuing theme?
Planetary Tsunami is actually a concept album. While we were writing the album I made up some mock covers based off the name, one of which was a painting of a huge tidal wave coming into a city. I sent that out to the guys and for whatever reason that triggered Wade, who was aware of Ray Kurzweil and his concept of the singularity – where in 2045, a point will come where technological progress is so rapid it will outstrip humans’ ability to comprehend it. People will augment their minds and bodies with genetic alterations, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence, and you’ll be able to upload your consciousness to the cloud and more or less live forever in digital form. However, contrary to Kurzweil’s future where it is used for the good of mankind, Wade took it in another direction; in his narrative, the elite of society come up with a plan to upload their consciousness’s to a space ship in orbit and take off to find a new world to live, leaving the already crumbling governments on Earth in a power vacuum, with all kinds of zealots and not so nice people coming in to fill it and take over the downtrodden that are left behind. The title Planetary Tsunami symbolizes that coming moment when technology integrates and starts to overtake society as a whole. The songs on the album are based on situations or characters we came up with based on Wade’s concept.
I find a that a lot of the most popular “rock” music today is made up of people who really aren’t trained musicians and couldn’t play a lead if they wanted to or play drum fills. What do you take from a lot of the more indie folky/quirky side of rock that has taken over? Do you see a resurgence in rock – obviously there are still bands like Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age leading the way- but its far and few on a big stage level? Is hard rock really underground now?
I think it takes all kinds. I try to listen to many different styles of music even though I do prefer rock. I think as long as you’re putting out good music it doesn’t matter if you can pull off arpeggios or triplet drum fills. For example, The Pixies aren’t known as great individual players but they are one of the best bands of all time. As far as the state of rock is concerned, it’s interesting that the two names you threw out there are both 90’s bands. I think that says a lot about the state of rock today. Also, the market is just so desegmented now. There are so many different genres now and so many bands are able to get their music out there it’s harder and harder to discover good new rock bands. Twenty years ago the major labels and radio controlled the majority of what listeners were exposed to, which is both good and bad. It’s nice that any band today can get their music out there, but when the labels and radio acted as kind of a funnel it concentrated what you were exposed to, and separated a lot of the chaff from the wheat so to speak. Bands aren’t making money off of CD sales these days, so unless you’re constantly touring it’s really hard to get people exposed to your music. But I have faith that some band will come along someday, like Nirvana did in 1991, and turn the industry on its ear bringing a lot of exposure to other great undiscovered bands.
How was recording this album locally a positive experience at Sonic Piranha? What were you able to do with your sound that you might not have been able to do elsewhere?
It was fantastic. We started out with the intention of recording it ourselves, I’d managed to get my hands on some decent gear. I met Darren (Baum, Owner/Operator of Sonic Piranha) through Wade and he offered to come out and assist during the recordings and brought a lot of nice preamps and most importantly technical knowledge that I really didn’t have. It was a case of you don’t know what you don’t know, right? I was bound and determined to do it myself but once Darren came into the picture I realized just how hard that would have been and also how lucky we were to have him involved. Darren really honed his mixing skills during the process and was able to do things during the mixing process that we wouldn’t have been able to do ourselves through the combination of his gear and knowledge. Darren is also one of the coolest cats you’ll ever meet, and we really had a great time working on the CD with him. I’d recommend him to anyone in the Phoenix area looking to record. We’re looking forward to working on our next project with him if he’s available.
For someone who hasn’t attended a Thursday Night Asteroid show yet, what are they most likely to come out of the show with that they hadn’t expected? What type of experience should they expect?
Well, I certainly wouldn’t expect to be visually impressed, we’re definitely not going to give One Direction a run for their money in the looks department. But you can expect us to work hard and give you the best show we can. And I think our set is pretty stacked with songs that will keep you interested and rocking. If you’re a fan of hard, driving melodic rock I think you’ll come away impressed – and hopefully with a CD in your hand.
Can you talk about the Phoenix music scene in general and are there any other bands that you feel a kinship to and an overlap of fans?
It’s hard to say. I know there has been some well-known venues close up shop in the past couple of years, like Hollywood Alley for example, but there are also some nice new places to play popping up as well. When talking about the scene to other bands I often hear that it’s getting better. I personally think the venues should do more to promote the shows, which often seems to be left to the bands themselves. As far as other bands are concerned, two that come to mind that we’ve shared a stage with are The Bovine Fury and ASIMOV. Excellent musicians, great songs and good people too.
You mentioned you are working on material for your new album – what direction are you going in and can we expect any surprises?
We’ll be focusing on writing for the most part over the next few months. We’ve got about ten to fourteen new songs at the moment, some pretty much finished, others still need a lot of work. I’m pretty excited about the new material. Some of the arrangements will be more complex, without over complicating it for the listener. For example, I remember when I first heard “My Wave” by Soundgarden; it never occurred to me that it was in 5/4 time. It just grooved. We’ll be aiming for that with some of the songs. You can expect a lot of the same driving hard rock, but as mentioned we’re not afraid to take a few risks and some of the songs won’t be what you might expect. We’re once again just trying to write our own favorite new album.
What other albums and artists you most enjoying listening to or what bands do you currently most enjoy seeing live?
We all just went to see Queens of the Stone Age when they played here in Phoenix in October. It’s always a great show and we’re big fans. For myself more of the older stuff; but they played a nice mix of the old and new. Red Fang is always fun to catch live, those guys rock. And I try to get out and catch local bands when I can and support the local scene.