Guest Post: Interview with Cameron Rasmussen/Joey Izzo of Sound Struggle

Guest author Alex from Prog Sphere has been kind enough to share his interview with progressive metal band Sound Struggle with Crash And Ride Music.

Sound Struggle from Boston have just released their sophomore studio album “Rise,” a record that is absolutely amazing and that has huge potential to be one of the top releases of the year. Guitarist and singer Cameron Rasmussen and keyboardist Joey Izzo talked with us about the new record.

How do you feel knowing that the new album “Rise” is finally out? With “Rise” you show your eclectic side even more than it was the case with the self-titled debut album.

Joey: It’s the best feeling honestly.  A crazy amount of collective time and effort was put into Rise in the past year and we really were just ready to hear what the world thinks of it and play it live.

What were your ideas when approaching the songwriting for the new album? What is interesting about the new album is the balance between all these distinctive elements.

Cam: The actual writing process started with each individual in the band writing their own song, so that we could be playing everyone’s songs instead of one persons work. The first album was almost entirely written and arranged by myself, but on “Rise” I didn’t want it to be that way again, I wanted everyone else’s voice to be heard in their writing. The new balance of all the styles in Rise I think came from all of us getting used to every genre more and figuring out how to make them sound like modern versions, and original castings, instead of sounding like we are copying an era which some of the first album sounds like.

How much of a challenge was it? Did you map out any of the elements before starting to write the album?

Joey:  The writing of this album was a very enjoyable challenge.  We made the decision before hand the each member should try to write a couple songs.  From there we produced each of them as a group, giving critiques and adding or taking away things as the band felt best fit the overall flow of the form.  The biggest challenge was definitely just the amount of material we ended up with.  A 70 minute album means 70 minutes x 1000 when it comes to tracking and mixing a full progressive metal album.

Breaking down the album’s structure, it’s easy to notice that each one of you have parts where your instrumental work is absolutely stunning. What is your way of putting these improvised instrumentations in an entity called song?

Cam: Thank you! Usually for the parts of songs where we improvise solos and so on is during a designated section that breaks up the monotony of the song structure. The solo sections that we have are usually derived from our jazz influences, or jazz idioms. For example in “Rotating Door” when the funk guitar comes out of nowhere, we start playing a series of chord changes that modulate a lot and are very jazzy. Once we are in that section we could all just take a solo if we wanted, and then after a while one of us would give a cue to move on back to the metal section that joey solos over in the recording. In the recording we did two guitar solos for the funk section, but it could have been any or all of us. The whole idea behind these parts of our songs is to introduce a lesser dynamic and just jam together as a band until we organically build the music back up to a dynamic that would be synonymous with metal music, making the transition easier.

I suppose that you had plenty of ideas for “Rise.” How do you go about choosing what will be included?

Joey: It’s a very friendly and enjoyable atmosphere, with a mutual understanding of the amount of hard work it takes to put out relevant music these days.  Luckily we are all friends first, and everyone shares good communication skills, so jokes, laughs, and musical progress all go hand in hand.

Sound Struggle has been around for about three years, and during this time you produced two studio albums. What can you say is the biggest milestone in your career so far?

Cam: I believe that Rise is our biggest achievement to date. We didn’t skip on anything at all, and we made sure that every aspect of the album was as perfect as humanly possible. On the first album we were aware of a few shortcomings in the production, and did our best to fix those things, but there are still some things that we are unhappy with from that album. We learned a lot making that album, knowledge that we used in the making of Rise. The music that we write has developed a lot since the first album, into a more cohesive structure, and I believe that Rise is our biggest milestone because Sound Struggle is settling into a unique genre and sound with it.

Photo by Sound Struggle
Photo by Sound Struggle

How different is your story about forming the band from Dream Theater’s story, considering that both bands were founded at Berklee?

Cam: Well John Petrucci and John Myung were friends before coming to Berklee, in our case none of us knew each other before coming here. It also differs in that to get the ball rolling I was the one who was approaching different people with these songs that I had written asking to form a band. I would just start booking rehearsal/jam times and get anybody that I could to come. I blew through so many cats just trying to find people who could handle the material, or people who were interested in the concept of the band at all. Adam was one of the first guys I ever asked because I liked hanging out with him, and he’s also a way better guitar player than I am, and he has stayed with this from the beginning. After getting so many different session players, we finally found a lineup of guys who are on the same page about this band, and after even more switches because of people moving away and other difficulties we have this current lineup that we are happy with.

What prior musical experiences each one of you brought to the table?

Joey: It’s a very wide range of things really.  Matt has been professionally drumming in Europe for ten years prior to coming to Berklee, Adam has already been making waves in the guitar world by winning the Strindberg competition last year., Mike is very much into video game composing, Joe has a startup film scoring company, Tangent Music, that is beginning to score various productions, Cam and i also work with him there, Cam has been playing guitar professionally for a while now and I have been playing piano and keys professionally since the age of 12.  That being said we like to think more about where we’re going than where we’ve been, as cliche as it sounds.

Let’s talk abut influences. Bands that influence your work? What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

Cam: My biggest musical influences metal and not in no particular order would consist of mainly Pantera i.e. Dimebag, Metallica, Dream Theater, Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, Snarky Puppy, Animals As Leaders, John Coltrane, Glenn Gould, Mike Stern, Pink Floyd, Lamb Of God, Meshuggah, Dizzy Gillespie… I think that’s enough for now haha. Non musically I’m influenced by lots of movies. I have recently been on a kick of anti hero movies like “Nightcrawler”, which is super great, and I have also been watching a streak of fighting movies like “Warrior” and “The Fighter”. I don’t know why that combination, hahaha, but if they influenced my writing in any way it would probably be trying to write extremely brutal and evil sounding riffs, that would hopefully make people feel all powerful.

What do you find most gratifying about the writing process? Do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve with Sound Struggle?

Cam: The most gratifying part of writing for me is when we finally get a song to work with all of us, and to hear what you either had in your head, or had in a demo realized in front of you with great players putting their own magic into it. It is an indescribable feeling of goodness and wealth. My vision for Sound Struggle has been and still is to have a great progressive heavy metal band with talented players that I can also improvise solos with and use my jazz influences in. I think this part of the vision has already come true for me. The whole band is planning on taking this music on the road for everyone to hear, and we want to make a living doing this, and I think that is the next step in a competed vision of this band.

What are your plans now after “Rise” is released? Any upcoming concerts?

Joey: Our main goal now is to get this album heard and to get it on the road.  We’re currently in discussions as to what that may mean but playing this stuff live is a very exciting prospect to us.


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