For the true philomaths among us, we’ve got a real treat today. Joseph. A Peragine recently put out 33, a record that featured some of his most cerebral, transcendent post-metal to date. But it also feels like it represents a shift in direction – much of Peragine’s discography is jarringly dense with winding narratives and non-linear, heavy-as-hell guitars that leaves first time listeners grasping for their calculators. 33 is still that when it wants to be, but walks a new path altogether, and it’s a lot closer to classic math rock than you might think.
There’s a clarity behind the compositions, with more room for listeners to find breathing room in Peragine’s explorations than ever before. Fans looking forward to more unsettlingly complex metal indeed still get a taste on songs like “2007 (Word Salad)” “2019 (Positive Vs. Negative).” But on songs like “1987 (Home)” and “1997 (Perception of Aliens)” you get a whole different bag, and the flavors you get on these songs bubble up across the entire album. Like a punchy, unpredictable Don Caballero offshoot, 3 straddles the rhythmic prowess of Peragine and the esteemed Chris Penne of Dillinger Escape Plan fame with loop-laden, whimsical backdrops. It’s a hell of a ride, and one that keeps you coming back, not only to count, but to… you know, just listen.
Peragine is also known throughout the heavy music community as a mental health advocate, sharing much of his experience with schizophrenia in his discography throughout various narrative tracks and audiobooks. It’s an often misunderstood subject, and Joseph’s unflinching view into the ups, downs and sideways motions of mental illness are some of the most affective of their kind.
In fact, the man has been overdue for a feature with us for some time, and we’re humbled to present a few questions here with the honorable Joseph A. Peragine himself. We asked about what made this album different, what his musical influences are, and what we can do to create space for those of us in the community that struggle with mental illness. It’s a tough topic to navigate, and it’s inspiring to find such an excellent advocate within such a talented, prolific musician. These days it is all too easy to turn ever inwards, but it’s always okay to ask for help – and there’s always awesome music in the meantime.
FB: Your latest record, 33 immediately surprised us. There was more calm, more beauty, and where there was chaos, had been turned up to 11. But overall, the record comes across as a positive statement, possibly your most optimistic yet. Did you approach the album with a different headspace, a different songwriting process, or both?
Joseph: I definitely approached this album with a different headspace as well as a different songwriting process. I am in a very good place mentally right now and the songwriting this time around has been more of a fun type of journey as opposed to past albums where the songwriting was more of a way of coping with my mental struggles at the time. So overall it’s been more of a joyful experience.
FB: The first track, “Home,” is an incredibly epic 15-minute saga that really brings the ghost of Don Caballero to mind, albeit with a heavy twist. Did you consciously go for a classic math rock vibe, or did you just happen to create one?
Joseph: Definitely wanted to go for more of a classic math rock vibe with this one. And also do something that Chris and I have not done before. And that would be to make a melodic song that has no crazy/jarring sections. Don Cab has always been one of my favorite bands, and has always been my “go to” band. All throughout my life (since I was 19 years old) whenever I meet a fellow music nerd, Don Cab is ALWAYS the first band I show them if they have not heard of them before. I take pride in that because almost 100% of the time, they sincerely appreciate the new discovery. Just as I did. When I was a teenager, I mostly listened to nu metal. Then one day, my tattoo artist (a guy named Tom from a band called Deadguy) had given me one of Deadguy’s albums at one of our sessions. I had never heard anything like that style of music before. I was intrigued and I wanted to hear more. He also suggested to pick up the American Don album, because he thought I might dig it. American Don blew my mind. I had never heard anything like it before and it honestly took me years to be able to wrap my head around it. That was a pivotal moment in my life because my musical tastes took a drastic shift. That album alone changed my whole approach to my guitar playing. And I knew at some point, I would love to make an entire song as a tribute to one of the most important Don Cab albums in my collection.
FB: Were there any other musical inspirations or touchstones that inspired the general sound of 33?
Joseph: Well, Dillinger Escape Plan of course ;) And Meshuggah almost always. Also, I’d have to say I was heavily influenced by the Don Caballero 2 album.
FB:”1997 (Perception of Aliens)” sounds like positively nasty return to form for the project, but throws in some really intensely emotional passages. Can you tell us how that year and the perception of aliens are related for you?
Joseph: Well this song is actually a hybrid of two songs from two previous albums. I have a song called “(P)erception of (3)” and also a song called “Alien LSD Institutionalization”. I took the tracks from both recording sessions of those songs, and put them into one session and played them over top of each other simultaneously. Chris then recorded his drums on top of it and everything just worked! As far as these two songs are concerned and the experiences attached to their respective titles conceptually, it all dates back to the year 1997. This was the year that my hallucinations and delusions from my illness started to become more prevalent in my life. It was a very tough year for me emotionally and I will have to say that would be the year that I started to go off into the deep end. It was a fast decline from that point forward into my schizophrenia. I did a lot of writing in that cluster of years until my institutionalization. I had notebooks upon notebooks of material from that pivotal period of my life. Afterwards, when I revisited it years later (from a sane and medicated perspective) it was all over the place. To anyone else reading it, the notebooks would seem jumbled, fragmented and appear as incoherent psycho ramblings. But in all honesty, it is very cohesive to me.
You see at the time my illness was peaking, my logical thought process started to decay, and I started organizing thoughts into a combination of numbers and letters that only I could read and understand. To this day, I can look at it and tell you exactly everything I was thinking when I wrote it. To me, this is the truest form of self discovery, introspection and piecing together what really happened all those years. Almost everything from those series of notebooks has been transcribed into a musical or literary project. If you listen to my music, audiobooks, read the lyrics, and titles, analyze placement of things, conceptually, everything connects and has significance to each other. There is deep, deep meaning in everything I do. I’d have to say it is one hell of a rabbit hole haha.
FB:When you’re writing a song, do you analyze how it will fit into a record, or do you conceptualize them once they’re done being written?
Joseph: It really works both ways. Just depends on my thought process at the time. Things are constantly changing until the second I hit the upload button to release the material. At that point, it is what it was meant to be at the time. It’s like that quote by Leonardo da Vinci: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.
FB: How would you describe your working relationship with Chris Pennie? Does he help put things together or just lay the grooves down once everything is recorded?
Joseph: It really depends on the project or song we are working on. We are always bouncing ideas off of one another and it is really all over the place. The one thing that remains constant is that we very much see eye to eye on just about everything we write together. It is very much a special relationship. Definitely rare to find a fellow musician you click with so well. I feel very fortunate and grateful that we crossed paths.
FB: Could you explain (in no particular amount of detail) how you go about recording the jarring, incomprehensible parts of songs like “2000 (Y2K)” and “2007 (World Salad)?” Do you start by layering loops?
Joseph: A lot of my material is loop work. And endless amounts of layering. A lot of songs are also recorded in very small pieces. And a lot of those pieces will most likely be in different tunings than one another, as well as with different stringed guitars. There have been times where I will start off with just a vocal track. Then Chris will record his drums to just the vocal track, syncing up his hits with every syllable of my words. Then once the drums are there, I’ll delete the vocal track, and record my guitar parts to his drums. Again in small sections, further syncing up my guitars with his drums and also not syncing at all some of my other guitar parts and making them more of a free form. Each song has its own individual method and approach. Just depends on my headspace at the time and how many cups of coffee I drank prior haha.
FB: When you just want to sit down and record a new idea, do you find that you gravitate towards a particular instrument? Is this process fun for you, or is it cathartic and exhausting?
Joseph: All of the above. It can really start with any instrument or small spark of inspiration, (like the cool phrase of a song from one of my favorite bands marinating in my head into a new idea). Or sometimes it can start with simply a conversation I had with someone during the day hours prior. I will memorize the sentences that were said between me and the other person, repeat the syllables in my head until it becomes sort of a mantra, then hours later, that mantra morphs into a rhythmic or melodic pattern with drums or guitar, repetitively cycling through my brain. Four cups of coffee and a marathon 16 hour tracking session later, I will have the skeleton of a song or album.
FB: What are some of your favorite heavy bands? It’s no surprise that every once in a while I’ll get vintage TDEP vibes with Chris on the kit, but there are some mammoth-sized guitar moments on 33 that remind me more of Vildhjarta and Blotted Science.
Joseph: Hmm, that’s cool! I’ll have to check out those other bands. I’ve never actually listened to them before. My favorite heavy bands at the moment are Dillinger, Meshuggah, I’ve recently been getting into Periphery, Mastadon, God Mother, Number 12, and Frontierer the past few years. I really enjoyed the new Hopesfall album that came out a few years ago as well. I’ve also been listening to a ton of movie scores recently. I’ve always been big into Clint Mansell (pi, requiem for a dream etc), also the original Matrix movie scores, Donnie Darko, Memento, the list goes on.
FB: Occasionally in writing, you’ll hear that people that write a lot, read a lot. Do you think it’s the same with audiobooks? And if so, what’s the last audiobook you listened to?
Joseph: I actually don’t really read that much at all. I don’t have the attention span. I’ve always been a “learn by doing” type of person and was never really skilled at approaching things in a scholastic sense. I never thrived in a classroom setting. If I have an interest in something, I just go face first, all in, and I try to do it, without knowing anything about it, and I eventually teach myself the method that works for me. In all honesty, to the best of my knowledge, I’m pretty sure most audiobooks are just a few vocal tracks. I’m not 100% sure, so don’t quote me on that. I really don’t know much about audiobooks, but, if that’s true (as I suspect), that seems incredibly boring to me and would definitely put me to sleep. That, or my mind would start wandering while the lone vocal track of the audiobook is playing. I’ve never listened to an audiobook before creating my own audiobook series so I can’t make a fair assessment. The main thing for me is that I didn’t want the experience of listening to someone else’s audiobook influence the way I approached creating one of my own.
I’ve been told that my audiobook series is not like typical audiobooks. I’m sure that’s true because when I explain it to others or vice versa, it’s referred to as an audio movie of sorts. It has music, character voices and sound effects under the narration throughout the entire 23 hours of the audiobook trilogy. It also has the sounds of voices to actually take you into the schizophrenic experience and feel what it’s like to be inside my schizophrenic mind. It is my entire life “audio-movie” through headphones. (From early childhood to middle age). This project was so massive, it took me 9-11 years to write, record and complete. Plus, every album I’ve recorded ended up being released as its own entity as well as being the music used in the audiobooks. It totals to about 28 hours of music that I had to work with. I guess in another sense, I’ve been so busy creating, writing, and recording all of this, that I really didn’t have time to read or listen to anything else… or do much of anything. I was just so immersed in all of this, that I was pretty much “go go go” all the time. I don’t make music for a living. I have a 9-5 day job. So for 11 years, all my spare time has been devoted to these projects. My apologies for the long winded answer haha to summarize… no, I don’t read :)
FB:Across your discography, whether in literature or music, dates and history are hugely important. Considering that with 33, you get right up to the present moment, can you give us a hint what you might be expounding upon next?
Joseph: I’m actually not really sure at the moment. All the ideas are kind of up in the air. The creative wheels are always spinning. The only thing I can say is that there will ALWAYS be something new coming. That is for certain.
FB: You’ve put a lot of time and effort into mental health advocacy for the heavy music scene, even just by sharing your experience with schizophrenia so openly. Are there any ways in which you feel like your experience continues to affect your journey through the industry?
Joseph: Honestly, I never really intended to have mental health advocacy affect any portion of my journey through the industry. The only thing I’ve really set out to do was be honest about who I am, what I experience and convey that through my work. That’s what art is all about. Self expression. I am just being myself.
FB: Have you found any universal constants when it comes to self-care, or does it look a little different for everyone?
Joseph: I feel that it is all specific to the individual and their particular needs. What’s works for me, may not work for someone else, and vice versa. I respect others and their journey to wellness. Whatever their path may be. I would never impress upon anyone my methods or beliefs. I believe that everyone chooses their own path. As far as the only constant I can see, it that it all boils down to each individual’s choice.
FB: Ultimately, schizophrenia is still one of the most widely misunderstood illnesses in popular discussion. As awareness of neurodiversity continues to grow, perhaps that could soon change, but there’s still a lot of work to do. If you could give one piece of advice to a community that wants to do their best to be respectful and inclusive, what would it be?
Joseph: Don’t make blanket assumptions when you hear the term “schizophrenic” or “schizophrenia “. I know that popular television and media throws that terminology around and uses those words as “go to” descriptions when labeling killers and psychopaths, when most of us, quite honestly, can lead normal, productive and meaningful lives given the proper treatment and self care. Now I’m not going to be a hypocrite and bank 100% on that blanket statement of mine. On the other end, some of us afflicted with this illness cannot get well. That’s just the way it is. Just like there are cancer survivors and there are not. To further elaborate, I will say that honestly and realistically, it all narrows down to the individual afflicted with this illness, and their particular situation. Evaluate the individual and the circumstances surrounding their position. Not the “mental illness” label. I am a kind hearted, positive, gentle, and productive person who contributes much good to society (that just happens to have schizophrenia). Please don’t judge me until you get to know me. And that goes for anybody. Basically don’t judge or write off anyone until you know them personally and understand their struggles. Under the surface, we’re all battling something, which is why it is important to be kind, empathetic and respectful of everybody all the time.
Once again, we are super humbled to finally have Joseph on the blog. You can check out his website here, where you can see his audiobooks/movies, previous albums, and more. Coming up we’ve got standards, Paranoid Void, Delta Sleep, and more. Also, we were stoked to see how much Joseph likes coffee. Boy oh boy, do we agree. Bang our Peruvian coffee connection line here if you’re so inclined. Thanks for reading!