John Browne (Monuments) interviewed
** UK/US prog metallers—the ‘djent’ tag is now deprecated—Monuments have a new album out, The Amanuensis. If you can’t pronounce ‘amanuensis’ or don’t know what it means, well, guitarist/songwriter John Browne provides an explanation below. Now joined by ex-Periphery vocalist Chris Barretto, Monuments are stronger than ever. The Amanuensis is a more straight-forward effort, but it’s no less impressive—technically speaking for the eggheads in attendance—than predecessor Gnosis. Read on as Browne details The Amanuensis, Barretto’s praise-worthy traits, and what his mum likes about Monuments.
Some have labeled Monuments ‘djent’. What do you make of genres or classifications of your music?
John Browne: Music is music. It has the same 12 notes as any other music, the only difference is the way it’s expressed, so we use pretty silly words to try and explain the sound. The word ‘djent’ makes no sense whatsoever to describe a genre, the tone that it references isn’t really utilized by many bands that are classed as it. I feel progressive metal is a much better reference to our music, with a huge dose of groove.
How is The Amanuensis a different record from its predecessors?
John Browne: The most obvious difference is the change of vocalist. We enlisted Chris Barretto (ex-Periphery, Ever Forthright, Sexamaphone) to take over vocal duties. So, automatically that’s made this record sound notably different. It’s definitely focusing on big groovy hooks. Instrumentally, the music is more traditionally structured. However, the riffs are still as crazy as the Gnosis.
What’s your favorite moment or song on The Amanuensis? Something you’d tell your mum about maybe.
John Browne: I really like the chorus of “The Alchemist”. It’s really simplistic, but I think that part will sound big and open when we play it live. I also dig the “End of the world” ending of “I, The Destroyer”. I can’t really focus on one part or song. All of the songs I’m happy with how they all turned out. I know my mum will blast this out of her car like she did with Gnosis. She loves groove.
What is an amanuensis?
John Browne: The word ‘amanuensis’ means script writer. Someone who will write down something they are dictated, I guess like an audit.
Lyrically, what are you going after?
John Browne: The album is about the Samsara cycle, the cyclical existence of life that we are all bound to. Chris has written an entire story around the lyrics. Maybe that will see the light one day! It’s the story of Samsara.
Any guests that help you destroy on The Amanuensis?
John Browne: No guests on this album. As it’s Chris’ first album, we wanted the focus on him.
What’s it like with Chris Barretto up front?
John Browne: Amazing. It’s such a relief to not have to worry if he will sing his parts in tune and time. He’s a musician and it’s really easy to bounce ideas off of him.
How is this lineup different from previous iterations? I gather it was more of a side-project when Monuments originally kicked off.
John Browne: Monuments was originally a side-project with myself and Joshua Travis (Glass Cloud, ex-Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza). We had one of our tracks played on Radio 1 in 2007 as track of the week.
You produced The Amanuensis at a few different studios with a few different producers. What was it like to work through and finalize the new record?
John Browne: We produced the drums at Monnow Valley studio in Wales with Romesh Dodangoda. It sounds great, all natural and fun! Vocals were produced by Eyal Levi at Audiohammer Studios. They also sound incredible. I handled the guitars, bass, mixing and mastering myself at my studio, Bear Noize Studio. We did the drums in four days, guitars/bass in about 30 days and vocals took a whooping 43 days (sorry, Eyal). We stripped back for this record feel metal has lost the ‘live’ element of production. All bands sound too perfect and albums aren’t really a true representation of what the band actually sound like in a live setting. We stripped it back. We wanted to give everyone what we actually sound like, with us actually playing the instruments. We didn’t use one drum trigger on the album. The final result is great!
What do you want fans to walk away with after listening to The Amanuensis?
John Browne: Hopefully, they feel like they had the journey that was intended. It’s a pretty relentless record, but with some huge vocal hooks. We’re hoping this album will get stuck in peoples heads. It was a lot of fun to write.
** Monuments’ new album, The Amanuensis, is out now on CD and vinyl. It’s available HERE in a few cool configurations.