Twenty Questions - Michael Ciccia from Mandroid Echostar

     As you may have seen me mention in a recent post, Loud Noises turned a year old about two weeks ago now. If you've followed the blog for any length of time, you may also have seen me mention that I've got some things in the works, simmering away in the background, that I couldn't yet unveil to the world. But none of those things has ever really amount to much more than continued simmerings. Until now.

     I'm not really a serious enough music journalist -- and frankly I'm not really bold enough a person -- to call someone up on the phone and conduct a competent interview with them. Or Skype them for an interview, or whatever the modern equivalent is. But e-mail... E-mail I can do.

     With that in mind, today I'm very excited to be able to present to you the first of what will hopefully be a series of e-mail Q & A's with some very cool people from some very cool bands. I've cleverly decided to call this series Twenty Questions, as the number of questions I've settled upon is twenty (like the classic game, guy!). Some of these questions will be (if the gods allow it) deep, thought-provoking, and above all interesting questions about the bands, their music, and the industry. Some of these questions will also be silly.

     But I swear to you here and now: there will be twenty of them. And serious or not, they'll all be the kind of stuff I'm interested in knowing about my favourite bands, so it's fingers crossed that maybe something will end up being interesting to some of you as well.

     First up to the plate and onto the memorial photo wall of dudes cool enough to actually answer my questions is the singer from Guelph's progtacular Mandroid Echostar. But I should really let him introduce himself, so with further ado, here's the first installment of Loud Noises Twenty Questions. Enjoy.

- LN: OK solider, we’ll start with your name, rank and serial number (ie: for readers who don’t know, who are you, where are you from, and from which band do you hail?)

MC: I am Michael Ciccia and I do the vocals for Mandroid Echostar and we are from Guelph Ontario, Canada

- LN: Right off the bat, I feel I have to ask, what’s the story behind the name Mandroid Echostar?

MC: Hahaha yeah, we get that one a lot! I wish I had this crazy story that was extremely funny and meant a lot more then it did. But the truth is, when our bass player (Adam Richards) was in highschool he was not a big fan of going to calss. So him and his buddies would skip school and go off to some place they called "The Bunny Trail". I have no idea what the hell it is myself. But anyway, as they partook in recreational activities they decided they should write about their adventures and did not want to use their real names. So a friend of his actually came up with the name Mandroid Echostar for himself and Adam fell in love with him and told him that he was going to name his band that one day. And he did. Not overly exciting lol.

- LN: Michael, forgive me if you get this all the time, but has anyone ever told you that you kinda looks like Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria? (And at times kinda sound a little bit like him? Not a negative comparison though! Claudio is badass, and you’re not too shabby yourself.)

MC: Well... let's put it this way. You are not the first person to say that TODAY! hahaha I have been getting that comparison ever since Second Stage Turbine Blade came out. It is actually how I first heard about Coheed. People just kept telling me I looked like this guy, so I eventually had to check them out. And they are amazing, so I became a fan. I mean, a handsome darker dude, with big curly hair that has a higher register voice, I get it hahaha. There are worse people to be compared too. I take it as a HUGE compliment. Claudio is an incredible musician and really handsome. Did I mention that? hahaha

- LN: So far, you’ve done a guitar playthrough video from “The Kingdom and the Crown”. How did that come about? Any plans for more playthroughs?

MC: I mean the real simple answer is that people just love videos. You can put out as many songs and pictures and facebook posts as you want, but nothing gets attention like a video. We saw this increasingly rising trend with the playthroughs being so damn popular and we jumped on the train. People who love guitar and music, love to analyze parts and playing style and it gets them involved with your music. It also springs up people doing their own covers of your songs, which is an awesome thing to see. We will be doing some more playthroughs in the near future, but we have some other stuff to finish up first.

- LN: What was your experience like on last September’s “Hello? Yes, This Is Prog” tour with Intervals and Ever Forthright? How did you get involved with the aforementioned sweet-ass tour?

MC: That tour was AMAZING!!! For 3 bands that had played a combined 8 shows (I believe) before that toured happened, it was crazy to see all the kids that came out. The tour basically happened because Intervals made a FB post about possibly doing a tour and who they should go out with. Matt, our drummer was friends with Aaaron Marshall of Intervals and had a bunch of mutual friends so he messaged him about possibly planning a tour together. Aarron was already in talks with Ever Forthright, so we all combined forces, booked the tour ourselves and had the best 2 weeks ever. Those 2 bands are some of the most genuine nice people in the entire world and absolutely mind blowing musicians. We all learned so much and became such good friends. We all still talk on a regular basis. Who knows maybe we will all hook up and do another tour one day.

- LN: Any plans on the horizon for more touring? Eastern Ontario (*cough* Kingston *cough*) would love to have you back...

MC: Absolutely!!! Touring is always in the plans. We really just love to play live, it is why we do all this. For the upcoming months we are just planning our album roll out and playing some festivals around Ontario. We are hoping to do some more touring in the early fall. We have not played Kingston yet, so we will do our best to get out that way just for you hahaha! If we could just quit our jobs and live in a van all year round, we would. But we like to eat and have somewhere to sleep. Those are both really awesome things hahaha.

- LN: Speaking of Ontario, what’s the metal/heavy music scene like right now in your neck of the woods?

MC: Right now it is awesome! There are so many amazing and different bands coming out from our area. Bands like Wakeless, Arkham Awaits and our buddies from London in Anu Beginning. Very different in styles but incredibly wicked and talented. The scene really dropped off for a while here. I have been doing this for many years and I saw it at its peak and saw it pretty much at rock bottom. We have a production company called GAIN Music that kind of took over the scene the last few years and brought the heavy music scene back to life. Them along with have breathed new life into Metal in the 519 and it is an absolute awesome thing to be a part of.

- LN: Have you had any interest from any labels? Is that something you’re interested in/looking for, or are you content to stay indie and continue distributing your stuff online via means like Bandcamp?

MC: We have had a few nibbles but nothing overly serious. When I was younger I would have said "Yes, label! I want to be signed ASAP, it is the only way to do this". But as time goes on and social media and the internet just make everything so easily available to do yourself, I am pretty content right now doing it ourselves. That is not to say I would not like to have label support and be signed. Because I do! It just has to be the right label that fits us and with the right deal where we can still be who we are. I guess what all this easy exposure from the internet gives bands is the option to be a little more selective when choosing who or when to sign. Which in my opinion is a great thing.

- LN: While we’re kinda sorta on the subject of Bandcamp, I got your first EP via your Bandcamp page. Can you divulge any hints about possible distribution methods for your next release?

MC: We will still likely be using bandcamp this time around. We are also looking into using itunes and setting up an online merch store with ManageMerchUSA so people can get t shirts and physical copies if they so choose to do so. We will also have lots of copies at any of our shows and we may also be doing a run of vinyl for something different. We are pretty stoked on all of it!

- LN: You’re in the midst of recording the aforementioned next release. What kind of sound can we expect when it comes out? More of the same Mandroidy goodness? Something completely different? Somewhere in the middle?

MC: You can absolutely expect some of the same feel from our first EP. A couple of the songs were partially written the same time our EP came out, so the writing style is very similar. But you are also going to find a lot of different vibes on some of the songs as well. Everyone had a bigger hand in writing this batch of songs and it makes for a very interesting blend of all of our tastes. There is some of the heaviest stuff we have written on this album and there is also some of the poppiest stuff we have written as well. We are all super pleased with how it has turned out so far and even more excited for people to finally hear it!

- LN: On the topic of your next release, can you give us any “bigger picture” type details, like whether or not it’ll be a full length album, or if you’ve got any themes/concepts in mind? (Basically I’m interested in hearing just about anything you have to say about your next release. Can you tell?)

    MC: Well, the next release will be 6 songs with an intro track. It will be pushing the 30 minute mark which would technically make it a full-length, but we are not calling it that. We are calling it a long EP hahaha. We wanted to do a full length, but time and money are a major factor when putting out new music. We really wanted to get some new stuff out there and we figured putting out 10 songs independently within a year or so was alright. As for themes and or concepts, you will just have to wait for that, we can’t give away all of our secrets!

- LN: I wouldn’t use this word to describe you guys (at all) but I’m still curious about your opinion: what do you think of the term “djent”? What about the sound/subgenre it’s describing? Has djent run its course?

    MC: To be very honest with you, all of these genres, subgenres and any other way people try to categorize music confuse the hell out of me! I have always lived by the motto “good tunes are good tunes”. If you like it, listen to it. It shouldn’t matter what the hell people want to call the genre. As for “djent” specifically, it is HUGE right now, and I don’t think it is going anywhere for a while. We listen to a bunch of bands that are lumped into that category and we love them. There is always a time and place for music. Sometimes you want to hear the heaviest brown note of a breakdown, and other times you want to hear some sweet sweet melody and clean vocals. That’s why music is amazing, there is always something for everybody and whatever mood you are in.

- LN: OK, time for a few fun ones:
Star Wars or Star Trek? Why?-

    MC: As a band I will say Star Wars. Our guitar player James has an entire half sleeve dedicated to Star Wars and everyone just loves the movies. It is a fairly common topic of discussion at band practice.

 LN: Metallica or Slayer? Pour quoi?

    MC: Maaaaan, this is a tough one because I don’t particularly love either of these bands. I am a late “Metal” bloomer. I jumped on the train later in life. I have a few albums from both bands and I do really like a lot of their stuff. But for a quick answer I will say Slayer simply because after seeing Metallica’s documentary the dudes in Slayer seem way cooler to hang out with hahaha. 

- LN: Favourite android? Or perhaps favourite mandroid?

    MC: Iphone for sure. I love that damn thing. I am on it constantly with band updates and emails and such. I have to charge it like 3 times a day. I would be lost without it. My life is in there. As for my favourite Mandroid, I can’t say I will hurt some peoples feelings hahaha.

- LN: If you could make everyone stop what they’re doing and listen to one song right this minute, what song would it be?

MC: This good sir is one hell of a tough question. There are so many songs that I love for different reasons. Picking one that incorporates everything I love is hard. I will say Dirty Diana by Michael Jackson because every time I hear it I can’t help but get into it. I love that song. It is so dirty and powerful. So go listen to it!

- LN: If you could ask any member of any band any question, who would it be and what would you ask?

    MC: I would ask Claudio Sanchez what shampoo and conditioner he uses. It is hard to find another guy with my hair that I can talk products with. His hair always seems so full and light, I am very interested! hahaha

- LN: Dream Tour: who would you guys open for, or who would open for you?

    MC: Easy question! I would call it the Canadian Bacon Extravaganza (or something to that effect). We would open the show, then Today I Caught the Plague would be after us, Protest the Hero after them and the night would finish with RUSH!!!!!! Super Canadian, super progressive and the fact that I love those 3 bands to death doesn’t hurt either! Lol I need to make this happen before RUSH retires!

- LN: Almost done. What have you been listening to lately?

    MC: I work at a record store, so I get a lot of music cheap. I listen to all kinds of things and buy stuff based on their album art sometimes. As for the 3 CD’s in my car right now it is the new Paramore, new Fallout Boy and the album Close the Distance by Go Radio. I am in a bit of a pop music kick at the moment. I love that shit! Actually I listen to a lot of pop all the time. haha

- LN: Last one! What’s your favourite metal album of all time?

MC: City of Evil by Avenged Sevenfold! That CD basically changed my life. I always loved heavy music, but I did not love all of the screaming. I need some vocal melodies and hooks to really keep my attention. I love some screaming too, but I need a blend of both to really get into it. So When I heard this album I was blown away. It was heavy, it was catchy, it had shredding guitars and just about everything else I wanted to hear in an album. I listen to that CD all the time even to this day. I have seen them live 4 or 5 times and I will go anytime they come around. Some of their later stuff has not been so hot, but they will always have a place with me no matter what because of City of Evil!

     Bam! There you go. Big, big shout out/thank you to Mike from Mandroid for being, as I said, a guy whose coolness is great enough that it can't possibly be diminished by answering a handful of my stupid questions. I hope he had half as good a time answering my questions as I did reading his answers. And I hope the whole thing has been at least mildly entertaining for you to read, since I hope to make this a semi-regular series. Be sure to check out Mandroid Echostar on Facebook, Bandcamp, and Youtube, and stay tuned for their upcoming long EP.

     A few of my reactions to Mike's responses, before we go:
- any story that results in the name "Mandroid Echostar" is interesting for that reason - doesn't have to be an epic story to end up with that name entering the world.
- now THAT is one badass tour line-up. Canadian Bacon indeed!
- very interesting answer with City of Evil, and actually one I can kinda relate to. I was into a lot of emo/screamo/core bands  back in the day (and still am into some of them, even if only nostalgically) but Avenged Sevenfold was one of the bands that really started getting me into the heavier, more straight-up metal side of things, particularly with their Sounding the Seventh Trumpet and Waking the Fallen albums.

     Aaaaand that about wraps it up for this first round of Twenty Questions. Do you know of a band you think would deign to answer my silly questions? Perhaps you or someone you know is in a band, you're thinking "Hey! I have answers to those questions! Let my voice be heard!" Well, to that I say, put your money where your handparts are and start typing. Leave a message in the comments below with band suggestions, question suggestions, or really anything else. Later skaters!

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