“We Were Set to Write a Darker Album.” A Conversation with Max of Colosso
My favorite release from 2016 is Colosso’s sophomore LP Obnoxious. Their 2012 debut Abrasive Peace was a spectacularly crushing colossus of groovy death metal that made me a fan the instant I discovered it on BandCamp so many years ago. You can imagine how delighted I was when, after a four year wait, they not only matched the quality of that album but surpassed it! I reached out to Max Tomé (guitars, far left on the photo) for an interview and had a most pleasant conversation that included his thoughts on digital music distribution and the band’s evolution over the years.
Max, hi! My name is Dustin and I’ve been a big fan of Colosso since 2012, so this is a quite the honor for me! I’ll start by asking, how the hell are you doing right now?
Hey Dustin!! Thank you so much for following us so close! I’m ok, thanks. It’s been an odd day – my birthday was yesterday and my grandmother passed away on the same day. But what matters is celebrating and enjoying life!
Sir, that is one excellent response. You have both my congratulations and my condolences. That’s a great outlook on life, and I agree with it completely. Okay here’s my first official question: you’ve recently added the subscription feature to your Bandcamp page. Can you share a little bit about what prompted this move?
Thank you. Well, the main reason for offering a subscription is that I wanted to offer our followers live recordings of our shows, but don’t want to make them an official release. We haven’t played outside of Portugal, yet, so this seemed like a good idea to give an idea of how we might sound live. Adding to this, if a follower supports us in the subscription model, I guess it is only fair if he gets all our discography (past and future), since it’s a model of support of great value for us.
I’m thinking of including some more stuff in the future for subscribers, such as exclusive studio content and early demos, but only time will tell if it’s right and if it’s the right way to do it…
As somebody who may not get to see Colosso live in the near future, I say that’s very cool of you! Speaking of touring, what has your experience been like so far? Have you played with any bands that just blew you away? Do any of your songs in particular get the audience to go crazy?
Well, we haven’t played that much… We’re very selective and we prefer to “waste” our money on doing new music rather than playing for empty audiences (if you know what I mean)…
To be completely honest I haven’t been blown away by none of the local bands we’ve been playing with. Not because of their lack of talent, but because I already know them all, pretty much… So, I knew what I was about to listen before they start playing…
Count me in as one of the folks who are thankful that you do focus on new music! Max, I have to tell you I just LOVED Obnoxious. It’s got a different vibe to it than Abrasive Peace. Can you tell me a little about the writing process? I’m curious if you set out to make a different type of album or if that happened organically, or what.
Yes, we were set to write a darker album from the beginning, but obviously didn’t knew in before-hand how it would end up sounding. The writing process was mostly divided between me, António Carvalho (the other guitar player [far right]) and Marcelo Aires (drummer [second from left]). We shared ideas and riffs online, I created and managed the album demo project, and then we had a couple of sessions at my home studio all together to finish some songs that were hard to finish, such as “As Resonance” or “Soaring Waters”.
We also had a few rehearsals with the band all together playing the new songs just to fine tune some arrangements for the songs, and that was it!
It ended being much more of a collective effort than the previous releases, which was something I aimed for too.
Knowing that makes the final product even more impressive; and “As Resonance” happens to be my second favorite track, so I’m glad you folks worked so hard on it. Now you’ve made me curious as to what the previous writing efforts were like. Do you mind talking briefly about the creation of your 2012 album Abrasive Peace, and how it differed? Were António and Marcelo involved as much on that one?
No, Abrasive Peace was all written by me (lyrics and music). When I wrote that album Colosso was pretty much a one man band; I was still developing the concept in my head and at the time Colosso had no band members besides me. That’s why I had to contact Dirk Verbeuren (now Megadeth’s drummer) to play on Abrasive Peace. At the time, I barely knew Marcelo and António, and Marcelo wasn’t into playing Death Metal back then as he is now eheh…
Holy shit man, I didn’t know about Dick playing on Abrasive Peace! You can — and should — yell at me for not doing my homework 🙂 So how do you feel about the progression of Colosso? Both Abrasive Peace and Obnoxious are great, but they’re slightly different beasts. Was it difficult to shift from essentially a one-man project into a collaborative effort? Are you the type of songwriter who finds it easy to distribute the workload?
Well, regarding to write as a team, I had to let go some of my ideas because when you’re writing collaboratively the final result has to please everyone (obviously). That was the hardest part, but not as hard as I thought it would be in the first place! 🙂 Also, we (António especially) were pretty inspired during the writing process, and the brainstorm of ideas and riffs kept flowing so naturally… I mean, that helped a lot transitioning from single writer to collective effort.
Colosso has had a Bandcamp profile for as long as I have known about the band. Have you always been a supporter of digitally distributed music? Was there anything in particular that inspired you to embrace Bandcamp?
I wasn’t always a supporter of digitally distributed music, hence why I offered the digital album for free in the beginning – digital just had no value for me… but then I started looking at my piles of CDs and how much waste it does… I mean, I love CDs. Is my favourite format of all time – even more than vinyl – and I still buy them… But… all the plastic and paper wasted… and digital is so much easier to handle with… Like, if you want to listen on your car CD player you just burn the FLACs or WAVs into a CD-RW and you’re good to go, but if you want to carry lots of albums on a trip, you can just put them on your phone or on a USB stick. Very convenient.
Besides, you can’t really just say no to digital… it’s the present and the future!
The only downside is the lyrics and layout, which you won’t get from the major digital distribution services.
Regarding Bandcamp… It was love at first sight! I always invite my friends to put their albums there, because (in my humble opinion) there’s no better way to sell digitally. They pay fast and you feel supported by your followers, which is amazing!
My first digital purchase was also through Bandcamp… Loved the experience! The fairest service around to sell digitally and the coolest to sell physical too, if you ask me. I must stop, or people will think I’m sponsored by them ahahah
I’m a huge Bandcamp fan as well, so it’s good to hear you singing its praises. But yeah, a change of topic could keep us from discussing it forever. How do you approach mixing your own music? For example, do you go over it hundreds of times trying to perfect, or do you trust what you have pretty quickly? (And I ask this because the mix on Obnoxious sounds spectacular.)
I listen to the songs over and over, to perfect every detail, but I also like to hear “flaws” or imperfections. It’s basically trying to find something in the middle of perfection and imperfection. I always tried to have Colosso sounding that way: human, organic and at the same time tight.
Another thing I have attention to are my band mates’ opinions on how things should sound. It was me behind the mixing board but it was 10 or more ears giving ideas and opinions. Sometimes it was not easy handling everything, but it is what you get when everyone has something valid to say.
Wow, you make it sound so simple! I’m impressed with your skills, man. How proud are you of the new album? Brag about it, tells us your favorite song if you’d like. And then I’m probably going to start to wrap this up.
It’s not simple… on the contrary! I often ask myself what the hell am I doing and that I should be investing my time in something where I’m better at, ahaha… but I like mixing and composing so much that it’s hard to let it go…
About Obnoxious, now that I have some distance from the release, I’ll be honest: I like Abrasive Peace more… it sounds more cohesive as a whole, to me. Probably because Obnoxious was our first album as a collective it still reflects some immaturity or too much experimentation on some levels… That being said, I’m proud of the album, of course! It displays what we were able to do in our best effort at the time, but I’m confident we can do better! My favourite songs are “In Memoriam” and “A Noxious Reflection”. Can’t really decide on one… it depends on my daily mood 🙂
(Jimmy note: the melodic screaming at the end sends chills down my spine every time I hear it.)
Thanks for all the information, Max! Thanks for your time and honesty with everything.
Thank you, Dustin 🙂 it was a very interesting and fun interview to do. Really liked the questions and your enthusiasm.
Head over to the Colosso Bandcamp page to check out their full catalog of releases, and subscribe if you enjoy their work as much as I do. Be sure to let these fellas know that the greatest metal blog in the world sent you their way.