When Martin Lopez came out with Soen after departing from Opeth, Progressive Metal fans were pleased to find his familiar drumming style was intact. Soen’s writing style even seemed to pick up where Ghost Reveries left off, while diverging to meld more of Martin’s favorite Prog influences into the soundscape.
Now on the eve of Soen’s third album Lykaia, I quizzed Martin about his musical progression, his thoughts on production and the writing process.
How has your drum setup evolved over the past 20 years? Has the kind of playing you do in Soen prompted you to make any changes to your setup in recent years?
I pretty much just change the kit depending on the songs we are playing specifically. Some things stay the same – double kick and amount of cymbals for example – but I have been adding percussive items to the kit as Soen’s music calls for more organic/world music vibe. Lately I’m using LP congas and a djembe on stage together with some blocks and cowbells, which I didn’t use before.
Has the band’s approach to writing songs developed/changed since Soen’s debut “Cognitive” to the new album “Lykaia”? What do you feel the main differences are?
I think the main change is that through the years we’ve gathered more confidence as songwriters which gave us the opportunity to express ourselves just the way we want without caring about anything else than our own satisfaction. The songs on “Lykaia” are more emotional and straight to the point both musically and lyrically than our predecessors.
Also sound-wise, we went for a more organic and natural sound – a sound that mirrors our personalities – rather than seeking perfection.
You seem to be influenced by a fairly broad range of percussion styles and World Music. How have those influences made their way into the new album?
I’ve always used percussion, it adds a spiritual feel to the music and fits our songs. Latin, Arabic and African music has a groove that attracts me and mixing it into our harder kind of rock is a big part of Soen and myself as a drummer/percussionist. I listen to a lot of different drummers and percussionists from all around the world and am fascinated by some of their instruments and rhythms.
The production and arrangements on the new recording have a strong 70’s vibe. Who did you record with? And was this retro influence an intentional production direction, or did that sound just come naturally?
Our guitarist Marcus Jidell produced the album and the drums were recorded at Gröndal Studios with David Castillo.
Marcus had the idea of changing Soen’s sound to be more acoustic-oriented, to capture the spirit of every musician, and we all agreed that it was a good idea. So we kept computers away as much as possible to make the album sound as we sound live. Thanks to that, “Lykaia” represents Soen and us as individuals a lot more accurately than “Tellurian” and “Cognitive”. It isn’t an attempt at sounding retro, we just want to sound as we are.
How do you feel about the use of drum samples or sample replacement in modern recordings?
Personally, I need the tone of the drum to be alive. Our songs are mainly based on changing dynamics and I need to feel that the human touch is present. I don’t like the sound of triggers, everything sounds kind of cold and mechanic and that doesn’t fit my idea of how music should be.
What was the most recent recording you heard with an amazing drum tone?
The new Animals As Leaders album [The Madness of Many]. I love how the drums sound on that record.
Which song from the new album is your favorite right now? And was there something different about the writing of that song that makes it special?
I have different a favorite song every time I listen to the album. I’m still discovering details that make me change my mind about the tracks. My favorite today is “Lucidity.” I really enjoy the mellow vibe of it and the hidden message it carries.
Finally, which Pink Floyd album means the most to you?
The Wall. It was the first album that I fell in love with as a child and it’s attached to many beautiful memories. My father and I used to listen to that album together quite often. I even remember that some parts scared me and that it felt a little dangerous somehow to listen to it.