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A Dirty Dozen with RICK SCHNEIDER of POLARIS – February 2020

| 18 February 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “POLARIS will release their second studio album, The Death of Me, on February 21 via SharpTone Records. The band has just shared the Mission Impossible-style video for its heaviest song to date with “Landmine.” It’s been two years since Polaris released their ARIA-nominated, Top 10 debut, The Mortal Coil, which introduced the group to legions of fans around the country and, thanks to an extensive international touring schedule, the world. When it came time to making their new album, The Death of Me, the Sydney outfit knew they had a tall order on their hands.” We get guitarist Rick to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

I think something that might be overlooked is how far we went to make this record sound, feel, and truly be livelier than anything we’d done prior. By that I mean we focused on the best drum takes with great tones, we finally used real amps and cabs during the reamp phase, and also took the time to ensure the bass was done with the same focus and respect. We’ve always prided ourselves on vocal production in the past, but this record was the first time that we got to ensure every other element had the same care and final polish, and while it’s easy to overlook as a first time listener, I hope returning fans will recognize that as well.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

While I didn’t have a particularly musical upbringing, once I started hitting my teens I listened to music more and more, as most people my age were. I started with the top hits and whatever I’d hear from friends as my initial music taste, but over time I started getting into hard rock and heavy metal through the video games I would play. Games like Need For Speed or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had plenty of songs that opened me up to that side of music, and finally when I played Guitar Hero up to a stage where expert wasn’t as much of a challenge, I figured it was about time I put the same commitment into learning the real instrument. Over the next few years I slowly increased my knowledge of playing guitar, and after about 3 or 4 years I began having the desire to jam and play original music with others. It wasn’t too far after that point that I met up with Daniel and Jake for the first time, and Polaris formed soon after!

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I remember seeing Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet for my Valentine and Atreyu in 2009 in Sydney and it absolutely blew me away. While I’d say shows for bands like Parkway Drive gave me more of a direct inspiration to play music and get into the musical scene, seeing such a stacked lineup at the Hordern Pavilion (5,000 capacity) left me with an unforgettable memory and gave me an insight into how big heavy metal music could be.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

This is something that shifts and changes over time, and it’s largely just based on what I listen to most. I find a lot of musical influence in bands like Counterparts, Lamb of God and Architects, but more specifically I look up to a lot of solo song writers in bands who carry their sound and continue to innovate. Our band is much more collaborative when it comes to writing, so when I see someone like Jon Deiley of Northlane almost single handedly redefine his band’s sound record after record, that is something that doesn’t necessarily influence me, but it does inspire me.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

A name that has come up in conversation a few times within the band is Caleb Shomo from Beartooth, he’s an incredibly talented songwriter with a huge knack for catchy chorus hooks. When it comes to riff writing we can usually cover it ourselves, and with the amount of differing opinions and aims within the band it can usually be hard enough without adding another person to the mix. Chorus and hook writing is somewhere we would always appreciate a trusted opinion however, whether it’s just getting the initial idea started, or to help polish something we’ve already come up with.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Honestly this is an incredibly hard question to answer due to how we go about writing our songs. If a song has too many elements that remind us of another in our catalogue, it will often be changed and tweaked until it stands apart and no longer has that impression. Because of this the list of fan and press comparisons is quite staggering, and just in the recent singles has ranged from Slipknot/Every Time I Die/the whole genre of pop punk. Due to how we write our songs I never find myself being offended or disagreeing with what bands people draw comparisons to, and instead enjoy hearing all of the different takes depending on people’s broader listening tastes. It more often than not opens me up to new music and bands that I previously hadn’t listened to, and it’s cool to be finding new things that based on what people observe in your own music. When I’m explaining our music to someone who hasn’t listened to us, it usually starts with the question of: “Do you like heavy music? You don’t mind some clean choruses sprinkled into songs? You like riffs, breakdowns, guitar solos? Well we’ve got a bit of all of that so check us out and see if it works for you!”

7. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Ryan would definitely handle the acoustic guitar, probably singing Nickelback incredibly loud so nobody can escape it, but in saying that he is also great in the kitchen. When we were recording the album in Mollymook south of Sydney, we stayed in an Airbnb and took turns preparing meals each night. I’m not much of a chef myself but can handle myself on the BBQ, but everyone else in the band has great cooking skills which made for some lovely nights once tracking was complete. From there we all got some drinks in, depending how much writing was on the cards for the night ahead. When we’re just casually hanging out the drinks usually stay in the fridge and we’ll far more often order food in than cook ourselves, so it was nice to spend the album recording process living like much more of a share house than treating it like a holiday and doing what we normally would.

8. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

I think touring with Architects in January 2019 was the last time I felt a bit star struck. I feel like that’s a weird way of putting it because it was a mixture of all of the things happening around us – we were playing some of the largest stages we ever had (and still have to this day), we were traveling around Europe in our own transport with our own crew, and we were supporting some of our all-time favourite bands; Beartooth who I’ve mentioned previously and of course Architects. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty nervous speaking to the guys in both bands for the first few times, but fortunately for us everyone in the bands and crew were incredibly kind and open to all of us, so those feelings didn’t last long. That is one of the fortunate things I’ve found in the heavy metal/hardcore scene, that most bands are often lovely people to deal with. Any feelings of nervousness or unease are stamped out quickly and you can just enjoy the conversation with the person in front of you, which is how you’d always hope it would be.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part is a close tie between travelling the globe, and being able to be on the stage night after night. Both of those things can almost be considered the negatives with the amount of time away from home and the stress and pressure a live show can bring, but they are undoubtedly the things that stand out to me as to why this is my dream career. I can’t say what I would love to do if I was no longer a musician, but at this point I think it’s safe to say I’d want to be working as close to a stage as I possibly could.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I’ve always wanted to talk about video games, like what I’m playing right now, what’s my favourite of the past few years and even just the landscape of the gaming community as a whole right now. I guess I’m in the wrong career to be getting questions like that, but seeing as you asked, I’m currently playing Witcher 3 and it’s becoming an unhealthy relationship of how much time I’m putting in, but I cannot stop; I love it. It probably comes as no surprise that gaming is my second favourite thing to do besides playing music (or my top favourite, depending on the day) and even on tour I bring my laptop with me so I can plug in my PS4 controller and play some games on the road. It keeps me sane when nothing else can. As far as something I’m tired of answering, I’d say it would be the question of “What advice would you give to bands starting out?” not because it’s a useless question, but more to do with how vague it can be answered, and because of the nature of social media these days. I get quite a few messages and the occasional inquiry about operating in a band, whether it’s the tech/gear side of it or the more business focused aspects, and if it’s a genuine question I try to give my time of day and help the person in their specific scenario. It’s these interactions where I feel some benefit versus giving a blanket response that may steer some in the right direction, but could be misconstrued based on other people’s current position and lead them to making the wrong decision for their own betterment.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I can’t say that there is. Every person and every band makes mistakes, but it’s those actions that help you learn and develop into what you are today. It sounds cheesy and in many ways it is, but if not for the missteps and small mistakes we’ve made in the past we wouldn’t be aware of what to avoid in the future, and for that there’s nothing I can put my finger which I would remove from our past. I’ve always tried to be sensible in our actions up until this point, but being our first band nobody truly had an idea of how things should run in an ideal world. We’ve been fortunate to have some great guidance through the years thanks to some close friends and crew, and with where we are now there’s nothing I could point to to remove from our history.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I think City of Evil by Avenged Sevenfold would have to be my pick. As a kid I’d watch the handful of short Youtube videos they released showcasing the album recording process but altogether it’s about 10 minutes of content, which after recording 2 albums ourselves I know is just the tip of the iceberg. City of Evil was the first album in the heavy sphere of music listening that I became fully invested into, and when I dived into their back catalogue, the screaming and even heavier elements was what helped me transition into the listening tastes I have today. It’s not an album that I listen to as often anymore, but I still have every guitar lick, every drum fill and every gigantic vocal melody committed into my brain, and I’d give anything to have been there to watch it take shape.





Category: Interviews

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ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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