Circuit Sweet Interview, Feature

A Last Salute To Byss Exclusive Interview and EP Special

September 13, 2013
Emily Humphries

Emily Humphries

A few weeks ago we welcomed a vivacious and inspirational act to our online store. Since that time we’ve grown to love A Last Salute to Byss even more . A Last Salute to Byss was born in November of last year, the lengths this act has since gone- incredibly notable. What started as a one man experiment has grown to a two man successful operation and it’s now simply more than just a project.

The act fuse the best of Post Rock/Prog/Experimental and consist of Maks Szymanski -Song Writing, Production, Multi Instrumentalist and Niall Jones- Song Writing, Multi Instrumentalist.  Together they make electronic, classical and ambient orchestrations all of which crafted with attentive detail, care and the perfect balance of co-operation.

We are thrilled to spend some time with Maks Szymanski and dig deeper on all things ALSTB related, the EP that we are so lucky to have in our store, inspirations, a forthcoming release and much more.

Firstly thank you for spending time with Circuit Sweet.

Before we get to the details of your recently released EP ‘DAWN’, we want to get to know more on you- Firstly introduce yourself, How long have you been playing and performing live?

Hi! I’m Maks Szymanski I’ve been playing guitar for just over 10 years, I then picked up other instruments once I started getting more creative with my music, so bass, piano, drums, ukulele soon followed after! I’ve been performing live since the age of 16, I’ve been in various local bands and projects which range from post-hardcore to death metal. And I now right music in an experimental post-rock project called A Last Salute To Byss, which is the reason I’m doing this interview!

What was it that first got you to pick up a guitar, to put pen to paper and write your own songs, to get the courage to sing those compositions and to direct your creativity?

When I was about 9 or 10, I started discovering music, and what I would be into. It was a combination of my fathers favourite music, so pink Floyd, led zeppelin, king crimson and my sisters favourite music, Nirvana, green day, the offspring, which I really grasped onto, and it was after listening to all those artists that I started finding my own musical routes, I started to listen to heavier stuff, such as Slipknot, Metallica, Guns n Roses. And then I discovered Coheed & Cambria, and my life changed forever! They quickly became my favourite band, and my inspiration behind almost everything musically!

I started writing my own music from about 13, when I started taking music seriously, at first it was just riffs I had ripped off somebody else and changed them slightly, or it was a melody I had in my head that I then transposed to guitar (badly!). But when I started growing up, and moving on through my later school years, I went through a bad break up and loss of friends, and started putting my own emotions into the music, I was such an emo! I’m glad non of those songs every surfaced at all!, that’s when I started really taking my own experiences and portraying them through music, wether they be good or bad experiences.

What outside influences trigger your creativity and create your unique sound?

Other than music, I love films; the name of the project (A last salute to byss) is actually a Star Wars reference! Haha, films can inspire me so much, I actually know a lot more about films than I do music, besides the music in the films! I love cinematography; I think its another amazing way to show emotion through art. I also like to read a lot, I love the work of H.P Lovecraft, and I am also a huge comic book geek, so I can draw a lot of inspiration out of reading too! Oh, and video games, you can’t beat a good Zelda session to get the creative juices flowing!

How did working with the talented Niall (We Used To Have Horses) come about?

I met Niall through a mutual friend, who was actually dating Niall at the time, he played in a local band called Inca Hoots who I was massively into, they’re not together anymore, which is a real shame. But I was only when I started the project, I felt like it needed a bit more of a creative brain behind it as well as my self. When we began working on arrangements together, I found that Niall and myself were into a lot of the same stuff (Zelda, star wars, comics, other nerdy stuff). I always joke that me and Niall were brothers separated at birth, we’d often be chatting on facebook and referring bands to each other, who we had already heard, its scary sometimes.  Nialls a great dude, a better musician than I will ever be, If it wasn’t for Niall, I don’t think Byss would of ever taken off.

In one word, what does A Last Salute To Byss mean to you?

One word?! Wow, haha. Lets go with Whimsical, that’s a good word!

With regards to your debut EP ‘DAWN’ we would love to know the ins and outs on this release. Firstly describe your writing process and how you’ve managed to get to the point of your debut EP release.

Believe It or not, Dawn was my dissertation for my HND at university. Because it was in music production we had to act as not only a musician but also the producer, so the album was produced mixed and mastered by myself. And I also had to produce a 10,000 write up. So the assignment brief was set at the begging of my last semester at uni, so what? January, yeah that sounds about right, So I began working on the structure of the tracks, and once I was happy with them, I took them to Nialls place in Evesham and we began working on the arrangements, filling them out with various instruments, as well as adding drums. I play a lot of instruments, but I cannot play drums for the life of me, so Nialls input really really helped when it came to drums, once we were happy with the tracks, we found ourselves with a total of five songs, and worked out a date which we were happy to record on.

From the writing process, the recording process followed, how did this come about and what do you feel your EP captures?

When the recording date came around, I was ridiculously nervous, and I have no idea why. We recorded all the tracks we needed in 8 hours, so that was 5 tracks worth of guitars, bass and drums, and everything sounded perfect. There were some slight technical issues, but when isn’t there? The production,mixing and mastering stage followed, and the EP was completed in the last few weeks of April, so all in all, from start to finish took four months, which was because of different deadlines having to be met for uni, which in one way was good, because it gave me a time that I had to stay within, but at the same time, there something’s, having the time, I would of liked to have done differently, but there’s plenty of time for that.

I felt like the EP captures my emotions, the EP is entirely based on the last four years of my life, many ups, but some horrible downs, and that’s exactly what I wanted the EP to capture, and I believe it did. I also feel that people who listened to the EP and know me personally can relate to that too

What does the final finished product of your EP personally mean to you?

Personally, amazing, never in a million years if a few years ago someone turned round to me and said “you’ll write, record, produce, mix and master, your own EP” Its such a sense of accomplishment, something I’ve never felt before, Its so rewarding!

To date how has the EP been received?

Incredibly, at first many of my friends were shocked it was even me, I’ve always loved post-rock and ambient music, but have never written or performed it, so a lot of people were amazed, in a totally good way. CD sale have been really good, I had 100 pressed and have got, I think including the 5 that you have 35 left? So all in all, the reception has been amazing.

Alongside being a talented multi-instrumentalist, Maks also curates gig nights and makes being a gig promoter look easy, putting many to shame. Maks hosted a night for local music festival ‘Worcester Music Festival’ at the start of September. Without a doubt a fantastic live night and despite obstacles Maks ended up stepping in and performing a live solo ALSTB show- how would you describe your live performance?

Haha, you’re too kind! My performance, NERVE RACKING! I had some obstacles, like you said, hit me 24 hours before the gig started, the live performance side of things had been in the works, but with Niall on drums, but it was only when I had a band pull out and a gap to fill, that I plucked up the courage and thought to myself  “screw it, I’m going to do it with a backing track on a laptop, and just loop guitars and bass parts” And as soon as I set foot on that stage and explained to the audience who I was and what I was doing, I then thought “what on earth are you doing” That being said, the performance went really well, people loved it, and took CD’s too! So not a bad first performance in my books

Will you be planning more live outings?

Most definitely, after that evening on my own, both Niall and myself said, we found a way to do it, involving us playing multiple instruments and looping stuff live, so more live outings to come for sure! Which is very exciting!

We are thrilled that you are already working on your forthcoming release, can you tell us more on what you’ve got planned with regards to writing, recording, artwork and then the release- physical/digital..we want to know everything.

Most definitely, I’m thrilled there even is a second release! Haha, In regards to writing, the EP is written and after some deliberating and various play throughs’, I’ve found that the six tracks that I have work really well together and have a consistency, much like the tracks on Dawn. The EP will still have more of the same elements as Dawn did, but conceptually will be a lot darker, with some tracks a bit slower than before, and some that will surprise most! At first, I was a bit nervous about these tracks, would people like that, have I changed a bit to much from Dawn, but with that saying I didn’t want to make the same record twice. Recording wise, I havn’t got a date yet, I’ve still got to show the tracks to Niall, and see if there’s anything he feels needs changing, And then we will go from there.

Release wise, The EP Is going to be entitled Equilibrium, the artwork has been designed, but my wonderful girlfriend, Emily Humphries, who has done a stellar job with it! At the moment I am hoping for a early 2014 release! That being said, it could change, you never know it could be earlier. Release wise, I am looking again at CD’s, and maybe this time a vinyl, its always been the dream to have a release on vinyl, the release will include bundles that’ll include t-shirts, stickers, CD’s, vinyl, any which way the fans want them. I’ll be announcing the artwork and full track listing via the Facebook later next week, probably the same time this interview is out! So all very exciting times!

Artwork by Emily Humphries

Artwork by Emily Humphries

Here is a pre-production preview of an untitled track off the new upcoming A Last Salute To Byss release.

Enlighten us to what can we look forward to from you in the future?

More live performances, more music, t-shirts and vinyl (hopefully) and more Byss in general

Before we finish all featured artists are asked this- What album or track has been stuck on your turntable, ipod, cd player for a while now?

For a while? I’ve recently got into Brand New, after about a million of my friends have told me how good they are, the devil and god raging inside me, is a fantastic album. There will always be Coheed on the turntable, no matter what mood I’m in, the same goes for at the drive and the fall of troy. But most recently I’ve got into a post-rock band from Watford called Lost In The Riots, I just bought their CD, Stranger in the alps, which is a masterpiece, go check those guys out, they’re gonna be huge!

And finally any last words from you?
Thanks for having me! Support local music, always follow your dreams, and may the force be with you!

Again we want to thanks Maks for his time, we seriously can’t wait for the forthcoming release. Don’t forget you can  get a copy of ‘DAWN’ from our online store. We will hear more from Maks and ‘Equilibrium’ in due course.

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