Mike Griffith - Qwestion

April 15, 2003

Tell me a little about yourself.

I started out playing guitar and could never really figure out how to play leads or wasn't ever happy with it or didn't want to put the work into figuring it out or something. I changed to bass and I've been playing bass ever since. As far as the band goes, John and I met about '92 or '93, somewhere in there in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. A drummer buddy of mine and I were playing together and we went down to a practice room and heard this guy playing. We were like "oh man, we gotta jam with him." We sat in with him for a little bit and everything just clicked. About the next six or seven months we started writing tunes and just playing, but not thinking about anything coming of it. Just having fun because it felt good more than anything. That project got yanked out from under us. His family had to move him back to Michigan where he was originally from. I ended up moving and going from here to there. One day we talked and I decided that it would be cool if we hooked back up. It took about three more years before that finally happened. We finally did and we started writing again. That's where this project has basically come out of. I've lived in quite a few places. I was born in Alabama and then we moved to West Germany at the time. My sister was actually born there. Then we went to Washington State, Colorado, Mississippi, Texas, Montana, Minnesota, and now Michigan. I've been around. It would be fun to be able to do all that with a band. That way I could say I've toured all those places but I can't say that. It was more or less just traveling. I've had a pretty interesting thing. I guess the music reflects some of the "go here, go there". You've heard the album so the music goes from one place to the next. I just tie it all together. If we've had any complaints, I think for some people that's the hardest thing for them to get accustomed to because it's like one song. There are enough riffs in one song that some bands could make a whole album out of them. There are just a lot of riffs that go from one to the next which we don't repeat over and over. We might only play one riff for four to six measures and you'll never hear it again in the song.

Songs are supposed to differ from one another especially if you're doing instrumentals. The last thing you want is an entire album of stuff that sounds the same.

That's true although this is a studio project basically. It hasn't really evolved into anything more than that yet although we're hoping to get the word out. Hopefully people will want to see it live and we'll be able to go do it. It's a little different route than most bands go. Most bands go out and have to tour, tour, tour for free and maybe that's what we'll have to do and maybe that'll be our undoing. I don't know. We're trying a different route. It didn't really start out instrumental. It didn't really start out as anything. The whole thing has been an experiment from one phase to the next. With not having a drummer and then this crazy experiment, we're trying to figure out how to program drums on the computer. That took forever and finding all different kinds of software and stuff that I could use. Figuring out if it did what I was trying to because all the drums on there, every single note, was specifically programmed with this software that I was using. It took forever. I was beating on my chair. That's what I use my chair for, pretty much what I was doing. I just listened to everything and put it together. Just the whole album is one big assed experimentation. That's why things flow as they do too. It wasn't always originally going to be with no vocals. There are actually lyrics written for a lot of it but I can't really sing them. I'd have to go find somebody else to do it at the time and this project has already taken nearly four years. About three and a half years. Having to work a job and then just do this at home. It was either find singers and then maybe have the project take another year or go ahead and release it instrumentally. Like you say and the only reason I would even dare do it is because of the fact that there's so many changes. If it would have just been verse/chorus/break, the natural thing you do all the time, there's no way I would have done that. I would have looked like a fool. It never really was intended to not have vocals. I still would love to be able to do vocals on it. That would be nice to be able to release a Y2 or something with vocals on it. It probably wouldn't just be one person. If there's one person that could sing everything I was hearing that could go on it, he'd be one hell of a singer. I don't know if he would ever want to work for an outfit that isn't making money yet. I think what will end up eventually happening is having several singers which would be cool because usually the more people in a metal band that you see on stage, they're all doing something. If you had like five people up there just singing with these people behind them, that would be a little different. It would fit right in to our philosophy, that's for sure.

Then if you got a drummer to go along with it.

Oh, yeah. The drummer I mentioned earlier that we'd played with in Hattiesburg, Vincent Hall, lives in Atlanta right now. Matter of fact, he's got a band that he just worked for as a studio drummer that has an album coming out. He's capable of playing it. He's played in a couple of bands that have albums out. He could do it. He'd be the guy who would be able to do it but he's in Atlanta and we're up here. There's a lot of logistical problems with that in order to pull that off. You never know. It would be nice to have a real drummer. I think we'd still have to have some type of sequencer or somebody behind him because if we were to actually try to pull that off, and play exactly as it sounds on the album, I don't know that one drummer can hit all those notes. That's one thing I didn't do when I was programming the drums, thinking about the fact of a human trying to play all that stuff. That's what was so cool about it. I could sit here, beat on my chair listening to something, and just come up with something. It didn't matter how crazy it was. It didn't matter how out there it was. I didn't have to worry about me playing it because I just made the computer do it. It allowed me to go and do some things I don't think sitting with me and a guitar player and a drummer, we would have ever even first of all thought of and then even said "all right, let's try to pull it off." I think in a way the whole process is definitely just a huge part of the sound, that's for sure. I don't think it could have ever gotten to this point without having gone through this process. If it would have been done under normal circumstances, usually most songs are written in a band type atmosphere and usually there's guitar, bass, and drums up the middle and if they're doing an improv, they can write it on their own too. Still at some point they always get with a bass player, a guitar player, and a drummer to put all that stuff together and that never really happened with the band because it was just the guitar player and me. It definitely added to the sound.

Where did you guys come up with the band name?

That was actually something that I had always wanted to name a band. Not necessarily with it spelled as it is, with a "w" instead of a "u". I just had always wanted to do that. I always thought it would be really cool if nothing else, just for the album names you can get for it. If we could do more albums we could do Qwestion "them", Qwestion "it". I always thought it would be cool to have one of the last albums, of course who would ever know if that would ever happen, but have one of the last albums try to get some answers to everything. I might call that very last album if we ever do it, Qwestion "and the answers" or something. I don't know. It's just something I've always thought about. Just thinking about crazy stuff. I never thought I'd actually use it. It got to a point where we needed a band name. It was just like I always wanted to do it so I said what the hell. I've done everything I wanted to so far, might as well keep doing it. That's basically where it came from and then when I went on the Internet to set up a web page, Question with a "u" was already taken. It wasn't being used. It was one of those people that buy up names to keep them and then jack the price up. Had one of those deals and so I thought what about "w" and did it. As soon as I thought it and did it and did the research, that was so much better because to this point that it's even gotten here, it had been a major quest in a sense and it went right along. That's basically the background of where the name came from. The Y is the other thing. I always wanted to call the first album Y. That's basically where that came from. I've definitely done a lot of questioning why in my lifetime.

I think a lot of people do.

Yeah, I do too. Matter of fact, a lot of the songs that I have the lyrics for, that's why it would be so fun to put them on there. I think the philosophy is that the band and all would come out a little bit more. I don't know if it would help or make any more sense. It might make it even more crazy. I don't know. It would add to the whole philosophy of the band basically.

Who did most of the writing?

Basically John and I would sit down and I've got a VS-1680 digital audio work station and we plug into that. That's one thing I've learned over the years. The best songs and the best material you can get is when it happens. How many bands I'm sure and I've done it myself, where they go and set up and they just decide they're just going to jam for whatever reason. It's the coolest thing they ever did but they probably never remember it or something happens or whatever. I've learned the art of perseverance is very important. Basically we recorded everything. We'd sit here and jam, come up with something cool, and make ourselves record it before we even went to the next thing. We just did it and we got it all recorded. Since it was all recorded digitally, I was able to go back and put it all in the computer and then go in there and take the parts that were good because of course when you do it, it's not always tight. Then got all the good parts and then glued everything together. Then the parts that were not good enough, he'd come in and we'd record them and we would put it all together that way. Then I would arrange the songs I'd thought would be cool. Sometimes I'd be like "that would be cool but I don't know how the hell I'm going to tie that together.." There are some parts on the album where you can tell there was a real stretch on how to get from one thing to the next. That's basically how we write. As far as who writes the most, John comes up with a lot of riffs but there have been times I've come up with riffs on bass too. I remember one night we were sitting here and he had to make a phone call or something and he got off and I came up with a riff on the bass. I go "hey man, check this out." He came back and said "oh man, that's cool." We recorded it and then I had to make a phone call and I did. He had something cool. Sometimes it was just like that. It was always different. Pretty much I basically put all the songs together in the final form, the way you hear them. They could never have gotten to that point without some of the cool riffs that John had plus then once I've got it all done, I give it to him and he puts solos on it. There's a limited amount and some people have said "why don't you have more solos on there?" I thought with the way the drums and the rhythms were so in themselves like a lead, because they don't really repeat themselves, that might add a different layer to it because so many instrumental albums when people pop them in usually expect to hear a Joe Satriani or Steve Vai just going off and that's all they do throughout the album. Although that's not all they do for sure. They definitely have a lot of taste too. People expect to have that or for that matter could be any solo instrument. It was a different approach that came out of it. I would actually like to have had him put a few more solos on it but he had just had a baby at the time and we didn't have all the time in the world so I think time played a factor in a lot of that too.

That's what makes it so different because you don't have all that on there.

Yeah, I think sometimes my personal approach and I think John and I work well together too because he's so much more of a technical kind of guy although he has feeling as well. I am definitely more of a feeling guy. There's a lot of technical bass stuff that if I sat down with a really good bass player and he would talk to me, I really wouldn't know what he was talking about. I just feel a lot of the stuff I do and that's where a lot of it comes from. Just the feeling of it. He and I with his technical and my feel, you mix all that together and it's where you get some of the different flavor if you will.

Did you name the songs before or after you wrote the lyrics?

The only song that actually had a name but it wasn't before the music was "The Mask". All the music was there. It's probably the most structured out of all of them because they actually are structured lyrics for it that are pretty much set in stone. There's always something that can change later when you're doing it. That one had lyrics that were there but as far as all the other songs, if you were to go to my computer right now and see where all the backup folders are, they're pretty much listed as first song, second song, third song, all the way through there. When I was doing all that stuff, I didn't want to get so wrapped up in naming things. I just wanted to let the process go as quickly and develop as fast as it could. The names came pretty much later. Getting all the names of the songs was a fun process actually because I knew that once a song was getting named, it was close to being done so it was a celebratory thing. Some of them I didn't worry about until later but most of them I did when the whole album was finished. I sat down and a lot of it was done with my roommate. She just things that she'd throw at me. "Forest Of The Norm", the name of it is actually funny. I've got really hairy arms and she was rubbing my arms and she said something about forest of the norm by accident. I think she was going to say "man, your arms are like a forest not normal" or something. Sometimes people will shorten or say something real fast. As soon as she said that I was like "oh, that's so cool. Forest of the norm." It was like that would fit perfect with that particular song. You hear the album and you might think I wrote the songs in that order but they weren't. "Forest Of The Norm" was actually the second one I did. That's the longest song on the album. That song took a long time. I learned a lot of the things that I was experimenting with through that song and then the other ones, you can see where I expanded my learning of what I was doing. "The Mask" was the first song I did and actually in that particular song, the software I was using for the drums is different. I got so far in the song and I didn't like it so I went and found something else and I finished the rest of it with this software. If you listen you might be able to hear the different drums from one to the next. Named the songs afterwards. I didn't get wrapped up in it plus you can let it fit in. At the time I didn't even have the name of the band I don't think. It all came afterwards. This whole thing has just been put together from the ground up. I hope we're able to keep on putting it together and see where it goes because it's been a lot of fun so far.

Are you guys working on any new stuff?

There's still a lot of material from this first project that wasn't ever used. That could be gone on to next. There have been some ideas, in the middle of "Forest Of The Norm", there's a slower part that has bongos in it. I've had some of my friends say that would be cool to just have that be it's own song. There's actually parts within the actual album that I would like to expand on in itself. It's going to come from that as well as stuff that we are writing and working on. Stuff that I never used and go on to the next and put it together. We'd really like to be able to get a label involved and take this thing on the road. I think that would be a really fun challenge.

I think people would enjoy it.

I don't know if they'd be standing up and moshing or they'd just sit back in amazement. I still haven't figured out what would happen. I think I would like to be able to see me trying to play all that stuff live. I think that would be fun just to do it because at this point none of these songs have ever been actually sat down between three people and played straight all the way through which when you think about it is kind of weird. I definitely would. As far as playing live, we've thought about it. Haven't actually done it but it'd be cool to like when you go to some of those Britney Spears concerts or some of those big concerts where they have lasers and they can make whatever they want out of them, I thought it would be cool to make a laser drummer with the whole kit and then have it programmed with the drums and synched up to where he is actually playing it. That could be a really cool thing. Where would you find the money or funding to try to figure that out.

That could get expensive.

I think there are some things that would be fun to be able to do. The fact that we don't have a drummer now, if a label does get interested, I'd throw that idea at them. Maybe they'll like it. It would still be fun to have a drummer though. I do think that would be cool. Sometimes bands have two drummers like in the old days. I never figured out why because they were never playing anything that difficult but they had two drummers anyway.

I saw Ministry last weekend and they had two drummers. That was cool actually.

I think it is cool to give the whole stage a different feel. Maybe have one of them be a laser drummer and another one be a real drummer. That would be different.

I also liked the MTV Unplugged session KISS did when they had Eric Singer and Peter Criss playing together.

When they hooked up live? That was really cool. KISS was a very influential band. I've never really probably appreciated their actual music as much as I have their contribution to metal music, that's for sure. They definitely kept it going for a long time. You think about how long they did it without making money. People always see the long stretch they had of success but they had a long stretch of just doing it for the love of the music and thank God they did it.

Qwestion