I bet you weren’t expecting to hear that Particle is releasing a new album, were you? Well hold onto your seat because you heard right! After 14 years, Particle is excited to release of their second studio album Accelerator, available this Friday, September 21st! Sound-Fix had the opportunity to talk with founding member, Steve Molitz, about how Particle‘s new album Accelerator came about, Steve [Molitz]’s inspirations, recording video game soundtracks, and more!
Sound-Fix: 14 years ago, Particle released their first studio album, Launchpad, and now on September 21st you’ll be releasing your second studio album, Accelerator. I know that you’ve been the staple of Particle so I wanted to know, how did you guys decide you were going to start writing music and make an album?
Steve Molitz: I wrote the first three demos that became songs for the new album. One is the second track on the album called “ALL NIGHT,” the other is a song called “HOME AWAY FROM HOME,” and the other one is the title track called “ACCELERATOR.” I had those three written and the stars aligned in such a way that we could just feel that there was a wave of creative inspiration happening within the band. We all started writing a bunch of songs and collaborating together. What ended up happening was Clay [Parnell], the bassist, wrote two of the songs and Mike [Daum], the guitarist, wrote four of the songs that ended up on the album and we could just feel in our bones it was time and once we started working on these songs we knew the time was right to record and release all this new music. It’s funny the way things work out and sometimes. Things take time but once we got into the studio and started recording it was amazing how quickly things came together. We really had a blast recording the album, so much so that we ended up writing two or three albums worth of material and had to choose which songs to put on Accelerator. So we already started workshopping those songs for the next album.
SF: So are you planning on releasing another album soon?
SM: Yeah! I don’t want to put a date on the calendar yet but the truth is we’ve already started to record demos for yet another album. We’re looking at our calendars and working out the best time later this year where we can get back into the studio to record. It’s funny how that works. Sometimes once the flood gates are open, and you’ve opened Pandora’s box, you just get further and further down the rabbit hole. Right now, there’s just so much motivation and inspiration within the band and we just had such a good time in the studio. We want to keep that rolling.
SF: And this version of Particle, with these members, how long have you been touring together?
SM: We have been touring together for a couple years now and that’s really what served as the turning point that led to this album. Once this band got on stage together and started touring, I could just feel that this was the band to record the studio follow up to Launchpad. We’re in this really amazing zone right now as a band where we’re all just having such a great time together on and off stage. We all really have each other’s backs and support each other creatively and musically which is really important on stage for a band like us. We play so much improvisational music and we all know we have the freedom to let the music take us into uncharted territory and we know our musical brothers will have our backs. That same comradery translated into the studio as well. We actually had a really cool experience where we were all recording in a home studio together working around the clock. We had Mike [Daum] recording guitars down in the basement studio, I was on the second floor recording keyboards, across the hall Clay [Parnell] was recording bass and we were all really working hands on with each other passing these parts around. It was a really collaborative experience which was pretty amazing. So to take those songs out on tour and sharing them with people is what it’s all about. We’re so excited for this upcoming tour in October.
SF: Have you played any of the songs off Accelerator live yet?
SM: Yes! We haven’t played all of them but the ones that we have played have been really well received. It’s been crazy to see people rocking out to these songs as if they’re songs they’ve heard a million times before. I remember when we played the title track “ACCELERATOR” on our most recent tour, people were singing along with the chorus by the second time around. We all looked at each other on stage like “wow, this is amazing” watching people getting down to this new music. I think part of that is the fans can feel how excited we are, and we’ve always been a band that’s fueled by our fans. I think there’s this feedback loop, this communication between the fans and the band where we’re all in the moment together exploring this uncharted territory on a nightly basis. When you’re playing new material, there’s a renewed energy and excitement, a revitalization within the band and that translates to the audience as well. We’re so fired up to play the new material and I think the fans can sense it. It creates this raw and powerful energy in the venues because we’re all in that exciting moment together. As opposed to going to see a band like The Eagles where the excitement there is knowing every song, knowing all the words, all the guitar solos by heart. For Particle, the fun for us and our fans is the element of unpredictability. We never play the songs the same way twice and we’re always trying to break new ground musically and challenge ourselves to reinvent on a nightly basis. That keeps it fresh and fun for us and I think for the fans as well because they know they’re going to come out and experience something that’s never happened before.
SF: I think a lot of the reason Particle has been able to tour off Launchpad for so long is because of the deep exploratory jams that you break into on stage. I know you said that it just felt right, but did you feel a need to produce more music to create more depth in Particle’s song catalog?
SM: Absolutely! I’m going to be very honest with you and admit that we didn’t want to coast on legacy. We didn’t want to be stuck playing songs that were written ten years ago, we wanted to play songs that we’re recorded ten weeks ago, in addition to the old songs. So now we’re in this great place where we have the foundation of all the old school Particle classics and fan favorites, and we get to introduce fans to an entirely new catalog of material. We definitely felt the need to record all these new songs and now that we have them, it just feels so good. All the hard work, time and energy has paid off. When we walk out on stage and pick up our instruments each night, we feel like we have this little secret that we can’t wait to share with people. Really the truth about the arts is that once it’s created it doesn’t belong to the artist anymore. The album is yours now. We made it, we did what wanted to with it, but now it belongs to the people as do the songs when we play them live. So we’re really excited for people to hear the new songs and we’re really proud of the album. I can’t wait to see how the songs evolve on tour.
SF: I’m marinating on what you said about the fans rocking out and singing the chorus to “ACCELERATOR” by the second time around like it’s a Particle classic. It makes me curious, how do you feel the new songs stack up to the old ones in terms of sound?
SM:I think the cool thing is that we’ve built on the best parts of Launchpad but also used more modern production techniques and also just explored more of the creative passions that we’re feeling at this time. I think a good example is a song like “WIRE” that opens the album. That song has that classic, high energy, intense dance Particle feeling that you’ve got on Launchpad, but the song writing is a little more dynamic and it opens up into different sections with more dynamic range and counter melodies. It’s just different ways of approaching music in the studio. Music production tools and software have changed so much since Launchpad and in that time, myself, I’ve gotten really into recording. I’ve composed a bunch of music for video games and I was able to use a lot of the skills I learned from that world and apply them to Accelerator. When you hear a song like “ACCELERATOR” or “HOME AWAY FROM HOME,”there’s all this cinematic sound design, and that’s a lot of the kind of stuff I do when I’m working on video games. It was fun for me to bridge the gap between those two worlds and that kind of represents our more modern approach to the studio with Accelerator. Accelerator definitely picks up where Launchpad leaves off through a time-warp of fourteen years where you sort of take the best of what that was and evolve. Whenever I’m recording music, I always feel like there’s a certain amount of it that’s capturing the present moment, a certain amount that’s honoring your influences and inspirations, and a certain amount where you’re reaching into the unknown and creating future music. A good example would be if you’re taking a solo in the studio for an album. You’re playing notes that you’ve never played before, but it just happened in that moment of inspiration and sticks. Each night we play, we’re trying to reach those new moments. With regards to Accelerator, there’s a good mix of that classic sound with more modern song writing and production techniques.
SF: Here’s a two-part question, the first part should require less thinking. You said you’re making songs for video games? Which ones?
SM: Well, before you called I was in the studio working on a game called World War Z, the game adaptation of the Paramount Pictures film that was based on the Max Brooks novel. I’m trying to figure out what it sounds like when a thousand zombies are chasing you through a blizzard in Moscow (laughs). We don’t talk about it much, but Particle has scored a bunch of these video games over the past few years. If you listen to NBA Playgrounds, Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn, or Spintires: MudRunners, it’s Particle! There’s probably half a dozen games I’ve had the Particle guys play on recently. So if you’re ever playing a video game and thinking to yourself “wow, this kind of sounds like Particle,” it probably is. The cool thing is from doing all of this video game work, we were already in that studio mentality so when it came time to record, it was a really easy transition. We just finished all the music for another NBA Playgrounds game and we partnered with 2K Sports for this one so it’s NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 and there’s a bunch of Particle songs on that game so check that out! We actually recorded a bunch of Accelerator at the game developer for Saber Interactive’s studio. The CEO of that company Matt Karsh, is an amazing guitarist himself so he has an incredible selection of guitars, amps and pedals so he lent some of the stuff to Mike [Daum]. It’s been a really cool process where both worlds have inspired each other and there’s a lot of collaboration.
SF: That’s a great segue into the second part of the question. Aside from video games, where else have you been finding inspiration to write new music?
SM: Inspiration comes from funny places sometimes. It could be a painting, or a film, or a late night conversation. It could be something completely unrelated to music but it sparks a certain train of thought which leads to lyrics or a certain emotion. Or sometimes you hear music and it opens your ears to a sound that you hadn’t previously considered. One of the things I love most about this band is we all have diverse musical tastes. I think that’s part of the reason why I’m so proud of the way Accelerator came out. You have the hard rock sound of a song like “BRAVO DELTA” or you have the expansive psychedelic journey of “ACCELERATOR” and you have all of that next to a tight, three-and-a-half-minute funk explosion like “HEIST.” It’s kind of all over the place but it’s all us, it’s all Particle because we’re bringing our musical tastes to the table and there’s enough overlap within it that it creates this new sound. As far as inspiration, it’s really a constant flow and it really depends on what you want to focus on. When we’re driving around from show to show, we’re mostly listening to music that we don’t play. We’ll just as easily listen to heavy metal or gangster rap or folk or bluegrass just as much as we will stuff that sounds like Particle. We’ve found for ourselves that we draw the most inspiration from things outside of our normal realm, from other artists that you maybe wouldn’t expect. At the end of the day, we’re most interested in creating an original sound so we try to take the inspiration we receive from other places and let that manifest into something completely different and just serve the song whether that means in the studio or improvising live.
SF: Is there anything else you wanted to add about Accelerator, the new Particle album coming out September 21st?
SM: I’m just really proud of it. We recorded a bunch of it at this amazing studio called Applehead Recording up in Woodstock. I had recorded a couple albums with Rich Robinson there, it’s also where the Coheed and Cambria albums get recorded.
SF: In Woodstock, New York?
SM: Yup, Woodstock, New York!
SF: Not Bethel, but the town of Woodstock. I love it there; I go once a year!
SM: Exactly! The town of Woodstock. It’s an amazing little place and we were there recording in this old wooden barn with 30-foot-tall ceilings. I’m really proud of the way the album sounds. We were using a great mix of vintage and modern gears so we had these amazing microphones and these unique console that gives the album this warmth and presence. When I listen to these albums, I can sort of feel the air moving, I can feel the energy of that big barn like when we were recording. I’m also really proud of how diverse the album is. I think it touches on a lot of different tones and genres but somehow maintains a unified theme. That’s something that we were really aware of especially when we were trying to sequence the album. Have a narrative story unfold as the fans are listening to the album top to bottom. I think people will enjoy all the different places the music will take them and we’re just so excited to share this music with everybody.
SF: This last question is going on or off the books depending on how you answer (laughs)
SM: (laughs) Ok!
SF: I was talking to a good buddy of mine, Kevin Rudnick, and he was telling me some stories about being of the road doing sound with Particle. I was wondering if you had any good stories you wanted to share as well?
SM: (laughs) I can neither confirm, nor deny, any allegations Mr. [Kevin] Rudnick may have stated based on certain events that may or may not have transpired in Charlottesville several years ago. That’s my official answer! (laughs) We may or may not have had one of the craziest nights of our lives out there in Charlottesville. Kevin [Rudnick] is an amazing guy and we always had a blast on the road and shared a lot of laughs together. I actually saw him recently when Particle played in San Diego down at WinstonsOB in Ocean Beach, he came out to the show and it was just awesome to see him. That’s one of my favorite things about touring is you get to see so many people and keep in touch with so many friends from around the country and world in our travels. I always feel when it comes to musicians I see my best friends in airports and backstage at festivals, and then getting to see the fans in different cities is just the best! I feel very fortunate to be so connected to so many different people.
SM: Oh man! Definitely. We have this tour in October, but we’ve been getting a lot of calls from promoters now that the album is coming out asking us to extend this tour and add some dates in other parts of the country so we might just see you out there sooner than you think!
SF: Sounds good Steve [Molitz], great talk! Thank you so much for your time!
SM: Thank you so much!
Particle will be touring their new album, Accelerator, when they hit the road for their Live & Direct 2018 tour which kicks off at Nectar’s in Burlington, VT on October 4th. Be sure to check out Particle’s tour dates to see if they’ll be coming to a theatre near you by clicking here.