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Torman Maxt

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Some bands are like recording plants. They go into the studio at least once every year, stay there for a few weeks until they've finished another EP or full length. Other bands take a considerable amount of time between albums but here's an interview with a band that took seven (!) years to complete their second album: Torman Maxt. A conversation with singer and guitarist Tony Massaro of this progressive rock band.

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Discography: Just Talking About The Universe... So Far (1994), The Foolishness Of God (2001). Available through: Torman Maxt. Official website: Torman Maxt. Interview by: mpo.  Date: July 27th 2002

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Can you first introduce the band Torman Maxt? Can you tell something of how you began and what you've been doing over the years?

Torman Maxt began in late 1983. I was in college and had just taken music theory and was inspired to start writing songs and recording demos. In the mean time, my two brothers Vinny and Dominic were playing in various cover bands playing in clubs around southwest Florida. I asked them to be a part of my demo project, to work on original songs and record them with me. After a few rehearsals, we knew this was something we wanted to do seriously. We went through various vocalists over the years until we met Martin DeBourge in 1989. He was with the band until 1997. I took over vocal duties after that. We released our first album, Just Talking About The Universe…So Far in 1994. We started rehearsing our second album in 1995 and recorded it from 1996 to 2001.

When I first heard about the band I thought that Torman Maxt was the name of a guy. However, I found out that the band consists for the three Massaro brothers and no guy called Torman Maxt. What does the band name really mean?

The name Torman Maxt doesn’t really mean anything. I was in a building materials class in college (I am an architect) and was sketching a logo for my initials “TM” and decided it looked pretty cool. I kind of thought to myself “this would make a great band logo”. (At the time I wasn’t even that serious about being a musician but decided to make up the name of a band using a ‘T’ and ‘M’, anyway!) After a couple of passes I came up with Torman Maxt. I wanted to have a name that was original and would cause someone to be curious about what a band with a name like that would sound like.

You released the new album called The Foolishness Of God. This is the follow up to the Just Talking About The Universe... So Far. I think you released that one around 1994. How come did it take that long to release a follow up?

The long delay between the albums can be attributed to a couple of things. First, we worked for over two years trying to get our vocalist at the time, Martin, to learn the songs and lay down the tracks. After we realized he was unable to put the effort required, I decided to do the vocals. Although I had written vocals for many years, I never actually tried to record them. So it took quite a while of vocal training to bring them up to a level of quality that we felt comfortable with. It took all of 1997 to sing the album then ended up re-singing them again a year later. The second factor was our decision to record the CD ourselves. I bought a computer and software and basically learned from scratch. So there was quite the learning curve. Finally, because we were incurring no studio costs, I was able to keep redoing and refining things to a point of satisfaction (or actually a point of driving myself nuts with perfectionist expectations). I think anyone who has experienced unlimited studio time can relate to that.

Like I said, The Foolishness Of God is your new album. What do you think of it yourself?

We really like it!! One of the great things about recording over a long period of time is the opportunity to flush out mistakes and really dial arrangements and instrumentation in. I was amazed at how the last 5% of mixing took so long, yet had such a dramatic effect on the final product. I had thought we would use more keyboards when we started, but the guitar parts and sounds just kept coming out in a way that left no room for any other tones! The album is everything we had hoped it would be. It took the style and sounds of our first album to the next level.

Personally I describe the music as progressive rock with metal influences. How would you like to describe it yourself and what inspires you as a songwriter?

I think progressive rock with metal influences is an accurate description. The three of us in the band come more from a metal background than progressive, however. Rush, Yes, Dream Theater, and Queensryche were the only really prog bands that we were into. In the early days, I was more drawn to the metal bands that had prog type arrangements such as Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. We all really enjoyed the Galactic Cowboys first two albums as well. I think the Ozzy Osbourne song Diary Of A Madman with Randy Rhoades on guitar is one of the most interesting prog/metal arrangements ever written. His guitar playing was very inspiring to me as a songwriter. We stopped worrying about classifying our sound years ago. We are too progressive for some metal fans and not progressive enough for hardcore prog fans!

The Foolishness Of God is a concept album. What is the lyrical overview of the CD?

The way the album is broken down into four sections really gives the basic lyrical overview. We are Christians and the overall big picture of what we say has to do with Jesus Christ whether directly or indirectly. Sections 1 and 3 take an introspective view on the world around us and sin and is lyrically written in the first person. Section 2 deals with the world around us and is written in third person form. Finally, the last section deals with the title track and the concept of what actually is meant by the phrase “the foolishness of God”. I used to attend bible studies with Walter Martin of the Christian Research Institute before he died. He had a cassette entitled “The Foolishness of God”. The phrase is taken directly out of the bible in 1Corinthians. As a Christian, I had never really written a song directly about the person of Jesus Christ. So I felt this would be an interesting approach to writing a song about Christ; using the concept of how God works seems like foolishness to people (Noah’s Ark, Moses parting the Red Sea, etc.) and presenting Christ as the biggest foolishness or stumbling block to people. The song follows the outline of Dr. Martin’s sermon. Also, I just felt it was an interesting and eye catching title! The art on the album cover tries to juxtapose the crucified and resurrected Christ, which is the greatest event in all history, with human technology and human achievement.

The album was recorded in the Mars Hill Studio which is the band's own studio. Are you using it for other bands as well?

Mars Hill Studio is actually my office. I am an architect; that’s how I make my living. My computer has a digital studio on it. We started the album by recording the drums in the living room of the townhouse we lived in at the time. Other than that, all of the vocals and guitars were recorded right at my desk. So we don’t use it for other bands. I would use Auto Cad to design houses during the day and Cubase to record the CD at night!

In a recent interview I noticed that you have written the next album as well and that you are hoping to record it this year. What revelations can you make about it right now?

We are excited about our new album. It is a concept album/Rock Opera based upon the book of Job in the Bible. Ever since Rush 2112, I have wanted to write a concept album. All of the music is written (about 85 minutes) and we are just about ready to go into the studio to start recording Act 1. What I like about it is that there are so many parts, yet the whole album is very cohesive and the music helps to tell the story effectively. I think Torman Maxt fans will be very pleased with it.

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