Known for their technical prowess and deathcore-iest of breakdowns, Veil of Maya have made a living for the past decade meat tenderizing stages and putting out punishing beat downs. They’ve been plagued with changes over the years, but though the number of ex-Mayas is high, they make up only half of the current lineup. The major caveat is that one of those new members is now the vocalist, Lukas Magyar, from a rural town in the upper Midwest where He just got Internet. Guitarist, primary songwriter and Founding Member Marc Okubo talks with editor David Stagg about just how “terrifying” the process was and teaches us an expert lesson in dealing with haters.
I’m old enough to say it’s been 11 years since I’ve been listening to you guys.
(Laughs) Oh, sh-t.
I know, right? So it’s been quite a journey for you, and I’ve been able to be on the other end of it for quite a while. I was thinking about what it would be like in your position, right after you just wrote that first EP, after (previous band) Insurrection. What were you listening to? Looking back, what were the things that became the foundation for what Veil of Maya is today?
Well, back then, I was totally trying to be At the Gates, Meshuggah. Those are, like, my bands. That was my foundation for when Veil started. I was 17- or 18-years-old. Now I don’t know. Now it’s just a whole different thing, I guess.
“Now we’re adults.”
Yeah. Now it’s like Veil of Maya sounds like something already so I have to go settle a little bit.
Looking back, Veil of Maya is forever going to be known as one of the heavier and more technical bands. They sent over Matriarch. I listened to it. At first you can hear those parts in there, but some of it is a totally new ballgame. When Lukas came in, what were you thinking? How was the process going to go?
Well, it was a really difficult decision. It was pretty terrifying, actually. It wasn’t an overnight thing. We had a lot of people that we were auditioning. I guess collectively we just liked the direction that we could work with Lukas. It just made the most sense for us.
It’s kind of hard to force everybody I grew up with to feel a certain way or force this new direction on them. I mean, for me, it just sounds natural. It sounds right. I don’t know. I guess I’ve written every Veil of Maya song. I guess I can’t really tell if there’s something wrong with it. If you’re used to hearing Brandon’s vocals, it does sound a bit different.
I didn’t say there’s anything wrong with it. I think you were prepared for a number of people to tell you there was something wrong with it. Talk about that: What’s the worst thing somebody could possibly tell you? We’re going to torch your van because you wrote something like that? What did they get at out you for?
I think that would be hilarious if someone wrote that (laughs). People: It’s really frustrating. This is the easiest it’s ever been for random kids to put their marking all over (every) band they want to hate on. It’s weird how everyone feels so entitled to do that nowadays. Ten years ago, when I was starting to write music or going to shows, or whatever, that was not a thing. You don’t go and talk sh-t on your favorite band. You just learn to like what they’re doing or you just listen to the song that you like. That’s it.
Nowadays, it’s different because people really, really think that if they bitch enough, you’ll go back and rerecord the album. Just for that. It’s really weird.
I’ve heard the new record, but I don’t know: Did Lukas write all of the lyrics to the album? If so, how did his lyricism play into the songwriting? Do you know what I’m saying?
Yeah, he did write his lyrics. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to collaborate too much on that because the music was completely finished before he got there. I had concepts for all the songs. I titled all the tracks, and we were going to add concepts for all of them. They were all going to be based, loosely, off of (female) characters.
I mean, I think Lukas’s lyrics are — what’s the word I’m looking for — they’re abstract enough to fit the mold. On future releases, I think we will definitely collaborate a lot more and write the album as more of a band instead of my project or whatever.
That is going to make this conversation a lot more fun because looking at the song titles while listening to the album is like deciphering a trivia game, looking up all of these different matriarchs. Some are kind of fun. Some of them are pretty obvious, like Daenerys from Game of Thrones; I think people would pick that one out. Lisbeth from the Dragon Tattoo. Some of these in here, I don’t even know if I’m right so I’m going to take a shot.
What you got?
“Nyu,” the first track, I first thought was N-Y-U, as in New York University. I was like, “What kind of political statement is he making?”
(Laughs) Well, someone just capitalized that on all the track listings. We still don’t know why.
I did a little more research, though, and based on some of the other matriarchs on your track listing, looks like it comes from the manga-inspired Elfen Lied. She is the split personality of (another) track title, “Lucy.” Is that correct?
Yeah. There were two Lucys I had in mind (when naming the tracks), but the name of this particular one was definitely after the alter ego Nyu. The other Lucy idea was from my favorite horror movie, Martyrs. I ended up choosing the Nyu reference.
OK, so “Lucy” is a little bit different than I thought. I’m curious about Nyu. She’s the flipside of a split personality. The crazy side is super sadistic, who likes to, instead of just kill people immediately, cut their limbs off and let them bleed out. When you were thinking about the project you were writing, were you thinking about anything in particular by choosing (Nyu) instead of Lucy?
“Lucy” was already written. “Lucy” was actually the first song on the album I had written. We were initially supposed to put out an EP in 2013. That was one of the songs on it.
You did talk about Lucy in the horror movie Martyrs. Are you a big horror movie fan?
Yes, I am.
Me, too. What else is on your favorites list?
I think the French horror movies from maybe five, ten years ago are probably my favorite. I’m still waiting for something to get back to that vibe. Martyrs, obviously. I liked High Tension.
High Tension is the best movie that came out of that whole era.
Yeah, yeah, it was great. The whole dresser scene. That seems to be the one. Or even that intro. The intro, you know what I’m talking about?
Yeah, where he’s in the ice cream van. It’s one of the greatest scenes in horror movies.
Yeah, it’s like one of the greatest scenes ever. It’s super bizarre. If you want to talk about establishing this guy’s character, that’s the perfect way to do it.
I kind of know what that guy’s about now.
(Laughs) That’s great.
OK, so another one that’s manga-inspired was “Mikasa.” That came from Attack on Titan, is that right?
I don’t have the lyrics sheet or anything, but what was your goal with making that the single, especially when thinking about the project? How do you feel Lukas came through in writing it?
The way he was explaining it (to me) was that all of the songs are about an inner journey or whatever. It works out in terms of characters because they’re all obviously going through their own inner journeys. They loosely fit together. He’d never seen Attack on Titan before. I’m trying to change that.
You’ve tried to change him and make him watch it?
We’re doing it one-step at a time (laughs). Honestly, he’s from a really small town. He just got the Internet a few weeks ago or something.
That makes me really happy.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, we’re a work in progress, for sure. I’m sure he’ll be somewhere near as nerdy as the rest of us.
That’s hilarious. People might recognize “Aeris” because it’s from Final Fantasy 7.
“Three-Fifty” is the only one. It’s just a little too ambiguous for me to figure out. Help me.
OK, I got into comic books pretty heavily within the last few years. One of my favorite ones is called Y: The Last Man. Have you ever heard of that?
It’s about a dude and his pet monkey. One day every male of every species on earth dies except for him and his monkey. The whole planet is run by females. Everything. His protector’s name is Agent 355, and you actually never find out who her real name throughout the whole book series. They eventually come up with nicknames for her, and Three-Fifty is the one that sticks towards the end of the book.
Is that a more recent comic?
Oh, it’s finished now. The author is currently writing a book called Saga, which is actually really popular right now.
OK, very cool. I guess they operate like TV shows. They write for seven, eight series?
Oh, when you’re reading it, it’s just like you’re watching TV. The author also wrote a bunch of episodes for Lost and stuff.
He’s an American author? It’s an American comic?
Yeah, his name is Brian K. Vaughan.
I was still stuck in the manga world in my head. I was trying to piece it all together.
Oh yeah, yeah. That one’s going to be the tricky one, but Y: The Last Man — it’s my favorite comic so far.
Hopefully we can help usher in a whole new crop of fans because they’ll know about it now.
“Teleute” is from another comic book called Sandman. It was for deaths, the character’s real names are like deaths. The song title is kind of weird. She goes by Teleute in a few issues or something. I went with that because it was a little bit cooler sounding.
Most of the people who listen to Veil of Maya probably grew up reading that comic.
Yeah, they’re actually starting to make a prequel to it. It’s called Sandman: Overture.
That’s like my childhood reincarnate.
Yeah, it’s back.
The last major question I have about the album is why the “matriarch” theme? Did you just see all these really cool stories and go “Man, that would make a really good concept” and then you fleshed it out?
At the time, I was not inspired by music so much. I was more into watching movies or reading books and then trying to pen the soundtrack to the characters or to the emotions that I’m getting from that.
It’s a new way of thinking outside the box for me. I got really interested by powerful female characters because, usually, when you think of the hero of an action movie or something, it’s a dude. There are a lot of times where the female character is way more badass than the male. I just wanted to focus on that.
Did you listen to a bunch of soundtracks? Were you a big soundtrack fan? Did you abandon the day-to-day listening ritual and move on to some of that more ambient stuff?
Oh yeah. I like video game soundtracks, mostly. A few movie soundtracks are cool, too. Usually, I will pick up this theme, a reoccurring theme of a character I really like. I don’t listen to the whole two-hour long orchestrated soundtrack, but usually (there are) a few things I pull out of every movie I like.
Have you ever considered doing a video game soundtrack? Doing the music for one?
Oh, I would love to do that. I mean, I don’t know how much I trust myself with it. When I’m by myself, when I’m bored, that’s what most of the music I end up writing sounds like.
So the answer would be yes, just how quickly. “I don’t know if it’s going to work out or not. It could go down in flames but I’m going to say yes.”
Oh, yeah. If I could just write some music and then send my MIDI-files to someone actually experienced in it then that could be cool. I’d love to contribute. I just don’t know exactly how experienced I am for something that serious.
I think most of these people probably have a lot of help. If they really trust you and your music, they’ll probably give you whatever you need to make it work. As far as I’m concerned we need to start this campaign right now.
(Laughs) Well, count me in. I would seriously be honored.
Back when I played music when I was younger, I always wanted to score a movie. I was obsessed with the way it could affect an entire scene. I always loved setting people up like that, playing with music and film.
I mean, seriously. Watching E.T.? Trying to imagine that movie without a soundtrack, it’s just impossible. The music carries the movie.
Or Jurassic Park. Star Wars.
Star Wars, yeah. John Williams in general.
Or, if it’s a fun film, Danny Elfman.
(Laughs) yeah, yeah.
“We’re not trying to piss you off. We’re still capable of playing our old songs. We will still play our old songs.”
Is there anything else you want to drop in here about the new album?
I hope people don’t think we’re limited by trying a new direction. We’re still the same band. We’re just trying some new things, that’s all.
But that doesn’t limit you. I feel like if, anything, you’re just opening another box.
Me too, but some of the comments I’ve been reading? I don’t know if people get it.
And you’re like, “No, man, really! We really have the best intentions here!”
Yeah, right. We’re not trying to piss you off. We’re still capable of playing our old songs. We will still play our old songs.
There’s still plenty of metal to be had for everyone.
We could still write our next CD and make it sound like our first CD that no one bought.
“Let’s go back to that when I was making zero money doing this.”
Yeah, yeah. All the kids are, “We need you to write another Common Man’s Collapse!” Like, dude, you were 10 years old when I wrote that, and you didn’t buy it. It sold, like, 1,100 copies.
Yeah and now you’re just stream it on YouTube or something, so that’s cool.
I could’ve used your help in 2008, but now it’s 2015!
Veil of Maya was posted on May 11, 2015 for HM Magazine and authored by David Stagg.