I was introduced to New York’s Pseudo/Sentai via their handlers, who described them as a manga-themed progressive metal band that sounds like a cross between Ghost, Faith No More and the Mars Volta. And that they had an ‘80s/VHS-quality surrealistic, horror-themed video that they wanted to pollute young and unsuspecting minds with as part of the celebration and promotion of the release of their fifth album, Enter the Sentai. Considering all the above-mentioned ingredients, and the potential for things to descend into chaos at light speed, I decided to give this big mix of whatchamacallit a shot and throw it under the Decibel spotlight in the process.
Thusly, this morning, we present Pseudo/Sentai’s video for “Crown of the Crow King” and an interview with the band’s lead characters and masterminds, [RED] (vocals, rhythm guitar, soundscapes, programming a.k.a. Scott Baker) and [BLUE] (lead guitar, soundscapes, programming, a.k.a. Greg Murphy). Adjust your tracking and suspend your association with po-faced reality and get set to have some otherworldly fun.
Can you impart upon us some band history, please?
[RED]: Certainly! Almost a decade ago, we were summoned by the Loracle, an all-knowing deity confined to a large glass cylinder filled with a glowing green liquid. We have yet to figure out what it is, but we do know it's some kind of solution that keeps her operational. She is a living database of lore from our world and worlds beyond. She sent musical weaponry to Earth, which we discovered. In taking hold of said weapons, we were set on a path we never could have seen coming. Now, with the help of the Loracle, we aim to save the world from the monsters that plague it! And believe me, folks, THIS time... The monsters are real.
[BLUE]: As RED nailed our history, I will talk about our musical history. We started out as a duo, creating as many songs as we could without any worry about the larger image. This sometimes meant burst tracks of psychedelic sounds attempting to translate what the Loracle was giving to us. This proved to be a difficult task. It took us about a half a decade to refine this into sounds that might be considered “reasonable.”
I’ve seen you referenced to/described as “manga-themed progressive metal.” Is this a self-referential thing or something the press or friends or whomever came up with?
[RED]: It just sort of popped up in an article one day. It makes sense; we love manga, anime, martial arts flicks, video games, comics. I think a lot of the "manga-themed" talk comes from our recent artwork, especially the stuff done by Grace Passerotti. She made us look so very manga. But we’re crude combinations of all entertainment we're interested in. I consider us to be "Squad Rock" as opposed to Prog Rock, despite our deep love for Prog.
[BLUE]: To me, the description makes logical sense. We aren’t "manga-themed" in the sense that we base our music or stories off manga that already exists, but thematically this is what our stories seem to match. We also would love to eventually write graphic novels.
For those of us who know nothing about, or aren’t interested in, manga, what is it about manga that brought you to using it alongside metal? And how do you find the reactions to the collisions of those two worlds? A good number of metalheads are still balking that metal and hardcore were ever combined. How do people respond to your combination?
[RED]: Manga and anime, depending on the titles, have pinpoint accuracy when it comes to illustrating/animating perilous urgency. Our planet is on a very dark timeline and there are things that need to be addressed! When the darkest corners of the human condition go unchecked, they mutate into monsters we must eventually slay! Manga and anime are the best at having characters that rise to the occasion when things look bleak. That’s what our music calls for! Overall, the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive! Even if people aren't 100% into the tunes, they will at least give us the credit of doing something different and doing it well, especially when it comes to metalheads. They know we don't really consider ourselves to be a metal band, but know how steeped in its influence we are. If there are people in an uproar over it, we have yet to hear about it.
[BLUE]: These stories were fed to us. Over time, as we gathered more and more of them, we noticed that similar tropes exist in the more complex sides of graphic novels and manga. In many of these stories, good does not triumph. Often, there isn’t any “good" at all, just different sides of a completely malformed coin, tumbling down a bottomless pit. I think more people have been warming up to the idea of conceptual music. Crack the Skye and De-loused in the Comatorium have shown that complicated ideas can be appreciated by decent quantities of modern listeners. To be honest, I’d rather piss off a few people because if you don’t, then you’re not doing anything right. Though, I doubt we will be getting added to Encyclopedia Metallum anytime soon.
On the other side of the coin, do you get manga enthusiasts blindly checking you out?
[RED]: I often wonder how many misspelled “hentai” searches have lead people to our material.
[BLUE]: There is actually a Facebook group called Pseudo Hentai so RED is not far off. Not too many Super Sentai or manga fans have randomly found us yet as far as we know, but hopefully that will change. We have an album titled There’s Always a Fucking Problem and we do seem to get a large number of people finding us because they are searching about their sex issues.
How often do you get asked if you’re big in Japan?
[RED]: Not nearly as much as we get asked “How are you guys not HUGE in Japan?" We're hoping that changes soon!
[BLUE]: About as often as we get asked if we get asked if we are big in Japan.
What can you tell us about your new album, Enter the Sentai?
[RED]: It just came out on July 8th and so far the response has been insane! It kicks off the Sentai story for real. The past eight years and everything we’ve recorded in that time has led up to this album. This album has cost us far more than we ever could have anticipated, but it fights for its life and the lives of others. It’s an album that needed to happen. Enter the Sentai is our announcement to mankind that we have arrived, and we are here to save the world.
[BLUE]: I have little to add outside of what RED said, but I can say from my standpoint, this was our first album written as a live band. Almost every single aspect of the music is a collaborative effort. While RED and I are doing the interviews, I do not want to at all downplay the efforts of BLACK (drums) and PINK (bass). BLACK was the aggressive and treacherous force the album needed, and the bass-work that PINK manifested is seriously something that grabs the attention.
I’m going to assume that someone with a working knowledge of manga will have some idea of what’s going on on the cover of Enter the Sentai. So, allow me to ask you: what’s going on on the cover of Enter the Sentai?
[RED]: The giant in the image is Baron Wasteland; a war criminal that has become the antithesis to the Sentai. He was able to conjure a Sisyphean Eclipse while we were distracted by the portrait of the Bansheeface, which he was able to extract from another dimension. That is what is blocking out the sun. The Eclipse possesses those who look at it and bends them to the Baron's will. At the start of the album, riot police have taken over and are killing off peaceful protestors. That is where we make our entrance.
[BLUE]: While there are some standalone stories on Enter the Sentai, this image best represents the multi-track story arc that takes place throughout the album. If Enter the Sentai were an anthology of science fiction/horror stories, this would be the perfect book cover.
The chief reason for this post is the premiere of your “Crown of the Crow King” video. What can you tell us about this particular song, the video and why it was selected as the video track?
[RED]: The song itself is about a gladiator tournament for rule over a kingdom of crows. The clips in the video are from a movie called The Toxic Retards. The director, Carl J. Sukenick, filmed it in/around his apartment along with potentially HUNDREDS of other short films over a period of 35 years. Matt Desiderio did a hell of a job editing a few dusty, bug corpse-filled VHS tapes into an avant-horror flick that eventually breaks the fourth wall to unveil insight into schizophrenia. It’s not the best movie you’ll ever see in your life, but it’s fascinating and I guarantee you won’t see anything else like it! If you’re intrigued by what you see, I highly recommend adding it to your collection!
[BLUE]: The song also has an image that corresponds to it, created by our friend Grace Passerotti.
We selected this song as the video track because it is the shortest song on the album with quick, defined sections and a feel of constant forward motion. This is the ADD generation, and we wanted to choose quick, no-frills music to fit with the schizophrenic imagery.
In the music industry’s money-burning days, videos were largely seen as expensive promotional tools. How do you frame the purpose of videos these days and what differences do you notice between the videos of today and yesteryear?
[RED]: FACT: Music videos are, and always have been, made to make people horny. Next question!
[BLUE]: Videos are now usually slightly less expensive promotional tools because bands just put them up on YouTube without having to pay MTV $50,000 dollars for airplay or whatever. Most videos are similar to the way they were years ago: people playing their instruments with a sort of “look at how sweet we are” feel to it. Then, maybe some shots of a pretty girl or guy running through a field or looking at how sweet the band looks. Then, maybe some anti-authoritarian shit because “rebellion" or whatever. Instead of record companies forking out tens or hundreds of thousands on this shit, bands spend a couple thousand and end up replicating the same sort of corporate approved "rock music" imagery. Of course, there are always artists on the fringes, working hard to make every aspect of their music creative.
What’s the plan now that your album is out and about? Or do you even have a plan?
[RED]: Since the release, we’ve been working to further add to the Enter the Sentai experience. I’ve been working on lyric videos for “Desert Dessert” using clippings from porn mags (thus proving the fact bomb I just dropped in answering the previous query) and will start working on one for “The Empyre (Rome 2.0)” soon. I would really like do something with “Werewolf Casey” as well, but there are still details to work out. Beyond that, we’re working out the concept for the next album [BLUE] has put together. Whatever the future holds, it will be mighty.
[BLUE]: We are putting together more imagery to go with Enter the Sentai as RED mentioned. We are definitely working out the concept behind our next album, the details of which I’d rather not say until the ideas and experiences are fully formed.