It would be difficult to overstate Periphery’s impact on modern metal, and guitarist Jake Bowen’s contributions as a composer and riffmaster have been an integral part of the three-guitar powerhouse since their self-titled first release. Fans are given a chance to hear just what he brings to the table in a new and focused format with the band’s new experimental EP Clear, which features one song directed by each of the band’s six members [find out more HERE]. At this year’s NAMM, we had a chance to catch up with Jake about the unveiling of his new signature Ibanez guitar, the JBM100, to talk about the Clear EP, and to get a glimpse of the band’s plans for the future:
IC: Hey, how’s it going, man?
JB: Hi, Ivan. Good to see you again.
IC: You, too! It’s an exciting NAMM show for you – you’ve got a brand new signature model guitar out. Tell us a little bit about it.
JB: It’s called the JBM100, and it’s based off an Ibanez LA custom shop model that I’ve been playing for a little while. It comes loaded with my DiMarzio Titan signature pickups and it follows a black and gold color scheme that I think looks pretty sharp.
I know you worked for a while to get the color scheme just right. Can you tell me how that came together?
JB: Well, originally I had a seven-string version that was made for me. I had initially wanted the… I think it’s called Invisible Shadow, which is the matte finish that they ship on the RDG series. It’s just a black matte finish. But then the LA custom sent me this color, which is more like a pencil lead graphite and I’m like ‘Wow, that’s way cooler.’ So I asked them to try to get all my guitars like that, and that wasn’t a problem for them.
We were just working on getting the binding the right size. The other thing was the ebony fretboard. I really wanted a dark wood, and I love the way ebony feels and it follows the whole black and gold scheme, so it was the perfect wood choice for the neck.
IC: I see you have this moon inlay here at the twelfth fret. Is this to go along with the space theme of the name Titan?
JB: Yeah, Titan is a moon that orbits Saturn and it’s very, very earth-like. It has an earth-like atmosphere, but you couldn’t live there. There’s this beautiful picture online that was taken by the Cassini spacecraft, and I based the inlay off of that picture and based the whole color scheme off of the colors in that picture. So that’s how it came about.
IC: I want to talk a little bit about Clear. Will Periphery be playing songs off of Clear on tour soon?
JB: Well, not on any of the upcoming dates that we have. We really haven’t decided what tracks from Clear we want to push first, if we want to do that at all, because it was such an experiment. We probably will eventually be playing something. I’d say the song that has the best chance of being played live right now is Mark [Holcomb’s] song, ‘Pale Aura,’ because I think that’s the most Periphery-esque that we have on the album, next to Misha [Mansoor’s song ‘Zero.’] Not any time soon, but eventually.
IC: I know that you guys have been working on the next full-length for a while now. Where are you at with that? How solid is the lineup of songs?
JB: A lot of it has been demoed and we have a lot of ideas. I think we have too many ideas, so now we’ve gotta start [narrowing them down], just as we always do. We always write more than what we need. Now we have to start narrowing it down and really fleshing out the songs. We call it ‘flesh-lighting’ it out, ‘cause I’m sure you know what a fleshlight is… [laughs]
IC: We may not be able to post a picture of that.
JB: No, you don’t have to post a picture of that. It’s just the term that we use. Hopefully your viewers have a sense of humor.
IC: I think so. [laughs]
JB: But yeah, once we finish fleshing it out, then we’ll have some songs that we’ll go into the studio and record for the actual album. Everything that we’ve come up with so far we’re really stoked about. We’re all trying to take that next step from Periphery II, because whenever we put something out, we’re like ‘Ok, we did as good a job as we could do at that moment. That’s really giving it our all.’
So then on the next recording we have to figure out how to give even more than that. Or at least come from a different approach that makes it sound different and not like we’re doing the same thing over and over again. Those are the challenges, but it’s coming along great and everybody’s really stoked. It’s going to be cool.
IC: What are you working on as a guitar player?
JB: I’m just working on Periphery songs and just writing for Periphery. I think that provides so much of a challenge, and it’s very much where I am as a guitar player. Playing Periphery stuff is very… It’s almost academic in a way. I learn something new when I start focusing on the parts every time I pick up the guitar, because it’s challenging music. So I really practice a lot of that stuff.
IC: Tell me something about Clear that you haven’t mentioned yet in any interviews.
JB: Ah, good question! Umm, let’s see…
IC: Could be anything – something interesting about how it was made, or how it came together….
JB: There are a few things. I’m just trying to figure out what…. Since you’re my bro, Ivan, I want to give you something juicy. I’m just trying to think of the most juicy thing. Here’s something kind of funny: in my song, ‘The Summer Jam,’ there’s this riff towards the end of it, and it’s probably one of the cooler riffs with the singing over it that I thought came out really well. But initially, I could not track that riff. It was so hard and I could not get it right.
And when I thought I got it right, I would call Misha back into the room, like ‘Hey, listen to this. Did I do this right?’ and he’s like ‘Eh… it’s not tight enough.’ And I’m like ‘What?! Spencer, get in here. What does this sound like?’ and he’s like, ‘Nah, it’s not tight enough.’ I had to go home, practice all night, come back the next day or the day after that and then track it. It still took me along time, but I finally got it. I’m not perfect. [laughs]
IC: None of us are. But I think it’s awesome that you guys go to those lengths to get the takes just right, instead of cutting them up or going to great lengths to edit them to sound right.
JB: That’s just it. We’re way past that point where that’s even remotely acceptable. I mean, there is some editing, in terms of just making the sound of the guitar, but we want to do the takes as legitimate as we can and really capture that essence of older school recordings – because we know we have a really polished sound that’s very representative of now, but if you put on a Dream Theater record from the ‘90s, that’s legit recordings and we want to capture that, too. It just takes more effort and I think any band could do it. You feel better about it too, when you don’t edit the shit out of your transients, or whatever they’re called…. [laughs]
To find out more about Jake’s new signature Ibanez JBM100 guitar, as well as the new signature guitars for Animals As Leaders’ Tosin Abasi and Angra’s Kiko Loureiro, check out our coverage of Ibanez at NAMM 2014 here!
[Special thanks to Chris Dingman and Alexander Pierce for their fantastic video work, and Chris’ additional editing assistance!]