Earl Maneein is the lead violinist for the metal band Resolution15, whose album Svaha is out now. Yes, lead violinist. Resolution15 has no guitarist; all the leads are courtesy of Maneein’s loud, distorted electric violin. This is most noticeable during the solo sections, when he cuts loose with some long, droning notes that are unmistakably violin-like. During the verses and choruses, though, his playing is staccato and heavy, creating extremely powerful riffing somewhere between Meshuggah and Prong, with bassist Mike Bendy and drummer Kenny Cruz Grohowski providing a churning rhythmic bed beneath him as vocalist Nick Serr rants and raves in a manner that will remind many listeners of Devin Townsend. Some of the songs on Svaha were released as digital singles in 2011 and 2012, including a cover of U2‘s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” that’s reminiscent of Sepultura‘s take on “Bullet the Blue Sky.”
Stream the album below, or buy it from Resolution15‘s Bandcamp page:
And now, an interview with Earl Maneein.
How old are you? How long have you been playing the violin? What is the extent/nature of your training?
I’m 36 years old, and I’ve been playing the violin for 31 years. I first started studying via the Suzuki method with a woman named Nicole DiCecco. She had her better students in an ensemble that toured Europe and Asia every year, so I was fortunate enough to see many different places at a fairly young age. I also was a member of the New York Youth Symphony, which is probably the highest level youth orchestra in the country. Unfortunately, I wasn’t nearly as dedicated as some of my peers who practiced in excess of six hours a day and never left their homes except to go to music school, since as a teenager I also enjoyed hanging out with friends, getting into some trouble (nothing really serious) and going to hardcore and metal shows, so the solo career was not an option for me. I went to Queens College for my undergraduate and Mannes College/New School University for my graduate degree, and I studied with Daniel Phillips of the Orion String Quartet at both places. My lineage is the same as most classical American violinists, the majority being exponents of Ivan Galamian and Dorothy Delay, the two most important pedagogues of the 20th Century. I suppose in another life given my educational path, I would have tried to land a job with a major symphony orchestra and teach at a university eventually, but my heart was never quite into the idea.
How did Resolution15 come together? Is this your first rock/metal band? Who are the various members and what is their deal/background/connection to you?
I started the band in 2007 after I graduated from Mannes. I’ve been a metalhead for many years, having been exposed to Metallica‘s Master of Puppets in sixth grade. It just took that long to realize that I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, as they say. The members of Resolution15 came together by luck, as I imagine all this stuff comes together by. I knew Kenny (our drummer) through various freelance gigs we both were on in the city. Nick, our singer, came to us through a mutual friend. There are two guys that aren’t in the band anymore that we also knew in the New York freelance scene. Our new bassist Mike is Kenny’s friend and plays with him and Felix Pastorius in the jazz fusion group Hipster Assassins. This is not my first rock/metal band, but it’s certainly the first that I can fully get behind artistically. I was in a really bad punk band in high school called Dogs Without Fur that went as far as my parents’ garage, a show in a VFW hall, and a high school talent show that we definitely had no chance of winning, and a jam band called Bloo. I played guitar in Dogs, and bass and violin in Bloo.
What gear do you use to get your sound—pedals, amps, etc.?
I go through a Mesa Dual Rectifier head into Warwick 1×15 and 4×10 bass cabs, and a Framus head into a VHT cab. Right now, I’m using a Pigtronix Keymaster to A/B/Y the dual rigs and I routinely use a Jim Dunlop Wah, and an Empress Parametric EQ to dial out offending frequencies.
The music seems influenced by Strapping Young Lad and other modern progressive metal acts—what do you see as the core elements of your sound, and who are you drawing inspiration from as a band?
Kenny and I are the principal writers and we come from different places, as far as the big black umbrella of metal goes. He’s really into the tech/prog stuff, bands like Chimp Spanner, Animals as Leaders, Periphery, Meshuggah, et al. He also really likes Gaza, Ulcerate, Dodecahedron and Car Bomb, which I really enjoy as well, but I’m more into thrash and hardcore: bands like Unearth, Blood Has Been Shed, Shai Hulud, Slayer, Metallica, Lamb of God, and so on. We both do like Strapping Young Lad, ha ha. We align ethically more with hardcore and punk than the sort of fantasy demon/dragon stuff prevalent in some styles of metal.We’re also profoundly influenced by non-metal music. Dimitri Shostakovich, Arvo Pärt, Claude Debussy, George Crumb and J.S. Bach are my favorite composers, and I imagine that some of those influences find their way into the tunes. Kenny comes from salsa and jazz and that also finds its way into the tunes. We definitely have a good time trying to find the uneasy middle ground in all of that.
What violinists do you listen to? Are you a fan of microtonal playing as well as Western tunings? What tunings show up in your music?
Haha, are you saying microtonal because you hear me playing out of tune? I grew up listening to Nathan Milstein, Jascha Heifetz, Itzhak Perlman, Gidon Kremer, David and Igor Oistrakh, among many others. Lately I’ve been getting into the Baroque performance players, so right now my three favorite violinists are Fabio Biondi, Rachel Podger, and Andrew Manze. I have total respect for good microtonal music, but I don’t listen to enough of it to speak intelligently on the subject. The tuning on my violin is actually standard, except there are three strings below the standard violin setup, so from highest to lowest my violin is in fifths: E-A-D-G-C-F-Bb. If we change keys in a song, I just simply change my fingering. I don’t change tunings. Not opposed to it, but it’s not something that’s been effective for me thus far.
There are times when your sound is indistinguishable from an electric guitar. Is this deliberate? Are you attempting to disguise what you’re doing, or is it just difficult to write riff-style lines for a violin without sounding like a guitar?
Well, like anything else, if you choose to create art that lives in a certain stylistic ethos, you have to be at least familiar with the language and cultural norms of the country, so to speak. I doubt there’s a rulebook out there, but anyone who participates in this subculture of heavy music knows whether something is bullshit or not, or whether something is “metal.” I can’t necessarily define it and say, “Well, it’s gotta have distortion and fast riffs,” because, for example, I think Ian MacKaye could get up on stage with a fucking banjo and he’ll still be hardcore. I’m definitely not attempting to disguise anything or trick anyone. I just want to play violin in a metal band, and what comes out is how I feel when I want things “heavy.” It’s all subjective, though. Someone else with a violin doing what they feel is “heavy” might come out with something a little different. I also suppose that since metal is tied irrevocably to the sound of what we think of as electric guitars, such comparisons are unavoidable.
In a live photo I’ve seen, there’s a second violinist—is he a full member of the band, or just a touring musician?
That’s Joel Lambdin. He’s a great friend of ours, and was briefly a full member. He actually contributed two songs to Svaha, namely “Anjaneya” and “Kali.” He left the band because he is a serious student of Vedic spirituality and is choosing to pursue that over playing music on a regular basis. He may contribute in the future compositionally if we don’t significantly change our sound too quickly.
The album is independently released; have you had offers from traditional labels? Are you looking to get signed?
There have been some offers that have come through, but nothing worth considering. Mostly they were comically exploitative, and we felt that until all parties would mutually benefit, there is no point in signing with a traditional label, especially given the state of the music industry. The only thing that a company like EMI or Sony or anything like that has is its back catalog, artists like the Beatles, REM or whatever. New artists and the idea of developing one in our time is something that is not viable for them, and therefore the business model reflects that. Our music and our ethic doesn’t fit in that paradigm, and so we’re on our own until such change occurs.