Hello. One of the albums that I liked the most in 2022 and one of the most surprising bands was The Midgard Project and in this year 2023, I will have the great pleasure of being able to interview Marty Midgard, thinking head and leader of The Midgard Project.
Rockmania: Hi Marty, nice to talk to you. Thank you for serving us. ¿How are you? ¿How is the cold wave hitting Canada going?
Marty Midgard: Hey! Very nice to be chatting with you. It’s definitely been on the chilly side here this past week. We’ve had temperatures as low as -42°C with the windchill so we’ve been staying inside and warm by the fire.
Rockmania: I know you have a degree in arts, music and history. ¿Where does that passion come from, especially for music?
Marty Midgard: I think it’s kind of always been there, I remember my dad showing me some old vinyl and cassettes back in the day (Rush, Deep Purple, Van Halen, Triumph, etc.) and ever since I have been hooked! I’d listen to everything I could get my hands on, really just sit and listen. I find that may be a dying art these days with so many distractions around us but I definitely remember sitting at the stereo and listening for hours.
Rockmania: In 2016 you edit your first work, «Music of the spheres», in which you have the collaboration of one of my favorite singers, Rob Lundgren (Mentalist, Revelation, Enigmatic Entrance) ¿How did the idea come about and how do you contact each other so that record vocal lines?
Marty Midgard: Rob is an incredible singer! I actually found him on YouTube and knew right away I wanted to collaborate with him. I reached out via social media and luckily he was agreeable to recording the album. From there I just sent him the lyrics and (poorly sung) vocal melodies and just let him do his thing. Really a big fan of Rob’s voice.
Rockmania: In 2022, you release your second album, «The Great Divide», maintaining the base of the group, basically, you on guitars, basses, keyboards and orchestrations and Dennis Dumphy on drums, but in this album, you appear on vocals, another one of my favorite singers, Stu Block. I ask you again as before, ¿How did the collaboration between Stu and you come about and how is it executed?
Marty Midgard: Getting Stu to sing on the album is a bit of a longer story that’s for sure! We had pretty much wrapped up the compositions for «The Great Divide» and were in the process of writing for Arts Grants to help with funding when Dennis suggested reaching out to a fellow Canadian singer Matt Marinelli from the band Borealis. The guy has an incredible voice and I highly recommend everyone to check out His band. He really liked the demos I had sent over and agreed he’d love to sing on the album but then… 2020 came and, as we all know, the world pretty much shut down. We took the time to refine the songs and just wait it out so Matt could get into the studio and track his parts. At the same time, I kept listening to the song «Winter Slumber» and I could not get this super high falsetto voice out of my head for the part (Yes, this is where Stu comes in to the equation) so I thought to myself «damn, I need to get Stu on this song for a guest spot, it would be just too good». Now, to make the rest of the story shorter, Matt ended up having to back out from the album for legitimate reasons and I just thought «man, we just can’t catch a break!». First the pandemic, then we lose our singer! I went for a Hail Mary and thought, «I wonder if Stu would do the entire thing?!»
So, I reached out to Stu again (by this time he had already tracked his parts for «Winter Slumber») and he agreed to do all of it. Only, what we didn’t anticipate was how connected to the music Stu would be and man, he just blew me away with his parts. He really elevated those songs to new heights. We just kind of connected and really found that we were on the same page musically and lyrically.
Rockmania: If I’m not mistaken, ¿Is Stu already an official member of the band?
Marty Midgard: Yeah! And it’s fuckin’ wild to have a dude that is one of my all-time favourite vocalists in our group. Pretty awe inspiring really. I remember chatting with him on the phone shortly after we received the final masters of the album and he was like «dude, I know this band is kind of your thing but if you’re wanting to continue this thing I’m your guy» and when Stu Block says he wants to be a part of your music you absolutely say yes! Haha.
Rockmania: ¿How has «The Great Divide» been accepted by the metal universe? It seems to me to be a real gem, a record to enjoy quietly, with a good whiskey, just as I am doing now listening to it and preparing this interview.
Marty Midgard: Honestly, the response has been overwhelming. We went from being relatively unknown to having a super amazing group of fans seemingly overnight. The people that are digging our music are REALLY supportive of us and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Even critically we’ve seen mainly positive feedback, been included in a ton of «top albums of 2022» reviews, and The Prog Mind even voted our album artwork (done by Giannis of Remedy Art Design) and guitar work in the tops of 2022. It’s really been something we’re proud of!
Rockmania: Speaking a little about music, ¿What bands or what styles of music do you base or inspire when composing? Since the base is rather progressive but an infinite number of influences can be appreciated .
Marty Midgard: Oh man, there are too many to mention. I know we get compared to bands like Symphony X a lot and we definitely (myself specifically) are inspired by groups like that. I think maybe some people might not know that I studied classical guitar and composition in university so I definitely take a lot of my inspiration from that kind of stuff. Film music is another big one for me, especially guys like Howard Shore, John Williams, Bernard Herrmann etc.
As for bands, if I had to pick just one band to listen to for the rest of my life it would have to be Rush. To me they’re just the pinnacle of progressive music and were never afraid to experiment and grow. Also a big fan of Wintersun, Sonata Arctica, Blind Guardian, Deep Purple, Dream Theater and so so many more.
Rockmania: I’m honest, when the album was released, March 2022, if I remember correctly, given the avalanche of releases that there was, I left it a bit aside, but when I resumed it, calmly, I fell so in love with the album that I started looking for the possibility of getting both «The Great Divide» and «Music…» but I saw that you could only get «The Great…», since Music was literally sold out. And after the summer, I saw that you edited it again, with a new cover, re-recorded and with a final surprise. ¿Where or who made you think of reissuing «Music of the Spheres»?
Marty Midgard: This has actually been something we talked about even before we wrote «The Great Divide». We felt like we weren’t quite happy with the mix on that first album, I was pretty new at the whole recording thing so I didn’t really know what I was going for sonically. We just thought the songs were strong and we wanted to give newer fans who might not have listened to that album the experience of hearing it as we intended. So we thought, «What the hell, let’s get Giannis (Remedy Art Design) to make us a new cover in his own vision and let’s get Stu to track one of the songs for the sake of continuity». What I didn’t anticipate was Stu wanting to sing the epic 15 minute closer «The Fall of Icarus» and holy Sh!$ did he sing the hell out of that song! We also used the amazing talents of Rich Gray once again to mix the album since he did such an awesome job on The Great Divide.
Rockmania: A detail that I love and that gives added value to your music, at least for a collector like me, is that the two records I have have a handwritten note from you, they are signed and come in an envelope with the lacquered seal with the logo of The Midgard Project. ¿Where did the idea of being so detailed with the people who buy your music come from? ¿Are you aware of how happy you make the person who receives the product in such unique and beautiful conditions?
Marty Midgard: Well, first let me say how happy I am to hear that it has a positive impact! I honestly can’t take any of the credit for those details the credit all goes to my amazing fiancé (soon to be wife) Kirsten. She has unbelievable vision when it comes to detail and I take pretty much all of her advice on board because she has such great ideas. The wax seal, the notes, the envelopes, all of it! And I can definitely say that there are even more ideas that will be coming to life soon!
Rockmania: ¿How is the metal scene in Canada? What is it like to be a great musician in a small town in Ontario?
Marty Midgard: Being that I’m from a smaller city (15,000 people) there really isn’t much of a metal scene per se but many of the locals are super supportive. There are also a ridiculous number of amazing musicians here for being so small in population. If you travel to any of the larger cities though you’ll find that metal is absolutely alive and well in Canada!
Rockmania: ¿Where did you meet Dennis? ¿And how did the idea and the possibility of forming a band together come about?
Marty Midgard: Again this is a super long story that I’ll abbreviate for the sake of the reader haha! I met Dennis through a mutual friend who told me about this drummer from up north. When I started writing the music for our debut album «Music of the Spheres» I knew I was going to need an exceptional drummer and that’s exactly what I found in Dennis. There’s pretty much nothing the guy can’t play but what is even more important is that he’s endlessly creative. The parts he comes up with are almost never something that I would consider for a part, it’s always better!
Rockmania: The covers of the two albums, both «The Great…» and the reissue of «Music…» have been carried out by Remedy Art Design, an artist and studio famous for designing covers for Evergrey, Oceans of Slumber, Arrayan Path, Borealis, Kamelot, among others. ¿How did the contact come about?
Marty Midgard: This one was just plain old luck. I hopped on my computer and started googling for album artists. I stumbled upon Giannis’ portfolio that he had posted on his website and just loved his style. It was almost like an otherworldly style but it was also so realistic somehow. I reached out and asked if he wanted to do some art for us and he agreed.
Rockmania: I have always been intrigued to know what the process of preparing and designing the covers is like. ¿Could you explain to me how you did it with Remedy Art?
Marty Midgard: I gave him like three pieces of information. I told him I wanted a planet with the Aurora Borealis to harken back to our first album, I wanted it to be mainly blues and purples, and then I sent him the lyrics/demos of the songs. He nailed it on the first draft. I was speechless. I think we might have changed the tail on the wolf slightly actually but as you see the art now is how I received the very first draft. Incredible artist!
Rockmania: ¿What do you want to express in each cover? Because they are both beautiful, but I find it difficult to find the meaning.
Marty Midgard: So for the first album I was inspired by the Ancient Greek concept «Music of the Spheres» which was a Pythagorean idea that the planets had «music» in a sense. Each planet travelled along a different length of orbit, had different mass, and different rotations which would in turn make them all produce different musical notes also known as the music of the spheres. So that’s where the first one came from and why it’s very space themed
For the Great Divide it was all about this idea of a perceived separation between humanity and nature. So that’s why you see this tiny person standing on the cover with a huge expanse in front of them as if it’s an impassable chasm. Then on the other side, you have this beautiful winterscape showing a wolf and a raven (a nod at one of the songs on the album) and another planet in the background with the auroras swirling about to bring back the themes from the first album.
Rockmania: ¿Do you already have some ideas for a future release of The Midgard Project? Can you tell us something if so?
Marty Midgard: I’m always writing down ideas and jotting little notes here and there. When winter hits us here I find my inspiration goes through the roof so I’ve definitely been working more steadfast on some new material. What I can say for sure is that Dennis and Stu will be much more involved in the compositional process this time around!
Rockmania: And although it seems a strange question, do you have any plans to play live? ¿Any streaming concert like the ones that became fashionable in the global pandemic? I say this because I understand that traveling to Europe must be expensive and complicated.
Marty Midgard: We don’t have any plans at this time to play live but I wouldn’t fully count it out. Perhaps one day the right opportunity will present itself for a one-off show or a streamed thing like you say but for now we’re quite content with putting out the best possible music we can! Our goal has always been the music itself .
Rockmania: It has been a real pleasure and a great honor to be able to chat with you this time. ¿Any message for our readers and for your fans in Spain and Europe?
Marty Midgard: All of the fans in Spain and the rest of Europe have absolutely humbled us with their support and encouragement. We have an immense amount of gratitude for everyone that takes the time to listen to our music. We really look forward to getting back into the studio and making more music for you all!
And up to here, the talk-interview with Marty Midgard, from The Midgard Project, one of my revelations of 2022 and I highly recommend it, as it will make you spend moments of authentic musical pleasure.
Photographs courtesy of the band’s official website.