When you think about the preponderance of formulaic
radio-friendly hits and the instant-gratification culture
we’re fostering these days, things like skill and discipline can
seem in short supply among up-and-coming performers. Some
players may wonder why they should labor for hours, day in
and day out, to become facile on their instrument and craft
compelling songs when any 10-year-old with ADD can cut
and paste GarageBand loops and become a YouTube sensation
faster than your band can get tight on that tricky verse riff.
Technically oriented players love to pine for the good ol’
days when the art required major woodshedding. And the
current reliance on Auto-Tune and other computer-generated
audio tricks only fires that nostalgia.
Yet while the current musical landscape may seem bleak,
all is not lost. Technology has made it easy to become lazy,
but some of today’s bands are also churning out music that
is taking complexity to levels never before reached. Take,
Maine-based mathcore mavens Last Chance to Reason,
whose recent release Level 2
is so dense and abstruse that it
could give the guys in Dream Theater nightmares. Working
from the band’s fully notated score, the concept album fuses
Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone compositional theory with
Meshuggah-like mayhem and superhuman guitar pyrotechnics.
From beginning to end, with its relentlessly changing
odd-meter sections and ultra-precise sixteenth-note sextuplets,
the album is a virtuosic tour de force.
Last Chance to Reason was formed in
2003 at the University of Maine by guitarist
A.J. Harvey and drummer Evan Sammons—
both jazz and contemporary music majors—
and bassist Chris Corey, who was in high
school at the time. The band recorded
an EP in 2005, and in 2007 a full-length
album called Lvl. 1
followed. After several
lineup changes over the years, guitarist Tom
Waterhouse, a fellow University of Maine
alumni, entered the fray prior to Level 2
Vocalist Mike Lessard and keyboardist Brian
Palmer round out the band’s current lineup.
One of the more ironic things about
LCTR is that they’re heavily influenced by
an art form that might, at first, seem antithetical
to their level of musicianship—video
games. Their 2007 album Lvl. 1
influenced by the 1994 Nintendo game
—which inspired the song
titles “Escape from Brinstar,” “Kraid Ain’t
Got Shit on Me,” and “Destroy Mother
Brain.” Ever the overachievers, the band took
the video game component of their own art
a step further on this album—introducing
a full-length video game that’s synchronized
with Level 2
’s underlying tracks.
We caught up with Harvey, Waterhouse,
and Corey at their studio in the middle
of one of their six-days-a-week marathon
rehearsals as they prepare for their upcoming
First off, what bands inspired you guys?
Pretty standard stuff early
on—Elvis, Aerosmith, Van Halen, and AC/
DC. When I started getting older, I got
into heavier stuff.
Opeth, Dream Theater,
Rush, Meshuggah, and Porcupine Tree.
I really like a lot of old prog,
like Yes, Genesis, and Rush.
And what about influences on your
In the beginning, I liked Kirk
Hammett and Dimebag [“Dimebag”
Darrell Abbott, the late Pantera guitarist].
It evolved from there. I like Allan
Holdsworth and Frank Gambale’s stuff
with Chick Corea. I like John Coltrane,
because he really shredded, for lack of a
better word. I really like the caliber of lead
playing or soloing that the jazz guys like
Coltrane have—it’s ridiculous.
Also Randy Rhoads. Those
are probably our first influences.
On bass, my biggest influences
would be John Myung [Dream Theater],
Billy Sheehan, and Dan Briggs from
Between the Buried and Me. Interestingly,
probably the biggest influence—the guy
who took bass to a new extreme when
I was young—was Ryan Martinie from
Mudvayne. He was the first guy I listened
to where I heard the bass and was like,
, that’s really, really awesome—I want
to focus on this!” Before that, it was grunge
and very simple stuff. Then I heard Dream
Theater, and I just couldn’t believe it. I
thought, “I want to play like that
.” I played
a 5-string at the time, and then I saw John
Myung and he had a 6-string. So that’s
what got me into playing the 6-string bass.