An in-depth interview with Modal Citizan

Who is Modal Citizan? Well, they’re a dark, alternative rock group based in Virginia. They recently came out with a new album, titled Control Alter Deplete, which S&S covered in a Bandcamp Friday review. Their members are Adam Fueston on guitar, Shaun Waff on bass, and Ryan Jones on vocals, keyboard, programming, and production.

Time for an interview!

First up, how did this project/group form?

Ryan: Excellent question! It started as an emotional outlet (side project) about two years prior to the band forming. The raw material was shared with various folks. Initially, everything was digital – no live instruments. It was recommended (by some music enthusiasts) to get some raw instruments onto the tracks. People pressed me to do so. So, I made some posts on message boards (Ads).

Ryan: Exactly.

Shaun: saw the posting Ryan had put online and said he was going to contact him and asked if I would be interested and I was thinking hmm 🤔 sure let’s hear what he’s got.. We all got together and had mutual interest and got to work.

Adam: I actually got some tracks and played to one of them and sent it back. Since then we have worked more organically and worked on a lot on the rest of record etc.

The bandcamp page cites “several influences from the 90’s”. What influences, specifically, were these?

Ryan: Adam, Shaun, you guys wanna take that next question?

Shaun: Ryan has crazy ideas for songs and we just keep building from those ideas and voila!

Adam: For me what influences us is so vast and encompasses a ton of different music but we all are def same age and of the era when the downward spiral came out and there was a lot of cross pollination of industrial and rock happening.

Ryan: Yeah. I’d say that, though we have influences from music with which we grew up, we’re definitely our own sound. We strive to break the mold and hold true to our own style.

Oh for sure

Adam: I went to see sister machine gun, KMFDM etc. during that time…Shaun was there most of the time ha ha we went to same school and are both from same town. I agree with Ryan 100 percent on that.

Shaun: There’s allot for me…I love classic rock, old metal, industrial.. Pink Floyd, skinny puppy, in, Chemlab, Tori Amos, ministry, etc.. It’s crazy how I really like allot of genres of music.. But what we create is pretty awesome.

Ryan: I mentioned to the guys, recently, that we have the luxury of being so far removed (years) from those sounds to the point that they’ve morphed into something different inside each of use.

This next one’s a question for the gear nerds out there, but also relevant to your sound. What’s your favorite instrument or piece of hardware you use? If not hardware, digital tools also apply.

Adam: Great way of putting it. I agree as well. As far as what I use with band since I’m the guitarist I’d say my Axe fx and I have an evh guitar that I used for maybe 70 to 80 percent of the album.

Ryan: I mainly use Arturia keyboards and f*ck with sounds all day long to get it to sound as sick/fitting as possible.

Shaun: I play a Strandberg Boden5 and a Warwick Taranis.. Love both basses allot.. Mesa cabs and Dark Glass gear.

Ryan: We’re a Logic Pro X shop

Adam: Yeah we work almost exclusively with logic although we will fuck with anything LOL I have same stuff at home.

Onward! What was the process of creating Control Alter Deplete like? It’s quite an extensive album with impressive mastering/mixing on it as well. How long did it take you, from conception to completion?

Ryan: First off…Thank you for the kind words. Wow. Conception to completion…Alpha to Omega…About a year. What’s quite interesting about that is…We created the Podcast in that stretch. Recorded/Mixed/Mastered and dished it out.

Shaun: 12-14 hour studio days, every weekend at least one day or two.. Lots of beer and chicken wings.

Ryan: Indeed, Shaun

Shaun: A lot of dedication.

Ryan: Yeah. We’re a no-nonsense, professional, respectful shop.

Adam: We def allowed some things to morph and some songs actually started from jams and weird things too so it’s interesting in that there appears to not be a def formula although a lot of songs come from Ryan first. Shaun is telling the truth abt the long hours and chicken wings…a lot of IPAS and dark beer as well 😂

Shaun: You have to love and nurture each song till you think it’s mature for the audience. And mostly we want to capture everything and not miss an idea.

Ryan: Yes! Yes! We create/jam to completion. When that emotion is fully captured (not cutting corners), we know we did it right.

Shaun: Definitely a work shop of ideas and honing

What does the album title mean? It made me think of the phrase “control alt delete”…is it a pun off this?

Ryan: Indeed. Glad you caught it!

Adam: Ryan can elaborate, yes it is.

Ryan: So, there is a correlation drawn between programs and humans / human emotions. I write software professionally (past millennia). So, to answer the question directly. The things we do in this life. Narcissism, hate, sociopathic mindsets…There is a process. Controlling something or someone…Altering it to conform to what you want…Then, the final act… Depletion. It’s quite interesting…The one that is initially in the wrong attempts those things. Then, the wronged, spin right back around and can use the same methods to win. Each element in programming as a similar facet. We create. The construct wrongs us. Then, we turn around and we create other constructs to eradicate those errors.

Shaun: It’s a vicious cycle really

Ryan: Indeed. Ultimately, no one wins. There is no escape. Which is why, on the album, there is emotional turmoil on conflicted feelings.

I like that explanation

Now, on the album art itself. There’s the aggressive insect-like figure, then your logo. Care to elaborate more on the creative direction here? What’s the story behind it.

Ryan: Oh. The Assassin Bug…Adam?

Adam: The album story actually deals with Gods law and the revenant is sent to eradicate sinners…the bug is actually an assassin bug.

Ryan: Yes!

Adam: Which exists to destroy the things that can harm the garden. Which is the purpose of the revenants…what God sends them to do anyway.

Ryan: Shoves that needle deep inside, injects poison, the insides turn to soup, the bug drinks the soup. Adam, exactly. Controls the prey, alters it, depletes it. Prior to the band forming, I saw that bug for the first time on the doorstep of someone that was literally killing me inside. I thought it was an alien or something. I snapped the picture. That exact picture was used on the album art. Everything we do has meaning. If it doesn’t make sense for the project, we toss it out.

Adam: That is true. We made a conscious effort to do songs that are part of the story. And cut a lot of things.

Ryan: We want people to be blown away when they start digging – or, pulling on the string. It keeps going.

Nice. Do you have any material planned for the future?

Shaun: There is still a lot of material in the back log to be worked.. And it’s coming.

Ryan: Future material? Exactly. As Shaun said. That’s an understatement – but true, in the least.

Adam: Seriously we are pretty deep into what will be the next release at some point.

Shaun: And allot of new ideas daily…Ryan has lots of ideas and keeps me and Adam on our toes.

Ryan: All true. I swear I get a new idea in my head a couple times a day. That goes for the music and the Podcast.

What creative direction would you like to explore in the future? Any stylistic exploration, dream collaborations, etc?

Shaun: It’s a crazy building process…

Adam: We feel like we wanna give people a chance to absorb this album so we are spending our time on the new stuff. We want to do some videos etc. for this one …the first of which will be for Crossing Over. Which has been shot and is editing and so forth at the moment.

Ryan: Yeah. We recorded Crossing Over (a full video product complete with cast and crew) last weekend. Regarding stylistic exploration…

Can’t wait to see it!

Shaun: And really special FX

Ryan: So, style…We’ve found something unique. Sean Beavan, Shannon O’Shea and others have talked to that. Our sound/style will continue on its special creative path.

Adam: We actually have experimented with lots of things we don’t really have rules. We did a track with a dub step artist and applied 8 string metal guitar to that. We try all sorts of different things to keep it interesting and enhance what we do. As long as it feels right and is Modal Citizan.

Ryan: Believe it or not, it’s quite difficult to create songs that don’t follow the standard verse/chorus formula and still make them incredible.

Shaun: I feel the sounds and style will be consistently getting more creative but hold the edge it has currently.

Ryan: Agreed

Shaun: Hell yeah!

Ryan: We groove to our own rhythm. Maybe it’s because I grew up on Motown and The Doors and Manson and Nails. Some of our riffs and grooves are so nasty. My penultimate statement may be why.

Adam: We could def play you some things that are going way outside of what is expected stylistically. We allow ourselves to try everything. We will talk abt Michael Jackson and James Brown and even try to pull inspiration from that too. It’s literally anything and everything that moves us.

Ryan: Indeed. #SocialInhibitionist.

Photography credit to Gigi Hoggard