Angels on the Battlefield is:
JD McGibney – guitar, composer
Angels on the Battlefield has been on my band list for a while now. I have listened to their EP countless times (you can download it FREE on Angels on the Battlefield); always finding some nuance that I had missed before or changing color based on my mood and/or situation. Three songs that I just cannot seem to wear out or get out of my head. This is definitely my kind of music! Intelligent, melodic and unique. Once I started work on the article and doing research, I was offered an interview with one of the best instrumental bands out there by their manager Alex Rodrigues and jumped at the chance. Hell yeah! Who wouldn’t like to interview someone you have so much respect for, right? I absolutely love the music, and after working with them, I am an even bigger fan than before. As a special treat, we have also been honored with the exclusive introduction of their new single “Leap of Faith” which continues their streak of fierce virtuosity. So, sit back and read what the brainchild of Angels on the Battlefield, JD McGibney has to say about his bad-ass music and listen to the new single below. Rock the f*ck out! Cheers!
Odyssey: Hey JD! Glad to have the opportunity to throw some questions your way. I have listened to your three song EP endlessly and REALLY like what you have to offer! Thanks for being on board with us and your ongoing support. It is much appreciated and certainly not taken for granted!
For those that have not had the pleasure of listening to Angels on the Battlefield, please give us a brief history of the band. Where did the name come from?
JD McGibney: Hey! The idea for Angels on the Battlefield started back when I was living on Long Island. My previous band went on an indefinite hiatus, and I was still feeling that creative itch. The idea popped into my head to do an instrumental project; I had never done one before, and the concept seemed really intriguing to me. After about a year of planning I made the move out to Los Angeles, and started networking and meeting some really great people. I’ve had the chance to jam and work with some great musicians and artists since I moved out to the west coast, and I’ve even been lucky enough to get to tag along on tour with the band Nekrogoblikon for the past year.
Odyssey: Where did the name “Angels on the Battlefield” come from?
JD McGibney: The name came about because I was looking for something that would create a strong image in people’s minds when they heard it.
Odyssey: Instrumental music is a tough nut to crack (especially today). Did you start off as an instrumental band from the inception, or was this something that was developed over time? What is your goal as a band?
JD McGibney: Instrumental music is definitely not as common as vocal music, but I definitely feel like more people are open to hearing it than we realize. This project started off as an instrumental endeavor with the intention of making short narrative music videos that were associated with some of the singles. For me, when I listen to music, I usually associate a story to the song, or album I’m listening to. My goal was to deliver that visual narrative along with the music I helped create.
Odyssey: Most instrumental Rock and Metal bands fill space with tons of notes and/or an atmospheric background. Your sound is much more traditional to my ear and very organic in its overall sound and feel. I find this very unique and intriguing. How do you go about song development? When composing songs, what do you find most difficult? What comes naturally? What would you like to improve?
JD McGibney: I have always been driven to music that was very guitar riff oriented, and I feel like that shows when I write songs. I feel that a song should flow and be as organic as possible; every note should be in place because the song needs it, not because I need it. That being said, there are definitely times where I feel there needs to be some guitar solo action!
Odyssey: You are obviously an extremely proficient songwriter that has confidence in your composition and playing abilities. Was there formal training or was this a trial by fire? Please explain.
JD McGibney: When I first started playing I was self taught. Eventually, I felt like I hit a wall with studying and decided to seek out a teacher. After a certain point studying under him I felt like I had learned all I could and I went back to teaching myself. I’ve pretty much repeated the same process since then. I feel the best way anyone can get acquainted with an instrument is to explore it on their own; find out what it is about that instrument that really speaks to you and makes you fall in love in the first place.
Odyssey: Your style is conducive to going in many directions. Anything that you want to explore that you have not and why?
JD McGibney: My biggest, and probably my most ambitious idea, is to write a 1-2 hour piece and make a full length movie to go along with it. Almost like an instrumental metal version of what Pink Floyd did with The Wall!
Odyssey: You list your primary influences as: In Flames, Between the Buried and Me, Unearth, Periphery, Metallica and Black Sabbath? What do you take away from each?
JD McGibney: Ah man, lol… There are different things from each band that stick out to me. Probably the one consistent thing between all these bands is that there doesn’t seem to feel like any excess in their composition. Each part belongs where it does for a reason, and each note belongs in the song for a reason. All of these bands sound pretty different from one another, but they all seem to have the same ability to write really powerful and organically flowing music.
Odyssey: You have recently toured with Nekrogoblikon. How did that go? What have you learned touring with them? Any particular bands that showed up on the bill that we may have not heard of that we need to keep an eye out for?
JD McGibney: I’ve been tagging along with Nekrogoblikon for a little over a year now, and it’s been one hell of an experience! I’ve gotten to tour around the United States several times, and even made my way over to Europe. Everyone in that band and crew is fantastic, and I’m glad that my first taste of tour life has been with them.
Odyssey: Are there any bands that you have played with along the way that we need to watch out for?
JD McGibney: We’ve had the chance to tour with a lot of bands in that time, from Butcher Babies, to Havok, to Psychostick. It’s hard to pick any one of those guys that stands out above the rest!
Odyssey: Any new tours on the horizon?
JD McGibney: Right now, Angels on the Battlefield is recording some new material for a full length, so I won’t be in the road with that project for the time being. I will, however, be tagging along with Nekrogoblikon again in October. They’re heading out with Alestorm!
Odyssey: So far, how have you been received by audiences not used to instrumental music?
JD McGibney: A lot of people have been giving some great feedback. I’ve been getting a lot of surprised love from people who don’t normally listen to instrumental music, or even metal for that matter. I even had one girl tell me that AOTB made her fall in love with instrumental music!
Odyssey: AotB is officially a one man band, but you’ve gotten to work with some notable musicians, such as Nekrogoblikon’s Aaron Minich,Frank Cascio of .49 Grain/Reign of Fear, the guitarist Carlos Rendon, and Jason Alexander of Caesium. How do you choose your studio players? Who goes on the road with you? Any plan to add additional people? If so, who/why?
JD McGibney: When I first had the idea for AOTB, I had the idea that I would go out and find regular members and do what I had done in the past. As time went on, and as I developed the project, and started writing, I found that I had pretty much finished up a good chunk of the creative process on my own. When it came to recording, I chose people that I’d become friends with because it makes the recording process more fun; it feels less like work, everyone already knows each other, and it’s easier to feed off of each others creativity.
Odyssey: You have been in other bands like PsyKosiS and Above the Victim. Without vocals, how has your composition style changed? Easier, more difficult or just different? Please explain. Is there anything about your prior band experience you miss in the instrumental world?
JD McGibney: The biggest difference that I’ve noticed in my writing is that it has become a LOT more melodic. Without having that vocal element, the instruments have had to step up to the plate and be the “voice” of the song. I wouldn’t say it’s any easier or harder, just different. I miss each group for their unique brand of camaraderie. When you’re in a band, that group of musicians that you end up working with end up becoming like a family. I’m still friends with most of the people in those bands, but the interactions we have now are on separate one-on-one basis’s instead of that creative group collaboration where all the magic happened.
Odyssey: While conceptually I completely get your desire to provide your listeners a palette to paint on and explore their own imaginations, what do you see when listening and/or composing the three songs on your EP, “On the Wings of Dragons”, “Beauty in a Body Bag” and “A Walking Plague”? Who else played on these stellar pieces? Super production quality! Who is responsible?
JD McGibney: Ah man, there are a LOT of images going on in my head with those songs lol. To sum it it all up there are dragons, zombies, demons, murder, armies, swords, armor, battlefields, and all around epicness.
“On the Wings of Dragons” was recorded at Westfall Recording Studios, while “Beauty in a Body Bag,” and “A Walking Plague” were recorded at Full Force Studios; both on Long Island.
Odyssey: Being an accomplished player, these songs seem to stress subtly instead of an in-your-face, guitar speed ego-trip. Even some of the most impressive guitar work is pushed out of the forefront to create a flow that is driven by harmonies, melodies and tempo changes instead of huge peaks and valleys (or just blast through) of the usual Metal fare. If I am on the right track, do you see then yourself more as a composer than a virtuosic guitar player then? Is this your desire (quality over quantity, I guess)? Please explain.
JD McGibney: That’s exactly what I try to do when I’m writing. I want people to feel like my music is washing over and through them. Each note and section of a song should be there because it BELONGS there.
Odyssey: Get (overly) technical for those of us that are guitar/gear nerds. What do you use and why? Any endorsements?
JD McGibney: I’ve been a fan of Schecter for years, so my main guitar is a Hellraiser C7. I was first introduced to them when I started getting into Nevermore and watch Jeff Loomis shred the hell out of his. After I saw him, I tried one on my next Guitar Center visit and fell in love with the Hellraiser.
My second guitar is a custom McCarthy guitar. It was built for me back on Long Island by a guy named Sean McCarthy. He owns a small custom guitar business there, and he build KILLER instruments.
Odyssey: I understand that you have a new single coming out on the 31st. Please introduce it for us and share your thoughts on its significance, composition, sound, etc.
JD McGibney: Indeed there is a single coming out on the 31st! It’s called “Leap of Faith,” and I had a lot of fun writing this one. In the midst of moving from Long Island to Los Angeles I felt like I was embarking on some epic quest, and along the way I started piecing this song together. I was surprised by how quickly the main structure for it came together; most of it was written within a few days. I’m really excited to finally share it!
Odyssey: Where does Angels on the Battlefield go from here? Can we expect a full CD at some point in the near future?
JD McGibney: At the moment I’ve been doing some recording to put together a full length, yes! I keep the AOTB website up to date with news and current events for anyone that wants to follow along on the adventures!
Odyssey: As with any Metal Nexus interview, the floor is completely open to you for anything I missed, rants, parting words or whatever you want to share.
JD McGibney: Well, thanks a lot! I had a blast chatting and answering your questions! If any one feels like keeping up with Angels on the Battlefield there is a website (Angels on the Battlefield). All news, tour dates, appearances, media links, and anything else AOTB related can be found on there.
Odyssey: Again. I am really thrilled to be able to work with such a killer band. I can’t wait for further material in the future! Definitely stay in touch!
JD McGibney: Of course! It was a pleasure sitting down with Metal Nexus and shooting the shit!
And now, please enjoy the debut of “Leap of Faith” by Angels on the Battlefield exclusively right here on Metal Nexus! We would like to thank Angels on the Battlefield for this opportunity of sharing this killer song with everyone. We are truly honored!