Artist: Eric Thorfinnson
Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
Peanut Gallery: Sound
Splendid Affiliation: Autocatalytica
Eric, my man! How are you? Happy Birthday, by the way! It just passed by and I never got the chance to wish you a wicked awesome day! Did you do anything thrilling for the day you came into this human_life?
Thanks dude! Nothin super crazy, just had some super dank Pakistani food at Lahore Tikka house, hot tip : Its rad af there.
I must confide in you and say that you will be one of the first Splendid Industries artists that I do not know too much about personally until literally recently. Maybe we can change that soon? A discussion between us two later ;-) Right now, why don’t you tell us about yourself for our human_friends: Who IS Eric Thorfinnson?
Would love to have a discussion! As far as the intrinsic parameters of my meat-vessel go, I’m a human_dudeguy, recovering neophiliac, B-tier Hippieburner, unflinching glutton for literature, gamer with a penchant for masochism, and a perpetual bullshit-connoisseur who paints like a kindergartner on acid. Also I play, write and record a bunch of music.
Has music been an essential life-sustaining part of your life? When did you start playing music? How have you developed your musical skills?
Yabsolutely, I started playing piano around 5, guitar around 9, and composing relentlessly from there onwards, expressing my creative tyranny as equal parts benevolent dictator and tantrumming despot. My psychopathic stubbornness and persistent delusions of grandeur have certainly helped inch me slowly towards my goals, but I would probably credit my time spent at Berklee in college as being responsible for the biggest steps I have taken forward, especially with the utterly awesome theory and composition classes I was able to take there.
You lead the Toronto progressive metal band, Autocatalytica, another Splendid Industries member. We can delve deeper into the band with its own Splendid Talk in the future, but can you give us a broad overview of Autocatalytica? Who is involved aside from yourself? How would you describe the band’s style of prog metal?
Autocatalytica started as my one-man metal solo project in 2009, rising out of the ashes of my Oakville based high-school prog metal band Ex Kathedra. Once I got to Boston [to Berklee Collage of Music], I gradually filled out the line-up with drummer Emmett Ceglia and guitarist Erik Sorensen, as well as a rotating cast of bass players. We recorded an EP, and two LP’s, and also all moved to Brooklyn. In 2015, I decided to move back to Toronto to escape the crushing uncertainty of trying to acquire a US visa, though not before finishing the writing and recording of our last LP, Vicissitudes. Shortly before my departure, my dear friend and guitarist tragically passed away, which definitively closed that chapter of Autocatalytica. Currently I am working with a rotating line-up of musicians on an upcoming Autocatalytica LP which will be a much more varied collaborative effort, with all the songs featuring the amazing drummer Neilroy Miranda (of Dog Drive Mantis) as well as a cast of other characters. Autocatalytica plays strictly Neo-Post-Progressive-Grind-Funk.
This chat we are having now has you in the starlight! Sock it in! I got more familiar with you musically through your new solo album Qwag, recently self-released in January 2019 under your own name. When and why did you start releasing music as a solo artist?
I had dabbled briefly in solo releases around 2009, but Autocat had taken most of my time up in the interim between now and then. The first thing I officially released as a solo artist was an EP of solo guitar tunes in 2018 [Solo Guitar EP], followed by another EP Juan (which was actually written and recorded in early 2017) composed of more fully produced tunes, all acoustic-leaning. This was a super nerve-wracking experience for me, as I have a massive, throbbing neurosis about my singing voice, but releasing this music definitely fills a need for me to express a softer, more accessible side of my creativity, also having something that my mom can listen to without visible cringing.
How do you usually compose your solo material? How does it compare to the music you play in Autocatalytica? Do you try to explore more eclectic regions of sonic sweet and spice?
I’ll generally start with something much more loose with the solo material, just a chord progression and some lyrics and then spend endless hours tweaking and experimenting in the studio, where-as Autocat’s composition process is much more involved and includes exhaustive transcription, rewriting, rehearsal and copious agony. I certainly enjoy the space that my solo material gives me to explore, though I think Autocat can be as varied as my solo stuff, it just generally has more drums and distortion. Solo Stuff = gloomy earnest cloudboi, Autocat = Cackling OCDemon.
I’m currently listening through Qwag now as I write, and its superb! Can you talk about it and its compositional and recording development?
Thank you so much! Qwag was actually a bunch of singles I released on SoundCloud throughout 2018, and then I figured I’d collect em all and remix/master them and release them in early 2019. I originally wanted to record/release/mix a song a month for 2018 in my home studio as a way to get better at mixing and it kind of grew into a beast of it’s own. Each of the songs inhabits a pretty different sonic space, from solo-guitar pieces, to lo-fi beat type stuff, to ethereal folk music, to electronic music that according to one friend sounds like “The Menu Music from COD”. There was no real cohesion ever intended in this release, that's why it’s just a coagulation of stuff! I think my favourite part was being able to collaborate with my friend Amy [Carstensen] in Brooklyn; she’s just an amazing vocalist and pianist and it’s a truly inspiring honor to be able to work with her.
This brings up a quandary that I always love to ask musicians: being in a prog metal band and your eclectic-ranging solo music, you must listen to progressive music, right? Who from the proggy soundscape has influenced you in the music you write and perform? In your opinion, what makes music progressive?
Guilty as charged. Prog-wise I think my influences are pretty obvious for a prognerd of my age: Devin Townsend, Meshuggah, Opeth, Dillinger, and Bela Bartok (his string quartets are the only thing heavier than Meshuggah) on the metal side of things, but I feel that I am more influenced by non-metal progressive artists, big ones being Joanna Newsom, D’angelo (he’s prog fight me fuckers), The Dirty Projectors, Aphex Twin and Grizzly Bear to name a few. Good prog music is the ability to take a bunch of genres, toss 'em in a blender, and come out with something that is still cohesive and feels like a song, not a pile of riffs.
How did you come to be part of the human_family of Splendid Industries? What do you hope to see come about this artistic community and being involved with it?
I think I just clicked on an ad on Facebook and emailed the address on the website, simple as that. Then I met up with Toys and was super stoked about his vision for a music weirdo community. I hope to see this community grow to the point that it really reflects the size and diversity of the weirdo musicians in the GTA. I’d love to see it become a collaborative platform and space for everyone to nerd the fuck out.
Is there anything that we should expect from you musically in the near future? Are you playing shows as a solo artist at all?
Definitely a bunch of stuff coming out this year: more solo music, a new EP from a fantastic new collaborator, a new Autocat LP, and more! I’ve actually just started floating the idea (with myself) of getting a little solo-act together, hopefully that will come to fruition this year, but regardless I’d love to return to the stage soon!