California band MONSTER IN THE MACHINE will release its debut album, "Butterfly Pinned", on July 10 (online) and August 21 (retail) via Emotional Syphon Recordings (ADA Distribution), the independent label owned by KORN guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer.
Artistic freedom remains paramount to Emotional Syphon Recordings. "When KORN was on Sony," explains Shaffer, "we were so lucky the label never came in and said we couldn't say things on our records. We were able to have 100 percent creative freedom. One of my main goals is to maintain that. I'm never going to tell artists on my label what they can and can't say. I want them to push the envelope."
Shannon Crawford — the mastermind behind MONSTER IN THE MACHINE — does just that with "Butterfly Pinned". He's crafted a record that entrances the listener with swirling acoustic melodies and haunting, hypnotic electronics. From the infectiously incendiary chorus of "Under Your Shadow" to the sonic dreamscape of "Helicopter", the music remains memorable. Pristine melodies soar over brooding beats, and tracks like "Savior" convey a message of disenchantment and call for change. Underneath the beauty of the music lies an honest mirror reflecting social ills. Yet, hope for a solution exists. Issues faced include the death of our environment, religion's contradictions and the perilous existence of an artist under the thumb of a corporation. These are some of the darker themes that Crawford delves into on "Butterfly Pinned".
The album is not Crawford's first foray into the recording world. In 1997, his band CELLOPHANE was signed to Virgin Records. "CELLOPHANE had a good record that fell through the cracks," Crawford says. "For a long time it was really heartbreaking to have had that and lose it. I was 23-years-old, and I couldn't deal with personalities of the music business. I quit, because no one at the label was doing anything anyway. They just put us out on the road, and that was it."
Disillusioned with the music industry, Crawford pursued another passion, painting. His work has been acquired by celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to author Jerry Stahl. He also created the cover for NORMA JEAN's highly successful "Redeemer" album. In the midst of painting, he never lost sight of his musical ambitions.
Then inspiration struck in 2006. "A lot of it has to do with maturity. Being a full-time single father to my daughter helped me." He continues, "Last year, I just began writing all of these really good songs because I wasn't trying to push it or force it. I just let it go and all of these great things came to me and through me."
Once finished, Crawford played the demos for longtime friend Shaffer. "James has been my biggest cheerleader for years. He'd been on the fence about starting a label, and when I played him my first songs, he said, 'That's it. I'm starting it.'"
Shaffer loved the music so much that he lent his guitar talents to the tense album closer "Don't". Josh Freese (A PERFECT CIRCLE) stepped in to handle drum duties for the entire record while Imani Coppola plays violin on "Shut the Door". The recording lineup was then rounded out by ex-CELLOPHANE/current PUDDLE OF MUDD bassist Doug Arditio. Crawford produced the album himself and it was mixed and recorded at Henson Studios (formerly A&M Studios) in Los Angeles, CA.
Ultimately, the album traverses an entire emotional spectrum. "The major label mindset is that you don't want to be too diverse, and you don't want to confuse people," Crawford says. "I think the public is smart enough to handle a diverse record. 'Butterfly Pinned' is eclectic and honest, but at the same time, it's ethereal. It takes you to another dimension. Art is an escape, and people want to escape."
The title of the record sums up the concept perfectly. "It's about the death for vanity, and the butterfly pinned is a perfect example of that because it's usually overlooked. For example, we are killing everyday for our vanity by the cars we drive," exclaims Crawford. "I've got to practice what I preach by driving a Prius and a vegetable oil car, and I'm trying. People just need to try."
Next up for Emotional Syphon Recordings will be the debut album by DROID, which is also due out July 10 (online) and August 21 (retail). DROID combines the bludgeoning precision of bands like LAMB OF GOD and MESHUGGAH with a down and dirty hardcore vocal delivery. Their songs slay with a calculated groove and violent, percussive riffs. DEFTONES frontman Chino Moreno guests on one of the forthcoming debut's standout tracks, "Vengeance is Mine".
Shaffer is excited about the prospect of releasing albums by two very different bands on Emotional Syphon Recordings. As he explains, "I wanted to establish right away that it's going to be a diverse record label and get both spectrums of the rock world. In a couple of years, I'd like to have 10 really strong bands. My main goal is to just get them on the road and making a living at playing music. If one of the records is a hit record, great, but I'm still going to keep everything on the independent level — a small company with a small staff. That's the vision I have for it." That vision separates Emotional Syphon Recordings from so many other labels that remain focused on statistics rather than quality art.
Having an artist front the label allows for serious exploration and boundary pushing. Shaffer aims to help young bands create what comes naturally. "I've been very lucky to make music and to make a living at it. It's been a gift for me. There are so many people who are talented, and I want to help some other people make a living at what they love to do. It's kind of my way to repay what I've been given."
Emotional Syphon Recordings is completely a passion project, with Shaffer hoping to eventually release his own music as well as music videos and DVDs.