Interview with Max Mobarry (Others By No One)

“Book I: Dr. Breacher” release show, June 2017. Photo: Ethan Bielik

To know Max Mobarry is to love Max Mobarry. If you’re a member of fan groups for Haken, Devin Townsend, or Cardiacs, you’ve likely seen Max’s amazing covers of songs by the aforementioned artists. His distinct, powerful, and diverse voice can handle the most acrobatic lines, and his guitar playing is equally expressive. Max is the singer/guitarist of the band Others By No One, which has been making waves in the progressive metal scene following the release of the delightfully quirky Book I: Dr. Breacher. We caught up with Max to ask him about his musical background, his music with Others By No One, and what to expect from this insane band!

How did you first get into music? What were some of the bands and artists that influenced you early on?

As far back as I can actually remember, I have been watching films and consuming art through media. Perhaps my earliest memory was with my family, sitting me down to screen a brand-new VHS copy of the first “Star Wars” movie – That presentation, from the infamous John Williams score to the gorgeous, instantly-memorable visuals (and a truly classic science-fiction/fantasy story) left an impact on me that I will be feeling and chasing for the rest of my life.

I really wanted to draw when I grew up, and I even entered and won a few local competitions as a very little kid — but my father was, and remains, a huge inspiration in my life, and music eventually became my destiny as it was for him. His workstation was in the basement of my childhood home, and he would play records down there… and so the album that absolutely changed my life, back when I was maybe just 10 years old, was hearing the Iron Maiden record “Powerslave” blaring from below my feet. It was a magical experience that hit me just as hard as that Star Wars movie had – It blew my mind, to say the least. “Flash of the Blade” full-on hurled me into a sprawling new world of intensity that is metal music, and the wailing of living legend Bruce Dickinson forever haunted me and will always course through my veins in one way or another. That, and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was probably my first clash with a progressive music epic, what a brilliantly-paced long-form rock song.

Spring 2015. Photo: Brad Benson

You have perfect pitch. When did you first discover that you had that ability, and what have you done to develop it and refine it?

When I picked up the guitar for the first time, I went to learn the Iron Maiden tune “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” which for a good long while was the best song ever written as far as teenage me was concerned. As I pulled up a very early version of YouTube to watch a guitar cover for visual reference, my dad came into the room and asked me the question that shaped how I learned music: He asked me why I needed anything more than the album itself. His attitude about just sitting down and using your ears, and your memory, to teach yourself a piece of music led to my method of practicing music: never using any tablatures, videos, or anything aside from my own eyes and ears, which I did for the first 5+ years I was a guitar player.

I don’t particularly like the term “perfect pitch” as the “perfect” part just rubs me the wrong way, but it took me years of working with other musicians to realize just how rare and bizarre my talent is, and how lucky I am to possess it. I always assumed that if you were neurotic enough in teaching yourself, like I did growing up learning and memorizing everything by ear from the beginning, anyone could achieve perfect pitch! To be honest, I’m still figuring out how to explain it since my experience with music is so specific to me – A great example I’ll never forget, was a few years back at a clinic with Victor Wooten, where he asked everyone to raise their hands if they could recognize the sound of their phone’s ringtone. I was the only one with my hand still up when he asked the follow-up question: Can you name the pitches, or accurately sing your ringtone? Victor even made a point to have the audience chuckle at me for keeping my hand up, like I was pulling one over on him or joking around with the man – but it was and is true, everything I hear in my life gives off some kind of identifiable pitch to me, and so it feels that music will truly never be away from my side. At times it drives me crazy, keeps me up at night, makes it harder choosing the language to communicate with my fellow artists and musicians – but it’s endlessly rewarding every time I go to make things to have that strength in the palm of my hand, and I’m always testing myself so that it will stay my lifelong, very own superpower (that I will only use for good, promise).

February 2020. Photo: Bethanie Bailey

You are a really skilled guitarist, composer, and vocalist. Who are some of your biggest all time influences?

Real quick, shoutouts are deserved for the playing of Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as the fine-tuned pop sensibilities of the Monkees and the more commercial Beatles stuff – These were the artists I heard most as a very young person, as well as countless Disney/cartoon singalong VHS cassettes that really cultivated my love of musicals, theater, and ultimately my adoration for concept albums as a media and art form.

I didn’t start writing my own music until I was graduating high school, and mostly did so at the request of the bands I was joining so I’d have songs to add to the pot. Once I started my own metal project (my previous band, a thrash/death metal outfit called Crucifixation) I really wanted my band to have kickass originals ready for when we were tight enough to play shows, and I began just cranking out a ton of angry tunes and experimenting with structures. Once the influence of bands like Death, Megadeth, and Cannibal Corpse began to morph into my long-growing passion for progressive music, and later avant-garde music with a heavier/metal twist – my real songwriting influences began to take shape.

Richard Henshall is a go-to inspiration for me, those first three Haken records have such a fun energy and unified focus to them, “having just one cook in the kitchen” for those albums really defines a lot of what I like about them. Every day, I’m inspired by the delightful soul that is Ben Levin (Bent Knee), who I’m very happy to call my friend and to have watched his career blossom into the success he deserves, the entire Bent Knee band is one of the best groups out there right now.

Here are just a few more artists whose work you should absolutely check out that directly impacted my musical trajectory (and thank you again for the compliment. xx)

Devin Townsend
Dan Briggs (Between the Buried and Me)
Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum)
Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle/Faith No More/everything)
Serj Tankian (System of a Down)
Claudio Sanchez (Coheed and Cambria)
Tim Smith (Cardiacs)

Tell us about your band, Others by No One. How did you meet?

In second period symphonic band class, when I was a junior in high school, I encountered one Quique Bucio (bass) for the first time. We both played trumpet together and would soon become almost inseparable my last couple years of high school – After graduating I would join his band for a short time, just so we could continue playing together. Mike (lead guitar) and Quique go way back as well, they went to middle school together and also both played trumpet in school band. When Mike persuaded Quique to join his local progressive rock group, the duo started having me over to their practices, recording sessions, and most importantly – to Mike’s small recording station in the basement of his dad’s place. It was here in early 2014 that Unicorn Drama (our original/better name, that we only dropped after Sam joined on drums later) set up headquarters, to begin a soon-to-be constant stream of ideas and demos that we knew the bands we were in wouldn’t go for. The early Unicorn Drama days represented the purest artistic freedom; all three of us love making wild sounds and songs, stuff we have never heard before, and the music we want to exist and listen to that simply doesn’t yet.

Lastly, I’d be remiss to leave out our original drummer Sam Ruff’s contributions to the band. Once the three of us had finally decided to try and make this exhilarating and creatively free side project our main focus, I sniped the entire line-up from the band Quique and Mike were in at the time – However, a local high schooler hit us up on Craigslist, saying he was willing to come down and audition to Dream Theater’s legendary time-signature monster, “The Dance of Eternity.” I remember actually laughing out loud at the prospect, but we gelled with this kid Sam immediately – His grip of the kit was both musical and tight beyond just about anyone I’d ever worked with, and I’ll be honest that the music that became “Book I: Dr. Breacher” wouldn’t exist how it does without his skill, and without my confidence in him to play anything that I could come up with, no matter how crazy. He actually tracked the entire release in 100 minutes flat, beginning to end! (I only had 2 hours of space on my old camcorder, and our 17-year-old percussionist had twenty minutes to spare by the last note of “Dr. Breacher and the Time Travel Anomaly.”)

These days Mike, Quique, and I are still pushing each other’s creative pursuits into even bigger and bigger territories (more on that later), and while Sam would inevitably leave the band to attend (and recently graduate) the esteemed Berklee College of Music, he has remained our studio drummer for all our officially-released projects AND has joined us once again for the upcoming “Book II” album, continuing a long and truly rewarding, satisfying collaboration.

Photo credit: Bethany Bailey

If you had to pick a fictional team (such as the X-Men or the Ninja Turtles) and assign a different role for each member, who would you pick?

I’ve got the perfect answer for this! So in my opinion, our live shows and music go hand-in-hand, everything is there – Theatricality, goofiness, comedy, audience interaction, and complete unpredictability. For example, the past two years we set up and hosted huge Halloween parties in our hometown with Others by No One closing the night out, each time premiering a ton of new material and (you guessed it) getting our costume game on. At the most recent 2019 “ObNOween,” we went all-out and made our own superhero team for the occasion.

Quique reprised his role as “Tanner Breacher,” the unfortunate brother of the doctor from our debut release (seen on YouTube in his bass performance of “Dr. Breacher” for the Gear Gods channel), who was left behind to kick it and oversee the doctor’s island village while the events of our story unfold. Mike was “Herman Miller,” an environmentally-conscious skeleton (with one green tear, signifying his passion for fledgling ecosystems the world over). I was simply The Wizard, draped in shining purple robes and donning a giant pointy hat that fell over my face about a minute into the set – but the finest of them all came from our live drummer for the past 2+ years, Matt Hunter. This deserves one more tale…

Our anime anthem “Oni-Chan!” was the first song to come out of us writing together all those years ago, and before we went full-steam into “Book II” we felt the song deserved the celebration of a proper recording and music video. In every draft of this music video (and there were many, at least 3 or 4 completely different plots), the only constant was that Matt Hunter would be obsessed with hot dogs for the entire runtime. This inside joke would soon infest his personal life at his job, at our shows – and ultimately with his costume, as Matt vanished into a massive (soon to be very sweaty) hot dog outfit and would be christened “Hot Dog Man Forever” for his actions. I’ll never forget watching him jam out to “Planet B” (King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard) with us in that thing.

Tell us about your concept album, Book I: Dr. Breacher. How did that concept come about and develop over time? Do you have a Dear Hunter-esque intention of making this into a story arc that lasts for several albums?

“Book I: Dr. Breacher” truly was a labour of love, to flex our prog songwriting and concept album muscles. The opening track, “Brand-New Remedy,” was originally conceived as a funk, Red Hot Chili Peppers-style number (as Mike Gregg’s first riff might indicate) and as a singular tale – but we soon saw the potential in expanding the story into a full release. It was also a conscious decision pretty early on to keep it to just the three tunes, especially given the scope of what we were trying to accomplish with the 20-minute title track.

Quique would begin composing “Death of a Clone” on his own in the later summer of 2015, and like many of Quique’s tunes it would go through dozens of forms before the one you hear today. While the song was our most collaborative on “Book I,” Quique has always been a fan of revising things as you go (as opposed to sticking to what you came up with during your first “a-ha!” inspirational moment) and instituting small rules into the writing process to focus creativity – He insisted “Death of a Clone” contain no harsh vocals, and similarly there’s a track on the new album where we agreed on strictly acoustic guitars/instrumentation. This mentality and our group communication led to that lengthy prog ballad becoming one of our finest efforts, and I’ll never forget tracking the vocals to the end of the song in the studio with producer Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me, The Contortionist, & many more).

The title track (the name of which was originally suggested as a replacement band name for “Unicorn Drama,” until we agreed it deserved to title an epic song instead) was something I was very eager to sink my teeth into writing, as I’ve penned several twenty-plus-minute prog songs in the past and wanted this to be my strongest yet. I waited patiently until we agreed on the events that were to take place in the song – meeting his sister’s clone once again, going back to the past, getting caught and placed on trial – before composing the music, with the majority of my writing process taking place over the course of two very intense days spent playing “Skyrim” and vomiting notes into TuxGuitar (a free equivalent to Guitar Pro). Having the focus of the concept in place allowed me to freely paint the picture of the music to the events the characters were experiencing, and despite the song’s manic multi-part intensity the story still shines through. Very little changed compositionally with the song after my initial explosion of inspiration – Mike had written the music for the first couple minutes, only for me to return a few days later with most of the song as you hear it today already structurally there, hahaha. Picking it apart at that point, with how complex the piece is and tied to the events in the story, seemed so daunting that we just rolled with it from there (although Quique and Mike both contributed a few key moments, and we all put our own personal spin on the original TuxGuitar demo parts).

We’ve written concepts before and since “Book I,” and while I shan’t spoil what’s in the works with our future narratives – These records are labelled with the “Book” moniker for a reason. We intentionally kept “Book I” short and sweet so we could manage it more easily than a full-on album-length musical adventure, which is what you’ll be getting with the upcoming “Book II.” Truthfully, I’m as excited as anyone for this stuff to be out there.

Your group uses a lot of absurd humor in your interviews and streams. What are some things that make all of you laugh (youtube videos, comedians, etc)?

Oh yes, absurdism in all its forms finds its way into all of our creative endeavours. While I usually lean on my strengths as a musician and composer in the content I craft, Quique is very in-touch with comedy as an art form and he values comedians and filmmakers easily as much as he does our fellow musicians; At the end of the day, we are all artists and we love spending time with and working alongside fellow creatives. On a bigger scale, Adult Swim remains a constant for us – Eric Andre (who we’ve seen together), bass god Thundercat, as well as growing up watching Dethklok/Metalocalypse really shaped our group direction. Bo Burnham, Joey “Coco” Diaz, the classic Cheech & Chong, Dave Chappelle, and Hannibal Buress are just a few that we all adore and respect, and inspire us to stay weird in what we do while always giving our audience a good laugh. That humor, and the escape from reality that art can provide, is something we hold very dear and it touches my heart constantly to know that we’ve been able to provide that for people, especially with the state of the world as it has been in recent months.

We love creating media of all varieties and it is our drive to expand our brand into making even better videos (we’re still working on getting our YouTube side series “The ObNO Show” off the ground alongside our newfound success in streaming), maybe even movies, podcasts, anything we can learn to do to dominate many forms of media with our musical efforts at its core. If there’s anything you’d like to see us do we are wholly unafraid – Just contact us and let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

Who would be some of your dream collaborators?

To start, it’s one of my goals as a musician to establish my skill and reputation enough in my communities that I can work with anyone I want to. I love making music and I love making music with people whose work I love and respect, and the possibility of getting to play around the world doing different projects with like-minded people is an ongoing goal for me. Touring with ObNO was one of the best times of my entire life and I can’t wait for the world to right itself again so “Book II’ can be out there and that facet of my career and my life can continue…

For some examples, I gotta give it to Richard Henshall (Haken) once again, I was thrilled when he finally announced a solo effort last year and I’d love to get with him and force him to embrace that wacky, “Cockroach King”-esque side of him I know is in there.

I’d love to one day do a full project with one of my favourite up-and-coming prog/avant-composers, Jackie Frank Russell III. A prolific and diverse creature, Jackie’s debut album enthralled me so much that I successfully got Jackie down to Ohio and the rest of ObNO onboard to do a gig playing it live (back-to-back with a full “Book I” set afterwards – Transcribing Jackie’s insane metal music for my entire band remains one of my proudest musical achievements and the performance is available on YouTube).

Devin Townsend would be a dream come true down the line, although I know the music we have out so far would likely give him a headache, ahaha. I tried very, very hard to get my inspiration Nils from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum to sing one of the slower songs on “Book II,” but he doesn’t use social media at all and we couldn’t get the timing right so I ended up doing it myself – However, that’s still a bucket list goal for me once I earn his respect one day (and his phone number, I guess).

I have two or three existing collaborative efforts in the works as well, but honestly if you like what I do please hit me up – I love bringing my unique qualities to record and working with people, and as long as I’m waiting to gig again I could use the money, truth be told.

Do you have any solo music that you’ve been working on?

Always! With all this extra home (and studio) time on my hands I’ve been struggling to focus my massive backlog of original music into album or EP-sized packages, prioritizing which ones to do now, to do with others, to wait until I can get proper studio musicians involved… I recently did a list and I have well over 100 original tunes in progress (and that’s just stuff I’ve worked on enough to name, or have sessions already started for). I love the collaborative stuff we do in ObNO, but I focus on a huge and diverse assortment of more extreme and unique styles in my solo work (ambient, bluegrass, harsh noise, short Bill Wurtz-esque comedy tunes, horror music, video game stuff, you name it honestly) and I can’t wait to get my name out there more as a solo artist.

Anything new and awesome on the horizon?

Others by No One – “Book II” is currently being mixed as I type this. We were not exempt from having our efforts slowed by the COVID outbreak and there’s still a lot to be done before it’s release-ready, because this is without question the largest project any of us have undertaken in our lives. It took an entire year to record, there are over twenty different people on the album, and it absolutely kicked our asses bringing this behemoth to life – and it has been entirely worth it.

All of us in the band love to entertain and are constantly expanding our social media presence, our networking, and our professionalism in the projects we put out there. Coming up – More live streams, more collaborations, more videos, and absolutely more music. I’m writing and recording daily, I do a bunch of the socials (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube) and I post different stuff on each one so please support me over there for some fun, light-hearted looks at music, comedy, media, entertainment, and art of all varieties coming from a nerd with really big hair, making peace with the perfect pitch curse one day at a time.

A huge thank you to Thomas for the thoughtful questions and letting me tell y’all a little bit about what makes me tick. ❤

Check out Max’s socials here:

https://www.instagram.com/maxmobarry

https://www.youtube.com/user/MomanROTR09

https://m.twitch.tv/momanrotr09

HIRE MAX TO TRANSCRIBE YOUR STUFF!

Check out Others By No One here:

othersbynoone.bandcamp.com

Twitch @ othersbynoone

Facebook @ othersbynoone

Instagram @ othersbynoone

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/33dOo7han0fdOeumYnb1dX

iTunes: https://itun.es/us/C8Ylkb

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaUj2K6ayde8P74ycYIZtAA

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