Multi-Instrumentalists McStine & Minnemann Team Up for Soaring Debut Album
Drummer Marco Minnemann and guitarist-vocalist Randy McStine talk about how they came together and plans for India
For all the mind-bending, rollercoaster trips that multi-instrumentalist Maro Minnemann has taken listeners on, he recently teamed up with vocalist and fellow multi-instrumentalist Randy McStine for a collab album whose song lengths average at about three and a half minutes.
Minnemann – who’s known for his work behind the drumkit for everyone from The Aristocrats, prog auteur Steven Wilson, guitar great Joe Satriani and Mr. Big’s Paul Gilbert – says he’s always been a fan of “compact songs.” He adds, “I’m a big fan of The Knack, for example. Or, you know, Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Police and Frank Zappa obviously as well. A lot of people think because they hear me on prog records with lengthy songs, I’m automatically tied to the genre, which is absolutely not the case.”
McStine shared his collaborator’s love for Seventies music and shares how the duo would often text each other photos of album covers they were listening to. “That idea of the typical album length in the Seventies was like 35 to 40 minutes on average. I think we both felt it would be great to get back to that and just make a make a statement,” McStine says.
McStine & Minnemann (released on July 3rd) features 10 tracks of snackable prog(ish) rock, the first full-length collaboration between California-based Minnemann and New York’s multi-instrumentalist McStine, whose project Lo-Fi Resistance included guests from prog royalty including King Crimson, Porcupine Tree and rock band Tears for Fears. The duo first met at the ProgStock Festival in New Jersey in 2018 and hung out soon after on boat festival Cruise to the Edge in early 2019. Minnemann says, “Then we sent some songs forth and back first of all for our respective solo works. I played something on Randy’s album and then he played something and sang for my album. Then we decided to collaborate because we had a great working relationship.”
Some song ideas were drawn from the respective artists’ vault but others were entirely the result of virtual cross-coast correspondence. Minnemann says of the process, “Randy would send me a song, I would add some guitars or add some keyboard parts, not only just drums and, and mess around with it a little bit and vice versa obviously.” Songs like “Fly” and “Program” have been in McStine’s song bank for “several years” but came to life for McStine & Minnemann. The clattering rhythmic patterns on “Program” offer a sonic mirror to the seemingly technological dystopia that McStine sings about, while songs like “Catrina” put forward menacing songwriting. Ask Minnemann how “Catrina” came about and he says, “That’s because I’m a dark soul.” McStine laughs audibly at this. His collaborator points out that it was a song that took influence from the Mexican Day of the Dead ritual. “I tried to kind of write film music to it,” he says.
McStine says they didn’t set any “stylistic guidelines” when they started on the project but then eventually found “the perfect yin yang situation” for what he describes as a cinematic journey in songs. He adds, “There’s this energy and there’s this tightness and complexity and all of these things blended in there.” Tracks such as “Your Offenses” bring together the jumpy energy of spiraling rock from the Seventies, while “Activate” is a stand-out composition for any fans of prog, leading with a riff that digs its heels into the ground for Minnemann’s dexterous stickwork.
With the album out, the duo are plotting out a way to take this on the road eventually, once a clearer picture emerges on the coronavirus pandemic. Minnemann confirms that they’re keen to stop by India as well, where he’s previously performed his solo material and with The Aristocrats. McStine says, “I would love to be there and just get to play live again.” Minnemann, who also collaborated on a track with Kochi fusion rock/metal band Thaikkudam Bridge for the latter’s 2017 song “Inside My Head” adds, “We can come probably in a pretty complex setting. We could be a trio or quartet and have a lot of fun and cause a lot of good damage.”