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Posted: September 14, 2019

Phaeton ready to crash Shedfest

Four billion years ago a wayward protoplanet crashed into Earth. The resulting explosion threw massive volumes of Earth into space. One of those chunks became caught in Earth’s gravity and is now the Moon.

That’s not the only cool thing to (eventually) come out of all that.

Meet Phaeton, a Cranbrook/Kimberley progressive metal band named after that cataclysmic cosmic event’s wayward protoplanet.

Together a little over two years with one in-house produced album released and another in the works, the band features Colin Righton on drums, Daniel Airth on lead/rhythm guitar, Kevin Thiessen on lead/ rhythm guitar and keyboards and Ferdy Belland on bass.

With the upcoming Shedfest 2019 in mind, the never still nor tongue-tied Belland contacted e-KNOW in search of event promo. That prompted a gathering at the Fire Hall Kitchen and Tap, where Belland spoke about Shedfest, taking place Saturday, September 21 at Kimberley Elks Lodge, as well as about Phaeton, the impacts of Colin Righton and the thriving music scene in the area.

Shedfest is a 40th birthday celebration of Marysville’s one and only Colin “Metal Shed” Righton, which will feature performances from local acts Elk HuntPhaeton, Zero People (a new project featuring Kimberley’s legendary Honeyman brothers) and Crooked Line, along with Calgary’s False Flag.

“We’re looking forward to this show. We’re going to cram all the best bands in the Cranbrook/Kimberley scene together under one roof. Right now, the Kimberley Elks Lodge seems to be the prime location for bands. They’re wide open to all kinds of music,” Belland said.

Shedfest will be a Colin Righton show, as he plays with most of the acts performing Sept. 21.

“Colin is the mainstay. The guys is hands down the best drummer to ever come out of the Cranbrook/Kimberley scene over the past quarter century. Not only can he play like a typewriter – at 280 beats per minute if he wants to – but the guys is so musical. The guy is the most versatile drummer I’ve ever played with. You throw any kind of music at him and it will stick to hi. He’s got music in his veins and he’s got feet like a pair of castanets! It’s a pleasure to play with Colin Righton,” Belland said.

Ferdy Belland

Perhaps more aware of the music scene in Cranbrook/Kimberley than anyone else, the self-coined “gig pig” Belland says he believes it is thriving.

He noted acts such as Elk Hunt, The Zero People, The Oak Republic, Alderbash, Hot Muck … “the list goes on. It’s pretty good. Per capita the East Kootenay has more live musicians than any other region in British Columbia. It never grinds to a halt. There are always fresh young people like The Good Ole Goats, Bonecrusher and Friends, Dawson Rutledge. There are always fresh faces coming in generationally. It gives a crusty old bastard like me a heart.”

Now a regular in international recording star Bif Naked’s band, Belland says he’d much rather live and work out of Cranbrook than anywhere else.

“I can afford to buy a house for $225,000 within Cranbrook city limits and I can’t afford to buy a house within Vancouver city limits for $1.4 million. I mean, I am an artist after all, and a Canadian artist, which is why I had to become a carpenter.”

Like many area residents, Belland moved away to chase dreams and moved back in 2012 when wife Erin purchased Lotus Books (now Huckleberry Books).

He immediately returned to his roots and became a regular player on every stage in Cranbrook and Kimberley and beyond, playing bass in a number of bands before finding musical bliss in Phaeton.

“The band come together by happenstance. Colin and I had been playing together with The Bison Brothers and that band suddenly folded. Daniel and Colin had played in an earlier band named Chaos Logic. Colin also knew Kevin from their previous band Natura. So It’s basically Colin’s fault getting this band together because he’s the one who knew all of us communally and brought us all together and what do you know? It’s like banging two bricks of plutonium together! It caused a big bang. We all clicked together really well personally and really well musically,” Belland said.

Colin Righton

“The first album (March of The Synthetics) came together very fast and it’s been really flattering; we’ve been getting a lot of critical acclaim. And now things are coming together for the second album, which we hope to have done by the end of this year.”

The band hopes to push for a big release in the spring of 2020, he said.

“In the meantime, we’re just trying to accelerate more as a live band and play more live because that’s been a few and far between thing for us. And me being a gig pig, I would really just like to show this band off. We seem to drop everyone’s jaws when we play.”

Notable about Phaeton is the lack of vocals.

“Being a band that focuses on instrumental music we don’t have to worry about a language barrier in case we travel internationally. And we don’t have to worry about sounding too pretentious in our lyrics. We don’t have to worry about Dylanesque metaphors that way. We focus on stunning everybody with our technical prowess!” Belland cracked.

As for how the foursome constructs Phaeton’s sound, Belland noted, “Kevin and Dan are the primary riff writers but all four of us collaborate on the songwriting and arrangements. We’re left to our own devices as to what we play. It’s a fairly democratic band.”

So why progressive metal?

“That was actually the kind of music that made me want to cross the line from being just a music fan to actually being a musician. And I blame it all on Metallica’s fourth album, And Justice For All, in 1988 because back then that was as prog-metal as it got. It blew me away; still blows me away. It’s funny, over the past 30 years I’ve been in 20 bands but as of late, ironically, I Just formed the kind of band that I wanted to play in when I was 16 or 18, so hey, better late than never!”

Listening to March of The Synthetics, a plethora of influences seem evident.

“There’s a bunch of stuff. There’s definitely a bit of Rush going on, a bit of King Crimson, bit of Dream Theatre. Some people compare us to Symphony X, although I’ve never listened to a Symphony X song in my lifem” Belland said.

“A lot of people compare us to Opeth and Mastodon. You’ve got Kevin, for example, who is big into Rush and Dream Theatre and that sort of stuff and it is obvious in the riffs and melodies he writes. Daniel is more into technical death metal bands like Between the Buried and Me and he brings that sort of element and Colin is all over the place. He’s huge into technical death metal and prog metal because that is the kind of stuff he can execute flawlessly and beyond. And me, I’m a bloody garbage can of music. You name it, I probably like it. And we seem to find weird little common ground areas and so far it is working.

“We write our music to please ourselves but so far we seem to be pleasing a lot of people with it.”

Writing songs comes from Kevin and Dan “committing hermitcide,” Belland continued. “They will come in with baskets of riffs and that’s where Colin, being the Andrew Lloyd Webber of the band, so to speak, will take and piece the riffs together by himself and say, ‘what do you guys think of that?’ And we’ll say ‘golly gee whillickers that’s great or they’ll just go (blows raspberry) – ‘try again buddy.’ It’s usually the former and not the latter. I’ll throw in stuff as I can. I find myself mostly being busy doing a lot of the networking and logistics side of things. And then it’s ‘time for me to play my bass!’

Belland said he often ends up being the band organizer.

“I’ve so desperately wanted my bands to make it in one form or another. Every band needs an in-house hustler and schmoozer. Say what you want about Gene Simmons but he’s a brilliant businessman. I don’t have an action figure yet, though.”

And what would his action figure entail?

“An eight-inch meek little action figure. Comes with accessories! A bag of Doritos! And a Fender jazz bass! With interchangeable six different black t-shirts! New from Mattel! In the Christmas Wish Book. Get your Ferdy Belland action figure. I’d be under everyone’s Christmas tree! And there are worse places to be.”

The future appears bright for heavy music in Canada, Belland pointed out, “especially in Alberta. Edmonton and Calgary and Montreal are the thriving focus points of the metal scene. There are huge metal festivals happen in B.C. and Alberta every summer. The Loud as Hell Festival or the Armstrong Festival – it’s great. Hundreds of working metal bands that are writing their own material all across Canada who are touring nationally and internationally. They’re playing in the United States, they’re playing in the UK and Germany and beyond. Some of them played the side stage at the Wacken Festival. Better late than never!”

Metal is “no longer the red headed stepchild of rock n roll,” he said. “Heavy metal is now above ground but then again, you’ve got to remember it’s the Internet age now. MTV doesn’t create the culture. Rolling Stone magazine doesn’t create the culture. FM Terrestrial Radio doesn’t create the culture. It’s all online and basically anything goes. Any style of music you’d ever care to try and list off. There is already a built-in audience of millions world-wide. And if you’re a thriving, independent band, you have the tools at your fingertips that you need to self-promote, like a cottage industry. And if you’ve got the gumption and can scrape together the money to put together a tour band.

“Hey, you can either spend your days working or spend 100 to 300 days a year touring world-wide, playing heavy metal. You decide what you’d rather be doing.”

The world-wide nature of the web has carried Phaeton to places that boggles the mind, Belland added.

“It’s freaky and fun seeing our stuff on a podcast in Turkey or Bulgaria or Siberia; Austria, across the United States and across Canada. These podcasts are the modern day version of Campus Radio; the modern day version of Pirate Radio and this is how you build pocket audiences.

“I wish this sophisticated Internet system was in place 30 years ago. Instead you were spending a thousand bucks a month on long distance phone calls, hoping someone would answer the phone. Nobody had a cell phone, unless you had one of those PR C10 army radios. You know, and you hope your gig doesn’t get cancelled when you are driving from Sault St. Marie to Thunder Bay.”

The following is a Mexican review from RTMB Magazine: “En apoyo del álbum debut, lanzaron un playthrough de guitarra y bajo para ‘March of The Synthetics,’ una estadía de seis minutos y medio a través de delicados riffs progresivos y un trabajo de bajo muy pronunciado. Los fanáticos que buscan algo fresco y relajante que recuerde a Rush, Dream Theater y King Crimson deberían visitar ‘March of The Synthetics.’

If your Spanish is weak, check out what the Vancouver Sun’s Stuart Derdeyn said about Phaeton: “Top-tier instrumental prog-metal-math music from the East Kootenay region performed by a quartet of veteran musicians: Guitarists Kevin Thiessen and Daniel Airth, bassist Ferdy Belland and drummer Colin Righton. Impressively recorded live in Thiessen’s apartment living room studio, the sound on all seven tracks is huge and if there was a “best sounding hammer-ons” award then March of the Synthetics could be a contender. Best of all, the band can go from the more obvious power jams (Crossing the Divide; Vortex) to more moody and nuanced sounds (Voyage Eternal). OK, ultimately, it all winds up thrashing to smiles all around.”

Phaeton is playing in Kimberley Sept. 21, at Shedfest, and in Calgary on Oct. 18, along with False Flag and Siren, at Vern’s Pub.

The band is also hoping to take part in a prog metal festival in Vancouver in February.

They invite music lovers to visit them on Facebook.

Listen to March of the Synthetics.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW


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