Lee Viathan from Manchester loves music. Plays it, lives it, embodies it.
One night or three in a row, Viathan, 36, can be seen either popping a brain vessel watching an Extreme Wresting match in Rhode Island or brushing is drums through a set of country/folk tunes at some club in southern New Hampshire.
Viathan will admit that music shapes his days, creates an identity and drama in his life while forging friendships and tearing down social walls within this majestic space known as music.
Why don’t we let Lee tell you all about it.
1. I see your work playlists on Facebook that you post, and the range of music is wild. You are all over the place. Can you go from a thrash metal song to folk on a dime? Explain how music dictates your dispositions.
For the most part as it comes to what I’m going go listen to, my disposition more often than not dictates the music. Its starts really from the moment I wake up. Is the sun shinning? Is it raining? Warm? Cold? And it grows from there, did I read any good news in the morning? Or was it bad? Did it make me happy? Angry? Sad? From this I can sort of cultivate an idea of what I want to listen to. And as you say, it can change on a dime depending on how my mood morphs through the day. My day job, I’m in an office environment, stuck in a cubicle. Its a pretty sterile and mundane job. So music plays a huge role in keeping me sane throughout the day. Because it can change so much, it can keep me distracted from the repetitive nature of what I do all day long.
On the other side of it though, is that the music itself can also change my disposition. Maybe the day isn’t going so hot, so I’ve got something on that reflects that. But you hit a certain song on the album that just grabs at the pleasure center of your brain and turns it right around. So then the next album will be something a little less aggressive and a little more happy. If I happen to be playing music, then no matter what I’m happy. Regardless of the style If I’m creating music with other people, I’m automatically in a good mood.
2. Are you on a quest to be heard through music? Or is it something else that keeps you so embedded in the New England music scene?
I don’t know if its a quest to be heard. I mean, I want people to hear what I’m doing in music. I assume in some ways I’ve already been heard. But I’d be doing this whether there was an audience, be it in person or someone just interested in listening to the record, or there wasn’t. I love playing music, but even more than that I just love music. I’ve been a fan before I even started realizing I could also play it. And I’ve been playing an instrument before I was even a teenager.
I have a lot of regional pride for the New England, and especially New Hampshire music scene. The NH scene is really on a resurgence, though being in such proximity to Boston, it is often overlooked. But its this “little engine that could”, and it keeps being the birthplace to a lot of great bands. The scene here hasn’t been this healthy in twenty years. There’s plenty of variety no matter your taste. its just a matter of people leaving their house and experiencing it! I’m just excited its managed to free itself from the glut of b.s. promoters that go by the whole “pay to play” model. Which did nothing but exploit musicians while the promoters themselves took a pay day. I can tip my hat to guys like Scrimmy “the Dirtbag” who really campaigned to eliminate that from the major NH markets. I guess I’m so embedded in it, because I want to see it succeed for everyone. I try to get out to at least one show a week. Often times its up to three a week. And its so spectacular that I can do that!! Even ten years ago it wasn’t like that!!
3. How does professional wrestling play into your love of music? Is there a connection between these passions?
These two passions of mine have more in common than people might imagine. Aside from music, pro wrestling is another art form (and yes I consider it an art) that has been with me as long as I can remember. Music and wrestling are great escapes. Both thrive on the emotion of the performer and spectator alike. There’s an element of drama, majesty, and bombast to both! It can make you want to holler for joy, or yell in intense anger. And with wrestling, music is its tag team partner. They work so well together. It started with “Rock n Wrestling” in the 1980’s when pro wrestlers would now have music playing as they made their way to the ring. Ever since then, its been a must to have a theme song as a wrestler. Something that identifies who you are and what you do even before you step into that ring. It gets the performers into their character, it gets the spectators all riled up knowing their guy or gal is about to come through that curtain. A good theme song will tell you a lot about a performer. Are they a heel (bad guy)? Or face (good guy)? Are they an aggressive personality? Maybe there’s some comedic elements to them? Its sort of like the dust jacket on a book. Its gives you a little peak before you get into the meat in potatoes of it.
But what I found was the most interesting connection is how both operate in a similar fashion. Especially on an independent level. Much like the music business, in wresting, unless you’ve got that big corporate money backing, you are essentially a DIY artist. Booking your own shows, making your own merchandise, driving to the gigs, and getting up close and personal with the folks that come out to see you. When a musician has done their thing, or a wrestler finishes up their match they pretty much do the same thing. They get out in the audience and they stand by their merchandise table and just hustle. The first time I went to an independent wrestling show it just blew my mind how many connections I could find.
4. You play drums in “Miketon and the Night Blinders” these days. How does this band differ from the others you’ve been in? And what’s your defining role in the band?
I would describe it more like “playing percussion” with the Night Blinders. Playing drums sort of implies I use a full kit. Which in this band I don’t do. Because it wouldn’t fit the aesthetic of the band. I use a minimal approach. I have a single snare drum, with a cymbal mounted on it. I use a suitcase as a bass drum and I have a tambourine strapped to my foot. I primarily use brushes, no need for sticks. Thats probably the biggest difference between this band and anything I do with other folks. Its just so minimal. It takes me out of my comfort zone of having a larger spread of sounds and textures to work with. This “less is more” approach has me focusing more on groove than ever before. There’s no fancy fills, no space to really “flex my chops”. I just get a nice little country shuffle going and let the band do the rest. Its the Ringo school of percussion. Nothing frivolous, just playing a water tight beat.
I’ve played in so many types of bands over the years. Starting primarily with metal and hard rock, I’ve gone from that to blues and funk, to more of an indie rock vibe. I rarely say no to any type of music. I want to try it all!! Its like vocabulary. The more you have, the better you sound. I can pull from any source at any time and inject it into whatever I’m doing. Which allows me to stand out amongst the pack. Even now, in addition to the Nightblinders, I’m getting set to record an album with a band called “Donaher”. Which is made up of Nick Lavallee from 5Bucks!, Adam Wood from Troublesome Tuba and Tristan Omand. I guess you could sort of call it pop punk, but its so much more than that due to the diverse influences of all the players involved.
5. What’s the current state of the live music scene throughout New Hampshire?
The NH scene has never been stronger. There is so much diversity within our borders its almost overwhelming!! Its really done a much better job over the last 10 years or so of fostering a more supportive environment for the musicians themselves. As I mentioned before, there is a lot less of that “pay to play” garbage that many promoters used to essentially exploit talent for a buck. Plus there has been a big increase in the number of venues that will open their doors to original music. Going back 10-15 years ago, in this state, unless you primarily played covers, it was a lot harder to book gigs. Thats not the case any more. You’ve got venues all over this state that are willing to take that chance and bring in original music. It used to be that original music shows were kind of in the margins, mostly found in underground, DIY venues. Those types of venues do still exist and thrive, but now its out in the open, and is easier for people to find something new and original to suite their taste. NH has really broken out of the cultural stalemate that it found itself in. As an example, in my hometown of Manchester, my favorite spot is the Shaskeen Pub on Elm St. In the heart of downtown you can go out five nights a week and get a completely different show each night. From heavy metal, to folk, country, hip hop. Its all there!!!!
6. What’s a better listening experience? In your car cruising around? In a bar? Or in a hot shower with a cold beer?
Listening to music in any setting is spectacular, regardless of the setting. But the absolute best is in a live setting, hands down. Being in a room with other people appreciating the craft and having that transfer of energy between performer and spectator is unmatched. In that way you get on the same level with everyone in the room. It tears down the walls between people that normally separate folks, based on our political, cultural and social boundaries. Music is a universal language that anyone get can behind, regardless of background. So to have that communal experience with total strangers goes a long way in terms of making us all a little closer together, even under the divisive circumstances we have come to find ourselves in.
Photo by: Daniel K. Taylor.
Rob Azevedo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org