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Studying Jazz Still Influences Mile Marker Zero’s John Tuohy

John Tuohy, guitarist for the prog rock band Mile Marker Zero, couldn’t be more thrilled that his band’s self-titled debut has finally hit stores.

“We’re all really, really psyched with all the things that go with it,” Tuohy told Noisecreep. “We’ve been working really hard up to this point. It’s very gratifying to see something that we’ve done — put our heart and soul into, time and effort and money into — come together as well as it has. All the guys in the band are so thrilled that this is getting to the level that we always wanted to achieve. Now it’s starting to happen and I can’t be more excited.”

The band formed in 2003 when most of the members — vocalist Dave Alley, keyboardist Mark Focarile, bassist Tim Rykoski and drummer Doug Alley — were in high school. Tuohy jumped on board when he and his Mile Marker Zero bandmates were studying music at Western Connecticut University.

“The majority of the band — my bass player Tim, my keyboard player Mark and Dave, my lead singer — has been playing music together since they grew up in the same town,” Tuohy said. “I’m from about [half an hour] away. I didn’t meet them until college.

“When I joined the band, it was great because they had such a solid core already. We’re all very serious musicians and always have been. To me, personally, it was a logical step to go to school for music, because I loved it so much. I loved playing my guitar. I loved practicing. I loved listening to really great musicians. It was really logical for me to study music in a big way. For me, I studied jazz guitar in college. It really broadened my playing. I was into everything rock ‘n’ roll when I was a kid. My [favorites] were like Eddie Van Halen, Eric Johnson and all those really great guitar players. Since I went to college and studied jazz, I listened to a little bit of jazz, but to be immersed in something and study it so hardcore, I think really helps even to this day influence some of the choices we make when we write and arrange songs for the band.”

Mile Marker Zero recorded their album at Applehead Studio in Woodstock, N.Y. — the same facility that produced music by the likes of Coheed and Cambria and Straylight Run. The band took full advantage of the ‘toys’ in the building, like a Hammond B3 organ, and tried different microphones and microphone placements. In the studio, the band prefers to experiment with a lot of different textures and timbres, Tuohy said.

“That’s probably why the band sounds the way it does to be honest with you,” Tuohy added. “We’re not content to have one full way of doing thing and one formula. The diverse backgrounds of the stuff we studied definitely influences us.

“We don’t want to go to the extreme; everybody in the band can play really, really well. But we don’t want to go to the point where we’re playing super crazy technical stuff that people aren’t into. That would be very selfish of us, I think. We can all do that. For me, personally, I love playing very intense and complicated music. That’s definitely a part of MMZ. We want it to be listenable and accessible to everybody. We try to have our music exist on two different planes — one is the musical side that has some high level technical things in it and at the same time to have it be listenable and melodic and have catchy choruses.

“Not everybody went to music school,” Tuohy admits. “We want people to come away with it. Some people big into the technical side of progressive music or things of that nature, would be like, ‘Wow, that is cool the way they superimposed this section on top of that.’ The hard rock listener, the normal listener, would say, ‘Hey that’s really catchy. I love that riff. It’s brutal.’”

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