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dabelly.com: Featured Article By Dave Schwartz

The SixxiS
By Dave Schwartz    http://www.dabelly.com/features/feature403.htm

A funny thing happened on the way to this interview…

OK, long story short, prior to flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to cover The Winery Dogs, I had never heard of a band called The SixxiS.  And yet there they were, taking the stage at Northern Lights in the Potawatomi Casino, opening for The Winery Dogs.  The band was tight and their music was a little proggy and I liked them.  They were something that many bands are not these days– they were interesting and therefore worthy of a listen.

Singer Vladdy Iskhakov commanded the stage that night.  He played a little violin, but mostly he – and the other members of The SixxiS – created new fans.

My phone rang and the upbeat voice from the other end announced, “Hey, it’s me, Vladdy!”

For the interview, Vladdy Iskhakov (lead vocals, violin, piano, rhythm guitar) was joined by Josh “Jbake” Baker (drums, percussion, pads, vocals), and one of their touring guitarists, Paul Sorah.

I thanked Iskhakov for taking the interview.  It was setup in a rather unconventional way —  through Twitter.  It’s nice to know that you can still reach out to a band and find a human, not a PR machine on the other end.  It’s a testament to the accessibility of The SixxiS.

I opened by congratulating the band on their self-titled release and asked about their experience in making the album.

“Actually our first release is more of an EP along with some songs we recorded live,” Iskhakov explained.  “We have five songs that we’ve recorded in the studio and we also have a few songs recorded live.  It’s more of a sampler than an album.  Seeing how The Winery Dogs were our first really big tour, both overseas and in the U.S., we thought that we would release that little sampler and let people get a feel for our music.”

I asked about plans for the release of a full-length record.  Iskhakov assured me that a new effort was in the works, “We are scheduled to return to the studio right after our tour with The Winery Dogs ends.  David Bottrill (Tool, King Crimson, Dream Theater) will be producing the album.

“One of the things about the live show is that we’ve added a couple of musicians to sort of spruce things up,”  Iskhakov said, making reference to touring multi-instrumentalists Paul Sorah and Cameron Allen.  “Our live shows certainly have a little more kick than the music on the EP.  Nonetheless, the EP sounds great and you will certainly get an understanding of our music.”

I asked what the band’s timeline was for getting back into the studio– were they planning to wait until after the holidays?

“We are heading into the studio almost immediately after getting off the road.  I think we have the last show on November 6th in Fort Wayne, Indiana and we’re going to start pre-production on the 18th.  So we have a couple of weeks to prepare and we expect to be in the studio for about a month.  We hope to have the recording done by Christmas, but then we’ll have to get the album mastered.  We’ve already begun looking into our opportunities for 2014 such as touring in the spring,” Iskhakov announced.

The SixxiS’ approach to live performance is interesting.  The SixxiS are a three piece, but they chose to tour with a pair of guitarists (Sorah and Allen) to help round out their live sound.  I asked about the arrangement.

“The whole point of coming to see a live show is to see a live show.  People can stay home and listen to CDs.  Our goal is to give the listener a little more oomph.  I mean, they are paying for a ticket and I guess this is one of the ways that we choose to give the fan more,” Iskhakov admitted.

I read that you have worked with Grammy Award winning producer, Malcolm Springer, I said, you credit him for helping you shape your sound.  Tell me about working with him.

“When we were first introduced to Malcolm, we had already recorded a self-produced CD.  The music on it was very eclectic.  Back then we also had a different drummer so our sound really wasn’t the same as today.  The music had a lot of different elements to it and it certainly wasn’t as heavy.  The songs were less mainstream too,” Iskhakov shared.  “One of the things Malcolm helped us do was create that power trio sound.  A little after that we bought in a new drummer, Jbake, and he really enhanced our power trio sound.  So I think Malcolm’s contribution was to make our sound a little bit heavier and more mainstream.”

The SixxiS’ bio was very candid.  It mentions the band forming in 2006, and going through some lineup changes, which is common with every band, but it also mentioned their struggle to find their own sound.  I thought it was interesting and wanted to learn more.

“When this project initially got started, we were just a bunch of kids from music school,” Iskhakov confessed.  “We were classically trained musicians.  And like everyone else we believed that we didn’t need a producer and that we could do everything ourselves.  So over time, lineups change, influences change and an evolution is taking place.  As we continued to learn, our sound developed.  Eventually we arrived here with a good core of musicians and this is who we are.”

Since The Winery Dogs tour was soon ending I asked about touring in support of such a powerful act.

“Thus far the crowd reactions we’ve received both overseas and in the U.S. have been unbelievable.  Touring with Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan and Richie Kotzen has been a great fit for us.  Everywhere we’ve played we have been received really well,” Iskhakov gratefully acknowledged.

With the interview coming to a close, I asked the band if they had anything that they wanted to add– often, with new bands, it’s easy to miss a topic that they want to cover.  Jbake stepped up to answer this question.

“Is there anything personal you want to know or do you want to hear and funny band stories?” Jbake asked.

Laughing, I shared that most of the time funny band stories shouldn’t be printed– it just leads to trouble!

“There is something that I want to talk about,   10 minutes ago I kicked my drummer’s butt in 2K14 Basketball!” Iskhakov announced.  “He’s being a sore loser about it too!”

Careful now, you two still need to share a stage I joked.

“That’s how we take aggression out on each other!”  Iskhakov laughed.

So the funny thing that I alluded to in my opening…  That funny thing is finding a cool new band when you least expect it.  Watch for The SixxiS coming to your town.  Check out their website and listen to the music.  It’s always cool to find a great new band.