Misha Mansoor: "There’s something very raw about those original demos – it’s kind of nostalgic for me"

Misha Mansoor
(Image credit: Ekaterina Gorbacheva)

Before he hit the big leagues as the backbone of djent-pioneering mosh powerhouse Periphery, turning brains to liquid by the theatre-load with his breakneck-paced riffs and turbulent bends, Misha Mansoor was simply a seven-string-obsessed shredhead with more song ideas in his mind than hours in the day to make them a reality. It was the turn of a new decade, and forums were all the rage – so, under the moniker Bulb, he utilised them to share hours upon hours of his genre-bending fretwork. 

Nowadays, Mansoor’s formative work as Bulb has a devout cult following, re-uploads of his rarities garnering millions of views each. So, before he officially reignites his old spark with a proper solo album until the Bulb name (set to be released in 2021 via his own 3DOT Recordings label), Mansoor has decided to make his archive of old ideas readily available in the form of ten meticulously curated volumes – eight of which are solely comprised of the old guitar-based cuts, with one album of electronic remixes and one of orchestral interpretations.

With all ten volumes now available to stream (we recommend pacing yourself, though – there’s over six hours of delicious djent to chew through here), we got Mansoor on the line to run us through the whole shebang.

Did you update any of these old recordings, or are all of the LPs just pure, cut-and-dry collections of those snapshots in time? 
I didn’t – the main reason being that I wouldn’t even be able to open most of those projects if I tried [laughs]. I think the impetus for all of this was the fact that currently, if you wanted to listen to any of this stuff, you’d have to know about it – which would require knowing about the forums I used to be a part of, and maybe some of the stuff on my old Soundcloud, neither of which are very well-known or publicised. And then I see people passing around Dropbox links for the songs, posting them up on YouTube and circulating them in their own ways. And so I was like, “Maybe I should make this a little bit easier on everyone.” 

So that was kind of the main reason: I wanted it all to be easier to find and listen to. But it’s not about rediscovering or reimagining any of it. The only thing I did was I had some of the tracks remastered – but it’s a very light mastering job, just so everything would fit the same way if you were to listen to different volumes in sequence, or whatever – nothing would really jump out as being out of place. 

Of course, you’re listening to about a decade and a half of me progressively learning how to make and produce music, and not really knowing what I’m doing for a good chunk of it. So the quality definitely varies, without a doubt. 

So how do you feel about a lot of that early material, now that you’ve grown so much as a guitarist and producer? Do you kind of wish you could’ve updated some of it, or do you look back on it all super fondly? 
Well I’ll put it to you this way: the stuff I wish I could update, I will. There’s something very raw about those original demos, and it’s kind of nostalgic for me. I don’t look back at it like, “Wow, that sounds great” – it sounds rough, y’know? It brings back memories of the challenges I was facing at those points in time, whether it was with the mixing, or musically, or whatever. I can definitely hear how I’ve improved from then to now.

The plan is for these archival volumes to exist as a precursor to an official solo album – something that will be a very deliberate release, and that will have songs I’m recording, or re-recording, right now. And a lot of those will be songs from the archives, but sort of done properly – given the justice they deserve.

How do you differentiate between a proper song and a demo? 
Moving forward, there’s going to be two categories that a project will fall into. Because I write a lot of stuff and I write with a lot of different projects, there’s a lot of stuff out there that literally nobody has ever heard – and that nobody likely ever will hear. There are lots of demos that just never materialised into real songs, and maybe to some extent they’ll fit into a continuation of these archival volumes.

I’ve just been writing more stuff than ever lately, but I haven’t been uploading things because to some degree, I’ve been protecting the material – in case it ends up on a Periphery album or some other project, y’know? But it’s also a matter of there now being years and years worth of material like that. So the way I’m thinking about it is that, while for now Volume 8 is the last one, it’s far from the last archive album I’ve got ready to go. 

Volume 9 could very easily happen, and that would just be something along the same lines where it would be a compilation of either incomplete ideas, or complete ideas that just nothing ever made it onto a record. Rather than letting them fall into the ether, I’ll just put them out there for people to check out, if they feel like it. And maybe I’ll revisit them one day and parts of them will end up in a Periphery song or whatever – who knows, right? But at least it’s out there, and not just sitting in my Dropbox wasting storage. 

But then I also like the idea of having solo albums, which will be these very deliberate collections of songs that I’m especially proud of, and that I’m putting a lot of effort in to present to people. And those will get more formal releases with vinyl and merch and all of that good stuff.

When do you think we might start to hear some of the new-new Bulb stuff?
It’s all about strategic timing. There’s really nothing stopping me from just putting it all out right now, but I do think there should be some order to it all. I mean, even with these ten archival albums, I wanted to put them all out at once, but our manager was like, “Maybe you should separate them by at least a couple weeks.” 

I think that ended up being a good call, because it allows people to digest each volume on its own – but it’s all still coming out quick enough that there’s something to look forward to. Because I think if I just dropped 110 songs at once, the first ten or 20 would’ve gotten listened to, and then the other 90 would have just fallen into the abyss. 

I’ll put the solo album out this year if I can, and either leading up to that or after it, further archives will come out. And I might just keep updating those as I keep writing and demoing stuff, because I don’t think any of it is really sacred. If something from the archive ends up as a complete song on a Periphery album, that won’t really bother me. That’s always been kind of the ‘easter egg’ relationship we’ve had with our fans anyway – in a lot of the back catalogue, you can hear ideas or riffs, or even entire sections of songs, that started off as demos on my Soundcloud. Some musicians wouldn’t want that stuff to be out there, but I personally don’t care. 

Would it be safe to assume that Periphery V is on the cards as well? 
In theory, yes! The biggest logistical problem right now is just that we can’t easily meet up, and the whole point of Periphery is that we all write and collaborate together. I have all these ideas that would be cool for Periphery, but it doesn’t really start until we all meet up. But y’know, it’s looking like it’s going to be pretty difficult to move around the States for a while longer, so maybe we’ll have to get more creative and try some online sessions or something – which is honestly something I’m not thrilled about, but y’know, beggars can’t be choosers.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…