Formed in 2002, Tempered Mental released their first EP “Honestly” in 2004 where their single ‘Honestly,’ made steady on national radio station Hitz.fm’s “Malaysian English Top 10” and pushed buttons with fans for winning MusicCanteen.com’s “Top 10 Most Downloaded Song” award.
Onwards with their album “The View from Here (2007),” TM was selected to perform at the Canadian Music Week (CMW ’08) and went on to rock thousands of outdoor beach goers at The Busan International Rock Festival in Korea.
Regionally, this band had its frequencies amplified at the Heineken Phat Fest in Bangkok, Thailand, Rock the World Malaysia, Baybeats Music Festival Singapore and at the legendary Crocodile Live House in Tokyo, Japan.
The year 2013 saw TM releasing its 3rd studio album, “Pax Automata” in a 9-day tour in Kyushu, to the delight of Japanese fans. Tempered Mental called on Mr. Ronan Chris Murphy to help capture the live energy of the band into their newest record. Ronan, who has worked with King Crimson, Steve Morse, Terry Bozzio, Steve Stevens, Tony Levin (and the list goes on), did exactly that by bringing out the sound that Tempered Mental has come to be known for; and with which fans have identified with.
* Pax Automata review by Ms. Jennifer Thompson (LinkedIn)
“Tempered Mental is a band that has always believed in themselves and their music and when you listen to them you know why they are passionate, tight, and imaginative. Had I not known they were local, I would swear I was listening to a foreign band. When you hear them it is reminiscent of when you first hear a cutting edge artiste with amazing musicianship and sophisticated song arrangements like Toto, Sting or Dream Theatre and you are blown away by how awesome they sound.
The album Pax Automata is a collection of songs that are tightly put together as one interesting story like a book you cant put down. The guitar work is intricate, the drumming is groove driven, the voice is melodically mesmerizing and all of this is packaged in a totally delicious, palatable, progressive rock dish.
If I had to describe Tempered Mental in three words they would be Unique, Talented and Stylish.”
These three are made out of more than 10 years of friendship and an innate musical wavelength with one another. Melina William carries the bass strong and tight with her melodic groove arrangements; couple that with intricate melodies and a uniquely clear vocal tone – you’ve got an amazing musician to watch on stage.
Jimmy brings that up a beat with his definitive strokes and memorable rhythmic phrasings. I personally enjoy his cymbal-stick definition with punctuated nuances when travelling within a song. Maybe Hearbeat Drumsticks from Indonesia thought the same. Endorsed as Jimmy Jamz from his doppelband ‘Oh Chentaku,’ Jimmy sports his own signature drumstick series.
If guitarist Jack Lian were a superhero, his silky yet crunchy guitar playing would be beaming spectrums of colors aimed at a villainous hypnotised crowd. Being the sole guitarist of the band, Jack is the most tasteful rock guitarist I’ve seen; holding down the fort with regular mind-blowing lines and riffs weaving in and out of a song that could pass you by way too quickly.
At times it feels like having three different clocks ticking prominently in the same room. The 60 bpm concept drones on with the odd rhythms in between testing your internal clock. It keeps you on your toes yet is oh-so smooth. There are hints of prog rock, crunchy metal, hip hop grooves, wicked guitar shredding, funky bass slapping and tapping, and everything in-between the rock continuum. Below is an interview with Melina William, Bassist/Vocalist/Songwriter of the band.
How did you start and when was that?
I met Jack when I was 18 in ’98 and I met Jimmy later in… (I forgot) but anyway, we started playing in 2002. Tempered Mental’s first show was in February 2002 and it was Peter Hassan’s open mic show at the Common Wealth Club. Peter Hassan is so awesome, after that night we got our next few shows because of his referral. And it just snowballed from there.
He picked you guys out at that time?
We didn’t know how to get any gigs at the time. We heard about that open mic and just went for it — after that he liked us enough to keep in contact with us and gave our name to other clubs and organizers.
When you started the band, did you know you were going to be a full time band or was it just messing around…
I think since we are full time musicians, yes we did think that it was for real. And we were around friends who were just starting up bands and stuff so everyone’s enthusiastic and “Ya man, I’m doing this, and you’re doing that,” and our peers were bands like Estranged, Flatline, Deja Voodoo Spells, One Buck Short and Dragon Red — back then the late Alda Tan was Estranged’s original bassist.
When you guys write, do you share the process?
In the beginning — no. The reason I’m the singer, bassist and songwriter is because all the other positions were filled already. If not I would have been any other position — I’m always the last person to fill up any slot lah.
So it’s not based on your songwriting process?
At first, because I was writing songs since I was in high school and I already had the songs, I’d just use those. Over the years, because we know each other really well and I guess everyone feels confident and comfortable, it’s been more collaborative.
What makes the 2nd album different from the 1st album?
I think the first album is more of a collection of songs that I wrote, from over 10 year ago right up to the point before we started recording. But the oldest song on that first album was probably something I wrote when I was 13. The second album is written around at least a 4 year bracket.
The difference is just time?
Time and because what we do in this band is directly linked to who we are as people so… I guess we’re all older now and we have experience as this band together for longer, so the stuff we come out with feels more purposeful yet organic. We are more comfortable in our shoes in this band and I think the songwriting reflects that; even the arrangements and such.
What kind of themes do you or you guys write around with?
Lyrically, I write about things I observe around me or maybe affecting me.
How does the band feel about that?
We don’t really talk about my lyrics much, maybe because Jack and Jimmy get the feeling that I don’t wanna talk about it (laughs). But Jimmy will read my lyrics and try and guess what it’s about. And if the song has a lot of words, Jack will just ask me how on earth I’m going to remember the song. So it’s just that kind of comments. I think they know I don’t really want to get into it because some of the songs are quite personal to me.
But they put enough to accentuate the emotion behind that?
Yeah, for sure! It just so happens that a lot of the songs that I write now, the lyrics come last. So I’ll listen to the music, I have the melody, or I don’t have the melody but I have the full arrangement and I’m just listening to it and I’m thinking about where this is driving me and I’ll start writing the words. But there are still songs where the words come first and the music later lah.
Tours. Where have you guys been to?
We have been to Singapore for Baybeats, Thailand for the Heineken Phat Fest — and we played at a bunch of other shows there in Thailand; Canada for the Canadian Music Week; and Korea for the Busan Rock Festival. Our most recent tour was nine shows in Kyushu.
Which country would you say has your most receptive audience?
They were all different actually. Differently receptive also I think because of the culture. Like at the Busan rock festival the crowd was insane because when Koreans go crazy, they really go crazy (grins). The Japanese, I think they probably, how to say… appreciate our music more lah… yes. Thailand was crazy and fun as well. Nice. The audience was a mix of tourists and locals so…
What would people want to know about the band that they don’t already know?
Jack really likes drawing and he drew the artwork for the album. So wherever we go and we have time to kill, Jack will be working on his art. Jimmy would be busy talking to everyone. And I, when we’re together, I would be trying to stay awake, look alive and prepare for the show — setlist and stuff like that.
What is it like working with two boys?
Actually I think I’m really comfortable with Jack and Jimmy because we’re kind of, you know, I guess like siblings.
In the beginning?
The thing is, I knew Jack and Jimmy as friends, as people so the good thing about them is that when it’s time to work in the studio, when it’s just the three of us, it’s time to be professional and everyone can step up. I’m very comfortable around them and they respect me and my space. They’ll try and look out for me. They’re kind of in a way, protective, like I’m a sister like that lah…
What is the most important accomplishment you guys have as a band?
I think we measure our success based on how far we can go with our own music and I think our accomplishment is the fact that we have always stuck to what we are and we’re still doing it. We haven’t given up, and we have gone to all these countries, and we’ll still be going. Doors have not closed for us.
* Interview and copy prepared by Z. Lee