Considering it dropped back in July, any self-respecting Periphery fan will be well-versed in the groups latest album Periphery III: Select Difficulty. In fact, you may have been too immersed in the experience of the record to catch the news that come February, the overlords of Prog-metal will be performing it live on Australian stages.

Not only would PIII go on to impress even the sternest of experimental heavy music fans, but it also pricked up the years of the mainstream commercial industry, scoring the band a Grammy nomination in the Best Metal Performance category for album track The Price Is Wrong.

As guitarist Mark Holcomb tells us, the news was a complete surprise for the band who were yet to fathom any commercial success. From finding their worth as a band on our shores to a Grammy nomination, Holcomb fills us in on it all ahead of their February return. Of course, the glorious Australian summer that waits them was on his mind…

Mark Holcomb: It’s such a welcome change. It feels like we’re cheating a little bit by dodging the reality of Winter…
The Neversphere: Have you ever done the ultimate touring band move and gone 3-4 years without seeing Winter by relentlessly staying on the road?
Mark: We have actually. I don’t know if it lasted that long but we have had some pretty crazy streaks as far as getting over to your side of the world when the cold comes in. Actually, it’s like that more often than not because we try and hit Australia every year at the very least. We haven’t kept quite to that schedule but if it works out right, we tend to come out at this time of year. Now that you mention it, I’m thinking back to years past and we’ve been lucky.
The Neversphere: You’ll get no sympathy from me…It’s awful for us normal people having to face winter each year.
Mark: [Laughs] “Normal people”…

The Neversphere: You do make a lot of effort to come back; we understand it’s not an easy thing logistically. All over the world you have adoring fan bases but is it safe to say Australia holds a special place in your heart?
Mark: Oh for sure. You guys definitely have a special place in our hearts. I remember as far back as 2011, we didn’t really know our worth at the time. We had been doing some touring but nothing as crazy as what followed. Back then, I think the most people we’d played in front of was 400 people. I remember we played Melbourne and to our surprise it was a sell-out; our first ever sell-out at a venue that size.

It was stunning. It was this signal to us that there were people out here that think something of what we’re doing in this very specific niche we exist in…That was a huge eye-opener for sure. Ever since, coming back to Australia has always been like ‘Ok guys, we can’t even think about faltering. We have to bring our A-game because you guys gave us more of a shot than any other market we had played at the time’…That was the first big step forward for us.
The Neversphere: From where I’m standing on the ground here I can safely say we aren’t getting sick of it either…Keep ’em coming.
Mark: We want to come back more and do bigger tours. One thing I’ve been bummed out about over the past bunch of years is we always play 3 East Coast cities then go home. Now we’re doing the 5 cities and it’ll be cool if we can hit more next time. I’d really like to come back for a festival! It’s a shame about Soundwave…I heard all about what happened…Hopefully there’s some sort of festival resurrection.
The Neversphere: Earlier in the year you released Periphery III: Select Difficulty. Given your undeniable status as Road Kings and the fact you hit the road straight after its release, how much does the live show affect the album itself?
Mark: It’s always somewhere in the back of our minds. I wouldn’t say it leads the process at all. It’s definitely not something that we put as an indicator first and foremost as to whether a song is good. There are moments though, and I do love these moments when there’s some feeling we all share hearing a demo back for the first time, and someone invariably in the room says ‘This part is gonna fucking kill live.’

It’s kind of a magical moment when that happens but I can’t say that we ever lead the song writing process with that goal in mind. If the music is powerful and it’s written with conviction those moments will happen by accident. But the reaction for Periphery III has been really strong. As an artist you’re a bit more biased towards your newer material – you feel more attached to it for obvious reasons – So you tend to be convinced that it will translate the best live but really you don’t know; you have no idea.

We’ve been playing a lot of it live over the past 7 months and it’s been really strong. We’re really excited to play a lot of it when we come visit you guys, ‘cos you guys haven’t heard any of the new stuff live. Let’s change that.
The Neversphere: Periphery III is a special album. It didn’t just resonate with fans and media; it scored you a cheeky Grammy nomination. Congratulations! How does that even feel?
Mark: It’s weird. It’s really strange…It’s exhilarating and an honour, of course. When we got the email that it’s happening it was kind of like ‘what? Is it April Fools today, like…us?’ because that’s the last thing on our mind – any sort of commercial success.

When we do what we do, be it touring or recording, we always tend to put commercial success at the back of our minds. We find we work better as a band when we keep our heads down and just focus on the minutiae, focus on the process and don’t focus on the results because then you tend to set expectations and sometimes get let down.

It was weird at first then the more it sunk in it started to feel incredible. It really does feel special. We’ll see how that goes, I don’t think we’ll win but we’ll see.

The Neversphere: For a mainstream commercial list of ‘heavy’ bands, you’re in some good company. It feels like the greater industry is starting to open up this next wave of popular heavy music.
Mark: I’ve actually noticed that. 5-6 years ago I started seeing Killswitch Engage and Mastodon getting nominated. Last year there was August Burns Red. This year Gojira, Baroness, Megadeth and Korn…It’s pretty cool to see that type of music get recognised. Even if it’s on a platform that maybe a lot of metal fans don’t care about it, it’s still cool that there’s some mainstream recognition coming this way.

You can’t tell me that Gojira is mainstream. You can’t tell me that type of music is meant for the average person. Maybe it’s telling us something about this genre of music that we haven’t worked out yet; that there’s some form of admiration coming from the commercial perspective that we aren’t aware of.
The Neversphere: Now that the commercial success you never expected is happening, will you embrace it? Or will you put more effort into ignoring it?
Mark: I could totally be a Hipster and say ‘Oh I don’t care about it’ but no…it’s awesome. I want to enjoy it so I’m going to savour it. It should be something you lead with if you want to make some bar talk with people…

…No, I’m just kidding. But when this whole thing blows over, we’re never going to forget we were nominated for a Grammy one time in 2016. It’s not going to change anything about the way the band operates; we’re not going to start writing pop music or country songs. It’s a cool accolade – that we had never thought about – to put on our resume of fun random stuff we did.
The Neversphere: I see it as a sign that the world is starting to crave more substance. Given a band that oozes substance such as Periphery is now getting this recognition, perhaps the tipping point is neigh?
Mark: I’d love it if that became more of a common thread in popular-types of music, that substance or at least a little bit more integrity; that’d be a welcome change. I was listening to the radio a couple of months ago and they played Van Halen. I started thinking in the 80’s they played Van Halen all the time. They were the biggest band on the radio at a certain point.

I’m not saying that Van Halen has the most substance on Earth, the lyrics were about drugs and Panama and girls but there was integrity and there was substance to the music. It was pop rock but I remember thinking if this kind of music – which had the most technical musicians at the time – was #1 in the charts frequently, and they say that music is cyclical…who knows, maybe that can come again?

Maybe there’s an era waiting for us around the corner where the music isn’t just brainless bubble-gum trash. Maybe there’s something with substance waiting around the corner…

…And it’ll just take a reaction from this generation for it to happen…

Periphery Australian Tour Dates
Tickets on sale now

Thursday, February 2nd
Max Watts, Brisbane
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Friday, February 3rd
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Sunday, February 5th
170 Russell, Melbourne
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Tuesday, February 7th
Fowlers Live, Adelaide
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Thursday, February 9th
Capitol, Perth
Tickets: Destroy All Lines