Weslie Negrón

Season One: Episode Six

Weslie Negrón, bass player for the progressive metal band MOTHS, joins the show to talk about his selection “Ghost of Perdition” by Opeth and the impact that progressive rock/metal had on our respective musical tastes and careers.

📷: D Massa Productions

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Weslie: I was actually lucky to be able to see this whole album be before live. They did the, I think it was the 25th Opeth Anniversary. I wanna say this was 2015.

I went to New York. I remember I bought the VIP ticket ’cause I needed to meet them. I met all of them. Mikael trolled me ’cause I was doing like a selfie with all of them, and as I was like setting up the camera, he was doing faces. So I was like, okay, let me also do a face. And then I did the face, I took the photo and he came out super serious. And I came with this super silly face.

He’s a great guy. He’s a great guy. Actually. A lot of people think he’s a super, you know, what’s the word? Like, you know, he’s a stuck up or whatever, but he’s not, he’s like, actually, he really cares about the fans.

Ryan: My guest on this week’s episode is Weslie Negrón. An accomplished bassist from Puerto Rico, Weslie currently serves as the bassist for the progressive metal band, MOTHS. Weslie, like many bass players – including myself – started learning guitar as a teenager but dropped it in favor of the low end.

Weslie’s formal bass playing career started when he joined the Death/Thrash Metal band Zafakon, during which time he contributed to the release of three records and five extensive tours across the continental US. Zafakon shared stages with bands like Kreator, Soulfy, Fear Factory, and a small local band you might not be familiar with called Metallica.

After seven years, Weslie shifted focus to MOTHS. MOTHS Started off as a post-rock/metal band and eventually evolved into a progressive metal powerhouse. MOTHS have since published three releases: an EP, a Split record, and a full-length album. Their latest offering ‘Space Force’ was received with critical acclaim in publication like Guitar World Magazine, Loudwire, Metal Injection, and Metalsucks.

Having spent some time at the Berkley College of Music focusing on music business studies, Weslie pursued a career the business side of the music world as well.

Weslie is also a huge prog nerd. That’s progressive rock for all the uncool kids out there with your 4/4 time and single key songs. I’m a prog nerd too.

On today’s episode, Weslie and I talk about music that was incredibly formational for me in my musical journey. Thanks for joining, let’s make a mixtape.

Ryan: Weslie, thank you so much for helping us make a mixtape. I’m very excited to to talk about your selection. Opeth – “Ghost of Perdition” off of the first record since Still Life that Steven Wilson did not produce: Ghost Reveries.

I was a big Opeth fan back in the day. They definitely have a very warm place in my heart so tell me why you picked “Ghost of Perdition” for this season of “Let’s Make a Mixtape.”

Weslie: For sure. First of all, thank you for inviting me. I, I love talking about music. I love talking about my favorite music and my favorite songs, and even more so about Opeth.

Opeth is my ultimate favorite band. I remember the first time I heard about them was probably for that Gigantour 2 DVD. They were touring with Megadeath, Into Eternity – which is another one of my favorite bands – and Arch Enemy and a bunch of others. I remember the first song I heard was “The Leper Affinity,” and then I got into them and I started going back their discography.

I remember the first album I heard in its entirety was actually Watershed.

I became a fan a little bit late in the discography. But then I went back and I remember hearing Ghost Reveries for the first time. And I remember listening to “Ghost of Perdition,” like that super slow intro. I remember-

It’s a little bit embarrassing maybe to say, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people maybe went through this as well, that I remember it started, cuz it starts with those strums, those super slow you guitar strums. And I was like, “okay, this is too low. Let me actually raise the volume.” When the whole band came in, my ears exploded.

One of my favorite things about Opeth has always been the Mikael’s, Mike’s ability. For those who are not familiar with Mikael is the singer and guitar player and basically a founder of the band.

His ability to sing the deep growls without looking like he, he’s doing any effort to do them. But also switching to the super angelical, clean vocals.

Ryan: His voice is so beautiful.

Weslie: It’s amazing. It’s amazing. It’s funny, I heard someone. At a moment that said that they don’t like Opeth because they sound like Nickelback when he goes into his clean [vocals].

Ryan: That’s ha- that’s harsh.

Weslie: Yeah. I mean, if I hear a Nickelback song, this sounds like Opeth. I definitely want to have that on my playlist, you know? But, but yeah, that particular song was like, it’s a journey, right?

And it has all the different elements that basically describe what Opeth is, as far as the death metal side of the band, and then the prog side of the band. And I’m a huge prog guy, but I’m also into like the more extreme subgenres within metal. And I think that would be one of the songs if someone tells me, what is Opeth about? “Ghost of Perdition” is definitely that.

And yeah, I tried to learn it on bass and. It’s too hard. And also that’s another thing, right? Martín Méndez is probably my favorite bass player.

That was probably the Opeth record that had my ultimate favorite lineup, on all the instruments. And they really stood out. Every single one of them stood out in this record. And yeah, that’s pretty much the reason why I chose this one.

It’s the perfect way to start an album as well. Very powerful. And it kind of sets up the overall mood of the concept of the album which is basically a guy who kind of like was possessed by by the devil and killed his mother, and then he’s dealing with the whole aftermath after that.

Ryan: As you know, as, as you do.

Weslie: Yeah, exactly. As anyone knows, anyone knows us. So when they went through that

That’s another thing that I really admire about Mikael’s ability of writing. Yeah. You know, he puts you in a certain mood that goes along with the lyrics, and he has been able to do that since the beginning. So, so yeah, that’s a really long answer as to why I chose this song.

Ryan: It was a really good pick, and as you said, it really does set the tone for all of the ground that’s gonna be covered in the following record.

I mean, it has those, those harsh, powerful moments that get dragged into this sad beauty and swirling mellotron and crazy guitar solos that are just mind-melting.

One reason I look fondly back on Opeth, and I think it was Watershed when I came around to them too, harsh vocals are such a, a hard line in music. You’re either pro-harsh vocals or anti-harsh vocals. There’s not a lot of fence riding. And, and it’s a really hard barrier for a lot of people to overcome. And it took me a while.

It took me until Opeth when I loved the beauty of the guitar solos and his voice, and I just kept listening to it. And as I kept listening to it, I kept realizing how the vocals were used as a different texture. It was just a different instrument, and you don’t necessarily need to understand what’s being said. You just need to be in the moment and really feel the intent behind how the vocals are being presented. And it finally, finally clicked with me, I think, and broke me from that apprehension towards harsh vocals.

Weslie: At the beginning when I started listening to metal, like one thing to understand is that, you know, I’m from Puerto Rico, I didn’t grow up in a family that listened to rock at all. It was mostly salsa, reggaeton, merengue, bachata. Which is all Latin stuff, right? Latin flavors.

I remember from since I was a little kid, I wasn’t really into that at all. So I started looking for other stuff. That’s when Linkin Park came into my life. And from there, you know, everything started. But Linkin Park was probably the first band, well, it was the first band I got into that hat screams, right?

But then after that, I wasn’t listening to anything like that. The main reason was because I thought it was Satanic and I grew up in a very religious home. So I wanted to go away from that. I didn’t want my mom to say, “Hey, stop listening to that music.”

So I started getting into like the whole emo stuff. I grew up listening to all of that. And then I remember listening to Into Eternity, which was the first death metal band that got me into the extreme side of metal. And that’s a band that’s very rich, particularly the in The Scattering of Ashes, which actually is actually my favorite record.

That’s the record where Stu Block came in and he started doing the harsh and the super high falsettos and all this stuff, and I was like, “oh, wow. The fact that one guy can be able to do all these voices is awesome.”

You know, segue to Opeth. Again, it was the reason why I bought that Gigantour 2 DVD, I remember, I put it on my- I had a home theater in my room and I was playing with my computer, whatever. And Into Eternity only has one song in that whole concert. So it was a little bit disappointing because I really bought the DVD just for them. But yeah, whatever. Let me go ahead and check the other ones.

And I remember I was like typing or whatever and I hear this band that’s playing this super long song and this guy’s screaming super low all the time. I was like, “ah, this is not really for me.” And then, I hear this super amazing clean vocals, like an angel.

And then I looked back to the tv, it was the same guy, and I was like, “okay, no, this is a band I need to check out.” And I went to, I went to Watershed and the rest is history.

But honestly, I feel that this particular album, even though that they had their fair share of internal issues happening with the band at at that time, they were also dealing with a little bit of backlash because that Ghost Reveries was the first album they released with Roadrunner Records. So a lot of people were like, they’re gonna sell out or whatever.

Obviously I wasn’t, I wasn’t present in that particular period of time as it was happening, but as you read it and you understand that the, the overall backstory around it, it, a lot of stuff makes sense. You know, and, and I also know that this was the last album that Peter Lindgren, the lead guitar player played on and Mikael actually made most of the lead guitars for this album as well. So it was a very instrumental point in my life to understand that this guy is one of my biggest influences as far as, you know, creative music and the overall, you know, his history as a musician in general.

And he’s so rich because he also like mixes a lot of prog from the sixties and the seventies that I had no idea existed. And this was the band, this was the album that kind of like, “okay, why are they doing these weird towns in the mix of this whole thing? Like where is it coming from?”

And then I went to the King Crimsons, I went to the Bathorys. You know, even there were some of the bands I wasn’t really into. And then when I put it in perspective with what they were doing in this particular album, it makes sense. Also, the production in this album is probably- I want my albums to sound like that.

It’s so tight and yeah. It’s a great album. It’s a great song. I think, again, it has all the different layers and all the different perspectives that Opeth has within their music. You know, there’s some really recognizable and sing-along riffs and the actual, you know, lyrics, but also they have like the super mellow parts.

And, they have the super technical complicated- There’s one riff at the end of the song before they go to the last super, kind of slow that they do like [vocalizes the riff] they do like a super tight section. It’s like, “what are you doing? What, what’s- and then they just go through the acoustic. It’s so amazing.

Ryan: Their use of dynamic is incredible. And the way that they’re able to capture those really emotional moments through that composition is just, I mean, it’s- they set a high bar for doing that. It’s really incredible what they’ve been able to achieve sonically. And this record’s a phenomenal example of that.

Weslie: I was actually lucky to be able to see this whole album be before live. They did the, I think it was the 25th Opeth Anniversary. I wanna say this was 2015.

I went to New York. I remember I bought the VIP ticket ’cause I needed to meet them. I met all of them. Mikael trolled me ’cause I was doing like a selfie with all of them, and as I was like setting up the camera, he was doing faces. So I was like, okay, let me also do a face. And then I did the face, I took the photo and he came out super serious. And I came with this super silly face.

He’s a great guy. He’s a great guy. Actually. A lot of people think he’s a super, you know, what’s the word? Like, you know, he’s a stuck up or whatever, but he’s not, he’s like, actually, he really cares about the fans.

And that show dude, like they played the whole album in its entirety. And then they played all my other favorite songs. They played “Lepper Affinity,” which was my favorite, like the first song I ever heard. They also played “The Lotus Eater” from Watershed. Oh yeah, song that got me into Opeth.

Like I remember listening to Watershed and that song came out. It was like, “Oh, what’s happening here?” But yeah, it was a perfect show for me. It was probably- I’ve seen Opeth 14 times, and they’ve never played in Puerto Rico.

Ryan: Is that the most you’ve seen any band?

Weslie: Yes. Yes. Yes. I remember the first time I saw them was for the Heritage Tour.

I loved it, even though a lot of people were a little bit disappointed because they didn’t play any heavy songs in that one.

Ryan: Yeah, because that’s when they really started leaning into that whole 60s, 70s prog a little bit harder than the death metal origins, right?

Weslie: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I also think if you listen closely to Watershed, you can see that his growls were already being- were not as good as they were previously, because you can actually hear him and the product, all the different layers of processing that he has on his vocals. It’s very noticeable if you listen carefully.

So it kind of made sense that they wanted to go to via this route. Also, they’re not young anymore, playing extreme metal in your sixties and fifties is not easy. But yeah, I remember that when I saw them the first time, I was like, “I need to see them, I’m going to make a promise to myself. I’m going to see them on every single US tour that they go.” And so far I’ve only missed two of them.

Because of that, I’ve seen a lot of really cool bands supporting them. I also saw Steven Wilson playing with them in upstate New York.

Ryan: I’ve seen, I’ve seen Porcupine Tree twice and I’ve seen Steven. I want to say Steven twice.

Weslie: I’ve also seen seen him. I saw Porcupine Tree in this last tour.

Ryan: How was the new lineup / dynamic and all that?

Weslie: Well, one of my favorite live records ever is Anesthetized. I probably want to say it was my favorite record. My favorite live record ever.

Ryan: That tour was incredible. That’s the one that I think I caught him on.

Weslie: You got to see it, man. That was for Fear of the Black Planet. That’s THE album. I wasn’t, I wasn’t really into the then, because I was a little kid. But yeah, this was weird because I’m a big John Wesley fan. So he’s not there and I’m also like Colin Edwin is one of my influences as well as a bass player. So, you know. You as a nerd, you kind of pick on these things, right?

It’s like, ah, it doesn’t sound the same. It was a great show. Like the visuals were amazing. And Gavin, Gavin is my favorite drummer ever.

Ryan: I’ve seen Gavin more than any of them. I think I saw, so obviously I saw Gavin the twice, with Porcupine Tree. And then I saw Gavin with Pineapple Thief a few years back. And I saw Gavin as one of the three drummers on King Crimson.

Weslie: Yeah, I saw him there. That was the first- that was actually the first time I saw him playing with King Crimson. And that was incredible.

Ryan: He’s one of the best drummers working right now.

Weslie: Yeah. And this Porcupine Tree show was amazing as well.

It just kind of had those two elements that I, you know, I’ve been, I’m used to it already. Missing a little bit. Also the set list was weird. Like they were playing a lot of songs from the new album, of course. But at the same time, like the classics that they picked were a little bit, I don’t know, flat.

I don’t know, like I said I’m so used to Anesthetize in that particular order song is incredible that when I’m seeing this was a little bit underwhelming, but it was a great show. It was a great show. And I saw Steven playing for the Hand. Cannot. Erase. tour.

Ryan: That record is one of my favorites.

Weslie: So good. So good. When I saw them, Marco and Guthrie were not in the band anymore, but I did see them on The Raven [That Refused To Sing] tour with Marco and Guthrie. And that was to show that Opeth- it was Steven Wilson, Opeth, and Katatonia. Upstate New York. I remember that was such a perfect show for me. I sang every single song that was played that night.

Ryan: That’s amazing. What a lineup.

Weslie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I was a little bit hopeful that they would play Storm Corrosion. But they didn’t. It was funny, I was like all the signs were there. Because Steven Wilson was actually playing one of the songs from the album with the band, with his band. And then they were gonna play this tour, this show with Opeth. So, it had to happen. But, Steven Wilson played second. Opeth closed. I’m pretty sure if it would have been the other way around, they would have probably done it.

Ryan: Or even just playing “Deadwing” and have it- or not “Deadwing,” “Arriving Somewhere [but not here]” and having. Mikael do his thing.

Weslie: I mean, I just dream about these things. I want another Storm Corrosion album. I wasn’t really big into the new Porcupine Tree and I think we’re kind of like, going away from the Opeth stuff, but I mean, Steven is such an instrumental part of Opeth, like it was when he joined or did the production on Blackwater Park, right?

Ryan: Yeah, Blackwater Park, Damnation, Deliverance, and I think one other.

Weslie: He has done pretty much everything except, obviously after Blackwater Park, but he has pretty much done everything except Ghost Reveries. But he also worked on some vocal stuff for Watershed, Heritage, and so on. They’re two geniuses.

As far as the prog side of things, I mean, Steven is- it’s funny to say this a little bit because sometimes we love our musicians and the people that we admire to stay on a particular mental state that we know is going to keep them making the music that we like. But once they switch and they get married and get happy, they start releasing music that we’re not into.

It’s like, can you break up just for the writing session of this album and then use that?

Ryan: I know exactly what you’re talking about. Though, I will say, he is incredibly good at writing a solid pop song. With a lot of complexity. There’s that one track on To The Bone. “Permanating”

Weslie: That’s, yeah.

Ryan: It got a lot of shit. Damn, if it’s not- if it doesn’t get in your head. It’s so catchy. I love that song. I think it’s perfectly crafted and it does what it needs. It delivers that serotonin bubblegum, but also has the undertones of Steven’s complexity and prog brain that feed into it. So I’m a “Permanating”-stan, I guess.

Weslie: I remember listening to it for the first time. I was so like, taken by surprise. Like, “what are you doing?” And then I remember that maybe like 15 minutes later, I was playing it again because it was just in my head. I mean, obviously Steven knows, how to kind of like, play around with the chords and the overall writing process of his is very, very smart.

He knows how to handle emotions with the stuff that he writes. It definitely makes sense that he knows and this song sounds good. It’s just maybe sometimes this kind of music goes tied in with the image and yeah, I feel like me as a metalhead, that’s the reason why I don’t listen to too popular music, you know?

So, you know, it was a bit weird. It’s definitely well, like it’s, it’s done well, but I’d rather listen to the sad, obscure, dark, depressive stuff that he does.

Ryan: And there man, Raven, Ooh, that, that, that record is a downer. A prog opus of phenomenal composition, but just absolute downer.

Weslie: I remember the first time I saw both the “Drive Home” and “The Raven…” video, I cried. The first time I saw both of them. And when I saw them live, I remember crying for both times with “The Raven” and the “Routine” video, even though it’s not from that album, it’s from The Hand. Cannot. Erase.

But that video is like, and they had it, like they had it playing live in the background. And I was like. What’s happening? I get to have a good time.

Ryan: There’s, yeah, he just has a way and has always had a way with visuals. When I saw him on the- it might have been the Hand. Cannot. Erase. tour where they had that screen that made it kind of look 3D

Weslie: -and just it would disappear.

Ryan: Yeah, it was so cool.

Weslie: That’s one of the things about, about him.

And I think he has, he has also mentioned it like. I mean, we have to go back to his influences, you know, we can, we can talk about the Pink Floyds, you know, Floyd has always made a big theatrical thing of their shows. So I think that’s one thing that a lot of- we’re kind of missing these days with these new ads acts where- because they’re just trying to, I mean, I get it. It’s totally understandable. They want to make a party. They want you to have a good time.

But whenever you go into these kind of immersive experiences that Porcupine Tree is a band that puts you in a certain mood. You’re right there to see the band. You can not, and you will not be distracted by anything else. It involves all your different senses, you know, it’s not only your eyes and ears that are involved in it. You feel it, you know.

He’s really good doing that. He’s really good doing that. And he has been doing that, like, I say “him” because he’s the face. He’s the guy that we’re talking about. But yeah, the whole band is actually great to be able to do pull this through. So, yeah. I mean, great bands, dude.

It’s great music. And they’re such big inspirations to kind of see how we can make it, like in the DIY sense, how we can make some of the things that they do.

Ryan: Well, I saw some photos of a recent show that you did for Space Force. It looked like there was a astronaut suit involved.

Was that a one-off or is that something that you try to incorporate into your shows as a little bit of that kind of big performative experience?

Weslie: Yeah. I mean, with this particular record, what we wanted to do is kind of bring that immersive kind of thing, but do it as DIY as possible. Obviously, you know, if you want to, if you want to invest into all this stuff that these big bands do, you have to have a lot of money, which we don’t, but yeah, for the release party we did last year, we wanted- the venue is very dark, so we got two projectors that we’re simulating the stars all across the ceiling, and we actually dressed up as the astronauts, because the video for “Space Force” has an astronaut in it. We usually do those when we have like big shows.

We opened for the Ocean Collective back in December. So we also wore the uniforms. We have a festival coming up in Puerto Rico in July. I know this is gonna come out later, but we have this festival happening in July where we’re going to be using the uniforms as well.

But yeah, we just tried to do it for like the bigger shows. It’s very hot, too. I was also in a previous band where we would dress up. Every single show and I don’t want to deal with that anymore. In the end, what we want to do is to make sure that we have that immersive experience where people can have, like, you know, our music, it’s a little bit, if you’re listening for the first time and you’re listening to us live for the first time, maybe a little bit crazy/hard to digest as the first listen. So we want to get other elements that we can get to you and keep you engaged into the stuff until the music hits you.

There will be a part that will hit you because we do so many things in our songs. So, so yeah, you know, we tried to be as creative as possible about it. We’ve done many things in the what, we’re in 2023, so seven years of playing. And yeah, it’s definitely inspired by these bands. You know, I try to see as many bands as possible live, you know, every time I have a little bit of money, if I travel, it’s mostly because I’m going to see a band and I’m just- I’m sometimes I kind of hit myself like “dude, enjoy the show” because I’m being like very analytical about the production side of things.

But yeah These these are ideas that are basically coming from from bands like this, like Floyd and Porcupine Tree, definitely Opeth, King Gizzard [and the Lizard Wizard] is another band that I’m really into so, you know, these these ideas definitely come from there.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s awesome.

And I mean, Space Force is a fantastic, fantastic record. I definitely hear the influences that you’re talking about. I think you’ve channeled that well and have turned it into your own.

Weslie: Yeah. It’s exciting writing music with these guys. The cool thing about this band is that every single person in the band brings something.

It’s not like one of us writes something and then we kind of build from there. No, like we actually sit down and jam, you know, test out riffs, which is something that I feel that a lot of bands are also missing these days, not to like- everyone has their own way of making music. And it works for sure.

There’s so many music out there right now that’s so good. But I personally like the way that we compose music because everyone brings something to the table. And the cool thing about us is that we have like three or four bands that we’re really into as a collective, but everyone listens to super different things, you know, and we kind of blend it in together.

And I also think having no limits. Or no, no borders into like, whatever we can do. Like, that’s one of the thing that whenever someone brings a riff that we know for certain is not going to work, it’s basically like an unanimous thing where everyone’s like, “ah, just a little bit weird. Let’s kind of keep it for something else.” But it’s a bit weird for this and that communication between the band that really works well. You know, it’s very interesting because our drummer, for example, he barely listens to music anymore because he’s a-

He works as a, as an engineer. So he’s constantly mixing and mastering. So his ear is like oversaturated at this point. But he mainly comes from a punk, math rock background. And we have our lead guitar player, Jonathan, he’s into math rock as well. And then we have Omar, which is our rhythm guitar player who is into pretty much anything, you know, from hip-hop to black metal. And it’s amazing. He comes with some many great ideas.

Our current singer, Mariel, which is not the one that sang on Space Force, she’s really into symphonic metal. We have different elements happening here and I’m actually very excited to get people to hear, our next music or new music.

It’s really interesting. I want to say it’s even heavier than what we’ve done before. And yeah, you know, it’s fun. It’s fun. It’s all about not having any sort of limitations as far as what the music is and making sure that we’re having fun as we’re writing it.

Ryan: That’s so, that’s so important.

Thank you so much for chatting with me and helping me make a mixtape. This has been a wonderful conversation. I’m glad we got to nerd out a little bit about Opeth and Porcupine Tree. It’s always a nice throwback for me to be able to jump back into that realm that I hold so fondly. Anything you want to promote or call out?

Weslie: Thank you so much. Yes. I definitely love having conversations about my favorite bands all the time. You know, I don’t actually get to speak a lot about it unless it’s with my bandmates. So it’s always fun to get to meet someone that’s excited about the music I listen to as well. I mean, anyone that’s interested in and curious about what MOTHS is like, you can follow us on socials.

We’re pretty much everywhere as MOTHS_PR. We have the album Space Force out there. Plus we have our debut EP and a split EP that we did with a band from Philly called the Stone Eye. We released that in 2020. So you guys can check it out. We also have a tour happening in the East Coast in October. We should be already announcing the dates.

So if you’re around, we’re pretty much going to be covering the whole East Coast. So if you’re around, please come out, let’s hang out, let’s have a beer and talk about Opeth.

Ryan: As this episode airs, MOTHS is ramping up their East Coast tour. Be sure to check them out if they’re coming to a town near you. Thanks to Weslie for joining me on this week’s episode, I’m going to leave you with the title track from MOTHS album “Space Force.” Thanks for tuning in.

Ryan: Be sure to subscribe or write a review within your podcast service. Show notes and transcript can be found at letsmixtape.com. Follow the pod on at @letsmixtape on your preferred social channel. Theme music was composed by the one and only Scotty Sandwich.

Tune in next week as I talk with Ally Morton, a musician based on Basque Country and frequent contributor to Global Garage.