I met Nate Proctor about 23 years ago. We went to kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school together, and we discovered guitars, rock music, and the thrill of playing a live show together. In high school, we played in a band called Label, which I’ve written about elsewhere on Michiganders Post. Now, Proctor is a guitarist in a band called Martyr for Madison out of the Grand Rapids area. We met for this interview in a dark, crowded, underground room with walls decorated with concert announcements of years past, thumping to the beat of the opening act playing upstairs. Well, not exactly. We corresponded via email. –K.M. Zahrt
Part 1: The Beginning
Michiganders Post: When did you start playing guitar and what sparked your interest?
Nate Proctor: I started playing guitar right around my 13th birthday. A local worship leader visited my music class and played bass guitar for us. I just thought it was cool. My dad and brother both played a little guitar, and I was interested in guitar, but I wanted to be different [with bass guitar].
MP: Who were your early influences?
NP: My first true influence was Korn. I can still remember when I first heard them, and they totally blew my mind. No one had ever used those dark, low, heavy tones the way that Korn did. Then I started to get into bands like Deftones, Staind, and Rage Against the Machine. I’ve always been a heavy music fan.
Part 2: Martyr for Madison
MP: Can you describe your songwriting process?
NP: As they come to me, I send my song ideas by recording over to our drummer, AC, for his thoughts. Out of all the ideas I send to him, only some really stick. AC and I then sit down, often with our bass player, Ryan, and hash out the entire concept of the song start to end. Usually it involves AC having me add more “groove” to my guitar parts, and me challenging him with complex rhythms. When we’ve sorted out the general idea of the song, we demo it and give the recording to the vocalist to write his lyrics and melodies.
MP: Which song are you most proud of and why?
NP: “Never Look Away” is the song that I am most proud of. From a songwriting standpoint, we hit all the points we want to as a band. It’s got a killer riff, an experimental feel, a huge chorus hook, and outside of the chorus it rarely repeats. It’s heavy, but full of melody, and the lyrics are definitely the most thoughtful of any song we have.
MP: What was the best show/venue you guys have played?
NP: My favorite show we played was with Chiodos for their CD release party. It was a sold out show at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids. The venue was packed wall-to-wall, and we got a great response from the crowd.
MP: What are your plans for Martyr for Madison in the future?
NP: We have more than an album’s worth of material that we want to record, so we’re saving money up to do a full-length album. We’re planning an album fundraiser show for later this summer. We want to continue to build our presence in Michigan, but we’ll also push out-of-state for more regional shows when the album is complete.
Part 3: Resources and Advice
MP: Do you have any advice for young guitar players and bands, things you wish you would’ve done differently based on your experience?
NP: For the longest time in my bands we’ve had a do-it-yourself mentality. We didn’t want to pay some photographer or graphic designer to do something we could do. We didn’t want to pay someone heaps of money to record us when we could do it ourselves. I’ve found that those choices have been the single biggest setback for my bands over the years. With everything online now-a-days, you have to be able to stack up against a host of local/regional/national bands with your online presence, your image, and your recording quality. My biggest piece of advice is to spend the big money to go to your favorite studio and record. Get quality graphic design and photos done. I can’t emphasize that point enough.
MP: What kind of equipment and set-up do you use?
NP: I use a Mesa Dual Rectifier and Mesa 2×12 Cabinet. I have a rack-mount system that consists of a Line 6 G90, a Rocktron Hush, and a Digitech multi-effects processor that’s controlled by a Rocktron Midimate. For guitars I play ESP. I have a Baritone – EC 401B, and a MH1000 that I use for higher tunings. I own several other guitars, but these are the ones I use with the band.
MP: Do you use equipment in a unique way to create your sound?
The biggest difference in my sound is the use of a baritone guitar. It fills a sonic space between the other guitar and bass that isn’t there otherwise. It makes the band sound much more full.
Part 4: Michigan
MP: If you won the lottery, which area of Michigan would you move to and why?
NP: I’d definitely find some private beach frontage on Lake Michigan. Granted, I’ve only visited three of the Great Lakes, and they each have a tremendous amount of beauty. Of the three I’ve visited, Lake Michigan has the best sand, and the warmest water. I’d say that’s the lake for me.