Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo: “You aren’t going to make money being in a metal band”

(Image credit: Travis Shinn)

Spencer Sotelo is the frontman of prog-metal boffins Periphery. He joined the band in 2010, just in time to record their self-titled debut album. The band’s most recent album, Periphery IV: Hail Stan, was released in 2019.

What’s the worst thing about being in a band?

“Definitely your sleep deprivation from being in other countries with weird time zones. But there really is nothing else bad about being in a band – 99% of the time, it’s great! You might go out drinking and then feel like maybe it was a bad idea when you’re soundchecking the next day, but no regrets, right?”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“That you’d better be in it for the music, because you sure as hell aren’t going to make any money from being in a metal band, certainly in this day and age.”

When was the first time you felt like a rock star?

“I would say, 2012 in the Philippines at a festival called Pulp Summer Slam. We got asked to go and we didn’t know anything about it, we just were stoked that we got to go to the Philippines, and when we got there it was like, this Metallica shit! This walkway that goes out into the crowd, this huge stage, the jumbotron screens. That was the first time that I was like, ‘Whoah!’ I feel like everyone should get the chance to feel that feeling once in their life.”

What’s been your worst experience on drugs?

“I don’t like being high in public. I’ll smoke a bit of weed with my wife and put on Netflix, that’s fine. But I don’t like being out in public feeling stoned, so it’s pretty much every time I step outside the house when I’m in that state. I’d never do it before we play. I did do it once and it was not good, my voice shrivelled up and I sounded like a dying cat. It was panic attack time.”

When was the last time you cried?

“I had a very emotional night with my friend talking about some very personal stuff. My sister passed away a couple of years ago and we had a night talking about that. But I don’t want to go too deep into that, if I’m honest.”

Do you still feel like you’re part of the tech-metal scene?

“Well, it’s still out there, and there are still a lot of bands out there doing that thing. But I don’t know; I feel like we’re more of a progressive metal band than one of those bands, personally. We look at the songwriting rather than the ‘tech’ aspect of it.”

How did you feel about your Grammy nomination in 2017?

“It’s a weird thing that none of us ever expected to happen at all. It was really cool; who would have thought that a band from that scene could reach that far? And we’ve just seen our friends in Between The Buried And Me get nominated, too, and they’re even deeper down that rabbit hole. It’s cool to see the people who do the ballots being a bit more open-minded.”

What did you do on the night of the awards?

“We went on tour in Australia! It was way more important to us. We knew we weren’t going to win, Megadeth were obviously going to win.”

How seriously do you take your music? There’s a lot of internet humour in there.

“Well, we spend so much time spending creating the best piece of art we possibly can, but we like to sprinkle it with humour because you should never take yourself too seriously. I don’t trust anyone who takes themselves so seriously that they don’t let their own personality come through in their music, you know, we laugh and joke and fart when we’re on tour, why he hell shouldn’t we show that side of ourselves as well? Just be a person, you know?” 

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.