Six Dumb Questions with Great Electric Quest

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on November 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

great electric quest

With their 2016 debut full-length, Chapter I, San Diego-based four-piece Great Electric Quest set out to immediately distinguish themselves from their surroundings. While much of San Diego’s heavy underground shares an affinity for classic heavy rock, instead of boogie and swirl, songs like “1901” and “Beers in Hell” found a driving combination of classic metal, frontman Tyler “T-Sweat” Dingvell leading a charge with a throaty interpretation of what James Hetfield might’ve sounded like had Metallica released their first record circa ’73. Buddy Donner‘s guitar, Jared Bliss‘ bass and Daniel “Mucho” Velasco‘s drumming honed a sonic niche that could be either brash, as on the initial shred of “Madam Elbib” or “Egypt,” or patient and tinged with doomly atmospherics, like the rolling blues of eight-minute centerpiece “Cry of the Wolf,” or the dramatic side B highlight “7 Years.”

Especially for a first salvo, Chapter I‘s self-assured songcraft came across as genuine, and Great Electric Quest hit the road fervently to support. Already veterans of Psycho Las Vegas in 2016, this past Spring, they took off on their first coast-to-coast US tour, and in June, they made a stop in Denver to play the Electric Funeral fest alongside Acid King, Corky Laing’s Mountain and a slew of others. They’re currently wrapping another run, dubbed the ‘Beer Vikings Tour’ that has seen them partying their way across the West Coast in the company of Lords of Beacon House, with whom they’ve also newly issued a split single (review here) via Glory or Death Records.

All of this, of course, is prelude to the next album, and indeed, Chapter II is on its way, drum solo in “Of Earth I” and all. On that song and short, tight pieces like “Wicked Hands,” the scorching “Anubis” and the righteously post-Thin Lizzy groove-minded “The Madness,” Great Electric Quest work to draw together the different sides they displayed throughout Chapter I into a cohesive, singular approach of their own, as likely to shred out on “Of Earth II” as to underscore that same shred with acousti-Sabbath flourish and Dingvell‘s throaty echoes. As the range between opener “Seekers of the Flame” and closer “Heart of the Son” makes plain, Great Electric Quest are becoming an even more dynamic outfit than they were when they started, and they leave little doubt across Chapter II‘s span about their capacity to turn heads before they make them bang, roll, or nod. They are, simply, a band who demand attention.

Moving out from the first record into the next, I wanted to get a sense of Great Electric Quest‘s processes, their time on the road and their time in the studio. You’ll find the last two Beer Vikings tour dates below, and then under that, the cover art for Chapter II by Adam Burke and a conversation with the whole band about their origins and more.

Beer Vikings Tour Remaining Dates:
11/16/17 ABQ, NM Burt’s Tiki Lounge W/ Undying Evil & Prey for Kali
11/17/17 Tempe, AZ Yucca Tap Room W Red Wizard, Greenbeard, Stone Witch, Old Fashioned Assassin, Dead Canyon, HVY

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Great Electric Quest Chapter II

Six Dumb Questions with Great Electric Quest

What’s the status of Chapter II? When can we expect it to show up? Was there anything you guys were looking to do differently or to specifically build off of coming from the first album?

Buddy Donner: Your asses is grasses, and Quest is the lawnmower!

Tyler Dingvell: Haha, the “status” is like an ice cold 12er that’s been on chill for about 20 min… It’s ready to be guzzled and enjoyed, we just gotta pop the top, or in this case finalize the label and release date…

BD: Yeah, we’ve got the final tracks! It took a ton of work and time from not only the band, but a whole Krew of our “Quest Family.” We are very lucky to have the friends we do with their talents in their respectful areas. The tracks are finally 100 percent the way we want them to sound, we couldn’t be happier. At this point we wanted to take some time to “shop for labels” and mastermind the release, but the tracks are done and ready to send to production once we’ve made our decisions on the business side of things. I wouldn’t expect the album to be released any later than Spring 2018. We’re fortunate to have such a dedicated Road Krew; we’ve been able to get a ton of work done since the release of Chapter I and we are only ramping up to push for bigger things to follow Chapter II.

TD: For me, Chapter II really feels like a first album. “It feels like the first time, like it’s never felt before” [singing]. Maybe it’s just nostalgic, but the way we have crafted these tunes and jammed them live before the release really feels like a first album… Chapter I was years and years of material finally recorded and this one was written all together in Glory or Death Studios with the same doods, around the same time, over many beers, bowls, and pulled pork sangwitches… haha. You can expect much more cohesion, production value, and of course, our legendary friend, Guns ‘n’ Roses alumni Teddy “Zig Zag” throwing down some keyboard tracks on choice tunes like “Of Earth” and “Heart of the Son.”

We’ve reached out to labels with whose artists we have become close friends, like Ripple, Heavy Psych Sounds, RidingEasy, Tee Pee, Rise Above, HeviSike, and Metal Blade, just to name a few. We just gotta figure out who is going to align with us the best for our vision going forward. We want to become a featured artist of the label and not just another blade of grass in a field of releases. We have a great thing going with our own label, Glory or Death Records, but we want to team up and take some things to the next level in 2018 and through this support system that has developed we should be seeing the shores of Europe with our next release. We are going to put a hell of a lot of effort towards performing, writing, touring, representing ourselves and label and we want to receive the same.

Tell me about your time in the studio for Chapter II. What was the vibe like while you were recording? How long were you there? What was the process like and how did it compare to working on Chapter I or the split with Lords of Beacon House?

TD: Well, simply put, recording Chapter I was like pulling teeth from the shark in Jaws and recording Chapter II was like the Cool Runnings record breaking bobsled run at the Olympics; minus the horrific crash, haha. The candle was burning at both ends for Chapter I and we would drive up to L.A., record until 4AM and then drive back to San Diego just to get caught in the horrific traffic caused by road repair through Camp Pendleton; it was a CF, as Ted, our 72-year-old Lyft driver in Austin two days ago would refer to it. He didn’t want to say “fuck,” haha. This album was great to write and record. It was fluid, we took our time, all the moving pieces worked together from tracking with Dan Frick, production and mixing with Jeff Henson and mastering with Tony Reed. It was fucking awesome to see the progress in overall sound as the tunes went through each process. Dan is one of my favorite people on the planet to work with and Jeff brought so much warmth and color to the tracks and Tony just set everything into place perfectly. Honestly, I’m fucking psyched on it and I am happy to say that it came out as something we feel proud of… Through my experience, that’s all you can really ask for as an artist. Being satisfied with the finished product.

BD: We recorded Chapter II with Dan Frick in Vista, CA, only minutes from home, which was a real pleasure compared to the two-hour commute for each session on Chapter I, which was tracked in Tujunga, CA. Working with Dan Frick is a fucking piece of cake. There isn’t a more laid-back dude out there and he is incredibly knowledgeable about all the instruments and the way things need to be done, how they are supposed to sound and what we need to change to correct things that didn’t quite sound right.

Following Dan, we sent the finalized tracks to Jeff Henson of Duel to do the mixing, which instantly brought the tracks to life. After making sure everything was played the way it needed to be, Jeff put his mojo on it and right away we were shocked with the vibe the tracks had on the first mixdown. We actually tracked the Lords of Beacon House [split] songs right after the Chapter II tracks with Dan as well. Why mess with a good thing?

Daniel Velasco: This is the first full-length album that I will be on, so I was very excited when I first set up my kit at the studio. I’ve played a ton of live shows with different bands over 10 plus years, but to finally have my drums recorded as part of this album really pumped me up. Especially after I knew they had already put out one full-length and I knew the level of commitment these guys had. The engineer Dan, was great and really set a calm vibe during the drum recordings. I recorded the drum tracks in about a day and a half with only Buddy playing scratch guitar and a metronome on most of the songs. Couldn’t say how it compared to Chapter I since I was not with the Quest on that album.

TD: I’m glad we could spare you the gauntlet, Mucho! Haha.

You’ve spent some pretty significant time on the road since Chapter I came out. What do you feel like you’ve learned about yourselves as a band through touring, and do you think all that road time has affected the sound on the new album at all?

BD: Playing on the road is fucking incredible. You finally dive into your life’s passion 100 percent. Every, single, thing, is about what you want to do with your life and every single night you’re meeting new people and making new friends and fans and ever-pressing towards your ultimate goal. We also drink a ton of beer, which of course is fun as hell.

Jerry Bliss: I love being on the road. It’s a lot work but we have the time of our lives doing it. The great thing about being on the road is us growing together as musicians but most importantly our friendships. The music is affected by our relationships with each other and friends and influences we meet out on the road. We show each other new music along every bus ride to the next destination.

DV: During live shows, I can hear all the members try new things during our set. Different bends on chords or the vocal melodies changing, new basslines during the solos etc. Once we all lock into it and we play it show after show, it feels like the songs will never be 100 percent complete, which I think is great! It keeps us on our toes and things fresh, while also providing something new for the crowd. Some of my favorite songs are live performances. Like on “Dazed and Confused” when they play it live, the rhythm section just takes off and it’s just having little differences from the studio albums that can create that unique experience. Once Chapter II is out and you compare it to Chapter I, you will hear the difference of the sound and groove I bring compared to the first album and if you compare that to the live performance you can be sure there is a couple tasty differences while still holding onto its core.

TD: The time on the road with this crew has shown us that we are strong enough and close enough to deal with any adversity. Blown air conditioning fans during the dead of Summer heat and blown out butt holes from too many gas station burritos. You learn to accept one another in a way that can only be family. Jerry’s butthole stinks the most though… it’s that familiar smell in the bus that only could have come from one sphincter.

To be serious for a second, the road has inspired us far more than anything else… The overwhelming support from all around the country really solidifies the idea that we can do this thing!! We can be a traveling rock band that can tour the FUCKING WORLD!!… It’s a really fucking humbling experience to get those people after every show that go out of their way to tell you how rad they thought the performance was and how much they enjoyed it. They buy the wax and t-shirts and are just so down to support us it blows our minds. We get put up in towns all across the country and these great people offer up their homes and lives to help us on our rock and roll journey. I’m sitting in Mike Calhoun’s kitchen right now outside of Dallas, Texas. One of the most real and coolest doods whom we have had the pleasure to meet. Our times here at Mike’s will always be cherished and held close as great memories. We even recently got hooked up with XYZ Clothing which is a dream come true for a little skate rat from Oceanside. The support that we receive in each town is truly unbelievable and it really makes you think that this dream of playing music all across the planet earth is going to come true…

I honestly love the growth though. This is present in Chapter II especially, in the songwriting and overall combination of different styles we all bring to the table. I’m really psyched on the direction and journey Chapter II takes us on and I think our listeners will be too.

Take me through Great Electric Quest’s songwriting process. Are there multiple contributors or does one person handle everything? What have you found works best for you guys, and do you have a song or songs that you feel really represents who you want to be as a band? How do you see yourselves growing as you continue to move forward?

BD: We have an incredible amount of styles between the four of us, which is perfect for what we want out of The Quest. It is a very even collaboration for our writing process. As one killer idea runs into another it pushes us to find ways to match each other’s ideas and raise the bar. We all have that undying urge for everything to be the best for the song at hand. It’s awesome, the motivation that comes when you are the last dude to write a part to a song that already kicks total ass… You’re sitting there thinking, “like, well shit… Whatever I do, it’s gotta fucking rip!”

Grabbing the listeners by the throat and pulling them through a tornado of sounds is what the Quest is all about. We never want to be stuck in a rut of one style, because we all enjoy playing all kinds of stuff. We write the songs different every time. I don’t think there is a single song on Chapter II that doesn’t have influences from all us, but there are definitely some strong sections that are written when we jam from one person and then we’ll grow off of them together from there. Sometimes we will camp out at Glory or Death Studios for days, cook up a crock pot meal or BBQ between jams and we will just all jam out some ideas together. (With lots of weed and beer of course.)

We drive to grab the viewer’s attention instantly and keep them thoroughly entertained throughout the entire set, and if any piece is lacking whatsoever we find a way to make it more interesting. Every tour we prep for, we strive to find ways to take things to the next level of entertainment for the audience (and our own amusement). From backdrops, to lights/fog, to flags and Anubis masks, we’re really delving into our original intent for the Quest that is for it to be a full-on show, not just a band standing there playing the notes the best they can. Climb shit, hang upside-down, shotgun beers, whatever the fuck we have to do to make someone have a good night and tell their buds about it.

JB: As far as songwriting goes, and what I love most about this band, is that everyone has a loud voice in how a song is going to go. Yes, someone can come up with a first riff, and once everyone is diggin’ that riff, we jam it, and almost immediately someone else is saying, “Oh man I have a lick that will go perfect for the chorus or bridge” and so forth. I remember one song in particular, “The Madness,” our drummer Mucho said to me, “Hey let’s try walking that riff back up on the chorus.” We tried it and it became one of my favorite parts of the song. So, you can see everyone is helping each other out and everyone’s ideas are being heard. Sometimes we try something and if it doesn’t work, no one’s feelings get hurt. We just try something else. It’s a great environment to work in and I think everyone’s songwriting has grown tremendously on Chapter II.

DV: We all contribute to each song on the album. We have these “Campouts” at our studio where we sleep, cook, and rehearse for days at a time. If someone comes out with a riff or melody, we can all hear different directions that the song can go to. Some directions are good and some not as much, haha, but as a team we always end up finding the right path that complements our music taste… Rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal!!

TD: Yeah, basically what these guys said. We have so much songwriting collaboration in this band, it really is ideal. Anyone one of us could have our own band, or already have, where that one person was the main songwriter or leader. At this point, we have four people who have what it takes to have successful bands on their own and the combination of all of us together does kind of feel like a modern-day supergroup.

To someone on the other side of the country from it, what’s happening right now with all the bands coming out of San Diego looks absolutely unreal. How much of a “scene” is there really, in your experience? How tight are bands? What are the shows like and how much of a sense of community is there? What have been some of your best hometown experiences?

BD: From the start it’s been a big family that only continues to grow, man. There is some seriously unreal talent in San Diego and I have no doubt that many of these bands will go far. The bar is set very high in our area and there is some relentless dedication from many different musicians to keep people searching for their brain matter from endless mind-blowing shows. From the bone crushing power of the five barbarian headbanging longhairs of Red Wizard to the Kings of Heavy Metal CAGE to the groovy-as-fuck riffs of Loom, Roast and Desert Suns to the endless intergalactic caravan party of Space Wax to fucking Nihilist, Monolith, Warchief, Ritual Potion, Nebula Drag, Bedlams Edge, Monarch and at the opposite end of the Spectrum, hilarious acoustic gigs from Fellow Travelers of the Illusion Machine… What were the rest..? I’ve lost my share of brain matter as well…

To choose a single experience is like asking what your favorite Pink Floyd song is… (errr, Zeppelin for Mucho). Any local gig on any given night is always kickass, man. There is just so much support and love out there for music, art and just the pure love of good times (beer) in general.

JB: We have a great music community is San Diego. We have all been a part of it for over a decade playing in numerous bands all over San Diego. We know and have played with almost every rock ‘n’ roll band based out of San Diego. If a band plays rock ‘n’ roll in San Diego, we are most likely good friends with them and we’ve played with ‘em.

TD: The San Diego music scene is fucking great! We have so many incredible musicians and artists. If the radio played rock and roll, we would all own houses… haha. There is a great sense of community among the bands all the way from psych rock like Earthless, Radio Moscow, Loom, and Joy to the heavy music of Red Wizard and Quest. We all party together at shows and celebrate the music and love our community has! It’s a great place to live and as we all travel more and more we all become more familiar with how special of a place it is… and we celebrate it regularly with adult beverages, spliffs, and tunes!

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

DV: Fuck yeah, get some!

JB: Tyler has the smallest shmeckle of them all but a really big heart!

TD: Hahahaha. Open invitation for anyone reading this: let’s shotgun some beers and party across the Earth! We need to get some international shotguns going!! Drop us a line if you are interested in helping us book our European tours and Festivals or if you’re in a band and let’s get some shows going. We are heading across the pond in 2018!

BD: Thank you to everyone that has supported us over the years to make all of this possible!!! We are having the time of our lives and the future for the Quest is looking bright… Can’t wait for the next Chapter!!

Lords of Beacon House & Great Electric Quest, Wicked Ladies split (2017)

Great Electric Quest, Chapter I (2016)

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Great Electric Quest on Bandcamp

Glory or Death Records on Bandcamp

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Six Dumb Questions with Hotel Wrecking City Traders

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on October 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hotel wrecking city traders

Since their inception over a decade ago, Melbourne’s Hotel Wrecking City Traders have consistently — which is not to say relentlessly — pushed themselves to grow as artists. They have also been consistently — which is not to say relentlessly — undervalued for the fruits of this effort. Since the first cacophonies of their 2008 full-length debut, Black Yolk, and through 2010’s Somer/Wantok (review here) single, their 2011 collaborative work with Yawning Man guitarist/desert rock figurehead Gary Arce (review here), 2012 splits with Sons of Alpha Centauri and WaterWays (review here) and Spider Goat Canyon and their more recent long-players, 2014’s Ikiryo (review here), 2016’s Phantamonium (review here) and the newly-issued Passage to Agartha (review here), brothers Ben and Toby Matthews have been on an outward sonic journey that has remained unafraid to take on psychedelic tenets even as it maintains the semi-mathy crunch of its roots.

To listen to Passage to Agartha in particular, it is striking just how far Ben (drums) and Toby (guitar) have come. Their sound on the Cardinal Fuzz/Evil Hoodoo and Bro Fidelity 90-minute offering is more expansive than it’s ever been — so much so, in fact, that they recently recruited Spider Goat Canyon‘s Josh Beagley to play bass, making them a trio for the first time — and whether that’s manifest in the 20-minute, drone-backed bonus exploration “Oroshi” or in the crunch-meets-post-rock of “Quasar” and the massive rolling low end of “Kanged Cortex” at the outset, the instrumentalists continue to revel in their adventure in a way that few bands can make sound so genuine. Passage to Agartha, no less huge in concept than runtime, was recorded in mere days and largely improvised, only further emphasizing the musical language the brothers have built between them over time and how fluid their execution has become across their years.

As advice goes, it seems counterintuitive, but if you’re unfamiliar with Hotel Wrecking City Traders, start with Passage to Agartha and work your way back. I know an hour-and-a-half-long record is a lot to dig into at an inexperienced outset, but I think by the time the siren wails backing the flow of the title-track roll around, Passage to Agartha tells a lot of the story of how Hotel Wrecking City Traders have become the band they are — or the band they were when they tracked this material, anyway; again, they’re a trio now and one looks forward to how their dynamic might shift as a result — and with the surrounding push in “Chasing the Tendrils” and the dream-coated-in-noise wash of “Ohms of the Cavern Current,” the richness that Toby and Ben are able to convey has never come through with such exciting and entrancing resonance.

Ben was kind enough recently to take on discussing his relationship with his brother, the processes by which Passage to Agartha came about, bringing in Beagley and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Hotel-Wrecking-City-Traders-Passage-to-Agartha

Six Dumb Questions with Hotel Wrecking City Traders

Tell me about putting together Passage to Agartha. How did these massive tracks take shape, and was there anything specific you were trying to bring to the material coming off of Phantamonium? How much of your writing is born of improvisation and jamming?

We had no pre-written ideas prior to day one. It was all improvised over the two days we were in the studio, with two days of overdubs for the bass and synth parts. A fairly typical approach for us, really, though this time the added instrumentation took a little longer. We didn’t really have Phantamonium in mind when we did this one we kind of left the way Toby approached the main guitar parts open for additional parts. We always record live together and rarely do overdubs but this time we felt we wanted to try to broaden the scope of sounds and tried to create a more full and layered tapestry of sounds. Playing synth was a first for us on a record and I just did one pass over each track and what you hear is what you get.

What was your time in the studio like? Was it enough? How much were the songs fleshed out in the studio? Was there something particular you wanted out of the sound of the album this time around?

We had a lot of fun this time around. The engineer who also owns the studio, Max [Ducker] and his two dogs were there for the recording. The size of the room we recorded in was smaller than places we have gone in the past but Max really knows his gear and we trusted that he would be able to capture what we were after. He has mixed the band as a live engineer many times and is a good friend of the band so in terms of a working relationship it was super-relaxed and he brought some nice gear for us to use and has a golden working knowledge of his studio and its capabilities so we felt very relaxed the whole time.

The songs were 100 percent improvised over the two days so we just rolled with it and allowed the songs to dictate how we would approach the next one. For example, amp settings, pedals, tempo and those sorts of things but we have always been a very cerebral pair, Tobz and I, and we just got into a certain headspace and let the songs evolve completely naturally and of their own will.

We try to make each record we do different and I think this one kind of has elements of old approaches and also newer ideas as well as a real mixture of melody and sheer volume and velocity. It’s a double album, which was not our intention going in but once we were done and we had the labels in place to release it we knew it had to be a double as the songs were so long that we could really only fit one per side of vinyl.

Where does the space theme come from and how does it tie into the material for you? Is there a narrative taking place in the tracks? If so, what’s the story being told?

It’s certainly an expansive record in its length and also the sonic elements from one track to the next so it was the final version of the record that lent itself to a space themed sort of idea. The passage to Agartha being the mythical city in the centre of the Earth’s core. We’re nerds and love sci-fi and horror and it seemed like the right fit. Whilst there is no specific story, the songs definitely go from a faster, more melodic place and end up in a slower and more molten space by the end of the record.

“Oroshi” cuts off suddenly past the 22-minute mark. Was that actually the end of the piece? You’ve done longform jamming before, of course. Does a song like that just happen, or do you go into it with the intention of doing something more extended?

Yeah that was a single live take over a loop that Tobz made and we just went for it. I used mallets to play that track but we did not EQ the drum mics any differently. It has a sort of Steve Shelley/Sonic Youth vibe to the drums and we were limited only by the 22 minutes of guitar loop! Haha! So yeah, we had a timer counting down as we were against the clock. Lots of nods for that one. We deliberately made that one far looser and more soundscape based than the others and I believe it was recorded midway through the recording late on day one.

You’re past a decade now working as Hotel Wrecking City Traders. How do you feel about how the band has grown in that time, and how has your relationship changed as brothers and as bandmates? How much of the communication between you at this point is unspoken on a musical level, and how clear a picture do you have in your head of what each other wants to do with the band?

Tobz and I are super good friends and playing together for this long has cemented that. We’re probably more tolerant of each other from doing tours in Japan, Europe and New Zealand together on a budget.  Continuing to want to create together and do this has always been important to us. Most of our communication is unspoken to be honest. Musically we say very little to each other verbally and communicate via the music as it seems to be more pure that way and less preconceived. It seems to work quite well.

We recently added a bass player to the band and played our first show as a trio last month. His name is Josh [Beagley] and is from the band Spider Goat Canyon. We’ve been friends for a decade and played tons of shows together. We realized we wanted to play these songs off Passage to Agartha and knew we needed that extra component. We’ve been getting together every week and jamming and reworking this set of new songs so our sets can be half those and half improvised and expansive.

We were very happy to have this new album come out as a co-release between Cardinal Fuzz and Evil Hoodoo (who we worked with previously on Phantamonium). We sell way more records in Europe than we do in our own country and it made sense to do it that way. In terms of a clear picture of what we wish to continue doing – more records, more Aussie shows and definitely getting back to Europe next year is high on our list. We are also looking at NZ shows and Japan shows as well as it’s been four years since we were last there and we’d absolutely love to go back and hit up some new cities and towns.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Just a thanks to your good self for covering this release and all the support you have shown us over the years. We truly appreciate it. Other than that, please check out the record and shoot us a message if you would like to help us organize anything in Europe or anywhere for that matter. We always enjoy being able to travel as a result of the music we create and see new places.

Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Passage to Agartha (2017)

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Hotel Wrecking City Traders on Instagram

Hotel Wrecking City Traders on Bandcamp

Cardinal Fuzz BigCartel store

Cardinal Fuzz on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz on Bandcamp

Evil Hoodoo BigCartel store

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Evil Hoodoo on Bandcamp

Bro Fidelity Records BigCartel store

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Bro Fidelity Records on Soundcloud

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Here are 40+ New Releases to Look for in the Next Three Weeks

Posted in Features on September 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Starting tomorrow, the next three weeks are absolutely stupid with new albums. Over-the-top, ridiculous. An immediately-go-broke amount of music. Nothing less than an onslaught. We’re under attack.

Far be it from me to tell you how to spend your money — also far be it from me not to — but there’s some really killer stuff in here. As to why it’s all landing now? Some of it of course has to do with the timing of when it was recorded, bands hitting the studio in Spring before heading out on the road over the summer, but Fall releases also line up nicely for tours in October and November, heading into the holiday season, when the music industry basically shuts down. This is the last chance for releases to come out in 2017 and be considered for best-of-year lists.

I doubt the likes of Chelsea Wolfe or Godspeed You! Black Emperor or even Kadavar would cop to that as a motivating factor, instead pointing to the timing of Fall touring and so on, but these things are rarely coincidental. You know how there aren’t any blockbusters in January but every movie feels like it’s trying to win an Oscar? Same kind of deal.

Nonetheless, 2017 is laying it on particularly thick these next couple weeks, and as you can see in the lists below, if you’ve got cash to spend, you can pretty much choose your rock and roll adventure. I’ll add to this as need be as well, so keep an eye for changes:

Sept. 22:

Alcest, Souveinirs d’un Autre Monde (10th Anniversary Edition)
Brant Bjork, Europe ’16
Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spunthe-flying-eyes-burning-of-the-season
Epitaph, Claws
Faces of the Bog, Ego Death
The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season
Fvzz Popvli, Fvzz Dei
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Luciferian Towers
Jarboe & Father Murphy, Jarboe & Father Murphy
Monarch, Never Forever
Nibiru, Qaal Babalon
Process of Guilt, Black Earth
Satyricon, Deep Calleth Upon Deep
Spelljammer, Inches from the Sun (Reissue)
Thonian Horde, Inconnu
Trash Titan, Welcome to the Banana Party
Ufomammut, 8
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead
Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven

Sept. 29:

monolord rust
Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
Deadsmoke, Mountain Legacy
A Devil’s Din, One Hallucination Under God
Disastroid, Missiles
Jim Healey, Just a Minute More (Sept. 26)
Idylls, The Barn
Kadavar, Rough Times
Lucifer’s Chalice, The Pact
Monolord, Rust
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Radio Moscow, New Beginnings
Scream of the Butterfly, Ignition
Tronald, Tronald (Sept. 30)
Unsane, Sterilize
Wucan, Reap the Storm

Oct. 6:

fireball-ministry-remember-the-storyElder Druid, Carmina Satanae
Fireball Ministry, Remember the Story
Frank Sabbath, Are You Waiting? (Oct. 2)
Himmellegeme, Myth of Earth
House of Broken Promises, Twisted EP
O.R.B., Naturality
Primitive Man, Caustic
Spirit Adrift, Curse of Conception
Spotlights, Seismic
Sumokem, The Guardian of Yosemite
Torso, Limbs
White Manna, Bleeding Eyes

Also:

Oct. 13: Enslaved, Firebreather, I Klatus, R.I.P., Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats (reissue), Weird Owl, etc.

Oct. 20: Iron Monkey, Spectral Haze, Bell Witch, The Spacelords, etc.

Something I forgot?

Invariably, right? If you know of something not seen above that should be, then by all means, please leave a comment letting me know. My only ask is that you keep it civil and not call me a fucking idiot or anything like that. I write these posts very early in the day, and if something has been neglected, I assure you it’s not on purpose and I’m happy to correct any and all oversights.

Thanks for reading and happy shopping. Support local record stores.

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Six Dumb Questions with Holy Grove

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on September 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

holy-grove-photo-by-Foto-Phortress

This coming weekend, Sept. 16, Portland, Oregon’s Holy Grove are set to appear at Epicenter Music Fest in San Francisco, California. In that endeavor, the soulful riff rollers join the considerable ranks of High on Fire, Big Business, Mos Generator and others (full lineup here), and after appearances at Psycho Las Vegas in 2016, making their debut run through Europe alongside Boston’s Gozu, and offering one of last year’s finest debuts in their Heavy Psych Sounds-released and Billy Anderson-helmed self-titled (review here), it would seem to be the finishing stamp on the cycle for their first outing as they get ready to move on toward the writing and recording of the second.

Anyone who’s heard cuts like “Nix” and “Holy Grove” doesn’t need me to say that’s good news. Topped off as it was by some of the most striking cover art Adam Burke has ever produced (which is saying something), Holy Grove‘s Holy Grove offered modern tones and classic groove in kind, vocalist Andrea Vidal establishing a commanding presence amid the righteous lead work of guitarist Trent Jacobs and the full low end push from bassist Gregg Emley. They’ve worked with a succession of drummers already since founder Craig Bradford recorded with them, and they just recently welcomed Eben Travis to the fold as at least the fourth in that line, hopefully settling the issue once and for all.

As we move into Fall and begin to look ahead toward some of 2018’s most anticipated releases, it’s only fair to include an impending sophomore outing from Holy Grove on that list. The level of bluesy stylistic cohesion and songwriting they brought to the driving, swinging “Huntress” and to the nodding, semi-metallic expanses of “Hanged Man” would demand no less. Just how will the four-piece, now including Travis as a (fingers crossed) permanent member, begin to move forward and expand their sound in the New Year? And will they hit the road again with the same fury they did behind the self-titled? Sounds to me like it’s time to check in with Vidal for a full update.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

epicenter-music-festival

Six Dumb Questions with Andrea Vidal of Holy Grove

We’re about 18 months out from the self-titled release at this point. Looking back on your first album, how do you feel about how the songs came out? What is your favorite thing about it and what is your favorite memory of the recording process?

I think overall, we’re pretty satisfied with how the songs are represented on the record. We knew going into the recording process that we wanted to create studio versions of the songs, and have the live versions be their own thing. To that end, I think we were successful. It served the purpose of introducing people outside of Portland to the songs. My favorite memory of the recording process was the day we finished mixing at Everything Hz (Billy‘s studio). We literally finished up mixing the last song, and then listened to the whole thing from beginning to end. It was definitely one of “those moments.”

What’s the status of new material? Do you have a recording plan yet and a ballpark release date? How have the new songs started to come together?

New material is progressing nicely. Even while we were down a drummer, the three of us continued to show up to practice to work on new material with the intent to have songs basically finished and ready to start working on as soon as we found a drummer. We played two new ones at our first show back which felt great. We have a few more nearing completion and a large backlog of riffs and ideas that we’ll start pouring over in the next few months to get a new record written and recorded by early next year.

Is there anything in particular you want the new songs to build on from the self-titled? Anything you want to change in the band’s sound or a new way to challenge yourself or the band as a whole? Something new you just want to try out in the studio, maybe?

I think the idea for the new batch of songs is to push ourselves to take the tunes to the next logical level. I wouldn’t say there is anything we want to change or reinvent particularly, but we do want to amplify everything that we did on the first record. More swing, more groove, more power, more riffs!

Tell me about bringing Eben Travis into the band. What was it about him that let you know he was right to take on the drummer position? What were you looking for in someone new?

We basically knew as soon as Eben started playing that he was “the one.” We really wanted someone who understood the feel of the tunes without us having to explain it, someone who hit the drums fucking hard, and was someone who we could welcome in to the band on a personal friendship type level… someone we could also be pals with, basically. Thankfully Eben was that guy. Dude is the total package.

You toured in the US and in Europe for the self-titled. How do you feel about the way the band has been received on the whole, in terms of the record and live? Can you sense a difference at shows between now and before the album came out?

We’re all pretty flattered and humbled by the response to the band and record. I think after we played Psycho Las Vegas in 2016 and got a positive response that we realized we had a chance to make a mark outside of Portland. Having the record out means that when we play people are familiar with the tunes a bit more, and Psycho was the first time I looked out and saw people in the crowd singing along, which was really a special moment for me personally.

You’ve got Epicenter fest Sept. 16. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

First and foremost, we can’t thank everybody enough for the support. It truly means the world to us. After we get back from Epicenter, we have a few local shows with The Obsessed, then the plan is to finish up writing the new record, get it recorded and hit the road. We’re in the early planning stages of getting a European tour planned for 2018, which is something we are all really looking forward to. More shows, more music!

Holy Grove, Holy Grove (2016)

Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks

Holy Grove on Bandcamp

Holy Grove at Heavy Psych Sounds

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Epicenter Music Festival 2017 event page

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Here’s the Eulogy I Wrote for My Grandmother

Posted in Features on September 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Before I get to the actual text of this thing, I’d like to extend a special thanks to my mother for her kindness in allowing me to post what’s obviously something very personal for her as well as for me and my family as a whole.

I wouldn’t necessarily do so, but I’ve spoken about the recent passing of my grandmother at the age of 102 a few times here in the last couple weeks, and the passion and ferocity with which she lived her life is something from which I will continue to derive inspiration in how I conduct my own.

If you need a tie into music or what I do here, that’s it, and if you’re otherwise not interested, I’ll please just ask you to give me this one and wait for the next post, which I’m sure will follow shortly and be about riffs. Thanks for reading if you do and thanks for the indulgence either way.

florence peterson parsippany nj

Florence Peterson Eulogy Sept. 8, 2017

The very idea of trying to offer some summary of Florence Peterson’s life is laughable, even though through the simple act of laughing, we’d already have a lot of the work done. Most likely it would take at least three weeks to do her scope and history any justice whatsoever, and while it might be fun to try, we simply don’t have that kind of time.

Telling people your grandmother, your mother, your aunt, your great-grandmother, your sister – because Florence was of course all these things and many more — lived to be 102 elicits a very specific kind of sympathy. Call it the “good run” response. “She had a good run.”

Actually, she had the best run. And that’s precisely why we although we can be sad at her passing and we can miss the person she was and the inimitable presence she brought to our lives, we can only celebrate the way she lived, the personality that was hers and hers alone, and the stamp she left on all of us as her family.

Because while the numbers are staggering – born 1915 on the kitchen table in the shadow of one impending World War, married 1936 under the church stairs in the shadow of another, daughters born 1942 and 1947, moved from Bronx, NY, to Morris Plains, NJ, 1960, and so on – even sum total of her full one hundred and two years does precious little to indicate the breadth of Florence’s life. She lived an existence marked in every respect by the full spectrum of what it is to be a person. Joy, pain, love, despair. Florence’s life encompassed this range of extremes and found milestones between them that for most of us would be impossible to fathom.

Imagine living 41 of your 102 years as a widow. Imagine watching as your great-grandchildren are born and begin to take shape as people, the way your grandchildren and children did before them. From the devastation at the passing of her daughter Susan in 2004 to the smile on her face earlier this year when my wife Wendy told her we were naming our son after her husband – this life that tested the boundaries of what a life can be was a touchstone that seems utterly unscratchable. A diamond of a life.

Several years ago, I made it a point to sit down with Florence on that god awful living room furniture she got for such a bargain and talk to her about growing up in New York, to hear her stories about meeting Joe Peterson as a boy from the neighborhood, a couple blocks away that might as well have been an eternity between them, about getting married, her relationship with her brothers and the divide in the family there, her parents, career, and beyond.

There was so much to talk about, but what it always came back to for Florence was her family, and it’s that core emphasis that speaks to who she was as a person. Florence said what she wanted to say, did what she wanted to do. Right or wrong. She had days where she behaved like a complete child and simply did not care because that was how it was going to be. As she got older, it was, “I’m 70 so I can say what I want,” “I’m 85 so I can say what I want.” I’m 90, I can say what I want. One imagines she had said the same when she turned 23, and there was simply no point at which she didn’t just say whatever the hell she wanted to say.

And though there are at least as many instances throughout her life when this worked to her downfall as to her advantage – certainly advantage in her work as a secretary, substitute teacher, an underage sales clerk selling alcohol at Macy’s, or just as building a firebrand reputation among her friends and neighbors, doctors, and a succession of managers and cashiers at Shop-Rite on Rt. 10 & 202 on whom she was quick to pull a fast one with expired coupons – what stands out even more from Florence is the sheer ferocity with which she felt what she felt.

No one loved family like Florence loved family. It was like she was angry about it. Maddening love. A fierce love. And yes, sometimes that love could take a quick turn and call you stupid, or fat, or both, and she could be cruel as well as generous, but this was what made her human, and it was love that defined her.

It meant taking care of Pamela even long after Pamela was taking care of her. It meant being proud of every single one of Matt’s career accomplishments – her baby brother made good. It meant that, years after Susan died, Florence rewrote the story of their falling out in her mind and when prompted with what actually happened, refused outright to accept it as the truth. “You’re making that up,” she said. “No.” It meant her telling you to be careful going up the stairs to her second floor in the same tone of voice from the time you were five to the time you were 30. It meant worrying about “that Walker” or complaining that you never came to visit her even as you were right there with her, then and there, wanting to shout, “I’m here now! I’m actually sitting with you at this very moment! We’re visiting!”

And of course, shouting would be required, because defined as she was by her love for her family, Florence was equally defined by her stubborn refusal to get a hearing aid. Ever.

It is fitting that as we honor her life today and stop to reflect on who she was to each of us that we should be surrounded by photographs. Not just because they show a small selection of the milestones of Florence’s life, her bright, camera-ready smile, shows she’d been in, things she’d seen and the various trips she took with Joe Peterson, Ken, Helen, Susan and Bob, Dr. Huster, the Gelpkes, Pauline, Bonnie Smith and other friends and neighbors – St. Thomas, “Ittly,” Switzerland, and so on as she traveled across continents – but also because these photographs themselves are cherished memories.

The picture of Florence leaning over Joe Peterson in his red jacket, smiling wide as if inviting us all to laugh at his bowtie. Florence sitting on the fireplace at Matt’s house at the lake on that family Thanksgiving so many years ago. Even the yellowed newspaper clipping of the time she won the computer from The Daily Record. Not only do these photos evoke the events they depict, but they have become tangible artifacts no less representative of the love she shared with her family than the memories represented in them.

Take a tour of the house at 2 Sherwood Road – that place that was so much a part of her life when she, Joe Peterson, Susan and Pamela moved from the Bronx to the suburbs – and nearly every room has family photos in it. Walker and Emmett, Rob Jones, my sister Suze and I as children. Pamela and Susan as kids, growing up, and as adults with their families. Though she spent so many years living alone, there was almost no space in which she wasn’t surrounded by this love that she was so ready at a moment’s notice to almost violently defend if it came to it. Really. Woman might smack you if you messed with her family. Or her pictures. Or her Entenmann’s doughnuts.

And at holidays, family events, whatever it was, it was Florence with her disc-film camera, then her disposables. Always documenting. Her scrapbooks are tomes – dusty treasures in her living room of the memories she stewarded and was so right to preserve in that house. They became expressions of the love that fueled their making – that fueled her – and for the rest of us they serve as yet another reminder of how much the improbability of Florence Peterson goes so far beyond the meager 102 years she lived and what she did in that span of time.

There is so much to remember when we remember Florence, and when I think of my Gramma I can still hear her complaining about money or Suze’s furniture upstairs, or talking about the O.J. Simpson trial, or telling a story about a Sara Lee apple pie she “passed off” as her own. I can hear her particular Irish glee at mispronouncing “macacroni” in the context of a “macacroni and cheese” that consisted of elbow noodles, Hunt’s canned tomato sauce and shredded cheddar that was a holiday staple for decades and never failed to garner anything less than rave reviews.

I can see her sitting on her front porch with my mother, all around her busy with a detritus of personality – yard schlock, from pink flamingos to that mysterious penguin to even the light-up Santa Claus that never seemed to leave the front window of the great red room at 2 Sherwood Road, tucked away in the back of which are more memories, of board games, fires in the circular fireplace, wood paneling all around and the bar on the side. How cold it was there in the winter, but what a great place to be.

How much that space was a part of Florence and how much that house, with the tree in the front yard planted by Joe Peterson – always “Joe Peterson,” never “Joe,” though sometimes “Daddy” to my mother or Susan – became the center of her existence. What’s astounding to think is that Florence, who stopped driving no fewer than 15 years ago and with much fighting finally gave up that wonderful boat of a white Oldsmobile with AM-only radio and the bench seats — I remember hearing “How Much is that Doggy in the Window (Arf Arf)” and singing along to it with her at what must have been seven years old – spent her final years inside that house and still seemed to outlive us all. For so long and in so many ways, she was undulled by time – that diamond life as hard and clear as ever.

And so it will remain. Because the truth is that while Florence has passed on, it is our memories of her that we share today and every day in ways we can’t even articulate that she helped shape who we are that preserve her, even more than these photos. It’s not just about recalling the time when I was five and she got lost taking me home from Denville to Parsippany because she refused to listen to my directions, or the way she got so solemn and serious in talking about her coin collection as though it was a treasure of Doubloons unearthed from the bottom of the ocean, or the way she used to tell me how worried she was about my mother, how my mother was just like Joe Peterson and Susan had been more like her.

It’s not just about these things. It’s about the love we continue to feel for each other. It’s about the tribute we pay to Florence in our own growing families, and the parts of her we pass along to each other in passing along parts of ourselves. She was never perfect and I don’t think she’d have claimed to be if you’d been brave enough to ask – though she might argue with you just to have fun doing so – but today, it’s about how unbelievably, unrealistically lucky we were to have had Florence in our lives and how lucky we are to still carry the memories: the sound of her laughing, or cursing, or telling some raunchy story as she said whatever she wanted to say at whatever age she was. The sight of her in some silly hat going out to dinner. The American flags that she seemed so eager to adorn herself with in patriotic zeal.

Most of all, how fortunate we are to inherit her stewardship of memory, and the stewardship of remembering her, because while even those who never knew Florence have to admit she had “a good run,” it’s those of us who will never be the same without her – and will never forget her – who know exactly how wonderful, and terrifying, and beautiful, and sad, and gorgeously complete her life actually was.

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Six Dumb Questions with Earthride

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on September 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

earthride

This week marks the arrival of the first new Earthride release in more than half a decade. The new single, Witch Gun, arrives via Salt of the Earth Records as the follow-up to their third full-length, 2010’s Something Wicked (review here), which brought an expanded melodic palette from what the Frederick, Maryland, doom scene kingpins brought to their earlier work on 2005’s Vampire Circus, 2002’s Taming of the Demons and their initial 2000 self-titled EP, songs like “Destruction Song,” “Watch the Children Play” and the opening title-track itself showing considerable growth on the part of the band, who remain in no small part defined by the unmistakable character and presence of their frontman, Dave Sherman.

Earthride returns in 2017 following a stint on Sherman‘s part first in the reformed trio Spirit Caravan and bozzoven earthride tourthen in The Obsessed that ended following the recording of that band’s 2017 comeback LP, Sacred (review here), but in addition to fronting Weed is Weed, working on the new project Siren of Sorrows, and a history in and impact on Chesapeake doom that rivals the likes of Pentagram‘s own Bobby LieblingSherman is no less defined by his work in Earthride than Earthride is defined by him. The thick grooves he rides so fluidly on vocals on cuts like “Earthride” from the self-titled or “Fighting the Devils Inside of You.” The track “Witch Gun” is no less a part of this pantheon of Earthride landmarks, and perhaps all the more so for the future productivity it might be kicking off.

With the prospect of making a new album for release in 2018 ahead of them, Earthride will hit the road in October alongside unhinged sludge purveyors Buzzov*en. It’s more than a solid match. Both acts are legends in their field and have grit to spare and a reputation for chaos. As Earthride take to stages for the first time with the lineup of Sherman, founding drummer Eric Little (who also was in the lineup for Church of Misery‘s latest LP), guitarist Greg Ball and bassist Edmund Allen Brown, they’ll no doubt be exposing a new generation of listeners to their hugely lumbering grooves and riffs that for the last 17-plus years have more than lived up to their stated ethic of “Pure Maryland Doom for the Brotherhood of Music.” All the better to give their audience a glimpse of what next year might hold in a new release, further touring, and a more fully reborn Earthride.

Sherman was kind enough to discuss all this and more. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

earthride-witch-gun

Six Dumb Questions with Dave Sherman of Earthride

Tell me about stepping back into Earthride after being with Spirit Caravan and The Obsessed. How much does Earthride feel like coming home for you? You’ve been doing Weed is Weed all along, but how different is it for you fronting Earthride?

It feels very refreshing especially after I was treated unfairly in The Obsessed. I’ve known Eric Little since we were in high school together. We were in one of our first bands as well — Judgement Hammer — 1986-ish, which was Eric Little drums, Dave Sherman bass, Kelly Carmichael guitar and Billy Rines voice. We played two Pentagram songs the song “Black Sabbath” and three or four originals that later mutated into Internal Void riffs. I love Weed is Weed, which we came out with an EP available digitally [through our] Facebook. Check that out, but fronting the mighty Earthride, getting back at the helm feels real good again.

How did the new lineup for Earthride come together? Who’s in the band now and how have the shows and rehearsals been? Of course you’re working with Kyle Van Steinburg and Eric Little again, but how much has Earthride changed over time for you? How do you feel about how the band has grown?

I was drinking local pub Guido’s in Frederick, Maryland, and I ran into an old friend Edmund Allen Brown. We started talking music and he’s one of the best bass players I’ve ever met and a real go-getter, so I thought what a perfect bass player for Earthride. Greg Ball was in a band Hovel and was willing to try out as the second guitar player and Kyle is gonna be on the 45 new single Witch Gun, out on Salt of the Earth USA and Totem Cat out of France and distribution for Europe, but the new band sounds killer and it feels good to hear the songs again.

You played Maryland Doom Fest in June. How was that experience? Maryland Doom has grown so much since Earthride got going, and of course your history goes back much further than that. How do you feel about where the scene is now and where do you think it’s heading? Does “pure Maryland doom” still mean the same thing for you?

Maryland Doom Fest was so good. Everybody was so into it and so happy to see Earthride again, smiling, cheering, headbanging. It was a pleasant surprise I think because the band’s old and has had a bit of longevity in the scene and we just never got out there as much as we should have. Now that we have the new band and lineup we are fired up about getting out a new album and tour. We are going out with Buzzov*en in October for 10 shows, East Coast, Midwest. Just from the MD Doom Fest standpoint, I think the scene is growing around the world and has grown beyond belief from what it was back in the day, and I want to Thank JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank for having this amazing festival. Cheers.

It’s been seven years since Something Wicked came out and 15 since Taming of the Demons. What can fans expect from the next Earthride album? Where are you in the process of putting it together? Do you know yet who’s doing the recording/producing or has that started? Will the songs from the new single also be on the record?

I have a ton of ideas and so does the rest of the band. We recorded the Witch Gun single at Omega Studio in Rockville, Maryland, so that is probably where we will record the new record at. Out next year. Hopefully working on the material now.

You’re doing the Descendants of Crom fest in Pittsburgh in September, but will Earthride tour for the new album? Any chance you could be headed to the West Coast or Europe in 2018, or is it a wait-and-see kind of deal for when the album comes out?

Yeah, we’re excited about everything we’re about to do and about what we’re trying to conquer which is people’s ears and trying to destroy their subconscious with heavy music. We’re doing the tour with Buzzov*en like I said on the East Coast and Midwest, which is gonna be a blast since they’re old friends of mine, but in 2018 we plan to do some more touring, try to get this new record out there. I would like to get back to Europe with the band and possibly do Roadburn or tour some festivals.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

I appreciate the interview and I would like everybody to be looking for us: Earthride, Weed is Weed and a very new project called Siren of Sorrows which has Starr Piazza on voice from the band Serpent Witch. Thanks and peace.

Earthride, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2017

Earthride on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

Salt of the Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

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Six Dumb Questions with Hair of the Dog

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on September 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hair of the dog

Across a skillfully constructed six-track course, Edinburgh trio Hair of the Dog smoothly brought together influences modern and classic on their third album, This World Turns. Released through Kozmik Artifactz this past July, it’s an unpretentious 41-minute rocker that comes out swinging with the semi-garage riff of its nine-minute opening, longest and title-track (immediate points), opening to a rolling groove that’s just the first of many by the time the record is done — its emphasis on sonic clarity as much as organic chemistry, songwriting as much as execution.

And if the world is turning — spoiler alert: it is — so too is the craftsmanship of Hair of the Dog, who fluidly transition between the parts and pieces of the follow-up to 2016’s The Siren’s Song and play between classic guitar-led impulses, the near-metallic shuffle of cuts like “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” — where Scorpions and Iron Maiden come together at last — and the key-laced-but-still-post-Thin Lizzy low-end groove of “In Death’s Hands,” unfolding a deceptive breadth of approach that ties together easily via clean production value courtesy of an ongoing collaboration with engineer and obviously benefits from the band’s work since making their self-titled debut in 2014. An ongoing collaboration with producer/engineer Graeme Young of Chamber Studios is only bolstered by the mixing work of James Atkinson of Gentlemans Pistols, and as they make their way toward the classy, smoothly realized crescendo of closer “4AM,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Adam Holt, bassist Iain Thomson and drummer Jon Holt continue to easily draw a line between rocker soul and heavier push, resulting in a style that’s timeless in its refusal to belong to any single era or another.

With a performance slated for next month at the potentially-lethal-sounding-or-at-very-least-liver-taxing Riffs and Rum 5 in Manchester, England, a live album upcoming, and work already started on a fourth long-player to answer the growth on display throughout This World Turns, Adam took some time out to discus Hair of the Dog‘s mission on the record, the progression across their three outings to-date and the writing and recording processes from which This World Turns‘s righteous, heavy-rock-for-heavy-rockers moments in songs like “Keeping Watch over the Night” and “The Colours in Her Skin” resulted.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

hair-of-the-dog-this-world-turns

Six Dumb Questions with Hair of the Dog

You’ve said that these songs are more personal for you than The Siren’s Song or the self-titled. What kind of experiences are you expressing on This World Turns, and now that the album has been released and you have a little distance from it, how do you feel about that expression? What is This World Turns ultimately saying about Hair of the Dog as a band and as people?

I wouldn’t say they are more or less personal than our other songs. All of our songs stem from our life experiences, from a real place — but with This World Turns, the subject matter is definitely more mature in nature. This is just a reflection of where we are in our lives as three men. Jon is married and has two young children. Iain is now married and has a cottage out in the countryside. And I am soon to be married this October. These things — especially bringing new life into the world — force you stop and view your life in a new light, as well as the world around you, which I’m sure we can all agree, is a fucked up mess right now!

Before I had the lyrics and title for This World Turns, I had the idea for the cover. The reaper staring out over the sea towards earth. I liked that image, to me there is as sort of comfort in that image which reflected the ideas I had floating about for the lyrics. I’m the reaper looking at the world, you the listener are the reaper looking at the world – is this how you want your life to be? Is this how you want your world to be like? You never know when that scythe will swing, so would you be happy with what you have if it did, right now? And I think that’s ultimately what This World Turns is about. It’s a record about reflection.

This World Turns — tomorrow is a new day, don’t take your life for granted, life can change – but the world will always continue to turn regardless.

Tell me about opening with the title-track. When did you know that was the one you wanted to leadoff the record, and was that before or after you had named the album? How did that song come together?

“This World Turns” was the first song we wrote for this album. I think we started jamming the various riffs for it very soon after The Siren’s Song was sent off to Kozmik. We even premiered it and “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” at Roadburn Festival in April 2016, so that gives you an idea as to how far along we were with the record even by then!

Like most bands, we have our own “pet names” for our songs so we can identify them – “This World Turns” was naturally called, “The Big One” and remained that way right up until the week before we recorded it, when I wrote the lyrics. I am pretty shit when it comes to writing my lyrics, often leaving them to the very last moment – I like to worry the other two, keep them on their toes! But sometimes it just takes longer for me to hear and feel what the lyrics should say.

The music itself was very natural, I think we wrote it over the space of a few jams – each riff just seemed to naturally lead to the next. It is such a fun song to play from a musician’s point of view. It definitely set the bar for how we wanted the rest of the record to sound, which is why I felt it should be the song to kick the whole album off, set the tone sort of thing – it just had that feel to it, and we always go with what feels right to us.

Talk about your experience in the studio making This World Turns. How long were you recording? What was it like working with Graeme Young again to get the songs down and then bringing in James Atkinson from Gentlemans Pistols to handle mixing? Was that the result of something specific you wanted to do differently coming off of The Siren’s Song?

We recorded the music for This World Turns in four days, then I took a two-week break to write the lyrics – an approach I haven’t used before. This was partly because I didn’t have any solid lyrics by the time we started recording, but also because I wanted to really take time to let the songs settle with me and see if that brought something new to my writing – which it did.

I always write my lyrics in my local pub. I sit with my headphones in, with the songs on repeat and basically wait until one or two words, perhaps even a phrase, comes to me. Once I get that starting point, I just go with them and the rest of the song follows. For example, with the song “This World Turns,” I kept hearing this phrase “keeps you safe inside its lies,” I’d sing it over and over all day. It’s hard to describe, there’s a definite click moment with my lyrics, when everything just comes together and flows.

Working with Graeme is awesome. I’ve known G as a friend for many years and worked with him on various bands. We call G the secret fourth member of HOTD because, as well as working with us on all of our records, he is the man that plays any keys or synth on the records. He is an extremely skilled recording engineer and as a musician himself, has a great ear for music. He pushes us really hard and always gets the best performance from us. Not to mention he also puts up with a lot of shit from us — mostly me — during the recordings too. We like to drink in the studio and this can often lead to the recordings taking back seat to our antics.

As for James, that was really just to bring something fresh into the fold, try something new. I had got chatting to James after we both played Roadburn 2016, and I asked him if he’d like to mix the album. I’m a big Gentlemans Pistols fan, and really love his work on their albums, so I knew he’d bring some magic to our record – and he didn’t disappoint.

One of the aspects I find most striking about This World Turns is the classic feel of the riffs and the construction of the songs still has a deeply modern sound. Three albums in, do you feel like you know what you want to get out of a recording experience with Hair of the Dog? What were your goals for the sound of This World Turns?

That’ the HOTD sound… We take pride in that, so when people pick up on that it’s rewarding. We love those bands, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Cream, Deep Purple, Hendrix. Our parents and teachers introduced us to these bands — one of the first songs I ever learned on a guitar was “Hey Joe.” But we also grew up on a diet of Pantera, Rage Against the Machine, C.O.C., Down, Metallica. The list goes on.

When we started, over 15 years ago, we just jammed songs by all of these great bands we liked – extending riffs, adding in parts, making songs heavier — and from these jams, we eventually started to write our own songs. We never sat down and decided we’d sound like this or that… we just developed this sound over many years jamming together. We just wish the audience was there for us when we started, because back in 2001 nobody wanted to hear our music!

In terms of recording, we love it, it’s like a holiday for us – time to hang, have some beers, do what we love and annoy Graeme as much as we can. We didn’t have any goals as such for This World Turns, as I have mentioned, we record live for the most part and we always enter the studio with the songs polished – so it’s just about having a good time, enjoying it, letting the creativity flow and make something we are proud of.

We like the spontaneity and experimentation that only manifests in the studio. Sometimes the best parts of our records come from stupid jokes and conversations we have after a few beers: “This song needs an orchestra; The Beatles had an orchestra, why can’t we?” Next thing you know, we’re dialing up some string sounds and adding them in. The studio is a musician’s toy box. Once you have those songs recorded, you start to hear all the melodies and counter-melodies hidden within the song that you couldn’t hear in the practice room – it’s a magical time.

How do you feel about what you’ve accomplished across your three records to-date, and is there anything in particular you’ll look to change next time?

We are incredibly proud of the three records we have put out so far, and we are extremely humbled by the positive response each record has received around the globe. With each album we grow as a band, as does our fan base. We love to play our music and doing so with that support and encouragement from our fans is a dream come true.

Next time? Well here’s an exclusive for you, we already have around three songs for our fourth album. We are going a bit heavier on this one. It will still have that HOTD sound to it, but we are experimenting with darker, heavier riffs.

You’re playing Riffs and Rum 5 in Manchester in Oct. with Pist, 1968 and others. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Yeah we are looking forward to that show, we haven’t played England that much, which is shameful considering it’s right on our doorstep. But we will certainly put on a killer show, that’s for sure – free rum all night and three Scotsmen?! What could go wrong!

Plans, plans, plans… we have quite a lot coming up actually…

Our track “My Only Home” which had to be dropped from the vinyl version of The Siren’s Song is being featured on an up-and-coming double-vinyl project between several prominent independent labels – think that’s all I can say about that at the moment.

We are putting out live album in between This World Turns and our next studio album. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing it and it rocks, definitely one for the HOTD super fans! More on that to come soon.

And finally, the wheels are in motion to get the Dog back over to Europe in 2018. We hope to play a few of the summer festivals and dot a few headline shows around those.

Hair of the Dog, This World Turns (2017)

Hair of the Dog on Bandcamp

Hair of the Dog on Thee Facebooks

Hair of the Dog on Instagram

Kozmik Artifactz website

Kozmik Artifactz on Thee Facebooks

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Emerald Haze Trip Pt. 3: Watch it Grow

Posted in Features on September 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

emerald haze 2017 flyers

09.04.17 – 11:24 AM Eastern – Monday morning – Madison, CT

As the plane taxied to the gate last night at T.F. Green Airport in Providence, I could see my car waiting for me in long-term parking lot E. Still there. I wanted to get up and tell the pilot, “It’s cool — you can let me off here and I’ll walk. Let me just grab my bag.” No dice, of course. Minimal rigmarole getting out of the smaller airport after the seven-hour flight though, and soon enough I was barreling down I-495, headed home to see The Patient Mrs. Never actually hit 100mph, but I looked down as I was listening to Blind Guardian and was well over 90 a couple times.

One thing I haven’t yet stressed about this trip: The utter fucking professionalism on display from Emerald Haze itself. Supported by the Dublin City Council, fest-organizers Sid Daly and Matt Casciani, Fiona Killeen and all at Voodoo Lounge were on it. I’ve been to (and put on) amateur-ish shows, and while a lot of emphasis was put on this being the first Emerald Haze and I was all the more honored to be among the presenters because of that, it was pro-shop across the board. It stuck to the schedule, the bands went home happy, it brought people in, represented its local scene well and set up a reach that I hope will only continue to expand in the years forward.

About that as well — I have no delusions about my place in this thing. Emerald Haze 2017 opened its arms to me, welcomed me in and brought me on board out of the kindness of its heart. I can safely say I added just about nothing to the proceedings that wouldn’t have been there without me, except maybe a bunch of words posted here for whatever that’s worth. There’s no reason to think that if/when they do this again next year they’d want me involved on any level — it’s certainly not something I earned — but man, I hope this fest keeps going. To see it play out over Friday and Saturday, there was so much obvious potential there, and the mission behind it, the belief in Irish heavy that justified itself more and more with each passing set, was beyond honorable.

It’s a lot of work to put an event on like this — and more to do it on the level Emerald Haze did it, so that it’s more than just a slapped-together coterie of bands who play heavy riffs — but it’s easy to see Emerald Haze going a long way toward helping further establish Irish heavy as an international presence, and given the quality of bands and the outreach, it would be well deserved. Whether I’m there or not to see it, I hope to, as Church of the Cosmic Skull says, “watch it grow,” for years to come.

jj koczan photo by sid dalyThanks from the bottom of my doomed heart first to my family, who in the aftermath of my grandmother’s death, still insisted I make the trip abroad. The support from my mother and my sister on every level means more to me than I can say.

Thanks to The Patient Mrs. for being the most unreal partner I could ever ask for in life. In less than a month, we’ll celebrate 20 years together — our relationship is a ’90s original; can legit be called “classic rock” at this point — and at some point in the next six weeks, we’ll welcome our son, The Pecan, into the world. I’ve never been more excited to share a past and a future in my life than I am right now with such a wonderful person. Thanks for that, baby. Let’s have lunch and go hit the laundromat and spend the rest of the day watching Star Trek. Romance!

Thanks to Sid, Matt, Olga, Fiona, everyone else I met at the Voodoo Lounge. Thanks to Falk-Hagen Bernshausen for the condolences, the great conversation as always, and for generally being awesome. Great as always to share a space in front of the stage with Falk, as well as with Kirsten Seubert, whom it was a pleasure to meet. Thanks to Jamie Cansdale, Jake Wallace, Moose from Wild Rocket, the dudes from Ten Ton Slug and everyone else I met and shook hands with over the course of the two days. I am a painfully awkward individual. I know this. I have a hard time meeting people. I feel a lot of the time like I come off like a prick when I don’t mean to. So please take my word for it when I say it was a joy to be so welcomed into the Dublin scene as a visitor for a couple days and to sample not just the high grade sounds on offer, but to be fortunate enough to meet the excellent people behind it all as well.

All weekend I felt so stupidly lucky to be there. Really. And proud. Front to back across a 24-band bill; just crazy to see. And for that, I owe my thanks not just to Emerald Haze itself for having me over, but to you for reading. Thank you for your support of this site, this ongoing project, because without it I know damn well things like this would never happen. For reading. For commenting. For sharing. For correcting my spelling. All of it. Thank you.

Complete coverage of the fest can be found by clicking here.

Titles for the travel posts came from songs by Church of the Cosmic Skull, Wild Rocket (go listen to that album!) and Electric Octopus.

Thanks again.

With utmost sincerity and in riffs,
JJ Koczan

 

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