Roadburn 2018 Trip Pt. 3: Getting Weird in the Canyon

Posted in Features on April 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

weirdo canyon

04.19.18 – 11:55AM CET – Thursday morning – Hotel Mercure Rm. 224

I get asked a lot how I do this every year. Roadburn. The lack of sleep. The back and forth. Well, I’ve had about nine espressos from the machine in the 013 office so far today and I seriously doubt they’ll be my last, so I’ll just say there’s very little mystery when it comes right down to it. The fact is Roadburn comes once a year. The fact is I’m so, so, so fortunate espresso machineto be here. The fact is heart palpitations are a small price to pay for spiritual rejuvenation.

Those are the facts.

The first issue of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch with a review of the Hardrock Hideout by me that bears an awful lot of resemblance to a much more concise version of that which was posted here last night is done. Starting an hour earlier because of the new printer was no thing once we got in the 013 building. We weren’t even the first ones in the office. Busy busy.

Deadline to have the issue out was 11AM though and it was sent at 10:46 by my watch (Lee had 10:45), so I’d say that’s pretty good for a first day. Usually there’s some manner of lost passwords, failed connections, printer malfunctions, etc. I didn’t hear any explosions when the PDF was sent off to the press, so like the supervillain that I am, I walked away confident that the giant laser would split the hero in half starting at the crotch exactly according to my overly complicated evil masterplan. Because that’s how it works, right?

I walked back to the hotel through Weirdo Canyon. There’s a kind of tension in the 013 and the area surrounding. The air is tight. I think for many who come here repeatedly, Roadburn is an experience of what my country’s former secretary of defense might classify as the known-unknown. It’s easy enough to have the lay of the land roadburn 2018 issue and pass— though don’t ask me where the Koepelhal or the Hall of Fame are — but every year, something different unfolds in this space. It’s a heartening moment right now, and that tense edge is part of it. I think it’s called excitement. Yeah, that’s it.

For me, I’m going to do my best to remember not to pull my bracelet off this year — felt like quite the dumbass after doing so the first night in 2017 — and I’m going to try to take it easy, enjoy the day for what it is and bask in that wonderful Roadburn thing that every year when I go back to the States, The Patient Mrs. remarks on how refreshed I seem. Admittedly, it’s a different process of disconnecting from home for a few days — Walter came in the 013 office this morning and first thing accused me of missing the baby; I denied it outright and then video-chatted The Patient Mrs. just to recite a few memorized lines of Hippos Go Berserk for The Pecan — but the weather here is beautiful and the happening here is beautiful and I will soak in as much as I possibly can and write as much as I possibly can because these are the days one lives for.

Roadburn 2018 starts now. I hope I’m ready.

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Live Review: Roadburn 2018 Hardrock Hideout, 04.18.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

butcher on stage photo jj koczan

04.19.18 – 12:11AM CET – Wednesday night – Hotel Mercure Rm. 224

The Hardrock Hideout is Roadburn‘s annual way of bringing fest-goers into the world of the happening itself. I’d say it eases them in, but there’s usually very little easing happening at all. This year? Three Belgian acts — one multi-genre noise assault and two thrashing speed-rippers each more metal than the last. It was a bill organized in conjunction with Babylon Doom Cult Records and booked in honor of Bidi van Drongelen, who worked at the fest, was close with Walter, and passed away last year. Thrash with a purpose, then. So be it.

One consistent theme for Roadburn each year is growth and I look at how the personality of the Hardrock Hideout has changed even over the last couple years as an example of that. There’s still space for the occasional bit of doom — Atala played, as did The Skull maybe two years back — but the dominant persona of the evening is way more metal than it once was; a capsule analog for how the festival itself has redefined and expanded its scope.

It was an 8:30PM start for a bill with Witch TrailSpeed Queen and Bütcher, in that order, and after a nap that I was going to take whether I wanted to or not, I made it down to Cul de Sac well in advance of the start time.

Here’s how it went from there:

Witch Trail

witch-trail-photo-jj-koczan

I already wish I’d bought a copy of their 2017 album, Thole, which doesn’t bode well for the weekend to come in terms of pulling the trigger on merch-regrets, but so it goes. The three-piece were easily the odd-men-out on the bill and that seemed like a position they should be well used to considering the complexity of the stylistic blend they play, running anywhere from alt-noise riffing in the ’90s style to doomed crash and plod to blackened blastbeating and screams. Based in Ghent, they impressed on cuts like “Splendour” and “Unnatural Caresses,” which took their time unfolding the aesthetic gamut, but never seemed more patient than was warranted or failed to justify one turn into the other. They were right on, in short, and it’s a good thing Thole is up as a name-your-price download so at least I can mitigate my not-CD-buying woes. It’s not the same of course, but it’s hard to argue with, anyhow. They had a couple hiccups during their set but were my pick for the night, hands down, with a sound that seemed as likely to pique the interest of Fenriz as that of Thurston Moore. Not an easy bridge to cross for most bands.

Speed Queen

speed-queen-photo-jj-koczan

High tops, studded belts, two guitars speed-picking, fists raised, beer downed, Speed Queen had the thing nailed, and the thing was classic thrash. For their traditionalist West Coast presentation — see above re: high tops, etc. — they were notably tight, which was doubly remarkable considering the liberal amount of beer pounded while on stage. Frontman Thomas Kenis, with “1992” tattooed on one wrist and an infinity symbol tattooed on the other — it’s good to have goals — didn’t even lose his balance in all that windmill headbanging during songs like “Speed Queen,” “Midnight Murder” and “Live Hard” early in the set. “King of the Road,” somewhat sadly, was not a cover (in fact it’s the title-track of their 2017 debut EP), but “Nice Boys Don’t Play Rock ‘n’ Roll” was, and they gave the Rose Tattoo track a thrashing sneaker to the ass no less fervent than that delivered to their originals. By the time they were deeper into their set, the shouts of “Hey! Hey! Hey!” were coming from more than just their road crew, and it was plain to see Speed Queen‘s classic style had won the hearts and increasingly addled minds of the assembled.

Bütcher

butcher (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Their setlist promised a “Speed Metal Attakk,” and that’s precisely what Antwerp-based five-piece Bütcher delivered as they supported last year’s debut album, Bestial Fükkin’ Warmachine. Need I say more? Probably not, but I will. A rare moshpit was formed at the Cul de Sac, which generally I wouldn’t think has the size to support such a thing, let alone the festival temperament, and yours truly got shoved around a bit as I watched the band deliver their oldskööl metal onslaught, one slicing, punishing cut into the next. Frontman R. Hellshrieker was quick to throw a spiked-armband claw when not holding onto his upside-down-spiked-cross mic stand, and guitarists KK Rippeand DB Deströyer tore into classic-style everything while bassist JA Pulsatör and drummer PB Tormentor pummeled ahead into the forward-thrust grooves. It was heavy, duh, and while I could say I was tired, jetlagged, needed to go back to the hotel and write, and so on, the truth is that Hellshrieker and his elaborately named companions gave oldschool metal a culminating representation worthy of being called true homage, and still managed to find space to inject a personality of their own into the proceedings. I’m telling you, I’ve seen a lot of bands play the Cul de Sac. I can’t recall any of them inducing a mosh. Clearly that takes something special in intent and execution, and Bütcher‘s unabashed metal-for-the-love-of-metal was exactly that.

I’m at least several things, if not many. Two or three. One thing I’m not is the “partying kind.” Socialization? Good times? Sounds utterly horrifying, and I don’t care what anti-anxiety meds you put me on, it won’t be enough for me to not notice how much that party isn’t me-in-front-of-laptop. Weirdo Canyon was jumping off for a Wednesday night — a whole other level on which Roadburn 2018 was being launched, and as I walked out of Cul de Sac, I not only saw Walter and Becky, but Lee from The Sleeping Shaman — with whom I’m once again sharing a hotel room and considering myself fortunate to be in his company — and the artist Cavum, Yvonne, the photographer Dante Torrieri, the dudes from Mirror Queen and a goodly portion of the San Diego Takeover guys with whom I’d rode into town this morning. Strange sometimes to feel like you don’t belong in the one place you belong. That’s all I’ll say about it.

Tomorrow’s a busy day. First day of the fest, sure, but also the first day Lee and I will be finalizing the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch and, for the first time, sending it off to a professional press to be done ahead of doors opening. That makes me less guaranteed to get a copy, but I’m going to try anyhow, of course. This is our fifth year of the WCD daily festival fanzine. It’s hard to imagine how stupid lucky I am to be able to be here and to work on that as a part of my trip every year. I’ve been looking forward to sitting in the office for months. Really.

Lots more to come. Thanks for reading in the meantime. Some extra pics after the jump if you’re up for such things.

Read more »

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Roadburn 2018 Trip Pt. 2: Hello Again, Tilburg

Posted in Features on April 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

san diego takeover dudes at roadburn 2018

04.18.18 – 1:26PM CET – Wednesday afternoon – Hotel Mercure, Room 200-something

The flight was a flight. I had my middle seat, someone on either side of me. Full plane. I availed myself of the entertainment package and watched that inexplicable but not necessarily awful Blade Runner sequel. That ate up a decent chunk of time. Then I slept for about the last two and a half hours. As well as one does on a plane, and by that I mean my eyes are closing as I type this. Ker-plunk.

I was supposed to share a car with Stephen Brodsky from Mutoid Man — or, you know, the dude who sang “Jupiter” when Cave In were the shit — but I waited for like an hour at the shuttle place at Schiphol Airport and he never showed up, so Dave Sweetapple, who helped organized the San Diego Takeover, plays in Witch and Sweet Apple, and is responsible fora lot of the awesome shit that Tee Pee has put out over the last however long and his very kind wife Robin were generous enough to offer me a spot in their van. Actually they were two vans.

And I don’t know who else might’ve been riding around, but these might’ve been the two gnarliest vans on the road in the country at that given moment. Dudes blasted tunes, dudes shouted random stuff about Dutch cows as we passed farmlands. Dudes laughed it up with enough inside jokes that I felt like I’d been invited to sit at some other clique’s lunch table. They tried twice to stop for beer atweirdo canyon in progress gas stations — to no avail either time. Drugs were discussed. A can of beer was thrown.

Rowdy only begins to cover it. It was high-performance shenanigans and though I was falling asleep by the end of the ride — much as I am now — it was still a good time. Got to the venue, my bag was unloaded with the rest of the gear, and I grabbed it and made my way back here, walking down the street of an in-progress Weirdo Canyon, which gven how nice the weather is here, should be packed for the next few days.

Roadburn 2018 starts in a few hours with the Hardrock Hideout. I’m going to crash and see if I can buy some fruit or yogurt beforehand. Fingers crossed and more to come.

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Roadburn 2018 Trip Pt. 1: Departure, Terminal A, Gate 14, Boston

Posted in Features on April 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the airplane

04.17.18 – 4:54PM Eastern – Tuesday evening – Boston Logan Airport, Terminal A

The Patient Mrs. heartily recommended an airport egg salad sandwich. I think she’s out of her mind. So it goes.

They were boarding an earlier flight to Amsterdam when I walked up to the gate, and I thought maybe if I asked nicely enough they’d let me change — anything to avoid a middle seat — but no dice. They were polite enough at the info counter but I was shot down more or less immediately all the same. Blamo. Full flight departs in about two hours, gets in early morning CET. I expect it will be a much less pleasant kind of red eye than the one (or three) I made this morning when I poured espresso in my coffee. No worries. I’m hearty.

A little too hearty for the middle seat, these days.

I don’t eat plane food as a general rule. I was on an Air India flight once, and that was okay, but beyond that I generally think of it as microwaved poison. I brought ana apple, an orange and some protein bars. They’re trying to kill you, the airlines. Fortunately I was born with a special brain and can see through all the friendly smiles in the safety videos. Did I mention I’m flying Delta? This is going to be amazing.

I’m actually not being sarcastic about that last part. This is going to be amazing. 2018 will mark my 10th year attending the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands. I’ve been fortunate enough in my time to come to know the city the pecanreasonably well — at very least the area by the venue and train station and record shops, etc. — and I’ve never managed to feel so at home that at a place that wasn’t actually my home.

This year will be different from last year or any other year before, since in addition to leaving The Patient Mrs. behind I’m also leaving The Pecan behind. He turns six months old in about a week. I’ll be back in time for that, but he’s proto-crawling at this point and I expect he’ll be on the move at least in some capacity by the time I return. I got video of him the other day rolling over back to front for the first time. Dad stuff.

A bunch of people waiting for the flight in Boston Marathon jackets. That’s a thing that apparently happened this week. I’d be as likely to run to the Netherlands as I’d be to make it 26 miles, so yeah. Way to get a bright orange windbreaker.

I’m excited to see what the next few days bring. Each Roadburn is a different experience seeing it, being there writing about it, the whole thing. I don’t know yet what Roadburn 2018 will be like, and I’ve got a while to go before I get there and actually find out, but it gives me something to look forward to while I’m in that middle seat inevitably taking up more room than I want to be.

Thanks in advance for reading this year’s Roadburn coverage if you do. Off I go.

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GIVEAWAY: Win Vision Éternel’s An Anthology of Past Misfortunes Boxed Set!

Posted in Features on April 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

vision eternel

[To enter giveaway: send an email to contest@visioneternel.com with your shirt size and color preference. Yup, that’s it.]

So yeah, the process is a little different this time around. Usually for giveaways, people leave comments on a post or whatnot. This time, just send an email to Vision Éternel at contest@visioneternel.com and you’ll be entered to win a copy of the Canadian one-man experimental outfit’s new boxed set, An Anthology of Past Misfortunes. The prize itself is significant, and includes flyers, five CDs, a tape, stickers, posters, on and on, as well as a full-catalog download. Safe to say Alexandre Julien, the man behind the band, has gone all out, and it is duly appreciated.

I’m going to keep my words minimal because Julien explains the prize below and that’s a fairly lengthy process, but if you look down at the bottom of this post, you’ll find the exclusive track premiere for “Love Within Narcosis (Demo),” which opens the set. At 2:27, it’s one of Julien‘s longer pieces, and in fact one of the things I find so fascinating about his work is that rather than simply ride out drone waves into ceaseless oblivion, he presents shorter pieces almost like scenes that flow together to make up a film.

That, and thanks to Julien for letting me host the track and the giveaway, comprise my piece on the matter. Once again, if you want to enter the contest, send an email to contest@visioneternel.com. If you want to leave a comment here, well, they’re always welcome, but it won’t count as an entry.

Here are the prize details:

vision eternel giveaway

One lucky winner will not only receive a full boxed set, which in itself holds five compact discs, one cassette, two stickers, six business card flyers and a two-page postcard insert, but in addition to that two sold-out posters and a t-shirt. A total retail value of $120, including shipping to any location worldwide. The winner gets all of this for free!

The five compact discs included in the boxed set are all five Vision Éternel extended plays released to date, covering 2007-2015: “Seul Dans L’obsession” (2007), “Un Automne En Solitude” (2008), “Abondance De Périls” (2010), “The Last Great Torch Song” (2012) and “Echoes From Forgotten Hearts” (2015). The cassette compilation, “Lost Misfortunes: A Selection Of Demos And Rarities (Part One)” features nineteen rare and unreleased b-sides, demos and alternate versions spanning 2007-2010. All of this audio content has been remastered and most of it appears in a physical format for the very first time!

The boxed set also includes a handful of bonus material: business card-sized reproductions of the original promotional flyers for each of the five extended plays as well as the 2009 flyer for a Japanese-exclusive compilation; two stickers: one of the 2008 band logo designed by Jeremy Roux and another of the 2017 band logo designed by Christophe Szpajdel; and two postcards with original artwork by Rain Frances and Pierrette Bourdon backed by liner notes. The assortment is packaged in a deep blue keepsake box, limited and hand-numbered.

Additionally, the winner of this giveaway package will receive two out-of-print original posters taken from band-member Alexandre Julien’s personal archives. The first of these posters was designed by Alexandre Julien for Frozen Veins Records in 2009 and was sold exclusively in Japan with a compilation compact disc. The second poster was pressed in 2015 by Abridged Pause Recordings and features Marina Polak’s photography used for the band’s 2010 extended play “Abondance De Périls”.
*Poster frames seen in the giveaway package pictures are not included.*

Furthermore, a 10-Year Anniversary t-shirt designed by world-renowned illustrator Christophe Szpajdel is included. The winner has a choice of shirt size (Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large or Double Extra Large) and shirt colour (Solid Black, Solid Aqua, Heather Deep Teal, Heather Forest or Heather Dark Grey). The choice of colours can be seen in detail on Vision Éternel’s Online Store.

Last but not least, the winner will receive a complimentary discography download of Vision Éternel’s entire remastered catalog in high-quality audio of their choice (WAV, FLAC, AIFF, MP3, AAC, etc), to keep him or her company while the mail-order package arrives.

How To Enter The Giveaway:
To enter Vision Éternel’s “An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes” boxed set package giveaway, simply send an email to contest@visioneternel.com, and let the band know your shirt size and shirt colour preference. It’s that easy! You will receive a confirmation email once you’ve been entered. The winner will be picked on May 14th of 2018 and he or she will be contacted via the same email used to enter the contest.

Vision Éternel, “Love Within Narcosis (Demo)” official premiere

Vision Éternel website

Vision Éternel on Thee Facebooks

Vision Éternel on Twitter

Vision Éternel on Instagram

Vision Éternel on Soundcloud

Vision Éternel on Spotify

Vision Éternel on Bandcamp

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Six Dumb Questions with Hound the Wolves

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on April 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hound the wolves

Stylistically ranging and definitively of the Pacific Northwest, Camera Obscura is the striking debut album from Portland, Oregon, five-piece Hound the Wolves. It is comprised of just four songs — and one could really argue that two of them are intros feeding into the other two; one flowing work per intended vinyl side — and runs 32 minutes of soundscaped spaciousness and aggressive outbursts manifest in the screams of guitarist Juan Carlos Caceres, and given an underlying sense of Americana through Tim Burke‘s lap steel. With Cory DeCaire of Mane of the Cur on bass, Ryan McPhaill (Sioux) on drums and Nate Wright providing Moog and additional percussion, the band presents a complete ambience in the six-minute “Omnia in Numeris Situ Sunt,” which in turn gives way to the complementary “Everything Lies Veiled in Numbers” at the end of the record.

That last piece, passing the nine-minute mark and putting the capstone on the album as a whole, is obviously a pivotal moment for Hound the Wolves, and they more than live up to the task. An even greater impression, however, might be made on side A in the interplay between four-minute opener “If Lost in Mind” and the subsequent “Masquerade,” which is 13 minutes long and takes hold following the hypnotic chants and echoes an drones of “If Lost in Mind” with a sudden progressive metal turn that, rhythmically, calls to mind Kylesa at their best. Caceres, melodic on the opener, offers a harsher take in the early going, rounding out with the lines “It’s all a masquerade/It’s all in your head/If the illusion was real/We would not exist,” at about three and a half minutes in before Burke‘s lap steel comes to the fore to lead the transition into a quieter space. Backed by the slow build in McPhaill‘s drums, the track oozes through a long middle section stretch of open-feeling atmospherics. Vocals aren’t absent, but echo in semi-spoken proclamations layered with shouts in places, and it isn’t until about 11 minutes in that the payoff hits, with a fuller-toned, undulating riff; some great Cascadian beast lurching to consciousness.

Intensity builds for the next couple minutes before they crash out, and “Omnia in Numeris Situ Sunt” arrives, its ritual bell atop a resonant and semi-foreboding drone, and it may indeed be that some kind of ritual has begun, as “Everything Lies Veiled in Numbers” shows surprising patience in its execution, never really launching into the same kind of payoff as “Masquerade,” but still reveling in ambient heft for the duration. Equal parts earthy and psychedelic, it’s a resounding finish to a record that’s earned nothing less, even if it’s not the loudest moment to be found in the tracklisting.

The process of putting together Camera Obscura was begun in 2015, so it’s safe to say it’s been a while in the making. In the Q&A below, Tim Burke attributes some of that to holdups in the mixing process — which, given the layering at work in these songs, I’m inclined to believe — and of course the ever-present financial concerns. Burke also discusses how the band came together, their recent tour around the album release, their plans going forward, and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

hound the wolves camera obscura

Six Dumb Questions with Hound the Wolves

Tell me about how Hound the Wolves got together? How much of your sound was thought out as a goal beforehand, and how much was just how it worked out when you started playing? What was the impetus behind starting the band in the first place?

The band started because Juan and I had bonded on our love of U.S. Christmas, and how we both thought they were underappreciated. Juan found out I played lap steel, and we got together to jam. We had three songs written within a few hours based on skeletons Juan had already. I don’t know that we really had an idea of the sound in mind, we didn’t even really start out with the idea of starting a band; both Juan and I had other projects at the time. But the things we were coming up with were ear-opening, so to speak. The next time Juan and I got together, we talked about auditioning drummers.

We auditioned several drummers we knew, and Ryan (Salvador, Sioux) was one of them, and we asked him to join the band. We had quite a time finding a bassist however, but eventually Cory (Mane of the Cur), whom I had known for a while, joined on bass. Nate (Tigers on Opium, A//TAR) was the final piece of the puzzle. I had reservations about adding Nate at first, because I didn’t want someone who would come in and play a bunch and overcrowd the sonic space, which in my experience is a problem for a lot of people. But Nate has a great musical sensibility, and added just the right amount of Moog embellishments and percussion additions, and it was the icing on the cake. This was the point where we started thinking about what Hound the Wolves would be as a band.

What was the writing process like for Camera Obscura? The breadth of influences is pretty vast. Does everyone contribute to the songwriting? How does a piece like “Masquerade” come together in the first place?

Organically. I can’t really remember how we wrote “Masquerade.” It was not difficult in the sense that I don’t remember struggling on this song, it was almost as if it came out practically fully formed. There was a skeleton of some of the parts that Juan had originally. But the song just came together, let’s try this, what if I do this, how long should this section be, and the pieces all fell into place without much struggle.

Everyone contributes their own parts. We tend to take rough ideas or outlines, then develop and arrange them as a group. There are other times when we just jam on a riff, and just see where it goes. Sometimes you find gold by panning through some improvisation. One thing I can say is we do not use formulas or rules to write our songs.

Camera Obscura seems to be broken into two sides, with two pairs of tracks related to each other. Can you talk about the flow of the release from front to back and how the songs are meant to interact? Tell me about the relationship – other than linguistic – between “Omnia in Numeris Sita Sunt” and “Everything Lies Veiled in Numbers.”

“If Lost in Mind” is meant to be an intro. It is a stripped-down song that actually materialized late in the recording process, but when we started to talk about putting out an album, we had to decide what songs and in what order. We talked a lot about some different options for songs and orders. After “If Lost in Mind,” “Masquerade” takes a very different direction, going heavy and starting a musical ride that covers a lot of ground. Musically, we are all over the place from heavy to light to drones, etc., and the first two songs really capture the essences of Hound the Wolves music currently. So those two songs are really an introduction to the band.

“Omnia in Numeris Sita Sunt” and “Everything Lies Veiled in Numbers” are linked together, as you may note from the titles, as well as musically. “Omnia” is a song that started an intro to our live sets, a way to ease an audience to what we are doing, and to get the people at our shows into a headspace. The song starts and builds to a crescendo and then you are ready for “ELVIN.” “ELVIN” is a moody, mellower track that also builds in similar fashion, but it doesn’t cover the same kind of ground as “Masquerade,” which makes more sense at the end of the album. The observant may also notice that these song will fit perfectly as pairs on a vinyl release. We hope that we will be able to get Camera Obscura out on vinyl at some point.

How long were you guys in the studio making Camera Obscura and what was that process like?

The initial tracking took place over a weekend in May of 2015. We self-funded the recording process, and there are a lot of choices for recording studios and engineers in Portland. Juan had worked with his friend Jeanot Rolland-Lewis previously, and Jeanot had been taking over more engineering work from Ian Watt (Ape Machine, High Watt Booking) owner of the Magic Closet Studio in Portland. So we set up for two days of tracking at Magic Closet. We got all the drums tracked, as well as bass and Juan’s guitars over that weekend.

Over the next few months, we went in individually with Jeanot at his studio to track slide, Moog, vocals, bells, and the aux percussion. From there we went through a very long process of mixing. It was quite a process, but we do have a lot going on in these recordings, and we are all experienced at recording, so we listen close and want to get all the details just right. This can be difficult when recording on a budget, because sometimes you have to look at what you want, and the cost it would take to achieve that result, and weigh that against how big of a deal the problem part is. I mean, I don’t want to spend $1k to fix a relatively minor issue with the recordings. There were a few compromises we had to make because we are recording on a budget.

We did get a bit bogged down in the mixing process, and not the least of which was how to pay for the recording we were doing. Most of the band members do not have a bunch of extra money after meeting expenses to chip into the band, and we don’t play shows enough (nor make enough from them) to fund recording, though what we do make does help. We also had no merch at that time to help fund the band, so it was all out of pocket.

Eventually, we were able to work things out though, and the final step recording-wise was taking the album to Ryan Foster of Foster Mastering. Ryan is amazing and took the album, and really made it sound awesome no matter what device I listened on. Of course, once the album was done, there was another major question, how to release this album and get people to know it exists? We had the recordings ready to go for a while before we figured out the rest of the parts of the release. In retrospect, we should have started the planning earlier, while we were in the mixing phase. Every time I go through this process, I learn new lessons.

How were the release show and the other regional shows in the PNW? How much touring will you do generally, and how much does the album represent what Hound the Wolves do live? What’s the relationship between the band on stage and the band in the studio for you?

The release tour went fantastically! You never know how things are going to play out when you book a tour. But we played with some amazing bands for our first time playing in Washington. We took a new-to-us van on the road (‘82 Ford Prospector), and while we did have some issues with starting the van a few times, it was fixed on the second day by cleaning the battery terminals. Highlights from the tour would be when we opened for Year of the Cobra at The Funhouse in Seattle. Upwell, a band Jack Endino plays bass for was also on the bill, and Mr. Endino ended up buying a CD from us, which was pretty cool.

Our release show in Portland was fantastic, we played with our friends in Young Hunter (go check them out, they have a new album, Dayhiker, out), and Mammoth Salmon. It turned out that this show was to be Mammoth Salmon’s last show, but that happened after we booked the show. I have been playing shows with Paul [Dudziak] and Mammoth Salmon for over five years, and after seeing them open for Earthless last fall, I felt Mammoth Salmon had really become a force to be reckoned with. It was great to see the community show Mammoth Salmon some love at their last show. All the bands we played with on this tour were fantastic.

After doing this tour, we were wishing it was longer, it felt like we were just hitting our stride. As far as how much touring we plan to do, it depends much on how things go for the band. It is difficult for us all to take time off work financially and go tour, since we are in a startup phase of the band. That being said, we really want to tour more, and we are talking to some people about some West Coast festivals in the fall, we have another album and more videos in the works. I would like to do another longer tour of the West Coast in the fall, built around festival dates, but we will have to see how that comes together. We basically are taking things one step at a time, and figuring out what we can do next.

The stage show is an experience of sight and sound. We intend our shows to be a coming together of people who want to focus on the present. We live in a world of constant distraction and information overload, and we try to make our shows about living in the moment, without distractions, without consideration for the past or future, but just focusing on the now.

In the studio, we simply try to capture our sound, and translate it into a recorded format. I remember having a conversation with Jeanot about a few areas of the mix where we were discussing our options. Jeanot has come to see us live, and he commented that we sounded on the recordings exactly like we did live. Ultimately, that is what we were trying to capture on these recordings, what we sounded like as five people playing music together in a room. We want to hold onto the ability to perform what we record live, and have been talking about how we can add elements and still maintain them during live performance. We want to add more visual elements as well. We have a way that we are confident will work for us.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We are meeting soon to discuss our next steps and make sure we have alignment with our plans. Currently the general outline would be to release videos for the other tracks on Camera Obscura, and then to figure out the new release targeted for the Fall. We have a number of tracks that we have written and arranged. Optimally we would be doing releases on a six month to one year schedule, with videos coming out regularly. We will see if we can make that happen.

It takes a lot of dedication in the form of time, energy, and money to create music with a band, so if your readers enjoy what we are creating, their support would be greatly appreciated. We are on all the major digital platforms, but we are fans of Bandcamp, and suggest those interested in supporting us shop there first. You can find links to all our social media at houndthewolves.com. There is a newsletter sign up at the bottom of the page that is a great way to keep up with what the band is doing.

Hound the Wolves, Camera Obscura (2018)

Hound the Wolves, “If Lost in Mind” official video

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Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on March 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

akula

Those familiar with the vocal work of Columbus, Ohio-based vocalist Jeff Martin will find his presence recognizable in everything but context when it comes to the newcomer five-piece Akula. Known of course for his work fronting (from behind the drums) the fuzz-laced heavy rocking Lo-Pan, Martin brings his soulful melodicism to Akula as part of a lineup that includes bassist Scott Hyatt, guitarists Sergei Parfenov and Chris Thompson (the latter now also of Lo-Pan) and drummer Ronnie Miller, and the group’s self-titled first full-length incorporates a swath of atmospheric textures derived from progressive metal as ’90s alternative, post-rock and more beyond.

The album, Akula was given a digital self-release by the band in January in somewhat quiet fashion almost testing the ground to gauge an initial reception that, sure enough, came back in a positive response to the sharp chugging turns of 12-minute closer “Predators,” the open-spaced rolling groove of “Force Me Open” (10:07) the weighted ambient pulsations of opener “A Pound of Flesh” (9:19) and the post-doomer crash of “Born of Fire”‘s (9:27) blend of sonic reach and earthen nod. These four extended tracks would be all Akula needed to make that strong first impression, and in terms of both memorable songwriting and a stylistic ambitiousness, the self-titled indeed sounds like only the beginning of where the band might go in terms of ground they explore and just the first demonstration of a nuance of craft set to grow even more across subsequent outings.

Whether Martin‘s voice is the draw or you happen upon Akula through some other means — frankly, the pop in Miller‘s snare, Hyatt‘s tone on the low end and the fluidity with which Thompson and Parfenov lead transitions between claustrophobic riffing and broad-spaced soundscapes all make valid arguments in the 41-minute LP’s favor — the clearly-intended-to-be-two-vinyl-sides offering is immersive from the outset and rich in both sprawl and impact. I would not at all be surprised to find a physical pressing or two in the works for later this year, but in the meantime, Martin was kind enough to take some time to discuss the origins of the band and how the record came together in writing and recording, and whether or not Akula should be considered a side-project. Some of those responses might surprise you.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

akula akula

Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Tell me about Akula getting together. What was the impetus behind starting the band, and how much did you guys know going into the project what you wanted it to sound like?

Akula started when Lo-Pan had some downtime. I was feeling an overabundance of creative energy and I thought jamming with some different people and different styles might be a good way to channel some of that. This was before Chris [Thompson, guitar] joined Lo-Pan. I knew who he was and had seen a few of his previous bands play. I had been listening to a lot of heavier psychedelic stuff in the vein of Yob, Neurosis, and even some Mastodon. I knew Chris could do pretty much anything from seeing him play. I contacted him and asked if he would be interested in getting some people together for a purely fun project. He was all for it. I told him what I was thinking in terms of style and he said he actually already had some part ideas he had been messing around with that might be a fit.

We talked about bass players and drummers and rhythm guitarists and invited some guys to meet up and discuss. It all went pretty smoothly. And stylistically, everyone seemed to understand what we were looking for. A darker, heavier psychedelic sound with melodic vocals. Longer format and prog shifts seemed like a natural thing for everyone. So we got to work.

Talk about that sound for a bit. The album has such a sense of space to it, everything sounds very open and atmospheric, but still heavy. Was there something in particular you were looking to capture in terms of mood on the album?

I think there was a nebulous direction we were all going, but it’s always a mystery how it will actually shake out when you start playing. We all come from various genres of heavy music but also a mix of other types of music as well. Atmospheric was definitely where I wanted it to go. Chris brings that off-time heavy lead mentality to the songs and that was new for me. It was a challenge for me to add vocals to that. I am used to having very standard time signatures which allows me to weave in and out as much as I want to. In that feel, I can really add to the swing of a song. I really love heavy music that swings. But with Akula it took me a bit of effort to learn where the swing was. It’s definitely there. But with the off-time parts, I wanted to make sure that my swing wasn’t too hindered by the guitar parts. It’s not always easy. But I do enjoy the challenge of incorporating my vocal and lyrical style into a heavier format.

How does Akula’s songwriting process work? How does a track like “Force Me Open” come together, and what does each member of the band bring to it? When did you begin writing for the record?

Usually it all starts with a part idea from either Chris or Sergei. Those two will get together and work out a sort of skeleton format for a song. Then Scott and Ronnie will jam with them to build the rest. Adding parts. Changing parts. Removing parts. This will all happen over the course of a few weeks. Maybe even a month or two. “Force Me Open” probably took five months or more to reach a record-ready state.  And some of that is just time delays. Chris joined Lo-Pan about a year after we started Akula. Before we even had a name for Akula, actually. So Lo-Pan’s schedule definitely has an effect on the Akula writing process when it comes to time allocation for myself and for Chris.

Also everyone else in the band has quite a bit going on as well. Scott, our bassist is in a few different bands, mainly Bridesmaid, but also occasionally Horseburner and Siouxplex. He also has a career and a wife. Ronnie, our drummer is in another band (Artillery Breath) and travels quite a bit. Sergei, our rhythm guitarist has a family and runs a business. It all just takes time. We began writing the first record from the very first jam sessions. But I think it took around a year before we had our first two songs completed. All before we even discussed a name for the band.

We didn’t even play a show until around the 18-month mark. That was important for us when we started out. We wanted everything to happen in its own good time. No shows until we felt it was all ready to be played out. No recording until we have an album worth of material we all liked. No rushing whatsoever. It’s done when it’s done. And in the meantime we just have fun playing music and hanging out together. That was the first thing I said to everyone when we first got together. Those were the marching orders. No stress. Just fun.

No hassles. It’s done when it’s done. And we have really seen that through. It really is like that. We don’t fight. We all get along and we have a blast together. We play the shows we want to play. We go the direction we all decide is best.

Tell me about recording. It’s just four tracks, but they’re four pretty significant tracks. Where was the album done, how long were you in the studio and as your first release, how do you feel the outcome represents the band at this stage?

Recording could not have been a better process for us. We recorded this record at Sonic Lounge here in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a really killer studio with some outstanding equipment and it’s all run by Joe Viers. Chris had worked with Joe multiple times in other projects like Sleepers Awake. I worked with Joe on the last Lo-Pan release (In Tensions), and Scott had worked with him in his band Bridesmaid. Joe was our first choice and for me our only choice really. He just gets music and he’s a fantastic collaborator. He becomes like another member of the band. He makes strong suggestions and will hold you accountable when he knows you can play a part better or if you’re out of tune. And even vocally, I have found Joe to be an invaluable resource for ideas on harmonies and execution. I can’t say enough good things about the guy.

We did the entire album and mixing over the course of two weekends at Sonic Lounge. It was a real blast to make this album. I think as a first effort it reflects the entire timeline of the band to this point. You can hear the maturation of the songs. Or at least I can. “Born of Fire” was our first completed song. “Force Me Open” was the second completed song. Even between those two songs, I think you can hear a quantum shift. It’s pretty rewarding to see that growth as a group.

Of course, you’ve done plenty of touring over the years in Lo-Pan, but how much will Akula play out? Will you guys tour to support the album? How much is the band a side-project for you or anyone else involved?

As far as playing out goes, I think Akula takes a very methodical approach to things. We love to play live but we want live shows to be an addition to our experience, and not just a maintaining of status quo. So we are selective about frequency and overall makeup of shows. We are discussing a summer run to support this release.

I would say when we first started out this was definitely a side-project for all of us. And as it’s progressed it has really become an important project for everyone. I don’t know that I would still classify Akula as my side-project. It’s just a different project with a different sound and its own process.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Akula is currently in talks to sign with an indie label to release our self-titled in physical format including vinyl. More to follow on that. We are also continuing to write new material which we will start road testing soon. Our next show is April 6 at Spacebar in Columbus with Royal Thunder and Pinkish Black.

Akula, Akula (2018)

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Six Dumb Questions with Killer Boogie (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on March 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

killer boogie

As I’m sure someone much wiser than myself once said, sometimes you got the boogie in you, you gotta let that boogie out. Such would seem to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe-esque origin story of Roman classic-style heavy rockers Killer Boogie, whose 2015 debut, Detroit (review here), and subsequent participation in a four-way split with The Golden Grass, Wild Eyes and Banquet (review here) has still left them with plenty of dancing demons to exorcise — or at least put to tape, depending on how you want to look at it. The band’s second long-player, Acid Cream, is an 11-track swirl-and-fuzz-o-thon that takes the heavy ’70s crotchal thrust of the first record and pushes it cosmic; an upward trajectory of caked-on reverb and vibe, vibe, vibe that makes songs like “Escape from Reality” and “Atomic Race” as tripped out as they are clued in.

That spacebound progression is a marked difference between Detroit and Acid Cream, and while no rule is absolute — “Am I Daemon” certainly has its earthbound shuffling aspects — the shift could hardly come at a more interesting time. Killer Boogie is comprised of drummer Luigi Costanzo, newcomer bassist Nicola Cosentino and killer boogie acid creamguitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori, the latter also the founder of Italian heavy psych forerunners Black Rainbows and the head of Heavy Psych Sounds Records and Booking, whose work promoting the Italian underground and really the wider sphere of boogie rock and heavy psych over the last five years is near-unparalleled. As Fiori brings Black Rainbows down to a more grounded approach with their new album, it somehow makes sense that some of those spacier impulses would show up in Killer Boogie, but there’s still plenty of proto-punk to be had in “Let the Birds Fly,” the odd interlude “Mississippi,” the Sabbath-chugging “The Black Widow” and even the grunge-laced penultimate cut, “The Day of the Melted Ice Cream,” which gives way to the testosterone space-drift of “I Wanna Woman Like You” to close out.

The fact that Killer Boogie have worked at a pretty quick clip isn’t such a surprise — between signing bands to his label, booking tours for himself and others, writing, recording and playing live, Fiori doesn’t seem much the type for stillness — but it’s the fact of the stylistic movement leading to Acid Cream, as well as the integration of Cosentino on bass, that most intrigues when it comes to the band’s second album, where it’s taking them sound-wise and how they might continue to push forward and perhaps outward from here. Do they have interplanetary boogie? Does it exist? We may get there yet.

Acid Cream is out this week on Heavy Psych Sounds. You can stream the album in full on the player below and check out a Q&A with Fiori about making the record after having done Detroit, changes in the band and much more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions and full album stream:

Six Dumb Questions with Killer Boogie

Tell me about writing for Acid Cream? When did you start and what did you want to do differently coming off of Detroit?

Writing for Acid Cream, we had Nicola as a new bass player and we definitely wanted to go to the rehearsal space to have some fun and immediately after the first rehearsal we wrote three or four songs and we had a lot of new material, music, without shape. Rough songs, plus a couple of new songs already written down with our old bass player. So right in the summer last year, we had the drummer, Luigi, he had to go to work in Russia for one year, so we had to record all the songs in the summer or probably the second album of Killer Boogie would never see the light. So we’ve been a long time in the rehearsal, shaping all the songs, writing down the lyrics and stuff, and we just booked in full August, which is pretty calm around here because everything is stopping for the summer break, and we found a nice studio and we recorded pretty fast. In two days. There were a lot of songs. Different from Detroit? Well, Detroit was, I don’t know, maybe more spontaneous? I can’t really say, but also this record is spontaneous. Detroit was the first image of the band, and this is maybe a bit different but not so much. Detroit is very fresh, I can say. This one, to us, pretty nice songs, and we did update the sound of the band. The songwriting is a bit different, but not so much.

Obviously the influences are different, but is your writing process any different between Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie? Do you have preferred way of writing and putting together song ideas? How do tracks like “Atomic Race” and “The Black Widow” come about?

The writing process, maybe yes, with Killer Boogie, there is more improvising. It’s not really jam, because maybe I pop up with a killer riff and say, “let’s play this riff together,” and after that, maybe the process is more in the rehearsal space. Yeah, we jam and we try to write a song at the same time we just pop it up, I just pop it up with a riff. And yes, when we go in the rehearsal space with the Boogie there is definitely no rush, no push. We just go there to have fun. Of course there is always the strength of writing a song, so you need to spend time if you want to make a song with a start and an ending, so we definitely work on the songs, but the first approach is definitely more relaxed, and this less psychedelic, so maybe it’s more, “rock and roll, yeah, let’s do it!” “Atomic Race” and “The Black Widow,” I can say that in Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie, maybe all the songs sound killer, but when we record the voice on it, it doesn’t sound so good, and some other songs, like “Atomic Race,” you say, “Oh yeah, this is like a B-side song; I don’t think this would be so good,” and then you record the lyrics, you pop up with cool vocal melodies, and definitely the song takes another shape. So you never know until the end. Maybe you put some keyboard on it and the song definitely changes, so you never know about it. “Atomic Race” and “The Black Widow” comes out like the other ones, but maybe “The Black Widow” is one of the songs we wrote all together with Nicola, the new bass player, and we recorded it in a while.

Tell me about writing “Mississippi.” Have you ever been to the state? What does the song say about the place and its history?

Mississippi, no. I’ve never been to the state. The song doesn’t even have lyrics and vocals, so it’s just a tribute to the land of the blues. So it’s kind of a blues song. Short one. I think Nicola or Luigi gave the name of the song, because it was kind of a blues song. It was a song we just started to play. This is not some kind of riff that comes out. I just started digging with the guitar and everybody was starting playing, and we just had this interlude, short one, was nice. Maybe the recording is less spontaneous than when we recorded during the rehearsal, but it’s nice. I think it’s a nice song.

What was your time in the studio like for Acid Cream? How long did the recording process take, how was the album put together and what was the vibe like while you were working on it?

As I said before about the story of the recording, was pretty fast. We’re pretty fast in recording. If you’re a decent musician, you need to do a lot of rehearsal and of course if you’re not looking for the best of the sound, and if your ideas are really clear, you just go there and record. So we just built the studio in one day, made the sounds which we liked most, and we recorded I think from 9AM to 2PM, playing the tracklist like three or four times. That’s it. Then we chose the best takes. Mixing was a bit of a pain in the ass, because the guy from the studio, he has this fucking old studio where he has tape recorders we didn’t use, but he was working with software, so fucking old and freaky to use, which we lost a lot of time and we have a lot of bugs during the mixing, but in the end, we were pretty satisfied. It’s rough now.

Name the five best albums released in 1971.

Five best albums released in ’71. Well… Black Sabbath one. I had to see, I can’t recall any right now, all the ’71 records. I can definitely mistake. Caravan, In the Land of the Gray and Pink. Of course Master of Reality, which was the only one I remembered, and there’s Led Zeppelin IV, but I’m not crazy about Zeppelin IV, and yeah. And there is Sticky Fingers from Rolling Stones. I would say this one.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

We don’t have really plans because the drummer is in Russia and I’m pretty busy with the label and Black Rainbows. So for now, this exact moment, we just wanted to release the album and we will come back with some live shows soon but not so close. Probably the end of the year or next year we will try to arrange some kind of tour definitely. We want to go to Germany. We definitely know we have some audience there who want to see us live after we played Desertfest last year.

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