If it was a Western, it would be The Revenge of the Return to Weirdo Canyon. It’s not a Western though. I did what’s fast becoming my usual directionless shuffle to get here following a stop off at Sounds, which is apparently just down the way. A blatant reminder if nothing else of how little I actually know this place. Picked up a few cool rockers from Sparzanza and Winnebago Deal, the last Endless Boogie in case they don’t have it with them in their merch, and Hexagon, by Black Skies, and no complaints. Sounds was a cool shop and I’m glad to be in Tilburg again.
The canyon is much as I left it, though the train ride to get here was longer than I remembered. Maybe I was sleeping, but just as I was thinking to myself that this was taking much more time than I thought it would, I saw the spires on top of the cathedral here and knew right off where I was. Those spires would also later provide orientation while I wandered in the alleys en route to the canyon, which, since I didn’t get much time here last year, I definitely wanted to visit at least for a cup of coffee.
At some point I need to eat, too. Should remember to do that. Last thing I seem to recall eating was a protein bar halfway through the flight. Should also buy a big bottle of water before I go back to the hotel in Eindhoven. Quite a to-do list I’m assembling here.
I checked in on the 013. It’s still there. And the Hotel Mercure is still there. There is a smattering of locals in the canyon, more probably than there will be come tomorrow, but if I was just walking by, I’d either know something was up or want to sell my house for the influx of the beard element. Tomorrow most of these people will stay away and it’ll just be the weirdos and the pigeons, which are different than the ones at home – like the trees are different – and have a quiet kind of dignity to them while being chased by small children in the square, like, “Excuse me, I’m trying to get some lunch. And shouldn’t you be in school?”
We’re almost there. This will be my last check-in before I get to the Mercure tomorrow. There’s a Roadburn pre-show tonight, but I’m skipping it in favor of what will be my last quiet evening for a while, though it is peaceful here, if smoky, so maybe just another minute or two.
Posted in Features on April 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.17.13 — 15.56 — Wednesday — Best Western Arthotel, Eindhoven
It was a foggy, wet kind of morning when the plane landed at Schiphol, and as towns whizzed by on the train, it was a measure to see it had rained here, hadn’t rained there. It’s about an hour and a half by rail from Amsterdam to Eindhoven — and did I sleep on the plane no of course I did not sleep on the plane — so I got out of the airport as quickly as possible. 35007 (Phase V was perfect for the weather and made me realize again how much one less tired than I could argue they set the stage for the explorations of bands like My Sleeping Karma) and the new split between The Machine and Sungrazer were my accompaniment, as well of course as my luggage Big Blue, which according to the scale back in Newark weighs over 60 pounds this year. It doesn’t even have any CDs in it yet! They put a tag on the handle that says, “Heavy.” Fat people can’t go anywhere these days.
There was some debate on my part whether to bring them, but in the end, I think lugging the DVDs of Arrested Development along for this trip was the right idea. When I told The Patient Mrs. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have them with me on account of thinking that when you’re traveling you should sort of put yourself out of your comfort zone — as if I fucking am ever comfortable anywhere, ever, ever — she more or less said to drop the hackneyed bullshit, grow up, and put them between the t-shirts and my socks so they didn’t get bounced around. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea. She was right, in any case. As I slammed into bed to crash out for a few hours, it was a much appreciated comfort of home.
And anyway, I brought my fucking pillow and the place I’m staying calls itself an “Arthotel,” so I’m hardly roughing it. I have no idea what “Arthotel” means, but it’s easily the nicest Best Western I’ve ever set foot in. Even at reception, Mike, whose last name according to the tag was Trainee, checked me in from behind a giant transluscent plastic flower. There were three of them set up instead of a registration counter. It being the Netherlands, I went to the orange one. So far what I can surmise about the “Arthotel” aspect of the thing is that the signs with the room numbers in the atrium-type hallway are whacky and don’t match and the walls have different paints and wallpapers on them. Apparently in Eindhoven, the artists also enjoy 10-ft. ceilings. Also the toilet is in a little room separate from the shower and the sink, which means you have to pee in one spot and then go over to the next room to wash your hands. That’s performance art.
Eindhoven is beautiful though, which is more or less why I’m here. I got off the train and stumbled, dragging Big Blue — whose wheels made loud clacky sounds on the brick walkways as I went as if in a gallop announcing to anyone awake that, yes, there was an American in town — and had some trouble finding this place. Thinking it was a Holiday Inn didn’t help, and neither did not knowing what street it’s on. I turned on my cell phone, which I’ll be keeping off as much as possible to avoid incurring roaming data charges, and looked in my email for the note from The Patient Mrs. with the confirmation. Of course she booked the room. She booked this whole thing. I’d be lost without her.
For evidence, I’ll give you the picture of greasy, post-flight, no-sleep me, clomping around early morning Eindhoven trying to find a hotel when I’ve got the name wrong and no address. I went a couple blocks in the direction of the Markt, where I stayed last year, and then looped around after checking the address and eventually found it on my way back to the train station to look at the map. Surprisingly, “Holiday Inn” wasn’t on the map when I looked on the way in. No word on Best Western.
In a couple minutes I’ll jump in the shower (while I’m giving pleasant images), and then find coffee and get on a train to Tilburg to do a bit of record shopping at a place called Sounds that I’ve wanted to visit for a few years now but never had time. In case I need to fire up this post and look later, it’s down Stationstraat (which is by the station) after it merges with Nieulandstraat. I love the Dutch language, the sounds of it, and wish I was not entirely ignorant of it as I am. There’s a lot I feel that way about, but I’m away and lucky enough to be here in this gorgeous place, and if feeling like you’ve just said all the most embarrassing things you ever said in your life all at the same time every time you open your mouth is the price to pay (aside from the actual price), I’ll chalk it up to being an American abroad.
It felt good to sleep, and I’m confident that if I got back in bed, I could do it for much, much longer, but it’s time to get up and get out of this room. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Posted in Features on April 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.16.13 – 7:45PM Eastern – Tuesday – Over Atlantic
The pigeon pigeon (yes, I know I typed it twice) above was walking around under the benches at Gate C72, Newark Liberty Airport. Wildlife, man. Nature is nothing if not persistent.
Airline food smells like chemicals and I consider refusing it a grand act of defiance. The staff always look at you so surprised. “Really? Nothing?” Even the salad is made of pink slime, I’m sure of it. Like the scientists usually in charge of seeing what we can learn by spraying flame retardant chemicals in rabbit eyes suddenly stumbled on the formula for potatoes au gratin. No. Nothing. Thanks.
We’ve been in the air for a little more than an hour. Our cruising altitude is 35,007 feet and we have a little more than 3,000 miles to go before we reach Schiphol. If we were on the ground, we’d be doing 577 miles per hour. I can see it’s gotten dark through the peephole on the cabin door, but last I looked out the window next to me, the engine and the wing were still there. It’s important to know these things.
They have on-demand movies now. They sell drinks now – credit or debit cards only; before we took off, the flight attendant referred to it as a “cash-free plane,” and I immediately wanted to make a Leno joke about the cost of airfare, but I don’t think the four-year-old in the seat next to me would’ve gotten it, and I hate making toddlers feel like they should laugh just to be polite – and duty free catalogs are around here somewhere. The marketing is astounding. The budgets. If they actually gave a fuck and invested, those rabbit-blasting scientists surely could’ve come up with a better, less flying-death-trap-y mode of transportation by now. Hoversomethingorother. Teleportando. Anything but Economy Class on United.
I have headphones on, because Mama Koczan didn’t raise no fool. First was Olde Growth in the airport, then Anciients, now Colour Haze. A double-album is all the better for long-distance travel, and I expect I’ll revisit She Said several times before this trip is over.
Unless of course we plummet into the ocean at a thousand miles an hour, in which case I won’t have the opportunity.
I suppose that’s what you’re really paying for: the distraction. The in-flight entertainment, the on-demand movies, the toxic food, the beverage carts – it’s like they’ve all been focus tested to draw your mind away from the fact that with each minor tumble could come immediate, irrevocable, explosive death in the sky, from which you will then drop out, to die a fearful death alone as you lose a one-sided fight to gravity, never to be found again among the expanse of flaming, floatable debris.
If it happens and I go, I want to be eaten by an octopus. It seems only fair.
My wife asked me today if I was excited for the trip. She wasn’t the only one. I guess it wasn’t showing, the thrill of it all. That starts after this.
It’s -74 degrees outside. I can see it on the monitor. Fasten seatbelt light on. Shake shake.
Posted in Features on April 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I won’t lie, turning on the “Out of Office” for my work email was the most satisfying thing I’ve done at my job in three weeks. It’s been a breaststroke through bullshit to get ready, and I’m already exhausted before I’ve even left, but I know that in an hour’s time when I leave to go to the airport, get pulled out of line as part of a “random” check and finally get on a plane headed (direct!) for Amsterdam, it will have been worth it. I’m looking forward to it the way lungs look forward to air.
Well, not the flight itself — that I’ve been looking forward to the way lungs look forward to water — but certainly what comes after. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be keeping track of what until I can think of a better name I’ll be calling the “Euroventure 2013.” Tomorrow morning, when my plane lands at Schiphol in Amsterdam, I’ll jump on a by-now familiar yellow and blue train to Eindhoven, where I’ll check in at my hotel, probably crash out for a few hours, and then hit up a record store or two in the area — I was bummed to read Bullit Records closed, but maybe I’ll jump on a train and head to Tilburg, where I know there are a few shops — in preparation for what’s to come this weekend.
Thursday starts the Roadburn Festival 2013 at the 013 venue in Tilburg. As I have the last four years, I’ll be covering that as much as possible (one can’t see everything) front to back, words and pics from the whole thing. It’s going to be a massive undertaking, but for the next several days, there’s no place better on the planet to be than there.
Monday morning, I’ll hop a train back to Schiphol, then on to London hopefully in time to catch Elder at The Black Heart. I’ll be staying in London for a few days in advance of the start of Desertfest 2013, which begins with a pre-show Thursday night featuring Greek rockers 1000mods. From there, it’s another mind-boggling weekend of heaviness brought to you in similar fashion, words, pics, complaints about sore feet, and so on.
As with every year, I hope in advance you enjoy keeping up with this trip, and I want to say and advance thanks to the Roadburn and Desertfest crews for hosting me at these festivals, and to The Patient Mrs., who I’ve no doubt will have occasion to live up to her name before the next two weeks are through. I may post some off-topic stuff along the way, news, etc., but I hope you’ll bear with me in that regard, since time will no doubt be limited.
Posted in Features on April 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
In 2011, London-based doomers Pombagira released an album called Iconoclast Dream. It was comprised of a single, 42-minute track, but really, they should’ve kept the title in their pocket for the subsequent outing — because as it turns out, the latest, Maleficia Lamiah, is far more subversive. The duo’s fifth LP overall, it answers the question of what comes after that single-song record, what you could possibly do after you’ve already pushed your sound as far is it can go? It’s an issue Ufomammut tackled with last year’s Orotwo-parter, and their answer was to keep getting bigger, to release one album as two. For Pombagira, it wasn’t going to be that easy.
The two-piece of guitarist/vocalist Pete Giles and drummer Carolyn Hamilton-Giles would keep working in extended tracks — Maleficia Lamiahhas two, its title cut and the subsequent “Grave Cardinal” — but for the latest recording, they adopted a far more psychedelic context for the sound. It’s not a complete reinvention, but for the first time in a career that goes as far back as when he played in Azagthoth with Napalm Death‘s Shane Embury in 1987, Pete uses clean singing on the songs, and the material as a result calls back to early psychedelic influences that Pombagira has adopted with striking ease as part of their aesthetic, from Maleficia Lamiah‘s deep-toned artwork to their promotional photos for the album, taken by Vic Singh, who also shot the cover of Pink Floyd‘s debut, The Piper at the Gates ofDawn,in 1967.
And not only does Pete sing clean, but he works in an eerie falsetto depending on which of the album’s movements it seems to fit. The song “Maleficia Lamiah” sprawls its just-under-19-minutes in varied movements, Carolyn‘s drums backing bizarro synth and cawing crows in the post-midsection after what’s already been an alternatively driving and stupefying journey through the first half. What Pombagira make clear on Maleficia Lamiahmore than anything is that they’re unwilling to be tied to expectation — even their own — and as the title-track winds up in a tempest swirl resuming the intonation of the name of the record, the only tenet Pete and Carolyn are adhering to is that which they’ve created for themselves.
Given the changes in approach Maleficia Lamiahrepresents, there was as you might imagine a lot to talk about. In the interview that follows, Pete discusses how Maleficia Lamiahcame about followingIconoclast Dream, the band’s reticence toward playing live and how they’re handling the inevitability of bringing the new material to a stage, how the working relationship between the duo has grown over the course of five albums, where he thinks this new direction might lead them and much more.
Please find the complete 3,400-word Q&A after the jump, and please enjoy:
Posted in Features on March 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
A digitally-released full-length with its individual songs wrangled into two extended vinyl-side tracks, The Kings of Frog Island IVis an anomaly before you even press (or click) play. The Leicester outfit have proved as amorphous as they are amphibious over the course of their prior three self-titled albums, but IVmarks a couple big changes for the psychedelic rockers. Primarily, it’s their first outing without the input of guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt, who split following the 2010 release of III(review here), and it’s also their first full-length to arrive without an Elektrohasch Schallplatten logo stamped on back.
But if these real-world changes have had any effect on the molecular creative doings in Amphibia, the Kings‘ ethic shows little shift for it. As they did on their 2005 self-titled and 2008 let-me-almost-go-five-minutes-without-telling-you-how-awesome-this-record-is follow-up, II, The Kings of Frog Island casually, naturally, blend desert rock organics with deep-running space tonality. The tracks on IV– there are 10 of them and it’s fun to suss out which starts when — vary in mood and tempo, but a strong thread courses throughout of inner-peace fuzz, and where III showed a rawer, garage rocking side of the band, IV(review here) reacts to unite this with prior accomplishments, resulting in a new and potent blend.
Much about the band — now comprised of guitarist/vocalist Mark Buteux, drummer Roger “Dodge” Watson, Gavin Searle, Gavin Wright and TonyHeslop, as well as other guests– remains obscure, and by all appearances, that’s on purpose. They don’t like having their picture taken and though Buteux talks about the processes involved in putting IVand the already-in-the-works Vtogether, who’s actually doing what and when is a mysteryThe Kings of Frog Islandseem to enjoy perpetuating. With good reason. Not only is a layer of murk fitting for their swampy thematic, but for an album where they’re asking (telling, really) their listeners to take in on as a whole instead of each track as an individual piece, a bit of meta-vagueness seems only appropriate.
Still, Buteux – Watson may have had a hand in here as well — remains forthcoming as regards the making of IVand the intent and concepts at work behind that album, while also giving a hint at what Vmight bring upon its arrival, which could be as soon as later this year. You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Features on March 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was fortunate enough last fall to be asked to take some pictures of Clutch while they were recording their 10th studio album, Earth Rocker, at producer Machine‘s North Jersey studio, the Machine Shop. When I got there, vocalist Neil Fallon was putting down the chorus for what would become the album’s fourth track, “D.C. Sound Attack,” and the hook was so immediately strong that right away when I got back to my car I wrote down the words so I wouldn’t forget them when I had the song stuck in my head for however many months it would be until the album finally came out. It looked like this:
That was the first clue I had that Earth Rocker was going to be both something special and a very different album than Clutch‘s last, 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West. Where Strange Cousins pushed further into the mid-paced blues and jam explorations of recent years, even that tiny sample was enough to show that Earth Rocker was after a bigger sound, and in its finished product — released this week on the band’s own Weathermaker Music imprint — it got there. The massive room of a song like “The Face,” or the rush of its title-track, “Cyborg Bette,” “Crucial Velocity” or “Book, Saddle and Go”; it all adds up to a revitalized feel, and one well earned by the hard-touring Maryland stalwarts.
Clutch tour. That’s their thing, and it’s why it took so long to get this record together. In the four years since Strange Cousins hit, a collection of acoustic reinterpretations coupled with a Weathermaker reissue of 2004′s Blast Tyrant — their first collaboration Machine — and a Record Store Day 2012 picture disc single for the track “Pigtown Blues” filled the space between LPs, but Clutch were only ever off the road long enough to regroup for the start of the next run. Yeah, it was time to get an album out, but hey when Motörhead calls, you answer.
The point is, if absence made their fanbase’s collective heart grow stronger, Clutch weren’t actually absent. They were going door-to-door. Still, in no small part because of its energetic material, Earth Rocker (review here) arrives as an extra satisfying listen, like the album is its own bonus. “D.C. Sound Attack” is a highlight, as is “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…,” as is the side-A-closing slowdown “Gone Cold,” as is each track for one reason or another. How have Clutch chosen to celebrate the new release? The only way they seem to know how. By touring.
Teamed with London-based destroyers Orange Goblin for the first US leg going on now, Clutch — Fallon, guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster — have embarked on what’s sure to be years of slogging in support of Earth Rocker. I spoke to Fallon prior to the start of the shows, after the band had gotten home from a stint through Europe in January/February, which as he noted in our conversation, was their best batch of gigs there to date.
After the jump, please find the complete Q&A with Neil Fallon of Clutch about the album, touring and much more, as well as selected pictures taken at that first in-studio (the first two below) and Clutch‘s 2012 CMJ party and performance, where they previewed Earth Rocker material for a short but memorable set.
Delaware-based four-piece Wasted Theory will release their second EP, GodSpeed, this coming Saturday at a show in their native state with Weed is Weed, War Injun, Foghound and Screaming Rattler at the Mojo 13 in Wilmington. The new release continues a quick start for Wasted Theory, who formed summer 2012 with riffs in hand and quickly set to work on putting them to use for their debut, the Cinco Dechado De Cancion EP, released last fall.
GodSpeedfollows a similar course to the first outing in its overall style, but is more developed, a song like “Mountain King” dripping Southern rock swagger à la Halfway to Gone‘s “Great American Scumbag” while relying on a foundation of riffs strong enough to hold up all that attitude. The dual guitars of Jackson (also vocals) and M. Kramer foster metallic tones, while Jay‘s bass — most prevalent in its intro to “Fuck You and the Horse You Rode in On” before being relegated to a backseat to the guitars in the mix — thickens in heavy rock tradition and BrendanBurns‘ drums punctuate the formidable stomp.
Burns doubles as the honcho of SnakeCharmer Booking, responsible for some righteous shows in the Delaware/Maryland area including the Eye of the Stoned Goat fests — the second of which took place last month (review here) and the third of which is Obelisk-sponsored and coming up July 27 at The Acheron in Brooklyn. So with the release of GodSpeedthis week, the upcoming gig, the drummer’s involvement in making the Mid-Atlantic that much heavier, and Wasted Theory‘s slot on Stoner Hands of Doom XIII later this year in Virginia, it seemed like a good opportunity to bug them with Six Dumb Questions, which fortunately they were kind enough to take time out to answer.
You’ll find the results below. Please enjoy:
1. Give me the background on how Wasted Theory got together.
With Delaware being so small, we all knew the same drug dealers, (just kidding)… WastedTheory was the result of many shitty auditions and failed project attempts. In the summer of 2012 we finally found a good combination of players, and it just clicked. We all came from semi-professional music backgrounds, so for us the main objective was to find musicians with the same goals but with different influences to create a style that spanned several styles within the rock genre.
2. It seems like you guys got Cinco Dechado De Canción out rather quickly after forming. How did the writing process for the material work? How does that compare to the process for GodSpeed? Is there anything in particular you were looking to change going into the new release?
It was definitely a speedy process, because most of what Cinco was made up of was riffs and lyrics that everyone already had and were combined and rewritten to fit the new framework of the band. For Godspeed, we wrote new riffs and gradually took everyone’s input and created the music from the ground up. In many ways Godspeed could be considered our first true collaboration in the respect that it was written from fresh ideas rather than existing ones. As far as changes, we wanted to experiment and start using different guitar tones, time signatures, as well as playing with some different effects. We also used some audio samples to help create a more themed and cohesive album. Also, I believe Mark may have also started purchasing a different grade of marijuana… that helped too.
3. Tell me about recording GodSpeed. Was there anything you wanted to do differently coming off the first EP? Will you guys do a physical pressing for GodSpeed, or is it digital-only at this time?
We definitely were looking to go a little more heavy, but also a little more “C.O.C.-ish” on some tracks. We wanted to add some more ambience, add some different “bluesy” highlights as well, but at the same time show our versatility and basically our ability to play different forms of the same genre. Oh Yes, there are physical copies of Godspeed that can be purchased at our shows or overseas through Ozium, and it will also be available digitally through iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, all those cool places.
4. Brendan put together the Eye of the Stoned Goat fests and you guys and Wizard Eye will be the only bands to have played all three installments so far when the next one takes place in July. Can you talk a bit about the process in putting together this festival and what it is about Wizard Eye that has made them such a regular fixture? Aside from their kicking ass, that is.
In all honesty, I really dug what Rob [Levey] was doing with Stoner Hands of Doom and I really wanted to do something similar for my area. After the ESG2 festival, I was contacted by several venues and promoters about doing the same type of festival in their towns, and I really loved the idea of doing one in New York. So, I teamed up with Pat Harrington from Geezer/the Electric Beard of Doom podcast and landed a spot at The Acheron in Brooklyn for ESG3. He and I worked on locking this show down, and landed some amazing bands for it. One of those bands naturally was WizardEye. Not only are they a great band, but great dudes too. Erik [Caplan] has been one of my biggest supporters since the first event, and they just fit each bill so perfectly.
5. You’ll play Stoner Hands of Doom later this year as well. How did that come about? Any chance of an ESG/SHOD collaboration in the future?
We would fucking love to collaborate with Rob and do an ESG/SHoD show, that would be killer. It could definitely happen in the future, who knows! We actually just happened to land a spot on this year’s show by dumb luck. We sent Rob a track from the first EP and he really dug it and asked us to join SHoD XIII. Obviously we told him fuck yeah!
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We’ll be heading out to do tons of shows with tons of great bands this year, so please check out our site for all the dates and bands we’ll be teaming up with. Oh, and please buy the record! We are all late on our child support payments… Thank you.
If the questions asked in this Magic Circle interview seem kind of straightforward, that’s only because the doomly Boston-based five-piece have done so well at keeping themselves obscure. The band, whose self-titled debut (review here) is out now on CD/LP through Armageddon Shop, have virtually no online presence, be it social networking or otherwise, and in terms of recording info, pictures, etc., there just isn’t much out there at this point.
Difficult as that might make it to determine who’s who and how Magic Circle, the album, got made, it’s an admirable ethic. Some bands can’t go five minutes before updating their fans on which member’s farts stink the worst, or without posting a picture of one of the members sitting on plastic lawn furniture in somebody’s yard, with or without a beer, like the lamest moment of Bon Scott‘s life. And even those who protest the pervasiveness of digital engagement — i.e. me — still take part. If you’re actually against something, don’t do it.
Now, for a band playing the kind of doom that Magic Circle play — weighted and morose atmospherically, traditional in its follow-the-riff ethic, murky and dark in the sort of new New England sphere acts like Pilgrim are also helping to cast — it’s easy to take something like that as a play at cult appeal, but I think actually it’s much more cut and dry than that, and put in the context of the members of Magic Circle‘s combined decades of experience playing in hardcore bands like The Rival Mob and Mind Eraser – among many others in a variety of styles; drummer Q is also in Doomriders, for example — their opting out makes even more sense. They’re anti-bullshit. Like guitarist Chris “CC” Corry says below, “It feels gratuitous.”
Corry, who is joined in Magic Circle by Q, vocalist Brendan Radigan, guitarist Dan Ducas and bassist Justin DeTore, gives some background on how the band came together and put Magic Circle‘s Magic Circleto tape, their experience playing Chaos in Tejas last year in Austin (they’re doing it again this year), and more in the exchange that follows. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
1. How did Magic Circle first get together? With members also contributing to different bands, were/are there any difficulties in scheduling?
Everyone in the band has known each other for a long time. We all spent our teens and 20s in a whole bunch of hardcore and punk bands that played together on shows. Everyone in the band has always been into old rock and metal records, and myself (CC), Justin, and Brendan had talked about starting a band with a traditional late ‘70s/early ‘80s feel for a long time. Sabbath, Rainbow, WitchfinderGeneral, PaganAltar, Trouble, MercyfulFate were kinda the vibe I wanted, maybe not the way the riffs sound but just the feel and atmosphere. I’m not a virtuoso by any means, the guitarists in those bands… I wouldn’t be fit to lick their boots, but I finally just sat down and started writing. I had the skeletons for maybe four tunes we ended up using in spring of 2010.
Justin, Brendan and I have done a lot of bands together over the years, and I’ve helped the record other projects I’m not in, so that was kind of a no-brainer. I played them some rough riffs and they were in. Brendan is really the only guy I know who could do vocals this demanding. I got in touch with Q just knowing he was a real good old style drummer, and Dan had just moved back to Boston after being out in L.A. for a while, he wasn’t doing any music and he’s a good guitar player.
We recorded rehearsals of a few songs, just the basic music, and then Brendan recorded vocals over them and that was it. We had ourselves a band.
Scheduling for us is kind of tough, everyone in the band except Dan has been in several bands at all times for years (and is currently), everyone has a regular job during the week, and other commitments, wives and stuff… so it can be a chore. Sometimes there’s a month where no one can do anything but we’re not in a hurry.
2. Were you surprised at the initial response “Scream Evil” and “Magic Circle” got when you posted them on YouTube? You guys have been assiduous in keeping info about the band sparse, no website, Facebook, etc. Tell me what went into making that choice?
We weren’t sure how they would go over but at that point the record had been done for six months and we just wanted someone to hear it. Word did get around really fast which was surprising but we liked the songs and so we figured other people would too.
I don’t see the point in shoving ourselves down anyone’s throat. Facebook is a fine way to keep in touch with friends living in other states and countries, but other than that it feels gratuitous. If you like the music you can find it. I don’t see the need to force it on everyone. That’s pretty much always been the way I’ve done music.
3. How does the songwriting process usually work? How do the songs come together and when are the vocals added? Well for me I always kind of rough out the songs at home, just get some basic riffs into a structured whole, and then try and break it down into segments for the other dudes with instruments, it’s basic stuff and they’re pros so we can usually piece together a song in a couple practice sessions, and they help flesh out the arrangements, and adjust stuff. I record little clips of myself playing guitar and bring it to practice to help me remember. After that we can make a demo and let Brendan marinate on it for a couple weeks. Then he adds some vocals to the demo, and then we can kind of figure out if stuff needs to change, add a couple solos, things like that. Brendan‘s a strong vocalist so the song always changes after he adds to it.
4. Tell me about recording the self-titled. The album is so atmospheric and bleak sounding, what was the mood like at the studio? How long were you recording?
We recorded the album in Justin‘s parent’s basement in spring 2011 and we mostly had to work on weekends or after work so we could keep stuff set up there without moving anything around. Spring in New England is a little bleak to begin with. Everything’s damp, and still kind of dead. A lot of grey. I definitely wanted to have that creaky dark vibe you get on the first PaganAltar, the first Sabbath, some of the ‘70s Pentagram stuff… I tried to give the songs room to breathe. It’s a lot different than when I record hardcore and punk bands. A lot of recordings now, especially with regard to “doom,” sound too “clear” to me with the kick drum razor sharp and the guitars sounding like a Guitar Center demo, and the vocals are super in-your-face. That’s not what we want. I like when stuff sounds organic and real like you’re there hearing the band in that room.
As for the mood I’d love to tell you something crazy but we were just working hard to get things done. A lot of nights I would come over straight from work and we could record just for a couple hours in the late afternoon. Once we started on vocals, Brendan lives like an hour south of Boston so he would come up and we would try and do a whole song before we had to stop, because like I said, we were operating under the good will of the DeTore family. If anything maybe the tiredness from starting mostly at the end of the day kind of carried into the recording. It took three or four months to get everything tracked, but keep in mind it would be like work for a day or two, then nothing for a week or more. Very start/stop. Not the best way to do something but I didn’t want to rush. Everyone wanted to get it right. I mixed it a couple times over the next several months, it seemed like it was never going to really be done and come out for a while but it did eventually.
5. It’s pretty easy to read the tracklisting as being structured for vinyl sides. How on purpose was it to end each half of the record with two-part songs? Are there any plans for an LP release once the run of CDs is gone?
Well the album is out now on vinyl on the Armageddon Shop label (same as CD), and for that I’m very happy because I like records. I have an iPod for work, and the car, but most of my money goes to records. It was certainly structured to be an LP. There’s another song from the session “Lighting Her Fire,” that we self-released on a single that there just wasn’t room for on the album.
You can’t really cut an LP over 40 minutes, and even that is pushing it a bit. The two-part song thing I didn’t really think about until someone pointed it out. I added those titles really just as a nod to Sabbath using separate names on some of their instrumental sections, but it just seemed like that’s where those songs fit once we were done and needed a sequence. All the classic records I love – rock and roll, heavy metal, punk – they’re all sequenced in two sides for vinyl, you know? CD is a bit of an afterthought for me, honestly.
6. You guys did Chaos in Tejas in 2012. How was that experience for you? Will you do any other touring in 2013? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
A bunch of bands we’ve played in have done shows at Chaos over the years. Timmy who puts the whole thing on is a very good friend and has been really supportive of all the stuff that I’ve done for a long time. It was an honor to be one of the openers on a show with Saint Vitus, Church of Misery and Gates of Slumber. I never would have thought in a million years that would be a possibility. We’re playing again this year on the show BoltThrower is headlining which again is totally crazy and a complete honor. We don’t have any tours in the works. We are scheduled for the Wings of Metal show in Montreal though with Satan (w/ BrianRoss singing!), ManillaRoad, Midnight, Voor, BloodCeremony, Megiddo, Cauchemar…. August 30-31… Other than that – a show with Pilgrim in New Bedford March 16, and a show with Nightbitch in Connecticut March 22.
Posted in Features on March 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Yeah, I know, 24 is a buttload of records to buy in the span of about a month and a half. To do the division, it would mean buying a new album every 2.04 days. Probably not feasible in terms of time, let alone budget, but hell, it’s a nice thought and seeing the onslaught of new stuff coming between now and the end of April, I thought maybe a list would help keep it all straight. Even if I’m only helping myself, I could probably spend my time in worse ways.
Worth noting that even with 24 albums, presented below in order of release, I feel like there’s stuff I’m forgetting. Frankly, it’s an overwhelming amount of material, so if I’ve missed something or there’s something you’d like to see added to the list, as always, that’s why there’s a comments feature.
Okay. These are numbered just for fun, but listed by date:
1. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Fans (March 12)
My understanding is that London’s foremost doom scoundrels, none other than Orange Goblin, have been selling copies of A Eulogy for the Fans since starting their US tour with Clutch on March 8 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but today is the official release date, and I can think of no better place to start than with the four-piece’s ferocious performance at the 2012 Bloodstock festival, captured audio and video in all its bloodsoaked glory. Not to be missed or taken lightly because it’s a live record. Album review here.
2. Borracho, Mob Gathering 7″ (March 13)
Even though it’s comprised of older tracks, the new Mob Gathering 7″ from Borracho is welcome by me for two reasons: I’ve never heard the songs before and Borracho rocks. The Washington D.C.-based riffers recorded “Mob Gathering” and “Short Ride (When it’s Over)” in 2009 and are set to release the cuts on a limited platter in black and orange swirl through Spain’s Ghost Highway Recordings and Germany’s No Balls Records. They’ve been playing live as a mostly-instrumental outfit while guitarist/vocalist Noah is out of the country on what I can only assume is an awesome spy mission, so if you need a Borracho fix — and it’s obvious from the way your hands are shaking that you do — this might be the way to go. More info here.
3. Inter Arma, Sky Burial (March 15)
Like Windhand below, Inter Arma are recent Relapse Records signees from Richmond, Virginia, and Sky Burial will serve as their first release for the label. Literally and figuratively, the album is expansive, topping 69 minutes and pummeling the whole way through with a genre-transcending concoction of bleakness that’s not so much aligned to any particular heavy aesthetic so much as it is set to its own atmospheric purposes. Through this, Inter Arma emerge terrifyingly cohesive where many others would falter, and their second LP behind 2010′s Sundown (review here) leaves a progressive impression despite an almost complete lack of sonic pretense. Mostly, it’s fucking heavy. Track stream and info here.
4. Clutch, Earth Rocker (March 19)
If 2013 ended tomorrow, Clutch‘s Earth Rocker would be my album of the year. That’s not saying the situation will be the same nine months from now when I actually start putting that list together (already dreading it), but as of March 12, it’s the cat’s pajamas and no foolin’. The long-running Marylanders outdid themselves and put together a surprisingly fast, energetic collection of songs that don’t forsake the bluesy tendencies of their last album, 2009′s Strange Cousins from the West, so much as they put some of the jamming on lockdown in favor of all-out pro-grade heavy rock and roll. The velocity is crucial and the wolfman is out, but it feels like the party’s just starting. Look for them on tour sometime between now and forever. Album review here.
5. Black Mare, Field of the Host (March 20)
Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini frontwoman Sera Timms (who’s also recently collaborated with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in the new outfit Zun) steps further out on her own with the solo-project Black Mare, from whom Field of the Host is the first album. Due March 20 on LP through The Crossing and on cassette through Breathe Plastic, limited in both cases and sure to be gone shortly after release if they’re not already taken through pre-orders. Fans of Timms‘ past works will be glad to hear the misty wash of melody and dreamy, somehow sad, languid roll of “Blind One,” for starters. Audio and info on the forum.
6. Kvelertak, Meir (March 26)
Short of setting themselves on fire, Norwegian triple-guitar six-piece Kvelertak did just about everything they could to get noticed in support of their 2010 self-titled debut LP (review here), and sure enough, their work paid off in getting signed to Roadrunner Records for all territories outside their native Scandinavia (where Indie Recordings holds sway) and trumpeting up a wave of anticipation for their second full-length, Meir. Their energetic, genre-crossing approach might not be for everybody, but the band have turned a lot of heads and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find them on bigger tours this year with Roadrunner behind them. More info on the forum.
7. Black Pyramid, Adversarial (April 2)
This is actually the first time the Eli Wood cover art for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial has been seen in full, so you know. The Hydro-Phonic Records release of the third Black Pyramid album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard along with bassist David Gein and drummer Clay Neely punctuates the beginning of a new era for the Massachusetts trio. If the advance listen to closing track “Onyx and Obsidian” is anything to go by, they could very well be at their most potent yet, and though I’d hardly consider myself an impartial observer, as a fan of the band, this is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. More to come. Track stream here.
8. Moss, Horrible Night (April 2)
I’ve yet to hear the complete album, but UK trio Moss seem poised to surprise with a cleaner vocal approach on Horrible Night, their first offering since 2008′s impressive Sub Templum LP and two EPs in 2009, so in addition to wondering how they’ll pull it off, the level of the shift remains to be seen. That is, how big a deal is it? Should I call my mom? Is this something grandma needs to know about? Time will tell, but for it having been five years since the last time a Moss record reared its doomly head, it seems only fair to give the band a little breathing room on their evolution. More info and video here.
9. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide EP (April 8)
How glad am I that French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a new EP coming? Well, I’m not as happy that it’s coming as I am that it’s frickin’ awesome. The trio keep the weighted bass tones that gave so much depth to their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but they’ve also clearly set to work expanding the formula as well, adding stomp to second track “Seen a Ghost” and an eerie repetitive sense to side B closer “Stranger,” while also broadening their melodic reach and taking claim of whichever side of the line they want between fuzz rock and heavy psychedelia while remaining so much more to the ears than either genre descriptor can offer to the eyes. At half an hour, my only complaint with it is it’s not a full-length album. Video trailer and info here.
10. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era (April 9)
A sample of the poet Ron Whitehead — who also featured on Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s late-2012 debut EP for Tee Pee Records, The Storm Generation (review here) — comes to clarity just in time for the gonzo Boomer poet to let us all know that, “America is an illusion” (that may be, but it’s an illusion with an army of flying killer robots), and from there, the youngin’ desert transplants embark on a low-end-heavy freakout topped with sweet surf rock guitars and set to use in intricate, sometimes surprisingly jagged, rhythmic dances. Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson guests, Scott Reeder produced. Review is forthcoming, but till then, there’s more info here.
11. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse (April 9)
Fate is Your Muse serves not only as Indianapolis rockers Devil to Pay‘s Ripple Music debut, but also as the double-guitar foursome’s first outing since 2009′s Heavily Ever After. With tales of lizardmen attacks and the alleged end of the world, it’s got its fair share of personality, and set to the chugging riffs, melodic vocals and straightforward heavy grooves, that personality still goes a long way. I’ll have a review up before this week is out (I hope), but still, I wanted to make sure to include Devil to Pay here too, since their songs command both attention and respect. To wit, I just can’t seem to get “This Train Won’t Stop” out of my head. Video and info here.
12. Cough & Windhand, Reflection of the Negative Split (April 15)
Virginian doomers Cough and Windhand share a hometown in Richmond, a love of volume, a bassist in Parker Chandler and now a label in Relapse Records, so yeah, a split makes sense. Reflection of the Negative will be Windhand‘s first release through Relapse ahead of their sophomore full-length, scheduled for later this year (info here). For Cough, this split marks their first outing since 2010′s An Introduction to the Black Arts split with UK masters The Wounded Kings (review here), and they’ll present the 18-minute “Athame,” while Windhand bring forth “Amaranth” and “Shepherd’s Crook.” More info here.
13. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control (April 15)
What the last Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats album, 2011′s Blood Lust (semi-review here), did so well was capture the atmosphere and the grainy imagery of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic horror and put it into audio form. For that, Blood Lust earned massive praise, but I still think that without the central core of songwriting underneath the genre trappings, it would’ve fallen flat. When it comes to Mind Control, the question waiting to be answered is if the band wants to stick to the blueprint they’ve established or go brazenly into uncharted weirdness. I’m not really sure they can lose, either way. Info and music here.
14. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar (April 16)
Their debut on new label Nuclear Blast and the quick-arriving answer to my pick for 2012 debut of the year, Abra Kadavar arrives with plenty of anticipation leading the way. The retro-rocking German trio have their work cut out for them in following that self-titled, but however it turns out in the comparison, it will be fascinating to learn how Kadavar develops the band’s sound and whether or not they prove able to push the boundaries of their aesthetic while simultaneously setting a new standard for promo photos. New video here.
15. Spiritual Beggars, Earth Blues (April 16)
I guess when it comes to these long-running Swedes, everybody’s got their favorite lineup, their favorite tunes, etc., but for me, I’m just impressed that Michael Amott — now more than 20 years on from starting Spiritual Beggars as a side-project while still in grindcore pioneers Carcass — still has any interest in keeping the classic rock Hammond-loving outfit grooving. Their last outing, 2010′s Return to Zero (review here), was the first to feature vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, formerly of Firewind, and though those songs were solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re more settled in on Earth Blues when it drops via InsideOut Music on April 16. More info on the forum.
16. Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire (April 19)
Alternating between periods of brooding intensity and all-out crushing heaviness, the second full-length from New Zealand’s Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire, is nasty, nasty, nasty. It’s nasty when it’s quiet and it’s nasty when it’s loud. It’s the kind of record you put on and you’re like, “Damn that’s nasty.” And you’re not wrong. The four-piece — touring shortly with Unida — upped their game even from 2011′s self-titled debut (review here), and for anyone who heard that record, you know that’s saying something. I’m still in the “getting to know it” phase, but so far all that nasty feels pretty right on. More info here.
17. Ghost, Infestissumam (April 19)
Man, this one just kind of happened, huh? I suck — and I mean S-U-C-K suck — at keeping up with band hype. I’m the dude who hears the record three months later and goes, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool,” as countless reviews here can attest, including the one for Ghost‘s 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, but with the Swedish cult heavyweights, all of a sudden I turned around and blamo, major label deal, semi-name change to Ghost B.C., and enough slathering over the impending Infestissumam to make the first album seem like less than the hyperbole it was treated to initially. Funny how that happens. Out in April? I’m sure I’ll review in June and go, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool.” More info on the forum.
18. One Inch Giant, The Great White Beyond (April 19)
Now signed to Soulseller Records, Swedish heavy rockers One Inch Giant will unveil their debut full-length on April 19 and as three of my favorite words in the English language are “Swedish heavy rockers,” I’m excited to find out how this Gothenburg four-piece follow-up their Malva EP, and if they can capture some of the extreme dynamic they brought to their live show when they toured the US last summer — a run of shows that included a stop at SHoD. Hard not to pull for a band after they come over to play club dates. More info and music here.
19. The Heavy Co., Midwest Electric (April 20)
It was actually the other day writing about The Heavy Co.‘s Midwest Electric that I had the idea for this feature, so however high the profile might be for some of these albums — Ghost walks by on their way to cash a check — it was these unpretentious Hoosier rockers and their new outing, Midwest Electric, that started me off. From what I’ve heard so far, the new collection sounds a little more confident in exploring psychedelia than did the trio’s 2011 debut EP, The Heavy (Please Tune In…) (review here), so I’m looking forward to hearing if and how that plays out over the course of the whole thing. Video trailer here.
20. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (April 23)
I have an interview slated for later this week with Gozu guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, and I’m even more excited for this time than I was when we last spoke, around their 2009 Small Stone debut, Locust Season (review here), since in everything but its goofball song titles, the sophomore outing marks a huge developmental step in the band’s melodic reach and songwriting chemistry. Stay tuned for that interview and check out the Bandcamp stream included with the album review here.
21. Yawning Man & Fatso Jetson, European Tour Split 7″ (April 26)
Note: I don’t actually know that April 26 is the day that what’s sure to be 2013′s most desert-rocking split is due to arrive, I just know that it’s Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man‘s European tour split, and that’s the day the Euro dates start — with performances at Desertfests London and Berlin, to be more specific. Given both the greatness of Fatso Jetson‘s last record, 2010′s Archaic Volumes (review here), and of Yawning Man‘s own 2010 outing, Nomadic Pursuits (review here), the bands’ shared lineage and the relative infrequency of their touring, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope that, even for a single, they pull out all the stops. And starts. And riffs. More info on the forum.
22. Serpent Throne, Brother Lucifer (April 29)
Philly-based instrumental heavy rockers Serpent Throne will follow-up 2010′s White Summer/Black Winter (review here) with Brother Lucifer, and while no one can ever really know what to expect, it’s a safe bet that the dual-guitar outfit will have the solos front and center once again. Having seen them do a couple new songs back in December, I can’t blame them in the slightest. Looking forward to letting these songs sink in for a while and having those solos stuck in my head. Track stream here.
23. Melvins, Everybody Loves Sausages (April 30)
Hey wow, a Melvins covers album. Finally, an opportunity for the band to let their hair down and go wild a bit, right? I mean, at long last, they can really feel free to indulge a little and explore their musical roots in a free and creative way. Okay, you get the point. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty cool idea and anything that teams the Melvins with Scott Kelly to do a Venom song is probably going to be a worthy cause. The most amazing part of it is they haven’t already done a version of “Black Betty.” More info on the forum.
24. Revelation, Inner Harbor (April 30)
Their most progressive outing yet and their first album since 2009, Revelation‘s Inner Harbor (review here) is bound to surprise some who thought they knew what to expect from the Maryland doom stalwarts who double as the classically rocking Against Nature. Good thing Inner Harbor had a digital release last year through the band’s Bland Hand Records to act as a precursor to this Shadow Kingdom CD issue. Rumor has it vinyl’s on the way as well, so keep an eye out, since John Brenner‘s guitar tone should be heard on as natural-sounding an apparatus as possible. More info here.
Okay, so you’re saying to yourself, “Golly, that’s a lot of stuff.” You’re absolutely right. But even as I was typing up this feature, I got word of a new Queen Elephantine full-length coming in April, so even as much as this is, it’s not everything. And that’s not even to mention May, which will bring a new Shroud Eater EP, a new Kylesa record and a new Mark Lanegan collaboration, among however much else. Tons of stuff to keep your ears out for, and like I said way back at the top of this thing, if you have something to add, a comment’s always appreciated.
Posted in Features on March 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
There was only one real hiccup in my recent conversation with Endless Boogie guitarist/vocalist Paul “Top Dollar” Major, and it came when I asked him about whether he was able to draw on his extensive knowledge of classic psychedelic rock — Major is a noted record dealer and collector in NYC, where the band is also based — as fuel for the group’s extended, mostly-improvised jams. Chalk it up to the limits of human interpersonal communication — more particularly those that involve me stammering on a phone — but where what I meant to do was introduce a discussion of influences and use that to segue into a chat about artists in and around New York he considered to be carrying that torch now, he seemed to think I was asking if he ever just ripped off obscure psych records for guitar parts. Not at all my intent, and frankly, if I thought that had been the case, I wouldn’t have wanted to interview Major to start with, and their latest album, Long Island, probably would’ve sat in the pile instead of receiving the lengthy, laudatory review it did.
Even so, it led Major to a fascinating point about the idea of authenticity and some of his feelings and preconceptions of how an artist might best attain it or at very least drive most toward his or her own idea of it. As he succinctly puts it, one can push toward this notion of creative authenticity simply if you, “don’t think about it.” It’s a kind of anti-academic mentality that’s about as New York as pre-froyo Bleecker, born of post-Warhol neo-beat and an automatic shield against one — a critic, let’s say — who might call art a movement. I don’t know that I’d agree consciousness automatically saps art of its ability to capture an idea or make a statement, but he’s certainly got a point in being wary of overthinking one’s given approach, especially in the case of an outfit like Endless Boogie, whose improv jamming seems to arise out of a sort of trance-state and become a song like the moody and subdued “The Artemus Ward” or 13-minute Long Islandopener “The Savagist” through after-the-fact editing — a very conscious process, but separate still from the actual creation.
As someone whose creative project (i.e. this site) directly involves a conscious critique of media, and as someone not at all immune to occasional bouts of overthought, I was intensely fascinated to hear Major discuss that balance. Coming as that turn did after talking about some of Endless Boogie‘s processes and how a record like Long Islandcomes together in terms of being recorded live, vocals recorded later, sometimes parts cut out from longer jams to hone in on a specific idea or feel, it was a different level of insight into what makes Endless Boogie so much of their place – Long Island‘s second cut, “Taking out the Trash,” is somehow even more urbane in its classic ballsy groove than “The Artemus Ward,” which shouts out 14th St. — and yet so distinct within those surroundings, their jamming ethic more common among European acts like Germany’s Electric Moon, with whom Endless Boogie will share the stage at this year’s Roadburn festival next month in the Netherlands.
Two more things about talking to Major, should you ever have the chance to do so. First, his laugh is infectious and it draws you in, makes you want to laugh with him (I was cracking up while he was talking about Phil Spector‘s hair), and he laughs a lot. Second, he jams. You can hear (and hopefully read) in the cadence of his words and the way he moves from one idea to the next that he’s someone used to improvising and thinking on his feet, so that he seems to be half a step ahead in his thoughts from what his mouth is saying, subtly getting ready for his next move even while his mouth is still grooving on whatever it is he’s currently talking about. There were a couple places where he got deep into that jam, but much like Long Islanditself, in conversation, Major never failed to emerge with a cohesive idea.
In Endless Boogie, whose origin point seems to hover on average somewhere around the late ’90s or early ’00s, Major is joined by guitarist Jesper “The Governor” Eklow, bassist Mark “Memories from Reno” Ohe and drummer Harry Druzd. Long Islandis available now as the band’s third release on No Quarter Records.
Please find the complete, 3,700-word Q&A with Paul Major after the jump, and enjoy:
Proffering rich, organic tonality with an unpostured flair for the soulful and classically rocking, Brooklyn’s Traveling Circle made enough of an initial impression to be picked up by Germany’s Nasoni Records for the release of their first album. That’s high praise for psychedelia — especially American psychedelia — and the record, 2010′s Handmade House(review here) left little to question of the three-piece’s having earned it, a patient but still motion-minded flow playing out over the course of tight grooves and well-placed flourishes of synth. The follow-up, Escape from Black Cloud(review here), was also issued on LP by Nasoni late last year.
Its pulse is no harder to read in terms of overall accessibility, but Escape from Black Cloudis nonetheless a more developed full-length, two-sided all the way in its blend of classic psych and modern tonality, a steady beat throbbing under unrepentantly shoegazing opener “Higher,” while the high-pitched vocals space out above the sway. Elsewhere, as on side B’s shuffling “Fountain of Time,” they touch the ground, but there’s little interest presented in remaining there, as the sleepy “Newborn Shadow” demonstrates and the more playful “Rock this Feeling” confirms. At rest or in motion, Traveling Circle draw forth an engaging atmosphere akin to but not necessarily biting off anyone else’s work in psych or space rock. The more you let yourself be carried off by Escape from Black Cloud, the more satisfaction the album is like to provide.
Traveling Circle is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Dylan Maiden, bassist/backing vocalist/electric pianist Charlie Freeman and drummer Josh Schultz. All three were kind enough to participate in the following Six Dumb Questions. Please enjoy:
1. Escape from Black Cloud seems to have a more laid back feel than Handmade House in general. Were there things you knew you wanted to do differently coming off of the last record, or is that just how the songs came out of the jams?
Josh: I do think our attitude was a little different for the new record. We kept in a more sort of spacey pulse area for this album. For me, I really tried to keep the drums more pulsing. I tried to be creative in the approach but also keep it simple. I saw a documentary on Krautrock a while ago and Jaki Liebezeit describes a spaced-out audience member approaching him to suggest he should “play more monotonous.” I definitely tried to “play more monotonous.”
Charlie: Simplicity was the general approach all around. I tried not to overthink things but we had a certain sound in mind.
Dylan: Yeah, the goal was to compose a more linear structure throughout and fill it with melodic accents that give you the feeling of moving up and down.
2. How does the Traveling Circle writing process usually work? Am I way off in hearing a soul/funk influence? If I’m not, where does it come from?
Dylan: There may be some influence from those territories. But, to be honest, I draw inspiration in my writing from just about every place conceivable. The subliminal and subconscious are important drivers behind our writing process. There are many elements at work. We usually enter the practice studio and start arranging these elements into the sonic positions we feel are most appropriate for each song’s narrative.
Charlie: I can see what you mean with the soul/funk influence. “Rock this Feeling” has that vibe running throughout. In general, Dylan has a very soulful vocal delivery and Josh and I have an intertwined approach to drums and bass. This album definitely has more groove injected in it.
Josh: Over the two albums we have used a number of different methods in terms of writing. I think this record has some really great songs that Dylan brought in more or less done from a guitar/vocals perspective. Higher is a good example of this, the way I remember it. Some songs started as jams. “Closer” was sort of an unwritten jam at first. We first played that song as a jam at a bar in Brooklyn called Legend and just improvised it. The room was empty at the beginning of the song and began to fill up by the end. It looked like a good idea to polish it up after that. People seemed to relate to it. “Candle Light Sways” was an odd one in that I worked out the entire drum part at home and then brought it in to see if Charlie and Dylan would be up for making something out of it. The structure changed a bit with the group though. Maybe this is too mechanical an answer…
3. Tell me about writing and recording “Newborn Shadow.”
Dylan: This is one of my favorite songs on the album. I wanted to create a nostalgic atmosphere with the guitar sound, which involved very simple strums. Serendipitously, the guitar ended up sounding like a harp. Then I overlaid vocals that sound like they’re coming from a gothic cathedral. I really love Charlie’s bass on this track. It holds everything together and makes me feel like I’m on a teetering boat with a lantern in my hand, trying to make my way through the darkness ahead.
Charlie: This one came together pretty quickly right before we went into the studio. Dylan had a very clear idea of the overall sound he was going for. It has a really nice build to it. It’s a very haunting song.
Josh: The drums were more involved on that song at one point and it was worse for it! In trying out ideas we got around to the current treatment, which is much stronger for the simple drums.
4. The album sounds so natural. How much of Escape from Black Cloud was recorded live? What was your time in the studio like? Has there been any consideration to bringing in a synth player as a full-time member of the band?
Dylan: We’ve been praised for our live performances. Many people have said they prefer hearing us live to our albums. The aim of Escape from Black Cloud was to capture the energy and emotion of our live performance and bring it to the forefront. We brought in friends to help with arrangements such as synthesizer and Theremin, but this by no means compromised the integrity of our sound. Having our brethren by our side helped accentuate the most important bits and crystallize the vision. Nostalgia and dustiness aside, considering how many tracks we recorded live, Escape from Black Cloud came out sounding quite polished as a studio piece, both in its execution and production.
Josh: We did the bass, drums and guitar tracks all at once in a live fashion and then went from there. We recorded at Seaside Lounge with MitchRackin. Mitch is the best! His record with Heavy Hands is great. I listen to it pretty regularly. The album is called Smoke Signals. Seaside is a great place to record. They record to tape and have a lot of sweet vintage gear and are great guys! I wish I was at Seaside Lounge right now! As for the mixing, Dylan was in contact with Gordon Raphael and we decided to approach him about trying out some mixes, we really liked what he came up with and so we asked him to mix the album. He was working between Berlin and Texas so we handled the mixes through the mail. It was an unusual way to work for us but I like what we ended up with.
We have talked at times about adding a member but haven’t really done much about it. Charlie handles the keys on “Willow Tree Fair.” He comes up with great parts. Other additional parts include Theremin played by Matt Dallow and some studio magic from Gordon.
Charlie: We keep some pretty odd rehearsal times too. A lot of people don’t want to get up that early on a Sunday morning.
5. Can you give some insight into Erin Klauk’s work on the cover art? Was there some discussion of direction beforehand? How did you wind up working together in the first place?
Josh: Erin has done a lot of posters for us over the years and also the cover to the last LP. She did the posters for Brooklyn Psych Fest as well. I don’t recall much direction. I guess she just riffed on the title. Pretty far-out stuff, right? Alexandra Zorbas-Maiden took the sweet photos, including one on the back and another on the poster insert.
Charlie: Erin had some couch pillows made with the cover art and gave them to us as gifts. That was the first time I saw the art and I was blown away. We’re really lucky to have people as talented as Erin and Alex working with us.
Dylan: I was at an art opening in Chelsea that featured some really cool Himalayan artwork. They were dark depictions of mountains and clouds. Very simple line drawings that almost resembled wood engravings. I was very inspired and thought the tone somehow related to the songs we selected for our second album. Knowing Erin was going to illustrate the cover,
I texted her pictures from this Himalayan artist as inspiration for what would later become Escape from Black Cloud.
The photo on the back cover of Escape from Black Cloud was taken in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, by my wife Alex. The poster insert photo was also taken by her in the Muir Woods.
6. Will there be a CD release? Any shows, plans or other closing words you want to mention?
Josh: Currently there are no plans for a CD but we have been receiving requests. The best way to pick up Escape from Black Cloud is on vinyl at www.nasoni-records.com. They also have both an LP and CD of our first album, Handmade House. If you don’t listen to records, Escape from Black Cloud is on iTunes and Spotify. We are currently planning to hold record listenings in three cities as well, New York, San Francisco, and Sydney. If anyone is interested, keep an eye on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/TravelingCircle for more details.
I don’t know what Pittsburgh’s Low Man are going to do next, but whatever it is, chances are the four-piece will sound markedly different than on their 2012 self-titled EP. That release (review here) captured a nascent but discernible love of a variety of heavy styles, from thickened up punk to classic proto-doom, and perhaps most impressively, Low Man made the sounds bend to their will rather than the other way around. There remained work to be done in their songwriting and production, but the potential was there and it was palpable.
They’ve had a little road time since, tightening their approach, and as Low Man‘s Low Man was recorded as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Luke Rifugiato, bassist/vocalist Jeremy Zerbe and drummer/vocalist Derek Krystek before guitarist Alex Byers joined, there are bound to be some changes in approach to account for new influences in the writing and construction of the songs. As such, as they continue to grow and develop over the course of gigs and jamming out in the rehearsal space, this seemed like a prime moment to discuss the beginnings of the band and how they’ve arrived at this stage in their development.
The Low ManEP — a follow-up to their debut single, Snake Farmer/Jackhammerhead– was recorded in Pittsburgh at +/- Studio by Jason Jouver and Justin Novak and features a host of guest players on vocals and guitar. Zerbe took time out to talk about getting the band together, putting the EP to tape and bringing in Byers on guitar with Rifugiato. Along the way, insight is given as to Low Man‘s songwriting process, influences and penchant for gang vocals. Hope you dig it.
Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions.
1. Give me the background on how Low Man got together. When did the band form and how does the songwriting process usually work? When were the songs for the self-titled EP written? Are there multiple songwriters, or was it a span of time as the material came together?
Low Man started when I moved back to Pittsburgh and began playing music with Luke Rifugiato, the band’s other vocalist and guitarist, in the fall of 2010. He introduced me to AlexByers and EvanFlaherty, the lead guitarist and drummer he had been jamming with and we sort of just fell into playing together. Besides both being into punk music, Luke was really into Queens of the Stone Age and Fu Manchu and I was a huge fan of Black Mountain and The Black Angels, so the music sort of just started from there.
We both had had other bands before and brought some songs we’d been working on for those bands with us, which is why our EP sounds a little all-over-the-place. That EP and the single we released before it are just a collection of our earliest songs, before we really had a set idea of what we were trying to achieve. We knew we wanted it to be loud and fuzzy, but we didn’t really sit down and say, “We should be a stoner rock band.” We still really haven’t, though the music comes together a lot more organically these days. We write pretty much everything as a group now and our sound has really benefited from that, I think.
2. Tell me about recording the EP. How long were you in the studio and how did you wind up bringing in gang vocals and extra guitar, etc.?
We recorded the EP in February of 2012 and were at a transitional period in the band. Alex had gone on hiatus a few months before to finish his degree, and we’d also found a new drummer in DerekKrystek. We were in the process of finding a replacement for Alex, playing shows with our friends JustinGross and MikeMyzak when we decided to just go into the studio and take care of the recording as a trio. We laid down the basic tracks in one day, then went back a second day to overdub solos and vocals. Mixing took a hell of a lot longer, and honestly we still didn’t spend enough time with it, but we were poor and the studio time was by the hour.
I laid down a couple of rhythm parts, and Luke took the reins on all of the solos except half of the dueling one in “American Literature from 1860.” When Alex was in the band, the two of them traded it off, but without him, we asked the producer, Jason Jouver, and his engineer, Justin Novak, to lay down a couple of quick licks between Luke’s. Gang vocals were something I’d wanted in a couple of songs since I first wrote them, so at the end of our second day, we had some of our friends come to the studio with a case of beer. The two main harmony voices you hear (especially on “Roll the River Down”) are members of Derek’s other band, Sleepy V.
3. How much does the EP represent the live version of the band? What was the timing on bringing Alex in on guitar? Has that changed the dynamic on stage, and if so, in what ways?
Now that Alex is back in the band, the live version of LowMan is infinitely more interesting than the recording. He’s by far the most talented guitarist of us, and he plays these harmony lines throughout songs like “Migraine” that make them a million times better. I have promised him that if we get a chance to remix the album, I’d like him to lay down his parts and throw them in where they rightfully belong. I also think it’s always hard to really translate a loud, intense band on tape. As good as the EP turned out, I wish it were more raw and energetic. But that’s just sort of how it goes I guess. Unless you’re working with Steve Albini (call me!) that is.
4. In what direction(s) do you see Low Man growing from here? The EP and the Snake Farmer/Jackhammerhead single sound completely different from each other. Have you started writing for a follow-up yet, and if so, is there something different you’re specifically trying to bring out sound-wise? There’s a pretty wide berth of influences already.
The songs from the single and the EP were all written at about the same time, early in the life of the band. We’ve been around for just over two years now and have gone through a fair number of changes, so whenever we get the time and money to hit a studio, we’re always trying to play catch up and record the oldest stuff first to get it out of the way for new things. It’s not the best system in the world, I’ll be the first to admit. Right now we’re trying to get back into the studio again for a follow-up, but we’ve got enough songs to record two in a row, so it is this race to get it all to tape.
As we’re moving forward though, what you’ll hear is a more focused, more aggressive sound, like that of “Machine,” “American Literature From 1860” or even “Snake Farmer” I think. The newer songs we’ve been writing do a lot of playing around with time signature — one of them alternates between 5/8 and 6/8 in the verse and then moves into 13 for the chorus before this weird layered, math-intensive bridge happens. And I mean that about the math: I actually had to sit down and work it out to make sure we’d all end on the same note.
But even with that kind of stuff, we’re finally able to say, “This is a Low Man song, this isn’t,” unlike early in our existence. You’ll never hear another song quite as poppy as “Pay the Bills” is, and we’ve scuttled some of our older songs for that exact reason. On stage we’re a relatively aggro, somewhat serious band, and we don’t have room for our ‘60s Wayne Cochran-esque pop ballad anymore. Inspiration still isn’t coming from just one place, so we’ll never exactly be a traditional “stoner rock” band, but we’re too much of suckers for poppy hooks for that anyway.
5. Are you conscious in writing of playing to one side of the band’s personality or another, or is it just whatever comes out of jamming or somebody’s song idea?
There is definitely still a bit of personality that finds its way into Luke’s songs or mine, though the lines have been blurred as we’ve played together more. I used to show up with nearly complete songs written and try to teach everyone everything, whereas Luke preferred to just come up with riffs and piece them together as a band. My need for exactness and completion is partially due to suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also was just born out of necessity in my old bands: I was the only songwriter, the band manager, the driver and the tuning fork. Usually, I was the only guy sober enough to play the songs too.
Over the past two years though, I’ve changed a lot and become a lot more like Luke in writing. I realized what an absolute treasure Alex is, because I’d be struggling at home trying to figure out chords to a melody when he could just listen to me hum and it say, “Oh, that’s Am C G7 and then F# with an A as the root,” or whatever. Now I’ll bring my melody lines and lyrics and let the band jam out transitions and riffs in between. We just wrote two brand-new songs this past weekend exactly like that. It’s way better to work that way, getting everyone involved. It really makes them Low Man songs instead of Luke songs or Jeremy songs.
6. Any shows, other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We went on a weekend tour in early December and we hope to be doing that again soon, but after we got home from the couple days out, Derek texted me to call it quits for some personal reasons. It sucked because, not only was he like a brother to us, but we’d been writing a lot of our newer music (like the wacky time signature one I mentioned earlier) around his style of proggy, jazzy drumming. Now we’re in the process of auditioning drummers and getting the engine started again. As soon as we’ve got someone up to speed, we’ll be back out on the road, and then heading into the studio for our second EP — hopefully by spring. If all goes according to plan, I’d love to have the first EP remixed and then press both records to vinyl by winter. It’s a long way away and we hope to get ahead of schedule, but the one thing we’ve learned over the last two years is that the only thing you can count on is not being able to count on anything at all.
Posted in Features on February 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
With the announcement that post-Kyuss desert rock outfit Unida would headline this year’s Desertfest in London and Berlin, one of the genre’s most incomplete chapters was reopened. Unida, you see, has been through their fair share of what guitarist Arthur Seay — also of House of Broken Promises — rightly calls “bullshit,” having recorded an album with Rick Rubin only to have it sit shelved and go (officially) unreleased to this day.
Like Sleep, whose contractual immobility also resulted in their dissolution, there was really nowhere for Unida to go. They’d had the Coping with the Urban Coyotefull-length out on Man’s Ruin and a split with Dozer, but what was supposed to begin their ascent was this full-length — varyingly titled For the Working Man or The Great Divide, depending on from whom you download it — and with it sitting in the can,Unida were shot down before they even took flight. The list is long, but it’s up there with stoner rock’s bigger bummers.
It wasn’t long before vocalist John Garcia resurfaced in Hermano with a promising first album in 2002 — his movement from Kyuss to Slo Burn to Unida having led him to that point — and the rest of Unida moved ahead as well. By 2004, Seay and drummer Mike Cancino had aligned with bassist/vocalist Eddie Plascencia in House of Broken Promises (Scott Reeder, who played bass in Unida, went on to produce acts, put out a solo record and join a slew of other bands, among them Goatsnake), though it would be half a decade before their debut LP, Using the Useless, showed up via Small Stone.
With Seay and Cancino in HoBP and Garcia devoting his last several years to revitalizing the Kyuss brand in Garcia Plays Kyuss, Kyuss Lives! and now Vista Chino, it’s been a winding road to get back to the unfinished business of Unida. But though there’s enough backstory to fill a book and then some, mostly it was the future that Seay wanted to talk about in our recent interview. New touring, new albums for both Unida and HoBP, and plans for things to come. Seay also built his own recording studio and works traveling the globe as a guitar tech for commercial metal acts like Slipknot and Limp Bizkit, so there was much to discuss.
Fortunately, Seay‘s a bit of a talker. There was a lot of the interview that was off the record, some talk about the desert scene, etc., but there’s a tremendous amount of information contained in his answers, so even if you’re a relative newcomer to Unida or just heard about them through Desertfest, I hope you’ll agree it’s worth a read.
Please find the complete 3,900-word Q&A with Arthur Seay after the jump, and please enjoy.
Now a trio with bassist Mark Cook on board, Arlington-based heavy fuzz rockers Stone Machine Electric nonetheless recorded their self-titled, self-released debut as the core duo of Mark Kitchens and William “Dub” Irvin. The album (review here) was recorded by Kent Stump of Dallas heavyweights Wo Fat, and shares some of that band’s tonal thickness as a result, but Dub and Kitchens take tracks like “Carve” and “Mushroom Cloud” in a direction more their own, jamming out organic fuzz with psychedelic flourish, sounding raw live and studio lush all at once.
Stone Machine Electric, who are aligned to the fertile Dallas scene that also includes OrthodoxFuzz, Kin of Ettinsand the rip-rocking Mothership as well as the aforementioned Wo Fat, made their debut in 2010 with the live demo Awash in Feedback(review here), on which the audio was rough but still gave some idea of where they were coming from. Emphasis on “some” only because the self-titled feels so much more fleshed out and shows them as having a clear idea of what they want Stone Machine Electric to be as a band and where they want to go with their music. It’s a big jump from one to the other, and as they’ve since undergone the pivotal change of bringing Cook in on bass, there’s potential for another such leap next time around.
Given that, it seemed time to hit up Dub and Kitchens for Six Dumb Questions about the self-titled, recording with Stump, having Darryl Bell from Dub’s prior band play bass on the track “Hypocrite Christ,” their striking album art, and so on. They were much quicker in obliging than I actually was in sending out the questions, and you’ll find the results below. Please enjoy:
1. Tell me about the time between the live demo and recording the full-length. Was there anything specific you learned from the demo that you tried to being to the studio?
Dub: The demo was just a live recording that we were ok with releasing. Something for people to hear until we could get in the studio. We did try to bring that “liveness” of the demo to the studio by playing together as much as possible.
2. How long were you in the studio with Kent from Wo Fat? What was the atmosphere like and how did the recording process go? Did Dub record bass parts first or after the guitar?
Kitchens: We were in the studio with Kent for about two and a half days. The first day and a half was spent recording, and the rest was just getting the mixes done. We’re friends with Kent, so that made it feel like we were just hanging out, but recording at the same time. We recorded the drum and guitar tracks together (other than the additional guitar tracks) to get a more live and rawer sound. “Hypocrite Christ” was the only exception. Daryl played the bass with us on that track.
Dub: Yeah, since Kent is a brother it was real laid back. He already knew what we sounded like, so it was all gravy. Like Kitchens said, all the basic guitar and drum tracks (and bass on “Hypocrite Christ”) were recorded with us in the same room together. After that I laid down the remaining bass tracks. Followed by vocals, then guitar overdubs last.
3. How did you wind up including “Hypocrite Christ” from Dub’s Dead Rustic Dog days, and how was it having Daryl Bell in the studio on bass for that?
Dub: Man, having Daryl in there was great. We don’t get to hang out or jam together much at all anymore, so I’m really glad he was able to do it. Not to mention that no one can play that tune quite like him.
That tune just seems to fit into what we do. It’s almost like it was written for SME before there was SME. Actually, Kitchens was also in the band at the time this song was written, so it seemed almost natural to bring it into SME. We played this tune early on and then dropped it for a while. We’ve been wanting to resurrect it again, and what better way than to put it on the album.
4. How has bringing in Mark Cook on bass changed the band’s sound? Have you started to write new material yet? If so, how much of a role does he play?
Kitchens: Mark is helping fill out our sound. We’ve had people tell us we sound great as a two- piece live, and that we pull it off well. You just can’t beat having that low end though. We are working on new material now, so I’m looking forward to what he’ll bring.
Dub: Cook not only helps fill out our sound but also opens it up. He brings in a whole other dimension. We are just now beginning work on new material, and hearing what Cook has brought to the existing tunes I’m excited to see how the new stuff will turn out.
5. Where did the idea for the collage cover art come from? Is there a message being conveyed there, and if so, what is it?
Kitchens:Terry Horn, who was our bassist for a while, did the artwork. I had given him some ideas that I had, but he came back with the collage. I’d never thought of that, and I loved it. We ended up not have any logo or text on the cover because it didn’t look right, and I like that idea as well. Terry is an exceptional artist.
Dub: Yeah, I dig Terry‘s work.
Terry Horn: It was spontaneous. I just put the CD on and listened to it and started flipping through magazines and sketchbooks. Ultimately, I wanted to do something for the cover that was different than most artwork you see on stoner rock/doom stuff today.
Not to sound too cliché, but sometimes art is just art.
6. Any other plans, gigs or closing words you want to mention?
Kitchens: It would be great if we could do a few weekend tours this year hitting some places around Texas or the adjoining states. I’d love to play one of the festivals that happen here in the states. Hoping in a year or so we are back in the studio with Kent. I’ll end with a big thanks to our friends and fans for digging our stuff!
Dub: I think he just summed it up right there. Don’t just keep your finger on the pulse, become part of the pulse!