Six Dumb Questions with Forming the Void

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on April 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

forming the void

We’re at less than a month’s remove from the release date of Forming the Void‘s second album, Relic (review here), and already it’s apparent that the Louisiana four-piece are turning heads in their direction. The follow-up to 2015’s Skyward (review here) is also the first outing for the band to be issued through Italy’s Argonauta Records, and it further solidifies the progressive charge of its predecessor with a crisp delivery and a marked sense of scope across its span. It toys with but is by no means subject to heavy rock genre restrictions, and one finds it no less at home in the aggro-catchiness of “Biolazar” and the post-Torche lumber of “Plumes” than it is in the more tripped-out roll of “Unto the Smoke” or the take on Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir” that rounds out.

United by a clean and clearheaded production, Relic freely careens between a swath of influences from the modern sphere: here touching on Baroness-style melody, there on Eastern-scale guitar leads like that in “Endless Road.” And though they don’t shy away from acknowledging the complexity of what they’re doing, neither do the album’s eight tracks come across as inflated. If anything, as asserted below by guitarist/vocalist James Marshall — joined in the band by guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd — they’ve become stronger in terms of their editorial voice, so that the resulting output is all the more efficient and communicative in its purposes. That’s an ongoing process, of course, but so is creativity as a whole, and Relic sees Forming the Void take pivotal forward steps on a number of levels, establishing them as an act consciously dedicated to their sonic progression.

Below, Marshall talks about the origins of the band, what they learned from Skyward going into Relic, the mysterious figure on the front cover of both their albums to-date, working with Argonauta and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

forming-the-void-relic

Six Dumb Questions with Forming the Void

Tell me about getting Forming the Void together. Did you have a sound in mind first, or did you start playing and then the band’s style began to take shape? 

When I first started looking for people to play in the band, I was just looking to play rock music. When we all got together in a room, each of our strengths just naturally came through in the music. As we’ve grown, we’ve steadily tried to play on those strengths more. The most drastic change is we’ve been steadily getting heavier.

Talk about your writing process, in general and for Relic particularly. What lessons did you learn from Skyward and how were you able to bring them into the new album?

With Relic the ideas were a lot more deliberate rather than the spontaneous jam room ideas that led to Skyward. I think each approach has its merits, but it was nice to be able to sit down and A-B parts to get a better idea of how we wanted something to flow. One lesson I think we took from Skyward was editing and trimming parts down if they didn’t serve a purpose. We have less long music breaks in Relic but I think it’s more well-packaged that way.

How long were you in the studio this time? How did the recording experience compare to when you put together Skyward? It seems like a really quick span between the two records.

We started tracking Relic in mid-July and finished reamping stuff mid-October. It was a very different experience than Skyward, which we tracked in a few days. We recorded drums at my buddy (and mastering engineer) Jai‘s house and tracked the rest at my house. It was a good and a bad thing to have that much time to obsess over it.

Both album covers feature hooded figures and the classic comic style of David Paul Seymour. Does that hooded character on the front of Relic have some special significance to the band? Does he have a name? Is there a story being told about him either through the album or the art?

There’s something nice about having a figure defined by his ambiguity. I think it’s a lot like our music; kind of hard to put a finger on it. There’s definitely a sense of mystery surrounding the artwork, especially the hooded figure, which is intentional. In that vein, I’ve never thought of giving him a name or a backstory. He’s just omnipresent; a veiled servant to a greater purpose.

How did signing to Argonauta Records come about and how has it been releasing the album with them?

Our friend Jason Ogle from Electric Age actually got me in touch Argonauta. It’s been really cool. [Label head] Gero has been incredibly helpful throughout the whole process and Argonauta has been really nice to work with. I couldn’t have asked for anything better from our first signing experience.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

We recently signed a deal with Lonestar Records from Germany to release Relic on vinyl. We’re pretty excited to have that coming. It should be released sometime between June 2nd and 9th. Vinyl has been a goal of mine for a while so we’re pretty stoked to finally have that come to fruition.

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Six Dumb Questions with Ides of Gemini

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on April 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

ides of gemini

The arrival of Women, the third full-length from Los Angeles ethereal heavy rockers Ides of Gemini, has been a gradual process. True, their prior outing, Old World New Wave (review here), came out in 2014 and three years is hardly an egregious stretch between albums, but in the case of Ides of Gemini, the last year-plus has involved not only the usual playing out and writing time, but also the switching of labels from Neurot Recordings to Rise Above Records — substantial endorsement, in either case — and the reconstruction of the group itself, which went from a trio to a four-piece in adding the rhythm section of bassist Adam Murray and drummer Scott Batiste (the latter also of Saviours) to the founding duo of guitarist J. Bennett and vocalist Sera Timms (also ZunBlack Mare and formerly Black Math Horseman), the latter of whom gave up her dual role as bassist for the 10-track/43-minute, Sanford Parker-recorded offering.

One might think that with a degree of tumult surrounding its making, Women would be confused or uneven in some way, yet it’s arguable that Ides of Gemini have never sounded so clearheaded. From the early semi-metallized urgings in “The Dancer” to the vast soundscaping in “Heroine’s Descent,” which nods to goth dramas and black metal in like proportion, on through the lumber of “She Has a Secret” and ritualized-feeling closer “Queen of New Orleans,” Women basks in its diverse purposes and unites them through a foundation of performance. Timms, as ever, adds to the atmosphere on vocals, but her melodic command is unmistakable, and whether it’s the sway of “The Rose” or the more straightforward push of “Swan Diver,” Bennett‘s riffing is varied and crisp as backed by Murray‘s bass and Batiste‘s drums; the whole affair only given further reach by Parker‘s production work. In some ways, it is very much a “third album,” as it could easily be seen as a new level of maturity in the band’s approach and benefiting from the lessons of Old World New Wave and 2012’s Constantinople before it.

Women is out April 28 via Rise Above Records and the band have tour plans in the works for later this year. Bennett was kind enough to take part in a short interview about making the album and to discuss the development of Ides of Gemini from their beginnings to this point.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

ides of gemini women

Six Dumb Questions with Ides of Gemini

Tell me about writing Women. It’s been three years since Old World New Wave but the band has been through a lot in that time. When did these songs start to come together?

J. Bennett: I started writing songs for the album that would become Women not long after we recorded Old World New Wave. I usually have the title, concept and many of the songs ready for our next album before the most recent one is even available. At that time, our original drummer Kelly was still in the band and the album had a different working title. After Scott and Adam joined, I ended up abandoning most of the material I had and started writing new stuff that I felt was more suited to the new lineup — and was partly inspired by it. And I changed the title to Women. So almost everything you hear on the new album ended up being written after Adam and Scott joined.

Has bringing new members in changed the dynamic between you and Sera at all? You’re the founders of the band. How involved in making the album were Scott and Adam?

It’s changed the dynamic in the practical sense that she’s not playing bass anymore, which has freed up her vocals considerably. And she doesn’t have any gear to haul around anymore, which I know she loves. I think she and I are also more open to arrangement suggestions than we were in the past.

These songs absolutely would not be what they are without Scott and Adam. Sera and I can build a basic Frankenstein monster on our own, but those guys are the electricity that brings it to life. Scott in particular made some excellent arrangement suggestions that greatly improved the dynamics of the songs.

How was your time in the studio with Sanford Parker? Was there anything specific you wanted to get out of the experience of recording with him?

Our experience with Sanford was fantastic. A few years ago, we had talked with him about the possibility of recording Old World New Wave, but he was still living in Chicago at that time, and the logistics, timing and budget just didn’t work out. When we talked to him about doing Women, it just so happened that he was planning to move to Los Angeles right around the time we wanted to record. I think he had only been living here for two weeks or so when we went into the studio.

In addition to him being a hugely talented producer and engineer, the appeal of working with Sanford came largely from some of those pre-Old World New Wave conversations we’d had with him — he “gets” Ides of Gemini in a way that many people do not. The references he made when talking about our music were to the post-punk, gothic rock, and black metal records that we feel the most affinity with, rather than the doom or “stoner rock” references that most folks seem to make. So I guess you could say he told us what we wanted to hear.

What’s your relationship to heavy metal at this point? Women is definitely heavy, but where is the line for you between something being heavy and it being metal? Is “The Dancer” metal?

Great question. I’ve loved heavy metal since I was a little kid and will do so until the day I die. But as much as I enjoy heavy metal, I have no desire to play genre music in Ides of Gemini. Besides, there are so many bands out there that play straight-up metal better than I’ll ever be capable of. Why try to compete in such a crowded field when you can at least attempt to stand out by doing something different?

Then again, there are obviously elements of heavy metal in what we do. As far as the new album, songs like “Swan Diver” and “Raft of Medusa” are even predominantly metal. Is “The Dancer” metal?  I don’t know. I can see how it could be perceived that way, but in the end it’s not up to me. This question gets to the heart of the weird conundrum we’ve been in since the band’s beginning. I get the sense that we’re often perceived as not heavy enough to play with the metal bands that we’re usually lumped in with, but then we’re considered way too heavy to play with the gothic rock bands that we might feel more affinity with. That can be frustrating at times, but ultimately I think it means we’re doing something right.

Three full albums in, how do you feel the band has grown and how conscious has that growth been? How much of the direction of Women just happened, as opposed to being a purposeful goal of songwriting?

I feel like the band has grown immensely over three albums. Constantinople to Old World New Wave felt like a pretty big improvement, and Old World New Wave to Women feels like a massive one.  Like any band, we’re always striving to get better, but this time we did so in ways that we could never have anticipated because of the lineup changes. The second part of your question is a little tougher to answer. The songs always start with a riff—some of those riffs are written very purposefully, but many definitely just “happen.” So the initial inspiration — that first riff — could go either way. But the direction each song takes after that first spark happens with much more purpose.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We’re playing a record release show here in Los Angeles on May 6 with our friends Zig Zags and Taarkus. After that, world domination? A girl can dream.

Ides of Gemini, Live in Los Angeles, Jan. 7, 2017

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Atavismo Take Track-by-Track Look at Inerte (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on April 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

atavismo

If you’re getting tired of hearing me talk about it, that’s probably just too bad. This Friday, April 7, is the release date for Atavismo‘s wonderfully progressive, lush and psychedelic second album, Inerte (review here). It’s coming out via Temple of Torturous, and between the recent European tour announcement, their video for “La Maldición del Zisco” (posted here), the review/track premiere linked above, the initial album announcement, and my own Most Anticipated of 2017 list, the record has been an ongoing theme for the early part of the year. When I like something, I say so. It’s not like I’m doing this to keep secrets.

atavismo euro tourAnd not that I couldn’t keep rambling about its ongoing appeal, from the opening rush of “Pan y Dolor” to the musings of “Volarás” at the finale, but it seems only fair as it is release week to give someone else a shot. The band, say. Atavismo — the Algeciras-based three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800, Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) — have been kind enough to let me host the full stream of Inerte, and while I’d normally pair that kind of thing with a review, that’s already been done, so instead, we’ll get their take on the record.

Below, you’ll find the five-track entirety of Inerte for your streaming pleasure, and I do hope you’ll make your way through it front to back. Beneath that is a track-by-track look at the album courtesy of Atavismo themselves, which is doubly appreciated for the fact that English isn’t their first language.

With special thanks to Becky Laverty for coordinating, I hope you enjoy:

Atavismo – Track by Track Through Inerte

“Pan y Dolor”

“Pan y Dolor” is the first track on the album — and one that we premiered here with the Obelisk! As we said at the time, this song is something of a tribute to the Spanish band, Triana. The act of breathing becomes the succinct exercise of feeling beyond paradigms and self inner worlds. The album starts with some serious psychedelia.

“El Sueño”

“El Sueño” is a long walk in the moonlight, catching all your senses from the first second. When you are completely in charge of creating your own album, you get to decide exactly how it will sound, then the results are a dream come true. We’re very happy with the way this sounds.

“La Maldición del Zisco”

“La Maldición del Zisco” suggests being a decadent trickster. Pot’s amazing vocal melody flies over an insidious bass reminding us of a real ’80s essence, that one which made us fall in love with riding on coloured cotton clouds and apocalyptical rainbows.

“Belleza Cuatro”

“Belleza Cuatro” is a slice of classic psychedelia — and in our opinion, a perfect, original crepuscular soundtrack.

“Volarás”

Inerte finishes with the track “Volarás,” a long way from the intense rhythm of the beginning of the album; it becomes a lysergic and poetic journey through our hearts. Guitar solos and harmony voices destroy our worst fears and make them become the most beautiful feelings of love and real truth.

Overall, Inerte is a neccesary trip, the unhurried sound which is hiding between your future visions; the best auditive pleasure you didn’t know you were looking for.

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Six Dumb Questions with The Whims of the Great Magnet (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on March 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-whims-of-the-great-magnet

[Click play above to hear ‘BVO’tje (1 More 4)’ from The Whims of the Great Magnet’s The Purple and Yellow Album, out April 1.]

Even before the book was closed in 2013 on fuzz rockers Sungrazer, bassist/backing vocalist Sander Haagmans had begun to explore new ground in The Whims of the Great Magnet. The rock was lower-fi, still pulling influence from a ’90s sphere, but rawer in tone and intent alike. Haagmans, alternating between a full-band and completely-solo approach, oversaw the release of several EPs — 2012’s EP being the first, followed the next year by a collection of home recordings, then April Fool in 2015 — and now makes a full-length debut with The Purple and Yellow Album, once more working on his own and in arguably the most intimate incarnation of The Whims of the Great Magnet to-date.

Comprised of 12 self-recorded songs and running a vinyl-ready 37 minutes, The Purple and Yellow Album brings forth an at-times psychedelic vision of grunge folk. Instrumental and vocal layering and arrangement varies as songs like “Falling to Pieces” and the later “Better Stay at Home” might only feature an acoustic guitar while others build further out, whether it’s the howling guitar of “BVO’tje (1 More 4),” the incorporated keys of “As I Felt Alright Before,” the garage psych of “Ow What Have I Done” (which gets an experimentalist reprise at the album’s conclusion), the Mellotron-infused “Debussy” or the six-minute “Slowburner,” which shifts from its solo melancholy into an acoustic/bass/drum progression at the end over a six-minute run that makes it the longest inclusion overall.

Wherever he takes a given track, Haagmans unites the material on The Purple and Yellow Album through his own performance and an overarching sense of honesty in the songwriting. Some songs have a self-aware humor, like “Better Stay at Home” or the preceding “Teen Anger,” but even these are executed with harmonic depth and a resonant emotionalism, and while one can hear shades of Haagmans‘ former outfit in pieces like “As I Felt Alright Before” and “I Could Just Leave it Like That,” that becomes only one context in which his songwriting lives up to the considerable ambition behind the concept of these tracks and the finds balance with the humility with the circumstances of their recording and release, providing a nonetheless rich and engaging front-to-back listening experience.

Below, Haagmans talks about the songs’ making and some of his future plans, threatening a doom record and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with The Whims of the Great Magnet

Tell me about writing for The Purple and Yellow Album. At what point did you know the material would take a more acoustic direction?

Right from the start. It’s a collection of home recordings. And at home I had mainly acoustic guitars, so… But I just moved to a new house where we’re making a rehearsal room in the back, so my next recording might be a doom record.

Home recording is a very intimate process and you’ve decided to really convey something raw in these tracks in terms of sound. How did that come about? What is it you’re looking to say in these songs?

I just wanted to record some songs, sounds and sketches on my four-track cassette recorder (actually it’s my wife’s; thank you, wife). There’s lots of imperfections and vocals out of tune and all. But I wanted it to be loose and whimsical. So I kept many first ideas and mistakes and just played around. Also I used all of my ideas. So the cheesy songs, the sing-a-longs, the quasi serious songs and the slow boring songs are all in there. It’s a pretty good reflection of what music comes out of me at home. And I didn’t leave things out because it might not be cool enough in some setting or whatever.

Why purple and yellow? Is it just the artwork or is there some further significance to using those colors?

I remember I had a period in my childhood that I would only colour and paint with these two colours. And since I’m feeling more and more nostalgic as I’m getting older I went back to this period for the cover. Wish I could do the same with my music. But I will probably never reach the level I had when I was 12.

Will future The Whims of the Great Magnet recordings take a similar direction, or do you see yourself moving back toward a full-band sound again?

I really don’t know where the path will take me. I will keep doing stuff as The Whims of the Great Magnet for sure and it can go in any direction. Maybe a doom record isn’t such a bad idea. Also I really need to get a band together again but that would probably be with a different name.

Of course we have to mention your past playing in Sungrazer and that band’s ongoing legacy (you recently appeared on Spaceslug’s Time Travel Dilemma, for example). The Purple and Yellow Album has a laid back feel but some grunge to it as well. How do you view it in relation to your past work?

Ah the grunge thing! Anything I did in the past is not what I’m doing now. When we were with Sungrazer, we played as a band. We were in that moment together. Now with this album I’m doing something on my own. That’s a difference. But I’m sure it has some similarities as well which is obvious. But because I’m doing this album alone, it’s more personal and closer to me than anything I have done with a band. Because it’s just me, uncompromised and unfiltered. You could be right when you say that this doesn’t necessarily have to be better for the result. But that’s just the way it is (Bruce Hornsby!). And I’m not only into solo and mellow acoustic stuff. Nooooo, no, no, no, no. The other things still attract me just as much but weren’t around when I hit record.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

I would like to thank you and the people so very much who supported my music in the past and especially in the present. Cowabunga dudes!

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Six Dumb Questions with Doctor Cylops (Plus Full Album Stream & Tour Announcement)

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on March 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

doctor cyclops

[Click play above to stream Local Dogs by Doctor Cyclops in its entirety. Album is out March 31 on Heavy Psych Sounds.]

Italian heavy rockers Doctor Cyclops are gearing up to issue Local Dogs, their third full-length and Heavy Psych Sounds debut, on March 31. Recorded by James Atkinson of Gentlemans Pistols and boasting guest appearances from Bill Steer of Firebird (also of Carcass, but it’s the boogie that’s way more relevant in this context), the 10-track/47-minute outing follows 2014’s Oscuropasso (discussed here) and finds the three-piece skirting the line between classic heavy rock and more metallic impulses — songs dipping into NWOBHM stylizations in a way that, even three years ago, might have been out of character. As it stands, they find a basis for nuance in this meld, and with the clarity of production and the push of songs like “Wall of Misery” and the stomping “Druid Samhain,” it feels all the more intentional on their part that one might relate their work as much to Dio and Iron Maiden as to Sabbath and Atomic Rooster.

Of course, speaking stylistically (and literally too), it’s not the first time the ’70s have given way to the ’80s, but what Doctor Cyclops use to draw these elements and influences together is a healthy coating of tonal warmth, plus-grade songcraft and a clear-headedness of performance that makes songs like opener “Lonely Devil,” the acoustic-infused “Epicurious” and the swinging, organ-laced penultimate track “Witch’s Tale” all the more memorable before the finale “Witchfinder General” draws a direct link to the NWOBHM and brings Local Dogs to a galloping and righteous close. Striking throughout is the confidence and the poise with which the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Christian Draghi, bassist Francesco Filippini and drummer Alessandro Dallera pull off playing to one side or the other and the assured feeling that what they’re doing with their sound across Local Dogs‘ span is the right way to go, wherever an individual track may actually be headed. In no small part because of that confidence, they turn out to be 100 percent correct.

Doctor Cyclops have live dates lined up through the Spring — they’re working with Heavy Psych Sounds on booking as well, and in May, they will take part in the label’s Sonic Ritual Fest (info here) alongside Yawning ManEcstatic Vision and others, right after they hit the UK with Cybernetic Witch Cult (info here). One can only assume there are more shows to be announced through the end of 2017 and beyond, so keep an eye out., but here’s where they’ll be over the next couple months:

Doctor Cyclops on tour:
14.04 Pavia(IT) Spaziomusica
15.04 Francavilla (IT) Tikitaka Live Village
22.04 Tortona (IT) Dazibao
2.05 St.Gallen (CH) Rumpeltum w/Farflung
3.05 Ins (CH) Schuxenaus
5.05 Ipswich (UK) The Swan
6.05 Banbury (UK) The Wheatsheaf
7.05 London (UK) The Dev
8.05 Bristol (UK) The Gryphon
9.05 Plymouth (UK) The Junction
11.05 Olten (CH) Coq d’Or
12.05 Erba (IT) Centrale Rock w/Crowbar
20.05 Mezzago (IT) Bloom
07.07 Salzburg (AT) RockHouse “Dome of Rock Fest
08.07 Nandlstadt (DE) FreakinOut Festival

In the meantime, Local Dogs can be ordered now from Heavy Psych Sounds, and Draghi was kind enough to take part in a short interview about making the album.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

doctor cyclops local dogs

Six Dumb Questions with Doctor Cyclops

Tell me about recording Local Dogs. How was it working with James Atkinson from Gentlemans Pistols as producer? What made you choose him to record the album?

Was nice and easy, as James is a super cool and easygoing guy. At the same time he is really professional and into the kind of music we are as well, so it was a relief for us to find someone we were in complete harmony to work with. We chose him as we knew he could have been the right person to help us catching on the record those dirty and honest sound you normally get just by recording on tapes in your rehearsal room. We met because of a common friend, Steve Lloyd. He introduced us to James, we had a talk and then we sent him some rough recordings we did. He understood immediately what we were looking for. He was the right guy at the right time.

What were you going for sound-wise coming off of Oscuropasso?

We decided to go for a simpler approach. We just wanted to capture the sound of the rehearsal room, so once in the studio we played all together in one room take after take, trying to put down every song in the faster and more natural way we could. No click tracks, not that many overdubbings, just straight playing, one song after the other… that’s it, good old ’70s rotten rock way.

Songs like “Stardust” have a lot of classic metal to them as well as ‘70s rock. What is the relation between classic and modern sounds for Doctor Cyclops at this point? Are there specific albums or bands that drove your love of older metal?

I guess some of our songs could sound like the lost connection between the early 70’s sound and the proto-heavy metal era… We are into bands like Captain Beyond, Dust, Sir Lord Baltimore, but also into the early Iron Maiden, Witchfinder General, Budgie. I guess in some songs we cheated on the pure ’70s groove by flirting (or petting) with the heavy metal/hard rock lustful chick.

This is your first full-length for Heavy Psych Sounds. How did working with the label come about and how has it been leading up to the release?

We know Gabriele [Fiori], the HPS master, since years as we played together with his band Black Rainbows somewhere around Europe. We are both in the same scene and country, so we kept in touch easily. Once we had this record done we started spreading it around, Gabriele gave his feedback, he was really happy and offered us to release it. We agreed that HPS is a growing label on the market. The names he is signing in and musicians he is working with prove that. He has very good connections in the scene and – things that is really important for a band – he does booking and follows his bands step by step with a careful promotion planning. He is passionate but also a wise business guy. A good mixture for a label boss.

How did having Bill Steer contribute to Local Dogs come about, and what was it like to work with him?

We’ve known Bill since years. We were great Firebird fans, we attempted many of their shows and we played with them as well in 2009. Since then we kept in touch. Of course we love Bill as a guitar player, but the cool thing is that he appreciated us as well as musicians. We simply asked him if he was into recording a couple of solos on the album and he said ‘yes’. He is also a really generous and humble person, a super cool guy. He overdubbed his solos after we finished our recordings as at the time we were in the studio he was busy with Carcass. But I can tell that we were amused about the work he did from the first listening on! We are proud and thankful he did that.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Now we just have one thing to do…going back on the road and rock as many asses out as we can! Follow us on the web, Facebook or website… touring dates will be announced very soon.

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Here’s a Bio I Wrote for Brant Bjork

Posted in Features on March 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

At this point in what might be generously called my ‘career,’ I’ve written biographies for the likes of Neurosis, Electric Citizen, Kings Destroy, Gary Arce of Yawning Man, Alunah, Mondo Drag, Conan, Egypt, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat, Alexander von Wieding, and countless others when one considers things like festival announcements and press releases and other such and sundries I’ve put together. It’s extra work, but I enjoy it. For one thing, it’s nice to be thought of and asked. For another, it’s a chance to cross an editorial boundary and directly help an artist tell their own story, as opposed to trying to stand back and analyze it from as much distance as possible, as one might with a standard review. What does this person want to say about who and where they are creatively, and how can I bring that out in words?

I’ve posted numerous bios I’ve written here before, but it was a singular honor to be asked to compose a biography for Brant Bjork ahead of what looks to be a busy 2017 for him, between his Desert Generator fest (info here), recently-announced US tour (dates here), and the inevitable further activity that will surface as he continues to support last year’s excellent Tao of the Devil (review here) on Napalm Records. The chance to explore what might be desert rock’s most pivotal singular legacy — really, when you look at his raw discography, it’s staggering — was an opportunity to be relished, and having turned it over and gotten approval for a finished draft, I thought I’d share it with you.

A moment of self-indulgence on my part, probably, but I thank you as always for the allowance and for reading. If you have any thoughts on it, any and all comments are welcome.

It starts after the picture:

brant bjork

Brant Bjork Bio 2017

With Tao of the Devil, Brant Bjork reconfirms his position as the Godfather of Desert Groove. Across sprawling jams and classic rockers, the multi-instrumentalist frontman celebrates the other, the self and the Californian landscape he calls home, following 2014’s Black Power Flower – his first album for Napalm Records – with an even more resounding execution of memorable songcraft and inimitable, heavy vibe. In the company of The Low Desert Punk Band, he brings to bear the fruits of one of rock and roll’s most storied careers and, as he always does, pushes forward in ongoing, seemingly unstoppable growth.

Brant Bjork has spent over a quarter-century at the epicenter of Californian desert rock. From cutting his teeth alongside Fatso Jetson’s Mario Lalli in hardcore punkers De-Con to drumming and composing on Kyuss’ landmark early albums, to propelling the seminal fuzz of Fu Manchu from 1994-2001 while producing other bands, putting together offshoot projects like Ché, embarking on his solo career as a singer, guitarist and bandleader, founding his own record label and more, his history is a winding narrative of relentless, unflinching creativity.

For someone so outwardly laid back, he’s never really taken a break. And while Bjork has shown different sides of himself on albums like his funk-laden 1999 solo debut, Jalamanta, the mellow Local Angel (2004), 2007’s mostly-acoustic Tres Dias, and heavier rockers Somera Sól (2007), Gods & Goddesses (2010) and the two most recent outings with The Low Desert Punk Band, he’s maintained a natural representation of himself in his material, whether that’s coming across in the Thin Lizzy-isms of the faux-full-band 2002 release Brant Bjork and the Operators (actually just Bjork playing mostly by himself) or the weedy, in-the-jam-room spirit of “Dave’s War” from Tao of the Devil. When you’re listening to Brant Bjork, you know it, because there’s no one else who sounds quite like him.

That fact and years of hard touring have positioned Brant Bjork as an ambassador for the Southern California desert and the musical movement birthed there in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. As underground interest has surged in recent years, Bjork has been a pivotal figurehead, realigning with his former Kyuss bandmate John Garcia to drum and write in Kyuss Lives!/Vista Chino, celebrating and building on that legacy while giving a new generation of fans the chance to see it happen in real-time.

Having told his story in films like Kate McCabe’s Sabbia (2006) and the documentaries Such Hawks Such Hounds (2008) and Lo Sound Desert (2015), he’s represented desert rock at home and abroad with no less honesty than that which he poured into the music helping to create it. The same impulse led to the founding of his Desert Generator in 2016, an annual festival held in Pioneertown, CA, with an international reach capturing the intimacy and timeless aura of the desert culture, including music, a van show in conjunction with Rolling Heavy magazine, the Stoned & Dusted pre-show in the wilderness, and an evolution that looks to continue into the foreseeable future.

Bjork’s work, with any project, has always had a rebellious sensibility. He’s always walked his own path. But more, his career through Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Ché, Vista Chino, and his crucial solo work has been about freedom through rock and roll, attained by the truest representation of the person and the place as art. This, along with a whole lot of groove, is what has helped Brant Bjork define desert rock as a worldwide phenomenon, and whatever comes next, it is what will continue to make him its most indispensable practitioner.

Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks

Brant Bjork website

Desert Generator fest website

Napalm Records website

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GIVEAWAY: Win Weedeater Goliathan Vinyl from Season of Mist!

Posted in Features on February 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

weedeater asg tour

A winner has been selected and this giveaway has ended. Stored here for archive purposes. Thanks to all who entered.

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]
Next month, North Carolina sludge mainstays Weedeater head out alongside heavy rockers ASG on a Southern US tour. The riotous and by-now-more-or-less-legendary-on-stage trio are supporting their 2015 album, Goliathan (review here), which also served as their label debut on Season of Mist and offered some subtle progressive flashes to go with their groundbreaking, searing nod.

You can hear the record in full below, and I know from past experience that the notion of free Weedeater stuff hardly needs selling on my end, but suffice it to say that if you want to get in on some no-cost vinyl, this is a damn good way to do it. And if you’ve never seen them before or if you have, make sure you catch them on the road next month and into the start of April. Dates follow:

WEEDEATER TOUR DATES
W/ ASG
Mar. 14 Atlanta, GA @ Basement* Tickets
Mar. 15 New Orleans, LA @ Siberia* Tickets
Mar. 17 Hattiesburg, MS @ The Tavern*
Mar. 18 Little Rock, AR @ Rev Room*
Mar. 19 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar* Tickets
Mar. 20 Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone* Tickets
Mar. 21 Nashville, TN @ Exit / In Tickets
Mar. 22 Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco Tickets
Mar. 23 Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl Music Hall Tickets
Mar. 24 Tallahassee, FL @ Sidebar Tickets
Mar. 25 Gainesville, FL @ High Dive Tickets
Mar. 27 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub Tickets
Mar. 28 Miami, FL @ Gramps Tickets
Mar. 29 Lake Worth, FL @ Propaganda
Mar. 30 Savannah, GA @ The Jinx
Mar. 31 Spartanburg, SC @ Ground Zero*
Apr. 01 Charlotte, NC @ Rabbit Hole Tickets

As always, please note no email addresses given are kept, stored, shared or sold. I’m a one-man outfit and I’d rather spend my time writing than selling out your data. That’s just how it is. Thanks and good luck to all who enter!

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Weedeater, Goliathan (2015)

Weedeater on Thee Facebooks

Weedeater at Season of Mist

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GIVEAWAY: Win a Vermilion Whiskey T-Shirt & CD Prize Pack!

Posted in Features on February 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

vermilion whiskey prize pack

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win. Winner is chosen one week from today.]

Feelin’ saucy? Well go ahead and get yourself in on the chance to win a free t-shirt and a copy of Vermilion Whiskey‘s new album, Spirit of Tradition. The Lafayette, Louisiana, double-guitar five-piece put the thing out just last week and if you leave a comment on this post, you can get your very own disc and a shirt with artwork by Mont Doom.

Bolstered via a mix by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump and a mastering job by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, Spirit of Tradition lives up to its name in bringing together Southern heavy rock and metallic charge. Frontman Thaddeus Riordan and guitarists Ross Brown and Carl Stevens lead the way with Jeremy Foret on bass and Buck Andrus on drums, and Vermilion Whiskey ask nothing more than that you consume as irresponsibly and as often as possible.

You know how these things go at this point, so I’ll just remind you to please leave your email in the form when you leave a comment on this post. Without it I can’t contact you to let you know you’ve won, and it seems like an awful bummer to bother to enter and then basically make yourself ineligible. As always, I don’t keep email address, I don’t sell info. I wouldn’t know how to if I wanted to, and I don’t want to, so there. I’m way more about giving away free shit than adding spam to your inbox.

If you haven’t yet had a taste, you can hear Vermilion Whiskey‘s Spirit of Tradition in full below. Good luck to everyone who enters! And if you don’t, why the hell not?

Vermilion Whiskey, Spirit of Tradition (2017)

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win. Winner is chosen one week from today.]

Vermilion Whiskey on Thee Facebooks

Vermilion Whiskey on Instagram

Vermilion Whiskey on Bandcamp

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