Clamfight Recording Update, Pt. 1

Posted in Features on June 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

clamfight 1

So this is part one of the Clamfight recording update — the heavy thrashing Philly four-piece in the studio at Gradwell House with Steve Poponi at the helm as they track their third full-length, yet untitled — but it might be a while before we see part two. As drummer/vocalist/smith of words Andy Martin explains, the process of making this outing is different from either their self-titled 2010 debut (review here) or the subsequent I vs. the Glacier (track-by-track here), which was released on this site’s then-not-at-all-defunct in-house label, The Maple Forum, in that it will have a two-month break in between its start and its completion.

A strange process? Yes. But as Martin — joined in the band by lead guitarist Sean McKee, guitarist Joel Harris and bassist Louis Koble — informs, the album itself is also pretty different from what they’ve done before, so maybe in a way it’s fitting. Perhaps best to let him tell the tale:


It’s 2:30 or 2:40 last Sunday, and after setting up since noon, we are finally about to start recording our third full-length record. We’re a little nervous, but we’re excited; we’ve practiced as much our suddenly-super-adult schedules allowed, and the general vibe is, “we are ready.”

clamfight 2I might have the geography of this slightly backwards, but I’m fairly certain Steve Poponi (who did our last two records, and as far as we’re concerned knocked them both of the park) was in the big room doing some last-minute dicking with cables* and we were in the control room discussing what song we were going to start with, when a sweaty, middle-aged guy with the standard issue South Jersey manual labor pompadour appeared in the control room and uttered one of nobody’s favorite phrases in the English language, “Which one of you drives the…”

And just like that, Joel’s car needed a new door, and that “we are so ready for this session” vibe when right out the fucking window.

Sunday ended up being a really long day, and though I managed to finish all my drum tracks, and since that was technically our only concrete goal for this session, you could argue that we ended up ahead of the game, but our shaky-as-a-baby-deer’s-first-steps beginning kind of put a pale over the session. It’s actually why this writeup took me a little longer to get together; I had to ask myself whether I was going to be honest and say, “this was a tough one,” or lie and say, “great times guys! Pay no attention to Joel having to sweep up broken glass and file police reports when he’d rather be recording.”

So in the end, and as you can guess because you’re reading this, I opted for honesty. But here’s me also being honest: the new stuff smokes and it’s made the rough way this session began okay in our books. Though it felt really slow in coming, the change really started Sunday. “Whale Road” which will lead off the next record, was a bear to record, but then “Selkie” went a lot smoother, and “Echoes” and “The History of the Earls of Orkney” were both real close to being first-takers. Our crazy non-Clamfight-related schedules, the accident, all of that stuff was something we got over, but realistically it did make the start of this session a little clumsier than any of us wanted.

Speaking of another unanticipated monkey wrench: the length of these songs. Clamfight III, or whatever we end up calling it (A Vulgar Display of a Tree Service Guy Not Using His Mirrors?), is made up clamfight 3of big, long songs, and though there’s been a seven-minute song or two on each of our prior records, we’d never recorded anything in the 10-or-beyond-minute range, and hence, didn’t quite realize the time commitment that is. If one take of the song lasts 10, or nearly 13 minutes as in the case of “History…,” then the playback takes at least that long. More, if you count the number of times, myself included, that one of us dopes has a fascinating dick joke that can’t wait until the listening is done. If there’s one downside to being in a band with three of your best friends, and making records with a good friend like Poponi, it’s that there is a lot of gum flapping… and when your songs are all 10 minutes, that adds up to a lot of time gone when you’re not recording.

With the drums done and 5AM wake ups for Joel and I looming, we called it a day (the other guys have inside jobs, I’m not sure when they wake up… 10? 11? I picture their morning routines like Eddie Murphy’s in the beginning of Coming to America). We reconvened Monday night and Sean got to work on his rhythm tracks, and in predictable Sean fashion he banged it out at warp speed. The funny thing about Sean’s recording chops versus my own is that since we both do the majority of writing for Clamfight, you might assume that we’d both be similarly hassle free about recording. You would however, be wrong. In fact, if you watched the two of us record, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Sean wrote and practiced these songs for months by his lonesome, and the first time I heard them was the morning of the session.

But I digress. The takeaway is that Sean crushed it on this, and Steve’s ability to get a great tone out of his rig remains intact. We quit around midnight, I believe, and tired from a seemingly endless day we hit home. To be brutally honest, I still didn’t know what we had yet. I was hearing glimmers of the record now, and was liking what I could hear, but I was still too rattled from what I expected to be an easy session turning into a battle to really have an opinion on it. I clamfight 4was edgy but starting to get a sense that maybe this stuff was turning out alright.

Day three, and our final day for this session, began around six the next night, and Louis stomped through his tracks fairly quickly. Not to get a bunch of angry (but probably deserved) comments from my many bass-playing buddies, but I’m not sure I ever appreciated the bass as much as I did listening to Louis lay down his tracks. I gained a newfound appreciation of how much fuller the bass makes things, and how crucial its role as “the sound between sounds” really is. We were pressed for time at this point, so Joel only managed to get tracking done on two of the songs (which after being up since five and still answering phone calls about his car I think gives him MVP status), but we had enough for our other stated goal of the session; rough mixes for which Sean could write solos for and I could write lyrics.

Because here’s the rub, and why this session is a bit different than our prior records: we went into the making of this record knowing there was going to be a two month break in the proceedings. It’s good because as much as we wanted and tried to schedule this record in a big block of time in the manner we did I Versus the Glacier it was impossible. Somewhere in the five years since we recorded our last full-length we got mired into a whole host of outside-of-Clamfight, adult responsibilities, and adding to that mix Steve and the Gradwell House’s ever more packed schedule (he just did Fight Amp’s stellar new record, Constantly Off), it meant that blocking out a week to make this record happen wasn’t going to work. If there’s an upside to us being older and busier, it’s that we’ve all maybe grown a bit more patient, so fighting overall schedules, we managed to figure out a way to make it go, even if that clamfight 5way for us is a little different than what we’re used to.

So here we are, with a record 50 percent of the way done, and a few months off to tighten up solos and lyrics, and then come back in the fall and finish this pig in a weekend. As for how we feel about the material now? We’re happy. Real happy. There was a flood of back and forth, “oh man, did you hear that?” messages in the days following finishing this session. Even in its current state, missing half of Joel’s parts, and all of the solos and vocals, it sounds big. Booming. Dynamic. We’re this-is-the-best-thing-we’ve-ever-done stoked on it. We’re proud of it enough that’s actually put us in a good place about this weirdly tough session, and we’re all dying to come back and finish this thing so we can start letting people hear it.

— Andy Martin, June 16, 2015

*I really, really don’t understand electronics.

Clamfight, I vs. the Glacier (2013)

Clamfight on Thee Facebooks

Clamfight on Bandcamp

Gradwell House Recording

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The Exploding Eyes Orchestra Stream I in Full; Q&A with Thomas Corpse

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on June 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the exploding eyes orchestra 2

On June 12, Finnish outfit The Exploding Eyes Orchestra will make their Svart Records debut with I, their aptly-titled first offering. Written as part of a two-album set by guitarist Thomas Corpse and featuring four other members besides himself from Jess and the Ancient Ones, the record and band are an offshoot in the truest sense of the word, but one justified both by the differences in lineup and in sonic personality that are showcased throughout I‘s seven songs and vinyl-ready 41 minutes. Whereas Jess and the Ancient Ones operates with cultish aural intent, having explored psychedelic ritualizing for the last half-decade, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra was birthed as an outlet for the side of Corpse‘s songwriting that specifically didn’t fit that band.

As it turned out, there was plenty of that around. Enough so that along with I, more songs were tracked that will make up II, which is to see release on Svart in 2016. That means that, in a way, we’re only seeing half of a picture with these tracks that will be completed when the second album is issued, but with memorable cuts like “Two-Zero 13,” “The Smoke” and the oddly poppy “My Father the Wolf,” The Exploding Eyes Orchestra have crafted a full-length that stands on its own just as well. It shares some commonalities with Corpse‘s writing for Jess and the Ancient Ones, and having Jess on vocals is bound to draw a few parallels, but even through that, these songs establish an open and varied spirit not at all hindered by the boundaries of aesthetic, embracing sultry blues on “Drawing down the West,” pushing into horror-flick goth-style piano swing on “Black Hound” and unabashedly proffering a love of classic progressive rock on “Crazy Heart,” all while keeping a core of craftsmanship and structure that ties it all together.

Where The Exploding Eyes Orchestra might go on their second outing, I couldn’t say, but the soul and breadth infused into these recordings makes one eager to find out. Jess and the Ancient Ones are getting ready to hit the studio as well, but Corpse took some time out to answer questions about the making of — and, by extension, II — and you can find the Q&A under a full stream of the album, which it’s my pleasure to bring to you on the player below.

Please enjoy:

the exploding eyes orchestra

Interview with Thomas Corpse: Easing Burdens

How much material had amassed before you realized The Exploding Eyes Orchestra was a project separate from Jess and the Ancient Ones? What is it about the songs that you thought didn’t fit that concept?

I noticed it while writing them. We were having a creative break with the Ancient Ones, and I had nothing else to do than just play acoustic guitar on my couch. Oh, I also drank like a million liters of coffee, and smoked a thousand smokes. It was really refreshing to jam endlessly, so I just kept writing and writing. In the end, I did not wish to add so many layers on them, so a smaller group was formed to perform them.

What is the timeline on songs coming together? How long has this stuff been around?

They came along pretty fast. Maybe six months from zero to 100, when it comes to writing and arranging the music. We recorded 14 songs in the same sessions… whuh, it was fun! Recordings took place in 2013-2014, so the material has been laying around for a while. The wheels of Sawonia move forth slowly I guess, hahah!

How was it being in the studio for The Exploding Eyes Orchestra as opposed to Jess and the Ancient Ones?

Well there’s a few less musicians playing, so there’s much more space to move around within the songs. Also, in a way these sessions were more “free-spirited.” I think we learned some valuable things, and of course the Ancient Ones will also benefit from this fact. That being said, the Ancient Ones are just about to hit the studio!

What was the time in the studio like? How were the songs put together and how much input did the whole band have in the process?

Long hours, and many late nights. We worked really hard, as we had so little time to record all of those songs. At some point, the mood was really gloomy, as the lack of sleep gets to you… but we pulled through with smiles on our faces.

The band has a major influence what comes to song arrangements, as I always leave room for interpretation. In this way, you get all the levels.

Tell me about splitting up the tracks into two albums. At what point did you know you had enough that you wanted to use that you had to approach it that way?

It was supposed to be a double album, but when listening to it as a whole, it felt too heavy to take in at once. Thus we split the material in two, to ease the listener’s burden, hahah!

Is there something different expressed between I and II, or are they meant as complements for each other, coming from the same sessions?

The II album has more subtle stuff in it, and there is even one song that is sung in Finnish. At the end of the day, the albums feel like Ying and Yang, so I guess you could say that they complement each other. My personal favourites are on the second album, as the songs in question are really personal to me.

Will you continue to write for The Exploding Eyes Orchestra on the side from Jess and the Ancient Ones? Are there other pieces that have yet to be recorded?

I sure will, and there are already seven new songs readied back here at home. Maybe the next studio session will take place during the winter of 2015? But first things first, as the Radio Aquarius will soon start the transmission from the planes of the Ancient Ones. Feed your minds!

The Exploding Eyes Orchestra on Thee Facebooks

The Exploding Eyes Orchestra at Svart Records

Svart Records on Thee Facebooks

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GIVEAWAY: Enter to Win CDs from Minotauro Records!

Posted in Features on May 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


[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.]

Two albums available this time, free of charge, from Minotauro Records. New stuff from Italian classic-style doom metallers Strange Here, and Peruvian conjurers El Hijo de la Aurora, going out. Two very different albums, to be sure, but both standing on their own merits as well, the former with a foot solidly in in the canon of doom and the latter off on a more bizarre, ambient tangent. Either way you go, you can’t beat the price.

Which, once again, is nothing. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post to be entered to win both CDs courtesy of Minotauro, which sent along the following background on both albums:

strange here ii


In 2006, Alexander Scardavian (Paul Chain, Steve Sylvester) met Domenico “Dom” Lotito, a 20 year-old guitarist from Milan who had played in a few local bands, including the renowned Error Amplifier. The two immediately developed a strong friendship, and started to lay down the foundation of a new version of Strange Here with Dom moving over to the bass. Soon the two started to develop more material with the help of a few studio musicians on keyboards and drums, and in 2013 the pair started to focus more intensely on their objective, notwithstanding a geographical distance that separated them.

In August 2014 they entered into the studio with three songs ready and many more ideas. This was the culmination of 12 years of soul-searching and existential uneasiness. And so the Strange Here II came to be, recorded and mixed in 20 hours at Atomic Studios in Longiano, Italy. Recorded live, with lots of improvised meanderings, Alexander’s and Dom’s anger, frustration and suffering over the years was conveyed through intense and obscure music.

el hijo de la aurora the enigma of evil

EL HIJO DE LA AURORA, The Enigma of Evil

EL HIJO DE LA AURORA (The Son of Dawn) is an experimental doom metal band formed in Lima, Peru in May, 2008 by the musician and writer Joaquin Cuadra and guitarist Manolo Garfias. Over the years the lineup has changed several times, leaving Joaquin as the only remaining original member. In their lyrics, the band explores elements of philosophy, occultism, witchcraft, esotericism and spirituality. The album explores new sonic territories, and is a balance between classic 70s doom and experimental sounds with unconventional instruments like Tibetan bowls and gongs.

“The Enigma of Evil” explores the origin of the cosmos, and how we establish our relationship with the spiritual world. The album recalls concepts covered by Copernicus and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in her books Isis Unveiled, and The Secret Doctrine.

Again, how to enter:

Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form provided. Please note: I neither have the interest nor the capacity to save or sell any personal information given to me. You will not be added to any email lists as a result of entering. Frankly, I’m not that savvy.

Thanks to Minotauro Records for offering up the discs, and good luck to all who enter!

El Hijo de la Aurora on Thee Facbeooks

Strange Here on Thee Facebooks

Minotauro Records

Minotauro Records on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Matt Weed of Rosetta

Posted in Questionnaire on May 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

rosetta matt weed

One decade after the release of their Translation Loss debut, The Galilean Satellites, Philadelphia’s Rosetta stand on the cusp of their fifth long-player, Quintessential Ephemera. Released in association with Golden Antenna Records, the new album follows 2013’s independently-released The Anaesthete and the 2014 Flies to Flame EP, as well as an original score produced earlier this year for a film about the band, Rosetta: Audio/Visual, and is the latest in a line of deeply creative outings furthering the band’s stylstic meld of atmospheric metal, sludge, post-rock and ambience. Noteworthy also for being their first full-length with the lineup of vocalist/noisemaker Mike Armine, guitarist Matt Weed, bassist Dave Grossman, drummer BJ McMurtrie and guitarist Eric Jernigan after having brought the latter on board in 2014 (he doubles in City of Ships), Quintessential Ephemera continues Rosetta‘s workman-style approach to progressive, fluid and exploratory songwriting, their commitment more to going places they’ve never gone than to any particular genre or other.

Weed took some time out recently to respond to The Obelisk Questionnaire and you’ll find his answers below. Please enjoy:

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Matt Weed

How did you come to do what you do?

Hard to say, since I’ve been in one band or another with our drummer BJ for over half my life. I picked up a guitar when I was 14 and it has always been a kind of territory that I explored, rather than an object I tried to master. So I’ve always written music by default – it was much harder to learn music written by other people. I went to school for totally unrelated stuff and that was probably a good thing, since academic study tends to destroy one’s enjoyment of a thing. I’m a bit of a robot in personality anyway, and music was one of the only ways I could ever access, understand, and communicate about emotion. The verbal language of emotion is either mystifying or outright off-putting to me, but playing an instrument I always felt like I had access to a more truthful way of communicating with people.

Describe your first musical memory.

My parents played a lot of classical LPs on a really crappy integrated turntable/amp system from the ’70s when I was a kid. My dad liked Romantic composers like Brahms and Tchaikovsky a lot, and my mom played the piano in the house, often old hymns. I would sit at the piano and play individual notes to see which I liked. I liked the A two octaves below middle-C the best. I would wail on that note for long periods, sometimes chanting over it (I was about four or five), but my family never complained about it. I guess that was my first foray into drone music.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

In high school, when I was still training on violin, I did a program where high school kids got to sit with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and play together. Each pair of stand partners was one PO member and one high school student. It was remarkable mainly because I was a “just-okay” student of the violin, but while I was on-stage with such serious players, my technique just seemed like it magically improved, instantly. I had no idea I could play like that. It wasn’t objectively great but it was an order of magnitude better than I was normally capable of. I never forgot it, because it was proof to me that everyone does their best work in collaboration; one person who develops skill and takes risks has a beneficial effect on everyone he or she plays with. Likewise, being lazy or self-satisfied drags down everyone around you.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

There have been several extended periods where I really struggled with the idea that having integrity and good character is more important than success. I was brought up believing that (my parents were neither achievement-oriented nor overly accommodating), and I still do. But it’s easy to make that statement when you have enough to eat and can make rent and people are regularly affirming the work you do. Society says that integrity matters, but then turns around and judges you exclusively on indicators of wealth, prestige, or social significance. That would probably explain why so many truly awful people are among the most successful. Especially in the world of art, you need to be profitable, popular, or critically acclaimed. If you’re none of the three, you must not be very good at what you do. Then you feel pressure either to adapt your work to the market or to quit entirely. But neither of those options demonstrates integrity. I’m not sure it’s possible to resolve that conflict, ultimately.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Laying aside questions about marketability, it seems like it’s a progression of greater risk-taking. You try something new and then ask, did it communicate what I wanted to say? Was it satisfying? Did I learn something in the process? If it didn’t work, then you go back and try again. If it worked, then you jump off from there and take more risks. If you’re not taking risks, then you’re not making art, you’re producing a commodity. But taking risks necessarily means failing sometimes.

How do you define success?

Sustainability. I don’t just mean that in the financial sense. I’ve never made any money from the band and I probably never will, but I’m happy for the band to support itself. Money hasn’t ever been a goal, it’s just one means to the end of being able to keep going for as long as there is music we want to make. But there are other dimensions to sustainability, like avoiding personal burnout and cultivating new audiences, not getting stuck in unproductive habits, becoming more disciplined people as time goes on. During periods where Rosetta was broke and almost unable to continue, money always loomed as the largest dimension. But once we went independent and the band more or less began to pay for itself, I started to see a lot of different ways it could be derailed that had nothing to do with money. I think success would be a situation where we had what we needed and were spending more time creating than problem-solving.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

A No Doubt show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in 2002. Yes, it was for a girlfriend. Someone puked on my shoes.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

A drone record made with a guitar and found sounds from my house to a four-track tape recorder.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Every year my wife and I try to go on a wilderness backpacking trip to some weird remote location. I always look forward to that. I feel most human in situations where I have to submit to the law of nature, rather than using technology to bend nature to my wishes. Real life seems totally unreal by comparison.

Rosetta, Rosetta: Audio/Visual Original Score (2015)

Rosetta’s website

Rosetta on Thee Facebooks

Rosetta on Twitter

Rosetta on Bandcamp

Golden Antenna Records


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Six Dumb Questions with Akris

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

akris (Photo by Tiffany Kaetzel)

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a while since the last time I did a Six Dumb Questions interview. Right around the time Virginia’s Akris released their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), actually, and in fact these questions were sent out back then. Akris at the time were the duo of bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg and drummer Sam Lohman, but that was soon enough to change.

Last weekend, Akris made a return as the three-piece of Goldberg (who’s also ex-Lord and Aquila and performs solo), guitarist/vocalist Paul Cogle (also Nagato and Black Blizzard) and drummer Tim Otis (also Admiral Browning), bringing together known entities from the MD/VA underground in an unknown form. Their performance at Sludgement Day this past weekend marked a new beginning for the band, and they’ll follow it up with other regional shows before heading out to the West Coast for a run of shows alongside the much-loved Snail in July and August.

With new material in the works, plans to record with Chris Kozlowski at Polar Bear Lair this summer and a later release through Domestic Genocide Records — who seem to have opted for the more acronym-styled DGR — who also put out the first album, Goldberg takes on the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions: Akris

1. Tell me about writing the self-titled. I know some of those songs were around for a while, but how did everything come together for the album?

One of the most important things about this album is the dedication to Mark Williams and all my friends in Hickory, NC. Mark ran shows out of his house, The Killing Floor, and I have been playing shows there and at other venues in Hickory since my first tour in 2007. Unfortunately, Mark and several other friends of mine that I made over the years in hickory passed away. Because of the unending support, hospitality, and kindness I have experienced in this town, I care very deeply about my friends there and will always be drawn to come back.

The album was recorded between the Fall and Spring of 2012-‘13… We actually decided on having the songs be in chronological order, with the oldest songs being first (“Fighter Pilot,” the first track, was actually written back in 2007) and the most current songs at that point towards the end. “Suffocate” was written specifically for Mark, who passed away in the Spring of 2012. At the time of recording, the last track, “Part of Me,” was the most recently written track, having just been completed in the Fall of 2012. Actually, the current set is comprised in a very similar way to the album. There are a couple older songs written back in 2007/2008, a couple songs from the album, and a few brand new songs.

2. How was it for you recording with Chris Kozlowski? How long were you in the studio and how did the recording process work?

We absolutely loved recording with Chris! We had an amazing time at the polar bear lair; I think the entire process was over the span of a few months. Chris and I hit it off from the first time he did sound for Akris at a Krug’s show years ago in Frederick (I think it might have been a SHoD), and I’m happy to call him a very good friend. When I think of the recording process of this album I remember lots of laughs and various hijinks.

3. You’ve obviously put time into creating your bass tone, and it’s such a huge part of the songs. What gear did you use on the album, and was/is there something in particular you were trying to get out of it sound-wise?

I am a big supporter of Sunn equipment. My rig for the past few years is pretty much all Sunn and Earth, with bass and guitar rigs running simultaneously. We wanted to emulate the live sound as closely as possible, so we used two Sunn Model T’s, one through a 2×15, the other through an 8×10. One was more of a clear booming bass tone, the other was more distorted at a mid to treble range. When combined, the sound was very close to my live show rig.

4. How did bringing Ron “Fez” McGinnis from Admiral Browning in on vocals for “Vomit Within” come about? Tell me about writing that song musically and lyrically.

I usually don’t think about my lyrics too much; I almost feel like I just hear the sounds of the words first and just let them come out. It’s always interesting to actually go back and think about what I wrote! A lot of my lyrics involve death and spirituality, and the beginning of that song definitely references that (“There’s a shadow next to me/Sits beside me while I bleed,” etc.). Later in the song I think I was letting out a lot of anger and frustration in particular with dealing with death (“My brother, you fuck, I loved you too much,” for example). As far as Fez‘s vocal contribution, I trusted his musicianship enough to just let him do whatever he was inspired to do. He had the idea for the spoken word part at the beginning of the song and wrote the part while listening to the track in the studio. I am very excited to have him be a part of it!

5. What happened with Sam and how did you bring Tim and Paul into the band? How has working with them changed Akris? Will it affect your ability to tour?

I absolutely loved playing with Sam between the Spring of 2011 to about the Spring of 2014. Unfortunately, circumstances in his personal life made it impossible for him to continue. Tim Otis is one of my best friends, and I have been a big fan of his drumming since I moved down to the Northern Virginia area in 2008. When it became evident that Sam would not be able to continue playing drums for Akris this past January, Tim officially joined the band. Soon after, the decision was made to have Paul Cogle join on guitar. This was obviously a huge decision because I have been playing in a two-piece band for almost 10 years. However, I have been a fan of Paul‘s music and guitar playing for years, ever since I first heard Nagato. Paul is also a very good mutual friend of Tim’s and mine, and it has been an absolutely amazing, positive experience preparing our new set over these past few months. I am truly honored to call both Paul and Tim bandmates and friends. The three of us have worked out tour plans for the rest of the year, which include three shows in May local to the D.C./VA/MD area, a New Jersey Meatlocker show June 12, a West Coast tour in August with my longtime friends Snail (on Small Stone Records), and a Southern tour in September.

6. Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

We will be recording new material at the Polar Bear Lair again in July to be released on DG Records next year. I cannot express with words the love and gratitude I have for our label. There have been many ups and downs over the past couple years and they have truly stuck with me through thick and thin. To have the support of people who believe so strongly in me is an incredible blessing that I am thankful for every day. My current bandmates and label have helped me to find courage in my darkest times through love and strength, and to continue to push the envelope and the limits of our sound.

Akris, Akris (2013)

Akris on Thee Facebooks

Akris at DGRecords

DGR on Bandcamp

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The Midnight Ghost Train US tour Diary, Pt. 3

Posted in Features on May 4th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

A moment of respite this time around as The Midnight Ghost Train guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss checks in from the road in the latest installment of his US tour diary. The trio — Moss, bassist Mike Boyne and drummer Brandon Burghart — have a day off in Albuquerque, New Mexico and use it to check out filming locations for the show Breaking Bad, and Moss also gives some thoughts on B.B. King, who was revealed last week to be in home-hospice care.

Eight shows left on the tour. Here’s Moss:

the midnight ghost train breaking bad

Mea Culpa 3

Had a fun and interesting week. Played Albuquerque, Midland, Austin, and Lafayette. On our way to Pensacola right now.

Had the day off after our Albuquerque show so we used it to check out the different spots that Breaking Bad was filmed in. We are huge fans of that show so it was cool to find the actual filming locations, Including a candy store owned by an old lady that not only made all the meth for the first two years of Breaking Bad (made it out of rock candy) but also makes porn candy, like chocolate dicks and vaginas. Yum. It was probably the most fun we have had in Albuquerque. Last time we were there, a gigantic protest was going on against the police or something. We went over to check it out, hoping to see some crazy shit, but we ended up getting too close and we got the backlash of a bunch of tear gas. Did not feel very good.

One of my biggest heroes and inspirations in music is B.B. King, I learned this week that he is at home in hospice care preparing to die. This breaks my heart. Without him there the midnight ghost trainwould be no TMGT. I’ve seen him live a countless amount of times, he is the reason I decided to play music. I wanted what he had. That soul and passion he has on stage is unlike anything else. My wife and I actually saw his last-ever performance. The day after we saw him he collapsed and canceled the rest of the tour. I can’t begin to explain what his music and his soul has done for me. I grew up with his music, going to his concerts with my dad and just being completely in awe of the experience. Some of the best moments in my life. My favorite live album of all time is B.B. King, Live at the Regal. If you haven’t heard it, buy it. Nothing out there comes close to the magic on that album. I just hope he is comfortable and safe and well, and goes in peace. He is a true bluesman and a true performer. I strive at every show to have just a fraction of the soul he has.

I appreciate all the kind get well words and wishes for me for my upcoming surgery. I’m a tough son of a bitch so I’ll be okay and ready to rock soon after the surgery. But first thing’s first, we got a tour to finish and nine more shows to blow the roof off the fuckin’ place.

The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground (2015)

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train at Napalm Records

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Death Alley Interview & Track Premiere: Into the Heart of Black Magick Boogieland

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on April 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

death alley

[Please note: Click play above to hear “Black Magick Boogieland.” Death Alley release Black Magick Boogieland May 19 on Tee Pee Records. Preorders are available through Tee Pee, on iTunes or on Amazon.]

It’s had many names, but ultimately, Black Magick Boogieland is a familiar idea. For Sleep, it was their Holy Mountain. For George Clinton, his Mothership. For Motörhead, a certain card out of the deck. It’s that thing or that place that represents who a band is or where they feel they’re coming from, existentially as much as sonically. For Amsterdam four-piece Death Alley, the last year and a half has found them locked in recording dungeons, finding birth and rebirth onstage and in the studio, hitting the road hard, reveling in good times and pulling together through the strange moments that seem tiny at the time but ultimately help us all discover who we are.

Death Alley‘s Black Magick Boogieland — almost impossibly — lives up to the righteousness of its title. Yes, it’s over the top at times and it knows that and sees the value in it, but most importantly, it’s a work that finds cohesion in the black, the magic(k) and the boogie. Of the various times I’ve written about the band on this site, almost each one finds them with a different genre tag, from protothrash to retro heavy punk to heavy rock and roll. Truth is, they’re all of those things, and the multi-faceted sound of their debut, from the reworked versions of “Over Under” and “Dead Man’s Bones” which were also the A and B sides to their first single (review here), to the 12-minute space-rocking closer death alley black magick boogieland“Supernatural Predator,” is tied together by the energy with which the material is delivered and the won-over knowledge of what they want to accomplish stylistically and in terms of their songwriting.

Born out of the demise of three acts — punkers Gewapend BetonThe Devil’s Blood and Mühr — Death Alley brings elements together from each into a served-raw blend of fist-pumping, sonically-weighted classic-styled heavy. The album is neither metal nor punk but has elements crucial to both, and when it pushes beyond the roughneck shuffle of “Bewildered Eyes” and “The Fever” into the groovier roll of “Golden Fields of Love,” somehow it not only makes sense, but becomes utterly necessary. The elements at root in its creation might be primitive, and Black Magick Boogieland might seem that way at first listen as well, but there isn’t a level on which one might approach the work as a whole that it doesn’t fulfill, pulling you back to when rock and roll was irony-free, guns blazing, ass shaking and seemed able to hit you directly on a skeletal level.

To herald their debut’s May 19 release through Tee Pee Records, I spoke to all four members of Death Alley — vocalist Douwe Truijens, guitarist Oeds Beydals, bassist Dennis Duijnhouwer and drummer Ming Boyer — about some of the moments that have shaped the band to this point, among them playing Roadburn in 2014, touring hard alongside their soon-to-be labelmates in The Shrine, recording the first single with Guy Tavares (Orange Sunshine) at his Motorwolf studio in Den Haag, bringing in Beydals‘ former bandmate, ex-The Devil’s Blood vocalist Farida Lemouchi, to sing on “Supernatural Predator,” and more, and the result is one of the best conversations I’ve had the pleasure to host here in a long time.

All told, it wound up coming awfully close to 6,900 words, so there’s plenty to dig into, but I think the story (and stories) these guys have to tell is well worth the time. The complete Q&A is after the jump. I sincerely hope you enjoy.

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The Midnight Ghost Train US Tour Diary, Pt. 2

Posted in Features on April 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

When last we left them, Kansas heavy blues rockers were deep into the Pacific Northwest on their current US tour. This past week has taken them further south, through California and into the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. Last night they played in Albuquerque, and today, guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss — joined in the band by bassist Mike Boyne and drummer Brandon Burghart — continues his “Mea Culpa” tour diary for The Obelisk.

The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third album, Cold was the Ground is out now as their debut on Napalm Records. Their tour runs until May 16, at which point apparently Moss will undergo surgery. More in the diary:


Mea Culpa 2

Driving through the desert right now towards Albuquerque, NM. The past few nights have been excellent shows and good times. Like I said in the last post we went to the Giants and Dodgers game on our day off. That was a lot of fun and relaxing. But relaxing never lasts long. I like it that way. I don’t like to stand still for long. If you have seen us on stage I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

The other night in San Diego we had a great show. It was a last-minute add but it was a blast. I think they put something in the drinks in there though ’cause everyone was insanely wasted. Made for an interesting night. I don’t drink so it’s always quite amusing to see the insanely drunk ones at the shows. But it can also get a bit annoying especially at the merch table. One guy wanted to buy all three of our vinyls, a hoodie, two shirts, a tote bag, a hat, a poster and two bottles of our TMGT hot sauce. I get everything out, all ready for him. The price is somewhere around $150 and he opened his wallet and only had $20. Then he actually tried to see if I would let him go with all that stuff only paying $20. No way in hell. He would not let it go, started yelling, “Why can’t I just pay $20, this is bullshit I thought you guys were cool. I promise if you let me go with all this stuff for $20 I’ll tell everyone I know about your band.” Absolutely not. We need to make our money.

For those of you that are unaware, this is how we make our living. This is our job. So we don’t give anything out for free, ever, and don’t make deals. I don’t care how cute of a girl you are, I don’t care how uncool it makes me, you pay full price. If you really like a band enough that you want to buy their merch, than you should respect them enough to pay for it, and pay the price that they ask. We go through that every night. But this guy just for some reason got under my skin. Maybe because he held up the merch line for 10 minutes while he was bitching and arguing. “Sorry you gotta go, there are people with money behind you trying to buy stuff.” I guess some people just don’t get it. I’m sure other bands out there feel that frustration.

So I’ve got some bad news. I’ve been battling with some pain the past few months that has made life very uncomfortable. I went to the doctor and found out I have two hernias that have to be surgically repaired immediately. So as soon as this tour is over I’m going in for surgery. Not excited about that. After this tour, we have one month off before we go back over to Europe. So I just hope that during that month off I can fully recover from the surgery, and there are no complications so I can be rip-roaring and ready to go for our European tour. In the meantime, I’m not able to lift anything. Doctors said I can’t lift anything over five pounds during this tour. Now that’s just crazy. But I have been staying away from lifting amps and really heavy stuff.

The guys have been a huge help moving stuff around for me. It sucks. I feel worthless and helpless. But I was warned that my hernias are at risk of becoming strangled, which can kill me, so I’m taking it as easy as possible. What really sucks is the uncomfortable pain that I’m in the entire time on stage. But I’m a fighter and I get through it night after night. Just hope that after this surgery I recover quick and well enough for our European tour. I’m so thankful I got good band members to help and pick up the slack for me. We still get off stage in less than two minutes, and we still get everything done quick and on time. It’s just tough to have to adjust to not carrying anything. Hope this surgery is as easy and as quick with recovery time as they say. ‘Cause there is much more rocking left to do.

The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground (2015)

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train at Napalm Records

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