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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Lee Dorrian

Posted in Questionnaire on July 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

lee dorrian

There is not much one might do in doom or metal in general that Lee Dorrian hasn’t done. From getting his start at the beginnings of grindcore with Napalm Death to forming the massively influential Cathedral to fostering and continuing to develop an underground rock aesthetic few can predict or match with Rise Above Records — giving bands like Orange GoblinWitchcraftNaevusRevelation and Electric Wizard a home in their early stages — his work over the better part of the last 30 years has not only resulted in badass records like Cathedral‘s 1991 debut, Forest of Equilibrium, or the 2002 Rampton album from the one-off project Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine with members of SunnO))) and Iron Monkey, but has actively played a role in reshaping what we think of as heavy. An inimitable stage presence, Dorrian put Cathedral to rest in 2013 after the release of The Last Spire (review here), but he continues his forward-thinking work with Rise Above, releasing landmark works from the likes of Ghost and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats as well as potential doom-shapers like Lucifer.

This week, Cathedral reissues their first demo, 1990’s In Memoriam, complete with bonus live material, and I’m thrilled to be able to have Dorrian provide his answers to The Obelisk Questionnaire to mark the occasion:

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Lee Dorrian

How did you come to do what you do?

Just from being a fan of music since I was a little kid. From a very early age I was fascinated by not only the music, but also the lifestyle and culture surrounding it. In my early teens I started doing a fanzine, this led me to booking shows in local pubs and venues when I was sixteen. This in turn led me to joining my first ever band, which was Napalm Death and it went from there.

Describe your first musical memory.

I have memories of listening to records with my dad when I was about four years old. In particular, I remember him playing Beach Boys over and over but I also remember rocking out in the living room with him to Slade around the same time. Also, one very vivid memory from around this time was continually playing the Small Faces single on Immediate Records called “Itchycoo Park.” For some reason it had a blue ink stain on the black and white labels and I used to watch it going round and round, whilst the sound effects on the track would make me dizzy, haha. It was my favourite single when I was a little kid but the first single I actually bought with my own pocket money was “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas. After that I got into the Bay City Rollers, then became serious about rock ‘n’ roll and was a Teddy Boy at eight years old! I used to hang around with the older Teds and they showed me the ropes, what to wear, how to dance, etc.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I guess it was hearing a track off the B-side of Scum on the John Peel radio show. He had been my idol (if that’s the right word), since I was 10/11 years old, so hearing him play a record that I was on was just completely surreal. Then I got to know him a bit, which was just amazing. Nothing I did after that really topped it to be honest.

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

When Cathedral signed to Columbia Records in the US. As anarchist teenager, I said I would never be in a band that signed to a major label. The opportunity came to us, we didn’t chase it, or even desire it. All I can say is, we had some great times as a result but it also fucked everything up.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Genuine artist progression leads to absolute greatness, though it depends on how you interpret it. I’m sure many artists I’ve admired early on, but not liked them so much as they’ve “progressed,” would view their progression differently than I would. I’m sure the same could be said for many people that have listened to some things I may have been involved with over the years: I might think it’s good, they might think it’s crap.

How do you define success?

Doing something you believe in and getting it right artistically. To me that would be more important than selling millions of records.

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

Swans a few weeks ago in London. Having said that, the first time I saw them in ‘86 was one of the best shows I have seen in my life.

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

A planet where only cool people lived.

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

My daughter coming back from vacation!

Cathedral, “Morning of a New Day”

Cathedral on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records on Twitter

Rise Above Records

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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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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rynne Stump of Stumpfest

Posted in Questionnaire on April 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

rynne stump.jpg

Next weekend, Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon, plays host to the three-night Stumpfest IV. The festival, organized by Rynne Stump, has become a staple of the Pacific Northwest’s fertile heavy underground, and this year is no different. stumpfest roper posterHeadlined by familiar names from the region like Danava, YOB, Big Business, Lord Dying and Sandrider, its reach has only expanded in its years of operation, and with a near-infinite supply of heavy acts to choose from in the Pacific Northwest at the moment — oh wait, six new bands just formed right this second — there seems to be no shortage of fodder for Stump and her compatriots to show their dedication to the cause. With NorskaSons of HunsGraves at SeaMuscle and Marrow, and others on the bill, Stumpfest IV retains a commitment both geographic and stylistic, and its admirable mission has earned it increasing acclaim each year.

Now eight months pregnant and looking forward to the birth of her first son, Stump somehow found time between final fest preparations and packing a hospital bag to answer The Obelisk Questionnaire, and her efforts are appreciated. Enjoy:

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rynne Stump

How did you come to do what you do?

A lot of doing what the hell I wanted and not listening to other people or caring what people thought of me too much. Making my own decisions in life gave me the courage to take risks and be accountable for myself and my mistakes. Following my heart got me where I am and I wouldn’t change one damn bit of it. Of course it helped having parents and sisters who support me and accept my attitude. My father was a musician and he taught me music, how to listen to it, the language of harmony, and how to sing and perform. My mother taught me how to craft, create and to work hard. To not give up no matter what was against us. To never, ever let someone’s opinion of me affect who I really am inside.

Most importantly, if you are raised to be yourself and supported to be your unique self you will have your own life to be proud of no matter what!

Describe your first musical memory.

My dad waking me up out of bed when I was super tiny to listen to a record. I wish I remembered which record that was. He said to me, “Listen to the bass! Listen to the guitar! Hear that harmony, Zipper?” Then he took me outside to gaze upon the moon. This happened regularly in my house in my first years of life.

Also, performing at the Southern Indiana bluegrass festival Bean Blossom with my dad and sister Sara in my diapers that is a pretty intense first musical memory.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

There are too many to count! In addition to putting on Stumpfest every year, I am also a musician. Some of my best musical memories come from performing with my band leader Craig Elkins. To me, communication on a musical level is absolute! The energy, connection and elevation can take you beyond the moon! Plus, we just harmonize like angels together and we laugh at ourselves constantly. Song birding it up with Craig is the BEST!

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

Daily, our beliefs are tested all the time. How we recover from this defines our character and strengthens our bond to our own spirituality.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Artistic progression is the higher evolution of ourselves and our souls. Through it, we can lead others toward their own elevated states of being and influence a positive reaction.

How do you define success?

Finding the happiness in all things. Attaining grounded, self-assured happiness allows us to know ourselves better, laugh at ourselves, forgive and love ourselves. When we do this we can connect fully with others and to do positive things for the universe. That is success in my eye. The idea of Stumpfest was to gather old friends together to do just that, and we have seen success every year.

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

Everything we see shapes us; our experience, our perspectives, our minds, who we are and who we become. Although things we see can harm our fragile egos we can take every experience and make ourselves better from the exposure. I am thankful for psychedelics, which help us to see things in multidimensional perspectives. They open our minds beyond the plane of consciousness that we operate in daily and further connect us to ourselves, others and the great unknown.

There was one time I saw a bum masturbating on the side of the road and I could probably live without that.

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

My partner Danny Carey and I are creating life right now inside of me. I’m eight months pregnant, and that was always top on my list… to create the human form is the ultimate! Also, making my own record. Committing and immersing myself totally to the struggle of that inward path is a huge, frightening goal for me.

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

The birth of my son in June. I cannot wait to meet the product of Mr. Carey and myself. I bet he is going to be hilarious!

YOB, “Adrift in the Ocean” live at Stumpfest 2012

Stumpfest tickets

Stumpfest on Thee Facebooks

Stumpfest IV event page

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Kent Stump of Wo Fat

Posted in Questionnaire on March 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

kent-stump

Across five records and nine fuzz-laden years, Dallas trio Wo Fat have become an institution in Texas heavy rock. Their latest album and second for Small Stone, The Conjuring (review here), is in many ways their strongest release to date, benefiting from the naturally-developed chemistry between guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter, as well as from the self-sufficiency of the band recording at their own studio, Crystal Clear Sound, in Dallas. While their reputation has built steadily since the release of their 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark, and its ’08 follow-up, Psychedelonaut (review here), 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here), on Nasoni, proved a particular breakthrough point, leading to the band’s signing to Small Stone for the next year’s The Black Code (review here), for which they toured in Europe for the first time, making their continental debut at the 2013 Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands (review here) and setting the stage for the triumph to come with The Conjuring and a return trip across the Atlantic, this one marked out by an appearance at last year’s Freak Valley in Germany.

Wo Fat‘s latest release is a document of their set there: Live Juju: Wo Fat at Freak Valley will hit the public on March 17. Later this year, the band will also take part in Magnetic Eye Records‘ tribute to Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland [Redux], covering “Gypsy Eyes.”

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Kent Stump

How did you come to do what you do?

Well, what I do is play music and I record music, which is how I make my living – recording music, that is. Music has always been a huge part of my life. Both of my parents are musicians, so it was something that was just ubiquitous and inescapable in our house when I was growing up. Never once in my life did I consider doing anything with my life other than becoming a musician and doing something relating to music, although the place I’m at now is not where I would have thought I would be when I was a teenager, or even when I was in college. My journey to the heavy and the riff is a bit of a circuitous one.

I went to college to study jazz and fully planned on getting out of college and going on to be a jazz musician. While at college, I got turned on to a much wider world of music by so many great people with widely varying tastes. I discovered punk rock and ‘70s funk and African music and all the great ‘70s rock and the ‘80s NY noise scene, and on and on. And most importantly, I really discovered the blues. I had always known a bit about the blues since I was heavily into jazz, but I became much more hip to a lot of blues musicians that I hadn’t previously checked out, and that eventually led me to realize that my whole life I’ve been drawn to music that comes from the blues – rock, funk, etc. That, along with a friend I had that was into all things heavy who got me listening to Sabbath as well as a lot of ‘80s hardcore and metal, led to my desire to make heavy blues music.

When I was in college in Denton, Texas, the music scene at that time was absolutely electric, and the vibe was very open and experimental. Punk rock and funk and metal with a jazz edge were all kind of mixing together and it was a really artistically open-minded vibe at the time, which I think shaped my thinking about music a lot. So eventually in the late ‘90s I discovered bands like Sleep, Fu Manchu, Nebula, Kyuss and all the Man’s Ruin bands and I came to the realization that this is the music, along with the blues, that speaks to me on the most primal level and this is what I want to play.

Describe your first musical memory.

My first musical memory is laying on our living room floor when I was very young, maybe four or five years old, and my dad putting on a record of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It’s an amazing piece of music and it definitely left an impression on me. I think, if I’m not mistaken, when that piece was premiered in Paris it caused a riot. Stravinsky is pretty hardcore.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I don’t know if I have just one best musical memory. I’ve got a lot of things that were landmark musical moments in my life though. Getting to play at Roadburn is without a doubt one of the best musical memories for me. Roadburn is such an iconic thing and it was the first show that we played on our first European tour, which was also the first time I had ever been to Europe and it was just kind of a surreal, epiphenal and mindblowing experience. It was amazing to walk into the scene there and see a whole bunch of people that are hardcore fans of the same music I dig. I had never seen that, at least not on that level, before.

You don’t see that kind of thing when it comes to this kind of music in the US. And to be performing at this amazing festival was just awesome, and also a bit nerve-racking at the same time. I remember going to see High on Fire’s set after we played and it was packed and the crowd was just electric and High on Fire sounded better than I’ve ever heard them before. I think they were just vibing on the amazing vibe of the fans. Same with Elder’s set, who I got to see a little later that night. The vibe from the crowd was so intense and Elder kicked ass riding that wave, I think. Amazing day.

I have memories of a lot of transcendental shows that I would put in the great musical memory category. Getting to see Sleep a couple years ago was bad ass. Sometime around 1997 or 1998 I went to SXSW in Austin, before SXSW totally turned into utter crap, and I got to see Fatso Jetson just destroy as well as an amazing showcase that had Fu Manchu and Queens of the Stone Age right before they hit big. There was a whole Man’s Ruin showcase that was killer.

When I was in college I got to see free jazz great Cecil Taylor. That was an absolutely kick ass show. He was just pounding the piano and pieces of the pads inside the piano were flying out as he was playing. And there were maybe 10 people there to see this free jazz icon. So many great shows that have shaped my thinking.

I also have a lot of memories of late nights fueled with alcohol, and other things, and hanging with friends who turned me onto heavy, heavy tunes that I wasn’t previously hip to. Some of these rank up there with the great musical moments to me – sitting on the couch and tripping out to amazing, life-changing jams… These things all are part of my story as a musician and music lover that has brought me to where I am now.

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

That’s a tough question. I kinda feel like most my life, my beliefs and likes/interests have been juxtaposed between two opposing worlds. For example, my heavily schooled musical upbringing versus a more primal, less technical, organic approach to playing. Or, being a recording engineer like I am, most of my peers are gearheads focused on the technical aspects of engineering, which I am to a certain extent, but I am far more focused on the musicality of recording and finding ways to make a recording reach you on an emotional level, so I’m not über-obsessed with technical- and gear-related things about recording.

Also in this particular time, my political versus spiritual beliefs, that to me, are completely simpatico, are to most, seemingly at odds with one another.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Ideally artistic progression leads to more artistic progression. Art and music is a neverending journey. I don’t think I’ll ever have arrived at a stopping place artistically because every move forward reveals more things to reach for and directions to consider. That’s the beauty of it. You’re never finished. You can just abandon the quest if you want, but there is always further to go.

How do you define success?

I think it’s being happy and doing what you makes you happy. Despite the fact that financially, life is a struggle for me, I feel like I’ve achieved a good amount of success in the sense that I’m playing music I love and people are digging it, we own a killer studio and my day job involves doing things that are artistic and deal with music and, on top of it all, I’ve got the most amazing wife who I’ve been married to for 18 years.

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

On the one hand there’s probably a lot I wish I hadn’t seen, but at the same time, all those experiences contribute to making me who I am, although there are some things that I could probably do without ever seeing that wouldn’t change me too much. One thing that I wish I hadn’t seen is this: The studio that we run is in an industrial area of Dallas and there are a lot of stray dogs that run around in packs in that area. Seeing a stray dog is something I don’t like seeing to begin with because I love dogs and I want to help them all, but we’re full up at my house with dogs. My wife and I already have five dogs so there’s no more room at the inn.

Anyway, one day I saw a little Chihuahua-mix stray being harassed by a couple of big dogs. At first I thought they were playing, but then I realized that that was not the case and I wasn’t able to get to them to break it up before the larger dogs had inflicted a mortal wound on the little guy. It just breaks my heart that I couldn’t help him and it still pains me to this day to think about it. I hate to see the helpless get brutalized by the powerful, which, sadly, happens all around us every day.

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

I really wish that I could draw and paint. I would love to be able to create art like Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo. I don’t think that will ever happen for me, though, because I don’t have any of those skills. There is, of course, much more music I’d like to create. I’m always wanting to incorporate disparate musical styles and influences together in our music, like Afro-Cuban music, blues, jazz and metal.

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

Having dinner and watching hockey with my wife.

Wo Fat, Live at Freak Valley 2014

Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks

Crystal Clear Sound website

Small Stone Records

Magnetic Eye Records

 

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Pat Harrington of Geezer

Posted in Questionnaire on January 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

pat harrington

With his gravelly voice and a demeanor that’s gone above and beyond friendly every time I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter it, Geezer guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington cuts an immediately warm figure. All the more so when he breaks out the slide for his guitar. Though after the STB Records vinyl release last year of Geezer‘s Gage (review here) sophomore full-length — and the impending Feb. 5 CD/digital issue of the same album on Ripple Music — and his continued success with his Electric Beard of Doom podcast, he’s become a formidable presence in the heavy underground, his pedigree includes a lead guitar stint in mid-aughts NYC hard rockers Slunt and a run from 2008-2013 with Killcode, his ongoing trio Gaggle of Cocks which also includes Geezer bassist Freddy Villano, and no doubt others who’ve taken advantage along the way of Harrington‘s soulful, classic soloing style.

To herald the CD release of GageGeezer — the three-piece rounded out by drummer Chris Turco — will support High on Fire and Mountain of Wizard on Jan. 13 at The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie, New York. Already veterans of The Eye of the Stoned Goat festival and having a seemingly permanent residence set up at The Anchor in their native Kingston, NY, where their Live! Full Tilt Boogie limited tape (review here) was recorded, Geezer will look to expand their reach in 2015 and beyond.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Pat Harrington

How did you come to do what you do?

I guess in relation to my current projects, that being the band Geezer and the Electric Beard Of Doom podcast, I ended up here by finally embracing that which makes me happy. As a musician and creative person, I spent too many years falling into the trap of chasing the brass ring; the now antiquated idea that one has to fit into a certain formula or jump through some ever-changing hoops just to get the approval of some gatekeeper who then deems you worthy of being a part of the mainstream music scene. Much like being knighted by some boy king who doesn’t even know how to hold a sword correctly.

Okay, now that I’ve used up all my metaphors… I love heavy music, I love the blues, I love creating music, I love listening to music and I love sharing music with other likeminded individuals. Thanks in large part to this wonderful underground heavy scene that we have here, I get to do all that now… my way… with no apologies. The fact that people have been so receptive to the band and the podcast is validation of a lifetime spent worshiping the riff.

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was about three or four, I remember being put to bed by a babysitter, my next door neighbor Joanie Maddie. She used to put on music to help me go to sleep. One of the albums she used to put on was Led Zeppelin IV and I distinctly remember hearing “Stairway to Heaven.” Sometimes when I hear that song, I can almost relive those moments. By the time I was five, I was getting KISS albums for Christmas. By the time I was eight, I was walking around school singing Doors songs.

Music has always been a huge part of my life. Thanks Joanie!

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I’ve been lucky enough to have done some substantial touring of both the US and parts of Europe with my old band SLUNT. We toured with Marilyn Manson, Motörhead and C.O.C. We even opened for Paul Stanley on a solo tour. I got to meet some of my heroes, get loaded with some of them and geek out about music. I got to travel more than ever before in my life. I got to play music in front of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people virtually every night of the week with people that I truly loved. Nothing can compare to the feeling of freedom I felt during those times, I hope to feel that freedom once again.

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

I play heavy rock music in America in the 21st Century. I’m 42 years old. I have a wife, a small child, a mortgage and an unruly dog. My beliefs get tested every damn day.

The point is, being an artist is a lot of fun, but it is extremely hard to stay committed to it in today’s world. Just the fact that I even made it this far and I’m still inspired to be a better musician and create music that I dig: that’s the biggest test of all.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

In a perfect world, artistic progression should lead to enlightenment, to empathy, to community, to a better world and a sense of togetherness. Art should evoke emotions, it should make people angry, it should comfort you when you hurt and it should be a joyous expression.

As we can see today, many people are afraid of art, they literally are trying to kill it. This is because it is a threat to power structures and false ideologies. It is a way of communicating ideas without using literal translations that can be exposed and distorted. Art ultimately leads to truth. We need that now more than ever.

How do you define success?

Happiness.

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

I could’ve done without those ass-tulip videos. And I NEVER look at those videos nowadays of people squeezing zits or have spiders crawling out of their legs. Seriously, who the fuck watches those things?!?

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

Not to be crass, but I’d like to create an artistic career that has some kind of sustainable income. I don’t need to be rich and famous, but I’d like to at least be able to give my wife a little relief from the financial burden of being married to a musician.

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

My wife and I have been talking about getting a van, RV or Airstream, taking the kid and do some extended traveling across the country. He’s two now, so I’d like him to be a little older so he will at least remember it, so maybe in a year or two. I loved being on the road and traveling all across this country of ours, being able to share that feeling with my family would be amazing.

Geezer, Gage (2014/2015)

Geezer on Thee Facebooks

Electric Beard of Doom

Geezer on Bandcamp

STB Records

Ripple Music

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Christian Peters of Samsara Blues Experiment

Posted in Questionnaire on August 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

christian peters

For more than five years now, Berlin-based guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters has been working ceaselessly to bring his band Samsara Blues Experiment to the forefront of heavy psychedelic consciousness. From touring the West Coast of the US before they even had an album released to graphic design work to founding his own label, Electric Magic Records in order to bolster other acts — having an outlet for a collection of solo recordings released under the name Soulitude didn’t hurt either — to playing fests like Roadburn, the Desertfests, Freak Valley and many more, as well as touring, SBE has taken the harder road of getting their name out. At the same time, Peters has been at the fore of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s creative development since the start, their three albums — 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here), 2011’s Revelation and Mystery (review here) and 2009’s Long Distance Trip (review here) — showcasing a fluid psychedelia both creatively open and propelled by rich tonality. On both levels, the work of Peters and his bandmates has begun to pay off.

When I sent him the Questionnaire to fill out, Peters was on a well-earned vacation — no computer — but back to the grind, he wasted no time in sending back his answers, which I think you’ll enjoy reading:

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Christian Peters

How did you come to do what you do?

I started playing guitar at the age of 10. My father, more or less, forced me to learn an instrument at that time, so you can imagine how “happy” I was back then with playing Folk and Classical guitar. Every day at least one half-hour was my torment as a kid, really. I didn’t touch my guitar for one year when I was around 15 or 16, but then got finally addicted to music and so started to teach myself E-Guitar and all (or most of) the other instruments I play today.

Describe your first musical memory.

Singing tradional German Folk songs in the car with my Mom and Dad, all together. I may have been around 4 or 5 years old.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

First rehearsal with my first band, back in 1999. First professional recording, later then. Releasing a first LP record with Terraplane in 2007. Playing in San Francisco with SBE in 2009. Well, there seem to be plenty of good memories, but these are the best up to date.

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

All the time, somehow.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Happiness perhaps? For instance I am seldomly really happy with recordings. But then sometimes I am not even sure if there´s much progression left for me, haha. Then I sometimes feel like being trapped in that certain picture, even if the frame seems pretty wide.

How do you define success?

Being happy with what I do.

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

All the things I´ve seen make me who I am, not all was pretty. I have seen sickness, poverty, lethargy, loneliness and death and more. It´s what most of us see in their fair share — some more, some less, some earlier and some later. Life isn´t always pretty, so let´s deal with it and write some songs about it to ease the pain. That´s how I try to get along.

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

Much better albums. So let´s progress!

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

NFL season 2014 and of course my next meal ;-).

Samsara Blues Experiment, “Shringara” Live in Athens, May 2014

Samsara Blues Experiment on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magic Records

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rob Miller of Amebix

Posted in Questionnaire on July 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

A quarter century after solidifying their legacy as one of the foremost arbiters of crust with 1985’s Arise! and 1987’s Monolith full-lengths, as well as 1983’s clarion No Sanctuary, the raw, pummeling and thoughtfully raging force that was Amebix did what seemed for a long time to be unimaginable: They put out another album. Bringing together founding brothers Rob “The Baron Rockin Von Aphid” and Christian “Stig” Miller with drummer Roy Mayorga (ex-Soulfly, Ozzy Osbourne, etc.) , 2011’s Sonic Mass (review here) was above all unexpected. A metallic turn from Amebix‘s original era that had been heralded somewhat by the 2010 Redux EP that reworked three older selections, Sonic Mass caught Amebix devotees off guard, but found the band’s lack of compromise and willful self-direction more than intact. Over 30 years on from their first demo, they still refused stagnation.

Rob Miller is known outside of music for his quality craftsmanship and classic sword-making for a company he founded during Amebix‘s long absence called Castle Keep. Based out of the Isle of Skye in the north of Scotland, Miller took time out this winter to reflect on his work.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rob Miller

How did you come to do what you do?

In 1991 I arrived on Skye after a motorcycle accident in Bath, Somerset. At that point in my life I was once again without a home and at the end of a bad relationship. The accident broke my arm and trashed my bike, I was left with nothing but the tattered clothes I stood up in.

I decided that, as I could not return to work in the night shift job I had, I would head to Scotland to see my folks after many years without much contact. Skye was very different, a harsh and brutal landscape in winter yet also wide open and free. I moved up a few weeks later, bike and belongings in a van and started out by working in Hotels as a waiter and kitchen staff to bring money in.

Out of the blue a cheque appeared from my insurance, compensation for the accident. I had learnt to make the best of opportunity when it arises and decided to look into something I had always had a fascination with, swords. This was before the internet so I started by writing to antiquarian bookshops looking for books and manuals on Arms and armour, meanwhile buying a few rudimentary tools and beginning the process of learning how to be a smith. It took some time and a lot of mistakes, 23 years later I am established as one of the better Sword makers worldwide. By no means the best, but accomplished to a degree of which I am quite proud.

Describe your first musical memory.

Radio at my grandparents’, “Lilly the Pink” was the song. I was growing up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s so became tuned in to glam rock, T-Rex, some stuff like Joe Cocker, The Move, Procul Harum. The music you hear at an early age tends to go deeper than a lot subsequently.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Personally, playing the [Great American Music Hall] in San Francisco. The whole place was heaving, alive and electric, band and audience totally in sync with one another.

Live, (coff) Manowar in Bristol circa 1983. Mercyful Fate had dropped off the tour and the crowds simply did not come. They played in front of maybe 200 people in a 5,000-capacity Hall, and gave it everything they had. I learnt a lot that night about people who really believe in what they do and the shallow world.

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

The past two years have seen most of my personal beliefs tested to breaking point. I have believed in the basic goodness of most people and that has been proved wrong too close to home.

However, I think we can get trapped in other people’s dramas and feed the lie, sometimes you need to step aside and let the river flow by. I have learned how to start again many times. ;)

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Hopefully to a perennial body of work. In one form or another, there is a compulsion in the artist to strive, and a constant dissatisfaction with the work. This is what keeps us going. The work itself must become the very highest expression of yourself. The medium is not important.

How do you define success?

Inner calm, confidence. The conquest of Fear and doubt.

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

Pineapple Express and another couple of dozen stupid fucking Hollywood movies that have effectively wasted precious hours of this life.

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

I would like to create one truly great song, indisputably great on every level, something that would affect actual change in the listener. There are only a few dozen instances that exist, that is true Art.

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

Here on Skye it is wintertime. The land dies and we lose touch with nature, we forget the signs and signals, the internal language of the Spring. I look forward to that. Here, we have five months of winter. When it is through there is a very real feeling of having been reborn once more. The cycle begins again. Life is neither good nor bad. Life just is.

Amebix, Live at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA, 2009

Castle Keep on Thee Facebooks

Amebix’s website

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Stavros Giannopoulos of The Atlas Moth

Posted in Questionnaire on May 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

With the coming release next month of their third full-length, The Old Believer on Profound Lore, Chicago triple-guitar five-piece The Atlas Moth have proven to be survivors where others have fallen by the wayside. Consistent in releases and touring since 2008’s Pray for Tides EP (review here), the band has evolved beyond post-metallic beginnings to craft a sound of their own while those who were their peers and their forebears have called it quits, from Isis to Minsk. Through 2009’s A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky, 2011’s An Ache for the Distance and the 2013 compilation release Master of Blunt Hits that brought together Pray for Tides and 2010’s The One amongst the Weed Fields covers EP, as well as some prime internet smartassery, The Atlas Moth and guitarist/vocalist Stavros Giannopoulos have earned a place in metal that crosses genre lines and gives stoners and headbangers grounds for mutual nod.

Just today, Profound Lore announced that The Atlas Moth and labelmates SubRosa will join Japan’s Boris for US tour dates this August. The Old Believer is set for release June 10.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Stavros Giannopoulos

How did you come to do what you do?

A lot of hard work, persistence, and a general lack of interest in doing anything else whatsoever.

Describe your first musical memory.

My father dancing around the living room to Greek music.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

On tour with Gojira, our hometown Chicago show was on my 30th birthday with my entire family there for the first time to see us play.

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

Every time we meet adversity playing music.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Ultimate satisfaction.

How do you define success?

Finding happiness.

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

Lemonparty.org.

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

Master of Puppets.

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

The 2014-2015 Chicago Bulls season.

The Atlas Moth, Live in El Paso, TX, March 11, 2014

The Atlas Moth on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore

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