Six Dumb Questions with Six Sigma

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

six sigma

One imagines that, to a band coming back after a 15-year absence, there are few words as gratifying as ‘Funded.’ New Jersey trio Six Sigma, who entered the fray of a busy post-Monster Magnet scene in Long Branch that already boasted names like Halfway to Gone, Solarized, Solace and The Atomic Bitchwax, among others, with 2000’s The Spirit is Gone EP, well surpassed their goal when it came to asking listeners to help them pick up the tab through preorders on pressing the long-awaited follow-up, Tuxedo Brown (review here). The album is out now and the PledgeMusic page currently reads it at 121 percent of its funding goal. That has to feel good, right?

As to what caused the delay in the first place? Guitarist/vocalist Doug Timms (ex-Drag Pack) is perhaps brutally honest when he attributes it to “stoner rock.” And as somebody who’s waited on bands to deliver various assets from tapes and CDs to mp3s, jpegs and YouTube embeds, I can attest that not much more needs to be said than that. I call it the “two weeks phenomenon,” as in, “Yeah, should be done in about two weeks,” as years go by. It is a real thing. The band comprised of Timms, bassist Scott Margolin and drummer Mappy, Six Sigma‘s case is obviously an extreme one, but they’re by no means the only ones and by no means is 15 years the longest stretch a band has gone between releases. To wit, The Obsessed.

Tuxedo Brown, however, has the added advantage of speaking directly to the three-piece’s initial run, since that’s when the bulk of it was recorded. Save for the extended psych jam “She Burn in Blues,” which is newer, songs like “Curb Feeler” and “Here’s Yer Stoner Anthem” successfully convey the tones and energy of turn-of-the-century heavy, but come across as fresh in their presentation thanks in no small part to the blend of old material and new. Topped off with a David Paul Seymour cover, the album is a successful return for a group who seem genuinely relieved to finally get it out, and who were kind enough to discuss the odd origin and timing of the release in the Q&A that follows here.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

six sigma tuxedo brown

Six Dumb Questions with Six Sigma

How many years has it actually been since these songs were written, and what made you finally decide now was the time to release them?

Mappy: Most of the songs were written in 2000-2001. We were still relatively young as a band at the time, having got together in 1999 and having just put out our first EP a few months earlier. We put this record out because we felt we had unfinished business. Bands like Atomic Bitchwax, Core, Halfway to Gone and so many others were part of our local NJ scene. The common thread in that music scene back in those days is that every band came to play 100 percent and everyone was just kick-ass musically. Being part of that, we would try to go toe to toe with each band on a musical level every night we played and this album put a bit of a light on that setting in time. It needed to come out if only for our own satisfaction and it was a great feeling to finally hear it after fixing the little things that bothered us for a decade and a half. I think this album is a testament to our dedication as a band and that we felt strongly about getting our music out there.

Scott Margolin: I suppose there are a lot of reasons why this is happening now, but a little history on the gap first. We had a record deal in place to put this all out in 2001 – these tracks were actually on our demo and were to be recorded as part of our new full-length record. Without going into drama detail, record company reneged – they are long gone and we are still here. Karma. I guess like we said on our last record, the spirit was gone at that time. We kept doing shows here and there until 2004 – very much enjoying playing as ever, however, we just plum ran out of energy to go back into the studio. Writing, rehearing and playing was far more fun anyhow.

Fast forward to the here and now… Doug had a project from his old band (Drag Pack) that was being put out digitally, and we collectively realized that: a) we didn’t have a digital release of our first record and b) we have Tuxedo Brown on 2” tape sitting in a closet, so why not dust it off and give it a proper release in the way we wanted? That was the initial spark that got us back rehearsing, creating and entertaining the idea of putting music out again. 2017 is such an unbelievable time to get your music heard and to be in total control of doing that. PledgeMusic provided us with an amazing platform which enabled us to setup preorders and fully-fund the record – we were able to offer formats that we probably never have been able to convince a record company to put out (180g vinyl, 8-track), merch for the first time and the ability to reach new fans. Digital distribution is such a trip nowadays in that your music takes on its own life form very quickly once it’s out.

Of course, who knows what it would have been like if we put it out in 2001, but that wasn’t meant to be. With all that said, this was exactly the right time to get it out.

What do you remember about recording the album? Is it strange to have it come out now when it has to be so far in hindsight for you as a band?

Doug Timms: I don’t really think it’s that strange at all. I guess a lot of people record something and then release it within the year, but it’s quite natural for me to procrastinate things for decades at a time. So, while this may seem unusually slow for other people, it’s just normal protocol for me. How can someone consider themselves stoner rock and NOT take 15-plus years to get something done?

M: I remember a sense of anxiousness as we didn’t have much time to knock this out and how cool Charlie [Schafer]’s (Word of Mouth Studios) full-analog recording setup was. We’ve been listening to it for years so it’s strange to think of it as new. It’s great being able to share it with people finally.

Who is the character of Tuxedo Brown and how does the record relate to him? Is there a story being told in the songs?

DT: It’s 1976; the album is a movie soundtrack and Tuxedo Brown is the star. He’s a streetwise scalawag, roaming the town with style and grace and a busted-up face. The songs are meant to work together to tell the story of Mr. Brown.

Tell me about writing “She Burn in Blues.” That song is such a standout on the album. Where did it come from?

DT: This was the one song entirely written and recorded in the past year. So, it’s very encouraging every time we hear people singling out that song. It gives us confidence that we can still make good music together. We came up with a great blues riff, I set my pedals loose, we smoked up a little too much, and then just recorded the jam – we filmed the entire thing as well – because, 2017. We ended up cutting a good 10 minutes off that jam for the album. The song describes what happens when Mother Nature is a jilted ex-lover, fed up with your shitty-ass ways, and decides to unleash her full vengeance upon you and your kind. She burns in blue, and you better run. 

M: My favorite song right now. Maybe because it’s new. It came together quickly (in like… we discussed what we were going to do, played it through two times, then recorded it) and it evolved in a lot of ways in that short amount of time. I’m psyched because someone commented it was Zeppelin-ish [it was me – ed.] and that was the exact vibe I was feeling when I started playing it. It’s a bit of a different sound for us and may hint at what the future of Six Sigma sounds like.

Will there be new Six Sigma material? If so, how do you see the band as having changed in the years since Tuxedo Brown started to come together?

DT: Definitely. We have one-to-two albums’ worth of material already written. Now it’s just a question of whether we can break our record and finish it in under 16 years. We could potentially drop the next album at the end of this year.

SM: In terms of how we have changed over the years, it’s always hard to judge for ourselves. We play to our own tastes and are more committed than ever to creating music to that end. Our influences remain the same, but we are definitely more united than ever on what our sound is. One other thing that changed is that nobody will help me carry my bass cab any longer!

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

SM: Just want to thank so many people for gently pushing us to do this along the way. Lots of gratitude to those that have supported us from so long ago and never forgot about us. We are very much looking forward to performing again soon – we expect to be playing live again this summer.

Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown (2017)

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Six Dumb Questions with Rozamov

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

rozamov

There is an odd duality to Boston three-piece Rozamov at this stage in their career. With numerous tours under their collective belt, years of experience slogging it out at fests like Psycho California, that time they opened for Slayer at a Converse show in their hometown, numerous short releases, lineup changes, and so on, it seems improper to think of them as anything but veterans. And yet, some five years after the arrival of their first, self-titled EP, it’s only now that Rozamov have hit the point of releasing their debut album. To call it “awaited” feels like a definite understatement.

The record is This Mortal Road (review here), issued this past March via Battleground Records and comprised of five darkened tracks that unquestionably benefit from Rozamov‘s tenure leading up to hitting the studio. Their doom finds heft in ambient stretches as well as in its most crushing moments, is patient when it wants to be but capable of a noisy assault, and when Rozamov want to punish — as on the 11-minute finale “Inhumation,” discussed below — the results leave bruises on the inner ear. They’ve proven to be as much a force in the studio as they have been on the stage. No small feat, but one hell of a debut.

Recorded with the trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli, bassist/vocalist Tom Corino and drummer Will Hendrix, the band is now comprised of Iacovelli, Corino and drummer Jeff Landry, and I’m happy to say that all three took part in this interview to talk about making the album, their experience to this point, the shift that brought Landry aboard and their plans going forward. You’ll find the Q&A below.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

rozamov this mortal road

Six Dumb Questions with Rozamov

Where did the title This Mortal Road come from? It’s been quite a journey for Rozamov to get to the point of releasing your first album. Was there an element of self-reflection in naming the record? Why is the road “mortal?”

Tom Corino: The title came basically out of some brainstorming and some in depth conversations between all of us. The road to making this record was certainly plagued or (or blessed in some cases) with twists and turns so I felt that the title was fitting.

Matt Iacovelli: The mortal road would be a metaphor for life and death and everything in between. The band feels like a crazy journey and ride that you don’t want to end.

Tell me about your time in the studio with Jon Taft at New Alliance Audio. How long was the recording process, what was the vibe like in the studio, and how do you feel about the sounds and tones you were able to capture?

MI: The time in the studio was a really great experience. Jon pushed us all to be tight and play tight. It took five-to-six days in the studio.

TC: I think Jon brought an outsider’s perspective to the record and a non-metal approach. It was really important to him that we not fall into certain trends he saw in other recent heavy recordings, so I think the album doesn’t necessarily have a prototypical modern metal sound. I’m pretty sure we used only amp distortion for the guitar tracks, which was a completely out of the box idea for us. I got to fiddle around with a bunch of distortions and amps. Nerd Knuckle Effects boxes had a huge hand in the way my bass sound came together on the record, Brad [Macomber] is really making some interesting stuff in his lab and has been a long time friend and solid dude.

What was the timeline on the recording in terms of when Jeff joined on drums? My understanding is he came aboard after the tracking was done. How has his joining changed the band?

Jeff Landry: Yeah it’s been about a year now, I think. I joined after the record was tracked but I helped with a lot of the physical record itself, so I still feel attached to it. As for the songs itself, Matt and Tom gave me free range on rewriting the drum parts without drastically changing the songs, which I am grateful for. My initial goal was to give these songs more energy live and I really feel we nailed that. They ended up a little faster then the recordings.

MI: Jeff has brought a real songwriting aspect to the band. It’s good ‘cause now we are working on all cylinders.

TC: Our previous drummer, Will Hendrix, recorded all of the drums on the record. After recording we did a tour with our friends in Destroy Judas and Trapped Within Burning Machinery. It was shortly after that tour that Matt and I decided we needed to find a new solution behind the kit. Things had come to a head personally and musically, it was just impossible for the three of us to move on “as is” and be able to promote this record the way we wanted to. We wish Will all the best but it was just time for new blood, and Jeff has supplied that and then some.

Tell me how “Inhumation” came together.

MI: “Inhumation” was written right after Psycho Fest 2015. I remember putting the opening riff together in the jam room. I had one of the change riffs sort of around. The end riff… it’s really one set of chords played in a revolving order. It’s the doomiest we had ever been up to that point. I think it was all of the built up tension that Slayer, Psycho Fest, flying and eminent fact that changes need to be made. A ritualistic burial.

TC: It was the last song we finished for the record and cemented This Mortal Road’s “doom” feel. I remember walking in to Matt working on the last riff in the song and being very excited because we had never done anything that slow or noise-based before. As with all of the songs on the record, Jeff has breathed new life into it.

JL: This is the song that is the most drastically changed from record to live. We recorded it live in Chicago on this past tour and it will be hitting Spotify and Bandcamp pretty soon. Just waiting for some final mixes.

You went coast-to-coast on tour this past March. How was that experience for you as a band? What were the shows like? How was Austin Terror Fest and the rest of SXSW? You’ve of course done tours before. Is it strange to feel like a veteran while touring on your first record?

JL: I’ve been on a bunch of tours before, big and small. I have to say that spending almost a month on the road with my homies was a blast. We were able to establish a routine pretty quickly due to fact that I get a massive discount on hotels with my job. That was a huge deal. It enabled us to be pretty comfortable and focus more on our sets and getting better every night. We don’t really drink too much ether, so that helps. I think I had like three beers all tour. We did smoke a ton of weed though so I promise we are not boring.

TC: It was definitely the healthiest I’ve ever been on tour, both mentally and physically. We’ve done shorter tours before but this was by far the most ambitious outing yet. It is a little strange to have been a band for so long and to still have all these firsts happening; first LP, first full US tour… it’s odd I suppose, but in some aspects we’ve already done a lot in our five years or so as a band. This lineup is far and away the best we’ve ever been. I’m excited for the future of this band, now more than ever and this tour cemented that feeling.

MI: The tour was great, absolutely great. With each tour you learn things, you come back a little older and a little bit more experienced. You realize how your own personal world is so small and exact. We as humans are very ritualistic in nature so on tour you have to change your tune and adapt the best you can. You see other parts of the country and it’s not like home, but strangely it’s similar, strangely we are all in this together as I whiz by going hopefully 75 mph.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

JL: Yeah, we are more than halfway through writing our next record. We have a bunch of shows coming up too. We are playing Stoned to Death fest in Western Mass early next month; doing a few gigs in New York this July with Blood Sun Circle; doing a run with our homies and labelmates The Ditch and the Delta out to the Pacific Northwest, then down to Salt Lake for a fest out there, as well as Forge Fest down in Providence in Sept. We have this really rad tour/recording project we are working on for October that will be announced later.

TC: I’m eternally grateful for all of the people who had a hand in making this record a reality and who have supported us throughout the years. I want to specifically thank David [Rodgers] at Battleground Records for taking a chance on us. It’s a really tough climate for independent music and he’s been an absolute rock, and I’ve honestly learned a lot from him. He’s a man of his word and that’s a hard thing to find in today’s underground music “business.”

MI: Like the great Kid Rock once mused: “It’s been a couple of months in this smokey room/Eaten shrooms drinking Boones writing tunes/And hoping to get one of these mother fuckin’ songs to hit.”

Rozamov, This Mortal Road (2017)

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Six Dumb Questions with Vokonis

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

vokonis

On May 13, Swedish riffbringers Vokonis will issue their new single as a herald for the June 9 arrival of their second album, The Sunken Djinn, via Ripple Music. That June release puts The Sunken Djinn at about 13 months after Vokonis‘ first full-length, Olde One Ascending (review here), came out on Ozium Records as one of the best debut offerings and best albums of the year. Such a quick turnaround can be a tricky proposition in terms of one record being too informed by its predecessor or listeners not being ready yet to embrace a new collection, but this is something that Vokonis have subverted through palpable, willful sonic growth.

Comprised now of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, the three-piece began life as Creedsmen Arise, putting out a demo, Temple (review here), in 2015. When they brought in Johansson to take on the bassist role, they became a different band, and as they move into The Sunken Djinn, they’re clearly engaging in the work of finding out and conveying the band they want to be. In the meantime, a formidable response for Olde One Ascending led to their signing with Ripple and has placed marked fan expectations on what their second record will be. Hazards of the trade.

Listeners who took on the prior offering will be glad to know, however, that Vokonis‘ propensity for crash and nod, heft and groove remains intact throughout these seven tracks. The key difference is a tightness of delivery, an efficiency of purpose, that makes a song like sub-five-minute centerpiece “Blood Vortex” swing as much as it lumbers, and gives the airier vibe of “Calling from the Core” and the noise-wash finale experiment of “Maelstroem” their proper breadth amid an onslaught of chugging, dense tonality. Ohlsson was kind enough to discuss some of the shifts Vokonis has undergone to get to where they are, and you’ll find the Q&A below.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

vokonis the sunken djinn

Six Dumb Questions with Vokonis

Tell me about writing The Sunken Djinn. Was there anything in particular you wanted to accomplish coming off of Olde One Ascending? The songs are shorter this time around. Something done purposefully, or just the direction the writing took?

We took some time listening to Olde One Ascending after its release and tried to summarize what concepts we wanted to bring forward and use in our progression and what concepts we felt we where done with.

Some of those concepts that we left behind were the ”rock” elements we had. We felt that we didn’t really have anything to add in that direction. So we went with shorter, more direct songs.

In conclusion I would say that it was both done on purpose and that it just happened. We tried to be conscious about certain stuff regarding the songwriting process like structures and the length of the songs more on this album, but at the saMe time, what happens happens. So the general sound was just a natural progression.

How did “Blood Vortex” come together? What went into the decision to make it the centerpiece of the album?

It was actually the first song we wrote after we had recorded Olde One Ascending. It’s probably one of those songs that have had maybe three or four iterations before we settled on the form it is on the record. We felt that we wanted to convey to people that we want to do new things. That we won’t release the same kind of album three times in a row. And I think it’s a kickass song!

It seems like Vokonis have built considerable momentum since the name change from Creedsmen Arise. What do you think has allowed you to garner such a response? How much is your audience a factor when you put together songs?

Yes, it does feel like that. And we are happy with the change. It was very well needed for all of us. A clean break and a fresh start. I don’t really have an answer to that other than I hope people understand that we are very grateful to everyone following us and to everyone enjoying our music. It feels like a blessing and we want to make the most of it.

And I think that ties in with how we put together songs. We kinda owe it to the audience to be the best we can be in terms of writing, performing or even our online content. So the audience factors in not in what direction we want to go rather than we try to push ourselves above and beyond for them.

How do you feel the band has developed since Jonte joined? How has the dynamic developed between you, him and Emil over the last couple years? I can hear you on this album beginning to move past your influences and really find your identity as a band. What do you hear when you listen to The Sunken Djinn?

Jonte acts as the glue of the band. He’s a lot older than me and Emil. So he has a lot of wisdom we simply do not have yet. It has definitely caused us to grow closer as a group.

That translates to us knowing exactly where we are musically with each other. Even if we’re listening to a lot of different stuff we know what we want to do with Vokonis.

That’s assuring to hear. To me, Olde One Ascending is a record I am very proud of. It gave us a lot of insight of what it’s like to make a whole album, so we tried to capitalize on that and have The Sunken Djinn become a lot more ”us,” if that makes sense. So when I listen to it, I get this feeling of how much we’ve progressed and how we are able to realize our goals in terms of songwriting.

Tell me about your time in the studio for this album. How long did the recording process take? When were you in, and how do you feel about the tones you were able to capture, and how on earth did “Maelstroem” come about?

We were in Studio Underjord, a really cool studio in Norrköping, Sweden, with a guy called Joona Hassinen. He really brought the best out of us. And we had this enormous live-room to track in. So drums, bass and guitars all have this gorgeous natural reverb.

Recording took about four or five days. It was an extremely pleasant experience for us. We wanted this fat, modern production that I think we managed to get. And that’s just something I’m very proud of. Us being able to record that fast makes you understand how much we’ve grown individually and as a group. I have much more control over my voice now. So I had no problems doing all of the vocals in maybe a third of the time it took to record for OOA.

I should mention that like last time around, this album is a concept album. It deals with the themes of escape and search for something better. I won’t go into detail, But the lyrical content is much closer to my heart this time. And ”Maelstroem” ties in to that. It acts as the aftermath of a certain disaster occurring to the main subject of the album.

Any tours in the works, closing words or other plans you want to mention?

Tours are in the works, but the only shows that are confirmed at this rate is two awesome festivals both located in forests actually, though they’re in different countries. Electric Meadow north of Lviv, Ukraine and Krökbacken festival in Leksand, Sweden.

Thank you so much for having us. It was a pleasure.

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Six Dumb Questions with From Oceans to Autumn (Plus Full Album Stream)

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

from oceans to autumn

[Click play above to stream Ether / Return to Earth by From Oceans to Autumn in its entirety. Album is out today, May 5, via Argonauta Records.]

After debuting in 2013 with the full-length A Perfect Dawn, North Carolinian heavy post-rock outfit From Oceans to Autumn return with the sophomore outing Ether / Return to Earth on Argonauta Records — a broad-scoped two-disc vision of experimentalist textures and weighted progressive crunch. Led by founding multi-instrumentalist and engineer Brandon Helms, the band seeks to convey precisely what it references in the two-part title, which is the duality between the nonphysical and the physical, the ether and the earth.

This comes through in a methodological split between the two sections of Ether / Return to Earth, the first disc of which is comprised of four tracks, three of which are over 13 minutes long, that conjure a patient and often drumless ambient wash, resonant drones emerging, existing, subsiding in succession as each piece develops, culminating with the 19-minute “Stratus/Vapor” as a singular moment of immersion that cuts on the second part of the record like “Visible Light” and “Isle” seem to directly counteract with their heavier thrust. Of course, there’s still plenty of atmospheric depth to Return to Earth as well, as From Oceans to Autumn show in “Reconnect” or even the latter stages of opener “Arrival,” but there can be no question they’re working from a foundation that is, fittingly enough, more grounded in creating it.

All told, this huge undertaking of mood and exploration comes close to hitting the two-hour mark, so it’s safe to say it’s legitimately two albums put together. I wanted to talk to Helms about how the concept fed into the construction of the material itself and get a sense of some of his motivations in the making — namely whether where he lives in North Carolina played a role in how Ether / Return to Earth ultimately took shape. As you make your way through the full-album stream above, you’ll find the results of the short Q&A below. How’s that for duality?

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

from-oceans-to-autumn-ether-return-to-earth

Six Dumb Questions with From Oceans to Autumn

Tell me about the recording process for Ether / Return to Earth. It’s been four years since your debut. Was there anything specific you were trying to accomplish here to follow-up on that?

We are always trying to push ourselves in the writing and recording process with each release. We also really wanted an album that had two identities, one more experimental and free flowing with the other more focused and straightforward, at least for us. And I think we accomplished this goal on Ether / Return to Earth.

At over an hour and 45 minutes long, Ether / Return to Earth is massive, but that hardly captures the sprawl of the tracks themselves. What goes into writing a song like “Stratus/Vapor” for you? How much is based on studio experimentation as opposed to being thought-out or planned beforehand? What about “Visible Light II” or “Keep a Watchful Eye?”

Honestly a lot of Ether was experimented while in the studio recording. “Stratus/Vapor” is a perfect example of studio experimentation. “Visible Light II” was recorded very much like “Visible Light” on our last album, A Perfect Dawn. It’s more heavy noise/distortion than anything else on the album. “Keep a Watchful Eye” was actually written a few years ago and revamped and rerecorded for this album. It was never released prior to now. Funny thing is we recorded an entire album in 2014-2015 that featured this song that was never released!

What is the difference in mindset for you between the two discs of the album? How do you feel each represents its title, and how intentional was that going into the project?

Ether is more ambient/experimental in nature. The songs are more drawn out and free flowing. Return to Earth is heavier, more straightforward in nature. Together they are opposites of each other.

Tell me about where you’re from in North Carolina. For music so atmospheric, did the physical landscape surrounding you play into the songwriting at all? Do you take inspiration from your surroundings, or is it more just about the musical exploration?

We are from Charlotte, NC, right between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, hence our name. Both landscapes offer a huge amount of inspiration while writing and coming up with ideas. It also inspires us musically to experiment more with different sounds.

Where do you see From Oceans to Autumn developing from here? Will you continue the Pareto Analysis series, and what is the concept behind that? Do you see future works developing along a thematic line like Ether / Return to Earth?

Pareto Analysis series is now complete and available for download on our Bandcamp page. We are currently working on rerecording parts, remixing and remastering our last album, A Perfect Dawn. We also are mixing and mastering an album we recorded last fall, some of it has been released in the form of demos but the final version will sound nothing like it!

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Thanks for having us!

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Six Dumb Questions with Electric Moon

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on April 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

electric moon

When an artist takes on a stage-name, the proper format is to write it in quotes, like a nickname, but somehow whenever I end up putting together a piece about the work of founding Electric Moon guitarist, synthesist, sitarist, producer, label honcho, etc., Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, I always feel like I’ve got it backwards. Like it’s Dave Schmidt that should be in quotes and Sula is the true identity beneath. Ditto that for bassist/vocalist/graphic designer “Komet Lulu” Neudeck. A big part of the reason why is the continued stamp Sula, Lulu and drummer Marcus Schnitzler have left on heavy psychedelia over the course of this decade.

With a slew of live offerings, a strong improvisational foundation in the tenets of krautrock, classic prog and of course all things kosmiche, the German three-piece long ago set the controls for the heart of creation itself. Their works are often raw glimpses at their own making — the songs captured as they happened, unfolding as organically as possible to rich and singularly immersive effect. After years outside the studio, Electric Moon have newly released the four-track album, Stardust Rituals (review here), through Schmidt‘s Sulatron Records imprint, and for being six years after 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here), the arrival could hardly be more welcome.

Whether it’s the dug-in sitar-laced 22 minutes of vibe they decided to call “(You Will) Live Forever Now” or more song-based pieces “Stardust (The Picture)” and opener “The Loop,” Electric Moon gracefully subvert listener expectation and adjust the balance between improv and structure, and to call the resulting liquidity of Stardust Rituals one of 2017’s best in heavy psych is probably underselling the actual quality of the work itself. Even putting aside the fact that a studio outing from Electric Moon doesn’t happen every day, month, or year, Stardust Rituals gives its audience a solar system to inhabit and worlds or swirl to explore, and if it needs to carry over for a while as the band once more hits stages around Germany and greater Europe, recording and releasing sets as they go (never something to complain about), it should have no trouble doing so.

Sula and Lulu were both kind enough to take some time out to talk about the record and Electric Moon‘s methods in general, and you’ll find the results of that Q&A below.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

electric moon stardust rituals

Six Dumb Questions with Electric Moon

Tell me about how Electric Moon has grown since you started the project. So much of what you do is based on the chemistry between the three of you. How has that developed over time?

Lulu: When we founded the band with the drummer Pablo Carneval, we found out that we had to do nothing else than just start to play and we became one… Over the years, it changed a bit into more frame-based improvisations to get a picture. If you’re on tour, it’s important NOT to fuck up cause 100 percent free improvising night after night can kill creativity and you’re empty then. But we still do it, of course.

Over the years, we had many different drummers so there were also different influences.

But we always try to keep our thing: LET IT FLOW and feel the love. If we feel the love, the music floats automatically!

Sula: In the very first recording sessions we did everything alone, I mean Lulu and me. But then Pablo joined us and we knew we are able make this on stage! That was a great feeling!

What made you decide to go for a more song-based approach on Stardust Rituals? Each track still goes pretty far out, but tell me about incorporating more vocals in the studio. How did these tracks come together to be what they are?

Lulu: First I must say, we did what we’ve always been doing: keeping our studio albums more “song-based” than our live albums cause we have the possibility to do overdubs and recreate stuff, etc.

Sula and me also have so many ideas for songs so we can put them into the music in the studio! “The Loop” for example, was Dave‘s idea on the organ and he showed Marcus and me what he thought and told us what he thinks we should play, and then we did. It took not much time and we got it. It was a lot of fun playing this, by the way!

Also it’s much fun creating vocals for the music while listening to it. The music just tells you what is good for “her”… That’s a loop, haha, but really! I’m spacing out every time I think about these things… So I’m sorry for my weird sentences! Hahaha.

The second thing is, that our live albums are the essence when we three play together. The last records we’ve put out were live albums and we just needed a new impulse, again. So we’re happy that we got the impressions for Stardust Rituals to get it ready. Sometimes it’s hard ’cause the ideas wouldn’t find the way to your soul. But most of the time it’s pure magic.

For me, overdubbing is like talking to myself and, of course, the band. It’s very intimate! Having an idea, sitting down, listening to the song, being alone in the studio, feeling the energy of the music and then do the overdub. It’s really magic. I love doing my overdubs being on my own and it’s also always big excitement when the others listen to them the first time… Do they like what you did or don’t they? It’s big fun to make music with yourself, by the way.

Sula: The first basic recording was in 2014, and was untouched till we started overdubbing. Three of the track’s basics were within three days before we went to the Freak Valley Festival for a gig. That was in early summer 2015. In 2016, we slowly started cutting/arranging the recordings and doing the overdubs. Finally the mastering was done (by Eroc) in early 2017.

Is there something specific about the spirit of jamming that speaks to you with Electric Moon as opposed to other bands you’ve been involved in? Can you hear a part as the foundation of an Electric Moon jam as opposed to, say, something that would become a Sula Bassana piece?

Lulu: No, that never happened yet! It’s more like you hear the Sula Bassana soul in Electric Moon when he did most of the instruments, for example, cause he would influence the song then!

The specific in Electric Moon from the beginning is: Becoming one, let it flow, let the music lead your hands playing your instrument!

Sula: The spirit in the improvisations in the other bands is slightly different, because everyone brings his soul, mood, feelings in. For example, Rainer [Neeff, of Zone Six]’s way of playing guitar is different than mine. So the whole thing has a different energy. The music in Krautzone has a completely different feel and intention as the Electric Moon music. And as Lulu already told, I would never take a Electric Moon recording for a Sula song. Maybe one day I use a lick I played in an Electric Moon concert for a Sula song. But I would do new recordings, with everything played by myself, which will lead to a totally different result.

Lulu: I guess this sometimes happens “by accident” that you play the same lick twice!

Sula: Exactly what I mean!

Where does the title Stardust Rituals come from, and what does it mean for you?

Lulu: I had this idea when I was thinking and feeling a lot about life and death and space!!!

I was reading loads of space magazines and books and thought a lot about the fact that we all are made of stars! Everything and every creature, every plant and every ANYTHING is made of stardust! Our whole planet earth is made of the sun powder… That is so great, it feels so familiar and it’s so soothing when you are sad, for example…

Imagine – nothing and nobody could ever get lost – even if we die! ‘Cause we’d still be stardust in some way… And where should we disappear to? We’re all in space and will be… It feels so true to me.

So the title and also the vocal themes for the album were born. Stardust Rituals is like a complete reflection about this all. The music was talking to me…

And when Sula did the Mellotron in the last track, the complete thing was changing so much – it was so stunning – suddenly the whole piece turned into something different, more intense and beautiful so it made me cry… And then I wrote the vocals and it became the track “(You Will) Live Forever Now.”

Has releasing your own work through Sulatron changed your perspective on writing or recording at all? If so, how? If not, why not?

Sula: No. We always did everything by ourselves and the labels, who released our non-Sulatron-stuff, never told how to do it. They always accepted our music and artwork. So we can say we always produced our music the way we want it! Which is great!

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Sula: We have a lot plans for recordings, releases and so on. Also we could talk about the horrible situation on this planet. But that would take hours… and I hope everyone who is interested in our music is some kind of same-minded, trying to be a good person, without being aggressive or a racist, being without hate, and full of love and positive vibrations. Mankind needs love, peace and freedom. That’s it!

Lulu: And if there are any racists listening to our music we hope they can feel love and forget the racism…

Also – remember: We’re all made of the sun….. We’re one indeed! Physically! We’re all in the same space(ship)! LOVE! Man, I sound like a hippie, hahaha, but my heart feels it like this!

Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals (2017)

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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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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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