Six Dumb Questions with Stone Machine Electric

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on January 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Now a trio with bassist Mark Cook on board, Arlington-based heavy fuzz rockers Stone Machine Electric nonetheless recorded their self-titled, self-released debut as the core duo of Mark Kitchens and William “Dub” Irvin. The album (review here) was recorded by Kent Stump of Dallas heavyweights Wo Fat, and shares some of that band’s tonal thickness as a result, but Dub and Kitchens take tracks like “Carve” and “Mushroom Cloud” in a direction more their own, jamming out organic fuzz with psychedelic flourish, sounding raw live and studio lush all at once.

Stone Machine Electric, who are aligned to the fertile Dallas scene that also includes Orthodox Fuzz, Kin of Ettins and the rip-rocking Mothership as well as the aforementioned Wo Fat, made their debut in 2010 with the live demo Awash in Feedback (review here), on which the audio was rough but still gave some idea of where they were coming from. Emphasis on “some” only because the self-titled  feels so much more fleshed out and shows them as having a clear idea of what they want Stone Machine Electric to be as a band and where they want to go with their music. It’s a big jump from one to the other, and as they’ve since undergone the pivotal change of bringing Cook in on bass, there’s potential for another such leap next time around.

Given that, it seemed time to hit up Dub and Kitchens for Six Dumb Questions about the self-titled, recording with Stump, having Darryl Bell from Dub’s prior band play bass on the track “Hypocrite Christ,” their striking album art, and so on. They were much quicker in obliging than I actually was in sending out the questions, and you’ll find the results below. Please enjoy:

1. Tell me about the time between the live demo and recording the full-length. Was there anything specific you learned from the demo that you tried to being to the studio?

Dub: The demo was just a live recording that we were ok with releasing. Something for people to hear until we could get in the studio. We did try to bring that “liveness” of the demo to the studio by playing together as much as possible.

2. How long were you in the studio with Kent from Wo Fat? What was the atmosphere like and how did the recording process go? Did Dub record bass parts first or after the guitar?

Kitchens: We were in the studio with Kent for about two and a half days. The first day and a half was spent recording, and the rest was just getting the mixes done. We’re friends with Kent, so that made it feel like we were just hanging out, but recording at the same time. We recorded the drum and guitar tracks together (other than the additional guitar tracks) to get a more live and rawer sound. “Hypocrite Christ” was the only exception. Daryl played the bass with us on that track.

Dub: Yeah, since Kent is a brother it was real laid back. He already knew what we sounded like, so it was all gravy. Like Kitchens said, all the basic guitar and drum tracks (and bass on “Hypocrite Christ”) were recorded with us in the same room together. After that I laid down the remaining bass tracks. Followed by vocals, then guitar overdubs last.

3. How did you wind up including “Hypocrite Christ” from Dub’s Dead Rustic Dog days, and how was it having Daryl Bell in the studio on bass for that?

Dub: Man, having Daryl in there was great. We don’t get to hang out or jam together much at all anymore, so I’m really glad he was able to do it. Not to mention that no one can play that tune quite like him.

That tune just seems to fit into what we do. It’s almost like it was written for SME before there was SME. Actually, Kitchens was also in the band at the time this song was written, so it seemed almost natural to bring it into SME. We played this tune early on and then dropped it for a while. We’ve been wanting to resurrect it again, and what better way than to put it on the album.

4. How has bringing in Mark Cook on bass changed the band’s sound? Have you started to write new material yet? If so, how much of a role does he play?

Kitchens: Mark is helping fill out our sound. We’ve had people tell us we sound great as a two- piece live, and that we pull it off well. You just can’t beat having that low end though. We are working on new material now, so I’m looking forward to what he’ll bring.

Dub: Cook not only helps fill out our sound but also opens it up. He brings in a whole other dimension. We are just now beginning work on new material, and hearing what Cook has brought to the existing tunes I’m excited to see how the new stuff will turn out.

5. Where did the idea for the collage cover art come from? Is there a message being conveyed there, and if so, what is it?

Kitchens: Terry Horn, who was our bassist for a while, did the artwork. I had given him some ideas that I had, but he came back with the collage. I’d never thought of that, and I loved it. We ended up not have any logo or text on the cover because it didn’t look right, and I like that idea as well. Terry is an exceptional artist.

Dub: Yeah, I dig Terry‘s work.

Terry Horn: It was spontaneous. I just put the CD on and listened to it and started flipping through magazines and sketchbooks. Ultimately, I wanted to do something for the cover that was different than most artwork you see on stoner rock/doom stuff today.

Not to sound too cliché, but sometimes art is just art.

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

Kitchens: It would be great if we could do a few weekend tours this year hitting some places around Texas or the adjoining states. I’d love to play one of the festivals that happen here in the states. Hoping in a year or so we are back in the studio with Kent. I’ll end with a big thanks to our friends and fans for digging our stuff!

Dub: I think he just summed it up right there. Don’t just keep your finger on the pulse, become part of the pulse!

Stone Machine Electric’s website

Stone Machine Electric on Bandcamp

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Stone Machine Electric, Stone Machine Electric: Either Way, You Bleed

Posted in Reviews on January 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Their prior 2010 live demo, Awash in Feedback, served notice of their arrival, and with a thickly-fuzzed 39-minute full-length, Arlington, Texas, duo Stone Machine Electric make their self-titled debut. Immediately notable is the production job of Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, who brings to these songs a similar sense of warmth captured on his band’s 2011 outing, The Black Code, though Stone Machine Electric are somewhat rawer in their approach, and much like Awash in Feedback (review here) was very much a demo, Stone Machine Electric is very much a first album. In fact, opener “Mushroom Cloud” and closer “Nameless” appeared as highlights on the demo, so there’s even more of a link between the releases – as if being put out by the same band wasn’t enough, I guess? – but the leap in development is not to be understated. That was a live demo. This is an album. Its five component tracks all top six minutes – the longest, second cut “Hypocrite Christ” jams its way past 10 – and there’s a firm sense that both WilliamDub” Irvin, guitar/vocals and all bass save for the aforementioned longest track, and Kitchens, drums/vocals, have a grip on what they want Stone Machine Electric to sound like. They are of their genre and of their region, and while Texas has one of the most densely populated scenes in the union – as much as anything can be densely populated in such wide open spaces – Stone Machine Electric shows enough potential in the band to begin to stand them out in a manner no less striking that the CD’s manic, Terry Gilliam-esque cover. It is the beginning, but one listen to the thickness with which Dub’s guitar and Kitchens’ toms are presented in the rolling grooves of “Mushroom Cloud,” and especially hearing how big a role the bass plays for a band that, at the time of the recording, didn’t have a bassist (Mark Cook has reportedly since come aboard in that slot), and there’s a palpable potential in what they do. Also helps that, when he needs to, Dub can tear ass through a psychedelic solo, as he does on “Mushroom Cloud,” and though the vocals are understated pretty much front to back, that works well in the mix to play up the thickness of the guitars, bass and drums.

And yes, I do mean thick drums. Kitchens’ toms are high in parts, as on “Hypocrite Christ,” but on most stereos, it shouldn’t be an issue, and the fullness in their sound is fitting complement to Dub’s wall of fuzz. “Hypocrite Christ” has a laid back, jammy haze, and a rougher, more forward vocal, but the riffing is choice and the feel is that much more relatable to a live sense of the band with guest bassist Daryl Bell, who’s given no small task in providing a foundational rhythm to the jam in the song’s second half, topped by Kitchen’s toms and a sliding, echoing solo from Dub. The lyrics are a touch juvenile, but the hook of “Bleed for me/I won’t bleed for you” is drawn out and strong enough to stand on its own despite any over-familiarity of theme, and in any case, it’s an older song, written in 2005 by Dub’s prior band, Dead Rustic Dog, in which Bell also played bass. Centerpiece “Carve” nestles itself into a niche close to the rhythmic bounce of the first two Suplecs records, and follows a vocal cadence accordingly, beginning with a heavy-footed lumber in the opening jam before Dub’s guitar chug leads into the verse while Kitchens adds flourish with quick punctuating fills between each line. A more hectic chorus emerges, but the hook is less prevalent than that of “Hypocrite Christ,” and the most memorable aspect of the song winds up being its classically stoner central riff, which wouldn’t have been out of place on the first Sasquatch album, or indeed on either of Wo Fat’s last two records. Such is the sonic company that Stone Machine Electric seem most intent on keeping, but though some of the self-titled’s most effective moments come when engrossed in fuzzy lurch, the near-shuffle that consumes the middle-third jam on “Carve” winds up being what most justifies it as the album’s centerpiece, Dub and Kitchens working a trio dynamic into a two-piece, sounding their most assured of anywhere on the recording. The groove is plotted and the transition back to the verse easy, and they cap the 9:19 track with a bass interlude leading to a big rock finish of leads and crash.

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Stone Machine Electric Remind Us all What Demos are for on Awash in Feedback

Posted in Reviews on December 30th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

They’re about as rudimentary as you get, and much of what you need to know about Arlington, Texas, doom duo (I keep trying to coin the term “doomuo,” but it doesn’t seem to be catching on, fun as it is to say out loud) Stone Machine Electric you can see on the package of their debut self-release, Awash in Feedback. It’s right there on the back of the cardboard sleeve, in big capital letters: “THIS IS A DEMO.”

And indeed it is. A live demo, to boot, and one that will appeal to anyone who recalls tape-trading days of practice room recordings capturing the rawest elements of a band’s sound. Stone Machine Electric offer a half-hour set comprised of five songs, feeling their way through well-trod creative territory and offering bright spots of individuality throughout. Those familiar with the boom in Texas doom – bands like Orthodox Fuzz, Wo Fat and Kin of Ettins being good company to keep – won’t be surprised by much of what guitarist/vocalist Dub and drummer/vocalist Kitchens have to offer on cuts like “Mushroom Cloud” and “Nameless,” grooves inspired by the likes of C.O.C. and Earthride/Spirit Caravan being put to appropriate use, but Stone Machine Electric delve into territory more their own on the extended instrumental centerpiece “Echoes of Garnath,” doing well to add a jammed feel to the heavy-footed riffing.

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Frydee King Giant

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 17th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

In Connecticut for the weekend, which is peaceful but for the specter of homework (yes, homework) looming overhead for tomorrow and Sunday. Tradeoff is I’d rather be on the hook for that sort of thing up here, where there’s actually a chance of getting it done in a timely fashion. Ah, hell. You know how it is.

We cap off another insanely busy week — that seems to be how they’re going lately — with dudely Virginian rockers King Giant, who just today premiered this video for the track “13 to 1.” The song comes off their self-released full-length debut, Southern Darkness, which I’ve been meaning to review for going on three months now. Sad, I know. I’ve kind of had a lot going on. You know how that is too.

I wish you a happy and safe weekend. If you are or will be in the area, King Giant are going to be playing Brooklyn at the end of next month. I’m sure I’ll have more on the show (like a review after I’ve seen it) but it’s a killer bill with The Resurrection Sorrow, Moth Eater and Solace. Here’s the flyer:

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Last Chapter Gets Another Read

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

Always, always, always read the liner notes. That’s the message to take from Brainticket’s reissue of Last Chapter’s The Living Waters, which was originally released by the label in 1997. Not only by doing so will you find out that the band almost broke up before putting out their debut album, but you’ll learn a valuable life-lesson that could save you time, money and a lot of frustration down the line.

That lesson? Never have Robert Lowe sing on your demo and expect to find someone that good again.

Last Chapter, based in Arlington, TX, did indeed employ the Solitude Aeturnus vocalist for their original four-track outing in 1993, and it would be another three to four years before they realized that no one else would rate and asked him, with the help of Brainticket head and Solitude Aeturnus guitarist John Perez, to come back and sing on what would become The Living Waters. The way drummer Jason Spradlin tells it in the liner notes, Last Chapter almost broke up from the disappointment of trying to find someone to fill those shoes after the demo. Well of course they did! Basically if you’re not calling up Ronnie James Dio circa 1983 and telling him to come on over, Robert Lowe is as good a metal singer as you’re going to find. In the lineup roster, it lists him as “Honored Guest Vocals.” Damn right.

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