The Obelisk Questionnaire: Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback

Posted in Questionnaire on April 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

My understanding is that if you’re in a heavy band and you’ve made your way through West Chester, Pennsylvania, on an East Coast tour, you’ve probably either stayed at Mike Cummings‘ house or played with his band, Backwoods Payback. As the frontman of the underappreciated and hard-driving foursome, Cummings presents an indomitable personality on stage and off, but is given to backing that up with a thoughtful approach in his lyrics as well as in writings apart from the band. A book of poetry, Confessions of a Lackluster Performer, was published in 2009, and aside from the self-deprecating title, it showed Cummings able to work in textures beyond those of his songcraft, though it seems to be that side of his creativity that most exerts itself. Backwoods Payback made their debut on Small Stone with 2011’s Momantha (review here) and subsequently issued a live EP in 2012 and a studio EP, In the Ditch (streamed here), earlier in 2014.

In addition, Cummings embarked on his first solo acoustic tour last fall (review here), and the release of his full-length solo debut, Get Low, is expected April 19.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Michael Rudolph Cummings

How did you come to do what you do?

I’ve always written in some form or another, since as early as I can remember. Music just seemed to be the next extension of that. It just happened.

Describe your first musical memory.

I had a little portable record player in a blue canvas-colored suitcase. I’m sure there was one in most households with a kid my age (or maybe not, the more I think about it). The movie E.T. had just come out and my mom gave me the Neil Diamond “Heartlight” single. I played that for hours at a time, over and over.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

It changes all the time. Whenever I finish a recording or write a new song, that’s the high I’m always chasing. I just finished my first solo record. Listening back to the tape in the room and forgetting how we even made this thing that was being played back to me…that’s my best memory at the moment.

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

Every day something I believe in is tested.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I can’t even begin to try and imagine where it leads. I just follow it wherever it wants to take me.

How do you define success?

Doing the best I can at whatever it is that I am doing and knowing that I gave it all I had.

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

Everything I have seen makes me who I am today. Nothing… Some things are just harder to handle than others.

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

I have so much to do still, books to write, songs to sing, pictures to draw. It’s such a strange trip when it happens. I can’t sit and force it. It’s like a wave, and I have to ride it out when it comes.

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

Waking up tomorrow.

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Ranch Song” from Get Low (2014)

Mike Cummings on Thee Facebooks

Mike Cummings on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

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audiObelisk: Stream Backwoods Payback’s In the Ditch EP in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on February 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Pennsylvania heavy rockers Backwoods Payback will release their new EP, In the Ditch, this coming Friday, Feb. 21. Usually when I post something about the band, it’s a list of tour dates. They’ve put in some regular road time before and since the release of their 2011 Small Stone debut, Momantha (review here), and an early-2013 live album (discussed here) kept momentum going around touring on the West Coast, various festival appearances, etc. In the Ditch, though, is the four-piece’s first studio outing since Momantha, and it’s even more of a follow-up than one might initially think. The six-track, 28-minute EP — they’re reportedly pressing a limited number of physical copies for a release show Friday night with Buzzard Wagon and Bob Wayne and the Outlaw Carnies at Shore Road Tavern in Philly — was put to tape in late 2011/early 2012, so while it’s newly mixed and mastered, In the Ditch is about as direct a companion piece timing-wise for Momantha as one could ask.

As its title hints, In the Ditch is a hard-times release, and there’s a core of raw honesty that underscores the songwriting across its tracks, whether it’s “On the Chain” asking “What’s the point of leaving if you didn’t need me to stay?” or the frustrations of closer “Buffalo Nickel.” Guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings‘ vocals are front and center, presented largely void of effects, and while In the Ditch is short, it efficiently demonstrates a range on the part of Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker, guitarist Rylan Caspar and drummer W.S. Curtiss that finds them no less at home in the sludgy lumber of “Fooled You” than the swaggering grunge of “The Village.” The EP hits its stride with “Always Something,” the third of the six cuts and sort of the emotional summary of where Backwoods Payback are coming from on the release. Over acoustic and electric guitars, Cummings recounts with effectively conveyed resignation the personal loss that seems to be at the heart of In the Ditch. The tone isn’t overly sentimental, but there’s a sense of redemption in the second half of “Always Something” that gives the remainder of the EP a more hopeful context.

The recording itself, engineered by Mike Bardzik at Noisy Little Critter Studio in the band’s native West Chester, PA, is bare-bones but more than clear enough to get a feel for the material, and flourishes like the acoustics in “Always Something” — also a bit of Alice in Chains‘ “I Stay Away” seems to show up around the 2:20 mark — the background shouts in opener “On the Chain” and the harmonies in “The Village” lend sonic depth and variety alike, but again, the crux of In the Ditch is the sincerity with which the tracks are presented, and that comes through superbly no matter how many layers are at work at any given point.

Please find In the Ditch in its entirety on the player below, followed by some commentary from the band, and enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Backwoods Payback are now taking preorders for In the Ditch at their Bandcamp page, and will release the EP this Friday at Shore Road Tavern in Philadelphia, PA. Here’s what they have to say about it:

(to start at the beginning would take too long. you wouldn’t want to hear about most of it anyway.)

we were having one of those kind of lives.
the kind where you almost run out of gas, but the tank is full enough to get you where you want. and that road gets winding, but every now and again there’s those stretches. those beautiful perfect stretches. and you can’t tell if the sun is coming up or going down, but you know you’re right in the middle of it either way.
it was one of those kind of lives. and then the bottom fell out. and then when you didn’t think the bottom could fall out anymore, it fell out again.

you never really look at the clouds the same after that. they’re not floating anymore. they’re just kind of there.

you’re just kind of there.

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

In the Ditch release show event page

Backwoods Payback on Bandcamp

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Michael Rudolph Cummings Firms up Tour Dates and Announces Album Title

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Continuing to shore up the dates for his first solo tour next month, Michael Rudolph Cummings has also announced that his full-length — from which you can hear a rough version of the song “Maybe Time” below — will be titled Get Low. There is a date or two yet to be filled in for the solo run from the Backwoods Payback guitarist/frontman, but already he’s tapped some good company for the shows, including Erik Larson (formerly of Alabama Thunderpussy), Ben Smith from The Brought Low, Jim Healy of Black Thai and Helena Goldberg of Akris. If you’ve got to travel, it’s better to have friends.

Tour dates, the poster and more info on Get Low follow:

Michael Rudolph Cummings is the vocalist/guitarist for the Small Stone Recordings band Backwoods Payback. After years of playing in hardcore bands, Cummings sat down with a four-track and a love of Neil Young, Black Flag, and Black Sabbath to create the outline of Backwoods Payback. Years later, and after relentless touring around the world, Backwoods Payback are at the top of their fuzzed-out, riff worship game. Cummings’s solo material is equally dark but subdued in volume and temperance, recalling the ditch-trilogy era of Neil Young and the slower moments of Townes Van Zandt.

Self releasing a number of solo acoustic EPs throughout the last decade, this tour marks the first time MRC will be journeying outside of the Philadelphia region and supporting a solo record “GET LOW” on his own.

“GET LOW” features contributions from a who’s who of the east coast underground music scene.

Members of Hoots & Hellmouth, Heavy Temple, All Else Failed, Monty Are I, The Boils, and of course Backwoods Payback add individual nuances to a number of the tracks, making for record that recalls the subtleties of classics ranging from “Harvest” to “Pink Moon” all while staying true to MRCs do it yourself roots.

OCTOBER
23 – Hanks Saloon – Broooklyn NY w/ Ben (The Brought Low), Keith R. Montgomery
24 – Radio (downstairs) – Somerville MA w/ Jim Healy (Black Thai), Jess & Keith (Mellow Bravo)
25 – Café Nine – New Haven CT (early show 5pm)
27 – Dogpatch Tavern – Frederick MD w/ Helena Goldberg (Akris)
28 – The Blue Nile – Harrisonburg VA w/ Helena Goldberg (Akris)
29 – Longbranch Saloon – Knoxville TN
30 – The Station – Carrboro NC

NOVEMBER
1 – TBA – Richmond VA w/ Erik Larson (Alabama Thunderpussy)
2 – Rancho Del Rudo – West Chester PA

http://michaelrudolphcummings.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/events/598341646875466/

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Maybe Time (Rough Mix)” (2013)

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Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback Releases First Solo Single

Posted in audiObelisk on August 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

“Maybe Time” is the debut single from Backwoods Payback guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, who with it departs from the heavy and sometimes brash Southern-ish rock of his main outfit in favor of a more subdued, traditional singer-songwriter approach. Leading with an acoustic strum, Cummings gradually incorporates electric guitar, strings and drums, but even so, the feel is a departure from Backwoods. Cummings is hardly the first frontman of a heavy act to explore aesthetics beyond those confines — and he’s shown a range of expression before, as the poetry book Confessions of a Lackluster Performer can attest — but even in its rough mix form, “Maybe Time” bodes well for a breadth of influence to come when Cummings makes his solo debut with the upcoming full-length, Get Low.

When exactly that album will surface has yet to be revealed. Backwoods Payback were last heard from earlier this year with the issue of their Live 2012 EP (info here), which was a digital release following up on their 2011 Small Stone debut, Momantha (review here), and it’s clear the band’s tour-heavy/tour-often approach is carrying over to Cummings‘ solo work, as he reportedly has a stint in the works for the fall. As a first taste of Get Low, however, “Maybe Time” takes Cummings‘ already proven songwriting acumen and adds to it a prevailing focus on arrangement that quickly shows considerable depth. What form “Maybe Time” and the other material might take in a live setting remains to be seen — he’s done solo acoustic shows in the past, but I wouldn’t speculate that that’s what in store without knowing for sure; the song features members of Heavy TempleAll Else Failed and The Boils — but if “Maybe Time” demonstrates anything, it’s that it’s worth finding out.

Cummings, who’s also chosen to go by his full name for the project, has made the rough mix of “Maybe Time” available for streaming via Bandcamp and you can find it on the player below. Please enjoy:

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Maybe Time” (2013)

Michael Rudolph Cummings on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback website

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VISUAL EVIDENCE: Backwoods Payback, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Sun Gods in Exile Tour Booked for April

Posted in Visual Evidence on April 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

My only hope is that as Backwoods Payback, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Sun Gods in Exile head out for these four shows, they bring the poster with them. Seems the Small Stone Records bannerfolk have united under the flag of their label and are hitting the Northeast for a bill they’re dubbing “4 Bands, 4 States, 4 Shows, 1 Label.” Call it a tour by the numbers.

Since Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Sun Gods in Exile all live in New England, so with Backwoods Payback tagged on from Pennsylvania, you can pretty well imagine this one’s going to be a debauched-type good time. A long weekend that no one involved will recall by the time it’s over. Nonetheless, if you’ve gotta have something to remember it by, the following Alexander von Wieding poster is a gorgeous reminder.

Octopus reigns supreme among green-lady headwear:

4 bands. 4 states. 4 shows. 1 label.

SMALL STONE RECORDS NORTH EAST US TOUR

featuring:
BACKWOODS PAYBACK
SUPER MACHINE
LORD FOWL
SUN GODS IN EXILE

04.25.13 – The Dover Brickhouse, Dover NH
04.26.13 – KCs Tap, Pawtucket RI
04.27.13 – The Winchester, Woodbridge CT
04.28.13 – Leftfield NYC, Manhattan NY

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Backwoods Payback Announce March Tour Dates; Live 2012 EP Available Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

You can’t hope to stop Backwoods Payback from touring. You can only hope to contain them. Actually, you can’t really hope for that either, but the important thing is you tried. Or something. Not really.

Whatever. Point is that West Chester’s own merchants of the mud are hitting the road once more, and they’re playing some killer live shows, and if you can, you should go see them. They’ve also got a new EP out digital-like called Live 2012, and you’ll never guess how and when the tracks were recorded. Yes, live. Yes, in 2012. Way to call it.

The kicker is that the EP features some new songs not yet released in studio form, so it’s a glimpse at where Backwoods Payback might be headed as they follow-up 2011’s riffy Momantha, hopefully later this year. Oh, and it’s free. And you can hear it below. So there you have it.

Word from the source:

Small Stone Records recording artists and purveyors of the riff BACKWOODS PAYBACK will hit the road once again this March bringing their vision to the masses.

The US tour kicks off March 7th in Delaware and sees the band sharing the stage with friends and contemporaries such as Pilgrim, Lo-Pan, Inter Arma, Royal Thunder and Batillus along the way. A few acoustic sets thrown in for good measure ensures none of these dates are to be missed. In preparation for the tour the band has released a Live EP available now on their bandcamp site FOR FREE thru the duration of the trip. The EP includes old favorites as well as brand new songs, not yet released.

backwoodspayback.bandcamp.com

Download it, burn it, share it, repeat.

“see you on the road mofos… drop out to live”

FEBRUARY
27 – Harrisburg PA, Fed LIVE w/ Royal Thunder, Ancient Wisdom

MARCH
7 – New Castle DE, JB McGinnes w/ Pilgrim, Earthen Grave
8 – Pittsburgh PA, 31st St Pub w/ Inter Arma
9 – Columbus OH, Ruby Tuesday w/ Lo-Pan
10 – Chicago IL, Ultra Lounge
11 – Indianapolis IN, Indys Jukebox
12 – Bloomington IN, Rachels Café (acoustic show)
13 – Memphis TN, The Buccaneer Lounge
14 – Chattanooga TN, The Honest Pint
15 – Nashville TN, Springwater Supper Club
16 – Jackson MS, Sams Lounge
17 – Birmingham AL, The Bottletree
18 – Jacksonville FL, Burro Bar
19 – Athens GA, Caledonia Lounge
20 – Knoxville TN, The 90 Proof
21 – Ladson SC, The Hive
22 – Chapel Hill NC, Chapel Hill Underground w/ Batillus
23 – Richmond VA, Plum St House

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Stoner Hands of Doom XIII Beginning to Take Shape; Dates, Venue and Bands Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Unparalleled in its support for underground heavy, the Stoner Hands of Doom fest has begun to unveil the lineup and other info for the 2013 edition, SHoD XIII. The traveling fest, which in 2012 took place at the El n Gee in New London, CT, heads south this year, to Richmond, Virginia, where it will take over Strange Matter on Nov. 7-10.

I’ve never been to Richmond that I can recall, and this seems like a pretty good occasion to go. Fest organizer Rob Levey has begun the preliminary announcements of things like the above dates and locale and a basic list of bands that should give some idea of where SHoD is headed musically. Dig it:

We are almost there we have secured a place for SHoD XIII it will be held Veterans Day weekend Nov 7th – 10th the location is a mid atlantic city in the south but not the deep south. There will be some limitations this year on time so won’t be able to have as many bands as usual.

Wow I tell you our supporters are awesome anyway the club we are doing this year’s SHoD is called Strange Matter in Richmond Virginia here are the list so far either definite or very close.

Admiral Browning
Beelzefuzz
Fire Faithful
Pike Possum
Wizard Eye
Backwoods Payback
Demonaut
Stone Magnum
Wasted Theory
Planetoid
Deadweight
Second Grave

Be around 20 more when we are done talk to you soon.

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Backwoods Payback Announce Drummer Return; Headlining Slot at Heinzmann Benefit

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Kudos to Pennsylvania’s Backwoods Payback for earning the top slot at this year’s Heinzmann Benefit on June 30 in Frederick, Maryland. They did so with relentless road work and badass rock and roll, with guitar tones as warm as their flannels. The band sent word over the weekend that they’ve welcomed back drummer Tom Ewing into the fold (not pictured) and that vocalist/guitarist Mike Cummings (on right) is featured in the new Book of Beards, for obvious reasons. That too is well earned.

Here’s the news from the PR wire, followed by a clip of the band riffing out at SXSW this year, just because I think it’s good:

Backwoods Payback have a new (old) member of the family joining them on the drums. Tom Ewing (Count von Count) will now be handling the backbeat for the PA foursome, spreading their regional takeover from PA to NJ and now DE… a true Tri-State triple threat!

In addition, Saturday, June 30, Backwoods Payback will participate in the second annual Heinzmann Benefit in Frederick, Maryland. After playing a supporting role in last year’s stellar lineup (including doom legends Pentagram, Earthride and Iron Man), Backwoods Payback will now act as the headliners of this year’s festivities! This year, the lineup continues to offer the best in underground music from the US and Canada, all joining together to raise money for friends of the underground scene and aid them in the fight against cancer.

In somewhat related news, Backwoods Payback frontman Mike Cummings (a cancer survivor himself) has been featured on the front cover of a newly released Book of Beards. Independently released this past week, the book features stunning portraits and writings from a large collection of bearded folks from all over the world, again with the goal in mind to help those in need after the incredible financial burden fighting cancer leaves. The book can be seen and purchased here: bookofbeards.com.

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