Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
A friendly reminder that this very Saturday is Small Stone‘s showcase at The Magic Stick in Detroit. Since the one in Boston earlier this month was such an unholy good time, I can only heartily recommend that the entire Midwest shows up and prepares itself for riffy communion. Even if The Obelisk wasn’t presenting it, it’d still be a kickass rock gig, and probably as far east as we’re going to get Sasquatch anytime soon.
Label honcho (and Luder guitarist, as it happens) Scott Hamilton was recently interviewed by Detroit’s Metro Times about how he manages to thrive where so many others have succumbed to the likes of internet piracy, generational disinterest in rock, and so on. Pretty fascinating read, but before you click over, make sure you’ve got the skinny on the gig Saturday, because you don’t want to miss it.
Since many folks have been asking us for a few years now, we have finally caved in… So here it is in all its glory, a full blown SSR Showcase in the state that we actually live in. We have put together a top notch line up which features the return of New Jersey’s Halfway To Gone for the first time since 2005! Come early, stay late… The Magic Stick is great venue, and the drinks will be flowing at reasonable prices too… It should be an epic evening of rawk… Hell, we might even have copies of the new album from Five Horse Johnson at the show too.
Halfway To Gone (Long Branch, NJ) Five Horse Johnson (Toledo, OH) Sasquatch (Los Angeles, CA) Freedom Hawk (Virginia Beach, VA) Luder (Ferndale, MI)
Doors: 7pm Tickets: $10.00
The Fine folks over at Tito’s Vodka are helping us and the Magic Stick will have Tito’s Drink Specials All Night!
Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”
That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.
One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.
Here they are, ordered by the date of release:
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)
Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.
2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)
Personally, I think 2005′s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009′s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.
3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)
In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.
4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)
The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.
5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)
I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.
6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)
Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.
7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)
It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.
8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)
Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.
9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)
It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.
10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)
If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011′s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.
That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘sSongs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.
And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 17th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Detroit rock kingpins Small Stone Records — who are the subject of this month’s podcast in honor of their two-day label showcase in Philadelphia next weekend — issued an update this week via the PR wire giving everyone the skinny on the label’s recent doings. Behold the report in its informative entirety:
First off, the new album from Denver’s Black Sleep of Kali, Our Slow Decay is now available at a better record store near you. If you can’t find it, feel free to get it from us.
The long awaited new album from Cleveland’s Red Giant, titled Dysfunctional Majesty rolls out to stores on the 28th of this month, but you can get it a little early right here on the Small Stone Online Store.
On the recording front, the new albums from both Suplecs and Roadsaw are almost finished (they just need to get mixed and mastered), and will both get released sometime between January and March of 2011. Also, the boys in Ironweed are still plugging away on their follow-up to Indian Ladder. Lo-Pan are scheduled to hit MadOak to record their follow up to Sasquanaut, and we will also be reissuing a new version of the Sasquanaut album that will be completely remixed by Benny Grotto and remastered by Mr. Goosman. This Winter both Dixie Witch and Sun Gods in Exile are scheduled to hit Mad Oak to record new albums for us as well.
You asked for it, so we are going to give it to you… Sasquatch’s III will be coming out on vinyl very shortly via Small Stone… That’s right folks, we are going to finally take the plunge into the vinyl game. We are currently getting the art together, and having the album remastered for the pressing plant.
Finally, we hope to see many of you in Philly next week… We have two rather kickass night of rock music all laid out for you at the Philadelphia Film and Music Festival.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 14th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s the weekend of my wedding anniversary, but man, the lineup for Small Stone‘s Philadelphia showcase is pretty badass. True, I’ve seen most of these bands, but I don’t imagine House of Broken Promises are going to make a habit of being on the East Coast, Backwoods Payback are buddies, Solace kill every time, Red Giant‘s got a new album coming, I’d really, really like to hear some of the material from Sasquatch‘s third record live, and the Millcreek Tavern has their own home brew. Looks like it could be another test of The Patient Mrs. living up to her name.
Here’s the news from Small Stone:
Small Stone is pleased to announce that we will be doing two back-to-back showcases at The Philadelphia Film & Music Festival in September. Our events will be taking place at the MillcreekTavern which is located at 4200 Chester Avenue, University City, Philadelphia (215-222-1255). And, now for the lineup:
Friday September 24th: Dixie Witch, The Brought Low, Throttlerod, Lo-Pan, Sun Gods in Exile, Backwoods Payback
Saturday September 25th: Solace, Roadsaw, Sasquatch, House of Broken Promises, Gozu, Red Giant
Posted in Features on April 28th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Nearly as rare as in-focus footage of their namesake are rock bands of Sasquatch‘s quality in Hollywood. The trio’s third album for Small Stone Records, III, is perhaps their most potent yet, meshing Grand Funk and Soundgarden and Sabbath in an environment where it’s less about how you play than who you are and what cellphone commercial your song has been in. As much as they don’t fit their surroundings, though, they’re just as necessary where they are: a voice of reason in a land where reason has no place. A rallying cry for the bullshit-free.
Guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs, bassist Jason Casanova (ex-Tummler) and drummer Rick Ferrante took part in this year’s SXSW festival and are among the bigger names at the upcoming Doom in June fest, but when I chatted with Gibbs (who is — you read it here first — a good dude) via telephonular apparatus, that had yet to be announced. A good portion of our conversation wound up being off the record, but Gibbs nonetheless spoke openly (and often hilariously) about the band’s excising of former bassist Clayton Charles, about making III and life in the post-apocalyptic hellscape they call home.
From their 2004 self-titled debut onward, I have always regarded Sasquatch as the great American hope for genuine stoner rock, and though, as Gibbs informs, they’ve moved somewhat beyond that classification, I am no less solid in my position today than I was six years ago. One still gets the feeling their best is yet to come.
My Q&A with Keith Gibbs is after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on January 19th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
III, Los Angeles rockers Sasquatch’s appropriately-titled third album for Small Stone, is like one of those girls. We all know those girls. You see them out and about whenever you’re brave enough to leave the house, and those girls know they’re super hot, and they know they’re way out of your and everyone else’s league, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Hit them with a bus and they’d still be hot. They know it, you know it. Even your girlfriend wants to have sex with these girls, and if she says otherwise, she’s lying.
III is like that, but with rock. And instead of being a total bitch, it’s all into Planet of the Apesand The Simpsons and stuff. Maybe I’m projecting.
In any case, what the trio does with this album is fuse the unmitigated fuzz stonerism of their first, self-titled album, with the classic feel of its 2006 follow-up, resulting in a brand of rock as much indebted to Grand Funk as Fu Manchu. III doesn’t even immediately strike as a stoner rock record, with opener “Get out of Here” (as in, “I gotta…”) based on a solid groove, but executed in a manner thoroughly modern despite any Southern rock influence. Highlight cuts “Pull Me Under,” “Burning Bridges” and the more boogieing “Walkin’ Shoes” follow likewise patterns, but somehow remain definitively stoner rock. The only answer is that Sasquatch are reshaping the genre to suit their needs.
“Pull Me Under” (thankfully not a Dream Theater cover) rocks slower than either the riffy and catchy “Complicated” or the chunkier, Helmet-style starts and stops of “Soul Shaker,” and with no shortage of character. Immediately following “Get out of Here,” “Took Me Away” centers around a bluesy riff executed with more than a little fuzz grown in. There’s more going on with III than fuzz and riffs though. Guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs is definitely at the center of the proceedings, but bassist Cas and drummer Rick Ferrante push the songs onto another level entirely, adding personality and well-placed flourishes to the material that prove both memorable and exciting to the ear.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 4th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Anyone out there have any records you’re really looking forward to hearing this year? Preview stuff is always tricky to put together because it’s either rampant speculation or shortsighted. The fact is no one knows how a year will play out as it’s just beginning. There are all these “Albums to Watch Out For” lists and it’s either stuff you’ll never see or everything is released by the middle of March.
But hey, it’s an unpredictable world. Maybe The Melvins will have a record this year, maybe not. And if they do, maybe it’ll suck. One can never tell what life is going to bring.
With the usual stipulations that this is in no way comprehensive or based on anything other than personal opinion (namely mine), here are five albums I’m looking forward to hearing in 2010, numbered for convenience, not necessarily preference:
01. High on Fire, Snakes for the Divine: Duh. It’s probably the biggest “stoner metal” release of the first half of the year, if not the whole thing, and if not one of the biggest metal releases overall. I don’t know how Greg Fidelman will handle the production — so help me Robot Jesus if I don’t get to hear every Des Kensell tom thud — but even if it’s not up to par with Death is this Communion, the new High on Fire is bound to kick at least some ass.
02. Sasquatch, III: These guys already have two fantastic albums on Small Stone under their collective belt and are more or less the Great American Hope for 21st Century stoner rock. No pressure, dudes. Nothing really riding on this except the future of your country’s output in the genre. Not like if it’s not the greatest thing ever the whole world is going to laugh at America‘s diminished riff prowess (you know Belgium‘s just been waiting). So yeah, just play it cool.
03. Solace, A.D.: Long time coming, but I have faith that the Jersey boys will get it done and out this year. I’m not sure why exactly I have that faith, but I have it nonetheless. I’ve heard some of this material live and it destroys. It’s high time Solace started getting at least a piece of the recognition they deserve, and getting A.D. out is essential to that process. This might be that whole “rampant speculation” thing though, because A.D. is at least three years in the works at this point.
04. Brant Bjork‘s new album: Doesn’t have a revealed title yet, but if I had a New Year’s resolution (I don’t), it would be to interview Brant Bjork. He’s also reportedly got a live record out sometime soon, and he’s touring Europe again this Spring, so there’s a lot going on there.
05. Humo del Cairo, Humo del Cairo: MeteorCity is doing an issue of the Argentinian trio’s self-titled debut, and if there’s one thing I like, it’s stoner trios from Argentina. Especially ones with grooves as massive as “Cauce,” which you can hear on the band’s MySpace. Could be a sleeper hit, or could just rule. Count me in either way. I could have sworn I’d written about them before, but apparently not. An oversight soon to be corrected, I’m sure.
Yeah, I know a bunch of videos just went up on Wednesday, but that was pre-Thanksgiving, and this is post-Thanksgiving. Plus, it’s Friday, and I’m trying to work up a tradition here. Anyway, this week we’ve got L.A. rock bringers Sasquatch live at Harper’s Bar and Grill. No, I don’t know where that is, but the band will have a new album out next year on Small Stone. And the video rules. Good for anyone still so full from last night’s dinner that they feel like they can’t move. Yes, I mean me. Gonna go take a nap. Hope the weekend brings recovery.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 5th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Detroit‘s Small Stone Records has a whole batch of good news, including release updates on House of Broken Promises, Sasquatch, Gozu and more. Be sure you make it to the end where it talks about Sk?nska Mord, the new project from the dudes who brought us Half Man. Wholesome Swedish goodness. Check it out:
We are pleased as punch to let you all know that the debut album Using the Useless from California‘s House of Broken Promises is now here and in stock. If you were one of the smarter folk who pre-ordered the album from us, your copy was mailed out to you earlier today. For those of you who are not quite self starters, the rawk and roll dinner bell is now ringing for you… Come and get it!
In other news, Benny Grotto has been busing recording the debut Gozu full length Locust Season over at Mad Oak. The album should be completed sometime in December, and is due for release sometime in 2010 (perhaps late Winter or Spring). The word on the street is that the new Gozu album is one of the best soundings recording to come out of the boards and gizmos at Mad Oak Studios. We are very much looking forward to hearing it!
Mr. Grotto will also be mixing the new Sasquatch album III in the next two weeks (or less). We already know how good that one sounds, and it sounds damn good! The new Sasquatch album will be coming out in March of 2010, just in time for their headline appearance at the Small Stone Showcase at SXSW 2010. The Sasquatch band is also gearing up for their first European Tour which will is tentatively scheduled to begin sometime in the Spring of 2010.
Finally, Mr. Goosman hand delivered us the mastered master of the debut album from Sweden’s Sk?nska Mord today. If you are not all that familiar with them, perhaps you may recall the band Half Man from about a decade ago (same guys, new band). Their debut album is called The Last Supper, and it will be our first release of 2010. We will also have a track from them up on our Jukebox sometime next month. If you are a fan the retro classic rock, ala The Want, Stone Axe, Greenleaf,Five Horse Johnson, and The Brought Low then you are going to really dig this band. Big guitars, big songs, big tones, all delivered with soul! Quite a dying art if you ask us.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 13th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve been giving some thought the last week or so to doing an Obelisk podcast. Only thing is it would take a shitload of time and I don’t know if anyone would bother listening. Let me know what you think in the comments thread, and in the meantime, enjoy these six songs.
It was originally only going to be five, but then I figured in the fine spirit of old school C.O.C., I’d add one more. Feel free to minimize and listen that way as you go about work or whatever.