10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 10: Beelzefuzz Interview with Dana Ortt

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That sounds like hyperbole, and of course what catches on that level depends on more than just the quality of the songs themselves, but that quality is there, and in a scene that prides itself on traditionalism, Beelzefuzz have been able to not only convey sonic loyalism, but to gracefully expand the breadth of the doom they’re creating, whether it’s the harmonies Ortt brings vocally to the space thematic of “Lunar Blanco,” the general smoothness of the production — it remains both deep and weighted tonally — or the flow honed over the course of the album’s 37 minutes, Beelzefuzz not only show potential for where future progression might lead them, but as songs like “Hypnotize,” the aforementioned “All the Feeling Returns,” “Reborn” and the stomping “Lonely Creatures” demonstrate, there’s already significant capacity for accomplishment in the band’s aesthetic and songwriting method. They are sonically adventurous — as the guitar-as-organ effects and live vocal multitracking will attest — patient when they need to be, and only in danger of getting stronger over time.

Keeping good company with Pale Divine, Admiral Browning, Backwoods Payback, Valkyrie, Wasted Theory and others, Beelzefuzz will play Stoner Hands of Doom XIII this coming Saturday, Nov. 9, at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia. Ortt took some time out to discuss this fest, the situation with Brendan Burns of The Eye of the Stoned Goat stepping in in place of promoters Rob and Cheryl Levey, as well as their pending appearance next week in Germany at the Hammer of Doom festival on Nov. 16, playing alongside While Heaven Wept, Orchid, Jex Thoth, and writing and recording the album itself.

The complete Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

I know you guys are playing Stoner Hands of Doom and of course I want to talk about that, but first, how did Hammer of Doom come about?

Actually, I believe Oli [Richling] from The Church Within had sent Oliver [Weinsheimer, of Hammer of Doom] a CD, and Oliver heard it and got in contact with Oli and man, that was that. Oliver liked the songs and we were pretty blown away by even having the idea of Oliver actually liking the music and being interested in the band enough to invite us over to the festival. It’s pretty mind-blowing to be able to go over there and do it. Very cool.

You’re doing the pre-show as well, right? It’s just the two shows.

Yes. Just two shows. Oli lined up a pre-show I believe on the Wednesday, the first day we get there. We’re very grateful to Oliver and Oli for working it out to have us be able to go over there. Super-fortunate to have Oli on our side here. Definitely allows us to do things we never thought would be possible with the music that we’re playing.

And of course SHoD as well. Given the situation with this year’s fest, does it take on a different meaning for you, with the way bands and Brendan pulled everything together? You did last year’s in Connecticut as well.

The one last year in Connecticut was very cool. I know Rob Levey, he’s been doing this for how long? It’s amazing how he can line up all these bands to play, and man, we’re definitely very grateful to him for doing it for this amount of time, and it’s just a really great thing that he’s done. Definitely a bummer to hear this will be his last one, but very cool that Brendan stepped in and made it possible to still continue. It’s tough for this one. I always look forward to seeing the bands, and it’s almost like a Roadburn kind of thing, where I want to see the videos and I check out who’s playing, and it’s just a cool thing. To have it over here and have it accessible and so close, it’s a very nice thing to have.

Hopefully it’s not the last one.

I hope not, man. It definitely brings so many people together and gets the word out for the music. I know it has to be a lot of work for Rob and Cheryl to put together, and hats off to them for doing it for as long as they have done it. Definitely very grateful to them for doing it for all these years.

I wanted to talk about the album for a bit. Going from the demos to the full-length, was there something different you wanted to do, maybe something you learned from the process of the demos that you wanted to bring to the recording for the LP?

When we did the demos, I think it was, for me, just kind of feeling out the studio. I’ve never actually been in the studio before, and really haven’t done that. When Darin first came into the band and we started talking about a full-length release, it made me start really thinking and trying to focus in on getting a gameplan on how to actually make this happen and how to align everything up. The whole recording process was pretty new to me. The demos were just, like any demos is, a trial period of getting used to everything and what we want to do. Some of them came out really good and some of them maybe not so good. The whole thing was definitely a learning experience. All in all, I don’t think we are really that much different from what we do live, from what’s on the recording.

I don’t think so either, and that was something I wanted to ask about too. Was that something you were conscious of, bringing the live personality of the band into the studio?

It was definitely something that me, Darin and Pug had discussed. We didn’t want something that we couldn’t pull off live. Really, all we wanted was just a reflection of what we do live, with an analog sound. That’s why we wanted to record with Chris Kozlowski, just because of all the work he’s done in the past and definitely cool albums that I dig, and Darin has worked with him before. Going down there was a very cool experience, and definitely a learning experience. Very excited to get started on the next one. We’d love to be able to do the whole thing analog. That would be great.

This one was analog or digital?

At first, we recorded all the tracks with Chris, and as time went along, there was so much stuff that needed to be done that we had to bounce it over from analog into the digital realm to get all the vocals done. My original plan was to do everything analog, but then I kind of got to the point where it was a little bit too much to do.

You mean just in terms of the layering and things like that?

Just the amount of time involved. Plus, I wasn’t really that prepared (laughs). The whole analog experience is kind of like you sing it until you sing it right, and I kind of wanted everything to be as close to being perfect – I shouldn’t say “perfect” – maybe as close to being totally correct as possible with the vocals, and that’s tough to do with the analog thing. You’ve gotta really be on your game, and when we went in there was just when we were first playing the songs and getting used to everything. If I could re-record it right now, I would (laughs). Just because we’ve played the songs so much now and, man, I know what I want to do, and we all know what tempos we want to play, and there’s just so many things that we wanted to be able to do. I don’t know if it was too soon – but all in all, I think it came out great. I’m just kind of having those feelings of, “Man, if we could’ve just done this, it would’ve been awesome.” Mostly on part. Mostly on the singing parts.

It’s almost production work you do live as well. You look like you’re tap-dancing on stage sometimes, going from pedal to pedal.

I know. I’m using this Digitech Vocalist pedal, which reads the guitar chords in a way, then you actually have to match – it’s kind of tricky to sing along with this basically computer-generated voice that’s coming out of the P.A. It’s kind of a tricky thing. Sometimes it sounds kind of cool (laughs), other times it’s not so cool, maybe a little too R2D2-ish. I want it to come across entertaining, and I don’t want it to be bland (laughs). Just trying to throw some things in there that’ll be interesting to hear.

I was really glad I had seen the band live a few times before I heard the album, because so many records come with a lot of layers of vocals and a lot of layers of guitar, and it’s normal, but to know that that’s something you’re able to pull off life, it gives the album a different context.

I hope it’s not too much live. I try not to make it over the top or, how do you say, too overbearing, or too much of a crutch. Try to just throw it in there, just enough to where it would be perceived as, “Oh wow, that was cool! What was that?” Hopefully it comes across that way.

Have you gotten a lot of people asking if there’s organ on the record?

Maybe a lot from overseas, because they haven’t seen us, seen the band. A lot of people have seen videos of the band and know it’s a Pod pedal, a guitar effect going on, that I’m trying to mimic an organ sound. But it is cool to hear people say, “Wow!” or to hear someone who’s reviewed the album comment on the organ sounds. It’s like, “Oh, well, we must be doing it pretty good then” (laughs). Hopefully it comes across like that. Even if it’s only a couple guys saying it, we pulled it off enough to where he thought it was an organ. Great.

Have you started writing for the next record?

We actually have, I want to say, probably seven or eight songs to the point of where I have scratch vocals and scratch lyrics ready. We’re very much interested in getting into the studio here soon to start demoing stuff and get the process going and working on the tempos. Because it is sort of a long process, for us, to get everything organized the way we want it. Well, I should say I’m probably unnecessarily picky with certain things (laughs), and certain tempos and that kind of thing.

Is that something you’ll be even more careful with coming off the record, which, as you say, if you could go back and do it again…?

Yes. Definitely we were thinking – well, I was thinking – I wanted to get everything organized, the vocal harmonies organized, and guitar parts organized, so I’m not making it up in the studio, which I wouldn’t say I totally made up everything in the studio, (laughs) but there was a lot of vocal harmonies and guitar parts where I thought I was pretty sure of what I was doing, until I got into the studio and then it was a question of, “wow, I haven’t done my homework here. I need to sit down and rethink this.” I don’t want to have that going on. Need to get everything situated. But we have been rehearsing new material, and we’re ready to do something cool, and very fortunate to have the positive feedback on the first album, which I really didn’t see happening. We just want to build upon that for the second album, so the second album’s gotta be pretty good.

I know you’re doing the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Boston next year, but do you have any other plans for 2014 set? Do you know when you’ll be back in the studio demoing?

I am not sure yet. I know we’re thinking after the Hammer of Doom festival, we’re gonna come back and really focus in on working out the new material, and at that point, I want to investigate going in and demoing some of the stuff. I want to say maybe this summer [we’ll record], but that’s just conjecture. I’m just guessing based upon current events right now.

Pug asked if you have propane for the Sound Lab. He says it’s gonna be cold in there.

(Laughs) Yes, it’s all fired up in there. We had a refill earlier, at the beginning of summer, the guy from the propane company came out to give us a full tank, I don’t know why it had to be the beginning of summer, but just had to cash in on that. I think it was 800 bucks to fill the whole thing up. Just perfect at the beginning of summer, right before all the air conditioning bills come in. That was just great.

Beelzefuzz, “Reborn” official video

Stoner Hands of Doom XIII

Hammer of Doom Festival

Beelzefuzz on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within

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One Response to “10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 10: Beelzefuzz Interview with Dana Ortt”

  1. Coby says:

    JJ, I can assure you that you are not he only one who may need to seek professional help to get these songs out of your head. Crazy, crazy good album here. No B.S. Nice write up. You rock.

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