Friday Full-Length: Mammatus, Mammatus

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Let’s step out of time for a little bit. We’ll all take a collective breath, close our eyes, and imagine ourselves walking on a long path. It’s a long path lined with trees that leads to a beach and at the beach we’re totally alone. You can see planets up in the sky like big smiling faces and imagine the people there waving to you, far away. Far, far away. Distant, but big. You walk up and feel the change from the path to the sand under your feet, the looseness of the ground. There’s a breeze, because of course there is, and the sound of the water and the smell of salt and that ambient wetness that comes from being near the ocean. It feels like the place life came from, and it is.

We’re there and we’re all alone and it doesn’t matter because there are as many realities as we need to make these things happen and each one we inhabit is our own and we’re all there on this beach and we open our eyes and look out at the water. There’s however many suns you want, and the planets, and life, and water. Now imagine you’re there all by yourself and you realize you have something in your hand, and what is it?

You look down at your hand, right or left, maybe both, and you see you’re holding this lump. What is it? Oh wait, that’s bullshit. You remember now. You’re holding all your own bullshit. Look at that lump of bullshit. It’s been hanging out and festering and finally you got tired of all your own bullshit and you decided to take it for a walk and lose it once and for all. You take that lump of bullshit and you throw it as hard and as high as you can over the water and it sails like who knew bullshit could fly? But there it goes and it’s kind of fun to watch that big old lump of bullshit go higher and higher over the water until finally the arc crests and it starts to head down, far out and deep, past the continental shelf into the darker recesses of this infinite sea, and it’s so far gone by then that you don’t hear the splash but you still see it and then it’s done. All your bullshit, you just threw it away.

Maybe we all wash our hands in that sparkling water, salty but clean, and sit down for a while and just breathe in and out and tilt our heads back and close our eyes and feel the sun on our face. Maybe that’s what we do because there’s no more bullshit weighing us down and everything is beautiful around us and we don’t even have to look to know it, it’s just there and we can breathe it in and feel it in our lungs, feel the lungs take the oxygen out of the air and pump it through our blood, alone on this beach, the planets and suns and stars whatever all above, visible, shining impossibly, whatever. We’re all there, alone, breathing, living, no bullshit.

You open your eyes and look to either side of you. Maybe you’ve never felt this kind of freedom before, but now, your shoulders hanging natural and your breath coming easy, it’s there. You’re there. Everyone’s there. Nobody’s around.

mammatus self titledSanta Cruz, California’s  Mammatus released their self-titled debut in 2006 through Holy MountainRocket Recordings and Leaf Hound Records, three labels the names of which alone should speak to the record’s essential nature. Comprised only of four songs, the record begins with “The Righteous Path Through the Forest of Old” (9:23) and moves through “The Outer Rim” (5:09) en route to “Dragon of the Deep Part One” (8:23) and “Dragon of the Deep Part Two” (22:12), the journey taking place enough of a preface for what’s become known as neo-psych that it renders the designation laughable. It’s not neo-anything. It’s out-of-time.

Comprised then of guitarist/vocalist Nicholas Emmert, drummer Aaron Emmert and bassist Chris Freels, with Zachery Patten and Mike Donofrio recording, Mammatus‘ initial explorations have become and well should be the stuff of cult psych legend. This record, its movement and progression between its songs, the way it sounds like one long stretch, a molten 45-minute flow broken into parts but united in its purpose and immersion just the same, is the stuff of should-be-worshiped-as-classic scorch. From the opening surf-in-space strum of “The Righteous Path Through the Forest of Old” through the bullshit-swallowing noisier reaches in the midsection breakdown of “Dragon of the Deep Part Two,” there is nothing so appropriate in the hearing of the album but to let go and trust the band to take you where they will because they’re going anyway.

Here we are, some 15 years after the fact and Mammatus‘ first still feels like it’s rolling through cosmic outer reaches inside the head. You want to call it hyperbole, fine. Your loss. This is an album for communion; both a preach to the converted and a call to convert. In the patient swirls of “The Outer Rim” there so much space tucked into just five minutes, and then “Dragon of the Deep Part One” adds even more feedback, overlapping feedback, before it launches into its own ultra-lysergic jam. What an album. What a band. Hot damn.

And you know “Dragon of the Deep Part Two” comes back from those open spaces in its middle. They bring it around to this massive fuzzy crunch, kick the slow wah and groove out huge in a before-Sleep-got-back-together paean to the power of rolling tone up and sharing the ensuing smoke. It’s all gorgeous and it all comes apart and gives way to noise like the universe spreading too wide and whoops, there goes the molecules that make up matter, cell walls breaking down and all that and what difference does it make anyhow we’ll just get another universe there are so many.

MammatusMammatus. Live and breathe.

Thanks for reading. Hydrate. Watch your head. Have a great and safe weekend.

FRM.

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Geezer Release 17-Minute “Solstice” Jam

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Who among you will complain at 17 minutes of Kingston, NY, trio Geezer jamming out? Who, I ask! Stand up and be counted. Or better yet, pull your head out of your ass and find something better to complain about. The three-piece are no strangers to improv-ing it up, and they’ve taken this tasty morsel of spontaneity, topped it with a bit of synth to make it extra classy, and put it up for all of one US dollar for Bandcamp Friday.

Apparently today’s the last Bandcamp Friday? I saw that somewhere on the internet. So I guess that website got vaccinated? That’s how it works, right? Whatever. If they keep up the smooth PR or not, it’s good to get while the getting’s good, and that means today. So get on it.

While you’re there, you can check out Geezer‘s take on “Mississippi Queen” that was released in homage to Leslie West of Mountain — hard to imagine some label or other isn’t working on a heavy rock tribute to him — as well as their 2020 album, Groovy (review here), which hell yes most certainly was that.

Don’t go into this thinking you’re getting an album-style production. It’s a rehearsal room jam. But do go into it ready to spend a buck. I actually bought it twice this morning.

Release info:

Geezer Solstice

Geezer – Solstice

We came together on the winter solstice of 2020 to have our final jam session of the year. We were happy to finally, if not symbolically, put the year behind us and we looked forward to better days. As always, we just plugged in, turned on the amps and pressed record. This is the music that found us.

Dig.

Released May 7, 2021.

Improvised jam from the Geezer rehearsal space that occurred on 12/21/2020. The synth tracks were added later.

Geezer are:
Pat Harrington – Guitar/Vocals
Richie Touseull – Bass
Steve Markota – Drums/Percussion

https://www.instagram.com/geezertown/
https://www.facebook.com/geezerNY/
http://geezertown.bandcamp.com/
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/

Geezer, “Solstice”

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Shadow Woods Metal Fest V Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Shadow Woods Metal Fest V banner

Two days, part-outdoors, everybody vaxxed, the Shadow Woods Metal Fest continues to push aesthetic forward while doing so in plague-safe fashion. Shadow Woods Metal Fest V brings campers, cabin-renters and whoever else can find a place to stay together in celebration of anti-genre noisemaking of the sort that might put Borracho and Panopticon on the bill together because screw it life is short and see everything you can while you can. Two days here, really a day and a half, and this might be the last time the fest is held. 200 acres out in the woods. Who could argue? Ever?

Righteous in purpose and execution, fest organizer Mary Spiro sent the following down the PR wire:

Shadow Woods Metal Fest V poster

Panopticon to headline Shadow Woods Metal Fest V

The fifth edition of Shadow Woods Metal Fest (also sometimes simply SWMF or Shadow Woods Music Fest, since it’s not all metal music) will happen Aug 27-29, 2021 in White Hall, Maryland. Bands announced so far include Panopticon, Destroyer of Light, Borracho, Neolithic, Voarm, Witchcryer, Traitor, Altar and the Bull, and Queen Wolf with about 10 more acts to be confirmed.

Tickets may be found on Eventbrite: https://shadowwoods2021.eventbrite.com

Performance times will be Friday between 6 pm and 11 pm and Saturday between noon and 11 pm. There are no bands on Sunday. Although not officially announced, it is has been rumored that ticket sales will be cut off August 13 and no ticket will be sold at the gate. So, plan ahead.

The fest will take place at its traditional location, Camp Hidden Valley, a wooded, 200-acre property about 45 minutes north of Baltimore that hosts everything from weddings to children’s summer camps. There will be two covered stages – one outdoors and one inside the venue’s large, well-ventilated dining hall. This is the layout used during the 2018 fest – the last time the fest was held. Attendees may drive from home, camp, or stay in nearby hotels or private rentals. Most cabin options are already sold out.

Organizers are taking COVID-19 precautions seriously. There will be emergency medical techs and rapid COVID testing available throughout the weekend. They have issued this statement to attendees:

Masking, hand washing, and physical distancing protocols will be in effect during the fest. At this time, we are asking that every participant be fully vaccinated two weeks prior (by August 13) and show your vaccination card upon entry. We are working with an organization to have rapid COVID testing available onsite for a low fee at entry. If anyone tests positive for COVID or has any indicative symptoms such as a fever, coughing, chills, extreme fatigue, etc., we ask that you STAY HOME or leave the fest immediately, even if it is last minute. Everyone will be required to sign the typical camp liability waiver that we have used every year, but it will also include additional language related to COVID. We will be following all the federal and local recommended protocols and guidelines for COVID safety. All this is subject to change based on the current situation with the pandemic

Event organizer M. A. Spiro said that this really will be the last time she will do the fest, although she has admittedly said that before. “This last year without live music has been brutal on everyone and economically devastating,” she said. “I hope people come out for it. The bands need it. The fans need it. The production people need it. But one thing I learned after this last year is that I personally do not have to be the one to do these events any more. It’s a ton of work, a lot of risk financially and emotionally, and I am just not interested in carrying that mantle forward any longer. I would love it if someone created a new camping music fest nearby that I could go to and enjoy. But Shadow Woods as people have come to know it will be laid to rest after 2021. I might continue to do smaller shows in brick-and-mortar venues, but that remains to be seen since we really are not there yet with those locations.”

https://www.facebook.com/events/962682497420440
https://facebook.com/shadowwoodsmetalfest/
https://www.instagram.com/shadow.woods.metal.fest/

Panopticon, …And Again into the Light (2021)

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Spaceslug Post New Single “The Event Horizon”

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Polish heavy psych rockers Spaceslug recorded their new single last year in May, which is also when they did what became late-2020’s The Leftovers EP (review here). I’m not sure if it was part of the same process — “The Event Horizon” is more in line with their traditional weighted fuzz and the EP was something of a departure — but it’s concurrent anyhow, and as the nearly-nine-minute piece is being unveiled today, it comes with a classic dose of good and bad news.

Bad news first. Always. Their practice space flooded. As of this post, they don’t even know how much they’ve lost, but clearly that’s not the kind of thing anyone wants to deal with. Fucking bummer.

Good news. They put up “The Event Horizon” as a single release that will help them get funds to replace whatever it is that’s too damaged to salvage. Also good news? The song rules.

Also good news? They’re still pushing ahead with the recording of their next long-player, which one assumes will see release later this year. So if you look at it the right way, the good outweighs the bad, and all the more if you’ve got three dollars to toss the band’s way and help them out in a tough time. Even if it’s a morale boost, support matters.

The following is culled from a couple days of social media posts and the Bandcamp info. Song stream is at the bottom of the post:

spaceslug the event horizon

Spaceslug – The Event Horizon

Today should be the day of a good news. We wanted to announce works of our new LP and the studio recording time that is scheduled at the end of May.

But the universe and reality kicked us hard this time and bring flood to our practice space last weekend. Yes, we are devastated as you can see in the pictures. We can’t estimate the losses yet as much of our equipment is still drying and needs to be checked. Two percussion sets, a guitar amplifier, two cabinets for guitar and bass + some smaller things were flooded. We are crushed by the loss but still we are marching forward to finish and record our new album with all energy we have.

“THE EVENT HORIZON” was not scheduled for any kind of release in this period but this is our way to send gratitude for all you did yesterday. We recorded this particular song last year to release it some day in some special occasion. Ironic but this is the best time for it we think. Tomorrow we will put this special single on our bandcamp. Song is as long, heavy and melancholic as you can expect from us. You should be pleased. You can have fun with it and listen as much as you want but also you can support us and own it eternally in digital.

Recorded by Piotr Grzegorowski at Jupiter Ranch Studio (May 2020).
Mixed & Mastered by Haldor Grunberg (Satanic Audio)
Music & Lyrics by Spaceslug

Bartosz Janik – guitar
Kamil Ziólkowski – drums, vocals
Jan Rutka – bass, vocals

https://www.facebook.com/spaceslugband/
https://www.instagram.com/spaceslug_pl/
https://spaceslug.bandcamp.com/music
https://www.facebook.com/BSFD-records-247816545273558/
https://bsfdrecords.blogspot.co.uk/

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Andrew Hooker of The Uneven

Posted in Questionnaire on May 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Andrew Hooker of The Uneven

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Andrew Hooker of The Uneven

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

We are a rock band that draws heavily from 70s blues rock and the 90s grunge and alternative metal. We always make sure that there is some form of blues rooted in the sound. We arrived at this approach because the blues is primal, raw, and most importantly, honest.

Describe your first musical memory.

I remember being 5 years old and my older brother who is 9 years older would spin records of Kiss and make me dance on his bed for his friends. First real musical memory that grabbed me was my aunt playing a vinyl record of Billy Squier. I was maybe 6.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

1990, B.B. King live in Tupelo, MS, at the Oleput Festival. (I was around 13 years old) I was frozen in my shoes absorbing the visceral and emotive way that he played guitar.

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

Any time I get a pass on a piece of music I believe in and know is good.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I believe it feeds the soul of the creator, and hopefully the people who consume it.

How do you define success?

I know it sounds cliché but waking up each day and doing what you love. Being able to use this daily passion to feed yourself and your family.

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

Lost in Translation – hate that movie.

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

An audience that listens to our album and hears a record that has a collection of songs that could all stand on their own and have no filler tracks. We believe we have created that, and we can’t wait to release the whole record so that we can share that.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

To make people feel. To birth something that lives on its own and gives to your creative self and other people.

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

Shaking a stranger’s hand without the fear of Covid 19.

https://www.facebook.com/theunevenofficial
https://www.instagram.com/theuneven.band/
https://soundcloud.com/theunevenofficial

The Uneven, “No More Violations” official video

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Shun Premiere “Machina” From Self-Titled Debut out June 4

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

shun shun

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Machina’ from Shun’s self-titled debut. Album is out June 4 on Small Stone Records.]

Matt Whitehead on “Machina”:

A lot of the basic ideas for this song date back to jams in Jeff’s and my previous band (Made of Machines), but we were never really able to get it sounding the way we envisioned. Later, we jammed on it off and on with Shun and initially stumped everyone there as well, but everyone said they wanted to keep working on it. Over the period of a few months Rob and Scott developed their parts, and Jeff and I felt like we were finally fulfilled our original vision. Machina is also the first one I sent to J. Robbins to do a ‘proof of concept’ mix. When he sent the mix back, we were blown away. This song’s a bit of a weird, slow burn journey that ends in pure chaos and is one of our favorites to play.

SHUN live:
6/05 Asheville, NC @ Fleetwood’s
6/12 W. Columbia, SC @ Scratch N’ Spin (in-store 12PM)
6/26 Spartanburg, SC @ Ground Zero

Asheville, North Carolina’s Shun release their self-titled debut June 4 on Small Stone Records. Earlier this year, I was asked to write the bio for the album, as sometimes happens with Small Stone stuff when the band doesn’t have anyone particular they want to do it — at this point I’ve been in touch with the label in a professional capacity for the better part of 20 years, so it’s by no means out of the blue that this came about — and as I noted when the album was announced early last month, it was kind of a confused process. Overall I’m satisfied with the result, but if I had it to do over again, there are a few things I might change.

Here’s the original bio — I’ll put it in PR wire blue for ease of organization, which this post is already sorely lacking:

Shun are a four-piece founded by Matt Whitehead (guitar/vocals), Scott Brandon (guitar/backing vocals), Jeff Baucom (bass) and Rob Elzey (drums), who recorded the nine tracks of their self-titled debut in isolation prior to turning them over to the esteemed J. Robbins at the Magpie Cage (Clutch, The Sword, so many others) for mixing and Dan Coutant at Sun Room Audio for mastering.

Astute Small Stone Records loyalists will recognize Whitehead from his work in Throttlerod. He’s not alone in pedigree. Brandon has spent most of his life as a working musician, producer and DJ in Detroit, Ann Arbor, MI, and Chicago. Baucom, a veteran player in his own right, played together briefly with Whitehead in a band called Made of Machines. And Elzey has toured the world as a tech for the likes of Hatebreed and Unearth, among many others.

With this varied experience behind them, Shun work quickly to establish a distinct identity throughout this first LP, incorporating styles from melodic noise rock and heavy riffs to atmospheric largesse and contemplative, patient construction.

Having recorded in covid-isolation means drums and bass captured in Elzey’s garage and Brandon’s guitars recorded in his basement studio. Whitehead’s guitar was recorded with amps tucked into his bedroom closet and vocals also tracked in his house. A guest spot from Lamb of God’s Mark Morton on the penultimate “Heese” required no studio stop-by. But it also means songs put together over a period of months rather than days.

It’s to the band’s credit that Shun exists at all, let alone that it is neither disjointed nor wanting for urgency. A forceful and intermittently aggressive offering, it balances mood and intensity of expression throughout its songs. And while the record is coming out at a time when the band can’t get out and support it on stage as they otherwise might, the fact that they are pushing ahead with the release speaks as well to the need to say what they’re saying.

Shun’s style manages to be thoughtful and even sometimes proggy without giving in to self-indulgence or pretense, and their debut offers high-grade, dynamic, melodic heavy rock that resounds with purpose, taking familiar elements and pushing them beyond simplistic genre confines.

Right? Fine? Yeah. Not much more than that though. You get it through that the band is guitarist/vocalist Scott Brandon, vocalist/guitarist Matt Whitehead — and that the latter is a veteran of Small Stone staple act Throttlerod — as well as bassist Jeff Baucom and drummer Rob Elzey. You get that Shun, the nine-track/41-minute debut long-player, was tracked in isolation but ultimately mixed by J. Robbins, who for sure is a presence in the material despite not having actually captured the sounds himself so much as balanced them (and added some percussion). You get that it’s heavy. You get the essentials.

What you don’t really get from the bio I wrote is the character of the songs, which is pretty god damned important when it comes to actually hearing the record. You don’t get the latent post-hardcore influence in “Sleepwalking” or the emotive crux behind the payoff of “At Most.” You don’t get the progressive sensibility in the chugging “Machina” or the churning tension in album centerpiece “Undone,” the airy melodic float in the later “A Wooden House.” You kind of just get the barebones essentials.

shun

I stand by my work — what choice do I have? — but I’m not thrilled with it, and it’s been kind of eating at me as it probably should if one gives a shit about what they do. Shun‘s Shun is ultimately more than just the sum of its parts. Even as opener “Run” smooths out its intense initial push into atmospheric pastoralism, it’s clear the four-piece — who again, built the record from scratch in COVID isolation — have more multifaceted ambitions than “here’s some dudes rockin’ riffs.” You get that Mark Morton from Lamb of God shows up on “Heese.” But you don’t get that it’s really the melodic character of the subsequent closer “Once Again,” the vague, later-’90s alternative-everything impression of the way the thickness of the bass foretells the sway that caps the record.

It’s teeny-tiny stakes, I know. Nobody reads band bios, even less now that they come through in email rather than wrapped around a CD in the mail. But as you listen to the track premiere above, I hope more of the band’s energy comes through than might through just seeing a phrase like “styles from melodic noise rock and heavy riffs to atmospheric largesse and contemplative, patient construction.” I’m not saying that’s not true, but sometimes when there’s a lot of basic info you need to include, it becomes like Joe Friday doing the telling: Just the facts, ma’am.

And there’s more appeal here than just the facts. There’s passion and force of delivery and a maturity of sound that comes through even though the band is a new entity. Maybe you can dig where they’re coming from and maybe you can’t — the punk roots are dug deep, but they’re there — but there’s a depth to Shun‘s songs that goes toward making an identity for the band beyond what the members have done before, and whether it’s a plague-born one-off or a continuing project, that’s worth preserving.

Shun, Shun (2021)

Shun on Facebook

Shun on Instagram

Shun on Bandcamp

Small Stone website

Small Stone on Facebook

Small Stone on Twitter

Small Stone on Instagram

Small Stone on Bandcamp

Kozmik Artifactz website

Kozmik Artifactz on Facebook

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Crypt Monarch to Release Debut Album on Electric Valley Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Info’s pretty light here, but so it goes. I’m not sure what ‘necromantik’ means when it comes right down to how a band actually sounds, beyond perhaps that they’ve got some cultish themes happening in their work, but kudos to Costa Rica’s Crypt Monarch on getting picked up by Electric Valley Records for their debut album. No clue when that’s coming out, or what it’s called, or what it might sound like, but sometimes in life you have to accept the mystery and I guess this is one of those times. Heavy riffs? Yeah, probably, going from the description below. Seems like a safe assumption.

I don’t know much about the heavy underground in Costa Rica, so that’s interesting in itself, as Electric Valley continues to extend its international reach beyond the label’s native Italy. There’s one audio clip up on Crypt Monarch‘s Instagram, just a riffy snippet, that I’ve embedded below — the code is a wreck, you should see it — but nothing on their Bandcamp as of this post. I’d expect that to change in short order. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the whole album, whatever it’s called, is done or at least close to it, considering how difficult it is for a brand new band to get picked up on the strength of their existence alone even in these vinyl-happy times.

But the record will come when it comes. Here’s the signing announcement in the meantime:

crypt monarch electric valley records

Electric Valley Records is proud to announce the signing of the Necromantik Stoner Doom band… Crypt Monarch

Crypt Monarch is a Necromantik Stoner Doom band that delivers malevolent riffs in crushing intensity, groove-oozing atmosphere and psychedelic pathways. The eerie lair has been disturbed, the doomed ruler invoked, and chained for slaughter. The Costa Rican based act formed by Jose Pablo Rodríguez (Guitars), JC Zuniga (Drums/Vocals) and Christopher de Haan (Bass/Vocals), built a monolith of séance infused riffage and fuzz fueled grooves. Crypt Monarch was formed mid 2020, featuring members of Age of the Wolf and VoidOath.

FFO: Acid King, Sleep, Belzebong, Conan

Stay Tuned

https://www.facebook.com/cryptmonarch/
https://www.instagram.com/cryptmonarch/
https://cryptmonarch.bandcamp.com/
http://electricvalleyrecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/electricvalleyrecords
https://www.instagram.com/electricvalleyrecord

 

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jesse Neal of American Dharma

Posted in Questionnaire on May 6th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Jesse Neal of American Dharma

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jesse Neal of American Dharma

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

If the question is within the context of music, I am a musician. To say that I am a guitar player isn’t quite accurate, since I play drums and bass as well. I also sing a little bit. In American Dharma, my role changes depending on the song. We have a pretty loose structure in that way. If one of us comes up with something on any instrument and it gets us grooving, then away we go! As far as how I came into that… I guess it comes from a life time of being captivated by music and wanting to make as much as I could.

Describe your first musical memory.

There are a ton of memories to sift through here. It’s pretty to hard to say which is first. Music has always been a big part of my life. There is one defining moment though that inspired me to pick up guitar in the first place. I was maybe 13 or 14 and MTV brought back Headbanger’s Ball. The first video they played was “One” by Metallica. I was captivated from the start, but hearing Kirk’s lead is what really struck me. I can remember thinking after the video was over that I needed to learn how to play that song.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

That’s a tough one. I’ve been to a lot of shows and listened to innumerable albums, but I’d have to say my favorite musical memory is seeing The Postal Service live at Merriweather Post Pavilion with my wife. Not only did they put on a great performance, but the lightshow was incredible as well. The best part of it all though was seeing my wife (who does not do crowds) come out of her shell and not just experience but be joy and happiness.

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

There have been a lot of times in my life where things did not turn out to be how I thought they would. People showed their true colors, systems fell apart, childhood dreams wound up being almost unachievable. So I guess through all of that I learned to not have any solid expectations or beliefs, and to just see and accept things as they are. Don’t hold on to anything too tightly, for you never know when it might go away. Kind of the whole “attachment is suffering” thing.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I suppose it ultimately leads to being better than you were yesterday. I don’t mean that strictly in terms of skill. It also encompasses song writing, vision, and a reduction of ego.

How do you define success?

That’s something unique to each person. To me, it’s leading a comfortable life with the ones you love. It’s taking care of business but still have enough time and money left over to make memories. If the question is how do I define success as a musician… I’ll let you know once I find it.

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

I can’t think of any specific instance where I regretted seeing what was in front of me. I saw my extended family fall apart in my early teens, if that counts. Watching relationships through blood fall away… that’s something.

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

An album that goes gold! That would be cool, but in all seriousness I want to make an album that means something to someone other than myself. An album that might inspire some kid to take up playing, or help ground someone in a moment of anger. Maybe an album that helps people realize we are more alike than we are different.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

I think that art (whatever form it may take), is meant to express things that words often fail to. There’s a certain “nowness” to every piece. It shows what the artist was feeling at that specific time. Sometimes, art can transcend a specific experience or thought, and be an expression of something universal that we all feel. It’s something that binds us all.

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

The end of Covid. There has been so much anger and fighting since this thing started. Whether you’re for masks or not, we all have to get through this thing together. I guess I just miss when people seemed to get along and enjoy life more than they do now.

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American Dharma, Cosmosis (2020)

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