The Obelisk Questionnaire: Pat Harrington of Geezer

Posted in Questionnaire on January 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

pat harrington

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Pat Harrington

How did you come to do what you do?

I guess in relation to my current projects, that being the band Geezer and the Electric Beard Of Doom podcast, I ended up here by finally embracing that which makes me happy. As a musician and creative person, I spent too many years falling into the trap of chasing the brass ring; the now antiquated idea that one has to fit into a certain formula or jump through some ever-changing hoops just to get the approval of some gatekeeper who then deems you worthy of being a part of the mainstream music scene. Much like being knighted by some boy king who doesn’t even know how to hold a sword correctly.

Okay, now that I’ve used up all my metaphors… I love heavy music, I love the blues, I love creating music, I love listening to music and I love sharing music with other likeminded individuals. Thanks in large part to this wonderful underground heavy scene that we have here, I get to do all that now… my way… with no apologies. The fact that people have been so receptive to the band and the podcast is validation of a lifetime spent worshiping the riff.

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was about three or four, I remember being put to bed by a babysitter, my next door neighbor Joanie Maddie. She used to put on music to help me go to sleep. One of the albums she used to put on was Led Zeppelin IV and I distinctly remember hearing “Stairway to Heaven.” Sometimes when I hear that song, I can almost relive those moments. By the time I was five, I was getting KISS albums for Christmas. By the time I was eight, I was walking around school singing Doors songs.

Music has always been a huge part of my life. Thanks Joanie!

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I’ve been lucky enough to have done some substantial touring of both the US and parts of Europe with my old band SLUNT. We toured with Marilyn Manson, Motörhead and C.O.C. We even opened for Paul Stanley on a solo tour. I got to meet some of my heroes, get loaded with some of them and geek out about music. I got to travel more than ever before in my life. I got to play music in front of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people virtually every night of the week with people that I truly loved. Nothing can compare to the feeling of freedom I felt during those times, I hope to feel that freedom once again.

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

I play heavy rock music in America in the 21st Century. I’m 42 years old. I have a wife, a small child, a mortgage and an unruly dog. My beliefs get tested every damn day.

The point is, being an artist is a lot of fun, but it is extremely hard to stay committed to it in today’s world. Just the fact that I even made it this far and I’m still inspired to be a better musician and create music that I dig: that’s the biggest test of all.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

In a perfect world, artistic progression should lead to enlightenment, to empathy, to community, to a better world and a sense of togetherness. Art should evoke emotions, it should make people angry, it should comfort you when you hurt and it should be a joyous expression.

As we can see today, many people are afraid of art, they literally are trying to kill it. This is because it is a threat to power structures and false ideologies. It is a way of communicating ideas without using literal translations that can be exposed and distorted. Art ultimately leads to truth. We need that now more than ever.

How do you define success?

Happiness.

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

I could’ve done without those ass-tulip videos. And I NEVER look at those videos nowadays of people squeezing zits or have spiders crawling out of their legs. Seriously, who the fuck watches those things?!?

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

Not to be crass, but I’d like to create an artistic career that has some kind of sustainable income. I don’t need to be rich and famous, but I’d like to at least be able to give my wife a little relief from the financial burden of being married to a musician.

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

My wife and I have been talking about getting a van, RV or Airstream, taking the kid and do some extended traveling across the country. He’s two now, so I’d like him to be a little older so he will at least remember it, so maybe in a year or two. I loved being on the road and traveling all across this country of ours, being able to share that feeling with my family would be amazing.

Geezer, Gage (2014/2015)

Geezer on Thee Facebooks

Electric Beard of Doom

Geezer on Bandcamp

STB Records

Ripple Music

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rob Miller of Amebix

Posted in Questionnaire on July 14th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

A quarter century after solidifying their legacy as one of the foremost arbiters of crust with 1985’s Arise! and 1987’s Monolith full-lengths, as well as 1983’s clarion No Sanctuary, the raw, pummeling and thoughtfully raging force that was Amebix did what seemed for a long time to be unimaginable: They put out another album. Bringing together founding brothers Rob “The Baron Rockin Von Aphid” and Christian “Stig” Miller with drummer Roy Mayorga (ex-Soulfly, Ozzy Osbourne, etc.) , 2011’s Sonic Mass (review here) was above all unexpected. A metallic turn from Amebix‘s original era that had been heralded somewhat by the 2010 Redux EP that reworked three older selections, Sonic Mass caught Amebix devotees off guard, but found the band’s lack of compromise and willful self-direction more than intact. Over 30 years on from their first demo, they still refused stagnation.

Rob Miller is known outside of music for his quality craftsmanship and classic sword-making for a company he founded during Amebix‘s long absence called Castle Keep. Based out of the Isle of Skye in the north of Scotland, Miller took time out this winter to reflect on his work.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rob Miller

How did you come to do what you do?

In 1991 I arrived on Skye after a motorcycle accident in Bath, Somerset. At that point in my life I was once again without a home and at the end of a bad relationship. The accident broke my arm and trashed my bike, I was left with nothing but the tattered clothes I stood up in.

I decided that, as I could not return to work in the night shift job I had, I would head to Scotland to see my folks after many years without much contact. Skye was very different, a harsh and brutal landscape in winter yet also wide open and free. I moved up a few weeks later, bike and belongings in a van and started out by working in Hotels as a waiter and kitchen staff to bring money in.

Out of the blue a cheque appeared from my insurance, compensation for the accident. I had learnt to make the best of opportunity when it arises and decided to look into something I had always had a fascination with, swords. This was before the internet so I started by writing to antiquarian bookshops looking for books and manuals on Arms and armour, meanwhile buying a few rudimentary tools and beginning the process of learning how to be a smith. It took some time and a lot of mistakes, 23 years later I am established as one of the better Sword makers worldwide. By no means the best, but accomplished to a degree of which I am quite proud.

Describe your first musical memory.

Radio at my grandparents’, “Lilly the Pink” was the song. I was growing up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s so became tuned in to glam rock, T-Rex, some stuff like Joe Cocker, The Move, Procul Harum. The music you hear at an early age tends to go deeper than a lot subsequently.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Personally, playing the [Great American Music Hall] in San Francisco. The whole place was heaving, alive and electric, band and audience totally in sync with one another.

Live, (coff) Manowar in Bristol circa 1983. Mercyful Fate had dropped off the tour and the crowds simply did not come. They played in front of maybe 200 people in a 5,000-capacity Hall, and gave it everything they had. I learnt a lot that night about people who really believe in what they do and the shallow world.

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

The past two years have seen most of my personal beliefs tested to breaking point. I have believed in the basic goodness of most people and that has been proved wrong too close to home.

However, I think we can get trapped in other people’s dramas and feed the lie, sometimes you need to step aside and let the river flow by. I have learned how to start again many times. ;)

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Hopefully to a perennial body of work. In one form or another, there is a compulsion in the artist to strive, and a constant dissatisfaction with the work. This is what keeps us going. The work itself must become the very highest expression of yourself. The medium is not important.

How do you define success?

Inner calm, confidence. The conquest of Fear and doubt.

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

Pineapple Express and another couple of dozen stupid fucking Hollywood movies that have effectively wasted precious hours of this life.

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

I would like to create one truly great song, indisputably great on every level, something that would affect actual change in the listener. There are only a few dozen instances that exist, that is true Art.

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

Here on Skye it is wintertime. The land dies and we lose touch with nature, we forget the signs and signals, the internal language of the Spring. I look forward to that. Here, we have five months of winter. When it is through there is a very real feeling of having been reborn once more. The cycle begins again. Life is neither good nor bad. Life just is.

Amebix, Live at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA, 2009

Castle Keep on Thee Facebooks

Amebix’s website

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Dave Chandler of Saint Vitus

Posted in Questionnaire on February 17th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

In many ways, Dave Chandler and Saint Vitus are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. Since founding the band as Tyrant in 1979, Chandler has been Vitus‘ principle songwriter and lyricist, presiding over some of American doom’s most essential works in albums like 1984’s Saint Vitus, 1986’s Born too Late and 1990’s V on SST and Hellhound Records. When Vitus were once again laid to rest after a 2003 reunion, Chandler formed Debris Inc. with Trouble‘s Ron Holzner on bass and a host of drummers, including Henry Vasquez, who’d later replace Armando Acosta in Vitus after they got together again in 2009 for a reunion that has, to date, stuck, resulting in tours around the world and their first studio outing since 1995’s Die Healing, the 2012 Season of Mist release Lillie: F-65 (review here), a tour de force of Vitus‘ trademark no-frills, no-letup doom that only served to demonstrate how many others in their wake have taken their influence but not managed to capture the same vibe — that’s not to say “magic” — that makes Saint Vitus wholly distinct in their approach.

In 2012, Vitus officially released the limited Marbles in the Moshpit, a former bootleg live album on vinyl, and they’ve worked with Scion A/V on two releases, 2012’s Live EP and a split single with The Casualties. A stage presence like none other, Chandler lives in New Orleans and reportedly has songs in progress for a follow-up to Lillie: F-65. As anyone who’s ever read his lyrics knows, he’s a master of word economy, and that’s as true as ever in his answers to The Obelisk Questionnaire.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Dave Chandler

How did you come to do what you do?

I learned how to play music very young in grade school and it eventually progressed to rock and roll.

Describe your first musical memory.

Playing the coronet, small trumpet, in the grade school band.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

That would have to be when we headlined the second stage at Hellfest in 2009.

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

When we stuck to our guns and played what we wanted during what we called “the punk rock wars” within the first two years when we were signed with SST. Eventually we gained the respect of the people that didn’t like us because we refused change.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

That depends on oneself, but in can lead to a betterment of what you create.

How do you define success?

If you are happy with what you are doing, regardless of what it is, and you are happy with your life… you are successful.

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

Dead bodies on the street.

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

Our next album.

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

The legalization of marijuana throughout the United States.

Saint Vitus on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Nick DiSalvo of Elder

Posted in Questionnaire on January 20th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Massachusetts trio Elder made their debut in a split with Queen Elephantine in 2006 and have since gone on to establish one of the more forceful approaches in the next generation of American heavy rock, melding heavy psychedelic influences amid deeply weighted cycles of riffing. Comprised of the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, Elder‘s debut, a 2008 self-titled, found them embarking on a creative discovery of their sound, already plenty engaging with a strong nod to the stonerisms of Sleep, but it was with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) that the three-piece made good on the potential they showed their first time out. Both albums were released through MeteorCity, and in 2012, a two-song EP followed via Armageddon Shop called Spires Burn/Release (streamed here) that pushed their sonic individualism even further and resulted in their most distinguished songwriting yet.

Touring in the Eastern and Midwestern US followed in 2012, and in 2013, Elder joined forces with Pet the Preacher for a run of European dates that included the Roadburn festival — the LP version of their set is due soon, but it’s available now to download. After spending much of the summer continuing to write their third album and playing local shows, the band went on hiatus in August so that DiSalvo would be able to spend an academic year abroad, teaching English in Essen, Germany, from where Elder will pick up in April to join the lineups for Desertfest in Berlin and in London.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Nick DiSalvo

How did you come to do what you do?

I discovered punk rock and started developing my own taste in music when I was about 11 or 12. My brother can take most of the credit for that. I was electrified by the music, the energy, I think it resonated with me in my own youthful exuberance. Of course I wanted to emulate my new idols as every child does, so I got a drum set and a guitar as soon as I had the money and started learning to play. I think there’s not a huge gap between any of the offshoots from rock n’ roll and it was a matter of time before I was introduced to doom and stoner rock. The rest is history.

Describe your first musical memory.

I only have a collective memory of my first musical experiences, the chronology is rather foggy… My childhood best friend and I used to hang out all of the time and write short songs and record them on a four-track recorder I got for Christmas one year. Our “band” probably recorded at least 150 songs, sadly only a few dozen ever made it to the cassette-dubber. Perhaps that sort of “quantity-over-quality” mentality played a role in me adapting quite the opposite attitude nowadays, attempting to compose long, epic songs.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

This is a real toss-up. The first thing that comes to mind is Elder’s Roadburn appearance last April during our first European tour. I had visited Roadburn twice in the past and always viewed the festival as a landmark event (Emissions from the Monolith was, alas, before my time) for the scene, so being able to play was a real honor. The room was packed to the walls and brimming with energy; that was my only gig thus far which really seemed to be as long as the blink of an eye, that’s how adrenaline-filled it was for me.

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

Ambivalence has been a major theme of my life ever since I’ve been old enough to think for myself. I can’t think of any firmly held beliefs which aren’t subject to constant criticism and consideration within my own mind.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

In my ideal world, progression leads to the full realization of the artist’s potential, the discovery of the “true” artistic self. What that means in less pretentious (musical) terms is finding “one’s own sound.” I guess for me, progression means both artistic development and a honing of one’s craft to best express ideas.

How do you define success?

I suppose success is the feeling of having accomplished your goals, and so that really depends on the goals you’ve set for yourself. I think that the perception of success gets twisted over time, however. The goals I set for myself musically years ago have all long since been met; I used to daydream about having my own record, and then I could die happy! Now with every step forward there’s something new to daydream about. I guess that’s one of those American values that have, for better or for worse, been instilled in me, always try to keep moving forward, climbing the ladder, etc. Success should be when you’ve reached happiness.

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

Does it sound too clichéd to say that every experience is an enrichment of the character in some way? No, in all seriousness, I think I’ve been fortunate in life and haven’t witnessed anything I would wish to un-see, except for a few unsavory internet videos.

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

I can’t wait to get into the studio and start recording the next Elder album. It’s still being written but is inching ever closer to completion. For me, this band, which started off as a free-time project between friends, has really become my baby and the outlet for all of my own creative expression. We’ve been working on the full-length successor to Dead Roots Stirring for many years now and bringing it into physical existence will be an enormous weight off of all of our shoulders.

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

I’m living abroad at the moment and am very much looking forward to returning to my friends and loved ones. Other than that, most of the joy in my life is derived from playing and enjoying music, so I can’t comment further!

Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013

Elder on Thee Facebooks

Elder’s Live at Roadburn at Burning World Records

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Darryl Shepard of Black Pyramid, The Scimitar and Blackwolfgoat

Posted in Questionnaire on December 17th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

It’s a long list of bands that have played host at one point or another to guitarist Darryl Shepard. Having cut his teeth in outfits like Slaughter Shack and Slapshot, Shepard served as guitarist in Milligram and Roadsaw in the late ’90s and early ’00s, eventually emerging with his own (mostly) instrumental outfit, Hackman, releasing two albums on Small Stone. Already working in his own drone project, Blackwolfgoat — the second Blackwolfgoat album, Dronolith, was released on CD through The Maple Forum — he joined Black Pyramid on vocals and guitar after their second album and 2013’s Adversarial (review here) resulted on Hydro-Phonic, a record that took Black Pyramid on a tour of Europe that included a stop at Hellfest in France, where the above photo was taken by Nicolas Dessables. When further lineup issues cropped up with Black Pyramid drummer Clay Neely relocating, Shepard and bassist Dave Gein formed The Scimitar, whose debut LP is due in 2014.

A third Blackwolfgoat is also set for release next year (in-studio here), and The Scimitar are scheduled to play The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May and will reportedly have other sporadic shows supporting the album.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Darryl Shepard

How did you come to do what you do?

I started playing music at a young age. In fourth grade I joined the school band, just as something to do. I originally wanted to play the saxophone, mainly because it looked cool, but they ran out of those so I picked the trumpet instead. Before that, we used to play the recorder in music class in school, and I always liked music class, so I guess that’s really why I joined the school band. I stayed with it right up until I graduated high school. When I was 14 or 15 I decided I wanted to play drums, but I didn’t have anywhere to put a drumset, so again I went with my second choice, the guitar. I just was drawn to music at an early age. Even though my parents weren’t musical my Dad was always playing music around the house, stuff like Earth, Wind and Fire, and he used to watch the TV show Soul Train all the time, and I loved that. And the Monkees, I watched that show religiously as a little kid. Once I graduated high school I put the trumpet down and focused only on the guitar, for the sole reason that I thought girls liked guitar players more than trumpet players. Not even kidding at all. I don’t think I knew who Chet Baker was at that point. So yeah, it’s all because of the Monkees and Earth, Wind and Fire, I guess.

Describe your first musical memory.

I think the very first musical memory I have involves the Monkees. I remember there was a birthday party at our house for me when I was probably five or six, and I distinctly remember dancing around and singing along to “No Time” by the Monkees off of Headquarters. I loved that song. And I remember all the other kids clapping and yelling when I finished my little act. That’s probably the first time that I did any type of “performing” in public, that I can remember. I couldn’t play an instrument at that point but I gave it my all. I was definitely hooked at that point.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

It would have to be playing with Black Pyramid at Hellfest in 2013. There have been other great shows, Milligram opening for Kyuss Lives! is one, but playing Hellfest was just a great time. We had an amazing slot and a long set, and the crowd was really into it. Soundchecking while Sleep were hanging out and talking to those guys and just feeling like we were part of this really awesome thing was a great feeling. There was a show earlier on that tour where it just sounded like complete crap onstage and I wasn’t happy at all about it, but all I had to do was think about playing Hellfest a couple of days later and it got me through that show. It just felt really good to feel like what we were doing was being appreciated by people who were fans of the music and who really cared about it. For me, it really does make a huge difference to have people enjoy what you’re creating, to GET IT, and Hellfest was a perfect example of that on a large scale.

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

I would say just recently, my belief in myself and that I would play music no matter what, that’s been tested. I’ve always believed that no matter my station in life or no matter what my circumstances were, I would always, without a doubt, play music. And recently that’s been tested, because I’m older now, and I have health issues to stay on top of, and I can’t go sinking money into musical endeavors with no financial payback like I used to be able to. I just can’t. I need a steady job, mainly for the health insurance. I can’t survive without insurance, due to my heart problems. I’ll always need to go back to the hospital and have procedures done and have the battery in my defibrillator changed for the rest of my life, things like that. That all costs a lot of money, and I wouldn’t be able to afford any of that without the insurance I get through my job. So I’ve really questioned if I can go on playing music in bands and how much longer this can continue without interfering  with my “normal” life outside of music. It’s not even that I don’t want to play music anymore, it’s that I have a regular life and a way of living that I need to maintain, and I cannot have music interfere with that. I used to be very idealistic about that, thinking that music would always be the thing that I would do no matter what, but lately I’ve been questioning that a lot and trying to figure out how to make it all work.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I feel that it leads to places that you’ve wanted to go to but haven’t yet arrived at. When I graduated high school I was thinking about going to Berklee School of Music. I had to go in for an interview, and the person I had to see asked me what I wanted from my guitar playing. I told him I wanted to be able to play whatever I thought of playing right as I was thinking it, that it would just  be automatic.  I’m not talking about notes per se, but whole ideas, I wanted to think of something musically and then just be able to execute it. He didn’t seem too impressed by that, by the way. And I didn’t go to Berklee, mainly because they wanted me to go as a trumpet major and I only cared about guitar at that point, and there are a 10 million guitar players at Berklee but only a handful of trumpet players, at least back then that’s how it was. All shredders. But I feel that after all these years of playing, after all the experiences I’ve had, I basically do that now in  Blackwolfgoat. It’s all been a progression from the time I learned to play the main riff of  “Smoke on the Water” on one string to now. I’ve played in hardcore bands,  metal bands, total free-form improv noise bands, solo acoustic shows, cover bands, all of this stuff, and picked up something at every stop along the way, and it’s all in there now. And it’s been a progression, for sure. There’s still stuff I want to play that I haven’t quite gotten the hold of yet, but I’m looking forward to getting there.

How do you define success?

Man, that is a question with a lot of answers. For me, success is a few things. Sitting on my couch and coming up with a really cool riff that I dig is total success. There’s actually a feeling I get when I come up with something I really dig where I don’t even care if anyone else hears it, I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just completely into the moment and the sound of it RIGHT THEN, and if I get off on that then it’s a success. Self-satisfaction is the greatest success of all. Of course, getting music out there for people to hear and accomplishing that the way you want in and of itself is success. I’ve had recording sessions where something sounded so fucking awesome or so cool that again, it didn’t even matter if anyone outside the studio heard it, I was hearing it right there and then, and I get that same feeling of self-satisfaction. I’d call that success.

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

Probably the attacks on 9/11 in New York. I was in New York then and it was just a horrifying and shocking thing. The main thing I wish I had never seen was all the people going back to work just days after the attacks, and they were going to work in clouds of soot and smoke, and people were wearing masks to cover their mouths and just trudging back to work in all this destruction. It was a heavy thing to see. People just going about their lives and trying to work to make a living, make their rent, being attacked and then going back to work while the dust was still in the air. No rest at all, just back to the grind.

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

As far as something musical? I’m still trying to record that perfect album that’s eight songs in 40 minutes. And every song is cool and the whole thing is solid and stands as a whole and also as as individual pieces. A classic album in the sense of what bands used to do in the ’70. I don’t care about a 30-song album in 20 minutes, or a two-song, hour-long album. I really want to create my own version of a classic rock album that fits into traditional musical values, things like 40-minute albums. That, to me, is musical perfection. Again, that’s something that I’m working towards, making progress. Very few bands write classic albums like I’ve described. It can be done, some bands have done it, but yeah, I just want to create a perfect heavy rock album at some point. My own version of  Zeppelin IV or Master of Reality.

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

At some point I’m going to publish my book, Black Thanksgiving, and I’m really looking forward to that. Even if it’s self-published or if someone else helps publish it,  it’s gonna come out at some point. And I’m looking forward to having some time, some free time away from music and everything that entails, all the things that  go into being in a band, having that time to really organize and get the stories together in a coherent manner that flows and putting it altogether officially. These stories have nothing to do with music directly or playing in a band, they’re not “band on tour” stories or like a musical diary or whatever, they’re stand alone  stories that have nothing to do with music, which is what I set out to do. Believe it or not, there is life outside of music. I have an entirely different life outside of the band and outside the realm of music. And I dig that, a lot.

The Scimitar, “Babylon (Rough Mix)”

Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp

Black Pyramid on Thee Facebooks

The Scimitar on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jeff Martin of Lo-Pan

Posted in Questionnaire on December 12th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Ohio fuzz rockers Lo-Pan have been among the underground’s hardest touring bands for the last several years. In 2011, they reissued their 2009 sophomore outing, Sasquanaut (review here), through Small Stone, and followed it with Salvador (review here), a progressive and soulful look at the shape of riff to come. Last Fall, touring alongside High on Fire and Goatwhore showed increasing profile in the public eye for the four-piece, and stints alongside Torche and Weedeater have continued their momentum in 2013. Though he’s generally found positioned behind drummer Jesse Bartz on stage, vocalist Jeff Martin‘s powerful voice has been essential in pushing Lo-Pan beyond the confines of genre.

Last weekend, the band’s practice space in Columbus was robbed and they, among many others, lost gear in the burglary (info here). Prior to that, Martin answered The Obelisk Questionnaire as follows:

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jeff Martin

How did you come to do what you do?

I often wonder that myself. If someone told me at 17 that this would be where I was at nearly 35, I wouldn’t have believed them. I look back and I wonder how it all happened, sometimes. I met this person who introduced me to this person who left me and another person came into my life and whamo… Here I am. Life flies by and you sometimes just have to marvel at it later.

Describe your first musical memory.

My mother was a music teacher and choir director when I was growing up, so music was just always around during my childhood. She gave piano lessons and voice lessons at our house, so the halls were always filled with the sound. Probably my earliest memory would be my mom singing me to sleep. In particular I recall that she would sing “O’ Danny Boy” to me while sitting on the edge of my bed. It always did the trick. My mom has a beautiful singing voice.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

The high point thus far would have to be December 22, 2012. My band played in San Francisco at Slim’s with High on Fire and Goatwhore. It was the end of a 45 day tour for us and it was a sold-out show in one of the best clubs in the country. We played really well for a packed house and it just felt fantastic. That was a special night.

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

When I was in high school I believed that the government had the best interest of its citizens at heart. Does that answer your question?

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I suppose it depends on the person. With someone like David Bowie I would imagine it leads to free expression and artistic respect that puts him in the upper echelon of musicians that have ever walked the earth. For someone like me it can lead to despair and total frustration. Progression does not always denote growth. Serial killers progress and their crimes become even more horrid. Artistic progression can lead to unfocused blather if it isn’t tempered by rational argument at some point of the process.

How do you define success?

If you attempt something and it goes as you hoped… that’s success. In any field, any size project. Did you accomplish your goals? Yes? Then you are successful. There are many rungs on that ladder, though. Incremental success is something most people have to come to terms with. Measured success, as opposed to complete success must sometimes be enough.

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

One time I came in contact with a musician that I have idolized for many years and he was a total mess. It was gross. He was rude and awful. It changed my opinion of him and of his music. A total bummer.

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

I would like to learn more tools and fabrication of different materials. I would like to have a talent for building furniture, or other items.

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

I’m looking forward to finishing and actually performing a comedy routine that I have been working on for some time.

Lo-Pan, “Chichen Itza” official video

Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Neil Fallon of Clutch

Posted in Questionnaire on December 11th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

For over two decades, Maryland four-piece Clutch have served as one of heavy rock and roll’s most reliable stalwarts, with constant touring, inimitable groove and unmatched stage presence. In March 2013, they issued their 10th LP, Earth Rocker (review here), through their own Weathermaker Music imprint and began yet another tour cycle that’s ongoing now with their annual holiday run impending and more winter dates in the US before they head to Soundwave in Australia in February 2014 and headline Desertfest Berlin in April. This summer, frontman Neil Fallon came off the road to have spinal surgery, and it was the first time in memory that Clutch canceled shows. By September, he was back out for makeup dates, supporting Earth Rocker to Clutch‘s expanding and loyal fanbase.

They’re among the most consistently-covered bands around these parts (check out another interview with Fallon here, and that’s not the first), but that’s for good reason. Enjoy:

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Neil Fallon

How did you come to do what you do?

JP, Dan, and I had a band in high school. We parted ways after graduation, but JP and Dan met up with Tim and started another band. After having booked a show, the singer they were working with had a scheduling conflict. The guys gave me a call and asked me to fill in. I’ve been filling in ever since. A scab for 22 years.

Describe your first musical memory.

I remember playing my dad’s 45s at a very young age. My dad was mostly into new folk music like Bob Dylan, Emmy Lou Harris and Joan Baez. He did, however, have one bit of psychedelia that made quite an impression on me. The name of the band was The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. They did a cover of Zappa’s “Help I’m a Rock.” I recall listening to that song on headphones and getting thoroughly freaked out at a very tender age. I listened to it over and over again until that track went white from replay.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

It really is a toss up between the Bad Brains in ’88 and Fugazi in ’90 (if memory serves). I’ve been lucky enough to see countless concerts of all types, but those two bands made their marks when I was just cutting my teeth on live music. I think those instances were revelations in that I realized a live performance could elevate the crowd into a religious experience.

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

A few months back I had some surgery done on my spine. Since it requires general anesthesia the nurse is required to ask about living wills and religious beliefs. Being asked to describe one’s belief system in just a few words while high on morphine is certainly a test. I’m pretty sure I failed miserably.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I think most artists, regardless of their medium, are trying to discover the unknown. Artistic redundancy is a bit like a chasing your own tail. And the creative process can be very frustrating at times. But the frustration is part of the journey. Nothing worthwhile is easy.

Speaking for myself I think artistic progression is always an education. Any artist who feels they have mastered their craft is no longer an artist. Much more can be learned from a failed attempt than repeating a familiar success.

How do you define success?

I get to do what I love for a living. Other than all the mundane things that a day might require, I am only obligated to do two things: perform music or write music. I can’t think of a more fortunate position to be in.

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

I’ve seen quite a number of fatal car wrecks that I wish I had not seen.

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

A novel.

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

My wife is making posole for dinner. I am looking forward to that!

Clutch, “Earth Rocker” Live in NJ, Oct. 17, 2012

Clutch on Thee Facebooks

Clutch’s website

Weathermaker Music

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tanner Olson of Across Tundras

Posted in Questionnaire on December 10th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Since releasing their Divides demo in 2004, Across Tundras have worked intensely and at a prolific clip to translate the spirit of open-spaced Americana into heavy and often psychedelic rock. It’s a stylistic turn the influence of which is beginning to be felt in newcomer acts even now, and Across Tundras are by no means resting on the laurels of their early work. After issuing Sage (review here) through Neurot in 2011, guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson formed an imprint called Electric Relics, and this year the band released an album of the same name (review here), as well as a split with Lark’s Tongue (streamed here). Olson has also set about amassing a considerable solo catalog, performing under the moniker T.G. Olson and recording experimental and folk material at Ramble Hill Farm outside of Nashville, Tennessee, at a rate such that in between sending him the questionnaire and getting back his answers, his November release, The Bad Lands to Cross (discussed here), already had a December companion in Hell’s Half Acre.

Olson‘s strong connections to land and memory come through in his answers below. Please enjoy:

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tanner Olson

How did you come to do what you do?

As far back as my memory goes I can only remember being concerned with music and playing outdoors. Not much has changed. I was singing along to The Eagles’ “Take it Easy” by three years old and getting a good laugh out of my family. My brother Dusty and I would spend our evenings calling the local radio station and requesting songs, then dubbing them to tape when they came on. I could care less about people “stealing” music online because that is how we got our music education back in the early ’80s living in rural South Dakota. We memorized every song we could get our ears on and pretty soon that inspiration led to writing our own tunes and it has never stopped. Songs are so much more than money and the entitled egos the drive for cash spawns. If people want it they should have it to feed their souls. If someone has a few bucks to throw down or come out to see a show and buy merch that is amazing, but not required. The more I disassociate from the “business” the happier I am. Music has been a constant and always evolving journey in life. It is inherent in every one of us and a universal language.

Describe your first musical memory.

So many! The few that really stick out though was my Dad singing John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” when he would go to work and my Mom singing “You are My Sunshine” every morning when I woke up. My first real concert at 10 years old was KISS, Faster Pussycat, and Slaughter on the “Hot in the Shade” tour with my aunt Nancy. She bought me a Faster Pussycat “Wake Me When it’s Fucking Over” t-shirt that my Mom was not thrilled about! That is still a badass record.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

This is like answering favorite album of all time. I just can’t do it. Every single experience has shaped me and led me down the path to where I stand today. There have been many amazing times and many horrible times. They don’t exist without each other. I will say that growing up in the Midwest scene from the early ’90s until the new millennium was an incredible experience. Full of passionate people working together and for one another without pretense. Good things don’t last forever though. There was a really strong sense of community and support that is severely lacking in these ultra-competitive times.

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

There was a time when I got so wrapped trying to “make it” as a musician that my ego and expectations took a stronger hold than my heart. I never intended to go down that path, but somehow I lost sight of what was really important. Many are under this spell and for some reason something that can be as pure as music and as destructive as ego often goes hand in hand. It threatened to ruin one of the most positive and constant things in my life. I came to resent music and blamed it for my money and girl problems. I had a selfish and entitled attitude that brought a lot of anger and frustration when things didn’t go as planned. Letting go of that poisonous mindset has been a revelation and a rebirth to a completely pure form of expression and restored simple happiness.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Freedom. Being open to constantly learning and unafraid to keep moving ahead without letting shallow ideas influence you brings one back to where it all began. Creating from your heart and progression are one in the same to me. We are born with this and our society tries to teach us to lose it.

How do you define success?

Just being alive in this crazy world is like a dream sometimes. Having the ability to simply create and be a part of the giant circle is a blessing and the ultimate success. Being able to do things on your own terms and staying true to that vision. Everything that comes beyond is just icing on the cake. I don’t just mean writing a good song, either. It could be having a baby or growing a garden or a million other things.  Putting hard work into of something and giving it life which can grow and grow and on and on…

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

The destruction of our environment by government and corporate interests makes me sick to my stomach. Witnessing the shift from the old ways to the modern technological age is a heavy concept and makes for a very chaotic time to be alive. I am not an absolutist and see the good in certain new ideas. But I am also very alarmed at how much certain forms of new technology are destroying the tried and true along with the very air we breathe, water we drink, and ground we walk on. There is nothing sustainable about this current situation and I already see it starting to slowly crumble. Something has to give and I truly believe we will correct our mistakes or die trying.

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

It is a goal to do a real deal soundtrack for a full-length feature film. The kind of stuff Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are doing would be incredible. No one has come knocking yet, but I think it will happen someday and I can’t wait to get a foot in that door. In the meantime I took matters into my own hands and scored the Blood Meridian book to hold me over.

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

Writings books is next up on the agenda. I have so many ideas and concepts in place that just need some time dedicated to putting them on paper. The first is going to be a hybrid non-fiction/fiction about the Gitchie Manitou murders that happened right outside my hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, back in 1973. I won’t go into the details and will let you look it up on Wiki instead, haha. We used to go this spot in the middle of the night growing up. The dark history of the place hangs thick in the air to this day and should make for a pretty interesting read.

T.G. Olson, Hell’s Half Acre (Dec. 2013)

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

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