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A conversation with: Vinny Appice (Heaven & Hell/Kill Devil Hill)

7 Dec

Heaven & Hell, DIO and Black Sabbath have all had one thing in common. Vinny Appice stamped his mark on each of them. The world renowned drummer has performed on some of the biggest selling albums and has performed with some of the biggest bands in the music industry. Now he’s gone back to where it all started, bringing to fruition his new band, ‘Kill Devil Hill’ from the ground up. We caught up with Vinny Appice a few days after he had completed the first leg of his US tour with Kill Devil Hill. 

The latest Kill Devil Hill album is finally out in Australia. How’s the reception been so far in other parts of the world?

‘You know, the reception has been amazing. We’ve gotten a lot of great reviews and a lot of the interviews we’ve been doing with people like yourself who have actually listened to the record have really loved it. The fans have loved it as well so it’s been really great to hear. Now we just need to sell some more product, haha!

You’ve also recently just completed the first leg of the bands US tour. How was it?

‘It went really well, man. We started on the west coast of the US and then made our way into the mid-west. We did about 20 or so shows in smaller venues and clubs. Now we’re ready to do something a bit bigger, a package deal like a tour with some festival dates and bigger shows, that kind of thing. We’ve gotten really tight thanks to this tour so we’re really looking forward to playing some bigger shows’.

There’s a few heavy numbers on the album. Which songs have really gotten the crowds going?

‘Crown of Thorns’ has gone down really well. ‘Leave It All Behind’ has been really good as well. ‘A Long Way From Home’ has also gone down really well when we’ve chucked it in the middle of a set. When you play a lot of these songs live, most of them sound awesome just because of their energy’.

I had a chance to listen to the record other day, It’s real tight and a great blend of modern and old school sounds. Was it a conscious decision to create music with vintage roots but with a modern direction?

‘That’s just the way things turned out, man. We’ve all got our own influences and a lot of them can be heard on the record. Mark and Dewy are very young so they have a few influences from the modern era that Rex and I don’t necessarily have. But we also have a huge amount in common so the combination of the four of us guys really works in this band’.

My favorite tracks are ‘No Way Out’ and ‘Life Goes On’. The first is just so brutal and then you close the album with such an epic masterpiece. What songs from ‘Revolution Rise’ are your favourites?

‘Yeah I like ‘Life Goes On’ as well, haha! I also really dig, ‘Where Angels Dare to Roam’, it’s almost like a dance track but heavy. I also like ‘Leave It All Behind’ which is gonna be released as a video with the album. But I like them all man, haha. Whenever we finished a song I’d always say ‘That’s my favourite!’ but then we would finish another song and I’d say ‘No, that’s my favourite!’ so yeah, I like them all, haha’.

It’s a pretty raw and stripped back album. How does recording a record like this compare with recording a Sabbath album or a Heaven and Hell album?

‘Well first of all the budget on this record was nearly non-existent compared to Sabbath albums or Heaven and Hell albums, haha. We had limited resources, so luckily we’ve had a ton of friends and family who have supported us along the way and really saved our asses when it came to finishing the record! We’ve been very fortunate to be able to complete these records, so thanks to those guys’!

I was also impressed at Dewey Braggs vocal performance. He’s got a real classic and powerful Rock voice, however he’s relatively unknown compared to the rest of the band. How did you come to the decision to make him part of the band?

‘Well, when myself and Mark were putting together song ideas I had asked him if he knew of any singers. He mentioned this guy, Dewey Braggs. So we got in contact with Dewey and he came down for a jam and his voice absolutely blew me away. I knew he was the guy then and there. He sings with so much passion and most importantly he sings from the heart.

I think the thing that also works with Dewey is the fact that he doesn’t sound like a copy cat of Ronnie. He doesn’t sound like someone from the 80’s. He’s got a lot of fire and energy in his voice. When I was putting this band together a lot of people were sending me demo tapes and they all sounded similar to Ronnie with that whole vibrato/warrior vocal style. But a lot of them thought that’s what I wanted. There’s only one Ronnie and no one will ever sound like Ronnie’.

Has this band re-invigorated your passion for writing music or is it business as usual for yourself?

‘I’m still loving it now as much as I was 20 years ago, man. The fire’s still there, haha. I just want to kick it to 11 and take names, man, haha. But that being said, this ain’t no easy job! You gotta like going on the road, you gotta like travelling and all that stuff. I hear so many kids saying they want to be rockstars but when it comes to it, they aren’t prepared to pay their dues. The main thing that keeps me going though, is getting up on that stage and playing music and experiencing that moment. That’s why musicians work so hard’.

Is Kill Devil Hill the main focus of your career right now? Or are there a lot more things on your plate as well?

‘I’ve got a few things going on. At the moment I’m doing a show with my brother called ‘Drum Wars’ in which we play a lot of drum stuff and music from our past. I’ve also just got together with Vivian Campbell to get the original DIO band back together with the singer being Andy Freeman and that kicks ass. So I’ve got a number of things going on but Kill Devil Hill is the only original thing going on and that’s something I’m trying to bring to fruition from the ground up. I really enjoy doing lots of different things though. I like going off with my brother and just doing drum solos, haha. But until Kill Devil Hill takes off I’ll probably be doing a few different things, haha’.

How’s Carmine going?

‘Carmine’s great! We just did a couple of shows together last month and he’s playing brilliantly. He’s putting a new band together with Joe Lynn Turner and Tony Franklin on bass. He’s always doing heaps of stuff though, haha. Runs in the family’!

You’ve played in some of the worlds biggest bands on some of the worlds biggest stages and have had such an amazing career. Has it been awesome going back to the start and playing club shows again?

‘Yeah, haha. It’s shocking. It’s funny though, man. When you’re on stage and you’re playing, it’s sort of the same thing. I mean there is a big difference between playing in front of two hundred people as opposed to playing in front of twenty thousand, but you’re still just playing and people are loving it. It’s just everything around that’s different.

When you’re playing arenas every night everything is proper. You travel in style, you get all the luxuries, your equipment is the best and everything is just proper. But when you’re at a level when you’re trying to break a band everything is down graded. There’s no lights, there’s no luxuries and you’re equipment sometimes sucks. But the playing remains the same. Always’.

Anything on the table for an Australian Kill Devil Hill tour?

‘Well we’re really happy that the album will be out in Australia. Hopefully next year in our summer we’ll be able to come down and kick some butt. I was just down there a couple of years ago for the Heaven and Hell tour so I’m itching to come back’!

A festival appearance perhaps?

It depends. Hopefully we can play some festivals and throw some shows in between the festival dates. Right now though we’re just building the fan base and steadily playing bigger shows. Last year we did a few big shows though, opening for Alice Cooper, and that was great for the band in terms of exposure so hopefully if things keep going how they are, we’ll be heading down under pretty soon’.

A bit off track here, but did Tony and Geezer ever give you and Ronny shit for not having a moustache?

‘Hahaha! No, no haha. They never said anything about it. We did talk about that on ‘The Metal Show’ though. It was a skit where the guys joked that Carmine was their first choice because he had a moustache.

The interesting thing about that lineup of Black Sabbath though was that nobody in the band had a tattoo. That was the only Black Sabbath lineup where none of the members had tattoos, haha’.

Who are some of your favorite Australian artists right now?

‘Oh my God! Uhhh, I really like Wolfmother. But I’m not too familiar with what’s been coming out of Australia though so I’ll have to catch up with all of that real soon. I still love Men At Work though. Those guys are fucking awesome, haha’.

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Vinny. Hopefully we’ll see you next year for an aussie tour.

‘Yeah, man! Thanks for talking, was a pleasure. Hopefully we’ll be there real soon’!

 

A Conversation With: Laura Pleasants (Kylesa)

21 Nov

Kylesa are a band that is fast becoming a house hold name in the Southern Rock genre. Even though they’re amongst a plethora of amazing bands such as Red Fang, Kyuss, Baroness and Mastadon, Kylesa still demands massive respect and proves time after time why they’re such a great band. Now the band is about to embark on their second visit to Australia (the last time being for Soundwave 2011) and their first ever headline tour of the great southern land. We spoke with Laura Pleasants to find how preparations are going and what it’s like to be a part of the mighty Kylesa.

How are you Laura? Thanks for taking some time to chat with us!

Hey man! No worries, always a pleasure.

Last time you were here was for Soundwave back in 2011. What are you guys planning for this tour since it will be a bit more of an intimate setting?

Thanks man! You’ll be able to expect our FULL show. If we’re touring on a festival it’s always pretty stripped down due to time constraints, so this time around we’ll have our full setup going on. With this tour we’ll be able to portray ourselves in a way that we feel we should be seen. Being seen on a festival stage is really fucking awesome, but it’s a totally different vibe when you play the smaller club stages.

A lot of bands have said there favourite places to play in Australia are the smaller venues. Is this the case for Kylesa?

Well we played a couple of club shows when we were down for Soundwave ’11 and those were a lot of fun! I love club shows….they’re different, haha. The energy is different, the sound is different, the rider is different and the sets are usually more awesome. But from the experiences we had playing those couple of club shows in Australia back in 2011, I think it’s going to be a lot better this time and we’re pretty much just gonna do what we always do, rock out and fucking enjoy it.

Do you guys like to hangout and mingle with the fans before the show?

It depends, man. It depends on how much time there is before the show most of the time. I generally like to hangout and get a feel for the venue, the people, maybe have a couple of beers as well. I generally warm up about 45 minutes before we play. A good time for me to start warming up is when the main support is playing. 

Before a gig do you like to party or practice before hand?

Haha, I ain’t no party animal….Ok that’s a lie. BUT for most of the show I’m pretty sober. After the show it’s fair game but before the show I’ll have like 2 or 3 drinks. On stage I have so much going on between my effects, guitar playing and singing and I manage all of that stuff far better when I’m thinking straight.

I’ve always liked bands that are all about music. Kylesa to me are a band that ‘feels the music’. A trend in music that seems to be happening is the whole ‘technically tight’ thing. Is it important for you to just feel the music and rock the fuck out, or is it more so important to be as tight as can be?

Cool question, man. Personally I’ve always been about feeling the music. I’ve been playing guitar for a long time but even when I was starting out I never cared about being very technical or anything. I can totally enjoy that kind of sweep picking and hectic guitar solo stuff but for the most part I enjoy music that I can feel and see the realness to it. I’m never going to be Yngwie. 

I tend to like simple stuff. You can change the world with three chords and a great down beat and that to me is so fucking awesome. I think a lot of young guitarists are forgetting that it’s ok to not be the fastest or the most technical.

What interests me is sound, feeling and emotion. All of my favourite bands have these factors. Just the idea of shaping sound is awesome to me, because that’s all we’re really doing. I have my own way of doing it and it’s very different to a lot of the traditional heavy stuff that goes around.

With Metal there is this assumption that you are a technically proficient player, it’s like that’s part of the deal. That stuff just doesen’t interest me. At the same time though, it’s VERY important for bands to be tight. However, some of the best gigs I’ve ever seen were from bands that were’nt very tight, but they filled the room with such an intense energy from the way they were playing. So you have to have the a little bit from both worlds I guess.

Another trend I see with Southern Rock bands are that you guys can be incredible gear nerds who take their fuzz way too seriously. Are you guys real picky with gear, or is it a case of ‘playing whatever’s there on gig day’.

Hahahah, Oh man, yeah that’s true. We’re massive gear heads. We have so many pedals and I can’t help but geek out all the time, man. It’s a bit of both though. You have to make do with what you’re able to take on tour with you. Over the past few years though there’s been a lot of new pedal makers and we’ve been lucky enough to try a lot of awesome stuff out. I have two huge pedal boards but a lot of the time I can only take one of them so you gotta really just see what works best with whichever head and cab you’ll be using. But man, Fuzz pedals are my favourite, haha. They’re cool because I can just plug into an amp that has a decent clean tone and switch on the Fuzz and we’re good to go, man.

One drummer is awesome. Two is even more awesome. What was the reasoning behind having 2 drummers in the band? And out of the two, who’s fault is it that you can’t bring 2 pedal boards?

Hahaha! Well I guess I’d have to blame our second drummer, haha. Can’t really blame the first. But we came up with the concept back in 2001, when we formed the band. It didn’t work out at first because the original guy we had didn’t want to do it so we continued with just one drummer for a long time. But since about 2005-2006 we’ve been in a position where we can have two drummers. We first tried it out in our practice space and it was just so loud, thunderous and created such an amazing energy so we were like ‘Yeah this is fucking awesome’ and just decided to have two drummers!

It opens up a lot of space for experimentation as well, especially in the studio. On record you can make certain things very subtle so on record, you probably won’t hear too much of a difference. In a live setting however it really comes into play. In a live setting having two drummers adds so much more volume to your sound and so I think it really works well in that setting. It’s just a cool dynamic to have if you can pull it off.

This must present an issue in the finance department when touring, right?

It definitely is, man. It’d be waaaaayy cheaper to have just one drummer, hahaha. It’s super effective in terms of touring to just have one drummer…..or non at all, haha. Having two drummers is way more awesome though.

A lot of bands have said that Australia is one of the most expensive places to tour. Is it financially viable to even tour here?

I do recall Australia being quite expensive to tour, logistically wise. Everything else isn’t too bad, it’s just a big place to tour that’s all. I was actually just over in Norway and I’d definitely say Norway is more expensive than Australia. They tax alcohol and beer!…Which I know Australia does to but over there a pint of beer is like thirteen dollars. But yeah, I’ll still be pinching my pennies when I come over to Australia, haha.

At what point did you guys relax into being somewhat of a ‘big name’ band?

I don’t know man, haha. Are we a big band? Haha. We’re pretty happy that people like us and are really into our music. It makes it a lot easier to get motivated and keep making music. However in saying that, we work really hard, man. We’re not a band that has a lot of outside help. A lot of other bands have management companies, promo companies etc. behind them but we like to keep things pretty small in terms of the business side of the band. 

Do you think that Kylesa will ever turn towards crowd funding?

I think it’s a good idea. If you can get people to pay for your record or tour then good for you. Bands who do that are just getting rid of the middle man. I’m not sure if Kylesa will ever do it, maybe if we ever get a bit more popular.

I’d just like to ask a few more questions to finish off.  Firstly, I’ve recently just begun collecting vinyl records. Knowing that you’re a vinyl fan yourself, what is best consumed, taken or smoked before having a good vinyl sesh?

Definitely depends on the record and what you want the record for. If it’s just for pure chilling out, light up a J and smoke up for sure.

Two. What’s the most recent record that hit the spot for you?

Oh man. I would say it was the new Queens of the Stone Age record. Took me like one minute to get into it. Totally awesome record.

And Three. We always like to ask international artists this question. Who are your favourite modern Australian bands at the moment?

I like that band Tame Impala. I saw them this past summer and I’ve got a couple of their records, I think they’re really fucking cool. Another Australian band that I’ve really been into lately is INXS, those guys get me everytime, man.

Thanks for taking some time to chat, Laura. Catch ya when you’re on tour!

Thanks, Nic! Hope to see you guys at a show!

A Conversation With: Tommy Rogers (Between The Buried and Me)

10 Nov

Between The Buried and Me is a band that will one day be remembered as one of the most amazing metal bands (no matter what your genre of preference) that graced our Earth. The band have been touring the globe relentlessly off the back of their latest record ‘The Parallax II: Future Sequence’. Now their about to embark on their 2nd Australian tour within 14 months and are bringing fellow tour buddies, The Contortionist and rising Australian metal giants, Ne Obliviscaris along for the ride. We caught up with lead vocalist, Tommy Rogers to chat about ‘The Parallax II’ and what he’s most looking forward to on this tour.

First off, I want to congratulate you on the Australian Tour, Tommy. I feel incredibly privileged that I get to see you guys live again, after you only just being here last year. How are you feeling about it and what are you looking forward to doing in Australia? Other than playing music of course.

Uh, I dunno. We’ve had some really good experiences there. It’s one of the few places outside of the US where we still get the same amount of love that we get in our own country. It’s always nice playing over there in the Winter, as well; the weather’s always beautiful. It should be a really good time, man. We’ve been doing this tour in the US playing the whole new record and the fact that we’re taking that over to Australia is going to be a really fun experience. It’s going to be nice to see a reaction from a different country with us doing something that we don’t normally do outside of the US. We’re really looking forward to it.

How have fans reactions been so far to the album being played in its entirety?

It’s been great, man. It’s been really good. The tour has done way better than we would have ever imagined. I think at this point in our career people are kind of expecting us to do tours like this, especially with this record since it is, you know, a full concept, musically and lyrically. It’s been a great experience. We’re excited to bring it to you guys.

Have the reactions been similar to those you experienced when you played Colors Live a few years back?

I feel like these reactions are a bit better because we waited quite a bit. You know, as far as when the record came out to when we did the tour. Colors, the record came out and we did the full tour right after. People weren’t really fully understanding of the record yet, it was still very new to everyone’s ears. With this tour everyone has had a long time to listen to it and let it sink in. The crowds know the material and it just makes for a better show. There’s a lot more energy and everyone kind of enjoys it a little more. You know when you know the music, a show is always a lot more fun. That’s a big lesson that we learned with this, for sure.

How long did you guys spend rehearsing to be able to do something like this? Obviously with how long it is and how intricate it is, it would have taken a fair amount of time?

People always think that but it’s not a whole lot. It’s a lot of rehearsing on a personal level. Everyone gets everything ready on their own. I think this tour, I think we did three or four days of practise before the tour, and that was that. I guess the most time consuming part is just getting everything up to speed before we all get together; just making sure everybody’s ready.

Will you guys do a “Parallax Live” DVD like you did for Colours?

We’re talking about it. It’s something we hope to do next year, probably. It’s just, we’re trying to find a way to present the record in a way that just isn’t a live show because in this day and age you can get online right now and basically see the whole record live on Youtube, if you want. We want to create something that you can’t see at the click of a button. We’re still at the beginning stages right now, but I hope we do figure something out for next year.

What was your favourite or most memorable moment of the American Parallax tours so far?

Uh, ah that’s tough. I mean, I would say my favourite part is, the response from the crowd. Especially for like, the intro of the record where it’s very minimal and it’s mainly just keyboards and acoustic guitar and singing. Just hearing the crowd sing over me, you know, just so many people singing with me. Being the type of band we are, we don’t get a whole lot of that just because of how aggressive our music can be. it’s just been a very flattering experience, you know? Every night when we come in with the record and just hearing a roomful of people singing the stuff we wrote in our bedrooms. That’s been the one thing that’s really grabbed me at this point.

I wanted to talk about how you go about writing music, and whether your approach is different when you’re writing for BTBAM as opposed to your solo project and whether you can sit down and deliberately write music, or whether you rely on inspiration instead?

The thing about writing is, you can’t force it, you know? I feel like every time – I mean, I can’t talk for everyone – but for me you just have a natural feeling when it’s time to write, or when something comes to you. Inspiration can come from anything, it can come from a magazine, it can come from something you saw in the street that day, or another band or a movie. There are so many different mediums of inspiration. I look at it the same with music and lyrics, it just comes to you and normally when I write, I write a lot quickly and I don’t really elaborate on it until later. I’ll come back to it a day or two later with fresh ears and it’s either something I want to work on, or it’s something I think is complete shit. That’s how I approach everything I write.

I’ve always considered concept albums to be more difficult write as you are under a lot more pressure to make everything revolve around the one idea and work as a whole. How did you approach something like The Parallax? It would have to be one of the most extensive concepts I’ve seen yet.

It was definitely a big process. I wouldn’t say it was hard, I think this record came together really well; really quickly, you know, in our eyes. It’s just a lot of preparation and planning. We kind of approached the record like we do any record, we wrote a lot of music on our own, and wrote a lot of songs on our own and since we already had the concept in our heads, we had the basic idea of what the record was going to be about. We kind of knew what moods needed to create in certain situations. We just kind of wrote with the intention of knowing the story. Luckily we have five minds that work really well together and it came together great. With lyrics, I did have to wait to the end to get it all complete just because I wanted to make sure everything felt really comfortable and fit really well with the story and music together. I didn’t want a heavy part to happen when something mellow was happening in the story. So there was a lot of planning as far as lyrics and a lot of timelines that I’ve never really had to do before. It was almost like creating a big movie in a way because that’s how I kind of looked at it when writing. I was kind of mapping the music, the picture and then I was writing words to what’s going on.

So I’m right in assuming that you guys all come together with different ideas instead of one person writing the majority of the music?

Yeah definitely, yeah. It’s definitely a big group effort when we sit down to write. We all do a lot on our own, and go through a lot of sounds and parts and sections but it’s a lot of communication and working together. We definitely have a process you know; it’s hard to really explain to someone.

The last time you toured in Australia, you brought Animals As Leaders, and this time you have The Contortionist and Ne Obliviscaris supporting you. I don’t think I need to say it, but that’s a pretty fucking incredible line up, man. How does it feel to be touring the world and playing your music to people? Is it something you ever expected or knew was going to happen?

It’s unreal. I mean, it’s definitely something I’ve always wanted to do. Ever since I was a kid. You take it for granted. I mean, I take it for granted a lot. I can’t say that I don’t. You kind of forget what it was like before. Just the fact that we do get to tour around the entire world to do it is just phenomenal. We have fans everywhere. Hopefully that will continue. At the same time there’s always dark moments in what we do. It’s a tough lifestyle, it’s not all fun and games. I mean, there’re sacrifices that we all have agreed to take, and we’re very fortunate to have this as our job.

I’ve talked to a few people who have been a little confused by the whole concept of The Parallax or have wanted to approach the album but were put off by the sheer length and extensiveness of the concept. Could you briefly explain the concept so people can hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak?

Yeah [laughs] I think the reason it is confusing is just the sequence in which things happen in the record. I kind of made it so you have to read it to kind of get what’s going on, which is pretty mean of me, I know. There are a lot of flash-forwards and things that happen in the past. it’s basically about the idea that there could be another version of our planet somewhere in space and time, and essentially that there could be form of each and every one of us, somewhere else. With this story, these two planets, these two certain characters, they came in contact with each other. Basically two souls were brought together, and they were the same person, and from there they kind of took the world’s existence into their own hands and they decided to do what they want with it. That’s where their power came in. The simple explanation is that there could be another us somewhere. You know, either right now or on another planet, or in the future or the past.

With the state of things today in terms of music piracy, I’ve noticed that bands have started offering different kinds of merch, you know, other than your typical band t-shirts and sweaters, and you guys have even sold things like astronaut suits and “space ice cream”. Is there still money to be made from record sales? Is it possible for a band to function just by selling their music alone, or has it become a necessity that bands have to go the extra mile to get by?

I always say that we’re a clothing company that plays music, you know? [laughs] It’s a joke but it’s kind like, in a way it’s starting to become serious. The days of making a financial gain from the music you write is kind of going away. Obviously you have touring which you can make money from playing music. Yeah, it’s just a different ball game. I’m not going to sit here and complain about it because it is what it is. It’s just like anything; times change and you have to think on your toes and make the best of the situation, and that’s what I think everyone’s trying to do. Trying to find the next way to, I dunno, make music what it once was.

I know Future Sequence hasn’t really been out all that long, but have any of you started writing anything new? Any riffs or ideas since then?

Uh, we haven’t started at all, with the next record. No. It’s always in the back of my mind, as far as lyrical themes, but there’s nothing set in stone or anything.

Do you often get ideas or inspiration on the road or when you’re on tour that you know you’ll end up using in future songs?

Oh all the time. I have a note folder on my phone that says “Ideas” Literally anthing that sparks any sort of “Oh that’s pretty cool as a title of something”, “or that could be a cool idea as far as lyrics”

Lastly, a running question; what kind of advice would you give to a young musician who is interested in creating quality music and touring the world with a band?

I’ve always said patience is the biggest factor. I think with how fast information travels nowadays, and how quickly everything happens, I think a lot of these younger kids, they see bands with success. They think they can just write a few songs and that’s that , you know? They can go tour, make a lot of money and be famous. It’s such a waiting game, and it’s so hard now. I can’t even imagine how different it is now from when we started but I think people think everything is going to happy quickly. You just have to do what you do and I think if you’re genuine enough, go to what is making you happy and hopefully that will make a lot of other people happy. That’s really all you can do.

That’s awesome advice, man. It was really great talking to you. Catch ya on the tour!

Thanks man, we’ll see you next month!

A Conversation With: Mike Lessard (The Contortionist)

30 Oct

The Contortionist are rated highly amongst the latest wave of Technical Death Metal bands to hit the scene. Recently the band had secured the services of Last Chance To Reason vocalist, Mike Lessard. The Contortionist have recently just finished a run of shows in the US supporting Between The Buried And Me. They’re now preparing to tour Australia with Between The Buried and Me and have also begun writing for their next album. We had a chat with Mike about what he’s most looking forward to whilst on tour and about his new role in The Contortionist.

Hey Mike, congratulations on securing the tour support for BTBAM! Has any of the band been to Australia before?

Whatsup, Nic! I have not! This will be my first time. The band has toured down under before I joined but this will be my first experience over there.

What was it like? What are your expectations for the Australian tour?

From what they told me it was awesome! Last time the band was there it was on a much smaller scale but they enjoyed themselves greatly and we’re all looking forward to coming back with Between The Buried and Me.

What are your personal expectations for the tour?

I don’t know if I have any expectations apart from the fact that it’s going to be awesome. So many great musicians and excellent music on one tour! Definitely keen to get down there.

Have you checked out the Australian support, Ne Obliviscaris?

I have! Just found out about them recently and I thought they were excellent. I’m really Looking forward to seeing them play every night while on tour.

What are some myths or stories you’ve heard about touring Australia?

Haha, the only advice I’ve been given is to check my shoes before I gotta put them on. Heard a lot of stories about spiders too….Over where I live that stuff is generally something you don’t have to worry about so hopefully I don’t forget, haha.

Everything in Australia wants to kill you man, be careful! Assuming you guys have a day off down here, what are you most looking forward to doing on that day off?

Nothing planned yet, but I can tell you that I’m definitely hoping to do some scuba diving or surfing, anything to do with the ocean actually. Here in the states I live along the coast so I’d love to utilise some time for scuba diving or surfing.

You guys have been on tour with BTBAM for quite some time now, what are your thoughts on them?

I think they’re a great group of people and a great group of musicians. We’re just so honoured to have toured with them and to have to opportunity to tour with them again! They’re a band we’ve all looked up to for a long time so not only is it awesome to share the stage with them but also get to know them on a personal level.

You’re the new vocalist in the band, congratulations by the way. Hows it been? how has this gig changed your life?

Thanks man! It’s been awesome. I’ve known the guys for about…3 years now? My other band had toured with them before and we also had the same manager! We’ve always been friends as well so now that I’m playing with them it just feels like I’m jamming with some friends. It’s all happened pretty organically. At first it was rushed when I was first filling but now everything feels right.

Have the nerves worn off or are you completely settled into the new role?

Oh I’m totally settled in. I’m ready to go, I’ve got a couple of tours under my belt with the guys and we’ve also started writing for the new album. I don’t really have time to think about it all too much so I’m kinda just acting instead of re-acting.h

 

Hows the reception been from Contortionist fans?

Pretty good! As far as I can tell it’s pretty much all positive. I’m sure there’s people who have negative thoughts about it all but you can’t please everybody. You just gotta keep doing what you’ve been doing!

Do you think you joining the band will play a factor in writing or band chemistry or will the contortionist remain the same band?

Oh it’ll definitely be a factor. I’ve already started writing myself and the guys have also started adding to pieces that I’ve written. Even in the early stages of joining the band it’s played a factor. I came into The Contortionist already understanding what the band is all about and what they’re general sound is. I’m just trying to grab that, reinforce it and add my own little small spin on things. I’m definitely not going to try change the band, just contribute whatever I can.

Any plans for the next Contortionist record?

Yep! We’ve already started writing and we hit the studio in the spring time. After we’re done with all these tours and have had a little time off, we’ll buckle down and just write non-stop, then record the finished product!

Before we finish, what bands from Australia are you into or are looking forward to checking out whilst in Australia?

Well let’s see….You guys have AC/DC so that’s all you need, haha. But if we’re talking in a modern sense, I really love Karnivool. I’m also really good friends with the guys in Dead Letter Circus. My other band had actually toured with them in the states. Those guys are some of the coolest human beings I’ve ever met. Australia actually has one of the best Rock scenes, man. Every band I see coming out of there is awesome.

Thanks for taking some time to have a chat, Mike. Look forward to seeing you guys on the tour!

Thanks, Nic. Always a pleasure.

A Conversation With: Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree)

13 Sep

Visionary, Genius and the best musician you’ve never heard of. These are just a few of the descriptions you’ll hear about Steven Wilson. There’s no denying that the man is a true pioneer of the Modern Progressive music era. He’s produced, written and recorded some of Modern Progressive music’s greatest albums and now he’s back with his latest solo album, ‘The Raven That Refused to Sing’. Steven will be heading to Australia to play a run of shows which will feature his quadrophonic sound system and his remarkable backing band. We had the pleasure of chatting to Steven about his incredible career and what we can expect to see on his upcoming aussie tour.

Congratulations on the new record, Steven, as well as your first Australian tour. Your live performances so far have received some amazing feedback, could you tell me about how these shows will differ from your average live show, and in particular how the “quadraphonic sound” aspect will take place?

Thank you very much. Well, I mean, the simple answer to the question is they won’t; the shows won’t differ. We’re bringing the whole thing. The whole idea of the show is to provide a completely immersive audio-visual experience which sounds like a very pretentious way of basically saying that the show has got lots of things going on that have nothing to do with the musicians playing on stage, which of course is still the centrepiece of the show but, there are many other elements to the show; visual and audio. We have screens, we have films, we have stuff going on before the show, we have stuff going on after the show which are a little bit out of the tradition of the regular rock and roll concert experience. Another thing that is kind of different is the fact that we have the quadraphonic sound system. I’m not the only person to be doing quadraphonic sound, but I think I’m probably the only person, the only artists doing it at this level. If you go and see Muse or you see Roger Waters doing ‘The Wall’, you’ll get quadraphonic sound, but you’re talking about massive stadiums. I’m trying to bring this kind of experience to a smaller, more intimate club/concert hall. And that, I think, is quite unusual; I don’t know of anyone else doing it at this level, but the idea is really just to create more of a sense of the music surrounding you. One of the things I do in my studio life, is remixing classic albums and my own music, into 5.1  surround sound, and I have a reputation for doing that. So I think bringing that live context is a logical step for me.

Something like that would have taken a lot of organisation and careful thought; has the level of planning that this requires skyrocketed, in comparison to one of your regular shows, especially with this being an international tour?

Yes, it has. I mean the show is not an easy one to stage. It took me about three months work, originally, before we did any of the shows with the solo band. It took me about three weeks to figure out how I wanted to do it, all of the production elements that I wanted, the film, projectors, screens, the quadraphonic sound; it took a long time to prepare all of that. It is hard work, but I think for me personally, I think it’s important to be trying to do something that kind of differentiates my show from every other show, because there are so many bands out there touring right now. There’s probably more bands touring now than any other time in the history of rock music because if you’re a professional musician, that’s the only way you can make a living; to go out on the road. You can’t sell records anymore. So there’s a lot of bands out there and I think there’s a lot of competition for the money that people have to spend on concert tickets. So I think for me, it was important that when I went out with the solo show, I actually didn’t think about it as a commercial venture, I just simply thought about “how can I blow some minds?”, you know, how can I really make an impression with something that people perhaps won’t get from any other show, to make it a really unique experience. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t cheap, I did lose money for the first couple of tours; I lost a lot of money but I think the important thing was that people went away from the show kind of raving to their friends about it, “You have to see this amazing show!” and that’s kind of the way it’s worked. So the word of mouth has built up now, and it’s doing okay. It’s still expensive to put on but it’s been totally worthwhile for me.

What has it been like working with people like Guthrie Govan and Alan Parsons? Both of them have an extensive musical history, it must have been quite the experience.

Do you write for a guitar magazine?

Haha, no I don’t.

Okay, because the only people that I’ve come across that actually knew who Guthrie Govan was are people who write for guitar magazines, because I’d never heard of him.

Oh really?

Yeah, I had never heard of him, and I don’t think most people I know had heard of him. The only people I knew that knew Guthrie, were people who were either guitar players, or wrote for guitar magazines.

Well, I am a guitar player myself.

You are a guitar player;  okay, that sort of answers my question because I have to be honest, I’d never heard of Guthrie and I’m just beginning to appreciate now how much of a legend he is amongst the guitar playing community. He’s extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary, but I think he’s unknown outside of those, or at least he was; I’d never heard of him. He was recommended to me by my drummer, Marco Minnemann who has a project with Guthrie. I was totally blown away by Guthrie. I don’t normally like so called “shredders”, I don’t like anyone that plays with some kind of a limp-pick technique, unless they can play one note and really break my heart, you know? I think that’s what music is about. Guthrie can totally do that. He has the technique but he also has the ability to play the simple thing if he thinks it’s the right thing to do. So to answer your question, how was it like to work with Guthrie? I didn’t know who he was, he was just an extraordinary musician to me, so I guess the legend of him was not a factor for me. In contrast, to working with someone like Alan Parsons, where clearly the legend definitely preceded him. In the case of Alan, I was very familiar with him and had grown up listening to the records he had made, but you know, like a lot of great artists, when you get to know them, they are very passionate about what they do and they’re music lovers and they love making music and they love working with people that are creative and have integrity about what they do. Alan did a fantastic job, he’s a sweet guy, and it was very easy, actually. It was a very easy-going connection.

How did you go about organising that with Alan? Did he approach you or did you approach him in terms of engineering the new record?

Well what happened was that I made a decision that I wanted to record the band, the six piece band, including myself, pretty much live. Which is such a fashionable way to make records these days. People tend to make records by careful control and gradual overdubbing, so you get the drummer in for a week, you get the bass player in for a few days and you get a lot of control recording that way. But I was very committed to the idea of making this record with the band all facing each other in the studio and playing live, and that’s what we did. But having made that kind of decision to do it that way, I realised that  I wouldn’t be so much in control of the actual recording process, because normally I would engineer my own records, but I knew that I was going to be playing in the band, in the other room. So I needed someone I really could implicitly trust, and also understood how to record musicians working in that way, which is the way that everyone recorded in the 70’s. At that point, Alan became top of my list for people that I wanted to engineer my record. So we called him up, and luckily he knew who I was and he was kind of a fan of some of my work, from then it became quite easy to get him on board.

I know you’ve probably been asked this hundreds of times now, but Porcupine Tree was the first of your music that I heard, and the first prog that I was hooked on as a teen growing up, discovering the genre. Is there any point in the foreseeable future that Porcupine Tree could possibly reform?

The thing about Porcupine Tree is that it hasn’t broken up, I’ve not done anything melodramatic like say “This is over.” but at the same time I am doing other things now, and I feel like I am still evolving as a musician. Part of that evolution process is doing different things and collaborating with different people. I think the perspective is different from a fan’s point of view because fans become very attached to romantic notions of a particular band and a particular sound and a particular dynamic and personality that a band has. I understand that a lot of people are attached to the Porcupine Tree sound. But Porcupine Tree itself started off as a solo project, the first three albums are just me and it became a band later on. So in a way I feel like history is repeating itself with my solo career; it’s become a band and has more of a band sound and has more of that band identity. I feel like that’s important to me, that there are different possibilities available to me with working with different people and perhaps making slightly different kinds of music. Having said all that, the simple answer to your question is I don’t know, but yes there is a possibility. It hasn’t broken up and I like the idea that it’s still there and I can still get together and make another record with Gavin and Richard and Colin at some point.

Well I mean, after you focus on your solo work, you eventually might feel like you want to continue that.

I think the mistake is to consider the solo career somehow as an aberration, or just a temporary side project because it isn’t, and I can tell you now that the solo work for me will probably be the most important-will be the key project for me, probably for the rest of my working career. So in a way, I feel like it’s what I’ve always worked towards, you know, PT would have to fit in with that. It’s not like the solo band is just a little side thing and I’ll go back to my day job at some point, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude the idea of doing another record, for sure.

I read in a previous interview that you don’t write music with any particular demographic in mind; you write for yourself. How has the fan feedback for your most recent album “The Raven That Refused to Sing” been, given that the sound has changed quite a bit to that of Grace For Drowning and especially Insurgentes?

I think the difference was, I knew I was writing for particular musical personalities. The difference between the first two solo records, and this one, “The Raven That Refused to Sing”, is that the first two records were made without any particular idea of which musicians would be playing on each track. So basically I would write the music and then I would say to myself “Hmm, okay, who should I get to play drums on this. Who should I get to play bass on this?” and I would kind of find the musicians that I felt were appropriate for each track. With The Raven, because I’d already been on tour and I’d already put my band together, and I really enjoyed the chemistry that this particular line up had, I had in my mind already, an idea about how I could write music, specifically for that  band line up to play. Taking into account the personalities of Marco the drummer, Nick the bass player, Adam the keyboard player and Guthrie who came in just before the record. So I wrote very much with those guys in mind, and I think that’s the major difference that you hear , is that actually, if it doesn’t sound like a contradiction to say it; it’s a solo record but it’s actually also a band record, and it’s probably the first band record I’ve made since the last Porcupine Tree record, in that sense.

I was curious as well, I know that you wrote the album but when the other musicians came in, did they have any suggestions about the music or see any parts and want to add their own input?

Okay, here’s the thing. They didn’t write any parts, but the thing is, when those guys are playing, for example, certainly with the solos, when someone like Adam or Guthrie or Theo step up to take a solo, they are completely improvising and it’s their musical voice that you’re listening to. There are a lot of solos on this record, so when those guys are soloing, whether it’s a Fender Rhodes, a Moog, guitar, or saxophone or flute, or whatever it is, I’m not telling them what notes to play. They are soloing, and they are improvising completely with their musical voice. I think that’s a very important element on this record because there are a lot of solos, and some of the greatest moments on the record probably come from the way they solo and improvise, based on the basic material which was written by me. So I think the answer to your question is all the structures, chords and melodies are written for them, but the solos-you know, there’s a lot you can do as a musician obviously, even when you’re playing parts. I mean, Marco is always, in a sense, is exploring the possibilities of the rhythms, and the detail of the rhythms. Same with the bass player, Nick. There are always fills going on that are completely their personality. It would have been silly of me to get these extraordinary musicians in my band and then try to dictate to them exactly every note and every event that they play and that’s not what I do. I kind of let them express their musical characters, but through the music that is quite tightly composed, if that doesn’t sound like a contradiction.

At what point did recording albums and producing music change from being something that you did by yourself, for your own benefit to something that you could make a living out of and be successful in?

Well that’s a difficult question to answer, because for many years it was borderline-you could argue whether I was actually making a living at all. I started as a professional musician in 1992, twenty one years ago now, and I would say that probably for the first ten years, it was a struggle, and it was barely a living, and I had to do other things in order to continue to make music professionally. I think what’s interesting there is that if I had not done the other things, it might have possibly begun to affect the purity of the creative side of being a musician, and that’s important because there are many people in the music industry that have to compromise their music in order to get paid, ultimately. I’ve managed somehow to avoid doing that for most of my career. I’m now in a situation, a very fortunate situation, where I basically make exactly the music I want, and I don’t compromise, but luckily for me there are enough people out there that like the fact that I do that. that I don’t have to compromise in any way. I don’t have to make my music radio friendly or MTV friendly, I don’t even have to make it so that it’s journalist friendly or media friendly; I have a good fan base now. The reason I say that is because I think it was fairly hard earned, over a period of probably the first years. It was a struggle, and I think now it’s even harder than it was for me.

Yeah?

Well you’re a musician yourself, so you probably understand what I’m talking about. It’s never been harder, I think, to get a foothold as a professional in the industry, because the music industry hardly exists. It’s hanging on by the skin of its teeth but it barely exists. It still kind of existed and it was still fairly healthy when I started. It’s a difficult question to answer, I started making a proper living from being a musician, probably about seven or eight years after I technically became a professional musician.

Unfortunately we are running out of time, and I know they don’t like us going over, so if you could finish this off with one crucial piece of advice for people like, I guess myself, who are trying to break into the music industry and make a successful career out of this. What advice would you give someone starting up?

This kind of leads on from what we were just talking about. The best advice I can give to any aspiring musician-it sounds very facetious in a way but it is honestly  the best advice I can give, and it’s this: Don’t even think about having a career in the music industry, just think about what you want to do creatively and do it the best you can. If you somehow manage by accident to find that leads to a career in the music industry, that’s a bonus. But I don’t honestly think that you can expect to be really exploring your creativity with integrity if you’re thinking about trying to make a living from the music industry. Do you see what I mean?

Absolutely.

I think that’s a decision that you have to make fairly early on. My advice has always been, be incredibly selfish. The point is that there are so many out there making music, there’s way too many people making music these days. There is a million bands on Myspace, Facebook, Bandcamp and on Spotify; millions of bands! I think what you have to do is find what is really unique about what your musical personality is. And that’s sometimes hard, because there’re so many people out there doing it. Just find something really unique about your style. It’s probably there and you just have to find it and you have to accentuate that. That’s what will bring you an audience, the thing that makes you different, not the thing that makes you the same. And that’s kind of the way it worked for me, but you know it’s not easy. It’s not easy.

That’s probably the best advice, or answer to that question I’ve received so far. Thank you very, very much for you time, congratulations on the album again, and good luck with the tour.

My pleasure, William. Thanks very much, and hopefully I’ll see you at one of the shows.

A Conversation with: Drew Goddard (Karnivool)

20 Jul

Revolution is a chaotic and unbalanced affair. It challenges the state of things, and for those who revolt against the status quo, it bears both great risk and reward. These truths are as vital in art as they are in any other realm, and it is within these redefining upheavals that Australian hard-rock architects, Karnivool thrive. We were lucky enough to chat with Drew Goddard, guitarist for Karnivool about writing the new album, and more.

Monolith-Sound: Firstly, I wanted to congratulate you on the new record. I’ve been listening to it practically non-stop the last few days. Can you tell me about what Karnivool were aiming for with Asymmetry?

Drew Goddard: We were just aiming to make a record, basically. There wasn’t any kind of grand plan from the outset, it was just uh, we wanted to keep experimenting and continue pushing the boundaries of what we can do in Karnivool as the five piece we are. I guess half way through, we could kind of see where it was heading and at that stage it was just a matter of filling in the gaps, honing in on what you’re creating, you know, you kind of get a rough picture of it. You’ve got crude directions in mind but it’s never the same. The finished product is what you originally picture what it could be. It’s just a bunch of potential possibilities. 

MS: You guys have released two singles so far; ‘We Are’ and ‘The Refusal’, the former baring a slight similarity to ‘New Day’. Had you always envisioned those songs as singles or was there another reason behind the decision to release them first?

DG: We never really write with singles in mind, that was just sort of the decision made toward the end of the process. Yeah, I dunno. We never really thought “The Refusal” would be something we would drop first, but you know, when you’re looking at the final list of songs, you make a call. It was a group decision obviously but yeah, it was never written with the idea of a single in mind. I think “New Day” was probably the most popular song we’ve written to date and we didn’t even release that as a single last time so you never really know. It’s a bit of a guessing game.

MS: Do you have a favourite song from the new album or a song that’s fun to play?

DG: Well, we haven’t really played all of them yet, but we’ve played four of them before we went in to record the album and I think they changed quite a bit from when we laid them down. They were “A.M. War”, “Aeons”, “The Refusal”, and “We Are” and my favourite out of those would have been, probably be “The Refusal”, I think. Now it’s, uh, I dunno, probably “A.M. War”. I’m digging that one, it’s something different for us. It’s something just kind of fresh as far as Karnivool is concerned and it’s a challenging one. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.

MS: What was the reasoning behind recording the new album in Byron Bay, instead of Perth, as were Sound Awake and Themata?

DG: Well that’s were Nick DiDia is based. He moved over from the states and brought all of his gear and his family of course, and set up shop there.

MS: How did you find out about Nick?

DG: Uh, well that was thrown into the mix about six months before recording when we were really starting to weigh up the potential options for producers and engineers. Half of the decision was (Studio) 301, you know, and half of it was Nick. It just sort of came together like that. We new that we wanted to try something different from Forrester (Savell). We’ve used him for the last uh… every record so far. We wanted to change up the dynamics and make it a bit of a challenge; it was good, we needed to do that. That was half of the reasoning. Byron Bay was also a beautiful place to record. It was awesome. I’d do it again any day [laughs].

MS: One of the songs, ‘Alpha’, features an almost alien-sounding lead guitar section that completely took me by surprise the first time I heard it. What sort of changes, in regards to your writing habits, did you make when you recorded “Asymmetry”?

DG: Well for the initial ideas we tried to go for the things that we intriguing to us, that are different. We find that if the initial idea is interesting and unusual but still moves us then we’ll roll with it. It could be anything from an odd rhythm to a strange guitar tuning or a strange sound. I’d find an interesting effect or something and mess with that, and the imagination would start going and the ideas would sort of fly in. You just roll with it and see where it goes. Alpha was one that I’m really stoked with. It’s quite a different song for us; with the two halves. We were quite mystified by the way it came together. What section were you talking about specifically?

MS: Uh, it’s a tapped lead guitar part that sits in the back of the mix in the second half of the song, I think.

DG: Oh yeah, yeah. That was an Axe FX thing. I mean, It was a mixture of tapping and whammy bar and apeggiator, and I’m catching some of it in a loop, so there’s all sorts of things going on. I like that sort of stuff; loops and strange things that sound sort of ‘other worldly’, and then mixing that stuff with more natural, human sounding stuff. It’s what I dig.

MS: So what sort of rig do you use when you go on tour and play live?

DG: I’m still predominately using the 5150 which I’ve been using since day-dot. That’s the common denominator in most of our guitar sounds. When it comes to tracking in the studio, I use anything I can get my hands on that works. In the past it’s always been the 5150, alongside something else. I blew a tube early on in the process so I thought, maybe this is the time I try different things and experiment with all kinds of different amps in the studio. I’m in the process of re-building my live rig at the moment to accommodate some of the different sounds. I think I need something with an extra channel.  Axe FX is something I use quite a bit of, just mainly f0r effect, not for guitar or distortion sounds. I’m trying to combine that with a couple of tube amps and see what I can come up with but I’m still trying to keep it simple.

MS: You mentioned the Axe FX; how do you feel about the digital modelling amps like the Axe FX or Kemper? Do you think they’ll ever replace tube amps?

DG: I hope not. I think they’re amazing. They’re fucking incredible. The Axe FX… the sounds on there, you just wouldn’t be able to get with an analogue pedal or just a tube amp. To me, what I dig the most when I see bands, you know, they turn their amps up to eleven and make the speakers work. They’re literally pushing air. That’s what I want to capture, that movement. A lot of the time now, there are bands that tour with just digital rigs and I don’t know… to me, Meshuggah is the only band that can do it and get away with it, with flying colours. I think there’s definitely something to it, and it’s just personal preference really, but to me, nothing beats the hot tubes and the speakers getting, you know, blown up, flying past my kneecaps. I don’t wear in-ears for the same reason as well. Which is probably not great for my hearing [laughs] I’ll probably end up getting in ears but I dare say I’ll ever stop using a tube amp. I think it’s a combination that works; I’m able to use analogue and digital and they’re both awesome in different ways.

MS: A balanced rig?

DG: Yeah, yeah for sure. Definitely.

MS: How do you go about writing music? Can you sit down and hammer out songs or do you rely on spontaneous inspiration?

DG: We rely both on spontaneity and time. As far as the initial ideas, that’s all spontaneity. It comes a lot from jamming in a room, working on an idea and seeing what happens. Something that just sort of happens between band members or one person if they’re just sitting in the room just sort of letting it come through them. But when it comes to working on a final structure of a song and developing it, that’s a time thing. We always have to leave the songs to gestate in that way. Some songs have come together really quickly. “The Refusal” was one of them that just seemed to come together in… probably about two weeks, and then there are songs like, oh man… Sky Machine took a long time, that was four years. I mean, even “Change” on the last record took six years to write.

MS: Wow.

DG: Usually to me my favourite songs are the ones that do come together very quickly, because it really sums up the moment in time whereas “Change”, it’s one of my favourite songs that we’ve written, just for the reason that it sums up six years of evolution, you know, within one song, and it’s called “Change”. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but it can be frustrating sometimes when it doesn’t come thick and fast but you just have to trust that the ideas will keep coming and you’ve just gotta sometimes force them. If it doesn’t come together you’ve gotta slap it together in some form and then work on it.

MS: Asbolutely. So do you suffer from writer’s block often? Is it something that you came up against during the stages of writing “Asymmetry”?

DG: Oh yeah, man. Definitely. Writer’s block comes in different forms, I think. I can come in the form of not having enough ideas or sometimes it can come to me in the form of too many ideas or just not enough focus. You need to shut off the imagination a bit because there’s there’s two sides of the brain and if you let too many ideas in you just become overwhelmed with the possibilities of where something could go. Sometimes you  just need to block that out and just work using the more rational side of the brain. I think that’s a common thing for all musos; writer’s block. It’s always there.

MS: Was ‘Asymmetry’ a collaborative effort in terms of writing?

DG: Yeah, it’s collaborative but I mean, it was over a long period of time. It’s more a couple of people, predominately it was probably Jon and myself forming the foundations for most of the songs. Quite often it would come from an idea of Steve and Jon jamming together but a lot of the time it was Jon and myself sitting in the room developing ideas and structures. A lot of the parts, because I mean, Jon, our bass player was a guitarist first, and I was originally a drummer as well, so we bounce ideas off each other really well in that way. A lot of the time Jon’s brain works in such a weird and fantastic way that it’s usually me trying to moderate it, you know? He sort of sits there and stares at the walls and there’s just this oncoming… you can’t stop the flood of ideas that come through him and he’s just playing and you’re like “That’s amazing”. You just don’t know when to stop and say “Alright, that’s enough” and then he’ll play something else that’s awesome and you’ll be like “Alright, keep going!” [laughs] So it’s just trying to streamline that process a lot of the time and keep moving forward. Sometimes you just get so many ideas that you get bamboozled by it. But yeah, overall it was a collaborative effort even though some people sort of come in at different times, and it was a bit more of a long-distance relationship this time round in that way.

MS: Unfortunately we’re running out of time, so if you had to give some advice to someone that wants to tour in a band and break into the music industry?

DG: Play as many shows as you can and don’t get fucked over by dodgy promoters. Just play and play and play; it’s all about gigging. Don’t try and take any short cuts, just work on your craft, work on your fan base and hone in on what it is you want to do. I think by doing that, you’ll find your own thing, your own space. You have to make sacrifices and you have to forgo a normal life  in a lot of ways if you want to be in a professional touring band. That’s the big thing. But you know, it’s awesome, it’s rewarding.

MS: It’s been amazing talking to you today, thank you so much, Drew, and congratulations again on the new album.

DG: Thanks, William.

Karnivool’s third album “Asymmetry was released on the 19th of August. Listen to “The Refusal below. 

Click here to purchase “Asymmetry from iTunes.

Karnivool Asymmetry tour dates
with special guests Northlane

Tuesday, 30th July
Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide (All Ages/Lic)
Tix: http://www.venuetix.com.au

Thursday, 1st August
Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne (GA Floor/GA seated balcony)
Tix: http://www.oztix.com.au

Friday, 2nd August
Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne(GA Floor/GA seated balcony)
Tix: http://www.oztix.com.au

Sunday, 4th August
The Big Top, Luna Park, Sydney (All Ages/Lic)
Tix: http://www.oztix.com.au and http://www.bigtopsydney.com

Wednesday 7 August
Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane
Tix: http://www.oztix.com.au

Sunday 11 August
Metro City, Perth
Tix: http://www.oztix.com.au

Bridging the gap between Death Metal and Black Metal – An Interview with Brian Eschbach of The Black Dahlia Murder

26 Jun

The Black Dahlia Murder have been around for well over a decade now, and have recently released their sixth full length release; Everblack. Guitarist Brian Eschbach was kind enough to give us a few minutes of his time allowing us insight into what it’s like to be in a band like The Black Dahlia Murder .

Brian Eschbach: G’daaaay mate! So how are you?

Monolith-Sound: I’m good, thanks. How are you?

BE: I’m good. You wanna talk about some metal or what?

MS: Awesome! Yeah, I have a bunch of questions for you if you’d like to start.

BE: I got some answers, I probably will fumble with a couple though so bare with me.

MS: Alrighty! First off, at what age did you pick up the guitar and what drove you to play music?

BE: Well let’s see, I picked up the guitar when I was 12 and I wanted to be Billy-Joe Armstrong. This is pretty factual. Uh, I since then have lost my aspiration to be Billy-Joe Armstrong and no longer play a Fender Stratocaster, but that was pretty much the beginning of the whole thing.

MS: So what made you change from listening to Green Day to heavier music?

BE: Uh, maturity? I don’t know. When you’re a young kid you know, you end up liking a good handful of stuff and a lot of times it’s just what you have access to and they were all over the fucking radio back then.

MS: Yeah, for sure.

BE: It was a couple of years after that when I found out there was a lot of other cool shit out there and you’ve gotta do a little digging to get to it. And then I just ended up with a bunch of other smelly men playing metal.

MS: Black Dahlia’s most recent release, Everblack, begins with a song that is reminiscent of something I would expect to be from your first album, “Unhallowed”; It has an older, thrashier feel to it. Did you write that intentionally or is that just how it came out?

BE: With the first couple of riffs I put together I knew I wanted to go with just straight up, kind of sweetish, stripped down, high energy, high octane, full speed fucking ripper for that one.

MS: The new album is darker and heavier, and has a number of sections with a strong black metal influence. What were you listening to at the time of writing Everblack, that influenced the music you wrote and how do you feel about the band’s progression, musically speaking, since your last album.

BE: Dude, I’ll tell you what; for the last year I’ve been listening to a whole bunch of Neko Case. Fuckin’ American folk shit. So I don’t know how much that has to do with how Everblack came out. For Trevor and I, Black Dahlia Murder has always been about trying to get all the stuff we love about all the different kinds of metal together in one cohesive thing. You know, bridge the gap between death and black if you will. That’s kind of always been a mission statement if you will.

MS: The song “Control” is about serial killer Jeffery Dahmer and how he tortured his victims. Do you think that this genre of music is confined to lyrics and themes that depict graphic violence and death? Do you think death metal could work if it were about, for example, kittens and bunnies or something less extreme?

BE: We’ve done songs about the gruelling nature of being trashed on the road and you know, just being a hobo. Not too much of it, but we have stepped out of the box. You know, I find myself to be a pretty violent person, at least in my mind. I want to hurt people all the time. So music is a great outlet for you know, getting those feelings out without actually going to jail.

MS: A form of expression.

BE: Exactly.

MS: You guys recently put out a music video for one of your songs from Everblack; Goat Departure. Can you describe what the song and video are about?

BE: I think we’ve only had maybe one or two music videos that have really dealt with uh, you know… You had imagery that was dealing with the subject matter of the song – that is totally not the case with Goat of Departure. Uh, making a music video and trying to have a big story and stuff, it just costs more fucking money than is actually available in this death metal world. So when we get a video budget we usually are like “What’s the most ridiculous thing we can show people?”. So yeah, even though the song is about how the goat is a symbol of anti-Christian power, the video’s just about farting around with someone else’s money

MS: Playing for a band like The Black Dahlia Murder, you’ve been able to tour across the world, performing in many different locations. How do you stop from getting on each other’s nerves after being cooped up for hours in a tour van or on an airplane or something?

BE: Uh, honesty. We’re just like “Dude you need to chill out.”

MS: Have you had any massive disagreements or do you all get along fairly well?

BE: Everyone’s pretty much all in the same mindset. There’s no inconsiderate souls here so it’s pretty easy.

MS: What has been your most memorable show with The Black Dahlia Murder so far?

BE: I.. I don’t even think I could name one, man, haha. What I want to say is that getting close to maybe a thousand shows played. Uh, there’s so many that are just amazing and you know, even though we’re playing the same stuff, they’re completely different experiences. Sometimes you have an awesome day because you got to meet an icon of yours just from, you know, playing in your band and a lot of times that’s the coolest shit, man. When we were on Soundwave two years ago,  I got to meet a bunch of dudes that I had loved for so long and I loved their music. An amazing show where the crowd’s great and you didn’t fuck up at all, like, that’s always great, but it seems to be the stuff around that, uh, that forms the day in your memory.

MS: The band has had a few lineup changes since its inception; was it difficult finding a new drummer? How did you go about ensuring Alan was the right guy for the job?

BE: Yeah you’re absolutely correct. We’ve had uh, a good amount of member changes since we started twelve years ago and uh, I mean finding guys now at this point, you know, when that happens is  a lot easier than in the beginning because we’ve toured with so many different bands and we’ve gotten to see so many different players and you know, meet them and get to know them. So a year before Shannon left,  when Bart left and didn’t want to tour anymore, It didn’t take us very long to, you know, that we wanted to hit up Max from Despised Icon. You know, we’d toured with them a bunch and knew him fairly well and thought he was going to be a pretty damn good fit. That was really easy. And then Alan, a year later when Shannon quit, we started talking to some dudes that we knew would be viable for the gig. Uh, I think we ended up jamming with maybe five or six dudes and then uh, Alan just uh, he wasn’t really on the radar; we hadn’t met him before. Ryan, our other guitar player just happened to see Alan playing with Abigail Williams in Chicago, right around the time that Shannon quit and was just blown away by the dude’s performance. So we hit him up to try out and he had the deal, he knew how to do the Black Dahlia songs. So, he was definitely the guy.

MS: How do you go about writing material and working that around the ideas that the other members have. Do you all come together and share your ideas?

BE: There’s a bit of sharing, I mean for the most part me and Ryan will write songs by ourselves and just kind of show it to the other guys and we’ll talk about stuff like “Oh we could do this. We could work on this transition here or something”. But for the most part, me and Ryan just kind of belt that kind of shit out on our own. Then Trevor comes back with his lyrical gold.

MS: So you guys will typically jam new material and experiment with different things?

BE: Well the experimenting usually happens at home by myself. You know, I’ll start my day in my underwear with a bowl of cereal, and I’ll trade my bowl of cereal in for a guitar and then I just pace around until I’m happy with the riff and then belt out that riff and try to tag something else along with it. Once you have a couple of riffs, uh, it’s really easy. You start popping out more that fit with the context of the song, with the other stuff that’s already there. So I mean, all the innovation happens for me when I’m pacing.

MS:  How long did it take to write Everblack? From the first initial ideas to the day of release.  

BE: Uh I first started riffin’ out for Everblack around September 2012 and that’s really when Ryan started working on his stuff too. It was basically last fall, yeah. We started working with stuff in September and shooting it back and forth. Then in November we went on tour with Dethklok for a month, we came back from that and just finished up basically. Between September, October December, that album pretty much came together.

MS: One of my most favourite Black Dahlia releases was actually the DVD that came with your album “Deflorate”. Does the band have any plans to release another DVD?

BE: We’re shooting another DVD right now.

MS: The Black Dahlia Murder has been around for over a decade now, how has the music industry changed since the band first came about?

BE: Oh uh, I guess the problem started before we got into it. People are buying less and less albums and doing more downloading of torrents. That’s had its effect, you know. Record labels just can’t step up to support as much as they could in the past, I’m sure. But that being said, Metal Blade has always taken wonderful care of us and have done everything they possibly could to you know, lift The Black Dahlia Murder up.

MS: Some people have said that music piracy has in a way, helped spread awareness about their music. How do you feel about piracy and the illegal downloading of music?

BE: I think it’s just made it harder, you know? Going back to talk about label stuff, I mean, they’ve had their fucking legs chopped off as far as the finances and everyone is just trying to make do. It’s constantly evolving, people have had had to figure out new ways. With how the music world is changing, you see all these bands now going out and asking their fans to fork out money before they do anything, which is kind of really weird to me because they kind of do it under the guise of “Do-It-Yourself” but it’s warped because you’re putting the responsibility on the fans to you know, create your music.

MS: So you can’t see The Black Dahlia Murder doing something similar to Protest The Hero with Kickstarter fundraising campaigns?

BE: You will NEVER see The Black Dahlia Murder doing a Kickstarter, haha. We will find our own way.

MS: You’re currently playing Warped Tour in the US. Which bands were you excited to play with?

BE: We’re about uh, I want to say a week and a half into dates. I’ve seen, this will probably be surprising, I’ve seen Goldfinger and that was awesome. I saw Reel Big Fish; I was pretty into the pop-punk when I was like twelve or thirteen so it’s kind of neat to see bands like that. The surprising thing is, when Warped Tour started it was all pop punk kind of bands and a lot of skateboarding. They’d have professional skateboarders out on the ramps going all day, you know? And now it seems the majority of the bands are kind of like, metalcore’ish? Or screamo even. I dunno.

MS: Metalcore seems to have been really popular lately though.

BE: There’s an element of heaviness going on around here, but uh, you know we’re still sticking out like a sore thumb so that’s great.

MS: Do you often discover local bands when you’re on tour, or find smaller bands that you really like that you didn’t know about?

BE: Oh definitely, man. Most of the time when you go out there’s a local act, for the most part they’re doing something you’ve heard before,  and uh, sometimes not well. But then there’s fuckin’ times that there’s a local band opening up a show and they just blow your mind. You had no idea what was about to happen, that they were gonna kick your ass. So that’s always fun. When we played in Grand Rapids the last time, it’s our home state, a couple of hours away, and uh, this band called “Dwarf Corpse” opened up the show and they were awesome. They were like a European costume band but like they were just a bunch of young dudes pretending to be trolls or dwarfs of whatever but they had an awwwesome fuckin’… they were slammin’ that Maiden vibe. That was fucking sweet.

MS: Oh awesome! Unfortunately we’re running out of time, I have one last question here. What advice would you give to music industry or tour full time with a band?

BE: Don’t act like a penis and you’ll be alright.

MS: Haha, It’s been a pleasure talking to you, thank you very much for your time.

BE: Thank you for your time, man.