After the sacrifice: an interview with Asschapel

 

Asschapel! A mighty band merging heavy metal thunder with roaring, crusty filth! They released a clutch of neat releases but were seemingly little-loved during their brief, explosive lifetime. Ad Fleet (who had the great fortune to see them live ‘back in the day’) and I frequently rue their passing, so when Southern Lord announced a discography it seemed like a fine time to get the lowdown on these Nashville smashers.

Questions are by Ad and Alex, all answers are courtesy of guitarist Dallas Thomas.

So, tell us how Asschapel came about: how did the band get together, what had you been doing beforehand and what was the initial aim?

Asschapel pretty much started when Erik [Holcombe, vocals]  and I were living together with a bunch of other dudes back in 1998. We a had list on our fridge of the worst fake band names anyone could think of and ‘Asschapel’ is the one that stuck and actually became a real band…

You hailed from Nashville, Tennessee: a place steeped in musical history and where brilliant musicians allegedly loiter on every given street corner. What (if any) kind of influence did your hometown have on the band or your playing?

Yes we were and yes it is… We all came up from the All Ages/DIY punk scene though, and I would say a collective influence of ours was a repulsion for the pop-country, nu metal and Christian metal that was common in Nashville at the time.

It was always struck me that there was a real fucking intensity to your music: it had this bold, invincible-making quality that makes me think of His Hero Is Gone playing ‘Ride The Lightning’ riffs. Where were you coming from as a band, and what did you want to be/sound like?

You pretty much nailed it. A fusion of crust punk and corporate rock/metal… ha! His Hero Is Gone and From Ashes Rise pretty much paved the way for us to get out of Tennessee. When we first hit the road we kind of got written off a little bit in that scene because of our name, which really pissed us off and looking back made us play more furious and harder as a band.

Despite being rooted in hardcore, the sound, imagery, song titles and lyrics were very metal-focused. I mean, you weren’t CROM or something, but they were still pretty ‘out there’. Was this a serious gambit, humorous/ironic, or were you using this aesthetic to mask something more serious?

Erik wrote all the lyrics so I can’t speak for him, but I feel it is/was all of the above… humorous/ironic/serious and then back again. But I will say it was always a cathartic release for us a band to poke fun at religion, violence and hate. However, when someone comes to you and say they just got back from a tour in Iraq and say that they were listening to Asschapel during a bombing raids it is a different pill to swallow…

Where did you feel Asschapel fit in while you were a going concern? You were your peers and allies?

We didnt really think about it we just went and did it on our own dime. Back in the day, we played shows with Mastodon, Baroness, Kylesa, Municipal Waste, and Black Tusk when they were all starting out. They all got pretty popular and we fell to shit but, hey, that’s the way it goes…

What kind of crowds did you draw? Were you conscious of any sort of dividing line between metalheads and punx?

At the time we were a band, we were half and half with both the punks and metalheads. But towards the end we also attracted people that didn’t like punk or metal.

Ad points out that, in later days, the merging of metal and punk would become pretty de rigueur with all the Japanese and MPDS stuff like GATES, Doraid etc. doing the rounds. Do you think you were maybe a bit ahead of the curve (as opposed to ‘born too late’)?

Yeah maybe. It’s hard to know… When people started finding out about us we were so broke and sick of each other that we broke up…

Who were the shittiest bands/people you had to deal with as a band?

You know I can’t really remember… We were probably the shittiest band and people that other bands had to deal with…Ha!

You covered ‘Raining Blood’ on your Satanation 7”. Bit of a bold move, that. How do you think it came off? Did you try your hand at any other thrash covers?

That was our only cover. It was always a crowd pleaser – here we are ten plus years talking about it!

What do you remember about your European tour? What were the high and low points for you and how were you received in the UK? What are your fondest – or weirdest – memories?

It was all a blur. We did two EU tours and the UK only once. Breaking down in the snow in north Sweden was not fun. Getting to play in Bosnia, Serbia, Macadonia, and Greece was a pretty surreal experience for sure.

What were reactions to you like in the punk press (MRR, Heartattack, Punk Planet, whoever) at the time?

If I remember correctly hit or miss, but usually we were kinda written off for our name and for being a non-political band. Like I said, that kinda pissed us off and made us a better band in the end.

Ad points out that you were touring at a point when it was still pretty common to have not heard a touring band before seeing them. While it was possible to be bowled over by an unheard-band, do you feel that this worked to your disadvantage? You obviously had the hook-up with German label Flowerviolence, but I’m not sure how well distributed you were this side of the pond before that?

Yeah, we were for sure in the last generation of bands to tour without cellphones and GPS! We never had any formidable backing, promo or distro while we were around. We just said fuck it and hit the road because that is what we all wanted to do at the time.

What put an end to Asschapel? Was it a slow death or quick and virtuous?

In my opinion, pretty much what made Asschapel great was what ultimately destroyed it. We didn’t start Asschapel as a business – we were just some pissed off friends from Nashville who wanted to play some catchy thrash-prog-punk. But when the money crunch comes in and everyone is broke and their personal lives start falling apart it’s hard to keep it fun and everyone on the same page… Looking back we would have been a band longer if we would have been little more business-minded and had better luck with vans – we broke down every tour…

What kind of a legacy do you think the band left behind? Is there anything that you would change, if you had your time again?

That’s hard to say so I won’t… But I think the legacy of Asschapel will now be solidified with Southern Lord releasing our discography to expose a new generation of pissed off kids to the Chapel of Ass…

How did the Southern Lord discography come about? Were you pals with Greg at the time, or did this only come about later by virtue of the Pelican connection? What kind of memories did putting the discog together dredge up? Were they all positive?

It’s kind of a long story… But, yeah, positive for the most part to look back 10+ years later with some objectivity and realize how much crazy stuff we pulled off and that people still talk about and care about Asschapel… About Two years ago, our original bass player JRob sent our first cassette demo to our old friend superfan Dan Emery at Black Matter Mastering to clean up which we put on Bandcamp. That really got us Assdudes all talking again. Fast forward about a year or so when Pelican toured, Goatsnake Greg from Southern Lord and I realised we had a mutual friend in Brad Boatright (From Ashes Rise/Audiosiege Mastering) and that, in a nutshell, is what ultimately led to Southern Lord Releasing the Asschapel discography.

What did you all go on to do after Asschapel? How would you say the band informed your latter endeavours, and did the experience ‘teach’ you anything?

Erik went on to play in the Nashville band Hans Condor. Chris the drummer plays in the Nashville band Tijuana Goat Ride. First bassist JRob plays in the Seattle Band Witch Ripper and Tom, the Moog/synth player, went on to play bass in a band called Ayebawl. Second bassist Nygard retired from music after Asschapel and started a family. I moved to Chicago in 2008 and started doing session work for Sanford Parker, started a band called The Swan King and then ended up playing guitar in Pelican around 2011.

 

What Price, Wonderland? – final shows / mission statement

Eh up, this is Joe C again, first of all thanks to everyone who read the “emo is fucking dead uk edition” post, it seems to have worked!

So this one is about my old band and a kinda official statement/info bomb about these shows we’re doing. Mostly waffle, some info.

What Price, Wonderland? is myself, James Wright and Andy Hemming. We formed when we were maybe 13/14 under various names and for the most part was basically mates jamming in a garage playing really poorly conceived covers by bands we liked such as Rival Schools, At the Drive-in etc. After a year or two we decided to try and do a proper band with “our own material” inspired by the mailorder DIY scene and bands we had been told to go see live by bigger kids we met on forums such as Collective-zine and the Kerrang! forums (rock on dude!), in the pre social media / Web 2.0 world.

Originally we had a second guitarist, Clyde Bradford, you may know him from another band of cry babies who are now outstretching everyone in this little scene…. Andy met Clyde at a Zao (yeah the Christian melodic metalcore band) show when we made some flyers asking for a guitarist to play stuff in the vein of “Indian Summer, Cap’n Jazz and Assfactor4”, which in retrospect was a fucking ask, but somehow we ended up doing something like that.  We did some shows and some ill fated demos under the name The Snowman, including some pretty hilarious shows with some top anecdotes I won’t bore you with here. Suffice to say at 15 we didn’t really know how to socially interact with people outside our dumb little group and we sacked Clyde, not even really sure why, but it doesn’t matter as we’ve ended up being close friends for years now (sorry Clyde).  We then dropped the “The”, called ourselves Snowman, I put out a 7″ with the money I saved from dropping out of school and working in washing machine sales and we subsequently imploded, again we were teenagers, no real reason why.

We made friends probably a few weeks later and decided once again to take the band another step more seriously. There was literally no one else around where we lived who liked this music anyway, so the theme of us breaking up and reforming with a new band and pretending it was a new thing was inevitable. This time though we decided to add a second guitar again and Mitch the Witch aka Mike Coley (yep of Belly Kids fame!) joined us but left after one recording. So back with the original three piece lineup we actually started to be a band. We did two slightly dodgy 7″s which we dropped the songs from not long after releasing and played with a bunch of bands. Meanwhile we were both working out how to be human beings and how DIY/punk rock could be the ultimate vessel for our shit.

I can’t speak for the other two, but the first record I can still listen to/stomach is “Claim”, which also marks our first record with our a long time recording man Boulty of Stuck on A Name (both this 7″, the first lp and the Syn Error split were done in his loft). We didn’t really know how to do a genre, but we loved a lot of the emo stuff around on Ebullition, Level Plane etc at the time and kinda got lumped in with that stuff. We played with bands like Raein, Louise Cypher, Daitro, Ultra Dolphins and probably loads more I have forgotten. Musically we tried to mix stuff we liked together without really caring if it fit (remember doing that before you started bands on sub-genre specific forums and Facebook groups?!), our favourite bands were stuff like Yaphet Kotto, Off Minor, His Hero is Gone, Infest, Cap’n Jazz, Blame Game, Assfactor4, Mohinder, Captain Speky… we didn’t really know which genres these fit into but liked bits from all their sounds and took where we pleased. Kinda funny to think we actually tried to play Cap’n Jazz chords over blastbeats and didn’t get laughed down by absolutely everyone, I dunno it made sense to us.

We went on to tour the UK a few times and got the touring bug we never lost. The most inspiration time in our life as a band was probably being asked to go to the continent with the band Syn*Error, completely on faith we turned up after a few Myspace messages between the bands and learned probably more about ourselves and music in that space of time than any other before or to come. We did another lp and some splits and kinda stopped as we lived far away and were becoming involved in our styles of music completely separate from punk rock.

We played the odd show, but didn’t really write new material and that leaves us where we are now. James went on to play in Bird Calls and Kin Shot, Andy is now in Arkless and I played in Plaids and now Soul Structure. The band never really ended and although at times we lost touch, we never stopped being friends at all. One ill fated reunion to play with Raein at the Brudenell in Leeds a few years back kinda put a spanner in things until I checked my personal Last.Fm page to find out what bands my girlfriend might want on vinyl for Xmas I saw a message from 6 months ago asking for WPW to play this fest in Berlin. Not thinking the other guys would do it I started seeing if perhaps Soul Structure could play, presuming the offer had passed long ago, but to my surprise within a day we had set up this fest slot, a warm up show in western Germany and a final goodbye show at the amazing DIY Space For London….

Thursday May 5th – DS4L with a mega lineup of old and new friends

Friday May 6th – Western Germany headline show on the way across to Berlin

Saturday May 7th- We Built The World And Miss The Stars fest in Berlin https://www.facebook.com/events/909323962491133/

 

Then we’re dead.

 

LINKS

https://whatpricewonderland.bandcamp.com/

http://www.discogs.com/artist/2017092-What-Price-Wonderland

http://www.last.fm/music/What+Price,+Wonderland%3F

https://www.facebook.com/What-Price-Wonderland-105672889289/

 

current and ex bands:

https://birdcalls.bandcamp.com/

https://soulstructure.bandcamp.com/releases

https://arkless.bandcamp.com/releases

https://kinshot.bandcamp.com/

https://plaids.bandcamp.com/

 

Thanks,

Joe C

emo is fucking dead get over it (united kingdom edition)

 

(Healing Powers at Fire As A Metaphor fest at JT SOAR, Nottingham by Kyle Jenner)

I wrote a thing out on tumblr a while back to help share some friends and my own bands stuff, its kinda weird trying to promote music which exists almost exclusively in the heads of insular weirdos, but as this information-super-highway fills up with lists, why not add one more?

So here is some info, words, links about some bands I consider somehow related, if not only by the fact me and my friends keep putting on the poor bastards at the same gigs.

Sorry it’s not completely exhaustive, I only listen to bluegrass and speed garage.

Here are some bands to check out…..

CARSON WELLS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8SqL2Rcr_8

One of the handful of power trios in the scene right now, and one of the few bands who seem to really “get” the three piece thing for what it can be (answer: a lot).  They made this album this year after the 12″ combining two sessions from the past few years “Wonderkid” came out the year previous, and it kinda sucks to think that whilst most people who have heard it had their asses kicked by it, so many asses are left un-kicked.  The trio thing works, three personalities, three voices, three completely nailed sounds and playing styles bouncing into each other and dragging you along. Even being “isolated” in the land of oil barons  (Aberdeen (how many DIY bands from major cities moan about gig coverage even locally?)) they still managed to tour the mainland with those Yanks we love so much (Football Etc) and play tonnes of shows in the rest of the UK.

Musically they are a kinda desperate, churning, yet incredibly tight freight train that slows down to sob along at all the right moments.

You can hear their lp in full up there, probably illegally, I dunno…

https://carsonwells.bandcamp.com/

Here is a recent live video from Strugglefest.

 

 

HUMAN HANDS

Somehow unrelenting in the fact they play possibly the most unfashionable music possible, are from the West Midlands and manage to play further afield than most bands I know to good sized crowds, Human Hands are very much still around and turning the mostly hardened crusties into Buckfasted wasted head bobbers and chest tappers. At the time of writing this I know for a fact (and have heard) two more records I can’t share, so have this one off the first lp and follow links below to their very deep back catalogue of small run international splits across many formats.

I managed to work out what they sound like while drunkenly shouting at their bassist and all round nice-man-of-the-scene Chaz: “It’s basically all those really uncomfortable bits on those more fucked up 90s records that never really got popular due to tightness, but looped into actual music”.  Their newer stuff has this kinda Neil Young Crazy Horse meets Red House Painters meets I Hate Myself thing going on. If you liked the first lp and recent splits you’re gonna really like this next stuff.

https://humanhands.bandcamp.com/

Here’s a video of them on their tour of Japan a while back with their standard japery and no fi sound quality

 

and another in a basement

 

SOUL STRUCTURE

Sticking this one the middle quickly and moving swiftly on coz its my band. I got andy malcolm to write what he thought it should say here:

Soul Structure – already moving on after an accomplished debut EP that wasn’t a million miles from the band singer Joe previously emoted in (Plaids, obvs), Soul Structure look set to lose 90% of their “fanbase” with an upcoming record that builds on their sound whilst introducing more introspective elements from all your fave ponderers including Polaris, Slint and Van Pelt.

https://soulstructure.bandcamp.com/ here is our stuff, the new lp will be up very soon.

http://zineandnotheard.co.uk/tag/soul-structure/ decent video here.

 

THE BLUE PERIOD

Related to the above via Chris (Soul Structure drummer, Blue Period guitar and vocalist), Nottingham’s the Blue Period kinda provide the night to the aforementioned band’s day. Now with added ex Plaids and JT SOAR bossman/goofball Phil on drums, their buddy Stephen on violin, Wolf Town DIY alien Sadler and Chris out from behind the kit they are now a proper full ensemble of nostalgic insomnia.  They have a split with Human Hands out when the Adele vinyl is finished in every pressing planet ever. They are also reissuing their demo (when they were just a kinda bedroom wig out) on a 10″, which is nice.

https://theblueperiod.bandcamp.com/

Awkward as hell live vid above.

 

WALL

https://wall-music.bandcamp.com

Not a lot online from this lot yet, do they even belong here? I reckon so… young Welsh kids making a proper racket in the late 80s Dischord vibe.. less Cap’n Jazz.. more Soul Side.. nice! Insane live. Do vinyl please!

 

ARKLESS

Relatively new band from London with folks from Bird Calls and What Price Wonderland doing some kind of introspective and hypnotic stabby vibe with constantly propositioning spoken vocals, if that’s your thing (it is mine if you cared, you didn’t).

https://arkless.bandcamp.com/releases

EP coming soon, but here is a nice live recording from a gig they did at JT which I’ll come onto later.

 

PLEASE, BELIEVE

This is the post Bonehouse band. That Dundeemo lot. Not a lot down yet, but worth keeping an eye on because Bonehouse didn’t really mess about when it came to being a band. They do a kinda breathless groovemo thing, not unlinke their Scotch buddies Carson Wells, but a little more direct.

Here is a live video:

 

AKALLABETH

The Wolf Town DIY in house band. Some kind of lost Ebullition Records compilation band via Birmingham and Mordor (is that the right one, they like some wizard and dragons thing or something)

https://akallabethwolves.bandcamp.com/releases

HEALING POWERS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tbj6nkkZCIU

Less a straight up emo band, but more their own super jangly, screamy take on things, but deserve a mention here for sure. Not sure how active they still are, but having provided us with the very cool photo at the top (by Kyle Jenner) it would be wrong to miss them out either way.

https://healingpowers.bandcamp.com/

ok so that’s probably too short and scrappy but hopefully that opens up some stuff to any interested parties… put any links you wanna add in the comments

some labels to keep an eye on would be:

http://barelyregalrecords.com/

http://sncl.collective-zine.co.uk/

http://wolftowndiy.limitedrun.com/

probably some more? maybe put them in the comments too

once a year I am trying to put these bands on together at this thing called Fire As A Metaphor at our venue here in Nottingham called JT SOAR, keep an eye out for that… and this…

“have you got any more beers?” quite

CAUTION HOT (Human Hands at Fire As A Metaphor by Kyle Jenner)

by Joe C

Pushing the punishment: an interview with WarHorse

WarHorse was a crushing, psych-addled doom band who released a handful of singles and, in 2001, an album entitled ‘As Heaven Turns To Ash…’. Southern Lord reissued it earlier this year, and bassist Jerry Orne, drummer Mike Hubbard and guitarist Todd Laskowski were decent enough to answer some of my questions.

Ok. Can you start off with the simple stuff for us: how, when, where and why did WarHorse get started?

Jerry: WarHorse started in 1996. Desolate (the death metal band I was in) had broken up and I was looking to start something new. I knew Krista VanGuilder and Mike Hubbard from their old bands.

Mike: The band was already being formed by the time Jerry called me up. I was between bands at the time. My old band Infestation has recently ended, so the timing was good for me. We didn’t really discuss a direction or anything, he just asked if I was interested in coming down to jam and I said yes.

What was the initial idea behind the band? Did you know how you wanted things to sound when you started out?

Jerry: We were all looking to do something heavy and crusty, but still pretty melodic.

Mike: Like I said, the band was already being formed by the time I showed up, so I can’t speak to the origins. But I know we wanted to do something heavy, something different, so we just sort of followed that path.

I think (?) some of you played in death metal bands in the early 90s. I’ve always been drawn to bands with that deathly sound to them, but it seemed for quite a while that people didn’t make the connection between doom and death metal. How did you see the two genres intersecting and cross-pollinating? Was playing slower stuff a ‘reaction’ to the speed of death metal, or was it some sort of logical extension?

Mike: Yeah, the early 90s was a good time for death metal. There were a few of us bands doing different takes on different styles at the time. I was drawn to bands like Entombed, Grave, Incantation, Autopsy which all had some elements of doom and slower parts. But I also liked fast stuff like Carcass, Napalm Death, Brutal Truth. But when I discovered bands like Cathedral, Eyehategod, the Melvins, I was hooked. For me, I felt like the slow to mid-pace vibe allowed for more punishment. You could hit a lot harder, and each beat felt massive.

Jerry: I think we just put our influences together: Sabbath, Sleep, Crowbar, Melvins, Autopsy, Buzzoven, Cathedral, etc.

Todd: Well, the guys in WarHorse were always into bands like Winter, Autopsy and Cathedral, so mixing in a little Sleep and EyeHateGod in just sort of came naturally. I mean it’s all extreme music and that’s what we all like. It was just an easy progression if you will.

Who did you view as your peers / comrades / competitors? Was there any sense that there was a ‘scene’, or were there just isolated pockets of slow-motion heaviness?

Jerry: We never really tried to figure out what we were. We played with metal bands, rock bands, punk and hardcore. Reactions were generally negative, really. Fine with me.

Mike: This was very early in the “stoner rock” thing, but I remember getting some of the first stuff from Electric Wizard and being completely blown away. Grief was another local band putting out slow, brutal stuff, but we never crossed paths. I think we would have been a good fit.

Todd: Ha ha, I’d say “isolated pockets” is a good way to put it. It all just kind of came to the surface. The influences just boiled up. It wasn’t a competition thing, but the bands I mentioned were definitely peers in our eyes.

Many of the US bands from that era I’d associate with more punk/hardcore-related labels and scenes (e.g. Noothgrush, Floor, Cavity and Grief being on labels like Bovine and Slap-A-Ham and/or playing fests like Fiesta Grande…) but I kinda think that WarHorse were very much a METAL band. Is this interpretation correct, and was there any crossover?

Mike: We were all into punk, hardcore, etc but metal was definitely the main thing we were going for. But we also had a lot of love for the early heavy stuff, 70s rock and heavy metal, 60s psychedelia. All of that started finding spots in our songs.

Todd – Yes, we love bands like Grief, Disrupt, Converge and Neurosis. We also all listened to a lot of D.R.I, Madball and Sick Of It All, but WarHorse is definitely mostly influenced by METAL!

What kind of bands did you play with? They were a bit earlier than you guys, obviously, but I remember talking to Stephen from Winter and him saying they were hated almost universally, whether they played with punk bands (with whom they shared certain ideologies) or bigger metal bands like Sepultura…

Mike: We played with a lot of that mid-90s alternative rock/metal that was all around us, and we were usually hated when we played with them. We’ve had the power shut off on us more than once. We opened for Godsmack when they were on the rise and people were visibly angry. Once we got into Boston, we had a little bit of a better reception. Fans there were much more tolerant.

Todd – We played with everyone from Bongzilla to Goatsnake to the heaviest death metal bands. We had a death metal background, so we pretty much fit in with everyone we played with but it was mostly doom-oriented bands that we did shows with (Evoken, Unearthly Trance etc.) or death metal bands that already knew us personally (Cryptopsy and the likes of them). We also played the first ‘Stoner Hands of Doom’ fest, which reunited Pentagram and Trouble.

Am I right in thinking you had a female vocalist when you first started out? Can you tell us about those early days, and what led to the change?

Jerry: Yes, Krista VanGuilder was first on vocals and guitar. Great player and singer. We did our first cassette, then CD with her. I’m not really sure exactly why she quit. She was in college. We still all get along great now.

Mike: Yeah, Krista was the original guitarist/vocalist when I joined the band. Those days were fun. We had some good songs I think, and at the time, heavy bands fronted by women weren’t that common. It made us stand out. Unfortunately she decided to leave the band to pursue college, which is fine. There was no animosity, and things worked out for everyone.

How would you say WarHorse grew and developed over the course of its existence? How would you characterise the changes – be they physical, sonic or personal – that the band underwent from release to release?

Jerry: We just kept pushing the punishment, getting heavier every step of the way.

Mike: With each incarnation of the band, we got heavier and more psychedelic, more nasty. After Krista, we played with Matt Smith for a while, did the ‘Lysergic’ 7″ and the ‘Priestess’ EP with him. He brought a lot of the experimental/noise elements into the mix. But that didn’t work out and it was just Jerry and I. At that point, Jerry decided he would take over vocals so that if we kept changing out guitar players at least the vocals would be consistent. I supported this decision. Never hurts to have a Lemmy worshipper as your frontman.

Todd: Well I lost 50 pounds between the USA tour and the European tour. But, other than that we definitely grew as a band. We became sonically tight. And, grew to know each others’ moves. I didn’t know how to play lead guitar when I joined. I was a rhythm guitarist. I learned to play lead really fast – just in time to record.

How would you describe a typical WarHorse gig, practise or recording session?

Jerry: Loud and loose.

Mike: Early gigs were pretty random. It took us a while to break into playing clubs, and like I said, we usually went over pretty badly. We were loud, tuned down, slow, with long songs. Everything people tend to hate in a live band. But we kept at it. Practices were usually pretty productive. We never had a proper rehearsal space, we always played in basements. We started out in Krista’s mom’s basement, then moved to Jerry’s. It was cramped and loud. Full stacks and no ear plugs. We played as often as we could, usually twice or three times a week. Didn’t have too many recording sessions. Basement tapes, a couple sessions with Bill T. Miller, and then the ‘Heaven Turns To Ash’ and ‘I Am Dying’ sessions at New Alliance. Everything we did was quick, usually in a day. Not a lot of takes, all live, then threw on overdubbed guitars and vocals. The AHTTA session was the most pro session we did, and we did that over three or four days.

Todd – Lots of weed and drinks. Just energy and lots of volume. In the beginning it was just serious power and fury! At the end it was a lot of tension at rehearsal, but the shows were always killer!

I think I read somewhere that Grief’s Terry Savastano was somehow involved in the band. Is this right?

Jerry: Yeah, after the last time we split up, Terry and I started writing songs for a new band. I called Mike and asked him to play drums. After a couple of practices, we decided to continue WarHorse. We did a few shows, but broke up after a few months.

Mike: Yes, this is true. It was months after we had called it quits after our European tour with Electric Wizard. Jerry and Terry started jamming on some new ideas for a new band, went looking for a drummer and Jerry called me again. The new ideas were heavy, and close to the WarHorse stuff, so we talked it over and decided we could reform the band with Terry, play some of the old songs and start working on new songs. Made sense to start with an established name. But, sadly, that didn’t work out either and we finally called it quits for good.

Todd: Terry was in a version of the band after we had broken up the last time, after I didn’t come back. It didn’t last long.

Beyond the sheer heaviness of the records, I always liked the more frazzled, psychedelic elements at play – they added another layer, and one that added to the unsettling vibe running through things. Where did this come from?

Jerry: Mostly from the bands we like, Hendrix, Allman Brothers, Skynard, Mountain, plus the psychedelic shit from the 60s and 70s.

Mike: This came from our love of 60s bands like Hendrix, Pink Floyd, etc. It seemed to create a lot of tension, but also some serene moments that helped set up the crushing parts.

Todd: Well I didn’t know how to play leads well, so I added a lot of effects (flanger, delay and fuzz). I would experiment with solos and it became natural to sound trippy. Eventually, it became ‘the sound’. But we were also into Hendrix and lots of 60s stuff and we also started out to intentionally have a psychedelic sound. I mean, we have a song called ‘Lysergic Communion’. It’s our roots – I grew up on my mom and dad’s Doors and MC5 records.

What would you say influenced WarHorse beyond music?

Jerry: Anger, Frustration, Stubborness, Hate…

Mike: Music was the main thing. We just wanted to make the heaviest stuff we could manage.

Todd: DRUGS! And Drugs! But, also just wanting to sound cool and trippy, you know?

How did you hook up with Ellington for the ‘Priestess’ 12”? To me, at the time, they seemed very much into the whole crazy, technical hardcore thing, what with releases by Barritt, Converge and Shadow’s Fall. I guess Ire were a bit slower and sludgier, but WarHorse kinda stuck out like a sore thumb…

Jerry: Yeah, that didn’t work out like we wanted.

Todd: Well, that was before my time. But, I know the guys were friends with the Ellington guys, and they dug WarHorse. I love the Priestess 12” but hate playing the song. I dunno why.

Mike: Mike Mannix was a local guy that we knew from the early death metal days. So he knew what we were all about individually, and was following the band. When he approached us to do the record, we didn’t think at all about what else he was putting out. We were just stoked that someone wanted to put our stuff out. That record came out great, and I still have people tell me how much they like it.

What was the motivation behind the Wargasm cover? I picked that album up in a charity shop many moons ago, and there always seemed to be something a bit weird about it…

Jerry: We recorded songs for a split, but no one would do one with us. Then we wanted to do a 10” but the songs were too long. The Wargasm cover was for a thrash comp, but it never came out. Ellington did the best they could; the red vinyl rules and the cover kicks ass but it’s just kind of a shit show. The Wargasm cover was done out of respect, and Mike is a big fan. I heard Wargasm hated it.

Mike: There was some talk of a possible thrash tribute compilation, and Wargasm was the biggest band around here for thrash. They were huge. For me, they were as big as Metallica or Slayer. We had the idea to do a slow version of that tune because we felt it fit with our vibe and the vibe of the original song. It was our attempt at a tribute to the band.

Todd: That was before my time as well. I played on ‘As Heaven Turns to Ash…’  and the ‘I Am Dying’ 7”. I ran into the drummer from Wargasm, Barry Spillburg, and he told me he hated the cover. I let him know I didn’t give a shit. He was a dick to me, straight up. And I loved Wargasm when I was a kid. I used to go see them play every week in Providence RI when I was like 16. It was my first realization that your idols can be shit. It’s ironic that Mike (drums) now plays in a band now that Barry was in.

What’s the story behind your relationship with Southern Lord? Who discovered/reached out to who?

Mike: I was following the label, and I liked their aesthetic and those first few releases like Thors Hammer, Goatsnake, etc were so heavy and good. I had sent Greg some demos and he was kinda lukewarm, but said he wanted to hear more. So we did some more demos, and he was a little more interested. As luck would have it, he was coming out to the East Coast to a show in NJ that we were playing, so he got to see us live. I won’t say we got “signed on the spot” at the show, but it wasn’t too long after that Greg asked us to maybe do a record for him.

What can you tell us about the writing and recording of ‘As Heaven Turns To Ash…’? What kind of themes/ideas were running through the record, and what kind of headspace were you in while you were putting it together?

Mike: By the time we went to record, we had been playing those songs for a while, so there wasn’t much to work out. We knew we wanted to create some cool intros and outros, some quiet parts to break up all the heavy stuff. Todd was the one to come up with the idea that it should be a ‘concept’ album, with the theme running through it. All the quiet stuff, like ‘Amber Vial’, was put together pretty quickly, in the studio, based on some ideas we had floating around. It all seemed to work out.

Todd: Well the record was complete when we went into the studio. We just worked out a couple of the instrumentals. But it was a great headspace. Andre Schneider was great to work with. He gave us a lot of space and he liked the music, so it went smoothly. It was a great time – the best recording experience of my life, and I’ve recorded at least six or seven releases.

Did you set out to do anything differently with the full-length, given that you’re previously only put our shorter releases?

Todd: We just ripped out the songs that we could tell were working when we played them live and we just had a good time doing it. It all just fell into place.

Mike: I think we just wanted to document all the material we had, and make a cohesive, heavy record.

Jerry: Well by then Todd was in the band, and we were all on the same page as far as pushing things as far as possible.

How do you view ‘As Heaven Turns To Ash…’ now, looking back on it? Do you think of it as any kind of landmark? 

Jerry: It’s definitely the best thing we did. And recording at New Alliance with Andrew Schneider was great. It really raised our profile enough that we got to tour the US, Europe and the UK. We got to meet and play with many bands we respected. It was pretty cool.

Mike: I’m very proud of that record. At the time, we just wanted to do something heavy. I never expected it be included in the same breaths as records by Sleep, Cathedral, etc, that it was later on. The fact that it’s still talked about enough to warrant the reissue it pretty crazy to me.

Todd: I love the record. It sounds great, and our contemporaries have really praised our shit, so… As far as a landmark? I mean it has its place in time and, it went over well. It’s not my place to say.

The album came out at a time when doom was just starting to peep above the parapet: it had been a minority concern for years, but with the internet and bands like Sunn O))) etc. raising its profile. Were you aware of this at all at the time? Did you notice things shifting around you?

Todd: Yeah, it came out at a time when doom was beginning to blossom so it was probably perfectly timed. I mean Anderson and O’Malley are no fools. I think they saw a bright light and went for it.

Mike: I just noticed that our shows were getting bigger and better, and we were playing with bands we were into. It was pretty great.

To this day, some my friends and I are seriously pissed that we didn’t get to see you when you played over here with Electric Wizard and didn’t even know it was happening. How was the experience for you, and how did you find the UK?

Todd – The UK was the time of my life. I turned 30 in London. I can’t say enough about the hospitality we received in the UK and all of Europe. I’m sorry you missed it. I would have loved to have seen those shows myself. I really wanna record and tour something again that can come close to the Electric Wizard/WarHorse tours. DOOM/STONER heaven man!!!

Jerry: Yeah, the tour was a trip for sure! I’ve always been into British motorcycles, Monty Python, The Young Ones, plus all the great bands, so the UK was a high point for me. Great people, great shows. The warm beer took some getting used to though…

Mike: Both tours with Wizard were pretty intense. The US tour was the first major tour we had done. Until then, it was nothing but one-offs and long weekend things. We learned a lot on those tours. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

What led to WarHorse’s dissolution? Where do you think the band would have gone if you’d not broken up?

Jerry: We were getting along less and less, by the end we were just fighting all the time. It really started to suck, so that was it.

Mike: I think we just ran out of steam and it seemed like the right thing to do. I think we all needed a break. It was a tumultuous run.

Todd: It was just personality issues. I know that’s cheesy, but it’s true. We’ve all played together since. Nothing important. But, we jam well. It would have been big if we could have kept it together. But, it wasn’t in the cards at that time. Now? Who knows? It would’ve definitely been something great if we stayed together. I know. I have the material written, still.

What did you all go on to do after the band?

Jerry: I didn’t do much for years, but then Desolate reformed, and I’m also in a new band called Conclave.

Todd: Started a band called Sin Of Angels. Wrote one album with them. Never recorded. But, they put out an album with another guitarist called ‘Eucharist’ that I wrote. I’m definitely proud of that music but it wasn’t my cup of tea. They still play today. So…. It’s a business. This music world. And, if you can’t make your mark, you may as well keep on moving.

Mike: I took a break from playing for a couple of years, then starting kicking around in some small bands with friends. Nothing too serious. I did a rock band for a couple years called Cheap Leather, and after that I ended up getting the Gozu gig, which has been awesome.

What did your time in WarHorse teach or inspire in you? What have you ultimately taken away from the experience?

Todd: WarHorse was the shit, man. I took a lot away. It taught me a bit about the biz. Like I said. I love the recordings we did and I’m proud of them.

Jerry: It was great because of the things we got to do, the people we met. I still hear from people, sharing what WarHorse meant to them.

Primitivism is liberation: an interview with Legion Of Andromeda

Legion Of Andromeda’s debut LP, ‘Iron Scorn’, is the most singularly revolting thing I’ve heard in quite some time. For all the horror and disgust, though, it’s also strangely compelling: like watching one slug eat another slug. It’s gruelling, intense and certainly not for the faint of heart – listen to it here while you read these words, all of which were provided by vocalist -R-.

Please tell us a bit about how Legion Of Andromeda got started – how did you meet and what was your original ambition?

Our wives, former work colleagues, decided to introduce us. One day by chance they were talking about the deranged behavior of their respective husbands, discovering that we were both listened to disgusting music every day, wasting family money on records and obscure gear and generally endorsing paranoia, hatred and misanthropy. We became friends and after many deafening listening sessions, show attendances and much alcohol abuse -M- asked to do something together and I accepted.

Our original ambition? Create something different.

How would you say the band has changed, developed or moved on between the demo and the new LP?

Our sound is the aspect that has developed most. Recording with Steve Albini (a massive achievement for us) benefited the sound enormously, adding a presence and an overall impact we always wanted to have. The huge wall of sound he was able to obtain has no equal and we couldn’t have asked for more.

On the songwriting side, sharpening the approach, achieving focus, embracing refinements are the real developments. We’re totally uninterested in adding different instrumentation, sound layers, fancy arrangements and shit like that. Involution is the key, we don’t want to progress, to get more ‘arty’ or elegant just to accomplish current trends. We don’t want to ruin our noise with clean post metal arpeggios and scum like that. Primitivism is liberation.

The album is an incredibly intense and gruelling experience. Please tell us how you arrived at this sound and what you are trying to achieve.

Reaching altered states of consciousness through compulsive repetition is the maximum achievement. Self-disintegration generating a massive amount of destructive energy is the way we arrive at that.

I find the record weird, because while there doesnt seem to be much variation its still gruesomely compelling. What do you think it is about this music that can hold peoplesattention? How do you differentiate/distinguish between hypnotic repetition and boredom?

Being constantly forged in tension, LOA’s sound is torturous and the principle of torture is sadistic repetition. While horrible, torture is anything but tedious. Even if it may seem that LOA’s sound is just the same over and over, I must say that the riffs are never identical and songs follow a precise structure even with changes and subtle dynamics. Nothing is left to chance and we’ll never release a song if we’re not 100% satisfied with the results as we’re extremely exigent and everything must be perfect. It’s a minimalist approach and we find it way more fascinating and creative, even more difficult and challenging to accomplish, than, say, progressive music. Minimalism is extremely deep, as it lets you explore a single theme in all its aspects, implications and consequences. Less is always more. We’re totally conscious that boredom is the main enemy of music, so we’ll never play post progressive technical blah blah nonsense.

Do you have to be in a particular zone or headspace to make music together? Is it ever too depressing, challenging or tiring to get together and play this kind of music?

Just being ourselves.

How does Legion Of Andromedas music reflect you as individuals? What part of you does making music like this satisfy?

Speaking of myself I always been and still am extremely pissed off, nervous and intolerant toward people, human behavior, the superficial way mankind communicates. Even lot of people into the music scene tend to be scum, following trends and acting like idiots. I’m constantly driven by hate so LOA is the primal outburst of all this rage and anger. Same for -M-: suffice to say that if he didn’t work this much, hate his colleagues this much and continue to be stressed this much he would not be able to write music so violent. He deeply hates his working environment but doesn’t want to quit because his riffs would suffer for it.

Tell me about that cymbal crash: it almost seems like a beacon running through the record. It puts my nerves on edge, and yet the regularity is almost comforting

It’s LOA’s pulsating core, it’s paramount, it’s quintessential. No LOA without that. Saying you find it unnerving but comforting means you already saw through and accepted LOA. You let it drill your brain.

How do you want listeners and audiences to react or respond to your music? Would you feel more rewarded if they stayed staring until their ears bled or if they ran from the room screaming?

Trend-following scumbags and narrow-minded idiots will run away and that’s totally fine with us as we don’t need the consent of such garbage. Likewise, we’ll be more than happy to mentally sodomize the people who have the guts to stay.

Who do you view as your peers and influences? I hear elements of Swans, Corrupted and Godflesh, but you definitely dont sound ‘likeany one band per se

Well, thanks for saying that, as sounding like no one is a necessity for us. We got totally sick of the nth shitty doom band or the usual clones. Fuck off that weak shit. Of course, Swans, Godflesh, VON, Big Black and Suicide influenced LOA in one way or another but, again, they’re more subtle, more unconscious than real, as LOA is primary a process of deconstruction and ultimately the reflection of our own personas.

 How does Legion Of Andromeda fit in with Tokyos music scene? While there is often a focus on the hardcore bands coming out of Japan and there are several ‘biggerartists that everyone knows about (Boredoms, Zeni Geva, Merzbow, Acid Mothers Temple…) it would be interesting to know what is happening beyond these spheres.

We’re still novel in the Tokyo underground so I don’t have an exact opinion. However I think LOA is a sort of transversal force so it can fit well both on noise and metal scenes.

What does the future hold for Legion Of Andromeda? Will you be touring the LP, and what can we expect next?

We have a couple of very exciting projects on the horizon but they’re still in early stages, so no need to disclose them now. Second, we’d like to tour overseas to promote ‘Iron Scorn’ – nothing confirmed yet, but we’re working on it.

Is there anything you would like to add or say that you havent covered already?

LIVE TO HATE. COSMO HAMMER MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE.

An interview with ÆGES

ÆGES’ two LPs both knocked my socks off in very different ways. The first was a grand slice of 90s post-hardcore (think: Handsome, Quicksand, Hum…) while the follow-up took these influences, dosed them with a newfound knack for melodies and proggy noodling before kicking them out into orbit. Check the second one out here while reading guitarist/vocalist Kemble Walters’ answers to some questions. 

Ok, so please start by telling us the basic stuff: how, when and why did ÆGES get together? 

ÆGES as it is today came to be in 2014, just before we recorded ‘Above And Down Below’. The band started in 2012, but with member changes and what not, Tony Baumeister is the only remnant (aside from myself) from those days. The line-up now is Tony on bass, Cory on guitar/vox, Mike on drums and me Kemble on vox/guitar.

I know a bunch of you play/ed in some fairly well-known 90s bands, including Undertow, Shift and 16. Given that ÆGES give a very specific nod to 90s post-hardcore, I was wondering what the rationale was there? You lived and breathed that era, so do you see ÆGES as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, an attempt to revitalise it or something else entirely? 

We’ve all been in bands for quite a while, some more successful than others, but all of them have deeply influenced us in how we play and write. We’re not nostalgic nor do we wish to take a sonic trip down memory lane, we’re just making the music that naturally flows out of us. Since we all are big fans of the rock music that came out on the 90s, there’s definitely going to influence in our sound.

To me, ‘Above And Down Below’ sounds a lot more dynamic and ambitious, and much as I loved ‘The Bridge’, it’s almost like a whole ‘nother band. How would you say the band has changed between the first album and the second? What’s different, and what were you trying to achieve with the new one? 

I think the main reason it sounds like a different band is because it is. ‘Above And Down Below’ saw the addition of guitarist and addition vocalist Cory Clark and drummer Mike Land. The talent and sonic possibilities that came with these new additions opened the doors wide up. We could write whatever we wanted to and pull it off, so that’s what we did.

All we want to achieve with any of the records we make is to keep moving forward. The next record will be different than the last, and so on. I feel that when bands keep turning out the same album over and over, they aren’t letting themselves grow. The next record has a lot of fun vocal work between Cory and I as well as some sick riffs, beats, overall nasty jams.

Was this a conscious move on your part? Were there things you feel ‘The Bridge’ lacked, were you specifically aiming for a different/expanded sound or are you just more confident as a band now? 

I love ‘The Bridge’ and think it achieved exactly what we were going for then, but we’re past that now. Now we’ve got bigger hooks, more complex structures, more intricate guitar work, more complex rhythms, and as always, nasty bass.

What went into ‘Above And Down Below’ to make it the way it is? What inspired and drove it, and are there any broad themes or ideas running through it? 

The common theme throughout ‘Above And Down Below’ is life. Life is dark, life has struggle, life is religion, life is love, and everyone is different and interprets it in their own unique way but we all start and end the same. This record was recorded very sparsely, we wanted it to sound like we do live: two guitars, drums, bass and two vocals. We tried to keep all the overdubs to a minimum and used single takes as much as possible (most of the time).

You’ve had some line-up changes between albums. What happened, who’d you bring onboard and what would you say they brought to the table? 

Yes we have. We added Cory Clark and Mike Land to the fold and now the band is exactly what it was meant to be from the start. With the addition of these immense talents, Tony and I were able to fully let loose and and wrote with no holds barred.

What would you say are the main differences between playing this kind of music now and playing it 20 years ago? What’s changed for the better, and what’s changed for the worse? 

Well, that’s hard for me to say because although I was playing music 20 years ago, I definitely sucked and was just starting out. I wish I could have seen bands like Nirvana back in the day, but I never did. The main thing that I noticed is the transition from hair metal to 90s rock bands. It wasn’t about dudes putting make up on, stuffing their trousers and having weird names like “Ricki Rockett,” it was about the message and getting angst out. Kids could relate to that and saw that rock stars were people too. Don’t forget, Alice In Chains and Pantera had their glam phase as well.

One thing I’ve rather enjoyed about writing about the thin trickle of 90s-style post-hardcore bands currently doing the rounds is that I’ve been able to reference Handsome rather a lot – a band I think got a fairly raw deal at the time and are overdue some love. Can you recommend some bands and releases from ‘back in the day’ that maybe didn’t get the props they deserved and you think people should check out?  

Oh man, lemme think… Handsome is one of my all time favorite bands, they influenced me big time!

Quicksand

Molly McGuire

Seaweed

VAUX (2000)

Triple Fast Action

Remy Zero

How did you hook up with The Mylene Sheath

Our old drummer was in a record shop talking about our demos and a dude said “hey, I know a label that might be good for you”, and they were. I believe that’s how the story goes.

What’ve been the best, worst and weirdest things to have happened to you as ÆGES? 

I mean, aside from the obvious tour craziness like weather, getting drunk and playing to empty clubs, I’d say it was when we played with Camp Freddy in Hollywood for New Years. They’re basically an all-star cover band consisting of Matt Sorum, Courtney Love, Mark McGrath, Billy Morrison, Josh Freese and so many more. It was kinda rad, kinda weird, and all around a perfect night.

What next for ÆGES? What are your immediate plans, and what are your long-term goals? 

We are about to head into the studio for record three as we as getting our tour schedule lined up. The goals are to keep doing this as long as possible and tour as much as our fans will let us. We love this band, we love our fans, so we’re basically never gonna stop.

 Facebook.com/aegesband

 

Talking S.H.I.T.

S.H.I.T. is a raging hardcore band from Toronto, Ontario. In 2014 they put out three ripping 7”s for three estimable labels: Iron Lung, Lengua Armada and the UK’s own Static Shock. Greg (guitar) and Ryan (voice) were good enough to do an interview with us, and their answers are far better than my stupid, glib questions, so many thanks to them for their time, effort and intelligent responses. You can listen to the band’s music here and keep up to date with their goings-on here.

Tell us a bit about S.H.I.T. What brought you together, and what kind of a racket were you initially aiming for?

Ryan: The band started as a bad joke or some kind of challenge. Greg and I were sitting around drinking one night, probably reminiscing about the corny hardcore bands we were playing in around the early 2000s. Greg expressed his desire to play drums in a band, having no previous experience playing the drums. I told him that it was a terrible idea and he said that I should sing in the band. I joked that the band should be called SHIT, because that is most likely what we’d sound like. We decided it would be a great idea to recruit other friends that had little or no previous experience playing in bands and it was a fucking disaster. Our first couple jam sessions we had zero direction, Greg could barely keep a beat and we all lost interest pretty quickly. I think we sounded kind of like a bad Germs cover band. After a few weeks we decided we’d take another shot at it. This is basically how the current line-up formed. We took a simpler approach this time as a hardcore band and wrote the demo in about three jam sessions. We had all known each other and were friends through hardcore for about a decade. I think we created what we did as a result of this sense of familiarity but also the diverse music tastes/experiences of everyone involved. I don’t think any of us had a real idea of what the end result would sound like until we recorded the demo.

Ok. Much as I dislike asking the ‘band name’ question, what the fuck is going on with S.H.I.T? What’s the rationale? Did you want people not to buy your t-shirts? Were you just hoping to compete with GISM and the various PISSes in the bodily fluids stakes? 

Ryan: It can all mostly boil down to “the joke that went too far”. I think a lot of people hate the name and think it is incredibly stupid (a few of them are in the band). While I don’t disagree, I think that this reaction means that it was successful at provoking people to some degree. I think it was ridiculous to name the band SHIT and maybe that played some part in people’s curiosity with it. Making the name an acronym but never explicitly explaining it just furthered the provocation. From the beginning people seemed to love making up their own acronyms for the band, ranging from funny to not funny to completely absurd.

I think the name works and is appropriate as far as modern hardcore punk is concerned. To me, S.H.I.T. represents a place and time where absurdity and sensationalism meet the illusion of greater meaning. Mass media control, celebrated ignorance, self-obsession, a culture of violence and sexual exploitation all play into the illusion. This is life in the 21st century… it’s all just SHIT at the end of the day.

The ever-reliable internet informs us that S.H.I.T. occasionally stands for ‘Sexual Humans In Turmoil’. Ok then. Considering 94% of all music ever is about making the beast with two backs, hardcore, despite the connotations its name might imply, has been a curiously sexless genre. The last few years, however, have seen all manner of bands muttering about man muck and going on about bonking. Oftentimes these depictions are not ‘sexy’ but at least ‘sexual’. What do you think gives? Has hardcore finally hit a delayed pubescent hormone rush? 

Greg: See, I’d argue that. There’s been a long history of punk bands that at the very least questioned gender and gender roles. Without diving too far into it, I’d point at Limp Wrist. Martin’s lyrics in that band are incredibly smart and not just for their content but in what that band would do to a seemingly average hardcore audience. Case in point, in what social setting is it normal and widely accepted for people to get that close to each other, to jump and climb on each other, other than hardcore punk? Repressed sexuality abounds!

I have to admit, while I love the 7”s I thought the demo was merely ‘ok’. How do you think the band has grown and developed over time, was there any sort of ‘step change’ for the band and how has the writing/recording process changed for you

Ryan: When we wrote and recorded the demo I don’t think any one of us expected to have much of a positive response or even an intention to tour, we just wanted to do it – to make something. Since then we’ve tried to play as much as we possibly can, anywhere we can. Last year we did a West Coast tour and even got to play the UK. This year we’re doing a Texas tour with Power Trip and playing a festival in Mexico City. I can definitely say that travelling as a band and meeting like-minded individuals abroad has grown my perception and understanding of hardcore punk, DIY culture and how it all fits into the modern social/political/technological landscape. With respect to the writing and recording process, it has been an uphill battle. In 2014, we finally released all the material we had written and recorded the year prior. We have written and recorded ONE new song since. Currently, I think we might be the most unproductive band in existence considering how much we play.

What can you tell us about the three 7”s and the songs on them? Titles like ‘Collective Unconscious’ and ‘Feeding Time’ are weirdly, quietly sinister, so it’d be good to hear what’s going into it all…

Ryan: As I had mentioned before, all the material on the 7″s was written and recorded in 2013 as one session. We had originally toyed with the idea of putting it all out at once as an LP, but ended up breaking it up into three 7″s released on different labels throughout 2014. Regarding the lyrical content of the songs, I tried to take more of an abstract or existential approach to writing I guess. I feel like the human psyche serves as a modern battleground and I’ve always had a fascination with the subconscious, perception and our notions of reality. My intention was to focus on how systems of control affect our bodies and minds as well as how we perceive our environment, ourselves, and other people. I wanted to explore the metaphysical war that is waged on a society that is increasingly self-obsessed, yet lacking in real awareness and real action. We live in an age where the human experience is continually being assaulted and distorted, reality and fantasy becoming more and more indistinguishable to the masses. Nowadays, people seem to value their delusions more than real interaction or experience. I wanted to write lyrics that are relevant to existence in this day and age.

Let’s talk about those vocals. They’re horrible, and make me feel like a paint scraper is being used on the inside of my skull. What are you trying to do to people, and why use all that reverb?

Ryan: The vocal delay effect was added by Jonah when we recorded the demo. I think he decided to utilize it to fill out the spaces in the vocal patterns and create a kind of rhythmic, cerebral chaos. I think it has this kind of psychedelic element to it, which I think is cool.

While I love hardcore, a lot of it sounds the same. And that’s boring. S.H.I.T. doesn’t sound the same. And that’s good. Were you intentionally tried to sound a bit whacked out and ‘out there’, or is that just the way you roll?

Ryan: I think it has more to do with us trying to avoid emulation as a starting point. We never set out to sound exactly like any particular band from the get-go.

I read the interview you did with Suspect Device/Zonked and was really taken with you saying how averse you are to peoples’ fragmenting hardcore down into various micro-genres, as this is something that’s been seriously bugging me over the past few years. Much as I love many bands who effectively define/distil genres (Crossed Out, Discharge, Blitz, whoever…) I’m generally peeved by bands who slavishly try to ape a specific sound, style or point in time. After all, it seems almost silly to start at a band’s end point at the exclusion of all else, and when you slave away at emulating something you often lose some of your own energy along the way. At first I didn’t really know where I was going with this question, but I guess the nub of it is this: how do you go about making straightahead hardcore music which is distinct and different, considering the genre’s parameters and also all the music you’ve consumed yourselves? 

Greg: I’d simply say this – be creative. It’s a bit silly to give any more input than that. When you make something, people will like it or they will not. Some people are keen to like things that cohesively merge things they like. Others are keen to like things that sound exactly like something else that they like. There is no true answer. All I can say is that fragmentation of individuals with seemingly like minded concerns is dumb as shit to me. 

Toronto seems to have a brilliant and rather incestuous punk rock scene. It’s pretty great. How do you think that such a comparatively small city is capable of generating so much good punk?

Greg: We’re not exactly a small city by North American standards. We’re actually fourth largest. With that being the case, I’d say we produce a comparatively small number of good bands. That said, Toronto is on an upswing and I think, if not this year, within the next few, there will be a remarkable surge of meaningful punk music from here. The number of punk spaces is slowly multiplying. The scene is young and growing. It’s just a matter of keeping it moving forward now.

What can you tell us about S.H.I.B.G.B’s? Where’s the project at, and what was the motivation for it? 

Greg: S.H.I.B.G.B’s is essentially a concrete bunker under an industrial strip, in what was once a dejected but is now deemed “up and coming” part of town. If you didn’t know it was there, you probably wouldn’t be able to find it. With the rapid gentrification / condo-ification that’s gone on in the city over the last decade, not to mention the fact that “everyone’s a DJ”, most live venues that would host punk events have been shuttered. In that, we opened our own space. I do not know how long it will last. I do not know what it looks like even a year from now. For now, we’ve hosted a great number of shows and they are getting better and better. We’ll see what the future brings.

I realise this is old news, but I was enormously upset when my Canuck other half told me that Hits & Misses was no more. Where’s your top tip for TO punk vinyl these days? Rotate This?

Ryan: Hits was a great place to buy records and hang out and Pete is a legendary dude. It being gone leaves a pretty big hole as there are no real dedicated punk record stores in Toronto at the moment. Greg operates a small distro at SHIBGB’s and we have plans to hopefully expand that into a shop later this year.

Greg: Rotate This, absolutely. Incredible shop, incredible staff. Soundscapes is great for books. June Records has a nice staff. Other than that, there’s a couple decent used spots that I’ll keep to myself. Every other record store blows.

While many tr00 pvnx have long since turned their back on Fucked Up, I imagine they were a pretty important band for TO’s punk scene. Would you say their success/above-ground popularity has had an impact on people coming to gigs, getting involved, starting bands and all the rest of it? 

Greg: 10 years ago, absolutely. When they were coming up within hardcore, people would travel from all over just to see them. As they’ve changed, hardcore has also changed. First, people don’t seem to travel as much these days. And second, here, Fucked Up haven’t been a “hardcore” band for about 5 years now. That’s not to say that they are not involved any more, because some of them very much are. I just don’t think at this point people find their way to a gig at S.H.I.B.G.B’s say, because they just got into Fucked Up.

As well as the standard hardcore document that is the 7” single, you have a few tapes out. Why bother when you can whack shit (S.H.I.T?) up on bandcamp or whatever? Do these tapes represent some kind of totemic, time-and-a-place kind of thing or are they just a throwaway item that can be chucked out quickly and cheaply? 

Greg: I don’t know if they are totemic, but absolutely, when this world is a burnt up pile of garbage and aliens are digging through the rubble, we want them to find S.H.I.T. recordings. That’ll never happen with a bandcamp. And really, a band’s physical recordings are very much part of what forms their identity long term. That’s why it should be done. They are testament to effort, time and place. So, maybe they are totemic?

Also, in terms of format, is there any likelihood that there’ll be a S.H.I.T LP, or do you think the band works best in short, terse blasts? 

Ryan: I think the likelihood of an LP relies more on our productivity (or lack thereof) rather than a preference to any particular format.

Greg: Personally, I like the fact that the “industry” and dorks look down on you for not having a full length like it’s some sort of important goal to reach. People who are interested in what we do will find us.

What’s next for the band? What are your short-term goals and what, if anything, would you  ultimately like to achieve? 

Ryan: We have a Texas tour planned with Power Trip at the end of the month, we are playing a fest in Mexico city and have a gig in NYC just before New York’s Alright. We also have a new track being released as a part of a comp put together by Beach Impediment Records. Beyond that, we are going to focus on writing new material this year which will hopefully result in a new release of some sort.

http://whatwedoissecrete.bandcamp.com

An interview with Lions Of Tsavo

Despite the band being around for a while, ‘Traverser’ was the first album I heard from Lions Of Tsavo and it fair near exploded my skull. The band play a crushing mix of metal that offers up blackened shrieks, momentous sludge-outs, math-rock dynamics, progressive tendencies and a canny knack for seamlessly weaving all this disparate stuff together.  They are, to be frank, pretty ruddy impressive. Even though it took me ages to get my act together Ryan and Daine were good enough to answer some questions for the CZ…

Ok, so can we please start with the simple stuff: how, when, where and why did Lions Of Tsavo get started?

Ryan (vocals/guitar): Well, basically around 2003, Josh [Dawkins, drums], I and our original bass player Matt moved down to Austin, TX from Ohio to give Lions Of Tsavo a fresh start in a new city. I had been to Austin quite a few times by then, and thought it would be a great place to live and play music. We had all been in bands together previously, so we knew it could work, and I pretty much had the band name as well as the concept along with four or five songs written by that time to convince them. It took us about a year to get things rolling, but by 2005 we were recording our first record with Billy Anderson and playing shows pretty regularly. In 2008, Daine joined on bass while Matt switched to second guitar – that was around the time we recorded the ‘Swarm Of All Unholy’ EP, but that lineup only lasted about a year before Matt departed and we reverted back to a three piece again.

What was the initial plan for the band, and how do you think you’ve kept to (or strayed from) it?

Ryan: The initial concept tying into the band name itself was the idea of ‘nature versus humanity’, Mother Nature taking back and righting the wrongs of mankind’s tampering. We’re exploring the possible consequences of hundreds of years of environmental destruction caused by our hands, as well as pointing out the reality of already occurring events. We’ve kept that going as a common thread throughout our work, even as we grow and try new things musically and lyrically.

How would you say the band has grown and developed over time?

Ryan: I think mainly we have grown in our attention to detail/composition and the ability to execute our ideas better, especially when looking back at the almost blind fury and unchecked rage of our early material. ‘Traverser’ was a huge leap forward for us, as far as having a defined storyline/theme for the record, as well as the amount of time spent hammering out the song structures and the way everything flowed together.  Basically I see ‘Tsaunamicron’ as the record of a young band trying to find its feet and identity, ‘Firelung’ as the next logical step showcasing both the path forward as well as some dead ends, the ‘Swarm Of All The Unholy’ EP as an experiment in adding more progressive elements and seeing how much ‘heavier’ we could get, and ‘Traverser’ as the culmination of everything taken to a new dynamic level.

Daine (bass):  When I moved to Austin in 2007, ‘Tsunamicron’ was the only recording at that time, and I thought it was a very fresh take on heavy music. It was pummeling, but it wasn’t boring in that typical ‘metal band’ kind of way.  The writing was strong; you could hear some different influences but it was unique – that’s what personally drew me to the band, and I’d like to think we have continued building on those ideas.

What can you tell us about ‘Traverser’? What went into it and led it to be the way it is? Are there any specific themes or ideas running through the record?

Ryan: Long story short, the whole concept for the first half of the album is Mother Nature wiping the earth clean through various plagues and natural disasters save for one individual referred to as the “Traverser”. They are then reborn at the point where life began and forced to walk across the earthen landscapes, whilst seeing the horrors of humanity through the eyes of every creature in existence.  It is also kind of an ongoing story that I don’t necessarily see ending with these particular songs. I guess we embraced our inner prog leanings with this one, but the whole concept was a great inspiration to us finishing the songs and giving them purpose.

Daine:  The writing process for this record took a couple of years to complete, which helped to give diversity to the songs.  We were able to take time to grow as a band, and in turn to craft the best possible compositions while following a certain concept.  ‘Chemotrophs’ and ‘Sea Of Crises’ were the first to emerge, and then ‘Bestial Heavens’, which were all steps in different directions.  I think we all had the same idea, but wanted to experiment in how to convey the central storyline while still challenging ourselves in how we write music together.

To me, it’s a very ‘complete’ album: it’s not something you can necessarily dip into – you have to experience it as a whole piece of work. Was it conceived and written as such, or is this just a happy accident?

Ryan: It was very much conceived as such, and I intentionally sequenced the songs in a way that made the entire album flow together as a journey…something you had to experience as a whole rather than just a collection of individual moments. We also had the song order for the album pretty much set before recording even commenced, rehearsing the material in different combinations until we thought it worked best. We thought of the record being in two distinct halves, and that is actually how we ended up recording it.

Daine:  I hesitate to use the term ‘concept album’, but that’s basically what it is.  Every song progresses the storyline to its ultimate conclusion.  The idea was that on vinyl, the A side and B side would be quite different.

It also seems incredibly taut and well-regimented. Are these songs mapped out carefully and precisely, or is the process looser and more organic than that?

Ryan: A little of both. We spent a lot of time working on every aspect of every song, but a few of them came about pretty organically, through the process of improvising and exploring things that just ‘happened’ at rehearsals. Everybody put their input into the process as we structured the songs, and we were all very happy with the outcome as a result.

It’s obviously been a while since the album came out, so what have you been up to since then?

Ryan: We did some touring throughout 2014 as well as steadily playing shows in and around Austin, TX. We’ve also been working on new song ideas since ‘Traverser’ was finished.

Are you working on new material already? If so, how would you say it compares to the ‘Traverser’ stuff, and what did you learn from the writing/recording process?

Ryan: We are getting pretty deep into the writing process for the next record. So far everything is sounding massive and in many ways both more progressive and focused than ‘Traverser’. I personally see ‘Traverser’ as being shrouded in a melancholic and hazy atmosphere, and in a way I wanted to break out of that for the next one. Not just to have the songs be more ‘forceful’, but also to not repeat ourselves. The self-production on ‘Traverser’ was highly rewarding and beneficial towards making the album we wanted to make, but it was also very much a learning curve and certainly took its toll on my sanity in a way. At this point, I’m not sure whether we will be self-producing again or going into a studio and having someone else take control of the recording process, but I’m looking forward to getting it done regardless.

Daine:  We are always working on new things.  Even before ‘Traverser’ came out, we were already hammering out potential riffs for new songs.  We all love writing.  It’s my favorite part of playing music.

To me, the band lobs in a whole load of different influences from right across the metal spectrum. While there are plenty of bands doing this, Lions Of Tsavo do it in a way where it’s almost impossible to see where the joins are: there’s no sense that ‘this is the black metal bit’ and ‘this is the mathy bit’. Do you have to work hard to get the flow of things right, or is it an easy process and I’m just making too much of it?

Ryan: Honestly, we just write songs we want to hear. We don’t focus that much on incorporating too many obvious or direct influences into the material.  Sometimes the process is natural and sometimes it involves a lot of work to get to where we need the song to be. Also, there is a pretty wide range of influences between the three of us, so sometimes it might be that individually we are approaching certain parts from different angles, and that’s what makes it unique, hopefully.

Of all the genres you splice together, where would you say your hearts truly lie? 

Ryan: There are certainly common thread bands the three of us share, from the Melvins, Neurosis, Unsane, and Deathspell Omega to Pink Floyd, Rush, King Crimson and Black Sabbath, and even a lot of heavy 90s stuff like Kyuss, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Ministry, Godflesh, Tool, etc. I personally tend to gravitate towards the old Dischord (especially Hoover and Lungfish), Touch & Go, Amphetamine Reptile, and Gravity Records type of bands I grew up listening to, as well as post-punk stuff like Killing Joke and The Cure, but things like Failure, God Machine and 16 Horsepower/Wovenhand go hand in hand with listening to Voivod, Today Is The Day and His Hero is Gone…so I’m pretty much all over the place.

Daine:  There’s something about the songwriting in newer black metal that is extremely interesting to me; it’s basically taking all the previous unsaid rules of writing metal and throwing them out the window.  The freedom that you have with song structure, time signatures, chord progressions – it draws a lot from prog and even jazz to some degree, and I really tend to gravitate towards that.  But obviously nothing is better than the first five Sabbath records.

I have to admit, it was seeing one of you wearing a Kerosene 454 t-shirt in a promo pic that piqued my interest in the band. This is lame, I know. Some e-research (aka cyber stalking) then led me to discover that at least one of you had been in Ambassador 990, a band I really like. What was the journey like from that band to this one? Were A990 closet metalheads or has the metamorphosis been a gradual one?

Ryan: Haha, no man, that’s not lame at all! I love Kerosene 454, and I’m always stoked to talk to somebody who even remembers them. As far as A990 goes, at least Mike and I were pretty into metal at the time, and the stuff we were writing for the second record (which sadly never happened) was sounding a lot more Karp-ish and heavy. After we broke up, I ended up exploring some more ‘spacy’ sounds in bands and solo works before going back to heavy music. Also, Mike ended up forming Early Man which was full on heavy metal, so there you go.

What did your time in a DIY punk band ‘teach’ you, and have you brought any of those experiences to bear on what you do with Lions Of Tsavo? How would you say tastes, behavior and audiences have changed over time and between genres?

Ryan: It certainly gave me a foundation in the DIY ethic, that’s for sure. Knowing that touring and getting your music exposed is rarely a ‘luxurious’ experience, but it’s also one that toughens you up and makes any gains you happen to achieve highly rewarding. I don’t make this kind of music expecting to be sitting on a pile of money anytime soon or anything, I know these songs are a tough sell to certain people… but to me that makes it all the more rewarding when somebody actually ‘gets it’ and has the music affect them in some way.

What’s Austin like as a place to play music in? It obviously has an awesome history (Dicks, The Big Boys, Scratch Acid, Cherubs…), a bunch of great new punk bands and also Chaos In Tejas, but at the same time it has the whole SXSW rigmarole blowing through it which I Imagine must have altered things quite a bit as it’s such a big deal these days…

Daine:  I wasn’t here in the early days of the Austin music scene; in fact, the area where I grew up was the complete polar opposite of Austin.  So the opportunities this city provides are sometimes overwhelming – which is fantastic for young and underground bands – but can come as a bit of a shock to those who have yet to experience this sort of saturation.   Most folks are definitely aware of the cultural and musical history here, and it’s not uncommon to run into some serious musical legends (David Yow, Roky Erickson, even Robert Plant) while walking down the street.  It’s a crucible though, for local bands.  Even if you’re good by most standards, you have to stand out above the crowd – most of which have come from all over the world to be in a place that holds music in such high regard.  Austin is a town where working hard isn’t enough – you have to have something that people haven’t seen before, and even that doesn’t always guarantee success.  And yeah, South By Southwest is insane.  I can’t even begin to describe it.

What have been the best, worst and weirdest things about being in Lions Of Tsavo?

Ryan: The best and weirdest things would have to be that this music we’ve created has reached people around the world and allowed us to travel and meet so many other awesome bands and individuals. The worst thing would maybe be that we’ve yet to find a home at a record label with which we can build a lasting relationship with, and that could get our music out into the world even more.

Daine:  Josh and Ryan are two of the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing music with, which really makes being part of this band an incredible experience.  But when you play a style of music that isn’t easily defined or fit into some sort of predefined genre, you’re really at an automatic disadvantage.  Music in the 21st century is unlike it has ever been in the past; instruments are cheap and easily obtained, so being in a band is easy – but it’s extremely difficult to sell your songs and recoup the costs of the process.  So I’d say the worst thing is dealing with finances and trying to make enough money to be self-sustaining.  The weirdest would definitely be some of the DIY shows we’ve played on tour.  Very strange things happen in small towns.

What’s next for the band? What are your short-term goals and what, if anything, would you ultimately like to achieve?

Ryan: Next things are to get the songs completed for the next album, do some touring to road test them a bit, and then hopefully get them recorded before the year is out. I can only hope that each record we make is better than the last one, and that we can convert more and more people to our particular brand of noise.

Daine:  Oh man, I’d love to see ‘Traverser’ get the vinyl treatment.  I think the artwork would look incredible in the bigger format.  Ideally we’d like to do a bigger tour, and actually have a booking agent instead of booking everything ourselves!  That would be nice.  Oh, and a split release with our friends in Inter Arma.  We’ve talked about it and I’d love to see that happen.

http://lionsoftsavo.bandcamp.com/

An interview with Miserable Failure

My first experience of French grind act Miserable Failure was their ultra-short ‘Hope‘ EP, which impressed me thanks to its deft mix of songwriting nous and utter savagery. Their guitarist Romain was kind enough to answer some questions via email about the band, their releases and their outlook.

Ok. Please start by telling us how, when and why Miserable Failure got together…

Romain (guitar): The project was born something like two years ago. Bleu [vocals] and I have known each other almost since childhood. I started playing in bands when I was a kid, and Bleu started an underground label at approximately the same time. Over the years, he released some of the records I played on and used to tour a lot with one of my previous bands. Eventually, we ended up working together at our regular day job. We were talking about a project for years, something different from the usual stuff (i.e. me as the musician, him as the label guy / touring buddy).

One day, at the cigarette break, we finally decided to set this up. I went back to my home at the end of the day, tried a few riffs with the guitar plugged into the computer and the day after, when he listened to the stuff I did, he said : “perfect, that’s what I was expected.” That’s how Miserable Failure was born.

What had you all done before this band? How do you think this impacted or influenced what you do with Miserable Failure?

Romain: I’ve played in various with my friends bands since my childhood. I had a hardcore band that offered me the opportunity to tour a lot all over Europe for eight years. Beside Miserable Failure, I still play in three other bands with my friends (all those bands are basically the same crew since I was 15) and I’m doing some black metal with one of my best friends when we both have a moment for that. I think all those experiences led me to do something very different with Miserable Failure. All of my bands are something quite hard in their own genre, but none is as uncompromising and extreme as Miserable Failure. MF is basically a distillation of everything I do with my other bands combined with my experiences in life in this strange world.

Grindcore, to me, should be one of the most ferocious forms of music around yet it’s one that I’m frequently disappointed by because of the lack of bile. Why do you think so few grind bands sound genuinely angry?

Romain: This is a very interesting question and I’m glad to talk to someone seeing grindcore the way I see it.

Basically the answer is, in my opinion, in the question. Because YOU HAVE TO be angry, you have to carry a burden and hold a grudge against something to play that music. That’s also one of the reasons we did Miserable Failure: because we did not find the grindcore we loved anymore – nothing was angry enough, nothing was dark and hateful enough to satisfy our needs.

Of course there are some exceptions, I instantly think of Pig Destroyer or Thousandswilldie but generally speaking, I agree with you, it lacks this anger and madness we grindcore fans are looking for. To me, grindcore is not metal, and that’s why it doesn’t appeal to most metalheads. Grindcore is a kind of music made by the depressive/angry/sad/despairing/mad etc. (make your choice…) for the depressive/angry/sad/despairing/mad etc. Not everyone is prompted to like it. We all have our limits of what is acceptable/likable and what is not, and I understand why most metalheads don’t like it. To me, you can’t make such extreme music for no reason and I see it in my daily life. Not just grindcore, but all the guys I know who are doing such extreme and uncompromising stuff cannot be considered 100% sane, including myself.

On the flipside, Miserable Failure sound incredibly pissed off. What would you say are your biggest grievances when it comes to modern life, and how would you say you address them as a band?

Romain: You know, we did not choose this name at random, we chose it because that’s the way we see ourselves: miserable failures at modern life. You’re talking about grievance; it’s exactly what it’s about. To name a few, I’d say living in a world where you can’t find your place, where the only choices you get are “eat or be eaten”, “suffer or make them suffer”, “plague or cholera” (even if things tend more toward ebola those days…).  Living a life where everything is conflict, where every human relationship is, in the end, completely blank and senseless, where each time you show an ounce of kindness toward your siblings, you are instantly punished… Like we say in France “trop bon, trop con.”

In terms of grindcore – or, indeed, any fast, aggressive music – what would be your five ‘go-to’ records when you need a quick blast of negativity? If you could explain your choices a bit that would be great.

Romain : Ahah, the hatelist ! lets go for it. Hard to pick up five of them nonetheless.

Teitanblood – ‘Purging Tongues’

That’s just pure HELL: an endless fall into a bottomless pit. It’s so ridiculously violent and completely mesmerizing at the same time that this record is some kind of mystery to me. It’s not just music, it’s an experience. Their music is technically very simple if you look at the guitar work for example, but they play it in a way that’s very interesting and the song writing is perfect. Writing a 15-minute track of such pure death metal stench the way they did is very impressive to me. Their latest release, ‘Death’ is a masterpiece too, but considering it’s a full length, it doesn’t fit into the “quick blast” category.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed / Insect Warfare – split

Seven minutes of pure hate. ANb takes the lead, four songs in five minutes, Insect Warfare closes with six or seven songs in two minutes. Everything is pure savagery, and so well done. If you like this kind of release, try Thousandswilldie if you do not already know them.

Integrity – ‘To Die For’

This is a full length, but things go pretty fast. This is Cleveland style at its best (even if Blind To Faith comes close second to me). They have done a lot of other releases that are great but I have a special love for this one. This is angry, the sound is tight, everything is harsh and hits you like a ton of rocks.

Regurgitate / Dead infection – split

The Regurgitate part of this split is vicious as fuck. The vocals are so harsh they tear out the speakers. It’s violent and at the same time, the sound has that mesmerizing vibe that make you dive into the atmosphere instantly and almost puts you into a trance. The punk/hardcore side of their music is especially apparent on this release and they combine it with their death metal side perfectly.

“The infamous” Gehenna – ‘Land Of Sodom

This is dirty; a kind of hardcore made in the depths of hell. Everything is raw and sounds like it’s recorded in a cave by the most angry guys on the planet with the devil himself behind the mic. I like the simplicity of their music, it’s straight forward and thought to be an like an insult to the listener but it flows incredibly well despite the dirty nature of their music.

To me you play a very stripped-down form of grind, yet there’s still a lot going on and some quite complex passages. Is it a conscious decision to balance these different elements? Do you find it challenging to be raging and interesting within grindcore’s limited time constraints?

Romain:  Once again, ; its so rare in here to find someone with such a deep understanding of grindcore, I feel that you have the same conception of extreme music as us. Come and do a track with us on the next one, you’re welcome.

Yeah it’s a complex thing for us. Everyone thinks grind is “stupid”, that it’s just random open strings played over repetitive blast beats. But it’s actually far more complex than that in most cases.

I’m trying to do a mix of everything I love in those short songs and my main goal is to balance things between the simple and the complex, so yeah, it’s a totally conscious decision. For example, we say “ok, now it was straight forward blast of hate for the last 30 seconds, we’re starting to lose grip and the thing will fall apart if we do four more steps of this riff, so now, let’s try do throw some dissonant stuff to regain the listeners interest.”

And, like you said it’s very challenging for us. Grindcore has short songs, it’s very fast and straight to the point. Adding different elements can easily be tricky, or even dangerous; and I can’t say we are 100% comfortable with it. But since that’s what we want to do, it’s all “trial and error.” We are taking the time to experiment and see what’s working and what’s not; and like a lot of things in life, finding the right balance is difficult.

Can you talk us through your releases? How do you think the band has developed or changed over time? 

Romain: Well, actually, our first release, the split with Infected Society and F Stands For Fuck You is the first songs we ever wrote. I’m satisfied with those because they represent our stuff pretty well. There is the brutal side, there is the punk hardcore side but it just lacks a little blackness for me.

Then we released a split with Total Fucking Destruction and four other bands that are our labelmates. It has the same pros and cons as the first one to me. I especially love ‘Martyr‘ on this record.

Then, once again, to me, I think things start becoming interesting with our EP ‘HOPE’. Its short, but the sound is very tight, and it’s the first release where we finally achieve the violence and aggression I was aiming for. This EP bears something special for us, as we wrote it, recorded it and finally released it in period of time that was bad for us in our personal lives. I think that’s something that can be heard on the record. The opener says it all regarding what you’ll find along the other tracks.

Then we released a split with Atara. And that’s the record I’m the most satisfied with. The overall violence and anger is really high, the darkness is here, and despite and the noise and blast and everything, the despair is here too.

As I mentioned in my review of the split with Atara, the guy you sample on ‘May You All Be Cursed Forever’ is a bit of an arse. How did you find that sample, and what’s your view of it now you’re more aware of the man behind the words?

Romain: Thanks for this review man.

I saw this guy on the news on French TV.

To me, music and what we want to illustrate goes first. I’m not saying that the “who’s the guy?” question is not important but only his words on the record count. You’re listening to a record and you’re listening to what’s happening, you dive into the atmosphere created by the band and, if some spoken words are thrown in, it’s just to reinforce the immersion. I know what you’re thinking right now: “But, if it was Hitler or someone like that?”  Answer: Yeah, but he is not Hitler. I mean, that’s not because we are talking about someone or something that we agree with what is/she is doing.

I mean, look at Slayer that we all love. Are they Nazis ? No. Do they fuck dead bodies? No. Do they actually kill people in excess of rage ? No.

I think the comment you did in the review is a bit judgemental toward us, but no prob, really. We are not kids, we know what we are doing and we know what we want to illustrate. This record had a theme, a theme illustrated in the title, and we built our song structure and general overall structure on this record according to that theme. If you understand the point of the record, then you’ll understand that there could not be better words to close this last track.

I’m not going to check everyone’s life or go back to fucking Jesus Christ each time I want to quote someone. In the next record, there will be quotes from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by  Charles Dickens because I love this story, period. I’m not going to check if Dickens was left wing or right wing or if he cheated on his wife or if some of his descendants were in the Waffen-SS. Because that’s simply not the point, I’m just here to make music and make the few people who appreciate it dive into something different than this shitty world for five minutes. If your question was aiming at knowing my political opinions, here’s the answer:  I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about the world. This world can burn, all of those motherfuckers can burn with it, and me with them, I don’t give two shits.

One thing that the sample made me think of was the fact that both the UK and France (along with other parts of Europe) have seen far-right politics gain a thin veneer of respectability/acceptability over the last few years. Do you have any comment on this, or have you noticed how things have changed? If not, please feel free to skip this question!

Romain: You know, besides the fact that what you are saying is true, I will talk about France, because that the only placed I lived in all my life. This sample was here because of one major thing; Because I think that, nowadays, aside from the rise of the extremes, France lacks what I like to call “The 1789 spirit.” During this time that we call “The Terror,” the people was so fed up, hungry and desperate that they murdered their leaders in public places. We, 21st century French people, lack that revolutionary attitude our ancestors had. And I sincerely not understand how such things can happen nowadays without leading to a revolution. Because the words in this sample are true: “we, the people, are scammed, robbed, etc… all of this in the most disgraceful manner… by our leaders.” A month or two ago, a French politician was sued and charged for not paying his taxes. The reason was: “I forgot to pay my taxes, I have some kind of tax phobia.”

Seriously ? What kind of joke is this? Aren’t those people supposed to act as example for their citizens?

So now, MY question is: Why are we waiting to drag this fucker out of his golden nest and make him an example not to follow? My words may sound paradoxical to my general everyday attitude and everyone know that the extremes are not the best solutions, but, as simple people with no power except numbers, what solution do we have? The elections ? The suffrage? Like I said earlier, it’s choosing between plague and cholera. I guess that the human spirit is, at times, very simple and straight forward and that extreme conditions demands extreme responses.

What would you say are the biggest challenges of playing in a band like Miserable Failure?

Romain : I’d say that the biggest challenge is to find the balance we were discussing earlier. Keeping things interesting. I’d like to keep Miserable Failure like it is in the future, adding elements to the mix without denaturing it. That will be, to me, the biggest challenge.

What are your future plans for the band? Do you have any more releases in the pipeline?

Romain: We have just finished recording the new one. All the instruments are done. We are now working on the lyrics. It will be something… ”special”; still extremely violent, but going beyond pure grindcore this time. This EP will be a kind of appendix to our usual style, because we wanted to explore something else and I’m very satisfied with the result; I really can’t wait to release this stuff, hopefully next summer.

We have another split CD in the works and I’m also working on the full length… but this will take a little while.

msrblflr.bandcamp.com

facebook.com/msrblflr

An interview with Cowards

Cowards’ brand of heavy, gnarled, misanthropic hardcore fair near knocked my socks off when I first heard their ‘Shooting Blanks & Pills’ record for Throatruiner. Sludgy without being in hock to sludge ‘tradition’, metallic in the most caustic way and possessed of that numinous sense of believability that’s so hard to come by.

I meant to knock a review and interview together when the LP originally came out. Typically, life got in the way and time passed. Handily, though, Canadian label Secret Handshake have since reissued it, thus making my review and this interview a bit more timely.

Questions answered by the band as a hive mind.

Ok, let’s get the basics out the way first: tell us a bit about Cowards. How, when and why did the band get together?

Cowards: We all got together at the end of 2011 when some of us were completely out of the game and wanted to start something new. What started out initially as an instrumental doom/sludge project turned into what we are now.

There is a real sense of hostility and sickness running through the music. What kind of feelings are you channelling, and why is Cowards’ music so mired in negativity?

Cowards: Channelling might not be the appropriate word, it conveys too much of an esoteric weight. We just write and play the music that best reflects our feelings about the lives we have, what we see, hear and understand.

How does the music you make reflect the people who make it? If we hung out with you, would we find happy, well-adjusted young Frenchmen or are you as unhinged and hostile as your music?

Cowards: The best answer would be both. We’re all pretty much from a middle-class/upper middle-class background, we all have pretty decent education and manners, but in the end, it all comes down to what we have and who we have in front of us. There’s a lot of judging going on on our part, we’ll admit to that, and some of us take great pride in being scary judges of character.

Most of the time it all goes very smoothly, as you might already know, most people invested (really invested that is) in this trade turn out to be honest, passionate and down to earth folks. Really quite a lovely crowd.

But then, then you have the others, who are louder, more visible, full of themselves and ultimately full of shit. Those, we have a hard time making it work with. It happened before, once or twice, but really, not that much. Although when it goes south, it usually goes all the way there.

We’ve stated this before and we’ll gladly state it again as much as needed, we’re no more violent or hostile than anybody else, but we definitely are on the top tier of blunt honesty and this will not make friends with just anybody so easily.

What can you tell us about the LP? What were the circumstances around its creation and what does the title mean to you?

Cowards: The ‘Shooting Blanks & Pills’ LP is an exact photograph of what we were at that time, musically and personally, it is a reflection of the music we had, both created for that purpose and lying around from previous bands as well as some very old ideas.

In retrospect, it does sound a bit odd at times; that collection of songs with different moods, although the vocals make it whole in the end. But if we had to do it again that way, we would.

As for the title, I’m not going to dwell on the meaning although I’m willing to say it is as much a self-depiction as it is a tongue-in-cheek, below-the-belt jab at people we know, their lifestyles and their loud-mouthed, half-assed opinions on everything.

How did things change for Cowards between ‘Shooting Blanks & Pills’ and the ‘Hoarder’ EP? Do you think the band has evolved at all?

Cowards: The one thing that changed is, in the most unglamorous way, we became a band, for real. Previous to recording ‘SB&P’ we had never played together, not even spend real quality time, the five of us, and apart from the one guy who set it up, most guys didn’t really know each other that well. It almost led to our demise after our very first show, some of us realising they couldn’t stand the others.

That quickly changed after our first mini tour alongside ELIZABETH when we quickly rose to becoming probably the funniest pack of hyenas ever to hit the road.

Musically, we tried to do things different with ‘Hoarder’, as far as process go, other than that, business as usual. The only thing we try to achieve is not to be too redundant with ourselves and play the music we’d like to listen to.

Was it a conscious decision to merge the various sounds you have running through your music (hardcore, sludge, black metal etc.)?

Cowards: Others have said it before and as it turns out, it’s true, for us at least, we just wanted to play the music we like and would like to listen to. It just so happens that we like a whole lot of things including but not limited to those genres of heavy music and that’s just the way it all came down on us.

Of course it became obvious and conscious once we were done recording but we’re fine with that.

The defining bond being that it had to be very, very angry.

For some reason I think Cowards have a very urban sound: it’s very much ‘city music’. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Paris, what goes on there and how you think it influences you as people and musicians?

Cowards: For some reason nobody ever told us that before and for some reason it is a shame because if we ever did something consciously as far as the music goes, it was, and still is, to try and keep it very urban, so thank you. We are from the city after all and have always found it funny/depressing those bands who try and sound from the swamp of Louisiana, as if their best friends were alligators when in fact their best friends are the concrete pavements they work day in day out…

Having said that, we don’t have a particular relationship with Paris, we just live there. Some of us love this city, others hate it but we all share a sense of belonging, whether we like it or not, to The City, not particularly Paris, it probably could be any city, it is the urban atmosphere that appeals to us.

Considering you’re our closest neighbours I find it weird that we over here in the UK don’t seem to have a clear picture as to what’s happening in the underground scene over there in France. I’m aware of individual bands and labels (Throatruiner, Ratbone, Solar Flare etc.) but have no idea how cohesive it all is. What’s your view, and how do you think Cowards fit in?

Cowards: First off, don’t feel bad, apart from the very handsome guys at Oblivionized and their friends we shared the stage with when they had us over, we had no idea of what was going on in the UK, except for a strange feeling, that proved to be true, that British bands have a very professional feeling and extraordinary talent and skills, more so than most French bands, including us of course.

As far as cohesion, we couldn’t tell you. We do have some friends here and there, but we’re not feeling much love and/or interest for us, except for the indefectible support of Matthias (Throatruiner Records) and Alex (Deadlight Entertainment). That’s fine because we do have good allies outside France, be it only Pedro and Vitor from RVINS records in Portugal.

Whatever the reason, we’re not part of the scene so to speak. The funny thing is that we know people know us, because we hear them blabbing away, it most recently appeared that we are racists, violent, arrogant and destructive posers, how would anyone want us to be part of their scene? Haha. You’ve got to love when people talk, and who knows what we’ll be in a couple months, we’re anxious to hear it.

How – if at all – has France’s punk rock history (be it Kickback, the Stonehenge Records stuff of the 90s or whatever…) affected your outlook and the way you do things as a band?

Cowards: Except for Kickback (who we ripped off everything good we have apparently), and French black metal (Deathspell Omega to name one) we don’t have much interest for it all.

You toured over here earlier in the year – how did it go? Any strange or weird tales to recount?

Cowards: It all went very smoothly. People in France told us it would be hard: no audience, no money, no selling merch, no place to sleep, no food. They were oh so wrong. Zac (Oblivionized) set it all up perfectly, people showed up at every show and we ended up coming home with some extra cash, which is always good. Like we said before, lots of very good bands, very talented and so young it’s sickening. Plus Wetherspoon’s. Can’t go wrong with Wetherspoon’s every day.

Weird tales… Let’s see… We were invited over by a girl and her boyfriends, plural, to score some (which turned out to be cheap garbage) and she ended up fucking very loudly in her toilets with one of the dudes, while the other stayed with us, helpless. She claimed she was a Super Mario Champion and that she probably could make us all come under five minutes. Needless to say we were not interested. That’s the weirdest tale from our UK trek, so you see, it all went very smoothly.

What do you all do outside of Cowards?

Cowards: We try and make an honest living. One of us feeds people, another is a craftsman, the other teaches stuff…

What plans do you have for the band’s future? What’s happening next and how do you think Cowards will evolve over time?

Cowards: It just so happens that we’re going to hit the studio for five weeks beginning of October, to record the follow up to ‘SB&P’ and as soon as that’s done we’re going to set up a Euro tour with our friends in Oblivionized. We’ll try to go back to Portugal, maybe hit Spain, we wish we can come back in the UK sometime this year too.

‘SB&P’ has been reissued by Secret Handshake records up in Canada for North America and we also hope we can go all the way there and make new friends. Or foes.

As for us evolving, let’s pray we can get more and more people talking shit about us, because, let’s face it, there’s no such thing as bad press.

http://cowardsparis.bandcamp.com