Friday 10 September 2010

MOURNFUL CONGREGATION - Attending Your Own Funeral

While most bands take part in speed racing, these Aussie funeral doom merchants took the advice given by Saint Vitus and Thergothon to insanely slow the fuck down and captured the essence of heaviness. Their 2009 long-player, “The June Frost”, together with Evoken's “A Caress of the Void” and Esoteric's “The Maniacal Vale”, is the top effort in the doom business from the last five years. Drummer Adrian Bickle answers the questions.

You started the band in 1993. What took you so long to actually start playing some live gigs a little more often in 2009 and 2010?

Adrian: We’ve basically always operated as a two or three piece band in terms of the studio but we knew we’d require a five member line-up if we were going to transform Mournful Congregation into a live machine and authenticate the sounds. There was an attitude amongst us that we were only going to do this if there were significant incentives to play live. It just didn’t seem worth the time and effort training up two new members and developing a live set to only play some shows in Australia. However, by about 2008 it was obvious that there was a lot of interest in us playing abroad and some solid opportunities so we recruited Ben Newsome on bass and original Mournful Congregation member Ben Petch joined us on guitar and we just took it from there.

As you say „Doom is for those whose hearts beat slower”. While most metal bands pursue speed and blastbeat records, you are one big fuck off to all that. To all the trends, all the fashion, all the competition. Is doom metal a different state of mind? I love to look at it through the lyrics of the Saint Vitus song „Born too late”, which could be sort of an anthem or a doom manifesto. What do you think of that?
Adrian: There are so many people out there who measure heaviness simply through the speed of a blast beat or how fast the riff can be played whereas our focus has always been more on the heaviness conveyed in an emotional or atmospheric capacity. You’re correct, as a collective we are completely indifferent to whatever is fashionable and in vogue so I guess, to some extent, our indifference is in itself a negation of whatever trends surround us.
As far as doom metal being a different state of mind... I think that comes down to the individual, to whatever their impression of doom is and how that manifests within them. And yes, if there was to be a doom anthem then Saint Vitus, Candlemass... these are good places to look.

You came to Europe with Mourning Beloveth and Longing For Dawn in 2009. Bands from Ireland, Canada, and you from Australia. What an extraordinary tour! What could you say about the whole thing?
Adrian: We made some lifelong friends out of that tour – the guys from Mourning Beloveth and Longing For Dawn were just such awesome people to tour with so we really couldn’t have asked for anything more. We stayed in some crazy places, met plenty of crazy people… so there wasn’t a dull moment. I think when you travel through a different country every day you end up in an almost constant state of surprise and awe at the architecture, the environment, and everything that varies from what you’ve come to know as ‘normal’ in your homeland. Nothing was disappointing though, it was a brilliant experience.

You went to Japan in July 2010. Played three shows in Nagoya, Tokyo and Osaka with Corrupted. Most bands that go there say it's crazy, fans are out of their minds, etc. Can you confirm that?
Adrian: There’s definitely a lot of fanatics in Japan – they are passionate about the music they enjoy but also the most respectful people I’ve ever encountered. And Corrupted.. damn, that was one of the heaviest things I’ve witnessed!

Your label Weird Truth is Japanese. What made you to cooperate with them?
Adrian: We’ve had a cooperation going on with Makoto & Weird Truth for about ten years now. I believe originally they contacted us about re-releasing the first couple of demos on CD and that eventually became what is now “The Dawning of Mournful Hymns” double CD. Over the years Makoto has proven to be a completely reliable and dedicated guy so we were very happy to carry on the working relationship with Weird Truth.
Your lyrics are quite poetic and metaphoric. Could you mention the most important and main themes and thoughts of them?
Adrian: Damon has written the vast majority of the lyrics for the band throughout our history and the themes include depression, transcendental meditation, the occult, suicide, loss, nature and that which encompasses the pursuit of universal knowledge and mystery.

I really love “The June Frost” layout. Who is Pat Di Palo and what does the triple cross with serpent stand for?
Adrian: The triple cross is in fact the Tree of Life (Kabbalah) and the snake draped around it is the Kundalini Serpent. The concepts behind this symbology are quite detailed but we’d certainly encourage those inclined to explore the more esoteric aspects of life. As individuals we consider there to be more to the universe and to the purpose of our being than zoning out watching television and drinking beer whilst checking Facebook on a phone. Unfortunately, in our dumbed-down and consumption obsessed societies most people have lost the inclination to explore the real mysteries or expand their thinking to embrace greater truths.
Pat Di Palo is a great friend and an extremely gifted photographer and graphic designer. His skills can also be seen on recent related releases such as the new Cauldron Black Ram and StarGazer albums.

Where did you take “The June Frost” promo photos?
Adrian: The photos were taken on a property in the hills outside of Adelaide. The road from this region carries on to the Riverland which is the area from which the band first originated.

Adelaide is a pretty huge city. Do you actually live in the city? What's the vibe like?

Adrian: Yes, we all live in Adelaide although I wouldn’t exactly class it as a huge city. There’s about a million people here but it’s only about the fifth largest city in Australia. It’s quite a nice place and I’d say the people here are generally rather friendly. The vibe is pretty relaxed, definitely more relaxed than the larger Australian cities like Melbourne and Sydney.

You seem to be really aware of all the aspects of the band. The whole sound and song structure, the lyrics, album art. It's all perfected and so carefully worked out that it's not much of a surprise that it takes you five years to complete the record. You like to take your time, don't you?
Adrian: Yes, we tend to be fairly meticulous with all the details and we’d definitely prefer to take our time with the whole process and be very satisfied with a release than rush things and end up regretting one part or another. Having said that, the five years or so between “The Monad of Creation” and “The June Frost” was also partly due to our busy schedules with music and the other things going on in our lives. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into Mournful Congregation in the last few years and we are just about to enter the studio once more – so there will only be about two years between “The June Frost” and what will follow it in 2011.

Tell me about the new material.
Adrian: We’ll be in the studio by December 2010 and should have the next album out by mid 2011. I’m confident this will be the most bleak and epic release thus far.

Do you have a working title for the next album? Will you re-record any of the older songs for it?

Adrian: We have some ideas for the next album title but nothing is certain yet. There will be no re-recordings on it, all of the material is fresh.
Let's say metal in general is underground music. But taking a closer look, Mournful Congregation is an underground of that underground. Nine out of ten of Sepultura or Dimmu Borgir fans wouldn't possibly make it through your album. How narrow is what you are doing?
Adrian: One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that there are plenty of metal fans who simply don’t get where we’re coming from but there are also plenty of people who generally have zero interest in metal that really enjoy what we do – on some levels we’re not particularly genre specific. What we do may be narrow in some ways, especially in the context of the metal scene. We don’t write music for people to mosh to, it’s not aggressive in any conventional sense, and we’re not trying to be more evil than the clowns in the next village. This isn’t music designed for simple digestion – it will never be mainstream, it will never be compromised and if that means nine out of ten Sepultura fans never understand us… well, we’re absolutely fine with that.

How does Australia affect your music? I can imagine some vast landscapes, loads of space, an impression of loneliness, alienation, melancholy. Are you inspired by the nature, Australian soil much?
Adrian: I find it difficult to imagine growing up in a place as vast and epic as Australia and not being influenced by it or drawing any form of inspiration from all that surrounds us. This environment would inspire each of us in our own way and in the end that inspiration can find a musical voice. As you mentioned though, there is a sense of isolation that prevails when you live on an island at the end of the Earth and this isolation can lead to states of melancholy and detachment. It’s natural, we’re used to it.

All of you play in other bands as well. Are they your side bands or is rather Mournful Congregation something you only do from time to time?
Adrian: No, I think I can safely say that Mournful Congregation is as important to us as any other bands we’re involved with. It’s definitely not looked upon as a side project. We’ve put much time into it and it’s becoming increasingly demanding.

What particular records made Mournful Congregation what it is? Who is responsible for the doom metal genre?
Adrian: In the beginning the members were inspired by records such as “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” by Candlemass, “Forest of Equilibrium” by Cathedral, “Stream From the Heavens” by Thergothon etc. We were influenced by these types of albums but wanted to take it all to a more extreme, darker place. As for the origins of doom metal – to me it goes back to Black Sabbath, although that’s just my opinion.

Damon played with Portal – one bloody disturbing metal commando from Brisbane. It's one of those bands that is almost unlistenable. Are those guys total necro death-obsessed freaks?

Adrian: Aha, Damon assisted the Portal demons a few years ago now. Your description of them is fairly accurate although they’re more extreme than that.

Is your drumming style influenced by any other drummer? Did you ever hear anyone drumming as slow before yourself?
Adrian: If we’re talking about my drumming in Mournful Congregation then I’d have to say no, I didn’t base any of my playing on anyone else. I just tried to develop a trademark but minimalistic approach that would complement the feel of the music. I actually find it more difficult to play this extreme doom than most other styles because you have to try and make it powerful but insanely slow and tight at the same time. Generally speaking, the drummers that influenced me most were guys like Sean Reinert of Cynic, Terry Bozzio of UK, Virgil Donati – to name a few.
There were definitely guys playing ultra slow before me – Thergothon is just one example.

You have done a cover song of Thergothon for the "Rising Of Yog-Sothoth" tribute album. Are you considering doing any other covers in the future?
Adrian: It’s not something we ever really discuss. In all these years that is the only cover we’ve ever done so unless there was a really good reason it’s difficult to imagine doing another one.

What was the set-list of your last gig?
Adrian: That was in Tokyo: “Descent of the Flames” – “Suicide Choir” – “The Epitome of Gods & Men Alike” – “A Slow March to the Burial” – “Mother-Water, The Great Sea Wept” – “Suffer the Storms”.

One of your other bands, Chalice, is no more, but there is Tzun Tzu. You seem to like Japanese history and culture. Did it start with Kurosawa movies?
Adrian: Chalice disbanded quite a while ago but several of the members still play together in Black Orchid, including Justin from Mournful Congregation. I don’t actually play in Tzun Tzu, I just did some session drums on a couple of tracks in the studio and live when they performed with Dismember. Tzun Tzu is really the brainchild of Don Taylor who’s a death metal legend here in Australia and so even though I do possess a deep respect and interest in Japanese culture that band is in fact a reflection of the interest of Don in the Asian cultures.

What albums have impressed you so far in 2010?
Adrian: Burzum “Belus”, Watain “Lawless Darkness” and StarGazer “A Great Work Of Ages”. There’s probably a bunch of others, I just can’t think of them right now!

The Australian scene isn't too well-known in Europe. Well, there is AC/DC, but I mean more underground. Could you name some significant bands in the history of Aussie metal?
Adrian: When I was growing up there were bands like Sadistik Exekution that were taking things to a pretty extreme level. Nowadays there is a lot of talent and diversity within the metal scene here – sadly, our isolated location means that only a handful of the talent here gets seen abroad. If I was going to recommend some quality bands I’d probably say Psycroptic, StarGazer, Neath, Virgin Black, Nazxul, Tzun Tzu, Black Orchid, Portal, Altars, Austere, Cauldron Black Ram. That’d be a solid start.

I cannot resist asking this one. Chopper – legendary man. A few books, a great movie and loads of myths. How much of a public person is he in Australia and do Aussies actually give a toss about him?
Adrian: Haha, yeah, Chop Chop is a real cult legend in Australia. Some people love him, some loathe him – but everyone knows who Chopper is! He has quite a solid place in Australian folklore because he managed to take humour and intelligence and cleverly reflect on a life as a career criminal.

Sunday 5 September 2010

KYLESA - Between Silence and Sound

Year of 2009 was a breakthrough for Savannah-based rockers Kylesa. They have released their self-titled debut in 2002 and later hit with another two decent full-lengths “To Walk a Middle Course” in 2005 and “Time Will Fuse Its Worth” in 2006 but only after “Static Tensions” was let out in March 2009 the band received the well deserved praise. Combining southern and sludge heritage with hardcore punk and psychedelia they created an original and recognizable swampy sound. Vocalist and guitarist Laura Pleasants explains the details.

“Static Tensions” sound compared to “Time Will Fuse Its Worth” is better, the writing is on a higher level, the whole thing seems to work as a very natural creation. How would you look at “Static Tensions” comparing it to your previous records?
Laura: I think it sums up some of what we were doing in the past while forging ahead with new ideas. I think it’s more refined than our past efforts. The song writing is better. The production is better.

Does the fact you have two drummers make the whole process of writing more of less difficult? I love the fact that you do not try to just fill the songs with the wall of blasting drums. You have the clear concept of using it. When I listened to Kylesa for the first time I didn't even realize you have two drum sets.
Laura: Well, no, because we still write songs. When we wrote “Static Tensions”, Phillip Cope and I wrote with Carl McGinley and we wrote with drum parts in mind but those said parts didn’t dictate the nature of the song. With the structure, we wanted good riffs and flow with vocals to match accordingly – we wanted to use the drums as a force and as a dynamic. I think it’s pretty apparent that there are two drum sets on “Static Tensions” – especially if you listen to the album on headphones. We didn’t have two drummers until 2006’s “Time Will Fuse Its Worth”.

Playing live you have the passion, the energy and the noise. Two drum sets give you that real driving force. Would you say drums are the crucial part of your sound?
Laura: No, I don’t think they are the most important element but maybe that’s because I play guitar. They are a very important element, especially live because of that added volume and force. There is without a doubt, an added intensity to the music with the two kits. But, they are one  part to a bigger whole. I think emotion and energy are probably the most important elements to Kylesa. It’s the way we shape the passion and energy that makes us who we are.

There is a bit of sludge, stoner, hardcore, crust and even punk in your style. Would you consider yourself as a metal band or rather an unidentified mix of many sub-genres of heavy and loud music?
Laura: We are of the latter for sure. I consider us a heavy band: heavy in sound, heavy in tone and heavy with emotion.
Phillip used to play with Damad between 1993 and 2001. Could you say what did you and others in Kylesa were up to before you get the band started and how did it all happen?
Laura: The original line up of Kylesa was the former members of Damad minus their singer, Victoria. I was going to school and playing in a few punk bands. I quit the last punk band due to musical differences and the fact that I was concentrating on my studies. I knew all the folks in Damad. I went to a lot of their shows. I became good friends with Brian Duke and Phillip and started hanging out a lot. Phillip and I started to jam around 1999 as I was looking for people to play seriously with. He broke Damad up in 2000 and asked me to start a band with him. I was into it because I liked his ideas and I wasn’t having any luck with anyone else around town. Carl, who has been our drummer since 2005, was born and raised in Savannah and is about 10 years younger than Phillip so he grew up on Damad. I was in school when I met Carl and I think he was about 14 at the time and I was maybe 19. I booked a show for his band Unpersons, who then sounded like the Germs. Of course the Unpersons grew tremendously over a few years and became my favourite Savannah band. They were leaps and bounds ahead of their time.

There are some good bands around Savannah. There are Baroness, Black Tusk and many more. Could you say some more about the city, the people that live there, the climate, the scene?
Laura: Savannah is very small. It is a port city, a college town and a tourist haven. Their used to be a decent scene there when we were starting out but it has since died down (I should also note the importance of Circle Takes The Square and the Unpersons as important bands). Black Tusk were another band to grow up listening to Damad and early Kylesa. I met James May (the drummer) when he was about 16 and we used to hang out a lot way before either of us were in bands. Baroness came a little later on around 2003. I met John at a Kylesa show. As far as the city goes, it’s a beautiful old southern town. It has the oldest historic district in the country. It’s beautiful yet there is an ugly underside. It has a very strange unique vibe and sometimes can be very oppressive. The heat in the summer is overwhelming. That’s when the crime seems to skyrocket the most. I have a love/hate relationship with Savannah.

Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel and Nailbomb have produced “To Walk a Middle Course” album. How did you get to work with him?
Laura: We were interested in using a producer. I think Prosthetic Records had the idea to use him. It was an interesting experience. By far the best studio experience for me was when we did “Static Tensions”.

You have an outstanding cover arts. You have some stuff done by the famous Pushead. John Baizley of Baroness designed the artwork for “Static Tensions” and some of your  merch. You have done some covers for Kylesa yourself as well. I love bands that pay attention to how their albums look like. Do you?
Laura: The artistic representation of our band has always been important. I went to the art school in Savannah and Phillip grew up with this art school in his town thus, being surrounded by artists. It’s always been an important factor. I love looking at cool cover art, you know? When I was a kid, I would buy cds/records based on the cover art if I didn’t know who the band was. I love the really weird/odd ball art the best.

Is it hard to be a leader of a band and being a woman at the same time? Is it easier for a man? I think you have to prove so much more when you are a chick. People at first might think you probably are doing all those clean vocals and adding that little bit of sensitivity to a band. All this is crap but I think people like to make judgements a lot.
Laura: I want to make it clear that I am not the leader of the band. Phillip and I are equal creative partners. That said, it can be difficult being a female in a very male dominated scene. It can get old sometimes but I just do my own thing and don’t think too much about it. It’s not like I can compare it to being male in a band because I’ve never had that perspective.

You have covered Pink Floyd song “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (originally from 1968 “A Saucerful of Secrets” album). Is music of 70s important to you? It is a big part of your inspirations?
Laura: Yeah it’s very important. I’ve been listening to music from the 70s since I was in middle school. Pink Floyd is a huge influence – especially early Floyd.

You have also covered EyeHateGod for the tribute album “For the Sick”. What does that band mean to you and the underground scene in the US?
Laura: EyeHateGod is a hugely important band for the southern sludge scene and the sludge scene in general. They are pioneers!

Whom did you play with in last 12 months?
Laura: I’ve been pretty happy overall with the bands we’ve toured with this past year. Some include: Skeletonwitch, Black Tusk, Mastodon, Intronaut, Torche, Amebix, Birushanah.

Metal press in Poland is not very much interested in other genres of metal except black, death and thrash. Yes, there is a lot of people into prog tech stuff but sludge, stoner and doom is more of a margin. I think most of the time sludge and stoner is more identified with hardcore and is naturally rejected by strict metal heads. I hate that but what can you do? Do you think it is also a case in the US?
Laura: I think early on our style of music was a bit rejected. It wasn’t punk enough for punks and it was too weird for metal heads. That has changed drastically over the past 5 years. It’s quite accepted now in the US and has strangely become popular. But like everything that gets popular, it will soon be rejected again.

Kylesa interview was done in November 2009 and published in Polish in 2010 in “Struggle Zine”. It's the first time it's published in English.

Saturday 4 September 2010

TOMBS – Black Metal Punk

„Winter Hours” is a top record in the metal game of 2009. It brought a perfect blend of metal speed, sludge heaviness and punk aggression. It strikes like a lightning, it hipnotizes. It is a stunning vehement display of energy and vigour of the riff and live shattering drums. Down-to-earth frontman guitarist/vocalist Mike Hill anwsers some important questions.

You come from Brooklyn, New York City. Lots of hardcore bands and rap artists come from that place. It's got a certain reputation of a tough place. How it is to live around those corners? Could you describe your neighbourhood and the place you have been growing up at?
Mike: I grew up outside of the city in a suburb so I don’t feel any kind of local pride or anything.  Though Brooklyn has a reputation for being a rough area, that is largely a misconception at this point due to the gentrification and influx of people with money. There are definitely some neighborhoods that have high crime rates, but I generally steer clear of those places. I have friends that grew up in Brooklyn and I observe their local pride but I can’t really claim any of it. I’ve lived in a lot of different cities in the US so I have grown farther away from those feelings.

Tombs is a pretty new band but you and the other lads have been playing in few  bands before. Could you tell me about those bands and how did you get first started with Tombs?
Mike: I played in Anodyne, Versoma and a number of even lesser known hardcore and metal bands. Our bass player Andrew Hernandez was in ASRA, Revenge, Blood Red Residual and I’m sure numeroous other bands that are slipping my mind at the moment. The drummer – Carson Daniel James is a man without a past.

You have a band, as well you run an indie label called Black Box and you produce other bands on top of that. You seem to be a bloody busy guy. Was creating your own music or recording others first? What bands did you produce so far?
Mike: I backed into producing after I had been playing in bands for a number of years. In the past I’ve worked with Isis, Premonitions of War, Lick Golden Sky and Hot Cross.  These days I focus on my own music, I’m not interested in helping anyone else realize their musical vision because I’m ultimately far too self-centered and want to control everything. Producing is no longer a goal of mine.

You have done a videoclip to an opening song from „Winter Hours” called „Gossamer”. It's a pretty simple picture with you guys playing in sort of an empty hangar but it looks great. Where did you shot it and was it fun or pain to do it?
Mike: We shot the video in a loft in Brooklyn, the kind of place that is rented out for film shoots, art and functions like that. I had never been involved with a “real video shoot” so I didn’t know what to expect but all in all it went pretty smoothly due mainly to Kevin Custer, the producer. He’s a total professional and his vibe is what made the whole thing enjoyable.

„Winter Hours” sounds really fat. It's naturally loud and heavy. I'd rather say it's loud as fuck. It should be mandatory to play it on full volume. It's got that natural, organic, dirty sound of guitar riffs. Many bands right now sound very sterile and polished. You are a total opposite. Would you agree with that?
Mike: I’m not a fan of the super clean style of production where everythiing is isolated and over-compressed. I think a lot of bands that are in the “metal” genre all sound the same due to this style of production. We’re going more for a Neurosis style of soound on our records.

It's hard to label Tombs. You have a bit of that good old hardcore spirit. There is a massive wall of sludgy riffs but also some space for intensive atmosphere. There is a bit of melody that makes me think of Helmet a little. On the other hand you throw in ultra fast parts and blastbeats and those cold bits that make it all much more interesting and brutal. Would you rather say Tombs is a hardcore or a metal band? Or maybe something else?
Mike: If pushed to pick a classification, I would say that we’re a punk band. Philosophically we share more with bands like the Minutemen, Black Flag but we have mainly metal aesthetics.

The cover art for „Winter Hours” is a surprising picture. Not very much in vein of heavy bands. Original and beautiful in my opinion. Who is an author and was it created for Tombs especially?
Mike: Thomas Hooper created the artwork for the record. It’s all original material. I gave him a copy of demo tracks that we recorded for the record and the lyrics and he just went to work creating the art.

What's your opinion on Mastodon's „Crack the Skye”?
Mike: Honestly, I am unfamiliar with Mastodon’s work. I know the band and have seen them several times, but I can’t say that I am a fan of their music.

New York is one of those few cities in the world where things happen. I mean popular culture. There is so many huge bands that come from NYC. Metal, hardcore, punk and many more subgenres. Is there a big competition? Is it relatively easier to be noticed there or is it harder to get through all those bands around?
Mike: New York is all hype and very little substance. Many people in this city have a careerist attitude about making music and favor the business aspects over the actual creative process. For example, when Interpol became popular there were a thousand bands copying them. Now that metal is kind of popular there are a lot of very hip, attractive kids adopting the fashion and playing a false, watered down simulation of metal. Metal is ugly.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of really great bands from NY. Unearthly Trance, Villains, Sick of It All, Merauder, Madball, Defeatist, Inhuman, Darkside, Disassociate etc.  These bands are all lifers that have been involved with music for a long, long time.
It was never a goal of mine to get noticed. I wanted to make powerful music that had meaning for me and any kind of popularity that may or may not have happened would be a pleasant surprise.

You have been on tour with Isis and Pelican. How long was it, how many states did you visit and what are you reflections on it? Where people's reactions to Tombs satisfactory?
Mike: Both of those tours filled up about six weeks of time and we hit pretty much the whole country except for the mid-west. It was great being on tour with smart, professional people and I miss those guys a lot now that we’ve been off the road for a bit. Again, I’m really not the guy to ask if people dug us or not because I often feel like there is an adversarial relationship between the band and the audience.

You have published your album on Relapse. It's one of those labels that almost guarantee a great record. What I mean is they seem to really put out only good stuff and most of stuff they publish kick ass big time. Bands sound top notch. The artworks are first class. I see Relapse as sort of elite of underground extreme music. How do you see that?

Mike: Relapse is a great label and everyone that works there is extremely hard-working and professional. A fairly large percentage of my record collection are Relapse bands: Neurosis, Today is the Day, Soilent Green, Pig Destroyer, Origin, Zombi, Unearthly Trance... the list goes on and on. It really is an honour to be part of the roster.

Tombs interview was done in June 2009 and published in Polish in 2010 in “Struggle Zine”. It's the first time it's published in English.

Friday 3 September 2010

COALESCE – Crash and Bang

They have allowed the world to forget them. But after almost a decade of silence they returned and it's a comeback in the genuine style of mathcore/metalcore as it ought to be in the beginning. The “Ox” album released in 2009 with Coalesce classics “Functioning on Impatience” and “0:12 Revolution in Just Listening” is the band's highlight and the strongest effort to date. Guitarist Jes Steineger answers the burning questions.

You haven't put out a single record in 10 years. In 2009 we got an album and an EP in just couple of months. Was life boring without a band so you decided to show the world you're still alive and kicking?
Jes: Actually, I’ve become accustomed to telling everyone that there are really only two reasons for Coalesce’s existence: the friendship that we have between each other in the band, and the feeling we get from playing this crash and bang music.  I don’t think we’ve ever really cared if the world thinks we’re alive and kicking. We have been lucky to meet a lot of really cool people through Coalesce, so I think that’s another reason for doing it again: travelling and meeting new people.

The “Ox” and “Ox EP” artworks are nothing but original. It looks like some weird electronic music. Did you want to have covers that stand out in punk/hardcore/metal standards? Did you want to show you're different and unique?
Jes: I never think of Coalesce in terms of whether or not it’s “unique” or “different”. I think all of us just think in terms of what we like.  I think there are a ton of people who would disagree with you and say that our art work and music is neither unique nor different.  So it’s not even an objective criterion for doing what we do. Honestly, we try to keep things as simple as possible. Do we like it? Does it fit what we feel? Can we relate to it in some way? Basic questions you ask to make sure that your art matches up with your sentiments.

Both “Ox” and “Ox EP” are terrific records. Your style is unrepeatable. There is so many bands that try to improve their technique and production but end up sounding so similar and that is so disappointing. And then you come out of blue and bring these totally new records distancing all the others by miles. How are you able to do that?
Jes: Thanks for the compliments, but we really don’t think in those terms at all.  It’s dangerous to think in terms of competition when you’re in a band.  You set yourself up for major disappointment when things are based on others. We find it better to just focus on what we like so that when we complete a record or a tour we feel complete in some way; tranquil.  That’s how I feel after a recording session or a show anyway. Honestly, for all we knew, people were going to hate the new records; and there are quite a few people who do hate the new records actually. That emphasizes my point though: better just to focus on what correlates whatever it is you create with your sentiment.

Did you complete both records during the same session and then decided to put them out as two releases instead of one 40-minutes-long album?
Jes: Our original plan was to record an EP of just Western tracks. An entire EP of interlude songs like we had on “Ox”. Then we were snowed in at the Scion Fest in Atlanta back in February 2009. While we were in the hotel room we started putting together some of the riffs that made up the more crash and bang songs on the EP. We had already booked studio time to go in and do an EP of interlude tracks, so we just recorded the new crash and bang songs instead. Voilà.

Rumour says you got 12 children between 4 of you. That is hell of a lot of kids! Who's got the biggest bunch and is it fun to run such a kindergarten?
Jes: Sean and I have four kids each. Jr. and Nellis have two kids each. It is a lot of kids. They don’t go with us on tour or road trips.

Earache released your split with Napalm Death in 1997. Did you get more recognition because of that?
Jes: I was a fan of Napalm Death at that time and I still am. Such a solid band. I wish we could tour with them actually. I never think of Coalesce as a popular band really, but I’m sure that putting out that split with Napalm Death helped us out a lot in terms of exposure.

Kansas is more or less the geographical centre of the US. What is life there like? Do you still get to meet Native Americans there?
Jes: Life there is simple. I have lived in Chicago for about four years now, so I miss Kansas a lot. I hate the city. There is a significant Native American community in Lawrence because they have a college there. I worked with various Native American scholars when I was at Kansas University. In general, people in the Midwest stick to themselves and try to live simple lives. That is my romanticization of the situation.

No doubt you're huge Led Zeppelin fans. “There is Nothing New Under the Sun” says it all. Why are Zepps so important to you? Did you kiss your future wife for the first time listening “Stairway to Heaven” or something like that?
Jes: Haha! Don’t recall ever making out with any girl to Led Zeppelin. I don’t even think any of us consider ourselves to be “huge fans”. We wanted to do a cover record and sort of interpret some older songs in a crash and bang way. The more Zeppelin songs we learned, the more it just felt right. It was also a way for me to try and maybe give Coalesce some shape for my Dad to understand what was going on. I liked the idea of finding some way to relate my generation to an older generation of music listener. If I could go back, I would probably have asked the guys to do it differently and not record all Zeppelin covers but it is what it is.

How was the Euro tour in June 2009? What were the reactions? What European countries did you find interesting, where would you like to return?
Jes: The summer 2009 tour was my favourite Coalesce tour ever.  I had such an awesome time and I think the other guys feel the same way. We got to play an entire spectrum of shows: from huge festival shows to extremely small club shows. It really was perfect to experience so much in such a short amount of time. I am seriously counting the days until I can return to Europe. I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed every country we visited. I wish there had been more time to see some medieval sites, but I was content to see what I was able to: particularly Kües in Germany. Hopefully next time we’ll get to see Poland, Denmark, the Scandinavian countries, and more of France and Italy. I really want to see Athens and Moscow as well.

Watching your live videos I have the feeling you're a pretty fucked up band. I mean you seem to lose your minds and freak out. Does the live act bring you some sort of catharsis?
Jes: Any way we go about trying to describe what we get out of a Coalesce show always sounds ridiculous. It is a very unique feeling of freedom for us. Most times I feel really tranquil after a show, so maybe catharsis is the right word. I just think Coalesce opens up a small cavern in Being for us. A place where we can do what we want for 40 minutes or so and feel a certain way that we can’t get anywhere else.

You have a flippin' awesome guitar sound? How did you work it out?
Jes: I don’t think it is worked out. Most of my stuff is broken half the time so it never sounds the same way two nights in a row. Whatever it is you consider to be awesome and original is just me being a horrible guitar player, haha. Honestly. I’m a guy who loved a few metal bands growing up but was never good enough to play metal. It was easier for me to get on in the punk scene. That’s maybe a good way to describe how Coalesce came about: a crappy punk guitarist trying to play Metallica, haha.

With two releases in a short period do you plan to keep that intense activity going?
Jes: We don’t have any plans at this point to release on any sort of schedule. Just two weeks ago we started kicking around ideas for what we think the next Coalesce project will look like.  I’d like to do at least one more record or EP or even film of some sort, but we’ll see if our schedules allow for it.

I suspect you might be a Western films lover. So John Ford or Sam Peckinpah? What are you favourite films of all times?
Jes: I’m an Eastwood guy, all the way. “Fistful of Dollars” is my favourite, but all of them are freaking awesome (the rest of the Man with No Name series of course, “High Plains Drifter”, “Hang  ‘Em High”, “Joe Kid”, even the newer stuff like “Pale Rider” and “Unforgiven”). All of the classics, man: “Once Upon a Time in the West”, “The Wild Bunch”, “The Magnificent Seven”, etc. Nellis and I were watching all of these movies when we were writing “Ox”!

What active bands are in your opinion the most inventive, original and inspiring for you?
Jes: I think The Mars Volta are the most creative band in the world right now. They are like a bottomless abyss of creativity. I love that band. I love the Black Keys as well, but for different reasons. I think Minus the Bear fits all the criteria you listed, as does Mew (whose new record is impeccable).  I think Torche is eclectic and original –  great band. There are some bands that I like because they are just so into what they’re doing: Stuntman and Chere Catastrophe from France, Taint from Wales, The Atlas Moth from Chicago.

You've played at some vege/vegan festivals/events. Do you care about the diet and animal rights yourself?
Jes: I haven’t thought about it in a long time. Coalesce is not a platform for any sort of ideology. None of us have any sort of commitment to animal rights or dietary concerns. Our friend Dan Askew is a vegan, so we always try to accommodate him when he travels with us.  Ultimately, it’s like I said earlier, Coalesce is really just about hanging out together and trying to ignite a certain feeling we get when playing our songs. When it comes to everything else: to each his or her own, as we say in America.

Coalesce interview was done in November 2009 and published in Polish in 2010 in “Struggle Zine”. It's the first time it's published in English.

Thursday 2 September 2010

CANNABIS CORPSE – Stoned to Death

Make no mistake this band is not a joke. It is as real and death metal as Immolation, Deicide, Obituary or Cannibal Corpse. And they have funnier song titles. Songs like „Staring Through My Eyes That Are Red”, „I Cum Bud”, „Mummified in Bong Water”, „Gallery of Stupid High” or „Skull Full of Bong Hits” are top examples of brutal blasting and heavy crushing riffage. I spoke to a vocalist Andy „Weedgrinder” Horn to find more.

Could you tell me about the history of the band?
Weedgrinder: We began as a 3-piece home recording project in Richmond, Virginia back in late 2005 or early 2006. My memory isn't too sharp these days. Hallhammer and Landphil were staying in my tiny modest apartment with me and my room mate for a couple months. They began recording “Blunted at Birth” and asked me to track most of the vocals. We never intended to really release it, or play out. We figured it would be fun to just re-approach Cannabis Corpse, which the brothers had played a show as sometime ago. Our close friend had just started Forcefield Records and offered to release a CD/LP. It was received so well that people encouraged us to play a few shows. We did, with the help of Nickropolis on guitar and had such a blast that we continue to play now. Couple of  years later with 2 LPs and a “Weeding” EP.

No doubt Cannibal Corpse is pretty much your favourite band. How did you get the idea of sort of remaking them? I know that you're a unique band with kick ass songs but I suspect lots of people might think you're only taking a piss and didn't take you seriously at first. Was that ever an issue?
Weedgrinder: We have always taken death metal seriously, as have we taken this band. We never tried to “reinvent” Cannibal, we just use to always throw weedy song titles around whenever we were smoking and listening to death metal. To me, death metal is no joke, it is a part of our lives that cannot be replaced. Cannabis Corpse is death metal we love, so we play it whenever we can, and are happiest when we get to play it. I'm sure some people think we are taking a piss, but fuck that. We play what we like. No parody here, just worship.

One of my ideas how you could have started is you all been Cannibal Corpse fans and loved to play their songs together and one day you started to write your own songs but writing them like you're them, sort of “how would Alex Webster write that bit or how would Paul Mazurkiewicz play that blastbeat?”. Does that make any sense or I'm chatting some bollocks?
Weedgrinder: Your perception of our band's conception isn't to far off. We never tried to copy Cannibal, or any other band. We are playing a form of death that we like very much. To me, death should be punk. If you're not behind your music, you might as well be a bunch of silly jazzheads playing the most complicated technical jibberjabber you can, which is often unlistenable. We all like death metal you can bang, thrash, and skank to. Not art metal, no breakdown mosh crew radio false metal.

Phil was with Municipal Waste before and surely that gave you some more recognition since they're a great and popular band. What bands did other guys play with before or still playing?
Weedgrinder: Yes, Landphil plays bass in Municipal Waste. Nickropolis plays in Parasytic (ala Deviated Instinct, English Dogs, Concrete Sox) and Volture (heavy metal ala old Priest, old Maiden). I play in Battlemaster (ala Immortal, Absu, Destroyer666). All of these bands are still active.

I dig Cannibal Corpse but need to say I prefer their earlier stuff with “The Bleeding” being my favourite record. Last couple of records seem to be slightly repetitive and I was over the moon when I first get to listen to “Tube of the Resinated”. It blew me away because it had all the best things I always loved about Cannibal Corpse but all the freshness on top of it. You have somehow reinvented their style, redone it and to me it's better then their new record because it's less expectable. How do you see that?
Weedgrinder: We all have different favourite albums. We all favour the older stuff, as do I, but my favourite all-around record is “Gallery of Suicide”. Our favourite to listen to in the van is the “Created to Kill” sessions. Every album they have is heavy as shit. Again, we aren't trying to reinvent them at all. Thanks for the kind words, but we just add our fair share of 90's east coast death metal influence, haha!

You are a pure worshippers of the ganja and its magical qualities. Do you support legalization? How does possession law look like in Virginia?
Weedgrinder: We support the legalization. In our country, the pot you can find ranges from super shitty to super trippy. Our federal government wages a silent drug war where they profit on two ends: 1) a large percentage of drug traffic funding is filtered into the pockets of politicians via loans we give to central and south American drug bosses/politicians and our west coast's growing “medical marijuana” industry, and 2) through privatized prison systems which overfill constantly, creating a tax cycling cash-grab that American citizens pay for in the end, while the corporate pig gorges itself on our incomes, crushing the weaker swine underfoot. In our state, Virginia, pot is illegal completely. Even a pipe with any amount of resin could feasibly get you jail time or 1000's of dollars in fees and fines, along with months to years of state-sponsored drug-testing and “rehabilitation”. It's bullshit, but we just do our best to stay away from the pigs. It's like this through out most of America, with the exception of parts of the west coast, where they simply give you relatively inexpensive tickets. A huge part of the population smokes weed regularly despite these cock-sucking laws. Drug-free and stoner alike, we all get along here. We are lucky to have a scene where people are not concerned with each others habits, clothing, race, etc.

People say you start with a little blunt or two then you move to ecstasy, speed and coke and all of a sudden you might end up pretty bad taking some serious shit. Do you think ganja is only a harmless funnier version of tobacco or can it be bit dangerous and you need to be conscious it may fuck you up?
Weedgrinder: What you refer to here is what the government propagators refer to as a “gateway drug”. Everyone has a different body, and responds to different drugs differently. I think idiots outnumber non-idiots. Idiots are the ones who slave themselves to hard drugs out of desperation, social naivety, and ignorance. I wish they weren't a concern to me, but you must be aware of all around you. My advice is to decide what you want, and then do whatever you want to do. But what you do is none of my business, you know?
The United States are a bloody big country with lots of different regions, accents, people and cultures. What would best describe Virginia and Richmond? What is characteristic about that place?
Weedgrinder: Richmond is the former capitol of the Confederate States of America, which was a short lived country comprised of the south-east part of America and went into Civil War with the United States of America in the late 1800's. The southern attitude and culture isn't as evident as it once was here, but it still survives. That attitude is typically more friendly than the north. We have some of the oldest surviving buildings in our city, which are not old at all compared to Europe's castles and towns. Richmond has a strong scene of hardcore punk metal freaks. We all like to party a lot. We have tons of killer bands and awesome people, but have been struggling for good venues for shows. We end up having house shows here a lot, with a few small bars and restaurants willing to open their doors to drunk and smelly punks and metallers. I love our city, and it is a great place to stop if any of the readers tour over here.

You have a mysterious friend appearing at your gigs. Who's the man and do you pay him in green, well I don't mean Benjamins!
Weedgrinder: The Bud Monster is who you speak of, haha! We don't know much about him, but he stops by many of our shows. His real name is in a language so ancient it remains unspeakable today. His name roughly translates to “Cool Dankula”. Not sure where he came from but we speculate he slid through a portal to our universe sometimes in the mid 80's. He's learning to cohabitate with humans, but it is a slow process.

What I love about Cannabis Corpse is that you simply have a sense of humour. Taking all your song titles, artwork etc. It's so important to be cool and don't treat yourself too serious especially when you're pushing 40, putting on corpse paint, wearing same pair of jeans for last 5 years and stating that you're true and never get your hair cut though you don't have much left anyway. Lots of metal bands just make me laugh though I love their music. Is Cannabis Corpse a bit of a mocker in a metal world?
Weedgrinder: We all have decent senses of humour, but by no means do we mock metal at all! Metal isn't some sort of short-lived phase or trend. Metal is what we have always loved, and lived. I see mockery everyday, and it lies in the fly-by-night trendies, metalcores, false metals, etc. These bandwagoneers maybe think that metal will get them money, or girls, or fame, or friends. This is people using metal, and that is mockery. We all laugh at stuff that is funny, whether it's in metal or not. A fat old guy in a corpse paint I would probably laugh at, unless his music was so black I didn't find him funny and lame.

Could say some more about your appearance in the film “In the Loop”? What's the plot about? Does it have anything to do with “Ace Ventura”? What was your part and how did it work out?
Weedgrinder: “In the Loop” is a British comedy dealing with the US and the British politics. We were contacted last minute about filming, and told whoever called that we'd show up and play some crushing death metal. The scene is kind of random, the two main characters go to a club for a drink, and we just happen to be playing. The only connection to “Ace Ventura” is that Cannibal Corpse played a similar scene in that movie and well... you know, we're called Cannabis Corpse. The director didn't seem to know that. I think it was a pure coincidence!

Cannabis Corpse interview was done in November 2009 and published in Polish in 2010 in “Struggle Zine”. It's the first time it's published in English.