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Interview with Thou’s Andy Gibbs and Bryan Funck

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews, tours On: Thursday, April 10th, 2014

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Baton Rouge doom/sludge prolific over-achievers, Thou has returned from an almost unheard of (for them, anyway) two years of silence as far as releases are concerned with their latest and greatest full-length, Heathen. We recently sent guitarist Andy Gibbs and vocalist Bryan Funck a bunch of questions to respond to via email. It would appear they approach interviews with the same prolific depth as they do everything else. So, I’ll shut the hell up so you can read all about everything that’s going on with Thou in the here-and-now.

First off, what do we need to know about the history of Thou that hasn’t been driven into the ground in other interviews? As time has passed, have you come to any realisations about how your early days as a band has impacted how you go about existing as a band in the present?
Andy: I don’t think we have a particularly interesting back story, honestly. We’re just another group of 20-and-30-something year-old dudes who practice in a dirty, cramped practice space. I do think that our semi-rigorous practice schedule in the early days did us a lot of good in terms of figuring out what we wanted to sound like. We started out with a more post-rock-y sound and very quickly got heavier and heavier. And certainly I think that [bassist] Mitch [Wells], [guitarist] Matthew [Thudium] and I playing music together for so long has streamlined the creative process in a positive way.
Bryan: Aside from Barghest, Thou is really the only band any of us have been in that has gotten a bit of notoriety and became fairly serious. So, there are a lot of areas of learning and growth we’ve blundered through along the way – a lot of aesthetic and identity experimentation. Sometimes I wish I had a clearer idea of how far this band would go, so I could’ve kept things more coherent. I love when bands have such a strict aesthetic that you can immediately identify their record or show flyer. “Oh, this is Iron Lung. This is Crass. This is Celeste. This is Pity Sex.” On the other hand, I’m glad we didn’t pigeon-hole ourselves to any particular approach, be it music, artwork, content or whatever. We still have some willingness to approach things in new ways and that flexibility is really important to us these days, especially, with Andy living in Oakland and Mitch about to move to San Diego. I think if we had been married to only doing things one way, those moves would have killed us. As far as artwork goes, originally, I was trying to fit that “bat logo” onto everything we did. I had this idea that it would be something like our Darkthrone logo. The first few releases also had some typical, boring band tropes: track list on the back, who played in the band, our website, etc. I’m glad it didn’t take me too long to figure out that stuff like that is just filler taking up valuable real estate and contributes to a general band ego that I find useless and self destructive. I think a lot of people think of our art as “woodcuts,” but we seem a little all over the place from my perspective. And there have definitely been a few art and layout choices I’ve regretted. Mostly minor stuff that no one cares about, but things I obsess about when I look at records or can’t sleep at night. I guess we can always do endless represses till I get it right. Sometimes I think we shouldn’t have done so many splits, spreading the material out so much. I feel like we could have been choosier with some of the bands and labels we worked with. It probably would’ve made sense to bite off a chunk of the Rendon songs for a full length or bigger EP between Peasant and Summit. I think a bunch of those songs could have fit together and made a coherent album. We’re a little pickier now when we do splits, but we’re still way into doing them. These days, I think we aim a little higher with the experimentation, letting the split dictate the style or direction we want to take the songs. I think we’ve gained a good bit of focus over the last few years, as far as the writing goes. Then again, sometimes you have to go where the song takes you instead of trying to fit it into the box you want. That’s usually how we end up shaving things down these days. That’s certainly why we have a whole EP worth of songs from the Heathen session that we all really liked but just weren’t fitting within the scope of that record.

How has having a couple members spread around the country affected life in and for Thou?
Andy: As of now, I’m the only one living outside of Louisiana (Mitch is scheduled to move later this year), but we’ve been dealing with it pretty effectively, I’d say. The rest of the band practices regularly without me and when I come to town we get things done pretty quickly. Aside from writing and practicing, the financial burden of figuring out how to cover my plane ticket expenses is a pain that I don’t see going away too soon.
Bryan: We still have some Heathen burnout at the moment, so it’s a little hard to tell, but it’s seemed to have slowed down the writing tremendously. We’re trying to figure out how to approach writing with one of the main authors one the other side of the country. It’s definitely made touring a lot harder. The financial constraints we were already dealing with have sky rocketed. We have to do lots of extra planning and take more time off work than we’d like, even for shorter trips that would’ve been really easy for us to do in the past. Other than that, it’s fine. Me and the three guys in Baton Rouge have been keeping busy with regular practices, re-learning a ton of older songs and playing around with various covers. So, there’s a lot of maintenance and regrouping happening. We had a few months of stagnation after we recorded Heathen, but I think we’re on the right track now.

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I noticed that as part of the PR for Heathen that, in addition to the usual metal-centric suspects, that NPR streamed the new album. What are your thoughts on these non-traditional outlets showing interest in a style of music as impenetrable to the mainstream as yours? And how did a band as noisy and miserable sounding as Thou even come to their attention and consideration in the first place?
Andy: People who are into “extreme” music are getting older and finding jobs in the “grown-up” world, so it’s pretty normal that someone who works at NPR is into our type of music. Still, I don’t think they’ll be having us on All Things Considered or Fresh Air any time soon. I’m still waiting for Democracy Now! to get in touch, though.
Bryan: We hooked up with NPR after we saw that first Body thing they did for All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood. Adam Barlett from Gilead Media reached out to Lars, who’s a bit younger and comes from the DC punk scene, to see if they would want to do anything with Summit. And they did the “First Listen.” I don’t think music that’s as long-winded as ours, or any music with screaming is going to go very far in the mainstream, but we’re not particularly concerned with that. I love that NPR and outlets like that have taken an interest in some harsher music. I’d love to see more folks around who practice critical thinking and aren’t embroiled in any scene politics.

Was the sound you’ve carved out for yourselves over the years something you pointedly went towards playing, or was the sludge/doom/whatever something you fell into serendipitously? How difficult is it to summon those demons so as to write such punishing odes?
Andy: Not that difficult, to me at least. At this point, when I’m coming up with riffs it’s not a very emotional process. I’m more just fucking around until something sounds good. The emotion comes later when we’re playing live or recording and I’m reflecting more on what I wrote and how it fits in the larger context of our band. But as far as the sound is concerned, we’ve definitely been on a straight-ahead course towards heavier and heavier songs from the inception of the band to the present, though we’ve never really seemed to fit too easily into the whole doom/sludge world of H.P. Lovecraft and pentagrams. While I think our inclination towards “doom” is deliberate, I think that our sound has changed pretty organically, and we’re really just playing what we think sounds interesting instead of what sounds brutal enough or whatever.
Bryan: Before I joined the band, they were doing more of a Pelican/Isis post-rock thing. I think after they wrote that first batch of songs, they started fooling around with lower tunings and wrote “Fucking Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean.” All the Tyrant songs sprung from that first one. I joined Thou after all the music for Tyrant had already been recorded and Matthew’s vocal tracks somehow got erased. So when I stepped in, it was already headed in a heavier direction. We’ve always talked about how we don’t want to be one of those bands that eventually loses all of their heaviness and only writes really mellow songs. That being said, we’re really taken with the idea of exploring different styles while still retaining the sound or feeling we identify as ‘Thou,’ which I think relies more on a sense of melancholia than it does, “br00tal,” heavy riffs. We have plans for doing a lot more acoustic and pretty/quiet songs. But I doubt we’ll ever totally drop the harshness associated with our music. And, unless the world and everyone in it changes drastically, I don’t think we’ll ever have a rough time writing sad/angry/exxxtreme songs.

How did you managed to maintain such a prolific period of releases from 2008-2012 without burning yourselves, and the various labels you worked with, out? Or is that heavy release schedule what contributed to the comparatively lengthy gap leading up to Heathen? Do you think you’re going to be heading back into the direction of releasing shit-tons of material or is life and all that life stuff making you take a second look at Thou’s amounts of activity?
Andy: We really only look so prolific on paper. In reality, we wrote a big chunk of songs after Peasant and recorded them in a marathon recording session. The songs were then dispersed among a bunch of different splits. And from then on, each of our recording sessions have been dual-purposed. With Summit, for instance, we recorded a handful of other songs that were used for different EPs and some other odds and ends. Ditto with basically every other one of our records to date. We actually just did a catch-all recording session in November. The gap leading up to Heathen had a few catalysts: we had a long period of inactivity after our European tour in 2012 because I traveled for a bit and then moved across the country; also some of the material recorded during the Heathen sessions got pushed back in terms of release dates; and then Heathen itself got pushed back a few times, so we could get the mixes and the layout squared away. And even now we’ve had to push back the US vinyl release because the test presses weren’t sounding right! So it’s been a comedy of errors. I think our release schedule will slow down, but I’m sure we’ll manage to release at least a couple records every year. We are doing a bit more touring than we’d originally planned, but with Mitch moving later this year I’m not sure if that’ll continue. We’re really just taking people up on their offers at the moment, whether its bands we like touring with or fests we want to play.
Bryan: These guys had spent a year writing and recording Tyrant before I joined the band and slapped my ramshackle vocals and mealy-mouthed lyrics over their hard work. So that one shouldn’t even count. Half the Oakland Singles songs were also written before I came on board. We kind of sped through writing and recording Peasant, for better or worse. The Rendon Singles stuff was a pretty good chunk. We just hit a good spurt of writing, started going in some new directions musically, and came up with a few long songs. Summit and the stuff we did with that had a lot of starts and stops, a few different spurts. Songs got scrapped or totally re-worked. We wrote the last couple of songs for that record the week before we went into the studio. It was pretty stressful. And then [drummer] Josh [Nee] joined right after that record, and brought in this renewed energy that led to the To the Chaos Wizard Youth stuff. It never really seems that drastic from our point of view because we’ll have a few songs for a while that we play, then we write a few more and on and on. There were definitely times when we’d ramp up the pressure to get a release done in time for a tour or whatever. But then again, there were also plenty of deadlines we missed because we just couldn’t produce the material, or something didn’t come out quite right, there was some technical issue or someone else flaked on us. I’m not really sure how things will pan out over the next few years as far as output goes. We’ve been a little burnt out from the Heathen, Sacrifice, and Released from Love stuff. If we weren’t having practices to get ready for all these tours, we’d maybe be working on some new stuff. Right now, we’re focusing on Heathen and old songs for the March and April tours. When we get home, we’ll have about two months to pull together some very basic ideas for the second collaboration with The Body. The July tour will mostly be collaboration sets, and we’ll be recording the second record with them about halfway in, once we get up to Providence. After the July tour, we’ll probably take a couple of weeks to recoup then start digging into the various new ideas we have. If inspiration strikes us, we might get a spurt of material, but there’s no telling. After we recorded To the Chaos Wizard Youth, we spent a couple of months working on a Fiona Apple tribute. That got put on hold, and we started writing for the Cower split. I think we spent a good month or two banging our heads against the wall on that one till we finally hit our stride and banged out a handful of songs we were happy with. We’re always really ambitious in the brainstorming stage, but we’re also fine with shelving or abandoning a song or idea if it’s not working or doesn’t meet our standards. We definitely won’t be touring too much over the next few years. We’re not living on the streets or squatting, but none of us are really well-off financially. It’s pretty hard for some of us to even miss out on work, let alone save up the money we need now to make tours happen. The April and July tours we’re doing are going to be pretty rough. As of right now, we’re not looking to do anything else till April or July of next year, and that will probably be out to Europe for no more than a few weeks. Life stuff is definitely a huge factor for us, juggling all our other responsibilities, significant others, family, bands, shows, volunteer projects, work. We’re all in our late 20s and early 30s, so those things have definitely started to pile up.

Ok, Heathen. Did you have any specific goals about what you wanted to achieve going into the writing and recording of the album? Mistakes you wanted to avoid, stuff you wanted to deliberately experiment with, anything in particular you wanted to do differently or the same as past recordings, etc.? How did the actual recording of the album differ from other studio experiences?
Andy: I would say this is our most calculated album to date, for sure. Ever since we recorded Summit I feel like we’ve got more and more anal about the way the records sound, especially the full-lengths. I went into the recording sessions expecting to have a very intense few days of meticulous nit-picking and marathon overdub sessions, but it actually went very smoothly, mostly due to our recording-wizard James Whitten. The process was very similar to everything we’ve recorded Summit-and-beyond, since we’ve used the same studio every time and James knows exactly what we’re going for. We usually have a little chat beforehand about what kind of tone we want to get and all that, so we’re all on the same page. We were definitely looking to experiment more with clean parts and less ‘metal’ stuff, most of which found its way onto the album via interludes. I think in the future we’ll work more on incorporating that stuff into the songs themselves. At this point, I’m not worried about us sounding heavy enough, so my attention is on other things. I guess in the earlier days of the band I felt like we had to constantly throw in the heaviest riffs we could muster, and now I just want to come up with interesting melodies and mess with walls of feedback. Overall, my goal was to come out with the most cohesive-sounding album we could, and in that I feel pretty good about the job we did.
Bryan: I think like most musicians, we wanted this record to be better than the last one. I’m really proud of Summit, but it just wasn’t as expansive as I had hoped it would be. If we hadn’t had other records on our plate at the time, we probably could’ve included “Voices in the Wilderness” and “Bonnet Carré” on that record. Then again, if we had included those songs (which we had written earlier on), we wouldn’t have had the pressure on us to write “Grissecon” or “Another World is Inevitable.” Regardless, to me, all of those songs, even though they fit together, still sound like they could’ve used a little more refining – either in the studio or the practice space. The only other goal we were really married to was getting across the lyrical themes of nature and physicality. After Matthew and I had a long talk about his ideas for “Free Will,” I expanded those ideas to include the need for prescient experience and active participation. Sound-wise, Matthew had written “Free Will” pretty early on to set the tone for things. So we had a pretty clear idea of where we wanted to go. At some point, when things were looking a little bleaker with the amount of songs that were coming together, we talked about doing some black metal stuff on here and having one side of the record be Heathen and the other side as Magus. But I think towards the end of writing we dropped that thought because we knew we had almost too much stuff for a singularly-themed record, plus all the black metal ideas had been mangled into other things. We also talked about having all the interludes early on. We wanted to have little bits tying all the songs together into one, big piece, but also write these little parts that could almost stand alone as their own songs. We talked about having some electronic pieces, drone and noise stuff, just whatever we could think of. It ended up being just a few guitar things and the long ambient piece we tied into “Immorality Dictates,” but I’m really happy with all those songs, and I’m definitely hoping we can do more of that in the future. I think the biggest thing we wanted to avoid with this record was having the same level of stress we did just before we recorded Summit. We didn’t quite succeed on that end, but we definitely made some small steps towards improvement. Really, we had a big chunk of the material pretty close to being done before the last week of rehearsals. It was more a matter or fleshing some songs out and tightening things up to our standards. “Ode to Physical Pain” was the biggest writing project we had in that last push, and I was probably more than a little annoying about us finishing that one. I just loved that first riff. It’s probably my favorite thing Matthew has ever written. The actual recording was pretty typical for us. We spent a day or two tracking with The Body for the collaboration, then two days of tracking Heathen and the EP tracks, maybe a day of just overdubs, all of that at the Living Room in Algiers. We did some of the guitar overdubs and most of the vocals at James Whitten’s space. The recording got a little hairy with people’s work schedules. I think we’ll probably all try to free up more time on the next one, so there’s less down time and we can do more with the studio. The only real difference with this recording is that we were all a lot more locked in with James on this one, as far as getting the sounds we wanted, ideas for overdubs, stuff like that. James Whitten is essentially the sixth member of Thou at this point. I’m not sure we would sound anywhere near as good as we do on the records without him.

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Were you able to consciously say at any point in the creation process that, “Yes, this particular current event/album we were listening to/this relationship I’m in/kick ass amp I bought/financial hardship I suffered/etc. has contributed to the direction of Heathen”?
Andy: Yes and no. Obviously, no one creates in a vacuum, but like I mentioned earlier, the emotional content is something I usually reflect on after the writing is done. It’s weird because my feelings about a song are sometimes totally different from the lyrical content. “Feral Faun” for instance: we played that song live for the first time the day before I moved out of New Orleans, and I was going through a lot complex emotions about leaving all my friends behind and all that, so to me that song is forever tied to that feeling regardless of what the song is actually about.
Bryan: I’m of the mind that all of your life experiences add up to who you are at any given point. But lyrically with Heathen, I definitely wasn’t focused on a singular issue; with each song I was just trying to dig into the minutiae of the broader themes of the record, but those were all still pretty general ideas—accessing the wildness within our beings that is restrained by society; opening ourselves to nature and the physical world; our insignificance within the larger context of the universe; the usefulness of pleasure and pain. I tried to tackle all of these things from the culmination of my life, thoughts, and hopes—rather than restricting the lens to a singular experience. I feel like that limitation would have been the antithesis of Heathen: all experience has some value and can be useful.

How would you characterise Heathen against previous full-lengths or those EP/split releases you’ve found Thou fans gravitating towards as most popular or definitive?
Andy: I think this is definitely some of our more accessible material, despite the lengthy song times. We’ve taken to saving our more abrasive stuff for EPs/splits and focusing on melody for the full-lengths. I think anyone who thinks Summit is our best album is going to love Heathen. And anyone who thinks Summit is the worst should just wait a little while until the next batch of stuff comes out!
Bryan: To be honest, I’m still amazed that people like our band at all, so I can’t really speak to what’s popular. I’m really proud of Summit, but I’ve always felt like it got an inordinate amount of attention and acclaim compared to our other releases. I definitely think that Heathen is by far the best thing we’ve written so far. Is it the definitive Thou release? I think we used a lot of our usual tricks, as far as riffs and melody and song structures. So in that sense, it’s very prototypical for us. But I also feel like we still have a lot more to offer in some other, more drastic directions. Regardless of how the record ends up being received, we’re all really happy with it, and I feel like it’s raised the bar for us on the next record.

There’s a quote on the Gilead press page that goes a little like so: “RIYL: Nature, the sensual world, sexual decadence, pain and ecstasy, actively experiencing the present…” Discuss.
Bryan: I wrote that out of frustrated boredom with those stupid one-sheet recommendation listings I see all the time. Admittedly, I understand the usefulness of the shorthand, but most of those things are hilarious if not completely wack-a-doo. I just wanted something that clearly stated the thematic elements of our record without falling into the hyperbole of a poorly written record review or the laziness of musical cross comparisons.

Judging by your website’s exhaustive listing of all your songs/lyrics, I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and assume lyrics aren’t something created as an afterthought. In that case, how would you say Heathen differs thematically and/or lyrically from other works? Did you find that being as prolific as you were for a few years made it increasingly difficult to come up with unique twists on those topics which interest you, or even fresh topics to focus on? Were you ever guilty of repeating yourself, subconsciously or not?
Bryan: Writing lyrics is my only real job in the band, so I definitely take some time. I’m not sure how this one compares lyrically to the other stuff. I’m happy with everything. I’m sure there’s my usual enormous helping of hyperbole and melodrama. There are definitely metaphors and images I find myself constantly coming back to. It would be funny to do a word count of the lyrics and see how many times I use variations of fire, ocean, night, death, etc. Hopefully, I’m putting some unique spin on the more typical metal tropes. I’m not really overly concerned with revisiting a topic. I feel like if I’m writing about something again it’s usually because I have more to say or a different way to say it. I think the world we live in is a bottomless well of topics for me to write sad or angry songs about. So I’m not too worried about running out of source material any time soon. I have an overactive imagination and a big mouth in general, so I could probably talk endlessly about most things. I’m a Pisces. Heathen, and the next big record Magus, are meant to be deeper explorations of the hopeful vision of Summit. Each record is meant to tackle one extreme of the dual-natured individual it might take to actualize that concept. Magus is going to be about the ethereal – theory, history, philosophy, magick – while Heathen is about the physical world, the senses and active experience,

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What’s the who/what/where/when/why and how behind the cover image? I’m tempted to say that the image doesn’t fit in with the path of highly-detailed, ornate, almost woodcut/early industrial age-looking images you’ve used with many of your covers, but then again, it’s not like every cover has looked like To Carry a Stone and Dwell in the Darkness… Anyway, what gives?
Bryan: The woman on the cover of the CD is Julia Prinsep Jackson as “La Santa Julia” by Julia Margaret Cameron from 1867. I feel like those Cameron images are actually a lot closer to the woodcut stuff we use; it all has the same medieval, magickal, old world feel to me. I was just looking for something that had the same sort of hopeful-yet-despondent feel as the images from the Summit CD, but also looked markedly different.

Thou’s website is at noladiy.org/thou/. You can easily spend hours reading lyrics, reading updates and downloading their discography free of charge!

Thou on Bandcamp.

Regardless of who’s living where, they aren’t going to be home much in the next couple of months. Here’s where they will be:
*West Coast with CLOUD RAT*
04.11.14 – Champaign at Error Records (702 S. Neil Street) at seven pm with Weekend Nachos, Enabler, Northless, Angry Gods, and Doomsayer // Skeletal Lightning Fest
04.12.14 – Iowa City (matinee) at Public Space One with Darsombra and Aseethe
04.12.14 – Omaha at The Westwing at ten pm (301 S 38th Avenue)
04.13.14 – Denver at Mutiny Information Cafe (2 S. Broadway) at nine pm with Primitive Man and Swells
04.14.14 – Billings at Black Sparrow Tattoo Club (1940 Grand Ave) at seven pm with Show for Nobody
04.15.14 – Seattle with Ô Paon and Samothrace at Blacklodge at nine pm
04.16.14 – Olympia (matinee) at Ralph House (407 Fairview Street SE) at one pm with Reivers and Hysterics
04.16.14 – Portland at Slabtown (1033 NW 16th Ave.) at eight pm with Ô Paon and Druden
04.17.14 – Portland (matinee) at 10128 NE Pacific Street at one pm with Reivers and Contempt
04.17.14 – Salem at Wisp House (805 Church Street) at seven pm with Hell and OSS
04.18.14 – Sacramento (matinee) at Oak Park Boiz House (3644 1st Avenue) at twelve pm with Tom Hanx
04.18.14 – Berkeley at 924 Gilman Street at seven pm with Negative Standards, Sutekh Hexen, Ragana, and Ritual Control
04.19.14 – Santa Cruz (matinee) at Streetlight Records (939 Pacific Avenue) at three pm
04.19.14 – San Francisco at The Lab (2948 16th Street) at seven pm with Kowloon Walled City
04.20.14 – Oakland (matinee) at Toys in Babeland at three pm with Reivers
04.20.14 – San Jose at San Jose Rock Shop (30 N. 3rd Street) at seven pm with Folivore
04.21.14 – San Luis Obispo (matinee) at Frankie Teardrops (759 Francis Avenue) at two pm with Agowilt
04.21.14 – Goleta at Hard to Find (7190 Hollister Ave) at seven pm with Dangers
04.22.14 – Pomona (matinee) at Aladdin Jr. II (296 W. 2nd Street) with Trapped Within Burning Machinery
04.22.14 – San Diego at Che Cafe at seven pm with Dangers
04.23.14 – Riverside (matinee) at Blood Orange at twelve pm with Moxiebeat
04.23.14 – Los Angeles at the Echo (1820 Sunset Blvd.) at eight pm with Dangers
04.24.14 – Phoenix (matinee) at Wallstreet at three pm with Dross and Funerary
04.24.14 – Flagstaff at The Hive at nine pm with Swamp Wolf and Seas Will Rise
04.25.14 – Albuquerque at Gasworks (2429 Quincy Street NE) at seven pm with Bathhouse and Predatory Light
04.26.14 – Dallas at Taqueria Perditos (4910 Capitol Ave) at nine pm with Orgullo Primitivo, Terminator 2, and Pissed Grave
04.27.14 – New Orleans at Mudlark Theatre at seven pm with Bitchface

*East Coast and Midwest collaboration tour with THE BODY*
06.27.14 – write/practice
06.28.14 – write/practice
06.29.14 – write/practice
06.30.14 – Baton Rouge
07.01.14 – Birmingham at The Forge (5505 1st Avenue) at seven pm with Lume
07.02.14 – Greensboro at Legitimate Business
07.03.14 – Richmond (matinee) at Empire the Bar at two pm
07.03.14 – DC
07.04.14 – Baltimore (matinee) at Sidebar (218 E. Lexington Street) at noon with Curse
07.04.14 – Philadelphia with Hirs, Pissgrave, and Backslider
07.05.14 – Jersey City (matinee) at WFMU (43 Montgomery Street)
07.05.14 – New York (matinee) at ABC No Rio
07.05.14 – New York
07.06.14 – New London (matinee) at The Orphanage (300 State Street) at one pm with Empty Vessels and Snow Orphan
07.06.14 – Amherst with Rozamov
07.07.14 – Boston with Curmudgeon
07.08.14 – Providence at Machines with Magnets
07.09.14 – write/record in Providence
07.10.14 – write/record in Providence
07.11.14 – write/record in Providence
07.12.14 – Syracuse with Bleak and Blood Sun Circle
07.13.14 – Pittsburgh at The Shop
07.14.14 – Detroit at Trumbullplex (4230 Common Wealth) at seven pm
07.15.14 – Grand Rapids
07.16.14 – Michigan City at Carbon Room (9833 W 300 N) at eight pm with Angry Gods
07.17.14 – Chicago at Club Rectum with Ash Borer and Hell
07.18.14 – Oshkosh (collaboration sets) at Masonic Center (204 Washington) at five pm with Ash Borer, Hell, Inter Arma, Protestant, and Oozing Wound // Gilead Fest
07.19.14 – Oshkosh (Body solo) at Masonic Center (204 Washington) two pm with Bastard Sapling, Mutilation Rites, Kowloon Walled City, Geryon, False, Sea of Bones, Owlfood, Hexer // Gilead Fest
07.20.14 – Oshkosh (Thou solo) Masonic Center (204 Washington) at one pm with Barghest, Loss, Uzala, Lychgate, Seidr, Generation of Vipers, Alraune, and Northless // Gilead Fest
07.21.14 – drive home

KILLING IS MY BUSINESS: Scion’s Jeri Yoshizu on the Future of Corporate Branding

By: Etan Rosenbloom Posted in: featured, killing is my business On: Thursday, April 10th, 2014

KillingismyBiz

If you’re anything like me, you’ve welcomed the last five years of Scion’s patronage of metal with a mix of gratitude and suspicion. No doubt, they’ve made it possible for fans to hear new tunes and see lives shows from some of the best bands in extreme music, usually at zero cost to all parties involved. Still, I’ve got lingering doubts that any corporate brand could truly believe that supporting a niche genre like underground metal will be a huge boon to its bottom line.

But as I explored with Pig Destroyer’s Scott Hull for the Killing Is My Business column in Decibel issue 115, getting money from a big brand is one of the few revenue streams for artists that seems to be growing, not shrinking. And as long as you don’t have to change your art, maybe there’s no difference between slapping a Red Bull logo on your album and slapping a record label’s logo on your album.

I talked to Scion’s Manager of Marketing Strategy, Jeri Yoshizu, about the past and future of their relationship with the metal community.

 

Jeri Yoshizu

Jeri Yoshizu

Why did Scion first start working with the metal community? 

The first time we worked with a metal roster was at SXSW. It was Motörhead, Napalm Death and a few others. The reason that we did that roster is because we were working with rap – Wu-Tang, Rakim, everybody in that “heritage” category – and other car companies started to come in to the rap area. We needed to become a multi-faceted lifestyle brand, vs. just the rap brand. Strategically, metal was the area that virtually no brands were in, unless you were Metallica or a big Grammy-winning act like that. We identified there was an opportunity for an un-served audience.

Were there branding techniques you saw other companies using that Scion wanted to move away from?

The festival-level sponsorship was not working. So SXSW, at that time, was really critical because, year after year, we were putting a lot of effort into putting on these big shows. We weren’t getting any press, and this was before social media was really the standard. I decided to put on our own festival, which was Rock Fest in Atlanta [in 2009].

Was that the one that Mastodon headlined?

Neurosis and Mastodon. If you look back at Scion, we were at a lot of conventions and conferences. That stuff doesn’t work for branding if you’re not the massive owner of the conference. We got a lot of foot traffic, and we were getting a lot of RSVPs and e-mails, but at the end of the day, it would come and go. There were so many other things going on that people would be like “Then I went to the Vice party. Then I went to the Fader party. Then I went to this, and that.” You just become a brand du jour at the conferences. So we got out.

Have you discovered a metal band while working with Scion that you’ve really fallen for?

I’m a mood person – I’m not a fanboy. If I’m in a mood and a song comes on, and that song makes my mood better, I’m like “Wow, what is this?” “It’s Franki Valli, Jeri.” But we did a project with Magrudergrind and I’d never heard grindcore before in my life. It was in Columbus, OH at the Rock Fest, in the grindcore room. I was so excited about the energy in the room. It was so exciting that we did a record with them!

You know who was really amazing? Terror, in Tampa’s Rock Fest, was badass. Oh, and Hot Lunch at last year’s. I like more rockin’ music. Church of Misery was really good. The guy that was singing fell off the stage, and he wouldn’t stop singing! Remember, I don’t go out that much. But if I’m working, I try to see everything for like two songs.

 

Your traditional branding deal involves a billboard, with Beyoncé holding a Pepsi can on it. It’s a very direct connection that implies endorsement. Can you explain a bit about why Scion wants to do things differently?

The area that I work in is lifestyle and social media. I am not in the traditional advertising space, and that’s what you’re referencing with Beyoncé. Scion, from an advertising perspective, focuses on the product. We wanted the target audience to discover the brand – that was the original premise – and say “That’s a cool brand, because they’re doing things different.”

With the lifestyle initiatives, traditionally – like if we’re talking about Toyota – they would sponsor a massive action sports tour, give away keychains and bags, stuff like that. Scion took that money and said “Let’s produce music.” And then the initiatives grew from there. That’s a very fundamental level. It’s really “What can we make, what can we brand on it, and what’s most likely going to grab people and be different?” That is music. Not stadium sponsorships and Beyoncé with the can.

We had to be very creative with what we had to plan out, get the impressions, all that stuff. Because we are a smaller brand than Toyota, we had to be really deliberate with our branding and messaging. It looks to a lot of people like we don’t care. But we craft and strategize every single dime we spend to make sure we’re getting something out of it.

What does Scion get out of it?

Top-of-mind [awareness]. Brand consideration. When you talk to an academic advertising person, they throw [around] all of those elements, because that’s the path to purchase. When you look at a traditional model like Toyota, there’s probably some stadium in your town that’s got Toyota plastered all over it. You go there enough, and you’re like “There’s that red logo on the white background. Toyota’s got great cars.” You drive around your town, you see the dealerships, and then when you’re ready to go and buy, guess what? You think top-of-mind, and you pare it down from there.

Scion’s the same way, it’s just that we’re going after a smaller target market that’s different from Toyota’s, who need to be influenced by creative communities and creative initiatives, vs. a repeating of the logo over and over again. It’s a different person.

For example, we go to Columbus, Ohio. We have Rock Fest. Scion takes over the town. We get social media out of it. We get the reputation with the bands, the labels and the management teams. We get press. And from there, it’s a slower path to get to car sales, but that, builds loyalty and that top-of-mind. We’ve looked on a lot of blogs. We’re constantly looking at what people are talking about Scion whenever we do a release or an event. And the feedback you always see is kids saying “They’re supporting the community,” “It’s a free show,” etc.

We’re not going to work with a Taylor Swift, because she is a much different type of artist in that she has a machine behind her. A lot of kids out there think that “If you’re working with Taylor Swift, you get to talk to her.” The management team – they’re in all the meetings. When we’re working with High on Fire, Matt Pike is the guy. I’ve run into him a couple times – I’m sure he doesn’t know me by name – but he says positive things to me, like “Thank you for treating me with respect.” That means a lot to me as a marketing person, because it’s sincere and it’s authentic, not “Go and shake their hands so you can get more money.” That carries a lot of weight for his community.

 

Is there anything you weren’t expecting about the metal community that you’ve learned over the past few years of working with them?

Yeah. They’ll stick up for Scion in a conversation. That was very surprising to me. That was worthy for me to print out and show to my upper management. They defend a brand, and they can distinguish between “selling out” and “artists need to pay bills.” We didn’t see any of that with the garage rock kids. We’re out of garage, because those people really did not stick whatsoever. It’s the same with dance kids. But the rock and the rap categories, you have loyal people. They talk about you. The artists are extremely grateful, so they always say positive things about Scion. And we hear this. The Melvins get interviewed, they always talk about Scion and what a good experience it’s been.

The metal audience, they get it. The guy that they work with is in a band. So they’re very in tune with their opinions. It’s always grounded – it’s never “Duuuude! You gotta keep it real!” You know, it’s whatever it takes to keep playing music and doing what you love.

Do you have benchmarks for success? If you sold X number of cars at the end of a certain time frame, would you pat yourself on the back, say “Job well done, let’s move on to something new?”

No. You have to juxtapose this conversation with what advertising does on TV commercials. You can never say that one area in the marketing plan sold cars. They could have released a finance package that month. Ad agencies would like to take the credit, but if Toyota’s putting out a massive incentive package for a Tundra, and there’s also a TV campaign, you can’t say “The TV campaign killed it.” Everything has to work.

In my area, we measure what everyone else measures. You want to know how many people read your article, right? We look at impressions, clickthroughs, we look at anecdotal conversations people are having online, we measure brand awareness, we measure consideration, we measure brand sentiment.

We’ve been tracking a bunch of measurements for three years. We can see there’s a lift. It’s not immediate, but the wave comes. Even by the most miniscule points of increase, we’ll see that, and we discuss it. For my job in particular, it’s really about what people are saying in the digital environment. It’s never about attendance. It’s all about what are people saying afterwards, what are people saying before, are people like you guys writing stories because we’re intriguing, are you guys writing about our artists.

The other great thing is when an artist starts doing really well. That’s really exciting for us.

At the end of the day, you’re trying to sell cars. At what point do you have to prove that the metal community is buying cars? When do you introduce cars to the metal community, as opposed to just your name, your sponsorship?

Scion’s a car company. We have little things, like you have to RSVP for an event and when you RSVP, it’s on the Scion website. So yeah, the name is always there. We have band cars; we let bands take the cars on tour. We hope that everyone is watching TV and reading magazines and they see the name associated with the car. We’re doing more content with cars in them, with the talent, with the music. We had cars at Rock Fest. We’re integrating more, but you’ll not see a car on stage. So it’s subtle, but not to the point that it’s invisible.

A lot of people are like “I don’t really associate Scion with cars.” I have to take that as a compliment, because lifestyle marketing does not drive a campaign. If it’s Home Depot, everyone has to put the brand there, right? But your TV advertising, your website have to reinforce that. You’re just being targeted.

All these things have to collude to make a potential buyer think a certain way about a brand before they’re gonna put their money there.

There are a couple articles out now that talk about what gets a person to buy a product. Number one is always that it’s a good product. But as technology starts becoming the same for everybody, brands are gonna start coming up again as important. Why would you buy this app vs. another app? Why would you buy this phone vs. another phone? Is it price?

There are all these things that come into play, and one of the things that’s starting to be talked about is what does that brand stand for. The articles are discussing what it takes to get a person to buy if everything’s the same. Brands have to do more lifestyle, more experiential marketing to get people to see if there’s something [other] than just a device that does everything every other device does.

You might say that Scion has introduced the idea of patronage into metal. Patronage has existed for centuries in some form or another – you would have a king, or the church, paying your bills so you could concentrate on making music. Does Scion think of itself in that way right now?

There are so many things going on that we don’t sit around [saying] we’re patrons of the arts. We support the creative community, whether it’s in music, art, fashion, food…we keep it moving. We want to be a part of somebody’s career, but at the same time we understand that they’re hard working, and if something great happens, we can’t be looked at as the sole reason it happened.

Giving a band a shot is a big deal for an artist. We all know how neurotic artists are about everything they do. The way they look, the way they sound, what their words are, everything. We’re very sensitive to that, so we try to make it as painless as possible. I think that’s our biggest contribution, is being there for a lot of these artists, managers, everybody they need some guidance. They appreciate us giving them hotel rooms when we’re doing a show. Everything we do, we make sure that they understand they’re being taken as seriously as we would take a major artist.

How do you find the bands you feature for a Rock Show, or fund for recording?

Beyond Marketing handles all the A&R. The guys at Nuclear Blast, Relapse Records, everybody is part of the mix. We’ve had interesting discussions with Rennie [Jaffe, VP of Relapse Records] and Gerardo [Martinez, Label Manager at Nuclear Blast] and Gordon [Conrad, Label Manager at Season of Mist] from a business perspective about their target markets. I’ve met a lot of great record labels, and a lot of great record label managers, who are targeting the same people we’re targeting. So it’s great to get these people in a room, and discuss with them what they’re going through. That’s been a great part of my job, talking to people that are in that area. They really understand what kids are into, what bands are coming up, what bands are a headache, and which ones are great to work with.

Everybody talks, and Beyond does a great job of filtering through. I have my objectives, and I let them know “I need bands that are touring.” They go ahead and find those bands, and we work with them.

 

Let’s talk about the money behind that. When you approach a band about recording an album, or sponsoring a tour, do you give them a budget?

There’s a deal conversation that is in the beginning of that [process]. We break it into three tiers, dependent on how big the band can draw, or how many records they can sell. We’re not gonna give High on Fire the same rates that we would give someone who’s putting out their first record. It’s very black and white, and people can take it or leave it. Mostly people take it. It’s very fair, and it’s a licensing deal. We don’t own anything. We handle all the marketing and PR and distribution.

So you’re not asking for any publishing or back end.

No. We sell cars. We don’t sell music.

You could sell the records you put out, distribute them in stores, rather than just hand them out at Scion shows. Is there any thought to monetizing the recordings in the future?

There is no plan. If we had to sell music, then we wouldn’t be doing music initiatives, since everyone would get it for free somewhere. Then I’d have to report back [that we earned] $150, and they’d say “Why are you doing this?”

Do you pitch these songs to film and TV?

We have an exclusive period. They cannot work for an automotive company, obviously, but they’ll say “Hey, this video game wants to use it…” and we’ll say “Great. Can you make sure it says Scion in the credits?”

In those initial talks, what do you tell the artist that they’ve gotta do for you in return?

We let them know all of our restrictions. We try to avoid artists that are negative, that show anti-whatever, as much as we can. Then we start doing the artwork, and they say “We just want to put this pentagram in there.” We’re like “You can’t really do that.” We put that all up front.

We did a deal with one of the labels and they had an image of them burning money, which is an illegal act. We went back and forth a couple times, and I said “You know what, I don’t want this to turn sour. We’ll just do a kill fee. You guys can do whatever you want with the record, and I’m totally fine.” We walk away. If there is a band that does something obviously negative, like putting swastikas in their artwork, we’re not going to support that. We have a list of “Here’s what we stay away from.” And if they don’t want to do it, that’s totally fine. They don’t have to work with Scion, we don’t have to work with them.

Scion is not here to change your art. I do not want to be responsible for anybody changing for whatever contract we write. So don’t change because you’re not going to get money from us. You decide what you want to change, not Scion. And there’re no hard feelings.

We had an issue with Integrity. Dwid [Hellion] is the most awesome dude ever, and in the end, he’s still around, they’ll play at a show. If the Scion logo is on their product and there’s Charles Manson on the cover, I can’t do that. But I respect him, and he respects Scion. There’s no controversy. That’s how it goes.

Scion’s model of corporate patronage is being talked about a lot as the wave of the future. Do you think finding a brand to sponsor your album might become a viable model for artists?

Yeah, I think there’s a lot of opportunity there. I do feel that crowdfunding, raising money, finding investors is all in the same camp…it’s getting creative with raising money so that art can continue. What I would advise is to be very clear about what you’re signing up for, in both directions. We signed up to work in metal, but we’re not gonna make everybody happy. Labels, if you sign up with a corporation, there’re rules.

In the old days, everyone was really young doing art. And now nobody wants to age! So they gotta pay the bills, right? How do I do this for the rest of my life? The talented people that are savvy are gonna keep it moving. And they’re going to be able to write music when they’re 60 years old. Then there will be people that did it for a certain part of their life because they had kids, they had jobs.

I just saw Black Sabbath in the fall. And how old is Ozzy Osbourne? And everyone in the audience was 50! I was really impressed, because they sounded great. It’s not like seeing our parents’ acts, playing at horse tracks. They were playing at a massive venue, and it was awesome. That was the best show I saw last year. What is it gonna take for you to be an artist for the rest of your life? You have to raise money, or it’s a hobby.

Right – who’s gonna support songwriters through thick or thin? And how are they gonna help themselves get through all these industry changes?

We did a garage rock movie with Vice, and that year Jay Reatard died, Lux Interior [of The Cramps] died and Alex Chilton [of Big Star] died. No one heard about Alex Chilton for years, and then he died. You hear about Ozzy Osbourne every three months! I don’t think any young artist is like “I’m gonna do this until I’m 28, and then I’m going to disappear into obscurity.” It’s a brutal industry, but there’re people who have made it their life to dedicate to it in some way or fashion, and they haven’t given up. But [surviving] is about making money to support yourself.

I tried to do an initiative where we addressed the aging rap artist area. These guys are not going to the doctor, they’re getting sick, they have bad health, they don’t have health insurance. They’ve spent all their money. What do you do about that?

Is it okay to sell your record away when you’re 20 years old for $25,000 and then it’s a hit for the next 100 years? Young people do not think about that, and that’s the age-old problem. They don’t think about the future. But if they want to be artists for the rest of their lives, maybe they should start thinking about it.

Have you ever approached a band that declined to participate in a Scion project?

Yes. ::laughs:: I’m not going to tell you who it is, but [after they initially declined our offer], we booked Motörhead, and they were like “Can we open for Motörhead?” And I said “I thought you don’t work for corporations! So no.” It happened one time.

 

Why do you think they would have said no to a corporation like Scion, but record labels are still fair game?

I think they were an exception. Labels, you know what, it helps them out. We hear from Gerardo at Nuclear Blast all the time: “You guys are really helping us to get this done and that done. It’s great.” It’s good for their business, marketing-wise. They can put out more records when Scion is helping them pay for one of the records they’re putting out.

What about for consumers? Do you think what Scion is doing is great for a music consumer too, in the long run?

To be honest with you, I don’t think a lot of consumers really understand why it’s beneficial for everybody. They’re in the moment, they like the music. I think the awareness for how hard it is to have a band, to sustain a band, needs to go up for more people to understand that the reason artists take money from a corporation is very common sense and rational. The awareness will go up, the audience, the consumers will have more respect for the relationship. I think at some times, it’s about immediate gratification: “I got a free show!” They don’t think that far about how it helps the bands to keep it going [when] they get sponsorship for a tour.

The concern that I have is that consumers are getting so used to getting stuff for free, whether it’s a CD handed out at a Scion show, or going to Spotify, that they assume it’s free to make, and there’s no need to support an artist in any kind of direct way.

I feel that a lot of things have happened over the last 15-20 years with digital coming in, really changing a lot of things. That’s not Scion’s project, right? But we have an opportunity to align ourselves with music, and the art community, and we’re doing the best that we can to be authentic and true to the Scion brand. That’s why we are in metal, rock and rap. Because it aligns with the brand.

That kid who’s been standing in line, watching when we do metal shows in Pomona, and hearing that kids were standing in line from 4 o’ clock? That’s amazing to me. Tell me that’s not supporting the artist community. And buying their t-shirts – we let all of our artists have merch booths. Putting vinyl out, and CDs, and patches, all that stuff. Kids still want to spend money. Labels have to get savvy about what they can profit off of.

 

Do you hope that other companies follow your lead?

Yeah. I really hope that other corporations do the same thing. I’ve been saying that for a while. It’s a lot of work, but I feel like everybody in the industry I’m in, we have jobs, and we have to be excited about going to work every day. If I’m in lifestyle marketing, I want to do the right thing for the brand. But if I can do the right thing for the brand that hires me AND I can make people want to do artists, or want to be excited to play a show or put out a record, it’s very fulfilling. And I would hope that other corporations would follow suit and not do the “burn ‘n turn” model, which is “Okay, let me get Lars to be in a TV commercial doing a voiceover,” and that’s it.

At the end of the day, good art is subjective, and it means a lot to somebody to get a break. I think all corporations should be looking at the future of art in general, and what’s gonna happen when nobody’s making music anymore to put in TV commercials, because it’s dried up because the industry shrank. But thank god there’re a lot of entrepreneurs out there that are getting on Bandcamp and social media and putting up [their music on] Spotify. It’s always gonna be out there, but if a corporation can be positive and be a benefactor, or make it so that they’re benefiting the scene, it’s better than keeping it into the tiny ad agency world and re-circulating art on a commercial level. I think it’s important that everyone consider it. They need to take those risks.

On this side of the fence, it’s very difficult to have that conversation if you have doubt. That’s why Chrysler works with Eminem. He’s sold millions of records. People know him. So they work with an act like that. And when you look at that, they gotta sell a product, they want people to identify with that product.

At the end of the day, is it riskier to work with High on Fire? Yes! 100%. Corporations still have to make their bottom line, but if they want to be innovative and take some risks, hopefully they can get into that area. If they don’t, the world keeps turning. Innovation does have to be [limited to] electronics. It can be how you’re positioning your brand once in a while.

Decibrity Playlist: Iron Reagan

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Reagan1c

Sure, it’s been a year since Iron Reagan dropped its debut full-length. Despite the various other commitments of its members, the band recently began a run of tour dates that will take them through April, all while wrapping up work on their sophomore LP (which, by the way, will be for Relapse). Given how much we liked Worse Than Dead (it made our top 40 of 2013) and how stoked we are about that last sentence, we asked frontman Tony Foresta about some records he digs. His picks are as eclectic as they are entertaining.

Pick up a copy of Worse Than Dead here and check out IR’s tour dates below.

Quicksand–Slip (1993)
One of my top five favorite albums. Whenever I have to do a long shift and don’t want to fuck with my iPod, I just let this one roll. It’s funny, I used to do the same thing with this record mowing my parents lawn in high school. Only instead of an iPod, I had a Walkman cassette player and my Slip cassette. I remember having to stop the lawnmower to flip my tape mid-mow (laughs)!

Pusrad–31 Premature Ejaculations Tape December 2012 (2012)
Kevin Sharp got me into these guys. Super fast blasts of short and fun hardcore. I mean really, really fast. Not something you want to listen to while in a stressful situation like driving in New Jersey or something, it might just make your brain explode. Regardless, this always puts me in a good mood when I listen to it.

Black Flag–Who’s Got The 10½? (1986)
This is in a three-way tie with Decendents’ Hallraker and Iron Maiden’s Live After Death as my all-time favorite live record. This one goes on the list because it was cranked in the van a shitload during the recent Iron Reagan/Power Trip/Mammoth Grinder tour and on this album they play a ton of stuff off Loose Nut, which is my top Flag record at the moment. My fav Flag records change from time to time.

Longmont Potion Castle–Best of Longmont Potion Castle: Volume 1 (1996)
I’ve established so many long term relationships with people just by one of us muttering one of the million hilarious quotes from these prank calls. Just one weird comment usually follows with “Wait, you listen to Longmont?!?” and then we are friends forever. It’s really happened. You are either the type of person that really loves this stuff or you hate it. If you hate it then I probably don’t want to hang out with you.

Tegan and Sara’s “Closer” (from 2013′s Heartthrob)
Everybody was jocking that Robin Thicke “Blurred Lines” shit as the dance jam of the summer last year–although that’s a hell of a catchy song, the lyrics are a little to “date rapey” for my tastes–all the while this Tegan and Sara song was killing it then and is still chugging away at parties now while theres a foot of snow outside.

Sockeye–Barf On A Globe (1999)
The best/worst band on the planet. I go through phases where I wont listen to them for a couple years and then “Buttfuck Your Own Face” will pop in my head and then I’m screwed for at least three months.

Mercyful Fate–Melissa (1983)
Album rules. But you dummies already know this.

Spazz/Romantic Gorrilla–Split 12″ (1996)
This record was my first introduction to power violence back in the day. Spazz from then on have been one of my favorite bands of all time. But unfortunately for them the standout track on this release would have to be on Japan’s Romantic Gorilla’s side. The song “I’m On Diet” has just as much anger and angst as any Youth of Today track out there, and who can blame these ladies really? Diets fucking suck.

Out Cold–Two Broken Hearts Are Better Than One (2000)
Out Cold is one of the most underrated hardcore bands of all time in my opinion. They were cranking out killer release after release for what seemed like forever on a yearly basis before the singer/guitar player’s untimely demise. My favorite track on this record is “Skinned Alive”, not because it’s the best song they wrote, but because it’s the slowest jam on the record and sticks out as a heavy track in some weird way.

Dystopia–Human = Garbage (1994)
This record changed my life and really gave me a different view of the world both socially and musically. I’ve been going back to this one a lot lately and it still has parts on it that give me chills.

Asylum–Demo (2013)
Awesome new d-beat band from Richmond. They’re great live too. It’s still mind blowing how much killer music comes out of this town on a yearly basis. Looking forward to more stuff to come out from them soon.

*Pick up a copy of Worse Than Dead here.

**Iron Reagan tour dates:

3/29/2014 Philadelphia PA @The Underground Arts

Iron Reagan and Occultist
4/2/2014 Richmond VA @Strange Matter
4/4/2014 Harrisonburg, VA @ MACROCK
4/5/2014 Nashville, TN @ TBA
4/6/2014 Little Rock, AK @ Vino’s

Weapons of Thrash Destruction Tour
Ghoul, Iron Reagan, Occultist
4/9/2014 Tempe, AZ @ Club Red
4/10/2014 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
4/11/2014 Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room
4/12/2014 Camarillo, CA @ Rock City Studios
4/13/2014 Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy
4/14/2014 Sacramento, CA @ Midtown Barfly
4/15/2014 Portland, OR @ Branx
4/18/2014 Oakland, CA @ BRAINSQUEEZE

Iron Reagan and Occultist
4/22/2014 Salt Lake City TBA
4/23/2014 Denver CO @ Moe’s
4/24/2014 Lawrence KS @ TBA
4/25/2014 St. Louis MO @ Fubar
4/26/2014 Munster In @Three Floyd’s Brewery
4/27/2014 Chicago IL @ Cobra Lounge
4/28/2014 Toledo @ Frankie’s
4/29/2014 Columbus @ Ace Of Cups
4/30/2014 Pittsburgh @ Smiling Moose

***Past Decibrity entries include:

Fight Amp
Cynic
Melt-Banana
Junius (Part 1) (Part 2)
Alcest
East Of The Wall
Enabler
Wolvserpent
Drugs Of Faith
SubRosa (Part 1) (Part 2)
Vattnet Viskar
Skeletonwitch
Ihsahn
Earthless
Watain
Orange Goblin
God Is An Astronaut
Primitive Man
Gorguts
Exhumed
Ulcerate
Pelican
Scale The Summit
Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Mouth Of The Architect
Howl
Kings Destroy
Zozobra
Call of the Void
Saint Vitus Bar
Coliseum
Woe
Anciients
Soilwork (Dirk Verbeuren) (Björn Strid)
Intronaut
BATILLUS
Inter Arma
Helen Money
Misery Index
Ancient VVisdom
Holy Grail
Rotten Sound
Ancestors (Part 1) (Part 2)
Kowloon Walled City (Part 1) (Part 2)
Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Early Graves
All That Remains
Bison B.C.
A Life Once Lost
Fight Amp
Witchcraft (Ola Henriksson) (Magnus Pelander)
Vision of Disorder
Grave
Anders Nyström (Katatonia) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Rush (Part 1) (Part 2)
Dawnbringer
Ufomammut
Shadows Fall
Horseback
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Torche
“Best of” Meshuggah
Astra
Pallbearer
Barren Earth
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)

Sucker For Punishment: Of Death & Cuttlefish

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

gwar

Everyone dies.

Of course we all know that, we’re aware of it from an early age. Yet in metal the idea of death, actual death, not phony-baloney doom and gloom play-acting, has always been overly romanticized rather than dealt with head-on. The explanation is simple: heavy metal is still a very young subculture. Prior to a few years ago every single notable death of a major heavy metal talent has always involved someone cruelly young, taken far, far before their prime. Randy Rhoads, Euronymous, Dimebag, Quorthon all gone before they made it to middle age. Couple that with the overt hero worship in metal, that beer-fueled, bleary and teary-eyed romanticism that reeks of Vikings raising a cup to their fallen brethren, and you’ve got a scene populated with a lot of people who clearly aren’t ready to accept that metal musicians are not immortal, are not “gods”, are not impervious to the ravages of the hard life, let alone old age.

People get old, and people die. Ronnie James Dio was the first major icon of heavy metal to die at a rich old age, and the more time goes on, the older those rockers from the 1970s and ‘80s get, musicians hitting 50, 60, and in the case of a few, approaching 70. It was interesting watching the reaction in the past year to Lemmy’s own health problems, as so many seemed shocked that this guy, beloved to everyone, is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Well, a steady diet of cigarettes and Jack and Coke will do that to a person, even the guy who created one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands in history. Nobody is immune, and it’s a statistical fact that more prominent figures in metal will indeed die soon. Some earlier than others, it’s so very sad to say, but metal fans, and especially we writers, have to get a grip, because some very difficult obituaries are looming on the horizon. Dio, Jon Lord, Jeff Hanneman, and the wonderful Dave Brockie are just the tip of the iceberg.

Brockie’s death is especially disheartening, because GWAR was on one hell of a roll, having put out its best album in forever, 2013’s Battle Maximus. Brockie, as GWAR’s chief architect, was a brilliant creative mind, and some might say a conceptual shock rock genius. No matter where you lived, it seemed, GWAR was a constant, always churning out new music, always rolling through town once, twice, or maybe more per year. It was great to have them around, and over the years I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them play. Nearly sixth months ago I saw my umpteenth GWAR show, arriving with no real expectations, but the band blew my mind that night with a ferocious performance, also using the most fake blood I’ve ever seen sprayed at one of its shows. There was a literal lake of crimson liquid on the floor afterward, delirious fans playing slip-and-slide through the pool, and down the street outside were bloody footprints trailing for more than a block. It was extraordinary, and reaffirmed my appreciation for Brockie and his band.

Then again, Brockie and GWAR always had a rather special place in my heart. I saw them play a show in November of 2004 in a cozy dive of a club, which as usual was covered from floor to ceiling with sheet plastic to avoid staining its gaudy tiki bar and 1980s carpet. It was such a tiny place for a GWAR show that no matter where you were, you were in danger of being splattered, but I had been doing a good job ducking the flying goo. That is, until an aborted fetus Brockie – erm, I mean Oderus – was holding nailed me with globs of green liquid. It was much thicker than you usual water-based GWAR goo, and refused to wash completely off. The next day, my second niece was born, and I held her for the first time that afternoon in arms still bearing those green stains. I thought of that moment every time I saw GWAR since, and that little girl has grown up to be a nine and half year old, guitar and drums playing, hockey playing, snowboarding, horns-throwing hellion. Above all else, I’m a dreamer, and I like to think a little GWAR rubbed off on that awesome little kid when she and I first met.

Thanks, Dave.

***

Meanwhile, life goes on, and new releases keep rolling in. Here’s this week’s crop:

Ancient Ascendant, Echoes And Cinder (Candlelight): The fact that the second full-length album by the British band has an uncanny similarity to Enslaved is immediately appealing. It’s capably done, with strong melodies, a good balance of controlled pace and full-on extremity. However, what’s missing is that creativity and mastery that sets Enslaved apart from its peers. With a promising track like “Embers”, though, the band shows it could find its own niche soon enough.

Animals As Leaders, The Joy of Motion (Sumerian): What’s so extraordinary about Tosin Abasi and Animals As leaders isn’t so much how the band has appropriated the compositional style of Meshuggah, but rather how they’ve taken the influence of King Crimson’s Discipline, one of the most arch, pretentious, and nerdiest sounds rock music has ever produced, and created something so shockingly popular. This new album is a Chapman Stick away from full on geekery, and good for them. And to be honest, the less overtly heavy the songs are, the more the record succeeds. Abasi is an incredibly inventive musician, his percussive playing style displaying remarkable fluidity and sensitivity, and when freed of that distracting Meshuggah fixation, which to be honest will never, ever top the actual Meshuggah, the songs achieve a dreamy, ethereal quality, haphazard note patterns sounding busy at first but always settling into a strange comfort zone. Consequently a song like the gorgeous “Another Year” stands out, Abasi and company stopping lying to themselves, ditching the metal, and embracing progressive rock fully.

Barren Harvest, Subtle Cruelties (Handmade Birds): Two of the West Coast’s most interesting creative minds, Jessica Way of Worm Ouroboros and Lenny Smith of Atriarch, have teamed up for a haunting new album that sets aside all metal inclinations in favor of a quietly spellbinding marriage of neoclassical and gothic aesthetics. This record lingers with you long after hearing it, a magnificent release by Handmade Birds, who can do no wrong. Order it here.

Coltsblood, Into the Unfathomable Abyss (Candlelight): Typically slow, sludgy doom that lumbers along as a predictably catatonic pace. Yes, this kind of music requires patience, but despite checking off all the required boxes, the British band does nothing to make itself stand out.

Darkentries, The Make Believe (Retro Futurist): At last, a band on Kylesa’s new label that doesn’t sound exactly like Kylesa. Instead, this South Carolina band is all about sludge at its most caustic on this five-song release. While the vocals leave a lot to be desired, there’s no denying their power and hostility, making this a rather promising start overall.

Dread Sovereign, All Hell’s Martyrs (Van): Alan Averill is a metal lifer, an artist who cannot sit still when his regular band is dormant. So while his best known project, the great Primordial, is in between albums, he’s carrying on, dipping his wick into whatever new musical effort he can find. Last year brought on the debut album by the Bathory-inspired Twilight of the Gods, and now there’s Dread Sovereign, in which Averill picks up a bass and churns out some old-school doom alongside Primordial drummer Simon O’Laoghaire and a fella named Bones. And like Twilight of the Gods, this album is nothing particularly special – Averill’s vocal melodies are similar to everything he’s done before – but still a solid exercise in a classic form of heavy metal.

Forteresse/Chasse-Galerie/Monarque/Csekthe, Légendes (Sepulchral): For whatever reason, Quebecois black metal is flourishing right now, and four of the better French Canadian bands out there have joined forces on a very cool new double seven-inch release. Each band has contributed one song that pays homage to Quebec folklore, and each is well worth investigating, but top marks go to Forteresse, whose “Wendigo” is some blistering, fast black metal played with rigidity and reverence.

Horseback, Piedmont Apocrypha (Three Lobed): Jenks Miller is back with another Horseback record, and typical of the artist, it’s impossible to predict what you’re going to hear. Well, that’s not entirely true, as you’re bound to hear some sort of music that will elicit the adjective “rustic”. But make no mistake, this latest album is a surprise, and a very pleasant one at that, as Miller is in a far more contemplative mood than on 2012’s much harsher Half Blood. With a bare-bones sound that’s spacious enough to conjure thoughts of the prairie, this is very much in the vein of Earth and Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack, ragged, western-influenced guitar meshing beautifully with trance-like drones. No, there’s no “extreme” metal to speak of on this record save for the faintest trace on the last track “Chanting out the Low Shadow” but in this case that’s a very good thing. There’s power in its tribal stoicism, an unsettling menace in its minimalism.

Hundredeth, Resist (Mediaskare): Instead of writing about this truly awful children’s metalcore, let me steer you in the direction of Hundred, a London band that actually knows how to play proper heavy freaking metal. They’re sort of a British version of Slough Feg and Hammers of Misfortune, heavy on the Thin Lizzy/Celt worship, with the odd proggy touches here and there. Lively, melodic, and promising. Unlike Hundredth, which is just plain depressing. Give it a listen over on Bandcamp.

Pantera, Far Beyond Driven (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Rhino): Pantera’s seventh album came out 20 years ago this week, and it was noteworthy achievement on several fronts. Although the metal scene was driven back underground in the early 1990s, Pantera was one of the only bands whose popularity was on the rise, and Far Beyond Driven debuting at number one in America was not only a statement of just how much clout the Texas band had earned in the wake of the image-shattering Cowboys From Hell and the classic Vulgar Display of Power, but it was a reassertion of just how much of a force metal could still be. And in a way the popularity of this difficult, uneven album marked a turning point for the genre as a whole. Aggression had always been a vital part of metal, but on this record Pantera brought a level of ugliness that was unsettling. The aggression of Vulgar Display felt safe, its subjects vague, its overall themes ultimately empowering, but Far Beyond Driven wallowed in anger, in antisocial behavior, in negativity. Phil Anselmo’s lyrics were startling in their candor, and were matched perfectly by Darrell (rechristened from “Diamond” to “Dimebag”) Abbott’s down-tuned, sludgy riffs.

However, while kids immediately gravitated to the thing, those of us who were older could sense that worm turning. Along with Korn and Marilyn Manson, the fun was slowly being sucked out of mainstream heavy metal, melody and escapism replaced by crunch and whining about “issues”. It was so much different that death metal at the time, its broad appeal felt fouler, and listening to the sour last two thirds of Far Beyond Driven today, you can practically see mainstream metal heading down that 1990s rabbit hole, that loathsome prefix “nu” looming in the distance. If you want to feel nostalgic about that, then go right ahead, this reissue does sound fantastic and comes with some good bonus material, but it’s nowhere near emblematic of 1990s metal at its finest.

Pretty Maids, Louder Than Ever (Frontiers): “The reason for doing this project is to give those songs a different spin…” You lost us right there, guys. At the very least, fans can buy the five new tracks individually on iTunes, but nobody in their right mind should fall for the “re-recorded hits” gimmick.

Shores of Null, Quiescence (Candlelight): Safe, predictable melancholic doom in the vein of Swallow the Sun. Very good singing, strong dynamics, but the songs need to pop more. Like so many new metal albums, it’s a decent work in progress, but not worth spending money on yet.

Thou, Heathen (Gilead): After innumerable EPs and split releases, the prolific Baton Rouge band is back with its first proper album since 2010’s wildly acclaimed Summit. As hyped as that record was, I refused to buy into it as willingly as others were; for all the promise it showed, it felt like there was so much more to this quintet than what was heard on the record. The usual refrain from scenesters was always, “But you have to see them live.” If they’re that good live, then make it happen on record. If you don’t translate that live power on wax, you’ve failed as a metal band. Consider Heathen a resounding, commanding response to that statement. It is colossal, imposing, highly intense sludgy doom, but as always has been the band’s great strength, always mindful of dynamics, inserting moments of breathtaking beauty amidst all the density. Opening track “Free Will” is a stunning 14 minute exercise in awesome power and startling delicacy, but the real treasures are during the spectacular latter half, where all the doom and gloom is countered with a sensitivity and thoughtfulness that’s genuinely arresting. True, Bryan Funck’s vocals are still the weak spot, but he is nevertheless able to complement the music decently enough to avoid being a distraction. Either way, those who loved Summit have every reason to freak over Heathen, as Thou continue inching towards realizing its massive potential. Listen to it via Bandcamp here. [And find Funck's outstanding lyrics for Heathen here]

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy

Decibrity Playlist: Fight Amp

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, March 20th, 2014

jvdfightampbootsaddle1

Last we’d heard from Fight Amp, the trio was just off a red-eye after spending 30 days last fall playing 30 shows across Europe with Black Tusk. Now that the South Jersey natives are set to hit the road yet again–a brief jaunt of seven shows in seven days–guitarist/vocalist Mike McGinnis passed along five current band’s that influence him (consider it a close cousin to bassist/vocalist Jon DeHart’s hangover playlist from 2012). But before we get to his picks, we’ll let him get you primed for his group’s upcoming tour (dates below): “We’re super stoked to be doing this limited run of Northeastern US shows with our southern brothers in Whores. These are our first shows in the states outside of Philadelphia since our run with Today Is The Day, KEN Mode and Black Tusk last year. We’re a few months off a European tour with Black Tusk and can’t wait to hit some of our usual haunts again. We’re rolling out some of our new material and feeling real good about doing this quick round of killer shows. Also, Whores are on a roll right now and are not to be missed. Second fucking wave.”

If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Fight Amp’s last record, Birth Control, here.

Pissed Jeans
You know, we’ve been from the same city for some time and we hardly cross paths with these dudes. That being said, they influence the hell out of my guitar playing and lyric sheets. One of the best live bands around and their last few full lengths get pretty regular play on my home stereo. Hot Snakes/Pissed Jeans in Philly was probably my top show in 2012.

Whores
Our noise rock brothers from Atlanta. Can’t say enough good things about this band’s sound and songwriting. It’s simple yet super well-written. Thinking of these guys often makes me rethink some of my own riffs and remind myself that sometimes less is more. All killer, no filler, live precision.

Ecstatic Vision
New band, but extremely high on the list of bands that influence me right now, even including non-contemporaries. I work with their guitar player Doug Sabolick and seeing how hard this dude works on his art form drives me to work even harder at mine. It doesn’t hurt that this band is as dialed-in as it gets and isn’t afraid to test the waters outside of metal. These dudes are on the brink and will be talked about a whole lot in the next year.

Creepoid
I could interchange Creepoid and Ecstatic Vision between two and three easily. Another band I work closely with and have had ties with for years. Their current round of success is well deserved, and they influence the hell out of me to keep working and writing new material. These guys are writing potential hit after hit, just put out a record on No Idea that is front to back awesome with no filler, and as a “shoegaze” band, they aren’t afraid to reach into their heavier punk influenced side. Best band in Philadelphia at the moment.

Melvins
I don’t think I really need to say much about this one. Been my number one for years, influences my guitar playing immensely, and the fact that I can put this on a list of contemporaries after all these years is pretty damn amazing. Bullhead live in its entirety was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. Their “sometimes people like us, sometimes they don’t, we just do what we do” attitude continues to influence my own attitude when it comes to Fight Amp.

*Photo by Jonathan Van Dine

**Tour dates (all with Whores):

March 26th – Syracuse, NY @ Badlands w/ Blood Sun Circle
March 27th – Allston, MA @ O’Brien’s Pub w/ No Way, Livver
March 28th – Brooklyn, NY @ St Vitus Bar w/ No Way, Creepoid
March 29th – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie w/ Rye Coalition
March 30th – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar w/ Multicult, Passage Between
March 31st – Chesepeake, VA @ Roger’s
April 1st – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter w/ Hellbear, Prisoner

***Past entries include:

Cynic
Melt-Banana
Junius (Part 1) (Part 2)
Alcest
East Of The Wall
Enabler
Wolvserpent
Drugs Of Faith
SubRosa (Part 1) (Part 2)
Vattnet Viskar
Skeletonwitch
Ihsahn
Earthless
Watain
Orange Goblin
God Is An Astronaut
Primitive Man
Gorguts
Exhumed
Ulcerate
Pelican
Scale The Summit
Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Mouth Of The Architect
Howl
Kings Destroy
Zozobra
Call of the Void
Saint Vitus Bar
Coliseum
Woe
Anciients
Soilwork (Dirk Verbeuren) (Björn Strid)
Intronaut
BATILLUS
Inter Arma
Helen Money
Misery Index
Ancient VVisdom
Holy Grail
Rotten Sound
Ancestors (Part 1) (Part 2)
Kowloon Walled City (Part 1) (Part 2)
Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Early Graves
All That Remains
Bison B.C.
A Life Once Lost
Fight Amp
Witchcraft (Ola Henriksson) (Magnus Pelander)
Vision of Disorder
Grave
Anders Nyström (Katatonia) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Rush (Part 1) (Part 2)
Dawnbringer
Ufomammut
Shadows Fall
Horseback
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Torche
“Best of” Meshuggah
Astra
Pallbearer
Barren Earth
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)

KILLING IS MY BUSINESS: Booking Agents Nathan Carson & Dave Shapiro

By: Etan Rosenbloom Posted in: featured, killing is my business On: Friday, March 7th, 2014

KillingismyBiz

If ever you’ve set up a tour for your band, you know what a logistical nightmare it can be just to make sure your bandmates actually show up to the van, let alone finding venues willing to book you and somehow breaking even each night. Imagine doing that shit. This is the domain of the booking agent, the air traffic controllers of the touring world. I interviewed Nanotear Booking’s Nathan Carson and The Agency Group’s Dave Shapiro for the Killing Is My Business column in Decibel issue 114. Here is the unabridged Testimony of the Agents:

How did you first start booking tours?

Dave: My first job in booking was about 10 years ago. Equal Vision Records hired me to be their in-house booking agent. It was essentially my job to get the bands on the label, that did not have agents, on the road.

Nathan: I have been the “string-puller” in pretty much every band I’ve ever been in. In the ‘90s, I was the guy who would bring a demo tape to the door guy at a club and then call the booker a week later.

By 2001, my band Witch Mountain had our first album out and we’d been making our name online. We had also been supporting pretty much every single doom-oriented band that passed through Oregon. When we got an invitation to play the Emissions from the Monolith II festival in Ohio, I booked the tour for us, DIY-style.

I had been on tours before with other bands as a merch guy (a great experience which will let you know if you can handle the lifestyle), or playing in my own band while supporting bigger groups. And I had been the webmaster for the Billions Corporation—a really high-end, boutique booking agency from Chicago that is still one of the best in the business. So I’d had a chance to study the routes they posted for their acts.

In those days, there was basically one stoner rock/doom metal band in each state. We all knew each other, and we were all connected via Stonerrock.com, which was in its heyday at the time, along with Man’s Ruin records.

Over e-mail I booked several tours for us, which got better each time around. Eventually, a newer group of friends of ours called YOB started picking up steam and asked me to book tours for them. I did two, and they were doing better than breaking even. At that point I realized that, for better or worse, this is something that I’m good at. I made the decision in late 2003, and within a week I had about a dozen artists for my roster. Ten years later, I work with nearly 30 groups, and have to turn down others on a daily basis.

Where do you find most of the bands on your roster?

Dave: All from different places. Sometimes people pass them on to me…managers, label people, other bands I work with. Other times I just find the band, whether it be through searching the internet or keeping track of different labels and regularly checking who they’ve signed.

Nathan: Most of the bands I work with are people I’ve known for years, or are international acts that have contacted me, or been referred by a friend. I like that almost all the bands from the early days of Nanotear were people who had slept on my floor, or who had put me up when I was in their town. Though no two Nanotear acts sound the same, I have tried to make a community of it.

Do you have legal contracts you draw up with your bands? 

Dave: As agents we do not have contracts with our artists.

Nathan: [At Nanotear] there are no contractual obligations (though other agencies often have them, in order to keep bands they don’t trust, I presume). If a band or the agency is unhappy at the end of a tour, we are free to part ways. This has rarely ever happened and, I’m happy to say, never on bad terms.

Nathan Carson

Nathan Carson: more than meets the eye

After you’ve agreed to take on a band, when is the first time that money changes hands?

Nathan: It generally takes me 3-6 months to get paid for any work I do. It’s all on a percentage basis with the bands. They pay me when the tour is over—though sometimes a tour passes through Portland at a mid-point, and I’ll get paid half then and half when they’re done.

Do bookers tend to charge the same to every band they represent, or do some offer tiers of service?

Dave: Standard agent fee is 10%. This is only from the band’s show fee, not merch or record royalties, etc.   

Nathan: I always charge bands a reduced fee for the first tour. I see it as the learning curve, and the chance for us to build mutual trust. It is generally more work for both parties and less rewarding than subsequent tours. So after the first trip, we discuss how things can be improved on both sides, and then, provided we continue working together, the normal rate is invoked for all subsequent tours.

The only way the service is really tiered is that once bands start making significantly higher guarantees, I offer a reduction in my percentage, as a gesture of good faith that our hard work has paid off. That’s a blanket deal for all the bands I work with that earn at that level.

Where does the venue usually make the most money from a show?

Dave: Venues make money from ticket sales, alcohol sales, parking, ticket fees that are added on top of tickets (ticket rebates), etc. I think where they make the most money is circumstantial. For example, their bar probably does better off of a Social Distortion show than off of an All-American Rejects show.

Talk about guarantees. What are they, how difficult are they to get, and are they always a good thing to get? 

Nathan: A guarantee is good for two reasons: one, it is insurance that a band will be paid at a show that they presumably drove hours to reach. With gas at nearly $4/gallon, the cost of renting or maintaining a vehicle, and feeding, drinking and housing a group of people traveling together, it’s really important for bands to be paid enough to break even on these expenses, and hopefully to profit.

With the pressure of covering that guarantee, promoters are more likely to do their job well. With no duress or possibility of losing money, it’s often just another heartbreaking night at work for them. Promoters all too often let the advertising go slack on the cheaper shows.

I think there’s an important balance that agents and promoters should strike that is a fair market value for the band in question, dependent on the day of the week and many other key factors, and that allows the band to earn a bonus if the show does well. And unless you’re playing real hellholes, or being booked by some shrewd, uncaring asshole, then that’s what we are all trying to do every night.

Guarantees are not always necessary, though. Most of the time, if an agent is willing to reduce the risk to the club and work on a percentage basis, the venue will offer a much greater split of the door proceeds. And confident agents and bands can often gamble and win in such scenarios, which is always good for everyone. Clubs LOVE to pay out bonuses because it’s a reflection of success and good will to all involved.

Is it part of your job to negotiate with venues to secure the best deals for your bands? 

Dave: Yes, indeed. It is our job to negotiate on behalf of the artist and work to get the most advantageous deal for the artist that we can. 

If a band on your roster goes on tour with another band that you don’t book, how does that affect the work you do – and how you get paid? 

Nathan: There are tiers to this service. As the agent, I’m still entitled to a reduced cut of the band’s earnings. If I issue professional contracts for the tour on behalf of my client, I charge a bit more. If that’s not necessary or desired, I charge less. The reason I charge for tours I don’t book is to help offset the amount I generally lose during the earlier phases of a band’s career. It’s a close relationship and has to stay close for it to work.

How does the accounting usually work – i.e. do you rely on bands to accurately report door sales and such? 

Nathan: I trust every band I’ve ever worked with 100%. I’ll check up if there’s missing data or a discrepancy, but only to make sure we all have the right amounts. I wish I kept better records of these histories but I’m usually too busy booking the next tour to sit around drafting spreadsheets and final accounts. Someday! Having said that, I know exactly how everyone’s doing. I can’t control the weather or fix your transmission, but otherwise I’ve got it all pretty dialed in.

Dave Shapiro

Dave Shapiro: agent, provocateur

What kind of show tends to be the most lucrative for the band? What about for the booking agent?

Dave: This is also circumstantial. Some artists do really well with college gigs, others make more of their money from club gigs, etc. Wherever the artist makes more money, the agent makes more, with the exception of certain festivals [that] might not pay a band a large fee but [where] the band has very large merch sales. In that scenario the agent may not make as much, but the artist could have a very lucrative day

What’s your approach when you book a show in a city or venue where you’ve never been?

Nathan: I’ll pay attention to the routing other bands have used, and I also ask for local recommendations over social networks like Facebook. I have a few thousand friends and even more that follow me. So if I ask for leads on Billings, Montana, I’ll probably have a couple of good suggestions of promoters, bands, clubs, or at least scenesters who live there, within a matter of hours.

Agents are connectors, the nexus of personal and professional networks. You can’t underestimate how many pulses we have to keep our fingers on at once, or how quickly we can find a new one in some uncharted area. We are resourceful by nature, but we are constantly battling the sparsely cultured vastness of the North American territory. It’s tricky fucking business. 

Say you’re booking an early tour for a new band on your roster. What kind of information do you need from the band to book the most successful tour possible?

Dave: If the band toured prior to being with us we will ask where their best markets were to get a gauge on where we should play. We will also ask where some of the weaker shows were to maybe try and avoid them. We also might look at different stats, radio play in each market, record sales in each market, etc. This can help us figure out how best to route a tour based on how we believe it will perform in certain markets. 

Describe the relationship between booking shows and promoting them. Do the same people often do them both? 

Nathan: I certainly used to do both more often. Now I try to promote less, as it’s a riskier position to be in, and requires you (most times) to be at the show. The promoter has to help curate the bill, negotiate, sign a contract, advertise, PROMOTE, and then usually help manage the show and settle the funds at the end of the night. Don’t underestimate what a tough job it is to be a promoter. When I meet one who really cares and does a good job, I really value that person.

Booking shows is the flipside of the coin. The agent represents one or more of the artists on the bill, and negotiates the best guarantee and/or percentage on behalf of the client. It may take a while to get paid, but unless you’re getting 10% of 0, you will eventually get something.

I do still put on the annual Fall into Darkness festival, and promote assorted shows throughout the year. I am particularly likely to get involved if one of my clients is passing through Portland on tour. If I’m the promoter, I know the show will be handled properly, advertised well, and that the band will have a good experience. They often stay at my house afterward as well. It’s a bit of personal touch that I try to provide. Often the good will tends to come back around with force when I’m out on my own tours. And that’s always really nice.

A lot of the bands you rep are signed to reputable labels. How closely do you work with the record label when you’re putting together a tour?

Dave: Very closely. More closely with the managers than the labels, but the labels are surely involved in the discussion from a strategizing side of things and also marketing.

At a large firm like The Agency Group, is there any mandate to package together multiple bands on your roster when it makes sense genre-wise?

Dave: No. Our first goal is to do whatever is best for our artist. If touring with artists represented by a different agency than our own is a good situation, we will do it just as quickly as putting them with artists of our own. The goal is always to put the artist in the best situation possible, regardless of who their tour-mates are represented by.

What’s the advantage of working with an experienced booker as opposed to booking a tour yourself?

Nathan: With a professional agent, the routing will be smarter, the money will be better, and you will experience this thing called “hospitality,” which means you will be fed a hot meal, and provided with enough beer, water and towels to enjoy the whole show experience, and not just your time on stage.

Also, most artists are very good at music, and not very good at keeping track of fine details or handling their own business. I think most bands dream of the day that they can focus purely on their music, and leave the rest of their affairs to the able hands of a great and trusted team that includes a manager, publicist, booking agent, lawyer and accountant.

Of course, I am also a DIY booker that still handles my own personal band after 16 years. I’m not about to hand over the reins to someone else. So I’m definitely not saying people shouldn’t book their own tours. I will say that bands should be consistently drawing at least fifty people in their hometown before they decide to start touring regionally. The arteries are clogged with bands that have no business being out on the road yet. Please don’t feel entitled to tour if you haven’t done a bit of hard work first.

What would you say distinguishes a great booker from a sucky one?

Nathan: A great booker cares about the band and the promoter and tries to ensure that both have a great show experience. A sucky booker treats bands like racehorses, overcharges promoters, and generally makes promises that may not be kept. You can tell a lot about an agent by its roster. Bands that take music seriously as art work with one kind of agent, and bands that are purely focused on success work with another.

Is there anything unique about booking metal or “extreme” bands, as distinct from any other type of act?

Dave: The unique thing about this is finding promoters that understand the bands. Some of the bigger promoters may not know who they are or understand what it’s about. So we have to dig deep to find the right ones. Sometimes they’re the right promoters in terms of promoting the shows in the right ways, but they’re the wrong promoters on a professional level. It can make doing what we do difficult at times.

What’s one thing that you’ve learned from being in Witch Mountain that you’ve used in your booking career?

Nathan: Witch Mountain has turned down a lot of offers and contracts over the years. We still own everything we’ve done and never compromised for money. I try to keep the same ethic at Nanotear—if there’s a question between doing something right or making a little more money, I’m never motivated by the dough. Money comes and goes, but integrity is forever.

What’s the kookiest tour or show you remember booking?

Dave: I’m actually replying to this e-mail while on the flight home from it. One of my artists is Hanson, and with Hanson we rent out a whole resort in Jamaica once a year and sell the rooms to the fans. The band then plays each night on the beach and does activities during the day with the fans. Pretty unique idea, and not like any other shows I’ve ever booked. Super fun though. This was our second year doing it. 

What’s the most stressful tour or show that you’ve ever booked?

Nathan: The Nanotear SXSW 2011 showcase would be hard to beat. From the audience perspective, it was a smash success–amazing performances and a great crowd. But for me, the day began with an overnight drive from Las Cruces, NM to Austin, TX. We picked up YOB from the airport mid-afternoon then dropped them downtown at their Brooklyn Vegan showcase day show. The rest of us were en route to YOB’s hotel to shower and nap after an excruciating haul when the rental van died in rush hour traffic, with a trailer full of gear attached.

I stood in the street, sweaty and tired, talking to cops and waving honking cars past. Eventually, a tow truck that could handle a van and trailer arrived and took us as close to the venue as the festival allowed. Many streets are closed during SXSW, and this tow truck + van + trailer was quite a monstrosity to maneuver through those crowded streets. We all ended up loading the gear from the trailer off the back of the tow truck and carried it three city blocks to the stage. Once the trailer was empty, we sent our truck to off to be repaired, right around 5:59PM, just as the shop was closing for the night.

We’d made it to the club on time and all the bands had arrived. We set up our backline to share, and found that our ace soundman had missed his flight. So we were stuck with some kid who had already been running the venue’s board since noon. He was tired and cranky when we got there. Imagine working with him for the next six hours, while also trying to appease eight bands/clients, shake hands with hundreds of industry folks and fans, and sort out vehicles and hotels over the phone.

Oh yeah, I also had to perform with Witch Mountain as main support to YOB and Agalloch that night. Luckily, we killed it. I just had to shut everything else off and think only about the drums for 30 minutes. Best 30 minutes of that day by far. It was the first time Chris Bruni from Profound Lore saw us live, and we were signed by him the same year.

Afterwards, we had to leave all the equipment under a tent outside the club as we had no van or trailer to pack it in, and the venue refused to let us leave it inside. With everything neatly stacked, and a promise that a security guard would keep an eye on it, I sent YOB off to their hotel. Everyone else went their separate ways, and I followed Agalloch to the curb to try to hail a cab to get us to the three rooms we’d booked an hour east of Austin.

Catching a cab at 2am on a Saturday night at SXSW is a good trick. And while we waited, I got the call from YOB that their rooms had been given away because we never made it to check-in earlier. Because we’d broken down on the way there in the first place. I raised hell with the hotel but it didn’t do much good since the place was literally bursting with people on the busiest night of the year. So YOB ended up sleeping on benches in the lobby of the hotel until a room opened at 9am the next morning.

Agalloch on the other hand was not going to find rooms in Austin that night. Besides which, we were already on the hook for three of them many miles away.

It took at least an hour (and by now it was 3am or later) to even find a mini-van taxi that would fit all those Agalloch bodies. Once we flagged one down, the Ethiopian cab driver became somewhat terrified of us, and revealed that by law, Austin cabs can only carry four people at a time, regardless if it’s a mini-van.

I am a Jedi, and I used the Force like never before, telling the driver that he was going to make an exception for us. I never blinked or broke eye contact with him while I physically pushed the members of Agalloch and crew into the van and promised the guy a big tip. He made them huddle down like refugees until they were out of the city. By the time he dropped them off some 60 miles away, he’d decided it was a great story and adventure. And yes, he was paid a big tip.

I stayed in town, three to a bed in the lovely Fred Pessaro’s room (thank you Fred!). Aesop Dekker and Uta Plotkin were the stalwart champions who stayed with me. Later that morning, on three hours sleep, we collected the van from the service station with a new starter, loaded all of the equipment into the trailer, and drove out to meet with Agalloch.

By this time, I’d had three hours sleep in 40+ hours. All I could think about was the rendezvous with Agalloch and their driver. I picked them up at their hotel, climbed into the passenger seat and prepared to descend into a coma. Within five minutes, it was horrifyingly clear that the driver we hired had never pulled a trailer before. He had our van rocking back and forth at freeway speed and was panicking. I talked him down and got him to try the pedal on the left called the “brake.” Once safely stopped, I climbed into the driver’s seat and drove most of the rest of the day, which blissfully ended at a hotel in Louisiana where we sadly missed our New Orleans show, but thankfully lived to tell about it.

I still recall that show and experience as a big success though. It was rough, and I did have one moment where the overwhelming urge to just pick a direction and run that way for as long as I could struck me. But in the end, I handled all of it, took care of everyone. And the show went on.

********

Nathan Carson is owner of Nanotear Booking Agency, which currently books Agalloch, Corrupted, Primordial and 25 others. He’s also the drummer of Witch Mountain.

Dave Shapiro is Vice President at The Agency Group and co-owner of the Scream It Like You Mean It tour. Dave personally represents Godflesh, Jesu, Whitechapel and many others. He also co-owns an excellent grilled cheese joint in Los Angeles.

 

Stream Songs from New Panopticon/Falls of Rauros Split

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, March 7th, 2014

Falls-Pan Featured

Rather than planting our flag in one fertile corner of the extreme musical universe, Decibel has always enjoyed scrambling back and forth along the continuum, from the dingiest anti-production muckfests (found in our recent Top 100 Black Metal Albums special issue) to the most gorgeous prog explorations (such as Jeff Wagner’s super-mellow Cynic piece in the current April issue).

This spring, black metal envelope-pushers Falls of Rauros and Panopticon join forces to release a powerful split album that hovers near the middle of that spectrum.  Falls of Rauros have been on the scene for years, plying their haunted woodland/fall of mankind, naturalistic atavism, most recently with 2011′s high-drama The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood.  Panopticon has gradually become one of our favorite peddlers of stunningly relevant bleakness.  The bands’ convergence on a split gets explained in full by Falls’ member Aaron, and is somewhat related to their association with the exceptional Bindrune Recordings label (also responsible for work by Blood of the Black Owl, Seidr and Celestiial).  While you read his thoughts on current Falls of Rauros mobilizations, check out one track per band from the new split, and get excited.  As always, these bands rule.

What have the past few years since “Light That Dwells” been like for the band members, both band and non-band activities?

The last few years have been strange and and most likely not interesting. We’ve played quite a few more shows than in the past but most of them have been restricted to the East Coast, and more specifically the Northeast. Ray and I visited Norway for a few weeks in the Autumn of 2011. We stayed with Austin and Bekah Lunn; seriously generous and wonderful hosts, and spent some time in Sweden and Iceland on our own as well. Ray went wandering on an extended road trip last year and we’ve more or less all been doing our own thing. All of us have been occupied playing music in other projects and have travelled whenever possible but for the most part you’d find us living and working in Portland, Maine.

How have these songs come about, and how did they come together on a split with Panopticon?

These 2 songs are anything but new to us. We wrote “The Purity of Isolation” in 2009/2010, although the lyrics and vocal parts didn’t come together until a bit later on. The finished version was recorded in the same session as “Unavailing” in late 2011/early 2012. Everything was self-recorded at our practice space and mixed by ourselves as well; we’ve since been sitting on the tracks waiting for an appropriate format to release them on. As mentioned before, Ray and I spent time with Austin and Bekah in Norway, but we’ve also done 2 mini-tours with Seidr and are great friends with all those guys. The idea of sharing a split with Panopticon had been brewing for a long time so when both bands finally had material finished to contribute it just fell into place. Falls of Rauros and Panopticon are both now releasing music under the Bindrune label and it makes perfect sense. Not to mention Austin played drums on our last album. Anyway you cut it these songs seem like ancient history to us and represent a snapshot in a transitional period for the band.

3)  Are you still working with similar themes as you have in the past, or are there new ideas you’re exploring musically?

Well the themes on the split are a bit different in execution than in the past, but mostly hearken back to the same underlying ideas. In these songs I focused more heavily on self-imposed solitude, loneliness, and the positive and negative aspects associated with each. Solitude can be incredibly empowering and even revelatory but there is without a doubt a price to pay for nurturing it. That sort of loneliness-cultivation was a big part of my life in the past few years and played an essential role in writing music and avoiding the immediate requirements of living at home by inspiring aimless travelling. I guess it feels less pronounced these days but was integral to my once-salient hermetic and nomadic lust.

Are you preparing another full-length now?  What does 2014 look like for Falls of Rauros?

We have a new full-length completed and in the mastering stage at the moment. It’s entitled “Believe in No Coming Shore” and will be released via Bindrune this year. As someone with an intensely nonobjective point of view, the newer songs are very much unlike those on “The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood” and the tracks on the Panopticon split. We recorded a large portion of the album live in the studio, with overdubs and layers added after the fact, though somewhat sparingly. It’s the first time we’ve been able to record drums, bass, and a couple guitars at the same time and produce a result worth keeping so it’s new territory of sorts in that regard, if nothing else. 2014 will hopefully involve a tour or two of most likely small proportions, but that’s as of yet undecided. More is in the works as well; hopefully it all unfolds sooner than later.

Decibrity Playlist: Cynic

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

cynic

Just a quick listen to Cynic would reveal that Paul Masvidal and company probably have pretty eclectic musical tastes. Given that the band dropped its third full-length, Kindly Bent To Free Us, last month, the guitarist/vocalist was kind enough to pass along a medley of recent (and fairly nostalgic) listens. As he explains, “Playlists have been updated on average a weekly to biweekly basis depending on how much listening I’m doing. The list below is in no particular hierarchy or intentional order other than [picks] two and three due to their relationship.” We’d also be remiss if we neglected to point out that the man also has a soft spot for Meshuggah.

Pick up a copy of the Decibel HOFers’ latest album here.

Johann Sebastian Bach–Fugue In B Minor BWV 951 (played by Glen Gould)
The Bach fugues have been on constant rotation in my house for about 10 days now. Each and every fugue is a masterpiece of composition. Bach cleans out and essentially resets my ears. I feel better listening to these works in ways I can’t describe, they’re just good for my health and my brain in particular. Of course Glen Gould is considerably one of the greatest interpreters of Bach on piano, which lifts the whole experience even further into cosmic transcendent beauty.

John Lennon–John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)
John gives us his heart on this record. Beginning with the opening track “Mother”, which grabs hold and doesn’t let you go…arrestingly alive. Check out “Working Class Hero”, the brutally honest “Love” and then there’s the epic “Well Well Well” where we’re gifted with the classic primal-scream-therapy ending that evokes tremendous psychic pain. This is living sonic art.

Tame Impala–Lonerism (2012)
In line with the Lennon kick and directly influenced by the Beatles, here comes Tame Impala with some modern nostalgic psychedelic yumminess. I love the free spirit TI shares with its music. They have a relaxed quality to their songs that makes them feel like friends you want to hang out with. Good vibes all around. Vibe to “Apocalypse Dreams”, “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” and “Music To Walk Home By”.

The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir’s “Kalimankou Denkou” [The Evening Gathering]” (from 1975′s Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares [The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices])
I’ve been a big fan of this choir since 1988′s Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volume II. The harmony is so unbelievably sophisticated and delivered from an ecstatic state. They morph into a singular complex voice whispering timeless truths into my ear; life is here to wake you up and to engage your heart. I am a spiritual being having a human experience. Blagodarya Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, blagodarya.

Atoms For Peace’s “Before Your Very Eyes…” (from 2013′s Amok)
The grooves on this record are across the board so damn hip. Loaded with sweet subdivisions falling in all the right spots. I love the deceptive elasticity of this approach to arrangement. It feels like Thom Yorke’s dropped down into his body and surrendered to the rhythm and his vibrant rhythm section. Massive soaring melodic motifs over repetitious syncopated grooves simply transport me. Delicious postmodern electronic rock.

Steve Reich–Music For 18 Musicians (written 1974-1976)
Organic acoustic synthesis with no dominant voice. The construction and deconstruction of rhythmic patterns. Gives me that Frippy feeling and a touch of King Crimson’s prog sensibilities. It’s the sound of life pulsating through my veins; sonic acupuncture, meridians, vibrating and cycling through the nervous system, healing the body. Pushes me into heightened mental states as if in a meditation practice where we arrive at an equilibrium. One hasn’t necessarily arrived anywhere, but a level of surrender and acceptance is present as if you let go enough to allow this space to arise. I’m hypnotized and transported into a new energy field where new life forms appear. Gravity is an illusion. Woah, here we go!

Caetano Veloso and Gal Costa–Domingo (1967)
One of my all time favorite Brazilian jazz records. The songs are raw, pure, elegant and honest. Makes me want to get cozy, take a deep breath and touch intimacy with my lips and finger tips. “Coração Vagabundo”, the opening track, says it all. The melodies are magic. Let yourself get lost in these short little heart-fueled lullabies.

Bob Dylan–Blonde On Blonde (1966)
My favorite Dylan record. The sound of letting go and letting life in. I trust in the integrity of this moment. I trust in life as it is. Thanks Bob. Check out “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands”.

*Order Kindly Bent To Free Us here.

**Past entries include:

Melt-Banana
Junius (Part 1) (Part 2)
Alcest
East Of The Wall
Enabler
Wolvserpent
Drugs Of Faith
SubRosa (Part 1) (Part 2)
Vattnet Viskar
Skeletonwitch
Ihsahn
Earthless
Watain
Orange Goblin
God Is An Astronaut
Primitive Man
Gorguts
Exhumed
Ulcerate
Pelican
Scale The Summit
Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Mouth Of The Architect
Howl
Kings Destroy
Zozobra
Call of the Void
Saint Vitus Bar
Coliseum
Woe
Anciients
Soilwork (Dirk Verbeuren) (Björn Strid)
Intronaut
BATILLUS
Inter Arma
Helen Money
Misery Index
Ancient VVisdom
Holy Grail
Rotten Sound
Ancestors (Part 1) (Part 2)
Kowloon Walled City (Part 1) (Part 2)
Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Early Graves
All That Remains
Bison B.C.
A Life Once Lost
Fight Amp
Witchcraft (Ola Henriksson) (Magnus Pelander)
Vision of Disorder
Grave
Anders Nyström (Katatonia) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Rush (Part 1) (Part 2)
Dawnbringer
Ufomammut
Shadows Fall
Horseback
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Torche
“Best of” Meshuggah
Astra
Pallbearer
Barren Earth
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)

Decibrity Playlist: Melt-Banana

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Melt Banana pc Resource Graphics

Melt-Banana‘s last record Fetch earned a place in our top 10 of 2013. Since Kevin Stewart-Panko already asked the now duo of vocalist Yasuko “Yako” Onuki and guitarist Ichiro Agata nearly every question imaginable back in October (most importantly about their Geocities website), we weren’t left with much ground that hadn’t already been covered. Onuki and Agata’s tunes may not be as popular in Japan, which they call home, as they are here, but that didn’t stop Yako from telling us about five records by Japanese bands that she listened to when she was a kid. Having never heard of any of them, I have a lot of catching up to do. You can pick up a copy of Fetch here (the link is real, we promise).

RC Succession–Single Man (1976)
They were a very famous rock band in Japan. Their singer Kiyoshiro was a kind of idol to me. This album is their early work and one of my favorite albums.

The Stalin–Stop Jap (1982)
They must appear on my list! They were the first Japanese punk band that I ever listened to.

Jun Togawa–Tamahime-sama (1984)
She is still one of my favorite singers in the world. She was also in a band Guernica, and it was good too, but for this list I am going with her outstanding solo work Tamahime-sama.

Inu–Meshi Kuuna! (1981)
This is a band from Osaka. They didn’t put out many albums since [they] didn’t have a long career.

Uchoten–Peace (1986)
I didn’t know much about this band before buying this album, but I just liked the sound of it. Kind of techno?

*Order Fetch here.

**Past entries include:

Junius (Part 1) (Part 2)
Alcest
East Of The Wall
Enabler
Wolvserpent
Drugs Of Faith
SubRosa (Part 1) (Part 2)
Vattnet Viskar
Skeletonwitch
Ihsahn
Earthless
Watain
Orange Goblin
God Is An Astronaut
Primitive Man
Gorguts
Exhumed
Ulcerate
Pelican
Scale The Summit
Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Mouth Of The Architect
Howl
Kings Destroy
Zozobra
Call of the Void
Saint Vitus Bar
Coliseum
Woe
Anciients
Soilwork (Dirk Verbeuren) (Björn Strid)
Intronaut
BATILLUS
Inter Arma
Helen Money
Misery Index
Ancient VVisdom
Holy Grail
Rotten Sound
Ancestors (Part 1) (Part 2)
Kowloon Walled City (Part 1) (Part 2)
Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Early Graves
All That Remains
Bison B.C.
A Life Once Lost
Fight Amp
Witchcraft (Ola Henriksson) (Magnus Pelander)
Vision of Disorder
Grave
Anders Nyström (Katatonia) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Rush (Part 1) (Part 2)
Dawnbringer
Ufomammut
Shadows Fall
Horseback
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Torche
“Best of” Meshuggah
Astra
Pallbearer
Barren Earth
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)

Decibrity Playlist: Junius (Part 2)

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, lists On: Thursday, February 20th, 2014

02-Junius-Alysse_Gafkjen2

Last week, Junius helped celebrate the upcoming release of its excellent new EP, Days of the Fallen Sun, by having half of the band–namely, frontman/guitarist Joseph E. Martinez and bassist Joel Munguia–tell us about eight records that they were listening to back when things started in 2004. Now that everyone has (hopefully) had a chance to get his or her grubby hands on the record, guitarist Mike Repasch-Nieves and drummer Dana Filloon are here to close the loop on the quartet’s trip down memory lane. You can pick up a copy of Days of the Fallen Sun here and be sure to check them out live in the near future if you can (dates below).

Mike Repasch-Nieves:

Hum–Downward Is Heavenward (1998) (favorite song: “Afternoon With The Axolotls”)
When the song “Stars” was on the radio, I thought this band was badass (even saw them on Conan O’Brien, which was so sick!), but somehow it wasn’t until this album that I really realized how amazing Hum was. They seemed like the nerdiest dudes and yet I still have not heard such heart-wrenchingly huge guitars done like this. The huge sound and overall melancholy on this album still gets me every time. I remember when I first met Joe (Martinez, Junius singer/guitarist), the two bands we geeked out about right off the bat were Hum and Failure, and both bands continue to influence us hugely. We almost recorded The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist with Matt Talbot [Hum guitarist/vocalist], and although it didn’t work out at the time, he is still one of my heroes who I hope to work with one day.

ISIS–Oceanic (2002) (favorite song: “Carry”)
Living in Boston in the late ’90s and early 2000s, I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand so many amazing bands as they came up in the local scene, and seeing ISIS as they developed was inspiring for sure. One of the best shows I can remember from back then was ISIS, 27, Pelican and Gregor Samsa at the Middle East in 2003. They definitely set the bar for me in a lot of ways. I remember the first time I heard this album…Will Benoit (of Constants, our first bassist, and longtime producer) was working at Hydra Head Records and had a burned CD-R and played it for me in his car. The first time just floored me, and years of listening to this album haven’t diminished its effect very much. Of course they took a sort of formula that bands like Neurosis and Godflesh established, but with this album I really felt like they came into their own and brought what I guess you would now call “post-metal” to a new level (although I hate the term “post”-ANYTHING at this point).

Cursive–The Ugly Organ (2003) (favorite song: “The Recluse”)
Between Domestica and The Ugly Organ, this band created two of the most emotionally powerful albums I’ve ever heard. Everything about this record lyrically spoke to me at the time, from relationships to the artistic and creative struggle…on top of the fact that the music is so amazing. I’ve always wished I could write an album like this, but there was some sort of convergence of emotion, energy, talent and perhaps desperation that brought this masterpiece out of them. It’s timeless to me.

The Mars Volta–De-Loused In The Comatorium (2003) (favorite song: “Drunkship of Lanterns”)
As a half Latino dude who spent a large part of my childhood growing up in Puerto Rico, Panama, and the Bronx, I was always inspired by Cedric and Omar, going back to the At The Drive-In days. Then when they came out with this, my mind was blown. Hearing these guys put a Latin spin on punk/classic prog was so cool to me and a strange conglomeration of so many disparate things that I loved but wouldn’t have had the idea or balls to put together. Omar’s guitar playing drove me and probably every other guitarist I knew at the time to spend more money on pedals and push the boundaries of what sounds we could make on our instruments.

Dana Filloon:

Sunny Day Real Estate–Diary (1994) (favorite track: “The Blankets Were The Stairs”)
This album changed my life. These songs opened my eyes and changed the way I viewed songwriting. William Goldsmith’s drums on this record have so much of their own melody.

Deftones–Deftones (2003) (favorite track: “Minerva”)
Abe Cunningham was and remains my favorite drummer. So much of my style is derived from Deftones records.

Hot Water Music–Caution (2002) (favorite track: “Trusty Chords”)
One of the main reasons I started playing drums was this band. This record is still in daily rotation and a huge part of my drumming style.

Poison the Well–Tear From The Red (2002) (favorite track: “Moments Over Exaggerate”)
This was is a kind of bridge record for me. In the elements in this record I can find all things I love about music. Beautiful. Aggressive.

*Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

*Order Days of the Fallen Sun here.

**Tour dates:

2/25 York, PA – The Depot #
2/26 Columbus, OH – Kobo #
2/27 Chicago, IL – Reggies Rock Club#
2/28 Erie, PA – Crooked I #
3/1 Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Night Bazaar #*
3/2 Cambridge, MA – Middle East*

# with A Storm of Light
* with Caspian

***Past entries include:

Alcest
East Of The Wall
Enabler
Wolvserpent
Drugs Of Faith
SubRosa (Part 1) (Part 2)
Vattnet Viskar
Skeletonwitch
Ihsahn
Earthless
Watain
Orange Goblin
God Is An Astronaut
Primitive Man
Gorguts
Exhumed
Ulcerate
Pelican
Scale The Summit
Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Mouth Of The Architect
Howl
Kings Destroy
Zozobra
Call of the Void
Saint Vitus Bar
Coliseum
Woe
Anciients
Soilwork (Dirk Verbeuren) (Björn Strid)
Intronaut
BATILLUS
Inter Arma
Helen Money
Misery Index
Ancient VVisdom
Holy Grail
Rotten Sound
Ancestors (Part 1) (Part 2)
Kowloon Walled City (Part 1) (Part 2)
Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Early Graves
All That Remains
Bison B.C.
A Life Once Lost
Fight Amp
Witchcraft (Ola Henriksson) (Magnus Pelander)
Vision of Disorder
Grave
Anders Nyström (Katatonia) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Rush (Part 1) (Part 2)
Dawnbringer
Ufomammut
Shadows Fall
Horseback
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
Torche
“Best of” Meshuggah
Astra
Pallbearer
Barren Earth
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)