I first read about North via Catherine Yates’ review of What You Were back in 2008, but it wasn’t until I perused our Managing Editor’s writeup of the record in that year’s top 40 that I thankfully got around to listening. Even though it’s been a while since then, once you’ve read last year’s interview with guitarist Matt Mutterperl, all I really need to tell you about what the Arizonians have been up to recently is that they dropped a self-described “transition” EP Metanoia back in March and that it’s great to have them back. Since the trio will be hitting the road next month, we asked Mutterperl and drummer Zack Hansen to contribute another chapter in our ongoing series of what gets played in the tour van. After you’ve checked out their picks below, get a copy of Metanoiahere. What You Were is also being released on vinyl for the first time next month, and you can pre-order that here.
When I’m on the road and it’s my turn to drive, it’s essential that I have a few things: coffee, light assorted snackery, and tunes that keep me engaged and pass the time. Here are my picks.–Matt Mutterperl
The Smashing Pumpkins–Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1995)
I first got this album when I was in grade school and I only jammed a few other songs besides the singles. Years later when I revisited it, I listened all the way through it and it was totally captivating. I love this record. We attempted covering “Bodies”, but it’s been on the drawing board for a while, unfortunately. Gets better with every listen through, I think. Perfect to get lost in.
Q And Not U–No Kill No Beep Beep (2000)
I moved to Arizona in the middle of high school, and I had zero friends for a little bit, except for the internet. A forum I was on had mentioned Dischord Records, and somehow I came across Q And Not U. This album was a real eye-opener/taste-shaper/mind-expander. It’s catchy as hell, and usually [bassist/vocalist] Evan Leek and I can sing along to most of it and dance like a couple of hip jerks!
Weezer–Pinkerton (1996, 2010 deluxe edition)
Again, an album that I briefly flirted with as a youth and came back to appreciate later. Pinkerton has that raw, visceral emotion that Weezer’s other offerings don’t really do for me. I can listen straight through, finger-drumming along for almost an hour before we hit the b-sides and live tracks: “Getting Up and Leaving” and “Tragic Girl” are solid tracks that I had never heard before and instantly fell in love with.
Glassjaw–Worship And Tribute (2002)
I’ve listened to this album countless times, and it never gets old to me. From front to finish, Daryl Palumbo’s vocals never let up. Hell, every instrument is shining here. “Tip Your Bartender” quickly sets the tone and all of the sudden I’m on “Pink Roses” and still jamming. I can easily get lost in this piece for it to satisfy part of an overnight drive. This album is timeless to me.
Sleep is such an invaluable resource on the road, you really take for granted just how comfortable the minute sounds of your own room are. Then you have to take into account the guys snoring their skulls off, the hardwood floor, the unfamiliar houses and the non stop ringing in your ears. Most of the time music is a necessity just to get those four hours of sleep you need to get back in the driver’s seat. North plays loud, heavy, and extreme music and so many of my favorite artists and groups are the opposite of that. I think a good contrast is needed. Here are some albums I need to get by on tour.–Zack Hansen
Sigur Rós–Ágætis byrjun (1999)
Such a monumental record, this band can do no wrong in my eyes. When we first started touring, I didn’t drive a lot. I would just throw on this record and ( ), and pass out in the back of the van for hours. I’m not sure I could stay awake through more than two songs, it was just so soothing and melancholic that I had no choice but to shut down completely.
Sylvain Chauveau–Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) (2010)
I listen to a lot of composers and I think Frenchman Sylvain Chauveau is one of the strangest. Singular Forms bucked the trend of his previous albums and went so completely minimal that it becomes borderline creepy. The vocals make this project and really set it apart from the rest of his work. It’s rhythmic, raw, repetitive, and disconcerting. Doesn’t sound like the most appealing music when you need rest but it works. This is one of those albums where I’ll fall asleep over and over, only to wake up in the middle, only to go to right back to sleep again.
Mouth Of The Architect–Quietly (2008)
One of the most important records of my adulthood. It came out around the same time as our first full length, What You Were, in the summer of 2008. We were on tour for a month and our route was a few days behind the MOTA, Intronaut and Behold The Arctopus tour. We sometimes even played the same venue. All the while I listened to Quietly twice a day at least. It was my go to record when I needed peace and quiet. At the same time it’s not a gentle record, quite the opposite in fact. It’s so depressing and dark, from the opening sample of the wind chimes to the final vocals on “A Beautiful Corpse”. This is the music I needed to shut down the rest of the world for a time.
Braveyoung–We Are Lonely Animals (2011)
We toured with Braveyoung when they were known as Giant in our early instrumental days and they really showed me how tour was supposed to be done. I look up to them musically and as people. They went from putting out such a ridiculously crushing EP in Song to instrumental perfection on We Are Lonely Animals. I could listen to this all day and night, and sometimes do. It’s a nice reminder of the art and true beauty in music. It’s making me sappy as we speak. Their last record Will The Dust Praise You is equally inspiring.
*Photo by Andrew Weiss
**Pick up a copy of Metanoiahere and check out the band on the following dates:
8/01/2014 Club Congress – Tucson, AZ
8/02/2014 TBA – Santa Fe, NM
8/03/2014 Denver Black Sky – Denver, CO
8/04/2014 FOKL Center – Kansas City, MO
8/05/2014 The Triple rock – Minneapolis, MN
8/06/2014 Quarters – Milwaukee, WI (with Northless)
8/07/2014 The Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL (with Northless)
8/08/2014 Ottawa Tavern – Toledo, OH
8/09/2014 The Shop – Pittsburgh, PA
8/10/2014 King Fun Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
8/11/2014 TBA – Brooklyn, NY
8/12/2014 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
8/13/2014 Slim’s Downtown – Raleigh, NC
8/14/2014 The Poison Lawn – Knoxville, TN
8/15/2014 Wallstreet – Murfreesboro, TN
8/16/2014 The Forge – Birmingham, AL (with Set and Setting)
8/17/2014 Hey Café – New Orleans, LA (with Set and Setting)
8/18/2014 Hi-Tone – Little Rock, AR (with Set and Setting)
8/19/2014 Lindbeerg’s – Springfield, MO (with Set and Setting)
8/20/2014 The Conservatory – Oklahoma City, OK
8/21/2014 Holy Mountain – Austin, TX
8/22/2014 Lowbrow Palace – El Paso, TX
10/16-19/2014 Southwest Terror Fest III, Tucson, AZ
Woody Weatherman of Corrosion of Conformity has influenced generations of shredders. His career has spanned many phases: the massively influential crossover albums, their unexpected commercial run in the ’90s and the return of the old school lineup in recent years. COC remains as relevant as ever and just released their new record IX. Mr. Weatherman sat down to tell us about the riffs that schooled him.
“Since I first picked up a guitar and tried to make a noise, the players that grabbed my attention were the ones that really would bend the string and meant it, and that has kind of stuck with me over the years,” he says.
Please welcome Woody Weatherman to the shredder’s studio.
ZZ Top: “Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings”
I remember breaking into my Dad’s ZZ Top vinyls and it was on. Billy Gibbons is one of my faves to this day. This is one we occasionally halfway do as a warm-up during sound checks.
Black Flag: “Depression”
Attitude goes a long way and can sometimes carry a player. Seeing Black Flag when I was 15 or 16 was a game changer and some of that early stuff was a big influence on me.
Scorpions: “Dark Lady”
Giant overbends and awesome guitar intros have always grabbed my attention. I’ve been a huge Scorpions fan since I was a wee lad. There are so many great tunes to choose from but this is an old one that has cool guitar work
Black Sabbath: “Turn Up The Night”
What list these days is complete without some Sabbath? This band has influenced countless players and I’m one of them. Pretty much any song is great but the guitar work on this tune is pretty cool and a little different than a lot of Iommi’s stuff.
Jimi Hendrix: “Ezy Rider”
Probably the biggest influence on me since it was the first stuff I owned when I was a kid. He bends those strings just the way they ought to be bent.
— Motorhead: “Bite the Bullet”
Sometimes you just want to hear some good solid rock and roll.
Read previous installments of Inside The Shredder’s Studio:
Think of a band manager as the “mom” of a band. While they’re not necessarily involved in the music-making, they oversee many of the behind-the-scenes logistics that make it possible. As you’ll read below, there’s a whole lot of people and decisions swirling around even a young band, so it pays to have someone that knows what he or she is doing helping to steer the ship. Not all managers know what they’re doing; fewer have scruples enough to do it well. Managers Ryan Downey (Superhero Artist Management) and Mark Vieira (Good Fight Entertainment) have massloads of both knowledge AND scruples. Here’s what they had to say when I interrogated them for the Killing Is My Business column in Decibel issue #118 (Godflesh cover).
On a basic level, what services do you offer your management clients?
Mark Vieira: Ultimately a manager should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on with all aspects of the band. At the end of the day, it’s the band’s job to make music, perform, etc. I do whatever is needed to facilitate that and remove as many distractions as needed. I shop bands for record deals, whether they are actual recording contracts or licensing deals. If a band doesn’t have an agent, I help to find the right agent for the band. Once an agent is in place, I work closely with the agent to get the band on support tours, and to get solid support for the band’s tours.
I’ll work with the label when it comes to the set up of the album, and figure out the best marketing, press and radio (where it’s necessary) plans for the particular band. For instance, a really great place to premier a Defeater song may not be the best outlet to debut a 1349 track.
I book studio time for acts in some cases, or help find the best recording/mixing/mastering scenario. Sometimes that’s in conjunction with a label; other times, it’s on our own. Merchandise is another big one; some bands are very hands-on with their merch, and artwork in general; others aren’t. I’ll find artists/graphic designers when needed. I set up and oversee web stores, as well as retail merch deals, be sure there are new designs coming on a regular basis, whether we’re providing, or the merch company is and we’re approving.
From a touring perspective, I’ll work with artists and merch companies on that angle. I’ll help a band find a crew if they need one (some bands, the crew is the first part of the team they end up with). Depending on the band and the type of tour, I’ll arrange transportation, or even find a vehicle for the band to buy.
Is there such thing as a “typical day” in the life of a manager?
Ryan Downey: People who are far outside the music industry will often ask me a series of questions that goes like this: “So, you manage bands. Does that mean you book their shows?” No, that’s the booking agent. “Okay. So you put out their CDs?” No, that’s the record label. “Hmm. So you negotiate their contracts?” Well, I’m pretty involved in that, but technically, that’s the attorney. “Okay, okay, so you go on tour with them and look after things on the road.” No, that’s the tour manager. “Sooooo…you get them interviews?” No, that’s the publicist. “SO WHAT DO YOU DO?!”
What do I do? Everything else. Plus, I make sure all of the above folks are working together and working effectively. The workflow and tasks involved are so varied that the easiest thing to do seems like a case study. Here’s a breakdown of some of the management related tasks I worked on yesterday:
-Finalized a recording schedule for a producer
-Sent notes back and forth on a remix project one of my guys is doing
-Said “thanks but no thanks” to a pitch from a video director
-Worked on logistics for the Kerrang! Awards
-Established a relationship with an A&R guy from PledgeMusic
-Made a band aware of a radio campaign we’ll be starting soon
-Spoke with an attorney about a lawsuit that will soon be filed on behalf of two of my bands
-Registered two artists with a performing rights organization
-Solicited an offer for a South African tour for one of my bands
-Sent back some comments on Soundgarden from one of my guys for a PureVolume article
-Sent back notes on a rough cut of a music video
-Coordinated promo for a band’s performance at Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods
-Worked on social security forms, tax waivers, personnel lists and other logistics for an upcoming European tour
-Said thanks to Sirius for playing the heck out of three of my bands right now
-Took care of some overdue invoices for CD tour stock purchases
-Told an agent that one of my bands isn’t interested in a meet and greet opportunity
-Nudged a publicist to send over some e-mail interviews that are coming for one of my guys
-Dialed in a tour budget
-Thanked an Australian publicist
-Worked on finishing some trademark work for one of my bands
-Got a new song over to a publishing company
-Discussed potential budgets/fees for a sync/licensing opportunity
-Sent an invoice on behalf of one of my producers
-Approved promo rollout for a forthcoming album release
-Discussed and reviewed proposals for a promotion with a major clothing brand
-Worked on logistics for an upcoming Canadian festival appearance
-Worked on logistics and promo for two upcoming CreativeLive classes
…And a few other things I’m forgetting!
Do you work closely with a band’s business manager, attorney, publicist, promoters, tour managers, etc. or are those jobs very much distinct?
Mark: All of those jobs are very distinct. However, a manager’s job is to act as a go-between, middleman, sometimes moderator, between all of those listed and the band. Add in label staff and booking agent, as well. The ideal situation is that all information running to and from a band is going through me. That’s not to say a band is not going to communicate directly with a lot of those people, but as I mentioned above, if a band, or member of a band, is better served not having to worry about other aspects of the business, then I handle it. And if that band/artist does want to be involved, I need to provide as much guidance and advice as possible.
Ryan Downey and some guy whose name I forget
How does your role change when you’re dealing with a producer client vs. a band client?
Ryan: The most obvious difference is that a producer is one person, which means there’s only one person I really need to communicate with and make decisions with. Now with that being said, I believe most bands function better with one or two people calling the shots, or at the very least, one or two people acting as a mouthpiece for the band. Bands who insist on running as a full democracy, or worse, want to have a consensus on something before taking action, have been the least efficient in my opinion. Zeuss, one of the producers I work with, actually coined the term “BandBoss,” which I love. In most band settings, you can ask “Who’s the BandBoss?” and get a pretty quick answer.
Now this doesn’t have to be a Nine Inch Nails or Megadeth type of arrangement. Nobody has to be “over” somebody else necessarily; everyone has different things he is better at than other people in the band. The bass player may be the best at social media promotion; maybe the drummer is mechanically minded and can tune up the van. Then you’ve got a guitar player whose mom is a travel agent; let that person book all the travel, etc.
A lot of the same things apply with producers and bands — finding opportunities, discussing opportunities, negotiating, contracts, invoicing, scheduling. And often with a producer, I’m working with the management, label people and band members who are working on a given project, which is often a job unto itself.
How valuable are industry connections to a manager?
Mark: Invaluable. I realize it sounds cheesy, and probably conjures images of schmoozing on the golf course, but I can’t emphasize enough how important relationships are. A big part of the reason I moved to LA eight years ago was because I was working with a band signed to an LA-based label, who had an agent, etc. out here. I was constantly speaking with people here, so figured I’d get more done in the same city. I’m certainly not saying you need to live here, or in NYC, but you definitely need to be on people’s radars.
If I could go back in time and tell younger me to do one thing differently, I’d say “Go to SXSW. Go to LA and meet with people at least once a year. When you go to NYC for shows, stay in town for another day or two and meet some new people: other managers, agents, label, publishers, press. Go with one of your bands to a European festival and meet the people putting on the festival and the EU contingent.” I feel it’s human nature to want to work more with people you know and are friendly with. As far as making them goes, ask for an introduction from a mutual acquaintance. Hell, even a cold call or e-mail can work. A cup of coffee or a beer can go a long way.
You hear it all the time – “You don’t find a manager, a manager finds you.” How do you discover the bands you go on to manage?
Mark: There have been a couple of occasions when bands have contacted me, and I’ve liked the band, and it’s gone from there. More often than not, though, it’s been through recommendations. A lot of the time, an agent or label will pick up an act before there’s a manager in place, and they’ll contact some people they like working with, or who they feel suits the band. Other times, other managers will say “Hey, so and so just opened for one of my bands, and they’re looking for management. You may be into it.”
I also check out a lot of new music, whether it’s via a label sending out promos, or just seeing a band on a news site. If I like a band, I’ll start following them and keeping tabs. On a few occasions, I’ve started working with bands because I’d seen their name pop up a bunch, and liked what I’d heard and pursued them.
Mark Vieira also manages a sweet beard
What factors do you look at when you’re deciding whether or not to take on a new client?
Ryan: First and foremost: do I like their work? Can I stand behind it without embarrassment or bashfulness? I’ve said “Yes” to projects where that isn’t the case, and eventually paid the price for it in some fashion. Anyone in this business who says they haven’t made that mistake is probably lying. But the vast majority of bands and producers I’ve worked with, I’ve truly loved their work. It’s even better when I love the folks involved. My management career started with bands who were all friends of mine prior to being a manager: Bleeding Through, Throwdown, Zao, Demon Hunter, Tiger Army. A couple of years ago, I started working with The Dillinger Escape Plan, who my band toured with in 1999.
Those organic relationships are wonderful. Zeuss had produced a couple of records for Throwdown before we worked together in a management capacity. I have, of course, sought out talent who are strangers. The most important questions are: are they smart? Are they dedicated to the band? Have they figured out a bunch on their own and gotten themselves a certain distance? Are they realistic about the landscape, the climate, and where they fit in?
A manager should be a partner, working as hard (if not harder) as the hardest working people in the band. A manager is not someone who comes along and does everything while you just show up and play. I want partners, not parasites.
One lesson I’ve learned: when a band decides to go part time, abandon ship! I’ve had some artists who became more demanding even as they became less active. There are few things less savory in business than having a client who takes up over 50% of your time while contributing about 10% of your overall income, year after year.
Managers, when you get that “part-time,” “hiatus,” etc. phone call, TELL THEM TO CALL YOU BACK WHEN THEY ARE READY TO BE FULL-TIME AGAIN. Get the fuck out, or you may be dragged down with them as they fade from view.
What kind of expectations do you set for a band when you take one on?
Mark: That’s really a case-by-case basis type thing. I want a band to become “successful,” based on what their definition of that is. A ceiling for a modern metalcore type band is going to be different from that of a black metal band. There’s going to be drastically different opportunities available for some types of bands than others, just based on genre. So ultimately, I want to help that particular band reach their particular goal, whatever it may be. I don’t think it’s right to have a “you’re going to gross X dollars, and sell 25,000 records, and average 450 tickets a show this year,” type bar set. If I have one expectation, it’s that the bands make awesome fucking albums.
When Superhero takes on a band that’s been around for a while, which tasks do you take on that the band might have handled itself previously?
Ryan: The Dillinger Escape Plan is probably the only seasoned band I’ve taken on. The other more experienced bands I work with, I’ve been with a long time. Demon Hunter, for example, I’ve been with since album two and they are on album seven. Ben Weinman is the perfect example of a partner in this thing — he’s very DIY, very business savvy, has plenty of his own relationships. I’ve been able to alleviate much of his workload, which in turn frees him up to focus more on the music and less on the business, and to better pursue other projects outside TDEP both professional and personal.
How involved is Superhero in the creative directions that your bands (and producers) take?
Ryan: It depends on the artist. All of them kick ideas around with me; occasionally I’ll suggest something and they will take it and run with it. But for the most part, I’m careful to choose bands that don’t need creative input from a manager. I mean nobody is going to tell Greg Puciato how to sing, nor should they. I’ve been lucky to avoid a lot of career-obsessed bands, bands who waste a bunch of time trying to construct albums and touring cycles that are based to appeal to this or that crowd and get them to (my least favorite, most overused phrase ever) “the next level.”
Make art for the right reasons, then we’ll figure the rest out. That’s my philosophy. Nothing wrong with making a living from music, even a great living, we all want to do that. But that can’t be the priority. It MUST be the art.
Fred Durst was on the top of the world there for a second. HR from Bad Brains was said to be homeless at one point. Which guy has the better legacy, the bigger credibility, and the most lasting impact on other musicians and culture? One guy slept with Britney Spears, made cameos in Ben Stiller movies and destroyed Woodstock. The other one changed the fucking face of rock, while transporting listeners on a spiritual trip. To each his own, but I chose my team a long time ago.
What’s the standard financial deal like with the acts you represent? What revenue streams are you involved in – and which ones do you not touch?
Mark: This is a bit of a sticky topic. Obviously, sources of revenue are changing pretty rapidly in the music business as traditional physical sales fall, and everyone from artists to labels to managers are trying to find new sources and trying to maximize what they can. The “standard” deal is usually 15%, although I do know of managers who take anywhere from 10-20%. My personal philosophy is that with the way things are changing, we can’t have a “gold standard” set of rules. There needs to be some flexibility, on all sides: bands have to be willing to give up some income they maybe wouldn’t have in the past (merch rights to a label for instance), but the labels and managers also have to be aware that, at some point, something is going to have to give, and we’re going to have to work out deals that work for our specific artists.
Ryan: This is definitely a touchy and controversial area. I’m appalled when I hear about managers who take 20% of gross, then charge bands for expenses (travel, etc.) on top of that. I don’t see how that makes any sense, even from a selfish point of view. I believe in leaving money on the table now in order to make more money later. Fleecing a band for all their money, putting yourself in a position where you make significantly more than any one guy? Why would you do that? Invest your time, energy and work into a band and you will be repaid dividends you won’t get ripping them off.
All of my deals vary, but for the most part, they work like this: 15% of gross from guarantees, 15% of net from merchandise, 15% of royalties, etc. When an album advance comes in, I only commission from the amount the band puts in their pockets for living expenses. I will subtract the actual hard costs of recording before calculating my fee. Generally, on international tours, I’ll subtract the cost of airfare from the guarantees before commissioning. There are plenty of times where I’ll tell a band “don’t pay us a merch cut” when a tour is going to help them grow but has low profit margins.
Management commissions cover all of the work I do when a band is between tours. It also pays for overhead like office space, Internet, iPhones, and employees both full-time and part time. That’s one thing some band people fail to take into consideration. I’m not just some dude taking some money from them and buying new clothes with it.
Does the financial deal change if you’re dealing with a better-known band vs. a baby band?
Mark: A financial deal, for me personally, would be more situational per band; it would have less to do with the size of the band and more to do with what make sense between that band and myself. I’m always looking for bands that are going to have careers and are in it for the long haul (or who’ve been in it for the long haul). So there are times with baby bands where you need to think to yourself, “If I commission at our agreed-upon rate, these guys may not be able to tour again this year.” I want to grow with the band, so I’ll probably work out some kind of reduction, in order to keep that baby band working, and growing, so that in eight years, we’re all making money. Let’s do that then.
Are label and/or publishing deals always part of the plan, or do you ever advise your bands to release and publish their music themselves?
Ryan: It’s definitely a case-by-case decision. I’ve got some established acts who are out of their deals or nearing the conclusion of their deals and we are looking at all options, including joint ventures (such as the one TDEP did with Sumerian in North America and BMG worldwide for our Party Smasher Inc. label), artist services/distribution deals…
Mark: I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with publishing deals, although I know a lot of people hate them. I feel if someone is really going to work to place a band’s songs and get a band paid (along with themselves) and garner more exposure, as opposed to sitting on the material, it’s a win-win. That said, there is, not surprisingly, not a HUGE demand for black metal, grind or hardcore songs in films and primetime television series. If there’s a good, fair offer for a band, which makes sense for that particular band, I don’t have an issue with it.
As for labels, there have been two circumstances in the past several years where I’ve suggested artists consider self-releasing albums. In both cases, they were somewhat established bands, with several releases on other labels, so they had some sort of fan base, touring history, etc. That said, I still believe that labels are a very important piece of the puzzle, especially for “baby bands” or developing acts. I definitely do not subscribe to the “We don’t need labels any more!!” philosophy you hear quite a bit. While even a bigger, well-established label may not be able to get a very young band’s music into a national retailer, the marketing they can provide is crucial. Your chances of getting a support slot on a tour are definitely increased if you have a label behind you, who are going to help promote and market the tour, thus creating more awareness for the tour and, hopefully, selling more tickets.
Most bands just don’t have the ability, experience or time to do a really solid self release. So many of the self-release scenarios we’re seeing are really joint venture deals with labels or distributors, or situations where they’ve brought in a label or distributor to perform label services. That’s what I really feel the music business is pushing toward; progressive, non-traditional label deals, as opposed to a straight self release. But again, I’m not opposed to the self-release model, if it makes sense for a particular band and their situation.
Some managers will stipulate that they keep getting paid on record sales released after their relationship with a band has ended, if the record was made while they were still the manager. What’s your philosophy on that kind of clause?
Mark: The reality here is, with sales declining, we’re going to see fewer and fewer copies of a particular title continuing to sell. We’re looking at a lion’s share of sales of a record coming in the first few months of its release. I’ve heard “two to three months,” thrown around as the life cycle of a release. Catalog sales, especially for newer/younger bands, aren’t going to be even comparative to the catalog sales we see from Guns N Roses, Metallica and so on. To answer the actual question: if you’re fortunate enough to be involved with a situation which produces a new Reign in Blood or Appetite for Destruction, which will sell a ton of copies annually for years to come, I don’t see an issue with a manager looking to keep seeing royalties from that. There’s a ton of effort that goes into a record from all parts of a band’s “team.”
You must get unsolicited pitches from all sorts of different people. Can you recount a ridiculous idea someone pitched to one of your bands, and how you dealt with it?
Ryan: During the height of Bleeding Through’s popularity, as they toured two records in a row with close to 300,000 sales between them in North America, I got a lot of ridiculous and downright offensive “ideas” thrown my way for Marta, the band’s keyboard player. She had no problem with getting dolled up for a photo shoot and generally looking attractive; not any more so than guys in bands who work out and give their “smoldering” look to the camera. She’s also very intelligent, motivated, hardworking and discerning. Since she first joined Bleeding Through, I’ve seen a lot more women who’ve come after her in heavy music go for broke by taking on a lot of the type of stuff we always turned down. Aside from that, the worst thing about unsolicited pitches? THE ATTACHMENTS. For the love of God, it’s 2014, please just send me a link where I can download your shit. I don’t want a 55MB attachment from you. EVER.
Can you give an anecdote of a situation you had to defuse as a manager that you never could have expected you’d be a part of?
Mark: There’s the kind of typical/run of the mill intra-band squabbles, where you have to play mediator or referee. I’ve been part of drug interventions. I’ve also learned far more about criminal law than I probably ever suspected I would. I’ve also had to grab gear and load out of venues, quickly, while riots broke out on several occasions. Not something I expected going in.
At what point in a band’s career does it make sense to get a manager?
Mark: There isn’t a smoking gun answer here. Some successful bands have never had managers. It really depends on a band’s specific goal(s). You want to tour, full-time, get a record deal and grow the band into a full time business? Then it’s probably best to have a manager when your duties as musician and your duties as manager/accountant/booking agent/travel agent start to conflict.
I do, however, see a lot of younger bands looking for management very quickly, which I don’t think is a good thing. It’s now much easier to get labels’ attention via internet presence than it was, say, ten years ago when you mailed in a CD demo, and hoped when you opened for “Touring Band X” in your home town, “Touring Band X” would go back to their label and say “The local band in OKC really kicked ass. They said they sent in their demo, you should really check them out!”
Bands are getting signed earlier, with less and less experience touring, recording, self releasing records, or just being a band in general, and don’t have their “sea legs.” As a result, agents and managers are jumping on bands that much quicker. This is creating a “Throw it against the wall and see what sticks” type mentality in a lot of pockets of “underground music;” that’s an attitude that at one time was somewhat reserved for A&R at major labels. There have definitely been circumstances, however, where I’ve heard a band I really liked, who I thought weren’t really ready for management, but I’ve gotten involved with because I didn’t want to see them end up in a bad situation with a label, agent or other manager.
There are also labels out there who are “anti-manager,” which I can understand to some extent; there’s lots of stereotypes about managers, and misconceptions about what it is we do, and those may not be without some justification or reasoning behind it. On one hand, a label may think it’s better to deal directly with the band about their art and avoid a third party with “ulterior (financial) motives.” On the other hand, a label’s motives aren’t necessarily in the best interest of a band at all times, either. I believe in a “checks and balances” type system.
Ryan: Build your band, generate a following, and the managers will come looking for you. Educate yourself about how to do all the things you’d expect a manager to do and do them to the best of your ability until you literally can’t do them anymore. Don’t look at a prospective manager (or agent, or label) based on their roster. Nobody has a magic wand; if Paul McGuinness had the blueprint for U2 in his filing cabinet, we’d have 100 more U2s. Right?
Do you think every band needs a manager? What should a young band keep in mind when they’re considering looking for management?
Ryan: Absolutely not! Unfortunately, there are so many managers, “fanagers,” “bandagers” and “companies” overcrowding the heavy music genre, there aren’t many opportunities for bands to truly develop before someone snatches them up. Often, I’ll hear about a band and then realize they have a social media presence, merch store, manager, booking agent, attorney — but they don’t have any fans yet, let alone any songs that are worth a shit. We’ve sold over 500,000 albums with Demon Hunter, toured around the world, etc. They were already on album two before they had a manager.
For every huge, cool band a manager will take credit for when you meet them, there are several more who never made it. You win some, you lose some. Ask the manager to tell you about two or three of their bands who went nowhere. Ask them to tell you what they think went wrong and what they learned from the experience.
Is this person articulate? Respected? Trustworthy? Of good character? Does she or he understand what you’re trying to do and does this person pay attention and TRULY LISTEN to the things you have to say? Those are the things you should be looking at. The “big” bands come and go for any manager.
Are there situations where hiring your inexperienced but enthusiastic pal who is willing to work hard as your manager can pay off?
Mark: Absolutely. That’s how I started off. A lot of people I know in this line of work started as a “friendager” or a “fanager.” Or, your buddies’ band was touring and you said “Hey, I’ll come along and help carry gear and sell merch.” Next thing you know you’re a tour manager. Lots of managers come from that angle, as well. But, back to the original question, if you’ve got a friend who’s organized, hardworking, believes in the band, and wants to help out, it can certainly pay off.
Do you find there are certain backgrounds or personality types that make for better managers?
Ryan: It depends on the goals, I guess. I mean, there are plenty of Type A, unscrupulous, ladder-climbing sharks who manage bands and are “good” at it from a certain perspective. But if you ask me, the “better” managers are the people who are capable of a vast amount of empathy, who can speak softly but carry a big stick, and who will learn from others, no matter how far they’ve climbed the ladder. If you want respect, GIVE respect. People forget that all the damn time.
Ryan Downey busts balls for the Dillinger Escape Plan, Demon Hunter, Bleeding Through, The Atlas Moth and more for Superhero Artist Management. When not fighting musical crime, he writes freelance, chats with movie stars and interviews the occasional incarcerated bodybuilding ex-Christian metalcore vocalist. Visit him at superherohq.com or ryanjdowney.com.
Mark Vieira steers the ship for Defeater, 1349, Black Tusk, Ringworm, Early Graves, Silver Snakes and singer-songwriter Joe Fletcher at Good Fight Entertainment. Visit him at work at goodfightentertainment.com.
By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featuredOn: Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
With the way the metal scene leaps on to musical trends can be hilarious and frustrating, how labels will get a whiff of a fresh sound, whip themselves into a signing frenzy, beat it to death and beyond, and strip the music of all the charm it had in the first place. So it’s understandable that eventually what was greeted with enthusiasm one year will be met with exhausted cynicism two years later. It’s funny, though, while many of my peers now roll their eyes at the thought of another new “occult proto-heavy metal” band, I have not tired of it. Is it because the burgeoning trend has become one of the last bastions of melody in heavy music these days? Or the juxtaposition of a woman’s voice against a heavy backdrop, a combination I’ve always been a sucker for? Or am I just getting senile? It’s probably the latter; to paraphrase Seinfeld, I think it’ll be a very smooth transition for me.
RidingEasy Records (formerly known as EasyRider) has really cornered that “new vintage” sound as of late, providing several 2014 highlights, including terrific albums by Salem’s Pot and Monolord. But the one that tops them all is a record I first heard early this year, and which I’ve been waiting months and months to write about. Electric Citizen hail from Cincinnati, and like Canadian mainstays Blood Ceremony and recent Metal Blade signees Mount Salem, feature a fresh-voiced woman singer, but what sets this band apart is the instrumentation on the debut album Sateen, which, despite the odd Pentagram reference, is nestled more in a Cream and Budgie niche rather than psychedelic doom. The rock ‘n’ roll grooves are at times tremendous and insanely catchy, and although it definitely evokes a certain era, it never comes across as a novelty. The band sells it exceedingly well, and singer Laura Dolan cements it with her phrasing, which bears a great similarity to the clarity of Jex Thoth’s singing style. From the authoritative stomp of “Magnetic Man”, to the darker themed “Shallow Water”, to the fury of “Light Years Beyond”, Sateen offers a fresh perspective on a sound that, to many, has started to reach its saturation point.
For whatever reason (the July 4th holiday for my American buds, perhaps?) this week is extraordinarily light, especially in comparison to next week, which is massive. Although Electric Citizen is far and away the best album coming out, here are a few other new albums that have surfaced as well:
The Dead Rabbitts, Shapeshifter (Tragic Hero): A metalcore supergroup. A metalcore. Supergroup. I’d write a review of this piece of shit, but I’m laughing too hard.
Drunk Dad, Ripper Killer (Eolian Empire): This new album by the Portland band fits in quite nicely with this month’s special noise issue of Decibel, which you should, like, totally own. Combining the thunderous sludge of Melvins, the confrontational punk rock of Flipper, and the abrasion and psychosis of Harvey Milk, this brilliantly named band wastes no time grabbing your attention on the furious opener “Five Pack”, and aside from the feedback wank of “Worthless”, doesn’t let up. “How you like me now?” the vocalist howls at one point. Um, very much, thank you.
Every Time I Die, From Parts Unknown (Epitaph): Every Time I Die was always the most enjoyable band in that ridiculous post-hardcore wave of the mid-2000s, a potent blend of manic energy, metallic swagger, and wonky groove. This seventh album is exactly the same as what the Buffalo band has been doing all these years, walking that fine line between chaos and inspired song fragments. It all has the feeling of severe ADHD, it always does, but Every Time I Die always manages to get a sneaky little hook into every song, if only for a fleeting moment. In the end, that’s the most frustrating thing about this band, how they never, ever let these hooks develop into something truly extraordinary, but that’s their shtick, they lure you in, veer from melody to pure Converge insanity, and you find yourself waiting for the next little hook to come around. It’s oddly intoxicating.
The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Every Man For Himself and God Against All (Crowquill): It’s hard to get excited at all about another instrumental post-metal band, as that all became stale back in 2006, but this five-part album by the San Antonio band gets more interesting the more it brings doom into the equation. The heavier the material, the more involving it becomes, as “Part IV” employ brute force, while the climactic “Part V” is built around a searing guitar solo atop a Neurosis-style arrangement. This is one the Roadburn crowd would want to check out.
Illdisposed, With the Lost Souls On Our Side (Massacre): The latest album by the Danish veterans does this thing capably, churning out old-timey death metal with energy and good use of dynamics as the ‘90s death bands do so well. Unfortunately here’s very little here that sticks out, nowhere near enough moments grab listeners like this music should. With so much death metal to choose from, especially when there’s been a fair amount of good music this year, people can’t waste time nor money on anything that isn’t outstanding, and this just doesn’t make the cut.
While perhaps not the most extremely extreme thing we’ve covered on this blog, We Have a Ghost are nonetheless one of those bands that dovetail nicely with metal mentality. For one thing, it’s a real downer of a record. A lot of it feels reminiscent of the more unsettling ambient passages from The Fragile-era Nine Inch Nails. It’s definitely on the low-key side of things, but it’s a haunting key. See what I did there? “Haunting?” I didn’t even do it intentionally, but I kind of have to leave it now, don’t I? Anyway. Listen below!
***We Have a Ghost comes out on July 22 courtesy of Bleeding Light. You can preorder the vinyl and digital downloadhere(although apparently it’s going to be “name your price” when it comes out, so might be worthwhile to wait).
Welcome to Tales From the Metalnomicon, a column delving into the surprisingly vast world of heavy metal-tinged/inspired literature and metalhead authors…
Today the Metalnomicon offers up introductions to two brand new publications with pounding, bleeding heavy metal hearts…
All this time we thought we could only listen to, or play instruments, or scream our metal. But we can write it, too.
So avers the incomparable Kriscinda Lee Everitt in the introduction to the endlessly awesome, horns decidedly up first issue of her dark, dark fiction mag Despumation, a repository for stories and poems inspired by — and infused with the ineffable spirit of — such stalwart sonic icons as Dio, Voivod, Megadeth, Judas Priest, and Candlemass.
Or, as Everitt puts it, a “writing experiment”:
We’re seeing if there are things inherent in metal that are conducive to a particular kind of writing. Songs based on books can lead to short stories that have nothing to do with the original source. Stories in songs, brief as they are, can find new, fleshed out life when stretched and sprinkled with a fresh helping of new imagination over 3000-5000 words. And words can be borrowed and implements, supplemented, played with and chewed over. It can be funny. We can write about murder and swordplay and Vikings and neurosis and everything. We can use words like serrated, bone, rotting, pulverized, blood, grave, bludgeon, raw, mincing, brutalized, tears. Ts like knives, Os like screaming mouths, Vs and Zs like buzzsaws, Gs like muted, chugged chords.
Jamie Myers: her voice is the stuff of both fever dreams and Byzantine nightmares. Since getting involved with underground music back in the 90s she has progressed from punk bands to playing bass and singing in Hammer of Misfortune and a guest slot with Wolves in The Throne Room.
After returning to Texas to start a family she put music on hold. But Dave Nuss of Sabbath Assembly was a fan of her work on The Locust Years and tracked her down. She has since become not just a vocalist-for-hire but a vital reason the project is compelling; her voice is equal parts haunting, seductive and frightening.
Myers appeared most recently on the band’s third album Quaternity, which was released in March. She talked to Decibel about her journey and finding her place with Sabbath Assembly.
When did you start singing?
My father was always in bands and I came from a very musical household. My parents were always blasting the stereo and listening to records. My Dad taught me how to sing harmonies. He would play a song on guitar and show me how to sing with him. There was no formal training; just your typical singing in the house with family and then joining punk rock and metal bands.
As you were developing as a singer and bassist why did you pursue punk and metal?
I met a likeminded group on my path that seemed to like more aggressive types of music. Something about the danger and the rawness of it – the energy – was really appealing. It seemed like a natural choice. I remember going and seeing a lot of bigger metal shows and stadium tours like Iron Maiden. As fun and energetic as that was there was something about punk. It was on a smaller scale and it was more in your face. Once I got older and experienced some DIY shows I really got a taste for it. I was sitting watching all of these dirty boys have all the fun and I had to become a part of it. I started at 16 just doing vocals and from there it picked up pace a few years later.
Dave (Nuss) came from a hyper religious background. Did you have a similar experience?
Well, I can relate to Dave because I grew up in the South and in the Bible Belt. Whether you live in a religious household or not you tend to have that force-fed to you by your surroundings and a smaller world view is presented. I was fortunate enough to have a very open minded family and we lived all over the world when I was younger. I got to see other cultures worshipping — not just your typical Southern Baptist mentality. I was encouraged to explore anything and everything. But growing up in a small Texas town probably pushed me into punk rock. Music offered an out from small town living.
When did you decide to relocate to San Francisco? What was it like joining that music scene?
I’d been in a few different bands that had toured out West and was able to make some really good connections. My roommate and bandmates would also book and promote shows. We built a cross country connection through the extended scene. Luckily, they extended the same courtesy. I was touring with a band that played the old Covered Wagon Saloon in the city. At that show John Cobbett (Hammers Of Misfortune and Ludicra) was doing sound. He’d heard of me through a mutual friend and they were looking for a bass player and vocalist. We sat at the bar at the end of the night and he was like: “would you be interested in doing this?” I got home and he sent me a copy of their music and the album which hadn’t been released yet (The August Engine). I was just blown away. It was good on so many levels. It was metal but it was also prog. When I thought about getting to sing with Mike Scalzi I was like: “yes, I want to do this.”
Was it like a Henry Rollins get in the van thing where you have to uproot your entire life to join your favorite band?
In some ways, yes. At the time it was a very difficult decision because I was in a band in Texas and had recently gone through some personal changes and was very pleased with them. And then there’s this offer hanging above my head that seemed within my grasp. I had to let go of everything at home with no guarantee that it would be be worth the sacrifice. But I was young and didn’t have a whole lot to tie me down. I had to trust my instincts and go for it. I knew if I let the opportunity pass me by I would wonder “what if?”
So what was it like when you got to the Bay Area and had to pay the rent?
It was 2003 a shocker to pay more for a bedroom than an entire house in Texas. Maybe I was naïve and thought I would figure it out. But I had a stable job with Whole Foods and was able to transfer. I called the Berkeley store and they had an opening similar to my job. Not losing a job made all the difference. I had some good friends who did the house hunting. So compared to some stories I had a soft landing.
Then, you are working and watching people who can pay $400 for groceries while trying to carve out a creative life in a very expensive place.
It was a real wakeup call in a lot of ways. The job was 40-plus hours a week and I didn’t have a car like a lot of folks. I relied on public transportation and my bicycle. We practiced three times a week in the city. I’d get up at 5 a.m. and go to work and immediately go to practice after. There wasn’t a lot of down time. Looking back, it probably kept me out of trouble. A lot of people get into the bar scene and party hard but there wasn’t any time for that. I went out there for a purpose: to learn this incredible music. That band became my family and my social outlet. But it was hard because I was stretching to support myself, do well at work and live out there. For someone coming from Texas the cost of living was very challenging. But I like to think I rose to the occasion. I was able to maintain a somewhat comfortable life.
Did you channel these experiences and feelings into The Locust Years?
Hmm. Well, The Locust Years was so long in the making. John is a perfectionist and has a vision for what he wants to achieve. I really respect that drive, ambition and clarity. You can bring your personality and own experiences and channel them. But I almost felt that coming into the room it wasn’t as much about me as an individual as being part of something bigger. There wasn’t a lot of room for ego in that band. You had to show up and know your stuff and perform. During live performances, each and every person has something they bring. But I can’t say there was anything from my life in Oakland that needed to be brought into that room.
When did you decide to go home?
That was kind of decided for me (laughs). I’d been dating my now husband in Texas and he was one of the things I had to leave behind. After leaving, he joined me a year or so later. And a year plus after he was there we had a child. At that point we started looking at our lives and thought: “We’ll live out here because we want to live in a hip, progressive environment,” but looking back it seemed ridiculous. We were in a duplex and were paying $1,200 for a dive. And it was shitty neighborhood in Oakland and it was tiny! We realized we wouldn’t have any family or tribe to help raise the family. So it was some eye opening medicine. Six months into my pregnancy we realized it wouldn’t work.
Were you worried at all about losing the creative opportunities?
I’d been part of a very productive scene in Texas but life goes on without you. You don’t think three years is much but people move away and change. I’d worked so hard to get to a certain point in Oakland and I did think I’d lose some of that. I just had to trust my instincts and think it’s not just about the place. Part of moving back was to focus on my child and be a stay-at-home mother for a while. Really quickly you find out it’s not about you anymore. When my son was old enough I started to tiptoe back in the waters. It was difficult but I persevered and found some people. And when Dave contacted me it opened the floodgates.
My understanding is that Dave loved your vocals on The Locust Years and he just contacted you out of the blue about Sabbath Assembly?
It was completely out of the blue. He said who he was and the band and said he’d been in the studio working with other musicians. He wanted to know if I was potentially interested in the project. I told him I was familiar with Sabbath Assembly and we should get on the phone. It was a very surprising email. From that point we just started talking about logistics and how we could make it happen.
Do you remember what he said in the email or on that call?
I’d have to look back at it. The first one was very brief; I think he was just touching base to see if I would respond. When we finally got to specifics he talked about how much he liked my work with Hammers Of Misfortune. There was one song – The Widow’s Wall – that he just loved. We started talking about me doing just a few tracks since there were a few things on Ye Are Gods that he wasn’t happy with. He sent me what they recorded and a few tracks stood out: “In The Time of Abaddon” and “Bless Our Lord And Master.” I sent him some garage band demos and after he got those he said I had to do all of it. Then I was in the studio recording. It was a very interesting initiation.
The Process Church Stuff is pretty intense. If you work with Dave do you need to share his worldview or just emphathize?
One thing I appreciate about Dave: he comes from such a stern upbringing that the last thing he would want is to oppress someone or make them think the way he does. Once he branched away from his family he also grew up in punk rock and metal bands. What brings those kids together is that they felt limited or couldn’t be themselves. He’s very intellectual and I never thought about him as a “my way or the highway” person. It does help to be familiar with it and know the story. There certainly was some connection between the two of us but there’s no requirements.
How do you explain something like the Process Church to a family member or do you even go there?
I’ve had very open conversations with my family about. Strangely, they don’t think it’s that odd. I’ve heard Dave say he’d want to talk about it but there’s no two-way communication with his family. I think the story is so intriguing. My conversation with my family was talking about the history and showing them the Feral House publications. In the beginning they were just kids looking for a place and something to identify with. Luckily, my family is pretty open and I don’t need to hide anything.
You’ve been a part of many projects … Hammers, Wolves in The Throne Room. With the second Sabbath Assembly record do you feel like the music reflects you?
I feel like I’m a more integral part of this group. Dave and I have jumped a lot of hurdles. He’s been very open in allowing me to express a certain aesthetic for our live performances or videos. And he’s been very open with my expressing myself while creating the vision together. It feels more cohesive and I feel like I have more at stake. A lot of what you hear on Quaternity is us bouncing ideas back and forth and having fun with them. Ye Are Gods was a little more like “things are done and your voice will float on it.” I feel more connected to these songs and they feel more personal.
It’s not a very conventional record. We were living in different states. (Guitarist) Kevin Hufnagel was key. We worked with him a bit on Ye Are Gods and he also played Roadburn with us. He was very instrumental in this album and we developed a certain kinship. We’d express an idea at the most basic level and he’d come back with these beautiful guitar passages. I would hear that and layer vocals. Then we would send it back to Kevin. I’ve never worked with someone like Kevin who is so humble yet so well-versed in his craft. He does ukulele records and solo stuff. He’s just a truly inspiring individual and so approachable.
When you aren’t playing what are you doing now?
First and foremost I’m a mother. Beyond that I just try to stay creative with painting and photography. I’ve also been delving into some video. I don’t get to be social too much unless I’m on the road. I just try to stay busy. And I also love cycling and work in a bicycle shop in Fort Worth. My co-workers know all about the band and keep tabs on it online. Luckily it’s independently owned (laughs).
** UK dark rockers Thine have a new full-length out. The Dead City Blueprint is probably an album not on your radar, unless you’ve followed the group since A Town like This back in the late ’90s. Should it be on your radar? Yes, if dark, melodic, melancholic, honest metal-infused rock is in your wheelhouse. Who do Thine sound like? Possibly somewhere between Riverside, newer Katatonia, and pre-Weather Systems Anathema. Don’t trust us? Stream two album tracks below, courtesy of Peaceville Records.
Holy gaps between albums! Is Thine the same band after 12 years between full-lengths? Paul Groundwell: Well, in a literal sense only the bassist has changed since the last album, In Therapy. Person/band evolution-wise we’re probably much more refined. All a bit older (no stopping that one!), questionably wiser, few more tales to tell and scars to show for it. [Laughs] But really, it hasn’t felt like that many years, and had still been a productive period in the creative sense, but developing behind the scenes instead of in the spotlight, so to speak. The first track (“Brave Young Assassin”) was actually first made in 2003, so that’s the fossil of the album. But yeah, a long time overall. Lots happened. Best not to think about it actually. [Laughs]
How are the songs generally started? On guitar first? A particular melody line that starts things off? Paul Groundwell: Usually, I’ll get a short melodic passage or a few important/poignant words in mind and build it from that. Sometimes I’ll just sing and record ideas ‘a capella’ and make the guitar melody to that, or play a simple rhythm and work out the progressions as it develops. Then, when recording the rough demos at home I always pile on the guitar layers, and see which mesh together best. Vocals are the main thing though. In the earlier days (demos and first album) it used to be more riff-based fragmented composition. Now it is a flowing whole. Difficult to fully tell where it all comes from. I know one song on this album started from overhearing a very short section (maybe 3 or 4 seconds) of a Kate Bush track, and just 2 or 3 notes on there got the imagination flowing. Mainly, it’s just trying to capture the essence of the moment though, before it fades.
This album was for the most part written in seven months. What happened to Thine during those seven months that sparked such a creative outburst? Paul Groundwell: Nothing happened to Thine apart from us building some momentum with recent studio demo recordings, but it was a dark time for me, so in the scenario of sink or swim, it is better to immerse yourself in something constructive, and channel things in that way. The perfect catalyst. So, it is essentially a diary of a strange period with a sense of resolve through deconstruction and turmoil. But life is all about the journey and going with the tides; embracing both positives and negatives, because that’s what makes us.
“Flame of the Oak” has gotten a lot of attention. Why do you think this song has resonated so strongly with people? Paul Groundwell: They probably hear an Opeth vibe and like it. [Laughs] But actually when first coming up with that one, the only thing I can really think of which I might consider as a slight influence on any of it was “Black Winter Day” by Amorphis, but not sure if that gets picked up on. It has a very poignant story behind that song, and is not an ode to a pyromaniac or anything. [Laughs] It is a piece about passing, and a lasting reminder of certain destructive forces which had been foretold but not foreseen. We weren’t really aware that Flame had been getting lots of attention, but nice to hear if that’s the case. I know that’s a favorite for some people.
There’s darkness to Thine. Where does that come from these days? Paul Groundwell: Have always had a certain view of the world and people anyway, and I’m sure we’re all constantly shaped by our evolving experiences and observations. Some I think is from the underlying sense of emptiness and confusion we all feel within, to varying extents, from comprehending our real (lack of) fundamental purpose, to growing accustomed to who we actually are—strangers in our own shells, and the perpetual ticking of the clock. I think it is only natural to wonder what we’re sticking around for, no matter how many distractions we surround ourselves with. It’s a big burden, and since there are no true goals or guidelines on how to exist, that’s a huge weight on our shoulders in regard to retaining mental fortitude and resilience instead of caving in or turning to certain addictions or religion. We have to construct a reality around ourselves, but life is a worthwhile voyage of self-discovery nevertheless. A glorious triumph of engineering, yet all we are here for is seemingly to spread ourselves so that our traces live on—like any other virus. We’re a race in constant need of answers and reassurance, especially regarding what lies beyond, because we are generally ego-driven (or deluded). So ‘keep doubting’ (OK, that seems random, but much respect to any of you who know which great horror film that quote is from the end of, without Googling). So, the short answer to your question is, it’s always been there, just manifesting differently. But might as well make the most of your time, folks, or at least get acquainted with yourselves.
I really like how you’ve kept the tempo moving. There’s the moody, slow parts, but then there are songs where the tempo jumps. Like on “To the Precipice”. I gather that was necessary to give the album a bit more dynamism, correct? Paul Groundwell: Yes, thanks, I hope this dynamic comes across, as the song order is arranged to try and keep things flowing in that regard, mainly the placement of the more up-tempo numbers. The dynamic did shift quite a lot though, as we originally had 14 songs, so 4 fell by the wayside quite far into the recording process. Three of these were more mid to up-tempo numbers too, and so we had to try and re-arrange things a little so as not to have too many prolonged periods of melancholy. Running time would’ve been over 70 minutes if all 14 were included, which was way too long and the album would have suffered as a result.
Is “The Beacon” a tribute to Peaceville’s doom roots? Paul Groundwell: [Laughs] No, but it certainly has some doomy moments, and I know that when it came to recording the drum parts for that song, Dan had been rehearsing with My Dying Bride perhaps just the night before and was in doom-mode, and so ‘did an MDB’ on that song, as he said. [Laughs] Turned out well. The actual closest thing to an influence in regard to the feel when I came up with that song was Nirvana, on the chorus, though I think that might have just been coincidental come to think of it. Oh, and a feeling of nostalgia from an ‘80s TV comedy set in Spain for some reason. I don’t think anybody has deciphered the ending of that song yet either. People with knowledge of the Hellraiser 2 soundtrack might get an idea, to be all cryptic.
What’s happening lyrically? The Dead City Blueprint reads ominous. Paul Groundwell: Sure does. Songs of loss, death, isolation, longing, perception, introspection, retrospection, detachment, numbness, destruction, brainwashing, inherited traits, sheep mentality, urban decay, devolution, transmissions, environmental/circumstantial long-term effects in childhood, change, renewal. There’s an exploration of mortality (even morality it could be argued), increasing isolation through virtual existence. Many themes throughout.
The cover also conveys foreboding. Where did the idea for the cover come from? Paul Groundwell: Many years ago the idea for this album, conceptually (well, in regard to intended overall ambience), was ‘ghosts’ and ‘water’. Was thinking in the ethereal sense, the representation of slow motion silhouettes through liquid, and had made a few rough sketches of this underwater city filled with the ghosts of all inhabitants (all of us). Numb and in a state of limbo and perpetual routine. Then when it got to the time of recording this album the idea became more one of contrasting movement, turmoil, deterioration and evaporation, and so the city on the cover is evaporating. So it represents all you have built up around yourself through the years just fading away. That was the origin of the cover. Then the tree was added which is almost a shrine here, central, surrounded by flame. Lots of symbolism in there, with fire replacing water to represent the destructive force alluded to earlier. People can interpret it in various ways though—hopefully. There was actually another unused cover (and an entire booklet layout) all centered around transmissions, which was another theme which came along. Some of that has remained though, with the special coded messages in the booklet. And on “The Beacon”.
Thine’s struggled to find a spot. Where it belongs, actually. Does it belong in any particular genre? Paul Groundwell:It seems difficult to belong, yes, but it has always seemed that way for us. At least it means we stand irrespective of popular genre or trend and just do our own thing, but sure, there are detrimental effects to that. At present we’d be seen as progressive-melancholy-rock or something I guess. [Laughs] We were toying with the tag of ‘post-doom’ at one point to try and define how we felt we were sounding. All just labels though. I think we’ve had problems with exposure, or at least in conveying to people what we are. We’re not a flavor of the month band and so I don’t think the general press get so swept up in acts like us on the build up to a release, naturally, and we’re not in a position to wave around too much marketing budget to make as big a difference there either, but when they hear it they seem to be impressed for the most part (can’t resonate with everyone though, perfectly understandable). Something I’ve observed from the reaction of this album is that the album is not as immediate as I expected. Takes a lot of digesting to truly get under the skin and uncover what it is about. Can get a good impression from reading some of the reviews how much investment has been made in the album by the listener. But that is fair enough. Time is short for everyone and precious to all. The reward for the listener investing time and effort on this album seems to be paying off for many people though. The rest? Up to them as to what speaks loud and clear to them, as with all music.
** Thine’s Dead City Blueprint is out now on Peaceville Records. It’s available HERE from Burning Shed. Fans of dark, melodic, melancholic metalish rock are well advised to check it out.
** Anathema’s on the cusp of a breakthrough. Actually, the Liverpudlians have been on said cusp for the better part of 15 years. But that’s neither here nor there. Music is always about right place and right time. That place and time have come for Anathema on, Distant Satellites. Like previous album, Weather Systems, the group’s new album stretches emotional and musical boundaries. Always from the heart defines Anathema and their music.
Why did you decide to strip down the music this time? Danny Cavanagh: It seemed to be the right moment to do so. I guess, we had done what we could with the multi-layer approach to recording and decided it would be cleverer to do things differently this time. It was an intuitive decision that the band and the producer made independently of each other and found ourselves in agreement. Good songs do not need lots of layers to make them better.
You’ve always let emotion drive the music and message. I gather life’s enough to continue to power Anathema for a while longer, right? Danny Cavanagh: It certainly seems to be. I have always written from the heart. I may look for more varied lyrical topics and narratives in future. That remains to be seen.
What does Distant Satellites mean exactly? Danny Cavanagh: The metaphor of distant satellites is really a humanistic one. One can imagine satellites in orbit as people living their lives together, or apart, with love and strength being the gravity keeps people close to each other. Life is difficult and some people get lost, and some people return to where they belong.
When you’re writing music at this stage how much self-editing are you guys doing? Anathema’s music has a particular flow that feels very natural and comfortable. Danny Cavanagh: We are constantly analyzing the music until the very moment it is completed and even after that moment. But the way we like to try and edit the music is by an intuitive process of listening to the music and allowing the music to “tell us” where it wants to go. Perhaps that is the reason that the music feels and sounds very natural and organic.
“The Lost Song” is a title theme on Distant Satellites. Is there a red line connecting the pieces? Other than it’s Anathema, of course. Danny Cavanagh: Yes, these songs are all based on a piece of music that was lost from a recorder in 2008. In my attempt to try to remember that piece of music (which was impossible) these new songs were formed.
“You’re Not Alone”, “Take Shelter”, and the title track are new sounds for Anathema. Where’d that come from? Most fans associate Anathema with this heartfelt organic rock. Or, in your previous life doom metal. Danny Cavanagh: Well, we the band associate anathema with our own music musical hearts and imagination, and that heart also incorporates elements such as electronica. The perception of the band outside of our musical circle is not our concern.
There’s still heaviness in the music, which I think is cool. You’ve kind of hidden it for the crescendos or transitions. How important is heaviness, relative term that it is, to Anathema these days? Danny Cavanagh: It depends if you are talking about guitars—if you’re talking about guitars and they are one of the key elements of the music—but they are no more important than the piano, orchestra or the electronics. The music is greater than the sum of its parts.
So, wait, is the album divided into two halves sonically? One, organic, human. The other, digital, human. Danny Cavanagh: If that is your perception, so be it. It is really up to you how you perceive this record. I might encourage you to look again at the lyrics on the second half of the record. The entire record is human.
Steven Wilson mixed two of the album’s tracks. Which tracks were they and why did you employ Wilson to mix a part of the album and not all of it? Danny Cavanagh: The question is more realistically put, “Why did Christer not mix the whole album?” As you may or may not be aware, Christer mixed Weather Systems and Universal. The only reason Christer did not mix all of this album was because he was taken ill and time was pressing. In this emergency circumstances, there was one person I wanted to turn to, to mix those few songs, because I can trust his talents very much, and that was Steven Wilson. It is always a great pleasure to work with Steven, but make no mistake, this is Christer’s album. Christer was present on the first note of the first demo until the final day of mixing.
Where do you think Distant Satellites will take Anathema from here? You’ve worked long and hard for the current build of the band and fanbase. Danny Cavanagh: I have no idea, and I don’t think about it in these terms. What happens to the band outside of my music imagination is not my concern. I pay other people to worry about these things. My duty is to the music, to the integrity of the band and to the love of the project and each other.
** Distant Satellites is out now on Kscope Music. It’s available HERE in a large number of configurations.
By now, many of you are enjoying Decibel’s August issue, #118. Perhaps you’re excited because it’s The Godflesh Issue, and the emphatically awesome return of that project is certainly worthy of your enthusiasm. Maybe you’re psyched about it being The Melvins HOF Issue, a look back on an extraordinary record by an influential band that never settled for less than exactly what it wanted from the medium of recorded music. Maybe you’re stoked about the MDF-in-review section because you either a) weren’t there and want bite-sized accounts of a handful of performances, or b) you were tragically stoned during several sets you wish you could remember better.
Or maybe, if you’re one of the true degenerates, you got all hot about the new issue because it’s The Noise Issue. Details about new Boris, Theologian, and a survey of some of the best Noise albums to have been recorded. Noise, when separated from clearly musical endeavors, can piss off just about everybody all of the time, but without those scarring wave forms there would be no way for metal to achieve its attitude and its aggression.
In celebration of this month’s noise theme, TMaFLH focuses on skull-rattling harsh noise that defies musicality and grasps at the outer edges of sound production and appreciation. I recently attended a metal showcase at Stonewall’s Pub, a bar in Shepherdstown, WV located in the basement of Tony’s Pizza, and the opening acts were jarring and profound. One of the first to play was Guillermo Pizarro, a local noise performer who I’ve spent some time with at various other area shows. His slow decimation of the venue (the content of which you’ll understand better by reading the interview below) shocked the audience with its single-minded strangeness. I was most intrigued by a contraption that looked a little like a robot porcupine – a “little black box” of contact mikes and lengths of guitar strings.
Check out Pizarro’s Bandcamp presence for the full range of recorded material he has made available. You can listen to some of that work right here while you read about Pizarro’s current inspirations and collaborations.
Can you outline the trajectory of musical interest that eventually led you to making harsh noise?
I’ve never felt fully comfortable making conventional music. Be it in content or actual skill as a guitarist. I was just fully aware that there were better musicians out there making better albums, but I still felt like I could offer something to myself and an audience. So I started experimenting with drone. That slowly started evolving into harsh noise.
What was the first recorded piece that you recall being excited and proud of? How did you make it?
I would have to say that the second, self titled track from my Glasswerks album would be the first recorded piece that I felt proud of. I just knew I wanted to make something caustic and crashing. I remember Anal Cunt’s “5643 Song EP” being an influence for that track as well, in that I did 3 different takes and stacked them on top of each other. There are some pretty neat synchronized moments. I want to come back and explore more of that style at some point.
Can you describe some of the pieces of equipment that you use (or have used) and where you got them from?
As with many other noise artists, I rely heavily on contact mics. Pieces of scrap metal and broken drum cymbals are my go to sound source. Most of the scrap metal are just things I’ve found on the side of the road or at these abandoned train tracks a couple of miles from where I lived.
I just recently started messing around with a 4 channel mixer which has helped in dynamics and creating layers. I still kind of dislike them, cause it’s just something else I have to hook up and worry about. I normally play through a Mesa/Boogie Mark IV amp through a Boogie 4×12 cab or a 2×12 cab if I know the venue is a little smaller. I feel that using that set up has helped me keep a reliable, consistent sound at each show.
My pedals are pretty consistent. A few get switched out depending on the situation or piece that I plan on performing, but mostly it consists of a looper, reverb (Boss RV-3 or Hardwire RV-7) LAL Thunderbox, a couple of fuzz or distortion pedals and a Whammy.
When you play live, do you use the same equipment as when you record, or do you use less due to portability constraints?
Yes and no. I use the same materials and pedals, but amp wise I use much less. When recording I usually run through a Marshall or Mesa/Boogie halfstack and an Ampeg SVT through an 8×10 cab for extra oomph. Live, I use my Mark IV halfstack or sometimes with a 2×12 cab if the venue is smaller.
What is your performance experience like? How widely have you performed (geographically) and at what kinds of shows?
I try to play in dim settings, mainly for comfort and to separate the audience from identifying sound sources. Not for secrecy reasons either. I just feel like a lot of audible impact can be lost if you clearly see that, that really cool sound was maybe just a guy scraping a knife across a drum cymbal.
I’ve been really lucky to be able to travel to some states I’ve never been in because of experimental music. The furthest north I’ve played is New York, south was South Carolina and out west I’ve made it to Kentucky and Ohio. Oberlin, OH was one of my favorite places to play. Great crowd, hosts and town.
Shows can take place in someones basement, bookstores, warehouses, yoga studios, art galleries, universities and cafes/restaurants. It takes a special kind of someone to allow these things to happen in their homes or place of business.
Have you found a community of supportive artists to work with and book shows with?
I certainly have. A pretty wide community, too. Christopher S. Feltner, it’s safe to say, is my partner in crime. I’m very grateful to have him as a friend, tour mate and collaborator. I’ve also had a rare opportunity to work with Gleb Kanasevich as well. He’s just a phenomenal musician who luckily has a passion for weird music. James S. Adams and Chris Videll are frequent collaborators, too.
To what extent have you incorporated musical instruments into your work? Who are the players you’ve worked with for that material?
On my most recent split release with Charles Wright: “Handsome God Within Us” I used guitar, bass and clarinet on most of the tracks. Gleb Kanasevich of course [takes] clarinet duties. Gleb will also be appearing on the “Tribute to Jack Dempsey” recordings that will take place soon.
Arterial is a guitar noise trio with Christopher S. Feltner and Stephen Palke. I also participate in un[KNWN] with Gleb which is his project.
What are your current sources of inspiration for your material? Do you feel like your noise project has continuing forward momentum?
The majority of my inspiration comes from where I live, people I interact with, other people’s music and creativity and books. I feel like performance wise, I’ve hit a plateau. Partly because I haven’t found ways to translate newer recorded pieces into live performances, so I’m still playing variations of older pieces. I see the plateau as a good thing though, it means I’m aware of myself as a performer which will allow me to get to the next phase.
In the studio I feel opposite. I’m always working on new ideas and concepts that don’t feel stale to me. I definitely think that things are moving forward in that department. Hopefully my audience will agree when these next few recordings get released.