Relapse could probably have found a stronger name for their 2013 autumn/winter sampler than, uhh, Relapse Sampler 2013. Cast your mind back when Earache were releasing their Grindcrusher sampler series, and Peaceville had the enigmatically titled Under the Sign of the Sacred Star; that was how you named a sampler. But that was back then, and nowadays Grindcrusher is (probably) an independent coffee shop in Williamsburg, Under the Sign of the Sacred Star too purple and profound for a promo comp. Yeah, never mind the name; we live in an over-marketed world and sometimes it’s refreshing when content is king. And the content on this free sampler—available as a free download from Relapse Records’ BandCamp page—is pretty much unimpeachable . . . And a moveable feast, too.
Reflecting where Relapse are as an underground metal label in 2013, this 26-track sampler runs the gamut; from Red Fang’s party-dude beer and bong metal to crossover champs Toxic Holocaust, from slow doom ‘n’ dirge from Windhand to Coffins’ sloppy joe O.S.D.M. Tracks such as Locrian’s “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light” serve as an abstraction of metal/post-metal; Ulcerate effectively rewire death metal, balancing the genre’s visceral brutality with a sense of bleakness that penetrates to the bone. It’s not all darkness; Baroness’ “The Line Between”, taken from their BBC Sessions Live at Maida Vale EP, offers some light, and Weekend Nachos’ powerviolence is manna from heaven when you’re bummed out.
Anyways, this sampler is free, it’s easy; download it, check it out, and be sure to exit through the gift store
By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, October 14th, 2013
** The following five questions with the legendary King Diamond were part of a series of interviews I set up for the XXX: Three Decades of Roadrunner Records [click HERE for more info] boxset, for which I wrote the liner notes. Former Roadrunner Records Senior VP A&R Monte Conner facilitated the initial exchange with King via email, but King wouldn’t interview over email. Not a single word. I ended up calling him while he was in Copenhagen between tours and the following is the output of the exchange. Minus one question exclusively set aside for the XXX: Three Decades of Roadrunner Records boxset.
What was it like when you first signed to Roadrunner?
King Diamond: It was all raw. It was about paying your dues [back then]. Big time. I mean, going to Holland [to play the Aardschok festival] in a van and people would say, “Oh, man. You have money for a Mercedes van?!” We’d say, “Oh, no. It wasn’t like that. It had a Mercedes emblem on the front but there wasn’t much Mercedes left in it.” The seats were barely there, but it drove. The wheels were at angles that is hard to believe. We loaded all our gear in there. I remember, we’d fight to drive. It would take 17-18 hours to drive from Copenhagen to Holland. We’d fight to drive. Why? It was the only seat in the van where you could relax. People were sitting with Marshall Amps on their laps. It was crazy. But we made it, man. Some members of certain bands never get that experience. Of paying your dues. It’s like, “Shut up! You have it good!” Those were the times of paying your dues. When we did the mini LP [Mercyful Fate] for RaveOn, I had planned all the backing vocals. A choir. The engineer was like, “No, you don’t have the time. You can have one backing vocal.” I was like, “What?! I can’t do anything with that!” He just said, “Well, you don’t the time. Don’t use them.” I mean, Hank has a solo on “A Corpse Without Soul.” He had two takes and the engineer said, “You know what? We don’t have all day.” He was just about to do his third take. So, that was it. His third take went on the album. We had to move on. Talk about pressure. We were allowed eight days for Melissa. We were like, “Oh man! This is gonna be awesome!” We had 12 days for Don’t Break the Oath. That’s the early days.
What are you up to now?
King Diamond: We did two shows last year after my heart incident, my triple bypass and learning to breathe again. It was a tough road. I changed my lifestyle. I stopped smoking. I eat healthy. I exercise lots. It’s very different now. I discovered I had a voice. My voice sounds better. I’ve never had this kind of voice before. So, for singing it’s almost easier to do the old stuff now. I’m not out of breath after the shows. We signed a new three-album deal. It’s the best deal we’ve had so far, which is amazing in these times. We have new lawyers working for us. A new booking agent. The fan club is completely refurbished. It’s totally set up with Facebook and everything. There’s a Youtube channel. We’re so much better at reaching out to the fans now. I call fans from my Skype channel, you know? To have a chat. We usually do three chats in one hour. Then, repeat it. The chats are recorded for the fan club, so everyone can hear what was going on. Plus, everything is now coordinated by us and the fan club. News goes straight to Facebook. It seems like our music is coming full circle now, too. We’re working on a new album, so we can have product out next year. We might do Wacken next year. Then, a U.S. tour. Definitely. With an expanded production. It looks amazing. We might bring the old cremation coffin on stage again. We’ll be playing a ton of old-school songs. Only 35 percent new stuff. So, we’re just plowing ahead.
Did coming out of your medical condition give you a new sense of what you do or how you create?
King Diamond: It doesn’t change anything at all. On the contrary, I’m not out of breath after shows. My life philosophy is still the same, but I’ll say this: I’m much more alert now. I’m awake, if you know what I mean. I know what’s going on around me. It’s like I was living in a house with 20 windows for all these years. Now, I have 40 windows. I see much more. I don’t take tomorrow for granted. Not anymore. I don’t take any of this for granted. In a way, I got a second chance. My wife’s a nutritionist, so she knows what’s best for the heart or not. I exercise according to what’s best for the heart. I do power walks. I do a mile and a half five days a week, and that’s exactly what they [the doctors] prescribe. My blood figures are through the roof good. They [the doctors] didn’t understand it, really. I’m dead serious about how I treat my body now. All that stuff has changed. I had to learn to breathe again. Imagine after an operation where they collapse your lungs. I can’t tell you how much each breath hurt. I never experienced anything like it. There was so much food for thought. I remember, about three months after the operation, I asked my wife, “Touch my shoulder.” I had to have confirmation that I was here, you know? I could just have been not here. I had my doubts. It definitely opened some doors. I don’t have religious beliefs now—I’ve never had that.
What’s it like be a non-smoker now?
King Diamond: Oh, man. The sensation of taste and smell are so enhanced now. When I take walks, I can smell the bushes, the flowers, the squirrels. I sound like such a geek. [Laughs] Obviously, there’s so much beauty right in front of us. But we’re too busy to see and smell it. It just passes us by. It’s amazing what’s there for the taking. For instance, when I walk the back alley near where I live, the neighbors have their sprinklers going. The smell is so strong it reminds me of when I would vacation with my parents in Norway. The wood smell of their fence is the same smell as the spray they’d use to preserve the Viking ships. It’s amazing what gets stirred up from just smell.
You’ve known Monte Conner [former Senior VP A&R, Roadrunner] for a long time now, right?
King Diamond: He’s been such a huge part of my life. Since the early days. He was there when the U.S. office opened. He’s became a solid friend. It’s always been a perfect relationship. High mutual respect. Always. It still exists today.
** Visit and LIKE King Diamond on Facebook.
By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Friday, October 11th, 2013
** Back in August, Decibel premiered new Twilight of the Gods tune, “Destiny Forged in Blood.” Click HERE to listen. Since then, we’ve imbibed heavily on debut album, Fire on the Mountain, which is the product of guys and ex-guys from Dimmu Borgir, Einherjer, Thyrfing, and, of course, Primordial saluting age-old heavy metal with a slight pagan edge. Enjoy the following chat with the ever-serious, always approachable Alan Averill, vocalist and spiritual center to Twilight of the Gods.
How did you guys meet to discuss Twilight of the Gods in the first place?
Alan Averill: The idea came from a discussion over a beer or two with a friend about Primordial possibly doing a set of epic Bathory tracks to commemorate our 20th anniversary. I realized this was pretty unlikely so he more or less made me a bet to put a band together and do exactly that so I cast the net out and here we are a couple of years later. An interesting journey.
You did the Bathory cover shows. What were those like?
Alan Averill: For the most part great, a few difficult moments at the beginning as our first shows were scheduled during the volcano ash period across Europe so scheduled rehearsals didn’t happen etc. so we played a little blind the first time but we finished off at Ragnarok festival in Germany, more or less the spiritual home of pagan metal in Europe which was great.
At what stage did the idea to carry Twilight of the Gods—the concept and name—from cover band to a band with original songs?
Alan Averill: Well, firstly it’s a killer name, no harm in that and secondly seeing as we had done some work under that name we decided to keep it, we had already built up a small head of steam with the moniker and the story shouldn’t be that hard to follow. On tour together we talked about trying to write some songs and we agreed to not continue if the chemistry wasn’t there, but it worked.
There isn’t much Bathory in Twilight of the Gods. At least not the black metal iteration of Bathory. Was the group interested in carrying the Bathory torch at first and then moved on to classic heavy metal?
Alan Averill: Well, of course not, those were not the Bathory songs we covered in the first place. We mainly concentrated on stuff from Hammerheart and Twilight, so of course it doesn’t sound like The Return. That’s been done by many other bands anyway. For me there is moments of the epic Bathory here and there but to be honest Bathory has been such a huge influence on for example Primordial, Thyrfing and Einherjer to begin with it wouldn’t make sense to create another band in the same vein.
How quickly did the songwriting come together? The album flows naturally.
Alan Averill: Totally. We met in a villa in southern Portugal during the winter and spent all day working on the songs. No file trading or anything of the sort. We just worked on riffs and ideas and demoed a whole album.
I think your vocals work well in this format. How differently did you approach the vocals for TOTG than, say, Primordial?
Alan Averill: I was freer to be honest. The siren style higher vocals don’t really fit into Primordial so I had a free hand to more or less do as I pleased. I didn’t want typical power metal vocals and I’m not that kind of singer anyway so it came naturally. We’ve all grown up with music just like this for decades, it’s primal and innate.
“Destiny Forged in Blood” is a natural opener. Did you know immediately that “Destiny Forged in Blood” would open the record?
Alan Averill: No, not at all to be honest. Now it seems like the most logical choice but at the time there was some discussion. Personally I rather start with an up-tempo no-bullshit kick to the head and set out the stall musically straight away and not confuse things with long winded intros and a slower number.
Explain some of the lyrical topics? Are they serious or light-hearted? A lot of classic heavy metal melded the two, if I remember correctly.
Alan Averill: You really expect light-hearted from me? After all these years? I couldn’t do it if I tried. So there’s no one-for-all, all-for-one lyrics, no unicorns, dragons or escapism. They are written in the language of metal and there are big choruses as well, so on one level it can work live at a festival for people to get into; it’s not exclusive music but if you want some meaning it is there. The title track for example is about the 1698 siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire, “Sword of Damocles” is about the Cold War and nuclear arms race.
Where’d the title Fire on the Mountain come from?
Alan Averill: Ah, I was in America and we were stopped at some tiny town somewhere in Virginia and there was a massive old road sign for some rundown theme park or something like that and I remember thinking what a Rainbow/Dio-esque title it was so I just ran with it. Fits the album artwork actually really well.
How does the anecdote for “Sword of Damocles” fit in with today’s world? Could be heavy metal or politics or life in general.
Alan Averill: Like I said above, it’s about this quote from Kennedy “we are all living under the nuclear Sword of Damocles” and refers to the Cuban missile crisis. The lyric in general is about the cold war and nuclear stockpiling yet the chorus is, “we are the sons of the hammer / the neutron hammer.” Catchy metal chorus.
Do you see TOTG continuing on after Fire on the Mountain?
Alan Averill: Sure, why not. I’m under no illusions about how an album like this could fall through the cracks in a crowded market place and this is not cool kid hipster heavy metal with the right moustaches, skinny jeans, trucker caps and neck tattoos, this is not Mercyful Fate worship nor is it wink wink nod nod ironic metal, this is forged in the template of Heaven and Hell-era Sabbath, Priest, Dio, Accept, old Manowar. It’s not To the Nameless Dead, or Orda Ab Chao. It’s heavy metal, nothing more and nothing less.
** Twilight of the Gods’ new album, Fire on the Mountain, is out now on Season of Mist. It’s available HERE. Or you can get your little Cherrybutt & Firefly tushy over to Amazon if international shipping scares the stitches out of your undies.
By: jeanne.fury Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, uncategorized, videos On: Friday, October 11th, 2013
The latest closet metalhead, Jessica Pimentel, is not exactly a closet metalhead. Currently appearing in the hit Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, she refers to herself as a “closet actress.” That’s because Pimentel is well known in her native New York City for holding it down in local hardcore and metal bands, including Alekhine’s Gun and Desolate. Click through for a metal playlist Pimentel made for her OITNB character, Maria Ruiz, which includes the likes of Sepultura, At the Gates, and Immolation.
By: adem Posted in: featured, liver failure On: Friday, October 11th, 2013
Given the opportunity to write about craft beer every month in Decibel has been eye-opening. The idea that our “Brewtal Truth” column would have lasted more than four years (and counting) and even spawn a book—The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers, out in November—is pretty amazing. Now it’s time to bring a little “Brewtal Truth” to the Deciblog. Each week we’re featuring a different craft beer that you should drink now. These aren’t so much reviews as recommendations. We won’t post anything here that we haven’t happily poured down our own gullet. There’ll be a new one every week at noon Eastern time, a little something to get you thinking about your imbibing options for the weekend.
While everyone has been going batshit crazy for pumpkin ales—which every year seem to get stranger and stranger and more abundant—we wanted to bring up another seasonal brew that you don’t want to miss. Like the pumpkin beers, it is made with a fresh agricultural product, but it ain’t a bulbous orange gourd. We’re talking wet-hopped or fresh-hopped beers. These are brews made with freshly picked hop flowers. Typically hop flowers are dried (or sort of lightly toasted) to preserve them. They are then either packaged into bales and sold to breweries as “whole cone hops” or they are ground up and pelletized. Some breweries swear by whole cone hops for imparting the full hop complexity they are looking for (however, they are messy to deal with), but many fine hop-laden beers are made with pelletized hops. As with anything that comes from a farm, fresh is best. For wet-hopped ales it is crucial that the newly picked flowers are used immediately after they are picked because they degrade quickly and lose some of that special sauce that makes them smell and taste so good. Hops in the northern hemisphere are harvested in the fall, so this is when you start seeing them show up. Our advice: find one locally made (or regionally made) and drink it ASAP to enjoy the unique character of fresh hops.
Wet-Hopped Pale Ale
Don’t bother looking for the beer pictured above, unless you happen to live in Western British Columbia. Most hop-centric craft brewers will make some version of a wet-hopped ale. Most will be an IPA or double IPA, since that style obviously lends itself to spotlighting hops. Hoyne’s annual Wolf Vine (a loose translation of the Latin name for hops, humulus lupulus) release is actually a pale ale. It looks and smells like an IPA, but is considerably lighter bodied and less bitter. As such, it allows for a very honest assessment of what fresh hops bring to the table.
If you happen to live near where hops are actually grown, all the better. Wolf Vine is in fact made with Cascade and Centennial hops grown on the BC mainland and you can practically smell the fields they were growing in when you take a whiff of this well made APA (American Pale Ale—think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale). There is an herbaceous freshness, somewhat akin to just-cut grass that is generally found in varying degrees in most wet-hopped ales. A little of that grassy goodness is great, but too much can be off-putting. Beyond that, Wolf Vine has plenty of the resinous pine and grapefruit notes that are classic “C” hop characteristics.
As good as they smell, brewers need to no doubt resist the urge to go overboard with such wonderfully pungent freshies, because balance in a beer is always important. Thus, this beer has plenty of hop flavor to it without demolishing tastebuds or overshadowing the malt. Though this is totally well-balanced for the style, it does lack the florid, ostentatious hop character that would be appropriate in a higher ABV beer. Basically, if you build a bigger bigger, you can generally add more hops. At a, relatively speaking, restrained 5.3% ABV, this has just the right amount of hops for the style and is totally sessionable, but our own preference is for something a little more over-the-top during hop-harvest season. After all, it only happens once a year, so why not really do it up?
Now is the time to look for these beers—whether it’s at your local brewpub, brewery or bottleshop. So put aside the pumpkin ales for a bit. They won’t lose any of their pumpkinny, uh, goodness. But wet-hopped ales won’t (and shouldn’t) be around for long. (Curse the brewer who attempts to make a wet-hopped pumpkin ale…)
By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, October 11th, 2013
As a music writer who’s supposed to help guide people to the most worthy holes to shove their money, time and psyches into (because spending any of those things on your own children is simply preposterous), I always worry a little bit that I’ve tumbled way too far down the rabbit hole of my own personal tastes to be useful to anyone else. Is this death metal record actually boring as fuck, or am I just tired of death metal today? Does this drone really wake the nihilistic serpent inside me, or am I ignoring the fact that there’s absolutely no defensible music anywhere within its 79-minute-59-second runtime? Mostly I’m pretty confident, but I worry.
Like now. With LowCityRain. Skeptical at first of the choice of band name, I pushed play and fell hard. Been listening to this album every day for a couple weeks now. Sometimes more than once. I love this sound. And, like I said, I worry that I’m full of shit. The sound is full-tilt ‘80s [fill in the blank]-wave, but my love can’t be based on nostalgia because I never listened to anything that cool during the actual ‘80s. The album is streaming on YouTube (embedded below) so you can check it out yourself. Maybe you’ll love it inexplicably, too.
LCR mastermind Markus Siegenhort, also of post-black darlings Lantlôs, dug deep and found lots to tell us about the music and his relationship to it. Dive into the bliss-blossom songs, then read up on where they came from.
Who contributed to the LCR process, and how did you get them together?
There wasn’t really something I had to put together. Almost everything on the album is just me. There are some contributions by friends, though. For example, some drum loops played by Felix, the drummer of my main band Lantlôs. Laura, who is a friend of mine, [loaned] me her voice for the first track on the album; Andy Julia of Soror Dolorosa did vocals for the track “Nightshift”. Getting these guys together wasn’t difficult at all – like I said: they are friends! And I always try to work with friends in the first place… it just feels better if I have a personal relation to the people I work with. I like that!
What was the writing process like?
Well, first of all it starts with a certain feel, and that’s for all of my music. And the goal of my writing is to print this feel as accurate as possible. I remember that I wrote most of the album during spring/summer 2012. I was out all the time with my friends, enjoying the weather, chilling at a lake or some calm place, being high all the time. Those were great, warming and fulfilling afternoons and evenings. I had a very specific overall sweet, unreal feeling and view towards life. In the mornings I always went to the studio. It all feels like one vague and blurry but kind of blissfull time, when I think back now. I was in a constant hazy bubble, if you know what I mean – I felt like going on different soils as everyone else, somewhat blissfully isolated. With that state of mind it felt so natural to write these songs. It did not even really feel like active writing. Most of the time I just started with exploring sounds, like keyboard tones or drum samples and from that point on everything just went sort of automatic. Hours melted and everything happened so fluently. So the songs were written with this feel I had that I tried to print. I messed around with sounds – those somehow merged to melodies, bass lines and drum beats. A weird and apathetic creative stream.
How long have these songs been around?
Like I said above most of the songs were written and recorded during spring/summer in 2012. There are some older songs on the album though. For example, “You Are Everyone, You Are Everywhere” was the first LCR track I wrote. I think this was some time in 2010 or so. But I didn’t think of writing a whole album back then… I was just sort of in the mood to write a wave track. So it took me a whole year I think to write another wave song – “Grey View” – that I wrote for this girl I used to meet. This was actually the track that made me want to make a whole album or band. For some songs I can’t exactly remember when I wrote them, because, like I said, times were blurry and hazy.
What was your experience recording LCR?
Like I said already, I remember being in sort of a creative stream and the circumstances in my life were important. It didn’t feel like I was writing the songs. They wrote themselves. When writing the songs I felt that the feelings I wanted to express grew stronger and stronger. They were so present that I got high on them. Almost like I could actually touch them. It was meditation on my own feelings. Something spiritual. It was pretty massive – I left the studio with the feeling that I actually created something and it felt good. The songs, or more the feelings of the songs were haunting me also outside of the studio. I carried them with me, you know? I guess you know the feel, when you really, really like a song and it plays over and over in your head. But it wasn’t really like the songs were playing, but the feelings were so strong and so present. Like I said, I was somewhat blissfully isolated in that time, was high all the time and wherever I was, I was with my head up in the clouds with these feelings.
Do the lyrics come from an important personal place or are the vocals mostly a human voice anchor to the music?
Subjects are mainly about love. In detail – appartment [sic] stories, depression, craving, dancing, fucked up disco nights, loneliness, drugs, rainy days, the night, the fatal but also about the sun, the far, the ocean, summer, mornings, clarity, the soft etc. It’s true stories and stuff that I came up with in the mood. So it’s kind of a mix of what you asked.
Is LCR meant to be a stage performance act as well as a recording project?
Don’t really know yet. Two friends of mine and myself recently discussed trying out to rehearse the songs next weekend, but we don’t want to force anything. The songs on the album are actually the first wave songs that I ever wrote so I’m new to this. Also rehearsing stuff like that is totally different from a “real” band rehearsal, you know like with a guitar, a bass, drums and stuff due to all the electronic elements. So, we’ll meet up, try it out and see how it works.
Is there any particular reason or drive for tapping the ’80s sound?
Well, pretty much because I love the 80s – for the plastic vibe, for the martial image, the cold, plain and the shimmering and high life style. Everything was so big, so glossy, yet so superficial. I think especially the 80s synth and New Wave music has something certain to it that I really really like – it is catchy, poppy but distant, static and cold at the same time. Depressive and urban music you can dance to. I love that! I also love the clothes people used to wear, the style and what was “cool” in the 80s. And with all music I listen to, I try myself to make songs in that style.
How has your LCR experience differed from your other musical work?
Not so much actually when it comes to the writing. I am not the kind of a genre thinker anymore. Don’t get me wrong – I used to be one: Elitist – fuck everything but my thing. But you know, you get older. Now I’m more open to different styles, and more and more I feel that music doesn’t define itself via its style, but through an atmosphere, through the feelings. A minimal techno track can be as dark as a black metal track – that’s what I’m trying to say. Whatever, Lantlôs is of course different in terms of style and the overall feel, but still it’s me making music. So, it felt natural, like you know, I was doing my thing.
By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, gnarly one-offs, interviews, uncategorized, videos On: Thursday, October 10th, 2013
“The Unwound path crossed a lot of different scenes.” – Justin Trosper
“We took our music in a lot of different directions, though always staying very Unwound.” Sara Lund
The above quotes from Unwound guitarist/vocalist Trosper and drummer Lund basically explain and justify the appearance of the not-metal band this week on the ol’ Deciblog. Unwound originally came screaming out of the Pacific Northwest in the early 90s balancing on a tightrope between hardcore, punk, alt-rock, noise rock, math rock, post-all of that and screamo before the word got co-opted by swooped haircuts. They delivered six or seven albums and a stack of singles, 7″s and compilation appearances and toured the world by the skin of their teeth before calling it a day in 2002. They have since released a live album, Live Leaves, and gone on to influence countless numbers of bands that us Decibel-ers hold dear to our hearts like Botch, Young Widows, KEN Mode, Coliseum, Helms Alee and so on and so forth.
Available as of last Tuesday, Kid is Gone (pictured above) is the first in a series of reissues from reissue specialty label, Numero, who will be eventually unleashing the entire Unwound discography via four separate and exhaustive box sets. We caught up with Justin Trosper and Sara Lund who gabbed about the band’s history, legacy and the comprehensive reissue collections.
Obvious first question: Are you back together as a band? Will you be playing shows or is this all about promoting the re-issue boxsets and keeping the legacy/name of the band alive for those who want it?
Sara Lund: You guessed it. This is about the legacy and not about reunions. We are supremely honored that Numero has offered to reissue all of our records and hope the old fans will like what they do with them.
At what point after dissolving did you begin to realise not only how much, but how wide, Unwound’s influence stretched?
Sara: I started realizing it only a few years ago when, living in Portland, I would walk into coffee shops where 20-something baristas would be listening to Unwound. I still don’t quite have a handle on how far or wide we stretch. I feel like half the people I meet have either heard of us and assume that I’m a wealthy rock star, and the other half have never heard of us and are all like, “Oh yeah I’m in a band, too.” Who isn’t?
Justin Trosper: After the band dissolved I was doing some recordings with other bands in Olympia, but stopped playing for the most part. I sold my part of our studio equipment and moved to LA in 2004. At this point I stopped doing music except for a recording project I did for artist Slater Bradley. I kind of stopped paying attention to the music world and was blissfully ignorant of Unwound’s influence or non-influence. I just didn’t want to be an Unwound dude for awhile.
Whose idea was it to cull and compile a four-part boxset? What are the details for this series of re-issues? The plan is to have your entire recorded works re-issues, correct? What about photos, liner notes and all that jazz?
Sara: This was primarily the brain child of the folks at Numero Group. The LPs are essentially being broken up into eras and released in boxes that represent them. The first one is everything that was recorded with the original drummer, Brandt Sandeno. Although he was only a part of Unwound for about a year (he was in Giant Henry with bassist Vern Rumsey and Justin before that. See the liner notes that come with first set for the whole story), a great deal of material was written and recorded; basically, three LPs worth! So, after that comes the first two LPs I was on: Fake Train and New Plastic Ideas with a third LP of extras… and so on and so forth until we’ve covered the whole catalog. Each box will contain at least one LP’s worth of extra material, be it 7″s, comp tracks, demos, unreleased, or live material. And each set will include very extensive liner notes, covering the era represented by the recordings. By the end, there will essentially have been a book written about us. We are lucky to have our old friend and roadie from our final tour, David Wilcox, on board as our liner note author. And yes, there will be photos. Have you ever seen Numero Group records? Those guys go all out! We are getting the full Numero treatment.
Justin: The Numero thing is sort of a serendipitous phenomenon that I think stems from us putting together the Unwound Archive website. The four part thing came about from conversations Ken Shipley from Numero and I had about trying to release our material in a digestible and interesting and sensible way. Instead of putting out every album with an additional disc of material it made more sense to put out “chunks” of stuff conceptually related by its era in the band’s timeline. So the first set is our first “demo” cassette and the self-titled LP with their related content. Each set will be two albums with a disc or two of extra stuff. It’s a sort of weird format, but let me explain a key concept. Each Unwound record is related (not by design exactly) in the sense that one record is a stepping stone to the next. So the self-titled record is the fully realized concept of the demo and New Plastic Ideas is the fully realized version of Fake Train and so on. It really is, if you listen closely to the music and production. Each set has it’s own direction.
Was this project easier to embark upon given that you had already had a head start of sorts with www.unwoundarchive.com? Did you find yourselves having more material than you knew what to do with or could include?
Sara: Yes, getting the project rolling was much easier since we’d already started trying to do a cheap web version before we were approached by Numero. I don’t think we had gone so far as to consider reissuing the records ourselves. That requires a great deal of capital, of which we have none. We still have a lot of material to dig through that we can include on the site and some stuff that will be exclusive to the box sets. For example, we are still trying to piece together a complete list of every live show and get as many flyers as we can up on the site. And we’d love to get more links to live videos and do some more story telling of our own. The archive sort of turned into a piece to support the release of the Live Leaves record and we hope it will act in a similar way as the Numero releases roll out. The www.unwoundarchive.com is a labour of love taken on by members of the band with very little money or technical abilities, so we ask visitors to be forgiving. We do intend to continue to offer t-shirts through the site and plan to reissue old shirts in conjunction with the reissues. Look for a shirt from the early tours sometime soon! We currently have two shirts available through the site. One is a reissue of a shirt from the Leaves Turn Inside You Tour to coincide with the Live Leaves release, and one is a brand new design based on the flyer for our last show.
Justin: The thing I can add is that the Numero releases are the sort of “cream of the crop” stuff but there will be more on the website–kind of informal. It’s just a different level and medium for information. And we hope people will keep sending us ephemera. It’s not about ego building (“look at what I did!”); it’s about preserving a little bit of history (“look at what happened”).
In going back, discovering and unearthing all this material, what struck you both most positively and negatively about Unwound? What do you recall being some of the most awesome moments of your time in the band?
Sara: Well, the most positive thing has got to be the music itself. And the experience of growing as players together as a unit. The musical connection that the three of us shared cannot be duplicated. It was a pretty special thing and I’m not sure how aware I was of it at the time. And, of course, getting to travel all over the world playing music. Well that’s just about the best thing ever. It’s still one of my favorite things to do, even though I don’t get to do it very often. Negatively speaking, we were so disorganized, self-sabotaging, shitty communicators… it is a true miracle we got as far as we did and accomplished as much as we accomplished. The music itself is the one thing that kept us together for so long. There were many awesome moments. Really, going on adventures and getting to play with some pretty great bands (as well as plenty of terrible ones). What else can I say? I got to spend my 20′s playing drums and touring the world!
Justin: I guess one thing that was both positive and negative was how fiercely independent we were. We took a lot of cues from the SST and Dischord playbook (through the Olympia/K/Kill Rock Stars lens) and just did it to death. We usually made decisions based on principle and not finances, which isn’t always a good idea. But I really have no regrets about how I was then, though I would be happy to help others learn from my mistakes. I consider myself a pretty successful twenty something–not very many people have lived the life I did then or since for that matter. I had a conversation with a professor that I had when I went back to school and expressed some lack of confidence in what I was doing at the time and he was like “Dude, you traveled the world in a van and played punk rock for a decade, that’s way more rewarding than an academic career, you are doing just fine.” I’m stoked for everything going on now even though it is a happy/sad bittersweet kind of deal.
What did you learn, if anything, about yourselves in going back over your history for the purposes of these collections?
Sara: Working on these extensive liner notes with David Wilcox, I’m learning a lot about myself and ourselves. Just thinking about the experience in historical context puts a different spin on one’s life experiences. It’s pretty fascinating to have a third party dig into your life and turn it into a good read. Pretty therapeutic, in some ways. I think I have a clearer understanding of my band mates as people and our various motivations. The break up was tough on all of us and this has been pretty useful for coming to terms with a lot of shit. Plus, in terms of true historical context, looking back at the music scene we were a part of and our role – it is true that was a special time and place. Probably the most remarkable thing is that a lot happened over a very short period of time.
Justin: We all have terrible memories! Now I actually understand better how biographies and histories work. Some of what we remember is fiction/myth though it seems true and then after compiling and editing it all together it does become the “truth.” What I hope is that this snowballs into more 90′s underground history narratives. The Unwound path crossed a lot of different scenes. Once it is all put together people will not only understand the context of this particular band but will gain insight into the whole 90′s music thing—not the “Year Punk Broke” world but the subterranean ecosystem of Gravity, Troubleman, Kill Rock Stars and further beneath that. Everybody already knows the other story, so to me this should be exciting for music nerds, at least.
How do you think Unwound would be taken to by indie/punk/hardcore kids today had the band formed in the last year or two? What do you feel were the most significant differences between life as Unwound 20-some-odd years ago compared to what bands today deal with?
Justin: I think people would be stoked even though I don’t think the situation is really plausible based on what the world seems like now. I only mean that the band was conceptually derived from this 1980′s hardcore ethos and a particular geographical context that does not exist now. Unwound was a real band (a la the 80′s HC thing I refer to) and I find that rare even though I live in a hole in the woods and don’t know anything. We went out there, bootstrapped, and played the crap out of our instruments and took songwriting seriously and that resonated with the people who witnessed it. I still think that kind of “quality” is what music fans look for universally. I know it because the shows I have been playing with my new band uses the same general M.O. as Unwound and we get some of that same response. Give people the rock and they will appreciate it. It’s akin to when you hear about how old time people built their own cabins with an axe and struggled through the winter on salted meats and whiskey–not very many people do that anymore. Only a wimpy punk rock indy version.
Sara: Man, I have no idea what kids these days would think of us if we were contemporary. I sort of assume it wouldn’t go over. We were a good live band (most of the time), but we didn’t really put on a show and that seems to be a bigger thing these days. Then again, genres seem to matter less now and part of me thinks one of our problems in getting much recognition while we were a band is that we, dare I say it, defied genre. We took our music in a lot of different directions, though always staying very Unwound, and as much as that drew the people to us that it did, I think probably pushed others away. Nowadays, everyone knows about and listens to all kinds of music. As for being in a band now vs being in a band 20 years ago, it feels like night and day to me. The elephant in the room being the Internet, of course, but also the sheer number of bands there are now, and add to that the almost complete lack of labels. Indie rock has become so pro now, too. I know that house parties still happen, and that bands still pile into broken down vans and couch surf across the country. I know there is still an underground, or maybe there is one again. But there is also this very clearly laid track for how to become a professional “indie” rock star. Sponsorships, licensing, paying your dues, not by playing tiny clubs to no one, but by playing opening slots at giant festivals, to no one. The Internet is a great tool, if you know how to use it. But the amount of time and energy a band has to spend on self-promotion that takes away from the time and energy you should be spending making music… that part bums me out. I’m not even going to go into the “everything is free” part of it all. Figuring out how to be in a band in the 20-teens feels like a dark art to me. I bet you didn’t even know that I’ve had a band for six years now called Hungry Ghost and that we put out a record last year. Nope. Nobody does. Which is why I have to shamelessly plug it here.
How surprised are you that there’s enough interest in Unwound today that a complete re-issuing of your discography is something people actually care about? What do you attribute this to: the internet? Strong songs that stand the test of time? Selling your souls at the crossroads? Magic beans?
Justin: I figured/hoped at some point we would have some sort of narrative someday based on the volume of work we did; after all we had a relatively pretty long history for a punk band. This was, and is, the idea with the archive site. We were just going to do it ourselves. The Numero thing was not expected and it is rad, I must say. The internet helped me gauge a little of where we stood in the “history books” and it didn’t seem quite right. But hard work alone does not equal recognition. I think the thing I understand better now is that when you make music it takes on a life of it’s own and ultimately outlives you, especially if you have the opportunity to do something like this. I’m proud of what we did but there was a feeling of not really being done and now I know we can put this thing to bed. I kind of thought that I would be just living in a fishing village at age 67 and someone from MOJO would track me down for a half page blurb on the origins of screamo or something. Now I’m pretty sure I will at least be playing at the cafe in the fishing village and a maybe a festival here and there until I croak. I feel comfortable knowing that music will always be my companion, but not my only one
Sara: I’m pretty damned surprised. I remember thinking, sort of towards the end of Unwound, that my highest goal in terms of recognition would be to be like Mission of Burma (this was before they reunited, but it’s still relevant). A great band that mostly nobody knew about, but who were truly loved by the ones that did know about them. I feel like we reached that goal and that’s pretty satisfying to me. Granted, just because Numero is putting these records out, doesn’t mean anyone’s going to buy them. I mean, I sure as hell hope they do, but a big part of me is skeptical. But there does seem to be twinkling of 90′s nostalgia in the night skies and our generation is moving into positions of power. I keep thinking about how my dad was about my age when I was a young teen and how excited he was to teach me about the 60′s and how fascinating that time was to everyone. Well, it’s our turn to be the old farts, waxing nostalgic about how we were gonna change the world, man. And maybe Unwound gets to be like Karen Dalton or Emmit Rhodes, The Creation or Os Mutantes – totally obscure at the time but now on the soundtrack to every Wes Anderson movie or on Michael Cera’s infinite playlists (jesus, even my contemporary references are dated). But I’m not holding my breath.
Paradise Lost have done a retrospective compilations before—The Singles Collection, Reflection, and more recently 2012′s Lost in Time—but none of them are as special as Tragic Illusion 25, a collection of old and re-worked tunes celebrating the Brits’ 25th year as a functioning, productive outfit. And by re-worked, we’re not talking something stupid like an “in dub” mix or something worse like Pitchshifter remixing “As I Die.” No, we’re talking Paradise Lost—specifically frontman Nick Holmes—going back to the earliest records and re-recording the classics with death metal vocals.
The thing about Tragic Illusion 25 is that it’s extremely limited. In the U.S. only three hundred (300) mint-green 10″ vinyls will be available for sale, and that includes the accompanying CD, so you don’t have to wreck your collector’s edition vinyl. Along with “Our Savior 2013,” Paradise Lost have also included an updated version of “Gothic” called “Gothic 2013.” But, hey, you can hear “Gothic 2013″ elsewhere. We got the juiciest of the classics with “Our Saviour 2013.” And, because we’re bros, we were able to nab Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh for an exclusive quote.
“‘Our Saviour’ was one of our present drummer’s favorite songs when he was a teenager,” says the axe-slinger, “so when we were deciding on a really early track to re-record, this was high up on the list. This version is not meant to be better or even comparable to the original, which was of a certain time when perfection was not the order of the day. It was a time when music had charm and innocence. This new version is simply an affectionate look back on that time, and hopefully we did it justice.”
From one Paradise Lost Painless to another, Gregor, you certainly did the original justice.
** Paradise Lost’s Tragic Illusion 25 is available in limited quantities on November 29th, 2013 on Century Media Records. Pre-order Tragic Illusion 25 HERE.
By: zach.smith Posted in: featured, interviews On: Thursday, October 10th, 2013
The fact that I know anything about The Golden Grass happened by accident. Last month, I went to see Windhand with every intention of missing both opening bands. Unfortunately, my ability to time arrivals at shows–even when the venue announces set times in advance–is on par with Andy Reid’s clock management skills. So, not surprisingly, I showed up at Saint Vitus about five minutes into the first band’s set, only things ended up working out for the best as I walked in to hear a jammier version of the type of band you’d find on a Day After The Sabbath compilation. In other words, right up my alley. In fact, it was surprising to learn later that, as musically tight as The Golden Grass appeared to be, the show was actually the trio’s first ever. Needless to say, I’ll be checking them out again on Sunday when they open for Wolf People (okay, I was probably going to this anyway given how much I like Fain). But before I did so, I thought I’d ask drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney to tell the world more about The Golden Grass, which is set to release its debut 7″ on Electric Assault/Svart and play some East Coast shows very soon.
Can you take us through a brief history of the band—who’s in it, when you got started, where you’re from, etc?
The band was formed in early 2013. I had the initial musical vision and contacted guitarist Michael Rafalowich to see if he was interested. Michael and I had been fans of each other’s bands over the years (mine being La Otracina, his being Whooping Crane/Strange Haze). And we had even attempted playing together about four years ago; however that group quickly fizzled. Last fall (of 2012) I was living in Mendocino on a pot farm and one night I made some pot-infused oatmeal and got stoned out of my mind and decided to check out some of these archived tapes I had of the group with Michael. When I heard our rehearsal jams, I freaked out and I decided that as soon as I returned to NYC I’d hit Michael up and propose we start a new group. Right around Christmas-time I called him up and we spoke about it over the phone, got together about two weeks later and immediately knew we were onto something. At the time, La Otracina was without a proper lineup and feeling aimless, and Michael’s group (which at that time was known as) Strange Haze was just about disbanding as well. So it was the perfect moment for the two of us to begin with some excited new energy. We found our bassist Joseph Noval through an online advertisement. He was a complete shot in the dark, and I almost mistakenly blew him off, but the first time the three of us jammed together it was a very hip scene, and we had our lineup solid, Michael and I have both been living in NYC a long time, Joe had only recently moved to Brooklyn from Los Angeles. The timing and details of the formation of this group were incredibly auspicious.
Your debut 7″ is coming out this fall, but how much material have you written so far and what is that process generally like for you?
Oddly enough, we’ve never thrown any of our material away. All of the music we’ve written since day one is still part of our repertoire. Even though our music develops over time and we constantly revamp and improve our ideas. We usually generate very strong ideas. At this point we have about one-and-a-half albums written. Our first 7″ will contain two songs: “One More Time” and “Tornado”. It will be issued jointly between Electric Assault Records (in Brooklyn) and Svart Records (in Finland) in October. We’re ready to record the first LP right away, we just need to iron out the plan with the labels. And we’re sitting on an OCEAN of new ideas–we’ll probably have enough for three full lengths by the years’ end, haha! Our writing process is diverse. Some tunes take six months to write and some take three rehearsals! We all contribute equally to the music, which results in very diverse song writing, lyrical approaches and song structures. We’re literally DYING to write new material. We truly love our current set, which we’ve been writing/developing/practicing for eight months straight, but we can’t wait to write new music–it’s a very inspiring part of the process, very different from live performances. It’s a separate catharsis.
You recently played your first couple of shows–how would you say they went (there was quite a crowd at Saint Vitus)? Does your live show see you guys improvising or extending any material?
We were very happy with the responses and our performances at the first two concerts. Since the beginning of forming this group I wanted to take a long time to develop the material, and not to be concerned with live performances until months down the line. I think too many bands rush to play live before they have an identity or are even making good art, but I wanted to do this band right and debut with great energy and a fully realized sound. Yes, the Saint Vitus show was incredible, not bad to play our first gig in front of a packed house at a sold out show (which we can thank our friends in Ramming Speed and Windhand for)! I think our musical ideas completely translated to the audience, and everyone was in good spirits after we played, which is what we want most. About half of our music contains room for improvisation and “open” sections, and surely in the live setting is where it takes off the most! However, we’ll most likely change our set every show, change our song structures every few months, etc.–it’s an old idea that we borrow from The Grateful Dead.
The group is new but you each of has played in other bands, so what experiences have you taken with you going forward, whether with respect to the music, business or otherwise?
It is important for us to be good friends and hang out beyond playing music together, to be a real family, and we work hard to make this happen, especially in NYC which is great at tearing bands/friends/lovers apart! I think we just wanted to collectively make good art that feels good to play, and enjoy each others’ company, and with those things set in motion, good fortune will hopefully follow. We’re all hoping to grow from and avoid mistakes we’ve made in previous bands, and I think that has most to do with an agreement upon the goals of the group and the responsibilities of each member, and constantly communicating about any problems or issues. So far, we seem to be on the right path, and the maintenance and devotion is constant yet rewarding work.
What’s in store for The Golden Grass over the next six months or so?
Writing a new album, release of our “One More Time” 7″, embarking on US mini-tours in the Midwest in late October and New England in early November, recording our first LP in November (possibly?!) and eventual releasing it next Spring (we hope) along with an EU tour as well. We’re also trying to figure out how the hell to find a place for us to live outside NYC, we need more trees and mountains in our life, but we need to be somewhat close to the city, for the time being. We’re also working on a bunch of VERY cool merchandise.
What are some records you guys have been digging lately?
Adam: for older shit, The Move’s Shazam and Looking On, Truth & Janey’s No Rest for the Wicked, Stephen Stills/Manassas’ self-titled LP, Free’s BBC Sessions and Fire & Water, Marshall Tucker Band’s self-titled LP, The Pretty Things’ Freeway Madness, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Live at Winterland 1975, Mountain’s Climbing, John Mayall’s Blues from Laurel Canyon. For newesr stuff, the new Beastmilk material is very exciting, Skogen Brinner’s 1st, Metalleg’s Hit Of The Week, Anicon’s Demo MMXIII and Cheep Thrill’s demos. I saw Liquor Store recently and LOVED them.
Joe: The Move’s Looking On, Cactus’ One Way…Or Another, Night Sun’s Mournin’, May Blitz’s self-titled LP and Life’s Spring.
Michael: Chico Hamilton’s (w/ Archie Shepp and Larry Coryell) The Dealer, Bo Diddley’s Where It All Began, The Pretty Things’ More Electric Banana, Harvey Mandel’s The Snake and Freddie King’s Freddie King is a Blues Master.
10/13 at Mercury Lounge/Manhattan/NY w/ WOLF PEOPLE + GOLDEN ANIMALS
10/24 at Kungfu Necktie/Philadelphia/PA w/ Mike Donovan (of SIC ALPS)
10/25 at Howler’s/Pittsburg/PA w/ CAROUSEL + LOST REALMS
10/26 at Cincy Psych Fest/Cincinnati/OH w/ PURLING HISS + PLASTIC CRIMEWAVE SYNDICATE + more
10/27 at Beachland Ballroom/Cleveland/OH w/ ELECTRIC LUCIFER
11/8 at Geno’s/Portland/ME w/HESSIAN + IDIOT GENES