After 17 years of recording silence, death metal legends Carcass have returned to the studio to track their first new LP since 1996’s Swansong. The record, produced by Colin Richardson, will be released sometime in 2013 through a yet-to-be determined label. Bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker exclusively provides Decibel with a few details.
Please tell us the full recording lineup.
“Bill Steer (guitars), Jeff Walker (bass/vocals), Daniel Wilding (drums). For live we’ll obviously add another guitarist—we have someone in mind but we are not interested in a ‘name’ player.”
In a previous email correspondence, you mentioned that this record is a mix of all five Carcass LPs.
“It is and it isn’t—we’ve taken stylistic cues from all the albums because it’s in our blood, but it’s no rehash or mess of ideas. I think it sounds almost like the missing link between the third and forth albums but with some groove in there. I’ve jokingly christened some parts ‘Trad Blast’ and some ‘Death Sleaze’… don’t think for a minute this is just some nostalgic throwback album—we’re setting up another 17 years of ideas for other bands to copy and clean up on [laughs].”
Does that mean we’ll be hearing some death metal vocals out of Bill for the first time since Necroticism?
“Yes, already in the can. It’s more along the lines of how I envisioned him backing me up on Heartwork. That said, my own vocals have a hell of a lot more range than they did in the past solely down to the luxury of having time to record them—I did all the vox for Heartwork in two days and it shows! Also, (hopefully) Ken [Owen] will make an appearance—we just need to tidy a few loose ends before the mix.”
Why do this now over four years after the initial Carcass reunion?
“Good timing, eh? Twenty-five years we first recorded Reek of Putrefaction. The incentive was off Bill. I’d verbally expressed an interest in doing something but I needed Bill to have the desire and hunger again and that’s exactly what has happened. He recalled watching Dan Wilding play on tour with us in 2008 and something about him struck a chord and he wanted to work with him. There was something about him that kind of reminded him of Ken, on a personal level as much as his playing. We’ve done this recording firstly for ourselves—there’s no label backing even as you read this—in fact me and Bill have spent a small fortune out of our pocket to see this through—it’s more of an artistic/personal statement than anything.”
By: Chris D. Posted in: diary, featuredOn: Monday, December 3rd, 2012
By Greg Peterson
You’re probably wondering which records I bought on the morning that Batillus began recording our second full-length album… some Purcell, some Machault, Schiff playing Schubert impromptus, Debussy/Ravel string quartets, some Hindemith, some Schoenberg, some Strauss, Souzay singing Faure and Schubert, and some late Shostakovich quartets.
You see, Willi and I have been listening to a lot of classical music lately, and since the studio (Sound Generation) is located just a short walk away from Academy Records (the city’s best place to find quality classical vinyl, and coincidentally the spot where Willi and I both worked and the idea of Batillus was born) we like to hang out there while the drums and drum mics get set up. Because, even though it’s one of the most important parts of any recording session, no one wants to listen to that business.
But still, even after leaving plenty of time for the set-up and the getting of drum sounds, we arrived to find Geoff and Fade heading to Guitar Center next door to replace some small piece of drum trash—I mean hardware—that had broken. Damn—no sounds had been got. The studio is small, and the control room is really the only place to hang out and relax. A long book is a good thing to have when you have to listen to each drum being hit for about ten minutes.
The live room is not very big either, so the room mics were fairly close to the kit. I wasn’t too concerned, though, because I knew that our engineer Sanford Parker has ways of making anything sound huge and spacious. One of the mics for he kick drum was a speaker cone, wired in reverse, and mounted inside a little drum frame. To pick up extra low end information, Sanford said.
After the drums were making sounds to our satisfaction and Geoff got tired of playing his “whole kit” beat, it was my turn. There was a smaller iso-room between the control room and the live room, and that’s where I set up my sound, the same way I do for shows: Orange head going through the bottom Orange cab, switching between two different channels, one clean with a bit of grit if I dig in, and one high gain/heavy low end; Electric head going through the top cab with a more gnarly trebly high gain sound. Sanford asked if I was using less gain than when we recorded Furnace with him two years ago. He was right; I had dialed back each amp’s gain by about one click. Sharp ears and a good memory on Mr. Parker.
For the bass, we tracked a direct signal which we would re-amp the next day, fine-tuning the tone song by song to find just the right thing. Willi’s Sunn Coliseums continue to prove their worthiness in the studio as well as on the road.
We like to record the drums, bass, and guitar live, playing together in real time. Though on some songs we used a click track, which feels nothing like playing along with human beings, but makes it very easy to put together a composite take (which is when you play the chorus really well on take 1 and the bridge really well on take two and fuse them together like Frankenstein’s monster, but without the murderous sensitivity). Generally we had a take that we were happy with after two or three tries. As Sanford would say, “It wasn’t just good, it was good Enough.”
We finished all the basic tracks on Day 2, and then I did some guitar doubling and overdubs. I like to carry around ideas for overdubs in my head in the weeks leading up to a recording session, without actually trying them out at home first. This doesn’t always work, as Willi, Geoff, Fade, and Sanford will tell you. I could usually tell if something was worth doing simply by the looks on their faces through the window as I was playing.
This is a good way to bring up two important lessons in recording. 1) Be Prepared. We had been playing most of the songs twice a week for almost a year, and if we hadn’t been doing that, I don’t think we would have been able to finish all the basic tracks in three days. And 2) Don’t Get Attached. If an overdub idea, or even a part you’ve been playing forever is not working, change it. Or get rid of it all together. You can hear things so much more clearly in the studio, and sometimes adjustments need to be made.
And after three long days of listening to Batillus in loud studio monitors and louder headphones, there’s nothing like coming home and putting on an LP of violin fantasies by Henry Purcell. Try it some time.
** Visit and like Batillus on Facebook. Click HERE.
Wow, this birdshit is REALLY drying up at the bottom of the cage this time. There’s not a whole lot coming out, but we’ll get through it somehow, my friends. I’ll just pick some stuff here at random, some things your old boy Waldo may not be too familiar with.
OK, this is plain silly. HUMANITY DELETE are releasing Never Ending Nightmares. This is death metal, with a little more of a thrashy edge. They call it “paranormal death metal,” and I suppose it could be considered that given their topics (see the below video for “The Jenglot”). This is a one-man band and has that Swedish death vibe a little. The riffs are kind of cool, but the drum machine never really changes, so it gets a little sterile. I dunno, I think this is pretty beaking fun. Nothing too complex or arty here, just pure death metal fun brought to you by Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Ribspreader, Bonegnawer, Fondlecorpse and more). Check this out. It’s not plain silly–I take that back–just pure death metal fun. 6 Fucking Pecks.
OK, keeping on the one-man band sort of vibe is OPIUM WARLORDS, We Meditate Under the Pussy in the Sky. The best way for me to wrap my bird-brain around this is by calling it black metal doom. I assume that the “Pussy in the Sky” is a reference to god, and not me when I am flying, because I, my friends, am certainly no pussy. Anyway, this is squawking SLOW with a capital S, and DOOM with a capital D. There are five tracks here, and I can kind of hear a little Abruptum in the vocals, and the dronier side of doom like Blood of the Black Owl. This is pretty cool–interesting, at least–but it’s kind of hard to make a clear distinction on whether I like it or not, because it is a little out there. I wonder if there was actually opium involved in the creation of this. 5 Fucking Pecks.
The Polish metal dudez are back, I guess; I don’t think they ever really went too far. HELLECTRICITY release their second album, Salem’s Blood. This is trad metal. It’s okay… not as fun as a lot of this type of stuff. I REALLY have a problem with the vocals; I mean, they just aren’t good. This walks that fine line between heavy metal and hard rock. So, yeah, it’s like that. The riffs are fairly derivative and nothing really stands out. I just prefer a little more fun in my metal like this, but if this is your thing, head out on your Harley and blast this. This is an utterly stupid name, too, so 3 FUCKING PECKS.
Well, that’s it for this week. I’ll have my best of the year in my next segment, so check it. Waldo out.
While hordes of old people who still use dial-up are swarming to super-sized retail outlets this season to buy their loved ones’ affection, the more tech-savvy among us simply point and click our money away into the bitwise abyss. Similarly, while the plebes will rely on radio and opinionated journalists to decide which tunes may be allowed to kick their asses, you and I will while away untold time playing Thrash It or Trash It and being, like, totally fucking underground.
What began as a Metal Injection podcast topic has now been turned into a populist passtime that creator Robert Pasbani calls “the heavy metal blind taste test.” Bands can upload their music to the game’s website, and listeners can create a free account and get down to thrashing/trashing immediately. The site feeds you song after unidentified song, straight-up music unsullied by the bias introduced by band names and song titles… until you decide whether to Thrash It (good) or Trash It (bad). At that point, you’re told the name of the band and the song you heard, and you’re given the opportunity to learn more about both.
The site is simple and straightforward in its presentation and use, with big rectangular buttons and uncomplicated navigation. Your votes are tallied and become part of the charts of top (or bottom) rated songs. The “Hot or Not”-style game is compelling because of its automated continuity and because, hey, it’s fucking metal! In its current nascent stage, the pool of available music is a little bit shallow, but the game’s progenitor hopes that increased traffic will mean more people uploading more diverse material for game players’ consumption.
Go have a little (or a lot of) fun at Thrash It or Trash It, and maybe wake up to a couple cool bands while you’re at it. Hey, don’t you kinda wish Decibel‘s reviews section worked like this?
Sweden’s Khoma is probably best known on this side of the Atlantic – assuming they’re known at all – for being the side project of Cult of Luna’s Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg. Au contraire. While they may not have been as on the radar of metalnerds as Cult of Luna, Khoma has existed in some form or fashion almost as long as CoL has and are hugely popular in their homeland to the tune of mainstream award nominations and victories as well as having their music appear in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie. Pelagic Records has just issued All Erodes, a new album that’s not exactly a new album but still an enjoyable spin if you like your Isis and Neurosis cut with Radiohead and Coldplay. We tracked down vocalist Jan Jamte via email for the scoop and virtually watched him squirm as he avoided answering most of the dumber parts of our interview questions.
OK, first thing’s first: introduce yourselves, tell us what your role is in Khoma and what you had for breakfast?
So, I´m Jan, the singer of Khoma. I just woke up and haven’t eaten yet, but like most days it´s going to be a lot of different grains and seeds, soymilk, raspberry, mangos and bananas. It´s hell of a good way to start the day. I´ve eaten something similar for over 30 years. I was raised on oatmeal.
Khoma has existed in some form and fashion since 2004 or so. How would you say the band has changed stylistically and operationally between then and now and what happened the last time you drank too much?
Two different questions – I’ll address the last one first since it´s easy. I don’t drink. Never have. Regarding Khoma, it´s obvious a lot of things have happened in almost 10 years. Actually some of us have played together since we were 17 – that´s more like 15 years in different projects. Many of us grew up in Umeå, Sweden during the 90´s playing hardcore. Umeå was one of the central hubs for the European hardcore scene and we all got to know each other through music or political activities. When we started Khoma, it was a way to create something new. We wanted a space where we could be creatively, emotionally and politically free. There was no plan or idea of how Khoma should sound, we just wanted an outlet for ideas and emotions that we couldn’t express in our other bands, which were more connected to specific genres. In Khoma, we gathered friends that came from very different musical backgrounds – hardcore, punk, emotional pop or metal – and just started working without borders. From the beginning you could definitely hear more input from the music we came from; the music was more guitar driven, more pounding riffs, but as Khoma has evolved I´d say the music has become more focused on getting certain kinds of emotions across – adjusting the instrumentation and melodies to that. Looking back with perspective on the last album, A Final Storm (2010), for example, you could definitely hear that it’s a darker, harsher album then the previous two. It doesn’t carry the same hooks or dynamics as The Second Wave (2006).
Being that you guys are in other bands, how does Khoma differ from those other bands; not necessarily in the way the bands sound, but what Khoma gives and provides for you that your other outfits don’t?
It´s like I said before. Khoma was created as a breathing space. When starting the band we never even had a plan of releasing a record, we just wanted a place for ourselves. The first record (Tsunami, 2004) was actually a demo we had recorded trying to capture what we had been doing together the last year. And then some labels picked it up, and that records caught the eyes of Roadrunner, which led to The Second Wave (2006).
Do you find it difficult to make time for Khoma in light of other projects, life and basic responsibilities and where was the last vacation you took and how was it?
Khoma has the same priority as any of the other bands we play in, so all who are involved just have to plan things carefully. But it can be tricky trying to schedule album releases or tours when there are so many different bands you have to consider. It´s the same with other responsibilities – families, work etc. All of us have other things beside music. We´ve wanted it that way. I feel not being dependent on the music gives you more freedom do to whatever you want, both when it come to creating music and to say no to things you’re not interested in doing (tours, commercials, media etc.). We´ve never have to think about if this record is going to sell or not, if we like it we put it out. We´ve never cared if it will sell 1000 or 100000 – “making it” has never been a driving force. [shit, he totally ignored the vacation part of the question…-ksp]
Tell us about the new album. I understand it’s a “cleaning out of the vaults” type of release. Why do this instead of writing all new songs?
When doing records we have always recorded a lot of songs, which has meant that many never ended up on record. Some were left out because we felt they didn’t work dynamically with the other songs, others because we didn’t have time to finish them and yet others because we couldn’t get them right. We´ve always been an “album” type of band, which has meant that we´ve kept really good song out that we thought wasn’t working in the overall scheme. When we realized we had so much material in our drawer, we felt we really wanted to do something with it, so we decided to pick some up again, finish some and re-record some. All Erodes became an epilogue, a way to close the chapters that consisted of Tsunami, The Second Wave and A Final Storm – not a new album. It’s not a way to try and find new listeners, but a limited release mainly dedicated to the ones who have already discovered us.
Is there a particular theme to, or story behind, the title of the new album and where does one go to get good food cheap late at night in Umea?
For me All Erodes signifies frailness, vulnerability and destructibility. That nothing lasts forever. On the covers and logos we´ve used Morse code as a way of sending out a “last message.” A natural way of communication after “the final storm” – right? And regarding going out in Umeå. You don’t go out late night during winter. It´s really dark, and often cold. The sun sets at 2pm and we often have -20c. In summer, it’s the opposite, the suns never sets. Then, I’d say just a regular bar.
History has told us that playing live can be an arduous process for Khoma. Have you managed to simplify this side of the band and what do you think still needs to be done so that getting together to play live isn’t so stressful?
We really love playing live, but as I said above it can be hard to fit the schedules of everyone. From this release I hope things will go smoother. One of the reasons is that Khoma no longer is a three-piece, we’re six (or eight depending on how you see it…). The people who have played live with us the last two years have now become full-time members which means it will be easier to focus on Khoma for them.
Rumour has it that you’re gearing up for your first tour in something like five years. How does the pre-tour feeling now differ from the way you used to feel pre-tour a decade or so ago and what is your favourite out-of-town sightseeing attraction?
That’s not true. We played a lot of shows on A Final Storm here in Scandinavia. We decided that A Final Storm should only be released here since we felt we didn’t have time to back it up properly. So, this will be the first European tour in five years, but definitely not the first live show during this time. But it feels great. I´m really looking forward to play the songs, for many in Europe it will be the first chance too hear both songs from A Final Storm and All Erodes performed live. [what, no sightseeing to speak of? –ksp]
I understand you’re fairly well-known in your homeland, winners of a national radio award and Grammy-equivalent nominations. Can you please elaborate? Have you noticed any benefits from this sort of recognition?
Khoma won the Swedish national radio award for ”Best Rock/Metal 2010” and was nominated for the Swedish Grammy and Manifest award the same year for A Final Storm. We can often be too hard on each other, so the ceremony’s was a chance to actually stop and appreciate all that had happened after A Final Storm.
How did Khoma end up being associated with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie?
The national award came at the same time The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was shot here in Sweden. Johannes (guitars) coordinated extras, so they asked him to send all our music. One day, David Fincher just walked up and said that he and Trent Reznor wanted “The Guillotine” (from The Second Wave) for the film. So it was great fun. I think they work well together, they’re both really moody, dark and rainy. I grew up with Fincher films and Reznor’s music, so it was an honour.
How has the meaning and significance of Khoma changed for you personally over the years?
I feel that Khoma has grown in importance over the years. Moving over 30, I sometime feel our personal ways of expressing our disappointment/anger/sadness or whatever has become narrower. A part of growing older means dealing with expectations on you to control your emotions – to “grow up”. For many I think this leads to a feeling of alienation. The things that pissed us off/made us sad as youths has not gone away, but it´s harder to use the same channels to express our emotions and thoughts. Given this Khoma has become even more important. Here we can think, feel or say whatever we want.
In 2010, one-man black metal outfit Xasthur released its final album, Portal of Sorrow. That it would be Xasthur’s swansong was announced in advance by its creator, Scott Conner, who abandoned his longtime alias “Malefic” and used his real name in the credits for the first time in a career that spanned 15 years and 20-plus releases. Earlier this year, Conner reemerged as Nocturnal Poisoning and released Other Worlds of the Mind on his own Disharmonic Variations label. Beyond the fact that it’s the same musician and takes its moniker from Xasthur’s debut full-length, Nocturnal Poisoning has almost nothing in common with Conner’s previous work. First off, it’s not black metal. It’s not even metal. Secondly, there are no vocals. Last but not least, there’s hardly any electric guitar. It’s essentially Conner finger-picking an acoustic with occasional (and sparse) drumming by Ronald Armand Andruchuk. Reference points for the album’s dozen instrumental tracks may or may not include John Fahey and Leo Kottke. It’s easily one of the most dramatic turnabouts in the history of music, and yet it’s gone largely unnoticed by the black metal enthusiasts who were sweating Xasthur’s every move just five years ago. Decibel recently caught up with Conner to discuss his striking transition.
Nocturnal Poisoning’s music is obviously very different from the music you created as Xasthur. What inspired the transition from one to the other?
As soon as something old was ending, dying and not working anymore, there was something new that was starting to work out better.
Do you feel like you’ve made a personal transformation with this project as well as a musical one, especially now that you’ve dropped the Malefic persona?
Yes, well, I’m stuck with who I am, so all I can do is try–as a person, musically and through music–to make some kind of change within that, discovering another side of myself, or another ability within, instead of just going along with being some other dead person that I was supposed to be for so long. If I hadn’t discovered or rediscovered other abilities or interests, I may have been the same old character for a long time; that wasn’t working for me, musically or personally, and I had to find a bit of peace of mind by letting it go. There are times I get to thinking that music, creating, it’s like therapy for me, and if you have a therapist who’s making you more angry and not doing you any good, you fire them and think about getting a new one.
In the past you’ve said that the attitudes of some people in the black metal underground made you want to stop playing that kind of music. Could you elaborate a bit?
I’ve probably elaborated on this too many times. First of all, it’s not “underground” in the slightest. Second of all, too many of the people involved, especially labels and bands, are worthless pieces of shit, liars and chiselers. I will now be making the kind of music that never had any kind of “scene.”
Beyond the people involved, did you also just get tired of black metal itself?
Yes, I got very bored of it. I’ve heard everything, everything that’s so “different,” too, and it’s all the same; there’s nothing that can be done to it, or with it anymore. I can hear right through it and I can see right through it, speaking of the people involved. The music itself only had a firm grip on me for a few years, and that was plenty—now it just sounds like a leaking faucet or a car alarm to me. And whatever it’s supposed to “mean,” well, so much of it doesn’t mean shit to me anymore. I never learned anything from it, musically or aside from that; it never “empowered” me or anything like that. I don’t think anyone would be able to tell me what I’m missing out on by not having it in my life anymore.
There are no vocals in Nocturnal Poisoning. Is this because you wanted to focus on your guitar playing or just because you got tired of doing vocals–or is there another reason?
Yes, that’s true. Once I gave up on looking for a singer, I noticed the guitar playing and the writing started to pick up a lot more, be less basic, more guitar-oriented, instead of building and setting up songs around or suited for a singer. I’m starting to realize that maybe a singer would have slowed me down or kept me from doing my best, so now I’m glad that didn’t work out! Sometimes simplicity is amazing, but I instantly knew that something simple was expected out of me with NP, but I expected a lot more out of myself. I can always prove that to myself even if no one else wants to accept that. But no, when it comes to my own singing, it’s either the high screams or the low death vocals; but I won’t be doing any of that, and it obviously doesn’t fit into what I’m doing now—I’m no real or clean singer, that’s for sure. One of the other main reasons for having no vocals is because lyrically, as the saying goes, “if you don’t have anything good to say, then just don’t say anything at all.” I mean, if I tried writing about having a few rounds at a saloon or something random, it would just come out sounding hateful, and I’ve already done more than enough of that.
The name Nocturnal Poisoning was taken from the first official Xasthur full-length. Is there any sort of thematic connection between the two entities?
No, not really. If I named my new band after a season or nature, or even tumbleweed, then no one would even bother listening to it. I make up a lot of shit or realize a lot of things as I go along, so it probably turns out the name is just a way of tricking some people into listening to something else. So far, a few people here ‘n’ there have been tricked, and they’re not too upset about it.
Nocturnal Poisoning is essentially just you and an acoustic guitar, whereas Xasthur featured drums, bass, layers of distorted guitars and vocals. Was there something about stripping away the extra instrumentation that was crucial to you moving forward as an artist?
Yes, it’s very much a “less is more” kind of thing. I wanted to just focus on what I’m probably best at doing, instead of trying to do everything. Doing all those other instruments was sort of a juggling act, like I was inconsistent with drumming and vocals, for example. Metal and distortion were things I probably wasn’t too good at working with all the time, either. It may have kept me from hearing it for what it really was. There are no keyboards or any sound effects, I got tired of having keyboards, piano or mediocre guitar leads “carry” a song or writing songs that played off of that. I always liked making songs that were written on guitar first, having that be the main point, but distortion and guitar picks were things that were interfering with that, so acoustic guitar was the answer. With NP and going predominantly acoustic, the ideas keep on coming and the riffs keep on flowing. But I’m sure people will actually be stupid enough to called it “ambient” or some lazy shit like that. Whatever, I know better. I just started paying bass, again, on some of the newer songs, and I’ll continue doing that. A couple years ago, I tried it and didn’t think it would work right for this, but sure enough, it does.
What inspired the title Other Worlds of the Mind?
Mostly the music itself, probably another dimension of the mind, going or being somewhere else in the mind and visualizing the lengths and distances in time and space, or not having any surroundings. The body being in one place, the mind being anywhere it wants to be. Titles like these come into my head when I’m least expecting them. When you have nothing and nowhere, you always have your mind to take you places, and eventually your physical body will follow or catch up. Or, just some other kind of journey, to simplify it.
In a blog post earlier this year, you mentioned that you’re much more interested in playing live with Nocturnal Poisoning than you were with Xasthur. What changed your mind?
Well, that was the number one goal. As you probably know, you have to make music work for you, and playing live can do that, depending on how you do it. You have a different perspective, and you can see your music growing and working for you that way. Not doing that for so many years makes a person feel like they’re stuck and not going anywhere with their music, and that’s another thing I wanted to change. I’m still open to the idea, but I don’t have a band–not even half of one–so it’s just me, again. I can play guitar alright, but when it comes to playing live, it really helps to have something, someone else to play along with, or else I get thrown off.
With NP, I practiced and remembered the songs much better than I had in the past. They were specifically meant to be taught to real members and also played live. I don’t ask for a whole lot either–I’ve told guitarists they can play in half-time to make things easier if the songs were too hard, and that I’d play in full-time. But as usual, no one’s got the time to practice, and it’s beneath them to learn something from someone like me–or some are too busy counting the hypothetical dollars to have any dedication, and of course that’s going to cause some tension. Don’t look to me for the money; my former pimps took it all. The most I can get is someone to “throw” some guitar leads or some singing on an emailed track; that doesn’t “help” me and it doesn’t help them, either. That’s not going to get anyone out on the road. Too many people I’ve tried to work with also have this “let’s not, but say we did” attitude (LA). Anyway, long story short, I’m a one-person band again because I have to be, not to be stubborn and not because I’m “hard to work with.” It will take some time before I’m naive enough to believe that this can be a real band someday. I will have to be even more selective and cautious when it comes to any other musicians, if they’re asking for something out of me or even if they’re offering.
Since it’s getting near the end of the year, I figured I’d mix things up a little bit and fill a couple of these posts with some bands that I’ve been lucky enough to discover over the past 11 months or so. And since this quartet made one of the biggest impressions on me, with the caveat that I’m a complete sucker for anything in the neighborhood of “post-rock”, I’m going to start with TotorRo. I stumbled across the group’s debut LP, All Glory To John Baltor (“Lavate Las Manos” is my personal favorite—not only does it have vocals, but the shimmering guitars four minutes in always manage to warm my otherwise cold blood), in January on the recommendation of a music blog that I also happened to back my way into visiting. So when I saw that these Frenchmen had released a new EP last month, I thought it would be a perfect time to find out what they’ve been up to. The good news? There is a new record on the way. Plus, if the Home Alone EP is any indication, the band is not willing to rest on its laurels.
Can you take us through a brief history of the band—who’s in it, when you got started, where you’re from, etc?
It started when John and Christophe (the two guitarists) met in high school. We thought that it would be cool to start a band for fun. Things evolved and got more serious and Xavier (bass) joined the band in 2008 for our first demo. Then Bertrand (drums) joined us in 2011 for our first proper release. That’s when the band started to get serious! We come from different places in Brittany (in western France), but we all live together in Rennes now.
You just released an EP via bandcamp that is a preview for your upcoming album. Where in the process are you with the full-length follow-up to All Glory to John Baltor? Will the songs on the EP be on the record or are they indications of what is to come? Any release date in mind or other details you can share?
After All Glory to John Baltor, we met lots of new people and discovered new music. Our musical direction changed quite a lot from the post-rock/post-hardcore we used to play, so it seemed important to us to show everyone what we are doing now. And we are in the process of writing our next full-length, but there is a lot of work left to be done. We don’t know yet if the songs on the EP will be on our album—it’s more of a little tease to show people what we’re up to! If things go according to plan, we should start recording in February, but we don’t have a release date planned yet.
Speaking of the EP, you released John Baltor, your first full-length, late last year—was the writing/recording process (depending on how far along you are) for the second album any different this time around given that you already had an album under your belt? Do you guys have a “typical” writing process? John Baltor was our first effort and writing the music was a little more tedious then than it is now. We think that as people learn to know each other it becomes easier to write music together, things become more automatic. Our new songs are a little more complicated, with time signatures and tempo changes all the time, so we have to stop to think whilst in the middle of the writing process whereas John Baltor‘s songs are based more on a dynamic progression and the writing was more straightforward. We don’t really have a typical writing process, although it often starts with a guitar riff we like and some weed.
How would you describe the music scene in Rennes or France in general and how you find yourselves fitting in?
The French indie scene is quite small, so even if there are lots of really great bands, none of them really make it big time. Christophe also plays bass in a great math rock band from Rennes called Fago Sepia, and our friends from Mermonte are worth a listen. There is quite a big music scene in Rennes, but we don’t really feel like we fit in—it’s primarily mainstream, Hives-type rock. We were lucky enough to tour in quite a few European countries and the public was really receptive to our music so we always look forward to going back there (particularly the Czech Republic!).
I found out about TotorRo from a music blog–have you found that to be an important way of having people hear your music and/or getting them over to your bandcamp site to purchase your tunes?
We don’t really know if lots of people have discovered us through blogs, but we know that for indie bands, it’s an important way of spreading music since mass media isn’t really interested. The internet is really important to us–it’s the only way for us to get people to listen to our music.
I’m sure the focus is on the new record at this point, but what are the plans for the band over the next six months or so?
We have just moved in to a house together, so the focus now is on writing new material for the album. We are also going on tour in December in France, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic. Then we will start recording the new album. We are also looking for record labels to release the album, so if any of you are reading this, we are interested! We are also working on a theatre piece where we would provide musical accompaniment.
What are some records you guys have been digging lately? Bertrand: I’m listening to a lot of electro glitchy stuff at the moment like Gold Panda, Gesaffelstein, Brodinski, and indie pop-punk like Grown-Ups and Into it Over It.
John: Like Bertrand, except I like listening to heavy-sludgy stuff like Admiral Angry and Converge when I work in the factory.
Christophe: Paramore, The Bulletproof Tiger and Paramore.
Xavier: I like Daughters and Botch
Feel free to throw these guys a frickin’ bone here.
Fall has been kind to the mighty Incantation. They released their boss new album Vanquish In Vengeance (read more about the creation of the album in our new issue). And they charted like a Britney Spears single in our top 100 death metal albums of all time. One of the reasons they are shredding so hard of late is the work of second guitarist Alex Bouks, formerly of Goreaphobia. The dude shreds so hard you can’t even see his face in all of these live photos. Please welcome Mr. Bouks to the Shredder’s Studio.
Cheers to everyone! Alex Bouks here to shed light on the master riffs that helped me go down the dark path in metal.
Black Sabbath – “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”: The first riff I learned on guitar and still one of the heaviest riffs ever. I love the dynamics between the crushing heavy riffs into the atmospheric folk acoustic parts. Don’t forget the dramatic extreme heavy ending. Iommi is still king of the almighty riff!
Celtic Frost – “Dethroned Emperor”: Tom Warrior’s morbid, evil riffs and his guitar tone going back to the Hellhammer stuff inspires me still today. His writing and riffs had such a primitive approach. That always said to me that you don’t need to be technically proficient to get a feeling across. Anyone can play a million miles an hour but you can move mountains with your music.
Iron Maiden – “Purgatory”: The best guitar team in the history of metal — Murray and Smith! It doesn’t get any better. What a perfect mix. Still the greatest metal band of all time for me. The only band that covered my entire room as a kid. These guys are one of the reasons I play guitar.
Voivod- “Korgull the Exterminator”: Piggy was an innovator. He brought dissonance, darkness and psychedelia into extreme metal. Listening to him I knew you could do more then your basic power chords. He created his own path. And that is the most important thing in music — identity.
Death – “Baptized in Blood”: This was my introduction into the underground world of tape trading. I received a copy of the “Infernal Death” demo. This set me on a mission to create the most brutal and evil shit I could. This was death metal in its purest form. Long live Evil Chuck!
Mercyful Fate – “Black Funeral”: Fate included one of my other fave guitar teams, Denner and Sherman. Fate took all that darkness and made some of the greatest and most melodic music. I heard this and was taken by the dark atmosphere.
Motorhead – “Overkill:” I think this was my introduction into the extreme world of heavy metal. Fast Eddie is one of my fave guitar players of all time and an undeniable influence.
Bathory – “Call From The Grave:” One of the darkest riffs ever written. The down picked strumming and atmospheric chords opened my eyes to another world and way of approaching the instrument.
Judas Priest -”Exciter” (Unleashed In The East version): My first Priest record. The early Priest records are some of the most important music in my life. Seeing K.K. Downing with the flying V made me look at guitar playing as a sort of weapon. You could actually kill with your music.
We don’t talk about love a whole lot here at Decibel, and we don’t cover a lot of bands that take influence from Duran Duran. But if you’re tuned into the singularly unique world of Sacramento’s Deftones, you’ll understand that songs of love will be surrealistic, open to interpretation, and tempered with an undercurrent of ridicule… and you’ll know the Duran Duran influence is just a tiny part of what makes Deftones tick.
In talking with drummer Abe Cunningham recently, it was clear the band is as psyched with extremists such as Dillinger Escape Plan and Cannibal Corpse as they are the Cure and Jane’s Addiction. The latest Deftones album, Koi No Yokan, “runs the gamut of what we’re about,” according to Abe. All inspirations present and accounted for. Koi No Yokan not only carries interesting meaning in the title, but it drags a pile of mammoth heaviness and chilled beauty into the room and doesn’t leave.
Abe was familiar with what we do here at Decibel, and lots of us are familiar with what they do, so we’re all friendly-like. So it probably wasn’t the most tactful thing to open up the conversation by telling Abe that Koi No Yokan seems to share a lot of similarities with 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist. That didn’t sit well with Abe: “Saturday Night Wrist was just a fucked up record for us. That was a horrendous time. We were out of our minds. A terrible time, dude. And that contributed to how the record sounded. I think that album is just another side of our life, just like the new one. But those are very different sides of life.”
Oopsie. Abe was definitely not on board with the comparison, but, super nice guy that he is, he took it in stride when I elaborated that the comparison was made because Koi No Yokan leans on the chilled, melodic, shoegaze-y side of the band, as did Wrist. Even the cover art has a similar feel to SNW. “I can dig it,” he says. And when I opine that the new album carries a more joyous vibe than anything they’ve done, he’s down. “I like that. Joyous is good. Joyous!”
“Joy” would seem to be a theme of the record, as there are some seriously ecstatic, emotionally throttling moments in opener “Swerve City,” the dreamy shoegaze haze of “Entombed” and album centerpiece and all-time-great Deftones track “Tempest.” Lots of good vibes throughout, including the meaning behind the album title. Japanese phrase Koi No Yokan translates to “love’s premonition,” or “the sense a person gets upon meeting someone that the two of them will inevitably fall in love.” Profound, but the choice of title wasn’t exactly destiny, says Abe: “It was one of those things where we were running up against deadlines. We all threw some names into the hat, and it was one of those things that popped out. It’s actually a pretty cool title; it has an interesting meaning. Not to sound lovey-dovey–it’s still a heavy record–but it was a cool thing to call the album.”
Deftones got their start way back in 1988, the same year Dimension Hatröss, South of Heaven and Leave Scars were released, if you need that framed into some kind of perspective. (i.e., this band is not “nu metal” and never were.) Guitarist Stephen Carpenter, 17 years old at the time, was confined to a wheelchair for a while as the result of a car accident. With not much to do but listen to metal and play guitar, he cut his teeth on the instrument learning Metallica, Anthrax and S.O.D. tunes. Seven years later, they’re rubbing shoulders with Madonna and her Maverick label. There was a time when it was easy, if totally lazy, to lump them into the nu metal movement, but they quickly outgrew that with 2000 watershed album White Pony. They have tread some arty, textured, alt-metal avenues since, while remaining heavy as all fucking fuck when necessary (need proof? Check out the insanely feral “Elite,” grooved-out-and-doomed “You’ve Seen the Butcher” or the fat tones of the new album’s “Poltergeist”). Deftones played it smart and ensured their longevity by not falling into any one movement.
“It became such a huge slur of a term, ‘nu metal,’” Abe says. “Kinda like the ‘grunge’ thing. We started in 1988. Metal was huge and popular at that time, even being played on MTV. That’s our upbringing, but we decided to make an extreme left turn and do our own thing. We knew we had to if we wanted to be around for the long term. We just went somewhere else, musically. I mean, Stephen’s guitar, from the get-go, with that tone, we were a metal-based band, but there were other things going into it, too, and that was the way it evolved. We never considered ourselves anything, genre-wise, and that was very much by design. We always wanted to expand. Some of these other bands, they can’t. They can’t, or they won’t. And we were able to. Not to be negative, because if you can make a living playing music doing what you’re doing, there’s nothing wrong with that at all, man. But we needed to go the other way.”
And things are going amazingly well in Deftones-world right now. The band had just gotten back from South America when Abe called for this chat, and Koi No Yokan had just been released. The percussion tank behind the band was looking forward to trying out more new material in the live setting, now that fans will actually be familiar with the stuff. “The album’s only been out a few days, so we were playing just a few new songs up until, well, maybe tonight, where we’re going to put together a set list with a few more new ones. We have been playing ‘Leathers,’ ‘Poltergeist,’ ‘Rosemary’ and ‘Tempest.’ Now that the record’s out, we can actually throw in more stuff; there’ll be another new one tonight. See what works, and also what makes the people happy. And there’s a lot of stuff to play, too, having a lot of albums out now, so we’re trying to make it all work.
My connection with Abe was a bit garbled at times (cell technology isn’t perfect, pretty sure we all realize that by now); some of the conversation was unintelligible, but in between the muffle and crackle, Abe talked a good bit about the band’s brotherhood and the overwhelmingly positive vibe in the band right now. Abe, Stephen and vocalist Chino Moreno went to school together, and they’ve seen the world multiple times over while making a nice living from their music. Despite that, Abe admits, “about every time we do a record, Stephen and I usually have the biggest blowout while we’re writing. Not really me, but he does, and I just sit back and let him have his words and then at the end we talk about it and figure it all out. It can get crazy when we’re writing. Not for me, but for him.” He adds, with a laugh: “Stephen needs to lighten up.”
Looking at the band’s journey so far, comparing how things felt when they formed back in the late ’80s to how they feel now, Abe is philosophical: “In some ways it’s exactly the same,” he muses. “These dudes are my brothers, my best friends. But we’re still trying to get our shit right. Do what feels right. Not as a business, but from a creative standpoint. And keeping balance, that’s important. We went through many years of being wild and having a blast, and we’ve suffered some, too, and we’re just trying to be healthy and do it right. If anything, we just respect each other, our friendships and our band, and trying to do things right, while all the while having a fucking blast.”
The positivity happening in the band right now is underscored when Abe is asked about the still-shelved Eros album. In 2008, original bassist Chi Cheng was thrown into a minimally-conscious state as the result of a car accident. Everything less important, including the album they were recording at the time, went on the back burner. With Chi making slow progress over the years, the band have kept cool regarding the album’s fate, but Abe reveals: “It’s mostly done. We have a couple things to finish, but it’s in a vacuum right now. What happened with Chi fucked things up there for a while. We didn’t know what we were gonna do with the album. It was one of those things where we were trying to figure it out, every single day. And Chi’s condition was obviously most important. So we just kind of stopped at one point. We weren’t even sure if we wanted to be a band or not. We took a couple months off because we didn’t know what to do, and Sergio [Vega, ex-Quicksand] came in because we had an obligation for a show we had to play. Sergio was a friend and a fan, and we started jamming, and we figured if we could feel good about what we were doing, we’d do it. Then all of a sudden we were together making a record [Diamond Eyes], and it turned out so great we just didn’t want to look back. So Eros is part of the past. I’d like to have it out at some point, but right now there’s a real positive vibe in the band and we’re trying to keep it that way.”
By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listenOn: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
Rock and metal’s history is filled with super-success stories. The likes of which have landed Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, KISS, and countless more into the memory banks and culture stream of headbobbers and normal joes everywhere. But there’s an opposite side to mountains of cocaine, private jets, and endless pyro fountains. “Un-success” is more prevalent than success, and many a garage or bedroom band—check out Death, for example—bit the dust on rock/metal’s cold fucking granite and steel floor. Case in point, Pentagram. Before the group’s recent resurgence, the Maryland rock-bottomers were a mere footnote. They had albums on labels various and sundry, but their ascension into rock/metal megastars wasn’t happening then (perhaps self imposed) and it won’t happen now (save a miracle). But let’s forget Pentagram for a spell.
Deep in the caverns of rock/metal history where stalagmites and stalactites of bands great and terrible grow painfully slow lies Medusa. Formed in Chicago in the mid-’70s—the mysterious group had self-produced a four-track EP in ’75 for the Pepperhead label—Medusa had vestiges of rock’s heaviest and most experimental in Black Sabbath and German weirdos Amon Düül II, respectively. They were part of the times, really. No musical limitations and a wide open path to explore, trip, and fumble ideas that weren’t possible in the decades before—though the ’60s had plenty, obviously—and the decades after. But Medusa’s time on planet rock was nevertheless short lived. Like so many wonderkinds of the riff, they vanished with nary a trace. That is until re-issue lords Numero Group found Medusa’s music dusty and covered with the cruel past.
So, sit back, smoke a bowl of Alpha-Bits, let the lava lamp roar, and stream Medusa’s mind-altering and rug-cut inducing “Strangulation” on your digital turntable.
** The Numero Group will unveil Medusa’s old tunes in January 2013. The packaging is rumored to be “insane”, a black velvet gatefold LP with metallic gold and red foil embossing. Pagan Altar move on over, please. Check the Numero Group’s infuriating Flash-based website HERE for more details.