Interview with Cloud Rat

Mount Pleasant, Michigan’s Cloud Rat play grind and they play it really well. They have a new album in the holster and on the ready entitled Moksha, courtesy the fine folks at Halo of Flies. What follows is an interview with guitarist Rorik Brooks and some vids and crap I lifted from their website. Check ’em out, they rule.
For those not in the know, can you give the history of Cloud Rat?
We formed in December 2009. Adrian plays drums, Madison does vocals, and I (Rorik) play guitar. Adrian and I had played in bands together in the past and, at the time, he and Madison were living together. There was a show at their house and during a set I could hear Madison screaming with no mic over the noise and crowd from across the room. After that, I approached them about starting a grindcore band as I had the grind itch after being in a straight-up hardcore band for a few years. At the first practice we wrote four songs that would eventually end up on our first LP. Since then we have just been working our asses off writing, recording, touring, and sometimes losing our minds doing this.

Second softball question: what about your no bass player decision? Is adding a four-stringer something you’d ever entertain?
We have talked about it in the past, but now I’m pretty sure we are a full cohesive unit without a bass player. We get along well, we write/record together relatively quick and stress-free, it’s easier to organize schedules, especially since we live 2 1/2 hours apart, and in a live setting I think we can pull it off. I run through 2-3 amps/cabs with a bass rig and octave pedal, etc.

What were the initial intentions and goals in forming this band? How have they changed a few years into the game?
We initially were just trying to play some shows, maybe tour a little bit here and there, do a couple records that hopefully would resonate with a few people. Now, after seven vinyl releases, multiple US tours, Canadian and soon European tours, I guess I don’t really feel like a lot has changed. We still want to be DIY/DIT, we still want to write and record good records. Ideally, we would like to have a positive impact, i.e. maybe get some people talking more about social/political issues, and hopefully be an inspiration for some people. But we are first and foremost a punk band, and have no delusions of grandeur.

On, it says that your lyrical themes are “women’s rights, vegan, self-empowerment.” Yes? No? Maybe so? How so and why?
Our lyrics cover a lot of topics, including those mentioned. Animal cruelty/veganism, patriarchy, globalization/colonialism/industrialization, rape/molestation, domestic abuse/neglect, police brutality, depression, existential issues, feminism, LGBTQ/gender issues, drug abuse, religion, and more. Most of Madison’s lyrics are pretty personal and poetic while also addressing these issues. The three of us care about these things, and I feel like they are all personal issues that affect everyone, whether they know it or not. The more personal songs about abuse, drugs, depression, and the like are all things that the three of us have experienced and come out of, so that’s where the self-empowerment comes in. Note: I don’t know who put the metal-archives thing up.

How has your hometown impacted what you do, play and sing about?
It’s probably more of an influence on us than we know. Small, mostly conservative college / farm town in the middle of Michigan, not a lot to do growing up. Abusive upbringings, drugs followed at a young age for all of us. A lot of our friends have either ended up in jail/prison, dead, in comas or their lives destroyed. I live near multiple CAFOs, and I work in construction, so I see and hear a lot of fucked up things around me. This band is definitely a cathartic outlet for all of that. Also, since there wasn’t a very big punk/metal scene around here, our music influences/tastes were probably shaped a bit differently than someone who grew up surrounded by it in a bigger city. But I don’t know, that could be bullshit. Haha.

You’ve had a good number of releases out in a relatively short period of time. Is this release frequency by design or have you found the floodgates opening in your direction and favour after the first album?
I think it was a combination of things. First, our S/T LP had a lot of positive response. Second, we have gone through some really productive writing sessions. And then, at the same time, our friends’ bands have all been doing rad stuff, so it was only logical to do all of these splits and comps and what not. Now, after Moksha, we are probably going to be slowing down release-wise. We will continue to write and record whenever it feels right, but we want to try and keep the quality of our material top-notch. No records just for the sake of records, you know?

What was the writing process like for the new album? How long did it take and was there anything you were consciously trying to do different or improve upon in comparison to other recordings?
Generally, the way we write is that I will have a batch of riffs. I bring them to practice with Adrian, then he and I will put some songs together. Madison lives 2-1/2 hours away in Detroit, so it’s hard for the three of us to get together. For this album, we wrote and recorded a giant batch of material, which all made up the split LP with Republic of Dreams, the Monomaniac compilation track, Moksha, and the upcoming split 7″ with Orgullo Primitivo, plus three more tracks that may or may not see the light of day. Overall, probably about a year of writing for 26 songs. It took us two days to record the drums and guitars in February 2012, then over the course of the year Madison would add vocals when the records were coming up, and I would tweak guitars here and there. We pretty much write whatever we feel like. I think the only conscious decision is to do our best not to repeat ourselves, and to construct albums that flow well out of all that material.

deciblog - Cloud rat-Cover-300x300

With the album’s completion and the benefit of hindsight, how would you say Moksha differs from the rest of your discography?
I think it is the best-sounding of our material so far, and I also think it is our best put-together album. I’m really satisfied with the general flow of the album, and I think that even though some of the material is way different than anything we’ve done yet, it all still fits somehow. It’s faster and heavier than ever for a lot of the record, it’s slower and more mellow at points, it’s more melodic at times, it’s uglier than ever at times.

Something that stands out for me in listening to the new album is how much exists in Cloud Rat’s riffs. Despite the single guitar, I hear a lot of melodic overtones and layers. Am I hearing things? Or am I missing the double tracking? Is the existence of these melodic washes a series of “happy accidents”?
I’d say happy accidents. Haha. I do two guitar tracks, but we try to stay as true to our live sound as possible. I don’t do any big overdubs or anything. The only stuff I go back and tweak are little things like feedback, maybe a couple volume swells and pickslides. I’ve had people tell me multiple times after a live show that they could have sworn another guitar or even a bass player was playing, but it’s just one guitar. The wonders of an AB/Y switch and a polyphonic octave pedal. Couldn’t do it without those. Also, the person that we have done all of our recording with, Kevin Kitchel, is a master at recording and mixing. He knows how to make shit sound good, and he is a blast to hang out and record with.

What does the title Moksha refer to? What is the significance to you as an album title?
Moksha refers to the concept of the final liberation and extrication of our souls from reincarnation in Hinduism and other Eastern religions. To us, it is a really cool concept, as well as hinting at other forms of liberation. Animal/Earth/Humyn liberation, etc. On the same coin, I think it’s a bit of a dark concept, since in this sense, the final liberation is technically only through a “death” of sorts. Freedom via nonexistence, or at least that’s how I view it.

Seeing as I know very little about you outside of the noise you make as a collective, how much of a priority is Cloud Rat for you at this point in your lives? How are you finding balancing the band and your lives?
I work a full-time job as a crane operator/welder/millwright and have a nine-year-old daughter. Madison is the manager of a coffee shop in Detroit and plays in a million bands. Adrian creates more music than anyone I know in multiple projects. Cloud Rat is a huge part of all our lives right now, with touring and recording and everything. For me personally, it is quite a challenge to balance everything, especially touring while having a growing child. Luckily we’ve been fortunate to have pretty supportive family and friends, so they ease the burden somewhat. After our upcoming European tour, we are taking a break from playing for a while, probably until at least late summer 2013. The hardest part of this band is, unfortunately, financially. I hate money, but to do this you either need to have money or be able to make some money doing it. Missing out on work while touring can really put a strain on bills and other aspects of your life. I wish we could play all free shows and give away merch and records, but it just doesn’t work that way. However, I think we are doing alright, and I foresee continuing to do it for a lot longer.

What’s next on the docket for Cloud Rat?
After Moksha, we have a split 7″ with Orgullo Primitivo from Texas hopefully coming out by late spring/early summer. We are touring Europe, March 4th – April 7th (see dates below). Then, we will take a break and regroup our lives. After that, probably doing some smaller US tours, a bit in Canada, some fests. Hopefully doing Australia and Mexico in 2014. We would eventually like to pretty much play everywhere, really. We are writing slowly, maybe will have material ready for mid-late 2014.

You can pre-order Moksha here:

04.3 UK London @ the New Cross Inn w/ Lich, Jackals & Skylark
05.3 UK Norwich @ Take 5 (the Crypt) w/ Lich, Jackals
06.3 UK Nottingham @ Annie’s Burger Shack at the Navigation Inn w/ Lich, Moloch, Death Tripper
07.3 UK Edinburgh @ Banshee Labyrinth w/ Lich
08.3 UK Bradford @ Equal Fest!
09.3 UK Margate @ the Practice Rooms w/ Lich, Man Hands & Human Junk
10.3 FR Paris @ Le Cafe de Paris w/ Lich
11.3 FR Toulouse @ Le Pavillon Sauvage w/ Lich
12.3 SP Madrid @ Rock Palace w/ Lich
13.3 SP Barcelona w/ Lich
14.3 FR Hyeres @ Jolly Rogers w/ Lich
15.3 IT Milan w/ Lich
16.3 A Graz w/ Lich
17.3 A Vienna @ EKH w/ Lich & Deathseekers
18.3 CZ Prague @ Cafe Na Pul Cesty w/ Lich
19.3 D Erlangen @ Jugendhaus w/ Lich, Rvivr & Dogjaw
20.3 B Antwerp @ Music City w/ Lich & San Diablo
21.3 NL Nijmegen w/ Resurrectionists & Lich
22.3 D Münster @ Baracke w/ Resurrectionists, Lich & June Paik
23.3.D Hamburg tba w/ Resurrectionists
24.3. DK Valby @ Kraftwerket w/ Resurrectionists
25.3. Sweden w/ Resurrectionists
26.3. S Stockholm tbc w/ Resurrectionists
27.3. N Oslo @ Blitz tbc w/ Resurrectionists
28.3. S Gothenburg @ Härden w/ Resurrectionists
29.3. DK Aalborg @ 1000 Fryd w/ Resurrectionists
30.3. D Bremen @ Römer w/ Resurrectionists
31.3. D Mülheim @ AZ w/ Resurrectionists, Jungbluth
01.4. NL Groningen @ Vera Basement
02.4. D Berlin @ Tiefgrund
03.4. PL Warsaw w/ Republic of Dreams
04.4. PL Wroclaw / w/ Republic of Dreams
05.4. CZ Hradec Králové @ Hudební Klub#4 w/ Republic of Dreams
06.4. D Leipzig @ Plagwitz tbc
07.4. D Köln @ AZ

For more info and other goodies: