Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Interview: Erik Ohlsson of Millencolin

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Millencolin (2)-5Thursday, 7 April 2016 – Interview by Stuart McGuckin This is not MILLENCOLIN’S first rodeo. They’ve been around the block once or twice now and they know the ropes fairly well, having knocked about for twenty-plus years with their own […]

Rebellious Jukebox: 40 years of Brisbane’s 4ZZZ

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

It’s often lamented that there’s not much rebellion left in music: the heart-on-sleeve socialism of Joe Hill, the salacious sexuality of Ma Rainey long gone, even the refusenik attitudes of the Greenwich Village hippies seem quaint. Subversion, where it exists in the mainstream today, is mostly confected by publicists and stylists; hedonism, escapism and apathy far more palatable for most than righteous indignation or speaking truth to power. It’s a reductionist view – you only need to look to a superstar artist like Ai Wei Wei to see rebellion being served to the masses, albeit in a different medium – but it broadly holds true. The corporate takeover of authentic, socially charged art seems to have reached its conclusion about the same time that Punk Broke.

There are still pockets of resistance that remain though, that combine revolutionary fervour and artistic self-expression. They may be in disparate, atomised reaches of the underground, or the domain of ultra-niche online communities, but they’re still there if you look hard enough. It’s not like there are no pricks left to kick against.

All this makes something like Brisbane community radio station 4ZZZ, which celebrates 40 years of broadcasting today, all the more exceptional. Its founders – to oversimplify it, mostly left-wing students at the University of Queensland – were both victims and beneficiaries of the time and place that allowed the station, and the creative and insurrectionary communities that surround it, to flourish. The perfectly timed collision of new, experimental FM radio licenses, the jackboot conservatism of notorious Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and the birth of punk rock in Brisbane’s stifling suburbs all conspiring to instill the station with a character that shall not be moved. With a motto loaned from the labour movement to “Agitate, Educate, Organise”, music and politics have marched together, arm in arm, since day one. The station has long been a proving ground for young journalists too – you couldn’t find a newsroom in the country that hasn’t had a zedder work there at some stage.

With an avowed rejection of both the state’s authority and the easy listening dross that filled commercial radio airwaves at the time, the station embraced punk and other more experimental musical forms for their musicality as much as their inherent ideology. The high fidelity FM signal – the first of its kind in Queensland – was perfectly suited to broadcasting quality music and despite itself, the station found a large audience quickly. While its fortunes and influence may have experienced ups and downs in 40 years, Zed’s role in the cultural life of Brisbane can’t be understated.

“Triple Zed has always played different music. In the beginning Zed played ‘album tracks’ – music that wasn’t just in the Top 40. That was radical for Australian radio back in the mid-70s,” says Sam Kretschmann, a long-standing listener, subscriber, and station volunteer.

Like any good radio station, almost any conceivable style of music can be heard, with primacy given to the new, local, independent and non-commercial, obscure and bizarre.

“Local music has always been very important to the station. It is part of our quota as an announcer to select at least 30% local music content for each show that goes to air,” she says.

Kretschmann, who also performs as Miss P Leisure in Brisbane psychedelic basshead institution Monster Zoku Onsomb! (MZO!), first came to be involved with 4ZZZ in 1996, after growing up listening to the station as a kid in the 80s. Her experience as a listener, then subscriber and volunteer in a range of on– and off-air roles, and participation in Brisbane’s music scene is one that is repeated throughout the station’s history.

“Me and the other coordinators practically lived there. For about 10 years I did all sorts of things: event organiser, promotions coordinator, announcer, programming committee, and board member,” she says.

The active involvement of local musicians in community broadcasting isn’t particular to 4ZZZ, but is still idiosyncratic enough to have played a large part in shaping the station’s identity. The line-ups of many fundraising events are a good indicator of some of the folk that have been involved with, or connected to the station at any given time.

“They are all organised by volunteers, and bands mainly play for free to help to raise money for the station. These events are all from the heart. Everyone comes together for the good of the station and there really is no better feeling than that,” Kretschmann says.

There have been countless gigs and fundraisers organised or presented by the station over its 40 years. The infamous Joint Effort shows commenced in 1976 and featured artists such like Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Screaming Jay Hawkins, The Go-Betweens, and The Riptides.

Market Day, the most notorious of all Zed fundraisers, is now the stuff of legend thanks to Queensland police, who ended the 1996 event prematurely with a trademark display of wanton aggression. Riot Day, as the 1996 Market Day has been known ever since, resulted in more than 50 arrests, with many more bloodied by Queensland’s finest, nearly 10 years after Joh’s reign finally ended. They don’t call it Pig City for nothing.

“These events were crucial to the station. It was the major fundraiser in the 90s and the station would not be broadcasting today if it had not been for the community getting behind these events and raising money to keep the station going. It brought the underground of Brisbane together. Just being there meant that you were giving the finger to the mainstream,” she says.

Riot Day wasn’t the first time the station had been hassled by the man. 4ZZZ eventually broke ties with the University of Queensland after being taken off air briefly in 1988 by a hostile student union, and station staff and volunteers were routinely subject to surveillance (and occasional beatings) by Joh’s Special Branch until its dissolution in 1989. This is a whole other story though, and one that has been told much more eloquently and in much greater detail in Andrew Stafford’s book Pig City, or in the war stories of hundreds of volunteers and staff.

Today, 40 years on, 4ZZZ in many ways serves the same role it has since it was miraculously born. A voice for the voiceless, a creative space where diversity and acceptance flourish, a fertile place for ideas and connections to form. A place to hear cool, interesting, unusual music, played by people who love it.

“It is a great accomplishment and proof that there is passion in Brisbane. Passion for independence and passion to keep the station alive. And whether you like the music played on air or not, Zed is the soul of Brisbane for many people. It is impossible to think that there [could ever] be no Triple Zed. There must always be a place where you can get involved, have your say, and be creative, all without having to tow the corporate line or sell something. With Triple Zed behind you, you can be you – you can be different,” Kretschmann says.

Happy birthday to a true revolutionary. Don’t ever change.

4ZZZ’s 40th anniversary celebrations continue on and off air until December 13. Tune in today from 2pm AEDT for a ten-hour retrospective of Brisbane music.

With thanks to Sam Kretschmann and David Lennon for the images.

Interview: MONO

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

MONO are about extremes. Loud and quiet, comforting and crushing, uplifting and heartwrenching — the Japanese quartet have built a career on polarities. On their most recent releases — the companion albums The Last Down and Rays of Darkness — MONO fully realize the duality of their sound, from gentle piano melodies of “Kanata” to the post-hardcore flurry of “The Hand that Holds the Truth”. Before their upcoming Australian & New Zealand tour, MONO guitarist Taka discusses the band’s orchestral roots, their sonic polarities and channelling the sound of Japan.

You released Last Days / Rays of Darkness over year ago now. After playing that material for the last 12 months, how has your relationship with the songs changed?

It worked a lot, especially “Recoil, Ignite”, “Where We Begin”, “Kanata” etc. They made wider worlds and also made our new visions.

Those two records are companion albums – The Last Dawn is more akin to your uplifting orchestral work, and Rays of Darkness explores dark and somber territory. MONO’s music has always been about contrast. What draws you to that idea of duality in music?

The main human emotions are divided into positivity and negativity, and let’s say that they’re both 50/50 to begin with. If we have even 1% more positive emotions, everything will start to lead towards the light. To simply put, for The Last Dawn, in a minimalist approach, I wanted to express that regardless of your current situations or emotions, if you accept everything as it is and find more positivity, you will eventually be able to overcome all the negativity.

On the other hand for Rays of Darkness, I wanted to express that if you have even 1% more negative emotions or thoughts, the chaos will eventually spread and drag you down to darkness without you noticing about it. I just started to think that even everything is in disorder; there is something that’s always in order. I really wanted to express that to the world as art.

The two albums ended up representing the counter points in life. Light and darkness, hope and hopelessness, love and loss, the emotions which can’t be expressed, pain which you can’t put into words, happiness which you can’t simply measure. We also at the same time felt and hoped that they could be something to exceed the darkness.

Unlike your previous work, Rays of Darkness featured no orchestral compositions. What inspired that decision? Was it a challenge to yourself to see how you could write with just guitars, bass and drums?

I originally wanted to create something original, symphonic and spiritual like Beethoven but with electric guitars. So far, we managed to experience so many things, more than any indie band can ask for, like playing with full orchestras in New York, London, Australia and Tokyo. From these experiences, we tried something more complex and classical for our previous album, For My Parents, but at the same time, we started to raise some concerns. During the album’s American tour, we started to feel as though our sounds were like a spineless dinosaur comparing to our old sounds. Sure, symphonic music is loud, epic and dreamy, but there is something lacking compare to rock music, like the pressure and destruction they can bring.

We originally started off as a four-piece, and even though our concerns started to rise much earlier, we just took them as a required risk to challenge something new. But as we toured more, we started to know for certain that our feelings were right.

Going back to the original root was an easy thing to do, but also, we all didn’t want to do what we have already done. I really thought about this a lot. I needed to find a new method that could show my current emotions, and I truly believed that will allow us to see a new world.

Tetsu Fukagawa of Envy provides vocals on “The Hand that Holds the Truth” on Rays of Darkness. How did your relationship with him come about, and what led to that collaboration?

Personally for a long time, I always wanted to collaborate with Tetsu. He’s been a good of friend of ours for so long so I’m really glad it became a reality. Even during the time I was writing the song, I could clearly hear how his vocals would fit in together. When we actually collaborated, I didn’t really give him any instructions but he already knew what I was hoping to achieve. The song turned out to be such an incredible piece and we’re all very proud of it.

A lot of the Japanese musicians who gain attention around the rest of the world work with extremes – Merzbow with noise, Boris with their mix of sludge/slude/doom/noise/metal, MONO with cinematic and emotional post-rock. Why do you think those sensibilities resonate so strongly with audiences all over the world? What draws you to personally to that type of music?

I don’t know about other bands (we have good relationship with Boris though) but Japanese music scene is very conservative, and it won’t be changed forever, it makes us feel very uncomfortable. We have to trust own music and own art, probably this mind is making much stronger music.

I really love the dramatic, spiritual, cinematic and emotional music like Beethoven and Ennio Morricone especially. If I were to borrow Beethoven’s words, I think music is something that ignites fire in men’s heart and bring tears to women’s eyes. (And of course, vice versa). Every individual reflects their own life through music like spiritual travels, like every cell in your body getting triggered unconsciously. After experiencing fantastic movies, books or art, there is a power that allows you to see and feel new values of your life which you didn’t really notice. We really hope we can create the same kind of experience to people.

Those bands talk a lot about the influence Japan’s cityscapes and environment of Japan on their music. For Boris, their music channels a way of channeling the chaos of Tokyo and its surrounds, but MONO have never been about chaos. How have those surrounds inspired MONO’s song writing process?

We were seeking a sound that’s original and unique, not something that has already been done or try to copy them for that matter. We felt that we should create something that’s like a language globally accepted over countries, history and cultures. I think music is a very special gift given to us to tell a story or show something that you can’t simply describe with words. Sure, it might sound arrogant but as a composer, I write music that would save me, and also allows me to think and look for the meaning of life. And from that, I also hope to give the strength to continue and live to other people in the world.

You’re more than 15 years and 8 studio albums into your life as a band. What’s next for MONO?

We have a plan to record and release new album on next year.

MONO play Australia & New Zealand on the following dates:

Perth — Rosemount Hotel — December 4
Melbourne — Corner Hotel — December 5
Sydney — Newtown Social Club — December 6
Sydney — Newtown Social Club — December 7
Brisbane — Woolly Mammoth — December 8
Auckland — Kings Arms — December 10 — Presented with Under The Radar

Tickets on sale now from, Oztix, (NZ only) and venue outlets.

Interview: Drowning Horse

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Drowning Horse are one of those bands that defy description. You can hurl the usual adjectives and genre tags their way — doom, sludge, drone, heavy, unbearable, crushing. But words fails to capture the absolute immensity of this band; that physical sensation, that veritable onslaught of emotional heft. It always comes down to language of the disaster — the torrent of depressive feeling and the earth-shaking power of the band’s climactic moments. On Sheltering Sky, Drowning Horse expand their sonic palette of devastation, balancing powerful moments of catharsis with subtle moments of reflection, realisation and horror. Here, ahead of their upcoming national tour, guitarist Michael Larkins discusses the demanding process of Sheltering Sky’s creation.

Matthew Tomich: To start off, could you walk me through the timeline of making Sheltering Sky, from the genesis of the first song to the recording process?
Michael Larkins: Sure. The writing process was probably from the end of 2012 until midway through 2013. We recorded a pre-production demo which was like a live recording at Studio Sleepwalkers Dread, which is Ron Pollard’s [of Tangled Thoughts of Leaving] studio. We did that over a weekend at the end of December. That was mainly just so we could plan out how the songs fit together. Once we heard that, we booked in for the start of 2014 to record track by track for each instrument. That took about three months – we were just doing that over weekends which we had free when Ron had time available in the studio. There was a lot of time in between where we could reflect on what we recorded, have a listen, see if there was anything which needed re-doing. So we did have a lot of time to go over it and make sure that everything was perfect. We didn’t finish the tracking until maybe around April or May. And then, again, we started mixing, and I don’t think we finished that until around September in 2014.

MT: So what delayed it – the year between finishing mixing and releasing it?
ML: It was mainly just time. We all work, we all have other bands and other commitments. We wanted to make sure that it was going to be perfect so we spent a lot of time listening over the mixes. Over the mixing process, a lot of that was done in the studio. We’d go back and listen to that mix for a couple of weeks, get in contact with Ron via email and say, “can you try change the levels on this instrument,” or EQ that a bit differently or things like that. We’d go in maybe a couple of weeks later and go over the tracks and listen to it on the studio monitors. It was a bit hard because Ron’s studio is in North Dandalup and that’s about an hour south of Perth, so it’s a long drive. Each session took about eight hours so it really took it out of us. We didn’t want to do it all in one block or it might destroy. We usually went there for about three or four session in a row. Some of the sessions we just went down with a couple of us, other times we were all down there. We spent a long time tracking. It was a lot different to our last recording, for which I think we did all the tracking in about four days or so. With Sheltering Sky, we really wanted to spend time and make sure we get the best out of what we were going for. In Ron’s studio, he has a great setup, so we could really capture the sounds and tones of our amps. We had a lot of time to experiment with sounds and different equipment.

MT: What kind of stuff were you experimenting with equipment-wise?
ML: I suppose more just using – the same way we do live, generally – Brendan [McGrath, guitars] and I will play through two different guitar amps, but instead of double-tracking any guitars, we just mic’d up two separate amps at once and got a really full sound. You can do a lot when you’re blending different guitar tones. We just wanted to have a lot of space to breathe for our instruments and Ron’s studio could capture that. It was a good way of mixing. It sounded quite natural in comparison to how we sound live.

MT: The thing that’s always struck me about Drowning Horse’s music is the sheer monumental heft and emotional weight of what you’re doing, both on record and on stage. Is the experience of making and playing that music as painful and exhausting as it sounds?
I’d say yes. The whole thing with the band is we really want to play some devastating tunes. I mean, there’s not really anything uplifting about the music. With this sort of music, you don’t want anything to be positive or sound uplifting. You want it to sound quite depressing. A lot of the time when we’re rehearsing together or playing live, I get quite lost in the music. When I’m playing, it doesn’t make you happy or anything like that when you’re playing it, but I do get a lot of fulfilment and enjoyment out of it. After a set or a rehearsal, I do feel quite – I don’t know – quite uplifted in a different way. It’s an outlet for all negative energy. From that I feel a bit more positive once we’ve gone through it. It’s not like we really don’t look forward to rehearsing or playing the songs. We all need that outlet because we’re all busy and we don’t always face those sort of emotions or feelings when they come up so it’s a good way to get those sort of feelings out with the music.

MT: You mentioned before that because of the time you had working on Sheltering Sky, you had to more reflect on it, and that to me comes across in the record. It feels a lot more meditative, like you’ve scaled back some of the more extreme elements and balanced them with passages that remind me a lot of Earth. Is that part of a dynamic move – to wind things back so those cathartic climaxes have even more power when they hit?
ML: I think it was more like a natural progression. The first album was all pretty much sludgy doom sort of stuff. Whereas with Sheltering Sky, we focused more on songwriting and structures. We still explored a lot of the heavy sort of stuff and doom stuff which we had previously, but we wanted to look further into portraying those emotions through sound. I think some of cleaner or softer parts of the album are some of the more depressing or depressive-sounding parts on the whole album. You don’t need to have heavy guitars or anything like that to sound crushing or devastating. I think some of those riffs are pretty destroying as well, just the soft parts. It was quite different to what we’d played in the past. I think you can still kind of tell it’s the same band as well. It’s just that real natural progression. It makes it a bit more interesting as well. You need to pay a bit more attention rather than just play a heavy riff or something like that.

MT: How much of the material from Sheltering Sky has been played live over the past couple of years?
ML: We started playing those songs around August 2013 when Whitehose came over [to Perth]. We’d been working on that material, as I said, since probably around the end of 2012. We had a permanent rehearsal space so we were jamming like twice a week for probably about a year. Over that time we were quite happy with the songs which we were playing. We didn’t play many live gigs between that time, I don’t think. We were just concentrating on writing. We just knew we had to put something out or we wanted to work on new material rather than just play shows which can get in the way of writing material. Out of all the songs we’ve written on Sheltering Sky, we’ve probably played maybe six of those songs. We don’t really play any of the older stuff any more. Not that I don’t like it – I still really like the older stuff, it’s just we’re pretty sick of it. We were playing a lot of live shows for a long time and played those songs to death. And with these songs, they’re a bit more interesting. We work better as a band when we play these songs. I highly doubt we’d ever go back and play a song like “Kings” or something like that, one of the songs which we wrote maybe five or six years ago. We just want to keep moving forward with the Sheltering Sky stuff and the songs just work really well live.

MT: Will you be playing each of those eight tracks at some point on this tour?
ML: I highly doubt it. With the situation with James [Wills, drums] in Melbourne, it can be hard to rehearse. Again, that’s why we don’t play very often. James has been in Melbourne for I think close to two years now. So rehearsing is quite difficult. If we do have a show, he usually comes back a week in advance and we have to rehearse four times in a row prior to a gig. I mean, we tend to record together, but it’s not the same as when you’re rehearsing every week. I’d say from the Sheltering Sky stuff, we might try doing at least half of those songs. They’re quite long songs as well – the shortest one is five minutes and the longest one is about 18 minutes. We might look at maybe three or four songs per set, but we’ll probably try and have a few different sets because I know we’re playing two launch shows. It’s not going to be much fun if you’re playing the same songs at both launches.

MT: Where does that name Sheltering Sky come from?
ML: I can’t remember [laughs].

MT: Because there’s a novel by the same name, and I know there’s also a King Crimson song that takes the name from that novel.
ML: Yeah. Brendan came up with the name based on the novel I believe. That’s where the name came from. Brendan had been reading the novel and I think and Kim and a few others had read the novel as well and they were all really on board with what was covered in the book. And I guess with Sheltering Sky as well, the theme is kind of based on isolation, both with the lyrics and the music. And I believe the book is about a similar sort of grim, isolated sort of area. So I think it all links in.

MT: Did you read The Black Captain’s review of the album that we posted on Life is Noise?
ML: Yeah. That was a phenomenal review. The Black Captain’s writing is just so above everyone else’s. That was probably one of the best reviews which Drowning Horse could ever hope to receive, and it was such a positive review but also such an honest review. There was a lot of thought which went into it. A lot of times you can read reviews and a lot of them are all the same — they all sort of focus on the same sort of points. But there was a bit about The Black Captain’s own experiences in comparison to the album as well, which was really interesting to read. I’m quite stoked with that sort of review. It’s just such a tragedy that he passed away. I don’t believe I had the chance to meet him but I’d always listen to Behind the Mirror and I know he’s been a real influential person in the heavy music scene, especially for a lot of my friends. He turned them onto a lot of different underground heavy music as well. He’s just got such a great taste in music. And for someone like him to praise Sheltering Sky and review it in such a positive way was just unreal.

MT: A couple of the things he and I talked about after I read that was the way religious belief as well as notions of space come into music – that the ritualistic aspects of doom become a form of worship in themselves, which kind of ties into what you said before about isolation being a big part of Drowning Horse’s music. Do you think you’re drawn to that extremity by being from a place like Perth that is so far away, and is so flat and geographically and topographically uninteresting? Do you think Drowning Horse’s heft and the depth of the music is a way of channeling that?
ML: It’s hard to say. There’s five different people in the band and we’re all quite different people.

MT: From your perspective then, when you’re writing your parts.
ML: I can’t really say. I actually really love living in Perth. I like the isolation. I like that it’s kind of dullsville. A lot of the people in bands move to Melbourne or something but that’s never really appealed to me. I’ve always loved living in Perth. I like how boring it can be. It sucks that there aren’t many venues. It sucks that not a lot of bands tour. I mean, Life is Noise has put on some great tours and they always come to Perth which has been a big change over the past couple of years. But previously there were never any bands which toured here. I guess the members of Drowning Horse are all in a punk/hardcore scene and there aren’t so many bands there and not so many people there. When you compare that to something like Melbourne, where there’s probably 1,000 people in that sort of scene. In Perth there might be a couple of hundred. Since there’s not a lot going on, it makes you want to play music and do something. I’m quite busy with work and other commitments as well but if I didn’t have the musical outlet, I don’t know if I’d stay in Perth either. I think it’s the perfect hub if you want to work on music. You don’t always have the same opportunities for constant performances but it gives you a lot of time to work on the music which you want to put out. That might be why there are a lot of Perth bands who are gems. A lot of people say that there’s a lot of quality bands which come out of Perth and it’s just because a lot of people in Perth put a lot more effort into their music because they have the time.

MT: Will Drowning Horse be going into hibernation again after this tour?
ML: It’s hard to say. Sometimes opportunities come up and performances do come up. We have passed up a lot of performances based on James being over east. Whenever we perform, we want to make sure we’re on top form and we play phenomenally. We don’t want to put on a poor performance. Sometimes if we get in two rehearsals and we haven’t jammed together for six months, it’s not going to be worth it because we don’t want to put on a poor performance. It comes down to if James can get time off work as well. We really like playing together and I think the time apart can be better as well. These songs have been around since when we started writing at the end of 2012 but they’re still kind of fresh to us. We look forward to rehearsing and playing more so than if we were rehearsing every week. It’s a bit of a treat when we do get together and we really appreciate the time when we can get together. I’d say we probably will go on a slight hiatus but who knows. James could come back. It probably comes down to what everyone’s doing. We’re definitely not going to end the band just after releasing Sheltering Sky, but performances will be hard to do since a key member is living in Melbourne.

Witness Drowning Horse on their Australian tour on the following dates:

October 30 – The Rosemount, Perth
w/ Space Bong, Craig McElhinney and Alzabo

October 31 – Mojos, Fremantle
w/ Space Bong, Foxes and Self Harm

November 5 – Crowbar, Brisbane
w/ Carnal Urge, Ripped Off, Frown and Idylls

November 6 – The Curtin, Melbourne
w/ Gentlemen, Mutton, Whitehorse and Scab Eater

November 7 – The Tote, Melbourne
w/ Space Bong, Extinct Exist, Contaminated and Tombsealer

November 8 — Newtown Social, Sydney
w/ We Lost The Sea, Thorax and Jxckxlz

Tickets are available on the door for each show.

Interview: Earthless

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Earthless weave dreams. Reaching the limits of what three human beings can achieve with a guitar, a bass and a set of drums, the California trio have carved a sonic palette the size of the Mojave desert with blistering guitars, inimitable grooves and an allegiance to the might of the riff. Here, on the week of their upcoming Australia tour with Elder, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell talks intuition, religion and playing on the fly.

Matthew Tomich: Earthless has been operating for almost a decade and a half now with the same three members, which is a pretty rare feat. How have you guys kept it together so well over the years?

Isaiah Mitchell: I don’t know. We just kind of do stuff on our own terms, I guess. Not overdoing it. If we can’t do something, we won’t do it. We all got along before we were in a band – Mike and Mario were friends and I was good friends with Mike. I knew Mario – we all came from the same town and knew each other. It’s easy. They’re easy going guys. I think the three of us are easy going for the most part, about playing music and everything. No assholes in the band or anything like that.

MT: Does the dynamic still kind of evolve now you’ve been playing together so long? Do you still find ways to surprise each other?

IM: It seems like there’s clearly the same formula to everything in the past couple of albums. I think we’re just getting better at listening to each other. I think we’re getting a lot more dynamic about feeling what each other’s going to do. I’d say that’s definitely it – being a little bit more intuitive with how someone’s going to react to something someone else does.

MT: I’ve read you talk about intuition a lot. How long did it take to come to that level where you felt you could read each other well and allow yourself to improve in a live setting from that?

IM: I think it happened pretty quick. They’re great musicians, so if you’re a good musician, you can play by feeling instead of being extremely mathematical about it. That stuff is already there and finding like-minded people that maybe come from the same place – it came pretty quick. It wasn’t this difficult thing, which is why we keep doing what we’re doing. I don’t know. When I hear other bands that do that, it’s like I really like that band because I can tell they’re kind of getting into the jazz a little or something, I don’t know, just being intuitive. Not saying we’re exactly like that, but just that feel and intuitiveness.

MT: Do you reach that similar level of intuition with the other players in Golden Void or any of your other projects?

IM: Yeah. I’d say so because the drummer and I, we were in our very first band together. I know him really well. In junior high school we were in bands, so I know him pretty damn good. I know what he’s going to think about. You can communicate with a look, and if you work something out in a practice space, same with Earthless – OK we’ll go this long, then do this fill to move to the next part, this riff to move to the next part – I feel like we gel really well and we take our live performance on a little trip sometimes.

MT: Does that mean you guys don’t really put together strict set lists? Do you kind of leave a lot of room to feel how the set’s going so you have different directions you can take it?

IM: Yeah, sure. We do that. Are you talking about Golden Void?

MT: With Earthless, mainly.

IM: Yeah, of course. We know what we’re always doing. We talk about it beforehand but there’ll be times when we do something – if we’re in the middle of a part that we know is going to be a long, drawn out section where we’re mainly improvising — that’s always spontaneous and we don’t talk about that. Sometimes we’ve taken it to really weird places, which is awesome. It’s invigorating. Sometimes we kind of stick to what we’re used to and somewhat planned out. It just depends on the night.

MT: I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about the link between spirituality and music and how certain genres – usually the ones that break away from the pop song structure like doom metal or post-rock or psych – work to fill this psychic void that non-religious people have. What’s your experience with religion and faith – did you have a religious upbringing?

IM: Not really. My parents are groovy, I know that much. They were brought up going to Catholic church or some Christian church or whatever. One of the two. They didn’t force it on me. It’s something that I was just by myself a little drawn towards and interested in. I got really into Buddhism for a long time, meditating and all that. I definitely spent a good portion of my youth really involved in that. Playing music and being involved in religion and mediation and all that, it really goes hand in hand.

MT: Are you still practising that – do you still consider yourself a practitioner of a particular belief or faith system?

IM: I mean, I don’t know. A lot of it is just golden rule kind of stuff. Just treat people great. Treat them vas you’d like to be treated. But no, I don’t really immerse myself in reading religious texts all the time. Actually, more so Native American ideas and the spirituality of that, I’m really into that lately, so I guess that counts. But just trying to be more in harmony with the Earth and yourself. It’s just like a daily thing. I don’t really think about it too much all the time unless I’m reading about it.

MT: The reason I ask is because in the live footage I’ve seen of you guys, there’s that sense of something ephemeral going on – you’re locked into some kind of immaterial groove and you’re not just playing music but conjuring it. I know that sounds kind of cheesy but do you know what I mean? Does that reflect how it feels for you?

IM: Yeah. There are times when it feels like I’ve gone to a different place. I might not be feeling very good – I might be upset or I might be sick or I might be in pain or whatever, and then you go play music, play a show, even rehearsal — it all stops. All that stuff stops. You’re just in the moment and you don’t feel any of that pain any more. But as soon as you stop you’re like, “oh shit, here I am again. There it is.” So it definitely takes that stuff away for me.

MT: What’s the status on a new Earthless album? Are there songs in the works? Is there a rough timeline for anything?

IM: Yeah. Last time we got together, we had to record something for a Vans surf video so we ended up writing a few songs for that. But we had a bunch of leftover stuff that we didn’t use for that. Last time we rehearsed, which was maybe a month or so ago, we were focusing more on that. I feel like we probably have half a side of a record, more or less, started. We just have to hone and tighten stuff up. We’ve got stuff in the works.

MT: Will you be playing any of that newer, unreleased stuff while you’re over here?

IM: I don’t think so, but you never know. We might play something new. It’s hard to say. I think it was two times ago when we were in Australia, we did an in-store at Tym’s Guitars in Brisbane. We were waiting for Mario – he was out in the back or something – and I just started to jam and he got on the drums and that’s how he opened the set and we thought that was really awesome. It was something totally brand new and we just played that for the rest of the tour and that became “Uluru Rock” which we recorded. Stuff like that happens – we just start doing something out of the blue and that becomes a new song right there. But I mean, that’s quite possible that that’ll happen again. But yeah, nothing planned. Nothing planned right now.

Earthless and Elder hit Australia next week on the following dates:

Thursday October 22 — The Rosemount Hotel, Perth
w/ Puck
Friday October 23 — The Corner, Melbourne
w/ Fuck the Fitzroy Doom Scene
Saturday October 24 — Newtown Social Club, Sydney
w/ Hawkmoth
Sunday October 25 — Hermann’s Bar, Sydney
Monday October 26 — Crowbar, Brisbane
w/ Hobo Magic

Tickets are on sale now through, Oztix and venue outlets.

Interview: A Place to Bury Strangers

Monday, August 31st, 2015

A Place to Bury Strangers warp time and space around you. This is one of those bands where people really mean it when they say, “you’ve got to see them live.” The kaleidoscopic madness of light and sound all fucked up in a primal cacophony is the kind of spectacle you’ll be talking about in a decade. Here, APTBS’ arch-madman talks the new record, Transfixiation, and the changing landscape of indie rock in Brooklyn.

Matthew Tomich: To me, Transfixiation sounds a lot more kind of chaotic and freeform than your past work. What kind of album did you go into the studio expecting to make?
Oliver Ackermann: With this record, we were really trying to capture our live sound. It just seemed like we’d been playing so many shows while doing the Worship tour and we’d been, I thought, the best band we’d ever had, just with the band we have right now. And so right after that tour ended, we tried to go directly into the studio and record. We’d written a bunch of songs and we were going to write more and that was at least the initial plan. I don’t know if that necessarily even ended up happening, but we kind of discovered real quickly that all these ideas and methods that we had planned for how we were going to record had sort of disappeared and it became about capturing some really special moments. At least that kind of happened.

MT: Was it a more relaxed and chaotic process than what you’ve had in the past?
OA: I don’t know. We worked really hard. We worked ourselves kind of to the bone. I don’t know if it was necessarily relaxing. At some point, we even had almost a meltdown between the band, all of us just working too much together and working too much day and night, like the drummer getting tendinitis and stuff. We were just pushing ourselves too far. But you know, I think that’s what happens. You always have an idea of doing grand things and making things really crazy and over the top and you usually end up wearing yourself down to getting sick and having to take breaks.

MT: You recorded this in Norway, didn’t you?
OA: Part of the record was recorded in Norway and that was only a small part. Only two of the songs from the record were in Norway. There was this Norwegian collective which flew us out there and did this tour and we recorded with them maybe nine songs — all from Serena-Maneesh — in this studio, and two of them were on this record. That was just like amazing – to be out in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold. We’d step outside and there’s huge mountains and glaciers and stuff. I don’t know, it was just an awesome experience. If anyone gets the chance, they should do it.

MT: You mentioned you feel this is the best line-up you have with drummer Robi Gonzalez onboard – what has he brought that’s different to the group?
OA: It almost makes everything so much easier. I feel like right away he just hits crazy hard and he brings really interesting beats right away to the table. He’s just, as much as I’ve ever worked with, an extremely serious drummer. He can play stuff that’s as fast as I can ever imagine writing a song and that’s really awesome. He also just puts his all into creating beats and going in interesting, different places. That’s kind of cool to work with someone who pushes your idea of what music is and what it could be.

MT: I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the venue closures that have been happening in Brooklyn. Obviously Death by Audio is where you based your pedal manufacturing studio, and then Glasslands closed at the end of last year, and Brooklyn Night Bazaar closed about a week after you guys played. From the outside, Brooklyn’s still framed as the modern nexus of indie rock – how has that fracturing brought about by those closures affected you and the community at large?
OA: It’s kind of always been like this. It’s always going to be a revolving door of venues and things. That’s just kind of life in New York. It constantly pulls the rug out from under you and it’s kind of an interesting thing. But I don’t know if humans or people are supposed to necessarily go through that constantly — the places that you frequent and like to go to are constantly closing down. Constantly your close friends are moving away or moving to other neighbourhoods that are too hard to go visit and stuff, so it’s kind of tiring at times, where everything’s sort of against you. But it’s also kind of good too – you can embrace that. It’s sort of what life is about; everyone you know ends up dying and all sorts of things happen. It’s maybe life at hyper-speed or something. There’s really still so much going on in New York and in Brooklyn there’s lots of cool clubs that are opening up and things going on. You just have to constantly re-find them and find those places.

MT: Do you think the roles those buildings play is overstated – that they’re more about mythmaking around the scenes and there’s actually still that community that will always function regardless of the space?
OA: I think so. It seems like it. I still know tonnes of really great bands, and there are still cool people who are doing other cool community spaces. It’s definitely a shame. It’d be a sweet if these places still existed because they’re on an upwards trajectory when they’re getting shut down. Death By Audio was just getting better and better and better, so it’s just a shame that you’ve got this place where all this culture is getting better and more well-known and cooler and cooler bands are coming, more fun events, more artists and everything – it all kind of comes together. To shut that down is sort of, in some ways, a shame. Maybe it’s started heading in some sort of bad direction but some of these places are going in a good place so there’s no need for those. It’s really hurting the community that’s being built so there’s things which have to start over. But I don’t know. We’ll see. Maybe it’s all on its way out right now and the whole scene is crumbling, but it’s kind of hard to tell. I think that going over to other places in the US and all over the world, I think there’s a whole movement against this free artistic movement, especially in the US. But there’s still always going to be kids and people wanting to do crazy shit so hopefully they’ll be able to hold on and make it work.

MT: Are you still basing yourself and your pedal manufacturing studio out of Williamsburg or are you somewhere else now?
OA: No, now we’re in Clinton Hill in Brooklyn so it’s another neighbourhood a few neighbourhoods away, it’s near the navy yard. You know, it’s going alright but it’s tough – those things that we did in Williamsburg took us years to build that up and work it into what it was so kind of back again at square one or two or whatever and trying to rebuild something up and see what happens.

MT: Have you noticed some other people from that community kind of migrating down that way – to like the Cobble Hill and Red Hook area?
OA: People move all over the place, really. There’s even other people who move way far out. There’s a lot of people that we’re living with in these areas where you’re living in these cheap and affordable warehouse spaces because they don’t want to work some corporate job and they want to be DJs at radio stations and do these art projects or teachers and stuff, so it’s hard for them to even afford to move to Red Hook. So they have to move way out to the beach or to Queens or something. I don’t know. We’ll see what ends up happening but it’s sort of spreading things out for now.

MT: Just talking about your pedals again – are you bringing any new toys to Australia for this tour?
OA: I think we will, yeah. We just did a custom edition of Interstellar Overdrive for Dion, the bass player for A Place to Bury Strangers. It’s tweaked to just his liking. We just came out with a new pedal, the Waveform Destroyer. I’m not sure if we’ll be bringing any or not. We’ll see.

MT: I saw that you’re playing with the Jesus and Mary Chain in LA soon and I know a lot’s been made about your love for that band. Is that a dream come true for you, to be able to share a stage with them?
OA: Yeah. We’ve done it a couple of times and it is in some ways. I guess I’ve done it a couple of times already and maybe the excitement has worn off in some sort of way. I don’t know, it’s just going to the shows – it’s kind of cool. It gives me that sort of warm feeling in my heart. I guess I just always wish that they were still going crazy or a little bit more fucked up than they are. It just seems they’re not maybe into it as much as I would’ve hoped or something. But who knows, I guess we’ll see what happens.

MT: When did you play with them before?
OA: We played with them in maybe 2007, maybe 2008 at Webster Hall. And then we played with them recently at the Levitation Festival in Austin, so they were cool. But the times when I remember when I saw them when I was younger – it could just be that it’s a faint memory, but it just seemed so much more crazy. So to see them now it’s like some older dudes playing their songs that you like. There’s nothing of that moment of unpredictability where maybe they’ll fly off the handle and something really crazy’s going to happen. There was that loss of some of that excitement. But you know, that’s one of those things that =drew me to some of those bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain stuff – you thought it was someone playing a chainsaw and not a guitar. You know that’s not going to happen. You know it’s going to be some dudes playing some tunes up there. I’m thrilled to get the opportunity, but I don’t know.

MT: What are some other bands right now that are exciting you in that way – flying off the wall and doing crazy shit, the kind of stuff that you guys have made a reputation for?
OA: There’s a band Yonatan Gat which is pretty awesome. It’s the dude form Monotonix. It’s really wicked – it’s kind of Middle Eastern music which is really crazy. There’s this band called The Dreebs from Brooklyn where they’re just insanely dynamic – it just explodes and erupts into these sort of furies of some sort of electro insanity. Or this band Destruction Unit from Arizona or something, where they just destroy what they’re doing without looking back and with no fear, just fucked up and crazy and kind of cool. Those are all very different bands but it all sort of encapsulates in different ways that kind of energy and stuff.

MT: You guys are coming here in September and you’ve lined up a US tour through November, right? What’ve you got planned beyond that?
OA: We have a European tour that will happen right after that US tour and then I think we’re going to take a break for a couple of months. Hopefully we’ll be recording another record maybe and probably some more touring when the next year starts.

A Place to Bury Strangers land in Australia this week. See them with Melbourne’s Flyying Colours on the following dates:

Friday September 4 — Corner Hotel, Melbourne
w/ Luna Ghost

Saturday September 5 — Manning Bar, Sydney
w/ Narrow Lands

Sunday September 6 — Crowbar, Brisbane
w/ Dreamtime

Tickets on sale now through, Oztix and venue outlets.

Interview: Flyying Colours

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Between touring Europe and the UK, releasing their second album, ROYGBIV, and supporting Johnny Marr on this Australian tour, it’s been a busy year for Flyying Colours. Before they join A Place to Bury Strangers in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane next week, Matthew Stoff spoke with lead singer Brodie Brümmer to talk touring the old world and how a Reddit post led to an international distribution deal.

Matthew Stoff: So your band was recently announced as the support act for the upcoming national tour of US band, A Place to Bury Strangers. Are you excited?

Brodie Brümmer: Very much so. It’s pretty great. I saw them last time I was at the Corner Hotel, and now we’re playing with them at the Corner Hotel. They’re one of the loudest bands I’ve ever seen. It’s going to be great. We’re playing with some friends of ours as well, Luna Ghost — they’re a great band, you should check them out.

MS: You’ve been touring constantly since the international release of your latest album, and the local version just dropped earlier this month. Do you think you’ll slow down anytime soon?

BB: No. The only reason we’d slow down or stop touring is to make our record, which is what I want to do now. I think the thing with touring is that if you just do it, things will just come up, you know — like the A Place To Bury Strangers tour, which is going to be a great opportunity. And then we had Johnny Marr when we came back from Europe, and we’ve got our own single tour that I guess we’re kind of in the middle of now, and our EP tour in September, and there’ll be different things towards the end of the year. In Australia, it’s not very exhausting at all in my opinion. It’s nothing like playing in the Europe or the UK when we were over there. We played that many shows. It’s a bit different in Australia.

MS: How do you find the Australian scene compares to what you saw in Europe? Was it different to playing shows in Australia?

BB: Yeah, I mean, people were a lot more fanatical about music over there, less worried about being cool or whatever it is. I think people just like music over there and I think that we experienced that. The kind of music that we make, being shoegaze, and the kind of audiences we were playing for and where we were over there in Europe, that’s essentially where this kind of music came from, so it was very well received.

MS: Yeah, I think you’ve got a really British sound in comparison to a lot of the other stuff that’s coming out of Australia lately. Really traditional shoegaze, in a way. Do you think that had any impact on your reception overseas?

BB: It’s not generally contrived. We don’t necessarily set out to make that type of sound, but yeah, I think a lot of music coming out in Australia is very different to what we do. A lot of bands in Australia play guitar and it’s usually either a slacker indie sort of thing or an all-rock thing, like Kinghook or something like that. I’m not into any of that crap, I think it’s all rubbish.

MS: Fair enough. So, what are you into? Where do you find your inspiration?

BB: Me? I don’t know, anything and everything. That being said, our Facebook page really sums it up. Our influences are listed as Fleetwood Mac and My Bloody Valentine. That’s pretty correct. So you know, we listen to absolutely everything and all different kinds of stuff, but I think it just culminates in this 90s-inspired, shoegaze type of thing. Sonic Youth and Nirvana were two bands that really got me into playing guitar. That was kind of what I loved but I don’t know. It’s not like we’re trying to be anything. It just kind of comes out a certain way. That’s what bands like us and Luna Ghost and Contrast and some other bands in Melbourne are about. We’re trying to be a guitar band, full of loud guitars and not be rock and roll or pop or something. You can still have loud guitars and not be like that. You know what I mean?

MS: Yeah, you’re loud and rocky, but at the same time you’re quite melodic.

BB: That’s what I love about music and I think that’s how Nirvana came to be who they were in the end. Because it was still loud guitar music that got people going, but at the same time, Kurt Cobain was a really genuine songwriter who was quite melodic too.

MS: You guys are basically like that, but with a really psychedelic vibe as well.

BB: Exactly, and I guess that’s just drawing on all our other influences. That’s the benefit of it being 2015 and not 1991. We’ve had a lot of stuff happen between then and now that we get to draw from as well.

MS: Yeah, and the internet means we’ve got more access to those influences than ever before.

BB: Definitely.

MS: Was it also helpful in marketing you to overseas communities?

BB: Yeah. I mean, it’s the only way it would have been even possible. We got our label over there, Club AC30. That came about by someone posting about us on the shoegaze subreddit. Club AC30 saw the song, listened to it and asked us if we wanted to put it out through them. And we’d only really just put the album out in Australia, it had only just been distributed here. But they really have their shit together. They know what they’re doing. They’re a very specific label for our kind of music, and they just took the EP and ran with it. We got a lot of attention over there in the UK particularly just by going through AC30 and Shelflife in the US as well. They’re both kind of varied labels, but genre specific labels. So straight away it puts you in that area.

MS: I think it’s a popular sound in Europe at the moment, particularly in the UK as well. Lots of shoegaze specific radio stations where you guys would fit in.

BB: Definitely.

MS: It’s been a bit of a whirlwind success in some ways.

BB: Yeah, it’s just been awesome. It’s cool as well to be able to go overseas. I’d never been before in my life, so it was really cool to go the UK and Europe and play a bunch of shows. People actually knew our music and wanted to see us. It was great.

MS: So what are your plans for the rest of the year? Do you have any new songs you’re working on?

BB: Oh yeah, we’re going to record a full length album by the end of the year. Whether or not we finish it is another question. We’ll finish up this run of shows Melbourne, then we’ve got the A Place to Bury Strangers tour, then one more before the end of the year, but mainly we’ve just got a lot of new material that we’re working on. I think it’s that thing, you know — you get to that certain point where you’ve played so much live that it’s really exciting to go to the studio, even just the rehearsal room, and make music for no one but yourself. I’m really looking forward to that.

Flyying Colours join A Place to Bury Stranger on their Australian tour on the following dates:

Friday September 4 — The Corner, Melbourne
w/ Luna Ghost
Saturday September 5 — Manning Bar, Sydney
w/ Narrow Lands
Sunday September 6 — Crowbar, Brisbane
w/ Dreamtime

Tickets on sale now through, Oztix and venue outlets.

ROYGBIV is out now through Shelflife.

Interview: Yob

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Over the course of 19 years of activity, Yob’s star has patiently and steadfastly ascended to the spiritual peak where doom metal’s pantheon resides. Each of their seven studio albums has represented the band evolving progressively into an artistic demiurge, consistently surpassing the boundaries of their fans’ collective imagination. The anticipation preceding their most recent album, 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend, was fervent. Upon its release, it resounded as a powerful clarion from the hidden peaks of the underground, converting some of even the staunchest non-believers and ringing across great distances to the ears of explorers of more mainstream tastes, without even the slightest hint of deviation or prostration before such petrified senses of “palatability”.

If anything, Clearing… saw YOB come forth with its most powerful and sincere expression of doom metal yet, wrought from a fraught voyage through personal upheaval experienced by founder, frontman and guitarist Mike Scheidt as the songs came to life. Yob’s most recent album exemplified their combination of stealthily evolving motifs of tremendous heaviness with a reflective, meditative soul. With all of its deserved accolades, the album continues to carry Yob onwards to new opportunities, not least of which being their imminent first headlining tour of Australia. In anticipation of this event that shall no doubt split this southern land asunder, I called Mike to talk about this great band and the spirit that drives it.

THE BLACK CAPTAIN: You must be really pleased with the reception Clearing the Path… has received. In addition to those new fans you gain, something apparent to me about the long-time fans of Yob is “fanaticism”. I’m curious about how that level of devotion and respect makes you feel. It might seem like something obvious to ask, but it’s not something I’ve always found people to be comfortable with, when they are the object of such intense emotional focus.

MIKE SCHEIDT: Oh, we feel really lucky… and grateful. I think any band that’s trying to write music that feels good to them, when somebody hears it and you feel like they appreciate it or dig it, that’s a wonderful thing to be able to share with someone else. Over the years it has grown and more and more people are getting into what we are doing and we feel a lot of different things about it… definitely humbled and excited. We feel very fortunate and don’t take it for granted.

BC: To see that happening with a band, just like Neurosis, who are so committed to their vision and writing from a really pure place, with integrity, is inspiring. And that kind of explains why Neurot Recordings is such a natural place for you guys to be. One aspect of doom metal that some might find strange or contradictory, but that I’ve always been fascinated and obsessed with, is that I personally find something really triumphant and uplifting in it, even those parts that are expressing something really emotionally devastating. There’s something victorious, in the context of the way life is in the world today, to hear creativity expressed with that purity and sincerity I just mentioned. How does writing doom affect your sense of your place in the world, and how does hearing something really powerfully melancholic affect you?

MS: Sometimes it feels like… maybe it’s because of the pace… the emotion of it feels really concentrated. There are not a lot of riffs and things going by every second that you’ll get overwhelmed by. You are lost in this crux of heavy, often pretty evolved moments that take a while to get to their payoff. I think, as a result, there is a certain sense of if it’s powerful, then it’s really powerful, particularly gigantic. If there’s a sense of triumph, it’s that triumph of standing on top of a mountain and really taking it all in, where you’re not really in a hurry to get back down to the bottom. I think with that pace comes something like distance, an extra bit of essence, I guess. It’s kind of hard to put in to words; but, that’s how I feel about it.

BC: There’s that feeling of reflection, taking the time as you say. It’s really quite rare and in contrast to the pace and the “soul” of the world around us today, generally speaking. There’s something quite valuable about that.

MS: Well, you know, I think whatever style a band is playing in the great ones are great. Whether it be death metal, black metal, doom metal, whatever it is, each style has its challenges musically. I think one of the challenges of doom metal is that you don’t have those things blurring by you very quickly. And there are a lot of very good bands, technically good bands in terms of musicianship, they aren’t maybe necessarily the great bands, but their technicality is so good that you can kind of get away with a lot. I think with doom you can sense the falseness of a riff pretty quickly, because there’s not a lot going on around it. Whether it be Neurosis or Wino or Sleep, I think you really have to mean it in order for it to work. If it’s style over substance, it can still be good but it’s not going to have that “grab you by the heart” feeling.

BC: There are a lot of people into music on the fringe that adopt this position of cynicism, perhaps understandably, when the mainstream press start writing about their darlings. One could either say past examples have given them a right to be wary, or that they’re just being precious. What are your feelings when extreme and experimental music starts getting that broader recognition like you guys have received? Does the potentially temporary nature of this kind of attention ever concern you, particularly considering that you could say everything is temporary anyway?

MS: Well… we’ve had an experience on the periphery where very few people knew about us or cared about what we did… upwards to now where a lot more people on the periphery care about what we’re doing. And kind of everything in between. If we’re at the center of our process as an artist and being a band, really as long as we’re intact and stay true to why it is that we create then the stuff that goes on outside of that is not something that we’re dependent on, although definitely grateful for. So, I don’t mean to belittle the fact that more and more people are into it. To me, it’s not surprising, and I’m not really talking about YOB here but just extreme music in general here… but it’s music that has just existed for its own sake and it’s really been its own audience. Its gauge by which most people get into it has been over authenticity, sincerity, musicianship, and talent, also heart.

Is it causing those particular feelings that the style is aiming for? It’s really gauged on how honest and sincere and true it is. And I don’t mean true-with-a-v (trve), because maybe that’s where you get cases where there’s a lot of image and posturing that I think can certainly add something to a band that’s great, but won’t make a mediocre band great. You have to come by it honestly. So, I think there’s a lot of danger sometimes from just looking at things from the outside and then trying to top it or emulate it.

There’s a reason why the great bands are great, and why there’s such thing as a genre-tag. Before the genre-tag there are the originators, these people who just dug into their hearts. Sure, they had their influences but they brought something out that was different and fresh and captured the imagination. As far as these conversations, how deep they are, how people look… are beards in, are beards out… this colour, that colour… blah blah blah… That, to me, it gets a little tedious, you know. It feels a bit like high school and that we’re all missing the point. I’ll say that and I’m sure I’ll attract some quacks who will say that I’m old and tired and paying attention to the wrong stuff. Except, it’s just not important. What’s important is just pouring everything you’ve got into the music. And it’s just pouring from the bands that you love.

BC: Like you said, you can hear it from the great bands. I think, also, that you can sense that they have a more eclectic and open appreciation of music. It’s more about a spirit in which music is written than a particular style.

MS: Yeah, and then from there… I mean, there’s Portal, of course. They’re fucking amazing, Portal! You know, it has everything. Incredible musicians. But their presentation is theatrical and dramatic and dark and sinister. I mean, it’s perfect! It’s perfect from top to bottom. I’m not one to say… you know, I love spikes and leather as much as the next guy. But you’ve got to have substance with it, too. And that’s a clear example that it works.

BC: You’ve been touring pretty solidly since Clearing the Path… came out, with some very interesting and mouthwatering lineups. I saw Enslaved when they played here (in Perth) a couple of years ago and they just absolutely blew my mind with the energy and proficiency that they performed with. I was wondering how that experience was for you, touring the US with them and how the crowd was for you. A lot of people might think you’re two very different bands, but I think looking on a deeper level there’s more of a connection there than is immediately apparent.

MS: We definitely learned a lot from them. They really are elder statesmen and have a level of originality that is beyond question, really. Their internal locus of control, being in charge of what they create, is very strong. Maybe sometimes that has been hard on their fans, as a result, because they change. But they change in a way where I’ve been on the ride since day one to the present. I just love everything that they do. They’re great on stage and off. They have this amazing sense of humour but they’re serious about what they do, this balance that really is something else. It’s wisdom as much as anything. In fact, it reminds me quite a lot of hanging out with the Neurosis guys, to be honest. There’s that level of depth to their beliefs in their spirit as well as in their families and their lifestyles, which are incredible. They genuinely really dig YOB and asked us to support them on their tour. It’s always interesting to go out with a new band for the first time, especially a much bigger band, a legendary band. You always don’t know what it’s going to be like and it was just a pleasure from beginning to end. It was really wonderful.

BC: Awesome. It has been quite inspiring to observe how open, and thoroughly so, you have been about dealing with depression. If you talk about paradigms, it’s even more remarkable for a male in a heavy metal band to be doing that. I’m sure a lot of your fans who deal with the same issues, myself included, would say that it’s a vital contribution to make.

MS: Oh, thank you. It’s not the easiest thing to talk about. You definitely kind of paint a target on your chest, and people do sling their bows and hurl their arrows, as a result. I have definitely had fallouts, as a result. But, you know, you have to walk in your own shoes. And it’s quite a process to be able to do that.

BC: I’d imagine one of the best things about broader recognition is you might start getting touring opportunities that weren’t present before, coming to play in Australia being one of them. Do you know how much time you’re going to be able to spend here outside of touring? Do you get much time when you’re on tour to take a place in and get something from being in a different culture?

MS: No, not as much as we would like. Often, it’s just about being in transit, various rest stops, getting through a town, maybe get a minute to walk around there. But then you’re usually whisked off to the next thing. That could be a bummer because you don’t get to see some of the amazing things that each town might hold. But at the same time, for people who are like… if you’re a regular tourist or maybe you’ll have a couple of friends where you’re going, get to see some of those tourist things or get to savour something more off the grid… they don’t get to have our experience. Our experience is that we get to come into a town and be amongst a culture that we are a part of, part of that global culture of metal, heavy music, of musicianship and of people who love music in general. We’re a part of that community, but not a part of that culture personally in, say, Perth or Adelaide or Melbourne, yet. We get to come into that town and have a very intimate experience with a chunk of people who are cut from the same cloth and get to share something that other people maybe won’t get to experience. To me, it really comes down to being able to connect with these people and share those things that we have in common, that strength. There are so many things that are cool about this that not being able to see or do those other things end up being a very minor bummer.

Yob play Australia for the first time on the following dates:

August 19 — Rosemount Hotel, Perth
August 20 — Enigma Bar, Adelaide
August 21 — Max Watt’s (formerly The Hi-Fi), Melbourne
August 22 — Manning Bar, Sydney
August 23 — Crowbar, Brisbane

Tickets on sale now through, Oztix and venue outlets.

Interview: Heads.

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Heads. are a German-Australian sludge and noise rock band receiving rave reviews for their self-titled debut LP and upcoming support slots in the German wing of the European tour for Toronto noise rock band METZ. Like METZ, Heads. play heavy, noise-infused guitar rock, but while METZ are more about the energy and speed, Heads. run at a comparatively languid pace, allowing you to pay close attention to their detailed, psychedelic compositions. I had a chat with Ed Fraser, lead singer and founding member of the band, about his origins, influences, and plans for the future, just weeks ahead of the band’s European tour with METZ:

Matthew Stoff: One thing I really loved about your new album, it felt like three guys just jamming together in a room, but with these really crisply recorded, carefully constructed songs. I was wondering how you put the two together. You’ve got these really organised, subtle compositions, but the energy and spontaneity of a live show. Did you record the album live or in the studio, or was it a mix of both?

Ed Fraser: We recorded in a makeshift studio so we could do the whole album live. The majority of the record, except for the vocals and the overdubs, is just us playing in a big room. That’s why we went to Switzerland to make it. There’s a huge space there in a venue called Bikini Test, which is a live venue that’s closed over the summer, and we knew we could hire out the whole thing. It was kind of like hiring out the Corner Hotel. We set everything up in a big horseshoe, and we had a large number of microphones all over the building. Then we tracked everything live. We tried to get the feeling right and a good vibe, and then we played the songs.

MS: How did the music come together? I know that you wrote most of the lyrics, but what about the instrumental elements? Were they a collaborative effort, or did one of you handle the majority of the song-writing?

EF: It was definitely collaborative. One of the things I really enjoyed about writing these songs was that we did everything all together. But it was definitely done in a way that was different for me. I’m used to playing in rock bands in Melbourne and playing with friends. Rehearsing together once, twice, three times a week, we all get together in a room, we jam, someone has an idea… it was completely different with Heads, and a lot of that was because of necessity. Peter, our drummer, lives in Hamburg. And Chris lives in Berlin, but we’re all travelling around a lot. Chris, with his commitments to The Ocean and Peter being a part of their road crew meant those guys weren’t at home all that much while we were writing the record either. So for us to get in a room and write songs together in that traditional band kind of way just wasn’t viable. So essentially what we did was we had a shared Dropbox folder, and we wrote large portions of the music while we were all in different countries. Which was something completely weird to me, but I think it worked.

MS: It’s an interesting sound you guys came up with too. I thought the long-form, almost metal compositions were a bit like The Ocean, but the energy and structure seemed closer to traditionally Australian noise rock, like Zeahorse or Narrow Lands. What sort of bands were you involved in before you moved to Berlin, and how did they affect the music?

EF: I basically just played in a couple of rock bands in Melbourne. I most recently played in a band called Cut, which was a three-piece noise rock kind of thing, and before that I played in a grunge rock band called The Mourning Suns for a few years. Similar kind of stuff, but different to Heads. in that I think the stuff I was playing in Melbourne was a lot more basic in terms of its compositions and song structures, and it was more straight-ahead pub rock; screaming and yelling sort of stuff. Whereas Heads. definitely has big elements of that, particularly live, a lot of it is screaming into the microphone, making a lot of noise. But a lot more thought went into the song structures and compositions and the meanings of the songs. And a lot of that was down to having more time to do it. And using that method of song writing, writing essentially from different countries, just using the shared Dropbox system – in some ways that gave me, and probably all of us, the ability to spend more time thinking about things, and more time putting things together. Rather than, oh we’ve only got three hours together in the room, so let’s write this song as quickly as we can, it was more like, let’s take our time, you know what I mean?

MS: You’ve got this central source for all your ideas, so you take your time and figure out what to do with them.

EF: Exactly, yeah.

MS: How did you get involved with Metz for their German tour? Did you know the band before?

EF: I actually don’t know them personally, but I’m looking forward to meeting them.

MS: I thought your albums were quite similar in a lot of ways. In tone and energy, if not so much in the way they’re put together. Would you say you were drawing from a similar set of influences?

EF: I think so. That’s definitely something I would like to agree with. I really like that band. I love the way they sound and the amount of energy that they put across, in quite a nasty way.

MS: You guys are a bit more laid-back, I think.

EF: I think we’re a bit slower. And that’s kind of how we approach things generally: when we write a song, we kind of slow it down a bit. We write this kind of sludgy feel. Still very heavy, but just slowed it down a bit. It’s kind of fun to play it like that too.

MS: How did you meet the rest of your band?

EF: It was actually completely random. We didn’t have any mutual friends or contacts or anything like that. I’d kind of just arrived in Berlin. It was probably only a matter of weeks. I really hadn’t been here very long, and I was looking for some people to play music with. I wanted to do some touring, write some songs. I was looking for people to make a band. So I started doing it in that kind of way I’d always done it in Melbourne as well. I’d always played with friends or people I knew, or people who knew somebody I knew. But that wasn’t really happening here, and I had a couple of buddies who said: “you should go on Craigslist, there’s a lot of musicians on Craigslist,” and I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder to be honest. I was like: “Fuck that, I’m not going to go on Craigslist and find musicians,” because I’d never done it before. But then my buddies were like: “Just do it, it’s a good way to find people.” So I did, and the first day I was on there, there was a post from Chris, just saying something like: “Bass player looking for new band mates.” And I clicked on it and he had a couple of links to his bass playing, and it was just like: “This guy is the perfect bass player.” Then I sent him some of my stuff, and he liked it as well. And I don’t think I’ve been on Craigslist since. So it worked out in that way, but it was almost instantly we had a mutual love of the same type of bands and music. So I think I was what he was looking for and he was what I was looking for, so we just kind of clicked instantly. And at the time he wasn’t in Berlin. He was on tour with the Ocean in China or somewhere, and we started exchanging ideas through Dropbox and stuff like that. So almost straight away it was like this very new way of creating and writing songs. We’d never even met face to face before.

MS: How long were you exchanging ideas before you started on the album?

EF: It was quite a long tour that he was on, so I think it was like a month and a half, maybe two months, before we met face to face, and we were just exchanging ideas that whole time. And Peter, our drummer, was on the road with them and he started hearing some of the stuff I was sending through, and some of the stuff that Chris was doing and what we were starting to slowly put together, and he liked it, and basically said I want to be a part of this as well.

MS: So the whole thing’s just been an expression of pure serendipity?

EF: Yeah, it’s nice that these things can happen sometimes. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I’ve been looking for musicians like this for 10 years, and I found them purely by chance. That’s awesome. That’s the world-wide web.

MS: Was a similar process involved with your band being signed to This Charming Man and Heart of The Rat, or did they approach you specifically for your work with Chris from The Ocean?

EF: Well, Chris knew Chris Charming, the label boss of This Charming Man. Those two knew eachother from playing in hardcore bands in the late 90’s and early 2000’s around Germany. Chris used to be in a band called Lynch, so those guys already knew eachother from that, but we sent the record around to a couple of people. And we actually had a few different labels who wanted to put it out. So that was a really nice feeling. But then Chris Charming was in Berlin for a record release party, so Chris Breur went down to meet him. And I just started talking rubbish, like: “Well, noise rock, a lot of people are liking at it the moment,“ all this shit. And then he just sort of stood there and patiently listened to me and said: “Yeah, not really. But I liked your record so I’m going to put it out anyway.” So I was like: “Alright, I think I like this guy. I think they’re the right label for us.” And that was it. As for the Heart of The Rat guys, I wanted someone to release it in Australia. That was very important to me. I’d never actually met the guys but we had a mutual friend called Len Hyatt who plays in a band called the Dead Salesmen. And I was just talking to Lenny and he put me in touch with these guys and said they might be a good home for me. And I just got talking to them online and they were really down to earth, no bullshit. It just seemed like the right place for us.

MS: Speaking of Australia, do you have any plans for a local tour in the future?

EF: We are talking about some stuff at the moment. Nothing’s been set in concrete, but we’re looking at a lot of different options. We’re looking at about March next year, so a little while off yet. But we’re looking at doing at least the east coast around to Adelaide, if not a little bit more. We’ll see how it goes. But that’s something that I’d really love as well. And Chris was in Australia with The Ocean in March, April, and had a pretty good time, I think, so he’s pretty keen to come back. And Pete’s keen as well, so yeah.

MS: Does his work with The Ocean affect you guys at all?

EF: We do our best to work around it as much as we can. It’s been painful a few times. We’ve had some offers to go with a band that I’ve really liked personally that I’ve had to say no to, but that’s just the way it is. We do our best to work around it, but as long as we plan ahead, we’ll be alright I think.

MS: Are you working on any new material?

EF: Absolutely. We’ve already started writing the next record. We’ve written a bunch of songs already, and I think it’s going fairly well. It’s always hard to tell. It’s almost like the last record but everything’s a bit more extreme. That’s kind of the mantra for this one. If we have a section that’s repetitive and hypnotic, we’re going to make it extra repetitive, and go for even longer. And if it’s heavy it’s going to be even heavier, if it’s quiet it’s going to be even quieter.

MS: So how many songs have you written for the new album so far?

EF: There’s probably three that I’d say are finished and another seven or eight in the works. When we recorded the last record, we recorded thirteen songs as well but only released six. So we’ve got a bunch just sitting there as well, which we’ll revisit and work out what we’re going to release as well.

MS: How long did the recording process take with the last album?

EF: I can’t remember exactly. We were in Switzerland for about a week, I think it took us maybe five days to record everything.

MS: But a lot of the ideas were being transferred before then. It was like a culmination of your early period?

EF: Yeah, it was basically written before we went in. We got a guy called Louis Jucker, who’s the singer for Coilguns. He came and did some guest spots with us on the last day which was really exciting. He’s got this kind of creative genius, coming up with a thousand ideas at once. So that was really cool to watch him come in and explain his ideas and stuff.

MS: When do you think the next album will be ready? In time for your Australian tour?

EF: I’d like to think that by early next year we’ll have another record out, but it’s always hard to know how long these things are going to take. We’ve got another few small releases coming out over the next few months as well, like a Blacktop cover for a Helmet tribute compilation, which should be really exciting.

Heads. is out now through Heart of the Rat.

Interview: Pallbearer

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Pallbearer didn’t creep into the consciousness of doom metal fandom so much as rocket explosively to the forefront of discussion with their debut album, Sorrow and Extinction. It would have been hard for anyone to match the unusually high expectations generated by such a debut record, but the band from Arkansas delivered magnificently just after the midway point of 2014 with a masterpiece of epic melodic atmosphere and heaviness that engulfed listeners in its powerful emotional tides. Foundations of Burden was easily one of the best records of the year and an undeniable classic as far as doom metal goes, consolidating Pallbearer’s distinction from the prevalent trends in the genre through their great capacity for infusing profound beauty and poignancy into bone-crushing heaviness. Ahead of their first Australian tour in June, I was lucky enough to catch up with bassist Joseph D. Rowland and discuss what went into making such a fantastic album and what fans can expect when they make their way down here.

Black Captain: Foundations of Burden is a quintessential example of what always attracted me to doom, particularly when I think of some of those more melodic early 90s European bands that were emerging from the whole Earache and Roadrunner death metal hegemony at the time. It is probably most succinctly explained by the first lyrical passage of the album: “Without light, the dark encloses all”. There are so many beautiful contrasts of light amongst the really brooding heaviness on the record, giving the latter so much greater impact. Was that atmospheric contrast something you were more conscious of when writing for your second album?

Joseph Rowland: I think that’s something that we’re always trying to keep in balance. We’re definitely drawn more to the melodic end of the spectrum than writing ugly, heavy music. Obviously, we’re into that really heavy music; but, at the same time, we try to keep a lot of melody involved. I think that goes hand-in-hand with balancing those light and dark aspects, keeping dynamics in the music and having sections that are kind of restrained or pulled back a little bit compared to the most bombastic elements. That’s present emotionally and dynamically throughout the album.

BC: With American doom I think it’s quite noticeable, when compared to those European bands I mentioned previously, that there’s often a stronger blues/rock influence evident. You guys really bucked that trend with your albums. It’s encouraging to read some of the influences you’ve cited over the years and how that’s led you away from being another one of those colour-by-Black-Sabbath-numbers groups.

JR: Yeah, at this point I think that style of music has reached a critical mass. There just can’t be any more of those Sleep clones, which obviously in itself is kind of a Sabbath tribute. That’s stuff that we love; but, I just don’t think the world needs another band that just copies Sabbath songs with changing the patterns up a little bit. I mean, it has its place. But it’s kind of tiresome at this point. We’re definitely approaching what Black Sabbath did but trying to incorporate other elements like progressive rock and hard rock, basically a lot of stuff from the 70s but without trying to do a retro-throwback thing either. We want to push things forward.

BC: I’ve seen you talking about bands like Asia and some other really unusual — in the context of a lot of heavy music paradigms — bands that have inspired you.

JR: Bands like Asia and Boston, their songwriting sense is really, really incredible. That’s definitely something that we relate to and aspire to, to be able to write songs that are memorable and have that melodic sense in there without being derivative.

BC: You’ve mentioned Al Cisneros as your favourite bass player and of course Geezer Butler being a big influence. You’ve also cited Geddy Lee alongside those guys, which of course really underlines the impact of prog rock on Pallbearer’s music. You might be surprised to know that Rush barely even show up on the radar down here in Australia.

JR: Oh wow, really?

BC: Yeah. I’m curious about what your favourite Rush record is, given the size of their body of work and how diverse it is. An influence by Geddy or that band can take on a really different form depending on where you find their most resonant expression.

JR: I actually think my favourite Rush record is probably Signals. It kind of bridges between the more progressive stuff from the 70s and then like getting into that more keyboard-era Rush without it being all keyboards. It’s still pretty heavy and moody, a little less joyful than their late 80s stuff and the more like hard rock 90s stuff. I actually got to see Rush play a couple of years ago and it was really, really fantastic.

BC: Far out, probably my favourite, too! I listen to songs like “Losing It” these days and can clearly hear a gateway leading eventually into doom, qualities like that really melancholy and slow riff in the bridge.

JR: Yeah. It’s awesome.

BC: Vocally on Foundations… there are these moments very reminiscent of classical and pre-classical choral music, where there are these epic passages with everyone in the band singing together. Is that something you’ve listened to a lot and been directly influenced by?

JR: Yeah… I mean, it’s definitely not like a direct influence in the sense that it’s not something that we were necessarily going for. We just wanted to start incorporating more harmonies and kind of make it more layered and interesting. Also, we wanted parts where someone besides Brett (Campbell, vocals & guitar) is doing the lead vocal or the major vocal part. I just feel like it adds a little bit more interest to the music, as long as it’s beneficial and not just being done for the sake of excess.

BC: It worked really well. It added such an epic dimension to the record, some of it reminding me a bit of the more tranquil parts of something like Mozart’s death mass requiem, that kind of thing.

JR: Oh yeah, growing up I had years of classical training and spent time writing four-part chorales and stuff. It’s just a distant memory now; but, I think some of that influence definitely creeps in there.

BC: Your lyrics are well known for their deeply personal nature. Do you get asked a lot to flesh out what they are specifically drawn from?

JR: I think at this point people have come to understand that we are never going to directly address what any of the songs are about. Every now and then there’s something that we might share with someone that we’re close to. But in terms of the press, there’s been enough of it now that they know we’re never going to answer something like that.

BC: As you are writing such emotional music with these lyrics of such personal depth, do you find that a lot of your engagements with fans of the band take on that nature, that they are drawn to express themselves with you in the same way?

JR: Yeah there have definitely been plenty of interactions where people have shared with us that the lyrics were really meaningful to them in some way and helped them get through some moment of difficulty that they were having at some point in their lives, whether that may be the loss of a loved one or something like that, dealing with relationship problems, all sorts of stuff, pretty much most of the adversity that you could think of, really. Something in the song has lent some kind of specific meaning to them in those moments. That’s always been something that’s quite humbling to us, that there’s this connection that they made with something that was really important and meaningful to us and it helped them put something into context in their life. That’s always rewarding and humbling to hear from people.

BC: “Ashes” is such a great counterpoint to “The Ghost I Used To Be”, the way it flows out of that grandiosity and intensity of the preceding song. The whole record is so well put together in that way. Was it an easy and natural thing for you guys to figure out? Or something that you tinkered with for ages to get that flow that was right for you?

JR: We pretty much knew that the last three songs on the album were going to be “Ghost I Used to Be”, “Ashes”, and “Vanished”. It was the first half of the album that we kind of struggled with, rearranging it quite a few times whilst we were in the studio. We ended up with something quite different to what we’d expected it to be from the beginning. But the second half of the album we pretty much knew from the get-go how that was going to be. And, “Ashes” was always going to be the penultimate song.

BC: You’ve no doubt been asked about a billion questions about the attention you’ve received since your debut album. That kind of hype can often be the undoing of a band, where they start to get away from what worked so well with songwriting, made them so distinctive, and becoming focused on writing for an audience, ‘catching the wave’ and creating a broader accessibility in their sound. How have you dealt with all of those accolades and kept it from affecting how the band writes music?

JR: At this point in time, we’re still taking the same approach as we always have, just take everything in stride and don’t have any expectations of what the next step will be, but just be ready to go for it if the opportunity presents itself. In terms of the writing, I mean everything that we’ve written so far has just come about in a really natural and organic way. Our process of writing for the last 4+ years has just been Brett and I working on songs separately and then getting together with the band and filling in the gaps, doing some slight rearranging and adjustments to the skeletal structure of the song. We’re currently in the midst of writing new stuff again now. I don’t think there’s ever really been any pressure for us to write songs in a particular way; so, that’s just a bridge that we cross when it comes.


JR: I always feel like it’s a goal of ours to have our live show be more of an experience, not just you coming and standing there and watching us play. I’ve heard a lot of different things; so, I really think it just comes down to the individual. Someone might say it was like a religious experience whilst someone else will say it was really boring! (laughs) I mean, personally, I always try to channel any intensity that I have inside into the performance, so that it’s a cathartic experience and hope that it creates something of a primal event. We’re definitely not one of those bands prone to just standing around and getting into the shoegazing. We all love what we do and put everything into the performance every night. But yeah, it will all be down to everyone’s individual perception, how much they enjoy the music, how well we’re conveying it, how drunk we are, a lot of different factors.

BC: Reading the reviews from when you got to tour with Yob there were descriptions of people doing things at doom gigs reviewers hadn’t seen before, the way the audiences were getting into it to a degree that you’d be more likely to see at something more uptempo and frenetic in nature. You’d both released albums very close to each other, and to tremendous acclaim. The buzz on that tour must have been unreal and a really good experience for you guys.

JR: Oh, definitely. It’s definitely one of my favourite tours that we’ve been on. We had never toured Europe before. We’d been over to play festivals, but hadn’t toured like that. We were over there for six weeks and we got to connect with a lot of fans and play a lot of really amazing places.

BC: No doubt you’ll get a great reception down here and people are very excited about seeing you play here in Australia. Thanks for having a chat today, Joe. All the best for the upcoming tour.

JR: Yeah, I’m really excited about it. Thanks!

Pallbearer tour Australia for the first time on the following dates:

June 17 – Melbourne – Ding Dong Lounge
June 18 – Hobart – Dark Mofo Festival
June 19 – Melbourne – Northcote Social Club
June 20 – Sydney – Hermann’s Bar
June 21 – Brisbane – Crowbar

Tickets on sale now from, Oztix and venue outlets.