By Carl C. Sundberg
If you’ve never heard the sound of missile alarms, you should be thankful, you’ve lived a pretty sheltered life. When this sound is a routine in your day-to-day existence, it’s not hard to wonder how heavy metal could seduce a young teenage boy growing up in a region where war and violence is the way. For Orphaned Land frontman, Kobi Farhi, these alarms were commonplace in his hometown of Tel Aviv, Isreal in the early 90s. “Back then it was the first Gulf War; Saddam Hussein was throwing all these missiles in Israel,” Farhi recalls. “And every time we had the missile alarm, this sound was part of our daily life. And if you listen to Metallica’s Ride the Lightning - I don’t remember precisely which song it was - but one of the songs, the ending of it is like this siren going off.”
Ride the Lightning was the first metal album Farhi purchased. He was 15 years old and still listening to Michael Jackson, Wham and George Michael. One day he stumbled upon an interesting piece in the daily newspaper about a band called Iron Maiden and their album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and it’s influence on someone. “There was a story about a guy whom they suspected committed suicide because he was into Satanism. Which was very untrue, but it was enough to draw my attention,” Farhi says. “I’m growing up in this very tense region asking myself questions about life, and everything is looking fake to me. And I’m seeing this metal band, and everything [about it] looks like some kind of rebellion. It’s maybe the only true thing I can find in this stinking world [at the time]. I was fascinated and I really had to check it out.”
He ran to his local record store that day to buy the album but he couldn’t find Iron Maiden. Instead he found Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. When Farhi got home and listened to it, the album changed him completely. “I can divide my life in two,” Farhi says. “Before and After. I had shivers all over my body. I felt like I discovered the Treasure. Like I discovered a secret world. Like I’m aware of the secrets of the universe.” He grew out his hair, he cut up his jeans, and from that day on, Kobi Farhi knew what his destiny would be.
He soon started a band, called it Resurrection, and it started off sounding like the death metal bands of Tampa, FL, ala Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse. “Everything that was coming out of Tampa back then was like the thing.” Farhi says. “But being from the Middle East, its kind of boring to try to be this Tampa, FL wannabe band, because at the end of the day, we’re not from Tampa, FL.” Within six months the band realized that being from the Middle East, they should incorporate more traditional Middle Eastern sounds into their music. “That was the point where we decided to change the name of the band to Orphaned Land,” Farhi says. “We see Israel, or all these holy lands, we see them pretty much as orphaned lands.”
They began to combine a multitude of Jewish and Arabian melodies, languages and themes into their metal band’s sound, creating a powerful cross of progressive death metal with authentic Middle Eastern folk music, instrumentation and story. “We found ourselves, very fast, at the age of 18, sitting in the studio recording our first album [Sahara],” Farhi says. “I remember looking at one another, and we had the feeling that we were doing something very much unique.”
Six years and four albums later, Orphaned Land has returned to the metal world with the epic masterpiece The Neverending Way of OrWarriOR, their second release on Century Media, and their first album mixed by Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree. With 15 songs - in three parts - the album fills a CD at just under 80 minutes. Years in the making, it tells the tale of the Warrior of Light, first born as an orphan who emerges a powerful being, yet one who still constantly battles darkness, in any capacity. “We live in such a darkened world,” Farhi says. “And if you are a warrior of light, you have to go through the never-ending way of fighting, or trying to enlighten your people or your surroundings. The warrior of light is not some kind of heroic messiah that is going to come and rescue us. It is simply me and you. Every single one of us is a warrior of light.”
Combining everything from Yemenite folk music, Jewish and Arabic melodies into their unique blend of progressive death metal, Orphaned Land also utilizes a plethora of instruments on this album, ranging from standard rock instruments to saz, bouzouki, violins, shofars, santurs and pianos. “This is really fascinating to work with these instruments,” Farhi says. “I really like synthesizers and everything, but if you have the real thing, then this is an added value.” Not surprising, due to the complexity of this album, as all Orphaned Land albums, it was a long, arduous process to create. And one that is virtually impossible to recreate live. “To perform everything we do onstage, we need twenty people,” Farhi says. “And this is pretty much impossible to do in terms of budget. We really need some kind of millionaire to get behind us, and I’m still looking for that guy. But when we play live, most of these elements, you do hear them, but they simply come from the PC computer.”
Since 2001, after their first show outside of Israel, Orphaned Land has become a powerhouse in many Muslim-based countries, like Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and much of Eastern Europe and Russia. And while they are not allowed to tour most of the Middle East, they have a strong fan base throughout the Arab world, albeit hidden under strong censorship laws, war torn regions and brutally oppressive governments.
The only place in the world that they seem to have a poor response from is the United States. But Farhi believes it because it’s easy to misinterpret the message of the band, perhaps because of their album artwork, or the overall sound of the band. “You always need to dig deep to get to the bottom of things and sometimes the fans in America just don’t bother,” Farhi says. “They see our photo and they immediately label us, like ‘What is this religious crap?’ or ‘Why the hell do you think you have the right to combine religion with metal music?’ It’s like they see us as some kind of missionary, which is completely untrue.” And while Farhi doesn’t take offense to this kind of criticism, he does want people to understand what he’s actually doing with his music. “We’re coming from the Middle East. We’re living this conflict of Christians, Muslims and Judaism. I really don’t see any sense of us taking a photo with a Lamb of God t-shirt, sunglasses and having this very tough, rockstar face. This would have been much easier for us to do that. You see, these three Abrahamic religions [from the cover of OrWarriOR], these religions that are supposed to be about charity and tolerance, all these groups are killing each other in the name of God - for centuries - and we have a lot of criticism against it. We’re not religious, we’re not preaching. We have a lot of criticism about religion and what it has made. This is a simple photo saying to people, ‘Why can’t you just get the fuck along’.”
Orphaned Land is determined to change the view of their band in the states, one show at a time. “We’re really happy to come to the states,” Farhi says. “It’s a start, and for a start, it’s very good. And the plan is to tour as much as possible. USA. Europe. Wherever we’re wanted, we’ll go. We want to film a DVD in Israel, maybe next year. We want to continue to make music and to help our region with our music.”
And when it takes years to complete an album, it should be no surprise that Orphaned Land has the patience and the determination to carry on with touring, recording music and essentially carrying forth with the never ending way of the warrior. Perhaps one day, this world of darkness - of critical metal heads, of holy lands filled with the sounds of missle sirens - won’t be so commonplace, or won’t exist at all. Or perhaps it will always be this way, and that, precisely, is why the way of the warrior is never ending. And why Orphaned Land will play on for as long as they shall live.
Originally published on 101d.com
By Carl C. Sundberg
Triptykon originally began as a side project for black metal pioneer Tom Gabriel Warrior, founder of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. It wouldn’t be long before ego battles and inner struggle within Celtic Frost would lead Warrior to disband it once and for all and make Triptykon his only band. Taking the music and frustration he endured during the final days of Celtic Frost, Warrior went back into the studio with all new members and made Triptykon his primary focus and recorded some of the most furious music to date.
“The roots of Triptykon date back to the final months of Celtic Frost,” Tom Gabriel Warrior explains. “I found myself being a part of a band that no longer played any music but instead spent its time at the rehearsal room arguing in circles about ego problems. I became so immeasurably frustrated by this situation and I was unable to break the situation that I began a side project so that I could continue writing and recording music.”
Warrior hoped that Celtic Frost would become a band again and settle its differences, but it never happened. The band fell completely apart in April of 2008. By this time the side project known as Triptykon had grown drastically and eventually became Warrior’s only band.
The music of Triptykon’s debut album ‘Eparistera Daimones’ is more personal than anything ever written for Hellhammer or Celtic Frost. In the liner notes, Warrior goes into detail about the backstory of each of the songs, but also points out that they are totally optional when listening to the album. “I think it’s important that music forms an image in the listener’s head.” Warrior says. “At times it’s probably negative to explain too much, but if a fan’s interested in what’s behind these songs, he or she can read it. But it’s totally voluntary.”
And while this album is very personal to Warrior, he was also trying to push his musical evolution further than he had in the past. “On this album I wanted to continue to develop the kind of writing style that we already recorded on the Monotheist album,” he says. “I was very curious to see where this music would lead.”
Half of the music on the album was written during the days of Celtic Frost and half was written afterward, and while Warrior wrote most of the music, he said it was always a group effort when it came to writing. “All but two songs were written by me,” he says. “But all of the songs are developed after I bring them to the rehearsal room by the whole band. The arrangements are made by the entire band. It’s very much a band even though I’m the main songwriter. It’s not a dictatorship by any means. I made that clear in the beginning I’m interested in a band, not a solo project.”
Unlike the last Celtic Frost album, which took five years for the band to write, ‘Eparistera Daimones’ was written rather quickly. The band started writing the album in early 2009 and December of that year the album was finished. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. “This album carries tons of baggage from the breakup of Celtic Frost which was a hugely difficult time for me,” Warrior says. “There’s a million emotions in it. And writing these songs and putting these emotions into the songs was anything but easy.”
There were many people in the music industry who urged Warrior to continue under the name Celtic Frost, using different musicians, as the last album from them - ‘Monotheist’ - was very successful, and starting over would be difficult, if not devastating. “I knew full well that if I formed a new band, I would have to start pretty much lower than Celtic Frost,” Warrior says. “But I didn’t want to go onstage and lie to my fans and pretend it’s Celtic Frost when it’s not. There’s enough bands that do such things. I don’t want to be part of that.”
While Warrior expected Triptykon to have to build a brand new following from scratch, he mentions that the response from fans and critics has been unanimously positive. “I’m overwhelmed by the reaction,” he says. “We received amazing reviews almost universally and I’m completely flattered and blown away by what’s happening.”
Originally published on 101d.com
By Carl C. Sundberg
Forming in 1989 in Gothenburg, Sweden, Dark Tranquillity is one of a handful of bands widely considered being one of the forefathers of Swedish death metal (along with At the Gates and In Flames).
The band recently celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a double live album and DVD entitled, “Where Death is Most Alive” recorded in Milan, Italy on Halloween night of 2008. The album charted #1 on the Swedish DVD charts and spans their entire spectacular career.
Dark Tranquillity spent the last few months recording the follow up to the bands most successful album to date, 2007’s “Fiction” and on March 1st/2nd, they will release this ninth studio album, “We Are The Void”, worldwide. The recording process was also filmed by Anders Bjorler (At the Gates/The Haunted) and released as webisodes on their official homepage. They have confirmed their first US Tour of 2010, hitting the road with Killswitch Engage and The Devil Wears Prada throughout February and March.
We spoke with vocalist Mikael Stanne from the comforts of his bed in Gothenberg, Sweden about their 20th anniversary, the upcoming tour with Killswitch Engage, the recording of their new album, their new bassist and overcoming studio anxiety.
Q: First things first, happy 20th anniversary, you got that killer live double album. Tell me about this. I mean it’s rare that audiences chant the riffs…
A: Thank you. That was fun. It’s something that…I think the Italians are amazing when it comes to that. It’s something we noticed the first time we went to Italy in 1995 or something like that and ever since then we’ve been dying to record in Italy. Let’s do something, do an album, record a DVD, whatever and we didn’t have the time or the financials to pull it off but now, last year we just decided, fuck it we had to do it. There was this venue we really liked [The Rolling Stone] and they were shutting it down so we decided we had to be there before they shut it down. So we raised a hell of a show and we had this camera crew and a sound crew and they came down from Finland to record it, and it turned out really, really well. We’re really fucking happy with it. They shut it down, I think the next day, they shut the whole thing down. It’s an amazing fucking cool place. So it just felt really special to do it there and the crowd as you can hear and see, they’re awesome. It turned out exactly the way we wanted it to. (Laughs)
Q: Is that a typical thing to see the crowd going apeshit for your band or is that few and far between for you guys?
A: Yeaaaaahhh, more often than not, I guess. Italy is special, especially when you bring out 15 cameras. They get a bit enthusiastic. But I mean south of Europe, for sure, that’s pretty much the norm and most of Europe I guess, especially the southern parts, like Spain and Italy and Portugal, France. It’s just amazing.
Q: Do you get that kind of response in the states?
A: No, not really. I mean sometimes, you know. But it’s definitely growing and that’s why we really love touring the states, we see this growth with every tour we do. We’ve done five, seven tours and every time we come back, the audience is twice as big. So that’s amazing and we’re really looking forward to coming back.
Q: Yeah, you’re going on tour with Killswitch Engage. That should be a pretty significant tour this year.
A: Oh yeah, absolutely. We’re really looking forward to that. That’s gonna be amazing especially since were going out before the album’s coming out, just promote the shit out of it, makes sure everybody hears it and hopefully we get to introduce our music to a lot more people. I think it’s going to be really, really cool for us.
Q: I want to talk to you about the new album, “We Are the Void”. Man, I’ve heard a couple songs on the myspace page and it’s sounding pretty outstanding, tell me about what you guys want to do with this new album.
A: Well, I guess since it’s been 20 years since we started, we figured we cannot just do another album that is similar to the last. It has to be new; it has to be different. We kept telling ourselves this is life or death stuff. This is serious. This has to be the first album for the next twenty years instead of the previous twenty. It has to show we’re still relevant, it has to show that we’re still a force to be reckoned with and we haven’t stagnated, we haven’t stopped evolving. It has to feel fresh and new and a good starting point for the next couple albums and the next twenty years. So we took it really, really seriously. We wanted to make sure the album was more diverse and had a wider range of emotions and ideas, so it goes from really, really heavy stuff to really, really fast and grinding stuff to some really kind of mellow slow, depressing stuff. Everything is in there. But I think it comes together really well. It’s a way more serious album than anything we’ve ever done because we looked each other in the eyes and was like, “fuck this is it. It has to be right. It has to be the best ever”.
Q: And you got a new addition, Daniel Antonsson, the old Soilwork guitarist on the bass for this album, is he just on the album or is he in the band?
A: Yeah, he’s in the band. He joined us for the tour we did for the DVD, which was a year ago and we just felt this was perfect, this is right and we’ve known him for pretty much 15 years, so it was the most obvious choice for us. He definitely contributed to the construction of some of the songs, with the build up and the setup of all the songs. He wrote most of songs that are up on the myspace page. He has a different kind of idea and a different background, which is interesting for us. The four of us have been writing music for 20 years together, so it’s kind of hard to have someone new in, but it actually has worked. It’s just a matter of him getting how we work and the way we communicate. But he’s totally grown into the band and for the next album I think he’ll contribute way more.
Q: On your website, I noticed also you got some sweet video of you guys recording the album. How did that come about?
A: We wanted some kind of update so the people knew what we were doing and kind of build up expectations for the album. And the cool thing is Anders Bjorler, guitar player for The Haunted and ex-At the Gates has been a good friend of ours for 20 years and he asked us, “Can I, you know, record and document this recording,” because he usually hangs out anyway. He loves to film and shoot stuff, so he starting shooting the whole recording process and he made these webisodes and I think they turned out really well. He managed to capture the boredom and the excitement and the anxiety of recording. We did like five or six of them and I think they’ll end up in a longer version as a full length, 50 minute documentary with the album, kind of a limited edition or whatever. The way we record is kind of laid back and simple and we wanted to document that so I don’t have to explain the process a 1000 times (Laughs)
Q: What I found interesting watching the videos, is that it really shows the modern day technology that’s available to a band in this day and age. I mean it’s all computers…
A: Yeah, there’s no tapes rolling, you don’t need tons of hardware. You need the proper computer and the software and a couple microphones and stuff like that and you’re good to go. And that’s how our studio works. It’s the bare essentials but it’s perfect for us. It’s just a matter of getting good, clean signals. Then you leave it up to a mixer and they create something magical out of it.
Q: I noticed you spent some time on the Xbox…I mean, vocalists are usually looked at as the key person in the band, but they’re usually the last to record.
A: Oh yeah, yeah yeah…(Laughs)
Q: You get to hang out and wait. (Laughs)
A: Yeah, Absolutely. Up until the last two weeks I do nothing. I just supervise the whole thing. “Yeah, that sounds good. Yeah.” Then I go home and finish all the lyrics. Yeah, absolutely. I’m so envious of all the other guys in the band, especially Anders [Jivarp] who finishes his drums in the first two weeks then he can relax and just criticize us.
Q: Do you have anxiety during that period when you’re waiting to do your thing?
A: Oh shit, yeah! Absolutely .It’s the worst! I hate it. I don’t sleep for two months or so and I’m up all the time rearranging vocal lines and changing things and adding words and removing stuff so yeah. It’s horrible. I hate it. We felt so bad, especially me and Martin Brandstrom, he’s always pretty late when it comes to keyboards as well. He has all his sounds, he does them all the way up to the last possible second. So we can call each other at 4 oclock in the morning, and be like, “Hey how do you feel?” “Oh, like shit. I hate it. I want it to be over. Fuck..” But I think that’s good. It’s a good driving force. And when you finish it, it makes the whole process…the first time you listen to it and we realized we were done, it was just fantastic. It’s just a sigh of relief. Holy shit, we’ve done it and it works and it sounds good. We’re happy. We can finally crack open a few beers and enjoy it.
Originally published on 101d.com
By Carl C. Sundberg
It’s been about five years since Nevermore released a full-length album. Between world tours, solo projects and life in general, it’s just the reality of a busy, legendary progressive thrash band from Seattle, WA.
But Nevermore is back with a vengeance with their seventh studio album, “The Obsidian Conspiracy”, an album that finds Nevermore taking their monstrous sound to a brutal new level. It was produced by former Soilwork guitarist Peter Wichers and mixed by the notorious Andy Sneap.
Vocalist Warrel Dane spoke with us about the album, the artwork, the early days of the band fighting through the grunge movement that exploded in their home city of Seattle in the mid-90s, and his thoughts on the heavy metal movement of today.
Q: It’s been five years since your last record, why so long?
A: Well it didn’t really take five years. I know it seems like that for a lot of people, but for us it doesn’t seem that long. We toured almost two and half years for the last record, and when we were done, we focused on doing a DVD. Then after that we did a couple of solo records that Jeff and I obviously had to get out of our systems. So it’s not like we really went anywhere, we were just doing different things.
Q: Now this album has some pretty intense artwork. Tell me about what went into it, what were you guys trying to do with it.
A: Well you know, Travis [Smith] is amazing. He’s a great artist and anytime he does a Nevermore cover, people know it’s going to be something special. And whenever that happens, I work pretty closely with him; we lob ideas back and forth. For me it’s always important for the artwork to really reflect the music and the lyrics, and I think it really does. But at the same time I’m not going to explain it all, literally, but you can see that the Washington monument is decaying in the background. So I think you get the gist of it probably.
Q: What were some of the themes on Obsidian Conspiracy?
A: Suicide, murder, abortion and capital punishment.
Q: Wow. Very aggressive.
A: Yeah, within the context of some of the mellower songs, you’ll find some very, very subversive text.
Q: When you’re writing lyrics, where do you get the ideas? Are you a news watcher, is it stuff that happens in your own personal life or…
A: I’m a life watcher, I’m not sure that I’m a news watcher, but I watch CNN sometimes. Fox News makes me wanna kill myself. But the weird thing is if you watch CNN when you’re not in America, it’s completely different. It’s so slanted here toward our agenda. A lot of people don’t know that. But uhh…I get my influences from pretty much every thing; I’m not really sure how to explain that.
Q: Nevermore started in the mid nineties when the grunge movement happened, and you guys were from Seattle doing metal, tell me about that period - the early days.
A: That was a really weird time. Basically anybody that was playing metal in this city was completely disrespected by the media and other musicians in this city. So it was rough. But we always had our ideals in place. We knew what we were doing. We knew what we wanted to do and weren’t going to change it. I just remember when we first started, technically when Nevermore first started, it was under contract from Sony because of Sanctuary and we gave them demos, and this is the first response I got, and it goes like this: Frankly I expected something a little grungier. [Laughs] So that should clue you in to what the climate was back then. So basically they said no, after we’ve kept you on a leash for three years, you can go find a contract on your own and that’s when Century Media signed us.
Q: Was there ever a time during that period where you guys thought maybe we shouldn’t be doing this, maybe we should go grungier?
Q: At what point in Nevermore’s career did you see the tides turn more in your favor, in terms of the metal scene?
A: Well, I’m not really sure if the tides really have turned. But I know that perseverance pays off. There’s a reason we’re still here right now.
Q: What’s your thoughts on heavy metal in general, has it reached its pinnacle, is there room to grow?
A: Any genre has room to grow, but I’m sure metal isn’t going anywhere right now. Actually I know it’s not going anywhere, cuz its always going to be here. But within any genre of music, there’s always room to grow and boundaries to be expounded on. I’m not sure if we’re doing that, but at least we’re trying a little bit.
Originally published on 101d.com
By Carl C. Sundberg
Known as one of the bands that ushered in the new thrash revival, Municipal Waste has been wreaking havoc from the US to the UK since 2000, after playing their first gig at a keg party in their hometown of Richmond, VA - home to other veteran metal bands Lamb of God and Gwar.
With head-snapping speed and riffs that tear mosh pits to shreds, Municipal Waste is also well known for their crazy shows and their wild party antics - on and off stage – having written in their own words, the “Reign in Blood of party albums” with their third release, “The Art of Partying.” Vocalist/frontman Tony Foresta admits this album really put Municipal Waste on the map for a lot of people just waking up to the thrash revival, but it is not their final stand.
Their next release and current album, “Massive Aggressive”, takes the fury and intensity in a more serious direction, proving that Municipal Waste is not just another beer-chugging, pizza-eating, denim-wearing neo-thrash party band. Municipal Waste is here to fuck you up for the long haul.
Q: What got you into thrash?
A: When I was younger, I was more coming out of the punk scene, and I liked more of the aggressive brutal punk, I listened to a lot of Power Violence, stuff like that. You can see back then, most of these really good thrash bands listened to punk bands. You can look at the back of an old thrash record and look at the t-shirts of the bands that they’re wearing, and they were into punk and hardcore. Look at the back of a Metallica record, you’ll see Cliff Burton wearing a Misfits shirt. Dudes in Nuclear Assault wearing NDC shirts, stuff like that. I mean it’s basically punks playing metal. It’s fast and it’s aggressive and it’s catchy. It’s a different style of music. It’s more than just metal.
Q: Thrash had it’s roots in the early 80s, you had bands like Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies, Kreator, Testament, and now there’s a reemergence of the thrash movement, people calling it neo thrash or whatever, with the denim jackets, it seems like a very cohesive intentional thing. Did you see that coming or did that shock you?
A: I thought it was kind of weird. I remember 8 years ago, we used to wear denim, but nobody in the band wears denim anymore. Wait, no Phil does actually. But I remember we used to roll up to hardcore shows and we’d be the only guys in denim jackets and long hair, and people would be like, “You guys are fucking crazy”. They thought we were like straight out of the 80s or something, and we were just dressing like what we dressed like. We weren’t really trying to start a throwback or anything. We were doing and dressing how we liked. It just felt right to us. Now, I don’t even wear a vest anymore, cuz it’s just crazy now, I don’t want it to be like a trendy thing. It’s weird now to see how many people are into this whole thrash revival, for lack of a better word. I never would of really expected it to explode the way it has.
Q: It is kind of crazy seeing 13 year old dudes who have the complete perfect thrash wardrobe or wearing something you would have seen at an Anthrax show in 83. It’s like, ‘You weren’t alive back then! Where did this come from?’
A: It is crazy, but it’s cool that people are going back and looking at that music because when we started playing it, it was something kind of forbidden and people were kind of embarrassed to talk about it. Which I thought was ridiculous. But yeah, just to see that comeback in full circle and have people embrace it is cool. It’s helped our band a lot because more people are listening to our band now than they would have ten years ago.
Q: And you guys beat a lot of bands to the punch. You’ve been doing this a lot longer than most of the new bands, you’re on the spearhead of the revival.
A: Yeah, we started out before it. We weren’t really trying to do that. It just kind of happened. I mean yeah, it’s a good thing, like I said, it’s helped our band a lot. We’re able to tour the world now and see all these amazing countries and I never thought I could do that just playing music. I’d be happy just to make it out to the west coast once every couple years. (laughs) But now we’re just a touring force because so many people support what we’re doing. It’s amazing.
Q: You guys are from Richmond, VA where Lamb of God and Gwar are from, what’s the scene like over there?
A: It’s weird cuz it’s a really small town, smaller than like Columbus, Ohio, but the music scene is monstrous. The reason why, I think, is because Richmond’s like a suburb of DC, it’s 2 hours south of DC and 2 hours west of Virginia Beach, and those are two huge cities that don’t have thriving music scenes. So I think a lot of the creative people get frustrated with that, the expensive rent or whatever and they move to Richmond because it’s just a more open-minded community and they move here and start killer bands. There’s also an art school here. So it’s packed with creative people and there’s a killer band for every genre of music, it’s not just thrash or metal. It’s like Seattle in the 90s only it’s more lo-key, people don’t realize it.
Q: You guys are known to be a party band. How much of that image is real, how much of it is more like, “Well we gotta go with it…”
A: Considering I’m standing outside in my sweat pants completely hammered still from last night…(laughs) I mean we party. We’re not crackheads or anything. We’re not drug addicts. But we drink a lot. We have a lot of good friends in different towns so it’s kind of hard to take a night off sometimes, but as much as we travel, it’s good to see our friends as often as you can. So when you see them, it’s crazy. That’s what happened last night. So yeah we party. We party our ass off. But we also take writing music and touring and traveling the world very seriously. It gets me down sometimes when people think that all we wanna do is get fucked up and trash shit. It happens. (Laughs) But it ain’t what we’re about. It’s not the only thing we’re about. If it was, I think we’d be a shitty band and we wouldn’t write good songs.
Q: What’s some of the craziest shows you’ve played recently?
A: On this tour we played Houston, and some guy climbed up in the rafters while the opening band was playing and kicked the sprinkler system, one of the nozzles, and it exploded. And all this black water that smelled like mercury shot all over the crowd. I mean it was seriously like a fire hose going off into the crowd and they cancelled the show. We had to run out and grab all of our equipment and clear it out of the building and it was a huge mess. What other shit happened on this tour…the next day we played Austin, TX and Billy Milano from SOD got up on stage and sang United Forces with us. So that was really cool. Every day something new and crazy happens. And that’s why we do this band. It brings people together and it’s always a crazy experience.
Q: Are there any places you guys have played that are ridiculous hot spots for thrash?
A: Oh man, yeah. LA is just over the top right now. It’s unbelievable. Our shows in LA are insane. London is awesome. Shit man, there’s some surprising ones in there…Philly is always good. Philly’s like our second home. Toronto is pretty wild too, Italy; when we go out to Italy the kids are so hungry for it and they just go crazy. I think it’s more ravenous with towns we’ve never been to, it’s just so crazy. People just freak out that we’re there. Like eastern Europe, the places they don’t get music as much, they’re hungry for it. They live for it. When a band comes through, they rip ‘em apart. (laughs) They kicked my ass dude. It was hard to keep our equipment intact because so many kids were jumping onstage and pushing me over and jumping in the crowd. It’s just wild. We get our ass kicked. That’s what happens when you’re an in-your-face band. It means the world to us to go to these countries and people react that way. I’d much rather have someone knock me over and screaming our lyrics than somebody just be standing there with their arms folded.
Q: Let’s talk about the new album. It’s your fourth release. What was something you wanted to do different with Massive Aggressive that Municipal Waste hasn’t done before?
A: Well, when we did out third album, The Art of Partying, we were trying to write the Reign in Blood of party albums. We thought it’d be funny to have a concept record about partying. But what happened was, the album was a success. We didn’t realize it, but it was actually a breakthrough album for us because it was the first album that people heard by Municipal Waste. It was like, ‘oh that’s this band.’ All they sing about is partying, that’s amazing, so all people knew about was our partying, we kind of had to branch away from that and let it be known that we’re not just a party band. We’re not just gonna write songs about that. We’re gonna write some ripping tunes. And I think we pulled it off. But it wasn’t easy.
Q: What were you trying to do lyrically with Massive Aggressive?
A: We wanted to write more focused songs, something more pissed off, for lack of a better word, something more aggressive .We wanted to have a record that punches you from start to finish. It’s not our fastest record, but I think it’s one of our strongest ones.
Originally published on 101d.com
By Carl C. Sundberg
Jon Schaffer is best known as the mastermind behind the power metal titans Iced Earth. And while Iced Earth is by no means coming to an end (in fact they just signed a new deal with Century Media), Schaffer is taking some time to focus on his new project - Sons of Liberty - a shocking departure from the fantasy-based themes and sounds of the Tampa, Florida-based Iced Earth.
Sons of Liberty take its name from the small secret band of American patriots who fought for the independence of the North American from the British during the formation of the United States in the late 1700s. And much like that original group, Schaffer sees this new project as a vessel for peaceful revolution against what he describes as a “pattern of global banking corruption that is undermining the independence of not only the nation, but the planet”.
The debut album, “Brush-Fires of the Mind”, is chock-full of eye-opening songs that attempt to explain exactly where this corruption stemmed from and how it’s destroying mankind and what can be done about it. And while the topics of this album are a distinct departure from what you’d expect from the songwriter of Iced Earth, it’s still firmly routed sonically in the powerful thunder that Iced Earth is known for. With plenty of super heavy riffs, double bass drumming and shredding solos, Sons of Liberty finds Jon Schaffer more deadly serious than he’s ever been.
Q: Where did Sons of Liberty come from?
A: I was in desperate need of a vacation. That was the beginning of it. I had just taken a few weeks off in my entire adult life, just going twenty years nonstop. At the last Iced Earth European tour I was ready to crash. I was like, “I need a break bad”. So we went to Central America for a month. I was away from all the distractions and the rat race and everything and I really started to feel different. I was relaxed for probably the only time in my adult life and it was cool. But one of the few times I turned on the television I saw this report on the news, the Mayak Report they called it, you know Constitutionalists and Ron Paul supporters, Libertarians, and ex-military, gun-owners, Christians, Conservatives, they were listed as potential terrorists. And this was from federal government to local law enforcement. I was like, “What is going?” So I get back home and I see that [Janet] Napolitano apologizes, stands up with the head of the American legion because the vets were bent out of shape about it and rightfully so. She gives a bunch of lip service. And I’m thinking this is just rhetoric, this was still policy, if it was sent out to law enforcement, then that’s federal policy. So I started digging more and more. I found out that it was actually drafted under President Bush but it was leaked under Obama’s administration and that started making me think. Things started feeling uneasy. Seeing a lot of policies that Bush had that were detrimental to the American people, were being carried on by Obama even though he campaigned against it, and I’m thinking this is just starting to smell bad. Every time we get suckered into a president, it’s just rhetoric. The agenda just moves forward. Then a good friend of mine sent me a link about fractional reserve banking and that really blew my mind. That led me to learn about the Federal Reserve and the fact that it’s a private banking cartel that basically has the right to counterfeit our money and they are accountable to no one. It was then that I had goose bumps all over my body. I was just thinking back to Thomas Jefferson’s warning about that kind of stuff and I studied this, but I just didn’t know that the federal reserve was not a legitimate part of government. It’s a private banking cartel. It’s not part of Treasury. It’s a treasonous act. It’s actually a communist instituion, it’s the fifth plank of the communist manifesto, to have a central bank. Now I’m seeing motive for so many things that are wrong. This empire building and everything that’s going on. It led me to do more and more research and I realized we’ve all been lied to. Big time. About a lot of the things that are going on in the world and what America’s role has been. It just feels like it’s time for, man…I don’t know. Something awakened inside of me and this stuff came out and I knew that I had to do it, for better or worse, I had to sing it. It was my message. I want people to start researching this because our country is in serious danger. And it has been for a long time, but it’s accelerating to where we’re looking at a full economic collapse here, and it is being done by design. If you read the writings of the people involved, whom I’ll call the “conspirators” you’ll see that this has been planned for a very long time. It’s a way to implement one banking system and one world government. It’s the dreams of these guys’ grandfathers. It’s a thing that passed down. The global elite passes it down to subsequent generations and they’ve carried it on and now there is an awakening happening around the world and that’s one of the reasons the program is being accelerated at the rate that it is.
Q: Sons of Liberty is a nod to our forefathers, and they weren’t involved in this, right, I mean when did this global elite take shape?
A: Well it’s exactly what the Sons of Liberty were fighting against. Exactly what our founders were against. They were all about stopping the bankers and the global elite and the manipulators. That was the real cause of the American Revolution. We were faced with it right from the start, from George Washington’s administration, I mean right off the bat, we had a central bank. The First Bank of the United States. Thomas Jefferson was furious about it. He came back from Europe and sees that they’ve established the Treasury Department and the First Bank of the United States and he was just furious. He was like, “we just fought a revolution, you’re making us British. So him and Alexander Hamilton were butting heads constantly. Very heated in the White House, well it wasn’t the White House then, but where Washington was headquartered. They were going at it. That’s actually how the Republican Party started. So anyway, they have an inflationary collapse and the Second Bank of the United States comes in, same situation, but this time when Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, came into office, he spent his second term vowing to destroy and tear down the central bank. And he did it. On his farewell address he said if the American people allow this institution or another one like it to take root again, it will be the end of our country. It’s the war our nation has been engaged in since the very beginning.
Q: What do you think can stop this takeover?
A: Awareness is the first step. If people don’t really understand what we’re up against then we’ve got no shot whatsoever. You can’t keep looking to government officials who work for the bankers to give us solutions. These people lie to us all the time. At the local level we need to educate people about the real financial system, fractional reserve banking, how fraudulent it is and then hold those people’s feet to the fire on the local and state level. Honestly going violent is the worst thing that could possibly happen. What our founders faced – this is a thousand times worse. The enemy’s in the gate. And they’re running the show. The technology, it’s way worse. Really it has to be Ghandhi-like. But the first step is awareness. If we become self sufficient and stop buying crap from these multi-national corporations and we get out of debt and we try to act collectively, we could collapse the federal government and stop their robber baron ways pretty quickly.
Q: Now most of the songs on your new album are related to all this, what are some of the more powerful songs on this album?
A: I guess I’d have to say “Jekyll Island”. It’s sort of giving a brief little history of the federal reserve and how we were hijacked. Hopefully it’ll make people read the book, “The Creature from Jekyll Island” because that book is crucial. It should make any citizen of the world angry to know how we’ve been manipulated by a small group of people. It’s a historical fact. There’s so much evidence, it’s everywhere. You start digging through old newspaper articles, whatever. This is real. So I’d say that’s one of the most important songs. “We The People” is a pretty powerful statement. “Don’t Tread on Me.”
Q: On your website you have a whole slew of links to help spread this truth to the people, yeah?
A: That’s the whole point is to…I mean I know I’m going to reach a small number of people and even smaller still are actually going to stand up and resist and get involved. But I had to do this. I put everything on hold for this. Paying projects. I spent a shitload of money and released it for free because I believe in this that much. And the links and the booklists are there so that anybody who’s been following what I’ve done through the years they know I’m a genuine guy and I’m not the monster that some people claim that I am. So I think there’s a lot of people who have done the research and they’re starting to wake up. In fact I know they have because I’ve heard from them. The documenataries are crucial. I recommend that anybody who watches that stuff just take notes. If you hear something that’s completely crazy take notes and look it up. Then maybe you’ll see it’s not so crazy after all.
Originally published on 101d.com
By Carl C. Sundberg
After nearly 25 years of thrashing clubs and stages across the globe, it's safe to say that Sick of It All's status as one of the founding fathers of the original New York hardcore punk scene will remain intact. Along with Madball, Agnostic Front, Biohazard and a handful of other New York-based bands, Sick of It All helped build a scene and a sound that has gone on to influence everyone from Hatebreed to Disturbed.
Founded in 1986 in Queens by brothers Lou and Pete Koller in their bedroom after seeing some shows at the legendary CBGBs in New York, Sick of It All was signed to Relativity records and released one of the most legendary hardcore punk albums to date - Blood, Sweat and No Tears - just two years after the band's first days.
From that point on, Sick of It All has managed to maintain a solid career, releasing a new album every 2 to 4 years, slowly building a cult following worldwide. On April 20th, 2010, Sick of It All will unleash their ninth album - Based on a True Story. Frontman and founder Lou Koller takes us inside this album, into his day-to-day world, through the early days of the band and what it was like to have David Draiman, frontman of Disturbed, tell him he's one of their biggest fans.
Q: Let’s start with the new album, Based on a True Story, what went into this album, I mean it was four years in the making.
A: Yeah, we didn’t plan to take that long, we just started touring after Death to Tyrants, did like a year or two years of touring, which is normal for us and then starting writing again. But when we hit the two year mark, we took some time off and all of a sudden we got all these offers for more tours, you know, like South America, back to Europe again, then the United States, all over the place, so we just kept going. [Laughs]
Q: As one of the founders of the New York hardcore scene, how do people in South America treat you guys?
A: It’s great, we’d go down there and they’d have books on the American scenes and they would divide it up into the Seattle scene, and the Chicago industrial scene, and they would include the New York hardcore scene, but you’d get fans who like all different types of aggressive music. They all come to the shows. I find that refreshing.
Q: Going back to the new album, what are some of the themes of Based on a True Story?
A: We didn’t have a concept or anything, but it turned out a lot of the songs were about stuff that happened to us growing up or things that affected us growing up. Like the lead track, Death or Jail, that’s about a lot of us growing up, and it was based around one of our friends, who was my best friend all through high school, that, even though we grew up and hung out with the same people and did the same things, he really got into being a drug dealer and a criminal and he ended up going to jail and he was supposed to be there for life. He got three heart attacks in jail, and he’s been in jail a good part of the last twenty years and when he got out he died three months later. We could just never understand, you know we all came from the same background, and why he chose that path, you know?
Q: Absolutely. So tell me then - I’m gonna guess that you’ve had some rough times in your life - what have you embraced, aside from music, to get you through it all?
A: You know, it might sound cheesy, but it’s been what our parents taught us when we were younger. You don’t want to admit that, especially when you’re younger, but it’s always there in the back of your head, you know? [Laughs]
Q: What’s a day in the life like for you?
A: Since I’d say, ’97, we didn’t have to have steady jobs, which was good because when you’re in a touring band you come home and then you gotta take some job in a mailroom or a temp job, so you work wherever you can. You know construction was a big one. Luckily up until this year, we’ve never had to have any jobs. Now, with the economy the way it is…I still don’t have a day job. Running the band is split between me and mostly our drummer, Armand [Majidi]; he took over the management side like ten years ago and he’s been running the band. I help him out, my brother - our other guitar player - [Pete Koller] helps him out too.
Q: Let’s go back to the original days. What got you into music, especially hardcore music?
A: Me and my brother Pete - who plays guitar - he’s my younger brother; we have two older brothers, a year or two older than us, and they would always bring home records, back then it was Deep Purple, Rainbow and Sabbath and we really got into that. But I was always into the more aggressive, more uptempo songs, and it just grew like that. We just started listening to more heavier stuff. Then one day, we went to high school, and that’s where we met Armand, our drummer, and he was into Motorhead. And to us, nobody in New York City was into Motorhead. We just hooked up like that and he introduced us to the New York hardcore scene.
Q: You guys played CBGBs early on. Tell me about the first time you played there.
A: The first time we were opening up for a bunch of bands, I think we were the second band on, and we had a couple of shows under our belts that we did on Long Island. You’re in such awe because there’s such a legend behind that club and it was just amazing. We just had a lot of fun. It was a year after that the we first headlined there and we were all piled in my friends car, stuffed with our equipment and the whole band and we’re driving to the city going, “God I hope people show up today.” And we pull up and there’s a line around the block. We were having a heart attack, and we were like, “Oh my God.”
Q: You just threw it down, huh?
A: Yeah that was the beauty, what sold me on the hardcore scene and music. I mean, we still love metal, like we’d go and see Ozzy at the [Madison Square] Garden with Joe Perry’s band opening up and the next weekend we’d be at CBGBs and I’m standing in the crowd and the guy next to me talking to me gets up on stage and it’s the guitar player of Agnostic Front. And I was like, “Holy crap I was just next to the guy who’s on stage,” and that kind of sold it for me. There’s not really a separation of megastar and you’re the audience. It’s just everybody having a good time.
Q: What do you think about the newer generation of hardcore bands?
A: I think it’s good. I love the mix. I mean, we came in when it was transitioning from punk into hardcore, where hardcore’s more…we want the angst and the energy of punk, but we don’t want the self-destructiveness, but we kept the values of where you shun the media, you didn’t want to be exploited. I think hardcore bands that came after us were smarter and learned you can work with the media and you don’t have to hate everybody. I think they’re smarter business-wise, which is good for them. It prolongs their careers.
Q: Has there been any younger bands that have come up to you and were like, ‘Man if it wasn’t for your band, I wouldn’t be in a band”?
A: The one that blew us away - we’ve had a couple - that guy from Dashboard Confessional [Chris Carabba], he came up to us. We played a festival together over in England and he said, “When I was from the age of 14 til 20, you guys kept me alive.” And that was great. But the one that really blew us away was last summer. We were playing a festival in Belgium and we’re headlining the second stage and we’re playing our set and our bass player walks over and says, “Hey, I think the singer of Disturbed is watching us.” And we were like, “Yeah right, he doesn’t like this kind of music.” We walk offstage and he comes walking up to us, the singer of Disturbed, and goes, “I used to go see you guys in Chicago for like years. You’re the reason I do music.” And we were just blown away that this guy in this huge band used to come see us in Chicago. It was very flattering.
Originally published on 101d.com
By Carl C. Sundberg
Drawing inspiration from 70s metal and from the much abbreviated NWOBHM, Canadian thrash metal band, 3 Inches of Blood has been slowly, yet surely building a loyal, diehard fanbase by touring all parts of the world, including the US and UK since their inception nearly a decade ago. With their gritty, thrashy, catchy battle hymns and frontman Cam Pipes and his Rob Halford-inspired falsetto vocals, 3 Inches of Blood turns heads wherever they perform.
With their latest record, Here Waits Thy Doom, the band finds themselves recording their first album for a new label and the first album not to feature any of their original members. Jamie Hooper, the last original member who performed screaming vocals in the band, was forced to quit after struggling with vocal problems. The band was also dropped from Roadrunner Records, causing them to spend some time as free agents, where they eventually signed with Century Media.
Despite these changes and challenges, guitarist Shane Clark thinks 3 Inches of Blood have finally found the right group of guys to carry forth their domination of the heavy metal world complete with epic tours, a furious new album, a label that’s got their back and a teeth shattering new video.
Q: Let’s talk about the new album, Here Waits Thy Doom, tell me what went into this album.
A: With a lineup change, the dymanic changes a little bit. And for this record, it changed for the better. This one is a lot more focused, not too many cooks in the kitchen you know. Justin and I wrote the music for this and it was really smooth. I was just writing songs we want to hear and the rest of the guys putting their stamp on it. There wasn’t really a formula, to tell you the truth. We kind of wrote songs and this was the album that happened. People are making observations about how its much more late 70s metal than the last one and I agree. It’s a compliment. But it wasn’t planned out. It just kind of happened.
Q: Is this album getting you guys more attention? You feel like you’re moving up the chain a little bit with this record?
A: I feel like with this album, there’s been a lot more help from the media, and that has a lot to do with us being on a different label too. Being more in the public’s eye on this record, in our own underground way, it’s been a lot better. But of course, touring over the years helped too. Getting more people out to the shows, and building more anticipation, I think slowly but surely, we’re generating more fans.
Q: Regarding the label switch, your last two albums were on Roadrunner, and now you’re on Century media, what happened there?
A: We got dropped from Roadrunner and then we were free agents for a year. Long story short, it was all business. It wasn’t personal or anything. They wanted to renegotiate. Labels aren’t making money anymore. So Roadrunner wanted to renegotiate and we knew if we said no, they’d drop us. So we all said no. We weren’t happy with our arrangements at that point. So we got dropped. It was high fives all around. We took about a year to decide. We knew what we wanted business-wise, so we took a year and talked to a lot of labels and Century Media was the best way to go for us.
Q: What does Century Media do for you that Roadrunner doesn’t?
A: There’s a whole long list, so I’ll go through it with you a little bit, man. They’re interested in our band, they understand what kind of music we’re playing. These are things that Century Media seems to understand that Roadrunner didn’t. Those are two big things and we have support from them. They have a publicity department that’s really good. They’ve actually done stuff for us. In Roadrunner’s case, they put out a record and it would be in some stores some of the time, but that was it. If we were on tour, there was no fucking way you’d get bailed from them. They just didn’t give a shit. They sign a bunch of bands and whoever makes waves, they put all the money into them. In our case, we got signed with that whole big group of bands that Trivium was involved in. Those guys did really well in the UK and stuff so, and us and a handful of other bands were pretty low priority. I don’t want to sound like sour grapes. That’s just the way it goes. We’re just glad we got out of that. Century Media’s just a whole different situation.
Q: Let’s talk about touring. You guys are notorious for staying on the road. I’m looking at your current touring list and it’s huge. North America and UK. Tell me about life on the road with 3 Inches of Blood.
A: It’s hard to put into words. It’s just a way of life for everybody. We just have a method where we just travel in a van with a trailer and stay in hotels and just keep it going. The road just seems like home. When we’re at home it, well it’s nice to have a break here and there, but it’s always like, man we should be on the road right now. Playing. Over the years you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Members come and go because of touring. By no means is it backbreaking work but it’s tough on the psyche as far as whether you’re deep down wishing you were home making money and having a yard and getting married and shit, then it’s not the life for you. We are all dedicated to the music. We’re dedicated to the band. That is our life. It’s really easy for us at this point.
Q: 3 Inches of Blood’s sound is heavily inspired from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, so I’m curious do you get a better response in Europe than you do in the United States?
A: It just depends where. If we’re doing our own shows in the UK and it’s booked good then people show up and it’s great. But if we’re opening up for a band…we did some shows with Arch Enemy and Opeth where people didn’t give two shits. So it just depends what you’re doing. By no means are we reinventing the wheel, we definitely stick out no matter what we’re doing. If it made sense that we were huge in Germany, because that’s where a lot of the shit we play comes from, well, we still have to keep coming back and playing a lot. So we’ll get where we’re going the old-fashioned way.
Q: Tell me about the new video for “Battles and Brotherhood”.
A: I was getting drunk at a barbeque and my buddy is in the movie industry and this dude was there, and he expressed interest in doing a video for us. And I was like, ‘well we have no money’. This dude worked on like Tron and 300 and all these crazy movies, so he has the know how and all that and he pulled in a bunch of favors and made the video happen for literally no budget. So you can see there’s some quality going on, it was costumes and a set. Really nice cameras and stuff. He was being the director and all that. We brainstormed all together on the ideas, what the video would be about and it all worked out. It was good fun. We had wardropbes and makeup, we had fake scars and shit. It was really just a cool experience. Professional stuntmen doing the battle scenes. It was cool man.
Q: And the video and the song really sum up 3 Inches of Blood in a lot of ways.
A: I think it’s funny. It’s so over the top; we’re a bunch of barbarians in the video and the song is basically about how we live our life on the road; the battles and the tribulations of being on the road and the brotherhood aspect. We are a brotherhood, we’re who we have on the road and in our travels but the lyrics are indirect as well. Of course it’s about battles and barbarians and shit. But it’s a good video to fit the vibe of our band. Fucking battles, swords, drinking horns and wenches and shit.
Originally published on 101d.com
By Carl C. Sundberg
Iwrestledabearonce. Fve words. Written together, no spaces, this truly is an absurd band name. The fact that it was taken from something Gary Busy once blurted out is even more absurd. But even their name cannot prepare you for the metal experience you’re getting yourself into with Iwrestledabearonce.
Jamming every possible style of music that has ever been made into Frankenstein thrashing grenades of songs, Iwrestledabearonce shapeshifts effortlessly and violently on every song of their debut album, “It’s All Happening”. And with song names like, “Tastes Like Kevin Bacon” and “Corey Feldman Holocaust”, they don’t necessarily take themselves that seriously.
With their over the top schizophrenic sound, their head-turning merch (“metal just got gay” boasts one shirt) and being one of a handful of young bands sponsored by Taco Bell, Iwrestledabearonce is here to shatter the preconceived conceptions you might have about metal. Or not. But they’ll have fun trying. We spoke with guitarist Steven Bradley on the road, after returning from a recent European tour.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your band. I’m guessing you’re a polarizing band…
A: I guess so, we’re barely a metal band…I mean we are, but none of us really listen to too much metal anymore cuz it all kind of gets boring. It’s repetitive and it sounds the same. Not too much metal is exciting anymore, sadly.
Q: What kind of stuff do you guys listen to?
A: What were just listening to…we were listening to the new Thirty Seconds to Mars CD. I don’t know. (Call out to his bandmates in the van) What are we listening to? We listened to Boys II Men yesterday, we pretty much went through the whole deftones discography. I don’t know, we literally have the most random, terrible tastes in music ever. From weird 80s pop stuff, we listened to Duran Duran yesterday, Jackson 5. We have terrible tastes in music. There’s a lot of space rock, Explosions in the Sky, Russian Circles, Minus the Bear.
Q: You guys incorporate a lot of styles into your music, and I’ve read where people are saying these guys are insane, and other reviews where they’re saying it’s just noise, but it’s pretty complicated stuff you’re playing…
A: I guess so. I don’t know. I’d like to think so. Maybe. I don’t know about complicated because lord knows none of us are theory majors or know any of that stuff, but we are trying to do something that doesn’t sound like everyone else out there because I really don’t see a point in being a band and wasting your time on touring and making an album if it’s just rehashed garbage that people have already done a million times. What we do could very well be considered garbage, but at least you can’t go, well it sounds like this.
Q: What kind of responses do you get from your audiences?
A: I don’t know. We don’t just attract people that mosh or people that hardcore dance or people that jump around. We get kind of everyone. So it’s always interesting. We don’t really attract the serious beat down bro dudes who come to shows to fight folks. But whatever, that music’s got it’s time and place. It’s just not us. Those people don’t come see us. Our shows are typically more “funnererer” than I guess some other metal bands. We’re not encouraging everyone to kill each other. It’s more like break shit, dance, punch people, then hug afterward. Cuz that’s how it used to be. Ten years ago.
Q: Now I see you have a lot of endorsements, you’re involved with a lot of promotional tools, but you’re a Taco Bell band. Tell me about that.
A: That is pretty much the coolest thing ever. We joked two years ago, even in the bands we were in before this, we were like, ‘Oh man, the endorsement we need is a Taco Bell endorsement,’ seriously, just completely kidding. Because they don’t do endorsements, you know, it’s a joke. And then it turns out that they do. And good mother of God, it’s pretty incredible. It was a proud moment in life. You know we get endorsements, free guitars, free equipment, but free Taco Bell? I’m excited.
Q: Being a Taco Bell band, does that give you free Taco Bell wherever you go?
A: No, they just gave us like $500 in gift cards. And $500 at Taco Bell can buy you a lot of Taco Bell.
Q: You could eat for three years with that much money…
A: You’d be surprised. We’re actually blowing through it a lot quicker than we thought. But what can you do. It’s delightful. Seriously, it’s like us and All American Rejects and all these other bands. It’s pretty funny.
Q: You’ve been on tour for awhile now. What do you guys do to keep it peaceful while you’re on the road?
A: We all live together at home too, so when we get off tour, we share one big house so it’s constantly, it’s us all together. Constantly. Even our merch fellow, Eli, lives with us as well. So we’re always around each other. But we’re all friends, not just people who are like, ‘yeah I hate you but I have to play with you onstage tonite’. But we’re all idiots basically. Our music is not us trying to be quirky or stupid or whatever. We’re all seriously, just, I don’t know. Don’t take it just seriously, we have fun. Constantly farting on each other, stuff like that.
Q: So you keep it easy going, basically.
A: I mean, there’s always business-y stuff or whatever, But other than that, we’re seriously, anyone who’s met us or hung out with us for more than five minutes, they’re like ‘wow, you’ve made 400 fart jokes in 30 seconds’. I don’t know. I don’t see the point in being serious and angry all the time. I like some violent music. But I’m not going to put on spiked leather arm gauntlets and hate my parents for no reason when I don’t feel that way. I just don’t think that metal has to be serious 100% of the time.
Originally published on 101d.com
By Carl C. Sundberg
Best known as the dual six-string shredders behind the brutality that is Daath, Levi/Werstler have taken some time off to pursue a little instrumental foray into psychedelic metal with their debut release on Magna Carta Records, “Avalanche of Worms”. Before you begin the judgements in your brain, realize this is no noodling nondescript shred-off of just two guitarists just trying to show off their chops. Featuring synth, bass and the drumming thunder of Sean Reinart of Cynic, “Avalanche of Worms” is a very intricate, dark and trippy audio adventure, full of unique compositions, outstanding musicianship, and of course, some nasty solos.
Levi took many more musical risks on this endevour than he has in the past with Daath, and Werstler was more inclined to stretch his wings a bit on the fretboard as well. The album came about after the two were asked to contribute to a compilation that was intended to be a tribute to Opeth. They were given basic tracks that they were simply supposed to solo over, but it flipped a switch inside Levi’s head. He realized he could write better parts than what was given him, and thus the writing process began.
And while this is more of a side project, Levi hasn’t ruled out making more albums under the Levi/Werstler moniker, nor has he ruled out touring with this project, although he points out that it would be very difficult to do with Daath and Cynic’s busy schedules and vast differences in locations, making rehearsal very difficult, if not impossible.
Q: So the name of the album is “Avalanche of Worms”, that’s not the band name?
A: Yeah, it’s like a solo record, only it’s a duo, we’re just going by our names because that way people will begin to associate us as…
Q: Kick ass musicians? (Laughs)
A: Yeah, well maybe they’ll start to recognize someone else other than Kevin Talley in Daath, you know?
Q: Totally. But you guys are kind of the powerhouse behind Daath anyway, I mean you write the music.
A: Everyone in Daath brings their own super power to the table, but we’re sick of hearing about Chimaira or Dying Fetus. We feel like we’ve put in enough time and enough work to where we should all be on a level playing field. So that was why we decided to just name it as ourselves, to bring attention to ourselves as individuals.
Q: When did the idea for this come from? How did it come about?
A: The label Magna Carta had a compilation CD called “Guitars That Ate My Brain” and it was basically supposed to be half up-and-coming guitar players and half established dudes, all playing in the style of somebody else, which is kind of weird to me. But we got asked to play on an Opeth-style track. They basically wanted us to play a couple solos. So they sent us this track with drums, rhythm tracks and all these melodies and honestly they were like [Opeth frontman] Mikael Akerfeldt toilet-wipe riffs. I mean…I would be embarrassed to show the dudes in Opeth that I did that. It was such a cheap imitation. So we requested that all the melodies be taken off the track. And we get to do our thing to it. They weren’t too cool about it, but they let us do it and I guess they really liked the results. We went to town on the track and they wanted to do a record.
Q: Was the song you submitted to them on the “Avalanche of Worms” album?
A: No. But it’s called, “The Unwavering Collapse”. You can find it online.
Q: Did they [Magna Carta] get you in touch with Sean Reinart of Cynic or was that you guys?
A: No, we pushed for that. The label had ideas more for some of the newer cats in the death metal scene and we wanted to have nothing to do with that, honestly. We think Sean’s the best and Emil [Werstler] and I’s favorite drummer of all times. So that was our first choice and Sean was into it.
Q: While this is more of a solo record for you guys, some of the best parts of the album are the drumming.
A: That’s why you get Sean Reinart. If it was up to me and this wasn’t really, it would have been called “Levi/Werstler/Reinart/Guenther/Scott,” but the label wanted it to be billed as Emil and I. Honestly it feels a little weird to me because everybody’s contribution is so major that I sometimes feel like our name takes away from the impact they had on the record. I don’t want it to come off that way. So be it I guess. Sean’s drums are amazing.
Q: Absolutely. Now, was this an album that was difficult to make or did you put it together pretty easily?
A: I’d say it was a lot of fun to make. But I wouldn’t call it easy. It was definitely hard work. I think it was easy working together. Emil and I’s repore was unbelievable, Sean was unbelievable. Working with everybody was unbelievable. But it was definitely hard-ass work. Some very serious man-hours went into it because we had to get it done really, really fast, because we had so many other things going on at the time, like a Daath tour cycle. (Laughs) So we had to really muscle it out. Powerhouse it. Drag on, knockdown fight til the very last minute. But it was fun the whole way through.
Q: Well this album definitely shows you and Emil off, more so than ever before, do you think you guys have grown that much as guitar players since the first Daath record or have you been holding back?
A: Neither. It’s something in between that. We’re always striving to get better. It’s a suicidal thought as a musician to stop thinking about wanting to get better. We’re always trying to further ourselves. I also have felt in the past that there are forces outside of us that were preventing the all-out insanity that we’re capable of producing. I feel like we’ve been capable of producing the insanity this whole time, but at the same time, man, songs like [Daath’s] “Subterfuge” or “Ovum” don’t need shredding. I mean “Subterfuge” has Emil’s epic solo in it but a lot of Daath stuff is meant to be songs. It’s not about epic instrumental shred. It is what it is. In that way, I like how both projects are different in that way sonically. Daath is definitely a choice to play that way. I wouldn’t call it holding back because I would challenge any guitar player to downpick “Sharpen the Blades” all the way through like we do, you know what I’m saying? A lot of stuff we do in Daath is very deceptive, it sounds a lot more simple than it really is. But that’s what’s cool about Daath, is that you don’t notice it going by you because it’s all kind of worked into a song. I like bands that do that. A lot of the times you can’t tell that Opeth parts are fucking blazing because its so well put. It just makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t appear as outright shred even though it really is.
Q: Do you guys think you’ll do any touring with this new project?
A: That I don’t know. I really do hope so but it’s one of those situations where the planets and the stars would all need to align because of everybody’s schedules being so crazy. Between Cynic and Daath and Daath being set up here in Atlanta…it would have to be a magical occurrence or a pretty fantastic opportunity.
Q: Or you could take Daath, Cynic, Worms, all of em, together.
A: We’ve actually talked about that. That might happen. We’ll see. I mean…that would be pretty epic. That would also be a pretty epic workload. I’m sure we could pull it off. We have talked about that. That would be crazy.
Q: Yeah the fans would be pretty blown away, but you’d be pretty tired at the end of each night. (Laughs)
A: Well, you know, once you get going, that’s not the part that I think would be the crazy workload. I think the prep would be the crazy workload. You know, Cynic are out in L.A. and we’re in Atlanta, so how would we coordinate rehearsals for all three of the bands? The prep would be the crazy part. That’s the part I think would be a little daunting. But if the opportunity came up and we could pull it off as far as scheduling goes we would do it.
Q: That would be killer. Now tell me about the cover art for Avalanche. It’s got a psychedelic element that kind of represents the music.
A: That’s why we always work with Jordan Villela, the guy that does all the Daath stuff. We just feel like his visuals are the prefect representation of our music. He’s proven it again. We told him we wanted something that was grotesque, psychedelic, trippy, dark but not traditional metal. Don’t take that and make it a black metal cover. Take it somewhere else because that’s what this music is. It’s not a typical metal album. We also sent him music as we were creating it so he’d get the mood and the feel. So he was pretty much a part of it from the get-go.
Q: What’s the status on Daath right now, you’re working on your fourth record, yeah?
A: Yes. It’s about half-way written and we’re recording June 1st. Should be out in October.
Q: What’s going into this album that’s different than previous Daath albums?
A: The previous Daath album was a much more traditional metal record, or our take on the traditional metal record. We wanted to make a guitar-driven, bare-bones style brutal metal album. And I think that’s what “The Concealers” ended up being. That’s not what we’re feeling right now. We’re feeling something that’s a little bit darker in it’s ambience and it’s more layered. It’s definitely more multi-faceted.
Q: Will it incorporate some of the more shreddy aspects of “Avalanche of Worms”?
A: There’s definitely going to be shred on there. But I don’t think you’re going to see epic instrumentals that bleed into each other for 40 minutes straight. There will be killer solos and killer parts. But we’re trying not to let it be “Avalanche of Worms” Daath-style. We’re trying to make this be the fourth Daath record.
Originally published on 101d.com