Thursday, 26 February 2015

Pop Corner: Nicki Minaj - Truffle Butter

"Truffle Butter" is the best track on Nicki Minaj's Pinkprint by a country mile; and it has 'chart-topping hit' smothered all over it. The fact that a Minaj tune has the potential to be one of her best without the usual verse-chorus structure is disturbingly amazing; especially one without a bridge. I'm quite frankly surprised that so many of her hardcore following have backed this, given its clear electronic sounds - massively differing from her previous releases. Though (being brutally honest.) this is the best Minaj track since "Superbass", and it's shamefully a 'bonus' track on The Pinkprint. The ear-catching nature of "Truffle Butter" is down to producer Nineteen85, who (according to Complex) has such an unimportant role at OVO Sound, that he's got a barber and Drake's personal trainer to surpass in order to reach level two on the OVO pyramid. He has no credit on Drake's latest 'mixtape' album - though gaining recognition through Drake's best tracks: "Hold On, We're Going Home" and "0 to 100 / The Catch Up" - not too bad. Regardless of Nineteen85's actual production contributions on Drake's music - he's clearly the man that's linked "Truffle Butter" to Maya Jane Coles' "What They Say", for that, he must be appreciated within Drake's clique. He's not only showing an interest in the ever developing hip-house genre, but bringing positive exposure to an artist who probably earns less in a year than how much Lil Wayne made with his verse on "Truffle Butter" -  an example of when rapping is vastly inferior to the sample.

One can only assume Minaj, Drake, and Lil Wayne are going to split from Cash Money not only for their control over solo recordings, but to form some rap supergroup called The Trio or something. They're so involved with each other’s music it seems almost inevitable Onika, Aubrey, and Dwayne will cross paths once their deals are done. I've lost count how many times these three have collaborated together, but it seems like a lot - it seems to work chart wise, and financially. Here on "Truffle Butter", the 'three rappers' approach works better than the 'featured artist' you see as credited. It's only a Nicki Minaj song because it's on The Pinkprint. Honestly, all three would have been better off if they released it under a different moniker keeping it away from The Pinkprint, as it's fundamentally wasted. 

It seems Tyga (Mustard on the beat?) was dropped from Minaj's group of guests prior to The Pinkprint being releases, which allowed Lil Wayne to give the final verse. In all honesty, Lil Wayne's is the better out of the three. Drake - although I’m getting used to his snobby attitude - offers nothing new to the domain, it feels as if I've heard his verse 10 times before. Minaj offers her usual vocal cuts, though unfortunately her soundboard forgot to include a 'Pull-up', though the listener does get a 'Yo'. Again, her verse sounds similar to previous Minaj tracks where bragging comes across as arrogance rather than sustenance: "I'm still the highest sellin' female rapper, for the record, Man, this a 65 million single sold, I ain't gotta compete with a single soul." - Another reason for audiences to argue the talent / money claim. On the other hand, as mentioned above... Lil Wayne actually succeeds in the bragging because it's funny rather than annoying: "I could be broke and keep a million dollar smile." / "LOL to the bank checkin' my account, bank teller flirtin' after checkin' my account." Overall, the lyrical value isn't so important on a track with such an infuriatingly catchy beat - and that's props to the creator Maya Jane Coles, it doesn't matter who's delivering a verse on this - it could be a 14 year old with a rap dream, or a collection of Star Trek quotes put together - the beat will prevail. 
~Eddie Gibson

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Interview: Carpenter Brut

How long does it take you to compose a song? 

Between the moment I start a song and until I consider it done, it can be six or seven months.

How precise are you when it comes to what sound you would like? Do you take your time to play around with effects on software and /or hardware?

I pay attention to everything while remaining detached from the knowledge of the maximum potential the sound can achieve with mixing, mastering etc. I put pressure on myself only regarding the composition. I dont care about the sound. It comes naturally with the song. I dont want to sound better than anyone else. Actually I dont listen to anything else when I work on my songs. It allows me to remain focused and not risk being influenced by something on the way. So I just focus on the melody. I dont experiment with stupid sound effects just to fill the void. I dont have any hardware yet, everything is in the computer. This is enough but I am thinking about investing in something consistent for live shows, like a Prophet 6 for example.  

EP III is a tremendous sounding record, however, "Anarchy Road" seems to have mixed views on vocals. Did you expect negative feedback from this?

Of course. There are some [mixed views] actually, and that was predictable. Synthwave ayatollahs dont like when you change the rules. Well fuck them, I absolutely do what I want and I invite them to do the same. Take your synthesizer and have fun like I do rather than crying because I did a pop song with vocals to play at Coachella.

Depending on this feedback, do you want more vocals in your music or less?

There will be some vocals on the next album, that is for sure. Doesnt matter what people think. I shall do things the way I want and not according to what they say.

Were there any difficulties in making EP III, any you could compare to the previous two albums?

The more you advance, the more you dont want to be redundant. So the hardest part is not to be satisfied and rehashing the same stuff. Obviously I wont do another « Roller Mobster bis » or a second « Le Perv » but I am also a technically limited musician. So the chords or the melody would be in the same spirit no matter what. I could not reinvent myself either. EP III might be a more condensed product of what I know how to do and better that the two first ones. And it was hard work indeed.

The French seem to have a habit of making brilliant electronic music, who are your favorite French musicians?

Justice. I dont know what to expect about the third album though. The second one blew me away less than the first. But these guys are talented and smart, they will know how to catch the current trend and put out some killer music.

Are these favorite musicians firm influences, or do you tend to wander off into other music genres too? You seem to be focused on an 80s vibe.

Aging tends to make you nostalgic. I grew up in the 80s and obviously my childhood memories lay there: the first computers and consoles, the Star Wars or Indiana Jones sagas. It was fun and exciting. Except one or two things, todays music bores me. Carpenter Brut was born from the frustration of not having any wild electro in minor key, to change a bit. So I am obviously influenced by what I like to listen to and I try to inject that into what I play.   

How were you approached to have your music feature on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number?

On Twitter. Somebody mentioned me to Jonathan and he got the two EPs on Bandcamp. I received an email later asking me if it was ok. Of course it was. I tried to play the first one, I liked the spirit of it but I suck so much that I could not finish it. I asked if I could have an easy version of the second one just for me. They said "no". 

Are you a fan of the first Hotline Miami game?

I like it a lot, its really well thought out, visually on purpose and the soundtrack is cool. It is the kind of stuff typically made by passionate people who enjoyed doing it, you can tell.

Do you plan on working with anymore people like Corridor Digital and the Deka Brothers?

Maybe, I dont know yet. I have Silver Strain on one side, Deka Bros on the other. I feel well surrounded. Id like to try something with Seth Ickerman one day, I like his style.

Where did the name Carpenter Brut come from?

From a Champagne brand.

How often do you play live? What is your favorite gig you've ever done?

We just started our first gigs. There is still a lot of work but the feedback is rather positive. Once again, the goal is not to please people but to please ourselves on stage. And there is still some work before reaching that goal. I think that if we have fun, people will have fun too.

What's the best kind of venue to play your kind of music? Small? Big?

Average ahah. As long as the venue is well equipped and allows us to perform with the video and a good FOH sound, fine by us. Then I think that a venue packed with 300 hyped people is more fun than 1,000 bored people.

What countries would you like to visit to play live?

Aside conflict zones, any country will be good. Montreal would be first on my wish list though. I would be happy to play anywhere of course but Montreal is THE place I want to perform. I want to go there, and why not stay there ahah.

How do you know when you're ready to make new music? Is it a gut feeling or does it relate to boredom?

I know when I have an idea that seems like a good starting point. It clicks just like that but I cant tell what triggers it. Im starting to think about the concept of the album, knowing that, considering the pace I work at, it probably wont be out until 2016. But for now, I have nothing precise in mind.

Your music videos have a cinematic power to them. Do you think movie scenes while making songs?

When I compose, I need to have a scenario in mind otherwise I have no clue where Im heading. Each song tells a story. The title is always a clue. My scenarios are more B movies than anything. Theres always at least one girl who dies.

Do you know what will be next for you? More music? Touring? Or a kick back and relax with an ice cold beverage in your hand?

Id like to relax but I cant. I have to play, improve the show, work on songs to extend the show. I also have two or three remixes waiting for me and maybe some video game music to score. And this is just the work until the end of March. Then we will see. 

~Questions by Matthew Clewley

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Track Review: Novella - Land Gone

When typing to Novella in 2012, vocalist / guitarist Hollie Warren said: "The new songs are a bit different, and it will be interesting to see what people think." Well it's been three years and Novella (now a quintet with Isabel Spurgeon joining on keys,) built on their established shoegaze sound (Mary's Gun / Don't Believe Ayn Rand / The Things You Do) with what can only be described as a second coming. Like a stoner telling you there's more to the class of 94' than "Love Spreads", Novella's developed sound encompasses much of 70s past, but takes more coherently from today's experimentalists.

VISION FORTUNE's Country Music is the front-runner of 2015 albums, and it's their chaotic soundscape mashed with Can's.. well.. genius, creating the backdrop to Novella's additional touches on"Land Gone".

Drummer Iain Laws' role has been second to guitars and bass over the Novella years, but here, Laws really takes control, dominating aesthetically as preceptor Klaus Dinger would. There's no motorik, but "Land Gone" is as krautrock influenced as modern shoegaze can be - second only  to "Follow" taken from their 2013 EP Murmurs (which is motorik driven.) This is clean for Novella standards, stripping away some of that distortion from a not so distant past, and still managing to create a whirlpool of instrumentation from the guitar battling between lead Sophy Hollington, and rhythm Hollie Warren - kept loud and in the driving seat by bassist Suzi Sou.

"Land Gone" introduces old Novella listeners to a highly structured and melodic representation of 60s psych, combined with kruatrock and all its accomplices. They're no longer new kids on the block, and this track really does suggest their maturity as an artist - moving forward with a little help from flanger, reverb, and phaser. Land is an anticipated album, hell, it's been highly anticipated here since 2012, and "Land Gone" is an indication that it's worth the wait. Novella's debut Land will be released May 12 on Sinderlyn via Captured Tracks.
~Eddie Gibson

Friday, 13 February 2015

Interview: Huntress

January so far has been brilliant when it came to gigs at my local venues. Amon Amarth was the one that stood out to me as I wanted to see them live so desperately since their set at Download 13. When I found Huntress were playing also, I was just as thrilled, if not more. They played Ministers Bar in Stoke a while back, and I am glad to see their return. Here, I interviewing the extremely talented Jill Janus, anyone with a brain in the metal community will know she is the singer from Huntress as soon as that name is said. We spent a solid 12 minutes talking about wonderful things. Also, buy their albums, I can't leave Starbound Beast alone.
 ~Matthew Clewley

MRD: When you stepped in for Johan for Amon Amarth, how did that feel to you?

It was really about how we saved the show, I talked to the boys and yknow there's a real community within the metal world where you've got each others back, so intially “How do we save the show?”, “How do we do this?”, so I talked to the guys and they wanted to do an instrumental set, have some banter inbetween (the songs) and bring up a couple of fans to sing. And then I left the dressing room and I thought to myself “well, you know I could get murdered tonight by a bunch of angry Amon Amarth fans!” So fuck it, showbiz!

So how did the fans react, it must have been positive?

Yeah, I mean when I first went out they opened with 2 songs and I think they were a bit confused and they didn't see Johan. And after that I came out and said “Hey guys, sorry. Sweden's at war, so they called their best warrior in” and they were like “Nooooooo!” but I was like “It's alright, the show is going to go on!” At first they were a little aprehensive, but as soon as they got rolling again they really embraced it and then I got to sing Guardians of Asgard and they lost their shit, it was great.

Are you planning anymore material with Huntress?

Of course, I mean were recording the record right now, we have taken a tiny break from recording and heading back, so we are using this (the tour) as a test board for all of our songs. We have had 45 minute sets and we are doing 4 new songs during that set, and they have been really well received and the fact that the new songs have had a bigger reaction than the old ones.


Yes! It's positive.

What's so different from the new songs compared to the old songs?

Well, it's the natural progression of Huntress. The new songs are a little bit more organic, and they're a little bit catchier.

Do you like catchy songs?

Oh yeah, I love catchy! The project I envision is that I want to reach out to fans, I want to reach out to a lot more metal fans. I have a side project...

What is the side project?

I don't really wanna talk about it yet, but lets just say it's a bit more black metal.

Is it Scandinavian influenced?

I never even talk about it, it's so new, I just do it in between writing for Huntress. Huntress is pretty much a none stop job, there's touring and writing and recording for Huntress, but I'm just starting to tap in this new thing I want to do. Huntress is the main goal, as Huntress gets larger I feel like I still want to hold onto the roots of underground.

Do you prefer smaller gigs to larger gigs?

Yknow, it varies. We have very little stage room here so the stage is very intimate, but I prefer a little bit more stage room. What's brilliant is that Amon Amarth are bringing amazing shows to smaller audiences, and some people don't get that opportunity to see them, so I like smaller venues because you do get to interact with the fans and be closer to them. Larger festivals varies, but I am just really happy to be on this journey and have all these awesome opportunities coming to us.

When was the first time you got noticed in the UK?

We started getting press right before our first album came out, fortunately people were interesting in us and we got press in 2012, even in 2011 when we dropped out first album so people have always been interested and curious and we did our first national tour with Lamb of God last year at this time. That was amazing, yeah.

Were they one of the best bands you have been with?

Yknow, Lamb of God were really supportive with us and that was pivotal being another step up and ascending into metal, so Lamb of God are just monsters. I think our best bill have been Amon Amarth. I think the fans and everyone that's surrounding us has just been supportive, I'm not saying the other bands haven't been supportive of us, I just feel like we're very good. It's really great, we've been doing really well with Amon Amarth and I have felt really comfortable on this tour, as we know we are figuring shit out more. We've been on tour more, and were growing up and it's cool.

How long did it take for you to organise Huntress at the start?

I've been trying to put together this band since I was in high school, my Pagan beliefs the name Huntress comes from the Goddess of the hunt so I grew up around nature and I have always wanted to do something like this and 2006 is when I trademarked the name and then I started searching for musicians so it took me really about a decade to get this together and get it all set and done. By 2009, with a 3 year span I was able to find a band called Professor and I kind of forced them to join forces with me.

So after a decade it shows how you are committed because it's a really long time.

It is because I was DJing at the time and I was making money that was going into my musical projects and it was all rock n roll based and it progressed into metal. This is what I was born to do, there was never any other purpose for me but to be a vocalist.

When did you find out that you can sing?

From the time I could fucking talk you haven't stopped. I've always had a voice, from a very early age I was able to stay on pitch and that was noticed. When I was 8 years old I started doing professional theatre, and when I was 13 I was in full blown opera lessons and I was developing a voice when I was a teen and my vocal coach said “You've got a 4 octave vocal range!” so then we expanded on that and then started doing soprano parts for opera and that just turned into winning a scholarship to school in Manhattan and then I met some gay boys and started doing Night Life, DJing and working the whole cabaret and the whole burlesque movement in new York and Manhattan and that kind of led me into a strange realm of night life and it gave me a chance to meet more people and gain more visibility for Huntress. It has been planned out, I've seen everything and it's all falling into place just as I imagined.

That's really interesting, I couldn't picture opera, even though you are operatic, it's just the fact you went through all that and created something brilliant like Huntress. It's great listening to the roots of a band, because sometimes you hear unexpected things.

Yknow opera and classical training was the foundation of my classical screams and I wouldn't be able to sustain what I do night after night, I wouldn't have a voice talking to you unless I had that training unless something is important like someone ever asks me “How do you do this?” with the variants of your vocal ability where you have a clean vocal approach and going into vibrato and your screams and you're back and down, it really begins with that training and I encourage people to do that, to get that classical training as it is the foundation of screams.

Would you ever teach people to sing like that, or manage bands like that?

When I was in high school I used to teach people lessons I started to do it at an early age teaching vocals that was classical and musical based, so I had done that to a very small scale. My vocal coach is Melissa Cross, and she has a DVD out which many people do and it's called  “The Zen of Screaming” and so I started seeing her in person, so I am not in anyway or willing to arrange that, I mean Huntress is absolutely number 1 I have no time for anything else. You have to abandon other ambitions if you really want to achieve your goals so at this point no, not at all.

What is the next for Huntress after Amon Amarth and your next album?

We've already written and recording one album a year for the first 3 years of being a band and that was my vision. So, obviously we're going to be touring touring touring this year in support of the new album when it comes out in he summer, and then after that we go back to record the album. I don't want to push the boys into recording an album a year, it nearly broke the band up for fucks sake. I'm going to cool it with them, not much, maybe six months more haha!

You nearly broke up? Was there too much pressure?

Yknow, it's hard to make money when you're touring non stop we don't make money, all the money that we make goes back into the band so it's really hard for anyone to be touring non stop, writing and recording, and we have a month back at home. I moved everything into storage, I sold my car, I sold my apartment, I'm kind of a hobo at this point. The other guys aren't willing to do that as much as me and Blake, and his brother Tyler from Holy Grail is now playing drums for us, it's really difficult to commit to something where you're not making money and it can wear on you like “I can't do this anymore” and it's a lifetime commitment.

Do you feel exhausted after the month break?

It's very hard for me to sleep, I'm wired in a very different way. I am so slender to my metabolism is insane, burning constantly I always want to work constantly because I feel creative, I sleep about 5-6 hours a night maybe on a good night, I have a lot of energy, so I have got to remember to relax.

Live Show - Amon Amarth

Venue: The Sugarmill
Where: Stoke-on-Trent

If I am absolutely honest, this line up couldn't be more perfect for a night at The Sugarmill. They have done pretty darn good by booking a band like Amon Amarth, coming all the way to the chilly night of Stoke-on-Trent to entertain some of the most dedicated fans in metal. The viking metal powerhouse seem ready to deliver more than just viking culture, they are ready for the crowd to create a tidal wave of bodies in their name. With the chillingly excellent Huntress joining the fun along with Savage Messiah, this is what I call a great night out.

Savage Messiah were the first band to bring their gear to stage and begin to crack on. They have a brilliant underground following as they have toured with the likes of Onslaught, Sylosis and Queensryche. With critical acclaim from all the corners of the world, this is a performance I was itching to see. A very enjoyable and heavy set indeed, blasting out tunes like "Hellblazer" and "The Fateful Dark", the crowd was very satisfied, but eager to see Amon Amarth. Dave Silver's guitar decided that halfway through their set that it was no more, so seeing him without a guitar is a strange sight indeed. However, it didn't affect their stage presence as such, as they continued to deliver a strong set to a restless audience.

Up next were Huntress, the first time they graced the land of Stoke since their set at Minister's Bar. With Jill Janus attracting the eyes of everyone in the room, the show was ready to start. The crowd still seemed eager for Amon Amarth during Huntress's set too, they put on a brilliant performance. The music crunched through those amps and gave the ears of the attendance a nice massage of crunching distortion and operatic power. The song "I Want To Fuck You To Death" raised a few glasses when Jill mentioned Lemmy before the song, only to say that he wrote the song. It sounds so much better live, and Jill's vocals were perfect throughout the whole show.

The viking power radiating from Amon Amarth was sensed as soon as Huntress left the stage. Only a few people rushed outside to have their much needed cigarette, giving me a chance to squeeze in a little closer to the front. There wasn't anything prominent like the Viking ship off their Download '13 set, the only thing noticeable was their fantastic beards. That is all they need for everyone in The Sugarmill to go absolutely nuts, they walked onto the stage and let rip like it was a strawberry scented fart in an elevator. The presence was solid, and whilst they are blasing tunes for over an hour it's a heavenly event for every fan to see. When "Deceiver of The Gods" struck out of the darkness of the bottom floor, it sounded absolutely incredible. The place was a moshpit and the band looked and sounded ferocious. The sound was perfect, the set was also perfect. "Guardians of Asgard" practically made the ground erupt because of everyone going batshit crazy about it. It was a loud and proud performance, and I would love to see them again, especially at a festival like Download with their viking ship.
~Matthew Clewley 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Interview: Visigoth

MRD: What was the immediate moment when you guys thought you would be in a band together?

Jake Rogers, Visigoth: It was one night in 2009. Lee, Jamison, and I had played in a band together before, but the band split up because one of the members had to move out of town for school. I wanted to play music live again, but I decided I wanted to try singing this time (I played guitar in the previous band). I called Lee up and told him I wanted to start a traditional heavy metal band with a strong focus on live performance. He said he couldn't agree more, and Visigoth was born.

Where did the demo Vengeance emerge? Was this the first ever song you guys played together?

Lee and I actually recorded that demo in the week or two following the formation of the project. We pieced it together in his room on a personal computer with programmed drums, haha. I think the first song we ever wrote was actually "Sing for the Fallen", which was the first track on that demo. 

You have a classic heavy metal sound to you, could you name the main artist that influenced this sound?

There are a lot of different bands that went into influencing our sound, naming just one wouldn't make sense. Of course we pull from classic greats such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio/Rainbow, and the like. Riot was a strong influence, particularly Thundersteel, as well as other USPM such as Twisted Tower Dire and Pharaoh. We also take influence from epic heavy/doom metal bands like Solstice, Doomsword, or Argus. Classic NWOBHM is also important for us, such as Saxon, Demon, Pagan Altar, Wolf, and the like. German heavy and speed metal is also inspiriting to us, such as Accept, Running Wild, or Brainfever. Grand Magus also played a large part in influencing us, particularly Iron Will. We also are inspired by rock'n'roll such as Thin Lizzy, Ashbury, and Blue Oyster Cult. But there are far too many bands that have influenced us for me to possibly list here! These are just a few examples to help provide an idea of where we're coming from.

How long did it take you guys to be noticed in the underground scene in Salt Lake City?

The heavy metal underground here in Salt Lake City is a very small and tight-knit community, so it wasn't difficult at all. We played a few shows and the other local bands enjoyed our sound and had fun playing with us so we fell right into place! That's really all there was to it.

Was this how you got into contact with Metal Blade to eventually sign for them, and did your recorded material help too?

Our recorded material was actually the entire reason Metal Blade discovered us. We released our first demo and subsequent EP for free online. Eventually it made its way into the hands of Swords & Chains records who released them both on cassette tape. The tape then got the attention of Sarlacc Productions in Ireland and Cruz Del Sur Music in Italy, the two of whom teamed up to release the Final Spell EP on vinyl. The owner of Sarlacc forwarded the record to Alan Averill, vocalist of Irish metal titans Primordial. He dug what he heard and told Metal Blade to check us out. They liked what they heard and contacted us about a record deal.

Is there anything distinctive in the Salt Lake City metal scene that makes it differ from everything else?

It is a very supportive music community that we are honoured to be a part of. It is primarily dominated by death, black, and thrash metal, many of whom are really great bands. It's definitely worth taking a look at what Salt Lake City has to offer! We're a bit isolated geographically from the big 'metal cities' here in the USA, but I think we make up for it by having a good standard of quality!

You've got an album coming out on the 27th January, The Relevant King, how many songs are on this album?

There are eight original songs and one cover song.

How long did it take to write all of those songs? You seem to have a battle theme to them.

Some of the songs were written back during our very first days as a band, some were written right before we entered the studio. The album kind of catalogues our first couple years as a band in that sense. Battle is a common theme among the songs because most of my lyrics are based on fantasy storytelling.

Have you ever been worried that when you write a song it sounds similar to something else?

In a genre as well-worn as traditional heavy metal - and a genre with such clearly-defined 'rules' - that is constantly something that we worry about, haha.

"Dungeon Master" was released in October on your Bandcamp, it's a great song to listen to! How have your fans reacted to this?

The fan reactions to that particular song have been mixed. Some fans became worried we had moved in too much of a 'power metal' direction - but in reality, "Dungeon Master" is not very representative of the sound of the album as a whole. It is the fastest, most power metal-influenced song on the entire record! It was, however, the only song short enough to use as an advance single, so it ended up being the only option at the time. Those fans' worries will hopefully be quelled by the rest of the album.

How did you contact Kris Verwimp to do your album cover? How many designs did he have for your album?

I contacted him over Facebook, actually. Kris is an awesome guy to work with! Truly a kind person, and very passionate about music and art. I sent him the concept behind the lyrics to the title track from the album and told him to paint whatever he wanted - the album cover is the result of that. It has been a dream of mine since I very first got into metal to be involved in music that was adorned with Kris Verwimp's art - now I can check that dream off of my bucket list!

How long was the recording process? Did you overcome any difficulties near completion?

It was relatively long because of various scheduling and health-related issues that arose during the process. One of the primary difficulties we had to overcome was the fact that there were some issues with my larynx during recording. After we finished the album, I went to a throat specialist and found out that I have laryngoesophegal reflux (a form of acid reflux that essentially dumps stomach acid on your vocal chords every time you eat,) I'm in the process of tackling that issue and healing my voice up in time for our west coast tour in April, so all should be well!

What gigs have you got coming up for Visigoth that you're looking forward to?

As I mentioned above, we have a tour coming up in April, which means hopefully having the opportunity to play with some of the absolutely killer bands that inhabit the west coast!

Could you describe to me what Visigoth are like live?

Putting on a good live show is very important to us. We always put forth as much energy as we can, regardless on the size of the crowd or the conditions of the venue. We try our best to get a big sound and get a lot of crowd involvement during our sets.

Are there any festivals that you guys are going to be at in 2015?

I cannot confirm any festival appearances at this time.

Last question, are you concerned about piracy and how it's damaged the music industry, especially how bands make music for a living rather than a hobby?

We went into this fully aware that it is nearly impossible to make a living being in a band. Very few people actually pay for music nowadays, and that is something that we are prepared to accept because we love heavy metal music and we will soldier on regardless of the adversity that we face in the age of digital music piracy. We may all have to work 40 hours a week when we're at home, but being on the road is our true passion. If making money was our goal, we would have picked a completely different type of music.

Questions by Matthew Clewley.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Interview: Mushroomhead

Over the past few decades Mushroomhead have made their mark on the metal scene. They are still one of the most exciting bands around, from their brilliant styles of music in their songs to their eye melting stage theatrics. Jeffrey Nothing speaks to MRD about the career of Mushroomhead, where it all began, and what has happened during it's time.

MRD: Where did the idea of Mushroomhead come from?

Skinny and I had a band called Hatrix, our guitarist talked our bass player into making extra cash playing covers on weekends. Being that Skinny and I now had free time we didn't plan on and not being Musicians who took time off, we sat in our  Jam Room  daytime gear storage room and said: "What are we gonna do now?" We decided to make our dream band, where we made the rules and pushed the envelope to oblivion. It became our side project along with other Musicians from bands who also rehearsed at our new practice space. Oddly enough that Hatrix Guitarist, who later joined the band for 10 years as Gravy, see XIII, Savior Sorrow, Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children, while nicknaming the other guitar player in his cover band, said the name that has now been ours for 21 years. Mushoomhead was born.

In the early 90s Mushroomhead was originally a side project, what was the main reason that Mushroomhead became your main focus?

We noticed that our crowds from as early as our second show, which was offered to us a day after our debut. At the Agora Theater, main support to Gwar, that our Side Project was quickly gaining Steam, whereas our main band Hatrix had more people on the guestlist, than there was paid. There was talk back then that the Novelty would wear off and people would see... Well, Here we are!

Were you influenced slightly by bands like Gwar? 

Yes in the sense that from the start we wanted to be different, very visual and unpredictable, we came from four or five well known Cleveland bands and we wanted people to take this for what it was and not guess as to what they were about to see and hear. Mr. Bungle  and the Residents were also influential in our infancy.

Was it true you did your second ever gig with Mushroomhead supporting Gwar?

Yeah we had done an opening slot at a smaller club, Flash Gordons, which is now a Walgreens  drugstore and someone passed the word to Belkin, the big promoter of the day and there we were. The Crowd started chanting You Suck and We Want Gwar! Great times... We later heard they thought we were Gwar roadies or Band  members themselves ala the X Cops! We ended up doing a short run together, 'til  we found we cut into each others merch sales and it didn't last. We both had a Monster season and Sharing it didn't make as much sense. I miss Dave and I'm so glad Oderus was an everyday visitor during our Soundwave Australia Trek. R. I. P!

You, Skinny and Schmotz are the only consistent members of Mushroomhead, with the other members in place will this line up with the others stick?

Yes, we are the three Amigos, the originators, torch barers if you will.  Some good people have come and gone, a couple maybe not fast enough and 1 has unfortunately left this life completely. R. I. P.  JJ Righteous.  I had a kinda comical working title for " The Righteous & The Butterfly" and it was " It Only Took 19 Years to Get Here" it's funny and it's also serious. We have had a guiding vision since the beginning. Some of our past members wanted to drive. We are in such a better place now. Coming from a like mind and a connected Heart and this makes sense and feels right again and indeed... Righteous!

You played at the House of Blues in LA, how was that show for you guys? From the pictures it looked tremendous.

It was good. Back in the Universal, pre water drum days we were House of Blues regulars. I believe they got tired of our mess. Or maybe the mess we could become for a while. Those places just feel really good, and sound great and Yeah that one was a lot of fun, with Family,  both blood and just because. I Love LA and we do seem to turn it up a notch there, even more than in NYC. 

So has Shockfest tour been everything you have expected? How did the tour go with Insane Clown Posse?

It was fun and very different, met some great friends in Jelly Roll and the ICP guys were great. Guessing if we would have a foot in front of the drums or 3-5 feet was fun and the deciding factor in how many pre show Jager shots I would do that night. Keeping your balance at one foot and between a 5-8' drop could get interesting with 9-10 of us up there. I feel like we were received pretty well for being so far out of genre. But it had been planned for give or take 10 years so it had to happen. The Gathering of the Juggalos is huge and way more colorful, but the tour held it's own in craziness.

Your recent album, The Righteous & The Butterfly, has had critical and fan acclaim, and I have to say it is a great album! Did you anticipate it doing this well?

Yes I honestly did. We had undeniable purpose and I feel like everyone involved felt this one with all senses and gave everything they had. Some Mushroomhead Albums happened in spite of some of us. Getting some people to sessions at times was like pulling teeth. Almost like, "ok, but what do I get out of it?" Music to this band,  at this time is Our Life. This is what we do. I can quite frankly say 2014 is the best year of Mushroomhead and I also feel that this conglomeration is simply getting started and that Church and Dr. F., although they hit it out of the park, in terms of what's to come, they merely got their feet wet. MRH has written together in a lot of different ways. A few members jamming, one guy bringing in a riff or someone with a CD of a few of their pieces, parts ideas. Our new Additions brought full song ideas and at about  24 songs we had to stop them and concentrate on the best. Needless to say J Mann, Waylon and I were in that candy store with the most amazing Canvas any of us had ever heard. Skinny pulled out all the production stops and also had two new drivers in the same said 2 new members. For another perspective while tracking. Plus this is a tribute to friends lost and it simply had to Shine.

Did everything go to plan with the album during recording and production?
Yes it did especially considering we had three singers and two guest vocalist.  We made suggestions to each other and never walked on each others parts. It all just feels Right. We have finally realized that vision from so long ago. We are Mushroomhead through and through for maybe the 1st time. We have had great moments captured in the past but TR&TB is the first time every song is complete. We have had interesting doodles before, interludes if you will. But this is 14 strong songs all very much, who we are. What we have always meant to say and spoken with a determind, positive collective soul, free from ego or pretension. Filthy Hands studio was a hive of serious activity moreso than ever before. It did feel like this one wrote itself. Like it was meant and unstoppable.

Do you ever think of writing songs whilst you're doing ordinary things, like eating toast or drinking beer?
It can hit me very randomly. Most times when I'm in my bed or in my bunk starting to doze off. Or just walking around after the show in the club or on my way to grab some food pre show. I really appreciate the iPod because of the note pad, its much faster than finding a pen and I love having access to a recorder app. If I smoke a lil Cannabis I could never write fast enough. Without it I am writing the 1st line and thinking of the second, with it I am writing the 1st and thinking of the 5th or 6th... So again, all hail Apple. But never beer for me, just shots.

How did you get in contact with Megaforce?
We were in between labels, thinking of self releasing or shopping for a new one and a friend of mine let me kñow they were interested because they had no contact email. I let Skinny know and they came to see us and the rest was quick history. They are a historic Metal Label, Metallica's home when they 1st, really mattered. So it was  Sooo cool to be asked to join them, plus they are very nice people, who get it. Not everyone does get us. Funny thing I did an interview with a Cleveland fanzine called Heavy Metal Demolition back in the late 80's or early 90's and it was a: "What do you want for Christmas" question to members of the local metal scene and 1 of my answers was a Megaforce deal!!!

What is it like signing to a major label? What restrictions and things do you have to bare in mind whilst being under their "command"?
It was Amazing and also kind of Heartbreaking in that you become kind of a commodity. We were fortunate because we have always been a D.I.Y. Band and we understood to get anywhere you have to put in the work, there is no such thing as  we got signed we made it. That's when the real work starts. We were very grateful for the chance and exposure, but we were unfortunate to happen at the explosion of the internet age. Oddly enough we signed our deal just after the planes hit on: 9/11, we also had our 1st meeting with label reps at a Hotel here at home. Finding out later that it had a horrible tragedy happen on its first night open and ran out of interested owners and guests. To this day it sits, an empty lot. Superstition asside, we Made a $250,000 Video and played Ozzfest in the states and in Europe and had our CDs on the endcaps of Record Stores and pics in every Magazine. It was a great experience but they are bottomline looking for Multi- Platinum and we were released from our deal as our second Album and the first solely thru them was released and I would do it againtomorrow. The guy that signed us has since called the CD a Dodo and I feel the industry is still re- inventing itself.

With those masks on, I bet you have made a lot of kids cry. Have you ever made a kid cry wearing your mask?
I have made a member of our crew, while filming one of our videos, Run! I have had kids at our signings aftershow kind of backup and try to hide behind their parents and now and then  while taking pics with some kids for their parents they can't even look at me. Not sure if tears have happened, but fear definitely has.

If you had the choice to swap your face with the mask as a permanent replacement, would you?
That is interesting, I have always found it interesting how much people love creatures from movies and the reaction we get is crazy too. But it would to me get that "thing" hunted down. It is exciting and a little frightening to think about. Forever maybe not but for a while for sure. It would be so crazy to be able to move those wave, do the metal horns and say F**k You! With my face!

How are the masks designed and made? What clicks your inspiration to make a precise look for them?
Everybody is a little different some see the exact Idea and some  make suggestions and see how it goes and then give the Sculptor notes and have another look. I gave our longtime artist "House" a sketch and some notes and it just somehow never clicked. He did a rough sculpt and brought a couple of his version of my vision around and they just weren't close. I gave our new guy Jason Kisner pretty much the same notes and after that 1st look at a pic and another short talk he nailed it. My idea was for me as a serial killer and prior to attacks on others I self mutilated my face off. Down to the Muscle. Deciding I needed a new face so to speak, I decided to wear a token of my female victims, a reminder, to go. I would use their hands and fingers to form my new: "Bloody Murderhands" mug.  Jason added the third Eye which I feel took it over the top. Quite Handsome don't You think?

You incorporate a lot of music genre into the band, how do you know what music genre goes with another music genre to make a good song?
We have always purposely tried to defy Genre. Nothing should be off limits. Sometimes people whine about lack of continuity but thats like saying, "Why can't You be Normal!?!" Who is to say what works or makes sense and to that point why try? There are a few bands that if you pick any song from any album, I would still be able to tell you who it is and to me, that's just wrong. F**k formula even to the point of the biggest hit.  That will probably be a one hit wonder, nine times out of 10. I prefer our formula, making our art, for us. If other people get it and Love it, Great. We were from the start to a certain extent a crazy experiment. That was fun and as serious as it sometimes gets it should take you somewhere else at the very next turn. Redundance gets, well redundant and I prefer to make it a point of being pointless.

I know you get asked this a lot, but over the years you seem to have quite a rivalry with Slipknot. Has everything settled now between both bands, and why were things bad to begin with?
As it turns out, the label president, who was trying to sign us took it as an insult that we said no to his S**t record deal so deeply that he more or less constructed his own... Us. The deal was a joke and I doubt the wording in their deal was the exact same. To insure their success he hired Ross Robinson as Producer of their debut Album and got them on Ozzfest and put $1,000,000 into Promo. Our fans here at home, who are very loyal to us took this news pretty poorly as well and let their unhappiness be known at their first Cleveland show. A war of words ensued and kept a kind of rivalry going. Fueled by the media it lived way too long. Things have changed since the extremely unfortunate  and way too early passing of members of both bands and Syd has tracked on one of our side projects as well as sharing the stage with us on some tour dates. Hopefully even more is coming up.

Corey Taylor said he'd love to tour with you guy, GWAR and Mudayne. Would you ever consider joining a line up like that to tour the world?
I am very supportive of a Facebook group called Make the Mushroomhead/ Slipknot Tour happen and I am 1,000,000% Down. I am happy Corey is too and hope to make it a kind of "big four" revised and redefined. Visual bands, kind of like a  Monster Ozzfest! bands that have  a like visual element, all day. Touring the world culminating with the close to home US dates in our area of America in the Halloween season. I think it would be the biggest world tour...ever.

There is a small clutch of bands that use masks even on a small scale, would you say you guys were influential in that? 
Yes to some extent, just as all those that came before us. Just as I feel we have been influential as far as the makeup of our band as far as two vocalists singing at once in different styles, with voices intertwining. Kiss was the second concert  I ever saw and horror movies are my movie going choice just as Halloween is the holiday I live, everyday. The idea is to keep reinventing. Other bands should want to grow this look into something totally new. Putting on a mask shouldn't be enough. Push the envelope. Be a 1st somehow. 

Do you plan on something similar like Shockfest to come to the land of Great Britain?
We will have to make it something special. I'd love to do something like that but maybe with one other metal band too. I just want to bring this crazy ride back to your side of the pond. I love the intensity  with which fans live it there. Our crowds are fantastic everywhere we've played but even in the tiniest pub with a slanted  drum riser. Those pits went off and became a part of us. Lets do this!

It's just a little over 21 years since Mushroomhead formed. How much longer do you guys plan on staying together? Do you think you'd be capable of doing a Rolling Stones and gigging in your 70s?

This is what we do, all we kñow and if someone's done we fill a mask with a new driven entity and Rock On! Yes, I see no end. Mushroomhead is more a way of life than a band and our fans keep thankfully recycling. We have been very lucky in that way. Being so much more of an experience, not just a show. You leave singing our songs  and talking about what crazy thing just happened on stage and you keep coming back! That can't be bought and is usually, just a dream.

And last of all: Anything you would like to say to the fans that are reading this?

If you haven't, give "The Righteous & The Butterfly" a listen! Check out the "Qwerty" and "Out Of My Mind" videos. Tell the local Promoters that you need your Mushroomhead Fix Right F**king Now and thanxx for reading my rant.