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.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Nick Drake: 10 Essentials

Today marks the 40th anniversary since Nick Drake's death; and those 40 years tell a story of a cult singer-songwriter hidden among the dust - mercifully, peacefully in his Tanworth-in-Arden grave. But it's not his tragic death taking the news, or leading the tributes. Drake's music has been an important part of everyone's folk catalogue for a number of years, be it 10 or 40. Leaving behind three albums is more than some that die so young, and it's those three albums - specifically his last Pink Moon, which resonated with so many music fans across the world. Nick Drake: 10 Essentials.
~Eddie Gibson

10. Time Has Told Me

The introduction to Drake's music - album one, track one. "Time Has Told Me" evokes the spirit of Nick Drake right from the start with its slowly developing acoustic guitar, and subtle, but soulful voice. With Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention on lead guitar, this has become a staple-mark in Drake's discography, an influence on his own music, but essentially his timeless piece of folk rock.

9. Fruit Tree

Also on Five Leaves Left is "Fruit Tree", a much admired Drake recording."Fame is but a fruit tree, so very unsound. It can never flourish, til its stalk is in the ground," he sings, angelically, confidently - but that sense of lacklustre can already be heard so early on in Drake's music. The string arrangements are carried out by Robert Kirby, a partnership Drake carried with him on his first two albums, adding that classic British folk undertones heard so passionately.

8. Hazey Jane II

One uncharacteristic piece in Drake's work is "Hazey Jane II", the magnificent full-blown recording of Drake and friends including Thompson & Kirby collaborating once more, with Dave Mattacks and Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention giving this track an ultimate, folk rock band sound. It's somewhat chirpy, as Kirby's brass intends to add a different dimension to Drake's sound, and it does. The coming together of Fairport Convention musicians with Drake at the forefront gives "Hazey Jane II" a complete feel of Drake's unsuccessful work within the small financially viable British folk community at the time.

7. Fly

Among the Bryter Layter gems is "Fly", a track recorded with John Cale of The Velvet Underground and Pegg from the aforementioned Fairport Convention. It's really Cale's contribution which makes "Fly" one for the list - historically traditional harpsichord played to perfection, and the viola Cale has come to be known for. It's a piece of polished instrumentals, played professionally and put together by a more than tearful Drake vocal: "Please give me a second grace."

6. From the Morning

The first Pink Moon inclusion, and arguably one of Drake's most important songs. It was of course the final track on Drake's final album, but doesn't resemble that of a goodbye. "From the Morning" highlights Pink Moon's solo aesthetic - recorded by John Wood, with only Drake as a contributing musician, it's a world apart from the earlier Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter, and an iconic ending to Drake's music career. Inspires the epitaph on Drake's headstone taken from the song: "And now we rise, and we are everywhere," a beautiful ending to Pink Moon, more so in it's lyrical structure and delivery.

5. Which Will

"Which Will" is another timeless classic in Drake's repertoire. It sits comfortably on Pink Moon, separated from the previous albums and 'noise' in comparison to the clarity and persistent acoustics of Pink Moon, particularly "Which Will" - "And tell me now, which will you love the best." It's simply easy on the ear, interesting to the though, and powerful among the Pink Moon tracks.

4. Place to Be

The second track on Pink Moon carries on the energy from the opener (mentioned later.) "Place to Be" doesn't over do it on the instrumental side, it's main focus is carrying the track on and reaching the sentimental values searched on Pink Moon. Listening back, it's hush vocals and lush chord progression add dominance to Drake's sound - more so than the Kirby arrangements on the previous two albums. Drake fulfils his duties, and offers up the best lyrics on Pink Moon, taking the listener away from the Van Morrison-esque purposely flawed recording: "Now I'm darker than the deepest sea. Just hand me down, give me a place to be." 

3. One of These Things First

Easily my personal favourite Nick Drake song, "One of These Things First" stands tall as Bryter Layter's enigmatic piece of commercial viability. Unlike its single cousin "Northern Sky", this particular Drake song took on a simple, yet strange structure musically - actually including almost, just almost a chorus the folkies wanted so badly from Drake as the unknowns hearing his work for the very first time circa 1970. Of course, this song of struggle and expectation has been repeated throughout Drake's work, but none executed so well. His use of household objects as meaningful, valuable objects to others and the world brings his own desperation and depression to a whole new level, questioning his offering, and signalling what he ultimately could have been.

2. Pink Moon

A masterpiece, a recognised song to all, a pink, pink, pink, "Pink Moon". One verse, repeated once more in the latter part of the song, "Pink Moon" creates the reason why we keep coming back to Drake's music. Unpolished, yet sounding absolutely brilliant, "Pink Moon" features Drake's laden acoustic guitar and one single overdub (the only on Pink Moon,) a timely piano - a cameo almost, but it ties the song together with immense effect. One of his best and one to be remembered as the Pink Moon opener - the beginning of Nick Drake's end.

1. Northern Sky

Lyrically, "Northern Sky" is a Drake rarity. It's carefully optimistic, becoming objectified as a traditional love song. It's played so harmlessly, matched by Drake's happy, yes happy, vocals of gratuity towards his subject. "Northern Sky" is a Nick Drake single, one which was expected to propel Drake in to some sort of commercial success. The inclusion of John Cale wasn't Drake's idea, nor was it thought by Cale, but Joe Boyd, Drake's trusted producer. With Cale's inclusion on piano and overdubbing, his improvised ingenuity took what Drake had, and pushed it - just not towards the money unfortunately for Drake. "Northern Sky" is different to the typical Drake song, and it's how Drake perceived his own sound and efforts throughout his music discography that shine so bright here. He showcases his optimism, his happy side, that he wasn't depressed creating his music. He was a perfectionist of the highest calibre, and respected the music he put out - "Northern Sky", although styled towards single life, takes the heart of Drake's new and old audience and combines it with his very own tortured soul.

Track Review: VISION FORTUNE - Dry Mouth

VISION FORTUNE return with exactly the sort of music they left with when "Nite Driver" from the chaotic Titanic Part II: The Legend Goes On...(2000) came out this time last year. Now signed to the (rarely mentioned) exceptional ATP Recordings, VISION FORTUNE has a bigger part to play in bringing back krautrock, drone, and post-punk beyond that of a single genre. They know that they can inflict an influence on their surrounding artists - just as they take from theirs: Can / Neu! / Faust / Zappa. 

"Dry Mouth" captures the essence of krautrock - repetition, deep textures, and skilful variation. VISION FORTUNE have shown time and time again their ability to be a drone artist within the bodies of Damo Suzuki's Tago Mago - they even performed under Suzuki in the past - rectifying not only their influence, but their future. "Dry Mouth" is the archetypal and archaic krautrock repetition of percussion, drone-esque vocals (delivered in a horrific fashion,) and layered synthesizers capitalising on the base structure of, percussion - bass guitar - vocals. Note the lack of guitar, as VISION FORTUNE use synths and their ability to create a centralised non-linear piece of music on the basis of such experimental aspects - bewildering to some, but lavished in ingenuity to others.
~Eddie Gibson

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Interview: Sean Maier

Blessed By A Broken Heart are one of those bands I can’t stop listening too. I was introduced to "She Wolf" by my friend about six years ago and I was heavily hooked onto Pedal to the Metal. A musical journey that has seen them change genres from a deathcore sound to a glam rock approach, their whole discography has been great to listen to and to witness the change of sound. Sean Maier appeared on their last two albums and has since then got some solo stuff to check out, so I thought I’d speak to him about his upcoming solo stuff and also the adversity and heartbreak behind the fall of Blessed By A Broken Heart.
~Matthew Clewley

Music Review Database: First of all, what happened to Blessed By A Broken Heart?

Sean Maier: I actually posted on my Facebook account about this recently.  Here's what it said:

Hey everyone, I just felt compelled to let anyone interested in seeing Blessed hit the road again, it's not going to be happening and I'm very sorry about that. There was much leading up the eventual stop to this train. I'll just be blunt, honest, and cut to the chase as best I can here yet tell the story of what happened and why for those who care to know.

For "Pedal To The Metal" we were with Century Media Records. Our management/attorney & label at that time got in quite the quarrel about owning band rights. Unfortunately CM at that time used fear tactics to try to get the job done. The kind where the president calls you guys on tour and tells you to fire your whole management and attorney team and sign here or else you'll be a "C" priority--basically shelved. Needless to say we had trust issues on seeing eye to eye with the label after that and the relationship tarnished.

In hindsight CM put the best deal of backing and money into the band and knowing what I know now about how little musicians & bands make on there recorded music… I think it may have been wiser to sign the publishing deal with CM but one can never be sure… Oh the tyranny of what if! Having said that I still think quite fondly of the past & present A&R branch over at CM in USA & Europe. Those very good and honest hard working people you know who you are thank you for all your efforts.

Blessed was to date some of the most amazing and fun times of my life. I'll never forget from joining in 2005, eating banana egg rolls at Frank's house with Tyler to eventually rocking 15,000 people at Loud Park in Japan and everything in between… Far too many stories to tell but let me just say it's really been something.

This leaves us at the second chapter, leaving CM and signing with Tooth & Nail. After what I believe was like a year of back and forth lawyer bicker & banter we did get 'er done. We signed a not so good but better than some deal with T&N and were set to enter the studio for "Feel The Power". We spent the better part of 2 years writing on and off and we recorded a killer record that surpassed Pedal (in my opinion) and without a doubt factual if you're talking about the music and lead guitar playing.

We were all set to go full force on the FTP record I was very excited to perform the new songs live. We shot 2 new music videos and then our frontman Tony leaves a week before the record drops. To be totally honest this is where it ends but none of us 100% knew it yet. We figured we still had Sam "Ryder" Robinson who to be honest (Tony would have no gripes to admit this) is a better singer technically and sang almost all the harmonies and some of the leads for the FTP record. At this point our new booking agent in Europe Xray drops us and Japan becomes disinterested.

Unfortunately our label had pretty much washed their hands of us as well as all legit booking agents the band had. I couldn't exactly blame them, the label spent good money on the record and music videos with Tony's face and vocals and now we're gonna tell them the guy up and left a week before the release. We did do 1 tour (if it can even be considered that) last summer for the only booking agency who would touch us. We along with the entire tour package, "Write This Down" and "Children 18:3" could not continue the tour due to the fact that through some sort of contract screw up we were taking in less money at the shows than it cost on transport to get to them.

By the end of 2 Weeks we had gone though our entire publishing advance, losing thousands. It was at that point that I told the other guys that I no longer could continue. We had exhausted all our contacts, support system and money so there was really nothing left so to speak. I'm sorry it took so long for an update, I know there have been some people wondering what is going on with the band. I guess some of us were still waiting to see if by some miracle the album would start selling a ton or some overseas offer would come in and we would have the money from show guarantees to tour but none of that came true.

I just wanna end with thanking anyone who ever came out to a show, bought a record or T-shirt, fed us, or put us up for a night or more all those years Blessed was out on the road. Without you, this crazy ride would have never been possible and I'm grateful for that. Please be sure to support the members in our new musical projects and bands. Sam is now the singer for "Close Your Eyes" so be sure to check them out to hear the amazing talent that Sam is. I am currently doing a shred guitar project called Shred Starz. Be sure to check that out and add us if you dig my playing. I'm also taking on new projects so if anyone feels there's something that would fit my style I'm now available and can be reached here.

How influential was your time with BBABH on your playing style, as they have previously experimented with different sub genres of rock and metal? 

Blessed has had so much influence on my life.  The guys, the times we shared, the whole experience.  As far as the band influencing my playing-- not very much.  I mean, my playing has always been very much influenced by iconic guitar heroes more so than the guys.  Although a song that say Frank wrote on "Pedal" or that Ian “Slater” wrote on "Feel The Power" would influence different ideas that I may not have arrived at without their musical contribution. Thank you for that guys.     

How did you meet James J LaRue and come up with the idea of Shred Starz? 

I  came to know of James through his former band Holy Grail.  When James left Grail I was asked to fill in for a tour.  I ended up passing the offer along to a dear friend who was in need of a gig, Ian Scott.  After listening to Grail with Ian and coming to admire LaRue’s playing style.

I added him on Facebook and we began talking here and there.  Our first face to face was at NAMM 2011 by chance.  The idea of Shred Starz came from the mutual adoration of the classic “golden era” of shred we love so much.  The style, the attitude, the guitars, the tones, the colors, THE ERA.  We had tossed names back and forth, then Shred Starz came to my mind. I remember telling James.   He loved it, I loved it, and that was that.         

How far are you willing to go with Shred Starz, have you performed live with James J Larue? 

I'd be willing to take Shred Starz to da moon and back if I could. I love It!  The reality of that happening is highly unlikely.  First off James is not a fan of the touring life and its reality, meaning the hardships and struggle of being a starter group on the road.  Most people who don’t tour don’t understand how hard or expensive it is.  It is not simply just hit the road and play the music.  It's a lot of money and sacrifice. 

I love and miss performing live.  I don’t like 12 hour drives or sleeping in a van but I love performing my music for people who enjoy listening to it.  Nothing compares other than maybe the joy of creating it and the excitement of the musical idea coming to life.  The only way I see Shred Starz becoming more is maybe a Kickstarter campaign.   Even with that, I’m not sure if we're large enough at this point to get proper funding for any sort of tour.  However, we are interested in trying to fund our next video with Kickstarter and coming up with cool perks for contributions.

Do Shred Starz plan on releasing an EP or an album?

We plan on releasing singles with rad/creative music videos.  We have about 5 or 6 tunes that we started almost 2 years ago.  It's really tough to release a video the way we try to do things.   We're trying to be more than just the average self-made guitar video.  Our thing is shred guitar music with a real cool music video.  Almost all guitar music is pretty exclusive in videos as either instructional or “play-thru videos” where it's not much more than dude+guitar+different angle.  We try to be more than just the guitar in videos by incorporating a creative fun music video theme.         

How was the music video for Midnight Ladies Sonata created, and who wrote the idea? 

The idea for Lady was born of the mutual adoration for 80’s era film and style.  Patrick McDevitt produced it & Anthony Carella assisted.  The video features my girlfriend, Lindsay Marie Deluca and her friend Maytal Angel as the “babes”.  My friend Derek is the bad guy and George Papadimatos is the other shady character who deals drugs and babes for a price…  The video was shot at SVA Studios on the lower east side of Manhattan.  It was super cool to have access to all that equipment.       

You seem to be influenced by 80s glam metal, if so, who is the guitarist you favorite the most from that era?

There's so many rad players from that era it's tough to narrow it to just one guy.  How about a list of dudes who are rad from that era whose playing I really dig?    

1) Paul Gilbert — Anything by Racer X and ‘Mr. Big’
2) Nuno Bettencourt — w/ Extreme: ‘Extreme’ and ‘Pornograffiti’
3) Greg Howe — ‘Introspection’
4) Richie Kotzen — ‘Electric Joy’
5) Guthrie Govan — ‘Erotic Cakes’
6) Steve Vai — solo: ‘Passion and Warfare’ and w/ DLR: ‘Eat ‘Em and Smile’
7) Michael Lee Firkins — ‘Michael Lee Firkins’
8) Yngwie Malmsteen — ‘Rising Force’
9) Chris Impellitteri — ‘Screaming Symphony’
10) Jason Becker — ‘Perpetual Burn’
11) Marty Freidman — w/ Megadeth: ‘Rust in Peace’ and solo: ‘Dragon Kiss’
12) Reb Beach — w/ Winger: ‘Winger’
13) John Sykes — w/ Blue Murder: ‘Blue Murder’
14) Akira Takasaki — w/ Loudness: ‘Dissilution’
15) John Petrucci — w/ Dream Theater: ‘Awake’ and ‘Scenes From A Memory’
16) George Lynch — w/ Dokken: ‘Under Lock & Key’ and ‘Back For The Attack’ and w/ Lynch Mob: ‘Wicked Sensation’
17) Michael Romeo — w/ Symphony X: ‘Odyssey’
18) Vinnie Moore — ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Defying Gravity’
19) Tony MacAlpine — ‘Chromacity’ and ‘Evolution’
20) Randy Rhoads — w/ Ozzy Osbourne: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ and ‘Diary Of A Madman’
21) Blues Saraceno — ‘Hairpick’
22) Shawn Lane — ‘Powers Of 10′
23) Frank Gambale — ‘Passages’
24) Alex Skolnick — w/ Testament: ‘The New Order’ and ‘Practice What You Preach’
25) Jeff Loomis — w/ Nevermore: ‘This Godless Endeavor’ and solo: ‘Zero Phase Order’
26) Dimebag Darrell — w/ Pantera: ‘Cowboys From Hell’
27) Ron Thal, a.k.a. Bumblefoot — ’911′
28) Allan Holdsworth — ‘Against The Clock’
29) Kiko Loureiro – w/ Angra: ‘Temple Of Shadows’
30) Vito Bratta — w/ White Lion: ‘Pride’

How was the writing experience working with James J LaRue?

Working with James has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.  He has taught me so much in the ways of recording and work ethic.  He puts 100% into everything he does and follows through even if it takes a long time and he always does killer work.  Shred Starz would not sound the way it does if not for his creativity, hard work,  and know how of sound and recording.  When I flew him out to NY to write with me for the first time I really wasn’t very good at tracking my own guitars.  He researched a good interface that we both ended up getting and got me familiar with the recording program Reaper and some plugins to get my guitar tone good enough using software.  If it wasn’t for James helping me along with recording and my rig I don’t know where I'd be now.  In a way, he made all the “Shred Sean” videos and content I put out over this past year or so possible.  He showed me how to be more precise about my playing.  Thanks James.

How many bands and musicians have you collaborated with since you started being a guitarist, besides from BBABH and Shred Starz, what other bands helped you with your playing style?

I really haven’t played with that many bands.  The first song I performed was “Crazy Train” with a group of high school buddies I believe we called ourselves “Minds Of Malice”.  Other than that really just high school buddies and even performing with my middle school teacher on drums for “Mr Crowley” and my guitar teacher Jaf on bass.

Do you think the music industry could be saved from piracy in terms of profit for musicians?

I don't think piracy and be prevented.  This train is going one way and it ain't coming back.  That being said, I do think there are some new cool ways that bands/artists are funding the creation of their work.  The whole crowd funding thing is great!  Ask fans and people who care to help and provide perks for that, the more personal the better.  

And finally, have you got enough material for a full solo album? Would you want to release something like that?

I have a good stockpile of ideas for songs.  I find I work best and am most inspired bouncing ideas off other musicians in a shared writing situation.  I'm not sure how interested I am in writing a full-length currently.  My interest now is more collaborating with different guitar players and musicians and releasing singles or a few tracks at a time maybe a video. If it's an established act that has a working tour engine (booking agent/agents, fans in every city attending shows, tour transport, bus or fly in dates etc) happens to loose a guitar player and are in need of say me…  Fuck yea let's quit the current day job and put everything into writing/touring.  If those cards get dealt to me fantastic!  I might not wanna hold my breath though…

Psychostick - IV: Revenge of the Vengeance

Recently, I have been enjoying listening to new releases in the past few weeks at my time on work placement. I've heard AC/DC's new album, and for a band undergoing a couple of bad situations they are pulling together quite well for this release. So to more of my excitement, the beastly beauties from Psychostick have dropped their new album off. Thanks to the interview I did with them a while back; I have been keeping an eye out for this release.

Revenge of the Vengeance offer that slight humour into the title, but yet something different from their previous material. It's ready to prepare your anuses as the intro to Revenge of the Vengeance brings us to the rapturous brilliance of “Obey the Beard”. If you own a beard one way or another, by either watering it or giving it sunlight or you have bought one from your local joke shop, this is your anthem. The riff is deliciously heavy and the bass twangs along throughout the song. It's just so... beard. And after that there’s “President Rhino”, the comical moshing tune that would make you laugh even if you have a tooth spin kicked out.

“H-flat” gives us a nice tuning joke, whilst “So. Heavy” continues taking the piss out of bands with down tuning, which anyone with a guitar can do. Psychostick continue their escapade of heavy stupidity with “Dogs Like Socks”. This is an anthem to Psychostick, even though I do love the song, it feels so much better, and if “Super Legit OFFICIAL Teaser #2 Explode” doesn't make you shit your pants due to the enriching cumbersome songs yet, then it just gets better. The trailer however does give me great memories of listening to Crotchduster. Ducks are little pieces of shit, and “Quack Kills” proves that especially.  That twanging bassline still makes Psychostick songs addictive along with everything else.

I'm sure most of us have been through the heart wrenching pain of having “Blue Screen”, but this soft riffy ballad touches you in all sorts of places... Rawrb's vocals are so beautiful it will make angels rip their wings off and start bitch slapping each other with them. The word “fuck” is exhilarating in “NSFW”, with that classical musical element, pure filth is joining it to make is a foul mouthed masterpiece. A strange one to see on this album, but it's a cover we have all wanted to do at some point in our lives. “Danger Zone” is next (I was expecting something like Danger Bone), for what I think is a pretty decent cover. It reeks of Kenny Loggins, and that stench is great if you grew up with films like Top Gun and Footloose.

Psychostick manage to put their own spin on this, and rotate it to an absolutely solid victory, the last minute made me cry with bliss. “New To The Neighbourhood” is a classic Psychostick montage, something that will disturb those who love dogs that hate socks. “Loathe Thy Neighbour” comes after, the line: “She has more cats than children, by an order of magnitude,” got me giggling. The riffs continue to be excessively beautiful as well as the choruses. “AWESOME” is beautifully accurate to those who love monsters trucks that mow lawns, a list made by fine human beings for fine human beings. “Choking Hazard” returns to their songs that are in the same category as “Scrotal Torment”. A hilarious take on a serious matter shows how capable Psychostick are to make something hilarious. The trashy riff is insanely addictive and keeps this album rapturous and vicious. Scrotal torment isn't fun for any guy, especially in the summer. “Food” is a returning theme to Psychostick!

“Fight to the Death” over a slice of pizza is brilliant, we all have those moments when there is that last slice of Dominos and everyone eyes it up as if Dita Von Teese popped out of the pizza box naked. I always get the last slice; I am warrior when it comes to food. Speaking of warriors, “Bruce Campbell” is possibly the best tribute song I have ever heard - one of my favourite actors, and now, one of my favourite songs. It's wrote and played as if it's a national anthem, which is the main appeal to this. The neighbour joke is back with “Trick or Treat”, which is the funniest interlude on the album. “Dimension Time Portal” is in the same league as Girl directions.  Spontaneous pops out and interrupts, it's a great sketch, not really a song as such, if this was the plot to 2012 then I would of loved that film. The trashiest ending to an album by Psychostick and its fucking incredible. “The Power of Metal Compels You” is a spoof yet a tribute paid to heavy metal, and a fine one at that. How fuck the Psychostick haven't played in the UK recently I don't know, I know so many people who love these here. The album is fierce and hilarious,, it remains a thrashy, compact masterpiece with chunky breakdowns and enriched madness. 
~Matthew Clewley

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Listen: Mont Oliver - 19

The Danish haven't given us much music of late, personally I've covered Vinyl Floor's folk, Iceage's punk, and now we have Mont Oliver and their blend of trip-hop / eletronica, but what Denmark lacks in exports, they make up for in quality. Iceage have quickly become the most exciting punk band on the circuit, and Mont Oliver's early offering "19" only enhances their quick rise from nothingness to the top of the ladder, and there seems to be nothing keeping Mont Oliver away from achieving this almost expected dominance. They have 4,000 likes on their Facebook page without even releasing anything but "19" (which by the way will be free,) it seems almost unbelievable unless it's a side-project of an already established artist - but this isn't. Mont Oliver are relatively new, but have the production quality of an artist that's been in the game for years. Take a listen and you'll agree that 4,000 + likes on their Facebook page seems somewhat - realistic - and could very well double within weeks with this level of debut quality.
~Eddie Gibson

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Listen: Muted - Lava

Bjarni Rafn Kjartansson, better known as Muted by fans and compatriots, will be releasing an EP titled Special Place on November 7 - and the preview is a pretty good indicator as to what direction it takes. Below is a track taken from Muted's Special Place called "Lava" - highlighting the more aesthetic ambiance and 90s-esque electonics deservedly filled next to Autechre. Special Place features guest vocalist Jófríður Ákadóttir of Pascal Pinon and Samaris, the latter being a band we have great interest in. Listen below, and look out for the full EP come release.
~Eddie Gibson

Listen: Páll Ivan frá Eiðum - Expanding

This is Paul Ivan's "Expanding", one of his many experimental tracks which crosses the borders of the electronic genre. In the past it may have been chiptune or electronic pop - Well Ivan has done it in some form to very little exposure outside of his borough. Already a familiar name within the Icelandic music community, (check out this composition for the Symphony Orchestra) Ivan has built up a respectable list of collaborators including Borko, múm, and Slowblow. You can check out his eclectic Soundcloud for more details, but more importantly listen to the track below to kick-start your acknowledgment of Ivan, as his name will deservedly start to grow out of the depths of Iceland with his well-composed electronic beats, vocal austerity and industralised ambience - The Icelandic Eno.
~Eddie Gibson

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Listen: Subburbia - MaLife (Slow Version)

You may remember Subburbia's psychedelic high "MaLife" from earlier in the year with Labanna Babalon, well now you can listen to a slowed down, eccentric version with even more ambience - and that doesn't include the revamped video with dolphins, aliens, and dope shoes...
~Eddie Gibson

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Discovery: Meanwhile - Icarus

No more hiding in anonymity for Tom Andrews' Meanwhile - but it's been a while since the face behind Meanwhile wasn't revealed to be Tunde Adebimpe, or Merrill Garbus' long lost British cousin. In truth, the excitement and mysticism behind Meanwhile's music impressed music lovers for the core values of finding a track they like, and sharing said track, because Meanwhile's first release "Luvletta" only came with the description of 'solo artist living just off the M3'. It hasn't exactly catapulted Andrews to infamy (yet), but as any past or present Fiction Records artist will tell you, you're not there to sit around for a few years releasing newly mixed versions of early demos. Andrews has now put out three tracks, the aforementioned "Luvletta", "Bigger City", and "All for the Taking", the latter showing signs of Meanwhile previously unheard, but not explored below (that's just a nod to check out "All for the Taking".)

"Icarus" is the latest release from Meanwhile, I have to say that after questioning Andrews' creativity and originality in my "Bigger City" review back in June, "Icarus" is just simply brilliant. It opens with a chopped up guitar arpeggio in the form of Battles' "Ice Cream" and the beyond from Ty Braxton's genius Mirrored. It slowly develops in to a highly intellectual piece of electronic pop which wouldn't sound out of place on a Grand Theft Auto soundtrack.

Lyrically, "Icarus" comes across deeply personal and his revised use of the words I, my, and specifically you, leads me to believe Icarus is Andrews himself, or as seen from his persona outside of his life as Tom Andrews from the M3: "Icarus, I know there’s more fight in you." Take into account this was the first song written by Andrews after his previous music-related project dissolved. Perhaps my interpretation is wrong, it just seems Andrews uses the common saying associated with Icarus - flying too close to the sun - as the answer to his previous projects demise, and in retrospect uses it as a personal warning not to allow the same fate to repeat itself with Meanwhile.

That being said, "Icarus" to me isn't devoted to its lyrical content, and I’m sure those that have listened will agree the true essence of this track comes from the instrumental. As previously mentioned, the opening guitar is the main ingredient carrying "Icarus" through stages of instrumental ingenuity. The vocal transition ('Just a brief refine about the sampler,') splits "Icarus" up from its initial simplicity and perkiness to the musical additions which follow. Note the pitch change at 1.06, a very smart move lowering the tone in a preliminary build-up to the percussion / chorus / then synthesized piece of 80s ambiance. But before you come to know "Icarus" the songs over and you're wondering where it all went. No trickery, no extended silence, it's all about Andrews' ability to spot the necessary adjustments in sound which in turn keeps "Icarus" fresh, and above all a great piece of work all round. Then there's Andrews' vocal which puts ITV's latest talent show to shame. Signing to Fiction Records with very little prior? A fantastic bit of business for both parties and one which will all but confirm Meanwhile's imminent impact on the future of British music. But first things first, Meanwhile has to reach a national level before expanding like my spider plant(s) - cue La Roux's upcoming tour where Meanwhile acts as primary support. Best of luck, but Meanwhile won't need it.
~Eddie Gibson