Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moonspell/Divine Heresy/Secrets of the Moon @ The Pyramid Club 10.23.09

‘What are you doing here’ is something I heard more than a few times during last weekend’s Moonspell/Divine Heresy and Secrets of the Moon show. Indeed a weird one for me to attend but one that I was glad I did. With former Midwest Metal Magazine co-Editor Kain in town for the weekend and Moonspell being one of his favorite bands this was a no brainer.

This show was originally supposed to be at the Pearl Room in Mokena, a venue I’d come to enjoy as long as the place wasn’t too packed that is. So the Pearl Room closed late last month and the shows that were already booked were spread out to other venues. The night before the show I was a little shocked to look up the website for this new venue and see it was essentially a sports bar/eatery.

Nothing wrong with that. I know some pretty good shows take place at these places all the time so I hoped for the best, mostly for the bands. Being out there can be hard enough without having to show up to a venue that just fucking sucks and really can screw up a gig before it even starts.

The Pyramid Club wasn’t perfect in any way other than parking and perhaps size. Big building, but I think maybe a slight reconfiguration of the “stage” area could be a big improvement. Possibly in a way to somehow enhance the vibe of being at a rock show versus the grim reality of being at a sports bar with a live band in the corner while college sports are being played on over 100 TV’s.

So we walked in during Germany’s Secrets of the Moon’s set. Right away you could tell there was something was right with this band. Powerful sounding semi-technical Death Metal with obvious Euro influences S.O.T.M. were a surprisingly effective support band. Most of what I saw was enjoyable and what I liked the most was their off time, jagged moments where they’d twist almost individually only to re-group as a band into the next part. Good stuff.

Divine Heresy were one of the worst bands I’ve probably seen all year. I could think long and hard about this, but I’m probably right. I had very little knowledge of them before the show other than I’d seen the video for a song off their debut album. I really didn’t care for it, I thought it was “extreme” Metal color-by-numbers where a really generic and dumbed down formula was repeated over and over. In fact, that’s what I felt after their set. The same song played six or seven times, and each time you could’ve set a watch to the musical changes. Here comes the blast beat…here’ comes the grind part….here comes the melodic vocals…STOP!

I’ve been attending concerts for over 25 years and I’ve never, ever heard vocals like this guy. They were so insanely annoying, so mismatched and so fingernails on the chalk board impossible to ignore that I thought I was on candid camera. I mean I cringed, I flat out fucking had to turn away, they were that bad. It was like an African-American pop singer who over sings every-mother-fucking-note. I could see them going over well with a band like Il Nino or Sevendust or any other weak sauce “heavy” band, but this was something else.

Musically, they were rather impressive, there’s no way I could take that away from them. When the three were locked in, it was intense and powerful, it was “on” but there were no actual “songs”, at least not to me. There was nothing catchy about them, nothing hooky about them. It reminded me of a modern version of the “Shrapnel” years in the mid 80’s, dozens of guitarists/bassists and drummers so off the hook talented, yet couldn’t write a good song if their lives depended on it. I was told I need to hear the record, but something tells me I already did.

Moonspell were obviously who the crowd was there to see. The thin crowd for the support bands seemed to triple in size as the final stage and sound preparations for Portugal’s finest took place. Now I don’t know much about the band, I’ve heard a lot of their records yet was pleasantly surprised when their set began. Their sound was very heavy, very dark and above all, delivered with pin point accuracy. This is obviously a seasoned touring band that made the most of their time in Chicago.

Covering a lot of their catalog and judging by the crowd reaction they seemed to pick the right songs as each one was followed by a bigger applause than the next. Songs I remember were, “Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)”, “Opium”, “Vampiria”, “Alma Mater” and “Scorpion Flower” which was highlighted by a sampling of (ex-The Gathering’s) Anneke van Giersbergen’s backing vocals. Yeah, they were sampled, but the vocals and the live performance were 100% in sync and turned a good song into something else all together.

Moonspell did their best to create an atmosphere with the use of a projector that helped accentuate the vibe of the band’s work but it was really about the music and making the best of the situation. Whether it’s at an arena, a theater, a club or a sports bar the show must go on. I’m glad it did and was glad I went.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Midwest Metal Issue #20 Flashback IV

For the cover story to Issue #20 I wanted to do something a little different. I emailed former Usurper Guitarist/Songwriter Rick Scythe to comment on this interview done a decade ago. I thought some current perspective on a classic piece would be cool. His comments are in RED below and throughout.

Midwest Metal: The last time we spoke, the band was hinting towards a New York City show with England's Cradle Of Filth. Let's start there.

Rick Scythe: It went pretty good, we got a call from the promoters in NY, whom we worked with previously on the Dark Funeral tour so they knew us and I guess Stuart from C.O.F. requested us to support them. So we made our way out to NY and played the one show with them and it went really well.

From what I've read about the show it seemed pretty big.

Yeah it was the biggest U.S. show we've done so far, the place was packed and people were getting into it, I mean there was no doubt that they were there to see
C.O.F., but we got a good response.

You also had a prime spot too.

We went on right before
C.O.F., Acheron opened the whole thing up and then we played, it was cool that there was two pretty known name bands opening. Here, you'd have a ton of no name bands that had to sell tickets then the headliners would play.

Since then, Usurper finally made it to Europe. How was finally getting to go and with going, were a few goals accomplished?

Definitely a goal was accomplished! First of all, just getting out there was pretty impressive, seeing that we've had the plane tickets in our hands two other times, and at the last minute were canceled. The line up was
Enthroned, Hecate Enthroned, us and it was going to be Dawn, but they had to cancel so it was us three and occasionally there was an opening band, a local band.

It was really cool, the experience of touring Europe was really different, way different than touring here, over there they treat bands on an underground level, like ourselves, much better than out here. I mean everything was provided, from a bus there and a small van here, the clubs would provide two catered meals a day, full sound check every night it was just a way more professional experience.

What were some of the best cities you played?

A few shows really stick out, the very first show was really rough, none of us really slept on the plane we were just partying too much.

On the plane?
Yeah, we were drinking and everything and it was free!

Rick Scythe 2009: This first European tour was a blast! 1998 sometimes feels like a year ago, other times it feels like a lifetime ago. We actually not only drank as much as we wanted for free on flights back then, we actually got to peek into the cockpit because the flight attendants thought we were a famous band. I also had my 'Leatherman' brand pocket knife right in my pocket, no problem. We also had our bullet belts in our luggage on this flight. They are obviously empty, just for the stage look - but never the less, after 9/11 this would have got us arrested.

We've toured many other countries since then and every time someone was getting wasted on the plane (not myself - I hate drinking on flights, I don't like to get up to piss all the time). After 2001, Alcohol was no longer free but that didn't stop these guys from drinking. I remember flying to Mexico and one of us was so drunk and messed up on pills the federal marshals were threatening to arrest.

We had to wheel him off the plane in a wheelchair. The promoter who picked us up from the airport thought this was a gag, like, "real funny guys" - then it became all too clear that this was no joke.

Also when we headlined Inferno Fest in 2006, I guess everyone was pretty wild on the flight. We got detained for a while because my guitar roadie was a complete pot addict and reeked like weed. When we got to our dressing room, the Enslaved guys came over, I think it was Grutle, and said that one of their girlfriend's worked for airport security and she said, "You won't believe it, there were these crazy American guys who were all wasted and out of control at the airport, you should have seen these guys..."

At that point he said without blinking, "Ahhh... Usurper must have arrived".

Ha! OK back to the first night.

We got there and we just out of it, we got picked up and taken to the first show right from the plane to the show. That was in the Netherlands, but by the time we got to Belgium it was incredible, the club was packed, I'd say about three hundred people, the sound was great and the people were total Metal freaks.

When we got to Austria, that sticks out too because it was sorta the opposite, there was maybe one hundred in a small club but the crowd was really intense, people even knew stuff from the new album! Someone must have gotten a promo, but they were yelling out the titles of new songs even though it may have been a bit of a culture shock, I ain't complaining one bit.

This was the first tour with Dave Hellstorm, how'd he do?

He did great. It was a relief, his playing just keeps getting better and better and that was another thing, he is the new member and we really weren't sure of, I mean we've known him for years, but on tour you learn everyone's habits.

But you learn a lot about a person on tour and I gotta say that he's just one of the coolest guys, totally laid back and the funny thing was out of all of us, he can probably handle the touring better than us! If we happened to feel miserable because we're cramped in the bunk, or it's starting to smell in there, no matter what he just loved it.

What kind of set list would you do?
It changed every night, we did every song from '
Threshold…' except "Dead Of Winter", and we played two songs from 'Diabolosis...' and then one or two new ones. It was just cool when the people knew some of the new songs especially in Austria and that was the show with only one hundred people.

RS 2009: Touring with Dave Hellstorm was always a breeze. He was a great guy, he loved the road. We all did back then. It was all new, all fun, all in front of us. The older we got and the more we did it, the surlier we got. Looking back I suppose I wasn't always the most fun to be around. I don't like people getting wasted and playing, I don't like people always around me and I'm not great at bullshitting - even though I started to not really dig people around me all the time, I always loved playing the shows and traveling to new places.

'Usurper II: Skeletal Season' is finally out. The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you've had these songs in your head for a very long time. You've lived with your copy for a few months, and now the whole World can here them too, how do you feel about them?

Really interesting that you ask that, the last time we spoke we'd just gotten out of the studio recording it and at that time it was the last thing I wanted to listen to, I mean we just spent so much time being very critical of everything, every detail etc. But now, I've started listening to it and wanted to hear it from an outside point of view and I am really happy with it.

The way it came out, the songs, the lyrics, the artwork, everything just seems to be coming together, the whole band is really, really proud of it, we feel it's a major accomplishment for us as a band. We stuck to our same formula, but then again we weren't afraid to go out on a limb and try a few things, I hate when a band comes out with something predictable and the same, but then again I hate it when a band changes too much.
Black Sabbath in the old days did it right, I mean 'Master Of Reality' sounds way different than 'Sabotage' but they're both great albums!

Let's dissect the album and go song by song, start with the opener "Shadowfiend".

We felt that this was a great way to open the album, we always like to start things off extreme, ever since the demo came out it just something that we like to do. The song starts out with a long drawn out, chaotic beginning then once it kicks in it's just a, for me anyway, nonstop head banging, fist banging song. Live, it just works on so many levels. The lyrics are based on a classic French werewolf that went on a rampage.

"Dismal Wings Of Terror"

This is a great live song, it's fast and relentless, we did this a few times in Europe and we had the whole crowd fist banging in unison and doing Death grunts! Lyrically it's one of my favorites, back in 1966 here in the states, a man type creature with huge bat-like wings and no head was terrorizing a small town. People who had witnessed it started having weird premonitions and it climaxes with a bridge that span over the Ohio River collapsed and a lot of witnesses were killed, people still don't know what it was, it was just a violent creature. So when I wrote the lyrics I wanted them to be like a prophecy.

Next up is the title track, "Skeletal Season".

This track really sums up everything, it's basic, and it’s just a head banging song that we like to play live. What sticks out for me is the solo, I used both a twelve and six string acoustic to create an eerie feeling, the lyrics are like Halloween, or really just the time when everything dies, like when you go outside and you can just smell it, it's cold out and you become one with everyone you're with. Drinking and listening to Metal.

Rs 2009: This was the first album I began not only writing all the music for, but also all the lyrics. I was, and still am into crypto zoology, monster folklore, etc. So this album really had this concept - a first of its kind to do so. Halloween, American monster tales - no one really wrote about this stuff and to me it was exciting and made a great backdrop to heavy music.

"Embrace Of The Dead"

This is the song we're going to do a video for, it'll be on the
Necropolis video compilation...

Speaking of which, whatever happened to the "Slavehammer" video?

That will be on there too, the "Slavehammer" video is more like live footage, fire and all sorts of pyro the "Embrace Of The Dead" we're gonna try to use a bigger budget, but still make it look cool with some Horror movie quality. We've got some good ideas for, what I think is one of the heaviest songs on the album.

"Prowling Death (The Demigoddess)"

This is just a back to basics Thrash Metal, or Death Metal, whatever you want to call it, stripped down song. While some songs have an atmospheric type quality, "Prowling Death" is raw, like some of our old favorite bands used to do back in the mid eighties, lyric wise, it's about the Demigoddess that would come in and seduce men's souls, stuff like that.

RS 2009: Our videos were always a nightmare. Never came out how I wanted. Always plagued with technical problems. I've always been a huge fan of videos. I love the old Voivod videos, I like cool concepts, bad effects and stuff other than just the band playing.

I remember "Embrace of the Dead", the main scene was us performing in a cemetery and then there was a scene where I was going to break out of the ground like a zombie. I wore one of my Dad's old suits and had actual corpse make-up and real pig intestines. It was going to be totally kick ass. I was going to break one of my hands out of the ground like a classic Fulci flick and then rise out and rip intestines out of this dummy... unfortunately the cops came and busted the shoot. Then the video company ran off with the footage.

'Slavehammer' video never was even edited for some reason? I have all the raw video tapes so I want to put it together and release it on the Usurper DVD if it ever comes out.

"Threshold of the Usurper"/"Skeletal Season" Import Re-Issue

This is our epic song for the album, this is a song that we won't do live, unless we feel really inspired. It's more like a Metal Orchestra but this is something we'd like to have on all our releases, something that goes beyond what we can do live.

It's something we like to do in the studio to create an epic feel, we're really happy with the way this song came out, we were just like, fuck it, let's do it. It still retains the old feel, especially in the middle and the soloing in it is cool too, it's
Jon (Necromancer) and myself switching off on the solo, mine is first then his.

The lyrics are about a cemetery right here in Illinois that is haunted. I had read a few books on it and we went there one night, we feel we captured the feel of it with some of the weird tunings and stuff. Very dynamic.

Did that song take awhile to perfect?

Not really perfect but while I was showing it to the guys, I got a lot of strange looks, I mean, I told them that the song was going to sound a lot different, similar to what we went through learning "Dead Of Winter" off '
Threshold Of The Usurper', it's just out of the ordinary.

Another burner of a track is "Brimstone Fist".

This song is another stripped down song and it's also the exact opposite of "Cemetarian" with this song we wanted to recreate what it's like to listen to old Bathory or basically any old, real Black Metal, not like the Black Metal that we have today, back when it meant something, just a brutal song that doesn't stop the whole way through.

It seems that for every Doomy type song there's a balls out, non stop attack song.

Yeah, that's just what we want to listen to, I mean some bands can stay at the same pace for a whole album, we just like a lot of different elements. It goes back to when we formed
Usurper when we put out our first demo, we just wanted to capture a lot of classic elements of Metal so when it came to put out an album, it just seemed that was the logical choice. There's just been so many great Metal bands, in all styles of Metal that we still like to hear.


This song is about a German Werewolf story that you can read about in a lot of books, it's been well publicized. It is a less is more type feel that we used to create more of an atmosphere, we've done this song live a few times and have always had the crown head banging in unison to it. It's a dark song and ends the album on a disturbing note, we actually recorded another version of this song that's even more way out there, just super heavy and dark, we may release this sometime down the road.

If so it'll be a CD with the re-release of the '
Visions From The Gods' demo, "Soulstalker '96" which is cool because it was the last song that Apocalyptic Warlord recorded with us and just a bunch of strange stuff that may come out late '99, but it will definitely be out before the new album.

How would you describe the 'Skeletal Season' packaging?

The layout is really cool, the booklet is sixteen pages, full lyrics, side notes about the songs, in full color. It's just the kind of packaging we felt it deserved, we're just really happy that
Necropolis, man just everything, they've been treating us really good, making sure we get tours, we're supposed to do a few California shows in April then back to Europe in the summer.
We've gotten some other [album] offers and we really hope to continue working with Necropolis I mean they're really starting to build up in the underground and Paul has been very cool with us since day one. s'

He always promised us that when our second full length came out that, they were going to do it right and they've stuck by their word so far. They've been very honest with us and it's cool to be able to call the president of the label at his house and just talk about old Metal, strategies, whatever, in the past it's always been the business end where everything goes sour.

Usurper w/ King Diamond and 'Necronemesis' producer Kol Marshall, 2000

Rs 2009: Ten years later and this album still brings back great memories. I have the original cover painting by Juha Vuorma hanging in my home office. Now that it's Halloween time I light a jack-o-lantern, drink a few beers, have a cigar and listen to this album under a gloomy sky. The label didn't really like this album and the songs didn't work as well live as the traditional head banging metal anthems of later albums

Because we made and effort to stick to more straightforward metal songs on all our following albums, I kind of missed this Halloween vibe of '
Skeletal Season' era Usurper. In 2007 I put out a new project, Nightshade (Official) as kind of a continuation of the 'Skeletal Season' era Usurper, except less Metal and more experimental. This only lasted 2 years and one album. I'm hoping one day to continue this again, but for now it's on indefinite hiatus.

Now in 2009 I'm pleased to announce my newest solo project,
SCYTHE. This is essentially what I would be doing in Usurper if Usurper was still going on today, plus some different elements as well.

We have about 5 original songs right now, some are
Usurper songs that would have been on our next album, some are re-worked unreleased Usurper material, others songs I went with an approach I've never tried before - which is get in a jam room with my other guitarist Joe and drummer Ben and literally combine riffs. I know many bands do it this way, but I never did.

We also do some
Usurper songs like "Lycanthropic", "1666 AD", "Kill For Metal", "Metal Lust", "Slavehammer" we might even do 1 or 2 of the more metal Nightshade songs live, not sure yet.

This band started as a solo project during the time when Mr. Faust quit
Nightshade and we had nowhere to jam, but now it is an actual band. It features myself, Rick Scythe (guitar/vocals/bass), Joe Martinez (guitars) and Ben Mulvey (drums). Joe Martinez was in a band with Jon Necromancer and Dan Tyrantor of Usurper called Agnosia in the early 90's.

Ben and Joe were also in a death metal band that played out in the Chicago area in the 90's called Decation - so we're all vets, all knew each other for 20 years, these guys followed
Usurper and are into the same music so we're ready to roll!

**Bassist Jon Necromancer is currently in Nachtmystium and can be heard on their most current release, 'Doomsday Derelicts'

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Midwest Metal Issue #20 Flashback III

2009 Notes: What a long, strange trip it’s been for Ben Falgoust and Soilent Green. Since this interview was done you can basically write a book on the up’s and downs the man and the band have conquered. From label changes to line up shifts to [multiple] van accidents and physical (and other) rehabs, Katrina and the loss of friends and ex-band mates…if it were all laid out for you it’s rather cringe worthy shit. However there’s a term thrown around here and there, “lifer”. Well Ben, Brian, Tommy and the crew are total lifers and they continue to churn out Soilent Green aggression at every turn including their most current, 2008’s ‘Inevitable Collapse in the Presence of Conviction’.

Re-reading this short interview is cool for me because at the time it was conducted Ben was not yet a member of
Goatwhore and some of the younger readers out there may only know him through Sammy’s Satanic army? Lastly, a collection of early SG demo material featuring original vocalist Glenn Rambo will soon see the light of day via Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records. So enjoy the past and look forward to the future with the band and thanks for reading.

2001 Notes: This isn't the longest interview, but it gets the job done. Soilent Green continue to make up for lost time by continuing to kick ass.

Whether you're a die-hard fan, a Johnny come lately or somewhere in between, a new Soilent Green album is reason to celebrate. Their latest is '
Sewn Mouth Secrets', and it's just an ass kicking display of what these boys can and will do. I recently spoke to Vocalist/Lyricist Ben Falgoust to get reacquainted with one of Louisiana 's finest.

Midwest Metal: Since the release of your debut album, 1994's 'Pussysoul', there's been a considerable gap. And also since then you've found a new home with Relapse.

Ben Falgoust: Yeah, mid 1994 was when 'Pussysoul' came out. We did a few things since then, we did a few songs for the Cry Now, Cry Later comp, we did a split 7" with Grief, so that was three songs there. When Brian (Patton) started playing with EYEHATEGOD, which was before the 'Take As Needed For Pain' LP came out, he was on the road a lot and when it came to writing songs, we didn't like writing without everybody there. That may sound bad, but it isn't, we all seem to have a few different bands.

But back to the question, I mean we had our [rehearsal] room broken into a few times. And you know, that's a few months to get up the money to get new instruments and stuff, that shit ain't cheap. But almost every band in the world has something like that happen to them, but at least it got us where we're at today. We wrote three new tunes, and those ended up being the 'String Of Lies' EP, and we sent them to
Relapse. And originally, they wanted to do a 7", but when they heard the sound quality, they liked it enough to put out as the EP.

How long after the 'String' EP did you record for 'Sewn Mouth Secrets'?
I'd say it was about nine or ten months. We could've did it sooner, but after 'String' came out, Relapse wanted us out on the road, and we did a short tour with Brutal Truth. That plus all of us have our day jobs, which we need to survive. We all have basic American jobs.

With all the job responsibilities, how much time do you get to jam per week?

We try for five times per week. We usually don't get 'em, but we try. We usually don't practice on the weekends, that is unless we have something important to practice for. But it's good to go Monday through Friday.

You guys got some attention at this past years Milwaukee Metalfest and on the road with Crowbar. How did those shows go?

Yeah, it's [Milwaukee] always been a long time thing for me, I'd been to a few and I always wanted to play one. And when I finally got to play it, it was cool. It's little hectic, but it's so damn cool, turnout was huge! We had a few technical things, but the shows were great. The Crowbar/EYEHATEGOD tour was cool too, we got to play a lot of places we'd never been to, some crowds knew who we were and some didn’t, so it was cool to turn people on to it.

[Ben Live-Chris McKibbin]

I've read a lot of live reviews on Soilent Green and each of them, mine included, mention your stage presence. Do you hear a lot about it? Who did you look up to as a kid growing up?

It's like half natural and there's always going to be some sort of influence shining through. I've seen so many good singers live, Frank Mullen from Suffocation is a kick ass frontman, Chris Barnes of Cannibal Corpse, I'd rather not discuss Six Feet Under, was killer. There's a lot of killer front men, I was never much of a Pantera fan but Phil live is so commanding, he's good at it and it's totally from the heart. I respect a lot of what he does, same with Kyle from Exhorder.

How about the lyrics on 'Sewn'. I mean there's a lot of lyrics. Don't you ever like to repeat yourself?

Well, some of the songs on 'Sewn' are three years old, so they've been in my mind for a long time, and when people ask what we've been up to, I just look at the lyrics, those are where all the time went. It's a thing where I write all my words out, and when it's time to write lyrics, I plagiarize myself (laughs), so it's just an accident. I look at it like abstract art, abstract music, and abstract lyrics.

Also the same with the music, those guys don't want to repeat themselves, so I figured I'd do the same. I was never good at English in school, but the older I get I can tell some of it rubbed off. People write a lot about our lyrics, especially the female stuff. I just had a bad relationship and I wrote about it, instead of actually doing this stuff. It's a relief of the strains.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Midwest Metal Issue #20 Flashback II

2009 Notes: Another band who was known during their years of activity but went straight to legendary when they disbanded is Sleep. Known these days as the band that gave the world Matt Pike and High On Fire, Sleep was a trio of friends from the Bay Area who recorded a body of work still hailed as highly influential to those in the know. The band broke up after the monumental ‘Dopesmoker’ album had been recorded and shelved and the legal bullshit surrounding the release of it sucked the life out of them. Strangely enough, Sleep reunited for two special sets at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival held in England back in May of this year. Essential Sleep reading can be found in Decibel Magazine’s March 2006 issue.

2001 Notes: In 1999, after years of sitting on the shelf of London Records, Sleep's epic tale of '
Jerusalem ' was finally available. Even though by this time the band was dead, Matt I guess was doing his part to cross promote the album as well as his current band High On Fire, who fucking rule.

Interview with former Sleep Guitarist and current High On Fire Guitarist/Vocalist Matt Pike.

Midwest Metal: Matt what's new with you?

Matt Pike: I've been playing in a new band for about a year, we've just started gigging and also just got out of the studio. We're called High On Fire. I'm really happy with it.

How would you describe it?

Well, it's the guitars from Sleep, sort of, but with a different rhythm section. Less of, well it's along the same lines of Sleep, but without stepping on my old band-mates toes. I'm also doing the vocals.

You mentioned just getting out of the studio. Do you have a deal?

No, not yet. I'm looking. We just got the tape recorded and the first thing I'm gonna do is get a few copies of the tape off to Paula and have her try to get us some reviews and stuff.

A question a lot of people want to know is how and why did Sleep break up?

Things just got really strange between us. After the album (Jerusalem-ed.) was recorded, we were having a hard time. I mean even during the writing, that was a very hard song to write. (ed. Note: 'Jerusalem' is Sleep's final album and it's one song clocking in at over 52 minutes) Very difficult to play, and then the whole label thing, they [
London Recordings] were freaking out.

How in the hell did Sleep end up on a major label??

I don't know, it just happened, it was such a trip. So the break up, it was about time, ya know? We weren't getting along the way we should've been, not for a band that was going to be touring.

Did you get signed off the strength of 'Sleep's Holy Mountain '?

I guess, that and the word of mouth. They approached us, it may have not worked out for the best, but at least something good is coming out of it.

I thought it was strange from the day I got a promo from London.

You did get one?


Right on, cool.

Then they sent the Gummo soundtrack with Sleep, Eyehategod, Burzum, Mortician etc.

That was a fucked up movie.

That movie was twisted like no other!

No shit, I put it on and I was like, "What the hell is my music doing on this" Fuckin' inbred kids killing cats and shit.

That dirty fuckin' kid who fucks the retarded girl!

Dude, whatever. That was just a weird movie, pretty harsh.

Well, back to the ' Jerusalem ' album, someone said that London wanted to remix the album to make it "listenable".

We remixed it for them, we originally spent two months in the studio going over each and every damn note, and believe me there was already like this black cloud in there with us. Then this guy comes in, and takes over the mix that we felt was perfect, and he started dabbling around and we had a big argument with the label about that.

I mean we wanted one track for the whole album and then they went in and made six tracks that we didn't like it. I mean we have no hard feelings, they're just business people and they do what they have to do.

How did The Music Cartel get involved?

Well, he (Eric LeMasters) just called and we talked and came up with a very simple contract that seemed cool and that was it. I mean I'm doing these interviews for him and also myself trying to plug High On Fire.

Let's talk more about the future, who's in H.O.F.?

I've got a kick ass drummer named Dezi and a kick ass bass player named George. They're just a couple of dirtbags that I like jamming with. We're really super tight and the three songs show it, I hope.

How are you handling the singing?

So far it's cool, I mean there's a lot better singers, but as long as I can pull it off and also play guitar I'm fine. I'm just looking forward to touring and touring, that's where it'll really improve.

What are the main differences between Sleep and High On Fire?

I'd say that High On Fire is a less droning type of band. It's similar, but different. I'm trying new things here and there which make for an interesting bunch of songs. It's missing a lot of the stuff I was doing in Sleep, but I'm making up for it with a few of the other things I'm trying to do.
[Sleep Live 2009]

Midwest Metal Issue #20 Flashback…1999/2009

So 10 years ago this was one of the issues that came out in 1999, #20. On the old Midwest Metal website I had four interviews from #20 there and I wanted to re-post them here in the now. You’ll see two sets of notes, these are my thoughts on the pieces in 2001 and my current 2009 thoughts. All I can say is it’s been a fast decade! Usurper, Sleep and Soilent Green coming soon…

2009 Notes: Still love this album, still love this band. When this interview was conducted Burning Witch was an active band, sometimes it's hard to remember as they've been broken up for well over a decade. However the legacy they laid out over a very short time continues to grow. 'Crippled Lucifer' was re-released by Southern Lord in 2008 and Stephen is still doing everything under the Sunn related to the dark arts.

2001 Notes: One of the greatest Doom Metal albums ever was and is 'Crippled Lucifer' by Burning Witch. This interview was done a few years ago when the record came out, I spoke to Stephen O'Malley who some of you may know from his magazine, Descent as well as his artwork and design. Don't really know what happened with the band but their legendary status as a pure cult band fits better than anything. This interview ain't the best but the band still rules.

Recently, there's been a few somewhat high profile (meaning, you're hearing a lot about them) releases from the Los Angeles label Southern Lord. The two being
Thorr's Hammer with 'Dommedagsnatt' and the other one I will be talking about shortly is 'Crippled Lucifer' by Burning Witch. I spoke to the Witch's Stephen O'Malley about the doom masterpiece that is 'Crippled Lucifer'.

Midwest Metal: Seeing that you'll be a "new" band to readers here in Chicago, start with the beginning of the Witch.

Stephen O'Malley: Thorr's Hammer broke up in the middle of 1995, me and Greg (Anderson) and Jamie (Sykes) wanted to continue doing something else. So we took a bit of a break between the two bands when Greg went out on tour with another band of his. So when he came back that Fall, we started jamming again, found a bass player named Stuart and once we started playing with him, it was all over!

We played, did some shows which leads us to the summer of '96, Greg moved to L.A. (from Seattle) we continued with the band and we then had an opportunity to record, we did. A producer named Steve Albini recorded what turned out to be the 'Towers' recording which was going to be put out on Metalion's label Head Not Found. But he flaked out on that, so. We then recorded some new material in March of '97, that was the 'Rift Canyon Dreams' as soon as that was done I moved to England, that was when the band broke up.

At the beginning of this year, 1998, I had to come back to the states and Greg had released both recordings on CD and the old line up got back together. We did two shows, one in LA, one in San Francisco . Our friend Chris Dodge (Slap A Ham) put the 'Towers' out on LP in Oct., so we're going to try to keep it going and doing new material. We've written one new song so far, and soon we'll be working on a lot more.

Thorr's Hammer and Burning Witch possess different styles, was it a conscious thing to go in a different direction?

It wasn't really planned, ya know? It was just a chemistry that blended when we played together, even the new song, it sounds similar to the 'Rift…', it's just really slow, atmospheric, trance type stuff. But the sound is not a concept, it just happens that way.

Is there any sort of lyrical concept?

Not that I know, I've only read a few of his (Edgy/Vox) lyrics, and it's his dissecting of his problems, love songs if you will. Not that I mean love of women, but just things he loves in his life, negative things seeing that the lyrics are so dark.

You said that Stuart's involvement in Burning Witch was a factor in the sound, did he bring in different ideas/ influences?

Well, when he joined the band, it changed the chemistry for the better. The bass player in Thorr's Hammer was just had this nondescript way of playing bass. And, band wise, we've always had different musical backgrounds, which may not influence what we're doing now, but it does have an impact along the way. Stuart's influence was timing, he kept it all together.

What are you looking to accomplish with the new music you're doing?

I guess I just want to create something that is so droning, trance and very unusual and an uncomfortable atmosphere, be it from the volume or the tone of the riffs. That along with the timing. I also learn a lot from playing with them.

Is there ever a chance of a tour?

Stuart wants to do a West Coast tour, but getting in a van for a month may not be the best. I'd like to do Washington D.C. , Chicago , New York .

[A]Chicago [show] would be cool.

Yeah, I've been hearing a lot about the Chicago scene, sounds like the antithesis of the Seattle scene. There's some conflict, huh?

Yeah, you can say that.

But it shows that there are a lot of heavy, violent bands from your area and it's cool that it's not all bullshit.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Somewhere, someone needs to order the XXXL Pampers...

Notice this isn’t a Heavy Metal Heaven entry, this guy with some due respect is going to the lower level for sure. So that aside, Don Decker is gone. The cornerstone of the Minneapolis metal scene Don was a mover and a shaker via promoting shows and his retail store Nightfall Records. His band Anal Blast were admittedly a joke and while some of the members went on to a "slightly" more successful band, Don never stopped doing what he loved, even if it was performing in a shitty diaper.

Even if you weren’t knee deep in the scene, Chicagoans might remember the local Nightfall location that opened on Lawrence (near the Admiral Theater) in 1997. He’s been gone from Chicago for quite some time as the store closed in maybe ‘99 but the guy had friends here, there, everywhere, he was just 41.

I did business with Don over the years, mostly advertising related stuff for the store or for the Milwaukee Metal Fest. He was a real pain in the ass, but he was committed to the cause. That tops everything when it’s all said and done.

The first time I went to Nightfall was when it had just opened. I walked in and Don was on the phone, so I looked around while he kept on with his conversation…

Oh, this fucking place is great, the location? Fuck, it’s near a strip joint, there’s tons of whores walking around, the liquor store two doors down is fucking open ‘til 2:30 and there’s a shithole gyros place across the street too. I fucking love it! O.K. Ma, see ya, bye.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Megadeth week concludes...

So until the November start of their tour with Machine Head this is the last of Megadeth for now. This interview is actually kinda creepy. I remember reading it when it was published and not even blinking about [Killing/Peace] Drummer Gar Samuelson "falling asleep" during this whole interview.

Knowing what we know now and how the early Megadeth line up struggled with substances, it's just a little weird, especially with the interviewer calling him out like that. But for those of you who are fans of the classic line up of Mustaine, Ellefson, Samuleson and Chris Poland it's a decent interview.

(Click To Enlarge)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Megadeth Week continues...

So, it's officially Megadeth week here at None But My Own. Keep the requests coming in! The jury is still out on 'Endgame' but I will say it reminds me of their third album 'So Far, So Good...So What!'

Here's another Old Metal Mag classic RIP Magazine - Steffan Chirazi piece on Megadeth circa 1988.

(Click To Enlarge)
Coming soon, another 'Peace Sells...' era interview from Metal Mania Magazine, 1986.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Old Metal Mag Moment: Megadeth 1986

I've been getting requests from people asking about old magazine interviews with (insert band here). So one of the bands who people seem to really want to read about is Megadeth.

While on the subject...

I've been trying to get into the new
Megadeth album, 'Endgame' for a few weeks now. It's not a bad record by any means, but it's extremely far from what I'd call excellent or great. Musicianship wise, it's beyond words. New guitarist Chris Broderick? Believe the hype. His axe-work is so good it's hard not to throw some big sounding adjectives his way, but the guy is, IMO responsible for the rebirth of Megadeth.

So here's an interview from 1986 with the other members of the band, at the time.
[click to ENLARGE]
ps: One year ago today, I launched this thing with this. Many thanks for the support to those who have supported!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Slayer: An interview with Dave Lombardo

Slayer return to the record stores on November 3, 2009. A new record titled ‘World Painted Blood’ will kick start the Slayer machine into high gear via touring and press for at least the next 18 months. As a way of pre-promoting the album, Slayer took part in this past Summers Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival in which they played one new song nightly. During the tour’s Tinley Park , IL stop I sat down with Slayer Drummer Dave Lombardo for a pre-show interview.

Where is Dave Lombardo, the drummer these days? The kid who grew up a John Bonham and Peter Criss maniac? Where are you as a drummer in 2009?
I feel I’m at the peak of my performance right now. I just feel on top of my game. I feel confident, I’m hitting hard, I’m breaking pedals, snapping sticks and popping snares. I’ve got this great record behind me, ‘World Painted Blood’ which I’m really, really excited about. So aside from the little ups and downs that a personal life can do to you, my career and my future look very positive.

I feel I need to comment on the amount of press you’re doing, I think it’s great…

Well first off, not only am I a fan of Slayer but I’m a big fan of your work. When I did that interview that I left for you in the back lounge…
I wasn’t doing any press back then, was I?

No, none. In fact at that time (February 2002) you weren’t even “officially” back in Slayer, that was a one off thing your manager at the time set us up with.
So why do you think it’s a good thing for me to be doing press? I’ve heard this from a few people so I’ll ask you, why do you think it makes people so enthusiastic?

Well speaking for myself, to me it’s a fresh perspective. Along the same lines, you’re palette is so wide, so varied for you to be speaking so highly of this new record…it’s really got to be something. I mean you’re a lot of things to a lot of people but you’re not a bullshitter Dave.

No, that I’m not (smiles). But you’re right, I’ve not come out and said the kinds of things I’m saying right now, you know? I personally feel the record you’re about to hear, from the guy who’s sitting at the helm driving this ship, or this train or whatever the hell you want to call it! Well it’s going over 150 miles per hour and I’m trying to steer and I feel collectively we’re all just at the top of our game!

It feels good, it feels classic, it feels like I said collective it was a very good vibe when we were working on it. I felt if the foundation, which is the drums with no lyrics, with no leads, just rhythm guitar tracks and drums, if that foundation is there and it feels good throughout the whole song…then everything else will just fall into place.

Part two of your heavy press schedule, you’ve done other press where you say ‘World Painted Blood’ sort of conjures up the “holy trinity” of ‘Reign In Blood’, ‘South of Heaven’ and ‘Seasons In The Abyss’, right?

So you’re saying ‘WPB’ has a classic feel, when approaching these songs are you reaching back to an inspiration you haven’t reached for in some 20 years? How do you approach this blank canvas and decide what fits the song best?
Well just recently I listened to the song “Expendable Youth" and I’m thinking to myself, “god, the drums suck!”


How? I mean they’re driving the song, aren’t they?
They are, yes, but they’re so primitive. It’s primitive Lombardo. Now [if] you listen to Lombardo today and the chaos happening all around the music but being controlled by this kind of precision, you can hear not only how much I’ve grown as a drummer, but how much the band has grown as well.

That’s what I hear in this new record and I feel it’s fully entertaining. It’s in the melodies, the way Tom [Araya] sings even if he just jumps up a single note it just makes a world of difference in how the song comes out. Perhaps that’s also due to us working with an amazing producer too?

I must admit, all the records you’ve done in your career, I’ve never heard you speak so highly of a producer like you have with Greg Fidelman.
I feel he worked with me, and I can only speak for myself but I noticed he also did this with them too, but he worked with me the way Rick Rubin worked with me on all the old records. I don’t know if this was Greg’s technique or what, but he helped me develop the very best possible drum tracks…simply by their performance. Not in the editing stage or with a computer, nothing like that, he coached me.

He was right there with me, very positive. Together we focused, I mean really focused on detail as well as sounds and if that meant a snare hit or an extra kick drum sound that’s what was done.

You mentioned the word precision. Now to me, Dave Lombardo has always been a drummer who played from the heart. When Paul [Bostaph] was in the band he came across as a drummer who played more from the head.

As you’re explaining Greg’s role in the studio I’m getting this vibe where he motivated you to become a more technically efficient drummer. Would this be true?
A good producer makes a band sound good in the studio, but makes them sound even better after. He definitely did pull something out of us indeed, and that’s what I heard directly from Rick Rubin after the sessions.

I understand some of ‘World Painted Blood’ was written in the studio.
Yes, about half of it was.

OK, so looking back to [2006’s] ‘Christ Illusion’ I know that album was written, then you’d tour and then come back and write more, demo it, then go out again etc. etc. Do you feel that the album, I guess, suffered from maybe over thinking the material? Where maybe you lived too long with the material before it was laid to tape?
Maybe, it’s hard to say really. I think I work the best by just getting in there and nailing it down. I hate to use the words ‘under pressure’ because to most people that’s a negative, this was more of a “let’s just do it” feel, more motivation than anything.
How cool is it that this long into the journey you’re still getting this band wide motivation?
Well I think the nature of the circumstance of us going into the studio with only half the material we needed, I think it helped the situation. It did something to our natural way of functioning for sure. It was very positive, it was great.

I know you have to run, I appreciate your time today, I really do. Is there anything you’d like to close this out with?
All I have to say is I’m not going away. I’m not one to retire, I’m a drummer and I’ll always be a drummer and I’ll always perform. There’s a lot more of me to come in the future, whether it’s with Slayer, whether it’s with an orchestra or even with some African hand drums, it’s a part of me that will always be here. Thanks Tom.