Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rock Mountain High With SMAUG

SMAUG – “…As My Blood Runs Cold” CD ’08 (Fire And Gold, US) – SMAUG is a character from “The Hobbit.” SMAUG is also a band from Colorado who are about as metal as you can get. You know what I’m talking about. Long hair, beards, Les Pauls & SG’s plugged into Marshalls & Laneys. And it’s only then that this debut album starts getting really interesting! 6 songs, and 3 of ‘em over 8 minutes. Skulls & axes & shit all over the place in the cover art. Ok! Now we’re talking! So shove the mutha in the CD player and let’s see what we’ve got going on here! Yeah, man…heavy-ass, chugging rhythms, powerful vocal screams & lead guitar out the ass…and that’s just in the first song, which is the only one under 7 minutes! Check out the next one, “Mind Hunter.” This sum-bitch is 10 minutes of all kinds of riffs, twisted together like the branches of a gnarled old oak. Hell, that one rhythm that comes up reminds me of Budgie and the leads go from a slicing Gibson snarl to a sweet, cream Strat-like tone. Dang, sorta like “Sad Wings...” when the minute Glen & KK traded off you knew who was who. A little bit later, this 7 ½ min ditty called “Negative Wave” comes wending your way and my-oh-my if this isn’t a metal-coated ‘70’s hard rock nugget supreme. Seriously, that’s tasty enough that Taco Bell needs to make it an extra value meal. I really like this debut by SMAUG. They’re as metal as fuck and they don’t mind reveling in that very fact. They also know how to write riffs, mold ‘em into long songs you can remember and they like to include lots of guitar solos! I could live off stuff like this! 9.0

And now that you’ve gone to the above address and contacted this bunch about getting their metalized rawk monster CD, read on for an interview I did with guitarist Jeffe & singer Alton.

RAY - SMAUG is a character from “The Hobbit,” if I’m not mistaken? Are you guys some serious Tolkien freaks? Or are you just freaks?

JEFFE - Yes, Smaug the Golden. However, it wasn’t a name we picked out of fascination of the Middle Earth Stories. I wanted to use the name because me and our old Drummer Ty were trying to reform our previous band IRONKIND back together. Of course, it didn’t happen. So me and him stuck together and wrote new songs. Then we were talking about The Hobbit one day and I was mimicking the Smaug voice from the old cartoon, and that was what we eventually came to agreement with as far as the name of the band. I’m not a die hard Tolkien freak.
I’m more into Robert E. Howard and his Conan Books as well as his continuation of the Chthulu mythos. August Derleth And of Course, H.P. Lovecraft.

RAY - I understand that you guys were in some bands of differing styles before you formed SMAUG? What can you tell us about that and how did it lead you to where you are now with this band? Wasn’t one of those groups called CATHETER? I had one of them once, damn, it hurt like shit!

JEFFE - I still do Catheter. It is funny that when people ask me of what bands that I play in, every time I mention Catheter, they always say “Ouch!“. But we have all been in Grindcore, Thrash and Punk bands Before. Smaug is a band that I always wanted to do but could never find the right musicians to do it. Most of my friends come from Punk and the Hardcore and Crust influence. So it’s been hard to find like-minded people to start up a Metal band in that scene. But we are all getting older now and we all wanted a change of pace by actually doing a band that has melody and rhythm. I have never lost my touch with Metal and have still collected Metal records through the years. It will always be my first love.

ALTON - I used to be in Forced Instinct with Jeffe....and later Aberrant. I've always loved metal but never had the opportunity to try my hand vocally, luckily Jeffe and I had jammed together before so he was willing to try me out for
Smaug....they've been putting up with me since!

RAY - If you didn’t get to this in the previous question, then humor me while I play the typical, vanilla interviewer for a minute and ask you about how you got into music, your influences, etc. To turn things upside down, also, was there any band, when you were coming along, that you said, “Christ if I ever do anything that sounds like that, somebody please kill me!”?

JEFFE - HAH!! Yeah, there was a decade when Cable TV was still young and VCR’s were the new format for recording TV. Being only 12 years old I usually wasn’t allowed to stay up at night and watch MTV and “Night Flight” when they showed all the metal videos so luckily, My older brother or sisters would record it. That’s one of the ways that I got into Metal. I had a sister that was really into Thrash and Power Metal in the 80's and she introduced me to a lot of music.
Then I had another sister that grew up through the 70’s and had a lot of bands like April Wine, The Sweet, Slade and stuff like that as well as my older brother. So I guess you could say that it was the older siblings that corrupted me. I can tell you that the first time I wanted to play guitar; I was watching MTV and a Dokken Video for “In My Dreams” was on. When I saw and heard George Lynch do the lead for that song, I wanted to get a guitar so bad just so I could learn to play that lead.

ALTON - It was the neighbors that did it... the babysitter when I was a kid was all into Motley Crue and Judas I picked it up from there and ran with it.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE! Ok, Colorado guys…If you send a piece of mail simply to
Coors, Golden, Colorado…no other address..will it get there, like they say? Has Coors approached SMAUG for a major endorsement at this point? More pointedly, does their beer suck?

JEFFE – I kind of have my doubts about it getting there. And I’m not sure if I want to sell my soul to a Big Corporation. Plus I’ve heard those bands that get endorsed only get like a case of their product. Yet you have to put their banner up wherever you play. Well whooptee Shit!!. I don’t want any association with that bull. But that’s just me. And any Native of Colorado knows not to touch that beer. We know what comes in Rocky Mountain water.

ALTON - Jeffes' right Coors blows and Pete Coors is a fuckin hypocrite... buying his way out of DUIs and shit.... what a fuckin clown. We drink Pabst Blue Ribbon motherfuckers...

RAY - One of the first things I noticed when I turned the SMAUG CD over, aside from the cool skull thing, was that there were only 6 songs. I actually assumed this was an EP until I put it in the player and saw the times. The interesting thing is, the songs are constructed in a way that makes them seem nowhere near as long as they are. When you write, is this just how things naturally come out? Or, did you say, we’re going to show Rush & Metallica a thing or two? Or did you simply have a new stopwatch and a hankering to put it to some good use?

JEFFE - When we wrote those songs, we weren’t expecting them to be so long. That’s just how we wrote them. We were pretty surprised too. But also our music on AMBRC is not really fast either. So the structure is drawn out more. But, Just like you said, we looked at the time’s and we considered it an LP. That’s fine, I think my attention span for listening to an album clocks in about 20 to 30 minutes before I start thinking and doing something else. I like short albums.

RAY - Something I find interesting about what you do is that, while it’s pure metal through and through, other things come out & yet blend very nicely. For instance, the 4th track I think it was, “Negative Waves” had a real ‘70’s hard rock feel. Care to comment?

JEFFE - We are very much influenced by a lot of 70’s hard rock/ metal. I think that whole decade spanned a whole lot of bands that were just as great as Zeppelin, Sabbath and Deep Purple. They just never got the recognition. But even back at that time those bands were called Heavy Metal. So really it’s all relative, just that the style progressed into something different. For instance, Judas Priest. You listen to them from the “Rocka-Rolla” era up to “British Steel”. You notice a big difference in progression.

RAY - Another thing I like…freaking guitar solos! You guys have 2 lead guitar players and something I dig is the fact that you will each do solos in the same song and you can tell them apart! That reminds me of the old Priest days. You always knew if it was Glenn or KK. Spill your guts on this, but please don’t get anything on my keyboard.

JEFFE - Awesome!! Thanks for recognizing. I think it’s essential in metal to have dual guitar solos just like Wishbone Ash, Thin Lizzy, Maiden etc. Yeah me and Keith have different styles and I have always been a fan of dual leads. And I like to keep the leads old school like Maiden and Priest. It’s kind of like tag team wrestling if you really think about it.

RAY - With that in mind, can you give us the gear run-down for SMAUG? What kinds of ear-destroying stuff are you guys running?

JEFFE - Nothing too Fancy, I try to keep it simple and guilt free if I break anything. I have a Laney AOR Series Pro Tube Lead 100. And that runs 2 4x12 cabinets. For effects I have a Boss GT-6 floor pedal processor. For Guitars I use an Epiphone Les Paul Standard tuned to Standard B tuning. And a Epiphone SG tuned to standard E tuning.

Keith Has a Marshall 100/100 rack mounted tube head with a Marshall rack distotion processor. A BBE sonic maximizer, two Marshall 4x12 Cabs, a gt-3 floor processor. A Gibson Les Paul Custom from the 50’s tuned to standard B tuning and a Ibanez tuned to standard E tuning.

Ted is running a Peavey bass head through an Ampeg 8x10 Cabinet. A Fender P-Jazz bass in standard E tuning and a fender P-Lite bass in standard E tuning.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: What do you rate Jay Cutler’s chances of being the NFL
MVP this year?

JEFFE - Hmm. It’s hard to say this early of the season. I think a lot of people
are expecting him to be.

ALTON - Who??

RAY - Is there a lyrical concept running through your CD? I ask this because the album begins & ends with “AMBRC Pt. 1” and “AMBRC Pt. 2.” I also ask this because I’m running out of questions. Just kidding.

ALTON - Well when I joined the band Ty already had vocal parts for Mindhunter,
Negative, Mother Earth, and Worshipper....Mother Earth was about the LOTR theme death by the steel....honour, loyality...etc. Since the band was named Smaug I went with that and Parts 1&2 are in the theme of LOTR... the songs are about the battle at Helms Deep.... feeling overwelmed by the oncoming foe, realizing that death is certain... you put your back to the wall, protect the king and vow to fight until your blood runs cold.....

RAY - At 50, my eyesight has gotten poor and with that in mind, the lyrics have defied my attempts to read them. So, (if you didn’t touch on this with the last question) are songs like “Negative Waves” & “Mother Earth” anything in the sci-fi direction or are they fantasy-type stuff? Or are they neither, and I’m just a dick?

ALTON - NW was written before I was in the band but I relate with the lyrics as I'm sure everyone else can as well. The track is about that person that is involved in everyone’s life, the people that are never happy unless they are putting other people down. That seems to be a serious problems in todays world. ME has the LOTR theme as well as AMBRC 1&2... the direction that I seem to be taking with the newer songs covers a lot of mythos, fantasy type stuff. I was always so into Maiden with the epic song subjects I wanted to go that route with the stuff that I got to write for the band.

RAY - I noticed that Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin makes an appearance on your disc.
I knew he was from Colorado, Jag Panzer & all that. Have you been friends with him long?

JEFFE - I have always been a fan of Jag Panzer since I first heard them. But he did the appearance in favor of our Producer. I have talked to him a few times and when I heard that he was going to make an appearance I was pretty excited. But mostly, I have seen them numerous times but don‘t have a any close friendship with them.

RAY - What’s touring like for SMAUG? Do you get a lot of gigs in the state of Colorado? How about further afield, how far have you guys taken the SMAUG attack?

JEFFE: We always get gigs in Colorado no Problem. It’s really easy to get gigs for touring bands here with us as well. Touring is something that we have planned if and when we can get a vehicle to tour in. But right now we have been broke. So we are pretty much focusing on writing new material at the moment. But once we get the van, I’ll be on the out of town gigging like white on Rice.

ALTON: The furthest that we've gotten at this point is into New Mexico...we played Albuquerque and Las Cruces. It was a blast and the band was well recieved, but like Jeff said we are vehicleless...any dealerships want to sponser Smaug?...HAHA

RAY - On a related note, is it a common-place occurrence at gigs for a blonde Colorado snow bunny to approach you, comment on the manliness of your beard and then offer to accompany you, post-show, back to the SMAUG van?

JEFFE - No, It’s more like the other way around. And all the snow bunnies here have beards and live in holes in the mountains.

RAY - On an even further-related note, is facial hair a pre-requisite for being a SMAUG member?

JEFFE - Well, I haven’t noticed until you just mentioned it. I only grow a beard
to cover my double chin.

ALTON - HAHA...Excuse me I need to shave.....

RAY - What is next for SMAUG? Any new songs written? Are any shorter than 8 minutes? Any longer than 20 mintues?

JEFFE - We almost got enough material for another Lp. We are right now working with a new drummer and are working out the kinks with him . We need a few more songs and we’ll hit the studio again. The new songs are definitely shorter and more faster, But we still try to keep the heaviness in there as much as possible.

ALTON - The new stuff fuckin's a quick run down...Antedeluvian: about the fall of Atlantis...Onward to Glory:a soldiers cronicles of battle....Aurora Borealis: a story about a crazed ship captain obsessed with finding the gate to the inner world, following the popular belief that the world was hollow and the entrance was located at the poles....Path of the Crow: if a warrior dies in battle and no one is there to leave coins on his eyes for the boatman, does the crow take him home??? Dragon People: from the perspective of the native americans as they witnessed the Vikings dock at their shores and slaughter their people....and another in the works that touches on the Knights Templar and the Masons..... and I do belive that they are all shorter than 8 minutes..... but well see.

RAY - Since your disc is a “self-release,” is that what you plan on for #2? Or are you trying to get signed (how ‘bout Cruz Del Sur?)? What are your feelings, overall, on the music industry, the future of CD’s/vinyl, downloads, etc.

JEFFE - Hopefully we’ll shop for a label to release the second album. Cruz Del
Sur would be an awesome label to be on no doubt ‘cause some of my favorite bands are on that label like Slough Feg and Battleroar. I think that vinyl will never die. It’s such a novelty anymore because of the layout and format is so big that you can see the detail of the art and photos. And all the added bonuses you get from vinyl like Posters, colored vinyl, stickers, patches and etc.. I think downloads are essential too because it doesn’t come with all that added things like CD’s and vinyl does. So it makes the buyer want to get the real deal. For me downloads are the incentive to eventually get the original copy. And hopefully for my sake they release it on vinyl.

ALTON - Someone needs to release this one on vinyl.....and the next one.....come on do it!!!

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Quick…the top 10 completely buried, totally obscure metal albums of all time:

JEFFE - I’ll do my best!

Darxon - Killed In Action
Nightshade - Dead Of Night
Manilla Road - Crystal logic
Ethel the Frog - S/T
Dark Wizard - Reign of Evil
Bow wow - Charge
Cirith Ungol - King of the Dead
Brocas Helm - Black Death
Loudness - The Birthday Eve
Sortilege - Self Titled

ALTON - Damn Jeffe your my hero!!!! You forgot Razor though....

RAY - Tell us an interesting, perplexing, violent, obscene or merely amusing story from the history of your time in SMAUG?

ALTON - We have to take the 5th on that kind of stuff..... Keith and I were on the way home from practice....we live in Denver @ 90 miles from where we practice.... we were smoking a joint and speeding...aparently cuz a cop pulled behind us. We tossed the J and pulled over. I couldn't find my insurance and we were going @ 20 over and the truck reeked like herb. The cop came to the window I could still taste the weed... I told him I had left the insurance card in the copy machine at work and he let us go, no ticket. maybe he burns too!

RAY - Any final comments?

JEFFE - Thanks a lot Ray for the interview. Look out for Smaug in the future, you can buy our debut CD on Game Two Records at To check out smaug go to:

Email us at:

Stay Heavy, Stay Metal!

What more can I say?! You love metal, you’ve gotta get this album. A band like Manowar can talk the ol’ metal game till they’re blue in the face, but SMAUG lives it, breathes it and IS IT!

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