Sunday, November 30, 2008


DRUDKH – “Songs Of Grief And Solitude” CD ’06 (Supernal, Ukraine) – Besides having a relatively short name that I also don’t know exactly how to pronounce, Ukraine’s DRUDKH have also eluded my detection for a number of years. It seems that they’ve issued 6 full length albums and one EP since 2003 and are on the verge of cranking out another in early 2009, now freshly signed to the Season Of Mist imprint. First things first. DRUDKH were apparently formed, like I said, in 2003 by a couple members of the black metal band HATE FOREST and in doing so, moved away from a…um…hate-filled type of black metal and into one celebrating nature & individuality. I say “apparently,” because this trio seems to be a bit of an enigmatic bunch. One of their very few press releases indicates that they have a policy of no interviews, no photos, no live shows, no internet presence, etc. Hell, I only discovered ‘em by spying this interesting-looking CD cover in a budget bin and taking a chance on it. Supposedly, some of this reluctance to mix with the general public stems from them being incorrectly lumped in with a suspect radical political/social movement that upholds such things as racial separation, etc. This is all a kind of dreary discussion and I hate to have to go into it all here. Still, I wanted to preface my discussion of the album with it because the band has, in tandem with announcing their deal with Season Of Mist, denied any kind of radical political affiliation & emphasized the whole individual/nature thing. I thought it fair to them to make that point here. I also found, much to my great surprise, that this CD is frankly one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in a long time. Now I’m sure I have you really confused, regarding a disc by a black metal band as being “beautiful.” Well, I have a couple things to say about that. First off, black metal can be beautiful…in a sense…beautiful in terms of power, raw emotion and passion. The new HORNA is a superb example of that. Secondly, however, DRUDKH’s “Songs Of Grief And Solitude” is actually beautiful in a much more traditional sense because it is not black metal. Now you are beyond confused, and perhaps rightly so but bear with me. Seems that after the band’s 4th full-length opus, “Blood In Our Wells,” they decided to try their hand at a disc combining their interpretations of folksongs from their native Ukraine as well as themes from tracks on their previous records. This takes shape on “Songs Of Grief & Solitude” with the 3-piece shifting to all acoustic instruments and eschewing the rote black metal shrieks for no vocals at all. That’s right, this is a completely, utterly “wooden” album (how apt, as DRUDKH means “wood” in Sanskrit) of 7 stunning instrumentals. And, yes there are seven separate titles (which I’ll list below, as they are quite poetic-sounding) but this record is surely the type to be played in one continuous listen, as hypnotic and trance-inducing as it is. DRUDKH’s practice here (as I understand it is with their metal material, as well) is to develop a passage and then repeat it, adding small differences & progressions in texture until the listener is drawn away from their own mundane world and into that created by the music. No, you’re not going to hear acoustic shredding a la Paco De Lucia but I submit that the 36 minutes of this disc contains some of the most gorgeous unplugged guitar I’ve listened to in both recent & distant memory. Coincidentally, it’s also come to me at a time that I’ve begun to rediscover & enjoy the season of autumn, something that Racer ( and I talked about a little recently and it mirrors that season spectacularly. In fact, “Songs Of Grief & Solitude” has become a fixture on my nightstand, one of the most perfect CD’s this scribe has ever found for accompanying that late-night crash-out with a cool autumn wind wafting in the slightly open casement. But for all the peace & tranquility emanating from this release, don’t think there wasn’t a bit of a sinister turn at the corner of my smile as I ordered a couple of the black metal DRUDKH discs last night before I turned in. 9.5

Track listing: Sunset In Carpathians, Tears Of Gods, Archaic Dance, The Milky Way, Why The Sun Becomes Sad, The Cranes Will Never Return Here, Grey-Haired Steppe

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The SLAVE TRAITOR review & interview!

SLAVE TRAITOR – “Man Infest Destiny” CD ’08 (Private, US) – They say you should always go with your first reaction. Which begs the question, who the hell are “they” anyhow? See, the problem is, “they” are not always correct. When I first heard the name “SLAVE TRAITOR,” mentioned in passing by somebody at Declaration Of Doom, I was thinking “Whoa! Is this some kind of pro-slavery deal?” Soon, however, I realized the spelling of the name was not Slave Trader, but TRAITOR. A further exploration of this unit from Seattle, Washington revealed that they had just released their 2nd record, the self-issued “Man Infest Destiny.” The first thing I found out, upon slapping this lil’ puppy in my player is that it’s pretty damn short. Six songs and most in the 4 minute range. The second thing I found out is that the length is just about perfect because the intensity level never diminishes through any of the 6 tracks and, if it were longer, the listener just might not survive. So, what are we talking about here style-wise? Take the crushing, deep-toned guitar slabs of High On Fire, infuse it with the 3-pronged vocal attack of Mastodon and then brush-stroke it with surprisingly melodic guitar leads. Combine this all with darn catchy riffs/songs, have legend Jack Endino sit at the knobs and you’ve got a winner. You don’t have to go any further than opener “Wilderness Of Mirrors” to see what I’m talking about. When the NWOBHM-flavoured guitar solo merges with the Pike-like chords in this one, you’ll be hooked just like I was. Also, check out “Pill Cutter” & “The Middle Passage,” each giving way at points to chordal sections that could be out of the Alex Lifeson songbook before slamming back into a sludgy metallic assault. The differences in the 3 gruff vocalists add to the freshness of this record too, and make it an absolute keeper. Check out the band’s previous (2006) effort, “Black Narcissus” as well. 9.0

I was fortunate to be able to arrange for a nice sit-down with SLAVE TRAITOR and all 4 members joined to make this a very interesting conversation! Chief characters include: RAY (some asshole who was asking the questions J ), Steve Hass – drums, Marc Burno – bass & vocals, Eric Kempton – guitar & vocals, Jake Willanger – guitar & vocals.

RAY - The name SLAVE TRAITOR is one that caught me the first time I came across it. Even seeing the name and how it’s spelled, the first thing that came to mind was “Slave Trader” and I’m thinking right off, “ok, what the hell are these guys saying here!” Then I look again & realize the 2nd word is “Traitor” and my thought process changes to “Hmmm…exactly what is that?” So, then I go to your site to try to figure it out and see some pictures and one guy looks like he’s black, so I’m now convinced “I’m sure these guys are not glorifying slavery.” A very provocative and unusual name! What’s the story?

ERIC - We needed a band name. We were at a rehearsal. At that point it was just Marc, Jake, and myself. We had a list of names. Marc loudly exclaimed “SLAVE TRADER!” And he had that same reaction that you did. He thought “TRADER” spelled “T-R-A-D-E-R” like “trading slaves”.

MARC - We tried to come up with the most offensive thing we could think of.

ERIC - We're a metal band! What's the most offensive thing we could do? I realized there was that option, that we could switch the word around, to do a sort of play on words. Instead of “TRADER” like “trading slaves”, it could be “TRAITOR” like “stabbing you in the back.”

MARC - We like plays on words.

JAKE - And that's what we did. And here we are today!

STEVE - People don't forget that name.

ERIC - Each of us definitely has their own take on what the band name means to them. I think most importantly that it inspires a reaction, all kinds of reactions. And it's very memorable!

MARC - You think twice about it. The reaction that you had to it, that's the exact reaction that I would want someone to have from it. They're not just taking the name and going, “Oh it's that band BLAH BLAH BLAH.” They're thinking about it. If they have to think about it, they'll remember it. If they have do any mental process in there and if it provokes thought then maybe they'll actually, you know, buy something other than a cheeseburger.

ERIC - Like our merch.

JAKE - If it's something you see on a t-shirt or in print or on a poster or a flier, people tend to see it and remember it. It kinda sticks in their brain.

MARC - It's like being like a traitor to the slave mindset!

STEVE - Something like that...

(everyone laughs)

RAY - So what led the 4 of you to come together to create the unholy racket you call SLAVE TRAITOR? Please don’t shoot me for asking the “influence” question, I can’t help myself. Plus, I kinda like it.

MARC - We were influenced by the rain. And the gloominess. And the doom of it.

JAKE - Essentially we were all playing in different bands together.

MARC - We've all been in the scene together for a long time, playing around in different bands together. Steve and I played in a band. Eric and Jake have known each other...

ERIC - Since we were teenagers in high school.

JAKE - We've been playing music together since the early 90s.

MARC - I ended up playing music with them, on the drums. Then we all ended up banding together, playing the instrument we're all better at playing.

STEVE - They couldn't find a bass player, so they decided that Marc should just play bass and they got me for drums.

MARC - At one point Eric was playing bass. It's been a shift all-around.

ERIC - We also made a very conscious decision that we wanted to use three vocals. It would let us do vocal arrangements in a way that we'd never had a chance to do.

MARC - And not have a lead vocalist, not have someone that was sitting there just doing the vocals and nothing else. To have us all work together on it and bring something to the table.

ERIC - In terms of over-all influence I would say that it's metal. And that all kinds of metal! There are elements of hardcore, rock, blues, jazz and so on. But our unifying influence is metal and metal bands.

MARC - Especially since we all grew up in the 80s. I mean, early thrash and all the things around it, that came to it, and that came from it. Everybody's got their things that they listened to at the time.

ERIC - Everyone in the band brings their own interests and influences but it's overwhelmingly...

MARC - Metal!
(everyone laughs)

RAY - You’re from Seattle. I’m not sure how old you guys are and I know you formed in 2005, right? Were you around/aware of the whole grunge thing that came into the public view in the late ‘80’s/ early ‘90’s? What do you think of all that, looking back on it? What has been the lingering effect, if any, on the local scene there? The bands that got popularized from that whole time were Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains but there were also some lesser-mainstream like Green River/Mudhoney/Mother Love Bone, Tad, etc. who didn’t make it as far.

STEVE - I'll just say off-the-bat, I'm from Connecticut and I was one of the millions of kids that heard it, dorked out on it, and loved it to death. That's one of the reasons why I moved out here. But these guys, they have a very different viewpoint and a very different approach.

JAKE - Yeah, that stuff I saw from the very start, from the beginning to the end of it, when I was a teenager. By the time I was 21 or 22, it was pretty much over, you know, for the most part. And those bands and those people were very much people that were from my neighborhood. It just seemed really odd when it was exposed on the national level, to me, because it's something you'd never expect to see happen ever. And then after awhile it just sorta faded away like it never happened. It was also a really cool time to be alive and to live through, I'll have to say.

MARC - I grew up in Alaska, so all the stuff that was happening down here was like sort of this distant thing. I kinda got the same viewpoint that a lot of other people had of it, where you see this thing and there's like this band from down there. You know, I liked some bands from down there but I wasn't really into the whole Seattle scene. I didn't listen listen to a lot of it. I came to things after-the-fact, hearing them from a different context from an outsider's point of view, and looking back on the scene instead of being there. I mean, a lot of that stuff survived!

JAKE - Even though the hype has sorta faded away, a lot of these people are still here doing the same thing that they were before.

MARC - Yeah they're still here, they're still doing it. Some of them are more out in the scene and actually hanging out, some of them are just hiding and not wanting to talk to people, you know. There's all that crazy stuff that's influenced so many people and it's still here. It's influenced all of us in certain ways, you know.

STEVE - You can't avoid it.

MARC - Personally I'm a big Melvins fan and that's like huge from around here. Some people don't know who they are, some people don't care.

ERIC - I'm like Jake, I saw it from the beginning to the end. It's one of the reasons that I wanted to live in Seattle and play music. Growing up as a teenager and getting exposed to new bands, seeing the fliers that were around. Everybody was playing music and there was a real atmosphere of anything goes. There was no difference between a person standing in the crowd and someone playing on a stage. They were dressed the same, they acted the same, they were just like you. Everyone was totally approachable. That's a really amazing thing. And there's a lot of music going on now too. The scene here is very supportive

MARC - Grunge may have gone away but it seems like it's coming back.

STEVE - Sooner or later...

(everyone laughs)

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Do people really drink Starbucks Coffee by the bucketload up there? If so, is it because of the rain or having to watch the Mariners? Don’t worry, we also have a bad baseball team here. Of course, you took Erik Bedard off our hands, so I guess we made out there.

JAKE - I love coffee. I drink a pot of coffee every day before I go to work.

STEVE - I couldn't function without the coffee. But not Starbucks, that's only if you literally can't find anything else.

MARC - No one goes to the Starbucks. I mean, there's a lot of people that go to Starbucks here but there's so many coffee shops here, it's like you find the coffee shop that you like and you go to it. When I first moved here, I went overboard on the coffee, so much so that I have a stomach problem now.

(everyone laughs)

MARC - I kinda do that, I go overboard on things.

JAKE - It's surreal going into a coffee shop, looking across the street, and seeing the same coffee shop.

STEVE - That joke about the Starbucks across the street from the Starbucks, that's true. It's here.

MARC - It's true, there's a Starbucks on every corner. Then there's other coffee shops in-between those.

ERIC - There's lots of independent chains plus small coffee shops and cafes up in the Northwest. You can get coffee really easily.

JAKE - Any given block within the city, you can go to four or five different coffee shops.

MARC - It's liquid sunshine, you know. The caffeine keeps you happy.

STEVE - Six months out of the year you don't really see the sun, that is true. You gotta get through it somehow.

ERIC - As for sports teams, if you're a fan of sports in the Pacific Northwest, it's because you love the sports and not because you necessarily love the teams here.

(everyone laughs)

ERIC - We don't have the Sonics anymore. The Seahawks aren't any good.

JAKE - The Seahawks aren't showing up this year.

ERIC - The Mariners weren't any good this year. I think we have a soccer team...

STEVE - The Sounders.

JAKE - The Storm are doing quite well, from what I hear.

MARC - They're doing really well. I've got a buddy who love them. He's got season tickets to it...

ERIC - We need to start a coffee-drinking league!

RAY - Both “Black Narcissus” and the new disc, “Man Infest Destiny” are somewhat short in physical time and yet…they just don’t seem it. I have to say that, especially with the new one, I have very rarely heard 6 songs in a row in which the intensity lets up so little. Any comments?

JAKE - We try to not have any filler on our records. We don't want the intensity to let up or any kind of a lull in the pounding or anything like that. It works well for us.

STEVE - And if it's short, it's because that's the only songs we had at the time. I don't think we intentionally go out to write EPs. It's just what we do. We're trying to get away from that now.

MARC - We try to write really good songs.

STEVE - And that takes time!

MARC - Everything we put out, we want to make sure that it's really good and unfortunately we haven't been able to do more than 5 or 6 at a time. The intensity comes from where we were at when we recorded that thing. We've sorta gotta a little more dynamic since then.

ERIC - All the songs on both of our releases “Black Narcissus” and “Man Infest Destiny” are songs that we tested in front of live audiences, that we played out and then worked on afterwards. They were always works in progress. In the final stages of “Man Infest Destiny”, we worked together on the vocals and the vocal harmonies, vocal arrangements, the lyrics, and so forth.

MARC - It worked really well when we played them out. We refined the songs. Then we recorded them, did preproduction, added new vocal arrangements, and played them out. They went over like gangbusters! We recorded it like that and it worked out amazingly.

ERIC - We want to be able to tell people who saw us at the show, “You can buy the CD and that's pretty much what we sound like. What you heard tonight is probably all here on whatever the recording was from that particular era for us.”

RAY - Even with this kind of bludgeoning assault, the dynamics are outstanding. One of the things I constantly go back to is the way the guitar solo comes in during “Wilderness Of Mirrors.” The solo has such an “old school” sound that, on first take, is so surprising and then, nearly just as quickly fits like a glove. Did a lot of thought go into planning something like that?

JAKE - I had a general idea for the solo already planned out in my head before I went into the studio. And then Endino and the guys in the band were making suggestions about they wanted to hear from me. So we talked about it a lot, then I improvised a lot of things while we were recording, and that's how it came out.

MARC - You had entire solos done before we even went into the studio.

JAKE - Yeah yeah!

MARC - But then you worked those with what we were working on and how we all did it together. It was well thought out.

ERIC - A solo in Slave Traitor isn't just a showcase for a person to display their individual prowess. In fact it's an integral part of the song. For example in “Wilderness of Mirrors” we felt that Jake needed to take a solo there and he worked with us on it. He came up with incredible improvisational as well as organized, very well orchestrated ideas. And there's that old school approach where it comes in and it builds up.

MARC - I think it wails!

RAY - Three of you do lead vocals, which involves in a lot of high-power guttural stuff. Did any of this idea come from Mastodon? To me, your stuff is a lot more raw, direct than their’s musically, more in line with things like High On Fire & even Coffins (Japan), but with some added intricacy in the guitar work.

STEVE - I think we've all listened to Mastodon and High on Fire at one time or another, that's for sure.

(everyone laughs)

MARC - Definitely our earlier stuff was inspired directly from us listening heavily to Mastodon since it was the only thing we all really really liked.

STEVE - And agreed upon.

MARC - Especially when we were going out doing shows, like the thing we can all listen to in the van that we were all really excited about. I think a lot of people were, it wasn't just us that were excited about Mastodon at the time.

ERIC - We all went to Mastodon shows together and thought “Wow! What an incredible band, what an amazing thing they're doing!” It inspired us to changed a lot of our approach, to rethink what we were doing. For example – the triple vocals. That's not just Mastodon, though.

JAKE - Neurosis is a huge vocal influence for us. Where they would use multiple vocalists, no one would take the lead per say, and they'd all have other parts to add during the course of any given song.

MARC - The influence of the three-vocals came from a lot of different things. We had a band where it was just one vocalist. We wanted to do more vocals all the way around, not have a front person. In doing that, everybody has to contribute to the vocals. On the new album honestly we've had different influences on the vocals. I brought something, I mean it's a weird influence, but the Beastie Boys. How they do a change-up in the vocals where they each deliver a line. They don't just do it in just 1-2-3, 1-2-3. They switch it and change it up and it's not just a whole line, it might be as a phrase or it might be an entire section. They think about it. So we kinda started to think about it that way too and approach it from that direction. At least on a couple of songs, we've succeeded.

JAKE - I think that in a lot of ways that like the hiphop MCs sorta trade off one another, we kinda took from that but it's a very much more rock thing that we do. That influence really isn't very prevalent if you just listen to the music but it's there.

ERIC - And it is a direct approach, what we're trying to do. It's very heart-felt, very genuine, it's coming from a very real place.

MARC - The vocal style we came at from doing it in all the different bands that we've been doing over the years. It grew to this. It's not like we trash our vocals doing this, we've educated ourselves. It's a lot of work getting to the point where we're at and it may sounds like whatever but it's been a lot of work and I think it's paid off.

STEVE - From the one member who doesn't sing I've watched these guys work on this and I just shake my head going “Wow, you're really thinking about this!” Because I don't.

(everyone laughs)

RAY - How did you get involved with Jack Endino, as far as him doing the production work for this new disc?

MARC - We wanted to work with Jack.

JAKE - We had for years.

MARC - A long time ago, when we first got together, we put together a list of who we wanted to work with, and Jack was on that short list.

JAKE - He didn't seem very attainable at that point in time, we didn't think it was going to happen.

MARC - That was our dream list. It wasn't like, “Yeah let's go get that dude and everything!” But I mean he's in the scene, he lives in Seattle. He lives right over there, right down the street from us pretty much. We have friends that he plays music with and eventually it got around to people talking. We talked to friends and someone said, “I can talk to Jack about it!” Then Jack said, “Let me listen to your CD.” We gave him a CD!

JAKE - He seemed to like our music.

MARC - He really is into it.

JAKE- And he was more than happy to take our money too. That's pretty much how that works. Honestly, he gave us a screaming deal.

MARC - A screaming deal! He said that he really enjoyed it and he saw potential in us to record something.

JAKE - And he enjoys what he does for a living and he goes out of his way to help local musicians put out quality records.

STEVE - Yeah definitely!

JAKE - He's a really cool guy to work with. It was probably something we'll never forget and we can hopefully do our next CD with him as well.

ERIC - I've loved Jack Endino's work as a producer, that was the first time I ever noticed that credit on a recording. I read all the linear notes on the vinyl, the cassettes, the CDs that I loved. And I saw his name over and over again. We had a good friend who played in a band with Jack, who actually recommended us to him. Jack can afford to be selective about who he works with. Then we had the opportunity to play with one of Jack's bands on a bill with...

JAKE - High on Fire!

MARC - Yeah, that was a really good show.

ERIC - So he got a chance to check us out. Almost a year later we contacted him about doing a record and to our surprise, he agreed to do it!

MARC - It was our easiest, most low stress, no questions, no problems session ever. We came in, we did our part, he did his part. No one questioned anybody on anything. There were questions like “Oh what's this? What's that?” Really simple stuff, no artistic creative head-butting or anything.

ERIC - How Jack wanted to work was exactly how we wanted to work. His comments and thoughts often mirrored our own. We'd turn to each other to make a remark and before we could turn to Jack, he'd already cleared up the issue or took care of whatever.

MARC - He already saw it. He was fixing it as we were talking about it, not even knowing we were discussing it.

STEVE - He was fixing things that we didn't even notice were wrong.

ERIC - We can do nothing but praise Jack Endino and hope that people seek him out for work.

RAY - Did you ever say “Jack Endino” to anybody and have them think you were talking about two people named Jack & Dino?
(everyone): Yes!

MARC - That's the funniest thing in the world because a guy I know, I was talking with him and told him we recorded with Jack Endino and he asked that same exact question. He was like, “I thought it was Jack & Dino you know, for the longest time!” Which is kinda funny...

STEVE - I think it's just a matter of reading his name first or hearing his name first, I guess.

ERIC - Yeah, I had friends that I told that I was working with Jack Endino and they asked me about Dino. No no , it's Jack Endino. It's his first and last name. And then Jack told us stories about it himself, when we were in the studio. He had hysterical stories about the mistaken “Jack & Dino” Productions.

MARC - Where's Dino?!

ERIC - Where is Dino? Where is he at?

MARC - I want to meet Dino! Where is he?!

ERIC - Does Dino operate the tape machine?

MARC - You do a good job but where's Dino?! I know we'll step it up when we see Dino!

(everyone laughs)

RAY - Let’s say the phone rings tomorrow and Donald Fagan (Steely Dan) is at the other end. He says, “I’m going to fly to Seattle to produce your next record as long as you promise to do a cover of ‘Your Gold Teeth II,’” what is your response?

MARC - He's completely out of his mind. What happened in the planet, what has gone on in the universe, what has shifted to cause this to happen.

JAKE - He needs to taking his meds. And get off Myspace!

ERIC - How could we ever brought to the attention of Donald Fagen? Oh man, if he wanted to work with us, that'd be truly fantastic.

MARC - It'd be great because we wouldn't have to play a lick on the album. He'd hire out the entire crew.

JAKE - He'd eventually fire us all.

STEVE - First thing off you're all fired!

(everyone laughs)

RAY - What’s happening with a song like “The Middle Passage,” lyrically? The title reminds me of a Tolkien-type thing. Unfortunately, being elderly, my eyes are poor and I haven’t hit up the Dollar Store for a magnifying glass lately, so reading the lyrics is beyond my grasp.

STEVE - I didn't write the lyrics.

MARC - It's all about being caught in-between, in the middle, “The Middle Passage”. It's like, you know when you're at a party and you're standing there but no matter where you're at, you're always in the middle. There's this crowd of people and they always channel past where you are. You're stuck in the hallway, you're stuck in the doorway. Or when you're stuck in a stadium and you're right in the middle. It's that “Middle Passage” you go between, you're stuck there and everything is like “Thhbbbbbbt!” and you're always moving out of the way.

ERIC - Lyrically we try to tell stories. We try to make it something personal and we're trying to do epic things, big stories. The song “The Middle Passage” lyrically is about purgatory, about being trapped in-between two things. The rock and the hard place. Heaven and hell.

MARC - In-between the New World and the Old World, in the belly of a ship.

JAKE - For me it's about the personal struggles, how to maintain through your daily life. About going from day-to-day, having to make a certain amount of money to be able to do certain things. And how you have to struggle through that, it's constant, and it's not going away anytime soon. It's something you have to deal with for however long you're alive.

STEVE - Yeah, it's a happy song.

MARC - It's a good song, it's got that play-on-words. We like to have titles mean several different things, where you take it anyway you want. With the lyrics you can take it from your own perspective. We all have our own perspectives. With anything that we have, from the name of our band to different song titles and the lyrics within, it's all take it how it is at the moment that you feel. With the name of our band, we can tell you one story one time and tell you another the next time depending on how we feel.

JAKE - That song in particular is more open to the listener's interpretation as far as what the lyrics would mean to them. A lot of our other songs aren't like that at all. They're very blunt.

RAY - Both of your albums have been put out as self-release kind of deals. Do you think this is what best suits you, as far as future projects go or are you in the market for some kind of deal?

MARC & STEVE - We want to sell out!

(everyone laughs)

MARC - This current situation has worked really well for us because we put a lot of work into it. It sucks to be poor and having to put all your money into this. We spend a lot of money on it and it all comes out of our own pockets. But in the end it's our product. We can pitch it and do what we want with it. We would love to have some kind of distribution.

STEVE - Some kind of support. Any support.

MARC - We don't mind spending money, we don't mind doing the work, we don't mind doing everything. We also want to own our material, own everything that we do. That's the benefit, we own everything that we've done.

JAKE - That's the way things work in life. We wanted to start a band, we wanted to write music, we wanted to play songs. If there's something we wanted to do, then we're going to have to do it ourselves. There's no one out there who's going to give us money at this point. That's not going to stop us from being in a band and doing stuff.

MARC - We're successful in our own eyes at this point. For what we've done, we've accomplished so much to get to this point. Monetarily we have gone in the hole you could say.

STEVE - It's all worth it. It all keeps us sane.

ERIC - If someone was to approach us with proposals, we would eager listen to anyone's offer of a deal. We're open to any kind of offer! The reality is we're more than happy to continue at it ourselves until someone else feels that they'd like to work with Slave Traitor.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: World tour supporting High On Fire or a week in a secluded villa with Beyonce: You choose!

ERIC - Jay-Z would have us killed.

JAKE - Yeah, no kidding!

MARC - Yeah, you know I ain't battling with that. And you know, Beyonce is all that but...

JAKE - We're all complete scrubs and she probably wouldn't even give us the time of day. We'd be sitting in this room with this chick who wouldn't talk to us.

STEVE - It'd be a long and uncomfortable week.

ERIC - We'd choose High on Fire world tour support

RAY - When is SLAVE TRAITOR going to get to the East Coast?

STEVE - Now that is a good question! When are we going to the East Cost?

JAKE - Well, Steve's going there for Christmas.

(everyone laughs)

MARC - That counts! I mean he's been out there quite a few times since we've been together.

JAKE - He's from there!

ERIC - The reality of getting to the East Coast from Seattle is a lot of time and money just to get at least halfway there, not even all the way to the East Coast. We had plans to do that in 2009 and unfortunately the economy has taken an absolute nose-dive.

MARC - The economy is crazy! So we're focusing more on the West Coast. Not necessarily just our region but the whole West Coast. To try and do as many tours as we can here, to promote what we can, and to make it viable for us. Still getting out, still touring, still playing shows around, and still trying to promote what we've put out.

ERIC - We'd love to be tour, to be support for someone going East or touring the US. Once again, we'd be open to any kind of proposal that someone had.

STEVE - Don't get us wrong, all we want to do is get to the East Coast.

MARC - We've planned and plotted tours out there. The East Coast is where it's at for touring. Everything is close together and there's a lot of really cool supportive people out there.

JAKE - We actually had one that fell through in 2006.

STEVE - Yeah, we were going to get there.

MARC - We've planned quite a few times.

RAY - What is the absolute most stupid story you can think of, associated with SLAVE TRAITOR?

JAKE - Man, we've got to narrow it down to one? That's hard.

ERIC - Can we do something like a David Letterman Top 10 List?

STEVE - When you say stupid, I think of bad gigs.

MARC - Yeah, we've had a lot of bad gigs.

ERIC - I would say that the stupidest story about Slave Traitor is the aggressive violent reactions we get from people about the band name and it's largely because they can't spell.

MARC - They can't recognize the different between “TRAITOR” and “TRADER”, even when you spell it out for them. Even when you slowly enunciate it for them. I don't know, people are dumb. That's all I've got to say.

STEVE - People are dumb.

RAY - Any final comments?

ERIC - Thanks for the interview, Ray!

MARC - Thanks Ray!

STEVE - Right on, Ray. Thanks for the interview!

JAKE - Yeah Ray thanks!

Well, as you’ve just read, SLAVE TRAITOR are a very cool bunch of guys. They’ve also put out 2 exceptional discs that any fan bands like High On Fire, Mastodon, Neurosis and the like will pee themselves over. Not only that, I think that their interesting, melodic take on this kind of music will make them appeal to a wider audience, including folks who are into things like NWOBHM, prog metal, etc. In any case, check these guys out. They’re another great band with that DIY attitude and a real passion for their craft. Just what we dig at the ‘REALM!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Men Of Two Guitars...The Valkyrie Interview!

At both the Doom Or Be Doomed Festival in 2007 and the Declaration Of Doom Fest in 2008, Baltimore was graced with some of the finest bands that not only the doom scene but that metal in general has to offer. With all that, one of the bands that impressed me the very most was Virginia’s VALKYRIE. Having already been blown away by their demos and self-titled debut album (2005), I was mesmerized by these guys in the live format. Brothers Jake & Pete Adams fused their vocal & guitar abilities into what I could only begin to describe as a metallic take on the glorious harmony work of Wishbone Ash and added a rustic, rural feel to the heaviness that was singularly sublime. They put an exclamation point on all that a few months later this year with their stunning 2nd album, “Man Of Two Visions,” which features, in this scribes mind, some of the most riveting dual guitar work in recent times. Recently, I talked to Jake Adams about this new record, VALKYRIE’s live work, brother Pete’s entering the Baroness line-up and more!

RAY - Obviously there’s a beginning to every story. At least that’s what my creative writing teacher in college told me. So, as not to mess up my belief in that old guy’s greatness, how’s about giving me the low-down on how you got involved in music & how it led to VALKYRIE?

JAKE - I started playing guitar at age 13, my brother started around the same time- he was 11. it was 1993. We grew up playing guitars in punk bands and playing everything from Nofx to Nirvana to Allman Brothers to Sabbath. Towards the end of high school I had a band that played stuff influenced by the Wipers, Fugazi, and Dinosaur Jr. Pete had moved to Richmond and joined a street punk/oi band, then came back to Rockbridge to form a psychobilly/punk/metal crossover band. About four years later I formed Valkyrie out of an interest to play riffs and solos in the tradition of Tull , Sabbath, and Zeppelin. Pete joined up shortly thereafter.

RAY - The whole “brothers” thing…See, I’m an only child…which may explain my bi-polar tendencies, but with you and Pete, how does it work? Do you always get along well? Nearly kill each other? With you both singing/playing lead, do you think you 2 have a kind of connection that you couldn’t possibly have if you weren’t siblings, with the harmony leads & all that? Or am I putting words in your mouth and simply sound like an ass?

JAKE - Hahaha, no , you don't sound like an ass- there is a connection that comes from the genetic link between brothers that is hard to beat- it can be be very cool at times. We usually get along, but every so often we get into it. Usually we don't let it go too far though. But there have been times I have felt bad for our bandmates who have to hear us moaning and wailling from time to time.

RAY - You guys are located in Harrisonburg, VA in the Shenandoah Valley. Is this where you’re from originally? How do you think the rural environment affects your music? To me, even though it’s heavy stuff, highly amplified, electric and all that…well, it has what sounds to me like a very rustic, rural overtone that sort of embodies the feeling of the area you’re from. Of course, again, I may be full of shit. Please tell me to shut up if the thought crosses your mind.

JAKE - I have lived in Harrisonburg for about ten years, I moved up here to go to school, and still haven't quite finished. But we are from Rockbridge County, which is about an hour south of here. Our bass player, Will, is from there as well although now he lives in Richmond. Our drummer, Warren, lives about an hour NE of me in Greene County. I have always tried to reflect a rural atmosphere in the music- thanks for noticing that- I guess keeping some folky elements in there helps that, but I would like to think there a little more to the "vibe" that conjures up a "country" feel.

RAY - Let’s do some “band” association. Give me your thoughts on the following:

RAY - Wishbone Ash:

JAKE - majestic, soulful, mind-blowing harmonized guitars- I LOVE THIS BAND.

RAY - Black Sabbath:

JAKE - heavy, dark, psychedelic, what can I say? the godfathers of doom- and heavymetal 101.

RAY - The Wipers:

JAKE - one my alltime favorites, Greg Sage really captures spirituality and a spacy feeling in his music.

RAY - Thin Lizzy:

JAKE - Another group that comes across with real soul and conviction, some of the best guitars ever.

RAY - The Obsessed:

JAKE - All american doom rock, another one of my favorites, Wino's finest hour- my favorites are "concrete cancer" and "yen sleep."

RAY - Mastodon:

JAKE - they do some cool stuff with their guitars, and they have worked hard to get where they have. much respect, a unique sound, but typically too frenetic for me, it tends to give me a headache.

RAY - Let’s do some “word” association!

RAY - Budweiser:

JAKE - cheap beer, I guess it's good if you don't have money for better stuff, I don't drink anymore, so....

RAY - Sarah Palin:

JAKE - wolf hunting from helicopters

RAY - Marshall:

JAKE - some pretty nice amps. I like my laney though!

RAY - Female Valkyrie Fans:

JAKE - few and far between, but loyal

RAY - Obama:

JAKE - change? Hahahahaha

RAY - Too loud:

JAKE - yeah, you had better turn it down, unless you want tinnitus! haha I have never been an earplug guy- we'll see where that gets me.

RAY - It’s been awhile since the self-titled VALKYRIE disc. What kind of label is Noble Origin & how did you hook up with them? Do you think in this day & age, that a small label or even a self-release can be promoted as easily as signing with a larger label?

JAKE - I started Noble Origin myself, basically because at the level we are, we can tap into the same distro another label would be able to. At the point that we want to do some more touring, we might look for a larger label that can offer more promo etc, but for now this is fine. I think a smaller label can do a whole lot- it just takes time and energy, two things in short supply right now- but we are getting it out there slowly.

RAY - As great as “Valkyrie” was, “Man Of Two Visions” easily eclipses it, in my opinion. How do you think you guys have developed between records?

JAKE - Thanks! Well, my knowledge of heavy metal has expanded a lot, and I listen to a lot more progressive stuff now. I think we have more NWOBHM in there now, and less stoner. Also the sound is more upbeat.

RAY - How does the songwriting work in the band, do you & Pete bring in most of the ideas? How does it then work in terms of who’s going to take what solo? On the harmony leads, do one or the other of you always take the higher part?

JAKE - Usually I come in with a bass line, or main riff and vocal concept, and Pete will put down some harmonies, he has riffs that he has written as well, and we will fit those in . He wrote the intro for False Dreams, for example. Then again, he wrote the main parts of Apocalypse Unsealed, and I wrote the intro/outro. It all depends on nature of the song as to who plays what, but we will trade off solos as necessary, we usually both try to get at least one in every song. But typically I will stay with a lower octave harmony and Pete will find something that sounds good in the higher range. These days Pete tends to write more than he used to, but now that he is playing with Baroness, we will see how that shapes up , I might have to go back to a central songwriting role, like most of the stuff on the 1st album.

RAY - “Man…” seems to be the work of a very patient band. That is, songs like “Apocalypse Unsealed” & “False Dreams” contain what can be called “intros” and the pace never seems to be rushed, although there is still a ton of energy. Commentary?

JAKE - Haha, hmm. Well, what can you do, we try to write "songs," so a lot of it is creating an atmosphere, and that often takes time. You have to "build up" to different parts too. It adds to the overall effect.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE! Has VALKYRIE ever played (or would you consider playing) at a Haunted Hayride? Please consider your response carefully!

JAKE - Haha, sure, why not, I imagine it might be a bumpy ride, but other than that, it sounds like something worth doing.

RAY - The instrumentals, “Green Highlander” and “The Gorge” really send the album to a higher level, in my opinion. What can you tell us about the background of these? Who plays which parts? Does the title “The Gorge” refer to a real place?

JAKE - Pete wrote the Gorge and plays it by himself on the album. That was the culmination of a period of time when he was playing a ton of open tuning stuff. When he played it for me in its entirety, I said- "that's going on the record!" I'm glad I had that idea, it is a great tune. The chords for "Green Highlander he wrote, and I wrote the lead for that one. "the Gorge" is one of Pete's favorite fishing holes in Rockbridge, and "Green Highlander" is the name of a flyflishing lure he likes to use.

RAY - I understand that Pete has recently joined BARONESS. What was his background there, did he/you know them or did he just happen to find out they were looking for a guitarist? He seems like he would be a very good fit with them. Do you see this as a potential negative for VALKYRIE, as far as being able to continue that band?

JAKE - We grew up next door to Baroness' bass player Summer out in the county, and we played music all through high school in Lexington with their main guitarist/vocalist John. Allen ( drums) and his brother grew up a block down the street from John and we knew them but not well until later in high school. We had been mostly been out of touch with them for the past few years, on different scenes and taking a different path musically- of course they were touring their asses off. In hindsight it makes sense that eventually they would call Pete to play, but it was a little surprising when John called Pete and asked him to join up. Pete and John have a history of writing together so it makes good sense musically. It may be annoying having to work around their tour schedule at times, but it will probably be fine because I will be busy starting a teaching career in the next year or two so I will be busy with that anyway. Plus Pete's experience on the road will only help him in his role with Valkyrie, and he continues to encourage Valkyrie to higher aspirations- which we may pursue at some point.

RAY - I also understand you’re working toward becoming a 6-12th grade teacher. Besides possibly needing your head examined, tell us a little more about this side of yourself and your plans in that direction. Again, do you see VALKYRIE continuing to fit into your future plans, with this in mind?

JAKE - Well, it has taken me a while to figure out that if anything is my "calling" it would be teaching- I seem to have a knack for it. So yeah, this May (knock on wood) I will be getting my licensure to teach social studies in grades 6-12. Teaching works for me because it is a service-oriented career and in order to sleep at night I think I really need a job that directly helps others. You can't have much more of a direct impact than being a teacher. I want to do my part to help build a better world society, because right now we live in some dark times. As far as Valkyrie, I plan on keeping it going as long as I can, and eventually I would like to do some more serious touring. It might work out that I can tour during summer vacations! We'll see.

RAY - Being a teacher & all that, what the hell do you do when you end up with a classroom full of out-of-control high school senior’s who don’t know about anything other than rap music?! Seriously, what do you think is the best way to approach teaching kids that age these days?

JAKE - Well, you have to make the material relevant to their lives, so if it means having them write a rap song in order to learn it, so be it, Music is always good in aiding learning. No, I know what you mean, and it will be a challenge many times, but I think if I show a genuine interest in them as people they will respond to that. I think part of my strategy will be to use current events and issues to teach history, in order to make the learning more practical. Otherwise, why else would they need to know about what was going on hundreds of years ago unless it has practical implications for their lives now? But yeah, sometimes, pop culture, as much as it may be crap, is the best tie-in.

RAY - I know you guys have played up this way (Baltimore) a few times? How far have you gotten away from home base as far as touring goes? Do you get local gigs on a regular basis?
When I am not super busy with school , we tend to play locally every month or two. We have been as far out as Phoenix, and we have toured to Chicago and Austin, and Portland ME, in the north, so we have traveled a decent amount. We have gotten to where we can do a pretty successful tour of the mid-atlantic/northeast these days.

JAKE - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE! Do you think teaching an orangutan to play guitar left handed would make it more likely to be influence by Iommi? Or should hairier primates stick with acoustic instruments, for safety purposes?

JAKE - Ray, this question is too crazy to even be answered. It should stand alone.

RAY - Even with all the things you guys have going on…what do you see down the road for the band? Any new songs taking shape yet?

JAKE - I have a few new songs I am working on, no plans for recording yet, we do plan on doing a solid two weeks next summer, maybe in July 2009 of the east coast.

RAY - Of course, you know I’m not going to let you slide without this one… Tell us an interesting anecdote, a funny story or an utterly obscene tale from the history of your time in VALKYRIE.

JAKE - Well, there are probably funnier tales to be told, but I am drawing a blank right now. But one time we were playing a little bar in Asheville NC, it was our first time playing there in that city. We were playing with a side-project of Chad Davis( US CHRISTMAS,HOUR OF 13) called D-LAB. Anyway, it was getting late, and only a few people were there for the show, so we were sitting at the bar bitching with the bartender about how no one supports good shows etc, blah blah blah. Almost as if on cue, a ton of kids started streaming down the stairs for the show- it was all the crusty "scene" kids basically. We were like, "ok , I guess we can play now- " and it turned out pretty well, everybody had a good time. Actually a couple of girls tried pretty hard to take Pete home with them that night. In a sad irony, it turns out the rumor had been spread that BARONESS was playing, and that's why all the kids came! I think they were pleasantly surprised, but BARONESS had played there before, and at that time played more crust/dbeat stuff so of course they were there for that, not clasic doom rock- but anyway, it was still a crowd. What can you do?

RAY - Any final comments?

JAKE - Ray, thanks alot for all the support over the years. From one true fan to another, thanks. I really appreciate the insightful questions and genuine interest.

VALKYRIE are a super-unique band. They not only write songs that will stand the test of time thanks to an awesome combination of heaviness and melody but also feature some of the best harmony lead guitar work this side of Thin Lizzy & Wishbone Ash. VALKYRIE write music that has enough depth to evoke the feelings of the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley and yet heavy enough to stomp your ass into oblivion. Check ‘em out now & get ready to sell your guitar!

A Truly BLIZARO interview!

There used to be a TV commercial for the investment company E.F. Hutton where they would imply that when this firm talks, people listen. There are some people out there in the music scene that garner the same respect from me. John Brenner (Revelation & Against Nature) is one of them. So, when John mentioned to me that if there was one disc available at the Declaration Of Doom Festival that I needed to check out that it was BLIZARO’s, I listened. When John went on to speak of his great admiration for BLIZARO man John Gallo and referred to him as an American Paul Chain, I really took notice. Having been familiar with Mr. Gallo’s other band, ORODRUIN, and their leveling brand of crushing traditional doom metal, I was anxious to find out more. This led me to diving head-first into “Blue Tape,” the latest installment in the BLIZARO world (see the “Stone Free” entry in the November blog), which features ORODRUIN man Mike Puleo as well. I then got together with John Gallo himself for a nice chat concerning his excellent music. Read on!

RAY - John, I have to admit that even though I’ve been involved in writing about heavy music for quite awhile now (and listening even longer!) I came into knowledge of ORODRUIN after you guys had already been going awhile, and BLIZARO as well. With that in mind, I’m interested in finding out a bit more about your early days, what got you involved in music to begin with, your early influences as a musician, etc. Basically you can give us a history of John Gallo, if you like. That way, when you write your autobiography, you can use this and put me in the acknowledgment section. ?

JOHN - Basically, it all started with my obsession with Iron Maiden back in 1992. I was about 13 going on 14 and was absolutely changed when I heard them. My cousin and I used to copy eachothers Maiden tapes, so it was an equal obsession. Around that year we decided to get a band together so I claimed my dad's acoustic and he got ahold of an old Sears brand electric guitar. Magic Migul was born. The music that we created was pure noise and failed riffs (mostly similar to the bass line in Rime of The Ancient Mariner, and the main riff to Smoke on the Water) with vulgar lyrics placed on top. That christmas I got a bass guitar and started to learn how to play, not good, but it was a start. We continued with our jam sessions, where we'd actually record both sides of 90 minute tapes worth of experimental music. The summer of 93 was spent creating "albums" and going to the mall looking for tapes, mostly Judas Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Samson, etc. In the case of Sabbath and Priest...not only the good ones, but the cheap tapes for $2.99 and CVS, or Rite Aid. The following christmas I got my first electric guitar, an Ibanez Destroyer II from The House of Guitars, for $150. That was a new dawning of Magic Migul mayhem that would resume up until 1996 and spawn about 13 albums on cassettes. Just about every tape sucked but it was fun and we thought it ruled at the time.
Anyways back towards musical influences. Around 1994 or 95 I read an interview with Dave Chandler in Metal Maniacs about Die Healing and I remember how awesome I thought that band was. I was really into Sabbath and wanted to pick up anything that resembled Iommi's guitar riffs. My first conscious doom metal cd acquisition came when I ran accross Saint Vitus "self titled" in a Media Play. As soon as I heard the first song I knew that this was my new favorite style of music. I believe Paul Chain's Alkahest was reviewed in that same issue of Metal Maniacs but unfortunately I never picked it up. Soon I started to absorb anything that was doom related and went in search of it. This ranging anything from Cathedral, C.O.C., The Obsessed, Candlemass, Witchfinder General, Pentagram, Trouble, etc . I was hooked and eventually started writing riffs in that vein and put together a personal web page called "Born Too Late" dedicated to doom metal.

RAY - As far as your listening goes, anybody these days doing anything that floats your boat?

JOHN - Anything by John Brenner mostly. The new Revelation “Release” is awesome. I’ve always got Against Nature on heavy rotation in my car. Listening to a lot of Paul Chain, “Life and Death“, “Park of Reason” , or “Detaching from Satan”. Saint Vitus, TGoS, Pale Divine, The Argus demo… I spin mostly prog and classic rock at work, Nektar, Syd Barrett, Bedlam, Toe Fat, Wishbone Ash, Budgie, Hawkwind, Atomic Rooster, Arthur Brown, etc.

RAY - How are things going with ORODRUIN and the next recording? I know it’s been quite awhile since “Claw Tower.” What can people expect from the new record, will it follow the path of the killer traditional doom we’ve heard on the band’s previous releases.

JOHN - I know it’s been way too long since our first album, I wouldn’t even count Clawtower as an actual album. We’re currently finishing up a long over due release that’s going to come out on Miskatonic Records. A 10” records called “In Doom”. The drums, guitars, and bass are done. All that is looming is the tracking for vocals by Mr. Puleo which have already started. I am excited to hear the final product and get this out to the masses. I hope people still dig what we’re doing.

RAY - The first time I saw ORODRUIN live was at John’s previous show, in 2007, the Doom Or Be Doomed festival. Besides your super-nasty guitar tone, I was taken with Mike Puleo’s vocals command & stage presence. He has some pretty intense facial expressions, reminds me of Bobby Liebling’s at times (from the old days, back when he could actually stand up onstage). Does this intensity ever scare you or do you figure he’s just trying to impress the ladies?

JOHN - Well he does got that natural ladies appeal goin on, like a young Robert Plant. Hah! He can kick out some doom metal drama in his delivery for sure. I’ve never really noticed similarities to Bobby but I’m sure he’ll take that as a compliment. Most of the time I’m just paying attention to my guitar tone so I don’t see what faces Mike makes onstage. heh

RAY - I am probably more sorry that I missed your BLIZARO set at DoD than any other show I’ve missed this year, after hearing your discs. Obviously, that is a whole different ball of wax from ORODRUIN. The one thing I noticed right off from listening to the CD’s is that you really seem to like experimenting with different guitar tones in BLIZARO. That’s something not many people do any more in rock of any kind. You hear a guy play and regardless of song, he’s still gonna have the same tone. In the “old days,” people like Billy Gibbons, Steve Hillage, Robin Trower, etc. were complete tone masters. I think that one other guy who is great at it nowadays is John Brenner of Revelation/Against Nature. Feel free to comment on any of this, your feelings on it, what kind of gear you use, etc.?

JOHN - The answer is simple, I write riffs based on the way they sound, with the tone I have dialed in. some riffs just don’t feel right unless you got the right sound going on. Well there is no “right” sound, but whatever tone I do have, I try to make the best of it by feeling out the best riff that accompanies that sound. Ofcourse, you can also blame my amateur recording skills on why each track sounds different, even on the same album for instance!

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE! Being from New York State, do you remember (or remember hearing about) a show called Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973? Which bands played? As a bonus, see if you can find out from my parents why they didn’t bring me into the world a few years earlier so I could have driven up there!

JOHN - Don‘t let my skullet fool you, I was born too late to remember that( I wasn’t spawned until 1978). That wouldn’t happen to be the show with Deep Purple, Elf, and a bunch of other killer bands? I think we have the original poster at the record store I work at.

RAY - BLIZARO really does embody the feel of stuff like Goblin and their work on horror soundtracks. (Feel free to comment on this, if you didn’t in the first question) The truly great thing about it, though is the way you also bring the metallic guitar sounds and give the whole thing a very original feel that makes it almost it’s own genre. Is this something you set out to do, did it just evolve naturally?

JOHN - I had Goblin in mind when I started Blizaro. I wanted it to be mix of horror soundtrack mood with raw doom metal like Saint Vitus, and Paul Chain. It’s a genre I rarely see anyone pulling off and thought it would be cool to start doing. Ofcourse, I feel the horror moods slipping a bit and myself going into a more traditional doom sound but I don’t wanna lose that aspect.

RAY - With “Blue Tape” now out on CD, what are your next plans for BLIZARO? Any recordings in the work as we speak?

JOHN - Actually, yes. I have a bunch of new material that I’m working on for a new release or 2. One for sure, is a 7” split with Peter Vicar (from Reverend Bizarre) ‘s Orne which should be out on Hellride music sometime early next year. This is a concept record inspired by the Night Gallery episode “The Return of The Sorcerer”.

RAY - WORD ASSOCIATION: Paul Chain. (Ok, hell, you can make is Paragraph Association if you want, anything anybody wants to say concerning this guy, I’ll listen).

JOHN - Back in 2003 this friend of mine, Vera (from Italy), turned me onto his music and since I’ve been hooked. I remember in the mid 90’s when I was only 16 or so, I read a review of Paul Chain “Alkahest” in Metal Maniacs and have always wondered about his music. Unfortunately it took me like 7 years to finally hear his stuff. I think what I like most is the feeling of the riffs intertwined with the atmosphere of the keyboards. It’s definitely the Sabbath inspired riffs mixed with haunting church like organs. Artistically, it’s creative and not limited to any one style which makes it enjoyable.

RAY - It seems like doom metal and it’s related genres has always been an underground proposition. Of course, Black Sabbath made their name very clearly, and groups such as Trouble have flirted with more mainstream acceptance but overall, it seems the domain of the pure artist and that select group of fans that appreciate them…a group that, while small, remains one of the most fiercely loyal and, for the most part, decent group of people around. Your commentary?

JOHN - It’s definitely a style that doesn’t seem to ever go mainstream though quite a few bands are making quite a name for themselves. I mean, The Gates of Slumber are on MTV which is pretty damn awesome! I think there is a lot of potential in this genre because it’s a very real and authentic scene of musicians who aren’t just trying to make it big. Trends come and go but the real doomers will be into this stuff till they die.

RAY - With that in mind, do you have any takers for a label to release the next ORODRUIN release? I imagine it could be even more difficult to get any kind of label interest for BLIZARO, although one I could picture being intrigued would be the mega-awesome Italian imprint, Black Widow. Or perhaps you’d rather go it alone, especially in an age when doing your own releases is a lot more possible with the net, cd-r’s, etc.?

JOHN - I’m not really sure where Orodruin wants to go label wise, we will be recording a 3 song demo with John Brenner this January. Basically we’d like to shop it around to various labels and see what formulates. As for Blizaro, I’d like to find something relatively open to avante garde music that won’t restrict what I’d like to put out. Black Widow sounds like a great label to work with, I’d love to do something with them.

RAY - Sticking to the state of doom & underground metal & music, how far afield have you gone playing live with either ORODRUIN or BLIZARO? Do you get to do much in the Rochester area? How far have you traveled to bring the doom, besides the Baltimore shows?

JOHN - Blizaro’s only out of town gig was in Baltimore, for the Declaration of Doom Fest. Both bands play Rochester gigs quite often, Blizaro not so much lately but I’ll probably book something soon. Orodruin has done a handful out of town shows such as….Toronto, Boston, DC, Cleveland, Long Island, Buffalo, etc. I’d say the longest for one gig would have to be Baltimore or DC.

RAY - In anywhere from 5 to 5,000 words, sum up for us the kind of woman who would attend a BLIZARO show. Or…has a woman ever attended a BLIZARO show? ?

JOHN - Hahah, The girls with the long black boots, crimson capes, and massive amethyst medallions! j/k
Mostly just regular girls, it’s really hard to describe the people who come out to your shows in details. They range from rock/punk chicks, to metal people to indie or even my mother! Don’t forget my beautiful girlfriend Michelle Zingo!

RAY - Funny stuff…or not…? Tell us a story, give us an anecdote about something weird, bizarre, stupid, funny or downright disgustingly gross that has happened connected with your being in ORODRUIN, BLIZARO, or any other band. It can be as ridiculous as you want, or as the truth will allow.

JOHN - This is a pretty lame story, but it’s the only one that came to mind. On Orodruin’s first tour back into 2003 with Mourning Beloveth and The Prophecy we were on our way back home from the west coast and we hadn’t take a shower for a couple days and we all feeling rather slimey. Anyway, I came up with this stupid idea to use hand sanitizer on my face. I ended up breaking out and getting pink eye. The combination of the smell of our combined odor ( including the foot odor of a label manager Mark Hegedus) was pretty damn gross. Plus we still had a day driving to go.

RAY - Any final comments for the readership?

JOHN - To the younger generations……Keep Doom alive, in this day and age it gets loosely tagged on so much crap that I hope the few out there who truly understand it’s meaning will continue to keep it in stable health. Thanks for the interview Ray, Paul Chain Rules!

This was really a great chat with John, and my recommendation is very clear. If you like traditional doom metal in the Sabbath / Vitus vein, grab anything you can with the word ORODRUIN written on it. By the same token, if dark music with the eerie vibe of Italian horror soundtracks and an original nod to the works of Paul Chain gets your blood pumping, John Gallo has got you covered there too! In other words, snag ‘em all!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Year Of Santeria - Review and Interview!

SANTERIA – “Year Of The Knife” CD ’08 (Golar Wash Records & Labs, US) – I’m no great chef. Just ask my wife and kids. If I put out a cook book, the mutha would be a short one: spaghetti & meat sauce, hot dogs, hamburgers, sloppy joes & chicken in the crock pot. It’s a joke that when my wife calls each night on her way home from work, she asks what I’m making and then runs to the nearest fast food place to find something actually edible. Hell, the only one who likes my stuff is the 17 year old and…well, he’s also the only human being I know who has made a sandwich out of potbellied pig feed. Ok, so I’m exaggerating a bit…he added some mayonnaise. The thing is, the fact that I am about as kitchen-challenged as Angelina & Brad have kids has never stopped me from enjoying the works of those who are not. See, I like to watch cooking shows and my favourite of all-time was the one by Cajun master, Justin Wilson. He was a delightful old guy from Louisiana who used to open his show with a robust “How y’all are?!” and would then proceed to whip up some fiery concoction that could singe as well as fill the belly. He’d finish up by taking a taste himself, then issuing a totally-satisfied “Hooo-weeee!!” Anyway, I just used to love watching him, listening to him talk in his deep accent, sharing his passion and “guar-on-tee-ing” that you were just gonna love his latest dish. It got me to really wanting to find a band from Louisiana who truly exuded a feel of the place. Sure, there were groups like Eyehategod, Crowbar & Down, all somehow connected to the New Orleans sludge thang, but where was a hard rock/metal unit that was really imbued with the spirit of the region? Enter SANTERIA, from Lafayette, Louisiana. To begin with, I’ve gotta say that I’ve been a Johnny-come-lately with these guys, being that their first record came out in 1998. (“Santeria”). They put out a disc of live/demo etc. stuff in 2000 (Apocalypse, Louisiana) in 2000 and then I finally stumbled upon ‘em in 2003 with their “House Of The Dying Sun” CD released that year. It was good stuff and caught my ear, surely as sonically-heavy as the crop of so-called stoner stuff inhabiting my listening at the time, and yet there was a significant depth to the songwriting that said “Something more is going on here.” The musical and lyrical dynamics stood out, as did a certain feeling I got from songs like “Laredo” and “Morningfall.” They spoke of their heritage, Louisiana and the South in a way that was far from the typical southern, pick-up-driving, Skynyrd-worshipping stuff I was used to. I looked forward to what this SANTERIA bunch would do next with great interest. And I looked forward…and looked forward…and, eventually, I kinda put ‘em on the back-burner as there was just no activity. Well, unbeknownst to me, there was some pretty serious activity. You see, drummer Krishna Kasturi had been involved in a very bad car accident and was unable to do any kind of playing for a long time. And, as I’ve come to learn, singer Dege Legg and guitarist Primo are not your run-of-the-mill, let’s-move-on-at-any-cost kinda guys. Instead, being super-righteous friends and band members, they decided they’d rather put things on hold and wait for Krishna to be able to return to the fold. And, so he has…along with new bassist Chad Willis. Together, the four of them have now produced a new CD and their first in 5 years, “Year Of The Knife.” To say that it’s a blinder would be the understatement of the year.
“Year Of The Knife” is an album of the rarest breed. By that, I don’t mean it’s hard to get. Just go to the SANTERIA site and you can have this puppy for $10 & change. You should. Soon. Yesterday. But more on that later, folks. Bear with me for the moment and I’ll try to explain why. You see, “Y.O.T.K.” is the kind of album Led Zeppelin used to make in their hey-day. Remember “Physical Graffiti?” Who doesn’t, right? Could you explain to someone what that whole record was like by playing “The Rover?” No. How ‘bout spinning “In My Time Of Dying,” would that sum it up? ‘Course not. Would you cover all it’s nuances by hitting “play” on “In The Light?” Not even close. That’s what kind of gorgeous art SANTERIA have created here. Man, the first 3 songs in and this baby’s got me reeled in already. This is massive, catchy-as-fuck hard rock from the word go, from the minute Primo audibly switches on his amps at the beginning of “Come On, Baby” through the grooving “Leave Something Witchy” and on to the Thin Lizzy-funk of “Nowhere To Go,” there simply isn’t an opening triad as sweet anywhere. Dege’s rich Lynott-like pipes fit like a glove and the band simmers like Cajun heat. And, then, just as soon as you think you’ve got SANTERIA down, they open up a can of “Haunted Heart” and swallow you into an emotional gulf that will leave you wrung out to dry. Surely, this mid-paced seether features a vocal performance by Dege Legg that is for the ages. When he belts out the chorus, I’m telling you, you’re going to feel chills that won’t stop for a long time. And then…the album starts to get REAL interesting! SANTERIA sweep you down a long and winding road into the heart of their country, into a place that is truly the deep south of their own, a land filled not by stereotypical southern trappings but a deep, visceral Cajun world that understands life at it’s most pure. It is a world that also understands that rock came from far older places to get to where it is. Listen to songs like “Mexico,” “HWY To The Morning Star,” and “My Right Thing Can’t Go Wrong.” Echoes of everything from Zydeco to Black 47 blend and flit like fireflies on a humid summer eve, as this band percolates with a heat very few will ever achieve. But, like any great band, SANTERIA don’t let you mark them for long. More heavy rawking comes your way shortly, courtesy of “You Got What I Need.” Is there a better chorus hook than this one out there in 2008? Play it for me. I know, you can’t. This is like a cross between something on “Jailbreak” and “Powerage,” just freaking awesome. And so, this wonderful band continues on, pulling one rabbit after another out of their hats. The truly haunting re-look at “Haunted Heart” in “Haunted Dub,” the closing twin pillars of “Year Of The Knife” and “House Of The Dying Sun,” yeah man, it’s all here. Much in the same way as those classic Zep albums like “…Graffiti,” “IV” and “Houses…,” “Year Of The Knife” is a simply fantastic union of styles, shades and colours that fuse together to create a whole much, much greater and far more beautiful than the sum of all their parts. If you only buy one rock album in 2008 thusfar, this should be the one…I GUAR-ON-TEE! 10.0

NOTE I: Since I’ve started my venture into a numerical rating system for albums here on the ‘REALM, I’ve given a handful of “10’s” to new albums (not counting classics in the Grand Halls). Each one of those, as is the nature of the beast in my opinion, has been at the absolute top of the game. “Year Of The Knife” is at the top of a lot of games. A LOT of frickin’ games!

NOTE: Read on for an interview with Primo and Dege Legg of SANTERIA. Much like their music, these are the words of men with great thought, depth and as such, have given me one of my favourite interviews ever. Read on!

RAY - I’m just going right for the jugular here to start out. I know that SANTERIA is the name of a religion, am I correct? Are any/all of you members of this faith? I don’t know a whole lot about it, but from what I understand, it’s gotten a bit of a bad rap from the general public due to people not taking the time to understand it. For instance, I seem to remember an episode of the TV show “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” that didn’t paint it in a very good light. Can you shed any light on any of this? Or, perhaps you simply picked the name because it sounded cool and I’m a raving idiot?

DEGE - 1) It sounded cool. 2) It kind of summed up who we were as a band—a rag-tag collection of dudes from different ethnic backgrounds and upbringings and such…kind of like the origin of the Santeria religion, which is like this colorful combination of things. Part Africa, part Catholic-honky, part Cuban/Latin-American.

PRIMO - In New Orleans the mixture of West African slave religion and Catholicism is referred to as Voodoo, in the Caribbean it's called Santeria. Anyone who has been down here has felt it….there is always a strange “Halloween in the air” of New Orleans. The name is a mystique to me more than anything, yet south Louisiana has its share of haunted haunts, creature infested swamps, and Hoodoos. Over the years, the band has consisted of many different faiths...Catholic, Hindu, Rasta, and Agnostics.

RAY - Are you guys all from Louisiana originally?

DEGE - I was born & raised in small town Louisiana—Cajun-Irish with some Cherokee. Krishna is from India. Primo and Chad were raised here, too. It’s a strange place to grow up—it’s like this strange tropical-ghetto-European paradise with people speaking bastardized French/Creole, eating bugs out ditches, cooking pigs in the ground, flying around on fan boats, trapping reptiles, and have a really good time doing it. My grandparents had 5th grade educations, worked in the fields, and saved enough money to send my mom to college. Hard working folks with an indomitable spirit and great sense of humor—a righteous combination. I have much admiration for them. They were tough. Soulful and not mean spirited. People equate toughness with this me-first-you-later mentality, but true strength is measured in how much you give without being asked.

PRIMO - I was born in El Paso, TX….My dad was stationed there after Vietnam. When I was a year old, I made the journey back to Louisiana in the backseat of a yellow Volkswagen beetle with no air conditioner. When we approached the Louisiana boarder I began to sweat profusely, so my parents stripped me down naked to keep me from having heat stroke…..Welcome to Louisiana kid!

RAY - How does the music of the geographical area you’re from come into play with your music? Did music from the area such as Zydeco influence you at all? What else played a role in inspiring the musicians that became SANTERIA, early in your lives and now?

DEGE - If anything, we rebelled against the Cajun/Zydeco influence because it was all around us and we wanted to do something other than squeeze accordions. What you realize later is that you can never completely purge those roots—it’ll always find its way back into your art. Everything around you is an inspiration—you just have to see the meaning in it. That’s the challenge and the “art.” Everything—even the bad shit—is a celebration of life.

PRIMO - Well, it all seeps into you from an early age. People love their good food, drink, and merriment around here. Since both my parents worked quite a bit, I spent a hell of a lot of afterschool time with my grandparents. They were from a time long gone. A generation that survived war, poverty and recession. From them, I absorbed the Cajun culture. Be it music, food, or the oral tradition of storytelling. It made me who I am today. Back at home, it was vinyl, 8 Tracks players in plush 1977 custom vans, and the steady infusion of classic rock n’ roll, vintage R&B, and old country…

RAY - I’m a bit geographically-challenged…among other things…but, how close is Lafayette to New Orleans? How were you guys affected by hurricane Katrina a few years back? Is it still affecting your daily lives?

DEGE - Lafayette is two hours west of New Orleans. When people think of Louisiana they think of New Orleans, but they visualize swamps, alligators, Cajun hillbillies, and water everywhere. We are the swamps. New Orleans is more jazz, funk, and urban sprawl. Lafayette is like the Cajun Capital. We were just grazed by Katrina. I had a job driving a cab at that time, so I saw lot of shit first hand. Ferrying carloads of people to and from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lake Charles. It was like the Wild West in blackout mode. No speed limits. Buses and boats everywhere. Dead cars lining I-10. People getting drunk on FEMA cards. Families sleeping in cars in Wal-Mart parking lots. Hotels booked solid for 4 months. Very strange and apocalyptic, but also freaky-cool in a pre-end of the world kind of way.

PRIMO - A lot of death and insane constitutional breakage went down that no one has ever questioned. Someday there will be books written about the conspiracies behind New Orleans and Katrina…Enough said. Being two hours away, Lafayette became a spillway for the poor displaced people of New Orleans. Overnight, military Blackhawk helicopters began to buzz about town like it was a DMZ…a real warzone…the president was here. National guard troops everywhere. So, I go down to the corner store to get a six pack and notice a mini-van stalled at the pumps…there is an elderly man in the driver’s seat…he is white…he is dressed like he is on his way to church….his head is in his hands….crying there is a wife…and a daughter?…also a child…all dressed for what seems like a funeral...there are cardboard boxes crammed within to the roof…..I look at them and say, “Can I help you?”…and his wife answers, “You can pray for us…we have lost everything…our retirement home…everything.” I said, “Sure, I can do that. God bless you.” The media often portrayed New Orleans “refugees” in an unfavorable light, but in reality, there were many many good folks displaced. Some great people fell in love with Lafayette and made it their home.

RAY - Sticking with this Louisiana subject…I promise, I’ll get off it in a minute…are you guys friends with people in the so-called NOLA scene like Down, Eyehategod, Crowbar, etc.? What is it about the area that you think produces such sludge-infected, heavy stuff? How do you feel your stuff differs?

DEGE - We’re not really tight with those bands. Not sure why. I respect them, but we’re more like freaky geeks from the country…and they’re the masters of sludge. I don’t know why we sound different other than we live in our own bubble and follow our own vision of things. I mean, we probably could’ve gained a lot of fans by jumping that train, but it absolutely would not have done us right on the long run, because it belongs to them…and what we have, I can say with modesty, belongs to us.

PRIMO - The sludge comes from the surrounding swamps…or better…the humidity. It makes your underwear stick to your ass…you need a shoehorn to get them off.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: What’s up with the Saints? How come they’re not 7-0? Have you sent Drew Brees a copy of “Year Of The Knife?”

DEGE - It is what it is. Getting emotionally involved in Saints football is like riding in a hot air balloon full of weird gas. After a while, you just let it be.

PRIMO - My philosophy is that there are too many distractions in NOLA…too many drugs…too many women…and enough drink to drown your soul. Drew bought one.

RAY - Your last record came out in 2003 and, from what I understand you guys had some real personal problems during the period after that. Wasn’t Krishna in an accident or something like that and you decided to wait for his return, is that right? If so, that’s some seriously righteous stuff on your part, man.

DEGE - House of the Dying Sun came out in 03. We gigged and toured for another year, and then Krishna’s car got hit head on by an 18-wheeler guy who’d lost control of his rig. Two broken legs, an ankle, and an arm. Bad times. We were ten years in as a band at that point and Kris was in a wheelchair for the next year. Followed by another of physical rehab. We put the band on hold, till whenever, not really knowing what would happen. Finding another drummer was never an option—he and I are the founding members of the band. Plus, no one can play like him—a weird polyrhythmic Hindustani style that we all adapted to, because we didn’t know any better. “Don’t all drummers play like this?” Everyone went back to the straight world and I played music and toured while Kris rehabbed. A few years later…and he’s ready to play again and wants to record. I already had 90% the songs written for the next record, so it was just a matter of working them out with the band and recording. It’s kind of like Def Leppard without the money, label, fan base, limousines, or houses.

PRIMO - It’s a mystery and miracle Krishna is still alive. Kris broke quite a few bones, but thank God his spine and cranium were untouched. After many surgeries, rods and pins later, the album title “Year of the knife” has new meaning. Ha. So, when Kris called and said he was ready to make a new cd….Dege and I had our doubts…but after 3 years of inactivity…we converged in the studio and laid down the entire album of basic tracks in three days. Krishna is back and badder than ever. There was never any thought of replacing him. He is irreplaceable.

RAY - Finally (!!!) getting to “Year Of The Knife,” it’s hard to know where to begin as the album has such depth. Your music does not sound like “southern rock” per se and yet, it has an unmistakable feel of being from the south. Does this make any sense or do I sound just like some poor journalist who is floundering for questions?

DEGE - No, you’re on the money. The thing is with this record I wrote about things outside of the sphere of the South. But however spacey we try to get, it still ends up sounding like dudes from the Deep South. We try to write about our version of the south, rather than the beaten-to-death-one that has come before. I see the south more like an alternate American reality. Like a haunted, national subconscious. Dying Sun was a like a soundtrack to us growing up. Whereas Year of the Knife is like us stretching our legs and taking on things outside the borders of the south. More like a national or world perspective as in “Where the fuck is humanity going? What does it all mean? When will it end?” And why?

PRIMO - Yes, it does make sense. Culture influences life, while art imitates life. So, even if a small fraction of the sights and sounds of Louisiana mysteriously permeates into our song, it’s something special and unique to this world.

RAY - The album has a real interesting flow. Ok, that was a weak. It goes from song to song. I thought that was an interesting attempt at humor! No seriously, the album starts out really heavy and rocking, then goes into an interesting stage in the middle where a lot of other things creep in, more acoustic work, more haunting kind of stuff, before moving back to more hard stuff again. It’s a flow that works really well and I’m wondering if you’d like to comment or, instead say something smart-assed like “Then what the fuck order do YOU want the songs in, Ray??!”

PRIMO - You hit the nail on the head Ray. We have always considered our albums as a whole work, and have pulled songs if they didn’t work into the grand scheme. A well thought out running order can make a good album a great one. Since “Year of the Knife” is such a dense album, it was grouped into sections of emotion/mood shifts like classic bands used to utilize on sides of vinyl. Slowly, as this album builds, it gets a bit more southern and then a bit more strange….after the hard rocking coda of “You Got What I Need”, the listener is really taken into unchartered territory. Hopefully, the listener will discover something new on each subsequent listening.

DEGE - It’s a seduction process. Here’s what you know we can do…and now here’s something you may have not heard before…but it’s still us. And to be honest, it’s always been us, but we weren’t necessarily good enough to pull it off on past albums. But it gives us something to strive toward. Even if it’s was just a simple song that requires playing less and instead of showboating and ham boning. The key to a great song is not wanking—it’s in trying to make the next guy’s part sound better. It goes round in a circle.

RAY - There are a couple songs in particular I was wondering if you could comment on, both musically and lyrically…if you don’t mind (I’m making a couple comments myself, so there!)

a. “Nowhere To Go” – Kind of a Thin Lizzy vibe to this one, especially.

DEGE - It’s like a small town mantra: I got nowhere to go; you got nowhere to be. And there’s nothing really to do here—not even the prospect of going out in a some kind of dramatic fashion. Lyrically, it’s a pretty simple song, which I like. Not every song has to take on the world, because that just gets ponderous and annoying. It can just lay there and be about something simple as nothing.

PRIMO - Sonically, it kinda evokes those 70s classic rock songs that didn’t necessarily make the radio, but ended up in the cassette deck of your old man’s Pontiac…at the drive in…with your high-school-pink-pantyed-girlfriend’s ass in your face.

RAY - b. “Haunted Heart” / “Haunted Dub” – The first one is just really super-intense, the chorus, man when you sing “haunted heart,” the vocals just go right to my core. “Haunted Dub” I was a little afraid of before I heard it, I was thinking, “Fuck, are SANTERIA doing a dance mix or something?!” But it’s not at all. Can you explain the connection between the 2 songs?

DEGE - Those guys were deathly afraid that people were going to think “Haunted Dub” was some kind of dance/disco rock song, because the groove is deep and jamming. It makes you want to move. We got in NUMEROUS arguments over it. I had to pretty much threaten to quit the band to get them to agree to put it on the record. There’s a conservative streak in rock music that says “If it hasn’t been done before; DON’T DO IT.” It’s limiting and honestly not that inspiring to me. Not that we’re reinventing the wheel. The original “Haunted Heart” was a song I demo’d on 4-track—same arrangement, riffs, lyrics—and “Haunted Dub” is a trance-like mutation of that. I like the idea of shaman and music serving as some kind of spiritual conduit to something bigger and unknown.

PRIMO - Well, Dege really fought to get “Haunted Dub” on the album…Kris, Chad, and I all feared people would hear it and be turned off…Still, Dege wanted it explicitly called “Haunted Dub.” I tried to bargain. So, the placement in the running order was crucial. It’s basically the same song stripped down with a different grove and some vocal hijinks.

RAY - c. “My Right Thing Can’t Go Wrong” – Just a really different song!

DEGE - Basically, it’s I-IV-V blues song…but with a Major VI – Flat VII change. That’s probably the most boring thing I’ve ever said in my life. I hate I-IV-V songs—they kind of bore me, but you can’t get away from them—they’re everywhere. So I’m like, “Fuck it, I hate I-IV-V’s—let’s write one!” It’s a fun song and it lightens the dark moodiness of the record. I like music that doesn’t always brood. A whole record of broodiness is, like, “Fuck, I’m brooded out.” I love Slayer, but I also know those guys have kids and probably go to Disneyland and shit with them once in a while—why don’t they ever write about that?

PRIMO - It’s the equivalent to “Hellbent Woman” from our last cd…in vain of the Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers” or “Sweet Virginia.” We wanted to give things a South Louisiana Cajun/Zydeco feel. Though the song may be slightly different from our musical norm, it’s not too far a stretch considering our cultural surroundings. We called in a few friends. The song includes prominent Cajun musicians Steve Riley (accordion), Roddy Romero(slide solo), and Sonny Landreth’s bass player, David Ranson. Dave saved the day after our bass player Chad Willis was sick in hospital fighting malaria. Tony Daigle rounded it all up by playing rub board.

RAY - d. “Year Of The Knife” – Gotta talk about the title cut, right?

DEGE - It’s a Middle-Eastern Spaghetti Western song. “Mexico” is written with the same kind of cinematic aesthetic—but more like a requiem for a Neal Cassidy-type character. I dig those old Clint Eastwood – Ennio Morricone soundtracks. I like it when songs seem like movies and have a big world inside of them….parallel to ours. I wrote the lyrics to “Year of the Knife” as a dystopian future revolution-escape from the burning of Sodom & Gomorrah post-New World Order type thing—if that makes any sense. Anunnaki Kings. Ancient Sumerians. Zecharia Sitchin. Off the grid humanoids turning to pillars of salt as they avoid FEMA concentration camps and the reptilian royalty/cowboy agenda of warmongers, greed, chem.-trails, and population control.

PRIMO - The song came from one of my experiments with a made up tuning several years ago. I gave Dege a demo, and he came back with a chord change and an awesome soul wrenching vocal and spoken word section. From there it was slowly built in our home studio to what it is today. Really, it was never truly finished. Like they say, good art is often never completed, it’s just abandoned. A song steeped in the vintage sounds of psychedelia. The lyrics evoke the ancient astronuts,
RAY - What would you think if, at a SANTERIA gig, the girl who played Calypso in “Pirates Of The Carribean” came up to you and said, “You guys are bigger rock stars than Johnny Depp, what are you doing after the gig?”

DEGE - I would assume it was case of mistaken identity.

PRIMO - I would probably think she was just a promo company represenitave in disguise. Always waiting for the sales pitch. For so long, we have done what we do without any real industry support. Other than a few friends that have helped us from the kindness of their hearts, we are alone and that’s ok.

RAY - What’s the next thing in store for SANTERIA? Do you plan on putting the next one out on an independent basis or are you looking for a deal? Do you think in today’s Internet environment, getting a record deal is as important as it used to be?

DEGE - Success is a weird concept. Do you measure it by wealth? Fame? How many people buy your record? Or know your name? Or do you measure it by how happy you are or by creative achievement? I think chasing the dollar or fame is a deadend empty promise. It’s like a drug that turns you into a fiend. And you need more. It’ll never completely satisfy you. So you end up chasing that carrot, rather than pursing the creative heights you should be going for. Friends, family, and creative/productive pursuits are the keys to a fulfilling life. I’m just grateful to be able to make music with people I get along with and to do it in a way that sends a secret, telepathic message to other people around the world. The record labels, the music magazines, and the promo companies—they all exist to feed each other. After a certain level, it’s not a matter of talent—it’s a matter of how much money they are willing to spend on your crap—even on the independent level to some extent. It takes money to push things into people’s faces, which is kind of insulting and disingenuous, I think. In some ways I think we’ve been blessed by the lack of interest from record labels, because it’s kept us hungry and pure. If you make good music, it WILL find it’s way to people out there. It may take years, but people will respond if it’s a true expression of who you are…even if that expression isn’t very flattering.

PRIMO - Record deals definitely help fund projects, but we are rely not relying on one. It’s amazing how we get overlooked. I’m not saying we are the world’s best band, but I know we have something unique to offer the world. Basically, if people get as much joy listening to our music as we do making it, our purpose is served. So, we have another album of material ready to rip, but it takes cash to buy studio time. We’ll keep releasing albums independently until someone wakes up.

RAY - Do you think the day is coming that there will be no more physical formats for music and it’ll be all download?

DEGE - Go one step further. What is there’s an apocalypse or a nuclear war and we have no electricity or computers or record players? Where will music exist? Will there be ANY formats? It’ll go right back to where it was hundreds of years ago—folk songs, Appalachian Ballads, oral tradition, bluegrass, Cajun music, and Delta blues. Electronic forms of music won’t exist—unless you are one of the elites living in an underground bunker, sipping tea while the world burns—because they are too dependent on technology. Death metal won’t exist because you won’t have distortion—maybe you’ll have Death Folk, but you can’t palm-mute a banjo. The only thing that will survive that kind of event is music you can play on acoustic instruments. That’s it! Good, simple songs that anyone can play. I love technology—I’m fascinated by it just like everyone. But in the back of my mind, I think, “What if it all disappears…just like during hurricanes when we have no electricity for weeks at a time. What will be left?” And the answer is: oral tradition and folk music. Everything else will slowly disappear into the collective unconscious until civilization rebuilds itself.

PRIMO - Oh, those days are upon us…sad indeed. As a young kid, I remember the magic of a gatefold LP, be it the Mexican food paradise of “Tres Hombres” or the twilight netherworld of “Houses of the Holy.” They were all larger than life to me. Album art is king. Thankfully, from what I hear, there was been a resurgence of vinyl. Time will tell if it’s just a retro fad. Someday, we would love to issue our last two albums on vinyl. A good album always deserves a good cover. I think we did it this time.

RAY - What is gigging like for you guys? Do you get many chances to play out in your area? Is halftime at a Saints game a possibility? What about touring, how far have you gone?

DEGE - Over the past few years, during Santeria down time, I’ve toured both the U.S. and Europe in various roots bands and I don’t plan on stopping. Whether or not these guys want to do that, who knows? If we had the backing of a bigger label, it probably wouldn’t be an issue.

PRIMO - Well, we are like the Beatles post 1965. Almost no touring happens other than the occasional rooftop gig. Instead, we chose to take a break and finish the album. So, we do a handful of gigs a year and they are always great events. Santeria have been all over the US, but never to Europe. The band has such an awesome following there that we would love to make that a priority. Saints fans would probably be upset to see our ugly mugs. I’m sure they would rather see halftime cheerleader T&A. We are talking about New Orleans!

RAY - Here’s one everybody seems to like! Tell us a story about something that has happened with the band, either on the road, in the bayou, wherever…that is crazy, nuts, insane or just plain sick!

PRIMO - Well, on the ‘House of the Dying Sun” tour through the west coast, I ate an ungodly amount of Mexican food. Spicy food is in my DNA! After a gig one night, in the early morning hours, Dege happen to be driving the van and Jay Guins (bass) was keeping him entertained. The rest of the band was thought to be asleep. Suddenly, my stomach began to grind. Unsuspecting to Dege and Jay, I hit them with a SBD (silent but deadly) gas attack! Dege and Jay were disgusted, perplexed, and somehow convinced that they must have ran over some road kill carnage. Anyway, my late night indesgressions and gaseous explosions warranted a sudden stop at a car wash. I played like I was sleeping and kept ripping the gas. I laughed my ass off while still acting asleep as Dege hosed off the undercarriage of the van thinking we’d run over a carcass or something.

DEGE - Last year, while I was driving a cab on the nightshift, I picked up a redneck in a trailerpark. He was drunk, nuts, and wanted to smoke crack. So we drove to this country ghetto drug spot. He bought crack there and insisted on taste testing it with his tongue. While he was doing that we almost got shot, so I floored it and we split. Upon arriving back at his trailer, he argued with me over the price of the fare. He went into his house to get more money. While inside, I figured I had enough time to piss in a cup I had under the seat. It was cold outside. Less than a minute later, he comes out. I’m still pissing in the cup, so I stop and set it on the dashboard of the cab. He hops in and gives me half of what he owes me. We argue. Voices and tempers rise. He pulls out an ink pen and tries to stab me. I push him away, and having nothing to stab him back with, instinctively grab the thing nearest—the full cup of piss—and throw it in his face. I don’t think he knew it was piss. I tossed him out of the cab and pealed out in his front yard like I was at a drag race. He was an idiot.

RAY - Any final comments?

DEGE - Keep fighting the Good Fight…there is no other. Seriously. Don’t settle for the lesser of two evils in any situation. Push toward the light. And purge the Fear from your body. Love is the way—it sounds silly, I know, like I’m some goony hippy, but it’s the truth. To quote Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”…but rage against the dying of the light. I’m totally fucking serious.

PRIMO - Buy the CD so I can eat more Mexican food. No really, the proceeds from this one will fund the next. If you dig the band, please kindly give us a hand. You wont be disappointed.

What a great conversation and what a great band. There are very few times that Ray is reduced to being un-wordy but all I can say is this. Buy SANTERIA’s CD’s. Now.