Tuesday, November 25, 2008

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…..plus 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!


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