Friday, March 20, 2009

WORDS FROM THE ELDER - Nick DiSalvo Speaks!

A reporter once asked Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk how he was feeling at the end of a particularly grueling season. Fisk sighed wearily and said, “Like a New England maple: all tapped out.” Well, one thing’s for certain & that’s that Massachusetts’ ELDER is far from all tapped out. What we have here are a trio of quite young guys who have issued a pulverizing debut that calls to mind the best works of Yob, early High On Fire & Electric Wizard & then ratchets it up with a dose of melody and surprisingly mature song writing. Read on to find out more about this crushing crew as I converse with guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo.

RAY - I am a little fuzzy on exactly what has gone on with the release of the “Elder” disc. I thought I’d seen mention of it online with dates going back to 2007. Then I see a release listed as 2008 and finally, a release on Meteor City shown as Jan 13, 2009. What’s the story?

NICK - Well, we initially recorded the disc in I believe July of 2007 and sent it around to some labels and zines and whatnot, hoping to at least generate some interest if not get it released by someone. The songs are by now actually pretty damn old! We ended up sitting on it for about a half a year until MeteorCity got in contact with us about releasing it. Then, due to some artwork delays and whatnot, the actual disc didn't get pressed until sometime in 2008. Finally, the release date in January was the street date, the disc was actually available online at for some time beforehand. Phew...

RAY - What’s up in Massachusetts? Have you always lived there? I’m told you guys are pretty young, what are your backgrounds/influences in music?

NICK - In Massachusetts? Hardly anything, unless you live in Boston (and even then in my opinion not much). Although I'm a fan of the coastal scenes around here, and the old colonial style architecture. I guess as far as the States goes, it's not bad. The other two guys have always lived here but I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, so I've kind of been all around. As for our age, admittedly we are pretty young (twenty) and we've actually got kind of a shared background in music. We met about at the onset of high school, though Jack and I had known each other since earlier, and played in a shitty metalcore band, a thrash band, and some other weird projects together before we started getting into good music (ha ha). I guess I consider it good that we've gotten a little experience in playing different styles of music before, it kind of gave us another perspective on what we definitely do and don't want to play. Oh, and what scene to avoid.

RAY - How’s it feel being in a part of the country that has some pretty damn good sports teams? Somebody offers you season tickets to either the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics or Bruins, which do you take?

NICK - You know, I personally don't give a shit. I think the other guys are more into sports but none of us exemplify the notion of the typical New England sports douche bag (I guess that actually says a bit about how I feel about sports fans around here). I'd definitely take the Bruins tickets, though, I don't think I've ever even been to a hockey game.

RAY - ELDER is a 3-piece, the old power-trio format. What appeals to you about that kinda line-up? Have you ever played in a 2-guitar setting? Can you comment on some of the differences as a player?

NICK - I'm glad you mentioned this! I love playing as a three piece because of the simplicity behind it. We initially chose to keep a simple lineup because (1) we didn't need any other instrumentalists, so it seemed, and (2) band practice was made simple. I always hated having to plan practice around like 5 peoples' work schedules. But later on I realized bands who are three pieces and can really pull it off are just totally badass. Look at bands like Colour Haze, Dead Meadow, and Sgt. Sunshine. They have a totally full, amazing sound with just three people. Admittedly we're far from on par with any of those bands in my opinion, but it's something to strive for. Also having only one guitarist keeps us focused as a rock band, as there's only so much noodling possible. We've tried jamming in a two guitar setting before, but for me personally it just never works because I'm sort of a control freak and I feel like the character of the lead guitarist gets kind of lost when competing with a rhythm. Other than that I have found myself trying to tell them exactly what to play and how to play it, which really isn't fair and is probably very annoying.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: A woman comes up to you at an ELDER show. She’s hot as shit, looks like one of the “Desperate Housewives” and says to you, “I’m your elder. What can I do to educate you?” How do you respond?

NICK - Hahaha. I think in all honesty I'd probably laugh and look around nervously. But in an ideal world I think I'd pull something like "I don't know, how about we fuck?"

RAY - “Elder” contains 5 quite long songs. The interesting thing is, none of them even verge on boring because they include a ton of changes and riffs that keep the listener’s attention without ever becoming too chaotic. Is this simply a natural way of writing for you or do you have to consciously think about balancing the song-length with making things interesting?

NICK - Thanks a lot for the compliments. That style of writing is sort of half-natural, half-planned. When working on a new song, we try to never put a riff in if it doesn't feel like it belongs, or if it's forced, or if it's just too generic sounding. It doesn't always succeed, but I'm satisfied with the way the album came out as a whole. Generally we have sort of an editing process where we trim stuff or decide where something new needs to be created, and the songs just end up being long because for me a song just can't fit into 3-4 minutes. It's an idea that needs to be refined and built upon and developed until it's more of a story or something, if you follow.

RAY - The album includes “Riddle Of Steel Pt. 1,” then “Ghost Head” then “Riddle Of Steel Pt. 2.” Can this be seen as some sort of concept piece?

NICK - Conceptually, yes, Riddle Pt.1 and Pt.2 follow a common theme but Ghost Head is just in between to break up the two and doesn't follow the concept. Musically, the two weren't really written to have anything to do with each other and came out pretty different.

RAY - Give us a “gear” rundown. I’m assuming you guys are pretty fucking loud, eh?

NICK - Yeah, but never loud enough! I play a Jackson DXMG (my beloved guitar that I've had since my more "metal" days... I'm just too broke to get something better) through a 70's Sound City 120 modded to a Hiwatt DR103. I route it through an Avatar 2x12 and a Marshall 4x12 and use a ProCo Rat, some Boss wah, and a Carbon Copy. Jack's got a Sunn 190L and just runs it through a Muff and Matt's got a Ludwig set.

RAY - What’s the deal with gigs for ELDER these days? Do you play live a lot in the New England area? How much touring have you done outside your home base? Aren’t you playing in Maryland later this year at some kind of doom fest?

NICK - We play fairly often around in Providence and Boston, but other than that we don't travel around much because we're all in school and I'm the only one with ample transportation for our shit. We tried to piece together a week long mini-tour a few summers ago and it totally fell apart aside from a few shows, and it ended up being really shitty. This summer we're hoping to plan a small tour, possibly with Black Pyramid, and we are playing at the Stoner Hands of Doom Fest in Maryland this upcoming September, which we're all stoked for.

RAY - What kind of deal do you have in place with Meteor City? Are there any new ELDER epics you can tell us about?

NICK - MeteorCity just released the self titled album and nothing more at this point, though we've gotten a pretty good reception from the album and hopefully we will continue to have a good relationship, maybe even with another release on the label. But it's really too soon to say... As for the new epics, we've got about 3 new songs finished and as you know that's about 3/5 of an album, and I've got a few more in the works. I'd say it's safe to expect another Elder cd recorded this summer, and with a bit of a departure from the old sound. I'm sick of hearing about how akin to Sleep we sound, and it hasn't caused me to try and write differently just to avoid those kind of references, but I'll say the new stuff definitely won't draw the standard stoner metal comparisons. I'd like to think its more mature, more focused, and certainly more melodic, and we may scare away some of our doomier fans but I think those with an open mind will understand that progression is natural (and healthy, in my opinion).

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Someone says to you, “I’ll give you _______ for free if you shave all your hair off.” What would have to be in the blank?

NICK - A 1960s Klemt Echolette. I'd even go skinhead for one of those. Other than that, I think you'd be hard pressed to strike a deal!

RAY - Story time! Something weird, disturbing or hilarious has to have happened during the history of ELDER! Tell us about it!

NICK - I mentioned earlier that we tried to put together a tour of sorts by ourselves a few years ago. Well, one of those shows that was hooked up by a friend of a friend was supposed to be in a warehouse, which I understood to be a practice space, in Holyoke, western Mass. We pulled up to the address some time in the afternoon in one of the shittiest neighborhoods in one of the shittiest cities I had ever been to, but that was no deterrent. The strangeness started when we met up with the guy who owned the warehouse and loaded in. He was actually quite a nice guy and all, but it turned out he had done apparently no fliering for this "show" whatsoever, and the other "bands" with whom we played were some acoustic/noise groups made up of what appeared to be meth addicts who just wandered in off the street. That might be a little harsh. The "show" took place in this enormous 3rd story warehouse space filled with garbage everywhere, there were no audience members, and the entire thing was serenaded by the sound of rain off the roof. I just remember looking at the other guys and not knowing if I could hold off from shitting myself laughing as this one dude sat in the middle of this ridiculously huge space on the floor playing acoustic guitar and moaning to himself.

RAY - Any final comments?

NICK - Thanks for the interest and support of the band, keep your eyes peeled for a new release in the near future!

So, hey out there, what are you waiting for?! This is one young band who are surely wise beyond their years and you could do well to show your own brains by hurrying on down to your local heavy music emporium and procuring their disc!

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