Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Skykrakken Ascends...CORSAIR interview!!!

Nobody likes anything more than a great surprise, right? Well, one of the biggest surprises of 2010 so far for this writer was the arrival of the “Alpha Centauri” CD EP from Virginia’s CORSAIR. Besides being packaged in one of the most killer DIY sleeves I’ve seen in a month of Sundays, this short-but-lethal slab of plastic kills! We’re talking references like Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Bowie & Valkyrie, so you know you need to read on to find out what makes this high-powered offense tick. Find out the skinny from Paul Sebring (guitar, vocals), Marie Landragin (guitar, vocals) and Jordan Brunk (bass, vocals). CORSAIR is completed by Aaron Lipscombe (drums). Leigh Ann Leary played drums on the EP.

Ray - My father was (and still is, at 83) a wise man, which is probably why a dope-ass like me has argued with him all the time. One thing this gnarled old dude has always told me is to start at the beginning. So, let’s do that. How did you get into music to begin with, who were your influences and how, in the great scheme of the cosmos did all this eventuate into the birth of the sonic beast we now know as CORSAIR?

Paul - I saw Mass Sabbath a year before I joined and there was this totally cool chick playing awesome solo's and she had a huge scary black mask with light up eyes (obviously homemade) and I turned to my girlfriend and said "Who's that?!?" and she said " That’s Marie Landragin the coolest girl in C-ville" and I said "Damn". Then a year later I got to be in Mass Sabbath and afterwards Marie asked in her hilariously cool Aussie accent " Hey pool ye wanna gitup an play gitaah someday?" and that was the day Corsair was born. After a few weeks Marie said she knew a girl who played drums, a shy girl named Leigh Ann Leary (the drummer on the record) whom Marie had known for years. She came by and we started playing some AC/DC jammers. Then a few weeks later we met a tall drink o’ water, with a smile big as the day is long, named Jordan Brunk who practiced with The Nice Jenkins in the house beside Marie's. He came over just to jam and he’s been with us ever since. Our first song was called "Electric Giant" which was played out only once before being scrapped. Though my voice is the only one on the record (except the chorus of “Black Ships”) we all sing in live situations and there are now several new songs where the main vocal is either Marie's or Jordan's. In the beginning I started singing simply because we didn’t have a vocalist (though there was talk of having a singer for a while as it felt like I was only singing to fill a space) but after a while I began to enjoy it and having Marie and Jordan sing as well has given it a much fuller sound, I believe.

Marie - Paul pretty much nailed it. I had played in different bands over the years but I wanted to do something more technical, more challenging, something more guitar driven involving imagery of the cosmic sort. When I met Paul though Mass Sabbath everything clicked between him and I musically, and from there the band sort of happened effortlessly. I was exposed to a lot of classical music (Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Mendlesohn) in my childhood and later, as a teenager, I connected with the hard rock greats (Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Yes, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Metallica). Thanks to my parents I was given a classical guitar, which spurned my desire to learn every sweet guitar riff I had heard!

Jordan - I studied music at UVA and had learned to play bass within my last year of college. I met some folks at school and started a band, The Nice Jenkins, in Charlottesville. One day I was unloading my equipment after playing a gig with my band and I overheard what sounded like two folks playing guitar hero and was drawn to their virtuosity. One afternoon, from across the fence Marie asked if I wanted to play bass with her and Paul. I couldn’t say no and found myself deep in the world of prog rock before I knew it. My musical influences stem from jazz fusion and 70’s funk but then Corsair led me to Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath giving a harder edge to my style. My schooling was put to the test when I was invited to join Mass Sabbath in 2008.

Ray - I can tell from some of the things on your Facebook that you’re into cars. I also believe that CORSAIR is some kind of car, isn’t it. Tie all this shit together for us, if you don’t mind and set our minds at ease as to how this band became known as CORSAIR.

Paul - Corsair is several things; a WW2 fighter gull wing airplane or 17th century French barbary pirate or an air filter company perhaps? We became so-called because of the first two. We felt it conveyed a sort of swagger and trick, as in the way we like to write in our music. Even just the taste of the word itself: a hard C, a soft O, tricky R into a slick S, the skyborne and dignified AIR bringing the word to gentle close, that’s why I guess.

Marie - I think there was a Corsair sedan made by Ford in England in the early 60’s and in Australia in the early 90’s. I was born and raised in Australia so anything Australian is a “go” especially the delicious breakfast spread, Vegemite. I also have a ’57 Ford, so any connection to automobile history is pertinent to me. In addition, the name seemed to fit well in our minds for several reasons; the freedom of flight and power in the sky, the French buccaneer (my dad is French), pirates are daring and bold and the name always stumps people when I say it… I think it is the fading accent.

Ray - I was given pause when I received your package in the mail. That is not to say that I suddenly had hands like as dog, as I said pause, not paws. In any event, it was an eye-catching packet to begin with and the contents, besides handing down an aural ass-whooping also were a nice little piece of eye-candy. In other words, looks great! Who came up with the concept, what were the thoughts behind it?

Marie - Firstly, we are artists, secondly we were on a non-existent budget and thirdly, we are friends of the environment. I sought out a manufacturer of CD cases that we could feel good about in terms of our consuming footprint. We went with Stumptown Printers out west who make 100% recycled CD packaging. I dabble a bit in multi media so I immediately thought we could silk screen each CD pack individually which would give us the freedom to experiment with different colours and textures. This angle has given our EP presentation a D.I.Y. look but I think it also shows that we care as much about the whole package as we do the music inside! In the spirit of recycling, the EP was wrapped up in paper that I have been hording for years with hopes in using on some art project or another. In the end, I managed to get out some creativity, reduce some of my mountains of art materials and garner some attention. I also really enjoy hand writing out addresses and sticking stamps on mail. We don’t do that much anymore.

Ray - When you write a song in CORSAIR, how does that process work? Does somebody bring in a riff and everybody else adds stuff? Who writes the lyrics, etc. Give us some insight into how this riff-monster from Virginia ticks!

Paul - Exactly how you said it; mostly a structure is brought in and we all add to it. Sometimes they are born out of jamming. In the beginning I used to write most of the lyrics however in the past two years it has been more of a collaborative effort. I actually wrote "Last Night on Earth" as a joke because Marie made a comment whilst holding her hand in the air one night by the full moon and singing a falsetto like Dio "We should write a song called LAST NIGHT ON UUUUUUUURRRRRRTTTTHHH!!!!!” So I went home and wrote it and they said it was good! Its funny how things work out like that.

Jordan - Marie and Paul bring the licks to table and I try to arrange it and make it flow from one part to the other. When we want things to get heavier Paul usually takes over and when we want things to get spacey, Marie takes over. In the new songs we have written things changed a little bit, I wrote two songs and some lyrics and Marie wrote a song and lyrics as well.

Marie - Paul is a writing machine, he comes up with awesome riffs all the time. Sometimes it is annoying because he is so good! Our song writing might start with one person’s idea or a jam and then we all put our cents in. Sometimes it is two cents, sometimes 80 cents, meaning one of us can add a lot or a just little to an idea. Generally, the songs grow over time and we try to work in parts to improve on it or take it over the edge. I take a lot longer to write than Paul but usually the result is worth it! Paul wrote most of the lyrics but in our newer songs both Jordan and I are writing lyrics and singing.

Ray - The song “Last Night On Earth” is an especially emotional one. Why, when I first played it, I cranked it to 11 and the old man next door ran outside with a rifle in his hand, yelling all sorts of curses and epithets into the air. Of course, it was 4:00 AM. See how the emotion is drawn out by that number?! Seriously, I get a real “Space Oddity” vibe from this one. Any comments?

Paul - It’s weird because just like my explanation of Ray Bradbury (see below), the song is more about the dying relationship than about the rocket and going to outer space; the protagonist is leaving forever. His woman will be nothing more than a sour memory and he knows the relationship is dead. It has been dead for a long time. She doesn’t care he’s going on a rocket on a mission or else she'd be awake sitting with him until he has to go. It’s a feeling we've all felt of a partnership being a husk and hollow except this guy is leaving the planet! I can’t decide if he sounds sad or happy in the song.

Marie - HA! I seriously dig on some Bowie. “Last Night on Earth” is a song full of lament and sorrow. When Paul mentioned above how the song was born, by me gazing at the moon and crying out like Dio, I really was taking it seriously, what would it be if tonight was your LAST night on earth? How would you feel about your time here, what you have accomplished etc.? The self-reflection that is forced on you due to circumstances out of your control is a heavy, heavy time.

Ray - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: You can meet one of the following people for an hour…who and why:

a) Barack Obama

b) Tony Iommi

c) Charles Manson

d) Don Prudhomme

Paul - I know its expected but “b”. although most of the time would be spent just looking at the two fingers he cut off 40 years ago and avoiding making it look like that’s what I was looking at. Then after about 57 minutes of staring I would probably ask him if he wanted to meet Barack Obama. He would probably say "Who?" and then I would tell him that no one will play Iron Man in our Black Sabbath cover band. Then time would be up and he'd probably split leaving me with the tab. I’d probably pay it but I'd carry the grudge longer than I’ve been carrying this battle axe around. Whew...

Marie - Tony Iommi for sure! I would not stare at his fingers. My brother has half a finger so I am used to that. I would probably hope he would bring along an old SG of his so I could give it a little play. I would definitely ask him for some guitar riff secrets and talk about gear.

Ray - Gear nerd question! Gear nerd question! What guitars, amps and effex do you use? Do you believe that playing in tune is important? (What?!?!) Don’t pay attention to the interviewer behind the curtain.

Paul - I play an Ibanez Flying V through a Peavey Ultra Plus. My only pedals are a volume pedal and a tuner. Playing in tune is very important especially for dual harmony stuff. I guess my tone is more heavy metal than Marie's but she has all the cool effects!

Marie - 1976 Les Paul Custom through a 1972 Marshall 100w plexi head and an 80’s Marshall cab. On the floor I have an Akai Headrush, a digital delay/reverb, MXR Phase 100, Fulltone OCD and a LPB boost pedal. I really want to add to my pedal family and score a Memory Man and a MXR Carbon Copy. Oh! and I have recently started using these metal picks called Ice Picks, they are amazing.

Jordan - I play through an Ampeg SVT3 Pro and aternalte between a 1978 Gibson Ripper and a 90’s Rickenbacker. I also use a MXR Blowtorch occasionally a moded Rat pedal.

Ray - Tell us your deepest and darkest feelings about dual guitar harmonies. Really, when I first heard CORSAIR and you guys ripped into the first dual harmony, I thought of fellow Virginian’s Valkyrie. It wasn’t so much that I thought you ripped them off (that thought came later… no, JUST KIDDING!) but that you both had tapped into something really special and then spun it off into your own galaxy. What is so special about those dual leads and what’s the hardest thing about pulling ‘em off?

Paul - First off Valkyrie rules! Secondly, I fell in love when I heard the harmonies in the middle of Metallica's "Orion". I still can’t understand the fact that a harmony is two notes together with the frequencies intertwining and that can make you feel happy or sad or make you wanna put your fist in the air and shout! It gives the music a little more depth. In addition our bassist Jordan does some really cool counter melodies to what Marie and myself are harmonizing. It’s just super fun to write those and figure out a harmony that works.

Marie - Ahhh, harmonies. When the notes are in harmony, it sounds so pleasant, so soothing, there is something magical about it. I agree with Paul, when I first heard “Orion” I rewound that middle section ten times, yes it was on cassette! This is before I had heard Iron Maiden or anything like that. Of course, I immediately wanted to play like that but my classical guitar couldn’t bend strings as well as an electric! I participated in group classical guitar sessions at school where we all played different harmonies at the same time in various classical pieces but it was nothing like “Orion”. Paul has a phenomenal ear and can put together melodies and harmonies that are heart wrenching. I just pretend like I know what I am doing and follow suit (but maybe with a lot of delay or phase)!!

Ray - Obviously (or maybe not) you’re into sci-fi of some kind. Who’s your favourite writer? Why? What’s a better book, “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “The Mote In God’s Eye?” Or, hell, better yet, pick your own two and do a comparison. Shit, making you feel like you’re in English class in high school now, eh?

Paul - Ray Bradury is my favorite by far. Though he is not entirely a science fiction writer it pops up often and he sort of influenced the style in which we write our songs... each is a different story about different characters but they all feel like their connected somehow. His style is amazing. Even in the spacey novels, sci-fi takes a backseat to the more human emotion oriented side. Also, there are plenty of rockets and such. Martian chronicles, The Illustrated man, October Country...

Marie - I really liked English class but I am a bit of a nerd! Umm, on this side of the literature spectrum I am more of the fantasy reader. Authors like George R.R. Martin, Tad Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien and numerous Russian authors like Mikhail Bulgakov and Viktor Pelevin, though I also like Bradbury and Roald Dahl too! I really enjoy stories with fantastical twists and turns, mythical creatures, wizards, dragons and awesome landscapes.

Jordan - I liked reading Dune by Frank Herbert.

Ray - Any labels show any interest in the mighty CORSAIR since the release of the “Alpha Centauri” EP? In today’s world, how important actually do you believe it is for a band of your ilk to sign with a label as opposed to putting out your own stuff?

Jordan - Hellion Records in Germany is doing some online distribution of our EP, thanks to your review Ray! It is not really important to have a record label until you get to a larger level. If you can do it yourself to start off with then you will reap the benefits directly and be able to support studio time and traveling.

Marie - Being on a label is not at all as important as it used to be, say twenty years ago. I think if you are willing to put in the hard work and promote your band as much as possible, book tours and gigs, spend your own dough on recording and merch then you can avoid going in business with a middle man. With the web at your finger tips it is a lot easier to promote your music all over the world and sell CD’s. I think the best attribute of being on a label would be touring with bands of a similar genre and having someone else book your tours both here and abroad and maybe having some help printing CD packs! Though, I definitely would not turn my nose up if a record label has interest…

Ray - Do you guys gig much? How many local venues will have a skuzzy bunch like you come slithering in to deliver the goods on their premises?

Jordan - We gig about once a month or so, at least for the past year, it seems. I think we have found our spot in Charlottesville and our core of fans.

Marie - It would be sweet to get out and extend our mileage a little more but we need to get a band van! Unfortunately for Charlottesville there are not too many good, mid-sized rock venues. There used to be a couple of awesome venues but they have slowly evaporated over the past two years. There is definitely a vibrant, diverse music scene here which is great but not the right venues!

Ray - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: A turkey or a bear? Which one could climb to the top of Leslie West faster? Use your damn imaginations!

Paul - I feel they’d be neck ‘n’ neck on this "mountain" of a man, however, when they reached the tangle of hair atop his head I feel the turkey may be able to navigate better.

Marie - [laughs out loud] Nice one Paul.

Ray - What’s next for the mighty CORSAIR? A full-length record? A gig in Baltimore? (Please?)

Marie - The gig in Baltimore would be first, then another EP. We are planning on getting our next six songs recorded and pressed by June… fingers crossed! Then I think we will venture into the full length galaxy. Maybe a concept album? Still feeling it out, I guess.

Ray - Always fun…in the long and storied history of CORSAIR, tell us a story that’s either funny, odd, disturbing or possibly just plain weird from the studio, the road, onstage, etc. Use your imagination and remember that Raysrealm is rated at least “R,” with a leaning toward “NC-17” when necessary.

Paul - Ok, perhaps this is just silly… so we played with this band from Richmond, Va called The Ten Commandments (Marie really likes them) at an underground DIY venue in our town. At the end of the night the TTC vocalist, who was pretty lit, asking me if he knew where the drugs were at and (I often quote this line) Marie said, in her funny accent “You know, you don’t need drugs to have a good time, man!” She was trying to be helpful but just sounded like a total dweeb. The guy sort of stared at her in astonishment, he seemed kinda whacked out already so I don’t think he minded the statement.

Ray - Any final comments?

Jordan - At its’ best music should take you outside of yourself and help you tap into something greater.

Marie - Thanks for all your hard work Ray in bringing the lesser known music scene to the forefront! We’ll let you know when we get that record deal!

Don’t wait for these guys to get a record deal, people, because you now have no excuse. Refer to the websites below and do what you know best: Support another band who deserves it!!!