Aeges has gone from buzz band to road dogs and back again over their career. From touring the nation and playing big festivals, to building a following in their hometown of Los Angeles, they have been a group many would label “the next big thing”. Wary not to be painted into a corner, the band went out on their new album ‘Weightless’ (Another Century) and just dd what they always do, write great songs. We chatted with frontman Kemble Walters about the bands old/new approach to things and how that is paying off big time.
You guys had a long run up between albums. So when did you start putting material together, and how did it all come about up to the finished product now?
Kemble: Basically, with this band we are always writing. We’re always working on some tunes. We’re not always writing full songs, but coming up with some riffs. The writing process started as soon as we finished Above And Down Below. There was some stuff that didn’t even make Above And Down Below, just because we didn’t think it sonically fit or for some reason at the time it didn’t strike us as relevant or it didn’t emotionally connect with us or whatever. For example, 80% of ‘Another Wasteland’ was a riff idea that I had before that, before we ended up doing this record. Some of the other stuff, we were going with a producer, we have the new record label. We have the new management, so everything was a little bit bigger, more grandiose to us. We like to move forward. The bridge with the record Above And Down Below, the different record, but we didn’t like to write the same thing over and over. Just the time and the place and where we were at in our lives led to all of these topics that we did for Weightless.
Not only have you had this band, you’ve worked on other projects too. Do you ever have a point where you start working on material and say “this is a song for Aeges”, or “this is a song for my other projects”?
Kemble: Aeges is my priority, so nine out of ten times I’ll be writing and what will naturally come to me will be an Aeges thing. For example, when I was talking to you, before we started talking, I was working on a track, just a quick idea that I came up with this morning. I do have other projects that I will now, those aren’t as second nature as writing an Aeges song for me, where that is the stuff that would naturally come out of me. I get in my headspace, like okay, we listen to the type of tunes, or the type of tunes the project needs, and then take it from there because when I pick up my guitar, I have an “Aeges tuning” on it, and that’s just where I go.
When you said weird tunings, what do you mean by weird? Non standard? Do you have your own special tuning?
Kemble: It’s not necessarily weird, or it kind of is. I tell people that and they look at me like why would you do that? When Aeges started, we wanted to be heavy, but we wanted to retain like the finer, the cooler bits of all those previous bands that I have played guitar in or sang in or whatever. It’s always been standard tuning, or drop tuning, like drop D or whatever. In Aeges, we do E standard, like the low string, the low E string. Well drop it to A, B, to G, depending on the track. And then we’ll do a D standard drop C, which is the easy tuning, but we’ll do odd recordings, core structures, and stuff just to take the monotony out. We’re used to that E standard drop tuning, and it was a head trip because it didn’t make sense
I always hear interesting voicings in your writing. I do get a very mid 90s, art rock kind of flavor when I listen to some of your stuff. I know things like Soundgarden, AIC, and Queens of the Stone Age are mentioned as your references and inspirations. It definitely makes a lot of sense when fans hear you and they match that up mentally, it feels like home, this sound.
Kemble: Yeah. Specifically Queens of the Stone Age are huge on the guitar, I guess, but we move some things around because the sound makes it crazy. We’re constantly changing stuff around. That’s one thing we battle with at live a little bit. We’ll have a 30, 45 minute set, but it’s still not quite long enough for us to keep switching guitars for all the different tunings, so we’re like okay what set can we do tonight where we only do one switch once because everyone has to switch the guitars. I’ve got to say something or Mike’s got to say something to keep the excitement up while all three guys quickly switch guitars. We make it work. We battle through it, so it’s all good.
Speaking a little more about guitars and the production of the album, I have to ask about working with Bob Marlette (Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Rob Zombie). The guy is a legend. What was it like working with him and what do you think he brought to the process, because he’s well-known for getting incredible work out of people too?
Kemble: Yeah, he did a great job. His main goal, like I was saying earlier, was to make sure that we got the vocal performances because obviously, the guitars, the drums, the bass; it’s all important. But his thing was if you don’t have killer vocals, then you’re pigeon-holing yourself, or you’re putting a ceiling on how far you can go. To Cory and I, that was rad. Since Above And Down Below started, how do we sing almost everything together and have 50% me be vocal, 50% you be vocal because we don’t have one full song that’s just you or me, you know what I mean? He brought it out a lot in us and helped us structure our crazy harmonies that we developed around. On the gear side, the instrument side, he noticed that we had weird cords and weird amps and weird pedals and stuff, so he had his buddy bring over an insane amount of crazy, vintage, one of a kind pedals and stuff like that. He let us go to town and get really weird with stuff. A lot of the heavy tones are for amps into one channel. At any given time, I’d be playing a Wizard, as well as a Bogner, as well as an AC30, and an Electric 50, a Gemini, a Supro, it just blended in all these crazy tones. Also, since we like weird tones and stuff, we did a sitar on the album. He would really feed into it. He would be like “if that’s what you guys want to do, do it. How far can you go? How far can you take it? Let’s go for more.” He pushed us, and a couple of times it was him being a great producer and the professional dude that he is, he could hear that we had better performances in us before we did what we did. That’s what you really want in a producer to be like that was great, but you got better. He never made us feel uncomfortable or incapable which is a thing that, I don’t like working with producers a lot is that sometimes if you don’t have that connection with them, after the first two days or a couple of days of it, you’re like getting into that mold, slowly breaking us down and we’re getting comfortable like we’re brothers or whatever. Sometimes you never really break that wall down, so you’re always walking in with a strained voice, tense. He made us feel comfortable and capable, confident, but at the same time, made us work. It was good.
It has to be a give and take, and I feel like veteran guys like you could almost produce yourselves again at this point, but it’s good to give that balance over to somebody else, to have another pair of ears to somebody who’s not too close to the music.
Kemble: Absolutely. That was a big thing that we talked about because we could do this again ourselves because the last two records we did ourselves. The great thing I love about this record is there’s been more love and more hate on it. It’s more of a departure. It’s sonically more precise. There’s a bigger element because there’s an added producer. Things in us that were brought out, there were parts of us that were taken out that weren’t necessary. I feel like it’s cool. Once you start getting people either loving it and hating it, then I feel like you’re making those because there’s a lot of light here. You’re playing to such a small crowd that you’re not going anywhere. You get what I’m saying?
Right. I was going to say in Hollywood, it’s a bad sign if nobody loves you right? It’s not good.
Kemble: Right? Totally, not good.
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