On a brisk fall evening we arrive at SPACE Gallery in down town Portland and await the avant-garde Black Metal explosion that was set to begin. Emma Parsons and my self make a home stage left where we can sit comfortably and still see the bands. All around the room are the banners that have been closed while all the other bands play as not to ruin the experience that Wolves In The Throne Room delivers.Continue reading
One of the top tours Ghost Cult covered this year was the Return Of The Dreads tour from Rob Zombie, Korn, and In This Moment. All three bands put on a big show and none bigger than Zombie who has projected his larger than life, splatter film inspired, b-movie femme fatal tunnel vision into our brains for over 25 years now. Often a big tour like this is fraught with egos and drama to match the spectacle, but by all accounts all these bands have been classy and great to each other, and to the fans every night. Continue reading
Reclusive grindcore masters Agoraphobic Nosebleed have been downright prolific the last few years. Playing multiple special shows at festivals, and with a great new EP out earlier this year Arc (Relapse) ,the band has seen a resurgence of popularity, and as usual, unwavering respect in the underground. They will take a turn as one of the headliners this weekend at Southwest Terrorfest V in Tuscon, AZ. Ghost Cult’s Andrew Francis caught up with Adam Freisch, Richard Johnson, and Scott Hull earlier in the year to discuss the current state of the band, future recordings, and the difference in the record industry between being in a grindcore band, versus say Slayer, Iron Maiden or Tool.
In Part II of our interview with DROPDEAD from last fall’s Housecore Horror Festival, Ghost Cult’s Andrew Francis along with Ben Barnett and Bob Otis discussed the challenges of running a veteran band and still having the everyday challenges of life to deal with. Also they spoke of their lifelong political activism, and how it has stood on equal footing to the music they make since the beginning.
The music business is an unforgiving career choice for most. We asked Ben and Bob about their family lives, and how they manage to keep up with personal responsibilities and still tour, make albums etc.
Ben: “I have a girlfriend and help take care of my gram when I have time.”
Bob: “I’m a mental health worker during the day, and I do animal rescue during the night and also the
band, which is an extension of the animal rescue work because it’s animal rights related and politics. Maybe not all animal rights, but things based in that area. just an extension of things I already do.
Ben: I own two shops (Armageddon Record Shop in Cambridge, MA and Providence, RI ) a label, try to hang out with my friends, play a little music, take care of my Gram. As I said, there’s a lot of shit going on.”
Ben: “We fit it in best we can , we’re not trying to make it- there’s no goal besides to play music with our friends. Occasionally we have the opportunity to come to fest’s like these (Housecore) make new friends, see some great bands, hang out, and have some vegan tacos.”
Bob: “Part of it for me, personally is it’s a good podium to talk about our beliefs and the things we really believe in. I do cat rescue and similar things, and the animal rights as part of my life is fully supported in the band and my home life.
Considering the above sentiments, we figured out that it must be hard to hit the road and tour, leaving behind your family:
Bob: The days of being able to jet out and go somewhere for six months out of the year are definitely behind us we all have our responsibilities and real jobs adult jobs but we do the best we can. We’ve been going for 25 years now so, and I’ll go for another 25 if I can do it with this guy here. I don’t care aha! We’ll be in wheelchairs still trying to play in the band!”
On the differences between local shows in New England and playing Texas where fans might not be too familiar with your band:
Ben:“Yea there’s definitely stuff going on back there. Like today one of the guys at the shop in Providence, his grandfather is going to pass at any moment, and we just gotta tell him take the day off and close up shop. it doesn’t matter.”
Bob: “I actually have a house full of sick cats and kittens that my girl friend is home taking care of while I’m gone. Funny enough my father is watching mine back home as well.”
Bob: “Those things are our responsibilities back home, but stepping away and being here is our responsibility too. We’ve had a message for a very long time and I truly believe it, so to me this is equally important to me as well.
So basically being in DROPDEAD means staying humble, no vacations, and no party type atmospheres other bands dream of.
Ben: “Well no there’s some of that, I’ve never like to go out and have fun as much as we do now. back in the day I probably took it for granted but now I really enjoy it for what it is. My friendships too. The business part of it and the shows is just an extension of what we are doing for fun. I think I’m having a good time and enjoying it. I don’t think I let myself enjoy it that much back in the day. I was a little more serious.
Bob: “And we didn’t have time, most of the stuff we did was on a super budget and sleeping on a concrete floor somewhere and it was real raw. After 25 years and getting the respect of other bands and people and putting in the time now we get the flight paid for, or the room, and we never take that for granted. We still play cellar shows and shit like that but it’s a little easier that way now than it used to be when we were sleeping out on rocks on the side of the road.
Ben: “So no I don’t take any of this for granted I don’t think any one owes me anything, but its nice to stay in a hotel for a night and some one pays for the flight we’ve put in a lot of hard years lost girlfriends, apartments, and jobs to continue this because we believe what we say and you suck it up do what you love or you don’t do it. Don’t complain about it. Both worlds can co-exist, and we are thankful.
This interview took place in November during the Paris terror attacks. Having to talked to the politically astute guys who have made a career of understanding crisis worldwide, we could not help but ask about the relevance to those tragic acts. The bands own desire to shine a light on similar situations, such as their song ‘Bosnia” in 1992, or other songs in their catalog seemed relevant at the time:
Bob: “I say its extremism which is happening then with ethnic cleansing and same with France yesterday its extremism and ridiculous beliefs and religion things that we stand against all things we don’t believe in.
“That and none of us are religious in the band. I think its one of the biggest problems in the world next to capitalism and to me personally, is the destruction of the animal kingdom. All of those three things are the big factors of whats destroying the world to me. so of course we don’t believe it or we try to talk about it and share our ideas on it. When we first wrote the song ‘Bosnia’ that was in the early 90s and with the ethnic cleansing that was going on. I felt it was important to talk about. It’s kinda of a quick song, really four lines long. I always thought of it is political haiku the guys don’t leave me a lot time to write a long song to get our ideas out.”
We asked if there was a song about the Paris attacks coming as a form of a response:
Ben: “I may, we sing about a lot of things but I’ve been writing about animal cruelty so the songs will deal with that more so but once I have time to digest it and form my own thoughts on it then yea, maybe we’ll sing about it. but definitely we will sing about religious extremism in one way or another.”
Shortly after this point the interview kinda turned in to more of a conversation about a slew of other things. Interviews are great but as always to learn more about the band, they encourage fans to seek them out and to get involved in their causes, or your own. When not on tour, Ben can be found in the Armageddon Shops and Bob is accessible via Facebook, or of course going to a DROPDEAD show. They are more than willing to talk you and share their ideas and have a beer. Check em out, expand your mind, and get some more food for thought…
“Don’t you realize? you’re eating death! and the taste in your mouth, is the corpse on your breath!”
INTERVIEW BY ANDREW FRANCIS
Long-running activist hardcore leaders DROPDEAD have been around long enough to know, their path is marathon and not sprint. When you make non-sellout music that demands critical thinking from fans, you are not going to get asked on late night TV, or find your music in movies and football stadium. But what drives this band, a staple of the Providence, RI music scene for two-plus decades is not the same motivation for everyone else. Ghost Cult’s Andrew Francis met up with Ben Barnett and Bob Otis in Austin Texas, a long way from home. The band was in town for the Housecore Horror And Music Festival, and despite playing an incredible set, true to form, they never felt “at home”.
Curious about the origin of the band, we started off by asking Ben and Bob what has a great influence on their style: the scene in New England or was it shaped by other bands and their teachings?
Bob Otis: “It was a combinations of things really, me Ben and Bryan started the band. Ben came from California and Bryan and my self grew up in Providence but we all listened to a lot of different stuff.”
“Ben brought a lot of his California influences when he joined the band that I had never heard and I did the same for him with a lot of the anarco – punk, Bryan was in to Japanese punk but we all bonded around the same like of similar forms of music and hardcore punk and the philosophy behind it.”
DROPDEAD is the epitome of n East Coast Hardcore band, but like most in the genre, one can’t deny a multitude of broader influences in the punk rock spectrum: Bob: For me it was more to the punk side, I was really in to anarco-punk and the philosophy and Ben was more to the hardcore side”
Ben Barnett: “I was more into Infest, Negative Approach”
Bob: “Where I was in to Crass and Conflict”.
Ben: “But still in to the politics of that stuff.”
The band has an unmistakable agenda, but bandmates don’t always have the same word view. We asked Ben and Bob if they shared a lot of the same political ideas
Ben: “Oh yeah definitely”
Bob: Whats great about these guys is that they believe exactly the same thing as me, and they allow me to get up on stage and expound upon the beliefs that we all have, together. It’s not just we are going to get together and write the music and you can just go do what ever as long as it doesn’t sound silly?
Bob: “We believe the same thing ,we have the same core values.”
Ben: Yeah I don’t think we could go up there and say what we say and do what we do if we didn’t mean it.
Bob: “No one in the band is going to McDonalds that’s for sure.”
Aside from punk, few bands shaped the political landscape for bands in history like Napalm Death has. A definite influence on the band, we asked both at what point did they discover the seminal Brit grindcore band and if they seeped in.
Ben: “That first Napalm record in 87 definitely blew my mind at first, i never heard anything like it.”
Bob: “To be honest with you they weren’t one of my favorite bands but I can appreciate what they did and stood for, but at the time i was more in to anarco punk but i appreciate it. You can see where the comparison comes from with short song times and ferocity and lyrical content.”
Bob: “Well yea we can see that but we also got a lot of our sound from the Boston Hardcore bands, Siege and California bands like Infest.”
Ben: “We acquired our name from a Siege song the and store name are from a Siege song, we became very influenced by a band from Weymouth.”
If a band was to be considered top-tier and the biggest influence on the band you would all say its Siege?
Bob: “Musically for sure.”
Ben: “Lyrically its not terribly that far off either. If you don’t listen to them already, Siege comes highly recommended young readers!”
Ben is the owner of Armageddon Record Shop and its accompanying label. One of the defining businesses in the North East music scene at the moment, we asked if the distro through the label was created because it makes life easier for a DIY band.
Ben: “I had done a label since the late 80’s up until 98 and I decided it was just time to call it a day. we had a record to put out and we wanted a fresh start and we figured we would do our own thing. we had some not terrible but not fantastic experiences with some people. back in the day Earache hit us up, Century Media hit us up it wasn’t really what we wanted to do.”
Bob: “Part of it was it was all stuff Ben could do himself so why get some one else? I don’t think any one could do it any better than him. he has an invested interest as our guitarist and best friend so obviously he’s gonna put every thing he’s got in to the band so i don’t think a record label would have as much invested in us as someone who’s in the band.”
Ben: “There might be more press, maybe more hype but ..”
Bob: We’ve done pretty good for our selves, he’s done a great job!”
Ben: “We just chug along do our own thing if people buy the records we appreciate it and if not then.. oh well? we’ll play a show some one may be excited then that’s pretty cool too, they go slow but they go.”
We then asked if starting the label became a necessity of being in the band or as a fan of music who later ended up in a band:
Ben: “Originally it was cause I was excited about music, I put out my first record for a California band Apocalypse in like ..1989. Just cause they were friends. It was kinda like you can be a guy going to shows or you could do something, and Otis can attest to this, I’m not really a do nothing kinda guy. kinda a workaholic.”
Bob: “One of the busiest guys I know.”
INTERVIEW BY ANDREW FRANCIS
PHOTOS BY EMMA PARSONS PHOTOGRAPHY
On Saturday we were running a little late to the venue for Housecore Horror Festival III. I made it just in time to catch most of NAILS’ set, most of which Todd Jones was visibly displeased the entire time. While dozens of kids could be spotted wearing their hardcore and metal shirts all around San Antonio, the floor of the theater was lightly peppered with kids there to watch the band. Coupled with the fact that there was little to no moshing, or just overall lack of general mayhem during their caustic performance, it was leaving a bad taste in Jones’ mouth.
Catching only snippets of Poison Idea and Crippled Bastards, we jumped over to see Providence, RI power-violence group Dropdead. Seeing our fellow New Englanders in the south was cool. Dropdead are here with a message, and that message hasn’t changed, nor will it ever; says singer Bob Otis. Otis is also the main lyricist and mouthpiece of the group, and he made a speech about animal cruelty and corporate greed. The group wants you to leave their shows informed, if anything. After getting crushed by Crowbar, then sped back up again by Negative Approach, we close in on the headliners of the night , Corrosion of Conformity, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and New York’s own Suffocation.
COC, back with Pepper Keenan at the helm, had a setlist full of classic tunes ending with ‘Clean My Wounds’. Jesus then showed up to clean the crowds wounds and sung with Pepper, followed by stage diving off both ends of the stage to “bless” the theater. To the untrained eye, ANB look like four people standing around waiting for something to happen. But as soon at the lights dim and the projector flashes their name, the audible noise of our butt holes tightening with excitement shadowed the opening notes of the set. It was strangely entertaining to see such a large stage completely devoid of a drum kit, yet welcome.
Suffocation began much like that of ANB, a few people standing on stage waiting for the go ahead amidst sound checking. Once the OK was given, the lights go down and the grindcore onslaught began. Shortly before the small tour they embarked on leading to Texas, the Suffo guys asked the fans what songs they wanna hear in an online poll, and boy did they deliver. From classics to more recent jams, few songs were spared. A love song, ‘Entrails of You’, seemingly penned by Ed Gein himself for a long since passed lover was a highlight.
Sunday Funday! Day three of the festival and the wear and tear is starting to show on just about everyone, but spirits remain high. Maybe they were just waiting for the headliners or even just to hang out and shop upstairs at the booths in the convention floor. By the way I got a great haul of shirts, patches, and the god-like Boss HM-2 guitar pedal; the most Swedish of all metal pedals! The fest had great vendors with booths both local and internationally based. Often times it was hard to traverse due to hall size and all the people, but with a little courtesy and sucking in of the gut, the metal head marches on! After being preoccupied with a handful of other tasks and waiting in lines, I got to chit-chat with horror film legend Mr. Bill Mosley for a bit before heading back over to the stage,
Next up was the barrage that is Author & Punisher. Tristan Shone was joined onstage by tour mates Muscle and Marrow for a song, but was mostly accompanied by projections and skewed video segments. They were followed by YOB who were flawless, even with a sick Mike Schiedt. Had he not told me himself that he was ill, I’d have never known.
Shortly after YOB’s set I caught up with Mike to have a chat and we found ourselves at Whataburger a block away. We got to talking about touring, music and the state of metal. We discussed the weekend so far and previous tours they had been on, and our mutual love and admiration for Neurosis. In short Mike was my own personal Yoda for an hour and I couldn’t have been happier. Next I briefly checked out Autopsy and Incantation and while both are awesome and historic in their own right, at this stage of the game I was so tired every thing was blurring together tonally. Old school death metal just wasn’t for me that night. To close out the weekend Dawn Of The Dead was screened with the live film score to accompany the film performed by Goblin. Unfortunately by this time it was getting close to midnight, and the walk to the hotel was getting longer. My hotel bed was actually starting to look comfy.
The long trip was totally worth it, and I’m very honored to have gone and shared this weekend with both the bands, the fans, and fellow metal heads. Thanks to the staff of The Aztec Theater for being both friendly caring, and above all professional. Lastly every one behind the scenes working with Philip Anselmo to put the Housecore Horror Festival III together.
WORDS BY ANDREW FRANCIS
After no longer being on a bus full of shitty cramped people for several days, I finally got to my hotel room. That joy was shortly lived when I had to actually get up and drag myself down the block to check in for press near The Aztec Theater. Which wasn’t that bad, since it was beautiful out! On the first day of Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Horror Festival III, some people were bright-eyed and ready for a good weekend or even just the night of metal, others were jet-lagged, cranky and wanting to just get started. Everything about the fest was localized to less than a 2 block radius of busses, tourists and locals. Aside from how awesome the venue looked on the inside, a Whataburger was right down the street. More on that later.
Doors opened 5 pm and fans filtered in and begin posting up and getting beers for the evening that they cannot wait to unfold. Promptly at 5:30 Child Bite come to the stage and after a quick sound check they are primed and ready to strike the opening chord on this weekends festivities! A mix of early hardcore and surf rock, vocalist Shawn Knight let loose with a furious howl. War Beast followed, then Exodus and soon after the EYEHATEGOD pure wall of volume and feedback, and there amidst the whirl wind of it all stood an un-phased Mike IX Williams. Williams seemed very irritated that the sound guy didn’t know how to handle mixing him and the band. Jimmy Bower had a mid-set cigarette.
Now we begin the headlining section of the evening, the home stretch, everything leading up top the one on the bill, the one and only King Diamond. Sadly, I am going to take a second to divert the readers attention from what seems to be a super mega-fun awesome festival to talk to you about what happened outside of our little bubble around the same time as our show; just over the pond. At another rock show in Paris, France people were attacked and killed while trying to enjoy The Eagles Of Death Metal concert. Reports slowly came in via social media and to be quite honest I’m sure it left a lot of us wondering what’s next? More so, who was next; afraid it even could be us gathered en mass like we were. When Superjoint hit the stage in San Antonio our great leader Philip Anselmo came to us not only as the singer of a band, but as our friend and equal to say “They will not take this from us, they can not stop us from having our fun. That is what they want. We are family we are here to rock and have fun. This next song is called ‘Fuck Your Enemy’!
King Diamond kicked off his headline set with ‘Welcome Home’ and the sing-a-longs had begun. A slew of strobe lights, falsetto singing, and screaming fans filled the air at the start of this two-hour set. Classic songs and Merciful Fate covers led up to the 40 minutes we had all been waiting for, Abigail! From ‘Arrival’ to ‘The Black Horsemen’, every song sounded as crisp a the first time they were played live back in the day. It was a great end to the first night of the festival.
WORDS BY ANDREW FRANCIS
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On an unseasonably warm start to the bleak days of November, Deafheaven rode into Boston to play the Royale Nightclub. The band is riding high on the strength of their recent album New Bermuda (Anti Records) and interest in the band, once a cult phenomenon is sky-high. Although not a sellout crowd, the joint was packed with the strange amalgam of fans you might expect by now: hipsters, old school black metallers, pizza thrashers, college kids and more. You might say it was a real melting pot concert goes, and giving way to the usual tribalism less diverse Boston shows sometimes get. The night was kicked off by Swedish blackened prog metallers Tribulation, who put on an amazing show. This is a band that continues to impress following their Children of The Night (Century Media) album early this year. We look forward to catching them again on the 2016 Decibel Tour. It seemed like Japan’s Envy had their own crowd in the house tonight. They were really vocal and made their approving presence known. That Envy is on tour with Defheaven shouldn’t be that surprising. Despite their hardcore roots, Envy is firmly ensconced in the post-rock/shoegaze majesty Deafheaven fans, and the band themselves clearly have an affinity for. Their show was a magical experience, with front man Tetsuya Fukagawa jumping into the crowd several times. It almost felt like they were the headliner themselves tonight. Lastly it was time for Deafheaven’s customary show of aggression, obscene volume, drone for days, bombast, light, shade, and very few words said to the crowd. Many intense glances from front man George Clarke sent the drooling crowd into overdrive. The band played a bunch of new songs, and some gems from the now classic Sunbather (Deathwish Inc.), but sadly nothing from Roads To Judah (also Deathwish Inc.). Despite the bands’ penchant for long, exploratory epic tracks, the set did feel a bit rushed through from my vantage point and ended in under an hour. Still, from tonight’s several minute chant for the band to return and play an encore (they didn’t) you can see why the band has risen so far, so fast. That is no doubt why many shows on the tour did sell out, including the last two this weekend at The Roxy in Los Angeles.
Rob Zombie has been known for much of his career as a creative genius and a mastermind when it comes to setting the bar for the visual spectacle of the modern rock concert. His ability to blend his far out rock, metal, and psychedelic influences, with equal parts freak show, gothic horror and sex appeal have been hallmarks since his heyday with White Zombie in the 90s. Currently on a tour of casinos and concert halls, Zombie brings his trademark show to the masses guaranteed to delight all comers. He has one of his best bands in memory in tow, with John 5 (David Lee Roth/Marilyn Manson), Piggy D (Alice Cooper/Wednesday 13) and Ginger Fish (also ex-Manson) backing him up. Not only are they all top players, each takes the stage with garish visage to match their freaky leader. He has a summer of gigs plans as the band push toward a new release this fall, and also Zombie’s crowdfunded 31 horror film on the way too. Captured here by Emma Parsons Photography at The Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun Casino, we see Zombie and his cohorts igniting the night, and bringing down the house.
One-man sonic doom armada Tristan Shone a.k.a. Author & Punisher is out on the road, handing out an aural beatdown to fans everywhere. Starting off the tour in Portland at the 5th annual Stumpfest and ending this coming weekend at Psycho California, Tristan has crisscrossed the country once again bringing a one-of-a-kind musical and visual experience to fans. All of this touring is a warm up for the release of the new Author and Punisher album on Philip Anselmo’s Housecore Records, title and release date to be announced soon. Produced by Phil at his Nodferatu’s Lair studio, this promises to be one of the most talked about releases of 2015. The accompanying photo set comes to us from O’Brien’s in Boston MA, with support from Beneath Oblivion, shot by Emma Parsons Photography.